Motoeuro 2005

Motoeuro 2005 – Stelvio Pass, Tuscany and many hangovers.
The one that started it all…

3,000 miles, 14 days, 7 countries, countless wine and beers. What began as a pub chat turned out to be 2 weeks of glorious motorcycling. Only a couple of problems; I don’t have a bike and Mark hasn’t even passed his bike test yet. Astonishingly, 7 months later, we’re all ready for our big trip.

Welcome to Motoeuro 2005 with Mark, Geordie and Dave, oh and it’s all Ewan and Charlie’s fault (Damn you ‘Long Way Round’)!


We leave North East England on 4th July 2005. After 300+ miles, we grab the SeaCat from Dover to France and try to relax, my sea-legs aren’t good. We head for our first night’s accommodation in Boulogne-sur-Mer, it’s been a hard day’s riding.

We retire to a Formule 1 after too many beers. Day 1 done. At last, we’re in France and hungover!

Riding on the right-hand side of the road is odd especially at roundabouts – giving way to your left just feels wrong. But we get used it in no time and as bikes don’t have ‘left hand drive’ it becomes intuitive.

Day 2, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Hesdin to Troyes, via Reims and Chalons-en-Champagne. We stay well away from the autoroute for better roads, we’re aiming for St.Tropez soaking up the French countryside. We stop at the American Somme memorial, Bellicourt for some pictures. Smooth tarmac and warm, sunny weather really made us feel great out on our bikes, however, too many beers at night would always give us a late start the next day. Hey ho.

Tonight we’re in the middle of nowhere, but find a Campanile Hotel, we’re just in time for big steaks as the restaurant is about to close but the manager is happy to chat over a few beers. He has a Triumph Speed Four, we chat until late. Rain arrives at 2.15am, hic. Lights out.

Our Manager friend recommends a local road to test out, today we ride some mad twisties in the baking sun, marvellous stuff. We stop at the end of countless corners. What a great start to the day, even if we are a little ropey this morning. We ride by Châtillon-sur-Seine, stop at Nuits-Saint-Georges for lunch, this is wine heaven for Mark, vineyards as far as the eye can see, he’s elated to be here. We continue to Lyon – a nightmare of traffic and heat be warned! We push on to Valence, grab a cheap hotel, beers and bed. Knackered.

It’s about now that the vibrations on the handlebars of my VFR750 are getting intolerable. The chain and sprocket set changed pre-start isn’t working well. I brought the spare front sprocket in case, so thank the lord for Geordie. He borrows tools from a bus driver and replaces the front sprocket in a car park. From now, the VFR is like a dream. Massive relief! Thanks mate 🙂

On day 4, it’s Valence towards Privas, to Avignon and some very good roads to Aix-en-Provence, Grasse and finally St.Tropez! God bless French tarmac. We arrive late at 10.30pm, my legs are killing me. There’s a good buzz in the harbour but we can’t find anywhere to stay. We start to look around but St.Tropez is closed. Really? Shit. Mark negotiates a caravan (cardboard chalet on the beach) for the night, but we’ve no food or drink, everything is closed.

We pushed too hard to get here and now France is locked up for the night! Mark has the best language skills, so he rides off into darkness…… 30 minutes later he returns with pastries, bread, pizza, water and of course, ice cold beer. What a hero! All thanks to a 24hr Boucherie. We’re exhausted. We eat, force down a couple of beers (rude not to), have a laugh and collapse. It’s 2.45am.

It’s another late start today, but we find a cafe in St.Tropez for breakfast. Mark wanders off to buy a couple of newspapers and we sit reading the terrible news of the London Bombings. Today is July 7th 2005.

The southern French Riviera is an education in luxury.

The boats, Ferraris and the odd Lambo are a sight-and-a-half. The heat was incredible and we’re wrapped by in bike leathers. Arse. We bimble to Cannes and Monte Carlo (traffic appalling on the riviera) but we get a real kick out of riding the F1 roads and the famous tunnels. We ride out of Monte Carlo to Menton, a small town just outside but with accommodation considerably cheaper at “Princess et Richmond”. We call it a day and head back to Monaco in a taxi to experience this sovereign city-state. We smile at the stupidly expensive boats, supercars and casino night life. Taxi, hotel, we’re done for the day. A not very impressive 200 miles, feels like 400 in that traffic. We’re goosed.

At last an early start. We leave Menton on the delightful coast roads. We ride past Sanremo, Imperia, Albenga, Savona, on the way to Genoa. The sun is out in all it’s glory and we’re having a ball on these roads. We divert round Genoa and ride to Rapallo and Sestri. Continue on these coast roads and turn inland now to Aulla. The tarmac is turning ropey on the way to Piaza al Serchio in the Tuscan region. My VFR and Geordie’s SV1000 are all over the place, but Marks 650 Transalp is perfectly at home. His bike is loving the lumpy roads. That 21″ front wheel is soaking this all up while Geordie and I need a dentist.

We arrive at Piazza al Serchio, our host welcomes us with open arms, pasta banquet, as much cold beer as we can drink and a warm outdoor swimming pool overlooking the Tuscan mountains lit by the settling sun. Perfect. We swim, drink, eat and chat as the sun sets – An amazing day and what a perfect location, it’s as far removed from a busy, grey and noisy Tyneside as you could possibly get.

We’re invited to stay another night, a welcome relief to be off the bikes a whole day to recover. Our laundry is a nuclear meltdown. Washing machine filled, our host introduces us to a friend and we are all off to a local restaurant for an early lunch treat. With great views over the hills we down far too much wine and food and by 1pm I need a nap. We’re taken to a local vineyard that our new friend owns to sample his home made wine, I really need a nap now. Obviously, the next stop is to sample yet more wine at another restaurant with pizza for an early dinner. We’re all very ‘jolly’. Another ‘Pit Stop’ but beer this time on the menu and back to the village centre for ‘caffe corretto’. Needless to say, by dark we’re all absolutely freaking hammered.

Lights out boys. There’s so much more to come….

Motoeuro are rough today, but strong coffee and a hearty breakfast and we’re ready for the off at 11.00am. We take the opportunity to check our bikes; chains, oil, coolant, all good.

Remember that washing machine? We didn’t. We cram damp laundry with creases your granddad would be proud of in our panniers and leave the zips open in the ridiculous hope that it’ll dry out. Really?

We ride straight for the Apennine Mountains. Some superb roads here, the sun is out and we’re enjoying the mountain views with regular photo, petrol, food stops. It’s a wonder we get anywhere.

We enjoy a traditional Italian lunch and press on towards Reggio Emilia. We stop at what we think could be Lake Garda, but more likely Lago d’Iseo – Its stunning in the sunshine. It may sound like we’re lost but we’re going the right way-ish. We slurp Italian coffee and ride the lake side to Breno. Great day today, impressive views and roads, exactly what we were hoped for. We’re fired up for more Alps in the morning…

We’re not too sure which way up to hold this note book now, it’s looking like it’s been written left handed on a roller-coaster. We leave Breno riding to Gavia Pass, the road is crazy twisty and takes some concentration not to float to the opposite side of the road on hairpins.  We place a Motoeuro sticker on the road sign at Passo de Gavia, perhaps it’s still there? It’s cold here, snow in places, a welcome comfort from the extreme heat but after a coffee we prefer the heat, thanks. We ride the pass, descend to warmth and continue on these laugh-out-load roads to Stelvio.

Riding the pass to the top of Stevlio was an experience, the road surface is dodgy in places and the lack or crash barriers is a tad unnerving, but we enjoy this road and wave to other bikers on our way to the summit.

Stelvio is a small village with a few shops for souvenirs, vendors selling Sauerkraut, restaurants and general tat for sale. It’s chilly with the odd lump of snow, misty and has an icy breeze. Feelis like we’re on top of the world! The views are breath-taking, the isolation is spooky. We grab coffee, snap a few photos, Mark and Geordie try the Sauerkraut but by the look on their faces, I’ll give it a miss. I look over the edge of the pass at the road, B’Jesus! We gonna ride that?

We add another Motoeuro sticker to the Stelvio Pass sign and begin the descent…..

The further down the Pass we go the warmer it gets, hairpin corners a plenty. It’s not a fast road, the switchback corners don’t give much time to accelerate, and you’re bang on the breaks at every turn. Just enjoy the stunning scenery – not that you could look away from the road too often. We’re hard on the breaks, stop to take this in and Geordie spots a Beaver – queue childish jokes. (we later find out it’s a Marmot, WTF?). After about 40 minutes of cornering we stop to check out the vertical view, it’s impossible to see the top, this road bends all over the mountain, the whole area is stunning our photos simply don’t do this justice at all, it’s another world. Well done lads, we’re chuffed to have ridden Stelvio!

Not long after we take-off, Mark’s old back injury is causing him grief. Those passes and Stelvio didn’t help with so much physical effort needed, so we grab a hotel and call it a day. George and I head off for a few pints while Mark tries to take it easy flat out but all is closed in this party town by 10.30pm. Well, we had to have one early night…..

A superb day of riding on this hot and sunny day in the Alps. We ride from our hotel in Silandro towards Monte Giovo (Jaufenpass), another class set-up in glorious weather. The scene is what you’d expect on that tin of biscuits from your Nan at Christmas. Stop for lunch and get chatting to two Austrian lads on an R1 and a BM 1150GS. They advise us to turn around as they know better roads through the mountains. My cynical nature wrapped up in a cloak of paranoia gives me visions of getting tied up, wallet nicked and something spiky up the old chuff. I’m not keen. So naturally we follow them off-piste on some truly amazing roads through the mountains at Imst Timmelsjoch. An hour later we’re totally lost and my imagination is going stratospherically high. We’re all doomed.

We ride in to a village, a few cars are beeping their horns at us, no idea why. As we ride down hill in to the village centre, HALT! The Police stop Mark, issue a fine for speeding. D’Oh! 25 Euros down the pan. I get the beeps now.

After some unknown roads, we all agree it’s one of the best days yet. Mark is also thinking our Austrian bikers might want to be more than friends when they suggest we all get a room together for the night and go for drinks. We make our excuses early evening and ride into another small Austrian town 20-ish miles further on. Tonight’s write-up needs a page of it’s own but for now, make do with: It was a great evening of food, beer and some kind of local Schnapps. In the morning it turns out Austria is rather expensive, damn their tax on everything.

We’re off at 10am, a good start and nice roads, towns become a drag when but give us a chance to fuel-up or stop for yet more coffee. We ride the south side of Bodensee Lake into Switzerland until we pass the German border. We then cruise up the Rhine Valley to the Black Forest (We can’t ignore a town called Titisee – for a perfect photo opportunity.) The sun is getting lower now. We check-out a pension that looks like something off “Little house on the Prairie”. An elderly lady offers us rooms, we take our beers on the balcony at the front of the pension, she makes us food and we have a quiet night of chats and beers with other guests. Our host doesn’t speak a word of English, we get by just fine.

It’s time for home, we go to Luxemburg for cheap cigarettes and ride to Bastogne for the night. A nice town with an American tank in the square to commemorate the Battle of Bastogne. Beer and food features heavily tonight. Long gone are our amazing Alpine Passes, Rivera Coastline, or the Tuscan mountains. The following day it’s Amsterdam for our ferry to North Shields, UK and back home.

The sun was bright as we left Amsterdam, bikes tucked up in the hold it’s been one hell of a jolly! What a ride, what an experience. This has been amazing and looking back at this distant memory, the photos and this website will always remind us of what lucky bastards we were. 7 countries, 3,000 miles 14 days of bliss. (And hangovers). Cheers 😀

Fancy a ride to the Tuscan mountains?

You don’t need a £25,000 BMW or high-tech gizmos, just make sure you oil has been changed and you’ve got fresh rubber sorted and you’re off. We never booked a single hotel in advance nor did we plan the route to perfection, we just buggered off in search of good roads and a great time. Crikey, if we can do it……..

Motoeuro 2005