About RoadTrooper.com

Me and my Kawasaki VN800A

Me and my Kawasaki VN800A

I’ve had a wide range of jobs over the last 15 years, originally qualifying as a chef before becoming a computer systems engineer, technical illustrator, graphic designer and finally a landscape photographer.

Over the years landscape photography has become close to an obsession that will regularly see me abandoning a perfectly good bed at 4am to climb some mountain in the hope of getting a good dawn shot.

This works well with my other passion, motorbikes! Over the last 20 years I’ve toured all over Europe, the Alpine roads being the best place on earth for a biker/photographer…

I now suffer from terminal alpinitus, a very serious condition which leaves me no choice but to ride my bike into the hills without notice.

I cant believe I’m still married !!! :)

99 Responses to “About”

  1. tazzzie says:

    I am loving the blog / site and posts on IBF.

    And the pics.

    Best wishes.
    Tazzzie

  2. Tazzzie says:

    O – cannot believe your still married too, specially with that ‘tash :P

    Cheers Denis.
    Brian

  3. Dykkeren says:

    Nice reports and pictures. We are planning a trip in the Maritime Alps in Eastern 2012. Looks like it the southernmost part that is open ?

    Jens (Dykkeren) Norway

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Jens,

      In early April all the tourist passes will be closed (blocked with barriers), only the main roads will be kept open for commertial traffic to the coastal regions. In France the lower passes (1000/1500m) will start opening in the middle of May, the Italian passes are usually a week or two later. In April the temperatures around Briancon, Guillestre and Barcelonnette can remain -10 degrees C, it’s still the sking season and not for motorbikes! Last year the northern passes, Col de Telegraphe and Galibier did not open until mid June which is common. Valberg, a ski resort just a 2 hour journey from Nice would still be busy if it’s a harsh winter!

      April is a bad time to plan any kind of bike tour in the Alps, it’s too early! For example from Nice on the French coast the Alp Maritime will rise to 1000 meters within 40km! If you visit Nice in early April expect to see the mountains surrounding the coast covered in snow. The main roads leading to the larger towns and ski resorts will be kept clear and the small roads would be passable for cars, but would be highly dangerous for motorbikes. Melt water during the day in the Alp Maritime would freeze at night leaving very icy roads until midday, from midday until till 3/4pm small avalanches may again temporally block roads. These roads may officially be closed for motorbikes and only open for cars, in some cases the passes may be closed between 6pm and 10am to all traffic.

      If it’s a very mild and short winter you may be lucky passing the main roads on motorbike, but the French and Italian road authorities will still not open the tourist passes (the best biking roads) until mid May, they will then start to close again around the end of October (Barcelonnette north), and November for the southern passes (Barcelonnette south).

      The only time you can be sure to ride in the high alpine passes is from mid June and the Alp Maritime and southern passes from mid May.

      Check these websites for info on pass status;

      France
      http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr/en/article.php3?id_article=10
      http://www.infotrafic.com/route.php?region=FRANC&link=cols.php?ALPN

      Switzerland
      http://www.swissinfo.ch/ger/infos_zur_schweiz/verkehrsinfo/index.html?cid=7766200#pass

      All Passes (in German)
      http://www.oeamtc.at/bergstrassen/

      More info on all passes
      http://www.alpineroads.com/passes.php

      Hope this helps,
      Denis

      • Dykkeren says:

        Hi, I see my husboand did not thank you for your very thorough reply … Thank you a lot!!!! It is very, very useful and we are now making other plans for easter based on your info :-)

        What about Kroatia in easter?

        Have you biked a lot in Norway ? (we are norwegians)

        Hanne-Eva

        • gpsroutes says:

          Hi Hanne-Eva,

          Unfortunatly I have never been to Norway, I hope maybe to organise a motorbike trip next year as I have a few Norwegian friends who have invited me to visit and tour the fjords.

          Kroatia has some fantastic biking roads, and every biker I know that has been there has really enjoyed it. Easter is a good time to visit as it would be warm but not too hot and of course there would be less tourists and traffic.

          Another option, if you have the time is to ride down through France to Lyon, from Lyon you have a few options depending on the weather. If it’s a mild winter you might, if your lucky, be able to ride up to Briancon and ride to the coast over the southern Alps. If this is not an option you would be able to ride the “Route de Napoleon” which is a fantastic road through the lower western Alps and is always open. It starts in Grenoble and ends in Antibes and I cant recommend it enough. In the summer it’s really busy with tourist traffic, but in Easter it would be perfect.

          From the French coast, again depending on the weather and how you feel you can go east through Italy into Croatia or explore southern France and the back country of Provence which has plenty of fantastic roads, Gorges de Verdon, Mont Ventoux and the Ardeche to name a few great locations. Again, April/May is the perfect time for touring this area on motorbike as there’s less heat, less tourist traffic and accommodation is cheaper. It’s also only a day’s ride to the eastern Pyrenees which clear of snow around that time.

          In 3 weeks I’m going on my 2011 European Tour which will entail an aprox 6,500km tour through the French, Swiss, Italian Alps down as far as Gorges du Daluis where I’ll run along Gorge du Verdon, Gorges de Nesque, Mont Ventoux and the Dents du Midi (the Southern Teeth) mountain range. From there it’s the Ardeche before crossing over to the west coast to ride along the highest passes of Route des cols Pyrenees winding in and out of France, Spain and Andorra before heading further south into Alicante and Murcia. Weather willing I’ll be crossing at least 45 high Alpine/Pyrenean passes between 900 and 2,700 meters.

          As usual I’ll post descriptions of all the best roads along with photos, this year I’ll also have 2 sport video cameras mounted on the motorbike. From late November I’ll be uploading all the photos/videos etc so hopefully it will help you with your touring plans.

          Let me know what you decide to do, if you need any more help or information on France or Italy let me know.

          Denis

  4. RainierDog says:

    Dear Denis,
    I am new to your site. I cannot download the .gpx files to my iPad.
    If the file is attached to an email, I can receive.
    Please advise.
    Thanks,
    Rick Andrew
    Tacoma, WA USA

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Rick,

      I don’t have an iPad so I have not tested the site for iPad’s but I’m guessing it’s something to do with the functionality of the download page. Normally for PC you need to right click the .GPX file and “save link as” to get the popup “download file” box. Is there a function on your iPad to replicate the right click action?

      Denis

  5. Mcarpen50 says:

    Dear Denis,

    Really great blog you have, am very impressed with the quality work you have invested.

    And like you, I enjoy riding my bike (current: KTM 990 Adventure) through mountain ranges.

    Took the liberty to view & download some of your gdb files. Am going to see if one or the other can be integrated into my 2012 tour.
    It goes from Munich (home) through Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland and then back home. Am planning about 6-7 weeks to complete this one.

    Do you have any recommendations for overnight accommodations (Ibis, Hotel 1, etc.) with safe parking in France & Spain?

    Cheers,
    Mike Carpenter
    Munich, Germany

  6. gpsroutes says:

    Hi Mike,

    Sounds like you got one fantastic trip lined up for yourself, I’m seriously jealous. As for hotels with safe parking the best advice dont stay in big towns and cities, I’ve always found over the years that the more out of the way a hotel is the safer your bike is likely to be in any country. Motels on or near the autoroutes are even worse, stay away from them if ye have a bike worth stealing. In France, Spain, Italy etc the safest place to rest over night without having to worry about your bike is to stay in country B&B’s, Auberges, Chambre D’Hotes as they usually all have at least a driveway if not a garage and thieves or their spotters don’t hangout in such places.

    A couple of really good places I’ve stayed in recently are

    Auberge Mont Prorel, this is in Briancon (the highest town in Europe) on the French/Italian boarder and the half way point of Route des Grandes Alps. It’s run by an English couple and has a proper English/Irish style bar, pool table and good food. Ibis Briancon is also good if Mont Prorel is full but as with all the Ibis hotels it’s a bit sole-less. Mont Prorel has off street parking, park your bike in front of the entrance doors if staying in Ibis and it will be fine. If you haven’t been in Briancon before plan to stay at least 2 or 3 nights as it has some fantastic high Alpine roads surrounding it.
    http://www.hotelmontprorel.com/

    Auberge l’Arpelin on the Col D’Izoard about 25km south of Briancon is another good place to consider, not much chance of getting your bike nicked there!!! The owner speaks good English, but the food is typically French/Alpine and magic if your adventurous.
    http://www.auberge-larpelin.com/

    If your visiting the Matterhorn across the Italian boarder in the Aosta valley there is a great little hotel run by an exuberant Italian lady with little English, some French, but her rather stunning looking daughter speaks perfect English.
    http://www.jouretnuit.it/en/

    If visiting the Gorges du Verdon (and ye would be mad not to) it’s main town of Castellane can be hard to get accommodation and none with what I’d call safe parking. But if you head up the road to Saint-André-Les-Alpes you will find a great little hotel called Hotel Bel Air run by a mad French lad and his wife, both great fun, good restaurant, good bar, safe parking and well used by French bikers visiting the area.
    http://en.hotel-belair-verdon.com/

    If your heading towards the Pyrenees and Spain I’d stay off the French coast and cut across the Rhone valley via the great Mont Ventoux which is a must to ride. Coming down the west side of Mt Ventoux you will run into the great Cote du Rhone wine country, all the villages around here offer great food and wine, the tourist towns are expensive though. But there is a non touristy town near Châteaux Neuf du Pape called Sainte-Cécile-Les-Vignes with a surprisingly wonderful hotel called La Farigoule, at 50 Euro a night its seriously cheap for what you get. The food in it’s restaurant might look expensive however, but the chef is a genius and his food is stunning, I spent many years as a professional chef and I don’t give out this type of praise lightly. This hotel does not have parking but the owner has a big secure garage just across the road, just ask and she will be happy to keep your bike there if your worried, but it’s a quiet safe town. This town is also in easy reach of Gorges du Nesque and the Gorges de l’Ardeche, the roads around Mt Ventoux are also well worth a ride. Its also under a days ride to Andorra.
    http://www.lafarigoule.net/site-uk/hotel.htm

    Last autumn I also found a great place called Chalet le Chapeau Bleu, just west of Andorra on the Spanish boarder near Luchon. It’s half way between the Med and Atlantic with access to some of the highest roads in the Pyrenees. A really fantastic area with some of the best biking roads in Europe. It’s run by and English couple, Ron and Carol, Ron’s a biker and can direct you towards some great roads and he’s is a dam good cook. This place is in the middle of nowhere however so opt for the evening meal, there’s no restaurants or pubs around, or bike thieves for that matter. I’ll be uploading routes and info on this area in a few weeks.

    I find the following websites really helpful when looking and booking accommodations..
    Ibis and F1 ye already know, but what I don’t find by accident I find here..

    http://www.logishotels.com/en.html (Has downloadable GPS POI’s for every listing) Logis hotels are usually of a good standard and affordable, better than Ibis, easily better then the F1 chain.

    http://www.tripadvisor.ie/ – This is a great site for getting reviews and accommodation

    http://www.booking.com/ – Invaluable on route if ye have a smartphone..

    Hope this helps..
    Denis

  7. Harlequin says:

    Hi RT. Congratulations on a great blog – interesting, great pics and full of very helpful info.

    Mid June I am planning on travelling from Annecy to Briancon and then from Briancon via Castellane to Nice. Do you reckon I could make the first leg in one day, and the second leg in around seven hours – excluding food/petrol stops? I would like to spend longer, but can’t unfortunately. What do you think? Cheers.

  8. gpsroutes says:

    Hi Harlequin

    From Annecy if you go down the A43 then take exit 29-Col-du-Galibier toward Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and come over Telegraph/Galibier you’d easily get to Briancon in 4-5 hours and thats taking in stopping for lunch and photographs on Galiber. On a straight run you’d probably do it in 3-4hrs. You could also go via the Frejus tunnel, it’s quicker but not nearly as good a ride. Or even a longer route via Baufort, Bourg St Maurice, Val d’Isere and Lac Cenis to come into Briancon via Italy, about a 7hr ride, but well worth it as that a really great route.

    Either way easily done in a day.

    From Briancon to Nice the 3 quickest ways are:

    1. Riding over La Bonette and down the D2205 and D6202 into Nice. This is easily done in about 4hrs30 to 5hrs30 with a nice stop to take in the views on La Bonette. If you’ve never ridden over La Bonette “the highest through road in Europe” I gota say it’s a must at least once in your life. From the bottom of the south ramp it’s an easy but fairly boring straight run into Nice on good fast roads with lite traffic until you close in on the coast. If your going in mid June La Bonette should easily be open by then, but check the pass status before you commit to your route.
    http://www.bison-fute.equipement.gouv.fr/acces-aux-cols/index.do

    2. From Briancon- Saint Andre les Alps -Nice, go via Embrun – Colmar – Saint Andre les Alps then just south of St Andre take a left and cut across on the N202 via Entrevaux which joins the D6202 straight into Nice, again about 5hrs30 or less, a bit more if you stop off in the motorbike museum Entrevaux, it’s about 1hr 20mins into Nice from here. Watch out for mobile speed traps on the N202 & D6202, this is main route to the coast from Gorge du Verdon and the cops are on it. It’s a long smooth straight road and real easy to let your speed creep up, but trust me the cops are regularly all over this road looking to take your money.

    3. Briancon- Castellane – Nice, this is not so easily done in 7hrs as this route will bring you into Nice from the west on the D6065 “part of Route Napoleon” which means going through Grasse/Mougins or through Valbonne. The problem here is the traffic (from Castellane all the way to Nice via Grasse) all along this route which is fecken nuts even when its not tourist season. In the last 5/10 years or so the whole Grasse/Mougins area has become seriously over populated, it’s a melting pot of small roads overloaded with traffic, add in 250,000 seasonal visitors and it becomes hell to navigate even on a moped.

    If you roll in on this route in mid June it’s going to be back to back camper vans etc. If you also happen to be doing it during rush hour 4:30pm-7:30pm then God help you. Even on a bike you will be 2hrs in hot, smelly aggressive traffic. The French cops are not too keen on bikes filtering either, especially ones with panniers so you have to be a bit careful with that also. If you absolutely have to go to Castellane do so, but I’d definitely back up to the N202 and drop down into Nice from the north, it might seem longer, but it’s usually quicker as you will almost certainly miss a whole lot of traffic and get into Nice a lot more relaxed.

    With the aprox time’s I’ve given that would be how long it would take me in good weather in lite traffic, on a big RT and I’m not a very fast rider. If your a quick rider on a lighter sportier bike it would be quicker. But dont forget that in the Alps, even in summer the weather can turn shite quickly and slow you down so just be prepared for that.

    Hope this helps..
    Have a safe trip mate, enjoy..
    Denis

  9. jc_bromley says:

    Hi Dennis, enjoyed your site, I’ve downloaded a few gpx files. I’m off to France/Spain on Tuesday for a couple of weeks so hopefully they’ll be put to good use!

    What helmet cam are you using?

    JC

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi JC

      I’m using the Drift HD170 Stealth, it’s a very handy little cam and worth the money in my book. The GoPro is another great camera but it looks a bit bad if you plant it on the top of your lid.
      Watch out for the Guardia Civil on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, the sneaky buggers have hidden speed cameras even in the remotest areas and check points on border crossings and rural roundabouts as far south as Barcelona.

      Have a safe trip, you are probably going at the best time of the year..

      Denis

  10. SATDOC27 says:

    Hi Denis,

    Just to let you know that I spent a couple of nights at the Mont Prorel in Briancon on your advice.
    Marvellous!
    Know what you mean about the fireplace though!
    My lad and I followed your suggested routes from Albertville ((nice little campsite called Lac de Carouge) through to Briancon – stunning for us first timers.
    Dossed around on the Sat then followed route you published starting and ending at Briancon.
    It was brilliant, Cols, passes, Alpine lakes the lot – so thanks very much for passing on your experiences
    Planning to do something similar next year maybe head into Italy for a few
    Sent from sunny (I lie) Cornwall.

    Bob and Jon

    • gpsroutes says:

      That’s really great to hear Bob, thanks a lot for that.
      I’ll be uploading a load more routes, photos and videos over the winter as I have spent the summer exploring the Pyrenees which are very different from the Alps, but no less brilliant. I also found 2 of the most stunning roads I have ever ridden which wind in and out of Spain.

      I also found some really excellent bike friendly places to stay, drink and eat so I hope you come back for more, I might just convince you to head to the Pyrenees next year instead ;)

      Cheers
      Denis

  11. jeff evs says:

    Hi Denis
    Thanks for putting in the time and effort on your site, you are doing a great job.

    It may even inspire me to do a bit of touring. I live in west wales and so have some pretty good biking roads but it would be good to go futher a field.

    I have just bought an F800r in orange so appologies if I draw up along side you at the lights! That is how I found your site, looking for reviews for the F800r.

    Thanks again

    Jeff

  12. gpsroutes says:

    Thanks Jeff, always good to hear the site is of use.

    I was over in Wales a few years back and really enjoyed it, I hope to get back at some stage. Congrats on the getting the bike, the F800R should be perfect for those Welsh roads as it’s an underrated, brilliant, easy to ride, stress free, economical all-rounder.

    If your looking to accessorise your F800 a bit I can really recomend the halogen lights from motobozzo – http://www.motobozzo.de/xtcatalog/product_info.php?language=en&info=p130_BMW-F-800-R-Halogen-Nebelleuchten.html

    They look great but more importantly they will make the bike and you far more noticeable to cars as the F800′s headlight, like most bikes in my view, is not great. Since I put on the halogen side lights I’ve really seen first hand how cars now pull over to let me through when I come up behind them and are less likely to pull out on me at junctions. I still cant believe the difference they have made, especially as they only cost around £100 inc delivery, much better value then the Touratech ones. Well worth considering dude, but please dont pull up next to me at the lights lol…..

    Stay safe

    Denis

  13. cotetoi says:

    I have enjoyed your site since I happened onto it and subscribed. I am leaving you a comment to thank you for sharing your experiences and posting such great pictures of the most favourite places for me. I live in Atlantic Canada, and its great; but to me, the South of France and Northern Spain is absolutely the greatest. You are living my dream and sharing it with me !!! Great stuff, can’t thank you enough.

  14. mickworrad says:

    Hi, love your site. i am a touring abroad virgin. i want to do a tour of france this year and would like to experience some of the alps/mountain passes. i have an st1100 pan european but have no idea of what route to take can you advise me please.i am thinking of getting the ferry to calais regards mick

  15. gpsroutes says:

    Hi Mick,

    The Route des Grande Alps is the best route in the western Alps and a great way to get into touring, it statrs off just south of Lac Leman on the French Swiss border and finishes up near Nice. There are loads of variations to the route, but for the most part it follows the epic D902. I prefer to finish up in Castellane at the edge of Gourge du Verdon which is un miss-able.

    You have a great bike for the job which will chew up the motorway so you could shoot straight down the motorway on the 1st day and be ready to tackle the good stuff on your 2nd day. Go via Rheims and stear clear of Paris as the traffic around Paris is alway nuts and toll fees are more expensive. Some of the alpine roads are tough going, so if you are taking a pillion you will be lucky if you manage 200km in a day through those hills;)

    Once you get into the Alps though dont plan on doing any more than 300km max in a day.

    Copy and paste this Google Maps link into your internet browser – http://goo.gl/maps/gwLe3 This would be a really good route with many of the best passes to get the initial planning done.

    But a lot depends on your dates. If you go too early the higher passes may be closed. The highest passes may not open until June! Make sure not to go during the Tour de France or you will face endless traffic jams and all the hotels etc will be booked out.

    Also check out my 2010 and 2011 tours through this area, there is tons of info on alternative routes and links to places to stay and loads more which should answer many questions for you.

    Make sure to get an up to date Michelin map and not an AA map as the Michelin maps are far better for France and match the French road sign colour codes. The AA maps have their own colour codes which make things more confusing if you get lost. I think I have a list of maps for this route and a guide to French road signs here http://www.roadtrooper.com/a-virgins-touring-guide/

    Hope this helps to get you started, if you have any more questions just fire away..

    Cheers

    Denis

  16. black-k1 says:

    Great site full of useful information. I’d like to link to your site from ours – http://www.old-gits.org Are you OK with that? I’d especially like to mention your virgins touring guide and link directly to that. Again, is that OK with you?

    Regards

    David Mc
    http://www.old-gits.org

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi David. Sorry for the late reply but I’m just back from a very long and cold ride from the west coast of Ireland back to Dublin. Had a bout of winter cabin fever and had to blow the cobwebs off my bike as much as myself lol…

      You guys have a really great site yourselves, I’d say I’d probably fit right in being a borderline old git myself ;)

      Absolutly feel free to link or reference to my virgins guide download page, the advice in it “for what it’s worth at least” is free. It’s probably a bit long winded but hopefully it helps those who have yet to get their bikes a little further afield.

      Just so you know I’ll be writing in a few updates to it soon. As it’s now a year old it needs a little tweeking here and there to keep the info/links etc fresh.

      Best regards
      Denis

  17. Chaz says:

    Hi Denis
    Just found your site this evening, really pleased I did!
    I’m heading to Bilbao mid August and plans are to head along the N260, up past the right of Andora and to Puivert in France where we have friends, then back up through France and home.
    We were going to be doing it at the end of May, but the mate I’m going with works for the NHS and we got mucked around with his holiday availability. Mid August was the only time possible… Not ideal I know, and from reading bits on here I now know it even more! However I’m sure we’ll still have a great time, as long as we stay hydrated and avoid tiger mozzies, etc.
    I might pick your brains, if I may, re routes sometime. I’ve got a fair bit of it planned already and having an experienced eye run over it might be a God send just in case.
    Thanks again for putting this site up here.
    Happy riding :-)
    Chaz

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Chaz,

      Dont worry about going in August, you will have a blast what ever time you go.
      Would be happy to advise/help or have a look over your route, just send me an email to denis.smyth@roadtrooper.com with a route google maps link, kml or gdb/gpx and I’ll have a look..

      All the best..

      Denis

  18. tomtwix says:

    Hi Denis

    Just looking through your Pyrenees trip of 2012 & I am very tempted to give it a go.
    I am intending sailing into Roscoff on 26th May & after a leisurely spin down through France hope to hit Pau after 3 or 4 days on non motorway roads.

    I am wondering if you could roughly recommend a route for me coming from that direction. I have noted your routes & hope to try some of them, however I dont want any “brown trouser” moments so maybe you could advise me what cols to avoid. I hasten to add that I’m an “aul fart” now & could do without such moments but not afraid of moderate adventure but no scary stuff!!

    I am also wondering why you always seem to base yourself on the French side of the border, I would have thought it would be cheaper on the Spanish side, but you probably have a very good reason for that.

    I dont want to go booking places to stay in advance so I’m wondering if there’s any problems just “winging it” & finding B&B in the Pyrenees on each day just by turning up?

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Tom,

      Sorry for the lat reply, it’s been a busy few days..

      It’s hard to recommend a good route from Roscoff to Pau as there are too many :) Central France is littered with great roads so you will run into them without trying. Travelling south I rarely take the same route twice unless I’m short of time in which case I’ll take the N roads and use the motorways to get around the bigger towns and cities without hassle. I would however seriously recommend you work in the Gorge du Tarn into either your route down or back, in many ways it’s better than Gorges du Verdon. It’s just 20km-ish north east of Millau and the Millau bridge which really is well worth a look too.

      The easiest way to find great roads is to stay away from the touristy coast line, obviously stay off the motorway, and most importantly get yourself a Michelin map and look for the roads with the green lines along them. These are the scenic/tourist roads almost all of which are marvellous, try to follow the “D” regional roads which usually give you easy access both to fun roads and plenty of B&B’s/campsites etc. Also the Michelin maps have a “BIS” route indication, this is a very specific French road classification which roughly translates to “The Road Less Travelled”, these roads/routes are outstanding cultural, historical and scenic routes. If you come across a road sign with a “BIS” on it – follow it :)

      As for “brown trouser” moments I wouldn’t worry, the Pyrenees roads are far less hairy than the Alps. The only pass that might get a little unnerving is Col du Tourmalet which is the highest pass. If you approach the Col from the west there is a very tight corner with a nasty gradient near the top, if approaching on the east ramp its got a “visually impressive” drop off cliff and a nasty hairpin turn. However, both those turns are only difficult if you’re riding a big, top heavy bike like my old RT, on your light and nimble Vstrom DL650X it’s easy. Also, if you have ridden in the Alps you are not going to find any pass nearly as challenging as many found in the Alps.

      The roads on the Spanish side are for the most part better, almost all have a perfect smooth surface, and outside of July and August you will have them mostly all to yourself, apart from the odd cow wondering aimlessly across the road. In fact, on both sides of the border I’d consider the biggest hazard being the itinerant bovine menace which is about the only potential “brown trouser” moment you are likely to face. Simply stay alert for them and your speed in cheque and there won’t be any problems.

      Also around mid/late May there is a strong chance you will come across sheep farmers clogging up the roads moving their wool makers up to the high pastures. Unlike the Alpine roads the Pyrenees roads are far lower and thereforehave a far higher concentration of farmland, which means tractors, animals etc, all of which will be your main road hazards. As long as you keep that in mind you really have nothing to worry about.

      As for mostly basing myself on the French side, well that’s just a personal preference as I’m very fond of French food, and even more fond of the regional cognac and especially the more rustic armagnac’s that can only really be found in the south west area of France. It’s just my very own guilty little pleasure :)

      With that said though there is not really that much difference price wise between France and Spain anymore. Hotels, campsites and B&B’s are much the same price, even supermarket and fuel prices are starting to pair up and Spanish motorway tolls are some of the most expensive in Europe. A really good Spanish restaurant will also be summarily priced, but generally eating out, beer and wine is still much cheaper in Spain.

      As for winging it with B&B’s you should be fine as you will be there very early in the season. The only thing is that you do need to start looking for a place to stay around 4pm, 5pm at the very latest. If you get stuck head for the nearest town with a tourist office who will help you find a place for the night. If you speak a little French the village post office, Tabac or Spar shops are also a great place to help find a local B&B as those guys know everyone in their district. If there is an unlisted B&B in the area they will know of it, but you will need to speak a little French.

      I’ll actually be in the Pyrenees myself up until around the 30th, so you never know, I might just see you there

      Hope this helps, happy travels..

      Denis

  19. Itchy says:

    Hi, not long found your site and what a great site it is, i have a question about the Pyrenees. What is the score with petrol stations? are they on the downloads and if I’m doing stuff that isnt on your list how do I go about finding them. Is it wise to carry a jerrycan full?

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Itchy, sorry for the late reply, I’m only just back from my 1st bike trip of the season.

      On my downloadable gps routes there are petrol stations on the routes every 100-150km. The need to carry a jerry can depends on your bikes tank range. If your bike can manage a minimum of 300km/180miles before the warning light comes on then you should be fine, but I’d never go further than 200km/120miles without topping up as my F800GS will only manage 300km safely. DON’T wait for the bikes low fuel warning light to light up before looking for a fuel stop as you can easily get into trouble.

      I consider a tank range of 300km/180miles the absolute bare minimum for touring in rural areas, Alps, Pyrenees included.

      If your bikes tank range is lower than 300km then I’d seriously consider carrying extra fuel, especially if you intend to ride in rural areas or on a Sunday. Otherwise plan your route very carefully to be sure of finding fuel.

      In the Pyrenees fuel stations are fairly abundant; especially on the Spanish side as long as you plan a route that will take you through at least medium sized villages or small towns. Beware however, on both sides of the border, and especially in Spain the stations in rural areas may close for lunch/siesta (2-4pm) and can be closed all day Sunday.

      If you are planning your routes with SatNav software on your PC (e.g. Garmin MapSource) beware that some of the fuel stations listed in the software have gone out of business due to the recession. This is becoming an increasing problem in France where rural populations are packing up and heading to the big towns in search of work. Less people in rural areas = more petrol stations closing down and neither the Garmin nor TomTom SatNavs are being updated with these changes.

      Unmanned fuel stations are also becoming more popular in France, so bring a major credit card (Visa/MasterCard – Do Not Use Lazer/Debit cards for buying fuel! Lazer/Debit work on a different system and the petrol station may initially charge you €100 or more (up to €400). This is a minimum balance holding request, the petrol station then charges your card at the end of their business week and cancels the minimum balance holding request. The holding request is to make sure you will have the funds in your account when they get around to charging you for the fuel you bought. The system is a pain in the arse!

      Many lads using Lazer/Debit cards at French petrol stations have found their accounts frozen mid trip from balance holding requests, so buy with cash if at all possible or Credit Card for unmanned stations.

      I’m heading off to France, the Pyrenees and Spain in 2 weeks, and as my F800GS will only manage 300km of spirited riding on a full tank I will be carrying an extra 5ltr jerry can with me as I plan to ride some of the mountain trails where fuel stations definitely don’t exist.

      Hope this helps with the decision.

      Denis

  20. Itchy says:

    Thanks Denis, I’m on a fjr1300 so shouldnt need the can then, one less think to pack.

  21. Itchy says:

    Hi sorry to turn your site into a forum but have one more question regards the Pyrenees, my mate is planning the route and is picking lots of little white roads, is that advisable and are they safe for tourers? Thanks

    • gpsroutes says:

      No prob Itchy, a forum is definitely high on the list for me to add to this site..:)

      Usually what I do when I am not sure is a road is suitable for my bike is use street view in Google Maps. But to answer your question it is of course possible, but some of those can be very hard and slow work on big bikes. It’s one of the reasons I sold my R1150RT, I find 800cc bikes like the Tiger 800 or my F800GS far easier for these roads.

      As for these smaller rural “white” roads in the Pyrenees it depends a bit on the region and road designation (D,N, Na-number etc). In the eastern Pyrenees around Andorra they are mostly in very good condition, especially on the Spanish side. However, in the Pays de Basque/Pyrenees Atlantic and Aragon regions the rural roads become very hard work on a big heavy bike. They are also very narrow, sometimes only 3.5 meters wide. So if you are coming around a blind corner with great big panniers you really need to be wide awake and be prepared for on-coming traffic. Also don’t expect to be covering much more than 30-40kmph max, any faster on those roads and you will be really pushing your luck, expect wandering cattle, horses, sheep, goats Guardia Civil etc blocking roads. And if the weather is bad you can find yourself riding at 10-20kmph for hours on end.

      I brought a couple of lads over those roads 2 weeks ago in bad weather (2-6 degrees C, sleet, hail etc) and things for the lads on the big tourers became painfully slow. I’m well used to those types of roads, even on big bikes, but I gota say it’s heavy work. If you have the time to go slow and dont plan on more that 200km per day over 8 hours road time then no prob. But if your mate is planning 300km + per day on those roads then I’d place a bet that the two of you are going to have change your plans!

      If you are planning this trip in the next 2 weeks I’d also recommend extreme caution, the weather in the Pyrenees this year is terrible. Some of the high passes (Cols Aubisque, Solour,and Tourmalet are closed and still under 3 meters of snow. All roads above 1600m are still at risk of snow/ice and severe weather warnings seem to be permanently in place on the French side. Last weekend 2 of the ski stations reopened for the 1st time ever in June. So if heading into the Alps or Pyrenees this year all bikers really need to stay up to date with weather as it’s exceptionally bad this year, unfortunately water proofs and base layers are essential anywhere above 1600 meters alt.

      Hope this helps, have a safe trip,,
      Denis

  22. Itchy says:

    great, thanks, going mid sept but need to start planning now.

  23. restandplay says:

    Hi

    A very interesting and inspiring site. I am just 70 years young and ride a BMW F800ST. Fantastic bike for myself. Have booked the ferry plus hotels and plan on the following route. I am riding with a younger biker who has a Ducati 999s think I will have the better ride. We plan to cover 2,500 land miles over eight days. Last year we did in January the UK to Alicante on two scooters so this year should be even more fun.
    Again thanks for such an interesting site. Derek
    ROUTE PLANNER
    Saint-Malo 8.30 hours
    Moriaix Fuel Stop (110 miles) 10.45 hours
    Brest
    Quimper (81miles) 12.30 hours
    Saint-Nazaire (168 miles) 16.30 hours (Includes hours break)
    Ferry Leaves 19.30 hours

    Gijon 12.30 hours
    Vegadeo Fuel Stop (95miles) 14.30 hours
    Qurense Fuel Stop (107 miles) 17.30 hours
    Chaves Portugal (59 miles) 19.00 hours (Arrive Hotel)
    Chaves 8.00 hours
    Braganca (61miles) 10.00 hours (Mountain Roads)
    Zamora (63miles) 11.45 hours
    Soria (190 miles) 17.00 hours (including 1 hours break) (Arrive Hotel)
    Soria 8.30 hours
    Gran Alacant (346 miles) 17.30 hours (including 1 hours break)
    Gran Alacant 8.00 hours
    Almansa (64miles) 9.30 hours (Junction 9 onto N330)
    Requena (49miles) 12.00 hours
    Teruel (79 miles) 14.00 hours
    Tudela (162 miles) 18.00 hours (including 1 hours break) (Arrive Hotel)
    Tudela 8.30 hours
    Saint-Palais (121 miles) 12.00 hours
    Dax (34miles) 13.30 hours
    Labouheyre (39 miles) 14.30 hours
    Bordeaux (121 miles) 18.00 hours (Arrive Hotel)
    Bordeaux 9.00 hours
    Saint-Malo 318 miles 16.00 hours Arrive Hotel

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi restandplay,

      Sounds like you got a great trip lined up. I’d love to hear of the trip you did last year on scooters. It’s actually been sitting on my mind for a while now to do a big “but slow” trip through France & Italy on a scooter, so any advice/tips on this would be welcome.

      As for your current trip, well I’d be far happier on your BMW F800ST for such a trip, I hope your mate has full travel and EU breakdown insurance lol. The 999 is one of those iconic special bikes no argument there, but you need to be young, witless and rheumatism free to attempt such a trip on that Duke ;)

      Safe riding mate,

      Denis

  24. vfr says:

    Hi Dennis.
    Just making plans to make an assault on the Swiss and Austrian Mountain passes and would appreciate some tips on ones not to miss.Have just come back from 7,000ks touring southern France,a tip toe of Spain,Italy and the Matterhorn.(came home early weather closed out 24 June0
    Listening to some bikers the Stelvio pass all though has the twist and turns is not worth the long trip over.I intend doing as much as possible in the 8/9 days,my transport is 62 plate vfr1200 on which i’ve just done the last trip ,which was loaded up with wife,curling tongs,spare contacts/glasses 3 make up bags and every thing including kitchen sink;this time solo rucksack, tank bag and Gopro.
    Have a list from Wikipedia of passes,intend travelling up from Cornwall across on tunnel and down to French Swiss border in one hit,then the fun begins.
    I’am a mileage nut and will ride all day every day.

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Anthony,

      Sorry for the late reply, I’m still on tour and in Spain at the moment and unfortunately just running off a little notebook and dont have access to my list of roads in the Austrian area. And to my shame I cant for the life of me remember the name of the passes off hand as my German sucks so the names are all schnitzel to me ;) I have not been in the Austrian Alps in ages either and well due a return…

      But not to worry, here is a great resource for finding great roads in the Alps, I use this website alot for planning my trips, loads of great info and links to the best passes..
      http://www.alpineroads.com

      Use the area map sections for breaking down the list of great roads here http://www.alpineroads.com/alpmap.php

      Have a great trip, stay safe and send us some photos :)
      Denis

  25. mickworrad says:

    Hi Dennis, i am hoping to pick your brain again. i have just booked a weeks bike hire through bmwmotorhire. i have hired a st1300 and will be staying near a small village called teba close to malaga. do you have any routes or suggestions for me. i will be using teba as a base and will return there most nights. i hope you enjoyed your last trip. regards mick

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Mick,

      I’m still kinda on my last trip ;) First off you wont be far from Ronda, thats a town thats well worth a visit with some world class roads west and south west of it. Some good routes in the Malaga area can be downloaded here http://www.bestbikingroads.com/motorcycle-roads/motorbike-rides-in-spain-/andalucia–___8576.html

      Another really, really good run “probably an overnighter” would to Jaén – here is the route from Malaga http://goo.gl/maps/XMUjT This route has some of best of what the “real” Spain has to offer. A great mix of roads, scenery, Moorish castle’s and Spanish villages that few tourists get to see. As always, stick to the speed limits as the Guardia Civil “Tax Collectors” are open for business..

      Have a great trip, stay safe…
      Den

  26. restandplay says:

    Hi Mick

    Currently planning my next ride. Want to take in Andorra la Vella but am worried about the road conditions. Plan to be there 13th May. Do you think the roads will be icy or not?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Derek

    • gpsroutes says:

      Mick? :)

      Hi Derek

      The road from France into Spain via Andorra la Vella is a main through road and open all year round. It’s also not that far from the Mediterranean with it’s softer climate zone compairing to the Atlantic side so most likely you will be fine. But it might not be so enjoyable. Woolly underwear, good base layers and rain gear is absolutely essential.

      In 2012 I rode the full length of the Pyrenees, inc. Andorra in mid May and the weather was cracking, 18-24 degrees C and all the passes were open. This year I was back on the 16th of May and the weather was about as bad as it gets, heavy rain, mini tornado’s, snow, ice, sub zero temperatures and cloud so low and thick it was highly dangerous to ride above 1000 meters. On the evening of the 18th I found myself lost (satnav failed due to 3 solid days of rain) on top of a mountain west of Tourmalet praying to God to get me to a hotel safely before I froze, crashed, or both. I’ll never forget it, I was close to tears, a flat tyre or even a minor crash would have seen me in very serious trouble.

      Then on the 20th the weather cleared, temps rose suddenly to 24C which was great until all the snow (unseasonably late) started to melt rapidly flooding roads, rivers etc. Then it rained, and rained some more, by the 21st whole villages the length of the French Pyrenees were being washed away and people were loosing their lives.

      Flash flooding was also happening on the Spanish side along with wind screen smashing hail storms and at this stage I called it quits and went south towards Barcelona. Luckily I rang ahead to a mate there and was tolled to stay away, high winds and record breaking hail was making that area almost as treacherous, the motorway leading into the city had a 1 inch sheet of hardened hail on it. Suffice to say the May trip was a washout, and I ended up drying out in Alicante.

      On the 1st of June 2013, for the 1st time in history some Pyrenees ski resorts re-opened!!!!!!!!!!!

      Long story short, the weather these days has become too unpredictable. You can only do one of two things, keep a very close eye on the weather and hope for the best while having a back-up plan, or wait until June. For me it’s way to soon to be booking a trip to the Pyrenees that early. I’ll have a tour and route plan ready to go back to the Pyrenees in May, but I will also have a back-up plan to ride southern Spain in May as it’s a safer bet. May 2010, 2011 and 2012 were perfect for riding in the region. Riding in the mountains can be challenging due to unpredictable weather at the best of times, but the Pyrenees last May was no fun at all and had me beat.

      No matter the weather though, you will almost certainly make it to Andorra, but take the possibility of severe weather conditions very seriously and make sure your kit, your bike and you are up to it. If the weather is bad stick to the main roads – if you do get into trouble at least other road users and help will be at hand. A back up plan is a must I’d say or play it safe and go in June.

      Good luck ;)
      Denis

  27. restandplay says:

    Hi Dennis

    First sorry about renaming you Mick. What a fantastic detailed reply, thanks a lot for taking the time to provide so much detail. Think we might spend more time in the Picos de Europa area hoping that might be a safer bet.

    Derek

  28. jjohn says:

    Hi Dennis, I have just watched the video on Pyrenees motorbike routes, Port De Bielsa. Brilliant could you please tell me what music was on that video it was great.
    John

  29. restandplay says:

    Hi Dennis

    Do you bother to change your headlights when driving on the right?

    Derek

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Derek,

      It depends. If a bikes headlights are setup for driving on the left (UK/Ireland) and you head off to the continent for 2 weeks and you know you will be driving at night then you have to adjust your lights. This can be done with coloured sticky tape but it massively depends on your bike models headlights. Best port of call is your local dealer for a chat with the mechanic or a bike model specific forum.

      As for myself, if I’m taking my Irish or UK bike abroad for just a week or two I have never bothered to be honest – but I never drive at night. I’m almost always at a campsite or hotel by 6pm. I’ve been stopped by cops plenty of times for licence/insurance checks etc but I’ve never had a problem with non adjusted lights – “during the day”!!!!

      However, if I know I am going to be spending a lot of time on the continent on a particular bike – my current F800GS for example then yes, I do change the lights. With my 800GS I bought a new headlight set (£210) which was a large expense. However I now have two F800GS’s and intend to keep with this model for the coming years, so now I can just swap the lights around each bike as needed – so worth the investment, for me at least.

      Hope this helps
      Denis

  30. mickb says:

    Hi Denis

    been having a look round this new found site, looks great, well done and I must say “lucky man”!!
    My wife and myself, although having had motorbikes, but never touring, in the past have now got back into it (about 4 years now), although my wife no longer rides (drives) and is content to be pillion.
    We did a couple of trips in this country (England) last year which we both really enjoyed them so this year we are extending our horizons & heading for the hills!!

    First a tester in Normandy (beaches etc) in early May, ferry & two hotels booked for 6 nights. Then to Ireland in July. A wedding invitation takes us to Bangor N.I. & then we will ride over to the west coast to Galway & Connemara then down the west coast to the Ring of kerry (5 nights). Nothing booked, only the ferry, as having been to Ireland on numerous occasions I know we will find accomodation quite easily.
    Then the biggy (for us) we plan to go to the Pyrenees at the end of August/beginning of September. Sailing to Santander or Bilbao, then making our way over the Pyrenees for 5 nights and returning up through France for the tunnel home, another 3/4 nights.
    All that leading to my question, what do you recommend about accomodation in the Pyrenees? (At this stage I will tell you I have spoilt my wife in the past & it will have to be B&B/hotels probably en-suite)!!!!! Can we take a chance & just start looking for somewhere at 4/5 o’clock or do you think we would be better planning a ‘proper’ route and booking before we go? Or, my other thought was to book one room for the 5 nights in the Pyrenees, somewhere ‘in the middle’ and ride out and back from there.
    We don’t want to waste time riding around for hours finding a room, so any advice on how busy/room availability around that time would be great.
    Not too bothered about coming up through France as I’m sure accomodation there will not be a problem.

    Although I know mountain weather can be changeable what ‘should’ it be like August/September?

    Thanks in advance
    all the best
    Mick

  31. mickb says:

    Hi Denis

    wow, thanks for the quick reply! Your correct about the pillion, I fully understand that they haven’t got the same ‘view’ of things whilst sat at the back and often get a punch in the kidneys when I’ve gone that ‘bit too far’ without a stop. The wife is happy so long as she has a ‘nice bed’……..she just won’t camp!!

    Some great information for us there Denis, I’ll make notes of what info’ you have given us and get the maps out asap, checking the locations of the hotels etc.

    I have read some, but not all, of your routes & trips in the Pyrenees so will continue to check those out.

    The reason we chose August/September was because of the wife’s holidays, it would be difficult for her to get two weeks in September (but I’ll get her to try harder now!). Would we still be in with a chance of ‘decent’ weather later in September or is it likely to start cooling down/more chances of rain etc? (or doesn’t it matter what time of year you go regards that?)

    again thanks very much for your help & I’m sure you’ll hear from me again.

    kind regards
    Mick

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Mick,

      The most unpredictable time of the year in the Pyrenees is probably May when it could be sunny and 25C as it was in 2012. However in May 2013, the same time as the year before I got hit with torrential rain, sleet, hail, snow and sub zero temps…

      Sept is for me the best month, it’s still hot 20-25C and dry but the real heat has died off a bit so it makes for a nicer ride. It should not start cooling off until the very end of Sept or even early Oct.

      However, that does not mean you should not be prepared for bad weather as its always unpredictable, especially these days and always in the mountains! In any mountain region, even in mid summer rain gear and 1st/2nd level base layers are absolutely essential. I’d leave my puncture repair kit at home before I’d leave waterproofs, base layers & spare gloves behind…

      The Pyrenees-Atlantic is notorious for it’s wet weather all year round too due to it’s proximity to the mountains, the Atlantic and the warmer weather fronts of Spain so the chances of you getting wet if in that region are high. If you are on the French side and the weather sucks just pop over to the Spanish side where 9 times out of 10 the weather will be ideal, like I said, each side of the Pyrenees is very different. Even riding just 20km across the border the landscape and weather can change so much it’s hard to believe, it’s what makes the region so much fun..

      Best of luck, stay safe…

      D

  32. mickb says:

    Hi Denis

    another great bit information and advice. I, and I’m sure alot of other less experienced travellers than yourself, really appreciate this sort of help.

    Enjoy your own travels this year, as I’m sure my wife & I will enjoy ours.

    kind regards
    Mick

  33. jeff evs says:

    Hi Denis
    I know you really liked your f800r and that you were looking for one some time back.
    I’m looking to sell mine (2009, 5000 miles and loads of extras). Maybe too late for you, but thought I’d give you a shout anyway.

    cheers

    Jeff

  34. Tonym says:

    Hi Denis

    Congrats on the site. Can tell a lot of work goes into it.

    I noticed you had a wind deflector on F800GS, which one and did you try any others ?

    I have my 800GSA being delivered in March !! Do you find deflector necessary on the GSA ?

    I did lengthy test ride on the GSA and did feel a fair bit if wind. I am taller than you at 6′ 2″. Any insight welcome.

    I am trying to firm up a tour to Picos De Europa. Not been to Spain before on bike. Any suggestions as to best time of year to go ?
    Do you have any hotel recommendations ? Seems to me it is a fairly compact area so being based at one or two hotels would be OK rather than moving on every day ? Comments ?

    Regards Tony

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Tony,

      I dont need a screen extender as yet for my 800GSA, like you said I’m a bit shorter at 5 foot 9 and I’m using the lower seat option and so for every day use I dont need one. But I got a big trip coming in August/Sept where I’ll be doing a few long motorway days so I will be getting an extention. I find the screen extenders expensive but well worth the money as for me anyway, they make a big difference lowering wind noise making a long motorway day less tireing and more comfortable by far.

      As you are taller than me I can only imagine one making an even bigger difference to you. The screen extender I’m currently using on my 2009 800GS is an old Wunderlich Universal Screen Extension which I got from Nippy Normans a few years back and it’s been worth every penny. I dont think this one will fit my 800GSA properly though due to the very different wind shield shape on the 800GSA so I will probably get this one before my big Sept trip on the 800GSA Wunderlich Ergo screen extension for 1200GSA/800GSA

      Like I said, I find the screen extensions well worth the cost if I’m sitting straight up (GS/RT touring or sport touring type bike) and my lid is above the screen. For long days at motorway speeds I find them worth their weight in gold for wind noise reduction alone. I’d be surprised if you did not find one usefull yourself, and if not you could shift it easily enough on Ebay. Most are really easy to adjust or take off as needs dictate so they are easy to live with too..

      As for the Picos, mid May to mid/late Oct would be perfect with the exception of August. Rain gear is still needed though as the Picos are very close to the Atlantic, and with the weather these days anything can happen. The Spanish generally take the whole month of August for their holidays with those in central Spain “Madrid” heading to the mountains or coast to excape the heat. As the Spanish drive like lunathics and of course the heat 30-45C I tend to stay clear of Spain in August. In saying that I have not been there for a few years so cant comment on a good hotel, I’ll be back there this year myself though as it’s an excellent biking area. The Picos area is not as big as say the Pyrenees, so basing yourself at two hotels, one at either end would be a good way to do it, this would be my plan this year also.

      Hope this helps,

      Denis

  35. restandplay says:

    Hi Denis

    Tour all sorted this end and we got such a great deal on the ferry from Poole to Gijon in Spain. £160 return including the cabin. £80 each way is a bargain I think. From Gijon we are riding through Portugal to Gibraltar and then along the East Cost of Spain as far as Guadalest and then across to the Picos de Europa. About 2,000 miles in eight days of riding. Certainly beats getting old.

    Night stops include Ribadeo Spain, Braganca Portugal, Marvao Portugal, Gibralta, Almeria nSpain, Gran Alacant Spain (My House), Calatayud Spain, Oviedo Spain.

    Off on the 6th may and back on the 17th with 8 days ridding.

    What Sat Nav do you recommend if any?

    Derek

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Derek,

      That’s a very good price I’d say, it certainly works out cheaper than riding through France. 2000 miles in 8 days, nice one, that’s one heck of a trip you have planned and the best of luck with it. It’s a good time of the year too before it heats up too much.

      I’ll be back in Torrejieja myself around the 26th of April and will be riding around the Sierra Nevada and the mountains around Guadalest so you never know, I might see you up there. I’m also planning a trip the Picos myself and part of the Camino de Compostella although I’m not sure of my dates yet. I’m also riding the 2,500km Wild Atlantic Way, the world longest coastal route from Belfast to Kinsale in September so it’s shaping up to be a busy summer lol..

      As for the SatNav. For the last 10 years I’ve been using the BMW Navigator 3 which has now gone into retirement, it was a frightening cost at the time but for me it was worth every penny. Just this week I got the new BMW Navigator 5, it’s not cheap but it is a lovely bit of kit and the software (BaseCamp) is excellent for creating routes. However, as it’s pricey I’m not sure it’s worth the cost if you are only going to need it just for 1 or 2 Euro trips a year. For ease of use and everyday short trips I just use my smartphone with google maps as a SatNav which is what most people do. If you are worried about roaming charges while in spain just install the Garmin or TomTom app to your phone. Alternativly you can also buy a pe-paid Spanish simm chip in the UK before you go if using google maps.

      Safe riding Derek, and keep an eye out for a grey/black F800GS around Murcia/Alicante while your there, wave me down and we’ll have a pint..

      Denis

  36. Redcar56 says:

    Hi Denis.

    I have a place in Spain just down from you, San Cayetano, thinking of spending a few months there this year with K1600, where is the local BMW service place to us.

    Regards.

    Martin

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Martin,

      You have 2 to choose from, there is Belmoto in Murcia, they service all the BMW cop bikes and only about a 35 min ride from you, but they do not speak any English and they are not cheap. http://www.belmoto.com

      The guys I use (Moto Center Levante) are up in Alicante just off the motorway, it’s a bit of a hike but they all speak perfect English. They are also the main Touratech dealers and have a big shop full of goodies and worth a visit for that alone. More to the point you can borrow/rent a bike if needed. The shop is also open all day so none of the siesta pain. The best lad to talk to there is Didier, his email address is didier.cardenoso@motocenterlevante.com although he is notorious for not replying quickly as they are a very busy shop so best to drop out. Here’s a Google Map link of the route to their shop. https://goo.gl/maps/bafVq
      http://www.motocenterlevante.com

      There is also a good bike club very near you, they meet up near Punta Prima and go for rideouts every Thursday and Sunday, all are welcome and would be a great way to get to know many of the great roads in the area as well as a wealth of knowledge of bike shops, mechanics etc. There’s a great mix of bikes and nationalities, I’ll give you the details if interested..?

      Cheers
      Denis

  37. restandplay says:

    Hi Denis

    Recently returned from a fantastic ride through Portugal and Spain taking in the Picos de Europa. Covered 3,000 miles in eight days.

    Wanting now to ride from the UK Portsmouth ,I expect, to Venice going through the Alps. Do you knbow if this is possible if we leave 18th October and schedule 8 days for the round trip?

    Is the weather likely to be passable with little skill?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Derek

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Derek,

      I’d say you will probably be fine if the good weather runs well into Sept and you’re riding in full winter kit. But the higher passes (2000 meters+) usually start closing around that time or will will have limited closure, i.e. only open from 10-11am to 5-6pm due the ice, but they may also be closed completely for motorbikes. To be safe plan your route to run south of Briancon and stick to the main traffic passes as the tourist routes may be closed. In late Oct anything above 2000 meters will be bitterly cold. To give you an idea I rode over Col du Galibier just north of Briancon in mid September in 2013 and it was -3C at 3pm-ish, the same time on that pass a few years back saw me enjoying 18+C.

      Choose a route through the southern most Alps and you may be fine but have a backup plan like riding the Route de Napoleon and cut into Italy via Monty Carlo if the weather happens to be really cold. I gave up guessing what the weather may hold after last May’s trip fiasco but this year hopefully we will have a later Autumn which can easily make it possible. But if it was me planning it I’d plan my route definetly south of Briancon, preferably south of Barcelonnette where the Mediterranean climate comes into effect and “should” keep the low to mid hight passes open until late Oct. Keep a very close eye on the weather and temperatures closer to you departure date and if winter comes early just take the brilliant Route de Napoleon which would be blissfully free of campers and caravans etc at that time. But remember even this route could be bitterly cold on the higher parts, so wooly knickers and waterproofs are an absolute must.

      I’m hoping to get over to the Picos in Oct/Nov so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a late Autumn myself..

      Hope this helps,

      Denis

  38. restandplay says:

    Hi Denis

    Many thanks again for your help.

    Derek

  39. restandplay says:

    Hi Denis

    We have decided to travel early September hoping for better weather. We intend to catch the ferry to Dieppe and the ride to Lake Garda in Italy and the back to Le Harve. Can you possible help with a few way points so we can cross the alps on some decent biking roads. I thought we could ride around Lake Garda for a days biking and it would be great if you have done that region to hear if that is worth doing and would make up a days ridding.

    Many thanks for your great web site and help.

    Derek

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Derek,

      I’ve not been around Lake Garda in many years, it’s a beautiful ride around the lake, but what I remember most is the endless traffic which did my blood pressure no favours. I had been planning to stay there for two days but I got fed up with the traffic and posing tossers so I pulled out early, but that was near the end of August and probably the worst time to be there anyway. What it’s like in Sept I honestly don’t know. Lake Garda is not too far from the Stelvio Pass which is absolutely unmissable, so if you’re heading towards Lake Garda defo plan to ride over the Stelvio Pass.

      I don’t know how many days you have for this trip but if you want to take in Lake Garda and some of the Alps I’d probably start working out my route along the lines of the following Google Map https://goo.gl/maps/sjI9x
      as it takes in many of the big passes, Stelvio, Lombard, La Bonette, Galibier, Val-d’Isère, Roseland with an optional run up Le Petit St Bernard Pass as you pass through Bourg St Maurice.

      Hope this helps..
      Den

  40. restandplay says:

    Hi Dennis

    That is fantastic just what we needed.

    Many thanks

    Derek

  41. Rokmonk says:

    Hi Denis,

    2 years ago, at age 45, I was new to biking and thru my mid-life crisis decided to do my motorbike licence and buy a Suzuki Bandit 1200GSF. Completed a complete tour of Ireland in July, my 1st tour trip outside of N.Wales. Read an article ages ago in MS&L ref a Pyrenees trip and decided would do soon. My 12 yr old son loves on the back of the bike, wife doesn’t (her loss), and after finding your site have decided to do it. My goal is for do as many of the mountain passes as possible in 1 week, hopping across the border. Your site and footage is fantastic and has really inspired me to plan a trip for next summer. I especially love the music you use and would not have found Thomas Bergersen if not for you. Have you any plans to do a trip to the east Pyrenees, Andorra, etc? I would welcome some info and footage on that.

    Thanks for all your effort so far and really look forward to more in the future.

    Chris C

    P.S. I recently left the RAF after 27 years and am really getting into touring, a lot has been spurred on by your site.

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Chris, great to hear you’re finding the site useful and even better to hear you’re dealing with a mid-life crisis in a normal healthy fashion by finding a passion for motorbike touring, a world of amazing roads await you..

      I don’t have any immediate plans of doing another trip in the Eastern Pyrenees, twice was enough for me. My last time riding the eastern side was 5 years ago as a tour of the Cathar country, being a big history fan I love old castles and that type of thing. However, outside of the castles I don’t find the Eastern Pyrenees overly interesting as it’s a bit too busy, built up and touristy for my liking. Being close to the Mediterranean it’s become over populated by folks wanting to live near Carcassonne, Narbonne and Barcelona. Andorra is now the same, I’ve ridden through it plenty of times over the last 14 years and now I avoid it like the plague. It’s all motorway or major roads, heavy commercial and tourist traffic, customs police, Guardia Civil etc… The worst part though is the amount of multinational drivers, especially in summer all driving slightly different ways making up their own interpretations or the rules of the road. For example the Spanish are taught to use round-a-bouts very differently than Irish/UK drivers, this makes round-a-bouts and junctions an often life threatening experience unless you have your wits about you. Long story short, unless I got an idea to revisit the historical side of the Mediterranean Pyrenees I will continue to avoid it for the most part.

      From Andorra west to the Basque Pyrenees is far more interesting, traffic free, stunning roads, unmapped and adventurous roads, jaw dropping and ever changing scenery, value for money, it’s got it all.. It’s west of Andorra that you will also find the highest roads well above the tree line unlike the eastern side where it’s lower and more forested. There are of course some wonderful twisty roads, but most could not be called majestic. Huge areas of both the French and Spanish Pyrenees west of Andorra are completely unspoilt by any form of man made development other than roads and the odd ski resort, most of this area is taken up by highly protected national parks where most of the towns and villages predate the Moorish invasion at the very least. The contrast between the landscapes of the French/Spanish Basque Pyrenees, The Pyrenees Atlantique, Midi-Pyrenees, Huesca, Navarra is really amazing to see.

      On top of that you have differing cultures, traditions and at least 6 different languages in the central and western Pyrenees, the most interesting being Basque and the regional dialects based on the ancient Occitan language group like that spoken in the Val d’Aran. By contrast a commonly heard language these days on the eastern side is as likely to be Russian as it is to be English, French or Catalan. The Basque area is also famous for it’s world renowned chef’s specialising in fusion food. And to top it all off the whole area is very motorbike friendly with plenty of accommodations catering for bikers.

      If your planning a trip to the Pyrenees and you only have a week then your best bet to insure a great trip would be to seriously consider taking the ferry to Santander or Bilbao and head east along the French Pyrenees then back along the Spanish Pyrenees to the ferry via Huesca, Navarra and the Basque lands. In a week you will only get to see a fraction of it as there are simply too many amazing roads, Cols, Ports, gorges, and border crossings to choose from. Don’t plan on being able to ride more than 300km or 200 miles in a day, 250km/150 miles max is more likely what you will cover at best in the Pyrenees, possibly less with a pillion so keep this in mind when planning a route..

      I’ll be uploading more routes, maps and videos of the French side over the winter so I hope I’ll keep spurring you on;)

      All the best,
      Denis

      • Rokmonk says:

        Thanks Denis for all the info. I will concentrate on the areas you specify as I want the good bits but don’t want to waste any time on the boring or mundane parts.

        Many thanks.

        Chris C

  42. restandplay says:

    Hi

    First a thank you to Denis and I wish him and all readers a happy new year. With his help so far we have done two trips to Spain and Portugal and in September 2014 we rode through France, Switzerland and onto Italy going via the Stelvio pass. What a fantastic tour this turned out to be. Denis provided the route which was great.

    Now looking forward to April when we again tackle Spain and Portugal paying attention to the roads around Sierra Nevada.

    thanks

    Derek

  43. tripleblack says:

    Dear Denis,
    Four of us have teed up a trip to Nice on for a week starting 9th of May through Overlanders and flying with Ryanair. Your route tips and clips are brilliant, not to mention route maps etc. But I now realise we may have made the mistake of booking too early in that the higher passes are unlikely to be open when we’re travelling. It wouldn’t be fatal. There would still be plenty of options, including Route Napoleon etc. One possibility, though, may be to re-schedule for the week commencing May 23d. From reading some of your posts, the impression I have is that re-scheduling might improve the prospects of higher passes being open but there would be no be a guarantee.
    Any pointers you can give would be gratefully appreciated.
    Best wishes,
    Diarmuid

    • gpsroutes says:

      Hi Diarmuid.

      The 9th of May is very early, many of the ski stations may well still be in full swing. It would be very unlikely for any of the tourist routes north of Briancon to be open. Col du Galibier often does not open until the 1st or 2nd week in June, but honestly it’s far too early to guess as this is in the hands of Mother Nature and you might be lucky, but my money would be on them being closed. Even if they do open they might immediately close again if the weather turns bad which often happens, or they might close for repairs. Mid May is when they usually start opening with the high passes and those north of Briancon being the last to open. But the French are very good at opening them as soon as it’s safe to do so. The Italians not so much, so while a col might be open on the french side it can still be blocked somewhere along the Italian side, so at that time of the year never assume you’ll get fuel on the Italian side. I’ve met a fair few lads having to wheelie and push their bikes back into France because of this..

      Your best option is to reschedule to the 23rd if you can. Galibier and La Bonnette will likely still be closed but the majority should be open, especially south of Briancon. The mountains south of Briancon are governed by the Alp-Maritime Mediterranean climate zone and warms up quickly. The Mts north of Briancon are governed by an Alpine and central continental climate and can obviously stay frigid far longer. Unfortunately you won’t really be able to tell what’s likely to happen until late April, early May or even later. The French authorities won’t open the passes until they are 95% sure it won’t snow again and there is no risk of avalanches. Even then the passes may only open or be safe from 11am to 6pm due to the risk of meltwater refreezing on the road over night. A rapid thaw will also increase the risk of flooding like in 2013 when there was a late thaw and heavy rain which caused flooding chaos across the Alps and Pyrenees.

      But don’t let any of that put you off, as long as you keep the potential problems and dangers in mind it all becomes part of the adventure. And it really is hard to beat riding in the Alps when they are still covered in snow, it’s mind blowing riding a road with snow banked up 2 meters on either side. If it was me planning the trip I’d leave it until mid to late May however. In my experience the last 2 weeks of May and 1st week of June, and the 1st 2 weeks of Sept are the ideal time for riding the Alps as the weather is usually ideal and it’s before/after the heavy tourist traffic. But the weather will always make it a hit and miss afair and ye just have to roll with it..

      That said early May is definitely not the end of the world. You can happily spend 3 weeks or more exploring the tons of brilliant roads in the Pre-Alps up as far as the snow will allow. Most people completely ignore Provence’s backcountry which is a gem, not to mention the many clifftop villages which will be almost tourist free at that time. I’d seriously recommend a week exploring the hundreds of great roads through high meadows, low passes and gorges between Nice, Verdon and Brianconnet (which sadly few bother to do) before heading north again and jumping over to Route Napoleon when you hit the closed passes. Let me know if you need any good route ideas for the Provencal backroads as there is no reason to get bored in that neck of the woods..

      D

      • tripleblack says:

        Hi Denis,
        Many thanks for taking the time to reply so promptly and so comprehensively. I checked with the guys and, unfortunately, we’re stuck with our dates. We’ll know better next time!
        John Hermann’s book just arrived yesterday from Amazon and it seems to be packed with route suggestions. So when I’ve studied it properly and we’ve broadly decided our route plan, I might get in touch with you again then to take you up on your route ideas for Provencal back roads. A clear takeaway from your advice is not to book too much by way of accommodation, so as to maximise flexibility. Never a risk free strategy but very low so early in the season.
        I will be in touch in a few weeks and again, thanks a million for your advice.
        Diarmuid

        • gpsroutes says:

          No prob Diarmuid.
          John Hermann’s biking bible is a great source for planning a trip. Most of it deals with the high Alps but there are a few good ones that would suit you in early May. Here are another 2 great books for routes in France.. Both are in French so reading the descriptions might be a problem for you, but you can easily work out the routes using the maps and directions.

          Les Alpes à moto : Europe (Michelin Roadbook) http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/2067181491/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3QPJDPVIENC4L&coliid=I19JUJ6K8HRWMY

          100 virées à moto en France : Le guide Michelin pour les motards http://www.amazon.co.uk/100-vir%C3%A9es-moto-France-Michelin/dp/2067181483/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_y

          Another great sourch for ideas is bestbikingroads.com http://www.bestbikingroads.com/motorcycle-roads/motorbike-rides-in-france-/provence-alpes-cote-d-azur–___5494.html

          Here is a link you should find really useful, from here you can download 20 top class routes in the Provence-Alpes/Cote d’Azure region. I’ve ridden most of ‘em and they are all very good or fantastic with early May or late Sept being the best time to ride many of these.. http://www.mototourismepaca.fr/en/itineraires-moto-balade-en-provence-alpes-cote-dazur

          Like I said, there is absolutely no reason for you to get bored. Besides, the high Alps are not going anywhere, they will still be there next time you get around to a trip lol… If ye have any questions fell free to fire away, but these links should give you plenty to chose from.. Enjoy..
          Denis

          • SATDOC27 says:

            Hi Denis,
            A long shot… this year I am going on a ….wait for it….. push bike tour in September.
            Ok, Ok, now you’ve stopped rollin around the floor….
            Thing is that me and Jon are saving up for a big blow out tour in 2016 – (if his girl friend lets him go that is) three plus weeks of mountain delirium.
            Anyway, that means that apart from a few Cornwall / Devon weekenders I would like to get the the start of the pushbike tour by F800GS.
            The start is in Clermont Ferrand.
            First – do you think CF from Roscoff is a good do-able day on the F800 – Google maps says about 7 hours so I reckoned 10 more like – on my own so no distractions other than coffee and petrol.
            Second – do you know of anywhere in CF that I might leave my F800 for a couple of weeks – a safe haven.

            Thought it may be worth a shout to an old hack of the continent such as your good self!

            Cheers Bob Calver – Cornwall

          • gpsroutes says:

            Hi Bob, good to hear from you mate. Did you say push bike??? Now there’s a novel idea lol, you know the price of petrol has dropped? Sill, I guess if you have a proper 3 week tour planned for the 800GS in 2016 you can be excused ;)

            OK, I’ve managed to pick myself up off the floor now lol… Roscoff to CF is the guts of 500 mile or 800km, thats certainly do-able on the 800GS, buts it’s a hell of a long day, especially if you have to start it rolling off a ferry. I’ve done that route a few times in one go, but I was on my R1150RT which made 500 mile days easy and enjoyable. On the 800GS however I’d not be overly enthusiastic of that long a day.

            There are 2 routes you can take, Rennes – Nantes – Poitiers – CF or Rennes – Le Mans – Bourges – CF. Neither route is particularly straight forward, lots of messing around bypassing towns etc and if the roads are busy or you hit roadworks/bad weather either route could easily take more than 12hrs. I can only speak for myself here as I know how far I’d want to ride in a day, and at what average speed I get on the 800GS. So for myself I’d schedule myself 12hrs to make that run, and I also know I’d not enjoy it. I’d also want to ideally be rolling out of Roscoff by 8am to be sure of getting to a hotel in time to have a shower and find a restaurant. I’d also know that at around 700km or 400 miles in I’d be getting tired and entering the potential danger zone, i.e. fatigue = lowered reaction time, waining attention leading to stupid mistakes. Everyone has their own limits, but even by the end of any September where my bike fitness levels are at their peak I’d still not push much more than 700km/400mile in a day simply because my first priority is to always return home to my wife in one piece. My motorway limit on the 800GS is 700km or 9hrs, my limit on the 800GSA is 800km or 10hrs, on the RT it’s 1200km or 12hrs. Anything over those distances or times and I know my riding ability rapidly becomes dangerous.

            Under ideal conditions, great weather, low traffic etc and you start your day on the ferry you will likely by awake at 7am for a docking time of 10am, then a 11-12hr ride. That means you’ll be on the go for 15hrs at a minimum by the time you get to CF at around 9-10pm. I’d have had no problem doing that 15 years ago, but to be honest you’d not likely convince me to do it these days as I prefer to enjoy my riding and leave the endurance stuff for the lads with youth on their side ;)

            So if I’d have no choice but to ride that far in one go on the 800GS I’d carefully plan my pit stops and make damn sure I was drinking plenty and regularly eating high energy/carb foods along the way. Better to eat small amounts regularly instead of a big lunch and steer clear of caffeine. I’d hope to make the run in 10hrs, but I’d plan for a more likely 12hrs and be sure to fit my airhawk seat as the 800GS saddle was never intended for long rides.. Ideally though I’d plan 2 days to do it, take in some nice leisurely roads through the Brenne National Park (just west of Poitiers and a bit like the lake district) and thoroughly enjoy the 2 days.

            Can’t help you on a safe place to store the bike in CF I’m afraid, you might get lucky on one of the bike forums though, plenty of expats with bikes living around there who might accommodate you.

            All the bbest

            Den

  44. Rtoilhead says:

    Hi Dennis, Came across your site while I was researching the F800GSA which I have since bought. I was luck enough to get loads of extras from the previous owner so am ready for the road again! Being from the North I also love Donegal and can’t wait to try out the GSA around the coast.
    Really enjoying your trip reports, GPS routes and photos! What camera do you use?
    Keep up the good work!

    Alex

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Alex, good to hear you’re enjoying the site, and the 800GSA.
      I’m a big fan of the BM’s 800′s in genreal, but the 800GS/A is just perfect for exploring every type of road the isle has to offer.
      I’ve got a couple of cameras, any of which I might use but the main ones I carry with me on the bike are a Canon 700D – a good mid range DSLR which is a handy size and weight for a tank bag, with the Drift HD170 or HD Ghost for the video..

      Will be back on the Wild Atlantic Way again in Sept, cant wait for it.. :)

      Den

  45. simon says:

    hi denis,
    Thank you for your excellent and very informative website.
    Myself and a friend are off on 21st may for a 10 day European tour, (mixture of camping and hotels en route) firstly to Luxenbourg for 1 night and then working our way down to Cannes for 3 nights.
    Although I have some routes in mind we have 3 days to travel from Luxembourg to Cannes and at that time of year realize that not all passes are open.
    I would very much appreciate what you would advise as a route down to cannes, we like scenic, gorges du verdon sort of thing plus some high passes likely to be open.
    Have been looking at route des Grandes Alpes or Route Napoleon.
    I ride a Yamaha xjr1300 and mate on r1100gs, both in our late 40′s and not in any hurry.
    We would possibly leave Cannes and head for Interlaken, a favourite of mine, then no plans made, but working our way back home.
    many thanks, simon

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Simon,

      Sorry for the late reply, I’m on the road in Spain at the moment. If you’ve only got 3 days to travel from Lux to Cannes you don’t have much time so your options for the route to Cannes are limited. Once you get into the Alps you’re only going to be able to manage 400km per day max but 300km is more realistic for those not used to riding in the Alps, especially if you want to do it safely. At any time of the year I never plan to ride more than 300-350km per 8hr riding day in the alps. Any more than that and things can become dangerous, the constant attention required to ride those roads plus the altitude will wear you out very quckly. Also, if you let yourself become dehydrated you’re easily going to get into trouble.

      Many of the road up there are slow going and in May many of the passes might still be closed so you’ll need to factor in extra time for possible lengthy detours. To be honest I’d say trying to get from Lux to Cannes via the Route des Grande Alpes in May in 3 days is ambitious or very unlikely, and certainly risky unless you know exactly what you’re doing. I’d advise going by the route Napoleon, it’s far faster and May is an ideal time for this route as it will have low tourist traffic. So, Lux to Cannes in 3 long days via Napoleon is certainly do-able.

      Once in Cannes you have plenty of excellent options to ride up into the pre-alps/alp maritime region. Almost all the passes between to coast and Barcelonnette should be open with the exception of La Bonnette and 2 or 3 others.

      Check out my GPS Download page and click the shortcut at the top of the page for “France, Provence” where you’ll find 26 1-2 day routes you can choose from in the Cannes, Provence, lower alp area. May is an ideal time for doing almost all of them. I’d recommend working your way back via the Ardeche and the Gorge du Tarn areas, you’ll find these routes on the download page too. Of the 26 routes in the “France, Provence” section there are also a few routes you could work in for your route south if you want to venture off the Napoleon route.

      Hope this helps, have a great time and send us a photo of the trip ;)

      Denis

    • simon says:

      Hi denis,
      Thank you very much for your help in planning our Europe trip.
      We are back home now after a 7 day (5 days riding) Tour, 2180 miles.

      We used the A26 toll motorway stopping for night in Troyes, onto Grenoble for another night, we then met up with friends on bmw gs bikes and rode the Route Napoleon to Gap…. what a road!

      We then went through the Gorges Du Verdun and camped at said camping site next to river. Next day was the Col de Allos, Calloye and Gorges du dalius, all very good, and onto Cannes.
      I definitely agree with you about Cannes, we had to go there for the experience but were glad to leave, overcrowded and overpriced as you said!

      Our holiday was cut short due to my mate getting Salmonella from uncooked egg, so we had to make a dash for home, Cannes to Dijon, then Dijon to home which was 630 miles in a day.

      The sports bikes hammering round the Route Napoleon were amazing to see, everyone friendly, lack of Gendarme which surprised us!
      We did find the Cols strange, the cars/bikes would not stop on way down
      which was strange as it is normal to have right of way on way up!

      Things i’ve learnt, don’t rely on sat nav alone, Go Pro was mounted on fairing which was great for lean angle but not for scenery, my wife felt dizzy after 5 mins of watching!
      I took a Garmin Zumo 550 with latest mapping and it was generally good, but it didn’t navigate to Hotels in Troyes and Dijon, maybe a smartphone with offline mapping might be the answer next time.

      I am so glad I found your website long before going on trip, your help, advice and videos are invaluable to people like myself planning a trip abroad.

      Many thanks again Denis,
      Regards, Simon.

      • Denis Smyth says:

        Great to hear you had a good trip. Pitty your mate got sick though, that was a bit of bad luck.

        I always pack activated charcoal tablets which are available in any chemist. I take them if I suspect the food is off or immediatly after I start feeling sick which will greatly limit the effects of food or toxin poisoning. Ginger tablets or even sucking raw ginger root will also stop the effects of nauesa and vomiting.. It’s also great for the ferry crossings in rough weather, many sea sickness tablets are based on ginger properties. Both ginger and charcoal tablets take up almost no packing space so I’d never do a trip without them. Good to know for your next trip ;)

        As for SatNavs lol, well the problem these days is not the SatNavs themselves as they are accurate to within 5 meters, usually 3m, it’s the POI’s (hotels etc) on the maps which are the problem as they are not updated or inserted properly anymore. If I create a route in Garmin BaseCamp to a destination I now always open the created route in Google Earth (In BaseCamp – Menu, View – Google Earth) and drag the yellow man to the destination point (street view) to make sure the POI is located correctly then correct the .gdb route if needed. I do this especially if I need to carefully plan fuel stops into the satnav route in remote/rural areas. When planning my routes Google Earth and Google Maps street view is an essential part of the process to double check the route before I upload the route to the SatNav.

        As for action cams I always carry two, one on the fairing for great road action shots, and one on my helmet for the view shots. All of this I’ve learned by trial and error etc, I’ve no doubt you’ll take the lessons learned on this trip to good use on your next trip. I hope you all enjoyed it enough to do it again. To ride the high Alpine passes late June and early September is always best. But don’t forget the Pyrenees, that will be an increadible experience too, it’s also a lot cheaper if you stay/eat/drink on the Spanish side..

        All the best,
        Denis

  46. Wardcomp says:

    Hi there, a group of 4 of us have all been inspired by your website and decided to do a 6 day jaunt into Europe this summer. Its our first time touring (we are all ex sports bike trackday lads) as we are getting too old for all that kneedown stuff. Anyways, no one fancied the ferries or the long journey down so we have taken the soft option and will use FlyBikeFly to get our bikes to Nice in July. My question is, if we have 6 full days to ride should we do the Route des Grand Alpes as an “out and return” trip or is there a better route you can recommend. We are looking for narrow, elevated mountain passes all the way with as little “off road” as possible. We are prepare to ride between 5 and 6 hours per day ish. And dont worry, we arent taking the Fireblades, we have all spent a blimmin fortune on GS’s and Multistrada’s.
    Thanks in advance

    Dean

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Dean,

      Sorry for the delay in replying, I’m out in Spain at the moment with a flat battery on my 800GS, never a dull moment eh?. Anway, you have plenty of options. If you go to the download page and click the shortcut for France/Provence you’ll find 26 routes in the Nice area you can do which would keep you very busy, none are off road. And you can certainly do the Route des Alpes as an out and return trip taking in most of the best roads. If you choose an out and return and have a satnav I’ll send you a .gpx file as a guideline to work with. Just drop me a mail to denis.smyth@roadtrooper.com and I’ll send it to you..

      Cheers
      Denis

  47. ktrexler says:

    Hi, Denis -

    I just read your Virgin’s Guide – thank you for that, it’s quite informative, as is the rest of your site. I watched a few of your videos, too – just awesome!

    I was wondering if you have any words of advice for a Yank touring Ireland on an R1200GS with his lovely wife riding pillion? We’ll be taking day-trips around the Ring of Kerry, Beara Peninsula, Dingle – using Killarney as our base, then riding up into the midlands for a couple of days (no firm plans there, we’ll just wing it).

    Your guide touched on Spain, France, etc., but didn’t mention the Emerald Isle.

    I know I’ll have the opposite problem of reminding myself to keep left as we drive on the right in the states. Any thoughts on dealing with signs, police, roads, weather? It’s our first trip to Ireland, and first motorbike tour outside of the U.S.

    What can we expect for temps, wind and precipitation at the end of June? How bad will traffic be?

    How well do you think a 1200GS with pillion can manage roads like the Gap of Dunloe?

    Any insight you can share will be much appreciated.

    Cheers,
    -Keith

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Keith,

      Sounds like you have a great trip lined up. There are only two ways when dealing with Irish road signs, get a SatNav or a good regional/county map that has (L – Link) roads listed. These tend to be either narrow and well surfaced roads between villages or boreens, sometimes unpaved rougher single track rural roads, many of the most interesting/sceenic places can be found on these roads and a motorbike is the best way to explore them. But the sign posts can be either confusing or non existant so a county map or SatNav is essential.

      As for the police/garda I’d not be worried, I’d be surprised if you met or even saw any. Ireland is one of the few countries left in Europe with a low and friendly police presence. If you do meet them all you have to do is be curtious, they will be as friendly as you are unless you are acting like a knob. There are however plenty of speed traps found mostly near towns on N roads. Stick to the speed limits and you’ll not have any problems, it’s that simple. There are only two types of weather in Ireland, it will either be raining, or about to rain with temperatures ranging from 10 to 18 degrees C. So you’ll certainly need good rain gear, a fleese and a light base layer.

      Traffic will start getting heavy in June with coaches and RV’s/motorhomes etc so roads like the Ring of Kerry can become a pain in the arse. But large vehicles, expecially the coaches can’t manage the boreens and in some roads like on the Dingle Peninsula coaches are not allowed, so use the motorbike to your advantage and explore the back roads. The 1200GS is a perfect tool for exploring any road Ireland has to offer.

      You can find plenty of more info in my Bikers Guide to the Wild Atlantic Way

      If you ever fancy a return to Ireland I’ll be running guided tours of Irelands south west and west coast from May of next year specialising on the mountains and back roads/boreens. I’m currently setting up a base in Killarney and will be providing BMW bike rentals.

      Have a great trip and stay safe..

      Denis

      • ktrexler says:

        Very helpful tips – thanks, Denis!

        Good luck in your venture next year – I’ll be sure to tell any friends interested in Ireland to have a look at your site and service.

        I’m sure we’ll be back to Ireland in the future, but our next trip will probably be Scotland. When we start planning that, I’ll check in with you to see what you might have on offer.

        Cheers,
        -Keith

        • Denis Smyth says:

          No problem Keith.. Scotland is brilliant and a must ride destination too.
          Drop me a line when you decide to go, I have close contacts with Scottish guides and a great BMW rental service that can also help plan your trip with the best roads, hotels etc.
          I’ll be in Killarney at the end of June myself, so if ye see a lad on a well worn black/grey F800GS with a Spanish reg plate that will be myself so be sure to say hello. I’m also happy to accept pints of Guinness from strangers and new friends ;)
          All the best,
          Denis

  48. pgberry says:

    Hi Denis

    Wonderful site. Truly. It inspired me to buy a F650GS (I am 5’6″ and fed up of heavy bikes) and to do the WAW the first two weeks of August. I went North South, a mistake – wrong side of the road! Weather was as one would expect – very mixed. Had the best holiday of my life though. I am a convert. Cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it.

    I recorded/mapped the trip on MotionX GPS (an amazing app), my iphone camera, GpPro and a daily log, inspired by your beautiful videos. Got the positioning of the GoPro wrong on the bike which was a pain. (Now got wireless control on the iphone and the wireless control unit both mounted on the handlebars and put the camera on my helmet). Did 200 Km per day easy riding.

    I am going to buy new gear though. The stuff I have was a pain in the ass on the trip. Will follow your advice on choice. I’ll let you know how I get on.

    I want to do a few trips this winter – one week trips. I am based in Dublin. Any suggestions?

    Best
    Padraig (Berry)

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Padraig,

      It’s great to hear you are enjoying the site and that it’s inspiring you. The F650GS is a great bike for getting around the back roads and boreens where big heavy bikes become a pain. Especially if you are riding one-up on naggery little roads where 3 figure horsepowers become redundant. I love all types of motorcycles for many differing reasons. But when I choose to buy a bike I force myself to view a bike as a tool to do a job using my head and not the heart so to speak. And sometimes you really are better off with a simple hand screwdriver over a power tool.

      It’s true in many ways that riding the WAW from south to north is better. I’m just back from another trip along the WAW working out new routes running parallel to the WAW but inland a bit. The WAW is a fantastic route and Bord Failte has done a brilliant job of marketing it and upgrading the roads to cater for mainstream tourist traffic, camper vans, coaches etc. But from my point of view as a biker the posted WAW coastal route is only half the story! I can’t help thinking Bord Failte have not copt on to a motorbikes ability to travel along the one track back roads and boreens that are off limits to larger vehicles.

      So, if a biker tells me he’s has ridden the full 2,500km WAW route I’ll tell him he’s only halfway there ;) Take the Ring of Kerry and Skellig drive for example, it’s a great road for sure, but there are incredible roads and passes all through the Cork/Kerry mountains, – the Black Valley, Priests Leap Pass, Ballaghisheen Pass, Ballaghbema Gap and POI’s like the Loher Ring Fort which is next to impossible to get to in anything larger than an old Mini Cooper, and the list goes on.

      Over the winter I’ll be uploading more routes allowing fellow bikers to ride the WAW south to north via the official WAW route then return south through the mountain passes of Donegal, the Burren, Kerry/Cork mountain etc. So hopefully I’ll inspire you to ride back over to this side again to explore a little further what the west has to offer, and your F650GS is most assuredly a perfect tool for boreen busting ;)

      As for getting the GoPro set up properly the only thing I can say to you is keep at it, trial & error is simply a learning curve. If you check out my earliest vids on YT you’ll see they were crap and if my vids are getting better it’s only through persistence and practice. The learning curve with making the vids can be frustrating, but also very rewarding and fun.

      If you have any questions or want to pick my brains on vids or gear I’d be happy to help over a skype call or whatever, there’s no problem there so feel free.

      As for 1 week trips over the winter that’s a tough one. Supposedly we are going to get a bad winter here, although each winter always seems to be worse than the last. ‘ll ride in almost any weather for example, but if there is likely to be ice or snow on the roads I’ll keep the bike in the garage as the high risk of an off too high. If ye were to get a trip in before Xmas I’d say the south west (Cork/Kerry) could keep you entertained as it’s usually late jan/feb before the roads get dicey. I’ll be down here in Killarney most of the winter, if ye decide to come down for a few days give me a shout and I’ll meet up with you for some rideouts. if there is no ice or snow I’m good to go..

      Alternatively have a chat with Derek at Overlanders (http://www.overlanders.ie) and see about joining one of his guided tours in southern Europe. He runs tours over the winter, there’s a tour of Morocco in mid Oct lined up where he will ship your bike down while you fly, he’ll have your bike waiting for you at the hotel/airport. I’ve no idea what’s he has planned for after Xmas though. You could also fly to Nice and have Overlanders ship your bike down to the South of France for a week exploring Provence, I’ve got at least 20 routes on the download page that you could ride in the winter. Derek runs a great service, I’ve used him myself when weather or time is against me, he’s a busy lad though so you’d want to take to him sooner rather than later as tour places and space on his trucks get filled up quickly.

      You could also sign up for a bit of a light off-roading course down in southern Spain which I’d highly recommend. Getting some off road skills will without doubt make you a better and more confident road rider and help you get the most out of your explorations of Ireland or maybe the Alps & Pyrenees in the future.

      There’s a crowd in the UK called Adventure-Spec where I source a lot of my parts and gear, but they also run http://www.adventureridercentre.co.uk which is an off-road skills training center in Malaga. They run a really good show and I think you might really enjoy a few days down there even if you have no real interest in off-roading on your own bike. Spain is possibly the best country for light trail riding, certainly in the winter. I’ll be down there myself at some stage over the winter for a bit of trail riding and sangria.

      The winter in Ireland might limit us all a bit in terms of a 1 week type bike tour here, but there are plenty of opportunities if you don’t mind pushing your horizons a bit further out. Then again we could get a mild winter, a bit too early to tell so I’m a bit hesitant to suggest a route for a week riding here..

      Denis

  49. sfsecure says:

    Hi Denis,
    I’ve just come across your great site. Just brilliant. From what I can gather you spend some time down in the south east area of Spain. As a first tour for me next year I’m planning a trip down through France and Spain ending in the Murcia area. Can you give me a dig out with your experience on a good route down and back. I am planning to spend a week travelling each way with a four week stay down there. Any help would be appreciated and keep up the great work. It certainly has inspired me to start touring.
    Kind Regards,
    Shay

    • Denis Smyth says:

      Hi Shay.
      I can certainly help you out there. Straight off the top of my head I’d recommend heading down to Spain via the Route des Grande Alpes or Route de Napoleon and back via a few days in the Pyrenees. I’ve done that route countless times and I never get bored of it.

      However, much depends on what time or the year your shooting off at, what your experience is, are you riding in a group or with a pillion, what bike you’re riding and what French port your entering/leaving from? I could spend all day firing options at you but probably easier and quicker if you give me a skype call at some stage. Do a skype contact search for Denis Smyth / RoadTrooper.com and ye’ll find me. Alternatively write back with more details to give me a better idea of the options that might suit you best..

      Cheers,
      Denis

      • sfsecure says:

        Good man Denis. I’ll be heading off the last week in June and coming back the first week in August. I riding a long time with various machines along the way, currently a VFR 800 with full panniers. Have to say, one of the best I’ve had. I’m hoping to change again early next year. Fancy a Kawasaki GTR 1400 or a Triumph Exploer. Complete opposites I know but whatever takes my fancy

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