First Posted July 2011
This year’s bike holiday to Germany, France and Spain for three old friends seemed to be in trouble as Marco (flying in from India to his cousin Enzo’s place in Munich) didn’t have a bike to ride in the right part of Europe. Vincent decided to sort it quite simply by buying a used Tiger 1050 from Bulldog Triumph in Winnersh and shipping it out to Munich where the tour was scheduled to start.
Given the costs of shipping and the fact that Vincent would be riding out from his home in Wokingham, he happened to say to me one day “You don’t fancy riding it out to Munich with me do you Steve?”
So the bright blue Tiger 1050 with full Triumph luggage, R&G bungs, radiator covers, big foot (see later) and super halo lamps left Bulldog on Thursday morning with Vincent (Black Tiger 1050, race can, Trax panniers, satnav – more later – and trick suspension) en route to Folkestone to catch train to Calais.
The M25 was appalling, with heavy rain, poor visibility and suicidal drivers who seem to believe that 90 mph is OK when you can only see 20 yards into the spray and that the space between our bikes is just the place to dive into when performing the obligatory undertakes (“why are these bloody bikers going so slowly?”…). Mad. All of them.
Still, the services on the M20 served up some hot coffee, the rain stopped and we hopped on the train with just 4 other bikes.
Once the other side, a short 100 mile blat to Gent in Belgium as it was getting dark, to find a hotel and get ready for a long day on Friday.
We woke to clear skies and the promise of high 20’s temperatures in Germany later in the day (they were right) and left early. The satnav said 14:30 arrival for 400 miles (pah!)
Riding the motorways in Europe is quite interesting as you pass from region to region and country to country without really noticing. Riding from France to Belgium the previous day, I had nearly missed the little blue “Belgique” sign but did notice that the 90%/10% split of French/Belgian cars had suddenly switched to 90%/10% Belgian plates. Did all the French guys turn back? Once in Belgium, I couldn’t help but notice the abrupt change from Flemish road signs to French roadsigns.
Crossing into Germany is different (of course). For a start, all the trucks have to stop and buy a ticket. We should do that here if you ask me…
I have driven reasonably regularly in Germany (in a car) but this was my first time on a bike. They don’t mess about on the unrestricted sections. I thought 160kph/100mph was fast until I went there! Unfortunately, they suffer from the same problems as every other country when they get busy. The trucks stay in lane 1, the “slow guys” stay in lane 2 (most of the time) and the “fast guys” (thats the other 90% of the traffic) thinks that driving 2 metres behind the guy in front will force them to move over. You need good reflexes and good brakes. Bikes have an inherent advantage in the ability to accelerate faster than anything on four wheels but loose out ultimately when speeds get high. I saw 180kph at times but that was as fast as I was prepared to travel.
I was cruising along in the 150’s thinking what a great country Germany was, when we came to Frankfurt… However efficient the Germans may be, they still manage lane 3 shunts during the afternoon rush and filtering (which is actually illegal in Germany) with wide panniers is very tiring. Vincent’s Trax panniers were wider than my Triumph kit so I just followed him…
Having made good progress, we decided that the green bits of the map and bendy roads would make a nice change so turned off the autobahn.
You know when you are riding along into the evening sun, following the guy who not only has the map and the satnav, but the address of the ultimate destination and you are thinking “why are we going West?” We were heading for Munich which is SE of Frankfurt, but Mr Garmin he have different ideas… I’m absolutely certain that we rode past the same service area three times… and filtered through that traffic jam twice for good measure…
We arrived at Enzo’s at 20:30 after 504 miles and 12.5 hours on the road to be greeted by hearty handshakes, lots of beer and a slap up BBQ. What a great day!
The bike was brilliant. To be honest, I don’t think I could have ridden my Sprint 955 so far without hurting wrists and neck. The Tiger is really comfy, really fast, easy to ride to a standstill and I could have kept going all night. If it was my bike, I’d have adjusted the gear lever as it was too far down for me and made my left leg ache after a while. I didn’t want to screw up the settings for the new owner though (he can adjust it if he wants).
A Short Divagation (look it up…)
The Tiger was fitted with an alloy pad to enlarge the base of the sidestand, presumably to help when parking on soft ground. I decided to call it “Big Foot” as I’ve no idea what they are called in reality.
If it was my bike I’d remove it as it forces the bike into a more upright position when parked on the sidestand and with heavy luggage, I was very careful with it! We didn’t go offroad or even park on anything soft so a useless acessory for a “Roadie” really…
Biking over – now to the Airport!
I thought I’d add this bit as Enzo gave us a lesson in how Germans (OK he’s South African but has lived there for 15 years) drive on unrestricted autobahns. We set off in his Audi Q7 and proceeded the 200 kms to Munich Airport at speeds of up to 225 kph (that’s about 140 mph if I am correct). Even then he was moving over to let faster traffic pass. This is the fastest I have ever been on or in any road vehicle and (as a passenger) it was pretty scary!
As I am writing this, Vincent, Enzo (R1200GS) and Marco will be heading for Monaco – I wish I was with them!
I discovered on my return that the blue Tiger 1050 was previously owned by Gordon Cousland of Earley in Reading. Gordon was killed in the Moscow Airport suicide bombing in January 2011.
I didn’t know him but would like to think that he would approve of his Tiger being used for European touring and on behalf of the three friends, I would like to dedicate their trip to his memory.
I was so impressed by the Tiger that I spent the next 9 months saving my pennies and am now the proud owner of this 56-plate gold 1050
Epilogue to the Epilogue: 26th April-2012
Sadly, I must report that Vincent passed away this last Monday after a long fight with cancer. He was my best biking buddy, friend and all round “good bloke”. He will be sadly missed.