My Take On Riding A Motorcycle To Spain.
When I realised people could travel long distance on a motorcycle a rush of amazement flooded in.It seems obvious but unless you are searching for it. You don’t hear a massive amount of people travelling on bikes. Apart from The Long Way Round, or Down or... Across. So that was it, I was wide-eyed and ready to travel on a motorbike. It was just the small case of getting my licence now, which I couldn’t afford. Shouldn’t be concentrating on as I had just started a new job and it was snowing outside. I got out a credit card and booked in for some training anyway with Mark at 3D Motorcycle Training, in Dec 2015. I had told myself I had to pass first time because I couldn’t afford to retake the tests. Also, me and my boyfriend Dave were going to set off riding to Spain in July 2016. The only month he could take for a holiday this year! Dave also has a bike licence and has outright told me many times he doesn’t like riding with me clipped on as pillion. So, I needed to get a move on as I wasn’t getting a free ride. Lucky I passed and plans for our travels began.
We decided we needed a month away.To be able to do all the things we wanted, and take some time going off road. We bought a Lone Rider Tent and started gathering camping equipment! I didn’t want to plan too much or book hotels. Needing to get somewhere on a certain day. It can ruin the freedom of not knowing where you’ll end up that night. After training for my licence, taking my tests and saving up for a bike deposit. I only had a couple of months actually riding before it was time to set off. We had planned to get through France in 3 days and meet my parents (who were also on a bike) for a couple of days in Andorra. I was feeling pretty scared and apprehensive at this point. I had no idea if I was going to be able to ride for hours at a time and didn’t want to be the ‘anchor’. Before we left, the longest I had ridden for at one time was around 2 hours. We had planned to be doing 4 to 5 hours a day when in Spain. I was just sat staring at the map before we set off and getting more and more nervous.
July came and it was time to get going.I finished work early and arrived at home. To see the bikes sitting outside with Dave rushing around, beyond excited. As usual, it was torrential rain leaving Leeds. We had the Eurotunnel booked for 23:00, so needed to get a move on. It took us around 5 hours with 2 breaks to get there. To my surprise when we arrived at the tunnel I wasn’t that tired. I started to be less anxious and more excited.
Part #1 - FranceWe arrived in Calais about midnight and stayed in the first hotel we saw. The next day we aimed for Chartres, just past Paris. Three days was more than enough time to get to Andorra which was around 736 miles away. So we took our time and tried to travel around the same distance each day. Arriving at most places late afternoon. We had time to see a bit of the place we were staying. From Chartres we went to Pierre-Buffière (220 miles), and from there we stayed near Foix so we were just over the border from Andorra. By this time I had started to realise the effort of having to live out of panniers. Unloading the bike every night and loading again the next day. I didn’t really have a system at this point. I was forgetting to clip certain clips, tie things up and just getting pinged in the face by bungee straps constantly.
Part #2 - AndorraIn Andorra we met my parents and had two nights there. First stop was El Pas de la Casa. It was the most interesting place. Not really what I was expecting at all. So different from everywhere else we went. El Pas de la Casa is a ski resort, but not like one I have been to before. It was almost Sci-Fi. The whole place looked like something out of Blade Runner. It was a lot of fun looking around the duty-free shops. But a night there was enough and in the morning we moved onto Andorra la Vella. Roads from El Pas de la Casa to Andorra la Vella were insane. I haven’t ridden anything like them before. To be honest I don’t think I was really ready for them. The best way to learn right? That’s what Dave kept telling me... I had just about got used to riding on the wrong side of the road. When the extreme switchbacks started, making the turns uphill a lot tighter. The thing that I was sure I was going to fail on in my motorcycle test was the turn in the road, I kept putting my foot down in the practice but managed to get through it ok on the day. I still wasn’t experienced in the tight turn’s department and them being at such a steep angle was scary. But I got into the swing of them and actually started having fun. Good job because the whole trip was packed full of intense switchbacks.
Part #3 - SpainWe said bye to my parents. They went to the coast and we headed into mainland Spain. This is when we started the off-road part of the adventure. Going from Andorra to Spain using the Smugglers Trail. I have a CB500X, and I love it. I know it’s just a bike but I seem to have formed quite an emotional attachment to it after the holiday. I couldn’t afford to kit my bike out with knobbly tires or suspension. So, I just went easy and let some air out my tyres. The bike went up, round, over everything I asked it to. The Smugglers Trail was harder than I thought it would be. It even included a couple of river crossing. I fell off about 4 times. Luckily all at slow speed so it was more of a topple to the side! After the trail we were exhausted. We found the nearest main road and headed that way. We got the sat nav out – Points of Interest – Campsites. Things went on like this for the next 9 days. Doing trails in the days and camping in the evenings. We saved so much money while camping. It was usually about 15-20 Euros per night at the sites. We cooked pasta on our little stove for dinner and watched films on our tablet for free entertainment. One of the most amazing days was spent in Parque Natural De Las Bardenas Reales. It was like something out of a western film. Made up of gravel/sand tracks with no rules of where you couldn’t ride. It was incredible. If I could have changed anything it would have been the temperature. We were there really early which was great. But when the sun started coming out we just got burnt and had to head out.
We were quite close to Zaragoza at this point so tried out city life for two nights. It’s a really interesting place but by the second day, I was already missing our tent.We met back up with my parents around Parque Natural del Alto Tajo and had a couple of nights there. It was full of pretty Spanish towns! So we slept at one place while there and ventured out on the bikes in the days. We found the most crystal clear lagoon where we stayed for the day. The first and only time I had a chance to sunbathe the whole holiday! Before we knew it we were heading North. From Alto Tajo we made one more stop pre catching the ferry home, Haro. This is a really nice traditional town. One night there was enough to see everything and relax before riding again the next day. We arrived in Bilbao and I might have experienced my first panic attack! We didn’t do enough research before booking the hotel and end ended up right in the centre. We used Booking.com and specified that the hotel needed parking. But unfortunately, this hotel had slightly exaggerated. When they said there was parking, they meant a few miles away in a public underground car park. The city was full of one way systems, at one point we could see the hotel but couldn't get to it! Very annoying. We eventually got parked and had to drag all of our luggage to the hotel in the heat of the day. After all of that Bilbao was actually really lovely, we stuck mostly to the old town.
The next day it was time for the ferry.I wasn’t sure about the steep metal ramp we had to ride up to get on, but all went ok. We were on the ferry for around 30 HOURS, which wasn’t actually that bad. The food was good on there, but obviously quite expensive. We had a stash of films to get through so mostly hid out in our cabin. We only ventured out for a walk around outside or to eat! The ferry got into Portsmouth about 8:30 pm. Of course, it was raining on our arrival. Due to a number of closed roads, we didn’t make it back home till 3:00 am. It was a long ride back and the holiday depression started setting in. I made it worse by listening to all my favourite holiday tunes in my helmet, why did I do that? So all in all, I had an amazing time riding to Spain. I would like to think I am a much better rider, I feel confident on most roads and surfaces now. Now I’m home I miss not having a destination to reach every day. Not pitching up somewhere new every night. Going to Spain has confirmed the riding adventures for me and Dave have just begun. We are now formulating a master plan for the trip of a lifetime... Edit of our holiday, enjoy! If you would like to sell your motorbike, We Buy Any Bike will give you a free online quote - collecting everywhere in mainland England.
5 Sept 2016