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2Hondas
Nova Slayer



Joined: 10 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: 13:15 - 20 Sep 2017    Post subject: UK-France-Belgium-Germany-Luxembourg-Belgium-France-UK Reply with quote

I recently went on a little tour around northern Europe with my Brother, and I thought i'd write it up here:

Me on my 2010 ER-6n: Top box, Ortleib dry bag bungeed across the back-seat.
My brother on his brand new Ducati Monster 1200s. An old tank bag bungeed to the back seat was his only luggage. He'd been riding it like crazy the previous week to get enough miles on it to have its first service before we headed out.

Day 1 (Thursday)- Surrey to Gent - 235 miles (including Channel Tunnel)
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day1.png
Early rise for the ride to Folkestone. Although it was me and my Brother going on the tour, a few of his friends fancied joining us on a day-trip to dunkirk so there were 5 of us.
One of the friend's Speed Triples had a service a few days before and essentially needed everything fixing on it and so wasn't going to be roadworthy in time. He managed to borrow a BMW sports tourer for the day from another friend. Result!
Absolutely pissing it down for the entire ride. Turns out my goretex gloves aren't waterproof anymore, and neither are my trousers or boots. 10 year old Hein Gericke sheltex jacket is dry as a bone though.
The friend on the borrowed BMW, had it cut-out in the fast lane on the way to folkestone, mid downpour. He was out of the game. I'll update more on what happened later.

Got on the train, nice and easy. We'd not managed to all book onto the same crossing, but nobody at EuroTunnel cared, they just told us to ride onto the same train without showing anyone our pass. Result!

Got to Calais, still raining.
Rode to Dunkirk, still raining.
Went to the Dunkirk Museum, very interesting.
Came out, even heavier rain.
Went for a coffee and waffle.
Came out, still raining.
Decided to start riding to Belgium, went to a war-grave and suddenly it was blue sky. Moral of the story? Don't go to France, it's raining.
The friends headed back to Calais, and me and my Brother headed to Gent. We'd only booked the first night's accommodation, as we didn't really know where we were going to be each day.

Luckily, the Hotel had a massive towel radiator in the bathroom, and loads of space to hang up our gear.

Gent was very nice. Similar to Bruge (which i'd visited a few months before) but a lot less busy.


Day 2 (Friday)- Gent to Spa - 133 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day2.png
We'd managed to get all our stuff dried out by the morning apart from my boots. I'd dried the insoles, so it was no big deal.
No sooner had we left the hotel than it started raining again. My brother (who doesn't normally ride anywhere apart from on the track, in the dry) was less than impressed. But what can you do but hope that eventually it'll stop?

We took the motorway to try to escape the rain as quickly as possible, and took the ring-road past Brussels. The rain caught us.

After we'd gone past the Brussels, we switched onto some of the more local roads, and it was a lot nicer. My brother was learning to cope with the rain by this point. It's much less unpleasant to ride in the rain at 40, than it is at 80.
Panic by my Brother when his oil warning light came on (Bloody Ducati!). Panic over, it was just the oil-service light which came on at 600 miles (Ducati couldn't preemptively cancel it when he got it serviced before).
The roads approaching Spa are brilliant. Lovely winding forest roads.
We arrived in Spa, sat down for a beer, and found a nice hotel on the way to the next town with the help of Expedia.
Got there, re-played the drying-our-gear routine again.


Day 3 (Saturday) - Spa to Heidelberg - 219 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day3.png
Rode to the Spa Francorchamps Karting Circuit, which is inside the Grand Prix track on Stavelot corner.
It starting raining just before we went on track. We were still in our bike gear, with our Scalas, everyone else was just in their civies.
Karting is so much better in the rain, and even better when you're in communication with someone else on the track. My brother and I are quite experienced karters, so we absolutely anhiallated everyone else.
The track was just about to be setup for the F1 the following weekend, so there were loads of F1 trucks around, and a few Red Bull people hanging around the karting track.

We got back on the bikes, and decided to head to Germany.
As soon as we crossed the border, the sun came out. The sunshine, green grass and hills could have led us to believe we were in the sound of music, but we weren't going to be fooled by that.
We ended up on an AutoBahn. I'm not normally one for going fast, but when it's legal, and the roads are either empty or full of considerate German drivers, why not give it a try? Cruising at about 125 was my limit with my head tucked in. I'd felt before that my screen didn't really do much, but at those speeds it certainly does.
It still had a more to give, but it didn't seem worth it, and probably wouldn't have been wise while I had the top-box on.

We stopped for lunch in a random German town called Wittlich, and whaddya know? They were having their annual Pigfest!
Beer and Pork as far as the eye could see. It would've been rude not to hang around for a Currywurst and a half-pint.

While we were stopped for lunch, I tried to work out where we should head to next. We'd been recommended a place near Mainz by a friend, but I also wanted to go to the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
It turned out that the MB Museum is closed every Monday, so if we were going to go there, then we'd need to go there tomorrow (Sunday). Riding to Mainz would mean that the journey to Stuttgart would be too long to allow us to also go to the museum, so we headed to Heidelberg.

Heidelberg was nice in the same way that every German city is. It's clean, got a nice ruined castle, and a Brauhaus. You couldn't ask for anything else.
A dinner of Schnitzel, Spatzle and HefeWeizen was just what the doctor ordered.


Day 4 (Sunday) - Heidelberg to Stuttgart - 76 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day4.png
Rode to Stuttgart. Nothing to report really, a fairly bland ride.
We spent the day at the Mercedes Benz museum, which was excellent. Totally worth the entry fee, could've spent a lot longer here.
Went to another Brauhas, and then onto a fantastic steakhouse.
Stayed the night in another Expedia find with the greatest blackout shutters (GBS) I have ever experienced.


Day 5 (Monday) - Stuttgart to Luxembourg City - 198 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day5.png
Woke up late due to the GBS. Very glad of the extra sleep.
Decided to ride to Luxembourg. Lots of very nice windy roads on the approach to Luxembourg
We decided to have a day-off from riding on day 6
Checked into another Expedia find, then went for a look around the old city wall fortifications. Very interesting, and not for the claustrophobic.
Found an Indian restaurant, eat until we couldn't eat anymore.


Day 6 (Tuesday) - No riding
Took a tour around the Royal Palace. Very nice, and as you'd expect. High security, and yet an American Tourist in our group decided it would be fine to bring a stonking great hunting knife in his backpack. The Royal Police guard weren't very impressed, and confiscated it. He was allowed on the tour though (that wouldn't happen in America).
Ran out of things to do in Luxembourg City pretty early on, so just sat and had some beers in the sun.
Had the worst Thai meal i've ever had.


Day 7 (Wednesday) - Luxembourg City to CharleVille Mezieres (France). - 164 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day7.png
Took an incredibly convoluted route in an effort to find some interesting roads. We didn't have any interest in riding into central France, and our return crossing was booked for Friday, so we didn't want to start heading in the opposite direction.
Stopped for lunch at a nice border town with a Castle and pub.
No, I'd never heard of Charleville Mezieres either.
It had cheap motels, and it was dinner time, so we just booked it. It happened to be next-door to a tex-mex steakhouse, which was a nice bonus.


Day 8 (Thursday) - Charleville Mezieres (France) to Kortrijk (Belgium) - 142 miles
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day8.png
Woke up to a pancake-flat rear-tyre (boo!), luckily i'd decided to take out some european breakdown cover a few days before we left the UK (hooray!).
Really pleased with the breakdown service, got allocated a recovery truck to take my bike to the nearest motorbike tyre place. Unfortunately though, because it was France and the clock had just struck 12:00, nobody came until 13:30.
While we were waiting, we had lunch at the tex-mex steakhouse which took the edge off the dissapointment of the flat tyre.
The bike tyre place was a pretty big sportsbike dealership, so we whiled away some time there.
I was pleasantly surprised by the price of the tyre. I've never gone to bike dealerships for tyres, only ever taken loose wheels to dedicated tyre places. In all, it was 114 for a Bridgestone S21r fitted, balanced, new valve.

It was 3pm by the time we were back on the road.
We rode north-west skirting along the French side of the Belgian / French border. After unsuccessfully finding anywhere to buy cigarettes in France, and my brother getting more and more agitated, we headed into Belgium proper. Within 10 minutes, he had some cigarettes and his mood was calmed.
We found a spa-retreat in Kortrijk which had a spare room. They seemed a bit perplexed when 2 similar looking brothers in motorbike gear turned up, I don't think we were their usual clientele.
Went out in Kortrijk and found a pub with a pool table, next-door to a kebab shop, next-door to a late night bar. Bliss.


Day 9 (Friday) - Kortrijk to Surrey - 238 miles (including Channel Tunnel)
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/day9.png
We had to be in Calais by the afternoon, and we had nothing to do, so we rode fairly casualy to Cite-Europe, loaded my top-box up with a few essentials (box of wine, Dijon mustard, peanut crisps) and headed to the terminal.
It was ludicrously hot, and queuing up for the tunnel on a bike is horrific. Gloves off, jacket undone, helmet flipped up. All made very little difference.
After an hour or so of queuing, we got through, and were allowed to go on the first train they had, irrespective of what it said on our ticket (There's a theme emerging here.)
Got onto UK soil at about 4pm, and rode home to Surrey, making it back for around half 6.

Reflections:
- Topbox and Drybag are the way to go. I had a backpack in the topbox with some of my lighter luggage. Keep the topbox as empty as you can for storing your helmet while you're walking around. I had a 25 litre dry-bag, but i reckon if i'd gone to 35 litres, i could have done away with the backpack.
- Always get fuel when your co-riders fills up. My bike got about 20% more miles to the tank than my brother's.
- Breakdown cover is essential. I could've taken a tyre repair kit, but as my bike doesn't have a centre-stand, finding the leak would've been substantially harder.
- Get some actual waterproof gloves, or, expect to get wet. If the liner pulls out when they're wet, don't expect to fix it quickly. Spare gloves are very handy.
- Bluetooth intercoms are great. When I went round Ireland 8 years ago, we didn't have them, and it was a nightmare. Make sure you set them up before you go.
- If you've got an intercom, and a phone to charge, take a charger with 2 outputs. I regret not doing this, i had 2 seperate chargers, which meant i had to find 2 seperate sockets, as well as my brother doing the same. It also meant i had to fit 2 chargers and euro adapters in my bag.
- I should probably think about getting a new helmet. My Multitec is about 8 years old, but spent about 7 of those years in a box in the loft. The padding is compressed, and it doesn't fit as well as it should (lifts when going motorway speeds), the forehead padding is pretty useless as became evident on the last day of the holiday, and it's really really really noisy.
- I'm glad i bought a phone holder, and a 1 month tom-tom maps subscription. We'd have been stuffed for navigation if it weren't for that.

P.S The BMW riding friend. It turns out the reason the BMW stopped, is because it had no fuel! The friend that lent it to him told him it'd been filled up recently, and the gauge was reading full. Turns out the gauge was wrong. Look in the tank to confirm the fuel level on any bike you're lent. He had to wait for over 2 hours on hard-shoulder in heavy rain because of that oversight.
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B5234FT
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Joined: 28 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: 10:16 - 21 Sep 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like a fun trip!

Shouldnt laugh at the BMW error, but we've all been there at one time or another im sure and you have to see the funny side afterwards.

How did you find booking accomodation as you went? I've yet to brave it, but it does give a lot more freedom!
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barrkel
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PostPosted: 10:31 - 21 Sep 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

B5234FT wrote:
How did you find booking accomodation as you went? I've yet to brave it, but it does give a lot more freedom!

Not OP but it's definitely the way to go. I usually book the next night's accommodation from the previous night's accommodation wifi, or the same morning. Very easy to do with booking.com, if you can stand the UI (getting increasingly annoying over the years).

In terms of "braving it", I think it's riskier to book your accommodation up front. If you have a breakdown or accident and need to change your plans, or you simply don't like the look of the weather where you're headed, booking just in time gives you all the flexibility you need. It might be more expensive for a better room, but not by much; typically when touring you're only staying for a night or two, which is much easier to fit into hotels' booking calendar gaps that they'll discount to increase occupancy, whereas a long stay will be limited by availability.
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 11:22 - 21 Sep 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was my first time booking-as-you-go, and it's much better IMO. Much less stress as long as you've got phone data. Without the internet it would be a bit of a nightmare as you could end up riding around for ages trying to find somewhere that's both good, and available, and you'd end up paying the turn-up rate which in many cases was as much 3 times what we paid on Expedia.

Like Barrkel says, it gives you the flexibility to change your plans on a whim, or, in our case, scope out a hotel before deciding to stay there.
We booked one hotel based solely on Expedia, but found that it was miles away from anywhere and was a bit of a dive.

Generally we ended up arriving in a town, deciding it was time to call it a day, checking out Expedia, riding to a contender, and deciding to book while we were in the car-park. We generally got to the front desk to check in before the booking had arrived at the hotel.

I'll put some more pictures up once I've extracted them from Google photos.
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 14:32 - 22 Sep 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alas, the only picture I have of my bike on hols is this one Crying or Very sad
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/dsc_0740.jpg.png

I'm glad i took something to clean my visor though. RIP insects.
https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/dsc_0738.jpg
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vanderbale
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PostPosted: 10:33 - 29 Sep 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like quite an adventure! Thanks for useful tips. Thumbs Up
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 09:35 - 04 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well this is pretty crap

https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/lux_speeding.jpg

49 for going 4.4% over the speed limit on a bike whose speedo needle covers the tiny km/h digits
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Casper
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PostPosted: 17:35 - 11 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

2Hondas wrote:
Well this is pretty crap

https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/lux_speeding.jpg

49 for going 4.4% over the speed limit on a bike whose speedo needle covers the tiny km/h digits


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cough up blind man. I can see mine.
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Ste
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PostPosted: 18:14 - 11 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

2Hondas wrote:

Good luck to them as they don't have many options should you choose not to pay up.
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Casper
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PostPosted: 19:42 - 11 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have been flashed by quite a few cameras over the years and yet to get one sent through. Bike and the van. Saying that i have never knowingly been flashed in Luxembourg mostly Germany and Holland.
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Tracer1234
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PostPosted: 22:45 - 11 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ste wrote:
2Hondas wrote:

Good luck to them as they don't have many options should you choose not to pay up.


Out of interest, what is the repercussions of not paying? Does it have any implications on your uk licence, or is it a case of the second you set foot in the country again you will be hung, drawn and quartered?
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Matt B
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PostPosted: 09:15 - 12 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

2Hondas wrote:
49 for going 4.4% over the speed limit on a bike whose speedo needle covers the tiny km/h digits


Actually says you were clocked at 97, so nearer 8%. They changed the thresholds in most of Europe recently, lowered the point at which they send a fine. Luckily you were less than 20 over the limit so fall in the lower band for fines.

Tracer1234 wrote:
Out of interest, what is the repercussions of not paying? Does it have any implications on your uk licence, or is it a case of the second you set foot in the country again you will be hung, drawn and quartered?


Apart from the actual fine they can't add points to our licence, that is part of the agreement. If they pulled you again in that country they might flag up the outstanding fine and impound the vehicle. Biggest issue is that there is nothing stopping them engaging a UK debt collecting agency to pursue the unpaid fine.
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Tracer1234
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PostPosted: 13:08 - 12 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Matt B wrote:

Apart from the actual fine they can't add points to our licence, that is part of the agreement. If they pulled you again in that country they might flag up the outstanding fine and impound the vehicle. Biggest issue is that there is nothing stopping them engaging a UK debt collecting agency to pursue the unpaid fine.



Ahh fair enough. Would they do that for 49 big ones?
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Used to ride: 2015 Yamaha MT-09 Tracer (smidsy) 09 Triumph Street Triple (P/X'd) 08 Yamaha YBR (Sold)
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 10:28 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've paid the fine because I don't like debt and uncertainty, and I legitimately broke the laws of their country. It's a fair cop.

Even so, I reserve the right to grumble.
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Matt B
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PostPosted: 11:02 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fair play, I would have done the same Thumbs Up

Also meant to say yours is the first fine I've actually seen arrive in the post after being flashed by a camera in/on your own vehicle. Friends have had ones after being flashed in a hire car and the hire company pass on details. Maybe Luxembourg are hotter on this than other parts of Europe.
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 11:16 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's my first speeding fine ever.

FWIW, I don't really like the speedo on the er-6n. I find it quite hard to spot my speed at a glance in mph, let alone the tiny kmph ones.

https://cdn.bcf.44bytes.net/files/speedo_714.jpg

grumble grumble...
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Matt B
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PostPosted: 11:37 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is vague and hard to read.

My GSX has a nice big digital speedo which can be switched to kph. What about satnav? My garmin shows speed and also (mostly) the speed limit on the current road either in mph or kmh and turns red when you are speeding.
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 11:44 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sat-nav is a possibility.
Digital speed display FTW
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2Hondas
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PostPosted: 11:49 - 13 Oct 2017    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had no idea products like this existed.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Universal-GPS-HUD-Digital-Head-Up-Display-Car-Truck-Speedometer-Speed-Warning-UK-/162471371262?hash=item25d40c61fe:g:x9YAAOSwfRdZNk9c

This'd work.
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