Valencia or bust! A touring tale (or disaster!)

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Valencia or bust! A touring tale (or disaster!)

Thought I'd share a tale of a touring experience that didn't exactly turn out as planned. Mainly because there wasn't really a plan in the first place!! The plan was simple, five of us decided to ride down to the first WSB round in Valencia.

These were the bikes. Me (Fireblade), Simon (SV650), Leon (R6), Terry (SV650) and Robbo (GSXR600)

The trip was decided on a Thursday evening in the pub and the plan was to leave the following Wednesday. There were two things organised on this trip. One that we all managed to book the same ferry from Portsmouth, and two someone decided (for reasons only known to themselves!) that we should try and book into a hotel for a couple of nights in Alicante. Goodness knows why as it's south of Valencia anyway. Apart from that we just met on a damp March evening and headed off to the port with no other plans but to hopefully get there in time for the racing. The journey down was pretty uneventful and the first stop was in a very damp Touloose. If you're travelling at this time of year there really isn't any need to book anywhere in advance. We found a hotel without a problem and a nice chinese restaurant next door. A chinese restaurant with a mad waitor insisting that we keep drinking some local firewater just so that we could see the naked lady at the bottom of the glass!

Next day we planned to get down to Alicante as we were booked in for Friday and Saturday nights. From a drizzly Touloose we made our way over the Pyrenees (which was amazing) and once into Andorra found ourselves riding next to the ski slopes. Completely bizzare! Even more bizzare was arriving in Spain on the other side of the mountains to be welcomed by brilliant sunshine and tempratures of around 24 degrees. Fantastic, now the real riding can begin. The roads in the Catulunya region are amazing and we really started to go for it. This is where things began to go slightly wrong and set the tone for the rest of the trip. We didn't make it to Alicante though as Simon wanted to pop in see one his mates who lives in Salou. On the way, riding a brilliant road Simon over cooked his SV650 going into a right hander and ended up on the wrong side of the road straight into the path of oncoming traffic. Fortuantely the car driver took avasive action and Simon missed him by inches! We arrived in Salou in one piece and ended up renting a couple of holiday apartments for about £10 a night each! Now Salou is typical Spanish tourist resort. Except we were there out of season and it was a fantastic place to spend a night. We didn't see any tourists at all, apart from us of course!

The next morning the sun greeted us again and we made our way down to Alicante (incident free). This was our free day, we arrived around lunchtime on the Saturday and headed off to the beach and found a suitable bar to sit outside for the rest of the day. Sweet!

Sunday arrived and it was getting hotter. We had planned a cross country route from Alicante to Valencia and ended up riding the N330. It turned out to be one the best roads we'd ridden so far. If you're ever down that way take this road, you won't regret it. It's about 20km of twists and turns with fantastic scenary to boot! Eventually we arrived out on the main autoroute that would take us to the circuit. No sooner had we got on it and the police pulled two of us over. It all turned a bit stupid at this point. Me and Robbo were waiting further down on the hard shoulder while Terry and Leon were being grilled by the cops. Simon on the other hand had continued on without realising what had happened. His mirrors were vibrating apparently so he couldn't see what was going on! We waited and waited but they didn't show, so off we went on our own. We took a quick detour into Valencia itself (not exactly planned!) but eventually arrived at the circuit to find all three of them already there. Simon had made his own way in and was queuing up for tickets and Terry and Leon had been given a police escort! Anyway the racing was fantastic and the Valencia circuit is definitely worth a visit. Our time there was limited though and we knew that we would have to start heading back straight after the last WSB race. Our ferry left Caen at around 11pm the following night. Now this should have been plenty of time but we didn't account for Terry's little problem. After the first WSB race Terry and Robbo decided to head back because they thought we were cutting it too fine to get back in time. It would require some hard riding but the rest of us felt that we hadn't come all this way to miss out on one of the races. So they left and we agreed to meet at the ferry port. Providing of course we made it!

Because we all arrived seperately at the circuit our bikes weren't together in the car pak. I arranged to meet Simon and Leon at the main entrance. Except that when I got there the police moved me on. I waited on the hard shoulder of the slip road for about 15 minutes when Simon finally called. They had left via a different entrance and eventually caught up with me about 15km along the autoroute. I thought I was going to be riding the 1600km back to Caen on my own so it was a welcome sight to see Leon's familiar R6 headlamp in my mirrors. It was going to be autoroute all the way back now. After dealing with rush hour traffic around Barcelona we finally made it to the French border by midnight and booked into a travel lodge type place complete with a garage for the bikes. After a few beers in the bar and something to eat we fell into bed with thoughts of Robbo and Terry well up into France by now. How wrong we were!

In the morning, still with over 1100kms to go to Caen I checked my phone to find a text message from Terry saying that he had broken down. They were only about 200kms further on from us and had been riding until 3am so had obviously had trouble. It turned out to be Terry's chain. Two days before as we were about to head over the Pyrenees we had to adjust it. It certainly
wasn't brand new but we thought it would be ok for the rest of the trip. We adjusted it again in Alicante and again in Valencia. It turned out that they had stayed at some services near Le Cayler, so we agreed that we would head up that way and see if we could help. The road up from the border took us on the A75/N9. This road consists of a three lane autoroute which sounds pretty boring. It wasn't! It's the twistiest autoroute I've ever been on, sweeping through the mountains and we were seriously on it. We're talking 120mph bends here. In fact when we stopped to ring Terry I wanted to ride back down and do it all over again!

We arrived at the services to find Terry out of his leathers and Robbo giving bear hugs all round. I think he was pleased to see us! Not long after they left the circuit the day before, Terry's chain had become seriously loose. So much so that if he went more than the 30mph it would fall off. If he went round a bend, it would fall off. There was quite simply no adjustment left in it. That's why it took them so long to get to Le Cayler!

Despite his bike not being in shape to even comtemplate a trip like this Terry had had the sense to take out breakdown cover with a well known british company (the AA!!). They weren't exactly helpful though and kept fobbing him off. After more phone calls and arguments they agreed to arrange for the bike to be taken to a local garage and organise a hire car. Problem was, we had to get him to where the car was located. None of us had pillion room because of the amount of the luggage we were carrying. So after more phone calls and arguments the breakdown company agreed to pay for a taxi to pick up the hire car. We followed the taxi down and once he got the paper work signed chucked all our bags in the little Renualt Clio that was Terry's transport back to Caen. Well, what are mates for!

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful apart from the fact that we lost Leon near Le Mans! He turned up at Caen in the nick of time!

So we made the ferry, the ride back from Le Cayler was seriously tiring. If you're going to do that sort of journey then allow more time. We should have done. Terry couldn't take the car into England so the poor sod had to get the train home. His bike was delivered back two weeks later. How we ever got back in one piece still amazes me. There were other minor incidents along the way. I nearly hit a lorry, twice! And Leon almost wheelied his R6 into a field on N330. So is there a moral to this story is? Well yes. Quite simply make sure that your bike is up to the job in hand. Terry's wasn't and he suffered for it. So did Robbo having to ride alongside the stricken thing at 30mph!

Having said all that, we all had an amazing time. It was a fantastic adventure and I'd do it again. The fact that we didn't plan the trip properly made it even more memorable. I appreciate that some people like to plan and some people don't so it's up to you. Bear in mind that if you don't plan then what you've just read can happen!!

There is a sad ending to this tale though. We did this trip in March 2002 and covered 2500 miles in five days. Despite what you've just read we all rode within our individual limits and never put anyone in danger. Just over a year later Terry was on his way home form work on his new GSXR750 when a 90 year old woman pulled out on him. He had nowhere to go and was killed
instantly. Apparently she had knocked bikers off before. Terry was 21 years old. RIP mate, you are seriously missed.

Andy

You know the Valencia trip was just about the best thing I've ever done on a bike. Other than the dachshund and the bratwurst ..............All this talk of touring gives me serious depression. Maybe I should just take off now ? But the I wouldn't be able to go to Mallory Park on Sunday to see BSB. Real racing I say.But hang on, don't you have to plan and make hundreds of decisions before setting off. Like, what's the best bike?, what do I need to take?, where should I go? Come on guys get real.Touring the definitive list of must haves .......1. Motorbike that goes ...... other than that who cares what it is. Of course if it's a stonking, arm ripping, evil sounding (sorry all the loud can haters, you're twats anyway) TL, hmmm sorry about that got carried away again. Bring me another bratwurst.2. Passport. These days quite important.3. Credit Card.4. I'll concede waterproofs over excessive amounts of luggage. Being smelly is only unpleasant for others, however being wet is a right pain for you.5. Stick and old pair of flexible and comfy trainers in the underseat area (if you have one) these were for me the best thing I took. Most us prima donna bikers spend all their cash on race rep stuff so walking around in Dainese's best race boots soon becomes quite unpleasant.6. Map, if you must but why not spend some cash, come into the 21st century and by a phone or PDA that can download a Euro map or have a route finding facility. Why the F&*% would you want to carry a 2 foot square map of europe in your rucksack. I know, I did it once !7. Spare Clothes ? T shirts, boxers (or pants if you're over 40 sorry Andy), socks and pair of jeans all fit in a small rucksack that won't break your back. Oh and a pair of Oakleys for looking cool. If you can't look regardless of what you wear, than stay at home cos you ain't riding with us !That about it really. Tools could come in handy but really only if you've got a crap bike and didn't give a good look over before you left blighty. But in fairness even if you have a crap bike still get on it and ride into France and beyond. None of us are getting any younger, so get off your arse and go do it. It's a blast realising what you've forgotten, and if you're with mates they'll probably have something they can lend you.And if you travel light you'll even fit a very small tent in the rucksack, so it won't cost you much at all. I'm feeling very depressed now. Want to go riding. Pass me another bratwurst. Ooooh they are a bit tight !Apologies if the above doesn't flow but it was a rushed response to all those namby pamby 'what do I need to go touring' threads. As Fireblade900 says - 5 guys, five bikes, not a clue except we're heading south through Le Mans and over the Pyrenees and then Salou is somewhere down on the left, with Valencia a bit further on. Decent men and women all over the world spend their days making road signs and we waste our money on maps !! Go !!!!!!!!!!!

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