BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Monday, 31 December 2012

A request for help for a couple of riding friends.


Can anyone out there please help?

We have two friends, Clare & Sam, who are a few weeks into an epic two year trip travelling the world on their motorcycles. Sadly Clare has fallen ill and they have to fly home to the UK for some medical tests.

They are currently in Salerno, Italy, and need to store their bikes and luggage somewhere for a few weeks. If there is anyone out there that could help these two lovely people please get in touch with us

This is their web site:

You can email us at:

Cheers all and a Happy New Year from Suzanne and I.
Luchon to Lourdes. More mountains  more winding roads, and more snow. Are we bored yet? No way!


We made a new friend at the hotel this morning.

Meet Mr Rabbit.

We don't know his real name, in fact we don't even know if he's a he. This was the coolest rabbit. He followed us around the back yard at the hotel, for ages. When we stopped walking he'd snuggle up to our feet. We went out, and when we came back he bounded across the yard to meet us. Very cool.

We enjoyed a late croissant breakfast before heading to the laundromat to wash our clothes, which were well overdue. While they were washing we sat and had lunch at the cafe on the corner. It was then that I heard music to my ears. An Aussie accent from a family on holidays. I couldn't let the opportunity pass and said hello. We chatted for about fifteen minutes and swapped travel stories. It's funny, but it did make me feel a little bit homesick. Let me know when Gillard is gone and we'll come home.

With our clothes now smelling spring fresh we made our way back to the hotel to pack the bike. Luckily I had some expert assistance from Mr Rabbit.

 He's fluffy, and warm, and cuddly.

We had to be careful where he walked.

I'm sure I could fit him in here...

As much as we enjoyed Mr Rabbit's company it was time to go. The first obstacle was to exit the backyard.

It was a tight fit.

Then, without any warm up, we were into the mountains again. Up, down, up, switchbacks, snow, down, up, more switchbacks, more snow, lots more snow, down, and so on. It was another mind blowing ride. At one point I saw a deer stumble and fall on the road. I think it had jumped over a fence on our right. It promptly got on it's feet and leaped over the fence on the left of the road and bolted up the side of the mountain. It looked very much like a 'roo to me. We were enjoying a good, but demanding ride. The roads were nowhere near as much fun as yesterday, but the scenery made up for it. Suzanne was happy sitting on the back playing with the new camera and learning how to use it. Here are a few of the results.

 The road we took out of ????

We begin our first climb for the day. 

 Are we going up there?... sure looks like it! 

We rode through another cute little town... 

...then a few minutes later, looked down on it. 

l just like this shot.
Not bad considering it was shot straight into the sun.

This was all the open stuff. One section we rode was one car width wide, with no guard rail, and with very tight switchbacks. It wasn't a problem though, there was plenty of run off on the switchbacks. Most had four of five hundred feet of run off. Unfortunately it was straight down. One turn was so tight I couldn't get the bike around and had to make a three point turn. 

We stopped on top of one of the mountains for photos. I think it was Col d'Aspin. I took one glove off planning to remove both, and my helmet to take some photos. Once I had one glove off I rethought my original plan. It was just a little bit chilly, so I ran around and took some photos with all my gear on.

Suzanne checks out the view...

 ...and what a view it was.

 How high were we?

Check out some of the roads to get up here.

Then it was down again...

 More mountains, and more snow.

 Another stunning sun set coming up.
I guess that should be going down?

More twisties. Fun ones now.

Part of our ride for the day.

Suzanne told me she had seen lots of horses with big hooves. Not Clydesdales, just normal sized horses with big hooves. I guess I must have been watching the road because I didn't see any. Something we both saw were the hundreds of small piles of dirt in the paddocks that looked like they had been neatly dug out of the ground. Can anyone enlighten us as to what they are?

Something else we both noticed were the crazy push bike riders. I was struggling to ride a motorcycle up some of these climbs, and these guys were pushing pedals to get to the top. Some of the roads we rode were part of the Tour de France course, so who knows who we may have passed today. If you were out there training today Cadel, I hope you appreciated how much room I gave you when I went past.

There are signposts on the side of the road everywhere advising cyclists of the present elevation, elevation at the top of the climb, and the gradient. They just scared me, so I didn't look at them. Something that was cool to see were some of the messages painted on the roads by the fans for the cyclists.

Everything was going well. We were making good time, even though we'd left Luchon a little later than I would have liked. We rode up a very long steep bit of road into another ski area. The problem was there was only one road in, and the same road out. Our Tom Tom had struck again. It only took us about an hour out of our way. Time for a change of plans. Our overnight stop would be at Lourdes now, not Pau.

After about an hour of riding I saw something that lightened my mood considerably. So much so that I had to stop, turn around, and go back to show Suzanne. There was a dog that looked like a large version of Dakoda, sitting on top of a wall about twelve feet high. He was happily watching the traffic go by, but we reckon he was waiting for his owners to come home. Unfortunately all our photographic gear had flat batteries.

We rolled into Lourdes in the dark at about six thirty, spotted an Ibis Hotel, and made a bee line for it. Suzanne worked her magic and minutes later we were in a very comfortable room getting ready for dinner. We were both pretty worn out after two big days of riding. It's been brilliant, but it's also been hard work.

We might need another day off tomorrow...

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Andorra, Spain, France.
Three countries in one day, and a great ride.


We finally got out of Soldeu this morning. We said our farewells to Mario and his team, gave Crazy Cat Woman a big hug goodbye, and headed off into Andorra la Vella to buy a new camera.Yes, after I dropped ours the other day we have decided we have to get a fill in camera until ours is repaired. We can't go for a couple of weeks here without a camera.

We went into a large electrical shop that sells just about everything and were immediately offered assistance. The salesman was great. He didn't speak a word of English, but with much pointing and gesticulating, he worked out what we wanted. He showed us a couple of options and explained every feature of the cameras to us. He even took us out into the street to show us how good the (optical) zoom and screen displays were. Sold! We handed over the money, and bought a memory card as well. We can now store 2,200 photos on the camera. That's a bit over four days at the rate we're taking photos. That said, we couldn't used the camera today because it required charging, so the few photos we took were with my phone.

I always take it easy on the bike with Suzanne on the back as she's precious cargo. I'm also taking it easy because an R1200GSA with all the gear we are carrying isn't a sports bike, was one of the best rides ever. From Adrall to Sort in Spain the road just winds it's way up a mountain chain, then back down again. I was happily riding along at my usual pace and taking it easy, then I don't know what happened. We passed a car and the bike decided it wanted to play. We had an unbelievably good, fun ride into Sort. It was only fifty kilometres, but it was just bend after bend of brilliant riding road. Just perfect. We stopped at Sort and I was exhausted, and my hands, wrists, elbows, and knees all ached. It was an extremely satisfying ride. (Google map the route and zoom in boys.) 

We sat down in Sort to a huge feed of pork, chips, bacon, and eggs for a measly five Euros. It went down a treat.

 Trip planning for the next leg. Hmm, two hours and ten minutes to cover 107 kilometres. Just like home...NOT!

 Pretty happy with the chicken strips considering we're riding an overloaded, giant trail bike, two up.

 Kayaking is big here. Part of the Olympic (I think) kayak course running through town.

We left at around three o'clock and after a while started climbing again, and climbing, and climbing. Before we knew it we were back above the snow line carving switchbacks and riding to Bossost on top of a mountain at 3,031 feet. Bossost is a ski town and the main ski area was packed with people. Suzanne described it as being "Like three high schools all coming out at once. People just walking anywhere and everywhere." I must admit I do enjoy the odd strange look when we ride through a ski area on a motorcycle. I might take a ski jacket and snow board to the Isle of Man next time and see if i get the same reaction. I didn't like the huge traffic jam we encountered heading into Bossost though.

We turned left just before town to take a short cut to Luchon. A bit of work with Google Maps over lunch showed me we'd save an hour by ignoring the sat nav and taking this route. The sun was now disappearing behind the mountains and painted a stunning picture. I hate stopping once we're rolling, but when an opportunity presents itself to take a photo of something like this, I'll make an exception. It was breathtaking. I'm so disappointed our camera is broken and I had to take this with my phone.

We rode the switch backs across the top of another mountain in fading light This was a low one at only just over 2,000 feet, and arrived in Luchon in the dark. 

A bit of a ride around town and Suzanne snagged a room in the third hotel she tried. We were offered the backyard of the bike to park the bike and accepted, but it was a really tight squeeze getting in there. 

We headed out for dinner and walk around town. With all the Christmas lights up it's a very pretty place.

Pre dinner drink. 
After today's ride,  that didn't even touch the sides.

 They do Christmas lights so well over here.

Flat out in the middle of the main street.

We found a gift shop with a live in Alsatian who was very friendly. So friendly that it followed us around the shop wanting us to throw it's tennis ball. I thought that wasn't such a good idea, being in a shop full of breakables. 

As we wearily made our way back to the hotel, a huge bonus presented itself to us. There was a laundromat right across the road from the hotel.

Tomorrow, clean clothes again. Yay!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A little bit of moto heaven in Andorra.


We sort of wanted to get going today but we're totally disorganised. We desperately need some laundry done, I need a hair cut, we have stuff to post home, and a heap of other little bits and pieces need attending to. So we'll nail this stuff and head off tomorrow.

First up the hair clippers got a work out and I now have a lot less grey hair than I did earlier n the morning. The it was downstairs for breakfast and we were greeted with huge hugs and kisses by Crazy cat Woman. She's a sweetheart. 

Then we were on the bike in search of a Laundromat. With no luck in Soldeu we headed into Andorra la Vella once again. We made the wise choice of re fitting all our thermal liners and it was a good move. The wind was coming off the snow and icy cold. The temperature hovered around two degrees most of the way into town.

I saw a motorcycle museum the other day so this time we stopped and took a look. The Museu De la Moto was only small but it held some real treasures. There were bikes I'd never heard of, and quite a few I've seen in books but never in the flesh.

Here's a small sample...

Entrance, left hand side. 

Entrance, centre. 

Entrance, right hand side. 

 1927 Bohmerland. Interesting no?

 1930 Majestic. Unusual streamlining.

 Very tidy Sanglass 400. This would look good in my shed.

I missed this one, but it was a very nice bit of gear. 

 Trials display.

 One for my vespa friends. A 1952 125. Sweet!

 DKW Wankel powered rotary.

 Ossa 500 twin two stroke. I knew they made a dirt bike with this motor, but never knew about this.

One of four of enduro legend Cyril Despres Dakar winning bikes. Cyril livs in Andorra. I might try and track him down to get some riding tips while we're here.

Honda XLV750. I always wanted one of these. Big fuel tank, shaft drive, 750cc V Twin motor. Honda Australia ignored this bike for years. When they eventually imported it the price had gone up by about 20%, and it was an ugly burgundy and gold colour. 

With that little side trip out of the way we made our way into Andorra la Vella. We rode around for about an hour with no luck so we stopped for lunch. While we were there Suzanne asked the waitress where there was a laundry in town.. No luck I'm afraid, only laundry services that will charge a bomb to wash a few items. Oh well, we'll be smelly for another day. At least it not hot and sweaty weather.

The sum total of today's activities was my haircut. Epic fail.

Tomorrow we must leave.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Recovery - or damn you Christmas dinner party people.


I woke at about eleven and it was another superb day outside. Unfortunately I was in no condition to enjoy it. Last night's Christmas dinner turned into a Christmas party thanks to a bunch of fun people from Cornwall and Bristol. I wandered around the room trying to think, and gave that up as a bad joke. Then I remembered we had some meat and cheese in the bike panniers. That helped a little, but not enough. It was definitely one of those "I'm never drinking again" days.

Suzanne slept until about five, then we went out for dinner at about seven and were back in the hotel before nine. As we walked back to the hotel Suzanne asked me "Who drove us home last night? Was it Tracy?" No Suzanne, Mario drove us home, and had a drink with us in the bar before you went to bed. Suzanne has gone to bed and I'm typing this in the bar because the Wifi doesn't work in the room. I'm drinking coke.

You have to laugh. I've just tried to change our return flights online with Emirates, we're allowed one free change to our flight booking. The website tells me that the fee to change flights is $35,000 AUD! Has something happened while we've been away that we didn't hear about? Great airline, but the IT department might need a wake up call. Might need to visit an Emirates office me thinks.

Tomorrow we need to move on. We have a good itinerary thanks to our friend Amanda. We will leave Andorra and go to Bagens-de-Luchon, Col d'Aspin, Col de Peyresourde, Lus St Sauveur, Arrens, Col d'Aubisque, Bielle, Pau, We'll head for Bilbao in Spain the next day. How long will this take? Google Maps says its 417 kilometres, and will take just over seven hours, so I'm guessing the roads will be very twisty. The way we are going, probably take us about two months. We'd like to do it in a couple of days though. We'll see how we go. This route covers some of the Tour de France course, so it should provide some interesting riding.

Well, that's it for me today, I'm going back to bed.

Suzanne has just done some research and we may not be hung over at all. We may be suffering from altitude sickness. OK, I'm joking, but we are suffering a little. Reading about altitude sickness has opened our eyes and is something we need to be aware of. It's common for people who climb too quickly and stay at higher altitudes for extended periods. High altitudes means over 1,500, to 2,000 meters. We were at about 2,500 the other day and have been around 2,000 meters for a week. The best treatment - drink lots of water, no alcohol, and keep warm. Yeah, that suits our lifestyle really well doesn't it?
We had a real white Christmas.


I looked out the window this morning and was greeted with this...

A good morning greeting from a snowman across the road.
Merry Christmas Mister Snowman.

That reminds me, I've never made a snowman. (Insert Suzanne here . . . "well I did ask you if you wanted to? and your answer was "it depends how cold it is" . So Mr. woose man up and let's make one!" 

After enjoying the weather for the last few days we decided to remove all the thermal liners from our riding gear, as well as leaving out thermal underwear off. It really has gotten a lot more comfortable in the last week or so. It's surprising how much more flexible we are without all the liners in our gear. We rode out of the garage and it was perfect.

When we rode from France into Andorra a few days ago we went through the Tunnel d'Envalira, which is 2,879 metres long. It meant we didn't have to ride across the top of the mountain pass in the dark. Today we were riding up to El Pas de la Casa. This is the village on top of the mountain on the border of France and Andorra and sits at 2,408 metres above sea level. A couple of days ago we were at 1,431 metres at Col du Chioula, Vaychis in France, so that's nearly a 1,000 metre rise in about forty kilometres of zig zag riding. Yes, they were big climbs.

It was only about a nine kilometre ride to El Pas de la Casa, but boy was it fun. The road just winds and winds it's way up the side of the mountain. We were back to looking over the edge of the road and seeing nothing.

The views were pretty good as well...

...when you can tear your eyes away from the road that is...

 ...with bends like this everywhere,
my eyes were on the road.

Look out for cows?
What the hell would cow be doing up here? 
And how would it get here?

One of the many ski slopes in the area.

Of course we didn't factor in the drop in temperatures as we climbed and it was soon down around the 1.5 degree mark, and without our thermals we were a little chilly. Luckily it was only a short ride.

When we got to the top, this is what greeted us...

This is one of the larger ski areas around here, and it's stunning. It so made me want to strap on some skis and have some fun, but the thought of injury in the back of my mind is holding me back. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

We found a nice little restaurant and settled in for Christmas lunch with a perfect window seat overlooking the ski slopes.

The perfect place for Christmas lunch.

Suzanne peruses the menu.
She was happy with her choice of risotto
and my cannelloni was delicious.

A little appetiser?

After a very enjoyable lunch the weather started to turn, and I wasn't that keen on riding back with snow falling, not on those roads. So it was back down the hill. Suzanne said it was like a giant slot car track.

We headed back to Soldeu and down the hill to Hotel Peretol for a drink. We'd been told by Mario that it was very nice.

We discovered that the hotel was owned by and English couple, Tracey and Simon. They were having a traditional English Christmas dinner in the hotel that night, and part of the package was free transport from our hotel and back again after dinner. They could squeeze us in if we wanted to go. Done deal. We rode home, showered and changed, and were ready for Christmas dinner. As we walked out the door Suzanne said "Do you think I should take my face paint?" We decided that it would be a good idea.

The night started out as a nice quiet group of people chatting, most of whom were English. Then more people arrived, and it got a little louder. Then the party people arrived from Bristol and Cornwall, and it was on. Suzanne broke out her paint, brushes, and sponges and was an instant hit with the kids. As usual the adults got in on the act as well.

After a while we sat down for dinner and there were lashings of food, complete turkey and cranberry sauce. There was so much food we couldn't eat it all, and it was all delicious.

Christmas toast.

After dinner Suzanne continued painting a well lubricated crowd. To finish off the night she let one of the young girls paint her. For a first timer she did a pretty good job.

Thank you so much Tracey and Simon. You made our Christmas night. To our new friends from the south west of England, thank you so much for your company and generous offers of a place to stay when we're back in the UK. We had a great night.

 Girls just want to have fun...

...then have a little nap.

Just to finish the night of perfectly, it snowed. Only a little bit, but it did snow, so I got the white Christmas that I wanted.

A warm cuddle, and a Jameson's chilled with snow.

Then Mario (No, not from our hotel, another Mario who is mates with our Mario) poured us into the van and drove us back to our hotel while listened to the fluent Swahili we were no doubt speaking. 

Mario got us back to our hotel safe and sound.

Of course we had to have a nightcap with both of our Marios.

It will be a memorable Christmas day that's for sure. Merry Christmas everyone.