European Roadtrip

Many moons ago I bought a Suzuki DR350S trail bike to head south into Europe. I arranged to meet friends who had gone to watch Le Mans bike race.  Everywhere in Le Mans there was motorcycle mayhem – wheelies – stoppies – races from the lights. Bikes wheeling in and out everywhere.

I toured down through France and Spain, stopping to ski in Andorra for a couple of days with a friend who was going with me as far as the Spanish border. He was riding a GSXR750 and the mountain passes were causing problems for his brakes. He took the bike to a garage in Andorra to get them fixed. We set off two up on my overloaded traily for a ski resort at the top of a mountain pass. He wasn’t very happy by the time we got to the top after switchback after switchback.

I headed off on my own into Spain. My first stop was Barcelona and I drove around the city taking in the sights. Then I set off to find somewhere to stay. By the time I found a campsite it was nearly midnight and I pitched the tent in the blackness. I lay in the tent and I could hear the sea lapping against the shore. I wondered how far from the tent it was. When I woke in the morning the sea was only feet from my tent.

The roads were becoming more interesting after the long straight French terraces, and I decided to have a look at inland Spain. It was April and going inland towards the Sierra Nevada there was snow and it was freezing. The weather was getting worse, and my hands and feet were too cold to feel the controls. I went slower at first, but then realized I would be riding far into the night to reach the town I planned to stay at. I had to speed back up and take short stops anywhere there was cover to warm my hands up. I got to Udeba late at night, and found a hotel. The barman was very welcoming and tried to get me to stay in the bar for a chat and some warm food, but I was beat.

The weather continued to be variable, but when I got to Granada the sun was out and I motored round the city, enjoying the sun and sights. Conscious of how much time I was spending reaching the south of Spain, I headed for the coast the same day. Again the rain set in and I was soaked by the time I reached the coast. Then it changed again. The sun came out and I stripped everything off at a sea overlook, and the sun steamed the wet out of my clothes. I headed along the coast towards Malaga, the road became more and more congested. I decided to skip Malaga and headed straight for Gibralter. The rock was huge and I was waved through the customs past the queue of cars for a look round and to meet the monkeys.

Camping near Algeciras, I got into conversation with a hippy guy. He had been across to Tangiers, but the experience was so hectic he had had to come back and retreat to his tent for 3 days. He had been stunned by the cultural differences from Europe, but after three days he was weighing up whether to give it another try. I had tried to go across to Morocco via Ceuta the day before but there was a problem with my paperwork so I had come back across the Med.

I carried on into Portugal to Lisbon which was a really good city. Arriving across the huge suspension bridge, it was great to blast up and down the hills snaking in and out of trams. I headed up the coast, stopping to look at some impressive coastal scenery and old castles. The bike was now sounding unhappy and I headed for Santander through the mountains of Northern Spain.

30 miles from Santander, on the North coast of Spain, the bike broke down. It was terminal and I arranged transportation of the bike back to the UK. The trip had had its ups and downs but one of the highlights was I got to spend my birthday in Seville. Riding into exotic cities like Seville is one of my lasting memories from the trip and it was great to cruise around in the warmth. Pulling up alongside horse drawn carriages with beautifully dressed Spanish women was an amazing contrast to queues of glum British commuters.

Route : Sheffield, Southhampton, Cherbourg, Le Mans, Chateauroux, Limoges, Toulouse, Andorra, Perpignan, Barcelona, Valencia, Albacete, Udeba, Granada, Motril, Malaga, Gibraltar, Ferry to Ceuta, Moroccan Border, Algeciras, Cadiz, Seville, Setubal, Lisbon, Coimbra, Oviedo

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