Warren
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After enjoying the fantastic roads of Sardinia I flew to Portugal for the second half of this trip the focus of which was to ride the best pure motorcycling roads in Europe.

Leaving Olbia Sardinia where no ride share services exist allowed taxis to charge me 30 euro for a 5km trip to the airport. Arrive Lisbon where Uber and Bolt operate and a 10km trip cost 8 euro. In route to Lisbon I had a stopover in Geneva where I got the cheapest lunch I could find, a McDonalds meal deal medium size. Cost, $30 Australian.

I allowed two days before riding to do some sightseeing but I’m not into regular tourist stuff anymore. Seen one city seen them all, or as Paul Kelly sang “every fxxking city is just the same“. I did however enjoy some great meals and some exceptionally good Portuguese wine and finished writing my Sardinia ride report.

In Lisbon I am renting a BMW K1600GT from IMT Bike. I’ve been curious about this model and BMW’s 1600cc inline six. The K series gets a lot of hype by Aussie motorbike writers. But you know that is just their job. I look forward to seeing how it really is and how it compares to the Gold Wing I rode in USA.

Lisbon to Covilha

Getting out of Lisbon was the easiest of any capital city I have ridden. I already like Portugal for it’s wine and today on the road it seems so civilized after Italy with petrol stations that have nice cafes and clean toilets. I got a good coffee for 1.50 euro and a delicious Portuguese tart for 50 euro cents.

I cruise on the highway for awhile to get some distance away from the city. Once off the highway I am riding some terrific roads but the sun has disappeared and there is rain all around.

One of these is big and heavy, the other is a tank

Not many photos today, I was focused on avoiding the rain and getting used to the K1600.

I stop to put the rain liners in as it looks grim ahead. That old trick works and I make it to my hotel without rain despite being surrounded by showers.

The hotel desk clerk is a rider too and asks me did I get wet and when I said how I rode between it he said that was so lucky it has been raining heavy all afternoon.

Good start to my tour. I am slightly concerned by the weather forecasts but brush it aside.

Day 1 Route (click to see more)


Covilha to Vila Real

The temperature this morning is a brisk 9 degrees so I take my time. I am no further north than I was in Sardinia where the days were a pleasant 20-24 degrees so the forecast of 13 for today I think must be off…

The day warms a little but I am riding over the highest roads in Portugal next and the temperatures soon drop. Lovely roads but I shorten my loop as it is cold and damp.

I decide to ride over the highest point. I climb and disappear into the clouds then have zero visibility but get glimpses of snow on the side of road and quite a bit of ice at the edge of the tarmac.

No photos up top, too cold. Very glad to reach other side. I see a few other riders which makes me relieved I am not the only idiot riding here today.

No sooner have I descended to slightly warmer temperatures than I am climbing another mountain. Of course I planned this route but on the assumption it would be less cold. The road has many switchbacks and I don’t enjoy those on any bike but the K1600 is not too difficult.

My helmet gets wind buffeting unless the screen is in the full up position where I have to look through the perspex which I dislike however I gladly accept this today to gain protection from the cold.

I discovered only last night Portugal has introduced an electronic toll system to some of their roads and without a transponder you cannot travel on them. There is no option to make a manual payment for rentals or foreign plated cars.

Many wildflowers but grey skies

I altered todays route to avoid the toll road but now my ETA has blown out and with rain increasing something has to give. I reluctantly abandon the second half of today routes 225 and 222 and task the BMW’s in built GPS to take me to my hotel avoiding highways. Delightfully the GPS still routes me along some of the Douro river valley.

Route 323 hugs a deep ravine – the GPS’s road choice is terrific.
On rural route 313 adjacent to the toll road. Sorry about the dull light

Some light showers the last 30 minutes but I arrived at my hotel just in time to avoid heavier rain.

Day 2 original route.


Douro Valley Loop

I have a terrific ride planned for today visiting more of the wine district and the famous route 222 but the weather is cold and light rain. I am sitting in hotel room writing this late morning waiting for an improvement…

At lunch time I was about to say no ride today then I decided, come on harden up princess, you will never be here again Warren so get your gear on. I load a revised shorter GPS route and set off. Despite having avoid toll roads enabled on my Garmin it still guides me under a transponder gate. I exclaimed as James May of Top Gear often said, ‘Oh Cock’, then took the first exit hopeful not to get in trouble.

I soon forget that however when I see some blue sky. Lovely.

I enjoy a late light lunch and splendid view at this roadside rest area.

Some nice riding south west through the countryside before I join famous route 222. This route is better further east thus I regret having to shorten my route today but at least I got to ride some of it.

Olives and grapes on route 222. Sorry about the mushy phone photo

The terraced vineyards are amazing. It is a beautiful region. Despite being a wine connoisseur I did not visit any wineries. Wine tours are all the same to me. I did however buy some exceptional wines from the region which I will be enjoying for the next few nights.

Showers return late this afternoon and wish I could jump on that toll road but stayed relatively dry behind the screen of the big bike.

Day 3 shortened route


Vila Real to Chaves

I sleep in knowing todays weather forecast is bleak and delay leaving the hotel till almost midday. I load a revised route for today which takes in some of the good roads but cuts the western loop portion on the gamble that the east will be less rain.

I accidently run through another transponder gate. Oh well, I will never be in Spain every again in my life, if I am sent some fines or speeding tickets I can just throw them in the bin. Not like they are going to extradite me from Australia.

This is the old road adjacent to the toll road. It is superb and all the traffic is on the highway leaving this empty for me 馃檪

Gloomy sky – but nice riding.

The weather clears but remains cold. Nothing open in the small towns I pass through. I carry some food and drinks in cooler bag sourced from supermarket last night.

The roads and skies get better.

Looking back from where I came – glad to avoid that storm

There is heavy rain all around me but my eastern route gamble pays off and I avoid the worst of it but unfortunately did not get to ride some good motorcycle roads, route 311 and 103 that lay to the west.

My accommodation tonight is rather fancy, an old fort converted to a hotel. It was a suggestion of the UK Ride magazine which has an excellent archive of best roads and hotel suggestions for Spain and Portugal that I used for this tour. There are a lot of bikers here suggesting I am not the only one to find their site helpful.

The town of Chaves is dead. I wonder where is everyone. If this was Asia it would be alive with shopping and street food.

Day 4 original route


Chaves to Astorga

Today I have another set of excellent riding roads in the GPS and the weather in the morning looks better. From Chaves riding east I am soon on the N103, a superb route of well surveyed sweepers and wild flowers that I failed to photograph well.

I turn north on route IP2 and see dark rain clouds ahead hugging a mountain but bet I can ride through it in ten minutes without putting extra rain gear on. Screen full up, crouch down a bit, maintain a reasonable pace and almost all the rain is blocked. This is why I like tourers.

That’s as wet as I got riding ‘The Spaceship’ through a downpour

I cross into Spain and the speed limit drops from 90 to 60. Felt like I was back in Australia… But here I can do what I feel like and not be concerned which today is about 80 on this very twisty road.

Gotta be frank, the inline six in the K1600 is not as smooth as I had read. In the mid rpm range 3-5K where I spend all my time the vibration through the grip is numbing my throttle hand.

Partly because of this I decide to ride the highway for while on cruise control and after that wrist rest turn north again on the superb OU-533 route. Here I find my favourite type of surveying. Big 100kph sweepers with long lean time. It is cold and spitting rain but I have grips and seat heater on, screen up and the K1600GT is comfortable and composed.

Rain increases in the afternoon but again I ride through it however when my GPS steers me towards mountains I can see it is going to be very wet that way and reluctantly give up on some good motorcycle roads (routes 536 & 142) to stay dry.

I am staying in another nice hotel suggested by Ride UK built in a historic building. A tour group of people from Korea were milling around the entrance when I unloaded my bag. A guy comes over and says he is a rider and we chat. Turns out he used to live in Brisbane. It is small world.

Astorga is another ghost town with nothing open, no supermarkets. When I was last riding in Spain I was based in Malaga travelling with someone so we ate out all the time at nice restaurants which opened ‘early’ from 8.30pm for tourists. Now solo I can’t be bothered waiting so am finding pizza delivery shops are open Aussie dinner hours and that works for me.

Day 5 original route


Astorga to Potes

Today I am visiting the Picos de Europa. The Spanish alps. But first some lovely riding along easy flowing roads under blue skies.

My route from here takes me into the mountains but I see it is rain so I have to skip another good motorcycle road route 481 but at least I have the option with the road network to alter on the fly and stay dry.

Still ran into a little rain but at highway speed on the spaceship that was no trouble.

Mirador de Zuvillaga (Riofr铆o), route 253

Leaving the highway and returning to my mountain route I found myself on some beautiful roads. A mini Transfagarasan then shades of the Dolomites.

And then I arrive at a grassy alpine region.

The roads are beautiful here. Wide, well surfaced, modern surveying not like the European alps I have previously ridden.

El banco m谩s grande de Le贸n, route 635. (that is a giant seat you can climb on btw)

The scenery is not deep valleys like other alps but it is quite beautiful and there are no cars, camper vans or tour busses.

Mirador del Tombo

I was very lucky with the weather here. The rain I escaped earlier caught me soon after this photo.

Ten minutes later looking back the mountains are obscured by rain.

I was not expecting anything else today but little did I know route 621 I now join north is one of the best motorcycle roads in the region.

This is an amazing ride.

The clouds are rolling in fast and I have 30km of incredible road to descend before the rain so unfortunately no more photos.

Terrific riding all day but tonight I had to find a doctor. A rash I had for 3 days across my chest and side was concerning me. Turns out it is Shingles. This is a worry. I got medication and am hopeful it gets no worse. I can’t turn back, I could ride direct to the Madrid office of bike rental firm if I need to but will try to finish my tour.

Day 6 original route


I have to split this ride report as it is too long for wordpress which is having problems displaying all the photos.

Part Two is here

6 Comments

  1. Another excellent tour Warren. Don’t be overly harsh about the grey sky’s in your photos, it brings a sense of the dramatic into the photos and can make them more interesting and really sells your rain soaked trip. Amongst a couple of the shockers there are some really great shots.
    Loved your intermission. I was thinking of this when I read it. Intermission

    That last photo on route 401 looks like somewhere in the Blue Mountains here around Sydney.
    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog over the last 10 odd years. I wish you many more to come and I wish you all the best for your coming health battle. Sending positive thoughts and vibes your way mate. Take care.

    Steve

    • Thanks Steve, sorry I had to edit the post after you made this comment and split it into two and remove the coffee machine interlude – it was too many photos for WordPress to handle.

      I had a lot of image tearing this trip, almost every sweep panorama photo has that or focus issues. I am beginning to suspect my phone main lens has been damaged.

  2. You are a lucky SOB getting to do these tours Warren! Bloody awesome, despite the rain. Oh, that photo of the two tanks still isn鈥檛 showing.馃
    Cheers for the beers.
    Dave

    • Great catching up with you Dave.
      I’ll delete and repost that photo now see if it helps – WordPress is constantly breaking. My home page is not displaying now either. .

  3. Great trip Warren. Really like all the pics of the amazing route.

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