Saturday, November 21, 2009

Planning for next summer's trip

So, with winter settling in and rides out a bit few and far between, our attentions have turned to next summer and where we're going to go on a "big trip". We've toyed with North Cape and Cappadocia, but we've all but set our hearts on Morocco. The idea is still embryonic, but we are gathering ideas about where we'd like to go. We'd appreciate any tips or comments about the most picturesque places and nice places to stay. We won't be going off-road or venturing into the dunes, so no tips needed there, thanks!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Keeping warm on the bike

For the purposes of our latest trip up into the Apennines, my base layer consisted of a cotton, polo-neck, long-sleeved top, cashmere and silk leggings and 2 pairs of socks:This was then covered with a 200gsm weight fleece and my trusty buff. My trousers have a water resistant gore tex outer layer with an insulating inner layer for parky days such as this one:
I've found that wearing a wind-stopper makes all the difference, so that goes on next:
Finally my jacket, also made of gore tex that has a removable quilted lining, balaclava and gloves (with a pair of liners in my pocket, just in case):
This might seem like a lot of clothes but you can never underestimate the wind-chill factor on a motorbike. Even on a hot day, it's always fresh up there on the back. I think it's colder for me as a pillion because I don't have the engine just in front of me blasting out warm air. On our first couple of trips on the new bike, I was absolutely freezing, and I was quite warmly dressed even then. With this lot on I was comfortable, even if I did look like the Michelin man when I'd finished!

To the hills!

After enjoying a few days of unseasonably warm autumn weather, today at 11°C it was a little closer to normal autumn temperatures, and since we were heading into the Apennines once again, I knew it could be chilly. On went the full set of warm clothes.
The winding trip up is always a delight and at this time of year the colours take your breath away. Copper beech trees and golden oaks, interspersed with still quite green ash and evergreen carob and vivid red cherry. This year is one of those autumns you get every now and then when the colours are more saturated than normal and going for a ride on days like these is the most fabulous experience in the world.

We wound our way up towards Passo delle Radici at just over 1500m above sea level where it was much warmer than I'd expected. We then continued up to the village of San Pellegrino in Alpe, just inside Tuscany and straddling the borders of the provinces of Modena and Lucca, where we had a hearty lunch of traditional tortelloni filled with spinach and ricotta with a funghi porcini sauce. All finished off with a piece of cake. Yum!

We set off after lunch and had a terrific trip back down again, homeward bound.

km: 178.5
Number of foxes spotted: 1
Number of cormorants spotted: 1 flock
Number of coypu spotted: 1 family group, grazing
Number of cars pulling out in front of us without looking: 1

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seafood Lunch in Cesenatico

Today, knowing that the weather forecast was promising a lovely sunny and relatively warm day, we set off for Cesenatico on the east coast. I'd recently got kitted out with some wind-proof layers and was confident that this time I wouldn't arrive at our destination looking like an ice-lolly. We decided to take the motorway to get there and back as quickly as possible since we've just put the clocks back and wanted to try and get home in the light.

It's a pretty straight route down with the motorway more or less following the same road as the historical Via Emilia that runs in a straight line from Milan to Ravenna. The topography is really flat and the vegetation largely cultivated but pretty nevertheless. What was interesting is that most of the grapevines were still green. Around us they have started to turn beautiful autumn colours. The grapes around us are largely Sorbara Lambrusco grapes, while the vines that we saw around Faenza are generally San Giovese. Perhaps this accounts for the differences. The fruit trees on the other hand were vivid golds, oranges and reds and really spectacular. One of the less attractive aspects of the journey however, was the large number of pigs being transported, presumably to be slaughtered. This region of Italy favours pork products over just about anything else you can think of. Buon appetito, but not for me, thanks...

We left the motorway at Cesena, where it said it was 20km to Cesenatico. We saw our first seagull here. Unlike in the UK, seagulls in Italy tend to frequent the coast and inland stretches of water only. It was nice to see them, knowing we were close to the coast. After travelling a couple of kilometers, we saw that Cesenatico was now only 9 km away. After another 5 or so, we saw it was now 7. Italy, the only place that tells you how far away a place is as the crow flies, rather than how the road pans out... Still, nice to know we were nearly there!

Considering it is now out of season, Cesenatico was quite busy. It can be quite dismal in the winter, like most seaside towns. We had a walk and admired the colourful barges before heading off for the main purpose of the day: a seafood lunch by the coast!

After lunch we had quite a long walk, including walk along the beach. In the UK there would have been people swimming, not here.

So, off home again, chasing the light north west. We didn't quite make it home in the light, but almost. A fabulous day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Up and over the Apennines to Lucca

Another beautiful autumn day dawned for our trip down to Lucca in Tuscany. After half freezing to death a couple of days previously, I put on my lovely silk and cashmere thermal top. That would keep me warm and toasty for sure. Well, it didn't help that before we'd even set out, I'd run up and down the stairs four times getting things I'd left in the house. When we set off I was already sweaty under my numerous layers, and as that sweat cooled and did its job of cooling me down, I was once more frozen stiff on the back of the bike.
To reach Lucca, you have to cross the Apennines, and since we wanted to go the pretty way, this meant a steep climb to 1500m, where it was really cold. Still, the trip up scenery-wise was just stunning. The trees are still quite green and the mixed forest of pine and mostly oak, with the odd chestnut was beautiful. Little villages fragrant with wood smoke coming from the chimneys of cosy houses, windy roads, sweeping landscapes, you couldn't want for more on a bike trip. Descending down into Tuscany after Abetone, the forest changed a bit. The colours were a little more autumnal this side, and the oak had given way largely to beech.
Just outside Lucca, we passed through the picturesque town of Borgo a Mozzano which lies on the Serchio river and is home to a really interesting bridge called Ponte della Maddalena, but also known as the Ponte del Diavolo, or "Devil's Bridge". Can't imagine why... On our quest for lunch, we took a detour up into the surrounding hills, heading for an agriturismo we'd seen signposted. The place was beautiful, but they were closed for lunch. The place was called Borgo Giusto.

So, back down we went, and happened on a very peculiar restaurant that brewed its own beer. I had a delicious thick soup and bread, and Claudio had a steak and chips. I fancied hot chocolate and apple pie to finish, but that would have to wait. Recharged, we headed into Lucca. After negotiating the ring road and less than adequate road signs (as per in Italy), we parked up just inside the Porta Santa Maria, Lucca being a walled town. The town itself is quite charming and the setting really pretty.

This is the Basilica di San Frediano
These are pictures of San Michele in Foro

This is Torre delle Ore
This is the Piazza Anfiteatro where I finally got my hot chocolate and apple pie!

Since it was getting a bit late and rather chilly, we opted to return via the motorway. Obviously not as picturesque and fun, but we still got a good view of the Tuscan countryside with its iconic cypresses.

A gorgeous day out, but I really do need to sort out some warmer clothes. I felt like Ötzi the iceman.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yesterday, after a recommendation in BBC Wildlife Magazine, we headed off to Comacchio, near the east coast, to a huge lake and wetland system that plays host to a wealth of migrating birds in the autumn and spring. The weather was great as we set off, but we had only been going for about half an hour when we could see a huge rainstorm in the distance. We'd checked the weather forecast a couple of days previously, which promised dry weather, but not today, so had no idea what was in store. Before we got drenched we decided to pull in under a bridge to don the waterproofs. Admittedly it was a bit of a struggle to get them on, but we weren't under the bridge for that long, but when we came out there was no sign of the rain. A little further up the road however, it was clear there'd recently been a downpour. Lucky escape for us then! It took ages to get to Comacchio, not least because of the lack of signposts, but also the local population's complete oblivion to one of the most important destinations for migratory birds in the whole of Europe. Italians don't really "do" birds... apart from to blast them out of the sky it would seem. Still, we eventually found it, and in true Italian style, it was all but deserted. There were 2 sad, lonely figures at the visitors' centre, nothing to eat thanks to the lack of a chef, (not even a sandwich!!) and no guided tours or boat drivers available. So, we walked to a part of the lake where we could see the famous flamingoes... at a distance of approximately 1km, and then walked back, on the way passing some gulls and terns (specific species unknown), some great white egrets, cormorants and unknown flying little waders. All interesting, and very cute but I hope I don't sound churlish when I say, I WAS HOPING FOR A BIT MORE THAN THAT!!!! Ho-hum, we'll just have to come back another day and hope that we don't encounter the same apathy next time. Thank you BBC Wildlife Magazine for so thoroughly researching this trip and giving us all the information we needed for a grand day out... not...

Good thing is though, that in spite of there being a lot of heavy rain about, we by and large missed it. We always seemed to be behind the rain, arriving to find soaking wet streets and sunshine. It was really cold though, so in spite of my 3 seasons jacket (which 3 seasons might they be, then?) I was absolutely freezing on the back. Still, a lesson learnt there, if nothing else: If it's 11∘C in the sun when you leave, it's going to be a flipping site colder on the bike!

First Trip on Ruby

On Sunday 11th June, we went on our first trip on the brand spanking new Ruby. We set off quite early because they were closing to road near us for a marathon. Off we went on a gorgeous sunny autumn morning, up towards Il Lago delle Ninfe, 1500m up towards the peak of the highest mountain in Emilia Romagna, Mt. Cimone. The ride up was spectacular, with the autumn colours still not really in full flow in the lowlands, absolutely beautiful up at altitude. The lake was pretty much deserted, but we did find a little "refuge" where we had lunch outside in the autumn sun, amongst the butterflies and a squirrel high up in the treetops.

On the way down we stopped off at Sestola that was hosting a chocolate fair. After buying some goodies, we set off home. Unfortunately due to a lack of forward planning, there are no photographs to show for this trip. Pity because the scenery was the best I've seen anywhere. Still, there's always next time...

Meet Ruby...

So, after nearly 4 months of waiting, I am proud to present Ruby! The only difference between her and the dearly departed Delilah is an extra bit of cool kit called ESA, which stands for Electronic Suspension Adjustment and allows you to set up the suspension according to terrain, ride preference and according to load on the back. It really makes a difference to the ride comfort. What a lovely girl!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At the end of our tether

We are still waiting for the insurance claim to be sorted out. Between BMW, the insurance company and the finance people, they've managed to cock it up big time, what with losing all our paperwork several times over, buggering off on holiday without briefing colleagues, and generally not giving a toss. The latest bombshell is that Zurich has pulled the plug on the Italian subsidiary dealing with our claim, and recalled all the paperwork. According to one source, all claims already in the pipeline will be seen through to settlement, but according to another source, Zurich came by the office and collected every single file and there is nothing more that can be done to help us. So, now we have to find the correct person within the vast conglomerate of Zurich insurance to try and find out what's happening with our claim. In the meantime, does this mean the process has to start again from scratch, or will Zurich be in a position to sign off and cough up the cash? The problem is, each person we speak to has a different story.

We were supposed to ride up to the UK next month and make this leisurely trip through France and Germany our honeymoon. Much as our Corsica holiday was all but ruined with the theft of the bike, so it would seem our honeymoon is also in jeopardy thanks to the sheer incompetence of the bodies dealing with our claim. By the time it's settled the weather will be so bad that it will be completely pointless to buy a new bike. We are beginning to feel that buying the bike in the first place was a really bad decision. My rant against BMW surpassed Charley Boorman's rant against KTM in Long Way Round. I think we should ditch BMW and buy a KTM or a Moto Guzzi Stelvio myself. After all we chose BMW's own insurance and finance to keep things simple and because it seemed like a good deal at the time. We should have taken heed of the forum posts saying that they were a pile of shite and really slow at settling claims. Could this be why Zurich has grabbed it all back, because of all the complaints?? Hope so, because that way they might just be keen to make amends... Watch this space.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Still Waiting

In spite of all our efforts, we didn't manage to get everyone mobilised before the country shut down for the August holiday, so we're still bikeless. What a complete pain in the arse.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

So, all the paperwork's gone in for the insurance claim. Apparently they can have the stolen bike "liquidated" (as it were...) in 20 days, then give us the dosh to buy a new one. That would mean that we should get some riding in by August. I'm not holding my breath, this being Italy and all, and everyone downing tools for the month of August, but it would be nice!

We saw a gorgeous "full options" brand new Adventure today for only a little more than we paid for Delilah... hmmm...

Meanwhile, I'm bored witless at having no trips to go on at the weekend, and can see a long summer ahead of the same.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Well, we're back from Corsica and in spite of everything had a really great time. It's impossible to be miserable for long in a place like that. The only downside was the travel sickness I suffered from due to the twisty-turny roads and up and down hills. This wouldn't have happened on the bike...

Corsica has everything as far as I'm concerned. Scenery that is out of this world, "villages perchés" clinging to mountainsides, beautiful, clean beaches, crystalline air, delicious food, wildlife, plant life... It's my favourite place in the world.

The Calanche de Piana near Porto

The sun setting from the Balanina road, Haute Corse

Running with goats... Road to Porto

Pig family under chestnut

Moody Restonica

Little island off coast at Centuri

Centuri Port where we had a delicious seafood lunch

Friday, June 19, 2009


So, tomorrow we're off to Corsica... in the car... Not quite what we had planned but at least we're still going. It could be months before the chaos of the bike is sorted out, so there goes our summer of adventure with Delilah. We are both stunned, angry and bitter about what's happened. We had 3 weeks' riding time in total. Must be a world record. I wish all the bad karma in the world upon those responsible for stealing our motorbike. They have no right to walk this earth.

Since this blog is supposed to be a biking tours blog, I suppose there won't be much to add to it until we get a replacement bike. I'll post info about our Corsica trip and any updates concerning getting a bike sorted out. Then I'll resume with a vengeance... if it's not the middle of bloody winter by then! Catch you in a week ;-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


...has stolen the motorbike. I don't have the words to express how I feel.

Weather Report

Well, so far the weather next week looks absolutely foul. Here's hoping that the weather system responsible gives us a miss, otherwise our much awaited holiday is going to be a total washout :(
Please send good weather vibes, with a bit more umph than those sent over for the lost Michelin book since it's still missing...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

4 days to go...

So, back after a trip to the UK where more shopping was done towards the "World's most expensive one week motorcycle trip to Corsica".

We've finally got the panniers and top box after much chaos with Paypal and the fellow in Germany where we bought them. I have to say we managed to save a lot by buying from him and his website appears in our "web sites we like" list. The panniers and bag inserts are really impressive and I can see why they cost as much as they did... well, sort of! The key programming is fun, and my best suggestion to anyone programming their own keys is to read the instructions very carefully... nuff sed ;-)

The delightful Delilah is off having her first service at 1000km, and we'll fetch her tonight. All that's left (apart from more shopping) is to finally decide what we're taking and pack!