It really doesn’t matter how you do it, or what you ride, the important thing is that you do do it.
Spain is an amazing place to ride. It is jam packed with history, fascinating towns and cities surrounded by amazing scenery, and connected by glorious roads. This is some of the best riding I have ever done. I was talking to some riders in Cardona and they asked how riding in Spain compared to riding in Australia. Even now I am struggling to answer that question – if we based riding on winding roads then Spain wins hands down. However I enjoy the wide open spaces that Australia has an abundance of. Both are good. Just different.
This has been an incredible experience that has opened my eyes to a world of new riding experiences.
Following is a map of the route we took. This is a combination of pre-prepared route and our additional roads that we added most days.
What to take…
Before I left I had a number of questions that I had in relation to riding overseas. Here are my thoughts and approaches on each of them as it may help others.
Motorcycle gear is generally bulky and taking it overseas can take up all your room when flying. So what should you take, rent or buy?
Given that I was going to be in Spain for 3 weeks prior to my ride I didn’t want to be carrying all my gear around with me for the entire time. Luckily I was able to drop off my gear to the hire company prior to hiring the bike so that made it much easier.
Helmet – I opted to take my own helmet for a number of reasons.
- I didn’t want to spend my vacation trying to find a bike shop and then something I liked.
- I thought about taking one of my old helmets and that way I could leave it if I didn’t have room. But it was uncomfortable (the reason I bought a new one) and I wouldn’t like to wear it for a weeks worth of riding.
- a new helmet can take a bit to wear in and on a big ride isn’t always the best place to break in a new helmet.
- Renting helmets can be problematic as not all helmets fit all people and again for a weeks ride this could be a painful decision.
In the end taking my own helmet was a good decision as we really didn’t see many bike shops in our normal travels prior to the bike tour. And spending the majority of each day riding it is important that the helmet is comfortable and not a distraction.
Jacket – This will always be a seasonal question. In the end I took my Dianese Gore-tex three seasons jacket (without the liner) and found this sufficient. When it was cold I just had extra layers underneath. This proved effective and required less overall room in my luggage.
Riding Trousers – Kevlar Jeans or Dianese Gore-tex trousers? Again this was a question of room and as kevlar jeans can double as ordinary jeans they were taken in favour of the Dianese riding trousers. Therefore I opted for the jeans and a pair of light waterproof plastic overtrousers in case of rain.
Boots – I opted not to take boots due to room, instead I just used my study hiking (water resistant) hiking shoes. As someone who generally wears boots all the time this certainly felt a bit strange and with the nature of these roads I certainly wore out the edges of my shoes. I really prefer the security and protection of riding boots so I think next time I’d wear the boots on the plane if I didn’t have room. Or maybe look at some ankle boots rather than full length boots.
Gloves – I took a couple of pairs, vented summer gloves and a set of warmer waterproof summer gloves.
Thermals – A light set of thermals takes up very little room and in changeable weather provides a comfortable extra layer of warmth.
The first time that I ever heard of IMTBike was when I started researching for this trip. And while a company may have on their website all sorts of claims and testimonies from people who used their services, it is still a big deal to outlay a considerable amount of money in good faith to a relatively unknown entity. I found IMTBike was extremely good to deal with and would highly recommend them. They have a wide range of tour packages available that I will be looking at in the future.
What bike would I use – I opted for a small BMW F800GT – this was a great size in the mountains as it was small and agile yet powerful enough to have lots of fun in the mountains. If I was to take a pillion I’d most likely opt for a larger bike.
However it really doesn’t matter what bike – we saw all sorts of bikes in our travels through the mountains from a group of Vespa riders, to large touring bikes, and even a Triumph Bonneville America with a knobby front end that had just been ridden across Portugal!
Guided tour / Self-guided tour / doing your own thing – I think each of these options have their own advantages and disadvantages. While I did a self-guided tour on the bike I was aware that we missed or over-looked a number of things/places that we passed by. However you are also on a different schedule with a guided tour as everything takes longer and therefore the total amount of riding and miles you do is reduced. This is the first time I’ve done a self guided tour and it has a lot of benefits going for it.
I can really recommend the self-guided format as the one we did had all accommodation organised and all we had to do was ride but we had the freedom to stop where we wanted, and add distance where we wanted. Spend time at places that interest us or bypass things that didn’t interest us.
Read the small print!
What I have found is that many travel insurance companies don’t cover motorcycle riding overseas no matter if you have a licence or not. It is deemed to be a risky endevour and therefore not covered.
I used Alliance insurance as they do cover motorcyling. Again it is still important to read the fine print – such as not being covered if not wearing a helmet even if the location you are in does not require you to wear one.