Monday, July 22, 2013

The EDSBK 2013 Road Trip

The Black Forest and Eifel Region Trip
 On the afternoon of Sunday 30th June we left home in the glorious hot sunshine and headed for Ashford in Kent as from past experience its nice to break up the journey and have an early start when going through the tunnel into France. On the way down we put up with lots of heavy traffic on the M40 due to the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone, then the M25 was very slow and eventually we came to a complete stop for just over an hour on the M26 due to a fatal accident, a poor guy came off his motorbike, quite alot of people seeing us on motorbikes came to tell us the gory details and told us to be careful... RIP rider.

 We arrived at the hotel hot, tired and hungry. The accident above was definitely on our minds as we sat in MacDonlads and we discussed what could have happened. We had an early start the next morning so called it a night.
 Up at 5am, we set off to Folkestone. I checked the weather app on the phone, rain due everyday and all day on 2 of the days we were away when in Germany, great I thought another damp trip. The Kent sky was heavy with dark grey clouds as we boarded the train. The train pulled into the tunnel and I said we had better decide on our route to Strasbourg. The sat nav suggested 3 ways the shortest was the A26 Toll road through France a 6 hour 20 minute journey, so we opted to take that.
 Having never used a toll road before we approached the 1st set of booths with some anticipation and wondered what to do. A press of a button and a ticket arrived, that was it, no need to pay yet so we headed off with tickets in safe places.
1 of the many fuel stops along the A26
 Drizzle covered the visor as we pulled in to our 1st petrol stop. We stopped for a while watching the sky and Jon said I am gonna risk not using water proofs yet, a good call as the sky started to clear and patches of blue appeared. We came to the 1st set of pay booths 13 Euros it said so entered the cash into the machine and collected a new card and set off again heading towards Reims some 240km away. More fuel needed so we stopped again, Metz had appeared on the signs over 300km away. We realised the journey was gonna be a long one, but with each fuel stop we made the weather got better.
 We eventually arrived at the last set of booths Jon and Rich went to a different booth and that's where I messed up and was in the credit card payment booth. I inserted my ticket and a price appeared on the screen but I couldn't find my credit card quick enough and the price disappeared. I had to call for assistance as I wasn't able to get through the barrier without paying, luckily someone came to help even if she was pretty useless and kept me waiting ages in the now very hot sunshine. Col had his credit card ready so paid for us both and we moved on somewhat frustrated with the system.
  Some 45 minutes later we arrived at the Pension Williams in the Black Forest. Nice, I thought as we pulled in.
 We were greeted by David one of the hotel owners who gave us our room keys and told us where to get a meal. We showered and changed and set off to the restaurant to have dinner, "drie beers bitte" and a tea.
"A what?" the owner asked,
" A Tea ", Rich said
" oh!" she replied.
   The next day at breakfast I asked David about the B500, he told us that at the end of the lane if we were to go to the right, that was the bit that people come to see. He says that an unpopular politician with a funny mustache had had the road built back in the 1940s as a training road for the motorcycle police to practice high speed pursuits and each corner has a constant radius which enable riders to find the best approach and hold corner speed. I thought that sounded good so we headed straight there.
  What a road! why cant it be in England? stuck somewhere down by the cross gates Cafe end of the A483, it would make the best road better.
Part of the 10km best bit of the B500

Black Forest Gateaux in the Black Forest
 It twists up and down the hills and every corner is just perfect, apart
from the cars, buses and lorries that keep getting in the way. We all enjoyed that part of the road. We then headed towards Baden Baden, the road was still twisty, more enclosed and tighter corners, but with a lot of speed limits and other traffic, so not quite so much fun.
    I noticed a place near the top so we headed there for some food and a cool drink. Jon and I decided it seemed appropriate to have a slice of Black Forest Gateaux in the Black forest.
  The views were great from up there. I wish we had of had more time to explore the area as there was a lot more to see. (maybe another time) We headed back to the hotel for a beer or 2 and soaked up the sun, we were on holiday!
A view of France from the B500  
  The next morning we awoke to the sound of running water and looked out onto a miserable day. We were moving north to stay at Dollendorf by the Nurburgring so packed our things and headed off.
 Jon had the sat nav on so we were following him, we got on to the Motorway and headed south, the wrong way, 10 km later we turned back and headed North. The journey was horrible. It hammered it down at times, our boots had water in them, the route was heavy with trucks and the spray made the guy in front almost disappear. Eventually we arrived at Sliders Guest House and Brendan the owner met us and showed us to the rooms. I noticed the Berlingo and remembered the ride we had in it 3 years ago.  (see trip 2010) I said I don't want to go out in that this time to Col, and he laughed. It carried on raining so we put the bikes in the garage and stopped in for the evening.
 We awoke the following morning to the smell of breakfast cooking, Brendon does a great full English, and he gave us a route to try out to while waiting for the Nurburgring to open. We headed off and 15 miles later my R1 flashed up ERR 1 on the display and shut down. Remembering my IT trainging, I turned it off and on again, it started and I thought just a glitch maybe yesterdays rain had caused a problem.
 2 minutes later the bike stopped again, I noticed the electrics were going, so pulled the headlight connections off to save some power. I said to the others I want to head back to Sliders and check it out. Unfortunately I didn't make it, as it stopped time and time again until the battery was totally flat.
 Jon and Rich headed back to see if there was a battery I could borrow, as we knew Brendon liked his R1's using them to do many of the fastest of fast laps of the Nordschleif and there was a few bits of R1 knocking about his garage. They returned in the Berlingo, saying Brendon says bring it back in here, we loaded my bike and we headed back.
Berlingo's Ideal cars to move motorbikes in!
 We got back to the hotel and I took the bike to bits, trying different regulators, batteries and cleaning connections but nothing fixed the problem. I said to the others to go and have some time at the track then bring me a Subway while I tried to sort out the bike, but had already decided the problem was more serious than I was going to be able to deal with.
  I rang the RAC breakdown for assistance and then the true meaning of fully comprehensive European breakdown cover was discovered. Repatriate only means me not the bike. The nice lady at RAC in Lille told me the bike would need to be fixed before it could return home and I was going to have to fly home then come back to fetch it once it was fixed. They said the cost was going to be 500 Euros to fix it, plus this and that and storage and this and that and the figures she quoted went up over 1200 Euros! She said she would send a mechanic to look at it first but he would need to take it away. 90 Minutes later he arrived with a car and trailer, but no tools.
 He said "I have come to collect the bike and take it to a Yamaha dealer in Cologne who will repair it".
 I was not going to be able to collect it for over a week and weekends were no good as the work shop was closed.
 Shite, I thought. 
I said wait here and went to see Brendon to ask if he knew a van hire company that might be a cheaper option to get me to Calais, and he said, tell you what you pay for a driver and the fuel and you can take it in the Berlingo! I couldn't believe it, this was the best thing I could have heard at the time :) I told the RAC guy to go away and spoke to his boss on the phone, who said we will reimburse any costs.
 I spoke with Brendons friend Roy who was going to drive and arranged to set off at 9am the following morning. I rang a guy at work (Goughy of CG Transport) and asked if he might help me out and send a van to pick me up and he said,
" leave it with me, dont worry, I ll sort you out."
My battery was on charge and we shut the garage, I sat down for a beer with the guys and thought I hope this is all going to go to plan. 
 The guys told me about there lap on the track, Col was well impressed with his new Fireblade and Jon found some new vibration that put him off. Rich waited on the car park for them to return, unsure if he wanted to try a lap and see what speeds over 150mph felt like.
 The following morning Roy was there 10 minutes early, he didnt look like I expected him too after speaking to him on the phone. He turned up on a Ducatti 996, and I thought great a biker, we have something in common, as it was going to be a 270km drive to Calais. Roy was great and I enjoyed the few hours we spent travelling from Germany through Belgium and into France, but all the time I was thinking how are we going to get the bike out of the Berlingo? its too heavy for just 2 of us and the other 3 guys would need to make 2-3 more fuel stops than us, I didnt want to hold Roy up as he was going to have to drive back and was working that evening.
 Roy said " Hows your French?"
I said "not good ",
 I could ask the way to the butchers shop, the time, tell someone to open the window and string together a few words but not really understand what a French person says back to me.
"oh, same here" Roy said.
Roy suggested we stopped at the junction just before the entrance to Calais end of the Channel tunnel and asked at the Honda dealer to help us out with the bike. I thought that was a great idea and Roy pulled off the Motorway.
 The French guys we spoke too didn't understand what we wanted but eventually an English speaking guy came and said,
 "So you want the bike out of the,CAR!, Ah! a Berlingo, what a great car, its made in France you know", We both agreed it was a good motor and he looked at the bike.
"Hmm!" he said 
"wait here"
He came back with a ramp and said,
 "let me wheel it out." 
The R1 was back on the tarmac, I put my leathers on shook hands with Roy, paid him his money and pressed the starter. click it went.
Shite,I thought.
Roy said," I ll push you, if it starts just go", so he gave me a shove and it started and I was off.
I checked in, the queue was huge for passport control, then a further check of the ticket and then I waited for all the cars to get on and then got on the train. I turned off the engine and we headed off to England. I text Jon to say see you in the UK and he said they had just arrived at passport control and were booked on the next train.
 Back in the UK I tried to start the bike but it would go, the Guy cleaning the toilets came and gave me a push and the bike started, I knew it might not start again if I stopped so hit the motorway fast, I needed 13 miles of power, 10 minutes I thought, come on battery you can do it. At 11 miles the dash went off and half a mile later the bike came to a stop about quarter of a mile short of the junction. I found some shade and waited for the others to give me a push. Jon arrived 1st and then Col and they gave me a push and the R1 fired into action giving me another 2 minutes of power and getting me almost to the end of the motorway slip road. I wait ed for them to catch up to get another push. Col suggested I wait and watch the sequence of the traffic lights and time the next part so I didnt have to stop. His plan worked great, as soon as I got going the lights changed and I made it off the roundabout before the bike gave up for the last time of the day but it was all down hill to the hotel so I rolled my way there. I arrived on what looked like an electric powered bike, silently.
 The following morning CG Transports van was there waiting for me and Grant took me home with the R1 in the back. The others all arrived back at their homes an hour later than me, their bikes had covered over 500 miles more than mine.
  Once at home I got the workshop manual out, checked the readings and found the fault was definitely as Brendan and another Guy at the hotel had suggested, the Stator/Generator/Windings/Altinater had had it. Mark suggested a local bike mechanic to do the work. Kev from Projex in Cradley, he got the parts and fitted them for £150.
 The R1 is now back on the road!

I want to say a special thank you to Brendan from Sliders Guest House in Dollendorf, Roy, Chris(CG Transport) and Grant for getting me home and to Jon, Col and Rich for their help and support, and sorry that I couldn't ride the whole trip with you.
 Thanks Guys :)

The Eco challenge.
 To be fair to the others I didnt include any fuel after my breakdown, otherwise the only good thing to come out of this was my R1 doing over 500 miles on less than a gallon!(be it in the back of a Berlingo and a van)

1st  Phill Yamaha R1                 19pts - 54.8 MPG   £97
 2nd Rich Kawaski 636              20pts - 58.3 MPG   £91
 3rd Jon Suzuki GSXR 1000     31pts - 50.8 MPG   £105
 4th Col Honda Fireblade          38pts - 49.9MPG    £107

 If you are planning to have European Breakdown, I suggest you ask the question will you repatriate me and my bike back to the UK? I did take out the fully comprehensive breakdown cover at the extra cost. Also after the breakdown I was told be RAC France, as my bike is over 9 years old its value is not worth the cost of transporting it to Calais. I went with RAC as it was a name I thought I could trust, but really if the worst happens in my experience your best off to sort it out on your own. To be fair to RAC they have returned me my European costs but only after I complained.
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