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International Euro trip 2012 - Cardiff-Nurburgring-Frieburg-Verdun-Cardiff

Discussion in 'Roads, Touring, Journeys, and Travel' started by I am the Stig..., May 30, 2012.

  1. No longer in Oz (ex-Adelaide and Brisbane Netrider), but thought I'd share this slightly long report I put up on the Taffy version of netrider... Enjoy - I'll add some pics at the end!

    1720miles through five countries in just over 4 days on the Triumph Daytona, 20ltr tankbag and 20ltr kriega tailpack...

    Leave Cardiff at 4:45pm after filling up at the Manor Way Tesco garage. Usual M4 rush hour issues and the joys of the M25 from Heathrow onwards... pull off at Chertsey to fill up on the red light (145 miles) for the second fuel stop. Back onto M25 and then onto M20 and arrive at Ashford Travelodge about 8PM – about 20 bikes parked outside, 300m from the M20, clean, modern room, Beefeater, McDonald’s, KFC etc. all within a stones throw.

    Day 1 - Friday
    7.30am start to Folkestone for the 8.35 crossing (15min journey, about 20min for check in) – meet a load of south London bikers heading off on the train before us and have a good chat with them. Onto the train – about 20 supercars getting on along with about 25 bikes (mainly tourers and Harleys). Stop at tunnel petrol station to check my exhaust cap, looks a bit dodgy, but think nothing of it.... roadworks on motorway slip road, so magical mystery tour through Calais (French don’t do diversion routes then!) and onto the ferry terminal to get onto the E40 and off to Belgium. Fill up twice, at Bruges and then at Verviers (meet some mental lads from sussex on rashed supersports bikes)and then turn off for Spa... make the one biggest mistake and take the roundabout in the service station area on the left... luckily no traffic! That out of the way, off to Spa for a coffee outside the main place before on to Francochamps to watch a few very loud touring cars go past... On to Malmedy and then Burtgenbach when disaster strikes as my bike decides it want to join motoGP and sheds the cap and insides of my prized Jardine RT-1 Carbon Fibre exhaust... catch up with my riding buddy (KTM Superduke 990) after about 4 miles and share the good news before retracing my steps about 5miles. Find the cap in the middle of the road and spend the next hour looking for the actual exhaust innards in the roadside ditches... those found, strap up the bits to the bike and arrive in 16th century Blankenheim about 8:30pm at the Bruessler Hofchen run by the lovely (and English speaking Herr and Frau Wirtz - http://www.bruesseler-hoefchen.de/ where we are expected at our apartment (and garaging for the bikes). Explain the obvious situation (one of the locals thought it was a 500 two stroke replica) and “kein problem, machens wir morgen” sit down to a nice schnitzel and chat to the Dutch bikers staying in the aprtment next door...

    Day 2 - Saturday
    Breakfast of coffee, rolls, meats, cheeses and eggs later, the owners of the BH have phoned round the “official” garages without any luck – then remember “one last place” and then help me to wheel my bike 200m round the corner. Double doors open to an Alladin’s cave of rare, yet immaculate 1920’s cars, immaculate sets of tools, workbenches, lathes, bench drills etc etc. all neatly ordered and in their place and the accompanying 80yr old owner who machined his own parts for the aforementioned cars. Turned out he used to race frog eye-sprites and was a big Triumph TR2a’s. He had a quick look at the issue – then off he goes rounding out the exhaust splitter (damaged in the crash) and then proceeds to take out the broken rivets from the carbon fibre, putting in new threads into the cap and then with a bit of loctite, washers and screws the exhaust is fitted, better than new/designed!! I left with the sound advice of “get your hobby set up before you retire, not when you retire” and unable to even leave 5 euros for a beer... what a genial old guy!

    Leave Blankenheim at about 10am to get to the ring, about 2hrs later than originally planned. Fill up at a petrol station at Wiesemscheid (full of Italian youths in Focus RS’s.... gulp!) about 4miles from the ring entrance (it is signposted from about 10kms away) – go in and the place is rammed with supercars, bikes of all descriptions and lots of souped up, rollcage specced hot hatches with drivers wearing helmets. Heart rate is certainly pumping a lot more! Drop luggage off at the bag drop trailer (in car park alongside the ticket office) for a small donation, then buy ticket. Just as we do, spot a friend going through for a lap. Must be time for us to start!! Roll up to the barriers (yes, there is a “bus” lane!) alongside a Porsche 911 and a very quick looking grey Ferrari. Card is swiped and I’m good to go.... The next 13-16mins (not quite sure to be honest!) went like a dream – the track was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, the weather was in the 30’s so the tryes were warm within seconds and having done my youtube/playstation research I felt able to go quickly, but stay within sensible limits. Only two real “moments”, once when a red Ferrari came through on a corner, wheels screeching before disappearing over the horizon, then at the “hohe Acht” there were yellow flags for a crashed BMW Z4. Otherwise, got on the Karrussel, got some great flowing pace up after the Bergwerk, thought I’d got the knee down (almost) at Aremberg and did not overrun any of the more notorious corners such as Ex-Muhle or Pflanzgarten(?) where the spectator points are. I must have been passed by about 20 cars, of which I let 14 through (stay on the right, indicate) and probably passed about 3 cars on the main track and another one on the end straight. Topped out at 153mph indicated and hit 135-140 on a couple of the other straights. Otherwise it’s anything from 30-35mph in the Karrussel to 110+ through some of the other more flowing corners. Those with bigger b*lls than me will probably carry another 20mph easily, but I was pleased having done the one hot lap and survived it! Not bad for someone who has never done a track day before! Within 30 mins of stopping, the track was closed to bikes, then cars another 15mins later. Oil on the track and a few spills as a result.

    Few tips for the ring:
    • Head to the Nordschleife track, otherwise it’ll be the formula 1 circuit – if you see grandstands, you’re in the wrong place.
    • Get there early (not like we did) and there should be less traffic on the circuit.
    • Leave your luggage at the luggage van
    • We wore full leathers, but guys were going round in textiles and even dragging jeans (our mate!) – but they usually require armour inserts as a very minimum. When you think that you are on a track and doing 100+, with others doing more, I can’t think why you wouldn’t want leathers (and a back protector)
    • Do your homework on the track – made it really feel safe as I knew where I was and what was going to come up next
    o Opening times – check the official site and then check again (they change) http://www.nuerburgring.de/angebote...ordschleife/oeffnungszeiten-nordschleife.html also has a load of maps of the circuit for reference.
    o You tube videos, especially the “Karfreitag” ones are a real eye opener and source of information (good and bad)
    o Playstation – but not Gran Turisimo, get a copy of “Tourist Trophy” (circa 2006/7) and you can do the ring on the time trial setting on a CBR600/1000, crossplane R1, or anything else of 2006 vintage backwards. Even a GS or a cruiser.
    o Websites – no affiliations, but this guy has a great site and has a video going round the track, with commentary in English from the seat of a caterham (http://bridgetogantry.com/2/index.php) and he works for one of the car hire companies who serve the ring with sportscars – their Artega GT overtook me! (Rent4Ring)
    • Keep an eye on the mirrors
    • Stay right – use the racing/bike line if it’s clear behind you or you are carrying the speed
    • Indicate right to let quicker cars/bikes through
    • Remember, there is no run off, so if you stack it you’ll probably hit something, or be hit...
    • There is a lot of Astroturf lining the track, so don’t drift off the surface or you will be in the Armco.
    • Don’t crash – recovery and repairs will be billed to you and your insurance won’t cover you.
    • The locals are nutters, this is their track. They will be a lot quicker than you will be, unless you’re Guy Martin/Cal Crutchlow etc.
    • Tyres - I had Pirelli Corsa Rosso II’s on my bike – not really all that ideal for touring, but they stuck like glue on the track and I’ve now done 2,000miles on them and they don’t seem to be squared off despite about 500 miles of that now being motorway mileage. My mate had Michelin Pilot II’s on his KTM and while he didn’t complain, he would have preferred something a bit more sticky for that 15mins on the ring!
    • Tickets – we bought the single ticket as we were heading off south afterwards. Tickets are not linked to your bike/car, so you could buy a 4 lap ticket and share it between a group. Not sure if they allow you to pass it over the barrier though.
    • Tickets II – the ring can shut at any time, for any period – hence get there early, get on the track as soon as you can otherwise it may be shut because of someone else’s bad luck/misjudgement – a long way to go not to have a go IMO.
    • Tickets III – our mate got a 4 lap ticket and only actually did one – the remaining 3 laps are valid for 12mths, so he can come back another time. Oil on the track – probably not a bad idea.
    • Weather – we did it in 30 degrees and clear skies. Perfect. If it had been raining or been a cold day, I would not have enjoyed it, or may not have done it at all...
    • Enjoy! It was probably the most scary, thrilling, exhilarating and mad thing I have ever done in my 32yrs around the world and yet I have a bit of “cheese memory” about some of it due to the other 1700 miles I did...

    From the Nurburgring, it’s south through t5he Eifel (amazing roads) stopping for lunch inbetween Gerolstein and Bitburg. Use the German ADAC route guide http://www.adac.de/_mmm/pdf/ADAC_MR10_ Eifel-x_mit_Hotels_76394.pdf for the Eifel and Ardennes – amazing and free... could have spent the remaining two days there ripping up the local switchbacks and mountain roads easily, but there was more to see elsewhere, so carried on south to Trier, jumped on the Autobahn (not quite as quick as the Ring) and got past Saarbrucken before nipping into France via Hagenau and then back to Germany and Baden Baden for our night in a 12th century castle http://www.schloss-hohenbaden.de/main/index.php?sprache=deutsch , complete with wedding reception (which I had to walk through in my fly-splattered leathers....) again – really nice people, GREAT food (white asparagus, wild boar and hollandaise) and GREAT beer of course... and secure gated parking at the side of the castle.

    Day 3 – Sunday
    Back on the road, this time the A500, or otherwise known as the Schwarzwald Hauptstrasse. If the roads in the Eifel were good, then the ones in the Black Forest were amazing. 1100m summits, big sweeping high speed corners, tight 20mph switchbacks, perfect surfaces, well mannered car drivers and no “bullen” or police as they also call them... add spectacular scenery to the mix it makes for a great couple of hours riding to Freiburg. Being limited to a Monday night return, gave up on plans for Switzerland (next time) and headed for Colmar to fuel up (most things shut on Sundays, but petrol stations do accept card payments at the bigger sites), then over the Vosges to St Die, then Nancy to fill up again and nip onto the E21 to Metz before going cross country to Verdun. Some amazing little backroads later, and some very moving war graves (seeing is believing), arrive about 7.15pm and after a quick coffee and look at Tripadvisor find a hotel 200m from the town centre, with garaging for the bikes (and two Patisserie’s opposite!). http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_...Hotel_Les_Colombes-Verdun_Meuse_Lorraine.html - yet another sub 40euro hotel giving us our own room, private bathroom. Showere we hit the bars on the waterfront, eventually finding somewhere for dinner. End up sitting next to an American military IT contractor we got talking to for about 3hrs. Turned out he had a turbocharged Suzuki GSXR 600 which he tracked at Hockenheim and who just happened to be Gen.Petreaus’ IT consultant in Iraq for 3yrs, so heard a few stories there... and his brother, visiting from the the US, happened to be one of the directors of Grumman Northrop... those plans for the F-22 are safe with me...

    Day 4 – Monday
    “Early start” – or 8ish for breakfast at the patisserie followed by a coffee at the local bar before back to the hotel, change and hit the road again. This time down the meuse valley to Sedan, then on to the SW Ardennes and a spot of late lunch in Chimay. Having managed to avoid the Trappiste bier, unlike the Harley riders, decided it was high time to make the Chunnel – A23 Mauberge, Lille A25 Dunkerque and then back to Calais – all motorways were toll free and quiet/quick as needed. Ended up on a crossing an hour before the due one and were out at Folkestone for 5pm. Tip – the passport/check in is seamless going out, but allow 20-30mins for it on the way back. We were booked onto an earlier crossing, but because of combined queues at both, ended up missing the train by 1 bus... not the end of the world, but could have been back 20 mins earlier (3 crossings every hr).
    Muckdonalds and fill up at Maidstone services, then again at the ever welcome sight of Leigh Delamere (Coffee shop in the petrol station – don’t bother stopping at the actual “services”) then the short zip across the bridge and back into Cardiff before 9pm.

    Thus endeth 1,720 miles, sea level up to 1220m, about 500Euros spent and a seemingly never ending ribbon of motorbike heaven gained! I still feel like I am “floating” (like sea legs) and my right hand is stiff/shaking from the throttle for the past 4 days and the lap of the ring is merging in with all the amazing mountain roads we found throughout the trip...

    Seriously, adventure like that in a car?? Doubt it very much.

    What would I do the same?
    • Wear baselayers – despite the 30+ temperatures and sunshine, it still got cold a number of times and the trousers stopped my knees getting too chafed in the leathers.
    • Wear the backprotector – I’ve used one in anger in Australia and it gives peace of mind, especially when the fun starts
    • Wear leathers – as above, especially if you’re aiming to ride “keen”
    • Use earplugs – I rode without them after the “exhaust incident” and even without the “motogp” effect, think I would have been deaf within 30mins.
    • Take waterproofs – it was glorious, but still rained once (10mins back into blighty) – less to pack than spare leathers or textiles.
    • Take a spare pair of gloves – good for rain and also I found my Alpinestars annoyed me a bit on the last day, so switched to my spares for motorway and was much happier.
    • Use the dark visor – we only had 7 tunnels of about 20km total but 4 days of glorious sunshine.
    • No riding at night and none before 7.30am (the average start time was actually more like 8.30-9am)
    • Take a good tool kit with you (leatherman, gaffa, cable ties, spare oil, etc.)
    • Use the same luggage set up - a tank bag and tail pack – I think a rucksack would have annoyed me/aggravated my back after a couple of hours. Tankbag was great and not a pain to move to fill up the bike – tail pack made getting on and off a bit of a scramble, but I got used to that quickly too.
    • Take spare bungees/straps – I used an extra bungee on the tailpack for peace of mind/stop it riding too far forward.
    • Maps – I took a map of Germany/Luxembourg with me, which covered the Vosges and printed out google maps routes for each day in 100-150 mile sections. Got “lost” twice for a total of 10mins maybe.
    • Use a gel seat – we did just over 480 miles on the last day – I only recall getting a pain in the backside after doing more than 200 miles in quick succession on the Daytona.
    • Lube the chain each day, check your air pressures.
    • Take mini-bottle of muck off for the visor – used this and my microfiber cloth at least 5 times a day.
    • Travel down to Kent the night before – made the Friday feel like the 1st day.
    • Pre-book most of the accommodation, if not all - meant there was no messing around trying to find something at the end of the day when tired, or staying in the out of town ibis/formule 1 when you could be staying in the castle of a Furst von Schrecklich or Ritter zum Furchterlich etc. (we actually stayed in the castle of Mrs Rage. Luckily she didn’t have a dungeon or anything sinister like that...). Same cost, more history, more local (and central to bars/restaurants), more fun. At the very least, have a few destinations in mind – last night was either Verdun or Sedan and Verdun looked nice/fancied an earlier night etc. so there was no stress about the following morning as we knew the distances/times already.
    • Eat & drink local when abroad – no service stations, mcD’s or streaks allowed. Local brew every time to accompany.
    • Do a similar route, adding a bit of motorway into the mix to put some easy mileage in, rather than fang all the back roads all of the time.
    • Take time for lunch and stop for a coffee/water whenever filling up.
    • Let the bank know I’m overseas and in which countries (so the card isn’t rejected when I need it most)
    • Take photocopies of all my documents/licences
    • Use Eurotunnel - saves a few miles on the uk side and they allow you to use the earlier/later crossing than booked (if there is space) up to 2hrs either side. No problem for bikes, so bit of a winner!
    • Use the same bike – great midrange made it a good tourer and it went on the ring/twisties. Only let downs was the 150-165 mile tank range and lack of protection from wind buffeting on the motorway.

    What would I do different?
    • Don’t ever ride on the left, even if it’s for 2seconds...!
    • Do an extra maintenance check before setting out! Possibly get breakdown cover too...
    • Don’t “worry” about engine oil levels and as a result put too much in...
    • Take some mints/boiled sweets for an energy hit/refresh if you don’t want a full on meal or a red bull/soft drink.
    • Look into a “throttle stop/cruise control” device for the motorway – to give the right hand a break from holding the throttle controls.
    • Extra baselayers/t-shirts that fit under the main gear for when it does get cold – fleece/windstopper if I was to do the alps.
    • Stop at a few more of the monuments/historical places, even if just for 5mins to check the map and have a sip of water and take more photos.
    • Although tankbags are good for maps, I don’t like looking at them on the road – a satnav may be for wimps, but if she’s whispering in your ear, there’s less chance of being cut up by the local “Alain Prost” while you’re checking the next road/town on the route. Time and a place for everything. I know, “call yourself an adventurer...” – but if you pull over every 30mins to check maps, it can also get a tad annoying.
    • Get a bike mounted camera just to record the 500 from Baden to Freiburg
    • Get an intercom system – the handsignals worked 90% of the time, as long as one of you knows where to go... not good for a “shall we stop here for a look” etc.
    • Tyres – maybe had something slightly harder fitted for the motorway mileage – probably Diablo Rosso II’s rather than the Diablo Rosso Corsas. The Supercorsa’s I used to have on the bike would have been shredded and squared off by the time I’d got back to Folkestone IMO.
    • Talk to more of the locals in their own language – we met so many amazing, interesting and helpful people by chance who spoke English, German or Italian (our combined fluent languages) and thus accepted us/shared their amazing stories/helped us out more than we could have imagined. I am sure we would have met even people like that if our French had been better than schoolboy GCSE level...
    • Avoid eating in Belgium, as aside from the Frites, the food is much, much better in Germany or France.
    • Add a few more days in to the tour – so close to Switzerland and the alps, yet so far... but how long is a piece of string, how far is Italy, Czechoslovakia etc.?
    • Take a little bit more cash – I budgeted on 110 a day, in reality 130-150 is more realistic depending on mileage, accommodation, food, souvenirs, few more laps of the ring etc.
    • Find out what’s going on along the route – on the way out of Chimay, there was some sort of classic car race on closed roads – including 70’s formula one cars. Saw a number of classic car rallies in the Eifel and black forest too.
    • Do it sooner!
  2. [​IMG]

    My saviour!

    Caught on camera entering the ring... jokes on a postcard please.

    On the ring -the little red blur in the background, having just been overtaken in the corner by the red Ferrari, tyres screeching and engine howling...8-[

    What a hotel - $45 a night with breakfast?! Herrvorragend!

    Coffee stop on the 500 Schwarzwald Hochstrasse
  3. Wow, now that's a journey!!!
  4. Far out, that's a big chunk of text, I'll read it when I'm sober.

    Nice pics though!

    What was the guy with hammer doing?
  5. What size Kreiger pack did you have on the back?

    P.S. Thanks for listing your lessons learnt. I find them really valuable as sometimes its the little things that make all the difference on a trip

    P.S.S. I did a trip once like you (London to Grasse via the N85 and back in 2.5days) it was something special...here is our attempt at a video diary http://youtu.be/hDg36ItYtt4was
  6. sooo jealous...might need to do this next year when I visit Germany again :D.
  7. i fully agree with you regarding eating in Belgium.