Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Have Bike, Must Travel

In my most humble opinion, there is no better motor vehicle for doing overland journeys than a motorcycle. It really makes you aware that you are racking up the miles (or kilometres if, like me, you're a continental) through an ever-changing landscape, standing your own against the elements and the various road hazards - many of which have four or more wheels...

There are different ways of travelling by bike: buying a full-dress Goldwing or Electraglide and cruising along the motorways, buying a BMW R1200GS Adventure and heading out to see the world à la Ewan & Charley (two fellows that I would truly like to meet and - if possible - ride with: contrary to what many may blurt out whilst propping up the bar, they are real motorcyclists, not a couple of Hoorays on bikes), or going from Gibraltar to the North Cape aboard a Honda C90 for charity.

© Motards en Balade, Jan.2011

For motorcyclists who like going on motorcycle holidays there are a few companies that propose organised motorcycle tours. Some include the bike in the package, whilst for others, you have to bring your own. "Motards en Balade" falls into the latter category, although some of their further-flung tours have included vehicle hire.

Motards en Balade is not a company; it is in fact a "Loi 1901" association, in other words, they are not on the market to make money on from the tours that they organise: what you pay goes towards covering the costs of the trip you're booked on, full stop. I said "they", but in fact it's a one-man-show: the manager, tour guide, road leader, etc. is Hervé Descamps, a wiry, weather-beaten Frenchman, who is also (amongst many other things) a motorcycle journalist and who used to work for Triumph Motorcycle's French affiliate.

This one-man association organises several trips each year, both in France and abroad - the most recent one was a week's snowmobiling in Quebec at the beginning of January. To ensure a good atmosphere and that things don't get too out of hand, groups are limited to 15 bikes. This also means that accommodation in small human-sized hotels is possible.

I have already been on several trips organised by Hervé Descamps, and they are always good fun: they attract a good crowd, usually avoid tourist traps, and are aimed at motorcyclists who don't mind riding all day on the tightest, twistiest and off-the beaten-track roads that can be found (worry not: roadbooks are provided for each day's ride). In the evenings, Hervé becomes a great raconteur, ensuring that everybody retires to bed after a evening of good craic! Incidentally, it is a good idea to have working knowledge of French, because that is what your host - and most of his clients - speak, but I do know of Brits who've been on several M.E.B. trips and have had great fun, despite not being fully fluent in the language of Depardieu.

If you're looking for an enjoyable motorcycling holiday you can visit the Motards en Balade website here. The next trip is from 18th to 25th April, covering Sardinia and Corsica; I believe that there's still a few places left.

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