Picos d'Europa 2014

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Postby bmk » Sat Oct 11, 2014 5:27 pm

We weren't sure whether we were leaving it too late to get good weather, going in early October, but in the end it all worked out ok. :D We dropped Charly off at Durham University, and left her on Sunday saying, "any problems during Freshers Week, don't ring us as we won't be there!" :lol: By Tuesday morning we were packed and heading to Portsmouth.

Taking a similar route to the one we'd used in June to go to the Cafe Racer Festival, we avoided most of the motorways, had a good ride and still got to Portsmouth in good time for the ferry. As luck would have it, I discovered after booking the ferries that the Moto Piston Club were holding their classic bike Moto Piston Rally in Santander the week we were arriving, so I tweaked our routes a bit so that we could see what it was all about. I can't say that Al was looking forward to mooching around old bikes, but she didn't complain tooo much. ;)

Lunch stop off in Beaconsfield

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Brittany Ferries always seem quite expensive (£640 return including cabins and two bikes) which can be a bit off putting, but in reality it's not bad, compared to riding down from Calais which would be around £160 return for two bikes on the train, around £300 in fuel plus tolls, a minimum of two night's stay in hotels plus an 1,600 miles and 4 days long riding on each bike bowling down through France. Once you break it down, rolling off the ferry in Santander and riding off into the hills is a no brainer. :handgestures-thumbup:

Rolling out of Portsmouth past the Naval Shipyards with HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and a couple of current serving vessels.

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Wednesday evening rolling into Santander

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Rather than riding straight out of Santander, we booked into the same hotel that the MC Piston were using as a base for the Rally and had a good look around in the moring as they were getting ready for a day ride out. There was a great mixture of bikes about, mostly not standard or pristine, but clearly being regularly used which was good to see. Quite a few small Italian and Spanish singles present which did get me searching on eBay later. :D :oops:

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Once the majority had set off, we loaded up and set of ourselves for our first stop up the coast at Luarca. Despite having plotted the route before leaving it was surprising just how quickly we were onto some great, sweeping, hill roads within half an hour or so of leaving Santander, and that you could still be back on the coast for dinner after a day's ride in the mountains. 8-)

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Postby bmk » Sat Oct 11, 2014 5:44 pm

Next day we rode back inland for our one night away from the coast in Leon. Most days the riding followed a similar pattern of great, empty, twisting and flowing A type roads, connected by climbs and drops across ranges on single track roads of varying quality, but even more deserted than the main roads. We quickly learnt that speeding through towns was actively discouraged and that the best progress was made at a constant legal speed.

They did this in several ways. On the entrance to many towns there are now two sets of traffic lights. The first set flash constant amber, if you speed through these, the second set, 150 metres on turn red. :lol: Once you clear these, you have regular speed hims and pedistrian crossings all the way through the village / town. The quickest way through is simply to stick at the limit and roll off a little for the humps, trying to go faster doesn't get you through much quicker but is just a pain in the arse (literally). :D

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We didn't know much about Leon before, but it turned out to have been a large Roman Garrison in the past with a central walled city, and a lot of archealogical digs and retorations under way, which was pretty interesting to see. We also arrived to a large medieval fayre in full swing, they guy with the trained ducks, geese and turkeys was amazing to watch in action. :lol:

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Gourd seller straight out of Monty Python's Life of Brian. :handgestures-thumbup:

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Postby bmk » Sat Oct 11, 2014 11:58 pm

From Leon, we headed back to Santander for the weekend and a day off the bikes by the seaside and the end of the Moto Piston Rally. The ride back took us along the stunning N-621 which was used as a stage in the recent Vuelta Cycle Race and through Potes and Panes, both of which would make good bases for riding in the Picos.

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Back at the hotel the classics were still coming and going, with quite a large contingent from Britain and Holland. The Brit's mainly arrived on the ferry, quite a few with two or three bikes in a van to save costs (and probably a bit of back up insurance just in case). Quite a few of the Dutch guys (and girls), mainly with old Aermacchi's arrived in style with the bikes and luggage in a large artic with everything including the bikes on pallets for easy removal with their own fork lift. 8-)

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Santander itself was quite surprising, as in the past we've simply ridden off the ferry and headed straight out of town for the Pyrenees. Just around the bay, the port disappears and a holiday resort appears with great views, beaches, surfing and kite surfing along with the usual cafes and bars.

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After a final half day ride the week long Moto Piston Rally finally wrapped up and the Dutch loaded up their bikes and gear ready for the off.

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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 12:12 am

The next moring we headed back into the hills leaving Santander, and on a loop back just up the coast at Laredo.

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In the last hour we caught the first bit of rain all week, which mixed with a few miles of road works on the way into town, made a bit of a mess of the bikes. :( A quick jet wash at a filling station next morning had the worst of it off though.

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Next morning was a short trip up the coast road to Bilbao, as Alison had never been and I have always gone on about how fantastic the Guggenheim Museum is. Designed by Frank Gehry it's still probably my favourite building and I'm still as stunned by it today as when I first visited it 15 years ago. 8-) 8-)

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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 12:29 am

Wednesday was ferry day :( and we woke up in Laredo to rain. We took our time packing, shortened our route back a little, put the waterproofs on and headed off back to Santander. Most of the photo's below were taken less than an hour from the ferry port, which just highlighted again just how accessible great, empty roads are straight off the boat. :D

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Running late, a final three point turn had the ferry alongside for a pretty rough crossing home.

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Off the boat in Plymouth in the dark and wet meant hitting the motorways for the quickest and easiest route home, and after a couple of coffe stops made it in just after midnight.

Overall it was a really good trip and the Picos all that I expected and more. The weather was brilliant overall, sunny, but not to hot for riding and the lowish altitudes of the mountains didn't give the temperature drops you get in the Pyrenees or the Alps. The riding was superb and I think we only scratched the surface of what was available. The bikes were great, I never felt the need to be on something bigger and on many occasions thought a punchy, lightweight big single would have been perfect and an absolute hoot.

Of the whole trip the biggest disappointment was probably the food, which was not bad but rarely great. But then Spain has never been seen as a great culinary nation in the same way Italy and France are. As it's a bit more of the beaten track, good English was sometimes hard to find and so a bit more effort needed to communicate, but never impossible as like most countries people and strangers are usually more than willing to help.

I think we'll be back for another look I'm sure. :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby chris426f » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:26 am

Looked like a great trip, did you both plan it around the rally, I love that sort of stuff, loved all the bultaco's and the Benelli Tre, and the GT25O...... all iconic bikes from my youth.

Thanks for the report...... A Spanish tour has just been added to the bucket list. Would love to know more about Spain especially the North, such a deep and long history. Catch up next time I see you at a club meet Martin, I'll grab some more advice on a suitable route and a good time to visit.

This is what LARF is all about, like minded people sharing experiences on something we all love, but being local enough to each other that we can meet up an discuss experiences face to face once in a while. :D
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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:21 am

chris426f wrote:Looked like a great trip, did you both plan it around the rally, I love that sort of stuff, loved all the bultaco's and the Benelli Tre, and the GT25O...... all iconic bikes from my youth. :D


Thanks Chris, the rally was a happy accident :D . We'd already booked the ferry as we wanted to do the Picos, and a couple of weeks later I spotted in a bike mag that our dates coincided with the rally, which is for pre-1980 bikes only. I then tweaked our plans and routes a bit so that we could have a look at what it was all about. It looked to be really well organised, with some great local knowledge for many of their routes. They also had travelling marshalls and back up van and trailer for any problems. Everyone got a route map each day and the entire route was also arrowed apparently. The mix of bikes was terrific but I was really taken with the small single Bultaco's, Montessa's, Aermacchi's and Ducati's. 8-)

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I think the thing that surprised me most about the Picos is that they are so easily accessible straight off the boat, and almost hidden in plain sight. I expected to see quite a few more bikes around but there was barely any traffic outside of towns. Like I said, I think we only scratched the surface of what's there really.
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Postby Tonibe63 » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:30 am

Thanks for the ride report Martin :handgestures-thumbup: .
As usual some great photo's, information and pointers to doing your own trip especially the bit about taking the boat instead of riding down through France although the Bay of Biscay can get very rough at times.
It's not very 'hardcore' but can the club afford an artic :think: :lol: .
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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:50 am

Tonibe63 wrote:........ about taking the boat instead of riding down through France although the Bay of Biscay can get very rough at times.


It was pretty rough on the way back, with some big swells, but that's the first time I've had a rough-ish crossing since my first really bad one to Jersey forty years ago. :shock: So definitely a lot more good crossings than bad over the years. :handgestures-thumbup:

Tonibe63 wrote:As usual some great photo's, information and pointers to doing your own trip especially the bit about taking the boat instead of riding down through France.


I think the first look at the price of the ferry looks quite daunting when you look at the Channel crossings. But if you want to ride in the Pyrenees or Spain I reckon it's the best option. As good as riding in France is, it can still be a trudge to get through if you actually want to be riding somewhere else.

Avoid peak season and school holidays and the ferry prices are not too bad, and if you can book well in advance (I never seem to be able to plan that far ahead) there's often discount codes available from the bike shows, magazines, etc. If you're not overly bothered about a cabin, a reclining seat is a much cheaper option. Avoid the three and four star hotels that we stayed in, and the whole thing can be done not that expensively for two sharing. :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby Noel » Sun Oct 12, 2014 10:51 am

Thanks Martin.
Great photos and the good late weather made it.

RE: I know a man who can with an 'artic' he has offered before and if he had known would of picked my broken bike up in Spain.t
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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 11:02 am

Noel wrote:Great photos and the good late weather made it.


Apart from about two hours of rain, the weather over the nine days was perfect, warm enough for t shirts when walking around, but not that hot that you were baking in your helmet and bike gear when riding. Talking to some of the rally regulars, it seemed pretty typical for the time of year.
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Postby skunkyd » Sun Oct 12, 2014 12:52 pm

Brilliant, thanks for posting up Martin. :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby PaulG » Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:14 pm

Great ride report Martin :D thanks for taking the time to post it up :handgestures-thumbup:
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Postby Ritz » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:29 pm

Thank you for sharing that Martin, looks like a great trip.

My Daughter now wants to go to Poo!! :lol:


Very inspiring!! ;)
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Postby bmk » Sun Oct 12, 2014 9:15 pm

Ritz wrote:My Daughter now wants to go to Poo!! :lol:


Not a lot there, a bit shit really. ;) :lol: :lol:
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