Spanish Loop 2016 pt3: ‘How to crash a Tex’ and ‘Conclusions’

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    A fully loaded Explorer two-up is a heavy beast with quite a high centre of gravity. This is absolutely no problem at over 5kph but those of us with short legs need to be extra careful at very low speeds and on uneven ground.

    The beast

    The next day we stopped for a coffee and chorros near Talarrubias, a two-horse village on the N502.
    It took only a slight lack of concentration when rejoining the road for the front tyre to bounce off an un-noticed but significant ridge of tarmac at about 3kph; momentum shifted and though I managed to hold it for a couple of seconds there was only going to be one outcome: we toppled gracelessly into the dirt on our right side.
    Instantly the 4 guys at the bar were there, hauling the Triumph upright and checking that we were OK. We pushed the bike onto the road to prevent a repeat and surveyed the damage: a bashed-up front lower corner on the right hand pannier and one bumped ego. Later we would realise that Debs had bruised her calf and I’d done the same to my Achilles tendon, where the boot zip had earlier failed, reducing protection.


    We set off again with a cheery ‘Vamos!’ but I was a bit more forthright in my take-off strategy afterwards. Since leaving Andalucia it was noticeable that the quality of the roads went down a bit, though they were still far better than most roads in England. Through cattle country and golden prairies, past beautiful lakes and up into the Sierra de Guadalupe.


    The Casa Rural Finca la Sierra was up a 1km dirt track, but the Tex was surefooted, even up the rutted sloping bends.


    Victor the casa guy had been a rock band manager for 20 years in Madrid and kept a huge collection of heavy rock vinyl up at the isolated casa, including Deep Purple, Ted Nugent, Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep, Led Zep, Molly Hatchet, Black Sabbath, amongst many others, and loads of Spanish metal groups.
    Not knowing many Spanish bands, I asked if he knew Mano Negra – he replied ‘Manu Chao is a good friend!’ Although French-born, the Chao brothers had Spanish parents so it had seemed a good punt.

    Victor serving breakfast on the terrace

    Victor drove us in the works Landrover the 3km into Berzocana so we could eat and drink: best menu yet and some great cerveza negra at 8%.

    On Sunday morning we did a bit of walking on the mountain trails, visiting three caves with ancient paintings and a balancing rock. Good to be in the wild again.

    In the wild….

    Then it was business as usual: down the dirt track (very impressed by the big Tex on rutted trails – much better than in car-parking pull-ins!).


    The EX118 is yet another great road with no traffic – what a country! The address of the next casa rural confuses the Garmin and drops us 10km from the correct spot; but the finca man Miguel is not surprised and comes to collect us on his battered yellow Vespa. We had the last swim in the outdoor pool before it was closed for autumn, then into town to find food.


    Casas rurales don’t tend to have restaurants. Or even food. We couldn’t find an open café as it was only 5pm and the Spanish don’t eat ‘til much later so we went to a bar for tapas. The barman translated Debs’ request for a long drink into a large drink – so we had high tea consisting of rum & coke and peanuts. Well, ask for ‘dos bebidas de ron con copas grandes’ and that’s what you get, I suppose….

    Monday: the excellent CL502 winding over the Pto del Pico is a great start.


    But then near Mingorria came a couple of power loss moments, one of them just after overtaking two cars – felt like running out of fuel. Cleared them by pulling the clutch in and revving hard, but it’s the first bad feeling of the trip. I had already noticed that the right hand guard had come partly adrift and was fouling the front brake lever slightly, so it was crucial that I made running repairs.
    Within 3kms a petrol station appeared, with a gleaming red Ducati parked up. The attendant came out dressed in red – a good sign. I looked at the hand guard: the flat-headed hex screw was still there, so this was probably a result of our low-speed off a couple of days ago.
    The Ducati man took one look and disappeared into the back, re-appearing moments later with a perfect sized washer. I’d got the tool bag out and quickly repaired the guard, then Ducati man fired up his Multistrada 1200S and spent 10 minutes running through the many options available on his very impressive steed. Obviously really proud, he’d only owned it a month but had done 5,700km. Cost him €24,000. What a great guy – not a word of English, but we were talking Bike, so I understood every word. In fact, when we set off I was in Ducati Sport mode and went at least 20kph faster for the rest of the day.

    Ducati man

    Soon we were approaching the Picos de Europa, and our second Parador hotel in Cervera de Pisuerga – a more modest old hunting lodge with some clients in camo and some toting rifles. Nice sunset.


    Next day was a small taster section of the Picos: the P210 to Velilla del Rio Carrion (more patches than tarmac; cowshit, pot-holes, red mud and horses on the road – just like home!) then the LE215 and N621.


    Lovely route up to the pass, then an unbelievable view of the mountains – stopped for a picnic lunch and photo-shoot.


    Then swooping down past Ermintrude the cow and into Potes. There we met the first English bikers of the trip – loads of them. And found Sidra. Wayhay!


    Then it was down the Rio Deva gorge to the coastal motorway and a blast along the really rather impressive A8 to Bilbao. There we met some VW camper drivers who had had 4 sunny days then 10 days of rain on the north coast and in the Picos mountains. That’s why it’s so green….


    The run home from Portsmouth to the Forest was so cold! We had all our clothes on and still froze – too knackered to try and find the heated seat switches…. 

    • Spanish roads are not always perfect, but are still far better than ours
    • Some Spanish roads actually are perfect
    • Minor roads are generally traffic-free and excellent for bikes, everywhere
    • Some motorways can be quite busy; some are really impressive
    • Heat exhaustion is a real threat even in September – regular hydration is crucial
    • Spanish drivers are pretty good: much better than English drivers (in my limited experience)
    • Central Spain is pretty much English-free: knowing a few words of Spanish is really useful
    • The Spanish people are incredibly helpful and friendly
    • Spanish restaurant service is the quickest and best I’ve ever experienced
    • Food and drink can be quite cheap outside tourist destinations. Even Cordoba can be very good value, catering as it does to backpackers
    • Even if you don’t like visiting tourist sites, the Alhambra, Moroccan Tea Garden and the Mezquita-Catedral are all worth the very reasonable entry (or exit) charges
    • Spanish lager can be really quite good!

    The bike:
    • The Triumph Explorer is a great touring machine, still able to cruise at illegal speeds then overtake in a flash, even loaded down with luggage and pillion
    • Its suspension is excellent, soaking up all bumps, holes and grooves
    • Stability is really good, except in very high winds with big cuboid luggage
    • At very low speed it can be a bit of a struggle when fully loaded and the rider has short legs. Taller riders should have no problem
    • On trails and dirt roads the Tex is very good indeed, giving real confidence
    • The big beast handles really well, taking the tightest, steepest hairpins with absolutely no problem
    • Even 5-6 hours in the saddle is not uncomfortable.

    Biker tan…

    The trip:
    • We covered 3,700km (approx 2,300 miles) easily in three weeks, with several days off and generally short riding days
    • It only rained once, when we were off bike in Granada: we joined a Dutch couple in a bar and spent a couple of convivial hours with them – no problem
    • Our only brushes with the law were favourable – didn’t get stopped for speeding once. Hardly saw any police in the countryside
    • Riding with no gloves and jacket on but open is more comfortable in extreme heat. The chance of a crash is lower anyway, as there is so little traffic
    • The yellow and white roads on our Michelin maps were excellent – red roads are quicker but not necessarily more fun
    • For ferry ports we prefer Santander to Bilbao, for several reasons
    • Would we go back? Hell yes! What a great first bike tour with Debs!


    Brilliant write up and great pics.
    I spent a week on a walking holidays in the Picos in June and saw loads of british reg bikes out there, and some amazing roads through the valleys. Really fancy going back on the bike, certainly in the areas we were in the cost of living was very cheap, and the Sidra and tapas were excellent Now you’ve whetted my appetite to see of the other areas too.


    Brilliant write up and great pics.
    I spent a week on a walking holidays in the Picos in June and saw loads of british reg bikes out there, and some amazing roads through the valleys. Really fancy going back on the bike, certainly in the areas we were in the cost of living was very cheap, and the Sidra and tapas were excellent Now you’ve whetted my appetite to see of the other areas too.

    I did the Picos in 2014 on my Ducati…you must ride there at some point, the roads are amazing

    Check them out here


    Awesome write up as always! Reading this so makes me want to go back to Spain on the bike, my favourite place to ride a bike!


    Awesome write up as always! Reading this so makes me want to go back to Spain on the bike, my favourite place to ride a bike!

    Thanks Matt: re-reading it makes me want to go back too!
    Got to agree with you – Spain is a fantastic country for biking…. No bad points anywhere.    8)


    God’s biking country and no mistake!

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