Tuesday 18 October 2016

Why one-way motorcycle touring on your own bike makes sense

No, this isn’t a crafty plan to relieve you of your pride-and-joy at the end of a tour, but a clever way of letting you maximise the great times you have riding your motorcycle.  Many of the tours operated by Harley-Davidson authorised tour provider Tour1 go to Harley-Davidson European rallies, and here is the odd thing, you ride your own bike there, but the tours are one-way.  Since starting these tours a few years ago, they have been sold-out, so we asked Gary France, who runs Tour1, about these one-way tours and why they are so popular.

What exactly is a one-way tour on your own bike?  The one-way tours all start in the UK and we ride across Europe to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle rally.  These are fully-guided tours that use some of the best roads Europe has to offer.  We take six days to ride to the rally, then spend 3 days there enjoying the sights and sounds of that rally.  Our customers then fly back to the UK on the Sunday afternoon as the rally ends and your bikes are bought back to the UK on a truck.  You get your bike back less than a week later.

Where do you run these tours to?  In 2017, these tours go to the rallies in St Tropez (May), to the main HOG European Rally (June) and European Bike Week at Faaker See (September).

Why do riders like one-way tours so much?  Riders love the ride to a rally, as they are full of anticipation for what is ahead.  The roads are terrific and generally they are heading south into better weather.  We stay in good quality three and four-star hotels and the sense of adventure, riding in a group across Europe is exciting.  Riding back from a rally however is generally dull, often ridden on motorways, heading back to worse weather and nearly always done in a rush.  Eliminating that slog of a ride home is a real benefit as it allows riders to travel back comfortably, to be at home just a few hours later on Sunday evening, refreshed and ready for work the next day.

How long do the tours take?  Most of our tours leave on a Saturday morning and last 9 days, so finish when people fly home on the following Sunday.  For most people, that means they take just 5 days off work.

Do you ride a direct route to the rallies?  No.  Direct routes are often not the most exciting, nor the most scenic.  Take our route to St Tropez for example.  The direct route from Calais is about 730 miles of boring riding, but our tour is 1,200 miles to get there.  We ride fantastic roads in Belgium and Luxembourg, then two of the very best motorcycling roads in Germany, over parts of The Alps and finally, through some amazing gorges in France on our route.  We chose roads because they are spectacular, not simply because they get you there.

How do the motorcycles get back to the UK?  There is a company called ‘We Move Bikes’ who transport Harley-Davidson demonstrator bikes to events across Europe, for people to test-ride at the rallies.  They are an authorised logistics partner of Harley-Davidson, who use specially designed trucks and cradles to move the bikes.  We use those same facilities to bring our customers bikes back to the UK.  WMB are highly professional and fully insured for moving Harley-Davidsons.

So, a one-way tour allows people to ride across Europe for six days, on fantastic roads, stay in good quality hotels, then spend 3 days at a Harley-Davidson rally, and then be back home on the Sunday night, ready for work the next day.  What’s not to love!  www.tour1.co.uk

Wednesday 23 March 2016

There must be some bends here somewhere!

With my son Charlie, we flew across the Atlantic so we could ride at Daytona Bike Week.

This is our video we made.

We wanted to make a record of our trip, not just what happens at Bike Week.  We hope you like the results.  The benefit of videos like this is they help you remember the trip, so I am sure to look at this in years to come.

Happy riding everyone!

Friday 18 March 2016

Essential riding items - The Results

I recently asked what are the five things riders cannot leave behind when on a long ride.  The answers came in via a number of different social media platforms and here are the results.

Many thanks to the people that contributed to this.  We all might learn something from it and maybe this will make us think about what additional thing(s) we might want to carry ourselves.

The answers were interesting, with some items being the things many riders like to carry and other things being somewhat more unusual.  I have collated the answers as best as I could into five categories.

The answers in each category are in order, with the most popular being at the top in each category, working downwards....

Puncture repair kit (way out in front in this category)
Leatherman / multi-purpose knife
Mini compressor
Spare fuel
Small tool bag
Spare key
Fuses, bulbs, etc.
Micro-fibre cloth
Givi tail bag
Maxima Chain Wax.
Grip buddies

Rain gear (top answer in this category, by a long way)
Riding trousers
Hi-vis jacket
Comfortable socks
Icebreaker brand merino layers
Club patch vest
High hiking gaiters (for off road riding)
Silk underwear (really)
Rain gear

(People were encourage not to vote for a phone, as we all carry those)
Camera (the most voted for item, in all categories)
GPS / Sat Nav
i-Pad / laptop
Helmet intercom

Earplugs (equal first in this category)
Water (top answer, along with earplugs)
Heated Gloves
Disc lock
Roadside assistance card
Emergency contact details
Notebook and pen
Toilet paper
Insulated coffee cup

Comfortable shoes for after riding (easily the top item in this category)
Lip balm / lipstick
Credit card
Sleeping bag / pad
Alcohol / Wine
Custom moulded ear plug speakers
Seat cover / gel padding
Monarch butterfly chair for camping
Comfortable shoes for after riding
Lip balm / lipstick
Credit card
Sleeping bag / pad

Thursday 18 February 2016

You cannot ride without...... what?

All of us have favourite items we like to take with us on long distance motorcycle rides, or tours.

Just for fun, I am putting together a list of the top essential items riders take with them.  What are the five things you CANNOT leave behind?

Please give one answer for each category below and I will collate the answers into an essential motorcycling items guide......

1. For your bike.  It could be a particular tool, cable ties, oil, or a puncture repair kit.  What won't you travel without?

2. Something you wear when riding.  A favourite pair of gloves perhaps, a heated jacket, a certain pair of boots, or kevlar jeans maybe?

3.  Technical stuff.  Maybe you won't go without a camera, music, a GPS or a laptop.  What item MUST you take?  Don't list a phone, as we all carry those!

4. Essential item to carry with you.  That could be water, sunscreen, paper maps or something else?

5. A luxury item - Cigars, a favourite hat, shoes, an expensive watch?

Wednesday 20 January 2016


One of the things I have tried to avoid about riding motorcycles is any form of prejudice for one brand over another. To me, it is important to treat all motorcyclists equally and to treat them all as is they were a brother, no matter what the name badge on the tank says. I have tried to always respect the choice we all have when choosing which brand we each ride and so I really don’t like the “my bike is better than you bike” brigade who are so blind as to not be able to see anything beyond their own handlebars.

However, those principles took a bit of a shaking today when I visited a BMW dealership.

I must have seen my local BMW motorcycle dealership dozens of times as I rode / drove past, but until today, I just kept going. This morning however, curiosity got the better of me and I swung around and went to see what it was all about.

The motorcycles were stunning.

With different types of bike to suit every form of riding, be that on-road, off-road, commuting, race bike lookalikes, scooters and even a few with sidecars, every taste was catered for. I marveled at the technology, the sweeping lines, the clean and crisp designs and the cleanliness of just about every aspect of the bikes. Deep down, each one is probably exceeding well designed, with handing, power and performance that is unequaled. It was very impressive stuff.

The sales person who spoke to me knew everything there was to know about every motorcycle – a real powerhouse of information.

Then it struck me.

Everything about the dealership was so perfect, it was dull. The bikes were displayed in an order that made perfect sense. The marketing materials were absolutely factual. Even the china coffee cups were laid out in a symmetrical pattern that likely needed a surveyors tape to be so precise. The clothing department (really just a few rails) had only really dull t-shirts and the same suits that all GS riders seem to wear. The range of helmets on sale were boring, with just a teaspoon of design flair added to each one.

What was missing was any sense of fun or enjoyment. There was no music playing. I was the only customer in the building. Nobody was smiling and there was no banter, but each member of staff had an immaculate desk and a shiny computer that they were fixated to. Groan.

The place had as much character as the local branch of my bank. I couldn’t wait to leave.

I walked outside and noticed about fifteen of the nearest car parking spaces to the building entrance were all marked as reserved for staff. All of those spaces were full, meaning the building was full of people working there. I had needed to park furthest away from the building. Does the dealership really mean to annoy its customers like this even before they park?

I have to say that everything about the place was depressing.

I am so glad I ride a Harley.

Yes, BMW riders can and probably do claim that their motorcycles are superior in many ways to the ones that I ride, but that isn’t the point. Motorcycling should be fun, embracing, inclusive and dealerships should be inviting places where you are made to feel welcome and can fit in whatever your background. So, I say this to BMW. Even if you want to make one of the best performing motorcycles in the world, please make your dealerships less perfect, then you will get more people walking through your doors.

I won’t be going back soon.