If there was a motorcycle theme to 2020, it would be motorcycle tours not taken.
For us, 2020 should have included Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, the Grossglockner in Austria and the AlpenStrasse (the German Alpine Road) all the way from Kaprun back to Switzerland, via Mont Blanc.
It didn’t happen. Neither the thousand-mile loop from the Hook of Holland to the bottom of the B500 in Germany and back. We can’t change the past but there is nothing to stop us looking forward to 2021.
Both of those tours, along with the Five Nations Motorcycle Challenge we are planning to ride in 2021, Covid-19 allowing.
2020 did have a couple of excellent trips around Scotland, along with some outstanding day rides, but overall our mileage was way down on previous years.
Whereas we prefer to ride our motorcycle touring routes and then share them, if you are using the “dark months” to plan your 2021 motorcycle tours, here are a few suggestions to help fuel your desires.
The Five Nations
The challenge is to ride through all of the countries in the British Isles and Ireland too, in five days. For us, that is England to Scotland and catch the ferry to Northern Ireland. Once in Northern Ireland, ride the coast road, including part of the North West 200 route and then onwards into Ireland.
After a night stop on Ireland’s west coast, we head south and then across country to Dublin for the ferry to Holyhead in Wales. From Hollyhead, through Wales to Llanelli for the last night stop before heading back to England.
As soon as the routes and the ferries are confirmed, we’ll publish the Five Nations Motorcycle Tour here. The whole tour should take you no longer than five days unless of course, you want it to.
Update: Details of the Five Nations Motorcycle Challenge are now online
The Hook of Holland and B500
For me, there is only one way to get the Holland – Stena Line Ferry from Harwich. Having taken the ferry to Spain several times, the first time I took the Stena Line Ferry to Holland my expectations were not especially high. Another cross channel ferry like all the rest is what I was expecting and I could have not have been more wrong.
Whereas the Port of Harwich is not the best place to wait in the rain on a Thursday night – there is nowhere to shelter – once onboard the Stena Line ferry, the food was good and the cabin comfortable, spacious and modern, and I was in a single cabin!
Another joy was that Stena Line didn’t put the motorcycles in the bowels of the ship. There was a dedicated motorcycle parking zone and we were fortunate to be all but the first off the ship.
And for clarity – I pay the same as everyone else for my journeys on Stena Line ferries.
The B500 loop, as planned, is 963 miles long and there are points on the route where motorways are the only effective answer.
The route in and out of Rotterdam, passing the likes of Monchengladbach on the way out, and Frankfurt and Dortmund of the way back, are difficult to navigate efficiently without using the motorways or taking a substantial detour. Sometimes even as motorcyclists, we just have to suck it up and do some motorways miles.
The last section of the B500 motorcycle tour, from the turn west at point 48, is the longest motorway section at 93 miles, ending up back at the Stena Line ferry in Rotterdam. It is an easy afternoon’s ride to the ferry having spent a delightful 100 miles or more working your way through the forests and lakes in the morning.
All of which should work out just about perfectly for late afternoon Stena Line crossing which will get you back to Harwich, early the next day.
If you have ridden the route and have any suggestions or tweaks, lets us all know in the comments below.
Nine Days From Geneva
This is the sort of motorcycle tour that someone would write a book about.
The starting place, technically is near Luton Airport in England where you drop your bike off with BikeShuttle who will transport your motorcycle to Geneva, and you to the airport to catch a plane.
After an agreeable flight, dinner in Geneva and a good nights rest, you will find your motorcycle and all of your gear waiting for you in the hotel car park the next morning.
BikeShuttle had to suspend operations in 2020 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions. As I write this in late 2020, BikeShuttle are looking good for 2021, but the world is still sorting itself out, so check the BikeShuttle website for the latest details.
Assuming all is well and BikeShuttle can transport your motorcycle to Geneva, you now have 12 days of blissful motorcycle touring to ride where ever you wish.
All you have to remember is to be back at the hotel to repeat the BikeShuttle process 12 days later. The only difference is that this time the bike leaves first, and you follow the next day.
And just like Stena Line, we paid Bike Shuttle for our transport in May 2021 the same as everyone else.
The “Nine Days From Geneva” motorcycle tour is split into nine segments, each of approximately 250 miles. The routes are planned to avoid motorways but ensure your GPS doesn’t “optimise the route” for you when you load them.
Most GPS have an “avoid motorways” option somewhere in their menus. You might also wish to avoid the super twisty route option on your GPS. The regions you are riding through have numerous tracks that are only open in summer. They can be great to ride, but 200 miles off-road takes a long time.
Speeding in Switzerland is also to be avoided. The Swiss Police have zero sense of humour when it comes to such things and reportedly the fines would make even the most affluent Swiss Banker wince.
Purchasing them is simple enough. The last time I was in Austria they could be bought at the border or in most local “newsagents” and this being the age of the internet, they are also available online. Vignettes are only needed for motorways, which none of these routes should take you on.
In Switzerland, you can only buy year-long vignettes and they cost 40 Swiss Francs. In Switzerland, stay off the motorways.
Having avoided the motorways and with twelve days in front of you, where does the Geneva Motorcycle Tour take you?
As planned it is 2,000 miles and riding around 250 miles per day every day, it is going to be tiring. With nine days riding and twelve days to do it in, you can either shorten the distances and ride every day, build in a few rest days or go exploring locally. In Austria especially you are spoilt for choice when it comes to good roads to ride.
One final word on Austria. In 2020 some of the roads in the Tyrol region had a decibel limit on them. If your bike – according to its registration document – exceeds the noise limit, you were banned from riding these roads. You can find the details on that here
Days 1 & 2 – Leave Geneva and ride across the top of Italy, roughly following the River Po (Flume Po) river and stopping near Venice on the second day.
Days 3 & 4 – Skirt around Venice, through to Slovenia and south along the coast road to Omis in Croatia before turning north towards Austria.
Days 5 & 6 Continue north arriving at the south entrance to the Grossglockner – arguably the most inspiring of the Alpine passes – at the end of day 6.
Day 7 – Appears shorter than the others but assumes you will ride on the Grossglockner a few times before departing for the infamous town Garmisch – famous for the BMW rally – for the night.
Days 8 & 9 – Having followed the Alpen Strasse west through Germany and Austria you pass Mont Blanc to arrive back in Geneva at the end of day 9
Hopefully those routes give you basis for an excellent 2021, and if you ride them before we do, let us know how it goes in the comments below.