February 22, 2018

Confessions of a Born Again Biker – Part 17b – Touring Maybe

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Part 17b - Touring Maybe

And so the debate continues. Brother Carle maintains that we have not been on a motorcycle tour as we have stayed at only one place. For this to qualify as a tour, we would need to move on to different places, at least every other day.

I’m defending the position in which a tour is just a journey by another name. There isn’t a minimum requirement for distance or stops. Therefore travelling to Navia on a motorcycle and then exploring, counts as touring.

As you may have guessed, we are on the ferry from Santander to Portsmouth and have the best part of 20 hours to idle away.

By the time we dock at Portsmouth, there is half a chance that we will have finished talking about the roads, the corners and the scenery. The northern coast of Spain is a motorcyclists dream. Our final “tour” on this trip was a 4-hour, 190Km route, mixing tight tree lined “alpine” roads, fast wide sweeping bends and just a few kilometres of less invigorating town roads to join all the engaging parts together.

Confessions of a Born Again Biker - Spain Touring RouteStopping a few kilometres after the Embalse de Salime hydroelectric dam, mainly to give my brain a rest from the constant onslaught of corners and hairpins, we found one of the wonderful Spanish cafes that are in every town and parked up next to the town snow plough.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a town with its own snow plough before. Yes, towns have them, but this one seems to be on display. There it sits next to the café, glistening in the morning sunshine, just in case the weather turns.

Whereas every town has at least one café, and the occasional snow plough, the same isn’t true of petrol stations. Starting with a full tank is always a good idea, yet the constant 2nd and 3rd gear acceleration isn’t the most fuel-efficient riding. Leaving our café at the top of the hills, the fuel light on the Tiger came on just as Brother Carle starting point at the Fireblades filler cap. Being at the start of the downhill section when this happens has its advantages.

Twenty kilometres later, we thankfully spot a petrol station and now fat with fuel, we are once more mesmerised by the corners and the scenery. Thinking of all those perfect bends, and empty roads does have me wondering why we were not sharing them with other bikers. Is it the time of year we chose to visit? If I returned in summer would the hills reverberate with the sound of howling exhaust notes? It does seem shameful just to have them sitting there, empty.

Another hour of sweeping left and right along the AS-219 and we arrive in Luarca and find the best café of the tour – La Estacion. When you arrive at the slightly perplexing set of 3-way traffic lights at the end of the A-219, the café is right there. (Google Maps, tells me it is Barrío Nuevo, 2 Luarca, Asturias). It seems it is a popular stop for motorcyclists, as even the Google street view photo shows two bikes parked up.

Over lunch, our conversation turns into an odd version of Top Trumps, listing out all the things we will take away from the five days tour. The list is long and a lot of it unrepeatable, and the debate continues on the ferry the next day. Trying to come up with our top three points, we finally settled on six. Along with several other faults, brevity and the ability to count are two more to be added to the list.

  • Brakes – Check them before departing for Spain. Any suspicions about their effectiveness need addressing before you go. Rolling on and off the throttle in 2nd and 3rd gear is great, but you will need your brakes at some point, normally when pointing downhill looking at a hairpin with no Armco barrier.
  • Don’t plan by distance – 200 kilometres on the motorway is significantly easier on the brain than 100 kilometres through the hills.
  • Play in the rain – Not every day will be permanent sunshine. We had heavy rain and roads with snow piled on either side, as well as an excess of sunshine. Plan for a bit of everything.
  • Slippery when wet – Some of the tree lined roads get squirrelly when wet and it can stay damp under the trees when the rest of the road is dry. Look for the broken up tarmac on the exit from some of the hairpins, which can add to that moment you are about to have if you are hard on the gas out from the corner.
  • Petrol – Did we mention petrol? Get some.
  • Enjoy the journey – It is very easy to get obsessed with the roads and miss some the stunning scenery.
Having passed so many signs for the beach in the past few days, we decided that at least one trip to the seaside was required to complete the journey – sorry, tour. According to the optimistic signs, we will find parasols, ice cream and bucket loads of sunshine, just a few kilometres from our current position. Picking one of the signs at random, we ended up in more a fishing village than a beach playground, but who cares. Having enjoyed lunch, and some invigorating riding, it is time to embrace the warm late afternoon sun.

Navia is roughly three hours west of Santander. It is a straight forward ride along the A8 & A67 motorways, which start practically at the dock gates. Being a little further west that the normal destinations in the Picos, the prices for hotels are noticeable lower.

The route options from Navia are many. Roads we would recommend you explore include the AS-12 and AS-219 (pictured). The N-634 to the west of Navia, and the LU-132. These are just the ones we enjoyed. Essentially, it boils down to … If you can’t find a road you love, you must still be in the hotel room with the door shut.

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