January 24, 2018

Motorcycle adventures – Places to go on a Motorcycle – Motorcycling destinations – or our preferred term – The Bucket List. Call it what you will, these are places to go, people to meet and things to be getting on with. Essentially … Life is short, so ride the damn bike!

Navia West of the Picos - Confessions of a Born Again BikerThe Picos de Europa in Spain is a popular destination for bikers. The allure of warmer weather, quiet roads and different scenery make a compelling case for visiting the Picos, however … a little further west lies Navia.

With the popularity of the Picos comes, popular pricing and over recent years the cost of staying in the Picos, especially during the summer months, has risen. Travel a little further west along the A8 motorway, and the prices take a dip while the roads and the weather remain just as stimulating.

The dilemma for those coming from the UK and Ireland is how best to get there. On the one hand you have the short ferry trip to northern France and then the two days on the French roads to reach northern Spain. Alternatively, you have the ferry across the Bay of Biscay to Santander. And lastly, there are motorcycle shuttle services, where your motorcycle, along with many others, is delivered to the south of Europe by custom truck, while you fly and spend a leisurely night in a hotel.

The debates about which is the better option run long and hard. Given the time to take a leisurely wander through France, this would be my preferred option. If the delightful Spanish roads are the primary target and time is a little tight, then the long ferry journey is the only real option as overnight to northern Spain isn’t feasible for the delivery services ~ it is just too far.

Should you opt for the ferry though, check your boredom threshold, before booking. There is a limit to the amount of food and drink that can be consumed, especially if the crossing is “bouncy”, which the Bay of Biscay often is. Beyond eating and drinking, you are on the ferry for 20-something hours. It can get dull.

Navia West of the Picos - Confessions of a Born Again Biker
Don’t let the snow put you off, this was taken high in the mountains.

Regardless of how you choose to get there, once there, the only difficulty you will have will be in deciding where to ride first.

We chose Navia as a base and rode in every direction from there, often looping around the Sierra de Ancares on a different type of road each day. If you enjoy tight twisty roads, then there multiple options to chose from. If you prefer wide more open routes, then you can cover some long distances in a day. Finally, if visiting other towns are your thing, then the interconnection of motorways close to Navia, gives you a chance to munch through many a mile.

While reading a trendy travel magazine recently, it seems the term café-culture is a popular description that gets applied where ever the writers can use it. I can only suggest that those writers have never been to this part of Spain, where, regardless of which town or village we stopped in, there was always a superb café to relax in. As the café is part of everyday life in this part of Spain, the cost of coffee and a light snack don’t carry trendy prices. Or at least they don’t west of the Picos.

The same is also true for hotels. In early 2017 we paid the equivalent of £50 ($60 US) a night to stay at the wonderful Casona Naviega.

Navia West of the Picos - Confessions of a Born Again Biker
Just one of the fantastic cafe you will find in every town and village. Bikers MOST welcome.

Although officially staying on a Bed and Breakfast basis, this doesn’t seem to figure in the thinking of the hotel owners. Having completed four days, riding anywhere and everywhere, we opted to spend the next day at the hotel. The fact that it was raining helped, and after a late breakfast, we spent the rest of the day mixing work with watching MotoGP and drinking the wine that the Hotel owners decided we needed. Never was the suggestion we should buy the wine made, it was just poured and left on the table next to us.

Not a wine drinker? Then perhaps the cider that appeared to be something of a local speciality, and is often accompanied by a flamboyant pouring ritual, is more your thing.

And of course, you will be observing the 8 hours bottle to throttle rule, naturally.

When organising your day, it is worth remembering that Spain never seems to rush. Navia has several excellent café-restaurants to chose from, but most don’t even consider opening until 7 or 8 pm. On the flip side, it is not uncommon to find that the kitchens stay open much later than you might expect.

Spotting which ones to eat in is easy. Wander past around 8:30 pm and see which ones have large family groups in them, and avoid the ones with the bartender and a few of his drinking buddies. Just trust us on this matter, we speak from experience.

Considering the quality of the hotel, the food and, most importantly the roads, the biggest surprise was the absence of other bikers. Perhaps it was the time of year, or maybe everyone just stops at the Picos and does the same thing that everyone else has done. If this is true, please continue to do so, as having those roads all to myself again when I return, will be quite delightful.

Whereas the information on these pages is as correct as we could make it, inevitably things will change. We can’t guarantee that everything will be as we describe, but then again where would the fun be in that