Out of Office – The Iberian Peninsula

In Travel by AbhiLeave a Comment

As you know, Vy and I try to take a 2 week moto trip every summer – and that’s why we’re currently on a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. I’ll try to keep the bikes for sale posts going, but don’t expect too much from me…

Where to go?

Vy and I have a list of countries that we want to visit for future summer trips. Normally we get struck with some sort of inspiration and that helps us narrow the list down. This year was different. Vy signed up to a service called Scott’s Cheap Flights, and it was a bonanza of inexpensive airfare to a variety of countries. The problem was, there were so many choices being thrown at us every day that all we did was daydream instead of commit to a place. This went on for weeks, until it became clear that our analysis paralysis was about to be our downfall.

Realizing that we had to pick a place soon, we had a meeting and finalized the list down to two countries I’ve
visited in the last few months for motorcycling stories – Spain and Italy. We were on the fence about which country to spend time in when the Potato Jesus story came up. I thought it was in Spain, Vy thought it was in Italy. Our semi-joking tiebreaker was established: we would go to whichever country had the painting. Spain it is!

You may remember this story making the rounds back in 2012. A 1930s painting of Jesus was deteriorating, and a local artist apparently got permission from the church to restore it. It went poorly:

The original, the effects of time, and the “restoration”.

Local public reaction was full of scorn, but as the story made its way around the internet most people just found it funny and a bit sad. Somehow, it’s now become an oddball tourist attraction and apparently Vy and I are going to check it out for a few minutes.

If we were going to visit Spain, then it seemed obvious that we’d have to see Portugal as well. Destination finalized, it was time to do some research. I started by asking you for suggestions, which was incredibly helpful. Vy complemented that with her usual routine of buying the corresponding Lonely Planet books and finding points of interest while I tried to figure out what we’d be riding.

What to ride?

Finding a bike for these trips is always a fun brainstorming session. My hope is to find a balance between something that’s comfortable for Vy, fun for me to ride, and interesting for you to learn about. I also try to get a hometown hero (like the Triumph Explorer for last year’s trip in the UK), but there aren’t many Spanish moto brands and all of them create small trials/enduro bikes.

I thought an interesting angle would be the new-ish BMW G310GS because I haven’t ridden one yet and I thought it would be interesting to do a 2-up tour on a little bike. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard luggage for the little GS, BMW only offers a top case, and that won’t carry enough for 2 people over 2 weeks. I had no problem slapping on a set of soft bags but Vy likes to park the bike in a city for a few hours to walk around and explore and BMW’s reps in Spain said it would be a mistake to do that while leaving soft bags on the bike.

I wanted to show that touring on a little bike isn’t a problem. Maybe next year…

I stuck with the BMW GS idea and asked about the new F850GS – the American launch is in the fall and I thought it would be cool to get a detailed 2-week review for you before the bikes were even available in the US. Unfortunately, that bike is just being released to Spanish media at the same time Vy and I are showing up, and BMW couldn’t spare us a bike for that long while everyone else is fighting over units for stories.

What could have been. I’ve heard great things and I suspect it would have made a great 2-up travel buddy. Hopefully I’ll get an invite to the US launch this fall so I can still tell you what it’s like. Photo from BMW Motorrad.

I spoke with a few other companies, and the most interesting request I put out was for the 3-wheeled Yamaha Niken, what they call a Leaning Multi-Wheeler (LMW). Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t ideal – the global launch just happened a couple of weeks ago and test units aren’t available yet. UPDATE: If you want my thoughts on the Niken, Yamaha hosted the US launch a few months later and I covered it on behalf of Cycle News.

Back to BMW. They offered us a wide variety of 2-up friendly bikes, so I went through the list at my local dealership (Long Beach BMW Motorcycles):

R1200GS – I love this bike (if I could only have one motorcycle, it’d be this) but I have plenty of seat time on it and I wanted to try something different.

Such a great bike.

K1600GT/L – Unfortunately, this was the only option of the remaining three that I could get a test ride on. Vy loved it – at one point I think she said something along the lines of “I can’t believe a motorcycle can be this comfortable.” I think I said “I can’t believe a motorcycle can be this big.” The motor is awesome and it handles great for the size, but I don’t want to have to say “for the size” all throughout this trip. Simply put, I just prefer bikes that are smaller than this.

The K1600 gets Vy’s thumbs up of approval.

S1000XR – When it comes to how fast a bike is 2-up, I have a test – I accelerate briskly and see how Vy responds. If she:

does nothing – the bike is slow
giggles – the bike is fast
hits me – the bike is too fast

I didn’t need to test ride the XR to know that Vy would be hitting me a lot. More importantly, of all the bikes she sat on, this was the least comfortable, so we removed it from contention. I should clarify that she did not think it would be an issue to do a 2-week trip (especially with a top case functioning as a backrest), but of the options presented to her, it was her least favorite. There are also some reports of the XR being buzzy at highway speed but I wasn’t able to try it out for myself to verify.

So fast. So ugly.

R1200RS– Part of my love for the 1200GS is the boxer twin. I know some people find it weird but I’ve got thousands of miles on my personal R1150GS and I find the motor to be very endearing and well suited for real-world riding. The R100RS was arguably the world’s first true sport-tourer (at the very least, it was the first motorcycle with a standard full fairing attached to the frame), and it seems appropriate to use the newest evolution for our upcoming adventure. Vy thought it was comfortable enough, so I considered that sufficient as a seal of approval.

There’s a cool grey/white livery with a red frame, but Vy and I are going to be on a less interesting “Frozen Bronze/Black Storm Metallic” example like this one.

While I took care of a few last administrative things, Vy explored some fun products in the dealership:

As a token of my appreciation for the fact that Long Beach BMW had no problem with me wasting their time and test riding a bike that they knew I wasn’t going to buy, I bought a t-shirt which is way more comfortable than it has any right to be.

I also have a LB BMW t-shirt from years ago that says “Kiss French, Ride German” on the back.

So, we’ve got a place and we’ve got a bike. Now all that’s left to do is to start the trip…and that’s why Vy and I are on a plane to Barcelona! Thanks again to all of you for your suggestions, and if you’re nearby we’d love to say hi!

UPDATE: The story begins!