How was your summer? Did you have a great tour on your bike? I hope so... I managed a couple and, much more importantly, many of my customers did.
For me, we're coming into what I think of as planning season: time to look ahead to next year and work out where you want to go, to decide what's possible.
Some of the people doing the bigger custom trips have kindly shared some of their pics and memories, showing the kind of tours I've been putting together for people this year.
Sam and Steph – France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia…
I've worked with Sam of The SL Shop on routes for classic cars, as he organises events for his customers. This though was a personal trip – and a very clever one.
He wanted to give his girlfriend Steph an amazing Alpine holiday... but without the grind of getting to the mountains. So we worked out the timings and put this route together: Sam rode solo from the UK to Geneva and picked his partner up from the airport.
They then rode the French Alps, the Swiss Alps, into Italy to enjoy Lake Garda and the Dolomites, before going over the Grossglockner in Austra and into the Julien Alps in Slovenia… before returning through the Dolomites to drop Steph at Verona airport. And then Sam came home – over Timmelsjoch and through the Black Forest.
They were kind enough to give me updates as they went, my favourite being a message from Sam that simply said: "The Dolomites... f*** me they're another level". When they got back, Steph said: "What a trip we had. One of the best moments for me was the Dolomites... the air was like silk up in the mountains. I felt like part of nature, sat on the back. Each part of our trip was so well thought-through. It was what we love: fun, adventure, roads, scenery... just the best."
John and Pamela - Italy (mainly)
John and Pamela were some of my first touring customers, what seems like an age ago back at the start of 2020 – and, you guessed it, their initial tour of Spain was tanked by the pandemic and they didn't get to ride it until 2021.
For 2022 they had three weeks to explore Italy and we came up with this plan – heading down through the Black Forest and into Italy over Stelvio Pass on the way to Lake Garda, then working their way down the Apennine spine of the peninsula to one of my favourite places, Maratea with its huge statue of Christ the Redeemer, before turning to head north along the Amalfi and Tuscan coasts, through the mountains of Piedmonte and into the French Alps. The length of the trip meant we included a few rest days as well.
"We found the routes excellent, however on reflection we were a little optimistic on our timings," John admits. "At my age (64), seven hours riding in the sun is one thing, but when we had heavy rain it's not so nice...
"The quality maps, along with your notes, gave a good general idea of where we should have been going and we read these every night prior, to the next day's journey. However we mainly relied on the Garmin which was great 99% of the time, but drove us nuts on the odd occasion it routed us down totally inappropriate roads on a crazy detour...
"Most of the roads were absolutely amazing but some were not for the faint of heart (like the road to Christ the Redeemer). The highlight of the tour was the return route from Italy into Annecy, with excellent weather and amazing views. Only 2°C at the top though!"
Damian – Spain and Portugal
I've done a couple of trips for Damian – which is something I'm really pleased about, because he's an experienced rider who even organises tours for his friends. That he comes to me for the big trips feels like a huge vote of confidence.
"I thought, 'why waste my time trying to put something together when I could use the expertise of someone who has been there and done it?'," Damian explains.
For this tour, he was heading down to the Algarve for a week off the bike with his wife. But on the way there... well let's just say we packed as much amazing riding into the schedule as possible. And with ten days before the return ferry, we didn't skimp on the way back either.
The trip avoided places Damian had been before, using a mix of A-to-B rides between hotels and two-night stops to allow circular daytrips, so he could really see as much of Spain and Portugal as possible. "Every day I've turned a corner at some point and thought, 'How did he ever find this? It can't get any better'. And then it does again," Damian concludes. "This has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will remember and cherish."
Jason – Turkey and all the trimmings
Jason had joined a group that organised hotels all the way to Istanbul and back... but didn't provide the routes. That's where I came in.
"I am an experienced motorcycle traveller who goes to Europe every year and usually plan my own trips, but I thought I would ask an expert to do this one," Jason explains.
"Right from the first communication, Simon gave me the confidence that he knew what he was doing. Even when I had a last minute change of itinerary due to a ferry-time change, he was able to adapt. I found his instructions to be accurate and I never got lost... except when I didn’t follow them! Now I have memories that will stay with me forever.”
Rich – Ancona via Corsica and Sicily
This was a lovely trip to plan. Rich was heading out to Ancona but had enough time to take the scenic route. The catch was that it was early in the year, so going through the Alps wasn't an option as the high passes would still be shut. Instead Rich took a cross-country route through France then the amazing roads of Corsica and Sardinia before tackling the hills and passes of Italy.
The return run at the end of the year took in the Dolomites, the German and Austrian Tirol, the Black Forest and more. He kept me abreast of his progress most days... my favourite update, from the Pfalzerwald in Germany, being: "Wow - what a road. Complete with biker café!" And I can assure you, the strudel there is excellent too...
There were so many great trips this year. I had one customer fly into Milan from Guatemala and then take a laid-back run through the Alps, with no more than four hours' riding a day – though the early autumn weather almost ruined it right at the start. Those same storms forced Terry and Napat, who'd flown into Rome from Thailand to collect a hire bike, to cut their trip short by a day...
As well as all the straight custom tours, there were several people who took trips based on my off-the-peg tours, which we tweaked to suit them. Two of my favouites were for my first-ever customer, Phil, and from the first customer to head out on tour this year, John. Phil used the French Alps trip but we modified it so he could take his wife and their mates to Monaco; while John expanded the Secret France tour to take in the Gorges du Verdon and run him down to the Med.
So that's a tiny taste of what people have been upto with my routes this year. Hopefully one of those will inspire your trip for next year. And remember, if you need help putting it together, just drop me a line here.