Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

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Considering The Alps

Blog Date - Friday, November 29, 2019

Questions questions questions. Each answer just leads to several more questions. I used to be indecisive, but these days I'm not so sure anymore.

Sharon asked me to ponder our next trip, adventure, holiday, call it what you will. 

The primary consideration is Sharon's eldest daughter, Beth. She has a tumour where the brain joins the spinal cord which needs to come out soon. This is amongst the most dangerous of operations and the outcome is far far from certain. 

With no dates set for surgery and the very real possibility of Beth's life and thus Sharon's life being turned completely upside down it would be foolish for us to spend a fortune booking a ferry back to Spain. I'm not here to dwell on Beth's predicament but this explains why Sharon hasn't done much blogging on here recently. Here's to hoping for a surgeon's steady hand and positive outcome.

This leaves 2 obvious possibilities. A UK trip or the Chunnel, as we can book the Chunnel at reasonably short notice without too much fiscal penalty. 

Regular readers will know Scotland is always a favourite of ours. It is a place of beauty and while we've been there many times there is still much we'd like to see, and much we'd be happy to see once again. I would be more than satisfied with Scotland.

Sharon stands by the NTV600 Revere covered in camping kit
Scotland 2008. We been going for quite some time then.

I have a hankering to return to The Alps. We've only touched on a tiny corner of The Alps and I am all to often told there is soooooo many stunning roads and vistas to enjoy. As such I've been looking into this.

A building with angular rocky mountains behind in the French Alps
We accidentally found The Alps in 2013.

At around 900 miles the trip from home to The Alps is not a short one. Regular readers will know Sharon and I prefer not to cover massive miles in one day either. We can usually muster a 2 week holiday so at an uncomfortable 300 miles per day it would take 3 days to get there and 3 days to get back, 6 days of boring, bum-numbing primarily motorway hacking. This would however, including weekends, leave us with 10 days in The Alps.

I just have this fear that in those 10 days we have in The Alps in the back of my mind I'll always be thinking "I got 3 really poop days coming up, I got 3 really poop days coming up..." 

There is another option I dare not speak of. No, it's horrific. OK, you've twisted my arm. Take the car with the bikes on a trailer. Yes cars are boring and also cheating - but... I'd rather face 6 poopy days knowing that if it's raining and cold at least I'll be in the tin box. In fact if we're in the car we might as well just crack on, get our heads down and get the whole 900 miles done in two days, leaving more time in the Alps.

The plan would be something like this. Get one of them there Motolug take-apartable trailers. Load the bikes and kit into and onto the car and trailer and drive to The Alps. Take the bikes off the trailer and load them with our usual luggage. Take apart the trailer and put it in the boot of the car. Lock the car leaving it in a nice village somewhere. Go tour The Alps. Return to the car. Reverse the operation to get home.

The Motolug te 2 motorcycle collapsible trailer
It comes apart you know! (Collapsible Motorcycle Trailer TE)

The primary advantage is all the boring stuff is done in the car. Also if there's an issue with either bike I could ride the working bike back to the car, get out the trailer and load the working bike, drive to the stricken bike and load that too. We might be 300 miles from the car but this is actually do-able. 

Great! Let's do it!! Whoa hang on a moment. 

A twin motorcycle Motolug take-apartable trailer is £1150 and I cannot find a second hand one for love nor money. That said I have been after a bike trailer for some time now, maybe it's worth the investment? I need to see one in the flesh before I shell out that kind of money though. There is a plan to visit the Motolug factory sometime soon.

There are cheaper trailers but this causes 2 problems. Back here in Blighty I don't have anywhere to store a trailer. It could live at Sharon's place although that's far from ideal. The advantage with the Motolug is I could actually put it in my loft, it'd be a faff but it is do-able. Also we'd have to find secure storage for the trailer in The Alps too. 

There are these companies that will ship the bikes to various places and then we fly to where the bikes are, collect them, ride them and then either ride them home or return them for shipping home. Having a quick look online and I find most companies say "contact us for a price" which suggests it's not cheap. There's also the cost of flights to consider. That and, erm, well, I've never been on a big plane before. 

I would much prefer to ride to the Alps over a gentle week, spend 2 weeks touring there and then spend another gentle week returning. Alas I'd struggle to get a month off work and that's not even an option for Sharon. 

Or... right yeah... or I become a famous motorcycle journo earning a fortune so Sharon doesn't need to work and then like someone pays for us to ride shiny new test bikes to posh hotels in The Alps. My ongoing disappointment at not being "discovered" is painful to bear as I'm sure you'll understand.  


If you'd like to pay Ren a fortune as a motorcycle journo and send him on exotic all expenses paid trips contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Snod said :-
A little bit of sick came up.
2/12/2019 10:40:35 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Ha! Thanks Snod...
3/12/2019 5:45:56 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Motorail? (see link)

Alternatively flog your car and buy a Transit then stick the bikes in the back. You could also sleep in there on the way down.

I've seen those motolugs and they're quite nice but way overpriced. I'd have thought you could make a decent copy with your bodging skills. Although whether you'd want to entrust your bikes to it is another question. The first trailer I had for my trials Enfield was based on a (real) Mini rear subframe. It collapsed as Mini subframes were wont to do on my way back from a trial one snowy day in the Peak District. Fortunately I spotted the crazy angle of the bike before it disintegrated completely.

However, given the health issues if I was in your position I'd stick to the UK. The last thing you want is to have to rush back across half of Europe.

Best of luck to Beth by the way. This can't be easy for Sharon.
https://www.railtravelshop.com/holidays/motorail...
3/12/2019 10:22:23 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I've looked at Motorail before. Imagine this - bear with me. We build a tunnel under the channel an connect the UK to the EU's rail network. Then like imagine you put your bike on the train at Manchester, settle in to your cabin and then I dunno, 24 hours later ride off at Italy!

A cursory price up suggests 2 folks with motorcycles from Dusseldorf to Innsbruck would be ?217 one way. We'd still have to get to Dusseldorf too. It's a crying shame in these environmentally concerned times even taking a bicycle on a train causes ructions.

As for the Transit. My new-to-me 63 plate 1.3 diesel Astra estate returns 60mpg around town, 70 on the motorway. It can be used as a regular car and is actually big enough to sleep in. It also costs £20 a year to tax and the insurance is manageable. Vans have been seeing a spike in break in thus a rise in insurance costs, won't return the same mpg and cost more to tax etc. Bearing in mind the car only covers about 3 to 4 thousand miles a year I cannot justify the running costs of a van for so little mileage.

Sharon wouldn't leave the North West if Beth wasn't so clever. We're just throwing ideas around - to be honest I think it helps Sharon to think of something else, something positive for a while
3/12/2019 11:43:05 AM UTC
ROD said :-
Ren, The cost of the trailer is not what you pay for it.
The cost is what you pay, less what you sell it for when it is no longer required.
The fact that you could not find the trailer you want secondhand suggests that the residual value should be high, due to the rules of supply and demand.

I feel that I am very lucky in that I do not have a problem with higher mileage days. I would also regard the travelling days on the bike to the Alps and back as part of the holiday, and I would prefer travelling down on the bike, not driving a CAR!
3/12/2019 4:56:10 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
An estate, your sorted then Ren.
Get a tin opener, open the roof along the gutter line and make a big bike friendly sun roof.

When you dont need it open just put it back in place and secure it with gaffa tape.
3/12/2019 9:55:07 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
ROD - I see your logic and that does rather tip me towards spending the pennies. While I'll obviously lose a few quid there will be some considerable used value. Hmmmm, good point.

There is no doubt I envy your mile munching ability. And yes part of the trip is the journey there and back. I do feel a sense of achievement to say I actually rode from home to this place and that place. I'm not suggesting this is you at all, we are all different, but I'm also aware I personally add it to my ego - "I'm a big tough real biker because I rode all the way from X to Y". I'm trying to work out how much is a worthwhile sense of achievement and how much is me feeding my ego.

Borsuk - Not sure what the construction and use regulation would say about me opening up the estate with a tin opener. Please don't make such suggestions as I am the type of idiot who'd actually consider doing this. I do have a tin opener and some gaffer tape...
4/12/2019 8:20:56 AM UTC
ROD said :-
Ren, You have obviously put some thought and research into the trailer option, and it would seem to the way to achive your travel objectives.
If its a good option for you and enables you to visit places further afield then go for it.

What is a high mileage day?
This must mean different mileages to different people. It depends on the time of year, with differing amount of daylight. It depends on the accommodation you choose, you will need to end the riding day earlier when camping to erect the tent than if you are staying at a hotel. It will also depend on the comfort and speed of your bike, many will say that my current bike is not a real bike, with the touring screen, fairing, and shaft drive, it is more like a car.

It is also two years since I have traveled a high mileage day, so my body may not have the mile munching ability that my mind believes it to have!!!

5/12/2019 1:19:55 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
What is a high mileage day? As you say, depends! Some days I get the bit between my teeth and think nothing of doing 200 miles, other days 50 seems like a trudge. It also depends on the kind of miles. I consider it to be a long ride to my father's place near Brighton, 270 miles from home. But they are mostly motorway miles and it's a familiar journey now so I'm quite relaxed about doing it. Then a day out to Devil's Bridge Kirkby Lonsdale is only 60 miles, 120 return. On a cold wet winter's day using the back roads it can seem like a very VERY long way.

I daresay a hotel would make the distances much more tolerable. When I ride to my father's I know at the end of the ride I will have a garage for the bike, a hot meal and a comfortable bed. I don't need to do anything en-route. When camping even if the weather is good we still need to search out a shop for the evening meal and the morning breakfast. At the start of the day we have at least an hour to decamp and another hour to camp in the evening. Then there's meals to make etc etc.

This leads me to ponder whether to use hotels for the "distance" days. It comes down to cost - that said £1150 for a trailer buys a lot of hotels and meals - that said the trailer is for other purposes too and so on. We'd still take the tent and camp while at The Alps (or wherever). What sort of price would you expect to pay across France for a hotel and a basic meal these day? Nothing fancy, just a room and some scran?
5/12/2019 4:29:18 PM UTC
ROD said :-
I am not an expert on France, but I have used F1 Hotels and Ibis Budget Hotels in the past.
The current prices seem to be around 30 euros for F1 and 45 euros for Ibis Budget.
The F1 hotels are not en-suite, not the cleanest, and are basic worker hotels.
The Ibis Budget have en-suite and are much better quality hotels.
I found the breakfasts are not the best value for money, and I leave the hotel early and get breakfast at a sit down bakery. These can be found on the ring roads around most towns and are usually located on a roundabout.
Food is about the same price in France as the UK. Plat du jour is probably the best value meal, but you take pot luck with a fixed menu. If you want familiarity then there are an increasing number of McDonalds in France.
As in most countries bread and cheese from the local supermarket is the cheapest option.

Camping in France is a little cheaper than the UK, and I allow £12.00 per night for two people and one pitch.


On the subject of mileage, how would you feel about that relaxed 270 miles to your fathers house if you had to ride there on a 50cc bike?

I am sure that Ian can give you better information on France.
5/12/2019 7:27:12 PM UTC
ROD said :-
Just another thought.
The two bikes will be cheaper on the ferry/chunnel than the car and trailer.
5/12/2019 8:15:54 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
When I was writing this ROD I considered that. The price for 2 bikes on the chunnel return is around £160. For the car with trailer return about £340, a £180 difference. That would help with the hotel costs! Buuuuuuut I could then hear Mr Soady suggesting the ferries. I can go via ferry with the trailer for around £180 - as long as I can get the height under 1.8m or about 6 feet. I'd have to take the mirrors and screen off...

Borsuk said he hated the F1 hotel but then he is rather posh. I think it would have to be a "suck it n see" approach before Sharon and I could form an opinion about them.

But let us state 30 euros for 2 night's getting there and 2 back, 120. Plus food for two, around 80 all in. That's 200 at minimum, probably more realistically 300. Camping would be 60, food around 30. For the hotels option an additional cost of between 100 and 200 euros. It does get me thinking.

I suspect some might worry about fuel costs in a car? Oddly with 2 bikes, mine giving 80mpg and Sharon's 90mpg between us we're totalling 45mpg. The car beats that although I do not know how much difference the trailer will make.

It's all to be considered. It's also not purely a fiscal decision but an emotional one too. Would it upset my patently obvious manly manliness? Would it make things too easy? Would Sharon be happy? (that would never do). And so on and so on and so on...
6/12/2019 9:29:25 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Borsuk said he hated the F1 hotel but then he is rather posh.
Me, posh, me. Cue 10 mins of hysterical laughter.

Ren, the lads here at work say if you think I am posh they want to know what you are sniffing, and does it show up on a drug test.

6/12/2019 2:14:30 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
You is posh Borsuk. House in the UK house in Spain regular holidays in South America... don't try to tell me that's work. A fleet of motorcycles spread around the world. Most of all it's your accent, the way you speak all proper like what the queen does. You speak so posh I struggle to understand half of what you're saying.
6/12/2019 8:30:39 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Not my fault you southerners can`t speak your own language properly.

6/12/2019 9:33:10 PM UTC
Ross said :-
Just a few random thoughts on your trailer idea.you've probably already considered them but I hadn't seen them mentioned here.have you checked the towing capacity of your car? Some modern cars seem to be rated strangely low on towing capacity, don't really know why!? Towing a trailer will restrict the speed you can travel at legally, will the reduced speed still allow you to travel far enough in the time you have? A neighbour carts around vintage pushbikes to various shows and re-enactments (!) and found with a trailer the bikes were being shaken around so much they were suffering damage so he's reverted to a rack mounted on the rear of his car and not carrying so many at a time (he did rather pack them on the trailer so this might not be an issue with your proposed posh one), I'm wondering if the small wheels and lack of suspension might give your bikes a hard time on a long trip? I'd hate to see your shiny (!!) new Honda get damaged and god knows what Sharon would do to you if you shook Envy to pieces!
7/12/2019 8:38:11 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Ed, first, life sucks at times and you're all in our thoughts.
Secondly,Sharon needs to be close to her girl and Scotlands lovely, nuff said.
The Alps will be there another year and you'll SAVE money. We stuck to Scotland this year and it was amazin. Absolutely blummin amazin and it's 5 hours up the road from you, definitely nuff said.
Upt'North.
7/12/2019 10:15:23 AM UTC
ROD said :-
Ross, A quick look at the towing capacity for Ren's car shows 1000kg for a braked trailer and for an unbraked trailer as the one in Ren's picture it is 680kg, so towing weights should not be a problem.
The speed restriction in the UK when towing a trailer is 50mph on single carriageway roads and 60mph on dual carriageway roads and motorways. The speed limit in France is now 50mph on single carriageway roads and it seems that vehicles towing a trailer can travel at the same speed, so the restrictions are not that bad.
The trailer tyres must be set at the correct pressure for the load that is being carried, or the trailer bounces around and shakes whatever is being carried. This is more important when carrying light weight loads as your neighbour's push bikes.

Upt'North, I really must get myself up to Scotland next year. I have not been for a few years now, and fancy the NC500.
7/12/2019 6:15:41 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Yes the NC500 covers some beautiful areas and is well worth a visit.
Personally we wait for the decent weather to be forecast and then head North which precludes riding the 500 because of its popularity.
Thankfully Scotland is a big place with lots of quiet spots which are to our mind more in keeping with the bonny wee Scotland of our memories.
Upt'North.



7/12/2019 6:37:38 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Borsuk - I spek reet proper English I does. It's you posh folks as ruin it fer us commoners.

According to the actual bona-fide LOG BOOK V5 I can tow 950kg braked, 730kg unbraked. There are countless charts out there and countless rules. I'm going off what the log book says as that is from them Government people, not that they know what they're doing...

If I broke my bike on a trailer I'd be upset. If I broke Sharon's bike on a trailer then I wouldn't need to worry about it because I'd be dead. This is the primary reason I WILL NOT be making a trailer as per Ian's suggestion. I'm happy with DIY handguards and mudflaps and the like but a trailer? If that goes wrong it could go horrible, terribly wrong.

The Motolug does have suspension.

As stated Sharon wouldn't leave her daughter unless everything was OK. In an ideal world Beth has surgery, Beth recovers from surgery, Beth's a bit wobbly for a few months, Beth improves and Sharon feels happy to travel. If Sharon ain't happy we'll be just having days out in Wales. But yes, Scotland is just amazeballs ain't it. And yes, avoid the NC500 in peak periods otherwise you might as well go to Blackpool. There's a lot of Scotland that ain't the NC500 and is staggeringly achingly beautiful.




7/12/2019 7:14:57 PM UTC

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