I’d been planning this trip since October last year, it was to be the biggest trip we’d ever done and the first on our own.
After finishing work on Friday afternoon it was a bite to eat and pack the bike up and head to the tunnel. The plan was to be in the bar for a night cap. Wasn’t to be, with traffic and delays on the tunnel we didn’t actually get into our room until 2 am so it was straight to bed.
Early start in Calais for the 420 mile ride down to Clairvaux les lacs. I think is the first time we've ever filled the bike up 4 times in one day. Motorway all but the last 20 miles or so but worth it when we arrived. Hotel just just happened to do Leffe so it seemed rude on to have one (well more than one actually).
Started with a ride through the Jura to Montreux with a quick stop to see Freddie. From here it was onto our hotel in Innertkirchen, Switzerland, the Hof and Post, and a little taster of what was to come.
The Hof and Post is a great base for a few days and you can ride a figure of 8 taking in several passes in one day. Susten, Gotthard, Furka, Nefenen, Grimsel, and the cobbled Tremola. We'd booked for two nights so we could dump the luggage and really enjoy the days ride. There'd been a road closed on the Gotthard but I followed a route that I got off Ride magazine’s website. It included riding through the 17 km Gotthard tunnel, in which we saw the temperature rise from 19 to 32 degrees. May have been a godsend as didn't have any problems doing it all of the passes.
Despite the oppressive 17 kms in the tunnel, this has to rank as one of the best days riding we’ve ever had. Thing that struck us both was how very different in character the various passes were. It was brilliant.
Reluctantly leaving Innertkirchen I couldn't help feeling the trip has peaked to early, I couldn't imagine it getting any better. We headed south down the Grimsel, the opposite direction to which we'd ridden the previous day and found it a completely different experience. Another lesson learned, do them all both ways if possible.
Over the Great St Bernard into Italy and a night in La Thuile.
Riding out of La Thuile there was no time to warm up before we were into tight hairpins climbing up to the Little Saint Bernard Pass. This is where we picked up a new team member.
Onto the Col du I'iseran, our highest point so far and not a bad place to sit and have lunch.
Rode past lac du mont-Cenis.
We had planned to do Galibier on the way back north but due to a landslide which would scupper our route we took a decided to add a bit to the days route and do it on our way to Briancon. Well worth the extra couple of hours.
Well rested, we left Briancon and continued south on the col d’Izoard through Vars then onto the Col du Bonnette. There's a loop to the highest point which I will admit was the scariest road I've ever ridden, not difficult and though a lot of the passes we'd ridden were obviously very high, but this was the one that really felt it. After a lunch stop on the decent from Bonnette at a great little place run by a very friendly and amusing chap we had our first rain of the trip. We must have just caught the end of a shower as the roads were wet and I think I counted 3 or 4 rain drops hit my visor. This turned out to be the only rain we would encounter while riding for the whole 15 day trip.
Even the road to our hotel was a good one. Our hotel for the night was a brilliant place in a small village called Rimplas. We had an excellent home cooked meal, and a few drinks on the terrace overlooking the valley. Highly recommend.
Today's ride was only a short one down to Menton but taking the Col du Turini, a very tight and demanding road down to the Med. while giving the bike a once over after breakfast I discovered a nail in my rear tyre. I'd not lost any pressure so opted to wait until I got to a dealer in Menton before pulling it out. As I'd already said the weather had been great for the whole trip and now it was really beginning to get very warm. With the heat and the niggling worry of the rear tyre I can't say it was my favourite ride of the trip but it really is one hell of a road. Still I was glad to get to our hotel in Menton. As it turned out there was a Honda dealer about 2 mins walk from our hotel and whilst it wasn't possible to repair the Anakee3 they did happen to have a new one on the shelf. 3 hrs after getting to Menton the bike was parked in the hotel car park with some new rubber on the back. Time for a very welcome beer or two.
We had two nights in Menton and this was to be our first day off the bike. We spent most of the day taking in the sights in Monaco, including walking the route of the GP circuit.
With weather getting hotter and the temperature forecast in the Verdon region, our next destination, 37 degrees we decided to leave Menton early to avoid riding in the hottest part of the day. We tried to ride a lap of the circuit but after finding a couple of roads were closed, one of Monacos immaculately presented police officers stopped us riding past the casino and the new tyre slipping on wet patches of the road that had been hosed down, we decided to give up and head on out of the principality.
We followed the coast to Grasse and the turned North up the route Napoleon to Castellane then west into the Gorge Verdon area. The roads around the gorge certainly focus the mind and like most of the trip, we ended up stopping several times for pics and a welcome drink. Garmin decided to the best way to our next destination was to take the CT 2 up with luggage down a steep gravel track.
I ended up leaving Paula where she was and continuing on until I could find somewhere to turn the bike around. About a mile further on with the track getting less like a road, even steeper and narrower I saw a gap through a hedge into a field. So through I went turned the bike around, back through the gap and back up the track to my waiting Misses. How I didn’t drop the bike I will never know. We eventually arrived at the hotel in Moustiers St Marie about 2.30 in 38 degree heat. My nerves in tatters.
Yet again we'd picked a great place to stay and Moustiers is very pleasant place to spend a night, possibly two in the future.
I will admit I was struggling in the heat and today was forecast to be hotter still on our way to Grenoble. We had considered going up to Combe Laval on the way but opted to return to the Route Napoleon and head to Grenoble.
As we entered Grenoble I have to say my heart sank as we passed factories and tower blocks, not quite what I was expecting from the Capital of the Alps. After checking in to our hotel and a quick shower we went out in search of a drink and dinner it was still in the low 30s at 6pm. After dinner we discovered Grenoble had a lot more to offer and ended up having a very enjoyable evening.
As I said earlier, our original route was to go from Grenoble to the bottom of the Col du Galibier but the road to the Galibier was closed so we turned North up the col du Glandon, not the worst decision I ever made.
From there it was onto the col de le Madeleine, our last Col of the trip and onto Annecy, the temp a scorching 42 degrees as we arrived at our hotel. We loved Annecy and both agreed we could easily stay here longer than the one night we had booked.
This was always going to be a long dull day getting the miles done up to Versailles. Thankfully the temperatures had come down so we rode north in a rather chilly 28 degress.
Ive wanted to visit Versailles since I was a kid, it did not disappoint. We spent the whole day looking round the palace and the grounds. Very thirsty work.
We had all day to get to Calais so I opted to take minor roads all the way and once we were away from the Paris area it was a very enjoyable ride. Made a change from arriving at the tunnel on motorways. Surprising how many good roads are very close to the tunnel.
We’d booked into the hotel in Calais, ready to cross back to Blighty Saturday morning.
After our last breakfast of ham, cheese and pain au chocolat for a while we left the hotel and got our train back to the UK.
Bernie wasn’t quite sure to make of the tunnel.
I always get the same feeling as I head home from Folkestone and see bikes heading the other way, wonder where they’re going and wishing I could turn round and do it all again. However this time it was different, we’d had such a great time, and everything had gone so well, we really couldn’t ask for more. I just hope the people we saw enjoyed their trip as much as we did.
We arrived home, in the sunshine, 2760 more miles on the CT than when it had pulled of the drive 15 days earlier.
I’d had my worries before leaving on this trip as it was the biggest we’d ever done and the first time alone. I need not have.
How did the CT perform?
I’d have to say very well. It coped with everything thing we asked of it with ease. Took two people and a fortnight’s luggage (and a small cuddly toy) on the trip of a lifetime. There’s a lot said about the suspension on the CT and I still hold that it is better two up. Over the cobbled pass I thought we’d really know about it and whilst it wasn’t Bentley smooth it wasn’t bad.
I did find, whilst in the really tight hairpins, that I needed a gear somewhere between 1st and 2nd but then if id ridden them a bit quicker (or slower for that matter) it wouldn’t have been an issue.
Another thing of note. Before the CT I had an FJR, I can say without doubt that riding in those temperatures on the FJR would have been torture. The CT does not direct anywhere near the amount of engine heat onto the rider as the FJR does.
The only issue we had was the tyre and that’s nothing to do with the bike. It was a bit of a pain though as I fully intended to go away from the Anakee 3s when the time came to change. As far as wear and wet and dry grip goes I cannot fault them. But at speeds of between 100 and 120 kph the noise is horrendous. I must admit the one with the nail in it that I had replaced must have had about 5000 miles on it, had loads of tread left and had become considerably quieter.
My misses and I are still buzzin from the trip and if anyone is considering doing something similar, just get it booked, you wont regret it.