Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

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Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by Bonnielad » Wed Jun 28, 2017 10:11 pm

The runners and riders at the starting gate were (in no particular order of age or ability):
Deadgrass Dave – KTM 1050
Kev Stafford – KTM 1190
Mad Stu Raynor – Honda NC700 on knobblies (Yes, you read that correctly!)
Geoff Barnett – 1995 BMW 1100GS
Ady MT Pockets – BMW F800GS
Dave Burrows – BMW R1200GSA
Bonnielad Steve – Triumph Tiger 800XC

Unfortunately, our two MT riding team members had suffered breakdowns and delays so never managed to join us.

We all met on the Saturday as planned at a campsite on the outskirts of Collioure on the French Mediterranean coast. Such a beautiful place, a bit like Sorrento by the sea. It’s where all the posh people go to ‘see and be seen’. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Shiney hasn’t got a place there.
Mad Stu had to educate us northerners that with it being French, it would be pronounced “Collyur”, not Colly Oray as we kept saying. We all know Stu is as mad as a box of frogs but that night all his mates were there; the croaking frogs kept us awake all night.
From the village centre start we could see a trail running diagonally up a mountain about 3 miles away which turned out to be our first challenge. As we picked our route out of the village I managed to catch my offside pannier on Mad Stu’s pannier which broke the last remaining location lug. This further breakage meant I had to bungee it onto my pillion which made the bike unbalanced and top-heavy. had previously mis-judged my pannier width on the way to the ferry and broken it on a car transporter while filtering. When I hit the car transporter I also managed to clatter the headlight on the rebound which subsequently broke all the lamp and screen mountings. The very wide Triumph panniers are bloody heavy even when empty. The throttle response is street-bike instant/aggressive and with the fragile mountings for the plastics I cannot see how Triumph can claim this bike is a suitable trail/explorer type bike.
I had imagined the trails of the ‘Trans-Pyrenean’ to be long, open and free flowing similar to the ones we experienced during our previous Twinshock Trailfinder visits. Although some were easy, others were rather more technical and my top-heavy bike then decided to start cutting out at low revs. This made it almost impossible to ride at low speeds (at least, for someone of my ability). So, for me at least, it wasn’t the best of starts. At the end of the day my shiny pristine bike was looking decidedly scarred and unloved.
We had decided to carry camping gear so that we could stop at a convenient site depending how far we had travelled each day and this worked very well as this allowed for any delays we might encounter. So at the end of day one we had made good progress although a little behind due to a long lunch break. Taking two hours over a set lunch is perfectly normal for the Pyreneans.
My throttle problem was getting worse. I dumped the damaged pannier and re-arranged my load but then decided it would make more sense to let the lads follow the trails while I went off to find a repair shop. I don’t know who was most relieved, me or them!
The heat was incredible. For the first five days it hovered somewhere between 35 and 40 degrees. I take my hat off to the other riders, how they coped off road I will never know.
When I bought the road-book, Deadgrass and I put together all the grid references and waypoints which Dave then transferred them onto his Garmin. Unfortunately, the Garmin didn’t always recognise the trail and tried to re-route you away from the intended path. Dave led the way, doing his best to follow the correct trail. We all agreed that it wasn’t totally necessary to follow Vibraction’s route precisely. At the end of the day we will have still traversed the Pyrenees even if a little different to the roadbook.
For myself, the day was filled by finding a Triumph approved repairer only to find out that the throttle potentiometer needs replacing, and he didn’t have one so I was stuck with it until I could get home. I decided to stay with the team and just shadow their movements whilst staying on tarmac and meeting up each evening.
Our second campsite was well up in the mountains with a local hotel providing a fantastic meal with spectacular views.
Mad Stu was a little concerned about his fork seals. He had to be careful as this is the bike he uses to earn his daily bread so for one day he decided to keep me company and stay on the road. This gave us the opportunity to ride a length of the N260 which has to rate as one of the best riding roads in Europe. Good tarmac, plenty of hairpins and snaking contours with spectacular views at every turn.
On the trails Dave B had a moment when he hit a step and the bike reared up like a bronco, probably due to all the additional weight of topbox, panniers and tent on the back of the bike. It landed on its side so it too was no longer as immaculate as it was at the start.
The day ended with a lakeside camp at Tremp which has been used in earlier years for the Twinshock Trailfinder. A Belgian chap called Walter leads a carefree life there with his dog, his caravan and his custom bike in the corner if he fancies a ride. Perfect. Most of us had a swim in the lake to cool off, the Dave B got out his telescopic fishing rod after we all saw a shoal of massive fish close to the shore. Words cannot explain the entertainment value in getting drunk watching other half-drunk grown men as giddy as children each time they got a bite. Needless to say, we did not have a fish supper! Beer was kept cool by filling a topbox with ice creating a perfect coolbox.
We watched a display of lightning flashes in the gathering clouds and enjoyed some relief from the heat as an hour of light rain dampened the dust. By the next morning the Sun was back with a vengeance.
More drama on the trails. The lads had to chop their way past a fallen tree (we had a folding saw in the kit, but I was carrying that!), Geoff had a puncture and Deadgrass had a momentary lapse of concentration which left him in a ditch with his ankle trapped beneath his bike. Needless to say, photographs were taken before anyone went to help him. His ankle troubled him for the rest of the journey but he’s a tough nut and carried on regardless.
Mad Stu had decided to risk it and rejoin the trail riders. Dave B had decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stayed with me on tarmac for the remainder of the trip. He was feeling very weak which I suspect was dehydration having an effect on his insulin level. This wasn’t a total disappointment as we spent a couple of hours as tourists visiting the ancient medieval village of Ainsa which is where we camped that night.
Now we are far enough west to enter the Aragon region of Spain. Still hot, still tough on the trails. Mad Stu had started to use one of his map apps which helped the lads choose some ‘more interesting’ trails. Towards the end of the day the route brought us south out of the mountains and onto the plains near Huesca which intensified the heat. Dave and I visited the Castillo de Loarre which included a short rendition of “Men of Harlech” with acoustic echoes in the Chapel of St Peter. Dave claims Welsh ancestry and never misses a chance to display his Red Dragon flag, despite the fact that he grew up in Warwickshire and speaks perfect queens English!!!
The campsite had it’s own vineyard so Deadgrass insisted on asking for a cork to keep as a memento. The campsite owner had a wooden barrel with a diameter of about eight feet which he had laid it on its side and converted it to a shed. More interestingly, he had welded two mopeds side by side, then removed the front wheel from one to make a sort of passenger carrying ‘sidecar’. Kev was convinced he had seen a humming bird but a local chap proved it was a large Humming Bird Moth. Three French riders turned up on quads. Mad Stu worked very hard on communicating with them. It transpired that they too were following the Vibraction roadbook and they didn’t believe that we were doing it on big trailies – and making faster progress than them. So Mad Stu showed them some footage from his camera. After that they went very quiet. Just before leaving the next morning Deadgrass realised he had a massive Grasshopper (or Cricket?) hitching a ride on his topbox.
Heading North now back towards France. Mad Stu became ‘The Butterfly Whisperer’ as one landed on his head. It was Deadgrass’s turn for a puncture and a dinted rim (why would KTM fit road style alloys to and adventure bike anyway?). Dave B and I remained tourists and visited a Monastery. The campsite gave us access to a municipal swimming pool and there was also a lake but it wasn’t as accessible or interesting as the one at Tremp.
Easier trails. At first they were dustier and hotter but as the trails started to climb into the mountains it cooled considerably. We finally made it to the french walled town of St Jean Pied de Port which is the official end of Vibraction’s Trans-Pyrenean Trail. There was a music carnival going on with street bands, street artists, family bands playing in a marquee and an open-air disco which went on until 2am. Mad Stu thanked me for arranging such a grand welcome for the trail riding heroes. Kev, Dave and Geoff got a little carried away with the red wine, getting through 3x 1½ litre bottles – only to find out later that they were 36 euros each (OUCH!) Mad Stu had to leave early the next morning to catch his Dieppe / Newhaven ferry so he tried as hard as he could to pack up, fire his bike and ride off at 5am without waking anyone up. Bless him, he tried his best.
The end of the Coast to Coast was concluded with a ride into St Jean de Luz where we took great delight in paddling in the Atlantic. When we tried to get out of town, the main road had been blocked and trying to follow the diversion had us running round narrow streets in ever decreasing circles until Dave took the decision to go the wrong way down a pedestrianised one way street so we could escape – much to the annoyance of the locals!
We then stopped for breakfast after which Ady left us to make his way back to his van in Toulouse. The remaining five then made our way to Mundaka further along the coast just 35 miles from the port where our ferry was due to leave after a well-earned day of rest.
I hope that some of my fellow travellers will add to this post to fill in any gaps that I didn’t remember or see.
Would I do it again? Yes, but on a lighter bike with soft luggage mounted lower. If I had taken the MT, I think I would have coped with the terrain and the heat. We live and learn.
Does it feel like unfinished business? No. Five out of the seven starters completed the route from coast to coast as much off road as possible, the other two still completed the coast to coast, just with less off road riding.

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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by deadgrass. » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:25 am

nice ride report steve,
thanks for taking the time to organise and arrange this trip
the pet grasshopper was adys [it were a big un]
just to add i think you showed excellent character regarding the problems you bike was presenting you with [trying to ride a 250kg bike that kept stalling on rocky hairpins sometimes very high up] was impossible, a lesser person [me] would have run for an early boat home, well done,
i think we all learnt a bit more from this trip [me less clothes and no ally wheels]
stu has now bought a bash plate [after we finished?]
kev maybe some crash bars and bug spray [he did mention he got bit]
dave a bit less weight both bike and him[bloody hard work lifting him out of that bush after his date with a bottle of JD]
geoff a chair and i believe the was talk of a smart phone
ady probably got it about right as he was the only one not to fall off,and came home with a van full of wine, [stu seems to think because we had no footage he didn't crash]
steve as you say bit less weight and soft luggage,

anyhow a great bunch of lads to ride with well done everyone,shame we didn't get to ride with mick and doug
whens next un

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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by hounddog » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:24 am

great write up, thanks for sharing this with us Steve
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by Bonnielad » Thu Jun 29, 2017 12:13 pm

I'm hoping someone that is more computer savvy will post some pictures:

The twin moped has to be seen to be believed.
Dave B upside down in the hedges.
Deadgrass's bike asleep in a ditch.
Kev asleep with a wine bottle on his head.
Mad Stu's Beyonce impression.
Geoff dancing.
The massive frog that made Deadgrass jump (God, that was so funny).
That's apart from all the spectacular views and historical sites along the way.

The one that got away has to be when Stu poked his head out of his tent just in time to see Geoff in the 'pink and crinkly' getting changed. I think the poor lad will be scarred for life.
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by bth2bth2 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:33 pm

great report. sounds an interesting trip :?

planning,planning and more planning thats the key but then, you know that now. :D

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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by mt bandit » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:42 pm

Good write up .sounds like you had a ball .gutted I couldn't join you . But was too long in Africa to catch you up .
Still on the boat . See you all soon
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by MadStu » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:48 pm

Great write-up Steve, I'd love to do it again.
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by MadStu » Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:51 pm

deadgrass. wrote: kev maybe some crash bars and bug spray [he did mention he got bit]
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by twmtomos1 » Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:54 pm

Good wright up Steve ,sounds a good trip ,im afraid only tarmac roads for me
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Re: Pyrenees Coast to Coast Report

Post by geoffbarnett » Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:57 pm

This was an epic ride, very challenging.

Day 2 I thought I cant take much more of this.

By day 3 we had all realised that we had made a mistake in life and just got on with it.

Thanks to Steve for the idea, Dave for his technical GPS skills which turned Steve's roadbook into a useable tool, Stu for a similar technical contribution and Kev for able TEC duties.
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