Pyrenees Extreme 2017 Round 1

I’ve been to the Pyrenees quite a few times over the past year now, but since the riding is so excellent I didn’t mind that Edelweiss assigned me to some more tours in that area. This time around it was a tour fairly similar to my previous tour with the Halcones. I started off in Austria again, doing the transport down to Barcelona as I’d done last year.

This was a tour without van: all luggage needs to come with you on the bike. Since the group was large (nearly 20 customers) we had two tourguides, each would take a group of 8-10 riders with them. My colleague on this ride, Pierre, started together with me last year, and as he lives in Spain nowadays, he knows the area pretty well.

We both got BMW R1200RT motorcycles, big luxury touring bikes. Not really my favorite for a fast tour on twisty roads, but it would have to do. And I’ would manage to swap to my personal favorite, an R1200GS in a few days!

Taking your luggage with you also means you ride every day as a tourguide, and you arrive independently of the other group. That means I got to see some places I missed out last time, like the view from up on Montserrat.

In general this tour went pretty well. Riding every day can be a bit tougher, but mostly it was just the usual challenge of dealing with some customer expectations and trying to be prepared for all the places I haven’t exactly been to before. Things like knowing how to get into the hotel parking lot for example can be tricky at times, when it’s your sole responsibility to figure it out and there’s 8 people behind you who can’t wait to have a shower and hit the bar.

The tour headed to San Sebastian, as a day trip from Pamplona. I can’t claim I’ve seen all of Spain, but so far San Sebastian really is my favorite city there. Exotic and refined, not too overrun with tourist and a manageable size make it a really pleasant place. My past visits meant I had a pretty good idea of where to park and what to visit. Hearing from Piere afterwards how they struggled with traffic and quickly got out of the city made me glad I’m really able to apply some local knowledge!

I spent a lot more time riding the French Pyrenees this time round too. I must say the Spanish part appeals to me much more. Not in the least because a lot of the epic passes were beign re-paved for the upcoming Tour De France, leading to us riding up and down with slippery gravel and bad road conditions. At least in Spain all roads are already kept in good condition.

Coming back into Spain for a short bit after having experienced every single day of the tour, made me realise this tour can really be made absolutely 100% perfect. Every tour I’ve been on has always had some room for improvement, but sometimes it’s just not possible or practical to cut out a connecting highway stretch, a geographically less interesting day, or the less-than-ideal only hotel in town. But for this tour I’m conviced it can be done; a few tweaks to some of the days and this could be an absolutely flawless motorcycle tour, with every day being amazing from start to finish.

I’m pretty sure Edelweiss will pull it off; after all we had a visitor from the company staff along for a few days who said he was there to help re-evaluate the Extreme tours like this one. Though I’m sure another part of the reason he was there was to make sure me and Pierre, both newcomers, upheld Edelweiss’ standards.

This blog is a bit short since these Extreme tours are all about the riding, and there’s very little time for stopping for photos. The only stops are for drinking and eating, and they tend to be chosen for convenience, and not photogeniality. I do have another tour like this one lined up for September if all goes well. Knowing the tour a bit better might make for a few more pictures.

Meanwhile I’m still thinking I should head back here with my van, and time on our hands, as there’s plenty more to see (I spotted some interesting ruins and abandoned area’s along the way).

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