Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Time to try out Mr. T's new toys........... Colditz sounds good!

I've  spent what feels like most of the summer buying and selling all manner of Super Tenere XT1200Z parts both Yamaha and after market, the time came to see if all the expense was worth it!

"Escape to Colditz"

So having seen the October European Ride to Eat (RTE) on the UK IBA site "Escape to Colditz" I thought I would join them for the obligatory photo and evening meal at the infamous Colditz Castle in what was once East Germany.

Destination - Colditz Castle

A quick email and chat with Ron and our plan started to come to life. Ron & Ray were to ride again but this time we would be taking our time and making a few detours along the way.

Chatting with Nadine one evening it came up in conversation that I would be visiting Germany in October and would she mind if I was to visit her and Patrick. She was over the moon so I quickly added the Harz Mountains to our route. As it happened when my son Sven found out I was visiting he also wanted to meet me which was fantastic news. Having not seen Sven & Nico for 17 years I was over the moon, sadly Nico is busy working in Switzerland but I hope we will meet soon.

Ron booked the Friday off work as he wanted to visit JHQ Rheindahlen War Cemetery to find his grandfathers’ grave and pay his respects.

With this information I plotted the route, Rochdale down to Thurrock Services off the M25, down to Dover ferry terminal, taking the ferry as I knew it was going to be a long old day. I was not keen to keen to take the Channel Tunnel, much to Ron's dismay as he would have only ridden an hour but agreed to take the ferry, which turned out to be against his better judgment in the end.

The rout continued from Calais to JHQ Rheindahlen Cemetery, then on up to Gottingen Centrum turning off the A7 where I had arranged to meet with Nadine and Sven. Nadine would then take us to her flat in Munchehof in the Harz Mountains where we would spend the night. Saturday would be a nice steady ride down to Colditz Castle some 30 miles South East of Leipzig and only 148 miles from Munchehof.

Thursday I spent packing the panniers with my usual touring kit, plus sleeping bag, bivi bag, and a few more odds and sods. The other side I used for my cloths, keeping the weight in the smaller near side pannier hoping not to have another “tipping over” reoccurrence like in France. Tank full, oil checked which to my surprise Mr. T had used half a litre of in 4000 miles! Top box had just my Fleece and high visibility vest in to keep our French friends happy.  Mr. T was ready, well more ready than me that was for sure!

I got to bed around 2230 hours on Thursday which I was really impressed with as it was my birthday and we had been entertaining family. Before I knew what had hit me my mobile alarm went off, it felt like someone had just hit me at the side of the head with a flat shovel. 1.30am, it’s no time to be getting out of a warm cosy bed that is for sure but up I got, into my  long johns, T-shirt, sock’s, ex-arm Gortex boot liners, and finally down stairs my new birthday present. Dianese Gortex Touring Suit which J had bought me for my birthday, brilliant.

2.00am saw me pulling out onto a dark, cold but clear evening road, destination Thurrock Services to meet up with Ron, whom I had not seen since the Isle of Man TT1000 earlier this year. The M62 East bound was clear and turning onto the A1 South bound I knew I was in for a great ride.

I had my Go Cruise Throttle Control fitted and wow what a difference it made. Up to 70 mph and just press it down onto the clutch lever and there I sat for the next 2 hours. Mr. T was returning 200 miles to the tank plus 40 on reserve at a constant 52 mpg at these speeds. Sadly this would drop to 45mpg on the return continental trip; it’s amazing what an extra 20mph does to your fuel consumption.

I filled up at Shell Birchanger on the M11 just as the petrol gauge started to flash. Once full it was off down to Thurrock Services to meet Ron. Greetings exchanged over a coffee just off to one side of the pumps and Ron then lead the way down to Dover Ferry Terminal, calling in at the Dover Services to top up with fuel before loading.

Full English breakfast on the Ferry was outstanding, 7 items for £7.95 it’s a shame all the staff were not wearing masks! (Dick Turpin Style). Still it filled a gap and set us up for the ride ahead. Chances of a sleep were well and truly dashed by the racket being kicked out by the 100’s of children tripping over to France. It was like being in the middle of a school playground. Does anyone know why teenagers feel the need to talk so loud that anyone within 30 meters can hear every syllable?

I’ve been reading Sam Manicom’s latest book Tortilla’s to Totems and the way he describes the surroundings and the roads is just fantastic.  All I can say is the roads from Calais to Dunkerque on the E40 on towards Brugge, Brussels, left at Leuven up towards Maastricht Airport then left again to Wegberg is so boring it defies description. Other than to say it is a strip of black tarmac that is so well maintained that half the planets starving children could eat for 50 years on the amount of money lavished upon its silky smooth surface.

Having to ride around JHQ through all manner of towns and villages made for an interesting finally to the first section of are three part trip. The weather was outstanding with sun on our back and a fair breeze in our face we arrived around 2.15pm.

"We will remember them"

3.00pm I text Nadine to inform her we would be arriving at the Burger King around 6 come 6.30pm all being well. It wasn’t, in fact it was so far from well that I could hear myself screaming in my helmet.....................................

“Where the ****ing hell have all this lot come from” The Autobahn was almost at a standstill. It was heaving, no one had told me it was the first night of the children’s school holiday and the whole of the German population was heading to the Harz Mountains for the next two weeks. I could have cried, in fact at one point I did, sat looking at 3 lanes of stationary traffic with 25 miles to ride from Kassel to Gottingen. It was 7.00pm and I was gutted. We eventually arrived at 7.50pm what should have taken no more than 3 hours took us almost 5 hours.

Still the warm welcome I received from Nadine, Patrick and especially the great big hug from Sven made up for it tenfold. Nadine led us away through the industrial park back onto the main road towards Gottingen were I was “Zapped” at the very first set of lights; I’ve no idea why as I was not speeding and the lights were on green when I started to cross! I’ll just keep watching the post now I suppose for the next couple of months.

Sven’s apartment is tucked away in the central part of Gottingen which made for some interesting riding as it was pitch black by 6.45pm. We all sat and had a nice coffee and a catch up then it was off over the Nadine’s. Now to say Nadine can make her Citroën C1 move would be an understatement so with Ron and I in hot pursuit we were taken on a whirl wind tour of just about every hamlet and village in the Harz. Sadly it was pitch black but if only we had “bike to bike” I could have given Ron a tour guide’s perspective.

Munchehof in the Harz Mountains

Supper came in the form of Bockwurst and brat Kartoffel which hit the spot. Bed at midnight, up at 8.30am breakfast with Nadine and Sven at 9.30 and back on the road for 11.30am

Sven and Nadine

Ron had brought my Air Hawk with him so I fitted it quickly adjusted the air content, removed the Throttle controller and it was time for the off.

Once past Osterode, down past Nordhausen and then over what was once the East / West German boarder which we both spotted and did a quick U-turn to take a couple of pictures.

Amazing how time changes  everything.

A memento of the former DDR

The rest of the ride down to Colditz was great as I have never seen the East side of the Harz and as much as the fog tried it could not hide its beauty. Sadly we then joined yet another Autobahn and before long were on the outskirts of Colditz town.

Arriving at Colditz.

Another quick photo shoot stop and we headed to the guest house to find Phil and Dave sat on the veranda, making a coffee in Dave’s JetBoil, now how was that for a welcome. After unpacking and changing into something less bike we all headed to the Colditz Castle at the top of the square only to find almost everyone else in attendance at the local cafe, outstanding!

IBA UK RTE "Escape to Colditz"

Numerous greetings exchanged, we all made our own way up to the castle where after a short delay the “Escape to Colditz” October IBA RTE official photo was taken. We had a quick look around the castle before it closed then off to the cafe for “Kaffee and Kucken” with a bowl of very tasty “Kartoffelsuppe” thrown in for good measure. The soup and Blackforest Gateaux were very tasty to say the least. Dinner was booked for later that evening and so it was  time for a quick 40 winks before having a shower and heading over to join the rest of the IBA Riders. It was a great turn out with members from Germany, Belgium, South Africa, Switzerland and of course the UK. Food eaten, drinks drunk, conversations had it was off to bed at 11.00pm ready for the long haul ride back to Calais and then on up to Rochdale.

Take a really close look!
And it wasn't even Halloween....

As it happened, Daz suggested tagging along, as he was on the similar time ferry to us from Calais. So at 5.30 am after taking a photo of -2 degrees showing on Mr. T we headed out straight onto the Autobahn and into some of the thickest fog I have ever seen. The temperature plummeted to -4 and as we rode through the fog, ice built up on the crash bars, screen, and even ourselves. After just an hour and a half we pulled over for a well earned coffee and a warm up.

And it was to drop to -4

The fog vanished and the weather went from freezing to simply tropical 10 degrees. We even stopped to take layers off at one point. Making such good time Daz took us on a “Magical Mystery Tour” of the Mohnesee and a building site near Iserlohn, which is where Daz had been stationed some 20 years previous.

The final push took us straight over to Calais Ferry terminal, Daz at one gate Ron at another and me at the side of Ron at another. “Go to lane 199 and they are boarding now” So off I rode straight to the ferry, up the ramp, pulled up, removed the Air Hawk, had the bike tied down and stood waiting for Ron to appear over the ramp. After 10 minutes I checked my mobile, missed call.

I’d been loaded onto the earlier ferry, Ron hadn’t! So ended our October RTE!

I thought going up the M1 for a change would be a good idea, I was wrong! Road works all across M25 and from Luton to Leicester 50 mph average speed limit. With the throttle control and the Air Hawk off I really felt it when I got home. My wrist was aching and my back side felt like I had been sat on a park bench for a month.

So what did I learn about Mr. T?

The seat is shockingly hard!

The screen needs adjustable nuts back on and the hole in the front of the MRA screen needs blocking somehow.

Mpg drops massively over 75mph.

The throttle control is a great bit of kit.

Panniers and fog lights are amazing.

All in all, I’ll need to sort out the seat and the screen so I get more protection but other than that Mr. T performed fine. Shame about the 200 mile tank range mind but that’s another story!

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