Janna Strauss

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Casper Van Der Ven
Cäthe Pfläging
Patricia Sevilla Ciorda
BMW Motorrad
BMW Group Werk Berlin
Moto Morini
North of Berlin
Shoei Europe

Whatever tomorrow brings.

Travel Blog – Transpirenaica 2023

In the early glow of a summer morning in mid June, 12 people met at a filling station in Berlin. After filling our tanks and our bellies, we set out towards Kassel, final destination: the 12th edition of Wheels & Waves in Biarritz, France. The crew astride their iron steeds, including three Ducati’s, BMW’s, Triumphs, Honda’s, Royal Enfield, Moto Guzzi, and two sponsored Moto Morini’s.

The unifying factor for this random collection of bikes: Craftwerk Berlin. Craftwerk is a community garage where members can store their motorcycles, do regular (supervised) maintenance, build their custom bikes, and enjoy a range of motorcycle related events, including ride-outs, workshops, and motoGP and documentary screenings. It includes an event space that can be rented and doubles as a museum, as well as a cafe that is also open to the public. If you find yourself in Berlin, this place comes highly recommended. One of the founders and one member put their heads together and planned this trip to Biarritz and dubbed it “Transpirenaica”. Why? Because we would make tracks across the southern, Spanish Pyrenees from the Mediterranean coast to the Atlantic coast and back along the northern, French side.

The first leg, Berlin-Kassel, was uneventful, except for a rogue exhaust baffle that was McGyvered back into the exhaust with a paperclip. The route took us via the Bauhaus Museum in Dessau for a cultural coffee stop and through the Harz Mountains National Park to balance out the Autobahn kilometers. In Kassel, Rudi and his bus were waiting for us. A strategically timed bus to expedite the transport of the 12 and their motorcycles to Perpignan. Two more people joined by train, they would be driving the support vehicle. While loading the motorcycles, the group enjoyed a lavish filling station dinner on the pavement, before the 14 embarked on the bus and tried to get some shuteye. 18h later, we disembarked in the south of France and gave our bikes and luggage a once-over. One of the oldies required its tappet clearances proofed and head studs retorqued, making it the second “repair” within 500km. Here, another Triumph plus rider from Vienna joined us.

From Perpignan we set out via the country roads into the hills to have lunch at le Donjon de Pyrepertuse in Duilhac-sous-Peyrepertuse. After refueling the humans, the curvy roads of the Pyrenees took us through de Gorges de Galamus, with its steep cliffs cut by the rivers deep down below and a road hacked into the canyon walls with dramatic overhangs, riding this narrow road send the heart racing while dropping your jaw in awe. The contrast when going over Col d’Ares, across the border into Spain, was stark. Whereas the canyon is enclosed and narrow, the views from the mountains are wide and far. We overnighted at the campsite Vall de Camprodon. Here, we were united with an additional 3 riders who made their own way south with the support van, loaded with a Yamaha, Rieju, and a BMW. Having a support van would soon prove to be the smartest decision of the entire trip. Earlier, we got separated from the Guzzi that had ignition issues, but made its way to the campsite with a hand drawn paper map. It sure helps when you speak Spanish fluently.

The next morning we left for Montardit de Baix, via Castellar de n’Hug and Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park. We had divided the group into two smaller groups based on riding skills, which eased the riding, yet complicated the logistics. Windy roads, up and down mountains were a welcome change from the straight roads we usually ride around Berlin.

Next morning, after a breakfast of toasted sandwiches, croissants, coffees, and orange juice, we set out for some more mountain passes. Unfortunately, the Moto Guzzi stayed behind, again. Though this time something had gone missing… the ignition key. Searching every pocket, trousers and jacket, twice, and after unloading and repacking the van, twice, and searching through all the camping gear, the decision was made to load the Guzzi into the van and catch up with the rest of the group. Meanwhile, atop a mountain, one of the other riders was rather surprised to find an unfamiliar key in a jacket pocket… Black leather jacket surely do look alike when the sun has gone down.

The third night we stayed in Boltaña. We caught a little bit of rain that day, and we moped about Spanish summer weather. Little did we know what tomorrow would have in store for us.

After a peaceful sleep, the skies had cleared up a bit, and we happily got on our bikes for more windy roads. We tracked through beautiful gorges and over mountain passes with stunning views. The weather, however, was not on our side that day. We barely saw the sun, and the clouds grew a deeper grey. The groups got further split up, and I was in a group of four tracking north through the valleys towards camping Asolaze in Isaba. As the rain got more intense, we missed a turnoff and rode all the way to the end of the valley in what had become a torrential downpour. On the side of the pavement, small rivers of murky yellowish brown water had started to flow. More than once we saw the front wheel dip into a puddle up to the axle. At the end of the road we spotted an inn, we made it!
Except, the inn was not Asolaze, it was the Linza Inn, one valley east of where we needed to be, separated by a 1500m tall mountain. So we had to track back half an hour, ride over the mountain pass, and north again in the next valley. The 20km that normally takes less than half an hour, now took 45 min. The rain persisted and the insoles of my boots were drenched, water had gotten in everywhere. Rain gear is only water proof until it is not. Luckily we all made it to Asolaze without any incidents or accidents, and warm tapas awaited us. Another sponsored bike, a BMW R18 ridden by the mind behind North of Berlin motorcycle gear, joined us here.

No rides were planned for the next day, so everybody was free to decide whether they would ride somewhere, or relax and dry their clothes. A few made tracks into the mountains to the Canfranc hotel in the Aragon valley. The former train station, built in 1928 on the border of France and Spain, stood abandoned from 1970 until in early 2023, when it welcomed its first guests as a hotel. A great stop for photos or a coffee.
Half of the group tracked back to the gorge south of Ansó to shoot photo and video for the various motorcycle, gear, and helmet sponsors. Shooting video while riding the two Moto Morini and the two BMWs was fun! Contrary to the day before, it was a right scorcher! Over 30 degrees Celsius is comfortable at the beach or manageable while riding, but standing in the bright sun in a full North of Berlin suit or Rusty Stitches denim and leather gear is another story.

At the end of the day, everybody rode to the top of the pass for a sunset and picnic dinner. The road conditions were excellent, the curves exciting, yet fog obscured the view and dinner was postponed. The last rider joined the group here, atop a stunning Ducati 999S, now totalling 18 people.

The next morning we set out for our destination: Biarritz! Due to the recurring ignition difficulties with the Guzzi, and a worn rear tyre on a Ducati, a small subgroup set out to San Sebastián to find a motorcycle shop. While the shop changed the tyre, the boys got their tools out and had a go at adjusting the Guzzi’s points and timing. They were rewarded with a sunset on the beach, a couple of beers, and the local specialty plates of food to share, pintxos, or Basque tapas. Think deep fried potatoes (Krokettas), battered meatballs (Bolas de Carne), and omelets (pintxos de tortilla). Ádamo is famous for theirs. Since it was the night before the summer solstice, or San Juan Eguna, local artists performed on a stage on the Padre Claret square next to Zurriola beach and the entire town danced the traditional folk dances into the night around a huge fire. The atmosphere was simultaneously ecstatic and relaxed, without having that all too familiar tacky tourist vibe. The Guzzi remained in San Sebastián. This time not due to technical difficulties, but because the rider gifted this motorcycle to his father, who resides here and has been considering getting back in the saddle. What a wonderful gesture!

Our base in Biarritz was at Camping Erreka, a central point to enjoy the festivities around Wheels & Waves. We went to the flattrack races in San Sebastián, the concerts and vendor show at the Cité de l’Océan in Biarritz, and spent a day on the beach to rest our bodies after a week of riding all day, every day. Unfortunately, the swell was taking a rest too, and surfing was out of the question. We made up for it by cutting ourselves a large slice of Gâteau Basque, a buttery, crumby textured, tender cake, the local specialty.

After two nights at the festival, enjoying the concerts, the motorcycles on display, the shows, the vendor stalls, and meeting like minded people, we set out back towards Berlin. Via various mountain passes, including Col de Cloze and Col du Tourmalet, we made our way to Camping d’Esplantats in Sarrancolin. Riding in this part of France provides routes to everyone’s liking. What a wonderful part of the world! The local bakery provided us with croissants, coffee, and even flan, the caramel pudding, before setting out the next morning. Parts of the group had split off to make their own tracks back, due to different schedules and obligations.

After a long day in the saddle, over hills and through beautiful forests, we arrived at Camping Domain LaCanal, run by a Dutch couple. Though they weren’t quite open for the season, they put us up for the night and even cooked up an enormous breakfast the next morning. A lovely campsite on a hillside, with a fantastic view down the valley. Unfortunately, I had to retire the R80 and send it home with the van due to a blown seal and insufficient time to obtain parts, repair it, and make it to Italy in time for a wedding. Similarly, the Ducati 999 had to retire as well. It had tried spreading its wings the previous day, when someone took it for a top speed test on the local highway. It overtook me with a roar unique to a desmodromic twin with an open exhaust system. Shortly after I spotted a bright red panel on the asphalt, as well as two black tyre tracks, waving and crossing each other from the left lane, into the middle lane, across the right lane, and I feared to see motorcycle and rider separated on the side of the road. Due to skill and a huge dose of luck, both rider and bike were standing upright at the next exit, though the Ducati looked a little naked. The Italian Stallion had actually succeeded in shedding its wings. The wind had caught underneath the fairing and ripped both left and right panels off, almost throwing the rider off in the process. Shaken and flabbergasted, we all took a minute to count our blessings.
The blown seal ended the trip a little early for yours truly, but thanks to the French and Italian public transport system, I actually made it to the wedding in Italy three days later. The rest of the crew tracked back to Berlin via the French and Swiss Alps.