I’d need a fair bit of preparation before embarking on my next European motorcycle tour.  I wanted to go as soon as possible but I had two issues to deal with.

The first was the European winter.  Whilst I don’t mind getting about southern England during the winter this is subject favourable weather conditions and mostly limited to day trips – any longer and adverse weather could come into play.  Any thought of a long European motorcycle tour would have to wait until the weather improved somewhat – early spring and probably somewhere south would be possible – unless of course I wanted to wait for the summer.  As you have probably guessed I wasn’t prepared to wait until the summer.

The second issue was to get myself fit to ride again – after all it had been almost two and a half years since my last ride.  No point taking off on a European motorcycle tour absent re-establishing my riding skills, being completely comfortable riding in all conditions and getting reacquainted with my BMW K1600GT – aka “The Family Truckster”.  This issue would be easy and fun to deal with – just get out on the fine autumn and winter days and get as many miles as possible under my belt.

I got my motorcycle back on the 4th of September 2014, delivered to my new residence in South West London (SW18 for those of you who know where this is).  The guys at Bahnstormer Thames Valley duly collected it from the storage facility where it had been since 17 September 2013, did a service and returned it to me.

BMW Motorrad Bahnstormer Thames Valley Maidenhead

I was so nervous having it back I got one of the guys to bring it into the basement car park to the space I’d been allocated to keep it secure and out of the weather.

I don’t exactly recall when I went for my first ride.   I think it was in across London over to my singing lesson – not too far but plenty of traffic – could even have been on the same day as it was returned.  The first out of London ride was to have lunch with a colleague in Camberley – around 35 miles taking about an hour each way.

Being new to SW18 I had to work out some rides with easy access out of and into London.  When living in north west London, most of my country rides were accessed via the nearby M1 or A40 (going past the famous Ace Cafe on the North Circular).  Getting onto either of those now I’d moved would incur a cross town slog of up to an hour – testing my patience in the traffic – which I could do without.

My knowledge of southern England was based on a few rides I’d done some years back on the A272 and heading to/from the Portsmouth ferry port along the A3.  I quickly established best best possible route out of London comprising the A3 from Wandsworth turning off at the A240 and heading via Ryka’s (at Box Hill, Surrey) to the intersection of the A24 and A272.

Rykas Cafe Surrey

From here the options were pretty good with other favourite bikers cafes Whiteways (Bury Hill, West Sussex),

Whiteways Cafe, Bury Hill South Downs

Loomies (West Meon, Hampshire)

Loomies Cafe Hamshire

and even Wessons (Heathfield, East Sussex) in striking distance,

Wessons Cafe Heathfield East Sussex

depending on how much time you have.

I think that pretty much covers all the bikers cafes within my striking distance but if I’ve overlooked any please let me know.

Over time my knowledge of the roads south and south west out of London using the A3 as my exit/entry point continued to improve – however I was growing tired of always heading for biker cafes.  Not that these places aren’t good though – its just I mainly ride when the weather is good and if this is midweek when less bikers are around to chat to on arrival.

Even though my riding was back on track I felt more miles were warranted – just to be sure I was fully prepared for my early Spring European motorcycle tour.  I needed a new ride out destination strategy – so I did as I almost always do.  What tech is out there that can help me?

Handily, I quickly found just what I was looking for, having already been familiar with their “Special Places” books.  The Sawday’s Pubs App allowed me to find great English pubs using the town or region I felt like going to on any particular fine day.

Find UK ride destinations with Sawday's Pubs App

It’s not free but well worth the cost – so much more practical than carrying their book, easily searchable and all the info you need to pick where you want to stop for a feed.  Program your chosen pub’s postcode into your GPS and off you go – taking the good roads you already know until you get close.  Brilliant!

Using Sawday’s Pubs App I found a brilliant spot at East Dean, just near Beachy Head where the The Tiger Inn serves great food and locally brewed craft beers overlooked by a village green, complete with holiday cottages.  But wait, there’s more ….

Yes indeed, there is also:

  • The Hiker’s Rest Tea Rooms
  • The Village Deli
  • Thai Terre Restaurant
  • Weekly farmers market at the Village Hall (Wednesday mornings between 10am and 12pm)
  • and finally, just down the road right on the coast is Birling Gap providing a scenic spot on the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs with a modern cafe and a National Trust info centre.

What more could you ask for on a ride out from London and the nearby roads heading into East Dean and Beachy Head are superb.  Job done I say.  Here’s some photos just to whet your appetite even more.

East Dean's Village Green

The village green, East Dean, East Sussex

The Tiger Inn for great food and locally brewed craft beer

The Tiger Inn at East Dean – great food and locally brewed craft beer

The Village Deli, East Dean near Beachy Head

Great sandwiches, rolls and toasties in addition to their high quality delicatessen fare

The Tiger B&B and Holiday Cottages at East Dean, East Sussex

There’s a B&B at The Tiger plus Holiday Cottages

For more info check out www.beachyhead.org.uk and www.nationaltrust.org.uk/birling-gap-and-the-seven-sisters/.

I’ve really enjoyed this aspect of my European motorcycle tour preparation and I’ve accumulated some serious mileage through the winter.  But there is still more prep to be done to the Family Truckster plus detailed route planning, accommodation considerations, trip departure date, deciding what new tech to buy/take, packing and the list goes on.

There is also the major “where to” issue which I’ve given much thought to on those days out riding in South East England when the sun is shining but the mercury hovers around 6-8 degrees.  All I’ve concluded is it must be somewhere that will be warm in early Spring.

So my preparation continues.  Spring is just around the corner.  Stay tuned for more ….