San Marino RTE Ride Report


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Day 1: Left at 3 pm on Thursday; 180 boring motorway miles to Folkestone on a cool, grey day. At least it didn’t rain! Rolled up at the Eurotunnel barrier just before 6, and was on the train by 6:10 – perfect. A quiet night in the Coquelles Ibis; a couple of beers and a rather nice burger.

Day 2: More motorway miles, but somehow long journeys on the autoroute just aren’t as boring. Whether it’s the road surface, which is usually billiard-table smooth, the lack of traffic or the subtly different scenery, I don’t know. Cruising at the legal limit, my R1200 RS was nice and relaxed, though it needed fuel after only 200 miles. It seems that sometimes, when I fill up in continental Europe, consumption is much worse; on the tank of Shell V-Power used to get to Calais, I averaged 58 mpg. On the Carrefour 98 octane that followed, only 58; likewise with the BP 95 E10 that followed it.

Lunch was a baguette and Coke at services north of Dijon; it was sunny, but the wind made it feel chilly. Continuing south the traffic picked up around Lyon, then the road started to climb through Chambery to the Tunnel du Frejus. The trees on the upper slopes had been dusted with snow and there were a few flakes in the air at the entrance, with the temperature down to 4C. Into the tunnel, and straight away it was up to over 20C. Exiting into Italy the sun was shining and there was a lovely ride down heading for Turin – fast sweeping bends, though with quite a bit of traffic. I caught Mike Strong and we rode the last few miles together to our hotel in Sangano. A very good value three-course meal, a couple of beers and a grappa rounded off a 650-mile day.

Day 3: Mike left ahead of me to cover the 300 miles to San Marino so I was on my own as the autostrada crossed the flat, fertile plains of the Po valley. The main hazard was that the Italians pay as much attention to lane discipline as they do to speed limits; their use of indicators would also make a BMW driver look conscientious! The route took me through Italy’s automotive heartland: past Modena (home of Maserati) and 10 miles from Maranello (Ferrari) and then on past Bologna (Ducati). I discovered that Panigale is a suburb of Bologna. I also discovered that, faced with a traffic jam, it seems acceptable to take to the hard shoulder; I was in a group of about a dozen bikes that spent several miles doing 30 mph or so past stationary cars.

Off the autostrada and up the climb to San Marino; it would be a nice, challenging road if it weren’t for the fact it runs through a town with a 30 limit! My hotel was in a pedestrian area, so I sought advice from a policeman; he told me where to park, but then had me climb a huge number of steps, laden with luggage, when I could have walked straight ahead. Oh well… The views from San Marino are stunning, looking out over the Adriatic to the north-east, and the hills of the central Appenines to the south-west. The obligatory photo was taken at the top of the cable car; for dinner, our table was in a restaurant that had panoramic windows looking over the hills; it was beautiful as the sun set over the sea. The food was excellent, and the company lively.

Day 4: The autostrada was thankfully less busy as I retraced my route of the previous day; then it was north past Milan and a short stretch along the coast of lake Lugano on the way to Switzerland. The snow-covered Alps made a great backdrop as I continued to the Gotthard road tunnel; this time it was over 30C inside, making it like riding in front of a giant hair dryer! On past lake Lucerne – marvellous scenery. Crossing into Germany, I picked the pace up a little, cruising at a bit over 90 mph the autobahn is still a scary place. At that speed, I was regularly being passed by cars well into three figure speeds, and a couple of times I’m sure they were checking their 155 mph limiters. Cars come from nowhere; it was like cycling along a British dual carriageway! On to my stop for the night, an Ibis in Saarbrucken. Another 600+ miles covered.

Day 5: I kept the speeds down initially – I wanted to eke out the fuel to reach Luxembourg, and was rewarded by a tank of 98 octane at about £1 a litre. Another cool day, but no rain – and decent roads, some nice challenging stretches through the hills as I went past Luxembourg city, Charleroi, Mons and Lille before the final tedious and busy run to Calais. Then there was just the inevitable queue for passport control before rolling on to the train and the final three hours to get home - as well as the only proper rain I encountered all weekend! About a 500-mile day.