Trip Planner: The Cool Way Down to Wheels & Waves

Light up the old café racer and burn it from Glemseck to the seaside town of Biarritz, home of Wheels & Waves. Get there for festival kick-off on the 14th June, and enjoy a four-day celebration of all things custom

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Glemseck – Biarritz
5 Days – 50 MD Roads – 1,611 KM

 

This little beauty took us five days to ride while filming and snapping the route, but that's a good pace if you want to enjoy points of interest along the way. If your café racer isn't breaking down regularly, it's possible to do it in three days, but you would miss some moments of  “Aaaaahh” along the road.

We initially named Zurich as the start point. We had even made an appointment at the Motorradhangar to check out their workshop, but the rain and snow forecast had us adapting the route just one week before departure. Keeping a link with the custom build scene, we decided that leaving from Glemseck (location of Glemseck101) was a worthy alternative. There was still a little snow lying around here and there – enough to raise an eyebrow in mid-May. Wet socks and clothes were our companion during the whole trip. Add to this a choice of bike fitting the event and you can imagine the experience was rather memorable. Luckily, the comfort of knowing the ‘other guy’ was also in the rain kept each of us smiling.

Day One: Vosges and Castles

 

Through German forests and over the Vosges… Well, that was the idea. But the pouring rain and the very late spring made the first 300km feel like we had really jumped a season backwards. No green leaves, no colourful fields, just raining rain, and a bone-chilling cold... and, yes, also a German knackwurst. We gave in, screw our diet. We know the roads are splendid and the Ballons des Vosges offer great views, but we had none of that. Fog and rain, rain and fog. We turned left and right, right and left. Still nothing but grey, grainy countryside. We had passed Ronchamps by the time the clouds started to lift. Finally, blessed blue sky inked itself into our retinas and we rode the last few miles to the Chateau de Villersexel with backs warm from sunlight.

 

Sleeping in a castle is something seriously special, especially a castle of Villersexel's proportions. We understand that heating a place like this cost a huge fortune, and the cost of our rooms wouldn't cover even a quarter of it. It was easy to find ourselves agreeing with the owners' decision to just heat our rooms and keep the heat on low in the rest of the place. Well, 'low' is being generous. Some people may think owning a castle is great – we're sure it is, when you've got a few custom bikes parked outside – but most of the time it’s probably more than a featherweight resting on your shoulders. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the short visit and the night in utter silence. No creaking, groaning or distant screams. We didn’t meet any ghosts, although some of the creatures serving as decoration took us by surprise.

Day Two: Columns and Frogs Legs

 

After a very quiet night and a slightly cold wake up – temperatures of minus 1 degrees – we took to the road. Fluffy clouds overhead soon became bigger and by the time we reached Arc et Senans, with its famous Saline Royale, all fluffyness had disappeared and once more the sky opened up on us. The Saline Royale itself is a mesmerising network of buildings – a wild 17th Century Imperial attempt at a salt factory, combining utility and grandeur with a lucrative state monopoly. The downpour didn’t last long, and as we were entering Burgundy the sun was back out, shy, but present. And the roads we felt were OK suddenly seemed much better. Past Tournus we really started to enjoy the curves, and at an improvised coffee stop we got down to a right old natter about the rest of the day.

 

Since the ‘travel language' was French we decided that all roads we loved were ‘sympa’ – not ‘super’, but sympa. At the end all these Roads ‘Sympathique’, we decided that we were well and truly ‘kiffez le trip’. Our hotel for the day was a little past Roanne – Roanne being a place we would like to avoid in the future, however the D56 towards Cordelle and our stopover, Domaine des Grands Cèdres, were both sublime.

 

And what a B&B it turned out to be. There’s the main house – part of a castle-like property – and four tree huts a little further away. Wonderful. Quick tip: there's no dinner served in the Domaine. The restaurant we were directed to was close by and, given the late hour, only served frog legs from Indonesia. You won’t see us back in that restaurant!

Day Three: Warm Tyre, Cool Roads

 

A beautiful sunrise, complete with fog over the Loire valley just in front of the house. A breakfast with smelly croissants and (ditto) cheese, marmalade and a nail in the Yamaha XSR's Bridgestone S20R. The quick repair came from Suzuki Roanne. Thanks guys, you were fast and professional – super service. Within no time we were finding that the new S20 reaches operating temperature very fast. We rode the beautiful Col du Béal, and the D996 between Ambert and Saint Amant Roche Savine. Our smiles got bigger. Puy de Dome welcomed us to its dormant volcano and before we knew it, we plunged into the Cantal. St Flour, Chaudes Aiges, Laguiole. Oh yes, we rode the D921 hard, admired the Laguiole Bull's balls, and bought the obligatory knife with a bee on its back. The last leg of the day took us over the Aubrac with its wonderful cows, great roads, and bitter cold. Saint Geniez D’olt was our beautiful stop for the night. The whole place is very pretty, but avoid the Lion d’Or Restaurant. They watched too much Masterchef and forgot the good ingredients.

 

Day Four: Fast Lot o' Roads

 

We'd got used to the rain by now, but still, it’s pretty annoying. Aveyron is a beautiful area, but with weather like this you just want to move on. The D988 after Bouzouls suddenly became sections of straight, big road, but the view got bigger, too. Wow, make sure you stop to snap when you're headed this way. Roads became faster, Rodez flowed by and a bit later we picked up the Lot river. Here the landscape and the road gets us back in the groove. We weren't raving just yet, but it was getting fun again. Before Cahors, however, the finer weather was definitely over and this time we really had to pull out the emergency full wet gear. No stylish leather jackets on show now!

 

We slept in La ferme de Flaran, in Valence sur Baise, next to Armagnac. Do we need to say more? Yes, the hotel changed ownership in 2014, but the transformation was remarkable. The new owners were wonderfully helpful, and while Mme was a perfect host, Monsieur turned out to be a pretty good cook. No TV show imitation, but food with real taste. Stay here when passing through the area and on the look for a stopover.

 

Day Five: Wheels & Waves

 

It was now only 227 km to the ocean. We decided to go southwards and enter Biarritz from the direction of the Spanish border. The names of the villages became unpronounceable: Peyrehorade and Bidache, for example, joined by a fast and curvaceous stretch of tarmac. But it's the D257 that takes the prize for unpronounceability: this undulating route through steep hills connects the villages of Mendilaskor and Aldapagaina. Try and get your tonsils around those two tongue twisters.

Salt in the air started to shout of waves and surf: Biarritz, Ghetary, St Jean de Luz. From out of the close hedgerows and rolling hills, we were suddenly thrust onto the stylish Basque coastline. We like it cool, the macarons from Adam, the Bar de la Cote, the vibe... We celebrated, and then slept in the Maison Tamarin in Gethary. After five days of riding, it was simply wonderful: the view, the people, the calm. We ate in the Tantina de Burgos and the Tantina de la Playa (Bidart). We knew they were in fashion, but we loved them all the same – just like our two stunning custom motorcycles!

Now we’re just waiting for the El Rollo Flat Track to kick off W&W on the 14th June. See you here? For more information on the festival, events and to pre-book discounted visitor passes, visit the Wheels & Waves website.

 

See the movie of our trip from Glemseck to Biarritz!

 

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