Bikes | Features | Events | Books | Tech | Magazine | About | Messages | Classified | Links

More bike profiles...

Bike Profile - Posted 22nd February 2012

BMW K75RT Travels, Part 5
Home -> Bikes -> Road Tests and Profiles ->

Steve MacGregor completes his Continental trek and reflects on how well the 20-year-old BMW performed over 3500 miles...

By the time I had finished breakfast, the rain had stopped. However, the sky was still very heavy and low clouds meant that I couldn't see much of the mountain scenery. My plan for today was to explore the Alps, and I set off first for Berchtesgaden, just over the border in Germany. This was the location of Hitler's holiday home and it's a pretty village set in the shadow of some impressive mountains. Unfortunately the low clouds mean that I couldn't see as much of the mountains as I had hoped.

Holidaying evil dictator not shown... Berchtesgaden

I then rode back into Austria and West to Innsbruck. This is a skiing and climbing town, but the low clouds persisted for most of the journey and I wasn't able to see much. What I did see was very impressive - sheer rocks faces rising straight up from beside the road and disappearing into the clouds. In some cases I know that I was riding close to steep drops, but unfortunately I was looking down on mist and cloud most of the time. Most of the roads on this part of the journey were superbly surfaced A- and B-roads, but often narrow and winding, and it took a fair amount of effort to heave the big BMW around.

Holidaying evil dictator hiding in third boat from left... A lake in the Alps

After Innsbruck I headed south to Villach, on the Italian border. By the time I arrived I was feeling very tired. For the first time on the trip I was struggling with the effort of riding the bike. I don't know if this was just the result of riding all day on twisting roads, the effect of altitude or simply the kind of energy dip that often occurs on a long trip. Whatever the cause I was happy that most of the journey north from Villach back to the campsite at Salzburg was on motorway and dual carriageway, but I was still very tired when I arrived.

Incidentally I really can't praise European campsites sufficiently. The site in Salzburg was a good example - set in a wonderful location, perched on a hill above town, the site was clean and tidy and the staff were friendly and helpful and welcoming to a bedraggled biker. It also featured a small, family-run bar and restaurant and provided everything that a weary traveller could want. After an evening eating sauerkraut and schnitzel and sampling the local beers, I felt ready to face the next leg of the journey.

I woke the next morning to heavy and persistent rain. I set off into Germany and North West towards Heidelbourg on the autobahn. I don't know about you, but riding my bike on a busy motorway in heavy rain is probably one of my least favourite things. However, it didn't seem so bad here.

Most vehicles were being driven at a sensible speed for the conditions, and most gave me plenty of room. I was wearing a one-piece oversuit over my usual gear and this, in conjunction with the massive fairing, kept me completely dry. There is a kind of perverse pleasure in riding a bike in heavy rain, but being warm and dry.

RT BMWs on Right Now......

I passed Augsburg and Ulm and by late morning the weather had started to improve. By lunchtime I was able to remove the oversuit and by two o'clock I was riding in sunshine. The journey took me through the Odenwald area of Germany, close to the cities of Stuttgart and Karlsruhe and through a landscape of gently rolling forested hills. The autobahn were smaller here, usually just two lanes in each direction and traffic was much lighter than in the north of Germany. Late in the afternoon I arrived in Heidelbourg, an old university town on the banks of the river Neckar. It didn't take long to find a campsite on the banks of the river where I rented a hiker's cabin for a change.

Hmmm... I wonder who could be hiding in the 'hikers cabin'?... Bike outside hikers cabin at Heidelbourg

The Neckar is a wide, slow moving river which joins the Rhine fifteen miles downstream from Heidelbourg. It was very peaceful and I sat on the bank for a while until I became aware of a distant thudding base line which gradually built to a full techno beat. I watched in astonishment as the 'Disco Boat' slowly cruised by. The flashing lights and strident DJ didn't seem to be having much effect on the passengers, most of whom were draped apathetically on the rail. Gradually the thudding declined and peace resumed as the boat disappeared round the next bend in the river and out of sight.

I spent some time exploring the baroque Altstadt (Old Town) before retiring to bed. I was woken in the early hours by the insistent thudding of the Disco Boat as it made its way back to Heidelbourg.

I woke to sunshine for my last full day of travelling. After a leisurely breakfast on the banks of the river, I set off west, passing Kaiserslautern and crossing the border into Luxembourg at Trier. I then turned to the north, crossing Belgium (and passing the F1 track at Spa) and on into Holland. I stopped for the final night at a camp site close to Hertogenbosch before pressing on next morning to catch the ferry at Imjuiden.

He's smiling, but only because he hasn't checked the topbox for stowaways yet... Me next to bike at ferry

After that there only remained the run back up from Newcastle to the Highlands. I managed this without drama and arrived home after 14 days and 3500 miles.

Time to take stock. First the bike. This had done everything I asked of it, from high speed cruising on the autobahn to bumbling along dirt tracks in Poland. It had used almost no oil and nothing whatsoever had broken or failed. It was also supremely comfortable and provided more than enough space for all my gear. Most importantly, it gave me no cause for concern. Niggling worries about the reliability of your bike can undercut the enjoyment of a long trip, but I really didn't have to think about the BMW at all. Not bad for a bike which was more than twenty years old and had over 60,000 miles on the clock. If you're interested in stress-free touring, I really can't recommend the K75RT highly enough.

Evil dictator last seen heading into the woods. After him, quick!... BMW K75, resting

And the journey? I was lucky to see some fantastic places and to meet so many helpful, friendly and welcoming people. I found the driving in Poland so frightening that I'm not sure I would return on a bike (actually I'm not sure I would return in a car), but other than that riding in Europe felt much safer than it does in the UK. Drivers seem to be more aware of bikes, to give them more room and people generally seem much more positive about bikes than they do at home. Roads are also better surfaced and maintained on the Continent.

If you want to do a trip on a budget, camp sites are plentiful and very, very good. There are so many that I generally didn't bother to book ahead, being confident that I'd be able to find a site at most towns and cities.

If you haven't done it yet, I recommend taking your classic to Europe. It really is very different there, and well worth the trip. Perhaps best summed up by a Dutch biker I met in Austria. I was filling the bike at a petrol pump when he drew up alongside. He obviously noticed my GB plates. 'So' he said, removing his helmet, 'How do you like it here on the mainland?'


Like this page? Share it with these buttons:


More interesting bikes on Right Now...


Like what you see here? Then help to make even better

Bikes | Features | Events | Books | Tech | Magazine | About | Messages | Classified | Links

More Bike Profiles...

RedLeg Interactive Media

2002 The Cosmic Motorcycle Co. Ltd / Redleg Interactive Media

You may download pages from this site for your private use. No other reproduction, re-publication, re-transmission or other re-distribution of any part of this site in any medium is permitted except with the written consent of the copyright owner or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.