My husband, Steve, was going through a landmark birthday final August. He determined to have fun on a motorbike, and IMTBike had a Pyrenees tour that coincided with the date. The Pyrenees is a rugged mountain vary that straddles the border of northern Spain and southern France, and it’s identified for well-maintained however difficult roads and twisty mountain passes. The tour covers 900 miles over eight days and 7 nights, with six driving days and one relaxation day.
IMTBike is a motorbike tour and rental firm based mostly in Madrid with workplace places in Barcelona, Bilbao, Málaga, and Lisbon. Steve contacted IMTBike’s managing director, an American ex-pat named Scott Moreno (take heed to our podcast interview with Scott), who fortunately answered questions throughout a number of conversations. We wished to find out about climate in Barcelona (the place the Excellent Pyrenees tour begins and ends) and within the mountains, what sort of clothes we must always put on, and what forms of bikes can be found. As an official companion of BMW Motorrad, IMTBike provides BMW fashions starting from the G 310 R as much as the Okay 1600 GT.
Steve shared with Scott that I used to be hesitant about driving within the Pyrenees. I’d gotten my bike license solely two years prior, and I used to be frightened the tour can be too superior for my restricted driving expertise. This tour was the primary since Covid-19 shut every little thing down around the globe, and Scott mentioned he was becoming a member of the tour to ensure lodging and every little thing else was so as after such an extended hiatus. He additionally mentioned he’d look out for me and to not fear. “Simply come,” Scott mentioned along with his attribute enthusiasm and attraction. “You’ll find it irresistible.”
Day 1: Arrival in Barcelona
IMTBike employees picked us up on the airport and drove us to a pleasant resort in central Barcelona. The evening earlier than the tour began, everybody met within the resort foyer for a briefing. Introductions had been made, thorough handbooks had been issued, and Spanish driving legal guidelines and street indicators had been reviewed. Our fearless guides, David and Mikel, described the standard of the roads, the elevated quantity of site visitors in some areas resulting from tourism, and the day by day fueling of our bikes. Then we loved one of many late-evening dinners Spain is thought for, with loads of native specialties and vino tinto.
Day 2: Barcelona to La Seu d’Urgell
On the morning of the tour’s first day, we shuttled over to IMTBike’s Barcelona workplace, and everybody familiarized themselves with their bikes of alternative. I’d booked a BMW F 750 GS, which I’d ridden earlier than, nevertheless it felt top-heavy and unwieldy, so I opted for a smaller, lighter G 310 R as a substitute.
Steve and California Joe, who has 40 years of driving expertise and was on his third IMTBike tour, rode R 1250 GSs. Invoice and Ruth, a younger Midwest couple who rode two-up, had been on an F 800 GT. Finishing our all-American group had been Jerry and her spouse GiGi, skilled riders from Lengthy Island who’re frequent IMTBike tour members. At 79 years of age, Jerry is an inspiration and nonetheless serves as a motorbike security teacher. She rode a G 310 R and GiGi rode an F 750 GS. Scott rode an F 750 GS, whereas David and Mikel alternated between driving the van and main our pack on an R 1250 GS. The assist van accompanied us your entire journey. It transported everybody’s baggage, supplied a safe place to retailer our helmets and jackets throughout espresso and lunch stops, and carried a spare F 750 GS in case certainly one of our bikes had a difficulty.
Our departure from Barcelona was the one time we rode on an autovía (freeway), and the mountains within the distance had been lovely and alluring. Earlier than lengthy we started to climb into the Pyrenees on twisty curves and sweepers with lovely vistas. Steve and I had helmet communicators, permitting us to share our pleasure, repeatedly exclaiming “Spectacular!”
Spain is thought for its Paradors, historic buildings transformed into accommodations which are administered by the federal government. The Parador in La Seu d’Urgell is a former convent. It had a small swimming pool, which cooled us off after driving in peak summer time warmth.
Earlier than dinner our group met for a briefing concerning the subsequent day’s journey. With drinks and maps protecting the desk, David and Mikel defined the espresso breaks, the place and tips on how to park for lunch, and stops at scenic factors for photographs. This was a ritual repeated nightly at every Parador. We’d be driving parts of the Tour de France route (although not through the race itself), in order that they warned us about hairpins or slender roads the place we would encounter teams of cyclists.
Day 3: La Seu d’Urgell to Ordesa and Monte Perdido Nationwide Park
The roads on this tour had been chosen for optimum driving pleasure. There have been loads of difficult segments, and it was clear this was going to be an thrilling journey. After exhausting our use of “Spectacular!” Steve and I added “Magnificent!” and “Unbelievable!” to our bike-to-bike exclamations.
I preferred not worrying about navigation; David and Mikel took care of that. Throughout each espresso break and lunch cease, our bikes had been repositioned for ease of departure. I actually preferred that. At different occasions, one of many guides would stand on the street and direct site visitors so we may cross lanes safely. I preferred that too and felt spoiled.
After visiting the Baqueira-Beret ski resort excessive within the Pyrenees, on our descent we encountered horses trotting alongside us, as free and unfettered as we had been. Our journey by tunnels and over mountain passes introduced us into France and again into Spain, the place we arrived at a Parador surrounded by mountains with a beautiful view of a waterfall.
Throughout our nightly briefing, Scott confessed that, sure, he wanted to attach with the Paradors and eating places, however like all of us following the lockdown, he wished to get again out on the earth and benefit from the journey. Scott is captivated with bikes, as are David and Mikel, and the latter has been a tour information for IMTBike for 16 years. Stoke makes all of the distinction.
Day 4: Ordesa to Valle de Tena
The morning espresso break occurred in France, so naturally, everybody ordered crepes. On steep, slender roads, we handed cyclists who impressed us with their power and endurance, however pedaling uphill didn’t look to be as a lot enjoyable as I used to be having. We reached Col du Tourmalet (6,939 ft), one of many highest passes on the Pyrenees part of the Tour de France, and it supplied spectacular views.
Late within the afternoon, we traveled by the attractive Pyrenees Nationwide Park. Spectacular twisties introduced us to Col d’Aubisque (5,607 ft), one other mecca for cyclists. Throughout a brief break, a burst of applause introduced our consideration to a different group of motorcyclists circled round Jerry. They discovered she’s a 79-year-old rider and displayed their admiration.
We mounted our bikes in dense fog. The descent was on a slender street with no shoulders or guardrails, with one facet of the street edged by a vertical cliff. There was no margin for error. It was scary. Steve and I saved saying to one another, “Don’t look down.” We couldn’t look down if we wished to as a result of the fog was so thick. That was a blessing, but additionally a curse as a result of the fog stuffed our faceshields.
Our group shaped a sluggish conga line. The taillight on the bike in entrance of me was my solely information. On tight turns, the pink mild in entrance of me would disappear till I rounded the bend. Lastly, we dropped beneath the fog, solely to come across a herd of sheep crossing the street, forcing us to cease. They saved coming and coming, making us chuckle. I additionally laughed with reduction.
By the point we checked into our beautiful Parador tucked within the mountains, I used to be exhausted but exhilarated. On Day 1, our guides mentioned if we wanted, for any purpose, to place our bike into the van and journey shotgun subsequent to the motive force, it was at all times an possibility. As scared as I used to be, I trusted Scott, David, and Mikel to get us down safely, and so they maintained a cautious tempo and conservative strains. All of us tackled the making an attempt circumstances. I did it! And the sense of accomplishment felt good.
Day 5: Valle de Tena (Relaxation Day)
Everybody determined to discover lovely Tramacastilla on the remaining day, whereas David and Mikel supplied to information a loop journey. Steve and I wished to walk and chill out too, however I wished to check journey the F 750 GS. We requested David and Mikel if a shorter jaunt was potential, and with out hesitation, they reorganized the route. California Joe joined us.
It was enjoyable to observe David and Mikel journey collectively so joyfully. And it was contagious; we had a lot enjoyable we determined to increase the route. We had lunch exterior with tables overlooking a beautiful ski space, and we shared laughs and tales. It was one other nice driving day, and I gained sufficient confidence on the F 750 GS to journey it the remainder of the tour.
Day 6: Valle de Tena to Cardona
One other day of wonderful driving. Extra twisties, extra sweepers, extra landscapes, and extra exclamations between Steve and me. “Bonito!” was our new favourite.
The Parador de Cardona is a transformed citadel, which was fortuitous as a result of it was Steve’s birthday. Earlier than dinner, I requested David and Mikel to take the little birthday candles I’d delivered to the kitchen for Steve’s dessert. They paused after which mentioned, “Okay, we’ll let you know. A bottle of wine and snacks are being despatched to your room, and we have already got candles for the cake we organized.” I used to be very touched.
Dinner was in a grand, vaulted banquet corridor. The meals was terrific, and dessert was even higher. A birthday cake was ceremoniously set in entrance of Steve and fortunately our motley refrain singing “Pleased Birthday” was drowned out by Scott’s cellphone blasting the Beatles’ “Birthday.” Steve was embarrassed however delighted. Everybody, particularly David, Mikel, and Scott, made Steve’s birthday enjoyable, memorable, and simply so rattling cool.
Day 7: Cardona to Barcelona
The final day introduced us extra wonderful roads, and one other exclamation: “Superior!” Lower than two hours from Barcelona are the Sierra de Montserrat, distinctive saw-toothed mountains which are seen from far-off. As we bought nearer, every peak turned a thick, pointy finger jutting upwards. A steep, winding street introduced us to the Montserrat Monastery. Wandering by the monastery complicated is nicely definitely worth the go to.
Then, reluctantly, we returned to Barcelona. Don’t get me flawed, Barcelona is a beautiful metropolis. However our incredible journey was over, and it was time to say goodbye to new associates. My preliminary reluctance to journey the tough roads the Pyrenees are well-known for was changed with miles of pleasure, laughs, and confidence due to Scott, David, and Mikel. They’re superb at what they do, and so they’re new associates too. Steve and I’ve since executed two self-guided excursions with IMTBike, and we sit up for our subsequent guided tour with them.
The Excellent Pyrenees tour runs in August and September, and pricing begins at 2,850 euros (about $3,200). For extra details about IMTBike’s excursions, go to imtbike.com.