Have you seen my YouTube channel?

Have you seen the selection of videos on my YouTube channel? There are a mixture of road and off-road videos, some with guest, some with friends and some on my own. A few include sections of the TET (transeurotrail) in Catalunya, Spain, so you can see what sort of riding you will be doing when you book your Spanish Motorbike Tours adventure when the lockdown and travel restrictions have been lifted. Don’t forget to hit subscribe so you are notified when I post new videos. If you don’t have a YouTube account, its easy to create one, particularly if you have an Android phone as you will already have a Google account.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-HmaAga6vo2MElDZE0dfAA/

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Living under the Coronavirus lockdown

I have been living under the Coronavirus lockdown for two weeks now. Sometimes its really difficult, other times its no different to how I was living before the pandemic.

Let me focus on the latter first. I live off-grid, which means I live without any mains utilities, in a fairly remote farmhouse. It is located 6km from the nearest town, so compared to some homes, it is quite close to civilisation, but as it is surrounded by forests and mountain views, it feels more remote than it is. The house has solar panels and batteries for electricity, and water is both harvested from rainwater, and delivered by a farmer with a water tanker when there hasn’t been enough rain. Internet access is via a 4G router, bottled gas for cooking and thanks to the hundreds of trees surrounding the farm, a plentiful supply of firewood to keep the place warm in the cooler months.

Day to day life prior to the lockdown usually involved one or two ‘office’ days, marketing, replying to enquiries, banking etc., a day or two doing work on the farm and vehicles, and the rest of the week was a mixture of enjoying the peace and quiet, scouting the routes for upcoming tours and social time with friends. This is an average week, but when I had clients it was very different, preparing the bike, planning routes each day depending on the clients wishes and weather, doing the tours and then socialising afterwards. But the time spent in town, shopping etc., was probably just an hour or two each week.

So how is life under the State of Emergency? Well I was quite happy spending my free time on the farm prior to the lockdown, knowing I could pop out on the KTM whenever I wanted. I still enjoy life on the farm, but not being allowed to go out without having to fill out a form to present at checkpoints, and the reason stated on the form must be one of the approved reasons for leaving your house. If you state you are going for fuel and are stopped on your way home, and you can’t provide a reciept, you will be fined. And the fines are not small like in the UK, they range from €300 through to €600,000. Yes, six hundred thousand euros. So, I can go out for groceries, fuel, medicines and medical appointments, or to go to a financial institution. Those are the only conditions or reasons that apply to me, but others include walking a dog, visiting an older relative, or to travel to work if you are a frontline worker or work within an essential service sector and are unable to work from home. I can only go out on my own, my girlfriend has to stay at the farm, and if I am going to two places during one trip, I need a form for each leg of the journey. For example, a form explaining my journey from the farm to the bank. Then a form explaing the journey from the bank to the supermarket. And finally a form explaing the journey from the supermarket back to the farm.

So what does this all mean for Spanish Motorbike Tours? Well the doors are closed, and I don’t know how long for, because nobody knows how long the restrictions will be in place. And even when Spain allows its residents to leave their homes at will, the air, land and sea borders may remain closed to prevent the virus from coming back into the country from other countries which are still dealing with the pandemic. I can only hope that this situation is under control soon and we can all return to normal.

If you want to read more about how we are getting through the lockdown, check out my girlfriends blog called Surviving Coronavirus Spain.

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Coronavirus movement restrictions

The Coronavirus epidemic has lead to severe movement restrictions in Spain, resulting in the temporary closure of Spanish Motorbike Tours.

We are effectively under house arrest, only allowed to leave the house for the following reasons:

a) Acquisition of food, pharmaceuticals and basic necessities.

b) Assistance to health facilities.

c) Travel to the workplace for employment, professional or business benefits.

d) Return to the place of habitual residence.

e) Assistance and care for minors, the elderly, dependents, people with disabilities or especially vulnerable people.

f) Travel to financial institutions.

g) Due to force majeure or due to need.

h) Any other activity of a similar nature duly justified.

The circulation of private vehicles on public roads will be allowed to carry out the above activities or for refueling at gas stations or gas stations.

Any person who contravenes these provisions will be the object of a complaint by the agents of the authority.

PENALTIES DURING THE STATE OF ALARM

FORCES AND SECURITY BODIES
– GUARDIA CIVIL
– NATIONAL POLICE
– AUTONOMIC POLICE
– POLICIA LOCAL

Based on Royal Decree 463/2020 of March 14, 2020, declaring the state of alarm for the management of the health crisis situation caused by COVID-19.

Given that article 20, typifies non-compliance or resistance to orders from the competent authorities in the state of alarm will be sanctioned according to the laws, in the terms established in article ten of Organic Law 4/1981 of June 1.

POTENTIAL APPLICABLE PENALTIES

1º – ORGANIC LAW 4/2015, OF MARCH 30, PROTECTION OF CITIZEN SECURITY.

37.15. The removal of banners, tapes or other fixed or mobile elements placed by the security forces and bodies to delimit security perimeters, even as a preventive measure, when it does not constitute a serious offence –

MILD PENALTY: fines of 100 – 600 euros.

36.6. Disobedience or resistance to authority or its agents in the exercise of their duties, when these do not constitute a crime, as well as the refusal to identify yourself at the request of the authority or its agents or the allegation of false or inaccurate data in the identification processes.

SERIOUS PENATLY: fines of 601 – 30,000 euros.

2º – LAW 33/2011, OF OCTOBER 4, GENERAL PUBLIC HEALTH.

Art. 57.2.b) SERIOUS OFFENCES, fines of 3,001 – 60,000 euros.
1. The conduct or omissions that may produce a risk or serious damage to the health of the population, when it does not constitute a very serious offence.

Art. 57.2.a) VERY SERIOUS OFFENCES, fines of 60,001 – 600,000 euros.
1º The behavioural conduct or omissions that produce a risk or serious damage to the health of the population.

2. The repetitive failure to comply to the instructions received from the competent authority, or failure to comply with a requirement thereof, if this involves serious damage to health.

3º – LAW 17/2015, OF JULY 9, THE NATIONAL CIVIL PROTECTION SYSTEM.

45.4. These constitute SERIOUS OFFENCES, fines of 30,001 – 600,000 euros.
b) In declared emergencies, non-compliance with orders, prohibitions, instructions or requests made by the competent authorities or the members of the intervention and assistance services, as well as from the duties of collaboration to the surveillance and protection services of
public or private companies, when it is not particularly dangerous or transcendent for the safety of people or property.

45.3. These constitute VERY SERIOUS OFFENCES, fines of 1,501 – 30,000 euros.
b) In declared emergencies, non-compliance with orders, prohibitions, instructions or requests made by the competent authorities or the members of the intervention and assistance services, as well as from the duties of collaboration to the surveillance and protection services of
public or private companies when it is particularly dangerous or transcendent for the safety of people or property.

4º – ORGANIC LAW 10/1995, OF NOVEMBER 23, OF THE CRIMINAL CODE.

Article 556.
1. Punishment with a prison sentence of three months to one year or a fine of six to eighteen months, which, without being included in article 550, resist or seriously disobey the authority or its agents in exercising their duties, or to duly identified private security personnel who partake in private security activities in cooperation and under the command of security forces and bodies.

NOTE. The proceedings will be forwarded to the Government Sub-delegation, either via minutes or reports.
If it is possible to report photographic evidence of the occurrences, in line with the previously established, the specific cases may be sanctioned in accordance with the occurrence.

_______________________________________________________________

This article was translated by Torrevieja Translators for the benefit of our community and our residents who may be struggling to understand the current guidelines and requirements due to language barriers. Thank you to N332 and the Guardia Civil for providing the original document.

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Navigation

Navigation, or the inability to navigate, is one reason why you would choose a guided tour. Nobody likes getting lost when you are trying to get to somewhere, but when you don’t have to get to anywhere in particular, wandering off-course or becoming ‘lost’ is all part of the adventure.

I have spend decades travelling around Europe, and its only in the past year or so that I bought a navigation device. I still don’t use it for navigating, its primary role is to track my riding so I can create GPX files and in particular to keep a record of rideable off-road routes in order to maintain and develop the TET (Trans Euro Trail) in my area.

So how did I get around 14 European countries without using a sat-nav or similar device? Well I am somehow able to look at something and absorb and retain the information within what I looked at. And its not just short term information retention, I can remember clearly information I read decades ago. Have you seen the TV show Suits? When Mike Ross can look at something and recite it word for word. Well I’m not quite like that, but similar. I can look at a map, quickly assess the route, put the map away, go to sleep, wake up and have the image clear in my head.

So that was how I was able to navigate my way around Europe without using a sat-nav, and why I don’t really need to use one today. And not all of the travelling was on a bike, sometimes I was in a car or a truck. There are times when I use Google Maps, primarily for finding specific shops etc. within towns and cities I haven’t been to before.

So you’re probably thinking why is he writing about this? If we want to go from A to B, does it matter whether he uses his memory map or a satnav? Well if you are simply going from A to B, the answer is no, it doesn’t make any difference. But if during that journey, someone asks if there is an alternative route that is less twisty (or more twisty), or can we deviate to find a pharmacy as they have forgot their medicines, or simply is there somewhere interesting we can go and see on our way, then you need someone who can memorise a map and places of interest.


How many times have you heard about people saying their satnav has frozen and they had to wait to reboot it? Tried to enter a place name, but they type it phonetically and it isn’t recognised, or it takes them along the fastest and most boring route. I’m not anti-sat-nav. They have their place like all electronic devices, but I believe that if you go on a guided tour with someone who knows the area, knows the places that you will enjoy visiting, and doesn’t have to stop and research somewhere, you will have more time doing what you want to do, and less time waiting for the sat-nav to decide your route.

My Garmin Montana will always be turned on when we ride, plotting our ride, altitude, speed and distance, but by not using it to get around and by using my knowledge of the area and the roads, and places of interest I’ve memorised from looking at maps, you will have a much better guided tour with a portion of adventure thrown in.

Click here to read about other riding equipment I use.

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A local ride can become an adventure

One of the benefits of owning and riding an adventure bike in Spain is that you can always find somewhere new to explore every time you ride. The country is a maze of roads and dirt trails which constantly intersect each other, so no matter where you are, you can simply divert from tarmac to dirt, knowing that the trail will inevitably lead to more trails and more tarmac and the adventure simply continues with each and every kilometre.

I had to ride to my local dealer to get some parts, and I decided to turn it into a circular route which comprises of some of my favourite tarmac roads. Part way towards the dealer, I spotted a dirt track to my right, and something was telling me to explore it. I turned off the tarmac, and hit the trail, and I was immediately presented with a wonderful mix of stone and dirt. The trail was a complete contrast to the road I had been riding, with varying camber angles, dusty lose climbs and descents, and fast but rutted hard-pack in-between.

My instinct to explore this trail was rewarded with some beautiful scenery and eventually a rest stop on the banks of the river Ebro. Every rideout can be like this, and you don’t need to be on an adventure bike or have dual-sport tyres, because the maze of tarmac roads linking towns with villages can also lead to places of interest. This is why my clients enjoy touring with me, they get to see places they didn’t expect and that is what turns a tour into an adventure. Click here to see the video I made after the days riding.

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Riding the Trans Euro Trail (TET) in Spain

If you haven’t heard about the TET (Trans Euro Trail), it is a project which aims to map a predominantly off-road but legally rideable network of tracks and trails covering the whole of Europe. At the time of writing this, with the help of a large network of volunteers (I have mapped large sections of Catalunya) and linesmen, 51,000km of trails have been mapped from the Arctic circle to Africa and from Portugal to Ukraine. It is a community driven project, and the GPX files are available for free so anyone with a suitable bike can ride the TET.

At the moment, the Spanish TET is part of one large circular route incorporating Portugal, with some small branch routes to places of interest, and some circular routes around the more scenic parts, which becomes more of an Iberian TET. The entire TET network is under constant development so before setting off, you always need to ensure you have downloaded the latest GPX file. Check out my post about navigation. Sometimes trails can be washed out by rain, rockfalls can make some tracks impossible to follow, and sometimes the right to ride along a trail can be revoked.

The Spanish TET GPX route is maintained by a friend of mine, Simon Rice, also known as The Spanish Biker. My own contribution to the Spanish TET focuses around the town of Flix in Tarragona province. I own a farm here and I was able to route the TET right past the farm which had a legal holiday cottage. Unfortunately that business had to close following a wildfire which swept through the area in June 2019.

Using my farm as a starting point, I have been able to regularly ride the TET north and south of this area, and I can now ride for a day in each direction without needing to use any form of navigation. Due to the weather systems in the inland parts of Spain, the TET can be a very different experience at different times of the year, which is why I would suggest people return and try it again, possibly reversing the route to make it even more interesting.

So what can you expect on this part of the Spanish TET? Well the tracks here are wonderful. Typically, they are tracks that the farmers use to get to their land and they criss-cross the entire country. As they are used by tractors, they are wide enough for two bikes to pass, but not wide enough for a bike to pass a tractor without one having to pull over. The soil varies considerably, from slate and shale to the most gloopy and sticky terracotta clay. Most of the soil is a pale, sandy substrate which is like concrete when its dry, but this quickly becomes gloopy clay after some rain. I personally find this soil perfect to ride with knobbly tyres after a couple of hours of rain. Just a bit or rain allows the tyres to bite into the soil without it becoming too soft and slippery.

The trails are never far away from civilisation for food and drink stops, even little sleepy rural villages will have a bar that does a coffee and a generous sandwich (bocadillo) for just a few euros. Having said that, it can be incredibly hot when travelling slow along the trails, so make sure you carry plenty of water to hydrate, and especially if you get a puncture or break-down, it can be a long, hot walk to get help, and the chances are the local garage will be closed for siesta. Fuel stops can be found easily with just small detours from the trail into a nearby town. Its the same for accommodation, practically every town will have somewhere for you to stay and a selection of bars serving food. Most towns will also have a mechanic, should you need any repairs or spares.

During the dry months, you will see people riding on almost bald tyres because the ground is too hard for anything to dig in and find any traction. But after the first rains of Autumn (usually the end of September), everyone rushes out to get some new knobbly tyres. I have tried various tyres on the TET here, the first were a set of Mitas enduro tyres. These were probably the best in terms of grip, but they didn’t last long enough. I then tried some Michelin Sirac tyres, which were great in the dry months, but very difficult to ride along the trails after a bit of rain. I then tried some Continental TKC80’s, which were OK. They aren’t an outstanding tyre, but they are a great all terrain tyre. Comfortable on or off-road, and with a reasonable lifespan for the money. I’m currently riding on a set of Motoz Tractionator Adventure, and I have mixed feelings about them. They certainly last longer than the others, although I am getting through 2 fronts to 1 rear which is really unusual for bike tyres. I find the front lacking bite when cornering off-road, but the rear is good and confidence inspiring.

There are a few dangers to be aware of when riding the TET in Spain. The fact that the trails have to be suitable for tractors means that there is the risk of you coming across one at some point, so please only ride as fast as you can stop safely. And farmers don’t always drive around on a slow tractor, you will see them driving around in their 4×4’s. Wild animals are also a risk on the trails, particularly wild boar. If you hit one of these, you will do a lot of damage to your bike, but worse than that, if you encounter one with babies, you can expect one to charge you. These beasts with their tusks have severed femoral arteries and people have bled out and died, so whilst they look cute and interesting, please stay away from them. And where there are wild animals, you will also find hunters and their dogs. Hunting seasons and the days they can hunt vary from region to region, and there can be exceptions, but when they are hunting, you will generally see lots of 4×4’s parked up, sometimes guys in hi-viz who act as spotters, and of course dozens of hunting dogs which generally have a hi-viz collar so they aren’t mistaken for a wild animal and shot.

Take a look at a YouTube video of me riding parts of the TET so you can see what its like, and feel free to email me if you have any questions or are looking for someone to guide you along part or all of the Iberian TET.

I have had the pleasure of riding the TET with Will Spray (read his testimonial here), and also with Jurga Zukauskaite (read her testimonial here).

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