You may have read in previous blogs that I have just got back into motorcycling and have bought myself a nice Honda CB1300. I hadn’t up until this point done any long journeys on it however.
It was with excitement tinged with some trepidation, therefore, that I set off last Thursday for a weekend away in Belgium at a place called the Bikers Loft in Groenedijk (which I think is pronounced Grow-en-duke, but I am happy to be corrected).
We were invited away by good friends who are enthusiastic motorcyclists and ave been to the Bike Loft before. They live in Surrey, so the first leg of the journey was to get to their place. Normally this is a couple of hours’ journey, but I planned to take a more scenic route. I knew this would take longer, but was not expecting it to take 3 hours! Nonetheless it was a lovely day and a great ride.
In Surrey we met up with another couple of friends who had also travelled down from Gloucester. We had a pleasant evening in the pub and a good night’s sleep before setting off together on Friday morning for the second leg to Folkestone. This ride was less scenic as we took the direct M25/ M20 route. Still, it was a nice day and it was great riding in formation. We met up with another bike at the services just before Folkestone – someone that I hadn’t met before, but who had kindly organised the whole thing for us. All four bikes then set off for the Channel Tunnel.
The journey across on the train was remarkably straightforward. We passed straight through customs without having to show any papers, drove onto the train and parked up for the short 35 minute journey to Calais. Once off the other side we once again got ourselves into formation and set off for Groenedijk.
This third and final leg of the journey was the shortest, just an hour along the coast of France and into Belgium. Once again it was on motorways but once again the weather was good, although extremely windy. We arrived at the Bikers Loft without incident and I immediately knew I’d like the place: as we checked in we were asked if we were thirsty and provided with our first Leffe on the house. This was to be the first of many!
The Bikers loft is in an old factory. The large covered area in the middle is given over to the parking of motorcycles. Around this on one side is the bar, on another a small but fascinating motorcycle museum and on the other two the rooms. They are on two storeys and are small and basic with communal shower and toilet facilities. All you need for a weekend away.
By the time we arrived it was about 3pm, so we just settled in to relax for the rest of the day. We drank inadvisable quantities of Leffe and just chilled out. And the bike loft is a very relaxing kind of place: you are surrounded by like-minded people and can just watch the different bikes coming and going. People come from all around Europe and are all happy to talk bikes at any opportunity. For dinner, the Bike Loft takes a do it yourself approach – they have freezers full of (mostly microwavable) food which you buy at the bar and cook yourself in their kitchen.
On Saturday, after a bit of a lie in and a do it yourself breakfast, we rode into Brugge, which is only about 10-15 miles away, for a wander around and have some lunch. We returned to the Loft fairly early and again spent a relaxed afternoon wandering around the museum, playing pool and drinking more Leffe.
In the evening there was a rockabilly band called Tinstars for our entertainment. Rockabilly was not the musical genre of choice for all in our party, but after a few drinks everyone seemed to settle in and enjoy the evening. My intentions of taking it easy on the drinking due to the ride home the following day did not go well.
And so, all too soon, it was time to go home. We left Groenedijk in the glorious sunshine and made our way back to Calais, where they were slightly more fastidious about checking passports but still all was straightforward. We rode onto the train and, with the time difference, arrived back in Folkestone before we left France.
Folkestone: grey ominous clouds. Welcome home. Before heading off on our separate ways we went back to the services together for a drink. On route it absolutely p***ed down – hail and everything. It was at this point that I discovered that my bike jacket is only waterproof with the inner in it – the inner which was nice and dry and hanging in the cupboard at home.
I changed my sopping wet shirt at the services, had a drink, we all said our farewells and set off for home. This time there was to be no scenic route: M20/ M25/ M3/ M4. Just a few minutes after setting off, down came the rain again. It didn’t last long, but the damage was done – the next few hours were spent soaking wet and, in the same way that my jacket is not waterproof without the inner lining, neither is it very windproof when travelling at 90mph – sorry, ahem, 70mph – on the motorway, so needless to say it was a tad chilly.
And on the subject of the wind: man, was it windy. I love the look of the big naked bikes such as the CB1300, but I found myself thinking that perhaps a bit of fairing might be nice. By the time I got home I was wet, cold and had neck muscles like a Cardassian from trying to stop my head blowing off in the wind.
The thing is though, these learning points and discomforts are all part of the experience. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I do it again? Hell yes!