What comes to my mind when someone mentions a motorcycle road trip around Europe? A large capacity sports tourer with hard luggage and a gel seat? Perhaps it’s an adventure bike with unlimited luggage capacity and the finest Gortex multilayer touring gear?
This story is about a motorcycle road trip that is the antithesis of what you might normally associate with motorcycle touring. In contrast to the norm, this story is about toughing it out, without compromise, on a two wheeled, air-cooled weapon of choice. This story is about an almost Zen like minimalism all wrapped up in a “fuck you” sense of style. The bike and the rider are motorcycle touring nonetheless, because nobody told them they shouldn’t or couldn’t, and if they had, I don’t think they would have been heard over the sound of one Suzuki’s finest engines being piped through a titanium Racefit growler.
It all starts with a bike you would not normally associate with any kind of long range two wheeled odyssey. A 1230cc EFE powered Suzuki ET special with a unique, tweaked and braced bare steel frame. It has no room for panniers. It has rear set foot pegs, a high level sub-frame and a single seat unit that comprises of little more than a thin layer of high -density seat foam.
The choice of equipment for the camping tour is both careful and clever. When you can’t carry very much you must choose carefully.
The choice of clothing consists of one pair of lace up boots, a set of one piece leathers from the 1970’s and a Simpson helmet. Not everyone’s choice of riding gear for such a long trip but now you might be beginning to understand what made this trip so interesting to me.
Welcome to the strange ways of frame building guru and OSS stalwart Alan (Strangewayz) Caven. Alan called this trip Air-cooled, steel framed Anarchy! I think the trip sums up the uncompromising, meticulous, unique, creative and thoroughly considered approach that Mr Stragewayz brings to most things that he does.
I had followed Alan’s trip over the summer through social media updates and I loved every instalment. There was very little narrative in his updates, mostly just pictures and one-liners but despite that the whole idea really appealed to me so I asked Alan if I could stitch it all together and get some background behind his motives for the trip. Here’s what he told me:
I went through a phase of not finishing any of my own builds due to always working on other people’s stuff, along the way I got tagged by a few people as falling into the category of enjoying building a bike more than actually riding it.
Nothing could be further from the truth; I don’t actually see the point in building something if it isn’t going to get some proper use. It’s the ultimate test of workmanship, seeing if the design, choice of components and execution were good enough.
Some people live for the dragstrip, track days or weekend ride outs… For me it’s all about a road trip, which has to be overseas and on something home built because that combination makes things edgier, takes you out of daily life home country comfort zones, tests both the bike and yourself physically and mentally (I broke both my elbows, right wrist and left ankle in a crash years ago so have a few war wounds to deal with).
I nailed my colours to the mast years ago – Air-cooled – Steel framed – Muscle bikes! Un-faired and loud is the way to roll.
Those of us that know Alan know that his unique take on Suzuki’s GSX 1100 ET was built as tribute to his late wife, who he tragically lost to cancer back in 2010. Alan lost his last remaining link to his wife when, not long ago, he also lost their dog Ozzy. Alan explained that the bike and the trip were an important part of his climb out a pretty dark place.
Whilst I built the 711 out of 7-Nov Rip Mrs Strangewayz with the intent to hit European streets with it, the real catalyst for this actual trip was when I also lost Ozzy – my Dobermann. The last link with my wife,as he’d been ours. He got me through some tough times he was always there for me. In that moment life was pretty shit, my whole world had gone and life didn’t actually make much sense – what was the point of it all if that was what was served up? I knew needed something positive to concentrate on.
The Provisional MotoGP calendar for 2016 came out with Austria GP & Czech Republic on consecutive weekends; that was it! I knew that by planning to travel minimal and mostly camp it would occupy my mind with how to actually do that. The easy route would be to leave mid-week and roll from Germany straight into Austria…. but that was too easy !!
Heard about Tavullia (Rossi’s home town) seemed a cool place, the man had a bar and pizza place so hey rock up over the alps and drop down into Italy before heading back up to Austria.
I just need an excuse to go and then join the dots up, I used (road) racing but as you can see the journey is more important than the destination, as is what you choose to do the trip on (bike).
The Icing on the cake was that the dates would work to end up back in the Isle of Man for the Classic TT Races. Game on!
I knew this was going to be a busy year because I was also going to the NW200 Road Races mid-May and the TT Races start of June.
Whilst I had some serious reasons for planning the trip, the trip itself was an adventure with a lot of spontaneous stuff going on.
This was how the actual route ended up :
Sat Day 1 Northampton to Bastogne in Belgium
Sun Day 2 Bastogne to Lake Constance (Germany)
Mon Day 3 Lake Constance to Riva Del Garda (Lake Garda – Italy)
Tue Day 4 Riva Del Garda to Tavullia (Rimini near San Marino)
Wed Day 5 Tavullia to Spielburg (Redbull Ring – Austria)
Thur – Fri – Sat – Sun all Moto GP
Mon Day 10 Spielburg to Linz (Austria – OSS Greg Sochor)
Tue Day 11 Linz to Brno (Czech Repb) Chance of a pit pass J
Wed Day 12 Brno to Prague (Czech Repb) no pit pass lol..
Thur Day 13 Prague to Brno (loose keys….)
Fri – Sat – Sun all Moto GP
Mon Day 17 Brno to Nuremburg (Germany)
Tue Day 18 Nuremburg to Etalle (Belgium)
Wed Day 19 Etalle to Northampton (England !)
Thur Day 20 Northampton to Isle of Man
Fri – Sat – Sun – Mon all Classic TT Races
Tue Day 25 Isle of Man to Northampton
Wed Back to work….
After speaking to Alan I realised the best way to recount this tale was in the way that I had first experienced it on social media, so I have chosen my favourite updates he made during the trip below and embedded any words as he used at the time.
So if you’re reading this and you still don’t understand and or admire the sheer insane and inspirational brilliance of this road trip then you are probably on the wrong website. Alan, OSS salutes you sir. Here’s to building them, riding them , and smugly enjoying what you have carved out using your hands, your ingenuity and your imagination and here’s to never letting anyone tell you that you can’t.
This is Alan’s story, so it’s only right that he should get the last word.
What an awesome bike! Still riding it every day to work, need to pull it off road soon as brake discs, pads, rear sprocket almost shot – had to put some winter tyres on (Michelin Pilot Road 4’s) as the Dunlop q3’s which I had on for the trip & did everything I wanted but won’t grip below 5 degrees.
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