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.
Early start this morning 4am ish… Neighbours love the sound of a Racefit exhaust clearing it’s throat..
160 miles later it was ferry time, off & the down the road a bit now. Just had a broken English sign language ‘you look like the Stig’ moment…….
Long time since I did a 400 miler, good to be back t it.First night stop over, clues on the bar.
Lol worst camping pitch I ever had, lucky I got a 3/4 Thermarest + Jungle Juice & a Balaclava to survive the midges by Lake Constance as I put tent up in the dark last night. Strangewayz 1 – Midges 0
Think I’m in a different world… The locals are going to love the sound of the 711 clearing it’s throat Racefit style…
Stopped to pull pants out of crack & lovely view of Alps in background
Rocking late 70’s Dainese one piece, genuine retro race gearI scored off Italian eBay last year. Just these & a pair of shorts, non armoured so not as bulky as modern stuff. Looks cool as on the 711
Wasn’t sure but having worn them fucking brilliant, these are the ‘Adventure’ ones, they also do Cruiser or Sport. Have computer designed pads so yeah like posh cycling shorts.
Kriega Hydro 3, wouldn’t be without it. I buy a 1tr bottle of water each day & throw it in. Leaves space for other easy grab gear & so light it’s feels like wearing nothing. Has bladder pocket + 1 other zipped side pocket & the elastic string on the back. The mouth piece is easy to use whilst riding.
Ready to roll, still got the Tavullia cardboard sign to strap somewhere 🙂 Heading north to Czech Repb for their MotoGP race. Stopping off today to see Oldschool Suzuki Greg Sochor in Linz some 200km away. Prague on Weds then back to Brno Thurs ready for the racing. Austria MotoGP was awesome event 215,000 people over the 3 days. Great racing, atmosphere & the sun came out to play.
Side of the road rain gear & visor change, car travel this isn’t haha… Strangewayz keeping it real !
US Urban battle Goretex, gaiters & Red Wing boots – oh yeah & no quick shifter lol
Wrong sport but if your into VW’s this is the famous She’ll garage (now Eri) outside Velden which is ‘The’ place to hangout at the annual Worthersee show. I will be back out this was in my Mk1 Golf in a few years when it’s done. My stupid idea was to get here then find somewhere to wild camp. At silly am it was hard trying to find anywhere as built up with resorts & posh hotels. In the end pushed 100km onto the Red Bull Ring running low on fuel (all shut), IPhone battery (Google maps) & energy. But I did it & I love my bike, 711 was awesome, better than me !!
Definitely regard it as a badge of honour when, so far I am the only motorcycle on the campsite for a bike race ! Especially when I had to move my tent this morning being considered in the way of the the blue awning the couple are putting up who just arrived this morning in their van from up the road (Austria). Hey who knows maybe they will share their beer with me later hahahah….
Road trip shite Austria MotoGP Not really on the piss, that’s when riding solo parked up for a few days is hardest. English speakers thin on the ground but I’m in a good place. Side of a mountain, village part of the track, cool shit, locals love the visitors, bit Euro beat/pop 24/7 sausage feast – why the fuck do you want to dance on a table with your mate – that’s for girls to show off haha… but didn’t do this to feel like I was down the local. General admission ticket (grass) but shite, Isle of Man has spoiled me, but found a good spot with the boys leaving rubber. Dovi & the Maniac at each other all day, Vin what a boy! Cru at times top Honda. MotoGP app excellent with live sector times & a track graphic showing rider positions. Good times, memories lots, ride your bike & go do shit.
It’s all about Suzuki, rockin’ Rizzla T today
T shirt drying, would make a good paint job…
Ahh tent life, big grin, chilling out, road tripping again in the morning, good times rolling.
Fuck yes, tent up at Brno circuit, beer going down hatch.very pretty bar maid, could get to like this haha !! Too you sir that will e£1.20 a pint woo hoo hell yeah
Hanging around feeling lucky…
Czech MotoGP pit pass gig didn’t fall into place, hung around for 2 hours & can you believe as I was riding out along the back lanes the wagon rolled past in a group of 3 ! Turned round asap but by the time I caught them up the guys were already through the barrier. Had a cool time hanging out & wasn’t meant to be. On way to Prague & seriously the main motorway from Brno up is the worst piece of shit road I’ve been on. Bone shaker of a road with a nasty split/crack between lanes 1 & 2. Pulled over for a coffee to check out other routes ! Still smiling though 🙂
85km away form Prague river campsite, needed chocolate so hey park under 3 cameras. Girl too right was seriously sexy….
The Girls are Pretty & the Roads are Shitty. Czech roads are the worst piece of crap I’ve been on, might be different in ya cars guys but on a bike you get hammered, Garmin satnav plastic mount just broke because of it, will be on the hunt for cable ties & duct tape 🙂
Ffs we have lost key, Hotwire plan… seriously no photo setup, but still smiling !
Look it’s all about priorities, sweat talking the bar maid to get…… the Suzuki pics from her calendar haha go Vin !!!
Hmm describe Al in a pic ! Yeah beers going down well…….
Seriously impressed the Dunlop Q3 is keeping it’s profile, had to do some serious straight line miles in 30 deg air temps with all the gear on the back & it hasn’t got a shite flat section yet. Too many UK cars showing up around Brno, keep it on 2 wheels guys !!!
After yesterday’s Hotwire after loosing keys on trip 5km away to local atm…. got 3 days parked up as track is walking distance. Re checked my spares kit & lucky boy I did pack a few goodies, should be able to do something ok to last the 1500km trip home 🙂
Having a shite time as you can see whoo hooo
Err so it’s not 8am & sat by the side of the road drinking beer with a dude from Panama also called Alan lol either that or it’s all a weird dream. I only stopped for an espresso because the girl was pretty but the machine wasn’t warmed up……….
Brno MotoGP !
Suzuki out spotting, MotoGP Fp3
Cup say “100% energie” hope it works 🙂
Agh the moment the sugar rush hit whoo hooo caking my way through Germany….
Pffff not impressed my Oberon mirror has fallen apart on me again ffs. I like the gear but for what it cost I don’t expect to have to hold it up on my knuckles whilst waiting for a foreign motorway services to pull over & take if off. Fail 🙁
Hmmm choices choices ok both !!
Chasing the sat nav down, got a good number on it that gets me on the ferry. Fuel stops only, cake later !
Time to roll again 🙂
Sitting at the Creg taking in all the wonderful sounds from the different classes out practicing. Fantastic views in the background which is why I didn’t bother taking a picture of the pub !! Awesome to see 250cc two strokes back racing on the island with their own class.
Ready to roll again, off to watch the Superbike Race & then will be on the ferry home…..
Still going strong – Aircooled forever !
Any day I ride the 711 is a good day just some are sadder than others.
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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