What to do? what to do? With the little BMW that is. After about 18 months of ownership a couple of good trips and many days exploring the local mountain roads and trails a decision had to be made over the fate of the bike.
Bought initially for touring duty as an addition to my trusty GSXR (too extreme for touring these days). The little BMW has grown on me as a general purpose bike as well as a touring stead, but it did come with a bit of problem attached, that being its UK registration.
Many expats in Spain will run UK registered vehicles for longer than the prescribed, 6 month maximum, however I try to follow the rules where possible. The BMW came to me with a Spanish ITV which on a UK vehicle is just a health check and not really worth the paper its written on, it was SORN and had been in Spain for probably 15 or 16 years. It had only covered 4,300 km's from new though.
After 18 months a decision had to be made on the bike's future and with 4 options available a list of pros and cons was formulated.
1 Continue using the bike on UK plates, not a good idea in the long term as they can be impounded and crushed.
2 Import the bike and continue my adventure with it. They are a great bike but two up with luggage for touring they are a bit slow, fun but slow.
3 Import and then sell on, not really a good option due to the costs involved in the importation process.
4 Return it to the UK and advertise it for sale.
The fourth option whilst not my favourite, as I would keep them all if I had the garage space, was the only sensible option. But how to get it back?
After a bit of web searching and a couple of phone calls I decided to ride the bike from my home on the Costa Blanca to my parents house near Scarborough in North Yorkshire UK. It would then sit in my Dad's garage for a few months, to wait for the beginning of the biking season and prime selling time.
The route through France could be problematic if the weather turned bad so a shorter route of 1300 kms was planned. The first 800 kms across Spain from my home to Bilbao, the ferry across the Bay of Biscay to Portsmouth, then a further 500 ish kms in the UK.
The ferry was booked for the Thursday evening and a flight back to Spain on Monday lunchtime to give me a little breathing room to catch up with my parents and other relatives.
Setting off from home at 04:00 seemed like a good idea when I was planning everything, the ferry was at 15:30 with check in an hour before at the latest, so I had time to spare: 800 kms in 10.5hrs, no problem. The cold however was a different thing, here on the Costa Blanca it never gets that cold, well during the day anyway. But in the early hours on a December morning its not warm either.
I had checked the forecast for the whole journey, Spain and UK and whilst there was no rain expected, the temperatures in and around Teruel at 07:00 ish would be between –3 and –6 degrees. Spain would be much colder than the UK then, well there is a ski resort near Teruel.
The first part of the journey towards Valencia is a toll road which I normally avoid as it's a bit boring, but in the early hours it was preferable to the local roads with myopic drivers heading home after a night out or to work for an early shift. I could also guarantee the petrol stations would be open if needed. Spain is a little behind other places where 24hr stations are concerned and planning has to be done if setting off early or late.
At the first stop just outside Valencia I topped up with petrol adjusted my waterproofs, worn just in case and readied myself for riding inland towards the ski resorts and Teruel. As I live in the warm all year I don't really have any winter riding gear anymore, just my standard kit with waterproofs. However I did buy some waterproof over gloves for this trip and found that I could fit a thin pair of fleece gloves inside my old baggy leather riding gloves. This setup gave slightly less feeling but was preferable to frostbite.
Setting off from the petrol station with a full tank I rounded the building and headed for the exit when an HGV ignored a stop sign and almost wiped me out, good brakes on this F650. After the shock of the near miss I set off again back onto the motorway towards Teruel.
The road from Valencia winds it's way up into the mountains and eventually onto a plane that runs for hundreds of kms across Spain. During this climb and about 20 mins after the HGV incident the bike started to slow. I had been expecting this to a point but this was different, Houston we have a problem. First I thought it was a bad batch of petrol as the bike slowed gradually but then suddenly it was much worse and I took to the hard shoulder.
Luckily for me there was a motorway maintenance truck driving slowly doing barrier inspection so I pulled up in front of him and stopped. As I pulled the clutch in the bike stopped dead, still running but no movement back or forth. It seems that the shock of the HGV had affected the bike more than me and we had a sticky brake pad which had heated and stuck. With the lights of the maintenance truck and a few tools out of my pack an investigation was started with encouraging words from the motorway guy. No problem the brake has overheated I have plenty of time and the guy was in no rush to move so we sat and waited for a bit.
Then the Guardia Civil turned up, oh dear this could get worse very quickly. The two guys couldn't have been more helpful. They positioned their car so we were all protected and stood chatting with me and the highway guy until my brake cooled down enough to release the pad. Job done. They suggested that I ride slowly for 2km's to the next exit where there is an open café and it could cool a bit more.
Time to get going that was 45 minutes off my schedule, at the junction I turned off to check out the café which unfortunately was closed and having lost so much time already I decided to carry on at a steady pace to see how things went.
Bad idea, I got about another 10km's and the whole fiasco started again, this time I was ready for it and pulled in straight away. I sat for about an hour at the side of the motorway watching the sun come up and slowly warming up as the bike's brakes cooled. This time I could properly see and made sure the pads were free before moving off.
I rode steadily the rest of the way past Teruel and on to Zaragoza but then had to get a move on if I was to make the ferry on time. The normal N road was out of the question as by now the whole world had woken up and they were all on my bit of road. I took the toll road from Zaragoza to Bilbao all the time watching the kms going up and my available time going down. It was a very "interesting" few hours with a fuel stop just to break things up. The sat nav software on my phone came into it's own in Bilbao it kept me right all the way to the ferry avoiding the busy town.
Bike checked in and boarded straight away, now to find my cabin for the overnight crossing and get out of my biking gear.
The cabins on the Cap Finistere are quite basic but adequate for an overnight stay, having said that after 800km's anything would have been good. After a quick tidy up I was on deck having a late lunch, 03:30 to 15:00 with just a Snickers in between probably wasn't the best idea. The food was excellent beef stew with chips and a bread roll and a good sized portion.
After talking with friends and relatives about the Bay Of Biscay and their experiences of rough crossings I was a bit nervous as the boat set off from Bilbao. No need though, the crossing was uneventful. I had a small snack for tea and an early night to try to catch up a bit before my trek across the UK.
I woke a bit late after a very restful sleep and headed to the restaurant for breakfast, deciding against the full English I went for continental instead which again was great. Then to the boring bit waiting to land in Portsmouth. The Cap Finistare has free WiFi for passengers which helped as I surfed the web and used WhatsApp to update my wife on the journey so far and to let my parents know how it was all going.
Soon enough we got notification that port was imminent so headed to my cabin to gather my belongings before heading to the deck to take a few pictures. Although as expected the sky was little grey it was not too cold.
The first part of my journey in the UK would be quite short as the bike needed an MOT. I had made an appointment with the nearest MOT station in Portsmouth and as such was able to ride the bike to the station without an MOT or TAX.
Using my trusty mobile phone with sat nav software to navigate, I headed out from the bowels of the ship and through port security into a rapidly darkening December afternoon. Riding on the left for only the second time in 13 years was a bit strange but it all came back to me after a few hundred yards and a roundabout.
The guys at the Bike Moto test station couldn't have been more helpful, the bike sailed through its MOT with no advisories as expected and within an hour or so I was back on my way. Immediately after the MOT was passed my wife used the new online tax website ("Vehicle Excise Duty" to be precise) and the BMW was legal again, probably for the first time in about 16 years.
Heading out of Portsmouth in the dark at rush hour with about 500 kms to go was a bit daunting, however the plan was flexible. If or when I had, had enough, I would pull in and stay overnight but with my sat nav for company and the now clearing traffic it didn't seem like too much of a challenge.
The journey was a bit of a blur mostly on motorways, I remember stopping near Oxford for a McDonalds to keep me going and then signs for Silverstone race circuit before I was on the M42 and then The M1. Going along the M42 past the turning for the NEC reminded me of the test ride on the KTM 1190 Adventure that I had had at the bike show last year.
The show was on but no time to visit this year, heading up the M1 the traffic thins the further north you get and I had a decision to make, carry on up the M1 towards Leeds and York or head the other way up the M62. The M62 would be shorter and quieter but also less well known to me and at night I thought better of it and headed towards York.
Round the York bypass I went and on to very familiar roads I spent the best part of 5 years commuting the 45 miles between Scarborough and York and could drive this blindfold. Forty minutes later and about 1 hour behind schedule I was sat in my parents kitchen drinking tea and eating cake whilst I recounted the journey.
Apparently everyone had been worried about me and thought I was mad setting off on such a journey in December, as I said to them that's what made it an adventure.
I spent the next 2 days catching up with some relatives, between bouts of bike polishing. The front brake caliper was stripped and rebuilt and the bike cleaned and polished until it looked like new, with only 11706km's on the clock it might as well have been new.
My final task for the weekend was to take pictures ready to advertise it for sale before putting it in store in my Dad's garage. I didn't shed a tear as I put it away but I wasn't happy either, it had been a great bike for 18 months and the best present my wife has ever bought me.
Update: In February 2016 the bike was advertised on Auto Trader UK and sold to the first person who came to look at it. Apparently his first words were "It looks like a new bike".