Two months ago, Teresa Downing was a pillion passenger on her boyfriend’s bike, prepared to follow wherever he wanted to ride.
Now, after passing her CBT and taking a lesson a week, she’s a veteran of a 3,200km round Europe trip of her own that took in France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Belgium and she’s already planning her next one.
The 29-year-old admin assistant was always happy riding pillion as her partner powered through the picturesque Shropshire countryside bordering England and Wales where she grew up: “I loved it but there was always something gnawing away at me and it was only when I sat on a Triumph that I realised what it was. I needed to have my own bike.”
Exhilarating and life changing
A Christmas gift of a CBT followed by 10 lessons were enough to turn dreams into reality: “When I was riding through valleys gazing up at snow-capped mountains in Switzerland I had to pinch myself that I couldn’t even ride such a short time earlier. Passing the CBT was easy and then I had a lesson a week with maybe one or two more as the test date approached. Then I’d passed, bought a bike and was free to go wherever I – with the emphasis on I – wanted.”
That meant a couple of exploratory ride outs on her newly acquired Triumph Tiger XRT into Wales before sitting down to plan a two-week trip starting with a ferry to France and then a mini circuit of Europe which she found exhilarating and life changing in equal measure.
Freedom and camaraderie
“I’ve been to some incredible places in my life but to do it on a motorcycle like the Tiger XRT which just loves the road, takes travel to a new dimension,” she says: “The freedom and the camaraderie of the trip were just amazing. Meeting people whose only thing in common with you was their Triumphs, yet making a real strong bond, was something I’ve never experienced before.
“I’ve surprised myself at how quickly I’ve gone from rookie to a rider with a trip under my belt, but honestly think that the XRT being so intuitive had a lot to do with it. The rider aids and tech are all designed so that anyone could ride it really.”
Modest maybe, but there’s another reason why the XRT is the bike of choice: “The panniers. Because I always had to cut back on what I could pack if I went anywhere with my partner. On this trip I took what I wanted.”
Teresa’s motorcycle diary
After crossing to Calais it was a shock to be on the opposite side of the road for the first time, but by the time we arrived in Basel after some amazing, fast and free-flowing roads with no one around for miles through France’s Alsace region, I was fine.
Riding along the shores of Lake Constance we reached the Bavarian town of Lindau. It’s a fascinating town built on an island on the eastern side of Lake Constance. To get to it there is a road bridge from the mainland, the buildings look untouched and unspoilt from when they were built in the early 16th century. We were spoilt for choice when it came to places to eat and drink. This is one of the prettiest towns I’ve been to.
The famous German Alpine Road (or Alpenstrasse in German) starts just outside the town of Lindau on the approach to Sigmarszell and runs through a combination of B roads for nearly 300 miles before connecting with the Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse) as you head east. I was anxious about riding the twisty, tight alpine roads today but the bike was phenomenal and handled the roads well. The views were stunning and the roads meandered gently through beautiful villages and countryside.
As I continue through the mountain towns of Immenstadt and Sonthoften the valley opens up and the mountains start to surround us as we arrive into Oberstdorf where the landscape is epic. After a fantastic day of scenic riding through the mountains and valleys I arrived at the halfway point at Lake Achensee in the Austrian Tirol. After more than 1,500 miles of riding I was ready for a few days of rest and relaxation. I was now easily more experienced at riding in Europe than I was at riding in the UK!
I get through Germany quickly, destination the incredible L202 road that climbs up through the hills and then spirals down to pick up the river. Cochem was supposed to be a mundane stop over before heading into Belgium but to my surprise it was a beautiful town with colourful buildings and cobbled streets, situated on the Mosel river in the heart of German wine country. Its main feature being the 11th century (Reichsburg) hill top castle that looks down into the main town. Today was the last night in Germany and I’d loved every minute of it, what a beautiful country and lovely people.
Bruges is a lovely small city and a convenient last stop before heading home. It’s so accessible for UK motorcyclists for either a long weekend or a homebound or outbound stop. At the hotel, I met a fellow biker who was staying in Bruges for the first night of his trip to Norway. Belgium feels like a great gateway to the rest of Europe and I will be sure to return, panniers empty so that I can fill them with chocolate.
I’m still a relatively new rider, but now I’m home I can really see the benefit of spending two solid weeks riding my own bike and eating up the miles on a wide variety of roads and the situations that I encountered. It might have taken me months, if not years to get the same level of riding experience had I just stuck to regular weekend rides on my local roads.
“Riding my Triumph Tiger was tireless and it gave me confidence in every situation. Once we were off it was all-day comfortable, amazingly capable and made me feel like I had been riding a bike for years.”