A foodie's motorcycle tour of Spain
Good food, great weather and some of the emptiest roads in western Europe – it can only be Spain.
The country has so much to offer both gourmets and bikers that it seems only right to combine the two into one tour.
Mariá José Sevilla, Spanish food expert, reckons there is so much fantastic food to discover that bikers won't know where to begin. The easiest thing, therefore, is to take on as much as you can think you can cram into one tour. Don't try to cover too much ground – the interior of Spain is bigger than you might think – but if you can squeeze in several regions, then you'll find a huge array of culinary delights.
"I would start in Asturias. Asturias is my latest discovery. It's interesting that after 30 years of travelling up and down the country I'm still discovering wonderful places in Spain," says Sevilla. "I would carry on north and go to Navarra, where I come from and where some of the top vegetables in the world come from."
Next, he recommends crossing to Catalonia, from north to south, and progressing south to Valencia where you can sample the area's "wonderful" rice dishes.
"Maybe go across to Madrid, where you can also try things like roasted dates and suckling pig. Carry on a little further west to Extremadura to have some of the most stunning Iberico ham, unique to Spain and delicious," adds Sevilla. "Of course, why not end in my little house in Aracena in the Sierra Morena, where I would love to retire one day."
Ferries from Portsmouth and Plymouth will take you to either of the two main ports on the north coast, Santander and Bilbao. From Santander, it's a pleasant ride along the A8 coastal road to Asturias to start your culinary tour.
If you can manage heading further west than Oviedo, take the AS15 and AS14 towards Grandas, then swing south on the AS28, which links up with the stunning stretch on the LU106. The section from Fonsagrada to Lugo is superb and was resurfaced recently.
Of course, you don't have to start in Asturias, and if you take the N623 south to the Castillian town of Burgos you are in for a real treat. Rising to above 1,000 feet, the 143km stretch is one of the best roads in Spain, featuring hairpins and some fantastic downhill runs.
The quality of the surface varies considerably in a country that is twice the size of the UK and has a much lower population. Indeed, you'll often find yourself on stretches of empty tarmac that look as though they haven't seen work in long time.
It can be hazardous at times, particularly in northern Spain, where you could hit a rough patch and come off. You only need a helmet for machines over 125cc – but it would be wise not to take 'advantage' of this relaxed regulation.
Before setting off
There are a few things you should do to before leaving for Spain. One of these is checking all the local rules of the road. It sounds obvious, but many bikers either ignore or forget this.
Fines are issued on the spot by the police and there has been a reduction in the speed limit on main roads to 110kph. Radar detectors are illegal – expect a hefty fine if you are caught with one. If you need glasses for riding, you should always carry a spare pair with you.
Steve Kenward, chief executive officer at the Motorcycle Industry Association, has some more tips. "Always have your local dealer check over your bike before embarking on a long journey and tell him what you are planning, so he can advise if your bike is properly set up for the road and journey-type you envisage," he says. "Also, make sure you have the right motorcycle clothing for the journey you are making."