Retro Rides Barcelona
With the end of summer nearing we headed to Barcelona to clock up a few more miles on sunny roads. I had never been to Barcelona before and was instantly taken by the impressive mix of architecture both old and new. It is a city with a real creative flair, it embodies the arts and craft movement and isn't afraid to make a statement. The famous buildings of Antonia Gaudi really show the spirit of the city and are truly stunning. Built around a grid system its an easy city to navigate and on the first day we took in the sights from the beach, through the old town to the modern districts on the east. Less then an hour after leaving the hotel we came across a custom triumph built by Fuel Motorcycles parked up on a corner. Moments later Karles, the founder of Fuel came by and welcomed us to the city. Our plan was to visit the Kaff Garage, a cafe / motorcycle store, but unfortunately when we finally found it we also found that it had recently closed down. Likewise our friends from Black Cat customs were no longer in business.
The next morning a brand new Moto Guzzi V7 stone 111 was delivered to our hotel by Retro Rides Barcelona. I had initially met Phillip who started the company when he had participated on one of our mechanics courses and it was great to catch up some years later. I always like to explore a new place on two wheels and it was great to have a choice of brand new bikes including the new Triumph scrambler, street twin and the Guzzi. We were soon to find some of the most amazing roads and it wouldn't have been the same tackling them on a scooter or adventure bike which were the other rental offerings in the city.
I hadn't planned any routes, I generally like to just jump on a bike and see what I find. Phillip had lived in Barcelona for a couple of years and knew the best roads and gave us a few tailored routes and places to explore. He recommend we head out into the mountains to the town of Montserrat and then down to Sitges on the coast. Heading out of the city on the highway we were soon lost amongst a spaghetti of roads as the motorways split and split again. Rather then try and fathom our way out we took an exit and headed for the mountains. In a couple of miles we were racing along winding roads and empty forrest tracks. Climbing higher and the roads got thinner until they changed into dirt tracks ascending into the forrest. We emerged at the top to see amazing vistas of the mountains and the coast below. Stopping for a coffee at a small village high on the hills and the locals gathered around taking photos of the bike and asking us were we were heading, we didn't know. We continued through the mountains and the roads swung left and right as they snaked down the passes. If you ever want to learn to lean a bike down then these are the perfect roads. At the summit the views stretched out for miles with the Pyrenees rising up on the horizon.
We headed down to the coast and to Sitges, a party town and home to the original Pacha club. An old chapel juts out in the sea perched on a rocks and the historic quarters are lined with restaurants. We caught the sunset and headed back to Barcelona on the highway which tunneled through the mountains. The tunnels increase in length up to 1000m and you get the surreal feeling of losing sense of time and speed as the hypnotic flash of the lights passing by.
The next day we headed in the opposite direction, up towards the french boarder to the Costa Brava, the wild coast. As well as the famed beaches, coves and scenery this area also boast some of the best roads in Catalan. Once we passed Tosse de mar the roads wrapped around the cliff edges, winding their way up and down and revealing hidden beaches. I was thankful to have the Guzzi which handled brilliantly, even two up, and had enough power to hit the roads hard. We headed back to the city and visited our friends down at Fuel Motorcycles, a great garage and showroom in central Barcelona. In the middle of the garage sat an incredible Harley Build, the big twin engine was teamed with a tiny BSA tank and a shovel head front end, the geometry was super cool. Karles, the founder, showed us around and talked me through his Scram Africa event, and eight day ride through Morocco.
Philip from Retro Rides met us at our hotel to collect the bike and we grabbed some tapas and talked all things motorcycles. Barcelona is a great city, full of life, great food and bars, Art is visible everywhere and there is a vibrant creative scene. The real fun though was getting out and exploring, racing through the mountains and finding hidden beaches, local farm restaurants and escaping it all. It was great not having to compromise on a set of wheels to do so. I have ridden everything from plastic scooters, Harley Road Kings to clapped out Royal Enfields or dirt bikes that barely work when travelling abroad. Its always great to be riding something but when the roads are this good you really want something that you can appreciate them on. It was also great to feel safe in the knowledge that the bikes were well maintained. A recent trip to Bali saw me having to make road side repairs without a tool kit, navigating down the side of a volcano without brakes and hitting the highway at night with no lights. It was fun and we made it to our destination but without some mechanical knowledge I could have ended up stranded in a very remote area. The difference is that Phillip is passionate about motorcycles and genuinely cares about ensuring you have a great experience. Always one to get bored on a beach holiday Barcelona was a great mix, a vibrant city surrounded by the most beautiful countryside. There was so much more to explore and we never quite made it to the Pyrenees, so we will definitely be back.