There are many ways to test a motorbike but none is better than undertaking a journey, preferably a long and intense one, without sparing either energy or kilometres. The idea of doing as many kilometres as possible usually grinds to a halt because of a lack of time. There is a solution though: compress a journey that would usually take much longer into a much shorter time... The original idea of crossing six countries seemed a bit lame, so we added two more for a total of eight: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany (passing through Munich), Switzerland and then back to Italy. That makes 2,300 km in all, to be covered in about 36 hours, excluding overnight stops.
Milano - Trieste - Lubjiana - Maribor - Graz:
805 km from Milan
Riding a motorbike lets you appreciate the smells around you and feel them change kilometre after kilometre. We set off with such a lack of urgency that we didn't actually leave the meeting point just East of Milan until well after 11.00 am instead of 7.00 am. The first road section was the boring, jam-packed A4 to Trieste. It was simply a long stretch of motorway that we wanted to get behind us as quickly as possible without falling foul of the "Tutor" motorway speed control system. What about the weather? No problem - the temperature was 30°C and the sun beat hard on our helmets as we streaked along on our two bikes. The kilometres just seemed to fly by thanks in no small measure to our bikes, which were the real stars of this trip: very little wind buffeting, almost no vibration and great comfort meant that even travelling at the speed limit, we felt completely relaxed and had plenty of time to read information about elapsed distances and fuel consumption. We did Milan to Trieste in one leg and were on the border with the first country we were to cross.
. A short ride from Trieste took us into Slovenia, which is like a replica of Austria as far as countryside goes. The traffic disappeared, the roads were perfect and our trip computers showed that we were averaging a very satisfying 115 kph. The roads were full of climbs, descents and long winding curves. Soon we weren't far from Maribor, famous for being one of the legs of the Alpine Ski World Cup. Along the way, we saw the bonnet of a car travelling beside us fly open and another car that had somehow "missed" the lane at a toll station. These are the things that make travelling so unforgettable…
Graz - Szonbathely - Bratislava - Brno - Prague:
1,416 km from Milan
TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS
. We can sum up the second day as follows: we had breakfast in Graz (Austria), lunch in Bratislava (Slovakia) and dinner in Prague (Czech Republic). In 611 km, we crossed three more borders (Hungary, Slovakian Republic and Czech Republic), getting three more motorway stickers and loving every minute of it. That includes a close encounter with the Hungarian police in force (6 officers was less of a patrol and a more of a platoon), who stopped us for speeding in the middle of nowhere. In fact, when they stopped us we were going slow but the speeding issue was related to a town we had passed through 4 km before. Result: the police only spoke Hungarian and German, we only spoke Italian and English. None of us could understand what the other was saying and, following a scene worthy of Mr. Bean, they let us go with a warning to slow down in built-up areas. Built-up? The towns in Hungary all seemed to be uninhabited and the streets bare (see the photos). The idea of traffic is almost surreal: hardly any cars, long straights and flat Hungarian plains as far as the eye can see. The famous castle in Bratislava welcomed us and, after a quick lunch, we were back in the saddle on the motorway to Brno, where both MotoGp and Superbike races are held. Leaving the suggestive settings of the track where many bikers go for a free testing day, we headed for Prague, which welcomed us like long lost friends and is a real must for any traveller.
Prague - Plzen - Munich - Chur - San Bernardino - Milano:
2,235 km from Milan
FROM PRAGUE TO MILAN IN ONE DAY
. Our journey continued with a lovely time on the German autobahns, where on derestricted stretches powerful German cars simply flew past us when we were already doing over 200 kph. Our route, which we had changed slightly from the original plan, took us to nearly 2,300 km with one additional crossing. Indeed, we actually visited nine and not eight countries, as we also passed through Liechtenstein, a small enclave in Swiss territory. Years ago a comic joked: “Liechtenstein is so small that every time you do a U-turn you need your passport”. Completing the trip in just three days was no great physical hardship. We also demonstrated that even if you don't have much free time, the desire to travel – by motorbike, naturally – can provide you all the energy you need to experience a unique trip like ours, which took us to eight European countries - sorry, nine.