The tour step by step

On the tracks of the past

It was exactly thirty years ago that Herbert went on his first motorcycle tour. To Scotland. His big sister gave him the idea. Of course, she wanted to come too. Since she didn't have a motorbike licence and the two got on well with each other, she simply rode on the back of Herbert's old Suzuki GT 550. Today's stylish high-tech clothing didn't exist at that time. Herbert looked great in a two-piece leather suit, while Erika wore a denim outfit. Since the two greenhorns had heard it might rain in Scotland, to be on the safe side they packed two sets of waterproofs in an old cotton olive-green German army bag. This held everything you could ever need for a trip: camera, clothes, a tent and sleeping bags (sadly not warm cosy ones). Herbert was mighty proud of his tank bag. The ultimate the Harro Elefantenboy, and also the only one available on the motorbike accessories market. Motorbike technology today is not just worlds away from back then, it's a whole different universe. At a forced pace, the “Suzi” guzzled 13 litres per 100 kilometres. This set the young Herbert thinking. He started getting ideas as to how he could improve things... To him it was obvious that sometime he'd have to set up his own factory for proper motorbike accessories it was just a question of when. Then in 1990 he decided to devote his entire life to the motorbike world...

Herbert tells me this story one mild spring evening, a glass of whisky in hand, as we sit around a campfire in our garden. As is the way with travellers' tales, the wanderlust sets in right away.

“I've never been to Scotland, but I've always wanted to go there.”

“You'd like it.”

“How come it's been such a long time since we went anywhere on the motorbike together?”

“Two reasons spring to mind: Yannick (2) and Yaron (1), our Golden October terror gang.”

“Can you imagine going away without the kids for once? As long as we find someone who'll look after them.”

“Hmmm... how long for?”

“Four weeks.”

“And what bike will we take?”

“As chance would have it, BMW are revising the R 1200 RT at the moment. That would be ideal for those narrow single-track roads in Scotland. Should I make a few enquiries? We might be able to test the new accessories we developed at the same time.”

“Did you have all this planned to begin with?”

“Come on, let's drink to it!”

“To a new trip!”

It's become standard practice now at Touratech that test rides also generate a pile of photos for a catalogue story along with a DVD of the trip. The challenge this time is that the RT is the perfect road tourer for couples and therefore should be put in the appropriate context. In our case this means riding enjoyment for two, on ONE machine. So I sit on the back behind Herbert like Erika once did. As a pillion passenger I can snuggle up to the rider while he sets his pulse racing with precisely controlled power and good torque. After long rides on this trip I won't be sore from the hard Enduro seat, although I might want to switch on the seat heating if it gets a little cold. But as a biker myself who loves riding on gravel roads most of all I have to get used to this changing of roles first...

We put a second team together to make sure the photo and film production is done professionally. Accompanying us on a Touratech-equipped RT are the cameraman Jean-Baptiste and his girlfriend Violetta, who knows how to handle a still camera. And this is how the four of us on two bikes come to be making our way to Scotland in August 2009. Since Herbert is a total francophile and Normandy is sort of on the way, a quick detour to the cliffs and beaches on the French side of the Channel is a must.

Text: Ramona Schwarz
Pic.: Ramona Schwarz, Herbert Schwarz, Violetta Bismor
Total distance covered: 8,050 km
Distance in Scotland: 4,900 km
31 days on the road, of which 24 in Scotland