70 Years and Still Sport Riding

Edelweiss motorcycle tour—Best of Europe on a Honda NC750

By Heather Bashow, Odessa, Ontario, Canada

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I am off to the side of a steep cobblestoned slope, with riders lined up in front of and behind me. It is day two of Edelweiss Bike Travel’s “Best of Europe” tour, and we are waiting for our guide to take his place at the front to lead us from Heidelberg, Germany, to Ribeauville, France. As I wait, I see a rider two motorcycles ahead struggling to keep his tipped bike up. The woman on the passenger pillion of the motorcycle ahead of me is dismounting to help him when I hear a crash behind me. The fellow behind has also tried to help, but dropped his bike in the effort. My hands tighten on the grips, and I make a mental note to not drop my motorcycle!

70 Years and Still Sport Riding Heather Honda CB500RA
Heather enjoys sportbikes, obvious by her infectious smile with her Honda CB500RA shown here at Long Lake, Ontario, Canada.

With rain all morning our first day, and an afternoon with extreme winds ahead of hurricane-force winds by evening, it was a tricky start as we navigated slippery cobblestones while getting accustomed to the rented motorcycles. The tour runs as planned no matter what the weather is doing, because the hotels are booked and you need to get there by the end of each day. Happily, that would be the last bad weather day—the rest were idyllic.

We are a mix of riders—Americans and Canadians for the most part, but also a Ukrainian couple, a Brazilian couple, and a Korean. The youngest rider is in his twenties, there with his father, but many are retired. About half the group are riding solo, the rest have their wives on passenger pillions. A few own adventure bikes at home, but many own Honda Gold Wings and have elected to use 1600cc BMW touring bikes on this tour. There is only one lonely sportbike owner … a nearly 70-year-old woman—me! I chose a Honda NC750 since no sportbikes are offered. It has almost the lowest seat offered by Edelweiss, but I am still on my tiptoes at a stop. The note to not drop it has merit.

70 Years and Still Sport Riding Heather Honda NC750
At 70 years young, Heather chose the sportiest bike available, a Honda NC750, for the tour.
70 Years and Still Sport Riding Heather Rothenburg
Heather chose the Edelweiss “Best of Europe” tour because she lived in the area it covers for five years when she was in her 20s. She states, “This was my playground, and I have not been back since I left in 1976. To do it on a motorcycle, with my pro camera gear had been a dream, now realized.” This photo was taken in Rothenburg, Germany.

The tour starts near Munich, Germany, then travels through Germany’s Black Forest, the Alsace region of France, skirts Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and finally Austria. We are on the bikes at 8:30 a.m. after an included breakfast, and ride to mid-morning when there is a coffee break, usually at a castle or other local sightseeing spot. A lunch break is followed at mid-afternoon by another coffee stop, and arrival at the next hotel is about an hour before dinner.

With endless twists and switchbacks on this tour, there were some riders in our group who were catching their feet under footpegs on the curves, or not leaning the bike, or not pressing the handlebars to countersteer. They all managed to end the tour safely, but I did see some close calls on the tight switchbacks.

70 Years and Still Sport Riding Roads
The roads on the Edelweiss tour of Europe seem to have been created by and for motorcycle riders.

One dummy dropped her bike at a standstill, twice—me! In my defense, I was not the only one to drop the bike, and both times it was at a stop. The first time, I was stopping on wet cobblestones that had slick grass between them when my foot slipped. The second time, we were on a road so narrow that oncoming cars could only pass in a few places, when the van in front of me stopped suddenly for a car I didn’t see. The road was steep, and when I stopped quickly, I didn’t have time to notice that the road was also banked. Expecting pavement, my foot hit air. This time I fell in front of the oncoming car and heard the screech of brakes as I saw his tires coming at my head. Embarrassingly, the guys in my group had to dismount to hold my bike on that steep slope for me to remount, and then manage their bikes on their own. Thankfully, by that time I had proven my riding skills; although I freely admit that because I am vertically challenged, I suck at stopping!

The tour has a two-night stop in Ribeauville, France, where riders could choose to shop or sightsee on the rest day, or ride the technical switchbacks and twists with the guide. Are you kidding? Of course I rode! Flicking the bike back and forth, the nimble NC750 was almost ideal for this road … the only issue being the bike’s low pegs grinding through the tight corners.

The tour’s two 50-kilometer stints on the autobahn allowed us to ride at considerable speed. We had been told the exit to take during the morning briefing should we become separated. Since all in my group were on more powerful bikes, they stretched out ahead of me, leaving me on my own at 165 kph (102.5 mph), close enough to the redline on the NC750.

70 Years and Still Sport Riding Twists
Riding through this part of Europe offers endless sweeps and twists, and mountain roads with tight turns and switchbacks.
70 Years and Still Sport Riding Perfection
Gliding through medieval black timbered villages with brightly-colored peonies and geraniums hanging from the many window boxes and beautiful mountain vistas … this tour is perfection in every way.

I turned 70 in December 2018, a few days from when I am writing this. Maybe my advanced years allow me some latitude as far as giving an unasked-for opinion, so it is this: To give up on your passions and dreams is to give up on life. In the end, you will only regret not finding a way to fulfill them.

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5 thoughts on 70 Years and Still Sport Riding

  1. I was having a bad day today. I haven’t ridden my ’85 Suzuki GS1150e for about 8 months due to illness and the blahs, but now I am ready to ride again. I’m getting the bike tuned up but made the mistake of telling my daughter and got a shock—she doesn’t think I need to ride or drive anymore! I am 67 years old and have been riding since the Police Academy in 1979. I was so stunned I really couldn’t speak. Then I called my best friend who said, “Do what you want to do.” I felt so much better and after reading the comments here I am buoyed again about riding and then driving when I feel like it. I had to smile when Heather wrote she is vertically challenged as am I. Thank you, Heather, Joyce, and Syl. Thank you so very much!

  2. Heather, what a trip! Loved reading about your travels. My hubby and I did a Edelweiss trip in 2014 (Italy, Austria, Switzerland) and the roads in Europe certainly do humble one! Narrow roads of often wet cobblestone, wet tunnels, foreign road signs, and switchbacks in the Alps—definitely not what we were used to. I, too, dropped the Road King I was riding and not speaking Italian, just nodded/smiled/”gracie” to the helpful Italian men righting my bike, often! (Sportbikes are the way to go in Europe; not big Harleys)I say any riding is great, wet/dry/sunny/snowy—but to travel worldwide via a motorcycle is truly a heightened experience.Edelweiss tours were great for us; tailored our trip personally and made it more enjoyable for the two of us, as we were not as interested in switchbacks, more into leisurely sightseeing. Our trip-mates were more adventurous/aggressive riders; we met up at breakfasts and dinners. It was all worked out. And thanks for the age reference. I’m 65 and was starting to think of not riding…for absolutely no good reason!

  3. I just turned 72 and have been and continue to ride sportbikes for 43 years. I recently took my Ducati Monster 821 on a 4,300-mile tour through the western states with two friends. Last April I did an all women’s track day with Reg Pridmore’s CLASS Motorcycle School—I try to get one in every year. It’s so much fun riding the California mountain and canyon roads with friends and with the Ducati Riders of Orange County! I’ll keep riding as long as I can.

  4. I loved reading your story! I, too, have dropped my bikes over the years in many of the same ways you described! I give you a lot of credit for having the courage and skill to still be riding (especially in Europe). I’ll be 68 soon and I’m still touring (in the USA) for about 12,000 miles a year—mostly on a Harley. I recently downsized to a Heritage Softail to reduce the weight a couple of hundred pounds. Keep riding and stay safe!

  5. You go girl! I’m 72 in November and ride one of the three sportbikes I own almost every day, rainy days excluded. Living in the Appalachians, and world class motorcycle territory makes it possible for me to be picky regarding weather, tho I do ride all winter with heated gear. Loved hearing your story as its on my bucket list to ride the Alps and Morocco as well. A high five to you!

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