24 Du Mans, Getting Twitchy!

I’m getting twitchy…less that 24 hours to go before Harls and I set off again on other adventure.

The same old weird feeling is beginning to grow; apprehension, excitement, impatience.

Harls is ready, bags are packed and I’m killing time.

Killing time watching Le 24 Heurs du Mans on television, possibly the greatest motor race on the planet…well it is in my view anyway!

Located in Central Northern France, the city of Le Mans is a splendid mixture of the old and new and is also a magnet for motorsport petrolheads the world over. The city hosts an annual 24 hour motor race over an 8.4 mile long circuit that encompasses public roads as well as a dedicated circuit section.

Le Mans Bentley Speed 8,
Winner Le Mans 2003

Over the years all the major marques have made their name at Le Mans; Porsche, Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Audi and Toyota have all tasted victory there.


….and Harls and I have had our own little bit of fun there on he famous Sarthe circuit!

Oh my, wonderful!

Last year, on the way to La Route des Grandes Alpes, we had the opportunity to ride the Mulsanne Straight, scream under the Porsche Bridge, flick through the Indianapolis Curves and then howl around Arnage and fly down to the Porsche Curves.


Needles to say, it was beyond magical and will remain with me forever….right up there with my spin around Monza on Baby Blue!

Porsche straight

Yeah, I know, I’m a lucky old geezer!

Catch you soon.


Pondering through the Miles

Motorcycling is great, no really it is, even when the weather decides to test you with a bit of rain, or fog, or snow… actually forget those bits about fog and snow, it’s pants then!

One of the things I love about being on two wheels is the time I get to do a bit of thinking. Now I’m not talking real deep meditational stuff, because when I’m riding I really need to keep my mind fully on the road, but I seem to have developed a sort of “compartmentalised” mental ability to grab a thought or idea, place it in some recess in the old Dookes head and recall it later for further processing. Which is quite a handy trick really! It’s how I manage to absorb the day’s traveling, write about it later whilst and able to recapture the essence of what I was thinking when I was out on the road.

Take this morning for example.

The road across Northern Brittany from Morlaix to Rennes is a dual carriageway. It’s not exactly the most stimulating stretch of tarmac in the world, but like many such roads gets you efficiently from A to B with minimum of fuss. It’s also the road that I like to use to get me “in the groove” for Continental Europe travelling. As many people will be aware, those pesky Mainland Europeans, along with most of the rest of the world, drive on the “wrong” side of the road; that’s the Right side, only it’s not, “right” that is!

Which got me thinking….

As anyone with half a shred of historical knowledge will know, the “right” side to drive is the Left. Just like we do in the U.K. and so do Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India and about 70 other “enlightened” countries, which equates to about 35% of the world population, but why?

Well it’s all largely to do with swords, farm carts and aristocrats.

In the days when roads were ruled by the horse, just about everybody travelled on the left hand side of the road because most people are right-handed; if you needed to pull out a sword to defend yourself you had you opponent just where you wanted them, on your right hand side. It also was good manners as it prevented your sword in it’s scabbard flapping about and hitting passing riders as you had it on your left. Plus, ever noticed which side most people mount up on a horse from?

Yep, the left, to keep the sword out of the way!

By the 1700s in France the aristocracy kept driving their carriages on the left, even though the necessity of having to have ones sword free had largely passed, but seemingly they enjoyed forcing the peasants over to the right! Around this time though, farmers in France began using bigger and bigger carts as farming techniques improved and crop yields grew. These bigger waggons often used more than one horse so the driver would sit on the left hand side animal in order to use their whip in the right hand, plus they could then also keep an eye on their cart’s wheels as they passed other road users.

Come the French Revolution one of the many ways that the new French Republic made itself “different” was to make driving on the right compulsory, from 1794. As Napoleon Bonaparte then went on to conquer vast swathes of Continental Europe everyone in his path was forced to conform!

All that to explain why Dookes has been riding on the Right-Hand side of the road today. To be honest, on a motorbike it really doesn’t make much difference except to keep your wits about you and look out for traffic coming from unexpected directions; I quite like it.

It’s always interesting and a bit amusing in the first few kilometres just off the ferry as inevitably you can spot the odd Brit car driver getting it totally wrong at either a road junction or roundabout!

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I’ve just had a brilliant day riding Harls in warm sunshine on sticky tarmac on just about my favourite country on Earth!…(apart from Wales that is!!!) We’ve covered just short of 400 miles, some of it pretty hard grind, but when I’m on on Harls I never want to be anywhere else in the world.

Highlight of the day was riding some of the famous “24 Heurs du Mans” circuit, around the city of Le Mans. Whipping down the legendary “Mulsanne Straight” hanging a right at Mulsanne then zipping under the Porsche bridge before flicking through Indianapolis and Arnage to the Porsche curves was the stuff of dreams!

Indianapolis Curve, moving a bit!

I took Baby Blue around Monza once, I’ll tell more about that another day, but today beat that hands down as I did it with Harls! Thank goodness I didn’t see any Gendarmes.

Porsche Bridge.

Like I say, you just need to keep your wits about you and give a nod of thanks to Napoleon for making life interesting!

Vive La France, vive la revolution, vive la difference!

Catch you soon


24 Heurs du Le Mans

When I put this trip together I was aware that the Euro 2016 football championship was taking place in France, but a quick check of venues showed that I shouldn’t be bothered by any disruption; actually what is a bit strange is that although France are the hosts there aren’t any of today’s three games on television here!

What I forgot to check was the date of the famous Le Mans 24 hour motor race I had routed myself right through the city of Le Mans and today the race started! The sad thing is that I love the city, especially the old quarter, Vieux Mans and I had hoped to enjoy a coffee there on my way through. So you’ll have to be content with a couple of photos from a previous visit!

Vieux Mans

Vieux Mans

Le Mans trams in the Cité Plantagenet.

Le Mans trams in the Cité Plantagenêt.

I also adore the magic that is the famous race, where cars and crews are pushed to the limit; massive sports cars power along the Mulsannne Straight in the darkness and their headlights light the trees in the forest of the Sarthe at midnight. I haven’t yet been to the race in person; I keep promising myself to go to one year….only not this one! A couple of years ago I spent a very enjoyable morning in the 24 Hour museum, which is located on one of the permanent parts of the circuit, half of it is public roads for the rest of the year. It’s well worth a visit, even Mrs Dookes enjoyed it!

Le Mans Bentley Speed 8, Winner Le Mans 2003

Le Mans Bentley Speed 8,
Winner Le Mans 2003

So there we were happily trudging along the A81 heading East, getting near to Le Mans and the traffic just went stupid, from 110kph to 10kph in about 300metres! Time to bale out and find another way; which is just what we did, cutting South across the beautiful countryside of the Sarthe towards Angers.

Now here’s a strange thing, every time I go anywhere near Angers there’s always roadworks and not just a bit of resurfacing! Oh no, we are talking “let’s dig it all up and rebuild it” stuff! Diversions, temporary surfaces and just as we got on the brand-spank-me new stuff, it promptly welcomed us by having a thunderstorm and turning the new oily asphalt into black ice! Twice, as I accelerated off roundabouts, the rear wheel lost traction…now that’s quite a peculiar feeling to have the rear wheel spinning when you are going in a straight line! Bear in mind as well, fully loaded and with me on board, Baby weighs in at just over half a metric tonne….and we lost straight-line grip – twice!!!!!

Thankfully, the rest of the mile munching day wasn’t quite as “interesting,”