Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Bike Tour Germany's Oktoberfest Motorcycle Tour

Do you like riding motorcycles? Straightening out hairpin curves? How about foreign travel? Visiting other cultures and seeing their celebrations, holidays, and sampling their food?

I had the good pleasure of doing all of these things on vacation with a good friend recently, using Bike Tour Germany’s Oktoberfest Motorcycle Tour. Bike Tour Germany (BTG) is a German-owned business owned and operated by Joerg Wenzel. They provide a number European motorcycle tours for large or small groups, including the Oktoberfest tour for English-speaking riders. Wenzel speaks English, and will work with you to make sure your trip is an exciting adventure through the German, Austrian, and Italian countryside, so you can concentrate on the beautiful Alpine scenery, challenging mountain curves, and authentic Gasthof lodging and dining during your trip.

During the planning stages of your trip, you will be presented a number of motorcycle choices so that you can choose a bike appropriate to the terrain, your physical size, and your riding skills level. One of the perennial favorites is also the best selling motorcycle in the world over 500 cc, the BMW R1200GS.  The 1200 is the “Swiss Army Knife” of motorcycles, able to both straighten out hairpin turns and accelerate at Autobahn speeds. A number of other bike choices are available to you, in a variety of sizes and styles. Before you ask, Harley Davidson and other large frame V-twin cruises are not an option, as they lack the mountain goat athleticism required for your best experience in the European Alps.

Let’s talk about riding skills:  In addition to being a tour guide and CEO of BTG, Wenzel is a certified Motorcycle Safety Instructor and is a member of  BVDM (the German Federation of Motorcyclists). You would do well to practice your mountain riding in advance of this trip. Living in Texas, we have plenty of experience accelerating on long, flat expanses or roadway. But Alpine riding is a different animal, so we scheduled a June trip to Colorado to ride the “Million Dollar Highway” in the San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Rocky excursions are comparatively mild compared to the European Alps, so when you arrive in Europe and have your motorcycle delivered to your Gasthof (a European inn similar to our bed and breakfast lodges), you will become acquainted with your machine in Bavaria’s farmland with gently rolling hills and beautiful green scenery. You will travel south from Munich via the German Autobahn (yes, it is as well maintained as you have heard, and no, it does in fact have speed limits in most areas, particularly as you approach urban encroachments and villages).

You will enter the foothills of the Alps in southern Bavaria and cross the border into Austria. Border crossings in the European Community these days are a piece of cake, much akin to crossing state boundaries in the USA. You will lodge your first night in northern Italy. Incidentally, we were pleased with our accommodations in each of our night’s lodging stops. The food is authentic and the menus varied enough to suit any palate. The Gasthofs selected by BTG actually go out of their way to accommodate the motorcycle tourist, with easy parking, nice rooms, and breakfasts provided. You will practice Alpine riding in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy. South Tyrol is more Austrian than Italian in culture, the language and architecture being distinctively Germanic. My two years of college German, albeit thirty five years ago, came in handy, but with Joerg’s excellent command of the English language, the trip would have been just as convenient for the non-German speaker.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to Austria’s Grossglockner National Park. Mount Grossglockner is the highest peak in the Austrian Alps, and the park surrounding it has a toll road designed by an engineer/motorcyclist specifically for the riding experience of Europe’s many motorcyclists. There are plenty of opportunities for picture taking throughout the trip, and Joerg has the touring experience necessary for helping you select photo opportunities, rest stops, restaurant menus, and alternate routes in the event of traffic or weather problems. BTG uses the “Spot Messenger” service, a satellite uplink which posts your absolute location along the route every ten minutes. Your family in the US can actually track your progress on a Google Maps display. Cellular service is available in cities, towns, and villages, and our iPhones were invaluable in providing friends, family, and followers with Facebook updates along the way!

Did I mention Oktoberfest? Oktoberfest is an annual Bavarian celebration held at Munich’s Theresienweise (Theresa’s Meadow) in September and October each year. It was originally a wedding feast commemorating the marriage of King Ludwig to his young bride, Therese. It is the largest party in the world, with Munich’s population swelling from one and one half million to seven million for several weeks of the year. Yes, there is beer. After all, Oktoberfest is a beer festival, and all of the beers served meet Germany’s strict Reinheitsgebot law for beer purity. The beers are brewed especially for the Oktoberfest celebration, and there are a number of very large tent structures representing Munich’s major breweries, each with seating capacity of up to seven thousand people! Of course, there is plenty of German live oompah music. Be sure to try the local specialties: bratwurst, half chickens, and giant pretzels.  You will travel by train back to your urban Munich hotel for your last night before leaving.

If you like motorcycling, photography, foreign travel, international cuisine, and, perhaps, beer, I highly recommend you take a look at Bike Tour Germany’s: Oktoberfest Motorcycle Tour.

Prost! (Cheers!)

Richard Goodwin is a retired geography teacher living in Dallas Texas.

Joerg Wenzel of Bike Tour Germany can be contacted at www.BikeTourGermany.com for more information.