Well, I did finally get my XF through inspection, even if it meant going somewhere else to get it done. I had no luck in Berlin, and after two attempts rode to Potsdam, which is just down the road a piece, and went directly to an inspection station (as opposed to a workshop where an inspector comes in once a week). I was through in 20 minutes and the guy didn’t even look at the handlebar or brake line that had me pulling my hair out during the first two inspections. The inspector was still thorough, but he merely concentrated on whether the bike rode well, stopped as it should, and didn’t make too much noise. That, in my eyes, is what inspections should really be all about. At any rate, now I’m all set for the next two years, which is a great relief.
I originally bought the XF (and the Himalayan before that) with the idea of riding the Trans Euro Trail (TET), which is “Europe’s dirt road motorcycle adventure” (https://transeurotrail.org). The trail is currently 51,000 km long (30,000 miles) and stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the Artic Circle. A so-called Community Interest Company, the TET is not profit driven, and is completely free of charge. It’s organized and maintained by a group of linesmen, and is slowly growing as more trails are added to it. Most of it is not paved (Germany is an exception here, with only 30% unpaved), and all of the trails may be legally ridden by motorcycles. There’s a code of conduct that needs to be obeyed, as much of Europe is densely populated, and these trails are often used by many other people seeking a bit of rest and relaxation.
I did a little riding around in a sand quarry on a friend’s Honda Elsinore as a kid, but my experience riding off-road is limited, to say the least, so Germany’s a good place for me to start. The closest stretch of the TET runs in an east-west direction about 120 kms north of here, and I’ve spent two days in May riding on two different sections. Most of the trail is, as mentioned, “paved”, but this is usually with age-old cobblestones or fairly poor concrete pavers and asphalt. The unpaved sections are mostly very old roads between villages, and are generally easy to ride on, although some sections are sandy, while others can be quite muddy. The XF is fine for the trails I’ve done so far, but if the riding got more challenging, I’d have to get some proper enduro tires, as the Mitas E-08s that I have are mainly for on-road riding.
The riding has been very enjoyable, and even if not terribly challenging, gets you off the bigger roads, riding between verdant fields and through tiny villages. It really is a great way to see Europe.
I’ve only seen two other motorcycles on the trail so far, as well as a few horses and bicyclists. No one has complained about my using the trail, which I was worried about, as so few people here outside the motorcycle community know anything about the TET, or that there is actually legal off-road riding in Germany.
The cobblestone roads are very old and have held up quite well, but are bone-shaking to ride down for any length of time.
Old Feldwege between villages are mainly used by farmers nowadays, but are also open to the public. The XF feels right at home on these dirt roads.
While riding home after a few hours on the trail, feeling good, I stopped at a bakery in the small town of Lychen to grab a belegte Brötchen (basically a bun with cheese) and a cup of coffee from the friendly woman behind the counter. I sat on a bench in the middle of town and enjoyed the scenery before continuing. This is a very standard part of a riding day here for me, so I was shocked and surprised when reading a newspaper a few days later that the very bakery I went into actually exploded less than a week later. Although the cause of the explosion is not 100% certain, it’s assumed that a gas leak caused the destruction, which was extensive. The woman working in the bakery at the time was seriously injured as well.
Now. I’m not one to spend too much time dwelling on the dangers that life poses, but it did occur to me that as dangerous as motorcycling can be, sometimes you just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for bad things to happen. There are over 10,000 bakeries in Germany (according to de.statista.com), and I happened to be in the one that exploded a couple of days later. Fate? Coincidence? Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows, but it has certainly given me something to think about.