Intermot is arguably the biggest Motorcycle Show in the world, and in 2014 it was where Suzuki announced its return to MotoGP, and pulled the wraps off seven new models and updates for 2015. It’s also in one of Germany’s most attractive cities, with spectacular sights and nightlife to boot. And if you don’t take the direct route, there are some great roads to ride and places to visit on the way. Here’s how we did it.
Going direct to Cologne only takes a few hours. However, if you allow yourself a little more time, you can ride across to Bruges and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, visit the world-famous Spa Francorchamps circuit, and ride the switchback hairpins and see the sights of the picturesque Eiffel National Park, all before a few days at the show and soaking up what Cologne has to offer.
With press day at Intermot on the Tuesday, we saddled up a trio of V-Strom 1000 Adventures and boarded the 7:50 Euro Tunnel crossing into France on Monday morning. From there we picked up the A16 and headed East and for the border. Crossing into Belgium the road becomes the A18, but with Bruges heavily signposted, finding one of Europe’s most popular cities is a doddle. After a quick dual-carriageway blast you’ve entered your third country of the day and are about ready for a coffee and a waffle.
Heading in through the outskirts of Bruges you join the inner ring road, which follows the waterways that almost form a moat around the city centre. Cross one of the few bridges and the world changes. Paved roads become cobbled streets while the architecture looks unchanged since the 15th century. Worm your way in, using glimpses of the famous Belfry of Bruges as your guide, and you eventually end up in the Market Square surrounded by cafés and eye catching buildings, with the Belfry the centrepiece. Find a parking spot, and pick a spot for some brunch. For us, that was Le Panier d’Or, dead opposite the Belfry.
If you’re spending longer in Bruges there’s lots to see and do. There’s plenty to see and do in the Bruges Markt, the historic city centre surrounded by gift shops, cafés and restaurants. There’s also the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the chapel that reputedly homes a phial that contains Christ’s blood brought back from the Crusades, the Belfry, which you can climb to the top of and take in the city views. You can also take a walk through the attractive Ville de Bruges and soak up the historic architecture and culture the city has to offer.
After a wander around and a bit of sightseeing it was back on the bikes, out of Bruges, and a section of Motorway towards Brussels and Liege, before dropping off the beaten track and picking up some of the twisty roads toward Spa.
We headed south toward Verviers and continued in the direction of Malmedy, and from there it was a selection of narrow, bumpy backgrounds and superbly surfaced A-roads toward the world-famous circuit, picking our way through small Belgian villages along the way. Eventually we ride into the valley housing the track. On the day of our visit is a car track day. But we still park up and have a wander up to Eau Rouge for a look and to discuss the history of the iconic motorsport venue.
After Spa we continued on to Malmedy, where the plan was to pick up the E421 and head up toward Eupen where would cross the border into Germany, plunging deeper into the hills and mountains of the national park. But before we could do that, we hit a slight stumbling block in Malmedy, with the road we wanted closed for what looked like major resurfacing work.
Consulting the SatNav showed us that we really wanted to ride the road beyond this block – a snaking yellow line amidst green backgrounds – and that a detour would take us way out the way. A walk past the ‘Route Barree’ sign showed workmen laying down stones about the size of tennis balls, some bigger, but nothing that couldn’t be traversed with the V-Strom 1000’s long-travel suspension and 19-inch front wheel. We headed toward, and over the resurfacing work, following the road for about half a mile to the edge of town. And once we reached the other side, we were glad we did. Billards table-smooth tarmac greeted us, and the road wound and winged its way up the hillside, with spectacular views out to the right.
We continued on to Eupen, then headed East into Germany, continuing into the national park. Glorious switchback hairpin after switchback hairpin provided the entertainment for the next hour, as we thrashed up and then back down mountains and hillsides, all the time stealing glances at the amazing views. Unfortunately, as we wound our way further into Germany, the rain started to come down. But a play on the left-handle bar altered the traction control setting, and we carried on regardless.
Watch a video of two of the roads in the National Park here.
This was the reason we didn’t take the direct route. Tree-lined roads snaked their way up and down, cutting through the landscape, with views of lakes prevalent the whole time. Passing through Simmerath, we cut north, ticking off a number of German villages and towns along the way, before stopping at Woffelsbach to admire the scenery.
Back in the saddle and we joined the B266 out of Simmerath, heading towards Gemünd, with the roads just as exciting as before, only stopping when we reached the top of our final ascent, taking advantage of the café / bar perched at the side of the road out.
Despite the wet weather, we still managed to enjoy the twisty roads that led us out of the national park and north toward Cologne, before dropping onto the E29 route toward our destination. Losing the light, we joined the autobahn, wound the throttle open, and headed for the hotel.
Navigating Cologne wasn’t the easiest affair in the dark and rain, but the V-Strom’s tall riding position made our presence felt alongside cars in the rush hour traffic, while the wide set bars made a number of U-turns even easier after a couple of wrong turnings, before we eventually arrived at the Maritim Hotel in the heart of the city. Panniers off, we checked in before finding the hotel’s Piano Bar to sink a beer or two and discuss the amazing roads we’d ridden to get here, and how we’ll definitely be back.
If you’re staying in Cologne, the Maritim Hotel boasts a secure multi-storey carpark, while the hotel itself has a number of bars to choose from. Alternatively, only a short walk away are two of the cities main squares, lined with bars, cafés and restaurants. If you’re sticking around and not just in town for Intermot, then the city’s cathedral is a must see, especially at night. There’s also the Basilika St. Aposteln and St. Maria im Kapitol churches. It’s also worth taking a trip up the KoelnTriangle for spectacular views of the city.
If you’re planning on attending the show, the exhibition halls are a short taxi ride away from the city centre, where this year Suzuki pulled the wraps off of the the new GSX-S1000 and GSX-S1000F, Address 110 and V-Strom 650XT.