Motorcycle Touring Spain by Royal Enfield Bullet 500

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Motorcycle touring via Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is necessarily relaxed, all the better to enjoy the fine food that’s found in every village of northern Spain.
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Motorcycle touring via Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is necessarily relaxed, all the better to enjoy the fine food that’s found in every village of northern Spain.
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Picturesque villages like this one seem to be the rule in northern Spain.
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Tour members catch up with a local bike club in the mountains.
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Motorcycle touring via Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is necessarily relaxed, all the better to enjoy the fine food that’s found in every village of northern Spain.
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A Spanish farm house as seen through a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 mirror.
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The sea and mountains meet in Asturias on Spain’s north coast.
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Local color lights up a concrete sea wall in the town of Llanes.
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Ex-pat Englishman Phil Butler runs the European motorcycle tour company Bike Astur in northern Spain.
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A horse, a few cows, but no cars; typical of the roads into the mountains.
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A series of switchbacks takes riders up through the Rio Nansa river valley.

Numbers on paper can be deceptive. A Royal Enfield Bullet 500 makes just 22hp. And even in its latest 500cc lean-burn engine, electric-start, five-speed, disc-brake form, it’s still a bike that was designed over half a century ago. Yet, the more I ride it, the more I think it’s the ideal bike for a motorcycle touring Spain.

Green Spain is the strip of land in northern Spain between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian and Basque mountains, and it’s called “green” because it has a wet and moderate coastal climate. So when Phil Butler was setting up his bike hire business here, everyone told him he should buy Honda Transalps, but instead he chose the Royal Enfield Bullet 500.

Forget everything you’ve heard about Spanish machismo. The Spaniards love their bikes, but up here they tend to go for little 250cc cruisers because they fit the roads. “A big bike’s a bit of a liability on some of these roads,” Phil says. “They’re harder work because of the weight, and not much quicker. But the Bullets have been great — they’re light and easy to handle.”

Phil, an expatriate Englishman who has kept his Birmingham accent, calls his business Bike Astur, after northern Spain’s Asturian coast. His is the only resident motorcycle touring company in northern Spain, just an hour or so from the Santander ferry. Riders can ride in, bringing their own bike on the ferry, or fly in — either way, they can ride an Enfield when they get here.

Many travellers have heard of the Picos de Europa mountain range farther south in the country’s interior, but here on the coast you get a wonderful combination of mountains and sea, with a narrow strip of agricultural land in between. Not only does that mean there’s a superb variety of roads to ride and scenery to gawk at, but the area has its own micro climate. If it’s foggy or raining in the mountains, then it’s invariably OK down on the coast, and vice versa.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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