Touratech. Hardly any other name stands for adventure bolt-on parts, yellow-tinted clothing and other bits of equipment which prepare you to travel the world (or to the next coffee shop). Once every year the good folks from Niedereschach open their doors and welcome everyone to the "Touratech Travel Event". Featuring talks/workshops from seasoned travellers, other manufacturers and motorcycle vendors this is an event not to be missed.
Just in case you've never heard of Niedereschach before, neither had we. It is a small village nicely set in the picturesque Black Forest, just 100 km south of Stuttgart. Many villages in this area are split a valley in their middle with houses climbing the steep slopes on either side. Niedereschach is no exception and Touratech is king of the hill, situated right on top. An ideal location really, not only for its view but also as a starting point of the many tours which the organisers offer during the event. Other things you could spend your time on include test-riding your next bike, spending more money at the shops and stalls or participating in one of the many great workshops.
Right next to the company grounds we found a well-proportioned, free of charge camp-site. Pro-tip: get there early before every last centimetre is covered with a GS. The sanitary set-up (toilets, showers, etc.) were surprisingly clean - prior festival experience had led us to expect otherwise. Turns out, motorcycle travellers coming together does not make for your usual festival. Upon our arrival we pitched the tent, changed into lighter clothes (as compared to a heavy riding suit) and headed over to the main event.
First pleasant surprise: beer and other goodies supporting your comfort were really affordable (2.5 Euro for a Weizen). Food was equally well priced and available for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Christian was particularly happy to see a large selection of home made cakes. Yummy. The classic "all you can drink free refill" coffee was on offer, too.
Before enjoying the food though we were drawn to the second choice sales that Touratech had put on. There they sell all kinds of stuff that previously no-one wanted to buy, that has some slight flaw or that people sent back. As you would imagine that's one of the main attractions. You'll find anything ranging from hand-guards to ZEGA paniers to the odd metal piece that is used in some obscure contraption. Even Adventuro helmets had made it in those shelves - of course, they didn't stay there very long. The regular Touratech shop is open, too. So if you don't find the part you're looking for at a discount price, and are willing to shell out the regular moneys, that will be your next stop.
Our next stop (albeit the next day) were the motorcycle vendors who had joined the colourful circus. All the big names were there: BMW, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Triumph, Suzuki and Yamaha. Except for the Brits everyone offered test rides on their latest two-wheelers. Riding incredible bikes through brilliant landscape, back to back: a riders dream.
Riding incredible bikes through brilliant landscape, back to back: a riders dream.
We got very lucky with the weather and within five ours rode a BMW R1200GS, Suzuki V-Strom 1000, Yamaha Tenere 1200Z and the brand new Honda Africa Twin. What a day. Watch this space for our opinion about riding two up on those wonderful machines.
Next to all the DIY road-biased riding, there is also an off-road course. Throughout the travel event, there are multiple workshops, trainings and demonstrations. The one time that we made it to course, we found two chaps having a blast in the dirt. One of the riders seemed to be Dirk von Zitzewitz, who rode the Hellas Rally on a gorgeous Touratech'ed Africa Twin (shown above). What a sight: seeing someone flying over the hill on that heavy bike; such control and elegance.
There are interesting workshops during the day, and exciting presentations at night. We attended only one of the workshops (as only three of the workshops are in English): "How to make the long ride easier" by Ramney Stroud. He presented plenty of useful tips and concepts of how to ride long distance without your hands going numb and your back getting tense. It's all in the posture. With him on stage was a 1200GS operated by his assistant who demonstrated the different concepts. Once the passive theory part was complete, two guys from the audience volunteered for an assessment of their posture. Both volunteers were experienced riders and yet they saw a major overhaul of their position on the bike. Turns out that if you want to avoid numb hands you have to start with your toes.
Every evening saw a presentation so good that you'd want to grab your motorcycle, pack your stuff and head for the great open. The first night Dylan Samarawickrama amazed us with his story of how what he did "when the road ends". Upon his discovery of the Darian Gap, Dylan built himself a raft and navigated from Panama to Columbia, using his R1150GS as engine! And it certainly was not as easy as I make it sound like. If you ever have a chance to listen to his story (e.g., at the HUBB UK) - or read his book - do it. During all three days Dylan was present at the event, radiating his inspiring energy and optimism. Ioana and I had the pleasure of meeting him just after his presentation, bought the book, loved the chat with him and took the obligatory picture. Dylan, thank you for your story.
Another incredible presentation was that of Michael Martin: "25 years with the GS in the World". Many of you will know him for his beautiful pictures and fearless venturing out into all deserts of this planet. He's been doing the adventure rider thing for decades now. As a passionate speaker, photographer and seasoned rider he told stories of places which nowadays are inaccessible (riding through Libya just isn't an option these days). This guy had such a stunning visual presentation filled with his amazing pictures. We recognized one of his pictures as the cover photo of February's Overland Magazine issue. To be honest, our jaws dropped more than once during his show.
On Saturday night, Ramona and Herbert Schwarz presented the movie of charity project: United People of Adventure (UPOA). They took a group of six riders, originating from six different continents, on six different bikes to Madagascar. Each of the happy fellows who got to join this illustrious group had prior submitted an application video. Based on these videos, Herbert and Ramona selected a group of twelve candidates, from whom they choose the final six. On their journey on slippery clay tracks, leading to a cyclone threatened beach they shot beautiful pictures which are bound to drive your wanderlust skywards. On the charity side of things, the UPOA sold handmade items throughout the event, whose sales benefit an Madagascan orphanage.
It was a great event. The atmosphere was very relaxed and we immediately felt at home. We never felt bored or stressed. There is always something going on, and yet we didn't have the feeling to be missing out on something. Fuelled by a crazy amount of top-notch bikes and stories, watching the many kids whizzing around on their not-yet-petrol-powered bikes and the cosy campfire at night, all contributed to this "we are one family feeling". Next year this time, we will definitely be in Niedereschach again.