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The Gibraltar Race 2017
4 bikes, 7 countries, 8000 kilometres in 14 days, Keith Longney recounts his adventure from Bulgaria's Black Sea to the Rock of Gibraltar.
Our team of four, known as team ‘BG’, flew from the UK mid-June hoping that when we got to Bulgaria our bikes would be ready and waiting for the adventure ahead, The Gibraltar Race.
The race, now in it's fourth year, is a challenge for dual sport bikes and non-professional riders that runs through Europe, from east to west with tons of dust and mud. With 8,000 km to cover in just 14 days, it's an undertaking sure to quench anyone's thirst for adventure!
The bikes had been shipped out a month earlier; luckily they were delivered on time and were ready and waiting to go.
The starting point was Burgas, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea and the route went through Macedonia, Albania, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, finishing in Gibraltar.
The first few days were the hardest. Riding off road through forests and thick mud was exhausting, the mud so thick in places that the bikes could stand up on their own. Time was spent digging one bike out after another and at one point we even needed to stop for a nap! We were all covered in mud, sweat and, in some cases, even a few tears...
Each day we spent over 12 hours on the bikes, both off and on road. Most mornings we were on the road by 7am and the finish time varied according to the terrain and navigation that each day threw at us. One night we got to camp so late that we slept under a tree, rather than put our tents up.
Throughout the trip the views were stunning and ever changing: from arid desert-like terrain in Italy, to mountains and forests in Spain, to aqua blue lakes and rivers in Portugal.
Some countries went by in a blur but what did stand out in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania was the contrast of new meeting old. The main arterial roads were new but as soon as you turned off these you were met with rough tracks; vehicles on the arterial roads ranged from new up market saloons and 4x4’s, whilst on the back roads the predominance was antiquated small tractors or horse drawn carts.
By the beginning of the second week, as we were the only team competing, we realised that we were going to be last, but it didn’t matter; we stuck together and kept on going.
There were a few epics; I came off and hurt my shoulder; a crank case split which we tried and failed to weld back together, and eventually got help from some cheerful locals; navigation was a nightmare with many miles spent heading the wrong way only to turn around and retrace our steps.
The trip was filled with adversity, but it was 100% worth it. To see all of these countries from a bike, meeting locals, riding on testing and varied terrain whilst seeing places we would never normally see was immensely rewarding. The camaraderie that was created between us as a team was equally rewarding and we are already planning a trip to race in Spain next year.
And the best was saved till last.
As we rode into Gibraltar, the local Hells Angels Chapter closed the roads and escorted us into the town. We had our final dinner in their clubhouse surrounded by all the historical memorabilia, and more importantly their bikes.
It truly was an amazing end to an amazing trip.
Published: 14 Nov 2017