Our first ever bike trip anywhere was a 2,500 mile round trip to Faaker See in Austria in 1998, where Harley Davidson celebrated their 95th anniversary. Every year since then, Faaker See has played host to the European Bike Week. Unofficially, the event is more 2-3 weeks long, but over the main long-weekend you can expect 70,000 bikes and 120,000 people enjoying the event at various permanent and artificial villages surrounding the lake. We’ve returned to Faaker See in 2000, 2006 and 2008, and have ridden to other events in Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland, the UK, Italy and the South of France.
As much as we enjoyed the longer rides 10-20 years ago, these days we were realistically only going to manage rides where we’d reach our destinations after a day or so. We enjoyed a ride to Flanders in May, but we’re no longer so good at the trips where it takes three days to reach the shows. At the same time, you just can’t beat riding around in Austria, especially the mountainous western and southern regions.
We’d talked about trailering our bike, but I didn’t want to have to drive that slowly, and to worry about the trailer bouncing around precariously on rougher roads, doing it’s best to shake off the bike. The best idea seemed to be to bundle the bike in the back of a van, and then we could also use the van to sleep in when we got there. That was the initial plan…
Then a friend of ours told us about his VW van that he’d had modified by Vanworx, so that he could take it on skiiing trips etc. Perfect! We talked with Vanworx and came up with the brief. A VW T6 transporter, with a pop-top sleeping area, fridge, cooker, sink and cupboard. No back seats, because we wanted room for the bike. A re-enforced floor to take the Biker Bar bike clamp (no need for straps, just ride the bike in until it clunks in place and you’re loaded). Swivel seats, reversing camera, and the Caravelle dashboard to make it more homely and less commercial feeling. We measured up and decided that the short-wheel base should give us just enough room. It makes it easier to use the van all year round, as it’s my daily drive.
Well, having just returned from Faaker See’s 20th Bike Week I can’t tell you how brilliantly the van worked. We zoomed across France and Germany in record time. Pitched up quickly by the shore of lake Faak, and with the Vango awning tent, we even had a garage for the bike to protect it from the lightning storm that greeted us on the first night. With the bike we rode around the neighbouring lake Wörthersee, and also rode over the nearby mountain pass to Slovenia, as well as riding around all of the villages surrounding Faaker See to see all that was going on at the Bike Week. The pop-top tent kept us warm and dry, even in the lightning storm, and having power and our own sink and fridge made it so enjoyable.
On the return trip we drove to Switzerland to see a friend there. Although we didn’t camp in Switzerland, we were able to unload the bike in seconds and ride with our friend to the Ace Cafe in Luzern, and then to the Harley Davidson dealership in Zug to see the new bikes, before heading back to his place near Zurich. After our time there we again quickly loaded the bike and headed so Saumur in France, to spend a couple of days exploring the town before heading home.
We’re back only one day, and now I’m already thinking about where we could go next time. Having the van has re-opened our long-distance options. Will it be Portugal, Tuscany … there has been talk of Poland too…
(Words and imagery by Nick Degnen)
We originally supplied Nick Degnen with a VW T6 140 Highline Kombi T32 in Metallic Grey. His conversion was based on a 4 Berth Slipper conversion however we had to loose the 2 seater RIB bed to allow for the bike. We adjusted the level of the rear cabinet to low level with a cushion to also accommodate the bike. We also fitted Caravelle dash & door cards, rear quarter windows, Eibach lowering springs, Webasto diesel night heater, Webasto diesel hob, leather upholstery, Genuine VW side bars, Reimo multirails to the interior!