Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Royal Enfield and the Spanish Traffic Police

I first thought I had tip-toed perhaps too far into the lion's cage when I signed up for me and my Royal Enfield Electra to go to the Spanish Guardia Civil's Traffic Police Training Academy  facilities in Mérida (Extremadura, Spain) for a training course on safety and riding techniques (and major biker event) this past weekend.

My old-time biker friend JuanjoMago from Moterus Madrid gave me the heads-up on this back in May, since the safety course was only open to 40 bikers nationwide. I got number 18, which became my number on my jersey during the track events.

 Juanjo was riding down on Friday on his new Kawasaki GS 1400, a best of a bike. The other 8 guys I didn't really know, but they had their BMWs, their Hondas, one even on his enormous Goldwing. So I took off after lunch on my own, riding out of Madrid on the A-5 but exiting soon to take the back roads where my Enfield Electra can hold its own in pride and I can enjoy the ride.
Malpica Castle (Spain)

First stop was to Malpica del Tajo, where the Malpica Castle is still a private residence owned by the Duke and Duchess of Arión. Must be nice to be them, OMFG.

Here's an overview of my whole route to Mérida. Once off the main A-5 highway, the roads are extraordinary and in excellent condition and have little or no traffic for miles and miles.

View Larger Map

I got to the hotel at sunset, about 8 pm, without any rain or trouble at all. The Balita Roja did fine, but was getting 4.1 liters per 100 km, which is a bit high for my peace of mind. It was really windy so that may have something to do with it, too.
Right away I met up with the rest from Madrid, and we got a shot of the group before heading out by taxi for dinner and drinks.

Dinner was hilarious, tapa hopping in Mérida until the wee hours. Luiti and I started a comedy duo patter that had us all in stitches.

Croquetas de jamón

We even went out for gin n tonics afterwards, and met up with the Romans!

The next day was the course at the Escuela de Tráfico de la Guardia Civil. There was a lecture about driving techniques and then we split up into three groups, each with a G.C. monitor instructor in charge, and there were 4 or 5 more monitors on the track outside.

The training circuit
We had 7 or 8 stations set up for different exercises using cones of various types. The hardest was one of zigzagging around cones and then having to turn around in a tight circle with two big ditches on either side. I did it 2 times out of 5 or 6. On another, we had to weave between the cones in 2nd gear, and with our left hand up in the air to show we weren't using the clutch. Weaving my bike with only one hand YIKES but it worked, you get a sense of balance.
We had lunch out with everyone, then returned for the second part: how to take curves. We started out with some theory and then were out on the track for a few spins around, picking up speed. The bad news is that  it started to rain hard, the wind picked up, and the track filled with leaves and branches, so we had to cancel our training.
Back to the hotel to rest and have the Gala Dinner. Cheers!

OnSunday we went back to the Traffic School and heard a few more conferences and were taken on a tour of the facilities, the garage and the mechanics shop, the classrooms, etc.

The classrooms were full of interesting toys to learn mechanics. I wish I could spend a month there taking classes.

The white shirt and tie were because it was Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride Day all over the world, so I had to do something.

We had one last lunch all together (240 bikers, most of them Guardia Civil). I had good conversation with many of them who liked the Royal Enfield. But in the end it was time to go back to Madrid. My friend Rafa took this shot from his window while I was getting ready.

 The route back was going to be rainy and windy, so at the last minute I took the highway to avoid unnecessary risk and get back early. The Balita got me home in less than 4 hours.


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