Scotland on a Yamaha MT-09 Tracer with Trail Rando
As part of the promotion of a new destination, the Trail Rando agency, in partnership with Yamaha Motor France, invited us to take part of the route planned in Scotland for three days for bikers tempted by the adventure. (read our Presentation of the Yamaha Tracer Tour of August 6, 2015).
As part of the promotion of a new destination, the Trail Rando agency, in partnership with Yamaha Motor France, invited us to take part of the route planned in Scotland for three days for bikers tempted by the adventure. (read our).
After his trips to, to and to his, it is our "head backpacker" Marcos Poidebard who stuck to it. Story, meetings, photos and video.
After a few hours of flight with Grégory Lejosne, Sales Director of Yamaha Motor France, we finally land (at midnight!) In Iverness. Another 45 minutes drive and we arrive at the Royal Palace hotel in Cromarti where Philippe Perrenoud and Florence Belin from Trail Rando welcome us with a magnificent buffet made up of local products and beers.
Philippe Perrenoud is the boss of Trail Rando, "the specialist in motorized hiking on a human scale", presents the agency. Their goal is to organize trips that make them dream and that they experience every time, anxious to offer "unforgettable moments" to those who trust them..
After the sumptuous typical breakfast (salmon, bacon, eggs, haggis …), everyone receives the key to their motorbike. We discover the MT-09 Tracer (read our and our), ready to take us on the Scottish roads. Philippe will be our opener during these three days.
He explains to us that the “real” customers receive a GPS with the required itinerary and that each one goes his own way if he wishes: “free men in a structured group”, he explains..
Philippe rides in front of the 14 motorcycles and Florence, the other half of Trail Rando, closes the procession. We have the freedom to stop when we want to appreciate the landscape or simply take pictures. The sun is out and we cross beautiful landscapes.
Forests, pine forests and tarred paths alternate with sections of slippery roads, strewn with wet leaves, sometimes with gravel, and above all, driving on the left requires maximum attention..
With the Tracer’s traction control activated, I let myself go. The motorcycle, light and responsive, offers torque that greatly facilitates driving. I can do 2000 rpm repeats in sixth grade and she’s not complaining. The turns are easy but the suspension a little too soft for my taste.
Our first stop is the visit of. Dating from the Middle Ages, it is surrounded by trees and small paths. He looks very good but I especially take this break to start the conversation with Philippe, who explains to me how they prepare the routes:
"I take Michelin maps printed at 100 thousandths of the region we want to visit and I put it all on the floor in the garage of the house. In socks, I walk in the selected sector and I start to trace routes. , I print once again in more detail, to go to the screen, we see even more, and there we select the paths, the tracks, the small roads. To finally take the motorcycles and the backpack and we go do the recos ”.
Philippe Perrenoud has a way of expressing himself that already makes me travel … We feel at home, intact, the same passion for 30 years.
He explains to us how they are, Florence and him, seeing the farmers to ask them for authorizations to cross their land, the kilos of homemade pâté that he has to swallow and the aperitifs that he takes one after the other. other … All this while smiling, with a sparkling look that will not leave him during these three days.
We leave galvanized by his anecdotes. The MT-09 Tracer is a very easy road trail to drive and even standing the position is quite natural. The lakes are coming, the paths filled with gravel make me stay behind. The group takes a fairly dynamic rhythm, but I prefer not to force myself to follow them. The landscapes literally make me dream, I expect to see a dragon appear behind the hills of the Highlands … “
I have to be careful: half of my brain is ecstatic and the other half is riding the motorcycle !
Head for the north of Scotland, crossing lakes, moorland and passing a few rare cars. We drive like this all morning, with a lunch break in the village of Lairg au, exactly on the shores of Lake Katrine. I enjoyed the famous “fish and chips” and following Philippe’s advice, a sublime caramel ice cream.
The two-headed management of Trail Rando never ceases to charm me. Listening to Florence and Philippe, I realize that to work in motorcycle tourism, it is not enough to have a passion for two-wheelers: you must first love people, travel, share and be well surrounded..
MNC: How long have you been in existence and how do you choose your destinations (you have more than 30 routes!) ?
Florence: Trail Rando was born from a passion for travel that has existed for 30 years. Philippe started to bring friends to his own region, and then he continued with friends of friends … and finally he had to create a structure to be in a legal framework and continue to take people. Then he continued with Morocco and black Africa. You should know that we are not very business and we are rather “crushed”. When a place interests us, we go there to do a “recce”. And we try to make an itinerary and then incorporate it into the Trail Rando brochure.
The afternoon continues at a good pace, because we have to complete the 360 km planned for the day, between the narrow paths, the views of the “loch”, the moors and always under the sun..
Our second night’s stop is at the Torridon Hotel, in a superb setting. Finally, I will be able to rest my buttocks a bit, which suffered a little with the MT saddle and the bumps in the road. Can’t wait to take a shower and sit down with a drink in my hand !
In the meantime, once again, I see Florence taking care of the distribution of the rooms with an English without an accent..
Dinner is scheduled for 9 p.m. Before, we will have time if we wish to exchange our opinions on the Tracer and to ask some questions to the management of Trail Rando.
Very busy, they are difficult to “catch”: either I do not see them, or they pass accompanied by someone. But at the table, I have the chance to sit next to Philippe. Fatigue starting to set in, I had doubts about my ability to conduct a conversation in French (I am Argentinian)…
But the CEO of Trail Rando took the matter in hand and with the vitality that characterizes him shared with us a wide range of anecdotes related to his thirty years as a motorcycle guide..
“… And I saw that the guy was stressed by the scorpions in Morocco, that they are supposedly there, but to meet them you really must not have any luck … And so I started to him talk about the flying cockroaches that make nests in your ears while you sleep … ”
"… Of course that’s not true", he adds..
Between laughter and giggles, dinner is literally swallowed up.
The Torrdidon Hotel is beautiful, with a park as far as the eye can see and a pub with typical Scottish decor: lots of woodwork and deer heads hanging on the wall. Once again the night was short. The next day, a busy schedule awaits us: a stage up to Glenborrodale with a pass, incredible views, more “loch”, several photo stops, a lunch of mussels with local beer in the fishing village of Plokton , etc.
Then we will take a ferry to cross to Malaig and finish with a visit to the Ardamurchan Distillery. In short, the starting signal is given at 8:30 am.
The Yamaha Tracer, which I really discovered, seems to me the dream companion for this trip. By quibbling I could criticize the saddle, but other than that it seems the ideal bike for the routes concocted by Trail Rando.
The Scottish landscapes take me away from my daily life in a city filled with cars and stressed people. The metro, the galleys and responsibilities seem far away … I decided to let myself be carried away by the landscape. Act like I’m alone. I wanted to apply one of Trail Rando’s promises: “free in a structured group”.
I left everything aside, I stopped when I wanted to take pictures or simply contemplate the landscapes. Play with the Tracer when I wanted to and let myself be carried away by this incredible country that seems to be Scotland.
My path crosses that of free-range sheep (which moreover are not at all disturbed by the passage of the motorbike) and the famous cattle breeds “Highland Cattle”, long hairs almost like a red dress..
The view from the passage of the “Bealach na Bà” pass is breathtaking! It is designed like the mountain passes in the Alps, with tight bends and hairpin bends. I wind the turns one after the other, the colorful vegetation of the moors also attracts my attention. I love this feeling of not knowing where to look.
The courtesy of Scottish motorists is exemplary and you almost want to get off the bike to go and shake their hands! At the end of the road, we find the fishing village of Plokton. We will once again be very welcome.
Around me I see sparkling eyes, smiles and a lot of excitement. The group is completely over the charm of the region and our guides. Even if it’s not my favorite way to travel (I prefer solo without too much predefined plan), I must admit that the modus operandi of Trail Rando is more than attractive. !
We keep our autonomy and our freedom. They have “rounded the ends”, all we have to do is drive around and let ourselves be invaded by the landscapes and the country! And tonight the idea of not setting up my country tent, taking out my stove, etc. do not miss me ! I must admit that I like it.
After lunch and a photo shoot, we take the coastal road to Ardvasar to catch the ferry that will take us to Mallaig. The roads remain faithful to the image of Scotland, narrow and always with breathtaking landscapes, on the right the sea and on the left a wall of damp granite. Sometimes shy stunts dare to show off.
Faithful to his character of a great traveler, Philippe offers us a visit to “Castle Tioram”, access to which is via very narrow paths in very poor condition … I realize that there has been some exploration upstream, as Tioram Castle is not easy to find. But his visit is worth it.
Then we take the road towards the Ardamurchan distillery, by still sublime paths, filled with bumps, crossing forests. The paths are so narrow I wonder if I’m really driving on the left…
The glare of the sunset which hits me in the face and blinds me many times seriously complicates the piloting, but luckily we arrive quickly at the distillery. For those interested in making whiskey (and who are English speakers), the tour is rich in information and flavors.
This evening again, we are staying in a setting no less sublime than the day before. Our group of bikers enter a place worthy of lords and countesses of centuries past … Florence takes the business in hand and after riding with us all day, takes care of our installation.
I didn’t think I could be surprised yet, but the sequel is grandiose. Bathtub with silver feet and a shower room where I can park my Tracer.
After using my amenities, I ask my faithful servants (imaginary, should it be specified?) In which reception room of my castle will take place the dinner. The dining room is worthy of a Games of Thrones decor and the meal is absolutely delicious: shrimps, prawns, deer and vegetables…
But I am more focused on Philippe and Florence, because I once again had the opportunity to be their neighbor at the table. During and after dinner, I took the opportunity to discuss with Florence:
MNC: It’s difficult, physically and technically, to go with you ?
It’s physical yes, but there is nothing technical. With limited baggage and with the desire, you do it. Indeed it’s not a week where you rest physically, but you rest your head, you completely disconnect.
MNC: You select the customers ?
People who register do not do so over the internet. Otherwise we call them and talk to them for half an hour, an hour. We listen to people, we try to find out what they want to experience and we guide them. We don’t sell a destination, we sell a slice of life.
MNC: Is it dangerous to go with Trail Rando? ?
There are several answers to that … Trail Rando has been in existence for 30 years, we have never had a really serious problem (yes, one or two collarbones a year). Let’s say that with the briefings that we do, with the operating mode, and the clientele too, we don’t have a 25-year-old guy “all fired up”, it’s not enduro that we do. It’s motorcycle travel, there is no competitive spirit, the guide has an eye and he is going to say to the guy “watch out, I saw you on the front wheel, it’s been twice”…
We give alerts, but hey, we do it nicely and not in front of everyone. Yes, we have had accidents, but never serious. At the same time, we are a travel agency, we have civil liability insurance and a joint and several guarantee (if between the time you pay and you leave the agency goes bankrupt, the insurance will reimburse the customers) so, yes, travelers are insured. It’s super important. You put your life in the hands of the travel agency.
MNC: How do you train your guides ?
Today we have a team of ten to twelve guys who are really extraordinary. They have a huge responsibility. The guide is basically a former client. He knows Trail Rando, knows our spirit, he knows us intimately and he adheres to our way of doing things.
We ask him to be financially independent. He’s someone who doesn’t need that to live, he’s there because he’s passionate and loves our state of mind. After that we will train him in “Trail Rando sauce”. In fact, we’ve been working with a GPS for ten years and we have a very specific operating mode with nomenclatures, briefings, instructions, etc. We have set up different tools for each country, and each time we have a guide who comes in he will enrich this tool and it will be useful to everyone..
This team which travels to the four corners of the planet with someone who will centralize this information is a war chest..
The guides, after the theoretical training, have a one-week practical training in which they follow a more experienced guide and they see how it works, they learn, they record everything. Another session follows for those who take the reins of the Diagonale, with the guide and assistance checking what they are doing. When he comes home, we see things to work on and then there is still a week to validate everything.
So there are two weeks of field training. Today we have a form of training that we are almost exclusively the only ones to practice.
MNC: You know what? I don’t like organized trips … why should I go with you ?
We don’t like organized trips. This is not the Trail Rando spirit. We do not do organized trips, but self-guided trips that are precisely made so that you can experience something free with the motorcycle. You’re not the group, otherwise … you take the bus. And there the GPS allows that. Before, we had the road book, now it’s the GPS. The guide is not in front, he is behind. The assistance is not going to piss you off. It’s there just so you can enjoy your bike and your freedom. And that, maybe we don’t communicate enough about it !
Today, our best communication is our customers talking about it. Our satisfaction rate is 99%. We have a lot of people sending us emails or calling us to say "thank you, it’s the best trip of my life, it made me feel really good, I unplugged, it was fabulous" and it really makes us happy! We have a lot of people who tell us "I’m surprised, I don’t like organized trips and where you live I like".
Our best friend, we met him five or six years ago. He had registered for Mongolia. He had done several organized motorcycle tours and he was never satisfied enough, but he wanted to go to Mongolia. Going there alone seemed a bit complicated … So he contacted us and ended up leaving with us. We spent an extraordinary week, we laughed (as often!) And at the end of the ten days he said to us: "you reconciled me with the organized trips!"
In fact, he’s never gone with anyone other than us again. And today he does validations and recognitions. There you are, he is the typical example of a guy who doesn’t like organized trips…
MNC: We feel that you like what you do…
When you do this job, you have to really love it. We work a lot and if you don’t like it, it’s not worth it.
MNC: Why did you choose Scotland for the 2015 Tracer Tour ?
It’s been a while since it tickled us Scotland, everyone spoke to us well, and Eric De Seynes (CEO of Yamaha Europe, Editor’s note) asked us to come out with a slightly more trail and road route. Scotland was everyone’s dream and we don’t do all-terrain, so it was ideal to release a “road product”.
At the same time, we met a Yamaha dealer who told us that he knew this country well and advised us, and we decided to go there for a few days. Honestly, when you think of a destination, you don’t think much. Overnight we say to ourselves, “let’s go”, it comes out of the inside and we go without thinking too much.
MNC: How long have you had a partnership with Yamaha ?
For 6 years, and in fact we have always been riding in Yam ‘. Never a glitch, even before the partnership! Philipe had known Jean-Claude Olivier for several years, he came to Morocco with us. And when we released the “Diagonale”, Philipe presented the product to Jean-Claude and it immediately interested him. So we launched the “Yamaha Diagonale” and it became an exclusive reserved for Yam ‘owners..
Then, with the demand from owners of other brands, we started to incorporate them. Today, owners of all brands can come to the Diagonale. We rent out Yamaha for those who wish. This partnership is extraordinary for us, it really helps us in the communication and promotion of our products. Yamaha is a box of enthusiasts, it’s a box that we like to work with. And it’s nice to work with people like that.
The last day of our trip will be that of the early morning awakening … Departure scheduled at 6.30am! We have to take a ferry at 8:00 am to go to the Isle of Mull and a day full of breathtaking scenery is ahead. !
Surprise: for once the sun has not risen this morning and it is in the fog that we must embark on the paths and narrow roads with gravel, bumps and cow dung … The road promises to ‘be difficult. The marked faces, the red eyes but the smile always present, we all agree: yes it stings a little, but it’s worth it !
After a quick coffee, there are still 14 of us Tracing in the paths towards the Kilchoan ferry. The dual LED optics of the Tracer illuminate quite well … but does not prevent two deer from crossing the road in front of me !
At each turn, I take my foot out to avoid any possible slipping and I try not to find myself in the middle of the road where all the gravel is concentrated. At the same time, on the sides stagnates a not very appetizing green foam…
The arrival at the port is in full fog: we can not see further than 10 meters … The ferry is canceled. We go to a municipal center to take stock over tea and some cakes. The management of Trail Rando makes a few phone calls and we head back to Lochaline to take another ferry that also goes to the Isle of Mull.
I watched Florence telephoning from right to left, without any stress, even though fourteen bikers were waiting to continue driving. Philippe and Florence, whose smile and good humor in all circumstances really amaze me, give us new instructions: U-turn, direction Lochaine.
There is nothing extraordinary about the ferry crossing, except that when you see the Isle of Mull approaching slowly you are in a hurry to put your wheels on it! It’s our last day and we want to ride and walk, we have to make the most of it !
As we get off the boat and regroup, I start to think about "how do I get home with the Tracer?" We can always dream ! I like this bike: agile, generous torque, pleasant aesthetics, visible dashboard, good lighting, adjustable saddle and windshield, different riding modes … A very good machine that I really like !
To the right the Strait of Mull and to the left the moor of the Isle of Mull. Once again narrow roads on which the fact of driving on the left or on the right does not change anything! Fresh air comes in through the helmet and the view of the Atlantic Ocean frees me from all fatigue. I only think and feel the present moment. That’s it, I’m on a trip !
It takes us over an hour to drive 30 km to the fishing village of Tobermory, with its colorful houses and bay at low tide. A few photos and we leave to complete the tour of the island.
I keep driving, I admire the scenery, I keep smiling in my helmet, I drive slowly, I don’t want to miss a beat.
I find Florence who has stopped to take some pictures and her curious gaze, as well as that of Philippe, strikes me. Although they spend their lives traveling, nothing jaded about them. They do not cheat, their work and the organization it requires has not weakened their desire for discovery, sharing, and their passion for motorcycle travel..
The Isle of Mull is like a digest of Scotland: the castles, the ocean, the “lochs”, the animals in the wild, the courtesy of the Scots. We took a ferry back to Oban where we were expected with a very nice cocktail dinner.
But before – and unfortunately – we had to return the bikes … My plan to leave with mine failed … After three full days on the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer, I got very attached to it. An ideal motorcycle for almost anything. The city, the roads in good condition or the bumpy paths. It will still be necessary to pay attention to the width of the handlebars which may complicate the task to go up the lines! It would have a longer fork travel, I would like to try it on !
For Trail Rando, I am very pleasantly surprised: not only for the organization which was impeccable and professional: even in situations where they had to improvise and where they always kept a smile. The routes chosen over the three days seem more than representative of Scotland. The restaurants, pubs and hotels were perfect. It was all very well organized, but I was more or less expecting it.
However, I must admit that traveling with enthusiasts like Florence and Philippe is a game-changer. The landscapes are not going to change, but for once, I, a solo traveler, will not stop looking for their company !
Video: Scotland on a Yamaha MT-09 Tracer with Trail Rando
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