Four days in Greece Riding with Rigas
We spent 10 days in Italy with my wife's family. The roads were nice, but I longed for an RG (or even a car that wasn't hauling a motion sick mother-in-law and her sister). We did the touristy things. We tacked a few days in Athens with Rigas on the end of the trip since it was a short/cheap jump over the mediterranean. Athens was a breath of fresh air (ONLY methaphorically). We arrived late Saturday night and were greeted by Rigas sporting one of his 5 RG t-shirts. He drove the 4 of us (we still had the mom and her sister) through the heavy Athens traffic, first dropping off the elders at their 3-4 star hotel near Akropolis not to see them again until time to fly home on Thursday. Rigas then took us to our half star hotel near his home. We got a few hours of sleep and were ready for day one.

Day 1 - Sunday. Rigas picked us up in his car at 7:45am and we went to his house to get bikes and check email in the Rigas cave. We met his friend on a 91 RGV250 just like Shara destroyed once and the three of us rode the early Sunday Athens traffic which is much lighter than the usual onslaught. I rode the RG400 (really 500) with Shara, Rigas rode his newly refurbished RD500 (really RZV500). We got our first taste of Greek riding style which means that cars are simply obstacles to be passed anywhere anytime, right, left, breakdown lane, same lane. As one of Rigas' friends would later tell me, "here Ghostrider would be just an average commuter". Though it felt fast, we were quite slower than the 250 and many scooters. We met a dozen or so riders to go to the national motorcycle meeting event about 200km North of Athens on the coast. The 2stroke posse split from the bigger group and we rode more leisurely and stopped for breakfast. We were joined by Harris on his NS400R, and Christos and his girlfriend Despina on a beautiful (and fast!) custom RG500. We were also joined by another Giorgios who would have brought his gamma but it was being painted (nobody in greece considers a bike rideable unless it is better than new looking)... so he was resigned to a 4stroke Kawasaki 1000 that he bought because its 4 silencers remind him of 2strokes. We cruised the highway at no more than 220km which as about as fast as the little NS400R (with the largest rider) could manage. Rigas' RG provided incredibly smooth power and was wonderful to ride. As fast as it seemed we were going, we were regulurly blown away by large bore 4strokes cruising at 260-300kph! It seems that in greece there are NO laws applied to motorcycles. You can drive by a cop on city streets at over 100mph and just smile. I even learned how a pack of bikes can ride to the front of a toll lane and go through with the next car for free, in front of police who are stopping cars to check papers there, and then wheelie away and accelerate to to 200kph. Wow. Its liberating, but then we did see that people who are free to push more deadly limits will sometimes exceed them... one rider heading to event crusing at over 280kph passed Rigas's mechanic (panayotis? from our original 4stroke group, crusing at 220kph). The rider missed the turn and hit a tourbus. Rigas' mechanic had to dodge many parts and was hit by bits. Sobering. We all agreed that 4strokes are too fast!
We arrived at the event, having travelled some beautiful miles near the meditteranean. There were thousands and thousands of bikes. People were riding the streets on one wheel. People on 4wheelers were doing tricks and stunts. We stopped at a gas station to find a screw to repair Christos license plate/silencer bracket which lost bolt on way. I have never seen so many bikes and such crazy biker activity. We were going to watch some of the official stunt events but when we found out the gate fee was 50euro instead of 5, we decided to continue riding. We made a quick stop by a statue of a greek warrior. Every person we later met verified that Rigas had shown us this site, where the 300 spartans held off a million persions. We took the obligatory picture and then continue over a nice highspeed curvy mountain pass and then to a restaraunt where we ate great Greek food (damn this is better food than Italy). Then onto a beatiful watery oasis with water wheels and such where we had coffee and smokes (we don't smoke but Rigas smokes enough for all of us). And then we rode the wonderfully curvy 'Old National Road' back into Athens. It was like motoring heaven... until we hit Athens traffic which was motoring HELL! 4-5 lanes of solid traffic on the highways, all travelling quite quickly for such density ... maybe 80-90 kph, and then we come through at more like 110-120kph, splitting lanes and all over the place. I am not used to such traffic or riding techniques... fortunately I AM used to a gamma and it was the perfect tool. I have never had to think about pulling in body parts to avoid car mirrors, and never ridden on the street without mirrors (Rigas doesn't like mirrors!). Yowza. Shara had been wishing she could be riding with us on her TZR but after this traffic she was HAPPY to be passenger. But we figured we would be safe if we just followed Rigas and did what he did. But then Rigas ran out of gas on the RD in the middle of heavy traffic at the bottom of a curved off ramp so much work to push to somewhere safe. Rigas was quite angry that the RD reserve gives just 35km instead of 50km of RG... despite RDs better gas mileage and supposed 5 liter reserve. Rigas called Giorgios and the NS400R came to our rescue with fuel. We all went to Giorgios garage which is like a nice ground floor living room with his RG awaiting painted fairings, a blown RS250 and a couple of RG motors. It was a great hangout. We drank sodas and the Greeks smoked and had coffee and we all and talked of the day. Then by about 10:30 to 11:00pm we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant owned by a friend of Giorgios. More great food, in addition to our huge meals, the owner kept bringing us other specialties. Eventually we got back to the hotel by 1:00 or 2:00am stuffed to the gills with great food. I think this was early by Greek standards.

(the fellow on the right who had the NS400R wasn't quite that large... he was moving while this photostich was taken)

Day 2 - Monday. We met Rigas at 8:45 at hotel but it was pouring miserable weather. Perhaps good to get a little break... Shara was very sore from prior day's 400-500km. We had planned to visit Christos with the bikes so he could swap the powervalve cables on the RD which were backward and providing anti-power. But that would have to wait. We spent the first part of the morning getting tickets for Shara and me to visit some nearby greek islands on Tuesday. The rest of the morning we hung out at Rigas's mechanic (panayotis, and his helper panayotis). It was a nice little shop, full of bikes (including Rigas's RG500 waiting its supermotor). I noticed in the rain the back scrap heap an old TZR 250 just like shara's. With just the parts I had been looking for (windscreen, and fairing 'ears'). Panayotos said I could have them for nothing but we would have to come back tomorrow when it wasn't raining. And he said we could have the TZR's motor which was missing crank for 50euro. Wow. Finally the rain let up and the streets dry fast with all the traffic. We got the bikes and went to Christos and had 'american style fast food hamburgers'. Christos has RGs coming out of his ears, junked ones under trees, under construction one in neighbors condemned house, his beatiful red one, parts, pieces, pistons, etc all in piles. We shows us numerous magazines featuring his modified bikes and pics of the various incarnations of his nice modified gamma, and older bikes he owned and modified, like very nice RD. Christos spends about an hour swapping the cables which are very hard to access on the RD... everything on that bike seems so complicated. We watch and Rigas gets us some beer to drink while waiting.

Eventually the RD is repaired and is reported to pull strong like it should. So the four of us ride off to Marathon to drink coffee and smoke by the lake. Very beatiful. Rigas reports that now that the RD has power its clutch slips. Oh well. From here, Rigas took Shara and the RG and I took the RD and we rode over a high mountain pass overlooking athens. The ride went into the clouds and was very cold. Fortunaly the RD has heated seat (that also vibrates so much you'd think the bike would explode). I didn't particularly like the RD. Its handling was akward and it was hard to ride smoothly. But it did have nice broad powerband. We rode off the mountain and through a twisty maze of roads to Christos's cousin, yet another Georgios. This is Georgios the pirate who is the fabled Best Painter in the World. He lives in an oasis of green tree nursury, surrounded by city but you wouldn't know it. Here Goergios spends all his time meticulously paint the other Giorgios fairings while a constantly changing group of guys hang around bullshitting about airrifles and bikes (2strokes vs Ducatis). We saw Giorgios the painters wildly bizarre RG500 'motard' special which though very well done makes you wonder 'why?'. We got to fertilize the orchard because none of Georgios' friends are allowed in the house. Eventually we rode our way back through the Athens traffics to Rigas's home to have dinner with his mother and sister at an early 10:00. More great food! And way too much. I don't know how Rigas stays so thin... food for 10 was served for 3 (mom and sister had already eaten). Stuffed, we returned to the hotel by midnight to get up very early to catch the boat.

Day 3 - Tuesday. We rode a boat to some islands and were tourists until 7:00pm. It was restful. Afterward, Rigas picked us up at the dock, we retrieved the bikes and rode through dense Athens traffic (now getting a little easier) to visit Giorgios (the one with the RG being painted) to have dinner with his lovely family in their lovely top floor apartment overlooking Athens. Giorgios' garage contains Rigas's other RD, and Giorgios own (but he thinks the RD unsafe to ride fast!). Giorgios son Kosmas is a budding RG fan and will surely carry the torch for our bikes after we are old farts. More great food. At midnight one might expect the day to wind down, but Giorgios was up for a ride, we rode to the shore somewhere. A big motor hangout overlooking the sea with lots of cars burning out and being silly. We then rode to one of the monument hills overlooking Athens... quite a steep zigzag to the top. And then at 2:00am rode to a bar belonging to another 2stroke friend with NSR250SP who overslept and missed joining us on day 1. We evenutally got to bed by 3:30am, exhausted. I guess I see why the Greeks drink sooo much coffee!

Day 4 - Wednesday. Rigas picked us up at the much appreciated hour of 11:00am after he got off work. We had breakfast at Panayotis's shop where we saw Rigas real pride his RG570 awaiting its super motor. We retrieved our TZR parts and paid the tiny sum of 50euro. We returned to Rigas's house to get the bikes and went to see the Akropolis... after visting another mechanic at another shop and then another shop and then park the bikes at another shop and finally we started up for the Akroplolis following signs... that eventually led to a locked gate and dead end for us. Or not. We climbed the fence and found ourselves on closed path below Akropolis and came to another locked gate. So we had to climb over in front of a zillion tourists. Heh, at least we didn't feel like tourists. But we were inside and didn't end up paying. Great views of Athens, but disappointingly small area with too many people and too much restoration scaffolding. We returned to the bikes and visited one of Rigas's many biker nests, this one a bar, with many 2stroke fans. We met yet another Giorgios (the long haired soft spoken one) who is the master of finding great deals (and also has an RG500). He told us of a TZR 2MA like shara's but with racekit installed... complete and running for 300euro. Ack, choke. I think we will have to buy that and figure out how to ship it in pieces! We left there and met up with the original Giorgios on his Kawasaki and rode south along the sea on beautiful but damn slippery roads to the temple of Poseiden for coffee and smokes (perhaps you see a pattern). We parted with Giorgios and returned to Athens on some fast, rather empty highways. Rigas's RGseemed to run out of revs too soon. I couldn't get much over 220kph... perhaps the price he pays for the 400pipes which helps low end power but hurt revs? We returned to Giorgios the painter's and learned a lot about how varnish can be screwed up when the hardener provided is wrong! And we saw Giorgios other crazy modified bike... an RD which borders on garish and impractical... note the custom plastic frame cover to make the stock frame look impressive, and the 4 underseat pipes which are soo long the bike can't rev! Afterward we returned to Rigas neighborhood and ate incredbily tasty Tsuvlaki (sp?). We returned to his house, packed the motor, recieved our incredibly breakable gifts from his mother (Paul did you get gifts?). And got to bed by 2:00am to get up 3 hours later and...

20 image stiched panaroma from Acropolis. Click to see large version you will have to scroll a lot

Thursday we flew back to reality. A nice touch from British Airways is that they played a good documentary about Barry Sheene! Perfect! We had no problem or extra cost with our boxed TZR motor. I think we will have to make a habit of visiting Greece. Many thank to Rigas and his army of 2stroke maniacs for their great hospitality. They made 4 days seem like 10! We rode a 800-900km in 4 days, more than we would probably ride in 4 weeks here at home. I can highly recommend all gammalisters to visit Rigas. They will not be disappointed (if they survive)!
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