BUMPER 148-PAGE ISSUE All the advice, inspirational travel and reviews you need this summer!
22 PAGES OF INCREDIBLE TRAVEL!
LIVE THE MOTORHOME LIFE OF YOUR DREAMS WITH EXTRAORDINARY TOURS TO AMERICA, AUSTRALIA, JAPAN AND MORE EXPERT ADVICE
Brilliant top tips for savvy secondhand purchases
Get a glimpse of all-new â€™vans from Swift, Auto-Trail and more
LEADVILLE, COLORADO, USA
DIY CONVERSION Transforming minibus to motorhome, step-by-step
Get to grips with awnings and circuit breakers
Tour in the USA Colorado landscapes
6 Your letters Readers discuss the pleasures of long-distance touring, and why levellers are a must-have 10 Ask Jack Gentleman Jack advises where to view a Chausson Flash, and reminisces about essential kit 13 New gear Our round-up of key accessories includes handy wipes and a free guide to accessible days out 15 Nightstops Save by staying at one of our motorhome-friendly stopovers
Local authority Rugged scenery, industrial heritage in West Yorkshire
Road sense: M25 Essential information about major UK driving routes
2020 season preview part 3 Latest models
’Van review Swift Edge 476
E-bike test Gocycle GX
Safe and secure Protect your ’van
Maxus makeover Part 1
Gentleman Jack’s minibus to motorhome project
Used ’van buyer
Buying advice for a 20132018 Bailey Approach
16 Tour smarter Claudia Dowell reports on Heart 200, Scotland’s new tour route, and scenic spots in Ireland 19 Amazing adventures… Motorhomes are a great way to see the world, and have taken you on some extraordinary tours 20 … in the USA Marcus Leach and family took the motorhome trip of a lifetime to explore colourful Colorado 34 … in Australia A motorhome swap can be a great way to tour, as Hilary and Chris Russell discovered on a trip to Australia to visit relatives 42 … in Japan Join Sharon and David Dowling on a wonderful motorhome tour of Japan’s gorgeous landscapes 48 … on an escorted tour Planning a global adventure? Caroline Mills outlines the benefits of escorted tours 51 Who will be voted into our 2020 Top 100 Sites Guide? Our Top 100 Sites Guide recognises the very best sites across the country. Go online and vote for your favourite now! 54 Local authority: Calderdale This beautiful part of Yorkshire is a popular film location with much to offer all the family 56 Road sense: M25 Our new series on major routes in the UK provides all of the key facts for motorcaravanners
60 First look Reviews editor Peter Baber has the latest news from the industry
63 2020 season preview: pt 3 The latest new models from… 64 Auto-Trail/Roller Team 66 Erwin Hymer Group (UK) 68 Swift 72 ’Van review: Swift Edge 476 Swift’s new lower-priced line-up should appeal to touring families 74 ’Van review: Danbury Avenir 63TW Stylish van conversion designed by Danbury, made by Pilote 76 Motorhome of the Year We reveal the shortlist for 2020! 82 Tested special: Auto-Sleeper Warwick XL Formula 1 fan Sally Sebesta found the XL a great base for watching the Grand Prix at Silverstone 85 Our ’vans Latest report on our long-termtest Bailey Advance 76-2T 88 Have your say in our 2020 Owner Satisfaction Survey Bought a new or used ’van in the past three years? Tell us about it! 89 E-bike test: Gocycle GX An e-bike can be very handy on tour, especially if it folds down 91 Safe and secure Your cut-out-and-keep guide to protecting your motorhome
96 Diamond Dave Expert tips on what to watch for when you buy a pre-owned ’van 98 Maxus makeover: pt 1 In this new series, Gentleman Jack and Grant Long convert a minibus into a campervan 100 Spotlight on… awning care Sammy Faircloth offers simple tips to prolong your awning’s life 102 Circuit breakers explained Sam Coles discusses the key role of these small but vital devices 104 Subscribe and save Receive a free gift worth £40!
108 Pre-owned news Nick Harding reports on an award-winning dealership and bargains on the forecourts 112 Used ’van challenge Compact coachbuilts for couples 120 Used ’van buyer 2013-2018 Bailey Approach 123 Buyer’s Guide Updated for the 2019 season 146 Blast from the past Motorhome life in early 2002
www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 3
Motorhomes are perfect for exploring new destinations, but there’s no need to limit your touring to the UK or France – extraordinary locations across the world are now easier to reach than ever before. After all, that’s what our readers have done – over the next 22 pages you’ll be able to find out all about their incredible tours to the US, Australia and Japan. We’ve also included a guide to escorted tours, which can help you take that first initial step. So what are you waiting for? Turn the page and explore the world with us!
Seeking the classic RV lifestyle, Marcus Leach and family discover the spectacular scenery of Colorado p20
Hilary and Chris Russell used a motorhome swap to tour the fabulous landscapes of Australia’s southern coastline p34
Motorcaravanning proved to be the ideal way for Sharon and David Dowling to explore this intriguing land p42
If you feel unsure about holidaying abroad, an escorted tour might be just the thing. Caroline Mills explains why p48
www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 19
GRAND TOUR Colorado
CRUISE AMERICA Ford V8 RV
DURATION 21 nights
Colorado Taking the motorhome trip of a lifetime, Marcus Leach and family headed for North America to explore the fabulously varied landscapes of Colorado
20 | October 2019 | www.practicalmotorhome.com
WHEN July 2019
Big adventures in the big country, with mountains, rivers, and a mighty moose
Scenic driving through Great Sand Dunes National Park
www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 21
AMAZING ADVENTURES Australia
DURATION 42 days
House swaps have been around for a while, but what about a motorhome swap? Hilary and Chris Russell did just that to visit relatives in Australia
ur story began in November 2016, 11 months before my 65th birthday. My wife, Hilary, and I were talking about retirement. Although eight years my junior, she had already decided that my birthday would mark our joint retirement from our sales jobs with a local home improvement company. Our conversation turned to bucket lists, and the one item common to both lists was visiting Australia. I have four cousins, whom I last saw on Southampton Dock in 1957, as we bade them ‘bon voyage’ for their trip to Australia. They were emigrating to start a new life in Sydney… and that’s all I had to go on when I started searching for them. Hilary had better information about her relatives: a 90-year-old aunt, sister to her late mother, plus cousins and their siblings, all based in Victoria. Hilary was keen to visit her aunt and loved the idea, if it were possible, to visit on her 91st birthday, on 12 December 2017. It was Hilary who said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could arrange an exchange of motorhomes?”
Sydney Harbour Bridge is one of the many sights not to be missed
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She then added, with a knowing smile, “Go on, sort it, you can do anything when you put your mind to it,” and so began the first of many learning curves.
Arranging the swap
I started by signing up with a couple of UK exchange sites. Altough they were free registration, they proved to be a waste of time. Then my internet search took me to RV Worldwide (www.rvworldwide. com), a subscription site run by a New Zealander from his home there. I was cautious at first – why would I give
Hilary and Chris head off on their ‘trip of a lifetime’ Australian motorhome swap
a total stranger A$80 (then about £60) for a year’s subscription to a club that offered no guarantee of results? Following extensive dialogue with website owner Stephen – who explained how he had developed the site at great personal expense, and needed to charge the subscription to reimburse his costs – and once I was satisfied, I signed up. The two positives about this site are that you can visit it and view all members, their units and travel plans, without signing up – the only thing you can’t see is their contact info – and you know they have all parted with their cash and are not time-wasters. We paid our subscription and began making a shortlist of suitable swappers. We sent out 13 emails, and while we received replies from most of them, the general feedback was that we had left it a little late; most had arranged their swaps for the year. Our favourite potential swapper, however, came up trumps and offered us the perfect swap. We were looking at six weeks from 28 November, which Bronwyn, a widow from Sydney, could accommodate. She
Australia’s iconic southern coastline, for sunshine and family reunions
Hilary and Chris at Apollo Bay, midway through their tour of the coastal routes
Chris’s cousins Stephen (left) and Michael (centre) emigrated back in the 1950s
You don’t have to stray far from the ’van to spot some local wildlife, Chris found!
was looking at six weeks in our motorhome commencing April 2018, which suited us. The deal was done. From that initial contact back in January 2017, we exchanged many emails and ended up good friends on social media. By the time that we eventually met, we felt we knew her like a member of the family. There is obviously a lot of trust involved in an exchange, and it’s important to keep in mind that RV Worldwide is purely an introduction service and is not responsible in any way for its members. Since signing up, I have received a constant trickle of emails from club members, month on month, enquiring about our motorhome’s availability and we have now agreed our second swap, which will see us in New Zealand in January next year.
us plenty of time to get to Aunt Kath’s birthday in Inverloch, Victoria, on 12 December, but the rest of the trip wasn’t cast in stone. I played around with dates and times until I achieved what I thought was a great deal: Heathrow to Dubai, three nights in Dubai, Dubai to Bali, five nights in Bali, Bali to Sydney. The total cost of flights for the pair of us was £1400.
and she let us have her ’van early. Site bookings were also easily adjusted. We didn’t even look at return flights until much later in the trip, because we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We ended up returning by way of the Maldives and Cyprus, on flights booked via Skyscanner.
Booking the flights
If, like me, you don’t like long flights, you might consider doing the trip in stages. We used the Qantas Multi-City option to book ours. I liked the idea of spending a week or so getting to Sydney and looked at including two more bucket-list destinations en route: Dubai and Bali. We knew that we wanted to arrive in Sydney on 28 November, to give
Unfortunately, Bali didn’t happen. Volcanic activity closed the airport for a week, so we had to book a direct flight from Dubai to Sydney. Thankfully, our travel insurance has since reimbursed us for the extra cost. The good news was, our arrival in Sydney five days early didn’t cause problems for Bronwyn,
South from Sydney
Our ‘trip of a lifetime’ was to head south from Sydney, keeping in the main to the Princes Highway (A1),
www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 35
AMAZING ADVENTURES Japan
TOYOTA Camroad Crea
DURATION 23 days
Mount Fuji National Park is a must-see when you tour in Japan
â€™VAN OF THE
RISING SUN Ever thought about touring in Japan? Sharon and David Dowling took an escorted tour and found it the ideal way to explore this fascinating land 42 | October 2019 | www.practicalmotorhome.com
Tokyo’s bustling night-life contrasts with the quiet serenity of Mount Fuji
couple of years ago, while attending the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC in Birmingham, we were wandering among the many exhibits when a Geisha walked by! Intrigued, we followed her to one of the stands and listened to an excellent presentation on motorcaravanning in Japan. We were hooked and booked a tour with Worldwide Motorhoming Holidays (run by the Camping and Caravanning Club) the same day. When the time came to travel, we took a direct flight from Heathrow and spent the first three days in Tokyo. A city tour had been laid on, which was great as it gave us an overview of the area and helped us choose where to spend our free time exploring. We began in Asakusa, Tokyo’s old town, which was followed by a visit to Sensoji, the city’s oldest temple. After some shopping and lunch, we were off to the Meiji Shrine, which we were told is a popular venue for traditional Japanese weddings. We were very lucky – two were taking place during our visit and we were able to watch as events unfolded. Our initial impressions were how clean the place was and how friendly the people were, and these thoughts were reinforced throughout the trip. Any previous concerns about getting around were quickly dispelled as we negotiated the underground and even managed a return trip by boat, which took us close to our hotel’s location.
Out on the road
But this was a motorhome holiday, and on day four we collected our vehicle from Japan Campers in Narita, a one-hour coach trip from Tokyo. The Toyota Camroad Crea would be our home for the next 15 days. It was definitely more compact than we are used to, but the spec was reasonable and the ’van was fine for the trip. Our first journey was a 65km drive, and we stopped off to visit the world’s biggest statue of Buddha, at Ushiku. So tall is this imposing bronze that you can go inside it and up in a lift to the look-out area, to enjoy terrific views over the surrounding gardens. From Ushiku, we carried on to our first campsite, which had all of the facilities you would hope for and was situated in beautiful woodland. The following day involved a slightly longer drive of 140km, which was even more enjoyable because the scenery was changing now from fairly dense
Choice of well-appointed campsites is excellent, with plenty of scenic pitches housing, to extensive farmland with smaller towns and villages. You quickly realise no land is wasted here and any space around people’s homes is used to grow something, be it rice, tea, vegetables or vines. We saw no gardens with lawns and flowers. After our first visit to a supermarket, we realised why people might be keen to grow lots of fruit and veg – prices are more than double what we are used to paying in the UK. Most things, though, were fairly similar in price, except alcohol, which cost about 50% extra. Supermarkets had lots of different colours and tastes on offer, and that was just the Kit Kat counter! It’s the most popular chocolate in Japan and Nestlé manufactures several flavours exclusively for the Japanese market. These include green tea, cherry, banana, peach-mint and onsen manju (hot spring steamed buns, a popular local delicacy). Mostly, though, people here eat an extremely healthy diet, and of course, it’s a sushi lover’s paradise. At one lunch stop, we found a large queue at the sushi take-away but the burger place along the road was empty. Is there any other country in the world where this would happen? It was no surprise to discover that of 195 countries, Japan has the highest life expectancy. The UK was ranked 23rd, the US 64th.
Big cities, high mountains
We quickly fell into a routine of driving from place to place, sometimes staying a couple of nights, but usually just the one. This suited us fine – every day brought new experiences and things to see. The variety is extraordinary, from the big cities of Tokyo and Kyoto to mountainous areas covered in forest that reminded us of our Scottish home. One night we camped in woodland; another, right on a beach where my partner, Sharon, went paddling in the lake. Who knew Japan had all this to www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 43
COMFORT IN AN AUTO-SLEEPER
A motorhome is a great base for watching Formula 1, says Sally Sebesta
’ve been an avid fan of Formula 1 racing for years, and can clearly remember watching my first event with my dad. In particular, I love the Silverstone circuit, and the exciting driving that it usually delivers. Along with Formula 1, I also enjoy camping and the outdoors, and once a year, I get to combine the two interests when I attend the British Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the past, I’ve always camped at Woodlands campsite next to the track, in a tent of some shape, but this year, I was able to travel in style in a 2019 Auto-Sleeper Warwick XL van conversion. This smart and comfortable camper features facing rear sofas, with a side kitchen and washroom. One of the primary things I worry about when getting ready for this event each year is how I am going to get there, because I tend to take a bit too much luggage for the train or a car. Another of my priorities is definitely where I can make a cup of coffee! So, here we were on the Tuesday afternoon before I was due to leave for Silverstone, about to collect the two-berth Warwick XL. I’m new to travel in a motorhome, so I was really excited to find out what it would be like. First impressions were that it was quite big (it’s 6.34m long) and, might I say, handsome. I still had 82 | October 2019 | www.practicalmotorhome.com
Sally met Daniel Ricciardo (left) on her trip to Silverstone in the Warwick XL reservations about the storage capacity, because I know I am bad for over-packing; but I stepped inside the ’van and all those worries disappeared – the storage available was amazing. From underneath the seats, to the wardrobes and sizeable drawers, there was plenty of space available for all of my kit.
We packed everything up, and off we went. Again, being new to the ’van life, I didn’t know quite what to expect from the journey. Would I arrive at Silverstone to find everything on the floor, having fallen out of the lockers? Well, no: every cupboard proved perfectly secure. The drive itself was about as smooth as it could be, with plenty of space up front in the Peugeot Boxer cab, and the motorhome proved very easy to drive.
I found it easy to forget that we were in a vehicle of this size. On the Wednesday, we arrived at Silverstone and met up with friends. We had a variety of different camping options around us, including tents, caravans and other motorhomes. As soon as we arrived at our pitch, we started to set up our camp. The electric hook-up bollard was easy to find, and within minutes we had power flowing and the kettle on. Ben was on coffee duty. He is 6’ 5” and stood in the kitchen to make the drinks – although he did have to open the skylight for a bit more headroom! It was time to explore my new home for the week. I started by familiarising myself with how everything worked. All of the functions in the Warwick XL seemed very straightforward and easy to navigate. The lighting was great, with an awning light that was handy in the
ELECTRIC BIKE REVIEW Premium foldable
Gocycle GX An e-bike can be handy when you’re away on tour, especially in hilly locations, and it’s even better if it folds for storage. David Motton tests a prime example jPrice £2899 jWeight 17.8kg (claimed) jRange Up to 40 miles jCharge time Seven hours jFolded size 880 x 390 x 615mm (pedals folded)
Main and right Smart looks, ultra-modern design and a compact fold
olding bikes make a lot of sense when you’re on tour. Their compact size allows for easy storage, and they’re perfect for nipping into the village for a pint of milk. Unless, that is, the nearest shop is at the top of a steep hill. Then step forward, the Gocycle GX. The latest addition to the range from Gocycle, the GX combines the ultra-modern design and smart looks of the other models with a more compact fold. While other Gocycles have removeable wheels and a folding handlebar stem, the GX is hinged in the middle of the frame and there’s no need to remove the wheels. It will easily fit under a fixed double bed, although you’d need to secure it carefully to prevent damage during the journey. Folding and unfolding the Gocycle is quick, simple and intuitive. Balance the bike on the kickstand, release the frame hinge and fold the front wheel towards the back wheel. Then you simply lower the handlebar stem and secure it to the frame with a rubber loop. For a more compact fold, you can flip the pedals or take out the seat post and saddle, which then sit in the rubber loop holding the folded bike together. But essentially, that’s it. If you take the GX on a train, it’s worth leaving the saddle in place – this makes it easier to wheel it around. You will want to wheel it, rather than carry it: although
…or try one of these
Brompton Electric M2L jPrice £2595 jWeb www.brompton.com The word ‘iconic’ is perhaps overused, but it can fairly be applied to the Brompton folding bicycle. The electric version is slightly cheaper than the Gocycle and folds to a smaller size, but the Gocycle is a smoother ride.
IN MORE DETAIL 1
1 2 3 4
Carrera Crosscity Folding Electric Bike
You can customise your e-bike, for example with a front pannier Release seatpost to remove it and reduce height of the folded bike Free app allows you to display a ‘dashboard’ on your smartphone Side-mounted wheel looks neat and makes fixing a flat tyre easier
it’s not heavy by general e-bike standards, almost 18kg is rather a lot to lift. You don’t notice that heft when riding, though. There’s up to 250W of electrical assistance, available up to 15.5mph. Both are the maximum allowed by law. That assistance builds smoothly, with more help the harder you pedal – hills become ridiculously easy, and it’s possible to cover the miles quite quickly without working up a sweat, even on a hot day. The rear suspension and
high-volume tyres give you a smooth ride and provide reassuring grip. To make the most of the GX, you need a smartphone with the free Gocycle app. The bike works without it, but the app lets you connect to the bike via Bluetooth, display a ‘dashboard’ on the screen, and switch between different modes. You can choose to have more assistance if you need it, or less electrical help to maximise the range. Gocycle claims that a full charge lasts 40 miles in ideal conditions
jPrice £850 jWeb www.halfords.com Gocycle and Brompton are premium products, but the Carrera Crosscity is around a third of the price. Your money buys a bike with a claimed range of up to 30 miles, with a handy pannier rack for luggage included. and we achieved just short of that in practice. With a price tag of almost £3000, the GX is definitely a premium product – you can buy e-bikes that will do much the same job for less of an outlay. But they won’t have the Gocycle’s slick design, composed handling or gadget-geek appeal.
PRACTICAL MOTORHOME SAYS...
A state-of-the-art folding e-bike, with a price tag to match
www.practicalmotorhome.com | October 2019 | 89
TECHNICAL Our Diamond Dave repairs motorhomes for a living, which makes him the technical guru to consult when things go wrong
Buyer beware The internet is a great place to start your motorhome research
Whatever you call them – secondhand, used, pre-owned or perhaps pre-loved, what do you look for when buying a ‘not new’ ’van? Is it the brand, or the layout? The mileage or service history? Perhaps it’s all of the above? It is a long time since I was in the market for a used ’van, because in general, I prefer to do a conversion to my specifications. Recently, though, I needed to acquire a second ’van for our rental business. And so, of course, to the internet. These days, most dealerships have a website and many also use web-based networks. As do lots of private sellers. FOR MORE NEWS & REVIEWS:
y guess is that most private buyers will go for layout as their prime objective, closely followed by brand, especially if they have been owners of that particular marque before. Mileage is often used by both private sellers and dealerships to promote their vehicles, followed closely by service history. Mechanical seems to take priority over habitation inspection history. As a buyer, I’m looking out for a 2007 or younger,
four-berth, family-friendly motorhome. After many hours of searching on the internet, I chanced upon a 2007 motorhome, being sold only 40 miles away, with 25,000 miles on it. The price was reasonable, too, at just under £20,000. I telephoned to get more information and arrange to view it. The story got better, because I was told that it had a fresh habitation check, the damp readings were under 15% and it had also had a recent cambelt change. So off I went for a closer look. Now, it would be easy
to be swayed by a clean interior, suitable layout, competitive pricing and verbal assertions about the history, but I’m a bit sharper than that. As regular readers will know, I’m rather focused on tyres, so they were my first item to inspect. Oh dear. The front tyres were six years old and the rears and spare were original and dated from late 2005. So straight away, I’m taking £550 off the asking price for a set of five tyres. The motorhome was in general very clean, but there
jWHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT LED LIGHTS? Light-emitting diodes are everywhere these days, and there are many benefits to fitting them in your motorhome. Find out more with our guide at https://bit.ly/2YapKRj
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Fancy converting your own camper? In the first part of our new series, meet Practical Motorhome’s Maxus Monterey. Gentleman Jack gives the inside track
GETTING GOING P
rospective purchasers often opine that it must be cheaper to buy a new van and convert it themselves, instead of just rocking up at a showroom and buying a production model. Understandable, but wrong – very wrong! Although it could be argued that one would be saving on labour costs, the fact is, commercially built entry-level production motorcaravans are actually very good value for money. Of course, that doesn’t make them universally affordable. Many folk we meet at music festivals/steam rallies/club temporary holiday sites have commented that even pre-owned so-called entry-level or value-formoney motorhomes are not remotely affordable for them, but they would still love to live the dream. We are going to prove that living the dream is achievable for anybody with some spare time and average DIY skills. Next month, we’ll start on the detail of the conversion of our recently completed project ’van; but first, some general pointers based on experience
gained over many decades. Here are some ways to get going on just a few thousand pounds:
■ Buy a promising fixer-upper As we did with our Leyland Sherpa (1). ■ Enjoy a ‘harvest festival’ Source a scrap or pre-owned touring/ motorcaravan, or visit a caravan and motorhome dismantler, and replant fixtures and fittings in a panel van (2). ■ Clipping Transfer a conversion from an old scrap ’van into a newer panel van (3). ■ Manage an evolving conversion Buy a cheap panel van or minibus, chuck a mattress in the back and add to it as and when funds permit. Only for the strong-willed – many going down this route never get further than using it as a tin tent! ■ Mix and match Take some elements from any or all of the above.
We’ve tried each of these routes in the past; but this time, we’ve opted for mix and match, and converted a minibus using some of the furniture and much of the equipment from a previous conversion.
Practical Motorhome’s first starter ’van was purchased by Jack back in 2010, for £825. It was nicknamed ‘Peanuts’ because that was what it cost! 98 | October 2019 | www.practicalmotorhome.com
Must-haves include a modern(ish), reliable base vehicle, driver and passenger airbags, full standing height, four type-approved crash-tested travel seats, latest fire-retardant soft furnishings, double bed, fridge and solar panel. Budget £5000 initially, with an extra £1000 available subsequently for diesel heating, rear-view camera and a pre-owned awning.
Practical Motorhome’s Master Class involved using salvage caravan windows, furniture and white goods to build this comfortable Renault Master high-top conversion for friend Grant to full-time in. Total cost of this project was £8000
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