Jan Joswig and Tim Adler on reunion tour

It feels damn good to be sentimental for once. Tim and I dress up in our old BMW rally suits in which we already crossed Romania and the Pyrenees together, and off we go on our reunion tour; from the BMW Day in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Syracuse in Sicily to meet our old friend Marcin Oz. 90s revivals are passé, long live the early-noughties revival. Marcin showed us what true house music was made of at WMF and Cookies in Berlin under the guise of DJ Highfish; he became a bass player for the style-defining and successful band Whitest Boy Alive fronted by Erlend Øye who garnered worldwide success with the Kings of Convenience. Then he made a clean break. Half a decade ago, Marcin closed the Berlin chapter and followed Erlend Øye to Sicily to become a winemaker and restaurant owner. During the day, he takes care of his wine Vini Campisi; in the evening, Don Marcini runs his very own fish bistro Oz & Cappuccio. Wine and fish, Sicilian sun and spruced up nightlife culture. And sometime past midnight, Erlend sits down at the piano to ring in the last round.

As we hit the road in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Sicily seems a long way off. Tradition has it that it pours during the BMW Days. We can only hope to make it from all this sludge all the way to the sea. During the first stage of our journey on our way to Lake Garda, we chant Lucio Battisti’s “Ancora tu”, Peppino di Capri’s “Sciummo” and Erlend Øye’s “La prima Estate” to get in the mood despite the nasty weather. As soon as we see the first ragazzowearing white headphones and white sunglasses, we know that we crossed the border to Italy. From now on, the sun beats down on us without mercy. We drink against 30-40°C day temperature. Sunday drivers still abound in Italy: soft brain, soft asphalt, many accidents. Between Florence and Siena, the curves propose a big challenge. We thankfully accept. On the second day, the small animal enclosure that are our beards start to itch. And we let regional characteristics irritate us. What’s this high buzzing noise we experience while riding? Is the water cooling system’s ventilator broken? Nonsense, the R nineT is air-cooled. Is it a gimbal error? We stop and take off our helmets – and heave a sigh of relief: it’s the armies of cicadas that drowned out the sound of our engines.

As if it were the perfect movie script, we switch from curvy roads in Tuscany to riding chopper-style above treetops. On the elevated road at Lago del Salto, we can lean our backs against the luggage roll, rest our feet on the front turn signals and let things slide. Italians abide by the rules – that is if you read a 50 km/h road sign as if it said 50 mph. We’re okay with that. At the natural reserve Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, we refrain from wild camping. The many bear warning signs intimidate us. On July 10, we ride into Naples from where we take the ferry to Palermo. Luckily, we allowed ourselves a half-a-day buffer. We’re both in Naples for the first time – and instantly blown away. At walking speed, we ride along the Roman cobblestone roads; pimps graciously wave us through the red-light district’s alleys; we admire the scooterists, how they evade potholes like sleepwalkers; we inhale the hustle and bustle; and we enjoy the exuberant gestures between crumbling facades. We have to come here again.

During the 10-hour ferry ride to Palermo, I slept on top of one of the crates containing lifejackets. I couldn’t remember the lyrics to “Ancora tu”. In Palermo, swordfish was sold at the street market but none of the cafés sold cappuccino. No real Sicilian wakes up with that kind of milky dishwater. On our way across rural roads to the island’s southeast, we are in for a nasty surprise. The old tarmac not only glistens in the sun like fish scales, it’s also as slippery. Instead of dancing tango along the curves, we circle around the serpentines with stiff legs. The island’s hinterlands are scorched; only the ever-present plastic waste provides splashes of colour.

Syracuse is a divided city. Locals live on the mainland, while on the historic city island of Ortigia, they perform bella Italiafor all the tourists. In the world heritage’s alleys, the Tuscanisationon behalf of modern Lonely Planet travellers is in full swing. We have to look hard for a café with plastic chairs. Oz & Cappuccio is located in the historic city’s restaurant district in an old garage which offers just enough room for the kitchen. Meals are served outdoors at a large table with a pink, wooden table top. Marcin’s co-partner owns the first seafood store of the village. Oz & Cappuccio’s swordfish burger, fried sardines and raw king prawns are fresher than in 99 percent of the other restaurants, assures Marcin. Erlend Øye recommends to listen to Fred Bongusto to accompany the meal. The “Pink Moon” rosé from the current Vini Campisi vintage is more voluminous than regular rosato; masculine and fizzy. Apart from a little help from some Italian friends, Marcin is a self-taught winemaker. A do-it-yourself attitude, honest work without special effects, that’s the basic motto he applies to everything that he’s doing; from DJing to playing bass to making wine and running a restaurant. Whitest Boy Alive only came into being because they wanted to free house music from its digital black box and bring it to the stage handmade. Vini Campisi’s wine is, of course, without additives. Marcin’s wine press was built in 1978; it’s a tank that never breaks.

The next evening at Oz & Cappuccio, Feride who runs the cosmetics company Uslu Airlines joins us. Marcin, Erlend, Feride –  early-noughties Berlin is almost complete. While the others go skinny dipping at 2am, I try to remember the lyrics to “Ancora Tu”, and some “Pure&Crafted” fan snitches both R nineT mirrors as a souvenir.

In “Asterix in Switzerland”, Asterix and Obelix need 48 pages to reach the edelweiss in the Swiss mountains. Then it only takes them three panels to slide down again right into the centre of the village. That’s what our return journey felt like. In Palermo, we take the ferry to Genoa. 20 hours across the sea by night instead of four days on our motorcycles. In Bavaria, we dive through a thunderstorm towards the final highlight of our tour: a visit to Edgar Heinrich, head of BMW Motorrad Design. Edgar and his wife greet us with spritz and Brotzeit. Their house is located on the west bank of Lake Ammer, where Bavaria is still provincial and real in comparison to Lake Starnberg. In the local pub, Edgar pastes BMW stickers on Harley plates; after work, he tends to his own projects in his garage: a Matchless with a rigid frame and a Paris-Dakar BMW with a HPN rear frame; and he tries to clear his mind: “We’re so MOT-focussed, we don’t even dare to remove the number plate renewal date…” At the GS Trophy in Mongolia, a Russian rider gives him a handmade jersey because Edgar’s enthusiasm is quite addictive. From the Bavarian motorcycle police’s storage, he provides himself with used leather bags which still contain the varicoloured chalks to outline accidents. Edgar has been with BMW for 30 years – but he’s far from slipping into a routine. He’s the first to be excited about changes: “We mounted a lower windshield on the 1200 GS Rallye model; we removed the centre stand; and we added some colour – and suddenly it sold like hotcakes.” It is in this spirit that a pioneering endeavour like the R nineT could have developed. Bidding us farewell, Edgar writes an impromptu Sharpie slogan on the Pure&Crafted R nineT’s seat: “Ride hot – look cool.” The following day, we hand over the refined motorcycle to the next rider, David Biene. Reading the slogan, he did’t need to be told twice to do exactly that.