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Travels on a Motorcycle

Overland journeys, allotment dilemas, cycling, open water swimming and walking a dog.

Month

March 2016

Malvern ABR Rideout

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This years’ Adventure Bike Rider ABR Malvern meet pitched their tents at the Marlbank Inn, Welland Worcestershire.  Friday night was time to make new friends over a beer with people who shared an interest in riding motorbikes.  This was going to be fun.

At 10am on Saturday morning around 20 bikes gathered in the pub car park and I have a confession, I am a ride-out virgin.  I was nervous.   What if I was too slow?  What I got lost and set off with a group following and we never made it back?  What if I needed a wee?

The route was a mystery.  I’d caught a glimpse of a small map, not detailed enough to navigate by.  I’m going to get lost, I thought.

The group leader walked among the bikes, chatting to the riders to check everyone was familiar with group riding.  As this was new to me, he explained that we were going to ride using a round-robin method.  I’ll explain.  A lead rider and a back rider are identified.  These 2 riders top and tail the group to prevent stragglers.  At each junction, the rider behind the lead stops at the junction to mark the route for the following riders.  As the back marker approaches, the rider marking the route rejoins the group.  Easy!

Setting off among the other riders I felt happily anonymous.  I was in the middle of the pack, the ones at the front picked up the pace, but as those at the back chose to be more leisurely, I didn’t feel any pressure to push on.  My world was a happy one.  We rode through the gently rolling hills and along the curving roads of Worcestershire.  No longer the only woman, just another rider in the group. Then, comfortable biking anonymity mixed with an awareness of how brazenly conspicuousness 20 very loud, large motorbikes were.

After a stop in Abergavenny to browse at a Ducati stand and have a cuppa we pressed on to the second part of the ride.  Instead of the smooth tarmac our route took us along a narrow road that we shared with cyclists.  It twisted and turned, grass and mud mounded in large strips down the centre of the road.  Narrower roads, larger pots holes, more grass, more gravel, more mud.  Branches and bushes overhanging the tarmac making the muddy central strip the only useful part of the road.  I was in my element.  Thinking about the riding, picking my route.  I rode alone as the ex trail riders disappeared in dust clouds ahead, the riders on the heavy bikes with full panniers being forced onto the muddy central strip dropped back, taking it easy.

We’d climbed high into the Brecons and lined up for a photo shoot with snow still on the ground.  Views were out of this world.  Wales is a beautiful country.  A high point to our ride-out in more ways that one.

Back at the campsite we changed and headed to the pub for food and to chat about the day. I enjoyed my first ride-out and I am looking forward to the next one.

If you are interested in the details of future meets and events visit Adventure Bike Rider.

 

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Enjoying the views from the Brecons.

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Getting to know the other riders.

 

An hour with an Africa Twin

The Honda Africa Twin is my dream bike.  The original was designed to withstand thousands of miles of desert riding; the holy grail of adventure riding.  The new one had much to live up to.

After a year of whisperings, seeing a red and black Africa Twin parked in front of the Exeter showroom made my neck hair bristle. I pulled in, parked up and hopped on.  It was taller than my Triumph, but lighter.  I booked a test ride for the following weekend.

The new Twin is as beautiful as the original but a couple of things played on my mind.  It was tall; tip toe on the tarmac tall.  The demonstrator model had the DSC transmission.  A 1000cc twist and go?  I won’t lie, it didn’t sit well with me.

Test day came.  Some new habits needed to be observed.  In place of the clutch there is a park brake – under no circumstances should this be pulled while riding.  Thankfully it was too far away for any accidents.  Select Drive or Sport 1, 2 or 3 before setting off, then swap between automatic and manual as you fancy while on the move.  In manual, change up and down using a traditional gear lever on the left foot or the tiptronic shift on the left thumb.  Don’t decelerate while changing gear.

I set off in Sport 2 (recommended by the Honda chap) and manual for familiarity.  By the first roundabout, I was smitten. Cornering is snug, gear change is seamless, it’s manoeuvrable despite its size.  And it’s quick.

A gentle ride along the twists and turns of the Devon coast road to Torquay and back and I parked back at the showroom giggling to myself.  It’s going to have to wait a year, but I think I have found my next bike.

Sat-nav or Map-nav?

There’s nothing like pawing over a map, marker pen in hand, circling magical place names.  My next adventure forming stepping stones across a country.

So with such a love of maps, is there a place for a sat-nav in my adventures?

Sat-navs offer a concise and reliable route to your desired destination.  I could be neatly bounced from one stepping stone to the next by the most efficient route.  No surprises, very efficient.   Taking away the very essence of exploration.

What about the town with an interesting name, a winding road, a clutch of thatched roofs.  I would need to check out bunting in the distance.  But, sat-nav’s don’t have a sense of adventure and they don’t have a bunting mode.  They can’t sniff out street food.  So why would this disembodied, bossy voice be invited along for the ride, snatching all the chances to get lost and approach locals for directions.  It’s like taking a sensible friend on holiday.

For example, I would never have popped into the bar/ hunting shop, map in hand for directions and wound up staying at the bar man’s sisters farm house if my sat-nav had efficiently delivered me to a campsite.

Sadly, it doesn’t always work out so nicely.  I hunt out little towns with alluring markets and rejuvenating coffee shops.  And, because I have checked the map, this particular town had a neat winding road through it.  Finding the town centre is easy. Parking poses no problem.  Sampling local produce comes naturally.

Nightmares begin when it’s time to leave.  Where is the neat road the map promised me?  Where have all the sign posts gone?  That diversion wasn’t there half an hour ago!  Lap 4 of the town and I wonder if there was only a one way road in?  Maybe there is no road out?  After the seventh lap of the town.  Was I in the The Truman Show?

So I admit it, occasionally a sat-nav comes to its own.  A perfect tool for getting out of sticky situations and mysterious French one way systems.   But, a last resort.  Never for driving mindlessly under its instruction.

I’m not keen on being told what to do at the best of times.  Bossy instruction makes me do the opposite.  I want to be engaged with the ride and that includes being aware of where I am and making choices.  I notice more. I disagree that a sat-nav allows more time to take in the view. I can read a sign in a flash, so can do both.  The mental stimulation and decision making is part of the enjoyment.

Watching an isolated snippet of landscape on my phone screen gives the impression that there is a vast wilderness outside the screen in a ‘Don’t go on the moors’ type way.  A wide view and it’s not possible to see the detail of the map, a closer view and I lose the ability to relate my location to other towns.  Shouldn’t I be watching the actual roads and landscapes not the digital ones?

Most frightening of all, I’m relying on sat-nav and if the sat-nav breaks without knowledge I’m stuffed.  And lost. Maps don’t malfunction but they do go soggy if you spill a pint on them.

The only adventures are enjoyed with a map.  But, if I didn’t have a sat-nav to ensure I reached the ferry in time, I would still be on the Continent.  Or, making laps of French towns.

 

 

 

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