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Too Far For 125s?

By Ren Withnell - Ride Date 16-3-14

DW of the bike club organised a ride out recently but due to various circumstances it never came off. So when we discussed a ride out for this Sunday the gf suggested DW's ride. I must admit the thought of this made me gulp a little. The full journey he is planning is around 260 miles and it's been a fair while since I've covered that kind of distance in a day. The gf has never covered this distance on her own bike. The gf is on a 125. The gf is on "L" plates. I know she can be a tough cookie but this could be the ruination of her, this could be just too much. Hmmmm. Maybe I'm using her as an excuse to mask my own fears it may be too much for me?

260 miles. On a 125. I'll use my 125 as there's no point taking the 250 if the gf's on her 125 is there? Everyone else will be on larger machines, the smallest of the rest of the group will be DA on a Kwak Ninja 300. The gf and I will be holding everyone up, surely? I've done longer distances but always on larger machines and usually on motorways. 260 miles on A and B roads. On a 125. It can't be done can it? Well...I mean it can be but it's surely going to be trial by motorcycle not fun and frolics.

Still...the gf and I have a holiday booked in Northumbria and that's going to be a 200 mile ride. It will be useful to learn if the gf and I are physically capable of doing big miles without motorways on 125cc motorcycles. There really is only one way to find out if something like this is possible and that's to do it. So...on this Sunday morning at 0815 I drag out our 125's and wonder what the day will bring. I'm excited and rather worried.

The forecast is mixed. We're heading East and East looks good, here in the North West though there's a risk of rain and as we ride to the meeting point a few tiny droplets land on my visor. 260 miles is a long trip. 260 wet miles is going to be hell, surely. Lets hope the weather's better on the good side of the Pennines (I'm a Yorkshireman by birth)

No-one else but me seems worried, in fact they're all rather excited except for the grey skies above. It's me, I know it is, I worry too much. I relax, the buzz around me is reassuring and no-one seems to be fretting so why should I? After fuelling up, hugs, a smoke and the usual banter we all kit up and head off, straight up the A6, Preston and The Tickled Trout services. We collect another member and a friend. There's a fair few bikers here, everyone is off on a rideout today.

jr stands proudly behind her lowered street triple r
Gathering at The Tickled Trout. Our 125's are up against loonies on big bikes! (Pic courtesy of Jeanette Robinson)

The A59 is not an exciting road. It is "functional" in that it moves us quickly across the country. I say quickly, it's obvious that everyone is politely and courteously hanging back for the gf and I. We are close to the 60mph limit most of the time save for the odd steep hill and to be honest we're keeping pace with the traffic. The A59 becomes much prettier and interesting after Gisburn, the gf and I have no problems keeping pace with the traffic here as the twists in the road slow the cars.

At Skipton we turn off and head into the countryside and Grassington. We all park on the already over-full car park and walk into town for our first break. A small cafe offers tea, chips and eggs on toast. We all pile in and take up a corner. I'm feeling much more relaxed now I'm actually on the move. Sitting here drinking tea, laughing and teasing is the best thing I can think of doing on any day. The gf and I break off early, we've brought butties so we eat one back at the bikes. The wind is up so we take shelter although the skies are clearing.

tmq and sl drinking tea at the cafe in grassington. sl is open mouthed in shock
"HOW MUCH!" SL is stunned while TMQ looks wryly on (Pic courtesy of Jeanette Robinson)

Back on the road things improve. Vastly. I've never ridden the B6265 from Grassinton to Ripon, oh how my life has been a waste. What a delightful, beautiful, interesting and fun fun fun piece of tarmac! Green lush vistas, hilltops and rural farmland, gnarly corners and undulations, big skies and now even sunshine. At one point I must have the wind behind me and downhill, the CBF 125 achieves a dizzying speed that is actually in excess of the legal limit. I look in my mirrors expecting the gf to be far far behind. She's not. Damn.

We twist and turn and relish the road into Ripon. It is worth making this trip for this road alone, I grin. Would I have preferred to have been on a big fast motorcycle? Hell no! The boys and girls on their 600 plus machines will barely have opened their throttles, I on the other hand have thrashed my 125 to the max, I'm Rossi and Dunlop, I'm the fastest thing on 2 wheels and all this without any fear of speed traps. It's far more fun to max out a small bike than to be frustratingly cruising on a big one. Any day.

The A170 takes us to a sharp bend. Not any bend but a mean old tight switchback on a hill. It makes me think, it wakes me up and focuses my mind. I'm concerned about the gf overshooting or stalling, I look in my mirrors and find there's nothing to worry about, she's right there. Another sharp bend leads us to a car park at the top of the hill. This is Sutton Bank. We make time for a pee, a smoke, a biscuit and for TMQ to forget his keys. Luckily DA has her eyes open. More teasing ensues.  

Sutton Bank Switchback, the gf up front then DA (Video courtesy of John Almond)

switchback on hill with caption Sharon's nighmare
?TMQ's Sutton Bank Switchback cheeky image. (Pic courtesy of Tom McQuiggan)
moving a motorcycle out of a disabled parking bay at sutton bank
NO DA! You cannot park in the disabled space, bad girl! (Pic courtesy of Tom McQuiggan)

After some messing around and U-Turns in Helmsley we find fuel. I don't really need to fill up with my 300 mile plus tank range (hehe!) but as a matter of good practice I top up with a gallon. We then come off the main A170 and follow the B1257 towards Stokesley. This is another pretty road but this time I make sure to take in my surroundings and keep an eye on the gf. She's not fast through the bends yet, she's holding a steady solid pace and that's perfect. The rest have scooted off ahead but I'm sure they won't desert us, anyhow I can find my way home from anywhere.

the pretty town of helmsley in the sunshine
Helmsley is a beautiful village (Pic courtesy of Tom McQuiggan)

It doesn't matter that they've scooted ahead, the road is closed. A steadfast policeman politely but firmly directs a handful of cars down another lane. As we wait while a 4 by 4 driver berates the copper our high speed leaders come back down the closed road, having been turned back further ahead. Whatever has caused this closure has only just happened. We regroup in a parking bay on the detour and set off down a single track lane.

I later work out this is "Raisdale Road". What a great detour! We all wind safely, steadily and gracefully along behind some cars. There's fields, sheep, farmhouses, crops, rivers and streams. We get a little stuck here and there with oncoming traffic. We have a 20 yard off road section past a broken cattle grid. Then as we crest a hill and turn a corner we are treated to a vast view across the land, as far as our eyes can see. Green countryside dotted with small dwellings stretches out far below. It's impressive, I feel very small and a long way from home too.

The detour with cattle grid and amazing views (Video courtesy of John Almond)

By luck or good fortune we're placed back on our intended route, the A172. This short stretch of main road is soon behind us and we stop in a McDonalds for a brew, a breather and a pee. I am, remarkably, feeling great. We've covered in excess of 120, maybe 130 miles and while I've had a little fidget here and there I'm not too stiff, sore, numb or tired. I calculate we still have a further 130 or so miles to go, we're at the half way mark. It's already 1500, the plan was to be back by 1800 but I can't see that happening, not by a long shot.

KB and RB resting at a mcdonalds
Taking a rest at McDonalds. (Pic courtesy of Jeanette Robinson)

As we leave I check with the gf about how she's feeling. I expect her to be exhausted, getting to that point where she never wants to see a motorcycle again. She's fine! She does admit she too has a little discomfort but nothing to worry about. She's keen to get cracking and get on. The sun has gone behind some light grey cloud, I hope our return leg is not wet. 

The roads through Northallerton and on to Bedale are quiet, countrified, undulating and weave gently through hedges and rolling fields. Most of the club is ahead, playing in the bends a little. I am struggling. The wind on the outward leg was behind us, now it is into my face. On a larger bike it would be barely noticeable but on the 125 it's taken my top speed from 60 odd to 50 odd, I'm having to drop to fourth gear to keep momentum. I imagine my friends, parked up some way ahead huffing and puffing about the idiots on 125s. No matter how I hold the throttle wide open this bike is not going any faster. On no...a hill. The weather is changing too. The skies are more leaden and heavy. The roads turn from dry to damp in places, it's rained here recently.

In fact as we roll through Leyburn and on towards Hawes whenever the leaders stop for us to catch up I reckon we're only a minute or two behind. What's more concerning is the failing light. By the time we're at Hawes and we stop for a final regroup, smoke, pee and natter it's already past 1800. There's still daylight but it's fading. The weather has turned from grey skies to occasional light rain and the roads are fully wet. However, my mood is still good, I'm not in any real discomfort and the gf is perky, alert and still completely up for it. So is everyone else, there's no gripes of tiredness just the relishing of a good ride.

We agree time is marching on. Those that wish will shoot off ahead, I know the route home from here very well. Those that wish will catch the motorway from Lancaster, I know the way along the A6 home. We hug our goodbyes, praise DW on leading a wonderful day out and head off over the hills. It's grey and getting dark. This is the worst time of day for visibility, there no contrast and the grey road merges into the grey moorland and the grey skies. We're the slow and steady group, JA, DA, the gf and myself. I don't know about the others but I'm perfectly happy to negotiate this murky landscape at the steady 40mph JA is leading with.

mist and fading light on the road to ingleton
I think 40 is fast enough in these conditions (Pic courtesy of John Almond)

The Ribblehead Viaduct's arches are vague misty curves, the mist becomes thick and soupy in places and as the light fades ever more I wish for a lit road. Ingleton provides short relief then in full darkness I lead us towards Caton and the motorway. The air is cooling and I am ready for another rest soon, I wonder if the gf is too. As we get closer to the motorway we separate from JA and DA and soon it's just myself and the gf rolling into Lancaster. It's been a very long day and we've still got another 40 miles before we reach home. 

Just after Lancaster we pull into a pub in Galgate. We both need a rest and the gf needs a warm up too. 220 odd miles done. These were not easy, straight, fast main roads but small, twisty narrow roads. Not on a big comfy powerful tourer or a sharp nippy sports bike but a 125 cc learner machine. Not in perpetual sunshine, though we've seen plenty, but a mix of wind, wet roads, dry roads, warm and cold weather. The gf has taken on a steep switchback, crazy corners, tail and headwinds, mile upon mile of bends and busy little villages. We are both tired now, that much is true, but we're in excellent spirits and the thought of the final 40 miles home doesn't concern us at all.

The ride down the A6 is dark, dull and uninteresting. We could have taken a detour through the Trough Of Bowland but it's already getting on for 2100 and we really ought to get back to my mother's place for some tea. I think we've both done quite enough exploring for one day anyhow. We get back to my home town and my mother's place for tea at 2130. That's 13 hours out and about. And still the gf is still smiling. What a great day! I reckon we'll be stiff tomorrow though.

Again - would I have preferred to have taken a different motorcycle? When I was ploughing into the headwind and up hill there were times when a little more, perhaps a lot more power would have been nice. Yet overall the answer is no. My little CBF 125 proved itself capable and remarkably comfortable. I've done "big" rides on my Fazer 600, NTV 600 Revere, CB 400 Super 4, SLR 650 and each and every one has left me stiff, numb, tired and uncomfortable. I can't explain why but I felt great all day long on the CBF 125 save for a stretch here and a shuffle there. 

And those so called "crappy" Chinese bikes? The gf's Keeway RKS 125 proved itself equally as capable and comfortable for the gf. 

We were tired at the end of the day. The next day we rode to Southport and we both agreed we weren't quite "on the ball" after the previous day's exertions. Still, we have demonstrated with joy and ease that the 200 mile ride to Northumbria will be perfectly manageable on our small bikes. So no matter what you ride, small or large, get out there and have a great day!

motorcycles in a line parked by the roadside
Just get out there and ride...whatever you ride! (Pic courtesy of Tom McQuiggan)

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Reader's Comments

kath brooks said :-
Another great tale
Tom Mcq said :-
What am I? Your personal photographer? Lol
Diane aka DA said :-
Lovely write up of our day, my Ninja 300 kept me safe. For me it was also my longest ride since passing my test.
Nikki said :-
Great write up Ren ! And well done Sharon ! Me and Carly did Sutton Bank last year ! Never seen a road with a warning sign saying strictly no caravans . But knew why when I got there lol !
Sharon said :-
My heart was beating rather fast on approach to that switchback. It said select low gear and I was like WHAT LOW GEAR!!! 1 2 OR 3 ????. I dropped to 2 and just prayed to the bike goddess that it was the right choice to be able to get me around the bend slowly enough but with enough power to pull up the hill.
I can not truly express what a wonderful day I had. Thanks to Dave for taking us on such a fabulous route and to all who came along for the ride big hugs, your company was priceless.
I was tired by the time I got home but the part that hurt the most was my cheeks. Not my bum cheeks but my face cheeks from smiling so much all day.
We had it all that day, fantastic scenery, awesome roads, banter of great mates, mud, twilight fog, werewolves (ok maybe they were just in my imagination)and cookies and mini gingerbread men. (they were real those little men honest I know because they were in my tummy, yum yum)
When can we go again?????
Sharon said :-
Ps ... Brilliant write up Ren, it brought the day back alive once again. Think I will enjoy re-reading this many times.
Bruce said :-
Helmsley is a town!
As a fireman for many years in the area I have dug too many bikers out of the front of bigger vehicles on the B1257--be carefull boys and girls and don't spoil my weekend !
P.S. love bikes.

John De ville said :-
The video makes the switch back look less steep than it really is to be honest..........after the cattle grid shot the view was stunning. There is another video when I was behind Sharon and I saw her shaking hear head when she was looking at the view from the road, she was very impressed I think. I will try to find it and let you know which file it is Ren.

Cracking write up mate by the way................:)
john de ville said :-
It was in file 0602 about 02.45................the view to the left was stunning.
Ren - The Ed said :-
Bruce - regrettably the B1257 was closed for that very reason. We all hope the riders involved are recovering well. We bikers do need to be careful indeed.

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