Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesBute And Kintyre 2019

Air Head To Ayr

May 12th 2019

By Sharon Parker

It was hard packing while injured. I made a bad job of it and this becomes apparent when the bike ends up being a pain to load up. Despite adding an extra bag for this trip I have managed to overpack my usual Kriega bags and it's a struggle to get everything strapped on.
As well as my usual 30 litre and 2 x 20 litre bags for this trip I am also taking a 10 litre. It has proven troublesome to get to my waterproofs if they are buried in the bigger bags, so the 10 litre will hold the waterproofs. It is attached on top of the 30 litre and this should afford me quick access to the waterproofs as and when required.

3 large and one small bag all strapped together and onto the back of the small 250. The luggage looks huge
80 litres and I overpack, durgh.

This is my first ride since my slide. I am to lead us to Lancaster services on the M6. I can do it I tell myself after all I have done this before. But somehow my brain is not working right. I know I am coming off the M62 at junction 10, the same one I use to go to a friend's house. But (and this is the critical bit) I should not continue on the route to my friend's house which is via the M6 South but go M6 North.  

Of course my brain forgets this crucial bit of information and simply locks into my head that I'm to go towards my friend's house. I do so quite happily, I go on my merry way leading Ren on a merry dance until the signs above me begin to register in my messed up head... Birmingham... Oh poop. 

I slow down and Ren takes the lead no doubt cursing me as he passes. My sense of direction or lack thereof is well known. But this is ridiculous. I know this route and still got it wrong. I begin to worry I'm suffering from early onset dementia. That or the menopause has taken away my brain cells along with my eggs. 

The last possible reason is my head is so full of medical research trying to find answers for my daughter's complex symptoms that my head has no functionality left. Like a computer that has maxed out its memory I'm practically defunct. Still at least I managed to stay upright even if that was going south. 

I feel just fine riding on the motorway which pleases me but once off it and on the A75 road I realise that I have not escaped my slide with out some confidence issues. I am taken by surprise that I'm suddenly over cautious on a roundabout. I try talking to myself but it's my subconscious that's ruling here.

Then comes the A712. Wow what a road! Full of tight twists and turns, just the kind of road every biker loves. That is apart from one who just recently slid down the road, that one is suddenly having a confidence crisis. No gliding around corners here, I am 50 pencing each one. How so very disappointing.
I view farmland with vast fields and mountains brooding in the distance. Brooding hmmmm a bit like me then. A shadow drifts across my path and I glance up to see a large bird of prey sweep overhead. Shadows, that means sunshine. I try to settle, to breathe and enjoy.

I recall my first trip to Scotland riding my own bike - Zen the Keeway RKS 125cc. I was so excited, so thrilled with my own self for being able to achieve such an adventure. When it's your first time you have no expectations, everything is unknown. 

Back then I struggled to keep up with traffic but I was exuberant. Today even though I am travelling faster than most cars I feel disappointed in myself. Because I now have expectations of my own ability and today so far I have failed to live up to them.  

I do not claim to be as fast as Ren but the distance between us has narrowed over time but today it has grown. Logically I tell myself to stop being pathetic and accept the slide bothered me. However it's hard to shake the feeling of frustration with yourself when you suddenly find yourself way further back then you used to be as Ren disappears into the distance. 

My leg and arm still throb away but the views are a wonderful distraction. I finally become a little more relaxed and take the time to appreciate my surroundings.
We stop for a break and a brew and I'm even smiling. 

Back on the bikes all is well until we find ourselves on some single track. It becomes increasingly more rutted and then gravel appears, the sight of which causes my stomach to take up residence in my mouth. OK this is not fun for me right now, this is hard. It's made even harder because I know I should be loving it, this is what I love doing, or rather loved.
I knew my confidence would take a knock but hell I didn't expect it to feel the need to vomit at the mere sight of gravel. My motorbike which once felt like a most solid and trusty stead has been transformed into a temperamental beast who wishes to dismount me at any sight of a gravel, on any tight bend, in any ruts, in fact pretty much anything. Now anything other than smooth tarmac everything signals danger.

Oh great, ahead is a tight turn, on a incline with potholes on the bend. Yes just what I need right now. Let's just throw some gravel in there too just to spice it up. Despite my inner terror I emerge successfully from this most hellish, narrow, rutted, gravel strewn, twisty, wonderful road onto a normal two lane road and my fear radar goes down a few notches.

Sharon tentatively sits on the 250 on a narrow lane cresting the top of a steep hill
Keeping an eye out for gravel monsters. 

We arrive safe and sound at the familiar campsite of The Heads of Ayr. Sometimes familiar is comforting and today that suits me very well indeed. Our usual pitch is available and feeling no need to be adventurous we pitch in the exact same spot as two years ago. 

Two years ago, same pitch, same bikes, same riders but different. You can't tell the difference from a photograph. Hold them side by side they look the same. It doesn't show the extra miles. It doesn't show that the rider is more nervous now than two years ago. It doesn't show two years of frustration and upset over a daughter's illnesses.

Collage of 2 pics. Same bikes, same campsite, 2 years inbetween
The same but different Top - 2017 Bottom - 2019

The very fact it remains the same despite everything else changing calms my mind. What is two years to an ancient tree? Here in a place where there is space and nature enough for time to appear to stand still. Hectic can become calm. Time now to relax, time now to recover and restore. I am in Scotland, all is well right here right now. Breathe slowly, breathe peacefully. 

On reflection I should have just been content with the fact I was even on this holiday. But I am relaying my feelings on that day and at that moment in time. So  writing this now after this day has passed I myself can think what a silly girl. However I try when I write to be true to how I felt at that particular moment and therefore without the gift of hindsight or reflection. At such times we are not always logical or insightful or wise. We are often confused, mixed up and sometimes plain stupid.  

Share your motorcycle adventure - click here.

Bute And Kintyre - But Why? Ren is trying to justify why he's not taking Sharon abroad to exotic places. He blames Brexit but we all know the real reason is because he's mean and miserly.
Getting Mentally And Physically Ready Before Sharon leaves for Scotland she's both excited and yet pensive? She's normally a chilled out traveller so what is different this time?
Ayr For The Third time Familiar roads to familiar places, theoretically, if Sharon can work out which way is up.
Air Head To Ayr Sharon is having one of those days. Still, she's keeping positive and her motorcycle upright.
Boating To Bute An easy and leisurely ride up the coast of Ayrshire and an evening on the Isle of Bute.
Breathtaking Bute Sharon would like a lazy, laid back and chilled day. Unfortunately she has brought a Ren with her. He's not so bad when he stops flapping.
The Beauty of Bute Is Bute a Beaut? It's a most peculiar day to find out though. There's no rain and a big yellow thing in the sky.
The Long Way To Machrihanish Using ferries to get from Bute to Machrihanish ought to be a most pleasant and easy ride. So how do Sharon and Ren manage to turn it into an epic exploit?
Exploring The Mull Of Kintyre A little look around The Mull Of Kintyre on two wheels and a short walk that Ren makes a big thing of.
Of Batteries and Glendaruel A bit of an issue this morning. Can Ren pull himself out the poop or will Sharon simply tear him limb from limb? Serves him right for being an idiot.
It's Time To Go Home It's the saddest part of any adventure, the return home. All good things must come to an end. Fear not Ren is more than man enough to cope...?

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
Another excellent report Sharon. The confidence will return in time I'm sure. and i know what you mean about limited bandwidth of the human mind when there are pressing issues to consider pushing less important things to the edges.

On another topic, the way your bike is loaded looks as if there's a lot of weight high up and towards the back (unless of course all your luggage is featherweight). Do you not find this makes it slightly unstable, as well as catching the wind?
12/06/2019 11:29:45 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hello Ian,

Seems we are on the same wavelength as usual and get what each other is saying.
As for the luggage yes indeed it does look pretty unstable on sight. However it weighs far less than the average adult so as bikes are designed to take pillons the weight does not unsettle the bike at all. Neither have I noticed any particular problems with wind either.
12/06/2019 22:05:32 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I've noticed a problem with wind sweetie.
12/06/2019 22:21:55 UTC
Upt'North said :-
What happens in the tent stays in the tent. Probably literally. Poor old ED.
13/06/2019 15:43:57 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I do these things so you don't have to.
13/06/2019 16:04:49 UTC
Tom McQ said :-
Hi Sharon, Whether everyone likes to admit it or not, we've ALL been there. In fact, I honestly do believe that a bit of a slide does you good - it slaps you across the face and strongly reminds you that you're NOT Valentino Rossi and you're NOT invincible and it DOES hurt when you get it wrong.

Over the years I've seen PLENTY of new riders quickly gain confidence and start to throw their bikes into corners like they're "at one" with the bike and road. Like they KNOW what's around that bend, like they can SEE that diesel, like they're SURE they can brake hard while banked over.

We've all done it. And if you're lucky - very lucky - you get a reminder that biking is brilliant, but also dangerous. A reminder that getting it wrong can have very serious consequences. View your slide as a POSITIVE experience. Slowed you down for a while? Great - it shows you're in touch with reality and you listen to your guardian angel.

Pretty soon you'll be back to the level you were at previously - but much wiser and more experienced. Smile and swing your leg over that bike. Today you are a BETTER rider!

20/06/2019 09:22:06 UTC
Sharon said :-
Thanks for the positive spin on my slide. I shall take that on-board. Maybe my confidence was too high and I was a little too cocky in my abilities. Maybe I was going too fast or maybe it was just bad luck. Which ever it was a rude awakening to why I tend to be slower than some on tight bends. Sweeping bends Yeah I'm good on those but tight ones I am always thinking what might be around this corner?
So yes a good reminder that something indeed may be lurking unseen to catch you out.
The trouble is, as Ren the wise says, is to balance this new knowledge. To learn from it so you do indeed become a better rider but to not let too much fear creep in that you become a nervous rider.
Riding is literally all about balance and I am still slowly trying to find my new equilibrium.
25/06/2019 10:24:54 UTC

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