Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel Stories

A Long Long Ride

Ride Date 25 April 2021

By Ren Withnell

It's 270 miles from my house to my father's house down in that there daaan saaaf place. I consider this to be a long ride and using the motorways at a steady pace and taking sensible stops as required, this usually takes around 7 hours. 

If you're an iron assed mile muncher with a 1,000 yard stare, hardened calluses on your bumcheeks and 157,000 miles on your 2 year old R1250RT then you'd rightly assume I'm a bit of a lightweight. Maybe I am. I tell myself we're all made differently and for reasons unknown I'm just not that good at riding all day long without regular tea and pee breaks and the need for a good stretch and stroll. I admire and envy those of you who think nothing of riding 500 miles across country over a 12 hour period.

So when Sharon tells me I'm invited to join her and several other lady motorcyclists on a jaunt to The Elan Valley in mid Wales it causes me to raise an eyebrow. It is only 120 miles from Sharon's place, perfectly manageable. What I have to remember is that it's not 120 miles, it's 240 miles there and back. It's not a constant 60 to 70 mph motorway ride it's country lanes and traffic and towns and junctions, probably averaging 40 if we're lucky. Mathematically that's 6 hours ride time at least.

Sharon too is a little reticent. In some circumstances and situations Sharon's more hard-ass than myself, capable of some admirable distances with nary a flinch. However she's been suffering neck issues and motorcycling seems to aggravate this. We also know from previous experience that an excess of twisty roads and busy towns drains her mentally. She's aware of this and prepared to bail if needed but brave as ever she's ready to ride.

The meet up point is the Raven Truck Stop just south of Whitchurch. By 1030 the other riders are gathering, all ladies. They know each other loosely from a lady's motorcycling Facebook page which begs the question - what am I doing here? I'm a lady you know. Well, I am today, by special invite subject to my no longer being called Ren but Brenda (b-REN-da). It's fine and this lingerie under my bike gear feels rather nice.

Sharon sat on her Kwakker ready to ride at the Raven truck stop
We're here, where's the rest of 'em?
3 lady riders on the gravel car park at the truck stop
Aaah, here they are.

Of course, shenanigans. It matters not if a group is male, female, mixed, classic riders or sports bikes, old, young or middle aged, in fact any group be it motorcycling or knitting circles or football fans or a book club. When you have more than one person things will not go to plan, organising any group event is akin to herding flies. As ever one rider's bike isn't quite right and needs some fettling. It's 1230 before we depart.

The pace is spot on. Mercifully we're keeping to the speed limits, Sharon and I have on occasion been somewhat left behind as this is something we both believe in. Otherwise out in the country we're moving sensibly yet swiftly and I'm happy to roll along enjoying both the corners and the scenery. 

I have ridden through the lockdown and I have enjoyed some curvy local road en-route to Sharon's place. It is still a refreshing change to ride long undulating sweeping roads amid vistas that are improving with every mile. A mountain, hazy in the distance, brings a sense of joie-de vivre that has been missing since last Autumn and before the last lockdown. 

Of course, shenanigans. Toilets need to be found leading to random diversions up side streets and the group being split and confusions over the preferred route. None of which matters to me as I'm just going to watch casually, safe in the knowledge this, well, this ain't my rodeo. Let those who are organising organise, I'll just follow and enjoy this ride.

As we get closer to Aberystwyth I realise something. Talking of iron assed these ladies are putting me to shame. My ass is aching as are my legs, this lot seem to occasionally shake an arm or leg otherwise just keep on going and going and going and going. By the time we finally roll into the car park on the promenade I am well and truly knackered. The rest of them, including Sharon, appear fresh and happy. Dagnammit.

Ren standing in the sun at Aberystwyth beach
Oooooh this underwear does feel lovely.
Sharon sat on the sea wall at Aberystwyth
Sharon behind bars where she belongs

A rest and refreshments resets me nicely. Sharon and I dine on our picnic and sip tea from our flasks while the rest patronise the chippy. The sun is shining causing a sweat in the bike gear, luckily the stiff cool sea breeze takes the edge off. Talk is of bikes and work and Covid and just how good it feels to ride a good ride in a beautiful area once again.

After an hour or two most of the group are already aware they're going to be late returning home, it's been a long ride with delays and there are still many more miles to complete. We bid our farewells, Sharon and I are riding back with 2 others local to Sharon's abode. I gird my loins ready for another long ride. Sharon points to the Premier Inn on the promenade - tempting but not permissible just yet.

The return leg is equally beautiful and equally long. There is but one break for fuel although admittedly I've settled in now and feeling better on the bike. Sharon on the other hand, I can see she's reached the limits of her focused riding and is starting to go easy on the bends and through the busier junctions. 

It's like a switch with Sharon. One minute she's as sharp as a pin and on the ball, the next fatigue kicks in. She doesn't get dangerous she just has to slow down to process everything safely. Not really slow you understand, just back off the pace and drop into a "let's get home safe" mode. I know from experience what she needs and that's a motorway. 

Fortunately we're not too far from a dual carriageway which is the next best option. As soon as we reach this I can see her pick up the pace once more. Odd, I know, we bikers are supposed to hate them, many including myself find staying awake on the motorways quite a challenge. Sharon loves the countryside and the twisties like any other rider but when she's tired and had enough, the motorway's flow seems to be as natural as breathing to her.

This being said, by the time we're back in Halewood I'm more than ready for a comfy chair and something to eat, Sharon is ruined. I stop in Halewood town. Judging by her demeanour it's best I go to Aldi and get a couple of heat 'em and eat 'em meals, Sharon can go straight home.

We've been out for 11 hours and covered in excess of 250 miles. It's 2100 by the time we've eaten and had a brew and all we can think of is bed. We're both out like a light when our heads hit the pillows.

250 miles? Snorra lot is it. Not when I read about and meet folks who've done the Iron Butt 1,000 miles in a day or cross great continents in a week. No, no it's not. As previously stated we both envy those who can achieve such feats. But we are who we are, we ride the way we ride and we accept our limitations. We both love to ride and that's enough.

4 female riders laughing in the sun on the promenade
Mad as a box of frogs this lot

Share your own ride - click here.

Reader's Comments

Jane Robinson said :-
Ha, a brill write up! It was lovely having you with us on this ride our bRENda, we really enjoy your company.
See you and Sharon soon! X
29/04/2021 16:58:09 UTC
said :-
Great blog bRENda !!!... Look forward to more adventures and reading more of your stuff ! Xx

29/04/2021 18:50:15 UTC
Hayley Bramall said :-
Great blog bRENda !!!... Look forward to more adventures and reading more of your stuff ! Xx
29/04/2021 18:52:12 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I find my personal limit these days to be about the 350 miles mark. After that, I'm conscious that my concentration levels begin to dip. I also find the inevitable discomfort of spending too long in the saddle can be distracting and therefore dangerous.

Having said all that, I'd much rather stick below 250 miles really, with plenty of stops for tea and pee as you say. After all, this hobby of ours is supposed to be enjoyable rather than an endurance test!
29/04/2021 19:01:47 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh no! The lady riders have found me! Quick - someone hide me.

CrazyFrog - I consider 350 miles to be a big old ride. I've been to Fort William in the day a few times at just over 300 miles and that's plenty enough for me. Personally I prefer around 150 miles with plenty of stops. As for endurance - yeah for many it's not supposed to be a test of endurance but then people CHOOSE to run marathons and even more. I can only presume there are people who do rather enjoy pushing themselves to the limits of endurance. It's not my thing though, my definition of endurance and hardship is going for more than 2 hours without a cuppa. Sleeping for 7 hours is a true test of my endurance without tea.

I wonder, can tea be ingested via a drip line up my nose?
29/04/2021 19:41:59 UTC
Bogger said :-
Two hundred a forty miles with people you don't normally ride with is knackering. You've got to have your wits about all the time. But it looks like a great day out anyway.

Did you stop at the old slate mine? It's a cracking road is the Elan valley. You've got to dodge the sheep mind. Thanks for sharing

29/04/2021 20:15:55 UTC
ROD said :-
I'm with you Bogger, Riding with other people is more tiring than riding at your own pace and stopping when and where you want.
The distance thing depends on many factors : The bike you are riding, The time of year, If you have to find and cook food at the end of the ride, and if you have to pitch a tent.

Travelled to the Elan Valley two years ago, and camped in the Brecon Beacons.
Great riding roads, and great scenery.

Sharon and Ren (Brenda),Good to see you are out and about again.
29/04/2021 20:42:58 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Glad you've been out folks, it's got to feel good.
With regards endurance we're all different and more importantly our bikes are different. There's a reason why people spend many £'s on good seats, bar lifters, screens etc. Plus it takes a while to build up being road ready.
Like you said the roads and route can make a massive difference too. My own preference is 3 x 2 hour slots, 2 after breakfast, coffee, 2 after coffee, lunch, two after lunch. This could be 150 miles or nearly 500 miles just depends where you are riding.
Obviously you can't be that precise but as a rough guide it works for us and you also have a good buffer in the afternoon if you need to press on a little.
Thanks Bren.
30/04/2021 08:43:05 UTC
Bogger said :-
Is it just me or has anyone else had the thought that Ren/Bren, whatever, just went along to cover himself in chocolate and licked to death in some deserted Welsh beauty spot. Just a thought like.
Just a thought, that now I've thought of it, I can't erase the ghastly image. in therapy
30/04/2021 12:59:50 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
You shouldn't of shared that, you really shouldn't.
I've just had that strange shiver all down my twisted bent spine.
30/04/2021 13:22:29 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
For my first long ride (UK to northern Greece andf back via Rome) I was happily averaging 300 - 350 miles a day. None of it on motorways. But I was but a youth of 40-odd years old and the Norton Commando made riding easy. For the next few years I had an annual jaunt - usually to France - where I settled on 200 - 250 miles as quite enough, following a similar regime to Upt's. It always seemed that each mile (or kilometre) after lunch was twice as far as the ones before. Of course indulging in a menu du jour, even forgoing the 1/4 litre of wine, probably didn't help.

I always liked to get to my overnight destination (nothing pre-booked or planned) by late afternoon especially in hot weather as the fatigue started to affect my judgment and I had one or two close shaves setting off and looking the wrong way. On one occasion I was struggling to find anywhere to stay so followed some signs to what I thought was a hotel. When I stumbled through the door the foyer was full of really old people whose bleary eyes followed me as I walked in. Apparently it was a retirement home (which nowadays might be about my mark).

We've spoken here before about the perils of group riding and I think it's far more tiring than travelling solo as R L Stevenson suggested. As for Ren and chocolate I think that maybe needs to be snipped to preserve our sanity.
30/04/2021 14:21:02 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Yes, but did you stay the night Ian?
Likewise Ian, we would generally be looking for somewhere around 4pm.
30/04/2021 15:51:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Bogger - The Elan Valley was the original destination but of course - Shenanigans. Sharon and I have only been to The Elan Valley once before so no we ain't been to the slate mine but the road around the back is splendid. As for the chocolate "event" (aka "trauma" for others), what is wrong with your turgid mind? Go and wash your brain out with soap and water!

ROD - For myself personally group riding isn't TOO much more difficult than regular riding. What I agree with is not being able to choose just how often I stop and where I stop. We were joking with one of the group in that my rides are start engine, let clutch out, move forwards a few feet, stop, switch off, get another brew. I wonder - is this why 150 miles a day seems a lot to me?

Upt' - I've owned a variety of machinery and I kinda, sorta but not entirely agree that each bike's comfort is different. And we are all different. Some just love the head down ass up sports bikes and find them comfy, others relish a cruiser and others sit up 'n beg. This being said even on my ancient settee that's shaped to me I'm not very good at sitting still. I fidget and get stiff and sore if I don't move often. The 500 is one of the comfiest bikes I've owned but I'm just no good at sitting there for hours soaking up miles.

Ian - Judgement is definitely an issue with big miles. It's also very difficult to judge WHEN fatigue will hit and the judgement will falter. I know I'm usually safe with 100 to 150 miles but then on some days I feel fine and keep on going, other days not a chance. You can take into account sleep and food and state of mind but ultimately we're a complex creature with too many factors to consider.
01/05/2021 10:53:07 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Upt' - no I passed on it that time. Nowadays might be different.....

I did find a nice little auberge a few miles away where I ate a superb dinner with the family. Total cost around €50 IIRC. This is the Tiger waiting patiently outside.
Posted Image
01/05/2021 16:10:55 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ay up tiger.....
I do like the look of that model.
Do you miss it Ian, I think I would.
01/05/2021 17:17:50 UTC
Phil said :-
Nice to see group rides happening again, makes it a bit of an adventure going out with 'strangers' all with a common interest to bring them together. I think the older we get the more difficult it becomes riding any sort of distance like that, i think my comfortable limit is around 130 miles in a day, it just tires out my brain lol.
01/05/2021 22:52:55 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Upt' -

The Tiger was a lovely bike but increasing anno domini (mine) just made it too much of a handful - not when riding, just shuffling in and out of the garage, parking etc. That triple engine is a peach and the riding position just suited me so well. I do miss it but am not doing the trips that would justify it.
02/05/2021 09:58:36 UTC
Jim said :-
Talking of Tigers, meet the latest member of our family. Picked up on Saturday from Edinburgh Triumph - first brand new vehicle I’ve ever owned. Part exchanged the Thunderbird - in part because of the issues that Ian mentions - manually handling a 380kg bike was a bit tougher than I thought it would be. It’s a shame, because looks wise the Thunderbird was everything I thought a bike should be. However, the effort involved in keeping it shiny side up, not to mention having to forward plan almost every parking stop was weighing on my mind - the telling thing for me was that I had let the MOT expire and was happy to ride the Suzuki pretty much everywhere.

So turning to the Tiger, what a difference! It appears to made from a combination of titanium, carbon fibre and witchcraft - very close to half the weight of the TBird, I find myself chucking it in and out of the garage for fun. Ian - the triple 888cc engine is indeed a peach, and now features something called a T-plane crank, which gives a slightly irregular firing interval, combined with a change to the firing order giving the characteristics of a twin at lower revs and a triple at higher revs. Or so Triumph say, I’ve got to run it in for 600 miles, so no high revs yet.

All luggaged up as you can see, hoping for some serious touring once the pandemic situation settles down.
Posted Image
03/05/2021 06:17:44 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Jim, you little devil, I take it that's a 900 GT then.
Very nice.
03/05/2021 09:22:48 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Looks very nice Jim.
03/05/2021 10:24:33 UTC
Bogger said :-
Ooh that's nice.

03/05/2021 10:54:06 UTC
Jim said :-
Yes Upt’, Tiger 900 GT LRH to be exact - specially designed for the shortarse.
03/05/2021 12:39:07 UTC
nab301 said :-
Looked like a great day out! I'm envious. No freedom to roam fully for me just yet , but things are definitely getting back to normal , it's a bank holiday Monday and it's pouring rain with a gale blowing outside!.
03/05/2021 13:43:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yeah it's is a bit rough out there nab301. Proper grim, biking wevver.

My Jim that's a handsome beast. It's rather a contrast style wise from the Thunderbird ain't it?
03/05/2021 17:58:34 UTC
Jim said :-
Very much so, Ren. They say you should never meet your heroes, and that’s true for fantasy bikes, at least in my case. The TBird had a strange effect on TI as well - it made her a bit seasick after an hour or so, must have been the wallowy ride. Which is ironic because the suspension was pretty harsh.
03/05/2021 19:20:53 UTC
ROD said :-
Jim, That 900 GT looks set for some serious touring!
I hope the panniers will not drag too much on the twisty roads, with the lowered suspension.
03/05/2021 19:25:02 UTC
Jim said :-
Serious touring is very much the idea, Rod. Should be OK for ground clearance I hope, I’m not intending to try any knee down stuff. Like everyone I suspect I’ve been watching all kinds of videos of grand tours on YouTube during lockdown, the Picos are currently top of an ever changing list.
03/05/2021 21:40:14 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaaah the Picos, well worth the journey. I'd like to be going back soon but alas and alack... Yeah I think ground clearance shouldn't be an issue unless your rock crawling and log hopping. Have you and the TI been for a long ride on the Tigger yet? Be interested to hear how both you and her feel after a few good hours.
04/05/2021 18:52:44 UTC
ROD said :-
The closest I have been to the Picos was the road from Burgos to Santander, and although I was very close I did not have time to visit.
What time of year are you planning to go? The temperature can drop quite low overnight and early mornings in Autumn, its not like the Mediterranean areas of Spain.
04/05/2021 19:38:07 UTC
Jim said :-
At present just running in to get to the 600 mile service by Monday, Ren. After that we’re off on a practice jaunt the following weekend to the West Coast - Applecross, Ullapool, Lochinver etc - basically the left half of the NC500. Not sure about a time of year for the Picos Rod - we ride in the Scottish winter though so anything above 5 degrees is acceptably warm. And TI is always content to lie in until the temperature improves.
05/05/2021 16:17:07 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Sounds lovely Jim, fair few miles too for a "practice jaunt". I've just finished fitting the wheel back on the 500 complete with new tyre - so my job this weekend is to shake it down to make sure everything's OK then take Sharon's rear wheel (again - new tyre, it never rains...) and fit that and shake that down too. We're off daaan saaaf in a couple of weeks to see pops. Why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why oh why are ALL tyres worn such that they're right on that point "is there enough tread for this trip?" when you have a trip planned.

I dunno if you've read our Picos trip Jim but just in case...
07/05/2021 18:54:53 UTC

Post Your Comment Posts/Links Rules



Add a RELEVANT link (not required)

Upload an image (not required)

No uploaded image
Real Person Number
Please enter the above number below

Home Travel Stories

Admin -- -- Service Records Ren's Nerding Blog