Looking along a long straight road amidst lush green farmland

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A Slow Pace Southbound

Ride Date 4 July 2021

By Ren Withnell

As far as it goes for myself in a tent - I sleep OK. Of course my jumper-as-a-pillow wanders off into the darkness, I get twisted up in the sleeping bag and other campers don't half make some peculiar noises. Then at 0500 the sun is glaring through the thin nylon of the tent. I force myself back to some kind of sleep until 0615 when I give up.

Sun? Yes, that's right, sun. Not exactly blue skies sweaty sun but sun with some light cloud non-the-less. I make hasty use of the toilet before the other campers stir then return to the tent for porridge and a brew. Oh, and another youtube video about off roading in Amurica once I find my glasses under the bed... and the wayward jumper-as-a-pillow.

The sun rises over the hill and into the tent on a hazy but pleasant morning
Sun! It's a fair old view this early morning.

I am deliberately not rushing, in fact I'm forcing myself to dawdle. The Ironman event won't be finished until at least tea time and I plan to be at my mother's place anyway to watch the F1 at 1800. I could get home in around 2.5, more likely 3 hours. I need to stretch that out to about 10 hours.

My new found motorcycling friend Dave soon stirs. I'm aware unlike myself he has things to do and places to be so I keep my conversation short, allowing him to pack and be on his way. Also unlike myself he packs methodically, neatly and carefully. Soon enough his Himalayan is smartly loaded, looking like a promotional advert for Enfield adventurers. I bid him farewell and thank him for his company. 

My packing on the other hand is haphazard and erratic. Once loaded my 500 looks like it belongs in an article entitled "How NOT to pack for adventure motorcycle camping". It's a special talent you know, it doesn't come easily being this wild and zany and out there man. There's not many who can pull this off, looking as effortless as I.

I intentionally choose not to nav up, with this much spare time getting lost is a good thing. I shall navigate via the sun, should it remain present. So, errr, let me think. It's mid morning so the sun will be roughly south with some east. I need to keep the sun on my sort of left and slightly in front of me. I roll out the site entrance around 1000.

I am lost, but what a place to be lost. Steep lanes with grass and/or gravel in the middle, stone walls, fields and farmyards, gentle sun and time aplenty. I'm sort of heading in the right direction if the sun is in the right place. I think. You see these roads twist and turn causing the sun to move around which is most annoying, no consideration for the hapless traveller that sun thing. 

Leyburn is pleasant in that Yorkshire market town way. It also means I am no longer lost and, almost frustratingly, I am heading in the right direction. Murphy's Law. When I am tired and weary in a foreign country I get lost. Campsites cannot be found, shops disappear, important junctions go missing and my anger starts to boil over. With time to spare and calm all around I blunder into places I know. Does the world hate me? Probably.

I take the Hawes road then turn off towards Kettlewell. I know there's public toilets in Kettlewell and I'll be needing a pee soon enough. After a pee I continue south then follow the sign for Malham. It's busier here. Not chaos, not by a long shot but there's more cyclists to dodge, a sprinkling of cars parked in the passing places and plenty of other motorcyclists to nod to. I make a note to myself which I'm sure to forget - the area around Nun Cote Nook Campsite is very quiet. Handy to know.

A car park and tiny hamlet deep in the Dales. Kettlewell is pretty
Kettlewell is pretty but there's real people here.
A narrow lane, heavy clouds and wonderful Yorkshire scenery as Ren rides home
Near Malham the views are gorgeous and the rain is holding off.

From Malham I pass through Settle then on into the Forest of Bowland. As the day ages and I get ever closer to the population centres of Lancashire (Preston, Blackburn, Burnley) the traffic increases. Yeah, the area around Nun Cote Nook Campsite is indeed very quiet. 

Preston I think. In Preston I know where to find refreshments and somewhere to sit a while. Admittedly by the time I'm reaching the docklands area my ass is sore and I'm ready for a break. 

Bowkers BMW, there I shall find smart clean toilets and a free brew machine. I can look at the shiny bikes and ponder the notion of spending £18,000 on a boxer twin that started development before the second world war. Smart sales executives may try to engage with me in a futile attempt to get me to open my wallet. 

Oh! It's shut! A motorcycle shop that is shut on a Sunday? What gives? 

Oh well, I'll have to pay for a brew at the cafe in Preston Harley, it's only around the corner. Wait... WHAT?!?! It's shut. Not shut as in doors closed but we'll be back tomorrow shut but empty, no bikes, no clothing, no Harley branding, "Available to rent" sign shut. Wow! This Covid thing has bitten hard. I liked that cafe, that's really quite sad.

My ass is killing me now as I ride across Preston to Ghost Bikes. I blooming well hope they've not thrown in the towel too. Ahh, relief, it's open. I sit by the window drinking tea as an old skool biker, scraggly hair and faded cut, fights with a sugar sachet. There's only 3 or 4 customers in the whole building and 3 of us are in the cafe. I wonder if this will be shutting soon too.

An ordinary car park seen from the window of the shop and Ren's brew
Well at least Ghost Bikes is open. Aaaaaaahhh, tea.

The shop closes at 1600 and it only takes 30 minutes to get to mother's place. I've 2 hours to ride a half hour ride. I'll go and chill out a while at a favourite spot of mine, Red Bridge, Sollom.

I have absolutely no idea at all why I like this spot. It's a narrow steel bridge of mechano-esque construction, the sort of temporary bridge army engineers might throw into place. The surface is made up from pressed galvanised steel strips that clatter vociferously if even a cyclist rides over. The land is flat and agrarian, I can see Parbold Hill and the hill near my house in the distance. There's no chairs or toilets or burger van, just walkers, anglers and, well, me.

I prop myself against a concrete post in the sun. The sun is beating now and I actually start to drift off to sleep, only disturbed by a passing couple and the cacophony of a 4x4 crossing the bridge. As I drift into and out of random hazy thoughts and almost dreams, I hear thunder. This is expected, the weatherfolks did say this was coming.

Sure enough in the south west the skies are black and heavy. I can see the rain over what I estimate will be Liverpool, Sharon will be getting a damn good soaking. It's 1730 so I'll kit up and head over to mother's for tea and to watch the Brum-Brums. 

Black and heavy thumder clouds over the horizon as the weather turns for the worst
Over yonder there's a Sharon who's garden is getting a dam good soaking.

10 minutes before I get there the thunder and the rain arrives. I'm already in my waterproofs so I'm dry. A 9 year old footballer was killed in Blackpool recently by a lightning strike, tragic and awful. This is the first time since I was a kid I've been scared by lightening as I think of that young chap.

And that's it, my trip is over. I expected this weekend to be dull and uninteresting but it has transpired to be just fine and dandy. I've (re)learned a few more things too. 

I have enjoyed having time on my side. For so long I tried to squeeze as much as possible into a short weekend or holiday and only managed to squeeze out the fun instead. I recently re-read my first 2005 Spanish trip and our 3 weeks in France and they're a painful read. I was trying too hard, way too hard. There is a balance to be struck however, too much spare time would see me bored.

There is still SO much of this country I have yet to see. Of course I yearn for a return to normality and a trip to foreign climes but it's all to easy to be dismissive of the UK. Yes it's densely populated and the towns are rather homogenous but make the effort to look behind and beyond and there are plenty of beautiful places. If you're lucky you may even find quiet places too.

Pizza for tea? Thanks Mum, that'll do. 

Sponsor Bikes And Travels? Contact ren@bikesandtravels.co.uk

Escape From Ironman Facing a weekend of disruption Ren thinks it wise to be out of everyone's way. If only he could keep out the way more often the world would be a better place for all.
A Slow Pace Northbound It seems the weather and the solitude could make for a dull evening for Misery Guts. If we're lucky we can all enjoy Ren's suffering as he heads for Richmondshire.
A Slow Pace Southbound Everyone knows - including Ren - how Ren hates to be happy so this must have been another terrible day for our wandering plonker. He's even managed to not get lost - is there ANY hope?

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, nice write up and some interesting points, raised.
Can we push on and rush to the next venue, only to find we preferred the last. Most probably.
I suppose it's no different to many walkers I know, if I tell them I've had a good day out on the hills, the first thing to be asked is how far and how many steps. Who knows or even cares. The last thing they would ask is what wildlife I saw, or was the scenery magnificent. Strange innit.
With regards our own countryside and towns being wonderful, you're right, but it'd be better without all these blummin tourists. It is busy this year and rightly so, the hospitality industry needs the cash, as long as it's not mine of course.
Ta Ed.

04/08/2021 09:18:44 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ed, I forgot........age you know.
Motorcycle shops quiet you say. I can't remember the last time I was in a glossy emporium but I thought sales were healthy and customers were plentiful. Obviously not?
Don't worry though, house prices are going up so there'll be more cheap credit along soon.......don't you just love western capitalism.

04/08/2021 09:39:32 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
The chap at the bike shop I bought my xmax from said used bikes were selling so fast he couldn't keep up....

I did note he had my Fanny-B up at £1600 which is less than he allowed me on the xmax. I think he's underpriced it (but then I would). He does damn it with faint praise in his blurb.
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04/08/2021 10:14:31 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
My father's car has just eaten it's engine so he's in the market for a new one. Apparently the prices are presently ridiculous! In which case, along with your reports gentlefolk - I wonder what is afoot?

According to https://www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk/bowker-preston/en/home.html the BMW shop is not open on Sundays. This could be a business decision to "maximise profits" but it could also be "poop we struggling, close on Sunday to save pennies". As for the Harley shop - I thought they were doing OK, the place always seemed lively enough. But with Covid maybe they pulled the plug too soon or didn't have enough cash to keep going.

The "how far" and "how much" mentality is something I regrettably understand. As stated reading my earlier posts is at times uncomfortable. It was, as much as anything, bragging rights. Ego innit. We (I) get/got all embroiled in "I did 300 miles", "Oh well I did 425 miles". "I've been to X and Y", "Well I've been to X and Y AND Z". I'm often reminded of cruise holiday types saying "we've *done* The Med". You mean you sat on a posh ship and took a few highly organised day trips to carefully selected tourist highlights while protected by guides. Yes you've seen The Acropolis but did you see the refugee camps?
04/08/2021 20:20:22 UTC
crofty said :-
on the subject of bike shops i was in Saltire Motorcyces in Edinburgh yesterday. they seem to doing okay with the place stuffed with 5 figure Indians & KTMs. They are also Royal Enfield dealers and i was there trying the new 350 Meteor.
Its a great wee bike, nice motor, handles well, easily cruises at 50/60 mph. It looks to have good build quality and is as cheap as chips. Unfortunately the pegs forward position puts all the weight on the coccyx (sp),and i felt it wasn't for me.
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05/08/2021 08:34:30 UTC
crofty said :-

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05/08/2021 08:35:31 UTC
crofty said :-

05/08/2021 08:36:26 UTC
crofty said :-

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05/08/2021 08:37:30 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Crofty, it looks good, but like you my old fractured L4 would not like the weight on the arris position. Plus my orangutan like knees would probably be touching the hand grips.
Ian, have they though? And this leads nicely to Ed's point, sort of. Many, read all, private sellers are having a tin bath with prices. Dealers generally want to sell stuff, they have to, its that Western Capitalism again. Check out the classic (read lumps of ferrous oxide in various vehicle like shapes) prices, they are not sustainable and will crash, people are pumping their pensions into appreciating assets because of low interest rates and this demand is pushing prices to daft levels.
Because the vehicle market hasn't been selling so many new vehicles the secondhand dealers are struggling for decent stock, but that doesn't make a knackered old Astra worth 10K,but again your private seller goes on ebay, checks out what other chancers are asking and does likewise.
As an aside Ian, are you going to buy it back?

05/08/2021 08:48:42 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I too have had a look at the new meteor. I'm afraid to say I am - from my perspective - a little disappointed.

You see I was thinking - 350cc, quite stylish, small, light and fun. Upon seeing it in the flesh I was surprised just how damn big the thing is. It's looks bigger than the 500 classic, it looks almost as big as Triumph 900 Street Twin. OK so maybe it's low and light? Nope, normally tall and no featherweight. You see I was thinking of Sharon. But her current Z250SL is lighter (150kg v 191kg) and less powerful (27hp v 20 hp) and while the seat is a tad lower it's much wider making getting her feet down problematic.

Sharon doesn't like the peg position. The actual riding of "feet forward" doesn't bother me but the point about too much bum pressure might.

I'll keep my eye on this model, and if it ever makes it to the UK the Honda H'ness. If perchance it proves reliable and economical then it could be an option. But presently I wish, I really wish they'd kept the dimensions and weight down. I wish they'd made a Himalayan with street or classic or scrambler styling.
05/08/2021 18:48:02 UTC
Crofty said :-
Your prayers may be answered Ren, talk of a road going Himalayan called the Scram 411 might make an appearance in the UK, rumoured to be even cheaper than the Himalayan.

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05/08/2021 22:36:16 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Crofty, I've seen this somewhere and it seems a very unimaginative conversion to a "road bike", I presume the wheels and tyres will be road spec/size. I hope the final version is better looking and they do something about that god awful exhaust. Why did RE ever fit this to the Himalayan, they actually make nice pipes for the others in the range.
06/08/2021 08:31:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm afraid I must agree with Upt', much as it pains both myself and him. If you compare my CB500X with the CBR500 and the CB500F - even though they're all the same bikes underneath it shows what can be done. This looks like a Himalayan with standard wheels and a few farkles add/removed. But, this being said, if the price and reliability and running costs and comfort are right... of course I'd have one durgh.
06/08/2021 09:56:14 UTC
crofty said :-
yes I agree, it looks just like a Himalayan with the front luggage/headlamp support bars removed. I have read that they are considering a alloy wheel 17/19 inch option, which after my Himalayan puncture/tyre seating debacle is good news.
If the Honda H'ness ever gets here and is price comparable it might struggle for sales
06/08/2021 11:15:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I suspect the H'ness won't make it here, unless the Meteor is a rip-roaring success. Sharon's Kwakker 250 is a superb machine but alas it didn't sell well here and has been dropped in the UK. You see we are still obsessed with POWER POWER POWER and 250s are scoffed upon. I expect the meteor, being even less powerful than Sharon's Kwakker, may go the same way.

I do have some hope though. After BMW's GS went 1250cc more and more people did start to think "enough is enough" and the 700 Tenere comes along, getting good reviews and hopefully good sales. The CB500X does seem to suggest there's enough folks like myself who are more than happy with 47 bhp and good economy. Is it possible that we may one day look for the sheer pleasure of riding rather than the pose of power? If I could predict the future I'd be a wealthy man.

I also believe the manufacturers are missing a big market with the lady riders. For god's sake I don't think we need pink bikes with handbag holders, I can't think of a better way of putting off customers. I do think there's a need for sensible seat height options and lower mass.
06/08/2021 12:21:50 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Apparently not at the Bavarian Moter Werkens though.
The rumour on the street is it's going to 1300cc.
BUT, interesting point........
Who are these manufacturers/importers making and selling to.
If in doubt blame Western Capitalism.......If you read some of the Asian Market news they are releasing new (sensible) bikes every week whilst the list gets less and less here.
I'm still waiting for an 80 to 100 bhp faired/half faired bike with a sensible adjustable screen, a seat for two real people and 120 litres of luggage space. Preferably for under 10K and able to return 60 mpg with a five gallon tank. Imperial gallons please.
It would be nice if it looked like a motorcycle and not a collection of steel rods with sticky out cylinders.
I live in hope, and a little despair, Glenlivet helps.

06/08/2021 16:33:33 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Oh, and heated grips please.
And simple integrated Sat Nav.
And gel seats.
And belt or shaft drive.
06/08/2021 16:40:11 UTC
Crofty said :-
While your waiting for your Unicorn Upt'North the 650 V Strom almost makes the grade 70hp, 4.4 gallon tank, very comfy seat for two, 118 litres with 2 33lt side cases and a 52lt top box. an aftermarket screen by Givi which is adjustable.
65mpg at a steady 60/70mph. about £7.5k and they will throw a few hundred quids worth of goodies at you as well.
If that doesn't work,Tesco have Glenlivet at under 20 quid a bottle.
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06/08/2021 17:50:21 UTC
Crofty said :-
Well £19.99 lol
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06/08/2021 17:51:54 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
That's a blummin bargain, bikes not bad either.
I like the WeeStrom, good solid bike. Never even sat on one though. But you're right it would tick a lot of my boxes.
Is that picture at Glenlivet by any chance?
06/08/2021 18:42:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I must, regrettably, agree. The SV650 motor in the 650 Strom is well proven and well developed. The only real thing that took me to my 500 is the extra economy, that and I am, and I KNOW it's wrong, a Honda fan.

As for the booze. I don't drink at all but oooooh a wee snifter of that whisky would go down rather splendidly.
06/08/2021 20:33:31 UTC
nab301 said :-
I've looked at the Meteor locally but as already mentioned the cruiser style riding position wouldn't suit me . I guess Enfield is now a mainstream manufacturer and deserves mainstream pricing but for me the Meteor can be over 6k Euro , ( Honda 300R territory)the Himalayan is nearly in CB 500X territory , and the 650 twins are way above that.
06/08/2021 20:53:20 UTC
said :-
No not Glenlivet Upt'North, its at Aberfeldy in Perthshire, the Black Watch statue or the Gallant Forty Twa as they are know locally. General Wade's bridge over the river Tay is in the background.
The CB500 is another great bike Ren,i like Honda's too, particularly the new NC700, its been lightened and lowered with a bit more power.
Nigel, didn't realise the REs were so dear in Ireland, the Meteor is about £3500 here or 4150 euros, why so expensive in Ireland ??
06/08/2021 22:21:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I do keep on eyeing the NC750. It's just that low revving motor and the "solid" feel I like about them. It's just not fair, why don't I have a big garage!
07/08/2021 09:21:26 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I had the earlier version of the Weestrom a few years ago and liked it a lot. Relatively lightweight (at least after the Tigger 955) and plenty of poke for normal riding. The v-twin is a nice engine.
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07/08/2021 11:28:36 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Thanks for putting me straight about the location.
I've looked on the map and I've been through there on many occasions.
Sometimes I'm a real Dunce.....I've got a hot with D on and everythin.

07/08/2021 14:06:24 UTC
nab301 said :-
Quote " why so expensive in Ireland ??"
. There was always VRT on a sliding scale , €2 euro per cc up to 350cc and €1euro per cc above 350cc( vehicle registration tax ) even when the UK was in the EU , pre Brexit my local friendly second hand motorcycle emporium predicted potential doom and gloom post Brexit due to unsustainable import charges and has since thrown in the towel Post Brexit , the UK is a non EU country and afaik apart from VAT @ 23% there's also import duties at 10% .

07/08/2021 16:19:12 UTC
said :-
Thanks for the explanation Nigel, I read the link but was loosing the will to live by Category A.
07/08/2021 21:40:46 UTC

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