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Time Out

Post Received 23 February 2022

By Ian Douglas

What destinations attract you when contemplating a ride out? – museums, steam railways, motorcycle events or biker cafes perhaps. Having decided then there’s the route to wherever you have in mind, direct and quick or slow and devious. Often as not I didn’t used to have a set destination – more a ride for its own sake. None of us like congestion so bottlenecks were avoided. Thus, my starting point was to head away from the madding crowd in so far as that is possible.

Of course, there is social motorcycling, a group of riders out on a pre-organized trip. Nothing wrong with that but here I’m thinking of the individual ride outs that we all engage in from time to time often without a deal of pre-thought or detailed planning. As you will read, I gradually became a convert to having a plan rather than not.

Initially as a back to biker, if the weather was right, I would take off with no definite place in mind, it would be an exploratory tour, I’d get pleasantly lost then gradually find my way home. I might follow roads that looked interesting, sometimes I’d find pleasant nooks and crannies, backwaters and less visited spots, on other occasions I would determine not to go that way again.

The idea of a trip without planning is an adventure, like a casual walk in the countryside where you just pick a path to see where it takes you. Rambling free is uplifting and it is a contrast to years of commuting where you might as well have been on rails. There’s no need to feel pressured, you can stop where and when you want, take any turn that takes your fancy. 

As I became more familiar with the wider locality this carefree modus operandi began to pale. I found myself on roads that I knew, from experience, were problematic. They could be rat runs, have pothole issues, speed humps or I may have had an incident there. I now prefer to circumvent these things to make any journey as stress free as possible, consequently planning is required but that isn’t so bad as it helps not to make the same mistakes over again.

cartoon has rider with papers and maps all over the floor planning their next ride

These days I deliberately navigate around those zones that I haven’t enjoyed while concentrating on those that I find restful, scenic or magical in some way. Trips are influenced by the watering holes that I know to be my kind of places, usually with outside seating and within sight of my parked motorcycle. Ambience is important, somewhere relaxing, that right level of activity yet with a pleasing sort of backdrop.

I’m long retired, I never thought I’d end my motorcycle days drifting around the English landscape looking for places where I feel at peace with the world, but I’ve never been happier. If I go off to see relatives it means dicing with a tangle of chaos. This way I keep to the less well-known B roads in the main going cross country from one favoured spot to another. Invariably I get to meet all sorts of people as I meander about.

I like to throw myself into the unpredictable for these short periods, to take a chance – a couple of times I stayed out most of the night in the summer months. However, it doesn’t always work, I’ve hit bad weather, holiday makers and tractors trying to bring in crops. Places that I had thought would be a good venue haven’t turned out to be. On the other hand, circumstances can change, the unexpected happens and you are on a wonderful road with virtually no traffic to speak of.

cartoon of voices from the toilet as a rider runs inside to use the loo after a ride

I go a steady pace, increasingly further out, you find stretches of fantastic sweeping bends, little bits of woodland and lovely views. A motorbike is just the tool, you hear those sounds, lean for bends and go into towns without too much concern for parking restrictions. Naturally, one needs a comfortable machine and one that you are proud to own, in many ways it can represent your personality and time of life.

A longer trek to places little known does me a power of good, stretching out my necklace of choice venues in search of some elusive tranquil haven and wonderful cafés with home baking. We often focus on our motorbikes and their maintenance, but the heart of biking is using the machine and notching up those memorable journeys that you look back on with pleasure on a dull winter’s day.

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Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
We tend to be the non planning type. Not always mind, you do need some order in ya life.
Wherever we end up it will almost certainly be somewhere we've been before, if on a day ride that is. After living and riding somewhere for 8 years and probably around 15,000 miles of day rides there isn't a lot we haven't seen. We're usually at our happiest if it includes sea, chips and ice cream.
I think this year will be governed by the price of fuel, I see lots of 5 mile day rides in our future.
I can hardly wait......
26/02/2022 16:16:52 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
When I used to do long tours in France I would settle on a direction (usually quite easy as it would be southwards on the outward trip and north on the return) then have a 1:1000000 IGN map in the tankbag so that I could see the smaller N and D roads taking me there. But always ready for a deviation if it looked interesting enough. I like bridges so one year I did a bridge too far tour, trying to find the most impressive and interesting variants including the Pont de Normandie and of course the Millau viaduct. The link describes some of that trip. I always had a compas on the bike and that was great for deciding on a general direction and keeping to it. I fitted it after once using the sun to navigate through the centre of Turin which was a rather fraught experience.

More recently, and having my horizons limited by a number of factors, my escapades have tended to be single days out. I agree that local roads can get very "same-y" and also recognise the desire to avoid certial areas - there was a small roundabout near my previous residence which had no visibility of vehicles approaching from the right. However, those vehicles had a clear view so tended to enter the roundabout at a rate of knots. After a couple of scary moments I tried to avoid that one.....

I have a few favourite local roads including a circuit of about 40 miles (which can be truncated to 20 or so) which includes long sweeping bends, single track roads with passing places and lots of varied scenery. It's where I go if I have an hour or so spare and don't want to plan too hard. Another favourite is to head out southwards along Icknield Street, which borders our back garden. Tracing Roman roads offers an interesting diversion. There is also an extensive network of unclassified "white" roads which give lots of opportunity for exploring and reveal some interesting and previously unsuspected places.
26/02/2022 16:52:50 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Aaaaahhh... planning. I used to overplan to the point where I'd kill any sense of fun, almost like a cartoon parent saying "pool - 10 till 11, beach 11 till 1, lunch 1 till 2...". With the wisdom of age and experience I have greatly reduced this but I still need to have at least *SOME* idea of what is (should be) happening.

How can you achieve anything with ZERO planning? You at least need to plan for fuel and to ensure the bike is roadworthy before your trip be it a run to the local cafe or a 4 week tour of Europe. If there's more than one of you forming a group you need to plan a time and a place to meet. I have learned that plans need to be flexible too, and the tighter the plan the more likely that plan will fail.

It's a very personal balance, different for each person. I envy those who can wake one morning, throw a small bag on the back seat and head out for a random week away "anywhere they find themselves". I'd be worried about finding somewhere to sleep.
27/02/2022 09:50:54 UTC
Rev. Mick! said :-
I love trips that just go with the flow so to speak. Some years ago we did a ride from Mahe on the West Coast of India down to Trivandrum. The only rule was keep the sea on the right. No tent, no accommodation booked, no idea of which of which road at all, just sea on the right. Clothes we stood up in and a change of clothes all in a 20 litre bag. At every creek we needed to cross we would detail local smallie boys to find a dug out canoe and man to paddle us across. We never knew where we would sleep each night.

I adore travelling like that, Any each evening with a beer in hand we would watch the sun fall into the India Ocean and it would be as good as it gets.
27/02/2022 10:35:49 UTC
ian said :-
thanks for the comments guys - much appreciated
02/03/2022 19:46:55 UTC
ian said :-
great item on the french trip Ian Soady
02/03/2022 19:52:41 UTC

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