Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesROD's Rapid NC500

The Road North

24 September 2023


I have had the NC500 route at the back of my mind for a few years now, but with COVID and other events have never quite got around to actually riding it. About one month ago I watched a guy on YouTube ride the route on a Yamaha YB100. He lives between one, maybe one and a half hours south of myself, and he covered the route in twelve days. He travelled very light, buying his food at various eating establishments, and staying overnight in hotels. This had me thinking. My Granddad duties were reduced with the schools starting back, and I have the 125 sorted for touring now with reduced luggage capacity and better weight distribution.

So I loaded the 125 and set off for a trial run for about one hour round trip. Now although the 125 handling was acceptable, I did not feel comfortable with the lack of power on the A roads which I will need to travel on. I take my hat off to the guy travelling the route on a 100cc two stroke. However I have the perfect bike sitting waiting, so I transferred the luggage to the 1150. I now have more options with the increased luggage capacity. I leave out the chain oil, the bivvy bag, and the tarp. Instead I pack my tent, and a 12v kettle.

The tent will be much more comfortable than the bivvy and tarp set up. I can sit up in the tent, get changed in the tent, and generally have more space.

With the bike all packed on Saturday and ready to go I get up early on Sunday 24th September and cook a full English breakfast to set myself up for the trip. I set off at 09:00 heading north though Northamptonshire villages and on to the A1. 

The weather forecast was not great, with rain forecast for the next week, however I purchased a new rain suit earlier this year and it had been OK in heavy showers and light rain for short periods of use. By the time I crossed the river Trent the clouds were looking rather black and there was light rain, however the sky further up the road was looking brighter and the oncoming traffic only had intermittent wipers on. I left the waterproofs in the top box and kept my fingers crossed.

As I get close to Leeds the sky is black again and I'm feeling that I am pushing my luck. I pull into Wetherby services to use the facilities, don my waterproofs and get on my way. The rain starts quickly, and by the time I get onto the A68 the rain is heavy but I am glad to be off of the duel carriageway and motorway, I settle into the ride. I pull over for a snack in a layby as the rain eases to a drizzle.

Rods big BMW by the side of a wet looking road surrounded by trees

The Scottish border arrives and I pull in for the obligatory photo.

ROD and his bike by a large rock with "SCOTLAND" written on it

I carry on into Scotland and pass through Jedburgh, here I notice many signs for historical sights one of which was to the house of Mary Queen of Scots. As I left Northamptonshire this morning I'd passed through Fotheringhay, the place where Mary Queen of Scots was executed.

A large stone built medieval house purporting to once be Mary Queen of Scots house

Riding through Lauder I see signs for camping, but I am not too far from Edinburgh now and I think it would be better passing around the bypass this evening than in the morning rush hour. The A68 feeds straight onto the A720 bypass, which promptly comes to a standstill. After about 1 mile of filtering a recovery truck is loading a broken down car and the traffic starts to move freely again. 

The A720 joins the M90 which crosses the forth via the new crossing. Here I have my first sat nav problem! The sat nav takes me over the bridge, around the roundabout at the end, and promptly takes me back over the bridge in the opposite direction. I swear at the sat nav, but then realise that it is showing a waypoint marker and the problem as usual is operator error. I had placed the waypoint on the bridge, but had placed it on the southbound side of the bridge not the northbound side.

Now I need a campsite. I seem to remember that there is a campsite at Loch Leven, but I am not sure how long it will take to get there and I am starting to loose day light, so I get of the M90 and start to look for a site or a suitable wild camp spot. I find a small layby with a wood next to it just outside of Cowdenbeath. There are no signs of youth activity or parties and the wood seems to be popular with dog walkers. I set up camp away from the footpaths and lock and cover the bike in the layby. The road is a little noisy but this will do for the night.

A tiny tent in the thick undergrowth of trees

This could be the cheapest site I have stayed on, or it could be the most expensive depending on whether the bike is still there in the morning?

Daily mileage 388

Food.       £4.50
Fuel         £22.63

Share your own travel tales - click here.

The Road North ROD wisely selects the motorcycle of choice before heading out into the big wide world. There's some rain, some Scotland and a questionable choice of sleeping arrangement.
Cairngorms And The Start Of The NC500 After a restless night ROD finally reaches the NC500 and sets out in the correct (counter clockwise) direction. Will tonight's sleep be better now he's learned how to install earplugs?
The NC500 Continues ROD covers most of the NC500 is one day and still has time on his hands. He's hoping to get all the best bit's done before Storm Agnes spoils the party.
The Road South ROD rounds of his whistle-stop NC500 with... a 500 mile ride back home. There's some interesting final figures to note too.

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
Rod, the A68, a great choice, I don't think I've ever been there except with blue skies. Bit I spose it's a day ride and I wouldn't go in the rain anyway.
Jed is a nice enough town, plenty of history and reassuringly worka'day.
You lot still ain't selling this camping lark too well.
Just saying.

27/10/2023 12:35:49 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Yes, the vertical bends on the A68 can be quite exciting expecially as they're blind summits.....
27/10/2023 14:41:17 UTC
nab301 said :-
Excellent , how far do you think you would of travelled on the first day if you were on the 125? and also how much is petrol per litre in the UK? my calculations based on the fuel cost make the MPG look better than my 125!
27/10/2023 17:56:42 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Nigel, I have covered 300 miles in a day on the 125, but 200 miles is more comfortable.
Fuel is £1.45 - £1.55 per ltr in the UK.
MPG figures will come at the end of the journey.
I set off with a full tank and filled up on my return.
At this point in the journey the fuel is running low and my first stop the next day will be for fuel, if the bike is still there in the morning???

27/10/2023 18:36:37 UTC
nab301 said :-
Thanks Rod , I was looking at the miles and fuel costs posted at the end and getting well over 100mpg!
27/10/2023 18:42:48 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Upt North, Ian Soady, Yes the A68 is like a roller coaster ride.
I am surprised that we are not selling the idea of camping. You do not have a destination to get to by a certain time, you ride until YOU are ready to stop, if you breakdown you have your bed with you, and most importantly it is low cost, so you can do more travelling.
27/10/2023 19:03:52 UTC

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