Burton-in-Kendall

imageQuick stop to fuel up and rest the ever burning bum. Turns out I make about 90 mins before discomfort starts to set in. Then it’s an endurance to make the furthest services I can. On the plus side, the roads are good, the traffic moves (mostly quickly) and the services are frequent.

The weather is very off and on. Always grey, but alternating between dry and drizzle, with the odd downpour.

Just before Manchester is a smash in the oncoming lane. But big enough to have sprayed debris across the centre reservation, and caused one car to have it’s own smash. This causes a 3 mile tail back on the northbound lane, good thing I’m on a bike though.

The southbound lane is tailed back for closer to 5 miles.

Finally now we’re north of Manchester, the traffic is beginning to ease, although not as much as I’d expected. I guess it is a Friday in summer, and a bunch of people are heading north for the week-end.

Next stop, hopefully outside Glasgow for a late lunch.

Brekkie in Birmingham

All the best laid plans of mice and men were stretched a little this morning. The original plan was to leave by 5, then by 6. But when my alarm went off after <6 hours sleep for the third night in a row, I resolved that I needed sleep more than riding, and snoozed a couple of times.

By 7am though I’m on the road and chatting to Lucy on the Bluetooth headset. A quick trip up to the A40, then running against traffic out of London towards Birmingham.

The trip out of London is slower than it would’ve been a couple of hours earlier, but still averaging about 60mph (100kph) against solid metal coming in the opposite direction. The weather’s gloomy, but mostly dry with damp roads, and a chilly 14oC. You have to love English summers.

By the time I hit the M40, just beyond the M25 ring, it starts drizzling. I have fun experimenting with the electric windshield. Up and there is no wind noise, just a slight buffeting around the back of my head that is reminiscent of my car. And I can have my visor open, although there is speckling on the windshield from the rain that could become annoying. Down and there’s a bunch of wind, although clean air (not turbulent) necessitating closing the visor. At least the rain is sliding off that.

A quick fuel stop at the Beaconsfield services to ensure I have a full tank and maximum range, and on we go.

Now the weather becomes atrocious. This doesn’t slow the traffic, none of whom have lights on. It’s a grey, low-viz rush past, and being passed by, phantom shapes. Despite my speed, I’m still the slowest vehicle on the road. With the shield up, I’m free from spray, but as we go past Oxford, the combination of the fog and the windshield restricts traffic too much. With the temperature dipping below 14oC I can’t seal the visor either as the helmet fogs up restricting visibility even more. Mildly terrifying.

By Birmingham my butt is really aching, and I’m not a quarter of the way yet. This is going to be an interesting day. I resolve to have a brekkie break at the first services I can. Walsall, 12 miles. At this speed, slowed down by congestion around Birmingham, that’s about 12 minutes. I can make that.

Then I make my first mistake. In a 4 lane intersection, filled with spray, and fast moving (70 mph) bumper to bumper traffic, I suddenly see an exit for the M6N. It’s not until I’m committed that I realise there’s two M6N exits. The toll via the M42, and the M6 through Birmingham. Damn! What follows is 20 miles of roadworks and morning traffic, extending my ride to another 15 mins before being able to stop.

By the time I pull into Hiten Services I have tried every combination of sitting position, and nothing is lessening the iron butt. Still, nothing an English Breakfast with a mug of Earl Grey tea won’t resolve.

I’m 140 miles into the trip, with 442 to go. Next stop, hopefully beyond Manchester.

Loaded for Bear! Headed to London! Prepared for the Worst!

Loaded_for_bear_-_headed_to_LondonThis will be a short trip, but another “bucket list” one. I’m headed to London for the Cloud World Forum. A combination of work, a recognition award, and personal passion. It should be fun.

But London is an awfully long way to go. Especially for a two day conference.

Something New

So I’m going for the week, and renting a motorbike to spend the week-end discovering parts of the UK I haven’t discovered yet.

Let’s see: Peak District? Nope, done that. West Country? Over three times already. Lake district? Actually camped there before meeting Lucy. Then again with the family. (Ed: This is where Lucy learned the time-honoured skill of getting into a hammock in a sleeping bag.) Suffolk, Norfolk, the Broads? Sailed, rowed, cycled, and camped. Cotswolds? Done, done, done!

Of course not done on a motorbike, or if I’m honest, for over 15 years. But I want to go somewhere new. Somewhere where I’ve never been. Where the people, the roadsigns, and the novelties are just that. Novel. At least to me.

Hmm. Well, there is Wales, or the Scottish Highlands, i.e. north of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

With only a couple of days for the actual ride, should I keep it close? Three 200 mile days will see a lot of quiet country roads in Wales…

It turns out that a work colleague, with the similar role to my APJ remit in EMEA lives in Scotland. I reached out to see if we could catch up to talk shop at the conference. Unfortunately he won’t be in the London. He will, however, be in Scotland on the week-end. Done. Highlands it is.

In fact, if I’m heading all the way up north, why not go the whole hog? Why not ride to John O’Groats and traverse the country? Bottoms up, as it were. Why not indeed!

It’s certainly an aspirational, worthy goal. Similar to last year’s Top Down Tour. I mean how many people do you know who’ve been to John O’Groats, let alone on a Honda ST1300. I don’t know any.

So in just the last three days the plan has solidified. Thanks to AirBnB I’m booked in to stay with Ian in Dingwall (just north of Inverness) on Friday night. Weather and Traffic permitting I’ll push to the northernmost town on mainland UK on Saturday, then head to the delightfully named Broughty Ferry for Saturday night. Sunday the plan is to meander back down on the A Roads probably as far as Nottingham. Then a meeting on Monday, finally hand the bike back and head to Heathrow for the trek home.

Travel Light

Renting a bike has a dramatic impact on the luggage you take. Apart from clothes for a professional conference, there’s the bike gear: Helmet, Jacket, boots, gloves, and touring pants. And you have to get it all into a package that actually fits on a bike.

Yes, you can rent bike gear. But I’m funny about that. Like dive gear, if my life depends on it, I want to know that I’ve been the only person to use it. That everything is serviced, cared for, and hasn’t been dropped. That it fits, it’s comfortable, and I can operate it intuitively in an emergency. So I take my gear with me. Always have. Always will.

The Honda ST1300, like my Multistrada, is equipped with 2 x 35l hard panniers, and I’m going on a limb that the Ducati pannier liners will fit in the Honda. That takes care of the the standard clothing.

The bike gear goes in my trusty Overboard 60l Dry Bag that I can strap to the back of the bike. Of course when in the UK I’ll be wearing that.

Then computer, phone, eBook, chargers, & toiletries go in my day bag. When on the bike, the day bag will go inside the dry bag, or on my back, depending on the ride.

Finally I’m only allowed to check two bags in for the flight. An easily foldable holdall holds the two pannier bags, straps, and camera, for the flight. Sorted.

Crossroads

Why bike to the airport, rather than cab, or drive, or use public transport?

3 reasons:

  1. A cab is $130 each way from my place to the airport. Parking the car works out at about $55 per day, and the train takes about 90 mins. The bike is simply the quickest and cheapest way to get to the airport. As I’ve mentioned before, Bike Parking is free at Sydney International. I get to save HP between $260 and $55o by biking.
  2. If it all fits on the bike in Sydney, easily, and stays dry, well, it will in the UK.
  3. Finally, seriously, when you have a chance to ride a Ducati with a Testastretta 2 1198cc v-twin with race proven 11o overlap, why would you choose anything else? Hot smile

Storms AheadCiao_for_now_-_see_you_on_the_flip_side__CloudWF__BottomUpTour

It turns out that Australia turned winter on over the week-end. So I left home, rugged up against the elements, riding to avoid storm warnings with 80+ km/h winds, and a promised 100+mm of rain. Good practice for the inevitable Wimbledon, Lake District, and Highland Weather I’m bound to experience this week.

As it turned out, I missed the storm. Or rather, it seems the storm totally missed Sydney. Gear worked well though.

Stay Close

So cheerio Australia, and g’day England. Let’s have some fun this week.