Sunday, 28 June 2015

St Albans Ride Out to Uppingham

I originally said a bunch of us were meant to be going on this ride out... come this morning we were down to two - me on my 954 blade and Andy on his trusty viffer. It promised to be a good day, the weather was nice and dry and the sun was on its way out.

We set off at 8:03 and followed the exact route that I wrote about in my previous post. Traffic was minimal, but we weren't bombing about anyway. As we got onto Poynters Road in Dunstable, Andy pulled up next to me to tell of his approval of the Chaul End road. It is a great little stretch as you come out of Caddington - several bends at a decent speed and that fantastic view over east Dunstable/west Luton before you come down the hill to the A505 bypass.

Going through Ampthill we started to get hit by the rain, just spitting initially until we got onto the A421/A428 bypass where is started coming down in spades. There was a cycle race going on with riders showing full commitment and energy, which was impressive given the wet conditions.

Once onto the A428 I noticed Andy was dropped back every so often and keeping his speed down. So just before we entered Northampton I pulled over into a parking lay-by to see if all was OK and to stretch my legs. Andy told me that he had a little wobble coming off one of the roundabouts on the bypass and was just a bit cautious. Could have been something in the road, but I personally have always been less confident on Bridgestone tyres in the wet.

We soldiered on through the wet conditions, which we were exposed to all the way to Uppingham. The B664 is a challenging road, but even more so in the wet. I noticed Andy putting his foot down as he went round some of the corners, not completely trusting in the capabilities of his tyres in the wet. We got to the Harley dealership in 2 and a half hours - which was the ETA given by Garmin Basecamp.

Bikes in the Harley range can sell for as much as £30,000 new. These are great looking bikes with lots of torque, lazy engines and ultimate comfort. However, me and Andy were both saying how we can't see ourselves using something like this on English and European roads where we have plenty of bends and roundabouts to think about. Some of the smaller bikes (in terms of frame rather than engine) look more capable, but the fuel efficiency is pretty low. The lady running the food bar outside was chatting to us. She has the same model as the matt black bike on the plinth (see photo below) and says that she rides it quite comfortably. However, she did admit the difficulty in cornering compared to the bikes we were riding, but that is made up for by the comfort.

When we turned up we were the only two bikes outside the dealership. Just before we left a small group of riders turned up - a couple of VFRs, Tiger Explorer, GS 1400, old CBR 600 and a couple of other bikes. We commended them on their efforts to get out considering the weather and rode off to find somewhere to eat. Not seeing anything of use in Uppingham, 

I followed Andy southbound on the A6003 to Corby where we found a Hungry Horse. It was a bit early for a full on lunch (around 11.30am) so we both had an all day breakfast (thanks Andy!) and a cup of tea as we watched the sun breaking through the clouds and the rain stopped - typical. At just shy of 12.30 we jumped back on the bikes to head back home. We followed the A6003 / A43 / A14 and A509 to Newport Pagnell. It was here that we said our farewells and I headed down the M1 to Luton, arriving home at dead on 2:00pm.

My bike was spotless when I left the house this morning... little bit dirty at the end of the ride! Was great fun, really enjoyed it and glad I had some company today. The B664 will be better when dry. It may be best to take the fast route up there in the morning in order to enjoy the plethora of decent roads in that region - particularly as you enter Lincolnshire. Any suggestions - please comment below, always welcome!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Route: Redbourn - Uppingham

Distance: 82.3 miles approx.

ETA: 2 and a half hours approx.

Tomorrow a small bunch of us from the St. Albans Sportsbike Rider Club are riding from the Chequers pub in Redbourn over to Uppingham - on the condition that it does not rain (forecast doesn't look great - but that won't stop me going!).

The highlight of this route is the B664 between Market Harborough to Uppingham. Just off the A427 north-east of Market Harborough, this road runs through lots of small villages, with tight bends in between - often with very little vision around them. This is a challenging route and so recommended for those who have got a few miles under their belt.

We will be departing the pub at 08:00 on the Sunday morning in order to miss as much weekend traffic as possible. Our route takes us from the pub, northbound on the A5183, which becomes the A5 as you go under the M1 motorway. From here, there is a right hand turn at the traffic lights around Markyate - heading through the country roads of Caddington and Chaul End to the A505 in Dunstable, over the roundabout - heading through Houghton Regis. 

Once out of here, there are back roads heading round to the B530 - which goes over the M1 to the A5120. This road is a mix of medium and large bends and open straights, heading through some small towns - be sure to keep an eye out for the speed cameras. At Flitwick, be sure not to miss the A5120 as it continues over the railway bridge towards Ampthill. The B530 continues north of Ampthill towards Bedford, a single carriage national speed limit road, mainly straight with a few easy bends.

The B530 ends at the A6, where a right turn at the traffic lights finds the A421/A428 bypass to Northampton. This is a nice open road with a few quaint villages (speed cameras in Turvey and Yardley Hastings). Crossing the A509 roundabout - continuing onto the A428 until Northampton there are a few over hanging speed cameras. Heading under the A45 and continuing onto the A428 there is a set of traffic lights and the Northampton General Hospital on the right hand side. A little bit of in-town riding now, taking a right turn at these lights towards the crossroad of the A508. Another right turn here onto the A508 northbound towards Market Harborough - which goes up to Kingsthorpe and out of Northampton.

The A508 is a lovely open national speed limit road with some sweeping bends and the odd roundabout, countryside views and old Northamptonshire buildings. The road continues north, over the A14 and eventually ending up at Market Harborough. There is a right turn ahead at some traffic lights, before the town centre which leads round onto the A4304 and then the A427. If you have some time, head straight into the town instead and stop for a tea or coffee.

At the roundabout take the exit onto the A427. Almost immediately after is the left hand turn for the B664 to Uppingham. The road is pretty open at first, which can be a little misleading so keep your concentration. In the villages there are quite a few occasions where the bends are quite tight, but at low speeds these shouldn't be an issue. Also, keep a look out for direction signs, as due to the nature of the road it can be quite confusing keeping to the B664. In Uppingham there are traffic lights at a crossroad (the A6003). Taking a left here reveals the Harley Davidson dealership on the right hand side - the end of the route. Take a break, look at some bikes, get a drink at the cafe - you would have earned it!

If anyone would like a copy of the Garmin route let me know in the comments. Hopefully I will add some pictures after tomorrow! Safe riding!