Tuesday, 24 May 2016

St. Albans Club Ride Out: We Like Market Harborough....

Sunday, 8th May 2016

Distance: 250 miles approximately
Riding Time: 6 hours 52 minutes
Best Roads: B664 - Uppingham - Market Harborough, B6047 - Market Harborough - Melton Mowbray

Hi all! Wow its been a long time since I have been on a proper good ride out. Had a great bunch of guys to ride with today complimented by hot and dry weather.

So, first dilemma - what to wear? Full leathers or leathers and jeans? The original plan was to ride from Uppingham to Market Harborough and then whip westbound across the country to Tewksbury near Cheltenham for a proper Sunday roast, so it was going to be a full day of riding. Due to the expected temperatures and the length of riding, I opted for my Sartso Killer bike jeans and leather jacket. I also brought my HJC helmet with drop down sun visor -  it was going to be bright.

I turned up at The Chequers in Redbourn at 7.30am to meet everyone....half an hour earlier than the arranged time (couldn't sleep the night before....). We left the Chequers just after 8am and headed towards our first stop - Uppingham. We flew up the M1, coming off at Junction 15, which is the A45 eastbound at Northampton. I think Carl got confused at one point as he almost came off too early but came back onto the A45 which we followed as far as the big roundabout. We went past a police van on top of the bridge but hopefully it wasn't facing behind us! 

Next Carl decided to play roundabouts as he got a bit confused where the A45 meets the A509. We took the minor turning into a residential area, turned around and came back on ourselves to take the correct turning onto the A509. I knew the "Prez" wasn't always fantastic with directions, but today he was using a sat nav... not sure if that helped much! I can't say too much though as when we went eastbound onto the A14 the guys came off one of the slip roads and I was too far over to follow them so had to continue onto the A14. I did find it a bit odd as I thought they had come off a junction too early. They rejoined me on the A14 and we came off at the next slip road, which also happened to be the A6003 - the road I assumed Carl was actually looking for! After a bit of discussing (and general confusion) we carried on the A6003 to Uppingham. The A6003 is a nice open road with easy bends. However, it is a busy road and we were stuck behind a BP tanker all the way into Uppingham. We arrived at the Harley Davidson garage at around 9.30am, had a break, wiped our visors and used the facilities. We discussed our next move - ride the B664 to Market Harborough and stop at Sainsbury's for petrol.

The B664 is a fantastic road. There are many tight bends, including a few 90 degree ones, varying sweeping gradients and small villages. Just as we were enjoying the road however we were presented by a road closed sign. The diversion signs were telling us to head back, but there was a small lane to the left just before the sign.

I said to Carl maybe we could pull over on that road and take a look at the map and see if we can find an alternative way round. Instead of pulling over, Carl just kept going! So we all followed and luckily it took us back onto the B664 further ahead, past the closed off section. There was a small bridge at some point around here, to which I might have taken a little quickly and gone a little airborne (to which I may have sweared a little in surprise...). We carried on, heading into Market Harborough for petrol and then took the A4304 to find the A5199 heading back down to Northampton. I was leading along the A4304 at this point and as I was over taking several cars I head this zzzoooooooooommm noise flying right past me. I am assuming Carl wanted to see what his new GSXR was capable of!

The A5199 is also a great road, more open with sweeping bends open straights. We got into Northampton and stopped at the ice cream place at the end of the A5199 in Kingsthorpe. It was a pretty hot day, so figured it was a great way to cool down. It was around midday at this point and our original destination was a pub in Tewksbury for Sunday roast. However, we figured it would be a bit too far and we could potentially miss lunch anyway and so I suggested the B6047 towards Melton Mowbray and then we could head back through Northampton and make some suggestions afterwards. So we headed back up the A5199 to the A4304 (much to the request of Carl and co.) and back to Market Harborough, this time taking the one way system round to the left and onto the B6047.

The B6047 is a great road and many parts of it state 50 mph limits for a reason. I had however forgotten about the almost vertical drop where the g-force pushes you into the tank as you come back up (this really only happens northbound and is almost non-existent in the other direction). It has a little bit of everything this road, and you need to be on alert the whole time you are riding it. We crossed the A47, continuing on the B664 to Great Dalby where we stopped for our Sunday lunch. It was a deserved break from some challenging roads, which is not to say it wasn't great fun also.

Our route back was back down the B6047 to Market Harborough (a place we might as well call our second home at this point...) and the A508 to Northampton. The A508 is pretty good for a larger A road, but a lot more straight than the A5199. We refuelled in Kingsthorpe and split at the M1 where Tom and Carl headed home and I headed over to Winslow with Andy, via the A422 and A413.

GPX, KML and KMZ files for Satellite Navigation systems of our ride can be uploaded/sent on request. Any comments, questions or suggestions on other great roads we may have missed please leave in the comments below!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Small Ride to Dennington, Suffolk

Good Friday, 25th March 2016
Luton - Dennington - 125 miles approx. 3 hours.
Heading to my friend Sam's for the day I faced the decision of how to get there - car, bus, train, aeroplane, hovercraft, jet pack or motorcycle. It was a lovely sunny day (unlike the rest of the week), albeit a little cold so of course motorcycle was chosen.

Next - which motorcycle. Well, Emma's SV650 is in the garage and my SV650 has been written off.... better take the 954 Fireblade then. So the day before I got myself sorted -  cleaned the bike, checked the brakes, oil, lights, tyre pressures, chain oil and fuel. Tyres were a little low as well as the scottoiler so sorted that out and then all set.

Next - which route to take. I had already decided that the best option was to take the (relatively) fast route to Braintree in Essex and then make up a fun route from there. This also allowed for a quick toilet break at the rest stop near Great Dunmow on the A120 should I need it (I did....). From Braintree I took the knowing A131 to Sudbury and entered unfamiliar territory from there, taking the A1071 into Ipswich. Quite a nice bendy road, however a bit rubbish with 4-wheeled vehicles in front as they tend to go a little bit slow, so if you do go that way make sure it is nice and early. You could also take the route that goes via Finchingfield and the famous bike meets that happen there, but I've done that route a few times so decided to try something new.

I topped up my fuel levels at the Tesco services off the A12 near the A14. From there I took the quick way east on the A14, over the Orwell Bridge (such a good view of the east coast around there) to continue up the A12. Having gone round several roundabouts and filtering past many caravans (I guess they were headed to Great Yarmouth or wherever for their Easter break) I took the exit to the B116 to Framlingham and Dennington,

This was all OK, however next time I think a different route between Braintree and Dennington would be better to add more variety. If anyone has any suggestions please do say so in the comments below. Coming back I used the A1120 as suggested by Sam which takes me back to the A14 without going down to Ipswich and back up again. This was a good road, full of bends and small villages. However, it was pretty dark by then and so I couldn't really enjoy it as much as I perhaps could have in the day time. Would be good to try that route out again mixed in with some other smaller A and B roads.

It took me about 3 hours to get to Dennington from my home in Luton, including a rather slow petrol stop. Coming back mainly along the A14. A11 and A505 took just under 2 hours. There are plenty of decent roads around that way so make your own up and check out other suggestions on the bestbikingroads.com website. Below is an overview map of the route I took to Dennington.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Goodbye SV - You Served Me Well

On the 14th January 2016 I was involved in a minor accident on the M1. Riding in the outside lane, in peak time traffic at a speed of around 40mph my surroundings were pretty congested. As you can imagine, there is a vehicle close in front and a vehicle close behind. A car from the lane left of me decided it would be a great idea to signal and move into my lane, which of course there was no room for him to do so as I was there. I tried to move my bike out the way, steering to my right, however I had nowhere to go and the bike went over on the right-hand side.

A few car drivers stopped to help me as the driver continued to drive away. A van driver blocked his path so that he could not escape the scene. The driver denied any wrong doing and the highway agency swapped insurance details between the parties whilst I was given details of three witnesses. I rode home, thinking the bike was OK (it wasn't... I realised after I headed off that I had no rear brake pedal but hey minor problem...) and took pictures of the damage.

4th Dimension dealt with my case as my insurance cover was only TPF&T. They were really good actually. They came and collected the bike and took it to their workshop in Egham and on the same day I got a phone call asking what I wanted to do about the bike. The lower fairing panels were no longer available and if I wanted to the bike repaired I would have to do a compromise repair (due to the cosmetic damage mainly). I have had the bike for almost 5 years and put somewhere around 50,000 miles on it and so decided it would be better to have it written off.

Fortunately for me, the other side finally admitted liability (probably due to the amount of witnesses at the scene) and my bike now belongs to 4th Dimension. I actually got a decent value for my bike so I am pretty chuffed in that regard - but quite upset to part with it as it is the longest I have ever had a bike. It's been to Europe several times, with different people and been a rock solid commuter for almost 5 years. It is also the bike that was the catalyst for meeting my girlfriend (she is also an SV owner) and we've had a solid 4 year relationship.

So, farewell SV. I won't forget the memories that have been created because of you and will hang a (well cleaned) second number plate in my house in your honour. I hope that you are rebuilt and somebody else can you enjoy you like I have.