Despite the inclement weather (3 dry, sunny days out of 9), the 2017 tour lived up to expectations proving to be most enjoyable and challenging particularly in view of the weather conditions.
Day 1 of the tour saw it pass through many lovely places, firstly through Mid and North Wales en-route to Betws y Coed for the first night of the tour. One thing you can be guaranteed of when riding in Wales and that is glorious roads, well surfaced with bends galore. Throw in the wonderful scenery and you have a match made in heaven - but it's all weather dependant. Unfortunately, weather from Builth Wells heading north did turn wet with thick fog setting in from Blaenau Ffestiniog. The tour arrival in Betws y Coed at 1800 was greeted with that often seen in Snowdonia - fine but penetrating rain. Total mileage from Dorchester 264.
Day 1 - Blaenau Ffestiniog to Betws y Coed - Thick Fog !
Departure morning day 2 - Royal Oak Hotel, Betws y Coed.
Days 2 of the tour was taken up with a 208 mile ride to Kirby Stephen heading out of North Wales via Nantwich, the M6 as far as Preston and then north east towards Clitheroe, Gisburn, Settle, Kirby Lonsdale and Sedbergh. The A683 Sedbergh to Kirby Stephen wetted everyone's appetite for the tour - a brilliant road. Carol Pepper and her team at the Jolly Farmers B&B at Kirby Stephen gave the tour a warm welcome.
Jolly Farmers B&B Kirby Stephen
Jolly Farmers B&B Kirby Stephen
Days 3 of the tour was a bit if a mixed bag with Jeremy having to stay 'at home' as his bike had developed a mechanical fault. The rest of the team went for a leisurely ride along the narrow and twisty B6270 via Nateby with its tight corners and hidden dips which stretches east across the moors of Birkdale and Swardale. A coffee stop in Reeth followed which saw a large group of German motorcyclists invade the village and do what they do best - bag the best spots to park. The ride continued on to Kettlewell for a lunch stop. The afternoon return leg to Kirby Stephen was much more progressive once the A65 Skipton to Kirby Lonsdale road was reached. At Ingleton the B6255 was taken towards the Ribblehead Viaduct for a photocall with the famous Viaduct as background, a definite must. Then on to Hawes, Sedbergh for another ride along the brilliant A683 to Kirby Stepehen. A round trip of 135 miles. Thankfully the weather remained dry throughout with some sunny spells.
Day 3 - Reeth coffee stop - Nic's Triumph Thruxton parked up
The good news for day 4 was that Jeremy managed to locate a bike mechanic to look at his 'sick' Yamaha Tenere 1200 but not just any mechanic. Martin Bell spent more than 10 years living in Antarctica operating, maintaining and repairing snowmobiles, bulldozers, quad bikes and snow cats. Now running MHB Motorcycles based in Kirby Stephen, he would turn out to be Jeremy's saviour. With Jeremy's bike in the garage awaiting fault diagnosis and repair, he hired from MHB Motorcycles a brand new, out of the box, Chinese made SWM Super Moto 650R which turned out to a bit of surprise package. In fact the day of the hire, it was the first day the SWM had been ridden. A ride to the famous Hartside Cafe via Brough, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Alston and the A686 Penrith road to the Hartside Summit was planned. Unfortunately the wet and misty weather returned. By the time the tour had reached the wonderful B6277 to Alston, visibility had cleared as had the wet conditions. Jeremy certainly enjoyed the B6277 on his hired SWM. Hartside Cafe, a mecca for bikers, was relatively quiet and a welcome coffee break ensued. After Hartside, the tour continued to down the A686 towards Penrith before picking up the A592 towards Ullswater and Glennridding where a lunch stop was taken. After lunch the tour, minus Nick who left to ride independently to visit a friend who lived nearby, headed for Kirkston Pass and Windermere along the A592. Skirting around Windermere the tour headed for Kendal, Sedbergh, along the A684 to Garsdale Head before taking the B6259 to Nateby and Kirby Stephen. A round trip of 125 miles. An enjoyable day's riding along some cracking roads despite the inclement weather.
Day 4 - Hartside Top Cafe.
Kirkstone Pass - A592 (along with MC RTC statistics)
For day 5, given that further wet weather was forecast, the tour took a day off riding and instead took the train from Kirby Stephen. A taxi from the Jolly Farmers to the Station was booked for 0925 in time to catch the 0948 to Skipton, just over an hour's journey. The highlight was of course going over the Ribblehead Viaduct albeit for the early part of the train journey the lovely Yorkshire Dales were shrouded in low mist. Once past Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Settle, visibility improved. Skipton is a market town, regarded as the gateway to the Dales. The River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal meander around the town. A typical Yorkshire town with some architecturally lovely buildings especially Holy Trinity Church and Skipton Castle. After a good walk around the town and lunch for some in a local pub, it was time to head back to the Station for the 1526 train back to Kirby Stephen where it arrived on time at 1629 where a pre booked taxi was waiting for the short ride back to the Jolly Famers in time for the daily treat of tea and freshly cooked scones and jam.
Liverpool & Leeds canal Skipton
Yorkshire Dales from the train to Skipton
For day 6 it was back on the bikes again, this time for a ride north to Hexham minus Nick who preferred to return to ride around the Lakes. The rest of the tour headed out (with Jeremy still on his hired SWM 650R) via the A685 to Brough, B6276 to Middleton-in-Teesdale, B6278 to Stanhope, Derwent Reservoir, Blanchland (beautiful village) and the B6306 to Hexham. The ride over the B6276 to Middleton-in-Teesdale was most enjoyable despite the misty conditions. The stunning countryside with wandering ewes and their lambs in abundance only served to remind you of where you were and the isolation of it all. Lunch was taken in Hexham but not before some slow riding around the town to find somewhere safe to park. With some help from a local taxi driver, who pointed us in the direction of some waste ground adjacent to the taxi rank, the tour safely parked up. Lunch was taken in a local cafe. After lunch, the tour departed for Alston via the B6304 followed by the A686 to Alston and then the brilliant B6277 eastwards to Middleton-in-Teesdale (rode it westwards on day 4), the B6276 to Brough and finally the A685 to Brough. On arrival at 1630, Jeremy went off straight to MHB Motorcycles as he had been advised that his bike was all fixed - and true enough, it was. An outstanding piece of customer service as the required part had to be couriered from Fowlers of Bristol. After refuelling at the local service station, it was back to the Jolly Farmers for tea and eventually, a beaming Jeremy returned with his own bike, all fixed and ready for the road. Nick was back before us and he too had had a nice day riding around the Lakes so a good day had by all. A round trip of 117 miles for the Hexham ride.
Day 6 - Ride to Hexham - B6276 Brough to Middleton-in-Teesdale (courtesy of Jeremy's Helmet Cam).
Weather Improved - mist lifted.
Day 7 was departure day back to Betws y Coed in N Wales. After breakfast, checking out, saying thank you and cheerio to the Jolly Farmers team, it was time to move out which the tour did at 1005. The weather on departure was surprisingly clear of heavy rain albeit overcast. It was decided to retrace our steps in part from day 2 initially heading for Kirby Lonsdale via Sedbergh on the A683 followed by the A65 Skipton road before turning off right at Long Preston onto the A682 towards Gisburn and then A59 to Clitheroe and the M6 Jct 31. A few miles before joining the Motorway, the opportunity was taken to refuel. There then followed some 45 miles on the M6 before leaving at jct 20A for the M56 which heads into North Wales. A lunch stop was planned to take place at Chester Services, Jct 14 of the M56. However, this was missed and the tour stopped further along the M56 at Saughall Services. This consisted of a Starbucks Cafe and a Subway outlet. This was a first for Brian - a Subway sandwich (but chose the healthier option). In the meantime Nick had already left the M56 and made his own way to Betws y Coed. The weather by the time it came to leave the Services, had closed in again. Soon the tour headed towards Mold and Ruthin the A494 before picking up the B5105 which skirts the Clocaenog Forest towards Cerrigydrudion and the A5 to Betws Y Coed. The ride over the B5105 was conducted in very misty conditions which meant that a plan to ride from Ruthin to Denbigh and pick up the B4501 which is a scenic route passing Llyn Brenig, had to be abandoned. After a short ride on the A5, the tour arrived in Betws y Coed at 1800. The opportunity to refuel at the Shell Services just over the Waterloo Bridge was taken so that everyone was on a full tank ready for the day 8. By now though the rain was teeming down - Betws y Coed being in the heart of Snowdonia was living up to its name of being a wet area. Total mileage 172.
Day 8 saw the rain teeming down with a vengeance. Not heavy rain just fine penetrating stuff. Nick decided to stay put and instead enjoy the Royal Oak 's nearby Stations Leisure Centre. Despite the weather, the remaining five tour members were up for a ride. Having looked at the weather forecast for the region, it was decided to head for the west coast with lunch destination being Pwllheli. The initial route out was via the A470 towards Llanrwst, then Conwy and the A55 North Wales Expressway towards Bangor, then the A487 to Caernarfon (a quick comfort stop at Morrisons), Cricceth (where Lloyd George was born) and the A497 to Pwllheli. By now the rain was persistent so a lunch break was welcomed. This was taken at Costa Coffee. After an hour's stop, the ride headed back towards Caernarfon on the A499 before doubling back again on the A487 towards Porthmadog. By now, the rain had eased considerably. In fact, a ten minute stop in a lay-by on the A487 Porthmadoc by-pass showed the area to be as dry as a bone. Soon the ride was on its way again, this time following the windy A4085 towards Beddgelert. This wasn't without its challenges one being a Jersey registered camper van whose driver decided that the entire road was solely for his own use. Progress was eventually made and on arrival Beddgelert the ride followed the A498 up Nantgwynant Pass to the jct with the A4086 and the Pass of Llanberis. On arrival in Llanberis, a welcome refreshment and comfort break was taken at the Coffee Pantry. A nice and welcoming cafe. By now, Dave had realised that his waterproofs weren't actually waterproof after all ! After a good half an hour stop, the ride continued on this time heading for the A4244 to Llanddeiniolen, Tregarth and back on to the A5 towards Bethesda, past the slate quarries, through Nant Ffrancon, Llyn Ogwen, Capel Curig and finally Betws y Coed. A round trip of 148 miles. Despite the wet conditions it was an enjoyable if challenging day's riding. The evening concluded with an excellent end of tour dinner in the Royal Oak Hotel's Llygwy Restaurant.
Day 8 - Ride out around N Wales - dark clouds but no rain here - lay-by stop on the A487 Porthmadoc By-Pass
Day 9 saw the tour gather itself together for the return ride back to Dorset. Nick left early at 0745 as he had decided to ride back independently to Dorset taking a more direct route rather than head south via Mid Wales. The rest of us had breakfast at 0730 and set a departure time of 0900. Thankfully, the day chosen for our return ride to Dorset turned out to be the best yet weather wise. Brilliant, clear blue skies. What a difference a day makes. In order to make the most of the glorious weather, it was decided to take a more extended scenic route through Mid Wales. The tour finally left Betws y Coed at 0930 and headed towards Blaenau Ffestiniog via the scenic and high up A470 (known locally as the 'Crimea Pass') before taking a detour via the stunning B4391 Llan Ffestiniog to Bala via the A4212 (past Llyn Celyn), the A494 Bala to Brithdir and then back onto the A487 to Machynlleth via Corris. The views from the summit of the A487 towards Machynlleth were nothing short of stunning. Once through Machynlleth, the ride headed east towards the A470 for Llanbrynmair and the Museum of Clocks, where the ride stopped for a welcome refreshment break. On leaving Llanbrynmair, the ride followed the A489 to Newtown via Caersws and then the glorious A483 Newtown to Llanrindod Wells. However, with a Newtown by-pass under construction, the first 5 miles out of Newtown on the A483 were subject to a 30 mph speed limit. Nevertheless, it's still a great, challenging road with its many bends and tight corners. Once through Llandrindod Wells, the ride proceeded to Builth Wells for a refuelling stop and thereafter the Steel Horse Cafe at Llanvihangel Gobion for lunch. On arrival it was quite busy with bikers but as usual, lunch and service was good. Prior to departure from the Steel Horse Cafe at 1530, the five remaining members of the ride (Brian, Iain, Jeremy, Ted & Dave) said cheerio and wished each other a safe ride back home. The next stage was a direct ride back to Dorset via Usk, Chepstow, M4 (a slight detour was necessary to get onto the M4 eastwards as the M48 over the Severn Bridge was closed due to high winds), Chippenham, Melksham, Westbury, Warminster, Shatfesbury, Blanford (where Dave peeled off for home) and on to Dorchester & Weymouth. Total miles for day 9 - 301 miles (Betws y Coed to Weymouth). Everyone arrived back home safely including Nick who later sent a message to say that he had a good ride back on some great roads having opted for route home via Hereford.
Day 9 - Heading south on the A487 to Machynlleth (courtesy of Jeremy's Helmet Cam)
Day 9 - Heading south on the A470 to Blaenau Ffestiniog (notice the blue skies !)
All on all, another memorable tour despite the periods of inclement weather. The highlight for some was undoubtedly the extended ride back on day 9 through North & Mid Wales as the weather was excellent - clear blue skies, sunshine which revealed the region in all its glory - beautiful scenery. Carol and her team at the Jolly Farmers B&B at Kirby Stephen looked after us for 6 days so well - nothing was too much trouble - excellent service. Can't finish without complementing Jeremy for his tenacity and determination in keeping with the tour despite losing his own bike for 4 days due to mechanical problems. He is now well qualified to become a motorcycle (tester) journalist. Finally, a huge thank you to the guys for supporting the tour and making it all worthwhile,
Tour members: Brian , Jeremy, Nic, Iain, Ted and Dave.
Tour Leader & Organiser
Sunday Ride Out - Portland Crab Sandwiches
An enjoyable ride out which passed through some lovely villages, beautiful scenery and best of all, lots of new routes for some on the ride. The brilliant weather made up for the disappointment of missing out on a crab sandwich lunch.
Test Pass - Craig Shafford
Congratulations to Craig Shafford who passed his @IAMRoadSmart Advanced Riding Test Sat 21 Apr 18. Well done also to John Laffan, Craig's Observer.
Test Pass - Mitch Staley-Crouch
Congratulations to Mitch Staley-Crouch who passed his @IAMRoadSmart Advanced Riding Test Thurs 19 Apr 18. Well done also to Graham Pinney, Mitch's Observer.