Jude, Jim, Steve, Tony, Ted and Brian met at the Top of Town car park, at 13:30 sharp ready for the safety brief to set off at 14:00. Well, that was until Ted realised that he had forgotten his phone and had to ride to Weymouth and back to collect his phone. In the meantime, extra cups of tea were enjoyed, Tony went on a search for dust caps and Brian walked to CWs for an expensive litre of oil.
Following the safety brief and detailed description of the route, the group left Top of Town at 14:35 heading for Leigh Delamere Services (West) on the M4. The route was via A354 to Blandford, Higher Shaftesbury road via Melbury Abbas to Shaftesbury, A350 via Warminster, Westbury, Melksham, Chippenham.
We arrived at 16:30 to discover that Steve had missed the M4 and did not make it to the Services. Brian and Steve had a phone chat and agreed to meet at the Severn Bridge and to wait there for us either on the English or Welsh side. We left Leigh Delamere at approx 17:15 and re-entered the M4 to make our way to the Severn Bridge; no sign of Steve. Once over the bridge, took the first slip road for the A466 direction Chepstow, B4235 to Usk. Jim, separated in traffic through Chepstow, missed this turning and made his own way to the Steel Horse Café. The remaining 4 riders, crossed over the A449, B4598 to Llanvihangel Gobion and the Steel Horse Cafe (a waypoint as it was closed when we passed). Jim was not there. Stopped briefly to regroup and took the opportunity to advise Jude that her dipped beam was not working. From there on Jude rode on main beam and made riding difficult with a restricted view of the road ahead.
The group made its way through the Heads of the Valley Abergavenny roundabout and followed the A465 before turning off and taking the A4077 towards Gilwern. Jim re-joined the group as we crossed over the old bridge to Crickhowell and onto the A40 towards Brecon and after a few miles turned right onto the A479 towards Talgarth, then the A470 towards Builth Wells arriving at 19:15 at the Service Station to refuel. Still no sign of Steve.
After refuelling, the rain started, and we headed out on the short 7-mile ride to Llandrindod Wells on the A483, with Jude finding that the wet reflective roads, oncoming traffic and lack of dipped beam made riding difficult.
After 172 miles from Dorchester, everyone except Steve, duly arrived at the Commodore Hotel at 19:45; still no sign of Steve. Brian managed to contact Steve who arrived at 21:30 to join us for dinner.
The weather lived up to the forecast: Storm Brian came to find its namesake! Over breakfast, next to a roaring fire, we decided that we would venture out for a ride, and head south in order to avoid the worst of Storm Brian. Sensibly, Jude decided to stay and have a relaxing day in Llandrindod Wells with the aim of finding a pub for us later!
Brian led the five rider in heavy rain and strong winds, leaving the Commodore Hotel at 11:00, heading for A4081 and the B4358 towards Newbridge-on-Wye. The B4358 continues out of Newbridge-on-Wye towards Beulah, a lovely road, not long at just over 8 miles but it’s full of lovely bends and dips. Riding to the conditions, our speed was kept well within all posted speed limits. On arrival at Beulah the route went right onto the A483 towards Llanwrtyd Wells and Llandovery where a stop was taken for coffee and cake at the West End Cafe, a well-known Bikers’ Café, but there were no bikers except us!
After tea, coffee, Jim’s MASSIVE Custard Slice and a welcome 30-minute break from the rain, the ride continued on the A4069 towards Llangadog and Brynamman. This used to be a lovey bikers’ road but over time a speed limit of 50 mph reducing to 40 mph has been set for most the way from Llangadog to Brynamman. It still is a very scenic road but Brian was howling, no Storm Brian was howling with persistent rain and at the summit visibility was less than ideal.
On arrival at Brynamman the ride continued the A4608 towards Gurnos, the A4067 past Ystradgynlais (where Touratech UK has its HQ), Pen-y-cae (where Jim’s mum came from), past the Dray Reservoir before turning right onto the A4215 and then the A470 towards Brecon and north towards Llyswen where the ride continued on the A470 towards Builth Wells arriving at the Station Services Station at 15:30 to refuel.
Everybody was soaked. But some were more soaked than others. Tony’s waterproofs and boots weren’t quite up to it and Tony decided to head back on the short 7-mile ride to Llandrindod Wells and the warmth of the Commodore Hotel. Steve also decided to do head back to the hotel; likewise his riding boots weren’t as waterproof as he had hoped.
Brian, Jim and Ted continued on the A470 to Rhayader where a welcome coffee and comfort stop from the heavy rain was taken at the Ty Morgan Cafe in the middle of Rhayader’s main square. Due to the heavy rain, the break lasted until gone 5pm, leaving puddles of water on the café floor.
Taking advantage of a brief lull in the wet weather, the riders departed for Llandrindod Wells arriving at the Commodore Hotel at 17:45.
120 miles ridden in wet and windy conditions brought to us by Storm Brian. After a shower and change, some headed out to the pub found by Jude, then back to the hotel for dinner and a roaring log fire.
After a good breakfast, packing the bikes and checking out, the group left the Commodore Hotel at 1000 to head back to Dorset aiming to stop at the Steel Horse Cafe, Llanvinhangel Gobion, another popular Bikers’ Cafe for a lunch break. Thankfully the day was dry if still windy.
The route followed some of yesterday’s ride to Beulah before turning left and taking the A483 towards Garth and the B4519 road which ascends high up over the military training area and down again to Upper Chapel.
After brief photo stop at the summit, the ride continued dodging the many sheep, and continued on to Upper Chapel before turning right on to the B5420 to Lower Chapel and Brecon. Once through Brecon, the ride continued on the A40 towards Crickhowell, a quick refuel before continuing onto the A4077 and over the Grade 1 listed 18th-century Crickhowell bridge that spans the River Usk, which claims to be the longest stone bridge in Wales at over 128 metres long. Once over the old bridge, the ride headed east through Gilwern and onto the A465 before transiting the Heads of the Valley roundabout and taking the B4598 to Llanvinhangel Gobion and the Steel Horse Cafe.
The Steel Horse Cafe was a very busy place with numerous bikers present. Arriving at 12:00 we departed at 13:00, heading west again toward Usk on the B4598 followed by the B4235 it Chepstow. Once through Chepstow the group headed for the M48 and the Severn Bridge. Once over the bridge, the M4 beckoned with our route taking us towards junction 17 and the A350 towards Chippenham. Traffic was heavy on the M4 at times due to a wide load taking up two lanes. A final comfort and coffee stop was taken at Leigh Delamere (East) just so Steve could say that he had been there! The ride left at 14:15 heading back to Dorset. Everyone bid each other farewell and we set off following Friday’s route back towards Dorchester.
At Shaftesbury, we detoured towards Sherborne then taking the A352 towards Dorchester. Rain reappeared and the clouds to the west looked omnibus so at Henstridge, so Brian headed left and east on the A375 away from the rain and towards Lydlinch, right onto the A3030 towards Kings Stagg where Tony peeled off to return to Lyme Regis. Continued onto the B3143 towards Pulham, Duntish and back onto to the higher Dorchester - Sherborne road towards Charminster where Jim peeled off to Charlton Down, the remainder arriving Weymouth at 16:45.
So, 480 miles door to door in total, with some cracking roads through some stunning scenery despite the very wet and windy weather. The Commodore Hotel was well received by everyone. All in all a great weekend which challenged each individual’s determination and road riding skills.
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.