I got my Café back in 2014 to keep costs down, get from A to B and ultimately beat the traffic of the South East. Before then I had never considered owning a motorcycle but I like to keep an open mind and found Sinnis. I loved the look of the Café and the team at Brighton were happy to deliver it as at that time there wasn’t a dealer near by. I heard some good reviews so thought why not. A few years later I moved to the north, nestled just at the southern tip of the Yorkshire Dales and that’s where my riding went from being a bit of fun to absolutely loving it.
At first I started out in the Dales, doing 2 to 3 hour trips then pushed on up to 4 hour stints. Up here that will take you on some cracking rides. Quickly I started to think about touring, looking at the maps, getting some advice on sat navs and how to gear up for a longer trip. I was thinking a 6 hour day trip, but after some thought and having looked at what was on my doorstep, that changed into a 4 day 1,000 mile tour of the North and Scotland.
I started by working out how far I could go, how much time in the saddle and how much time off the bike and worked to a maximum 9 hour day, 6 hours riding and 3 hours off the bike. This gave me all the time in the world, I could take my time, relax and enjoy what was to come. On that basis I pencilled in my overnight stops, used Google maps app on my phone, picked up a USB charger which attached to the Battery and got a waterproof phone holder mounted to the bars. I needed storage so got on the hunt for some bike bags. I’ve done a lot of wild camping in the past so packing light is how I’ve always rolled and I didn’t want to over load the bike and ruin the handling and impinge on comfort. In the end I found some Yugoslav messenger bags with webbing that cost £13 each. Easy to fit, I strapped them under the seat, through the grab handles, onto the frame and onto the rear shocks. A bit of wax later and, waterproofed and secure. I then took one additional waxed messenger bag and with the help of an anti-slip mat on the cowling and a pair of bungees. I had all the storage I needed.
The 1,000 mile Tour!!!
I Waited 3 weeks for a break in the weather to make for plain sailing.
Baildon to Edinburgh, via the Dales, North Penines and Kielder Forest.
220 miles/saddle time 6hours.
I set off early, this took me out into my back yard The Dales, I know the roads pretty well and where I was going, first stop a little tea room tucked away in Grassington, the pinnacle of a Dales town, think stone built houses, cobbled streets and coal fires. I parked up to grab a bacon roll and a coffee, it’s less than an hour away but I wanted to start right, take breaks and take my time and I’m glad I did. I met 3 locals, all of which were riders. They guessed I was touring and they were very interested in the bike, given the styling and that I was mad enough to take on the tour on a 125. One said to me, “I bet you’re buzzing thinking about the tour ahead, but not to worry and enjoy it, you’re only just getting in to all of this, this will be the first tour of many”, and wished me well on my way.
Next stop Kirkby Stephen, the furthest I’d been on my bike. From here the riding just got better and better. The route from Middleton on Teesdale to Alston is incredible. Cracking views, very fast and smooth corners and a lot of down hill sections. If you are in the area or passing by this is a must! After this was the long stretch through Kielder forest and the long haul all the way to Edinburgh on the A68. This was for me the longest stint of the ride, 65mh all the way for about one a half hours. It felt a long way, it was a long way, my rear end knew all about it!
At this point I still loved the café for getting me here but something would have to change with the seating arrangement. I pulled up at my B&B, parked up, booked in and headed into Edingburgh old town for a well deserved meal and swung by Deacon Brodies for a pint. I met a couple from Holland there, who’d flown over and hired a car to tour Skye and the Highlands and were on their last day before returning. I told them of my adventure just beginning and about to embark on the same journey they had just completed, I could have been there all night with them filling me in on all the best bits.
Edinburgh to Skye via The Cairngorms & Inverness.
291 miles, saddle time 6hours 45mins.
First priority was finding a quick fix for my rear ends comfort, luckily it was quite a warm day so I folded up my fleece and a spare shirt and sat on that, relief had never been so welcome and would have to do. Day two was the longest slog of the tour. I knew how far it was and that rain had been forecast on the West coast, so I planned on just getting to Inverness then deciding whether to press on or not. Having a plan B is always a good idea. Getting out of Edinburgh was a breeze, I was certainly impressed when going over the Fourth Road bridge with a great view of the Fourth Rail bridge and the newer bridge that’s been built, a feat of engineering on a vast scale. The only drawback was the wind. Long exposed bridges on a light 125 is a bit touch and go, but I soon loosened up and got used to it. I’d have too as that was the first bridge of many to come. From here I headed north through Dunfermline and the lowlands to get onto the A9. This is not a fast road as everyone is using it, very smooth and has beautiful scenery of the Cairngorms.
After a few stops I arrived in Inverness. It was here I called the wife about whether to press on or not, it had been on my mind for a while now knowing of the changing weather front coming in. We both agreed I can’t turn back now and having always wanted to go to Skye, I wouldn’t be turning back. I took the A832 high road through the highlands and had pretty good weather until the last stretch to the coast. The closer I got the more the cloud descended until I was riding through cloud. For the most part I was totally alone in the mist, which was a comfort, as a car right up behind me would not have been good. As I descended towards the coast the road surface became greasy and I was starting to really pull back and pay attention to the changing conditions. I was noticeably much smoother and easier through the corners not knowing how much grip there was out there and trying not to tense up.
It felt an age, holding on tight and not blinking for a second before reaching the coast and spotting the bridge over to Skye. I pulled over to take a break and grab a can of Red Bull. Getting this far was a real achievement mentally after the last stint. By this time the fog had really lifted and as I headed up and over the bridge to Skye, which is much steeper than it looks gave me a great sense of where I was. My overnight stop was only an hour up the road, through the winding coastal roads and up through the Cullins all steeped in mist, it was very mysterious and a great end to the longest and toughest day of the tour.
Home of my fathers – Skye to Prestwick, via the Talisker Distillery & Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
253miles/saddle time 5hours 50mins.
Leaving Skye was better than arriving. The weather had cheered up I was set for a cracking ride back south and towards the Ayrshire coast. Heading back down through the Cullins I met two Yanks from Seattle, one of their daughters is studying at Edinburgh University so had flown over to visit. They hired a car to tour the country having heard so much about it. One of them owned a Triumph Bonnie back in the states and thought mine was a 250, until he took a closer look and gave me, “Is that a one twenty five”, in that classic American tone, “holly shit!”. Lovely guys, they were in total awe of Scotland and couldn’t get their head around the natural beauty of the place.
Next stop Carbost, home of Talisker, some of the best single malt whisky in Scotland. In my mind the trophy of the tour was always to get to the Distillery at Skye, I’d planned to take home an 18 year old but having compromised on space I had to throw out 2 shirts previously worn and take the bottle out of the box to fit it in. For any whisky drinkers out there, this is a superb bottle and currently my favourite.
I can’t recommend the Isle of Skye enough, it literally has it all. If you are within a day’s ride of the place, it’s absolutely worth it. When leaving the Island I had to stop just to take it all in.
Home bound – Prestwick to Baildon via the Lake District and the Dales.
200 miles hours/Saddle time 5hours.
Leaving Prestwick I encountered my only problem of the tour. The chain had started to feel loose, especially when downshifting through the gears. I thought given how far from home I still was I’d better get it sorted fast so thumped in service centre of my phone and found a little unit tucked away just round the corner. The guys were a little surprised to see me, they were tuning up Subaru Imprezas for racing, I rolled in on my 125. I explained the problem and one of the lads grabbed his spanners and fixed me up and told me I was mental for doing the tour, but wouldn’t except payment. I had a Scottish tenner on me and gave it him for beers, as I had some serious miles still ahead of me and would have been right in it had the chain snapped. Once fixed up I was back on the A76 heading for Dumfries and the border crossing at Gretna. Once past the border I really felt that the outbound adventure was coming to an end and the homeward trip had begun. With that in mind I planned a quick de tour through the Lakes, be shame not too. Keswick to Kendal on the A591 is a beautiful route. Thirlmere, Helvellyn and Lake Windermere apparently rival some of the lakes in Switzerland. I’m not saying that they do, but I’ve been to Switzerland and I get where the saying comes from. I stopped at the Travellers Rest Inn for my last stop of the tour. I took my time trying to recall quite how much I had taken in and how much I had crammed in over the last 3 and half days. When leaving the pub I noticed a couple with the classic Harley Davidson ENGLAND jackets on so knew I was in for a treat getting back to the car park. Here is where I found the answer to my seat problems. I knew Harleys were bad for shaking like a washing machine and noticed he had a gel pad strapped to his seat. How I missed this when planning the trip was at that point totally beyond me. But I now know if taking on such a tour again, I’ll be having one of those gel pads, as with that I’m confident I could be hitting up to 300 miles a day no problems. A quick dash through the dales, I missed out Ribblehead mind being just up the road from me, then last stop… Home, engine off and lock up…
Like the guys in Grassington said to me when I set out right in the beginning, “You’re only just getting in to all of this, this will be the first tour of many”. He couldn’t be more right. I’m already thinking about the Forest of Bowland and there’s potential for a southern road trip back to my home county of Berkshire and maybe even the east coast of Scotland up to Wick if the wife will give me the time off!
It’s been great wring this blog, I couldn’t recommend touring on a 125 enough, such a great experience and has added a massive confidence boost to my riding.
Ride safe guys!