There is a saying 'You can never go home', in the sense that a return journey can often be a let-down. Last year's BTB.C Scottish was probably the best UK trip I had ever been on, and deep down I knew that it would be unwise to raise my expectations that it would be as good. For a start, there were far too many riders! With approximately 30 names on the pre-ride list it would be very hard to marshal everyone and keep the average speed up, also there was no way a small village like Applecross could put us all up. How wrong I was.
Don't wanna be all by myself
As always, I am loath to travel the M6 North alone, knowing full well that I will be returning within a few days barely 5 metres to the right. No amount of on-bike gadgetry can get you through monotony like that. A GPS is a fantastic tool, but keeps coming up with glum figures like DIST TO NEXT 447.7km or ETA 4H33M and being the sort of chap who could never take up fishing or matchstick-modelling, it is definitely a disadvantage. The only option open to me was to negotiate Bank Holiday Friday traffic up to Sheffield, meet up with Carl, John Burkinshaw and Dennis, and travel up across the Pennines to a cosy pub a few miles South of Penrith. And very nice it was too!
Dennis the Menace
Dennis led the ride over, with a little help from John, who noticed that we had passed the same sign to Keighley twice! The journey was notable in its wear and tear on my backside, having Dennis as nominal leader ensured that average speeds were 'sensible' ie National speed limit ± 1 mph, but also him being a non-smoker meant that Carl and I were absolutely choking for fag stops! Part of the route led us through the blue remembered hills around Hawes, of recent C2C fame. Due to the F&M outbreak, there were also a quite fantastic number of disinfectant mat drive-thru's. It would appear that nearly every farm in Northern Britain has been stripped of carpet to make them. Carl has never received the 'red carpet' treatment before, and was getting big -headed about it by the time we reached the aptly named Queens Arms at Askham, which we had booked up some weeks before. I was later told that the weekend prior to this, Carl had visited the pub to sort rooms out, and nearly crashed on a disinfectant mat on the way back!
First priority was to get a pint in at the bar, within a few minutes Dave (Blondie) and Steve (Darkie) arrived, swiftly followed by Ray and Cath on their VFR and Dave Spencer, who was booked in at the nearby 'Punchbowl Inn'. We arranged to tidy ourselves up, have another pint then go to see Dave at his place before we ate. However, once we had changed it was nearly 8-30 and the landlord advised us that they stopped serving at 9-00. Dave was forgotten, not for the last time that weekend, so we ordered some food and sat tight. Carl and I, being first to book rooms, had the choice and opted for the 'Lowther Suite' - Carl gallantly blagged the four-poster, and I was relegated to an enormous double in an adjoining room. At least we didn't have to go homosexual and share a bed like John and Dennis!
Roll out the barrel
The food was home-cooked and absolutely great, and even better because Carl paid for it! Dave arrived later, slightly miffed that we had apparently forgotten him. We settled him down with a drink and he soon forgave us. We had planned to get a good nights sleep and be fresh for morning, but what the hell, we were on holiday. Dennis was sent to bed early because he decided to go an unhealthy 'Magnolia' colour after way too many pints.
My 'insurance policy' - in the form of a standard set of motorcycling earplugs was a wise bedside companion. Fat Boy Slim 'The Volume Dealer' kept the snoring levels up to the usual colossal dB. So much so, that the celebrated ghost of the weeping lady that haunts the Queens Arms failed to materialise!
Video killed the radio star
The morning, which started for me at 5 AM, (thanks Carl!) was bright, clear and sunny. I ran most of the hot water off as a punishment for my portly companion and dressed in my finest black motorcycling apparel. My gloves and boots were toasting on the radiator and I had a chance to try out my latest acquisition, a mini DV video camera with AV-in terminals. With this contraption I was able to use a remote micro camera, no bigger than a half-box of matches. I used this to film the snoring beast of the four-poster, and investigate some of his more unsavoury aspects for later blackmailing use.
By 7AM the hotel was coming to life, the rest of the contingent started to stir and we eventually gathered outside in the sun for a cough and a photo. A huge Lakeland breakfast later, and we were shimmering in the heat and itching to go. So much so that we forgot Dave Spencer AGAIN! -He must have been thinking very bad things when he rolled up five minutes later to find us gone.
It was a very short ride indeed into Penrith, and on arrival we took a short detour to refuel, and more importantly, don our shades. There was a sudden roar of a big twin, and a partially camouflaged youth semi-wheelied into our midst. This had to be Adam Atkins. The standard of wheelie-ing would improve over the weekend, with a bit of Paul Clarke masterclass, but the state of his bike didn't. I felt like mentioning that his panniers were perilously close to his Laser exhaust, but the devil got hold of my tongue.
The gathering of the Clan
We each filled up with a few measly litres and paid our £12 or so each for the privilege, then the small herd of BTB's headed North again for a few miles to the meet-up point at Southwaite services. We were looking forward to arriving so early and refreshed, there was plenty of time to meet everyone and have a good gossip before the sensory deprivation of 100 miles of 80 mph motorway. Adam raised a laugh as he removed melted pannier material from his exhaust, and taped up the remains with some gaffa tape. All the Bigtrailbike gentry were there and then some. It is always great to see new faces, I can remember my own first ride-out with the club, and it was a fairly daunting experience to meet so many excellent motorcyclists with such a shockingly good sense of humour. A naïve person would start spluttering about 'cliques' and write the whole thing off as a small club getting too big for its boots, however, within a couple of hours these virtual strangers were fitting in, being looked after and no doubt wondering if they would ever be able to keep up! Lazing around chatting on beautiful sunny Saturday mornings can be a very soporific affair, so it was all a mad panic when Big Paul boomed out the customary 'Two Minutes!' - helmets were going on without earplugs, gloves were dropping on the ground and it was a wonder nobody fell off as we rumbled by the shaven-headed dodgy-looking Paparazzi (Ó Tony Challice) with his over-large DV camera.
It took about 15 miles for the group to settle down to agreed positions, as is usual in large groups, there was much jockeying for place and some of the less experienced riders were forgetting the usual courtesies of the road. I settled back with my feet up on the engine bars, enjoyed the fresh air and took a few photos.
A short while later I had a brilliant but stupid idea, to overtake everyone, ride like mad for ten miles, then get off the motorway and film everybody riding past. This would have worked OK if I had maybe ridden for 60 miles at top speed, as no sooner I had stopped the bike, got the camera out and climbed the bank, 'Roar, roar, vroom, etc' - I was just in time to film back-marker Bob Baybutt!
Oh joy, the services just before Glasgow and a nice fag stop! Surely Carl will have realised by now that Paul and I are only his friends for the free cigarettes. We have often mused about how much we would like Blez if he gave us fags! Happily, there was no repeat of last years speeding ticket crisis, so after the requisite amount of time to fill the capacious tanks of the bikes, we set off again towards The Erskine Toll Bridge and the delights beyond. In the dense Glasgow traffic and smoky tunnels I gave the first practical lecture on that other essential Big Trailie skill (apart from wheelies and single-handed cigarette rolling) the kill-switch backfire. My young acolytes, Dave Spencer and Adam were treated to a demonstration by the master. To those who don't know, it involves turning off your kill switch with the throttle partially open for a second as you pass a car or other victim, then turn back on and enjoy the effect. It certainly wakes up dozy drivers, and has been known to frighten grannies (ask Robin about Barmouth) I am totally addicted to doing it at every opportunity, and despite dire warnings about valve damage etc, will continue to do so. Please note that you can't do it on a BMW (or anything else for that matter), because those boring Germans have programmed the fuel-injection mapping to cut the fuel off instantly if the kill switch is touched.
Gimme some HeadCam
Anyway, I digress, the weather picked up even more as we joined the A82 Loch Lomond road, we paid little heed to the gridlocked cars queueing for the cross-border disinfectant mats and before long we were at the small café that we used last year and proved to be so accommodating. We had a good long stop, and I swapped lids for the Roof flip-up that I had been carrying in my tailpack. No ordinary helmet this, a cunning quick-release mount on the side secures a special bracket for a mini-DV camera. For the first time in history the BTB.C were going to be filmed at high speed by 'HeadCam'. I was so excited I let Fraz sight the bloody thing in for me (it's got to point in the direction you are looking) but he cocked it up, and the first 20 minutes was all sky and trees.
Nevertheless, by mid-afternoon, it was getting some seriously good footage and even spent half a dangerous hour on Mr Clarke's bonce. There is certainly some twisted logic whereby a £1000 camera is strapped to a helmet with a £2 brain inside!
Cars and girls
At Fort William the group was split up for a while due to confusion over which petrol station to meet up at. Carl and I had already refuelled, so we carried on with a couple of others to a nice little layby overlooking Glen Garry, where we could get in a nice loooong smoke. A carload of young girls rolled up, so we spent a good while leering at them as the other BTB'ers arrived. Fraz began another of his wearisome interview sessions with us, and we tried to ignore him.
The scenery was changing by the mile, and becoming even more rugged and beautiful. The clarity was amazing, and every mountain that we didn't see last year seemed bigger and more forbidding than we had ever imagined.
The Ultimate Driving Machine (1)
As predicted, the BMW's were taking advantage of superior power and higher top speed on the long, empty straights. Africas and Transalps run out of steam at about 105, so we never saw the master race much on the superb road toward Kyle of Lochalsh. Robin, Dave, Adam and myself bided our time and waited for the great leveller, the Bealach na Ba (and every other narrow Scottish road with bends on it!)
We refuelled again at Inverinate. With a Bank Holiday looming, it was wise to fill up whenever possible. A lot of us had ice creams and Carl and I managed to get a bottle of the honourable leaders favourite holiday tipple, Amaretto, for use later.
'There can be only one!'
Back on the road again we passed the lovely Eilean Donan castle, of 'Highlander' fame, which I never realised had been completely rebuilt at the turn of the century. Within a couple of miles we turned off on the superb road to Loch Carron and our ultimate destination for the day, Applecross via the BTB.C playground. Before very long we were assembled by all the warning signs at the foot of the Bealach na Ba, (the ones advising learner drivers and caravans not to attempt it). A natural pecking order exists, which allows Paul, John , Dave Edge and Robin to go first but bugger me, Fraz joined this fray of skilled motorcyclists. It's all gone to ratshit now, even Dennis butts in in front of Mad Harry Nuttall aka 'Hurry up Harry', so I tuck in behind.
Within a couple of miles, the man who used to partially rule the road when he rode Africa's was making himself wide and holding us all up big-style, so I pulled over to clean the lens on the camera and got back in behind Dennis again, chasing him hard to the summit. By this time, Fraz had thankfully pulled over at the second hairpin, and was in Paparazzi mode again. Sadly, the gate was locked to the transmitter station, so there were no high-altitude japes, but the views and scenery from the car park at the top were utterly awesome.
Welcome to Applecross
A simple 5 mile gravity-assisted roll down the hill and we were parking up at the Applecross Inn for our first night in Scotland. Nothing appeared to have changed at all since last time, and we were obviously very welcome as far as the villagers were concerned. It is a very quiet and secluded life up here, and everyone remembered us from our last visit. Someone had even taken the time to write a message on the chalk board for us. We were going to have to behave ourselves for a couple of nights!
We eventually were allocated rooms for the night, many of the group being accommodated in outlying guest houses and farms etc. I was placed in Room 3, Paul was in Room 1, and Fraz was between us in Room 2, with only paper-thin walls to separate us. The food at the Applecross Inn is mostly fresh seafood and local produce. Carl and I opted for large shell-on garlic prawns, of which we got about eight each the size of my thumb, followed by gammon steak. The seating was a bit cramped with so many of us in there, but we managed and the fun went on 'til very late.
Fraz went mad at Robin and co for using his bike as a drinks table, he moved it away and it became the focal point again.
Paul and I received an audio vibratory massage from the Gloucester Old Spot in Room 2 most of the night. Perhaps he doesn't know, but you can get an operation done to prevent snoring like that.
A Question of Snort
The night was a predictably restless one. I couldn't find my earplugs amongst the vast array of kit strewn about my room, and ended up stuffing chewed-up bog roll in my ears to stifle the din of the late-playing band 'Rebels without Crofts' and Uncle Fester in Room 2. Sleep evaded me somehow, so I rose at 5 AM to look for mischief.
A set of aluminium ladders was conveniently placed at the front of the pub, so I moved them a bit and crept up them slowly to have a look in Fraz's room and maybe do some candid videoing. Unfortunately, as I went to get the camera, a car pulled up outside, and when I went out again, Fraz's window was shut and the curtains drawn.
I went for a wander down the coast for a bit and took some nice pictures of the mist clearing, and the morning sun on Raasay. By the time I got back, Robin was outside stripping his bike, as he needed to sort his tappets out. Eventually most of the gang were either leaning out of the windows or gathered outside talking and getting giddy about the day ahead. There was still a collection of dirty glasses on Fraz's saddle from the night before.
Paul was intending leading a group North 'as far as we can go'. Dave Edge and 'Bons' Cruisers' were having a crack at John O' Groats, and another small group was off on a trip to Skye. Lynne Edge was having a day off sunbathing, and I have my suspicions that Carl was planning a nice quiet day as well.
A Perfect Day
Most of the young and foolish ones, myself included, opted for the Paul Clarke option. By the time we were ready, the sun had fully risen, and it was threatening to be a beautiful day. Our first section of heavenly tarmac was the coast road up to Torridon, - 'The Loop of Madness'. Within a few miles, the more gifted riders had vanished at God-knows-what speed, so I pulled over and videoed the rest of the group as they passed, then tagged along for a bit, generally admiring the scenery. However, Dave Spencer was pointedly filling my mirrors, so we upped the pace to something a little more suited to the road conditions, and this sort-of set the precedent for the day.
Fraz, ever a thoughtful and generous type, got us all to sign a postcard to poor old Manchester-bound Tony Bramah, he really missed out on this trip, and his larger-than-life presence was missed by all.
There followed a very exciting day of hard, fast Big Trailie riding. Wherever we went, it was at top speed following Big Paul. We had blue skies all the way, and almost every vehicle we passed pulled over. Almost, except for one 'people carrier' with blacked-out windows. It took four of us a couple of miles to get by, despite being in his mirrors, flashing lights and honking horns. As I eventually passed I couldn't resist a good loud shout at him! For the rest of the day, whatever routes we took were the usual mystery to me, my GPS faithfully recorded all the tracks, but I haven't downloaded them yet. We eventually reached our Northernmost point at a crossroads near the town of Newton, and from there it was more-or-less retracing our steps to Ullapool and back to Applecross.
The familiarity we had acquired with the roads started to breed unnatural urges to go faster, and for most of the afternoon Dave Spencer, Joe Nyman (Joan's Hymen) and myself gamely followed a hardly-trying Big Paul at, what seemed, breakneck speed. We all had a bit of a fright on the last bit, the 'Loop of Madness' - a sign warned of a left hander, which normally you don't bother about too much. This one was a right-angle and off-camber too. A large pink roofed house loomed up directly ahead of me, and several of the others, and it was all we could do to get round. In future, I have decided that if there is a roadsign, I had better believe it!
I eased off for the last few miles, the conditions were just too beautiful, and the camera was seriously needing to be used. I snapped a bunch of happy, smiling Highland cattle, and toddled along with helmet off. Barely two miles from Applecross, a small herd of deer crossed in front of me, and I managed to get off the bike, chase the stag and get a marvellous picture of him sat aloof in the heather. Perfect.
Food & Drink
The gang were sat enjoying the evening sun outside the pub, so I ordered myself a beer and one of the famous Applecross Inn prawn sandwiches - nearly a half pound of huge ones in delicious mayonnaise. What a fantastic way to round off a wonderful day of riding.
This was our last night in Applecross, so the party animals fed and watered themselves and some serious drinking started. I had to look after Lynne Edge, whose thoughtful husband Dave had left without money for the day. Ever the dutiful wife, she ordered sandwiches for him and the rest of Bons' Cruisers (including new recruit Adam 'on the right' Atkins) in case they arrived back from JOG too late for food. We tried to organise a film show in the TV lounge, but got fed up as nobody could get their act together to come and watch. Eventually the hardly-noticed closing time caught up with us, and we found ourselves being shuffled off to bed at about 1 AM.
We had a fairly late start, and huge breakfast, everybody was sad to say goodbye to the Applecross Inn, and we rumbled off into the vastness of the Scottish 'empty quarter' with a long day ahead of us. I often wonder what the Applecross people think when we have left, although they get many other regular visitors over the year, we must be quite a handful and a major headache to cater for.
The road less travelled
Nick Truelsen and I took up position on the first hairy corner to film and photograph the other riders as they descended into the perfect U-shaped valley down from Bealach-na-ba to Loch Carron. We witnessed the amusing spectacle of a woman motorist attempting to get Dave, Lynne and the Bons' Cruisers to REVERSE uphill so she could get by! Unfortunately, when we jumped back on our bikes to give chase, a slowcoach on a BMW was in front, making himself wide as usual, so we had to wait 'til we got to a suitable place to overtake - of which there is only one on that road!
At the bottom of the hill, we all set off at top rate back to Inverinate and the A87 Kyle of Lochalsh-Invergarry road. As always, the road was dry and fast. Everyone did it at his own pace, and I was particularly pleased that Dave Spencer followed me with the headcam for some of it - I hardly ever appear in my own movies, 'cos I'm always behind the bloody camera. Anyway, I'm on film and I didn't fall off.
As always, I stopped a bit farther up the road to pay my respects to the Commando memorial just above Spean Bridge (on behalf of a long-dead great-uncle) and caught up with the others a bit later in a stinky little tea & bacon sandwich layby just above Fort William. Big Paul was very naughty, he let a mini-banger off behind elderly Mr Crosland, and nearly made him jump out of his skin.
We were appalled at the speed of some of the loons racing up the road from FW, a couple of them must have been doing 140+ past us. A quick refuel at FW, and we jumped in behind a leather-suited R1 rider. Paul seemed very keen on some A-road action with this misguided soul, but as we approached the end of the '30' an oncoming motorcyclist flashed us and indicated that there was a hazard ahead. Unable to decide whether it was an unforeseen speed check, or the treacherously-placed discarded ratchet tie-down that was left lying on a corner, we followed this cautious type at an incredible 50 miles an hour for nearly 10 miles! Waiting for him to get going and pick up any speeding tickets on offer. Eventually the R1 turned off, and we got our courage back as we got on the Oban road.
Taking the P***
Lunch was at a small pub that we patronised last year on the banks of Loch Linhe. We ate some fairly humble fayre, and soaked up the sun in the garden. Fraz became quite dreadfully aroused by a naked female back, and busied himself with some covert filming, before continuing with his endless and fun-free interviews. He had amazed me and Dennis the previous day by filming us pissing by the road, and trying to get a shot from the front! Bearing this in mind, I had been thinking up ways to get him back, and had almost formulated a plan.
The Lost Boys
Shortly after, Robin and myself became detached from the main group by no fault of our own. We had stopped for fuel and went razzing on up the road. A couple of the others were stood by the road and just watched us pass! We thought they had just stopped for a wee or something, and they didn't wave or signal that it was the road to Ford we had just missed. We roared onwards until we realised our mistake 10 miles up the road by the first 'Glasgow 87 miles' sign. We turned back and took the only route to Ford that was on my map - on the wrong side of Loch Awe - the most beautiful of the Lochs. I did a quick check on our direction and figured getting to Ford would be good enough. Poor old Robin therefore missed out on the 'Right Bank' road - which is by far the best.
As predicted, the rest of the group were waiting for us at the pub when we rolled up. Nobody had fallen off or otherwise come a cropper like last year, which was a bit of a surprise really!
Dennis has shot an Albatros
We continued our Southerly course, eventually reaching another untried road around the coast via the aptly named Kilberry. Unfortunately the headcam was switched on, but I had inadvertently 'zoomed' and the field of view was lousy - consequently I missed THE perfect wheelie by the precocious Mr Adam Atkins, whose stunt riding had so improved over the weekend that Paul C remarked 'we're goin' to 'ave some fun with him in Italeh!' and a really fast and clever bit of disaster-prevention on a low-walled bridge by Robin. We enjoyed a fantastic ride in the company of 'Hurry-up Harry' and managed to get in a nice long fag-stop in a laybay at the end. - A fag-stop that lasted nearly half an hour in fact! Tim and Jill rode up to tell us that poor old Dennis had come a cropper on some gravel, and he was hurt. He eventually appeared with a scuffed-up bike and some very sore-looking forearms. Other than that, which was very sad to see, he was OK and could still ride.
Dennis where's yer troosers?
We rolled in to our digs at Tarbert shortly afterwards, and after showers etc I patched Dennis up with my first-aid kit as best I could. We stuck his jacket together with a few strips of gaffer tape as well. Whilst in the lavatory, I finalised my plans for the ideal vengeance on Fraz after the 'penis-filming incident' of yesterday.
It would appear that there are other enthusiasts on the male form! as I showered, there was giggling outside the shower window, so I generously turned the shower hose on the miscreants who squealed convincingly. As it turned out, I managed to soak Lynne and Paul, God knows what they were doing outside the shower-room window!
My holiday affair (2) Nearly in those pants!
Dave Edge had taken Bon's Cruisers and 'on-the-right' Adam to the Mull of Kintyre, they had quite an adventure on the beach, Dave got his bike stuck in the sand, and Mr Crosland nearly had a seizure pushing him out! Naturally Dave had forgotten to leave Lynne with any money again, so as the only gentleman present, I was honoured with the company of a non-paying dinner guest again. If only my wife Sue and Lynne weren't such good friends!
Perry Como is dead
We were all fairly knackered, so most of us went back to the digs with a bottle of Southern Comfort to watch a film show. I had a 20 minute clip of a stripper that we had hired for a dinner down in Ross, so that kept everyone entertained for a while. Next we found some of the really funny bits in the massive amount of footage that I had taken with the headcam. This, along with the exceedingly herbal atmosphere in the sitting room (we were having a Perry Como evening) got us really giggly, and we retired very late indeed. Those who were there may recall:
· Pauls 'face in the mirror' shot
· Rob McGraths Land Speed Record attempt.
· The shout
· Billy-Bob, Fraz's country bumpkin nephew with the crazy teeth.
When I got into my bunk-bed, it swayed so much and looked so dangerous that Neil thought it best that I slept on the couch in the sitting room. This suited me fine, because Robin was doing the honours in snoring that night, and I thought that only obese people did it!
Oh God, will it ever end?
I awoke the sound of an embarrassed lady trying to quietly move the glasses we had used in our drinking session - they were apparently for our breakfast fruit juice! I explained why I was on the couch and surreptitiously moved the full ashtray away from view with my outstretched foot. I dressed and nipped up to the 'Eagles Nest' where Paul C and Dennis were watching Rob McGrath video a disgusting slumbering sight in the top bunk - Carl Blackburn, you are a disgrace and you need to have the operation immediately, or you won't have any friends!
Remembering my plans from yesterday, I retrieved my video from downstairs and rigged up my device of vengeance in the WC. I taped a micro surveillance camera to the window latch and ran the leads invisibly outside, removed the curtains and wrapped the video recorder in it set to 'record' . Within 10 minutes it was in the can, literally! Mr Sill was the first human star of 'Crapcam' and Paul, Dennis, Carl and myself had virtual epileptic seizures viewing the results. Luckily it is all head and shoulders stuff, but you definitely know what he's doing!
He obviously got wind of it and pouted for the planet going on about his 'human rights' etc at the breakfast table.
Waxing lyrical now
Well, this was our last day in Scotland. A few well-chosen roads and we were at Otter Ferry munching Mediterranean-inspired salads and fresh fish in beautiful sunshine. What an idyllic end to a great weekend. This is what it's all about, an experience to dream about and sustain you during all those evil winter months ahead and the best thing is, it all eventually comes true when you return again.
The tale is not over yet. As we left Otter Ferry, one last mad ride to the ferry port awaited. 'Hurry-up Harry' ran out of road at the bottom in a cloud of dust - he ended up 30 metres up a farm track. So, it happens to even the best of us.
Goes on and on
The ferry ride to Greenock was the official end of the holiday, and a bit like a scene from a Cliff Richard film really! We were all a bit blissed out, and maybe didn't fully appreciate the ordeal of the gruelling motorway ahead. Paul gave a little speech, and we all politely clapped. Fraz thanked us all for being such good video-subjects, and I suppose that's the last we ever see of his film! but I know for sure that 'Crapcam' is going to be a big hit on the Internet before very long!
A quick refuel, a big shaking of hands, a few waves goodbye and I settle down to the busy motorway with Adam for 90 mph company 'til Birmingham. Looking at the GPS it reads '597.5 km to home'. Great.
It's now been over 48 hrs since I returned from the Scotland trip and certain memories and stories are starting to get exaggerated to my bored to tears non-biking mates, whilst others are beginning to be forgotten. What I can remember is this............. I'd been really ill all week for the lead up to the trip. I had caught a real knock out flu cold thing from my mum. I don't normally suffer from colds or any rapidly spreading office bugs but this one blew my head off. Off work, in bed, a very poorly soldier indeed. I knew it was bad enough for me not to be going at all, even though I had a new bike with all the gear and had waited ages for the off. I took all sorts of crazy mind bending drugs in a bid to rid me of this disease. Anyway, as those of you who attended will know - and in fact those that are now reading this debriefing of Scotland will have probably worked out. I did go and boy was it good.
Friday morning I woke up and didn't feel as bad as I had done on the previous days. I was pretty excited about the trip and knew that if I could get on the bike and get moving, the sheer buzz of it all would overcome any negative feelings that I was getting from the bug. I'd read the Scotland report of old, and in fact watched the BTBC video from last year (didn't get the T shirt though). The report mentions Carl Blackburn's multiple nightmares last time round, in particular the "wheel bearings stop play" incident. My rear wheel bearings were a little dodgy and certainly had a little play in them so I decided to get them changed before I left. I have only ever changed a set of wheel bearings once before so decided that as I couldn't afford the time penalty that would result from me attempting to do the job and then having to fix the mess. I'd get the mechanics to sort out the work. I had arranged to get them changed mid week but was too ill to ride, so ended up riding over on the Friday morning before I left. This was cutting it a little tight to say the least.
I had spent quite a bit of time working out what to take and how to carry it. I did the C2C last year but Scotland was my first extended trip away with the BTBC and thus required a little more attention to detail in order to minimize stress and maximize comfort. I really didn't want an "end of" mechanical breakdown so had planned to have enough "get me to a bike shop" spares for any conceivable incident. I had overland Africa inner tubes that were huge and took up loads of room, a set of both levers and a set of both pedals - (I had foolishly conceived the idea of the spare levers and pedals whilst in a Honda bike shop and thus had ordered genuine Honda parts and been seriously stung for the pleasure -great), I also had a pretty good set of tools - not that I could do anything with them of course - I'm planning on learning to wield the shiny silver things on a need to know now basis! I loaded all my gear up and realised that it weighed half a ton. I then had a rearrange and dumped most of the emergency stuff like any sensible person would have - actually any sensible person wouldn't have bought all this stuff in the first place! I had a small baglux (or is it bagstar - the leather looking things) tank bag which contained important stuff like spare thick gloves, essential small tools, camera, notepad and pen, and disc lock. I then had a rucksack with really light stuff like maps and jacket liner. Finally I had a newish set of oxford sports panniers that I had acquired from this year's Ally Pally and had really worked hard on to get the best deal. These were on non-expanded and contained all my other things - not packed - just chucked in - with equal weights on each side. I must have spent about 2 hrs the weekend before the off trying to find a good position for the panniers where they didn't touch the exhaust and I wasn't sitting on one of the monkey butt inducing straps. The best I could do was about 1 ½" clearance on the right bag. "It'll be alright," I thought after a test flight the weekend before. How very wrong I was!
On the Friday I rode north through horrendous traffic. Progress was slow to say the least. At one point on the M1 I was getting tired after filtering through about 10 miles of traffic jams and very slow moving traffic - always a hairy time and especially when you have to concentrate so hard on the lunatic "gain one cars length by swapping lanes at very short notice" van and car drivers - so I decided to take my first stop. I rested and chilled out for a bit - didn't see any other bikers though. I then got back on the M1 and did 50 miles through the same type of traffic! I was really knackered now. The cause of my tiredness was the fact that somebody had decided to move a huge bridge contained on four massive trucks on a bank holiday Friday - absolute madness. The M6 was pretty busy too and I didn't really get up to a good cruising speed until I was well north. I arrived at the hotel about 7:30ish - the room was pretty nasty but it was a place to sleep.
I got up at a decent time on the Saturday morning but after the landlord of the place had spoken at me about F&M for 30 minutes I was running late. I got my stuff together and slung it on the bike. I was running low on fuel so asked directions to the petrol station. I had just finished filling up when I heard the roar of a gang of motorcycle hooligans approaching. It was some other BTBCers. I tried to wave at everyone and went round shaking hands and introducing myself. Apologies for this - but I can only remember Garty and Carl. I knew Garty because of his legendary all mod cons Africa Twin and I had briefly spoken with Carl on the C2C about the merits of those Touratech yellow bits that GS riders insist on spending huge quantities of money on! All in all though I guess we were now a 7 or 8. The others headed off as I smoked a fag, ate something or wasted valuable riding time in some other fashion. By the time I was suited and booted on the bike they were well gone. I got on the bike a roared off to catch them up. On the motorway the group was going pretty slow so I roared past them having a good look at each bike and rider and giving everyone thumbs up or a nod. I bet you were all thinking "cheeky southern git"! I was by now pretty excited about the trip.
We rode into Southwait services with quite a bit of time to spare before the really big off. I was first in, but managed to take a wrong turn and ended up in the lorry park (typical me, I cant even navigate a car park never mind the country - anyone with a GPS want to do the C2C with me? PLEASE!). I saw a way through the lorry park to the point where all the BTBC bikes were and roared off. As I grew nearer I spotted a 75th anniversary GS - I knew what it was because it was the GS that I was after when I tried to make up my mind between an AT and a GS a few months back. I drew up closer to it to have a look and its rider Paul Crossland kindly informed me that my panniers were on fire!
There then followed a mad few moments as introduction time was abandoned in favour of putting out my luggage! I very nearly burnt my jacket as I tried to free the bungeed on bags (cheers for saving my clothing and luggage Paul!!). I managed to get the bags off and patted out the glowing, ever expending red ring that was devouring my bags like Sharkie devours burgers!!! (Last sentence copyright of Andy Chain Snapper - just liked the mental image that that conjures up - used entirely without permission - cheer mate!)
A few people chipped in and offered bungee's and straps, advice on how to sort the situation out and held my hand as I tried to rectify this nightmare. Lots of gaffer tape - so glad I took it along, especially as it was a last minute thing. Gaffer tape and cable ties - always take them with you - everywhere. Retrospectively, my burnt luggage was the best thing that could have happened. I had bonded with a few of the BTBCers in an unrequited disaster type scenario - like a tiny scale shipwrecking! It was also good to have a story so early on in the trip. My lesson had been learnt and that's what counts.
The trip North was pretty good. Even though we sat in Convoy on the Motorway for quite a while, I enjoyed checking out my newfound brothers and sisters bikes and generally larking around. I got pretty close to the front of the pack so that I could look around and see how far the line of BTBCers stretched - and I can now reveal that 25 or so BTB in convoy is a pretty impressive site. I found out later that its better to sit at the back of the pack and look at the reactions of the car drives as 25 giant loud (well mine and Fraz's anyway) bikes go whizzing past. It's cool seeing kids looking out the rear window and counting and waving as each bike goes past - it was also cool when the bus full of Swedish babes drove past exposing there bare chests at us (anyone who didn't come on the Scotland trip really missed a treat there!!).
Eventually we got somewhere and stopped for a while. Filled up with fuel, check the bandaged pannier was still knackered, smoked a few fags and talked to a few people. As I mentioned earlier, when I bought my current bike it was a big toss up (!) between a late nice AT and an early very used GS - so I took the opportunity of asking quite a few people their opinions on the matter and asking what the change over was like to a GS - in fact it was one of the most..... "TWO MINUTES". End of conversation, fag out, lid on, gloves on and all the other shenigans\rituals of getting ready for a blast.
Off we went again. I was very happy to be here. I wasn't sure of who had and who hadn't met before because of the instant ease within which one falls when entering the BTBC. Everyone has something to say on the matter of bikes, travel and lots of other shared common interest topics - from digital camera's to laser guided wheelie cut off devices (ooppps I wasn't supposed to say that - was I mate.) You can talk to whom you like and you can guarantee that your stories will be met with a great response and you'll become engrossed in their tales of woe and achievement. Its great!
After a while and after the scenery became so immense and breath taking that I was riding with my jaw open for most of time, we got to some twisty stuff - fastish A roads with a few big sweepers to get your brain computing into "Scotland A road" mode. At that point they were the best roads that I had ever ridden and I couldn't believe that they would get much better, but they certainly did. We stopped at a roadside Café that overlooks a loch. It was very nice and the sexily soft Scottish accented waitresses - and a waiter whose voice didn't quite do it for me - did a great job of feeding the masses. Good job Sharkie wasn't there though or we'd have been there all day! (Sorry mate - I wont do it again). The food was good and the talk was great. Discovered that John B knows a thing or two about Africa's as he rightly pointed out that the Marzocchi forks on the new Cape North are not the same as the ones that African Queens sell for £1250 a pair. The AQ ones are enduro and rally based whilst the Nordies are road based. Certainly put me in my place after I showed off my "incredible" knowledge boasting that I was waiting for a Nordies front end to turn up in a breakers and that I was having the forks. It was a stupid idea anyway.
I liked John B from the moment I met him on the C2C. He has a kind of reassuring aura that makes you feel safe - he also has an amazing memory as he knew who I was and we'd only met once before during the mass bundles that are the checks on the C2C. Well done for being cool John B!
I really can't remember much about the afternoon trip to Applecross accept for, of course, the Applecross pass. I also remember the road to Kyle with its boot scrapping fast twisties and bridges and amazing castles and views. It was to go down as a very special road later in the trip. The group had stopped for fuel on the Kyle road. It was Saturday and I didn't have a lottery ticket and the garage didn't have a machine. I know its very sad and that I shouldn't just spunk squids on the 14 million to 1 chance of pulling it off, but I've had one particular line since it started and I so want to race the Dakar after having John Deacon and Alfie Cox as my personal trainers for a year - that I couldn't be without it. The nearest place was Kyle itself and that was nine miles away. Ex Essex boy and jolly good laugh Joe, kindly pointed out the route - a straight blast and then back to meet at a smaller road off a junction - easy. I roared off at full speed, determined to get back with the group in time for the smaller road. I really gave the bike some stick on the blast - we were flying along and it felt like I was sitting on a missile. The Kyle road is really really good. There's one bit that's a very fast left-hander leading into a right handed and then another left hander (or it could be the other way round) - it's a cracker to take fast. Its an amazing feeling when you nail those bends at speed - I love it!
There was no traffic on the road and visibility was excellent - the road surface was good and I was going fast. I got the ticket from Kyle and bombed back. There's a castle thing on the Loch that looks pretty cool - don't know what it's called but I have a few pictures of it. I was hammering along at a very fast speed and as I flew past the castle I noticed Dave Edge sitting in the entrance on his bike. Maybe the others had gone and he had waited to show me the way? I slammed on the anchors and stopped about half a mile down the road - did a quick U turn and rode over. I then realised that Hurry Up\Fast\Dirty Harry was also there. It turned out that they had lost the main group and had been waiting here for a while. I told them where the main group was and we all chatted about GS's and riding bikes until a yellow 1150 hammered past piloted by our number 1 pathfinder. Dave, Harry and I got dressed up and on the bikes pretty quick and set off after them.
The road that leads to the Applecross pass is a good un for sure. It reminded me of the endless hours I wasted playing Gran Turismo and Colin McRae 2 on the PC and Play station (yes, I stand up as a sad individual and no, I don't have a girlfriend - but I'm working on that!). The road climbs and twists and even goes through a mad tunnel alongside another tunnel for a train - it feels like it's a twin road tunnel and you're going through on the wrong side. Nice. I made sure that I gave my bike a bit more gas as I entered (penetrated!) the tunnel just to hear my race can sing. I love it when you can feel the sound! I'm sure that little bald fat man, who spent a lot of time fending me off from my fun during the weekend by parking his yellow 1150 in my line, also did the same with his Remus can.
Eventually we took a turn off to the "pass". I'd seen a few pictures of last years Scotland trip and had seen the top bit of the pass, which, incidentally, we couldn't get to because of F&M or something. The video\pictures do not even come close to depicting this most hazarders of roads! As you enter the run a sign warns of the serious nature of this road and how learners and certain small fat GS owners should not attempt this road (you said you wanted some abuse mate! Is this enough or shall I go on? - That's verbal abuse to everyone else - just in case like!) - Actually I'm sure Fraz would have gone the other way round if it had been any easier (the loop/ring of madness - see later!!!!!).
The pass is a very tricky one, especially for a rider like me who is from the South (insert "Softy Southerner Jokes"). I have never ridden a bike in Europe and have only really explored the south accept for the C2C last year so had never experienced anything of this nature before. It's certainly a challenging road. The pass is pretty narrow with some serious hairpins along with a healthy dose of gravel. It also houses loads of sheep and then there are also a few larger big marble sized rocks thrown in for good measure. At one point whilst attempting to conquer this new riding environment I ran over one of the marble rocks whilst I was turning my front wheel, the front wheel slid out a little and panicked me a lot - luckily the bike handle the situation for me and we were off again with no more than a slight deviation of my chosen line. If I'd been on the edge of some of the big corners when that had happened it would have been a real nightmare. Heart raced faster than my engine for a while and then chilled back into the pace. I was still suffering from that bloody cold and my ears had a real problem with the popping thing, so much so in fact that they decided they didn't want to pop at all and I was left deaf in my right ear for the next two days!! For anyone whom I spoke with, sorry I came across as slightly retarded by not answering your question completely or competently and instead going off on mad tangents - I couldn't hear a thing and had to make it all up as I went along!! I don't think anyone really noticed that much though. Going back a bit from that ear ranting, the hairpins; Harry and I both had a problem with the hairpins - I found that I would come to an almost stop before turning in and blasting up - it was very slow in, and I would have liked to have seen how the better riders do that. So that was the Applecross pass and the end of day 1's ride. It had been totally brilliant and I loved every minute of it. Could it possibly get any better? Oh yes..............
Harry, Nick and I were all staying out of town as we had been the last to book - all the other buggers got to stay in Applecross about a seconds walk from the bar\hotel. We were out in the sticks. I had blagged a room for myself on the grounds that I was ill and didn't want anyone else to get it. Fair enough I thought and the others were most obliging. Our bathroom didn't have a shower it just had a very very large bath with what appeared to be an endless supply of hot water. All three of us had a bath (not together - better nip that one in the bud before anyone gets any ideas!) and there was still boiling but slightly green hot water pouring out. I summarised that it must be solar powered free electricity that heats water from the sea. I felt too weird about questioning our landlady on the source of her quite immense power source so left it alone. Incidentally, one of our household, and it wasn't me or Harry, commented on the similarities between our landlady and the weird shop keeping moor dwellers in "the league of gentlemen". It was true; there definitely were certain ostensible traits that were near identical. I thought this was so funny and such a great spot - it even had me laughing inside my lid on the mammoth Motorway drive home a couple of days later. Cheers Nick.
After breakfast we rode into Applecross in time for fags and bike banter before the days off. In due course we set off in a big line. I made sure that I was near the front, as I wanted to see how the really good fast riders handle this kind of terrain. I looked back as we rounded the bay at the huge line of headlights (all bar Harry who seems insistent on not using his headlights in the day time......."it's alright lad, I know were you are" "yeah but I haven't got a clue where you are mate and you're a lunatic!" was the exchange that took place later on in the weekend - maybes it so he can get that little bit more power out of his GS!). Enter the loop (ring sounds too sexually deviant) of Madness!!!!
If there was ever a road to scare you senseless and make you regret putting fresh pants on in the morning, this is it. It starts off all nicely and lures you into a false sense of security. "I can handle this with the big boys" you think as you coast along at a fair lick to begin with. But then it happens....... The road turns into a twisted dementor of hell as you ride the roller coaster of death that is the heart of the ring of madness itself.
PC, Dave Edge, Harry and John B left me pretty early on, even though I was already doing everything that I could do stay on the road. I saw a metallic beige tranny in my mirrors being ridden by that hell dementor-taming, master of the twisters, that is Robin Scott. God damn was he fast on the ride as I led us as a two around the ring. I was riding blind, as I had lost sight of the fast group - and that's not hard to do on a road that must be 20 miles long but contains about ½ mile of straight! I was very very scared for my life as you have no idea what lies over the next crest, but there was no way I was slowing down or risking any loss of face, I was in control of the situation (honest guv) and I was going for it as much as I dare and this time my heart was racing like the marble rock incident the day be for but continuously for the whole 20 smiley miley's.
To tell the truth, I was glad when we rounded a corner to find the express group sitting by their bikes, all chilled out with that "been here for hours" look on the faces even though you know they've pegged it out of their gear just for that glance! Actually I made that last bit up but still the madness was over and I had time to think about my cold, cough and incredible blocked ear again - should have kept going! I had misjudged the climate in the morning and was wearing far too many clothes, trouser liner and fleece - I was now sweating like a fat sow so quickly stripped off and de-linered before the next group arrived, which contained Garty and his helmet cam - didn't want to be on the next BTBC video in the buff!
This stop was longer than usual, as everyone had just experienced about 2 weeks worth of heartbeats in 30 minutes! I can't remember much about what followed until the Iron Butt group formed and I was silly enough to ride along with them.
At one of the many petrol stops a few of the group didn't need any petrol so decided to ride on ahead. I was one of the group along with Dave Edge, John B, Paul "Dad" Crossland and Dave and his tiger. Dave E started the run and we all followed down a twisty gravel track that had the occasional ¼ mile of spanking new gravel free tarmac to play on. The pace was pretty easy going and we were enjoying the scenery. The road went on for a while and we were all having fun. Then we stopped for Lunch. The main group took a while to arrive and when they did, the pub had stopped serving food. Whilst they were sorting out they're lunch we decided to bomb off again and take in a few more miles. It would have been silly not too with the weather being as good as it was. This time Fast\Hurry Up\Dirty Harry decided to join us.
After lunch the pace hotted up a bit. At one point we were all riding the same line down a fast sweeping mountain descent. It felt really cool and according to John B who was watching from the back, it looked fantastic. I really can't remember many of the roads that we rode that afternoon but they were all excellent. I have never ridden that far before - well certainly not on these kind of roads were you have to be completely mentally aware of everything for endless hours. It was brilliant fun and it goes down in my biking history as the best day ever!
I was the novice of the group by miles so benefited hugely from simply watching and copying the more experienced riders. I really feel that I took a lot away from the day. I have changed my whole riding style and it feels good. I still go too fast but I'm a little safer now. (Note: Crashed my bike 10 days after the trip! - That'll teach me for thinking that I'm good!)
John B left the group late afternoon to return to Applecross. He had gone back on the grounds that he was knackered and was losing concentration. I half wanted to go back with him, as I was really knackered too. John and I were the only ones on AT's, all the others were on GS's or Tigers. John and I had to really thrash our bikes to keep up. I didn't feel too bad about cranking mine up because I knew that John would be doing the same! Even though I was knackered I decided to stay on because I knew it would be a long time until I got a chance to ride like this again.
In the end we had covered 410 miles. We had done the coast 2 coast of Northern Scotland (Well kind off - if you accept a large river mouth as the coast). We had seen Loch Ness (something that I have wanted to do for ages) and had all really enjoyed the day's ride. The icing on the cake though was the sports bike (well RF900) on the Kyle road. I had already ridden this road when I went to get the lottery ticket the day before - I didn't know it, but I knew the right, left, right, bridge bit. As we approached the good bit that I kind of knew, we came up on the Sports bike. Mr Edge was first in the line so bombed off and dealt with the heathen quickly and effectively. I then got my moment of glory when I rode around the outside of him on a left-hander. The bike was cranked right over and I was leaning off it. I really wanted to twist my head around and give him a nod or take one hand off and give him a thumbs up but I was doing everything that I could to hold the line. Finally, to really rub it in Harry got him on the straight on his GS! I have no doubt that the RF900 rider will soon be a BTBC member after we had shown him that his sports bike had no advantage at all over a BTB on these roads.
Thanks to all for that days ride, I will never forget it.
I felt like I had just completed a triathlon by the time we got back to Applecross. All the others were drinking and eating and generally looking pretty chilled out. I looked so shagged out it was quite unbelievable. I was also buzzed up to the eyeballs from the days ride. John B bought me a drink for commitment beyond the call of duty - really it should have been me buying everyone else's drinks for allowing a youngster southern softie like me to tag along with the big boys for the whole day! I spent the evening chatting about bikes and stuff, mainly with Harry, Dave Spencer and Robin. I didn't sleep until 3 in the morning that night as I was so buzzed up. I kept getting up and walking down to the shore for "one last" special knock out fag but it was no good.
As per normal, the day started pretty early. I normally have a real nightmare getting out of bed in the mornings, but I was gagging for more of the same as the day before as soon as I woke up and sprang out of bed. It took a while to get moving as people were packing up their stuff and filling up with fuel. We crossed the Applecross pass in drips and drabs and all met up on the other side ready for the days ride. The weather was fantastic again and by this time I had a sunburnt nose - which is amazing for Scotland.
We set off in convoy and took in some good roads. I was riding along when suddenly there was a huge bang and the front end wobbled. I didn't see a thing. Later Tiger Dave confirmed that I had hit a large bird. The bird had flown right into my headlight and cracked it. I had to wipe blood off of the light when I cleaned the bike later. I felt pretty bad having killed a living creature - but I guess its just one of those things - certainly woke me up though! At one point the convoy came to some road works and had to stop at some traffic lights. There were a couple of sports bikes at the front of the queue and when we finally got the green light PC and Dave Edge bombed off to convert the Saracens. Apparently they were pretty good riders - on the straights! I didn't really see any of it, but from what I can gather the sporties had the BTB's on the straights but the BTB hammered the sporties on the corners - just a shame it wasn't on the Applecross pass or ring of Madness eh!
In the afternoon we took in a few narrow roads. The roads were great but very different from the fast sweeping A roads that I had "conquered" the day before. For the first of the afternoon's gravel roads I decided to take it easy and followed Lynn Edge and Co. Denis Eastwood shot past closely followed by Harry. I'm a big sucker for big jumps so was a little gutted when we came to a straight containing three big air jumps and I found that I was boxed in by my non-jumping counterparts. At the next break I half considered turning around and going back for them but it was quite a way and I didn't fancy riding into the BTBC stragglers!
After a few miles of A roads we came to another gravel track. This road frightened me so much that I'm scarred out of my wits just writing this! I'll certainly be leaving the light on tonight. PC was first down the track, I was second and Dave Edge was behind me. PC set off at an alarming speed and me, being competitive as ever, decided that I'd try and stay with him. The road was a little like the ring of madness in that it contained a few crests that hide the direction of the road thus giving you about a millisecond to follow the road as you jump the crest. The road was really strewn with gravel and I had multiple moments with the back going all over the place as I pinned the throttle trying to keep up with the charging yellow GS. I have a little bit of dirt experience but not really a lot and really didn't have a clue what I was doing on this stuff. I knew I had to keep the front planted so put all of my effort into that task and just let the back fly around when it desired. I find that sometimes, if I'm approaching a sharp corner too fast, I grab the front brake and my brain wont let me release it. Ander's was an eyewitness to this last year when I ran off the road in the C2C. It normally works out OK as I release the front at the very last minute and just make the turn. On gravel strewn roads though, it's a different mater altogether. Approaching a sharp corner, grab a handful of front not realising I'm on gravel. Front locks up and slides. I'm very scared and fear that I'll be off any second. Somehow manage to ride it out and release the brake just in time for the corner. I knew Dave Edge would have seen this and will be judging my total lack of ability so waved him past. I looked in my mirror and he's shaking his head - he's not coming past and wants me to keep going like this - he's trying to kill me! I slowed down a little after that and the only other moment was a slight deviation from the road on one of the corners - still, kept it shiny side up. We rounded a corner at one point, all going for it, and found a film crew filming what looked like some kind of country rambler's show. PC charge past, I then followed and tried to give the film crew a two fingers piece sign - I was concentrating so hard on staying on the road that I must have had very little CPU power left in my head to perform the simple task of giving a V sign and ended up sticking my fingers up at them! We must have looked like such a bunch of hooligans - but hey we were having fun and I for one certainly donated a healthy portion of this month's wages to Scottish fuel stations - so everybody's happy - except for the bewildered film crew maybe. I was pleased when this road was over as the front lock up gravel incident had really dented my confidence.
When we rolled up at the digs for the night it was still light. Mr Edge decided that it would be a waste to finish the day here so suggested that we might go a little further and ride until the sun went down. I'm terrible at navigating and for most of the trip just followed the person in front - I still have no idea where we stayed on that final night but I do know that the extended ride was to the Mull Of Kintyre. On this evening the group consisted of Dave Edge, Paul Crossland, Dave Tiger, Darkie, Blondie and myself.
We took in some great roads but its been a while now since I got back from the Scotland trip and I really can't remember any particular incident - what I do remember, however, is that as per normal the group was gunning it. On some of the wider roads I was riding the bike as fast as it would go and scrapping a substantial amount of leather off the toes of my new boots! On the ride back from Kintyre we covered something like 37 miles in 22 minutes. I was following Master Edge's every move, no braking for corners, down change if its really necessary and if by chance Dave showed even a glimmer of brake light I knew to pull the anchors on as hard as I could coz it was going to be a mad old corner! It felt like racing the isle of Mann and I would have paid good money to have helicopter film footage of us all going for it.
The highlight of this trip though was Dave Edges' decision to take the bikes onto the beach for a nice picture. Dave was first down the ramp onto the soft sand and I was second in line. I watched him ride down into the soft sand and stop dead, sand up to the axles with him still sitting on the bike with feet up. I looked around at the third man and we both agreed that we were quite happy to stay at the top of the ramp! It took 5 of us about 15 minutes of struggling to free Dave's GS - I made sure that I was cameraman for the incident as I'm not one for physical labour.
When we got back to the bed and breakfast\hotel\hostel the others went off to meet the main group whilst I smoked a bit of my tobacco to calm down from the thrash. I also spoke to dangerous brother number 3 for a little while. Andy was still suffering from the night befores over indulgence and had gone to bed at 20:30 - lightweight!
By the time I got to the pub to meet up with the others, the pub had stopped serving food and I was starving. Amazingly the Edge brigade had ordered some food for me and it rolled up just as I was about to start whinging about how hungry I was. What a top bunch of people!
A few of us remained at the pub until kicking out time. Dave Spencer was pretty hammered and we talked the time away yapping about bikes and playstation games.
When we got back to the digs, the others were watching Garty's helmet cam footage of the last few days and smoking away. There were quite a few giggly eye-watering moments as we watched the footage.
I had popped up a particularly good wheelie (through luck rather than skill) after noticing that Garty was behind me with the Helmet cam on. My wheelie was right at the end of the tape so I stayed up for half the night waiting for my moment of glory. The tape was turned off just before it got to the bit that I had waited all night to see - I would have to wait until the next morning to revel in my glory. I found out the next morning that Garty had forgotten to take the camera of zoom for that particular session and as such all he had filmed was my rear wheel and bits of the road. Gutted.
I woke up on the last day with a slight sense of dread. I had enjoyed myself so much over the past few days and now it was all coming to an end. The time had gone so fast it was unbelievable.
I had a fantastic breakfast and loaded up the bike with the rest of the BTBCers. It's been quite a long time since I got back and I cant remember much about the last days roads but I do remember one particular road. The BTBC posse pulled off an A road and waited for that little fat man on the yellow GS to position himself in some crucial place down the track ready to get some hot footage of the BTBC in action. My bike was heating up and the kind Mr Garty showed me how to pull the fan sensor wire off the radiator and ground it in order to manually kick the fan in. I sat there for a while cooling my beast down and then spoke to the big PC about the nature of the road. Paul and I are both big suckers for jumps and the mighty man kindly talked me through the approach to the biggest jump on the entire trip. I was quite excited by the prospect of being filmed performing big air.
Paul charged off down the gravely road at an alarming rate, and having learnt nothing from the day before's gravel experience, I set off in hot pursuit with the rest of the BTBC following. I had dangerous brothers number 2 and 3 right behind me on their black twins. The road was pretty good and there were a few little jumps. I was standing on the pegs for most of it. My mind, though, was concentrating on looking out for the big jump. PC had left me after a few minor moments so I was riding blind leading the dangerous brothers. At one point I rounded a corner on the wrong side of the road to find a large Volvo approaching at some speed. We both whacked the anchors on and I came to a stretching holt just in front of him. Without batting an eyelid at this near miss, I set off in hot pursuit of the big jump. Finally I saw a parked up yellow GS with the reg. FAT. The big jump was approaching fast. I was giving it quite a bit and as I stood up on the pegs ready for the jump, I noticed a very sharp left-hander right after the jump. Apparently Fraz could hear me screaming like a little girl as I rejected my jumping objective in favour of slowing down enough to get around the corner. I found out later that the little tosspot had parked up on the wrong rise and the big jump was after the nasty left corner. As a result I got about 1" air off Scotland's best jump. Always next year I suppose.
At the end of the track we came to a pub on a Loch with a nice little pier. I parked the bike right on the end of the pier and Garty got a real good picture of me - I'm blowing it up and it's going on my wall - cheers mate! After a break in which Dave Edge marked up our 410 mile blast on my Scotland map, we set off again. I was gutted now as I knew there wasn't much left of the ride. After a few blasts we eventually rolled up at the ferry port. This really signified the end of the trip, as it was Motorways and boredom on the other side. Fraz took the opportunity of filming our individual reactions to the trip whilst on the ferry and we all had a big group picture. I felt like crying, I was so sad to be leaving this great group of people.
I'm not sure of this, but I think of all the people who were travelling home that day, I had the longest ride. We rode as a group for a while, had a last break as a group, and then we split. I rode with Garty for the majority of the M6 and it was nice to have some company. At the next break we said our Goodbyes and Garty was off. I was alone again, a BTB in a sea of race reps ridden by overpaid under skilled lunatics. I left Glasgow at 14:00 and arrived home in straight flat roaded Essex at 22:00. The trip master showed that I had covered just over 2100 miles in 4 ½ days. I had no tyres left, no pads and the bike was over 1000 miles past its service point. Not bad for a softie southerner.
Well, What can I say here that will possibly do justice to the absolutely fantastic time that I had? As I stated earlier, I was a little nervous about meeting a group of people whom I had only ever communicated with via email. My fears were not justified in the slightest. Every single member of the BTBC with whom I spoke over the weekend was a fantastic, generous, down to earth person with so much to give that it was almost overwhelming. A few of the Northerners look like they'd rip your head off if you so much as looked at them but every single one of them was a truly great human being. I feel I have taken so much away from the trip with regards to riding skills, human communication and confidence. I can honestly say that it was the best trip of my life and I will never forget it.
My most sincere thanks to all the BTBC for making it a very special weekend with extra special thanks going to Paul C and John B for organising the trip and to Dave Edge and Co. for the riding lessons.
I look forward to meeting you all again on the next trip.
Adam Acky Atkins
Essex Boy and BTBCe