by Dave Yorke
FOR every rider documenting their epic rides on YouTube or posting photos on social media of faraway places, there are thousands of us making plans for more achievable dreams.
Riding around the world is a dream that, if we are honest, is only achievable if you make a fundamental change to your life, either through a determination to change or financial good luck that enables you to take a step back from the norm.
For the rest of us, a big trip to the European mainland or the far reaches of the UK are what we plan for, once or maybe twice a year. Life gets in the way, unfortunately.
But what if you make a decision to just extend your normal ride at the weekend or do your first track day. What’s stopping you?
I was out walking the dog the other day when I stumbled across a guy who had just walked about 80 miles in two days. He was drinking a coffee from a flask and explained how he had taken the train halfway along the Trans-Pennine Trail and was simply walking home. He inspired me – and I thought of a ride that I did last year, just because I could.
To get to the start of the NC500, Scotland’s famous scenic route, in Inverness is a 380-mile trip for me but, as with our walking friend above, it’s only a barrier if you let it. Anyway, a 6:30am start from junction 27 of the M6 made for a quick motorway blast to Lancaster before starting to travel on the back roads towards Carlisle. Crossing the border, travelling north on the brilliant B7076, (it runs alongside the M74 and is mostly both national speed limit and devoid of traffic) saw us in Lockerbie for breakfast.
Back on the road, easing past Edinburgh and flying through Fife on the motorway put us onto the magnificent snow roads scenic route through the Cairngorms for a leisurely lunch in Braemar.
The names on the signposts were flying by now -Tomintoul, Grantown on Spey, Inverness and then the A9 north. I could still smell the seaside as we approached Helmsdale before we landed at the famous John O’Groats signpost for a photo deep into the evening.
A cheap hotel in Thurso, a well-earned pint and some pub food were reward for near on 550 miles, as well as some pub reminiscing of the day’s travels.
Homeward bound in the morning: Durness, Kylesku and on to Ullapool. The road from Durness to Ullapool is probably my favourite road in the UK. After the first single track section it opens to a good stretch where the pace is gained by focusing on your lines, and positioning is only blunted by the sheer magnitude of the scenery.
This was the first time I’ve ever ridden straight through Ullapool without stopping, carrying on for a run down the side of Loch Ness, which was made much easier by overtaking a coach which was holding all the cars up. Their inability to overtake the coach left a long line of cars following on the twisty roads; we were able to take advantage of our better acceleration for overtakes.
Patience, observation and planning are great friends of smooth riding. It’s one of the first things I learned on my advanced police course and it has stood me in good stead ever since. The right clothing helps too: it takes away fatigue by keeping you dry and warm, or cool and vented. It keeps the mind focused.
Fort William leads to Glen Coe, the wonderful emptiness of Rannoch Moor and then the A82 down to Glasgow. I hit the motorway home after that – and got in late.
There’s a school of thought that says that by covering such big miles in so short a time I didn’t get a chance to see Scotland. I did see it though – and I only had two spare days anyway. As a plus, I was able to practise corners and bends: they’re my favourite part of advanced riding, on some of the finest roads there are. It doesn’t have to be Scotland if you’re limited on time, it just has to be different to what you normally do. It doesn’t matter if you use some motorways to achieve your aim either.
If you go to a tea stop every Sunday, you’ll know that road pretty well – where the best overtaking spots are, what the best line through a corner is; you’ll have favourite parts of it. It’s a bit like never getting a second opinion on your riding – sometimes, familiarity breeds contempt.
Come to think of it I don’t get to Scotland often enough. I might need to go back – it’s all training, you know. Well, that’s my excuse. “Two days, 1150 miles” is quite an answer to the old Monday morning question, “Do anything over the weekend?”.
Dave Yorke was an advanced and VIPEX police rider, trading his police bike in for a pen. You can find his reviews on bikes, kit and other things on Bennetts Bike Social. He’s @TheDriveRide on Twitter.