Wednesday, 17 June 2015

1800 on an 1800

Now if you've just read ‘eighteen hundred on an eighteen hundred’ you're on my wavelength.

IOM TT 2015

It’s been an absolutely incredible couple of weeks in the saddle. First up was the IOM TT 2015 visit to celebrate Lefty’s 50th birthday, which was superb. Followed the next week by a steady mooch up to Scotland to collect the northern collection of MancRider Café Racer Challenge Café’s.

I must admit I was a little skeptical of taking the Wing over to the IOM TT but as I'd sold the Fireblade between booking the ticket late last year and getting on the catamaran in Liverpool, there was very little I could do about the situation.  All I can say is “I was chuffed I'd chosen not to cancel the trip”. It was brilliant.

Now that's how you load bikes!

The trip over was horrendous as we set sail into one of the worst storms the islanders have ever experienced. They were even opening up church halls, community centres and large buildings to shelter the beleaguered campers already on the Isle of Man, the weather was so bad.

Luckily after a soggy walk into Douglas that evening for our dinner, we all woke to a gloriously sunny Tuesday morning. Up and out by 6.15, we were sat at the road block at the bottom of the mountain mile waiting for the police officer to move so we could start our first ‘Mountain Mile Ride’.

Come on Officer get out the way!

I got some great footage of the first ride over but will YouTube let me upload it? Will it hell!

Tuesday was spent circling the course, taking a detour at Creg-ny-baa back to Ramsey so we could circle the mountain mile a few times. All in all it was a very enjoyable day. Paul took us to a nice sea front café before we headed back to the SnoozeBox accommodation to freshen up. Then it was out and about in the TT Village that sprang up at the back of the start/finish grandstand for a bite to eat and a beer. Watching the TT competitors taking their bikes through scrutineering and later, practice laps was fantastic.

How much fun was that first lap folks?

Me, Lefty, Shiner, Paul, LBK & Ella
The MancRiders IOM TT 2015 Crew

Early doors on Wednesday I took off around the TT course and found I'd missed the others so I did what I do best, and spent the day exploring the island alone. 

I'm happy with that.

Paul being very knowledgeable about the Isle of Man took the others on a guided tour for the day. We only managed to pass each other once throughout the whole day. That evening the guy’s and Ella got stranded up the mountain after a fatal crash during practice. I spent the evening watching practice from the side of the grandstand as they had decided to start and charge £5 to sit in the grandstand, which annoyingly had been free the previous night.

TT Scrutineering. What a place!

Thursday it was back to real life with a bump but what a fantastic 4 days we'd had on the IOM. Would I take the Wing around the TT Course again? Why not, it was a laugh and to be honest I whooped and shouted with joy all the way round.

The Isle of Man 
What an absolutely stunning place to visit.

The weekend flew by and before I knew it I was mounting up again after seeing the kids off to school. It was 9.00 on Monday morning and here I was heading North once again. Happy Days.

My route north to John O'Groats took me via Moffatt, Breamar and Aviemore collecting cafes along the way. Reaching John O'Groats around 7.30 that evening I did no more, I carried on riding all the way back to Kendal via Loch Ness and Loch Lomond.

That's 40 Cafes, DONE!

I covered 990 miles in 19 hours putting me in my sleeping bag on the decking at 0500 on Tuesday morning for no other reason than, that’s what I fancied doing.




John O'Groats

As I’d missed a café up in Scotland I did no more, I had a shower then headed to the Filling Station Café for breakfast before riding back up into Scotland. Passing Loch Lomond in the daylight was far more enjoyable than the previous night's ride and the Green Welly Stop is a brilliant location to stop and refresh. I sat outside chatting to three locals who gave me the low down on the area and some of the best biking roads throughout that part of Scotland. Then it was back down to Kendal for a well earned night's sleep.



Wednesday I took a leisurely trip along the coast from Morecambe down to Lythm St Annes. Then back home just in time for a bite to eat before joining the Anvil MCC folks at the Smithy Bridge for Club Night and a couple of pints and good catch up on what we had all been up to over the past two weeks.


That’s how to enjoy, 1800 miles on the back of a GL1800 Goldwing.

Now if that’s not your kind of biking heaven, well all I can say is “You’re reading the wrong Blog!”

"We will remember them"

 So what’s next?

First up it’s Barton-Upon-Humber Bike Night on Wednesday the 1st July followed rapidly on Friday the 3rd July by the ‘MancRiders Ride Into Redwood’ to present the cheque to RED-AID on RED-AID Day at Redwood Secondary School.

Then we're off down south to take part in the first ever ‘Simply Bikes’ at Beaulieu on Sunday the 12th July. As it takes place on the Sunday, Jeannie and I will be making a weekend of it and staying at a nice little B&B on the south coast for the weekend. Obviously we'll be picking off the remaining 2 Cafes before the Special One Day Event plus calling in on Poole Bike Night just to make the trip really worthwhile.

That will leave me just Land’s End, Paigton Bike Night and Weston Bike Night to visit plus the last two One Day Special Events which are the Brackley Festivalof Motorcycling on 16th August and the very last One Day Special Event and final destination in the 50 MancRiders Café Racer Challenge Ride locations the RTTW 2015 on Saturday 3rd October.

 Here’s hoping to see you out and about folks, and remember….

“Ride well, stay safe because it’s a jungle out there”.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Wandering Around Wales

Has it really been a month since I sat here and told you about the MancRiders Café Racer Challenge Ride? How time flies.

Lake Vyrnwy in all it's glory

After a great holiday out at Casa deLilieRosa Jeannie and I were both feeling refreshed and raring to go. I’d already taken a cheeky little ride mid week up to the Scottish borders picking up the two most Northerly English Cafes and was buzzing at the prospect of a full weekend in the saddle.

Hartside Top Cafe

Kielder Forest - Cafe on the water

      Well when you are so far north, be rude not to.

My original plan was to head right to the top of Scotland on my own and bag the five locations up there. Starting with John O’Groats and working my way back into England but the weather was against me. After a quick look at the map and with Jeannie deciding to join me for the full weekend there was only one real area that stood out, Wales.

With a total of 8 cafes, 1 biker meeting location and the Bike4Life Event all within easy reach of Wales it was a no brainer.  A quick search using ‘Google’ for Biker Friendly B&B’s in Wales, up popped ‘The Biker Guide’ website.  I opened their mini map and spotted Ceredigion, which is over towards Cardigan Bay and mid way down, just where I wanted to base our stay. There were two places to choose from and as YTalbot in Tregaron had won the 2015 CAMRA Award for real ale, I booked the family room straight away. As fate would have it, Y Talbot is located just a few miles south of the Devil’s Bridge biker meeting location on the Challenge Ride. Something both Jeannie and I where very pleased about by the time we had finished riding 225 miles of A and B roads all the way from the Whistlestop Café Rhuddlan in the North of Wales.

So after packing the ‘not so Little Ones’ off to school on Friday we mounted up and headed out on our weekend ‘Wandering Around Wales’

The first 80 miles were quite boring, M62, M60, M56, A494 and then along the A55 to the first stop of the day the Whistlestop Café. As soon as we dismounted I spotted who I thought was the owner Barry but it turned out to be Pete, one of the main members of the Whistlestop MCC and a really nice guy at that. As we chatted about fundraising events, the Café Racer Challenge and a whole host of other events his club were planning this year poor Jeannie was being inundated by folk asking her all the usual GoldWing questions.

“So what do all these buttons do?”
“How big is the engine in that then?”
“Has it got heated seats?”
“Where’s the radio?”
And the one question, every single person asks.
“How much did it cost?”

Thank's for the donation Barry

Pete and I looked over and just grinned. Sorry Jeannie, I know you hardly got chance to take your lid off before the barrage of questions started. Something that as you now know happens every single time we stopped for fuel, a break, a bite to eat and even when we arrived at the hotel 9 hours later.

After a nice Full English for me and a Slimmer’s World Breakfast for J, I had a chat with Barry the proprietor who kindly donated a sew on patch for auctioning off at the end of the year to raise more funds for Red-Aid. We then headed south towards our next destination the Ponderosa.

I knew I shouldn't have eaten that cake!

Coffee, cake and sticker purchased we headed out. Now I didn't want to take all the usual roads down to Devils Bridge and so decided to take Jeannie to see Lake Vyrnwy, which was midway between the hotel and the Ponderosa. As it happened the sat nav decided to take us down what can only be described as a roughly tarmacked dirt track, much to my utter horror!

The ride was interesting to say the least but ‘Wow’ what fantastic road lay ahead.

After a 2-mile detour to see the lake it was off to Devil’s Bridge near Aberystwyth.

Cracking location

Now to say we were greeted in the café by the most unpleasant, grumpy waitress I've ever had the misfortune to meet is keeping it polite! Coffee, loo and away were the order of the day. We won't be calling in there again in a very long time.

The road to Y Talbot was hard work. I was starting to feel it after so many back roads and lanes. Turning the final corner into Tregaron and seeing the huge inflatable marquee in front of the hotel was a shock. Security guards and TV cameras surrounded the whole place. I was surprised we'd been able to book a room in the first place. There was a full-on televised Election Debate going on right in front of the hotel.

The B4343 - 18 miles of Bliss

As we pulled around the back of the hotel I headed to the very back corner of the car park. By the time I'd parked up one of the security guards was stood at the side of Jeannie. My heart sank, what now? I thought. I needn't have worried.

“Nice bike, have you come far? I've got a Kawasaki ZZR1400” The conversation was in full flow with Jeannie now able to hold her own after a full day of being quizzed about the Wing. I was well proud of her and what a nice guy. He even stopped chatting after quarter of an hour when he realized we hadn't checked in yet.

Best Biker-Friendly Hotel we've ever stayed in!  
Get's a 10 out of 10 from the Wandering Waltons

Walking into the Y Talbot we knew straight away we were going to enjoy our stay. The proprietor checked us in once we’d battled our way through the hordes of folks all with mobiles in hand comparing celebrity photos. Even with the election circus going on three stores below in the town square our room was silent.  The bathroom was tiled from floor to ceiling in smooth gloss tiles making it look ultra modern, complete with a glorious bath and huge shower. It was beautiful .

The next morning Jeannie was pleased to hear that our first café the West End Café was just 17 miles away and the second the Owls Nest Tea Room Diner just half a mile from there. The last stop of the day was to be the Oasis Café in Abergavenny just 70 miles east and then back to the hotel for a relax. Well that was the plan; strange how riding plans change en-route.

A Great Biker Cafe and well worth a visit

As we walked in the Owls Nest we were greeted with

“Mr. & Mrs. Walton I presume” by Ian the proprietor. 

“What a great guy” is all I can say about Ian. He has followed the Challenge Ride on Facebook right from the start and has donated t-shirts and stickers all for Red-Aid.  We had a great time chatting with a few local riders and were sad to have to head out but yesterday had been a 225-mile day so I planned to keep Saturday down to 150 miles maximum.

Arriving in Abergavenny the sat nav took us on a merry dance around town only to find the café at the side of the local bus station. Once the staff had found me a bit of swag in the form of a Sandwich List flyer we drank up and were about to head back to the hotel until.

Parking 'When in Rome' Style

“Jeannie, I've just been having a look at the map and if we head back to the hotel we will be riding the same roads as we rode over on. However if we pop up to Dom’s Bike Stop it will cut us straight across Wales from Hereford to the coast. What do you think?”

An hour later we were pulling into what can be best described as a derelict garden centre car park.

Luckily lurking behind the overgrown bushes is one of the best find’s we made all weekend. What a fantastic café. Dom like many of the owners we have met along the way was an absolute gentleman and we had a right good chat and a laugh with him.

J's Favourite Biker Cafe of the weekend

J making friends with Dom & his assistant 

Behind the café area is a full on camping area, toilet block, and outside seating and chilling area. It’s not your usual café layout but we loved it.

Pulling into the hotel car park after the unexpected 90-mile detour we had managed to clock up yet another 220-mile day. Strangely enough after two full days in the saddle we were both on top form.

Yet another superb meal in the hotel was followed by a couple of rather nice brandies and then it was time to pack ready for the 0700 hours early start.  We would be heading back across Wales for the third time, towards the Bike4Life Ride-in location which just happened to be at the side of, yes you guessed it, another Café Racer Challenge Ride café, Dinky’s Dinah’s (and no that is how he spells it).

Sunday morning we were up with the larks and on our way by 0745 hours. The ride across Wales is without doubt one of the best motorbike rides I have ever taken in 35 years of riding. The roads were clear, the weather kind if not a little nippy to start with and being as it was my third time of riding past Devil’s Bridge on those single track twisty’s , I didn't lose any time in having some fun.

I wasn't surprised to find around 35 bikes crammed into the little layby, all heading to the Bike4Life Event. Luckily most them thinned out whilst I was ordering my bacon and egg triple-decker butty. I got chatting to Dinky, as you do, and before long he'd donated a t-shirt to the Red-Aid collection. Now who says businessmen don’t have a heart? I for one can categorically state that all the Biker Friendly Café owners that we have met along the way have turned out to be some of the most kind hearted and generous folk we have had the pleasure of meeting.

My 'Hungry Face'

As for the Bike4Life Event what can I say? It was manic. 3500 motorbikes parked in an area fractionally larger than a football pitch. Bedlam springs to mind. It took Jeannie and I half and hour to find Glen, Lefty, Oggy, Bez, Ella, and Chris and it was great to meet Paul and his wife Jacqueline who were also in attendance.

Say Cheese

Sadly other than a steady ride to RAF Museum Cosford along closed roads we ran out of time. Sat just half a mile from the entrance in a queue of 100’s of bikes I plumbed home into the sat nav. We had just 40 minutes to spare including the ride home before the carers were due to finish work.

It broke my heart as I told Jeannie the news but we had to get back and with a heavy heart we rejoined the motorway and headed back to Wardle.

All in all, I can honestly say that this weekend has to be the best weekend I have spent in the saddle in many a long year. No pressure to get anywhere. Having all the time in the world to take in the sights and sounds of some of the Welsh countryside made for a magical experience. Having Jeannie on the pillion seat just multiplied the pleasures of ‘Wandering Around Wales’ ten fold.

To each and every café owner who has donated their time, energy, merchandise, cash and support to the MancRiders and Red-Aid I extend a heart-felt thank you.

Finally I'd just like to thank to all the MancRiders who are taking part or just supporting the MancRiders Café RacerChallenge Ride 2015. You are all absolutely amazing and I really appreciate all your hard graft and commitment.

I look forward to seeing you all again on the 3rd of July for the ‘Redwood Ride-In’ Cheque Presentation Ride if not before.

Done - Wandering Around Wales

“Ride well and stay safe my friends. It’s a jungle out there’

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

MancRiders Cafe Racer Challenge 2015

MancRiders Cafe Racer Challenge 2015
In aid of

“You are kidding me! What on earth are you doing Raymondo?”

It was 0330 hours on a Sunday morning and there I was getting out of bed and into my gear, yet again. After all the promises I’d made to myself not to do this ever again. I just cannot help myself. It’s an addiction. I just have to ride my bike.

Within 30 minutes I was riding down the pitch-black road. The temperature was 1 degree Celsius and unsurprisingly I was grinning like a 'Cheshire Cat' in my open face helmet. Well, it’s a GoldWing, why on earth would I need a full-face lid anymore?

“Look out London here I come’ was bouncing around inside my head.

Raymondo hits 'The Smoke'

What is it about a ‘Challenge Ride’ that just drives me to distraction?

I'd promised myself last year that this year would be different. This year I would not just get on my bike and hit every location in just a few well-planned rides. Last years Challenge was to visit 40 Speedway Tracks throughout the UK. Now to most riders that challenge should have invoked the dream of a beautiful steady couple of weeks riding, mooching from location to location taking in the sights and sounds of the Speedway World.

You're kidding right? Not me, nooooo! My brain simply doesn’t function that way. Within 3 hours of receiving last years Challenge email from Bez I had the whole 40 track visits planned down to the last petrol stop in three, yes three days! As it happened I relented and took 5 days after receiving some stern advice from Jeannie!

Still I was happy when I completed the first MancRiders charity ride the MancRiders Speedway Challenge Ride 2014 for Haemophilia Society! I managed to visit all 40 Speedway tracks in just 5 days riding a total of 2417 on a Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade.

Here’s the MancRiders getting stuck into this year Café Racer Challenge Ride and to say the weather has not been kind to us an understatement!

Here's Bez enduring some very cold weather and a foot of snow visiting 

A couple of weeks later & its
Glorious Sunshine
                                                                                                Here's Ella one of only two Lady Riders taking part

So at the start of 2014 my problem was  I'd completed the years challenge by April 21st so what the hell was I going to do for the rest of the year?

More importantly, what could I do to stop myself from doing the same again next year?

The answer was simple was easy. Write this years Challenge Ride myself and so the work began on the MancRiders Café Racer Challenge Ride 2015. Now I won't bore you with the endless hours of research, planning, plotting locations, finding suitable photos and snippets of information for the Challenge Ride Book.

     The Salt Box Cafe - Foston is proving very popular 
          This is Glen Enjoying a great visit 
With Bez 
& Lefty

What I will share with you is the fact I loved every second of putting the whole project together. 4 months of work culminating in a nice simple challenge that I know will keep the participants 100% committed from February to November.

The challenge this year is to visit

30 Café’s throughout the UK – 2 points on motorbike or 1 any other way
10 Biker meeting locations - 5 points on a motorbike or 2 any other way
5 Biker Pub’s - 2 points on motorbike or 1 any other way
5 Special One Day Events – 10 points by any mode of transport

Also to add a little more spice to the proceedings there are an extra 5 points available for collecting some memorabilia. This can be anything from a t-shirt, sticker, mug, postcard and if the location has nothing other than an addressed receipt then that will have to suffice.

The memorabilia must be kept secret until the MancRiders Annual Ride to Eat in January 2016 where all the totals will be totted up to give us a clear winner for which certificates will be awarded.

Furthest North goes to Lefty 

Furthest South goes to Andy

Participants will be awarded specific certificates according to how many locations they visit in the following order:-

All 50 Locations – Platinum
40+ Locations – Gold
30+ Locations – Silver
20+ Locations – Bronze

To take part riders make a £15 donation 100% of which will go to our chosen charity. This year I'm delighted to say the beneficiary of all our hard miles is Red-Aid the charity arm of Redwood Secondary School. Please take a look at their fantastic website and you will understand why we have chosen such a deserving charity. Plus we like to support local charities.

Top Pillion Team Award goes to Oggy & Sam
Best Cafe Racer at a Cafe goes to Lee

As you can see there are a fair few folk having a great time riding visiting some of the best biker friendly Pubs, Cafes and Biker Meeting locations around the United Kingdom. What is also really nice to know is we have been able to recruit a few new members to the MancRiders happy family. This is one of my personal favourite photos of the challenge so far. 

Melanie with her mates from the DDRG 
'Dawn till Dusk Rideout Group'

The word is now out and even the local press have been on the phone looking to do a spread about our exploits so watch out for a few words appearing in the Rochdale Observer and possibly the Manchester Evening News this Saturday.

With only 18 of the 50 locations in the bag I still have a fair few miles to travel and a load of merchandise to collect but the best thing about it is. I'm riding my Wing.

Currently Top of the Leaderboard with most traveled
Guess Who?

"Ride well & stay safe my friends. It's a jungle out there"