Thursday, 8 September 2011

Look out Cambridge here we come...............

Well I had a great ride down to Cambridge and back the other day to collect a pair of Metal Mule Panniers, black ones at that and very nice indeed they are too.

For some strange reason I woke up at 6.00am and lay there thinking about what I needed to sort out kit wise before I could set off. With a plan in my head it was up, washed and into my trusty Aldi Long John’s, Horizon’s unlimited T shirt and as it was throwing it down outside I decided to put on my Aldi Bikers long sleeve wind blocker top, all proven gear and well worn in.

In the garage I had to re-attach the top section back onto my Heine Gerick Master V Gortex Pro Suit trousers & put the linings back in. Just shows how long it has been since I had a decent ride out on Mr T. Next I re attached the rain collar to my matching jacket & I was ready to get togged up. - oooooo suits you sir(!). I decided as it was really raining very heavily to add a pair of waterproof trousers under my bike trousers at they have sadly started to leak at the crotch. -ooooo suits you sir(!) Mind I have had the suit 4 years and it’s had a hard life.  I discovered this extra layer was a big mistake, as I sweated like a pig all the way down to Cambridge. However, I never got wet and was warm as toast and they were easily removed on arrival. I think I will have to invest in a pair of Gortex walking trousers in the future. Last two bits of bike wear are Biker Gortex gloves and a fleece Buff which I wear every time I ride no matter what the season.

I checked my mobile to find a text from Sean the guy I was buying the panniers from which read,

“Very bad weather here this morning. OK to change time or day if you wish. Sean Cam.” 

A quick thanks’ for the heads up & see you later message was sent followed by a coffee and I was ready for the off.

Plumbing in the post code down in Cambridge brought up 177 miles – 2 hours 46 minutes which I already knew as I had previously checked the location on MapSourse. I had plotted a nice round trip which ran, Cambridge then over  to the Touratech show room in Ystradgynlais in South Wales some 241 miles cross country, then heading  back up north to Rochdale a further 240 miles. So all in all I was in for a great day out on Mr T. or so I thought!

The trip to Wales depended totally on a response email I was hoping to receive from Neil down at Touratech, as to whether my Top-box had arrived from Germany or not.

So with a big hug and a smile I said goodbye to Jeannie, Lilie Rose and B Ben and it was off to the M62 heading due west straight into the Leeds rush hour traffic which was at a standstill even before I reached Halifax. With no panniers on I filtered straight through with very few problems what so ever, give or take the odd late lane changer, moving out without indication as commuters tend to do when moving slowly on motorways.

Now, is it just me or does every bike rider gets wound up at the stupid things drivers get up to as they drive down the middle lane of a motorway? especially when there is no one at all using the inside lane! The blond woman touching up her hair in the rear view mirror, that just happens to be pointing straight at her face and not at the road behind her, stupid ***. She never even saw me approaching at all until I overtook her in the outside lane, startling her. She swerves and gets a good “hooting “at from the white van driver who was just about to pass her in the inside lane. Unreal some folks, it gets even better.

Why, oh why do Range Rover drivers pull over towards the truck in the middle lane as soon as they see a bike filtering down the centre?  I know you have paid enough to own that piece of tarmac through your over inflated road tax and petrol tax but remember it was your choice to buy a Range Rover. I have just one word for you…………….. SHIFT!

And how many drivers these days wear iPod ear plugs in the car whilst there driving? Do they not fit radios & CD systems in cars anymore? iPod head sets, mobile head sets, Bluetooth head sets, what is with sticking something in your ear to drive. Reminds me of the bloody Starship Enterprise crew!!!

Anyway I digress, sorry.

Once passed the Leeds turning on the M62 life gets a lot easier as the traffic begins to thin out, only to snarl up again at the M1 intersection. No drama’s there and it straight over to the A1(M) new junction and a very nice smooth 50mph sweeping bend puts me straight onto the A1(M). Perfect, well done that engineer, shame they have to spoil it with a 50mph speed limit but hey more of that to come soon!

The sandwich bar flags in the lay-by’s are doing all they can to hang on for grim death to the thin poles they are fastened too. Trucks start to drift towards me in the outside lane, whoooo too close Big Man, whey too close. My speed drops from the steady 70mph I had been sat at down to 55mph.

My thoughts are punched back into line, literally by the sudden gusts of brute force wind from my right. It just feels like someone is punching me in the head first from the left as I start to pass yet another truck load of something, heading somewhere and then another full on right-hander to the head and chest.

“This is going to be a right bag of laughs if this is what I’ve got to come all day” I thought to myself.

So with 140 miles left to ride I get used to the buffeting and the bashing from side to side and my speed begins to creep back up to 65mph, no faster though, not today I’m afraid to say.

Then I start to take in yet another amazing game every trucker on the A1 (M) plays every single time I ride up or down it “Truck Jockeying”.  It starts with that all important first hazardous lunges into the fast lane gap, normally where not even a car driver would want to pull out into. Now the more cars the TJ (Truck Jokey) inconveniences’ and forces to brake from their usual 70mph+ cursing speed the higher the points!

Now it is the turn of the slower inside lane TJ’er to speed up to his maximum 55mph limited speed, this is where I start to laugh my socks off because all of a sudden the inside lane in front of me empties, en mass! All pulling into the outside lane behind the Kamikaze TJ who is now kicking out such a pother  I’m glad not to be behind him. For the next half a mile they are neck and neck, I think probably having a chat about how many cars TJ one has amassed behind him.

What cracks me up even more is the slight incline I see up ahead. The TJ’s approach it and you’ve guessed it, the TJ in the inside lane starts to pull away over the next half a mile leaving old Kamikaze TJ disgraced and having to pull back into his original slot having achieved sweet FA!

Anyway the miles soon slip bye and my stomach starts to tell my head I’ve had no breakfast as I was not hungry at 7.00am when I set off. The other thing was I left with three quarters of a tank so was good for 150 miles and true to form Mr. T goes onto count up. Meaning unlike any other brand of bike I am aware of, Yamaha start reserve from zero and count up how many miles you have clocked up not what you should have left. That threw me at first on the FJR but to be honest it works a treat as a test of nerves. So far I’ve only taken Mr. T to 22 miles on reserve, now I need to find out how far I can really do but not on the way down. 

For the next 80 miles all I see are a vast array of multi colored flags ranging from Union Jacks, St George’s Cross,  Welsh Dragons to Neon Green with Acid House Smiley faces on. What is even more amazing is the variation in the price of a “Full English” ranging from £3.00 to an eye watering £6.25 the further south I ride. Strangely enough though the price of fuel is even more astounding £1.31 in Rochdale, £1.45 M62 Services near Leeds and even as high as £1.48 at one Jet Station on the A1(M) near Grantham (that cannot be right!).

As ever just as I start to really need to fill up with 14 miles of my 25 miles used up two things happen. The price of fuel gradually rises and all the petrol stations are on the other side of the barrier, typical. Ha, Peterborough Services 3 miles, spot on. Pulling off the A1 (M), around the roundabout and left into the services I am over the moon to find petrol £1.31 per litre, well chuffed so much so I paid an extra £2.25 for a regular coffee and a Danish Pastry. Almond Strudel will do very nicely thank you. It’s now 10.00am and I’m feeling great after a trip to the loo that is.(too much information Ray!).

 When I was filling up I took it to the very top whilst Mr. T was on his side stand, I then remembered my best mate Ron (Southern Jessie!)always stands over his GSA to fill up so I thought I would give it a try. I ended up putting an EXTRA  1.75 litres in the tank ONE POINT SEVEN FIVE litres I’m still shocked.

A quick text to let Sean know my ETA will be 10.35, how wrong was I, the Danish was so good I just took my time eating and enjoying a text conversation with Jeannie.(have I said what a wonderful woman this babe is?!) Before I knew it was 10.25. Not to worry, with only 36 miles to go it was not long before I was at the Crescent where Sean lives. A new build enclave in the middle of Cambridge with very nicely designed futures which include a drive in garage above which the houses are built. The crescent reminded me of Buxton Crescent where I worked whilst at Harper Hill College Oh so many years ago!

As I pull up I spot Sean on his crutches in my rear view mirror, typical I’d passed his but luckily only by a two garage doors. A warm welcoming hand shake, Helmet off, ear plugs out and off we go to do the deal. The panniers are there in the kitchen sat on top of each other with the delivery bags wrapped around them. Everything was immaculate including the panniers. I’m over the moon and I’ve not even had a proper look. I accept offer of a coffee and Sean sits down and proceeds to tell me about his accident (……what no Danish?!)

Now I have never really taken much interest in The Paris to Dakar Rally but when your sat in the kitchen of a real live Paris – Dakar Bike Riding Competitor who rode in the 2009 rally completed the race and was hit by another competitor in the race in a car, your ears prick up, Big Time.

Sean was hit whilst he was on his bike having un known to him at that time passed the finish line, sustaining, wait for it, two multiple broken arms, a smashed leg (hence the crutches which he has only been using a few months having been in a wheel chair for the most of 2010) and multiple broken ribs. What amazed me even more was the fact the metal object on the car pierced his helmet and the lining but never touched his head, HOW LUCKY was that? I was amazed and thoroughly in awe of this guy who if it had not been for ebay, I would never have know existed.

We sat, well Sean sat I stood just to give my back side a rest, (the seat on Mr. T really does need sorting out as it is far too hard and unforgiving for my backside) and chatted about his ride, how it has taken him over a year to get back on two feet and how his plan is to ……… well let’s just say, Sean has a plan. What a genuinely interesting and friendly guy. It was a pleasure to be in Sean’s company and I hope that we can keep in touch in the future.

After a good while chatting I thought I’d best conclude the deal and get the panniers fitted to the Metal Mule Rack’s. All I can say is they went on a dream and having the 38 litre and the 45 litre panniers in black on Mr. T looks like it was meant to be. Perfectly balanced, both in looks, style and colour, brilliant and well worth the trip down to Cambridge to collect them. I said my farewell and promised I would be picking Sean’s brain again in the future about riding in Morocco.  

I’d discussed the route back with Sean and he had advised me to head across to Bedford. Where some pleasant old lady in a Ford Focus decided to try and knock me off as I crossed a roundabout in the middle lane heading straight over, her taking the outside lane all the way round to turn right! Good effort my dear, I did a loop of the roundabout and headed on towards Bedford where I was going to carry on towards Milton Keynes then up the M1 just for a change.

Strange thing was though as soon as I pumped Rochdale into the Garmin it just wanted me to go back to the Great North Road as the A1 (M) is called. NO! I’m carrying on right, mute button pressed.

Heading due East I still ended up picking up the A1(M) north then cutting east off towards the M1 on the A14 towards Kettering then joined the M1 at long last. I think I must have gone wrong somewhere down the line as I still had 164 miles to do. The wind was really getting on my nerves by this point as it just never let up. (Have a Rennie-does wonders for my wind)

Once on the M1 the banking and traffic protected me all the way up past Leicester but by the time I had past Derby turn off I was ready for a break from those stupid gantry mounted speed cameras every 5 miles or so. My GOD! How much is it costing Derbyshire County Council to police the M1?

As soon as I saw the Matlock/Mansfield turning the decision was made, 87 miles on the Garmin recalculated to 62 miles and added another 35 minutes. I could live with that just to be out of the damn wind. The route took me straight through Matlock, past my Dad’s place and on through Bakewell, a quick right at Ashford in the Water and out past Monsal Dale which looked stunning.

I rode along the B6465 and joined the A623 towards Buxton and then Chapel-en-le-Frith, then Glossop, Ashton-Under-Lyne and back into Rochdale.

The only drama or more be it the annoyance, was having a stupid driver tailgate me at 65mph all the way down the duel carriageway from the M62 turning, heading towards Rochdale only to see the Git was on his mobile phone gassing. Cheeky it never even stopped as he drive past the Rochdale police station, 2 and half miles of busy traffic, six sets of lights and three major turns and the git never once moved the damn mobile from his head. Tosser!

So at 3.45pm I arrived home with panniers intact. Happy and all set for receiving my Touratech Rear Rack and Top Box. Sadly that’s going to be a while as the email I was waiting for arrived when I got home to say all my kit was there all except the Top Box. I am so happy that I had not ridden down to Wales after all.
All in all I had a great day out, meeting a real life star and making it back in one piece, now that’s what I call a result!

Writers Disclaimer - All Italic inserts added by proof reader and editor J!

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