What was supposed to be ‘one or two beers’ last night, turned into four, then five then six. I haven’t gone drinking in months, so those beers really floored me and I woke this afternoon (yes, that’s right, I slept through the morning) feeling like I wasn’t going to be ready to ride for at least another week!
I spend the down time productively though, outside it’s rather cloudy, so I stay in editing the pictures and updating the blog for all my avid followers (yes, that’s you Mam). The clouds start to clear in the late afternoon and luckily, so does my head. By 4pm I’m raring to go, so I pack up all the gear (going back three times for things I forgot), say my goodbyes and leave just before 5pm.
The Sun is blazing as I cruise up the main artery roads up towards Monmouth, where I rejoin the Bike8 route. I’m itching for some corners and am not disappointed. I’m not sure when I cross back into Britain but I first realise it while snaking between Cheltenham and Gloucester. Gloucester Cathedral (at least I assume that’s what it is) sits on a hill and dominates the skyline. I make a mental note to come back down and spend more time here in the future but today is just a fly-by.
After a few hours good sleep, I wake at 6am and start packing everything away. I really want to get to Cardiff quickly to see my oldest friend, so I guess I’m not concentrating properly because the first thing I do after loading the bike up is knock it over!
I’m woken by the sound of birds swearing at each other. It’s 4am. I only drifted off to sleep about 90 minutes ago but, like the birds, I’m wide awake now. Different birds awake at different times, creating a layering effect; as time passes there are more and more layers of birdsong. Then, gradually the sound of commuter tyres on the tarmac of Darlington starts to permeate the spaces in between. It’s weird how you don’t notice the silence til it’s gone.
Shortly after, my 8am alarm goes off. Finally! Now I’m not worried about sleeping through the alarm I can relax. I instantly fall asleep.
Click on the pictures to cycle through them full size.
Newcastle to Darlington. Certainly not as the crow flies! I had hoped to get further on Day 1 but I left so late in the day that it was not to be.
I leave Newcastle during rush hour, okay I’m stuck in a bit of traffic but it feels good to be going somewhere other than to and from work! It’s not long before I’m turning off the A69 and heading onto twisty B-roads. Credit due to the Bike8 team, I’m only a few miles away from my normal weekend ride-out and already I’m discovering great roads that I wasn’t aware of.
The experience is dampened, quite literally, by the foggy weather however; I quickly come to realise that these are roads I wouldn’t normally use for fun in weather like this, let alone while luggaged up to the teeth! Corners that would normally thrill me are frightening, and corners that would normally test me are terrifying.
Understandably, I’m nervous about undertaking a long, solo motorbike tour.
The question is, what exactly am I afraid of?
Pretty much everything would be the short answer! I have no experience touring, no experience camping and no experience of motorcycle maintenance. The roads are mostly unfamiliar, the Sat-Nav is brand new, even the laptop is relatively unfamiliar; so the chances of something going wrong are mounting…
Examples of things that could go wrong:
Collision with another vehicle
Accident on unfamiliar roads
British “summertime” soaking all my (uninsured) gear
Not being quite ready to completely leave my comfort zone, my first ‘big trip’ will be a figure 8 lap around the UK. The Bike8 was designed by the test riders at Bike magazine and incorporates some (maybe most) of the best biking roads in Britain. It’s a properly British 4-6 day motorbike ride, the details of which were published in a supplement (called Epic Rides) in the summer of 2012 – and you can win a badge if you provide evidence of completing the route (Gold for the whole thing, silver for the Northern or southern loop).
You know what they say, fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Well, I’m totally new to solo traveling and I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ve been sorting out my gear list for almost a year now!
I’m probably packing too much stuff but my first trip is just a week or so around the UK, so that should give me a chance to figure out what I do and don’t need. For the benefit of others attempting something similar, or if you’re just curious, here’s a non-exhaustive, detailed look at some of the more important items on my gear list:
First of all, here’s the whole shebang in bullet points, it’s more for my benefit than yours but some of the more idiosyncratic options are described in detail further below – with links and pictures and everything!
Motorbike (kinda obvious but you’ve got to start somewhere)
So; I’ve never camped before, never toured on my motorbike before, never driven abroad. Nevertheless, I decided I’d like to see as much of my home planet as I can and I’d like to start by riding my bike around Europe.