You may get a message from booking dot com that the Double Tree hotel has been cancelled... I have called them and all I was told is that they are being closed for two months.. the receptionist said ‘the government’ are taking responsibility....... I’ll look for somewhere else....
With only 3 days left until our attempt to ride 1000 miles on 80’s ‘Classic’s’ all 6 riders are busy cleaning, polishing and thinking … why oh why am I doing this…. But the weather is looking good and I’m sure those that don’t end up on a tow truck will enjoy the day….
It’s nearly a week ago that we rode the pointless 1000. An idea that some may say, I should have kept to myself!
Five motorcycles with a combined age of approximately 200 years and who knows what total mileage on them and 5 riders with a combined age closer to 300 years, left the Premier Inn, in Swindon at just before 4.00 am on Saturday 26th of June. Our first task was to locate an ATM for the start receipt, it just goes to show how much we rely on Sat Nav’s (they were banned for this ride!). Eventually finding one, without, I hope, waking to many of the natives we get our start receipts and proceed to the M4.
At just after 4.00 am there was little traffic, all of us sitting in the nearside lane at 70mph cruising, getting into our stride, working out our plans. Some had done a lot of work preparing our bikes, some not so much but either way this was going to be interesting.
Near Reading, a car gently eased up on us in the middle lane and came along side me, I was second in the line, JB was upfront on his very comfy looking GS650 Katana. The car’s head lights came up full as it passed and there, not 100 meters ahead, stood a small deer. At that point someone’s day could have been over before the sun came up. It must have calmly calculated its exit strategy, then given that up and bolted right between us. To say I took a sharp intake of breath was, an understatement!
The M4 was shut at Slough for over the weekend works, so we detoured past Bracknell to pick up the M3. In between motorways a quick stop to sort our Gordon’s speedo and then on again. The M25 and Clacket Lane Services, we drove in, checked our spots, some adjusted riding gear and we were off. The Dartford Crossing was quiet and the M25-A12 exit came up soon. Our next stop was to be the Copdock interchange at Ipswich but within a few miles an impromptu stop for Kim who had run his GS550E dry, was needed. This left us on the side of the A12 for a few minutes. At this point Martin decided he was going on alone and we waved him and his VF500 off… never sure if goodbye is one finger or two but hey, off he went.
So, Colchester was the next point for the four of us to fuel up and, as we agreed to bypass Copdock, the next stop would be Kings Lynn. A12 to the A14 and then off at J47 to Thetford. The drizzle started after we left the A14 and continued more or less, all the way to Kings Lynn but as we weaved through the light traffic and Thetford Forest, I was on point with Kim behind me, I was starting to get the feeling this was going to be an ok day.
Kim and Gordon filled at Kings Lynn, JB and me, just emptied!
A17 to the A15 and Sleaford, still leading as I kind of know these roads, I made a daft mistake at a roundabout, and we had to do a quick u turn or we would have been in Boston. Back to the A17 (thanks Gordon) then the A15 and Lincoln. Now I think there is a bypass at Lincoln, but did I use it? Sorry chaps! Lincoln’s Saturday morning traffic was building but we got through it and out the other side. The A15 to the M180 is a nice piece of road and my little XBR500 was buzzing, it was dry and reasonably warm. still a good day.
Before the Humber Bridge we pulled over, Gordon and I had sped up a little on the M180 and we waited for Kim and JB. As we pulled away Gordon took off leaving JB, Kim and myself to ride over the bridge together, it is a lovely bridge and I will remember that image of us for a long time to come.
After joining up with Gordon, who waited at the end of the bridge, we stopped on the A63 to fill up and as we pulled in there was Martin, coffee in hand. Nice to see him but he said he would catch us up.
We pulled out on to the A63, Gordon on point but pulling away, I was behind. I could see JB’s head light in my mirrors, so I knew they were behind me, and we kept going. The original plan was to go up around York, but we had lost some time, so it was the M62 and then the A1M heading north.
By the time we got just north of Wetherby, Martin had indeed caught us and passed us, Gordon tagging along with me behind. The speed crept up to staying with the traffic as opposed to most of it passing us. At Scotch Corner, Martin darts off for fuel, he must have a small tank or be using a lot!
As Gordon and I get to Durham, the traffic builds and the rain settles in, JB and Kim are long since lights in my mirrors and I am feeling a bit sad we have now split. Around the Team Valley Trading Estate both lanes of the A1 are crawling. Gordon and I filter. North of Newcastle the rain is still falling but lightly, my Gore-Tex is keeping the water out but I’m damp and getting cold. We pass Morpeth and some where south of Alnwick Gordon runs dry of fuel and pulls up, I pass him and stop a few hundred meters up the road. He has 5 litres of fuel in a can and fills up on the side of the road. As he does, I put on a light fleece under my heated jacket and turn it up. We pull into Alnwick to re-fuel both us and the bikes.
As Gordon pulls back out on to the A1 something is not right, he needs to rev his GSX550ES to keep it going. It’s obvious maintaining speed is not easy and although I catch him at 60mph that soon drops to 50..40…30. I’m waving cars past and we only just make it to the first roundabout at Berwick. We pull over and his day is done. I’ve ridden with Gordon several times and like all these guys I class him as a good friend. So it pains me to leave a mate by the side of the road. I know if the roles were reversed, he would stick with me… NOT… so after a quick good luck (or that’s what I thought he said), I’m off…
The A1 from Berwick to Edinburgh is a lonely stretch and now I’m on my own, so it’s head down and let’s see how far I can get… At the A1-A720 roundabout the sun is coming out and the road ahead is drying. It’s going to be OK.. I’m sad I’ve left Gordon and his stricken GSX550 but he’s a big chap and he’ll be OK, I just hope McDonalds have enough burgers ‘till help arrives!
After a few miles I see two familiar figures. JB and Kim... how did that happen, I’m so happy…
We pull into Stirling Services, our most northerly point and as we fill up I give them the sad news of Gordon’s demise… we didn’t laugh, honestly... Then checking our WhatsApp group, we find Martin is out as well. At the A1-A720 roundabout his VF500 finally says, enough is enough and I can’t go on... especially without oil which, as it turns out, it uses a lot of. Again, it was not a laughing matter, really!...
So it’s now just us three, we agree to stick together and the M80 became the M73 and then the M74. If a motorway in the UK can be nice the M74, is it, especially when the sun is up and two good mates are behind you. JB and I are going well, Kim seems to be too, but we know he needs fuel every 100 or so miles as the GS550 is a thirsty beast.
As we cruise the M74 (when say cruise... I mean inside lane at 68 and that’s enough). We pass Carlisle and pull in to Southwaite Services on the M6 to top up, this should see JB and I to Michaelwood but we know we’ll need to stop again for Kim, but that’s fine he doing a grand job on that GS550.
As I hit the starter button expecting the little XBR to spring into life nothing happens, the neutral light just dims... WTF, it’s not missed a beat all day... She has a little party piece though and I flick out the kick starter (one of several reasons for picking this bike) and as I find TDC I give her a good swing and 500 cc’s come to life, but I am now thinking I have an issue...
We pull out on to the M6 and, as JB and Kim fall in behind me, I’m thinking what the problem could be, ok the bike is 35 years old but it’s got less than 6k miles on the clock (I kid you not!) and a new battery. As we reach spaghetti junction where the M6 meets the M5 the evening light drops, I notice my super bright halogen head light is about as much good as one of Elton John’s candles… it seems to dip when I signal, interleaving with an equally dim indicator… the battery is not charging and it’s flat… Ah... my heated jacket is still on full, when I put the fleece on just before Gordon and I parted ways the heat from the jacket was not penetrating enough so I’ve turned it up. Never crossed my mind that back in 1984 in the design office at Honda in Japan they didn’t think that in 35 years time some muppet would be riding through Worcestershire wanting an electric start, a decent head light and some warmth...! I turn the jacket off and with in a few minutes the head light is doing its job and I can see where I am going….
We pull in to Strensham Services on the M5, Kim fills and checks his oil, its low and he needs to top up. JB and I are good. We have a nice chat with three traffic officers who look at each other when we tell them what we’re up too... you know that ‘ok boys we have a couple of right ones here’ look but like us, they see the funny side of it. I think it was here we also learnt that John Young was on route to pick up Martin and the stricken VF500, and then Gordon who’s bike had been recovered but he had not.
Before we leave, we agree with the difficulty of getting a receipt in Swindon and the fact that, if we get to Leigh Delamere services on the M4 we will have clocked over 1000 miles, we’ll be good to call it there. So, out on to the M5 we go.
The intersection with the M4 comes up quite soon it seems. It’s dark and I Iove a night ride especially when it’s dry and warm and even better when you’re near the end of the long ride. On to the M4 and the lights of the intersection fade away and all I can see is JB’s head light. I see the signs for Leigh Delamere, and we pull off. JB and I park up outside the main building but no Kim... my heart sinks, to lose him at the last minute would be devastating. JB goes in to see if anything is open. It’s gone midnight so it’s only Costabucks...
We check Kim’s spot to try and find out where he is, as we do, he messages. “Have we just grabbed a receipt and gone”. I call him, he has gone through to the petrol station. Ah... relief...
We meet him at the pumps. He and JB fill, I grab a Mars Bars and we take pictures of the receipts with he ODO’s, mine is saying 1033 miles. Job done.
We arrive back where we started at nearly 1:00 on Sunday morning, this has been I think the longest SS1000’s I have done but I really, really enjoyed it. We parked up, shake hands and head in…
In the morning I’m wide awake at 7.00am and there’s still a little buzz. We three meet for breakfast which is a nice way to end.
Both Martin and Gordon had left stuff in their rooms, JB takes care of Gordon's and as Martin needs his shaver, I nip up to Solihull and drop it off before heading home, I just know how much that pleased Martin!
I have leant 3 things. Yes, you can buy an old bike and do 1000 miles on it. You don’t realise how much you value your mates, especially one with a van and the ability to get to Edinburgh without question and Kim, now knows, what a welcome mat is!!