Make 2021 the year when you take control of your own touring destiny
With destination set to ‘Home’ the satnav tells me there’s a little over 1000 miles ahead, and just before midnight I’ll be back in moonlit Peterborough. It’s at this point, a lightbulb flickers and a plan begins to form.
I’d been in Venice for a minibreak with my other half, Mark; he’d flown in, while I’d had a glorious solo ride through France and over the Alps. We’d had a fantastic time in the northern Italian city, eaten pizza, sipped wine and taken the obligatory gondola trip, but now it was time to go our separate ways for the next few days.
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A leisurely ride home had always been my plan, but for reasons best known only to myself, my stupid spontaneous streak was about to take over. With dawn breaking over Venice and the Yamaha Tracer 900 GT loaded up, Mark waved me off from the hotel, thinking he’d see me in a few days. Oh, how wrong would he be...?
As I neared Milan my plan took shape: provided the ETA on the satnav said I’d be home the same day, I’d attempt to do the journey in one hit. If I got delayed at any point, I’d find a room for the night and continue the next day. The plan went without a hitch and, some 18 hours later, I rocked up at home, waking a pretty confused Mark.
I’d broken the journey up into seven chunks of 150 miles, as both the Tracer and I needed fuel at that point. My rule was that I’d stop for no longer than half an hour each time, before getting back on the road. I’ve run a couple of marathons and applied the same approach. It wasn’t a sprint, so pacing myself was the key.
With only one minor hold up at the Eurotunnel, when I stupidly went in search for 'Moutardes Pickle' crisps for a mate and missed my train, the journey went without a hitch. I’m not saying I’d want to tackle a 1000-mile day again, nor would I recommend it, but it brought a massive smile to my face and a real sense of achievement.
Over my 15 years as a motorcyclist, I’ve been bitten by the solo bug and love nothing more than a trip away, to explore somewhere new and not have to think about anyone else. Sounds terribly selfish and in all honesty I suppose it is, but in my ‘normal’ life I spend my whole time looking after others, be it family, work colleagues or friends, so the luxury of the odd weekend, totally on my own is bliss.
Of course, this style of ‘socially distanced’ riding does have its drawbacks… Back in 2007 I’d been riding about a year and was returning home to Peterborough from an Edinburgh-to-Cardiff charity ride.
Sod’s law, I’d just ridden past Leigh Delamare services as my fuel light pinged on. Naively, I thought I’d aim for a fuel station in Swindon that I knew of, but discovered on arrival it was shut for refurbishment. Instead of looking for fuel where I was, I pushed on, not aware that the next petrol station was 20 miles away. Luckily, I managed to squeeze every last drop out of my Ducati Monster 695 before it ground to a halt at the top of a hill. I had to push the last half mile to the petrol station. Lesson learned.
Another time, during a weekend exploring England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I arrived at my B&B in Stranraer in total darkness and got stuck in foot-deep gravel on their driveway.
My Honda CB650F stood bolt upright and wouldn’t budge. As I tugged hopelessly at the bars, I realised I wasn’t going to shift it. After several minutes of me braying on the door of the B&B, a rather confused looking owner came out; he’d got no experience of bikes but between us we manhandled it out.
Luckily that was the only mishap of the trip and I went on to explore some stunning scenery, had a cuppa at Joey Dunlop’s Bar in Ballymoney and spent a night with my brother and his family near Dublin. My nephews think their auntie is pretty cool (and a little odd) when she arrives on various motorbikes for the odd overnight stay.
So be it a few days in France to enjoy a bucket of moules mariniere with a glass of cool rosé, a non-stop blast across Europe or a wild weekend exploring Ireland, enjoy your ride. After all, you’ve only got yourself to worry about.
Four steps for a memorable bike trip:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help Whether it’s running out of fuel, getting stuck in precarious predicaments or at worst, which has also happened, dropping the bike and needing to help pick it up, stuff does happen. Being on your own you do need to be brave enough to admit defeat at times and just ask, generally someone will give you a hand.
- Take charge Make sure you have a charged battery pack for your mobile, just in case you get stuck in some tricky location and need help.
- Rescue me! Take out breakdown cover and travel insurance, you need to know that you are covered and can get home.
- Enjoy yourself Stop frequently and enjoy the view. Travelling on your own will usually mean you are your own boss, take advantage of this and enjoy as many cuppa stops as you want, you’ve got no one else to answer to!
Now it's your turn...
Stick a pin in the map and as soon as restrictions allow, book yourself some me-time and get out there. If you’re planning to be away overnight or a few days, it’s wise to book accommodation for each night so at least then you have a target to aim for, even if you don’t really have a plan of how to get there.
And always let someone know where you are staying as well as your rough route. On the subject of safety, consider downloading and using the What3Words app – which gives every grid square reference in the world a unique three-word code – making it easy to share your precise location with friends and family www.what3words.com.
Other than that the joy of it is that you can ride where you want, where you want and stop whenever the mood takes you.