I'm addicted to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and have been to fifteen or so of them over the last 23 years – only missing it when I have no choice.
Much though I like to take the whole family, I've really lost patience with trying to get in and out of Goodwood by car, so I leave the family at home now, and it's become an annual filtering competition instead. This year the job fell to the 1290 Super Duke GT, and it proved to be the best bike I've used for the job to date.
I gave the GT a thorough scrub-up on Saturday after its tough 1400-mile week (much of which was wet) so it wouldn't be embarrassingly grubby amidst the millionaires. A day at the Festival of Speed is a 300-mile round trip from door-to-field-to-door, and with the GT that's a very easy task. Not only is the comfort superb, but it's light and agile, no wider than your elbows (even with the panniers on), and feels as at home on the motorway as it does scratching down the sinuous lanes of the Surrey Hills.
The panniers can swallow enough to ensure most eventualities are catered for, although I was surprised to find that I couldn't quite fit my XL-sized Arai RX-7V inside. It's mighty close, and I could force it shut, but wasn't happy to.
The one eventuality I forgot to plan for was Goodwood's soft paddock car parks. It's the first time I've failed to take a puck with me, and having motocrossed my way through the car parks, I knew I could be in for trouble. After doing a couple of laps of the car parks nearest to the media centre I found a stack of plastic bollard posts (essentially half a drainpipe that gets cable-tied to a stake to create temporary lanes), and 'borrowed' one to stop the GT from sinking. Seeing it parked there reminded me of the old Swedish army ski bikes. It did the job though, and seven hours later the GT was still upright.
If I'd thought the filtering was bad on the way in, it was carnage on the way out. Some deft passing despatched the Surrey Hills easily enough, but the real fun started on the A3 – and it didn't stop until shortly before the M1. That's 55-miles of sub 40mph filtering. But the GT was superb. The riding position means that you've got a commanding view of what you're ploughing through, and its agility and composure mean that you don't have to worry about what the bike's doing – letting you concentrate on the hazards around you. I had less than a handful of moments where I wasn't 100% confident about getting the GT through the gap ahead, and – despite being a massive V-twin – the smooth fuelling and flexible engine meant that it was effortless work in 2nd and 3rd gear.
From motorway schlep to back-road skills to a bit of impromptu mud-plugging – and from hot roads to lashing rain at the end of the day, the GT was the perfect tool for the job.
And Goodwood? The Festival of Speed was exceptional, as always. It didn't feel quite so euphoric without Rossi there this year – but the sights sounds and smells stay with you long after you've left. If you've never been, stick it in your diary for 2017.
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