Long term update: Racing the sun

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There is something satisfying about watching the sunrise. The sense of tranquillity from being the only person awake at 4.30am has a lot to do with it. So with a full 16 hours of daylight ahead of me it was time for a ride and to see exactly how capable my Kawasaki Versys really is.

The plan was simple. Start the day by watching the sun rise over the North Sea on the east coast of England and then watch the sun set over the Bristol Channel at the west of the country.

The Versys 1000 is billed as a true do-it-all motorcycle, capable of big distances in comfort. So far my longest single journey had been 100 miles so this 350-mile jaunt across the UK was a true test of the bike’s credentials. With time on my hands thanks to the brutally early start I decide not to use motorways, meaning the entire ride would be conducted on A and B-roads. 

With sunrise enjoyed on the beach at Aldeburgh, I head back to the B&B I stayed in last night to make the most of the breakfast part of the deal. A few coffees later I’m back in the land of the living. Dawn feels like a long time ago and by 9am I’m on the go, scything through twisty Suffolk B-roads. I’ve done most of my 3856 miles on the Versys commuting up and down the A1 so being on twisty undulating roads is a joy.

The Versys is a big bike, but its wide bars mean you get plenty of leverage. Add in a dose of peg pressure and it turns into corners well and changes direction accurately. And while the engine is silky-smooth and relaxing at low revs, there’s a definite change of temperament and exhaust note the moment the rev counter reaches 6000rpm. And it runs all the way to the 10,000rpm redline.

The B-roads are swapped for fast sweeping A-roads before I’m forced to endure a stint on the A14. It’s not the nicest road but it does an excellent job of dissecting the country from east to west and it enables me to clear the over-populated Midlands and get into the historic town of Warwick for lunch. With seven hours of daylight still to play with I elect to hop into Wales in search of more great roads. Riding for the sake of it and with no immediate destination in mind is rewarding.

I stumble across the beautiful Symonds Yat, before finding myself on the entertaining A466. Just when I think it can’t get any better I ride past the stunning ruins of Tintern Abbey. But I now need to get a wriggle on to get to Weston Super Mare in time for sunset. My original plan to go via Gloucester rather than use the Severn Bridge has to be scrapped and I cruise across the bridge, admiring its scale and architecture along with the significant time saving it provides. I roll into Weston at 8pm, following brown tourist signs for the beach.

According to the BBC website the sun sets at 21.01 but it looks pretty low in the sky already. I search the seafront for the prime spot to take in the end of the day, before parking up on the North Beach with the Grand Pier in sight.

It dawns on me that I’ve gone all day without the ice cream I’d promised myself and when I convince the lady in the kiosk next to me, who’s closing up shop, to give me a 99 I’m made up. The east to west odyssey is complete.

But that’s not where the day ends. With nowhere local to stay tonight it’s time to head home. Hertfordshire is a cool 130 miles away so I decide to use the motorway. After a stop for a bite to eat at the services I arrive home at 11.40pm with 479.7 miles on the clock.

Putting in big miles and big hours takes you out of your comfort zone and from experience this is when you learn the most about your bike. By the time I arrive home, my arse is aching and so are my wrists. I’m also a little tired of the buffeting I’ve endured at high speeds, but still smiling. To ride 14 hours in one day is a lot by anyone’s standards, but the Versys made it easy. It looks like I’m going to have to ride a lot further if I want to find the limits of the big Kawasaki.

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider