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Big Trip Special: Coasting along in Britain for a worthy cause

Published: 03 January 2008

Ed and Dom had 1000 miles of riding experience when they set off to ride the UK’s coastline on an SV650S and Bandit 600S to raise money for Macmillan nurses. Dom gives MCN's Events Editor Dave Rawlings the lowdown.  

Me and Ed have been mates since we lived together at halls in university and once we finally got our bike licences we wanted to do a bit of a tour.

After gaining some inspiration from watching The Motorcycle Diaries we chose to travel the UK as we hadn’t really seen that much of it. I took a Suzuki SV650S; Ed rode a Bandit 600S.

We actually wanted to go and see some places that had meaning. Ed wanted to see where his mum and dad were born and re-visit a hotel where he stayed with his dad and girlfriend a few years previously.

I wanted to go to Wales (As I’d never been and parts of my family are from there) and Anfield as I’m a big Liverpool fan. I also wanted to get to Scotland as we’d heard that the roads up there were amazing and we had never seen them.

The idea for a trip came about two years ago when Ed’s mum passed away from a brain tumour. Our aim was to raise some money for the Macmillan nurses, who were a great help throughout Ed’s mother’s treatment.

Ed wanted to go and see the town in which she was born – Ystradgynlais in Wales. It’s a small mining town, and we actually found the house where she was born. 

As the trip gathered momentum we wanted to video it and decided that with only two of us someone would always be missing in the pictures so we got our mate Jamie Unler to come with us and video the trip. He was also the bloke that Ed bought his bike from.

The trip started quite badly, to put it mildly. On the second day I crashed into Jamie. We came up to a junction and Jamie slowed down. I looked to my right and thought he’d gone so I started to speed up.

When I looked back Jamie hadn’t gone anywhere, and I hit his pannier. At that point we thought the trip was ruined and it was game over. We picked the bike up; there was fluid leaking everywhere and the pannier was ruined, so we phoned Oxford Products, who had sponsored us, and they found a dealer nearby that could patch up the bike and replace the luggage.

This cost us a day so we missed out a bit of the south-west to make up the time.

Scotland was amazing – the scenery was stunning and the roads were empty, but what was truly amazing was the amount of sheep and goats that tried to dive under your front wheel, especially the maimed goats that limped across the road while we were doing 70mph.

The worst part of the trip had to be when we tried to get to the Isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland.

We’d left our hostel in Ayrshire really early so we wouldn’t miss the ferry over to the island but we still managed to miss it by three minutes; it was pissing down with rain, we had nowhere to stay for the night and we didn’t have a clue where anything was because we hadn’t planned to stay there.

We were stuck and it had put us behind schedule.

When we arrived in Ardrossan (where the ferry leaves from) we felt decidedly uncomfortable when we noticed all the houses were boarded up. It was dark and as we returned from the ferry terminal the locals, who could hear our bikes, started coming out of the fish and chip shops and pubs to stare at us.

We decided unanimously that it wouldn’t be a good idea to spend the night there!

Eventually, we managed to find a campsite on the edge of Prestwick, which was actually under the RAF runway. Not an experience we want to repeat.

It was on this evening that we had our ‘why are we doing this?’ moment. We were putting the tents up, it was pouring with rain and everything was soaked, but we got through it and had a great day’s riding on the Isle of Arran.

Half the time we camped and the other time during the trip we stayed in B&Bs, however, a couple of times we camped in fields at the side of the road.

We’d heard of people doing this abroad but never in the UK and to be fair we never saw anyone else doing it either. The only company we had were mosquitoes.

We had to camp at the side of the road sometimes because the majority of caravan sites we turned up at didn’t want bikers staying there, which surprised us. 

It was on one of these nights in Scotland where, after a really hard day’s riding we wanted to be real men and catch our own dinner. So with a couple of rods and a few beers we went off to Loch Tay (Perthshire’s largest Loch; a magnificent stretch of water, some 14 miles long) and started fishing. It was about 30 minutes before someone pointed out that bait would’ve helped.

Then Jamie lost his line and we were all left sitting around a single fishing line with no bait; it was quite surreal. The three of us have desk jobs in London so to be sitting at the side of a lake in the middle of nowhere in Scotland was something completely different.

Living in London you forget that there are people out there willing to help and point you in the right direction. As soon as we cleared the M25 it seemed people instantly became friendly and if you looked in a spot of bother they were willing to lend a hand; it restored our faith in the British public.

You also stopped being scared about asking for help because, it seems, in every other part of the country except the capital, you don’t get ignored when you ask a question.

In fact, when we arrived at a couple of campsites, some folk were so eager to help when they saw the Macmillan stickers on the bikes that they started handing out £10 notes!

When we returned to Kick Start in Whitechapel (our local bike training centre, and the start/finish point for the trip) we had a decision to make about how many miles we’d actually covered, as all three bikes had a different mileage count. We all agreed on 2280 miles as a figure we were happy with.

It was really nice to come back from our trip still friends, and all our families were there to greet us. Also, the students at the training school were around to clap us in.

In the 15 days it took to complete the journey we only had two without rain. So although we might well have been inexperienced riders before we started our epic journey, we certainly aren’t now.

If you want more information on the epic journey that Ed, Dom and Jamie undertook you can visit their website, there is also a link to their ‘just giving’ page should you want to donate to the Macmillan charity.

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