If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Monday, 27 June 2011

Perfect weekend

I posted on Thursday about my plans for the weekend, and it all turned out even better than expected. I'm a happy man.

D2 arrived on Saturday and we spent the evening having a good old catch-up. We tried out Anna's riding gear and (heavens be praised) it all fitted perfectly, so Plan B to rush into town and purchase a suitable helmet was not necessary. The only non-bikey things she had to wear were a pair of hiking boots instead of proper motorcycle boots, and I was happy that they were strong enough and covered the right bits.

Sunday morning was cool and cloudy, so we kitted up with jumpers and thermal thingies, and set off to meet the other riders at a Little Chef about 25 miles away. D2 was less nervous than I was, and she proved a perfect passenger. Being 8-stone-something helps. We had the pre-flight briefing the night before ("sit like a sack of spuds; lean with me; don't put your feet down if we stop; those bits get hot; those bits will chop your toes off if you put your foot in there; a tap on your knee means hold tight; two taps on my shoulder means slow down") and she seemed to grasp the essentials very well.

Did I mention that I spent a full two hours the day before checking the tightness of every single nut and bolt on the bike? Tyres to the maximum permitted pressure, rear shocks up two clicks, oil level topped up to the upper mark on the sight glass, headlight and tail-light cleaned - and, yes, all the paintwork polished and the shiny bits gleaming. Can't leave anything to chance ...

The first couple of miles were taken at a very steady pace. The roads round here are narrow and twisty, and even a modest speed is often too fast, so I kept it all very sedate. We got onto the main road and I turned my head to ask her how she was feeling. "Fine, absolutely fine!" I took that as confirmation that she wasn't terrified and got a bit more speed on. We cruised along at between 50 and 60 mph, which is a very comfortable speed for the bike, and I even managed a couple of low-drama overtakes - duly warned of by the knee-tap technique. No problems.

We met up with about ten other riders at the Little Chef and set off for the West End Cafe in Llandovery, about another 35 miles away. This time I felt a little more confident and we upped the speed a bit, although we stayed legal. We weren't riding in a group, as we knew where we were meeting up, and so there was no pressure to keep up with anyone else. Nevertheless, we got to Llandovery in good time and had a coffee while the rest of the group arrived. The breeze was shot, the fat was chewed, and eventually we set off for lunch at a pub a few miles away up the valley - the Royal Oak in Rhandirmwyn, recommended. So, a nice gentle introduction to two-wheeled travel, some pleasant company, and a good bit of pub grub in a beer garden with the most amazing mountain views. D2 was having a good time.

By the time we left there, the temperature had soared and we stripped off everything but the basics and stuffed our jumpers and thermals in the panniers. The group now split into two: some were going straight to Tregaron, where there was a vintage bike rally taking place and another pub just waiting for our custom, while the rest were planning to take a ride over the mountains and ride the infamous 'Devil's Staircase'. This is a stretch of road high up in the remoter parts of the county which descends at 1 in 4 down into a valley, with a couple of massively-tight, gravel-strewn hairpin bends to entertain the adventurous and trip up the unwary. D2 had got talking to an older member of the club, who shook his head and said he was not doing that, no way Jose, last time he went down there he was knocked off his bike by a car and didn't get moving again for three hours. Thanks, mate. I explained the choice to D2 and left the decision of which way to go to her.

Devil's Staircase it was, then. I think the name swung it. Kids.

The ride over the mountains was lovely as always, and several times I could hear a discreet 'wow' from behind me. When we got to the steep part, I tapped her on the knee, she tightened her grip, and down we went. No drama. When we got to the bottom, there was a lay-by next to a stream, and we pulled over there for a rest.

We got chatting to an old couple with a fabulously-restored 1953 Rolls-Royce. The wealth and social class were poles apart (one member of the group commented afterwards "I think we have just been talking to Old Money") but a love of good engineering broke all the barriers and we chatted like old friends for twenty minutes. The guy was fascinated to learn that Triumph motorcycles were still being made. They were heading up the hill after they had left us, and we were a little concerned that they would make it. (They did.)

1953 - a fine vintage year. Lots of good things were produced in 1953.

After a while, we turned round, did the Staircase in the opposite direction, and motored over to Tregaron. By this time it was so hot that we sat inside for our drinks, in a lovely dark snug. After that, everyone took a different way home. D2 and I headed, alone this time, for the coast and had a very pleasant run down from Aberaeron to Cardigan and then back home over the Preseli Hills. By this time I was completely happy with her on the back (I think she had been happy for much longer than that) and the ride was at a normal pace, although without heavy acceleration or braking for comfort's sake. Her only complaint was of a numb butt - the famously plank-like Bonneville seat had made its mark.

Not only was it a great ride (weather, location, company, food and drink) but the fact I did it with D2 made the day perfect - in fact, I was humming Lou Reed most of the way in my helmet. Today, we had a walk together on the beach in the morning, and this afternoon she suggested that we went somewhere ... on the bike? So we did. St Davids for an ice-cream and a walk round the Cathedral. Perfect.

I think we have a convert.


And after:

I can see where this is heading.


  1. Exactly where it should head my friend. What's it like on Cloud 9? :)

  2. Hooked! Now there's no going back... :)

  3. Marvellous!

    Whatever will her Mother say?

  4. She was asking if she could ride it ("it's easy, I can understand all those buttons"), but when she found she could barely touch the ground with her toes she reconsidered. However, I wouldn't be surprised if her next question was about bikes with lower seats :) Hooked? Yeah, I reckon.

    I got a text from her Mum saying 'envious'.

  5. The picture of the Roller reminded me of one motorcycling visit I did to the Lake District with my father. We had stopped somewhere on the Hardnott pass, and got talking to a guy in an E type Jaguar. As we already knew the tightness and adverse camber of most of the bends, I asked him how he managed with such a long wheelbase car. He replied that it was only thanks to a limited-slip differential that he was able to get round them, as the inside back wheel would be well off the ground!

    I don't suppose that Rolls Royce has one - maybe it just has more suspension travel or a flexible chassis? And older cars like that don't usually have a very good steering lock, which must be a concern.

  6. Good point. We asked him if he had any concerns and he said that he had 'done' the route several times, bith uop and down. His only worry was meeting someone coming the other way, and we could reassure him that the traffic was light. If he could use the width of the road on the hairpins, he would be OK. His greatest fear was having to stop, as a re-start up a 1 in 4 hill would be a bit of a challenge. Going down, he said, was fine, as the Rolls had a mechanical servo brake which was kept in tip-top order by his mechanic, and it would stop on a sixpence.

    The car had been restored 20 years ago, but it had been serviced and any repairs made (including a full waxoyl) every year since then by a specialist, and you would swear it was done yesterday. Not a cheap hobby, I would imagine.

  7. Sounds like an excellent weekend - good to hear that the both of you enjoyed it.

    D2 in the "after" pic certainly looks a natural on the bike. Lower seats...well, there's plenty of choice these days...

  8. What a very nice piece.

    Devil's Staircase is old stamping ground. I needed 3 days surveying in the forests up at the top so rather than spend half days travelling to accommodation I managed to pull a full sized caravan up the Staircase with my then (company) Cavalier. It was pretty hot by the top.

  9. Richard (posting from work)29 June 2011 at 21:03

    @ Endo - she needs a newer Bonnie where the seat height is even lower than this one, I think. I find the seat height subterranean, but she can only just get both toes down. If she expresses any interest in taking it further, I know what to do.

    @ Derf - that was truly heroic. And with FWD too. Only possible with a company car, though. They stand rough treatment better than most, I find.


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