My motorcycle training was only in March but it already seems to have happened on a different planet. Back then, the world was a dark-grey, bitterly cold sort of place with arctic winds and apocalyptic rain. Motorcycles were fast, four-cylinder things that cut through foul weather with high precision and oodles of Japanese horsepower. It was noisy, cold and highly stressful.
Now, with all tests behind me and a letter ‘A’ on my licence, motorcycling is becoming less difficult and more enjoyable every day. A week ago, I went over the new Severn Bridge to Bristol and visited my brother.
Here he is, looking rather James Dean. You can also see that he’s being tempted. Like just about everyone who sees the bike for the first time, he said: “It’s beautiful!”
After Bristol, it was back on the road, Gloucester Road to be precise, and then the M48 which leads to the old Severn Bridge. This is an elegant, old-fashioned bridge from a gentler age. Riding across it on the Enfield, with very little traffic, it was easy to imagine oneself back in the 1960s. I shall just repeat, to the annoyance of car drivers, that, as a motorcyclist, you do not have to pay anything to cross the bridge. You just stop politely at the barrier, exchange a wave, a smile but no money, and the barrier rises for you. Twist the throttle and away you go.
Next stop was Caldicot, home of a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for ages. Yes, the fact that they lived near the old bridge was a deciding factor. Like many I know, Jane in Caldicot grew up around motorbikes and had always liked them. I don’t know why but it seems that most of the people I know turn out to have owned a BSA Bantam in the past.
On Friday, I finally made it up into the Brecon Beacons. Not going to visit anyone, this was just for the ride. Well past Merthyr and approaching Brecon, there is a beauty spot called Storey Arms. I have stopped there many times over the past 20 years and have always felt somewhat inadequate. Like a man in a lounge suit at a black-tie dinner. This is really a place where bikers stop for a rest and a cup of tea and maybe a bite to eat from the burger van. Car drivers are allowed to stop there but they are looked upon with pity. Now, finally, I was properly equipped for Story Arms!
I rumbled into the lay-by and stopped where I would be able to photograph the bike with a nice background. I bought a cup of tea and immediately got chatting to a bloke called Dave from Staffordshire who was on his way to Somerset. Then two guys from Somerset turn up – one of them on a Triumph. You can just see half the front wheel of the Triumph in the picture.
Then it was on to Hay-on-Wye and lunch at The Granary. Rode home via Clyro, thus touching Radnorshire, which is important.
The weather turned as I was half way home and the A470 had strong crosswinds. Serious buffeting on the bike. This is where the first rule of motorcycling comes in. Well, first rule for me, anyway. The rule is: The bike will go where you look.
So, if there’s something ahead that you want to avoid, like a pothole, don’t look at the pothole, look at the bit of road you want to travel on. It works with buffeting too. Maintain a steady speed and just keep looking at the centre of the lane ahead of you. Well, after 600 words, I think you probably had enough. If you have been, thankyou for reading.
Next time, turning a routine trip into a little adventure and … carrying a pillion passenger for the first time!