Motorbike Touring – West Coast of Ireland

We are coming to the end of a couple of days of great motorcycle touring on the West Coast of Ireland and what a fab time we have had.  Roads are great, scenery is jaw dropping and the welcome in this part of the world has been amazing.

Before arriving here, we had a couple of days in Northern Ireland over the weekend at a motorcycle event which had started with a catch up with some friends, a visit to Phillip McCallen Motorcycles and then a ride over to see the practice for the Cookstown100 Irish road race!!!!  It was our first visit to see road racing and it was pretty mindblowing to watch those guys racing motorbikes on everyday roads rather than on specially designed race circuits.  The weather held for the time the bikes were out doing practice, a couple of red flags came out whilst we were there but thankfully no one was seriously hurt.  We missed the actual race which was on the Saturday but we understand there was great racing to be seen with Michael Dunlop winning both Superbike races and Guy Martin winning the Supersport race.

Over the weekend we had ridden around Strangford Loch, skirted the lower regions of the Mourne Mountains and then headed north of Belfast on some very open flowing motorcycling roads and even better the weather was glorious!  This photo 1 Strangford Loch Monasterywas taken overlooking Strangford Loch – a very tranquil and beautiful setting.

On the Sunday we headed south west across from Northern into Southern Ireland.  Our route took us on a great variety of roads from motorway to dual carriageway, single carriage to single track!!! All of the roads though were quiet and some great technical sections to keep us on our toes after the stretch on the motorway!  One thing we did find was how aware car drivers are of motorcyclists over here, we had so many of them move over for us or call us passed when safe to do so.

We are staying in County Clare, a beautiful part of the world and whilst the weather forecast was for 35mph gales we were not daunted and set off to explore the Atlantic coastline.  We were faced with rolling seas but blue skies for most of the day and the high winds seemed to blow any threatening rain clouds away from us fortunately!

Riding in this part of Ireland is a dream, we understand it can get pretty busy over here in the summer months with tourist coaches so if you are thinking of doing any motorbike touring here best to avoid those months.  There is something very relaxing about West Coast of Irelandriding along breathing in the fresh sea air, watching waves crash onto the shore line and all on very grippy, flowing roads – we would highly recommend coming to this part of the world – so much so we can feel a tour coming on!!!

Our final 2 days of Motorcycle Touring in Colorada & Utah

Only two more days of motorcycling left for us before we have to fly back to the UK, the time for this trip has just flown, but has been a spectacular tour.

Day 16 of our trip was our ride from Bluff back into Colorado and to Grand Junction where we started this motorcycle tour two weeks ago.  Another beautiful, blue sky day greeted us when we first got up and rode over to the Twin Rocks cafe for breakfast.  Even at 8.30am the temperature was upto 78 degrees!

We headed north on 191 and then picked up the reverse route of a few days ago where we rode via Dove Creek – they have an interesting greeting for you at the fuel station there….Dove Creek fuel station  Even though we had travelled this way on day 10 of our tour, the road always seems different when riding in the opposite direction.  Some of the sights may have been familiar but the twists and turns of some of the open roads around that part of the world were just wonderful to ride.

We stopped at a great little town called Natunta for a drink and had a wonderful chat with a lady who lived out in the middle of nowhere and had just come into town for some groceries – she thanked us for coming to Colorado which we just thought was so welcoming – it was us needing to thank her for letting us ride out motorbikes on such great roads!!!

Suitably refreshed we picked up yet another amazing motorcycling road – 50 miles to Gateway through the Red Canyon which follows the Dolores River – a fantastic ride and one which was recommended by the guys from Butler Maps.  We had hoped to have lunch at Gateway at this little diner which had been recommended to us – but when we got there we met up with some of the other guys on the tour only to find that the diner was closed up….!  We then ended up riding a further 50 miles to the outskirts of Grand Junction before we found anywhere for what turned out to be more like afternoon tea than lunch!  Still with roads like this Red Canyon to ride we did not really mind too much…..

Lunch was at Randy’s Southside diner and it was great food, Geraint had his first cheeseburger of the trip!  and it was cooked to perfection – a definite recommend for any of you motorcyclists who happen to riding near Grand Junction, Colorado in the future.

From here it was something of a sad ride into the main town and onto our hotel where we met up with everyone else who had been on this motorcycle tour.  We all had an excellent meal together in the hotel restaurant but then had to get an early night as we had to be away from the hotel by 6am to ride to Denver to hand the bikes back to EagleRider by mid day.

When we did wake it was already 70 degrees at only 6am!  Although we had fluctuating temperatures for a lot of the ride to Denver which was all on the I70 east but it is an amazing freeway.  It rises in places to over 11,000 ft and then drops into amazing Canyons.  The freeway snakes its way alongside the Colorado river and is a joy to ride.

We arrived into downtown Denver at mid day, handed back the BMW GS’ which had been our trusty companions over the past 16 days.  We had time to go down into Denver and had a lovely lunch at Willie G’s, Geraint even had a hair cut at Floyds (classic barbers!) and then it was a taxi over to the airport and the end of an amazing motorcycle tour.

We would highly recommend this tour to anyone who loves to ride a motorbike.  We cannot wait to go back out to Colorada and Utah, to experience the roads, the scenery and the people – it was a trip of a lifetime and we got to do it on two wheels!  :-D

Thundersprint 2013, Anglesey race circuit

If ever there was a day of two halves – Sunday 21st April 2013 at Anglesey race circuit for Thundersprint 2013 was it!  Lashing rain and high winds all morning and then around 1pm the blue skies started coming in from the Irish sea and the race track soon dried up for the motorbikes to get out on track and set some fast lap times.

We were on a stand with North Wales Advanced motorcyclists and also North Wales BikeSafe and thank goodness for the BikeSafe trailer, it was a great place to shelter from the rain at times!  Typically all motorcyclists attending the day were not going to let the weather beat them and a great spirit surrounded the day.

Due to the weather the Thundersprint Cavalcade of Motorcycling had to be delayed around 30 mins or so – Bikes lining up for Thundersprint Cavalcadeas you can see from this photo the conditions were not the best…..  but eventually things started to improve and the weather significantly improved after 1pm and what a fantastic backdrop the Anglesey race circuit provides for motorbike racing as you can see from this photo when some of the classic motorbikes were lining up ready to set their fastest times Thundersprint 2013

Unfortunately due to the conditions in the morning some of the riders had decided not to take out their bikes onto the circuit, which was a shame as the sunshine in the afternoon soon dried up the track surface.

Getting into the circuit was a bit delayed for some but our own experience was a good one overall – even if we did have to dry our jackets out over the chairs in the afternoon and wear our buffs as “beanie hats” in the morning to protect from the rain and wind!!  (probably not the best fashion statements but they did the job….).

There were some great bikes on display and you can find more photos on our gallery page.  Our ride to and from Angelsey was fantastic, we had blue skies and the fantastic motorcycling roads through the Snowdonia National park on the way there and back with stunning scenery all the way.

This was the first year that Thundersprint had been based out of the race circuit at Anglesey and we hope that it long continues – as the song says “Things can only get better…..”  :-)

A Day Off-Roading with Yamaha ORE

So here’s the thing….. for a leaving present from work I was given a voucher for the Yamaha Off-Road Experience and it has taken a year for me to pluck up the courage to book a day!  I managed to persuade Geraint to join me (although it has to be said he didn’t need that much encouragement!), and everything was booked for 17th April 2013.

The nerves kicked in as we were driving to the location but once formalities were completed Jan ready to goand I’d been kitted out with the appropriate gear and selected the motorbike I felt would work for me, there was nothing else for it other than to “give it a go”..

From the start you are straight onto steep gravel roads and over high ridges, into forest land and mud – lots of mud!!  I never thought it possible that I could ride over such terrain despite many fellow motorcyclists telling me “I’d be fine” and that “I’d love it“……

There were 11 of us on the day plus 2 excellent instructors and it soon became apparent that I was maybe not going to be the fastest on the day :-D   Because of this one of the instructors, John (a very patient man indeed!), took me on a shorter route through the forest to the motocross circuit where we met the main group.  This was fun, over jumps, plenty of corners to negotiate all on gravel.  Then we had to do “figures of 8” – last time I did those was on my CBT and I hadn’t liked them then…..  But once I’d got the hang of how to balance the bike, the cornering came easier to me and the instruction was spot on – when Dylan gave us a demonstration of how to do things properly (and more importantly how not to do them!) it was amazing to watch – he handles that motorbike effortlessly.

We rode back for a welcome lunch break – I had not realised how tiring it could be and already 3 hours had flown by.  I think Geraint was pleased to see that I’d got back in one piece!  He’d certainly had a great morning and was raring to go but there was a part of me which was sorely tempted to say I’d pack in for the day.  However, before I knew it I was back on the bike and off to go with the rest of the group – I even managed to keep up with them this time for quite a way…..well until I managed to drop the bike in a pile of very wet mud  :-D   thankfully no damage to either me or the bike.

John caught me up and we decided that it was best to let the other 10 lads go off and “play” and as a result I had a fantastic ride through the forest at my pace!  We had a couple of hours out in the afternoon and arrived back just after the main group who were all very muddy but extremely happy.

As for me, I was over the moon that I had managed to stay in one piece, during the day I had 4 “off’s” and 1 refusal!!!!  (one steep climb too many).  Overall though I loved it, I would certainly recommend it and I cannot thank Dylan and John enough for making it a truly great day.

My instructor, without whom today would not have been possible!

My instructor, without whom today would not have been possible!

Today’s blog has been written by Jan

Our Group Motorcycle Ride Out in April 2013

The last group ride out we had was towards the end of March when we had our motorbikes out in the snow!   As ever, we had a great group of motorcyclists with us then although numbers were a little lower than usual but then so were the temperatures!!!! :-D  Riding in an average of -1 degrees is not the norm after all…..

So what would we encounter weather wise for this our second motorcycle ride out of the year?  We’d had the 14th April in the diary for a while and sorted out coffee and lunch stops, all we could do was hope for no snow (!) and hopefully a dry day……  We arrived at our meeting point just off the M6 near Warrington and met some of the “PanClan” – a group of Pan European riders who were off to the Motor Museum at Coventry for the day.  Parked up in amongst these Honda’s were several of the group who would be joining us and by the time we set off we had 26 bikes with us……. (it should have been 27 but Sarah had turned into the carpark just as the PanClan were setting off and she accidentally joined on the back of the line of their bikes!!!!  luckily it was not too long before she found her way back to us and joined us for the rest of our ride out).  :-D

This ride took us into the Peak District and upto the highest village in Britain which is Flash standing at 1,518 ft – some snow still banked up on the sides here but nothing to bother us.  As we then headed over the tops towards Longnor it did get a bit blustery but the views more than made up for that.

Our first stop was at the Tea Rooms of the Churnet Valley Railway – a lovely place to visit and soak up some of the atmosphere the old station creates, we were too early for the next steam train which was due in at 12.15pm, but a warming cuppa and plenty of great cakes more than made up for it!  From here we rode over to Carsington Water and to the Visitors centre there.  We took some of the back roads to Carsington which carry a lot less other traffic than some of the major roads – perfect for motorcycling on!!!

Several of the group were able to sit outside and enjoy their lunch – even Chris enjoyed his “cup of coffee” 45.  Chris and Ray at Carsington(which turned out to have a teabag in it……???) A couple of friends joined us and Alison even brought cake!!!  check out her page on facebook – we can highly recommend the cakes – 51.  Anyone for cake at Carsingtonespecially the coconut one which was soon shared amongst everyone!!

We think it may have been down to the extra weight on the bikes after all this cake and lunch but we needed a comfort and fuel stop mid afternoon on our return ride through Staffordshire and Cheshire ! :-D

Our final stop of the day was at The Abbey Arms near Oakmere and it was a great place to end yet another fab day of motorcycling.  The blustery conditions in the morning were nothing major and the rain held off for us – next ride out we are aiming for sun!

We would like to thank everyone who turned up to join us for this motorcycle ride out, we had a great group on a huge variety of motorbikes and we very much look forward to riding with you all again soon.  Couple of photos below but the rest can be found on our facebook page. 

Carsington Ride out

 

Motorcycle Touring Utah Day 15 – Boulder to Bluff

We have stayed in some breathtaking places on this motorcycle tour of Colorado, Utah and Arizona, but waking up in Boulder, Utah is something special.  Sunrise BoulderThis was the sunrise we had to start our day…. awesome or what?  There is a complete stillness about the place (well that is until the Harley’s fire up ready for the day ahead. :-D )

A few of us took a slight detour at the beginning of the day – we rode Burrs Trail which was a 34 mile round trip but worth every bit of it.  Basically it’s a back road out of Boulder and it can best be described as a mini version of Zion National park – you really did expect to see “cowboys and indians” from the old Wild West movies coming up over the hills  :-)  Bob & Ricky Burrs TrailBob and Ricky joined us for photos at the end of the trail – we had encountered no other traffic along the way – a perfect road for motorcycling that’s for sure.  But it was soon time to turn back and ride onto route 12 over Boulder Mountain – yet another great road with fantastic views down into Torrey.

We continued on to Hanksville with the scenery changing all the time, at one point it was just like being on the moon!  There was not a great deal at Hanksville, just a couple of fuel stations which were very welcome for two thirsty motorcycles and their riders….  We bought a drink and a chewy bar – but I guess business is slow as it was out of date by 7 months!!

Temperatures were rising but riding along route 95 soon helped to cool us.  We think this was up there with some of the best biking roads we have been on over the last couple of weeks, particularly the section through Glen Canyon.  The open sweeping bends were nothing short of amazing and that ribbon of tarmac flowed for over 100 miles.  There are some days when you truly believe you have just had the best motorcycle ride of your life – and this was one of those.

We had a slight detour and time for a breather, when we went to visit the Natural Bridges national monument – 3 rock arches naturally carved out by the elements.  Sipapu Bridge - rock archThis one was called Sipapu Bridge which means “place of emergence” – very apt.  Well worth a visit if you happen to be touring this part of the world.

We had just over 50 miles to ride from here to our hotel which was back in Bluff, Utah – we had done a full loop over the past few days on some of the best motorbiking roads.

Today was one of those days when we could have ridden on forever – we just love riding in this part of the world.  Bring on tomorrow…(although sadly this will our last full day on this wonderful motorcycle tour)…..:-(

Motorcycle touring Utah – Zion to Boulder Day 14

We’ve probably said this about most days of this motorcycle tour of Colorado and Utah but we’ll say it again!…….  What a fantastic day of motorcycling Day 14 of our trip turned out to be.

We left Springdale early and rode back through Zion National park for the last time on this particular trip.  It was so early in the morning that we practically had “millionaire motorcycling” as there was no other traffic there.  The early morning sun light gave yet another perspective on this amazing place, quite sad riding out of there but then we knew we had a great day ahead of us.

We took a detour from the main group route for the first part of the day as we wanted to go back to see more of Cedar Breaks national park where we had been the day before but had had to do a hurried escape from due to a massive thunder storm rolling in!  As with the previous day, the roads did not disappoint, such flowing ribbons of tarmac that we reckon the highways engineer must have been a motorcyclist….  🙂  !!

We continued on towards Panguitch and had over 30 miles of sweeping bends with very little traffic, it was a brilliant section to ride.  By the time we got to Panguitch Lake we were ready for a coffee and pulled into the Bear Paw Fishing Resort, great views over the lake and good coffee too.  However, they say that the world can be a small place and it was reiterated to us at this place as it is run by Adrian who originated from Birmingham, UK which is only about 70 miles away from us, not only that but his friend was over from the UK for a couple of weeks and he lives not far from us and is very familiar with the fab motorcycling roads of North and Mid Wales.

Both Adrian and his wife ride – they have the Can-am Spiders and were able to tell us what great roads we had coming up for the rest of the day on our way to Boulder, Utah as they often ride the 100 miles over there to go for breakfast!!!  It was great to meet up with Adrian who has been happily settled in America for over 20 years – we hope to see him again soon.  Bear Paw Fishing Resort lakeThis is the view you get from the Bear Paw – stunning….

We continued on from coffee and picked up route 12 which is listed as one of the top 5 highways in America.  You immediately ride into the Red Canyon, beautiful red rock formations which flattens out for a short while until you make a turn to Bryce Canyon – it is 17 miles from the turn off of route 12 to the end and it is yet another jaw dropping location.

We rode to Rainbow point which is at the end of the national park and had a fab picnic lunch with Alan, JoJo and Craig who are also on the motorcycle tour we are on.  There are some picnic spots which everyone should visit at least once and this is one of them as Rainbow pointyou can see from the photo – awesome views.

It was a shame we had to leave this beautiful place but we had another storm rolling in towards us and we decided to head away from it and back on to route 12 to the Escalante – a series of mountains which look just like a staircase (hence the name!).

What was even more stunning was the road – it was like a motorbike race track, the tarmac was so smooth and there as one particularly brilliant section which we enjoyed so much we did it twice and put it on YouTube – you can click here to watch it!    Describing it in words would be difficult but we think every motorcyclist no matter on what bike, would love this road.

We continued on to our hotel for the night which was in a small town called Boulder – we ate at the Hells Backbone Restaurant, a truly wonderful place to eat not only for the food which was all locally sourced but also for the tranquil location.  It was a great end to a wonderful day of motorcycle touring.

Only 2 more days left of this tour which we’ll tell you about next time……

 

 

 

Motorcycle touring Utah – Zion National Park – Day 13

We woke at 6am to blue skies and after a good breakfast took some time of the motorbikes and had a walk around the town of Springdale.  It is just on the outskirts of Zion National Park and is a really pretty little town with all the amenities you could need.  Trouble was it is not that big and our walk was over before we knew it…….only one thing for it – we just had to do some more motorcycle touring!

We rode through the national park the opposite way to that which we had used coming in and Zion is even more stunning than we thought.  The morning sunshine put a different perspective on the rock formations and colours – you really have to ride through there to fully appreciate it.

We headed on to Mount Carmel junction for fuel which, incidentally, is about a third of the price we pay in the UK  which does make a big difference when doing any motorcycle tour that’s for sure.  We rode onto Cedar Breaks National Monument which is another US state park.

The road was fantastic to ride – flowing sweepies through huge Cedar woods and these eerie looking lava fields which the road literally carved through at times.  It was a really quiet area, great for motorcyclists – although for our coffee stop that day we were surrounded by quad bikes Coffee stop near Cedar Breaksas there is a lot of off-roading that can be done in this area.  Guess we could have taken the GS’s along too if it had not been for the limitations of the motorbike hire insurance…!!

(maybe next time……. 😀 )

We entered the National park and just had time to view this amazing natural amphiteatre which was extremely deep and carved out within the red rocks.  Trouble was we could also see a huge storm gathering in the valley and it was clearly heading our way – motorcycling and lightning is not a good combination at the best of times so we headed back to Zion.

Still not all bad!! after all we got to ride the same stretch of road we had come on – and it was even better the opposite way round!!  We had the storm chasing us for many miles but somehow we managed to dodge it.  We noticed that the roads back in Zion National park were wet so we had clearly got lucky and managed to miss it!!!

As we’d arrived back to the hotel earlier than expected, we had time to go and have a swim in the pool and catch up with a few of the others from our tour group.  Some of them had had a day off the bikes and chilled out instead. Our supper that evening was a picnic from the local deli washed down with some very good beer!!!

Another great day – trouble is it’s getting ever nearer to the end of this fantastic motorcycle tour, just have to make the most of the next few days.

Question: Motorcycling in snow – Yes or No?

It is becoming a very long winter in the UK with the snow continuing to linger into the month of April.  In many parts of the world this would not seem unusual but it certainly has caused a lot of consternation from the British motorcyclists !!

On Easter Sunday we decided to take a ride out into the Peak District and set off with the temperature at 4 degrees (positively balmy compared to some of the weather recently…..).  The majority of landscape through Cheshire was free of snow and it was only approaching the outer reaches of the Peak District that we started to encounter “the dreaded white stuff”.  It was only to be expected that the run over towards Buxton would still have snow given that these excellent motorcycling roads were closed only a few days previously.  However, the gritters had been out and the snowploughs had done their job – so much so that we had a great ride over the A54 with “walls of snow” against either verges.

We continued on from Buxton over towards Longnor, the sun came out and we had a quiet run with very little traffic. Near Longnor The roads were clear and we only had the occasional sections where the snow had banked up so much that the road had reduced from the usual 2 lanes to just over 1 lane!  Any cars we did encounter were clearly “motorcycle friendly” as they were more than happy to let us pass through before them :-)

We have had several comments about it being “too cold for riding” but with plenty of layers on and our heated grips on top notch (!), we were fine – having said that the coffees and cream scones at the cafe we stopped at near Froghall were very welcome indeed……  no matter where you are in the world, finding a good cafe on a motorcycle ride out is essential!  We were lucky enough to be near a small steam railway Steam Loco 31-3-2013and one of their Easter specials was pulling out of the station as we were about to leave.

So in answer to our title question – “Yes” would be our response, with the caveat that we only did the ride out given that the roads were a) dry, b) gritted and c) cleared of snow and ice.  As for the cold…. layers is the answer even if you do end up looking about 3 times your usual size :-D

Here’s to better weather conditions over the coming months – we look forward to seeing you out on your motorbikes enjoying great roads.  Safe riding.