Friday, August 9, 2019

The Dam Bike Run

Once a year my local classic bike club, the Lothian and Borders Classic and Vintage bike Club have the Dam Bike Run, where they all meet up and have a run over the small roads around the reservoirs and lochs of the area followed by a meal at the Barony Hotel. Faither and Greaser are members so I decided to join the ride on my XR.

XR600

Only issue was a couple of weeks ago I had went out for a half hour spin around the hills. Half an hour became about three hours after I got a puncture. Having no tools to fix said puncture and no phone signal resulted in a three mile push. Finally I got a message out. Egor collected my van and came to my rescue only for us to discover the XR didn't fit in the van! We strapped the bike in as best we could, tied the doors shut and drove home. Very slowly.

XR600
XR600
There's worse places to get a flat I guess.
XR600
XR600
Not all heros wear capes. Thanks Egor.

With the rear tyre truly gubbed I had to choose a replacement. The last tyre had only lasted 700 miles or so. It was a proper nobblie with loads of grip. I was willing to sacrifice some grip for a longer tyre life so I went with a Mitas E09. It was a total bastard to fit but after sweating profusely, getting blood everywhere, nipping the tube and putting it into the shop where it was done properly, the new tyre was fitted.
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

A couple of spins proved the Mitas to be pretty good. It never had the grip a proper nobbly has but there was enough for what I was doing, plus it was easier to slide the back out which is always fun. The Massif came with me on one of the runs, the heavier, more road based bikes proving a bit of a handfull compared to the XR's dirt pedigree, especially on muddy or loose sections.

XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

 
With the XR cleaned up I headed to meet the folk for the Dam Bike Run. I felt like I was cheating a bit riding my "classic" 1995 XR alongside a 1929 Sunbeam, but everyone makes you feel welcome no matter what you're on. There were a few folk taking part on modern bikes too. The route that the club had organised was really nice. Despite riding around the area for most of my biking life I found myself on a couple of new roads. We stopped at Bowhill for a lunch break and to have a look around the bikes a bit more, before heading over the Megget And Talla road and back up to the Barony for a meal.


XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
Velo the dog on his Beemer.


XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

 
 
 
I had really enjoyed riding with the club. It was great to see all the old bikes running well and hilarious following the haze from the two strokes along the country lanes. There's no danger you'd get lost following a GT500! I had a great day out and I'd recommend coming along on the run next year. The Dam Bike Run is open to non club members. Follow their page on Facebook for info on how to join the club and to keep an eye on when the events are on .
 
 
 
 
Mike
 

XR600 and Dam Bike Run




Saturday, July 27, 2019

Outer Hebrides revisited.


Africa Twin in the Coigach

The Outer Hebrides. I was last there way back in 2010 as part of the Outer Limits Tour. Will it have changed? I really enjoyed my last visit. Hopefully this one will be as good.
The plan was to sail from Ullapool on the Mainland to Stornoway on Lewis on the Sunday, so I had organised an open invitation camping weekend at Ullapool. It had started off as an Africa Twin Scotland event for a Facebook group I set up, but to try and remain impartial after a few disputes I handed the group over to Dave from Two Wheels Edinburgh Honda and opened the camping weekend up to everyone.
I had come up with what looked like a decent enough route to take me up to Ullapool. The main part I was looking forwards to was the wee bit between Drumnadrochit and Beauly. Unfortunately it pished it doon nearly all the way Beauly, turning my awesome plans into the equivalent of a cold wet teabag down the back of your t shirt. To make things worse my pinlock had stopped working, so I couldn’t see anything! Luckily the sun was out for the last stretch to Ullapool warming me up, drying my gear and making the snow on the hills look very nice.
Having pitched my tent and nipped to the shops I settled down to cook some food while a few other folk turned up. Most people opted to eat in the pub or chippy that evening so I chilled out on the campsite before wandering down to meet them. Ullapool is a really pretty town and a nice place to be. I’m often guilty of skipping through as it can be busy with tourists, but if you’ve never been you’re missing out.

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics


The following day I’d planned a ride around the Coigach peninsula and Loch Assynt, but only one person wanted to come with me. Pete and I set off leaving the rest of the guys to enjoy a beer in the sun and wait for the others to turn up. The run from Ullapool out to Achiltibuie is a cracker, taking you out to the Summer Isles, passing under the distinctive shape of Stac Pollaidh. We got a coffee at Altandhu before heading through more amazing scenery to Lochinver and onto the fast sweepers that take you past Loch Assynt and back to Ullapool. The Assynt and Coigach area has to be in my top three for Scottish scenery. I really enjoyed the run. The roads were quiet enough to open the bike up a bit, I was having so much fun I only stopped a couple of times for photos.


Camping at Ullapool
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Africa Twin in the Coigach
Africa Twin Outer Hebrides
Africa Twin in the Coigach
pcassynt
Pete

Back at the campsite more folk had turned up. I fired the Boombox up, cracked a beer and shot the shit with everyone. Some of the Massif arrived as well as other folk who had heard about the camping weekend. All in 19 bikes turned up, a good turn out!

Camping at Ullapool
Camping at Ullapool
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
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In dribs and drabs we wandered away to find food. I opted for a chippy before meeting everyone in the Seaforth for what turned out to be a great but heavy night. It was nice to speak to new folk and hear their travel stories. With a severe hangover I packed my tent up, found some food and made my way to the ferry terminal which thankfully was just round the corner. Scenery and brief bouts of snoring saw us to Stornoway where I started to feel much better. A short two mile ride later and we were pitching up at Laxdale campsite. Everyone had different things they wanted to see. For me, a bothy on the west coast of Lewis was the top of the list. For obvious reasons I’m not going to give away its exact location but it’s near Mangersta. Euan chose to come along, following me over the windy, barren landscape of the east to the quality twisties in the hills on the west. Riding round Lewis gives a proper feeling of remoteness. There’s hardly any traffic, with more sheep than cars on the roads. After a while and with the help of a friendly local we found the bothy. What a place. If you really want to visit it send me a message and I’ll let you know how to go about getting there.
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Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

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DSC_9134



We rode back to the campsite via the Callanish Stones. The north and east of Lewis is very open and barren. It’s quite similar in some ways to Caithness, but with long straight wide roads. You also get a great view of the hills on the mainland. It was surprisingly easy to identify places from the skyline. Back on the campsite we found everyone had already had food. Euan and I wandered back into Stornoway where we found a takeaway open (yes, even on a Sunday). Beers with some of the other folk on the campsite made for a good end to a good day.
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

By the time I was packed up the following day most of the Massif had departed and were on the road, but not before Moose had made me a nice breakfast. I waved them off and headed into Stornoway for supplies. I was booked onto the last ferry to Berneray where we were staying that night and the wee shop would likely be shut by the time I arrived. Everyone else had booked on an earlier ferry, but I wanted to have a look around Harris and some more of Lewis on the way down to the ferry. Moose had mentioned The Golden Road as a potential alternative route south and I also wanted to visit the isle of Scalpay.

Africa Twin Outer Hebrides

scalpay pano

Africa Twin Outer Hebrides



As you get into the mountainous landscape of Harris the roads become amazing fun as they snake through the hills. At Tarbert I headed through the town and on towards Scalpay, passing Moose and Jim’s bikes but with no sign of the lads themselves. The road to Scalpay is another cracker. A really must do if, like me, you’re a fan of single track roads. Scalpay itself is really densely populated compared to the surrounding area but it doesn’t mean you should avoid the area.
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

I headed back along that amazing single track road and headed south towards Leverburgh. A few miles later I seen a sign pointing me along the Golden Road which Moose had mentioned earlier. I had spoken with an eccentric old dude in Stornoway who had said it was called the Golden Road because it had cost so much to make. The road itself is alright. It’s singletrack with decent views and quite a few patches of gravel to slither about on, but I knew I’d be missing out on a great run if I followed it all the way so I took a turn off back to the main road where I stopped to speak with a guy who was cutting his peats.
2019-07-27_01-36-22
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

The main road is another stunning ride. Big fast sweepers take you down to an impossibly white and blue beach. Harris is famous for its beaches. They really are stunning and for the most they’re pretty empty. Just keep in mind that while they may look like the Caribbean the water is definitely Scotland in temperature.

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Africa Twin Outer Hebrides
Seilebost
I thought I may make the earlier ferry so I headed straight to Leverburgh only to find that I’d missed it by ages. I had a look around and spoke to the guy who owned the hostel. He suggested I visit Rodel and the southern point of Harris so I took a wee spin down there before chilling out in the sun at the pub by the ferry terminal.

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Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics


The ferry from Leverburgh to Berneray takes about an hour and is a pleasant enough sailing giving nice views as its weaves among the wee islands and buoys. Once on Berneray it was a short ride round to the Gatliff Trust Hostel which is situated right on the beach. Most of the guys had chosen to stay in the hostel but I prefer my tent. I’ve always used Vango tents, they’re quick and easy to pitch and are strong enough to take a battering from the wind, plus they’re based here in Scotland. If they can handle the weather we get here they should be fine anywhere. Luckily the weather on Berneray was perfect, sunny but with a slight breeze to see off any midges. The communal kitchen/dining room in the hostel was full of different folk from all over the place getting the crack, sharing food and having a laugh, it’s a nice place to spend an evening, and the views are stunning.

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Gatliff Trust Hostel, Berneray

Gatliff Trust Hostel, Berneray



Another braw Hebridean day greeted me when I crawled out my tent the following morning. We set off south down the Uists in dribs and drabs, usually catching up at a café or shop on the way. A cracking day made the island much prettier than I remember them being so I was stopping for photos here and there. I also headed up to a viewpoint where I saw St Kilda poking up out of the haze. Everyone else was heading to Eriskay to get the ferry over to Barra. My journey for the day was stopping at Eriskay where I was going to find a place to camp. Don’t get me wrong, Barra is an amazing place to visit but due to the ferry being nearly booked out I’d have had to have caught the first ferry back to Eriskay to make the next day’s ferry from Lochmaddy to Uig on Skye. That would only give me about 14 hours on Barra. I’d stayed on Barra before but I’d never stayed on Eriskay. I saw the rest of the guys off on the Ferry then found my camp spot for the evening, a great wee bit just beside the beach.
Gatliff Trust Hostel, Berneray
Africa Twin Outer Hebrides
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
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Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Africa Twin Outer Hebrides
Once my tent was up I had a wee look around the small island. I got stuff from the shop and wandered about taking photos while trying to keep two wee lambs out of my tent. Apparently they were orphaned and a local guy looks after them, so they were pretty tame. That evening I treated myself to a meal in the Am Politician, a pub named after the S.S Politician, a boat that sank of the coast of Eriskay and made the island famous in the following story, Whisky Galore. The staff in the pub evens show me some stuff that was recovered from the SS Politician, including some of the bottles of Whisky. Fed and quite heavily watered it was back to the tent to get some photos of the sunset, listen to some tunes on the boombox and have a relatively early night.

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Wild camping on Eriskay
Wild camping on Eriskay
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Wild camping on Eriskay
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Wild camping on Eriskay
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics


I had just got up and was brushing my teeth down the beach when I heard the big clang of the first ferry of the day from Barra arriving at Eriskay’s slipway. Not long after Euan and Kenny arrived. Euan wasn’t the happiest as Kenny, filled with anxiety about missing the ferry, had woken Euan up at the back of five o’clock in the morning to ensure they’d make it. I found that hilarious. I never had long to laugh at them as they were both starving and rode of in search of breakfast on the way to Lochmaddy. I packed up and set off after them, keeping an eye out for their bikes outside any open cafes we passed. There was no sign of them until I got to Lochmaddy itself, where outside the Lochmaddy Hotel sat two Winton Massif stickered bikes. They’d not found anywhere they fancied eating on the way up the road, but the Lochmaddy Hotel provided a good breakfast for us all. All that was left to do now was lay about and wait for everyone else to turn up.
They all made it, just, onto the 11.30 ferry to Uig. Skye came as a big shock after the quiet roads on the Outer Hebrides. The place is absolutely heaving. I had planned to rid over the Quiraing, but the Uig side was closed for roadworks. Instead Smillie and I headed over the north of Skye. Due to the mass of traffic overwhelming the wee roads I lost Smillie somewhere. I headed up the east side of the Quiraing on my own for a look. The top was like a busy city car park, except no one seemed to have actually passed a driving test. I quickly made my way off Skye. It’s a nice place with some good roads, but far too busy for me. Once over the Skye bridge I headed towards Applecross, a favourite stop for the Massif. Not far before Lochcarron I spotted the familiar sight of Smillie and his bright orange lid. I just managed to catch him as we rode in to Lochcarron where we stopped in at the Waterside Café for a bit and got stuff from the shop. It was absolutely roasting, a great day but surprisingly the Bealach Na Ba was quite quiet. I stopped for a few photos before heading down to the Inn to meet Faither, Kenny and HB who had driven up that day. An enjoyable afternoon on the campsite and an evening in the Applecross Inn followed. When we got back to the campsite we met John and his mates. It turned out that John didn’t actually enjoy the company of his mates too much, so we invited him to come to Strontian with us the following day. John was keen to try some dirt roads on the way, so I guided him along a route I knew of.
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Sunart Camping in Strontian is a regular haunt of the Winton Massif. It was good to catch up with Tim and Lynn. HB and I went out to the pub for a meal before meeting everyone once more back at Sunart Camping. John seemed to have enjoyed himself. We said our goodbyes to him and the rest of the guys the following day. They were all heading home but HB and I were off to visit Jess and Aidan at their place just south of Oban. There’s some great roads in the area, HB and I had a good explore around Seil before heading to Aidan's for the evening. It was a grand way to finish the trip.
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics
Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

Next up, the Alps.


Mike


Winton Massif Outer Limits Tour 2019 phone pics

If you're interested in a guided tour of Scotland that doesn't cost the earth give me a shout at
http://passingplacestours.com/