Blast to Peterborough

The excuse for the trip was having to pick up a parcel from the ridiculously distant PDP depot. The high point of the trip was the handmade sponge cake and cuppa at exotic Sainsbury’s Peterborough, and narrowly avoiding being backed into by someone in the car park. The route back home via Whittlesea and Coates (where I bought my first bike) and March is not that good on reflection. But what a beatuiful day, the temperature heading to 28 degrees on the bike.

A little discovery in Essex

After a bit of a gap I went on another observed ride in preparation for the IAM motorcycle test and on a rare sunny day. The starting point was the ever popular McDonald’s Sawston (I can’t understand why anyone would drive out there for a hamburger). About 50 miles of riding included dropping off at Hideout Leather, a successful company founded in the 1970s that specialises in made to measure leather jackets and suits for bikers ( I read a long article about Kate Jennings, the woman that founded the company but can’t find it). The showroom is at Ashdon, Essex, not far from Safron Waldon in the middle of nowhere (CB10 2LZ). As well as stocking a range of other high quality biking stuff, like Daytona boots, their own brand is impressive, just at a quick inspection its clearly really hard wearing leather and nicely put together. A nice retro number ( a little like this but with a belt) starts at £700, so not cheap but it would last a lifetime. Its tempting.

New Book from Ted Simon

I’ve been reading Ted’s second (I think) book Riding Home (sometimes I think its called Riding High oddly). I see he’s got a new book coming out, Rolling Through the Iles, about a journey he’s taken in Britain, ‘back down the old routes that led to Jupiter’s Travels’ says the front cover. Hmm, nothing like milking that first book.

The Lone rider

This issue of Adventure Bike Rider has a few articles on riding alone and loneliness. The first is a rather eloquent account of Ben Owen’s ride through the ‘vast wilderness’ of British Columbia. He starts with the words of a friend who asked, uncomprehending, whether it is ‘a bit shit’ to travel alone. By the time he had reached British Columbia he already had ridden for two months in North America so this was a big trip, at least by my standards. The article chronicles the ups and downs of mood as he mostly travels alone through tough terrain and terrible weather. At times he is asking himself why he is doing this and occasionally a flash of landscape or a sudden achievement put the doubts at bay – for brief moments. It reminded me of similar honest moments in Ted Simon’s writing and of course of my own brief and usually unadventurous motorcycle trips. My trips are unadventurous in that they have not left Europe so far and mostly take place on tarmac but there are plenty of opportunities for anxiety and self-doubt particularly when the weather is bad and I get hopelessly lost. So this kind of writing speaks to me – much more than the matey accounts of trips with ‘grins’ and beers with a bunch of riders. Turn over the page and you get a column by chartered counseling psychologist Doctor Harriet Garrod who is currently taking referrals and charges between £250 and £400 for assessments. She says you need to mentally prepare yourself for going solo. One of her tips is to try imagining what everyone is doing back at home if you are tempted to head back early (as I have done at times). There isn’t a mention that some people may be temperamentally more suited to being on their own than others, strangely. I speak as someone who is at the end, the introvert end, of the Myers Brigs Introvert-Extrovert scale. Turn the page again and we get a less than gripping, but rather sad, account of a solo rider who found he wasn’t enjoying his 50th birthday treat of riding home to the UK from central Europe. He hated it so much that he rode home from the Adriatic in one go – 1400 miles in 25 hours. ‘The opportunity I’d created to celebrate my 50 years of life was tearing me apart: I sat next to the bike in some random European service station and cried’. Initially I was a bit dismissive of this article but this disappointment is quite touching. Perhaps he didn’t know himself well enough before he set himself this challenge. Someone said to me ‘don’t expect enjoyment, think of the journey as travelling not as a holiday’. I’ve found setting a target helps, getting to the top of Scotland, or Norway, getting to Slovakia. Then you aren’t looking for enjoyment.