Intrepid Trip – Cooperb to Ardnamurchan September 2016
Touring bikes these days are a lot like modern trucks. No seriously they are! Think about old trucks for a second, old fashioned gearbox’s & slower, louder engines on chassis that offered all the comfort of a wooden cart. By contrast modern trucks are mobile palace’s that waft the driver along in slickly suspended air conditioned comfort, shifting gear is done automatically for you & the steering is more like a modern car than a cart. Question is though, is driving one a long way as much of an adventure as back in the day?
Bikes are the same too.
Riding a modern tourer a long way is easy & of course great fun. The technology is good but if it makes it easy to ride fast (& so you often do) – is that always a good thing?
Won’t it eventually mean automatically travelling long distances at high speed? How will you see anything? How will you experience real adventure if your just moving at speed from A to B & everything between is a blur? Isn’t that dangerous? Won’t that become a little boring?
Small single cylinder bikes are known for delivering big fun in small doses – but can they cope with big distances?
This month an intrepid group of 11 rode 1288 miles in four days & 9 of us where on single cylinder bikes all around 500cc. And what a great trip it was! It was great because riding those little bikes all that way made us all feel like kids again! Our average age worked out to be very late forties & between us there isn’t a continent we haven’t ridden on & barely a brand of big bike that hasn’t been owned by at least one of us yet it was this trip on these bikes that we all agreed we enjoyed the most. “The most fun I’ve ever had on two wheels” is just one quote.
Our trip started at Cooperb M’cycles Ltd in Easton Maudit Northants & took us all the way to Ardnamurchan which is the most western point in main land Britain & back. None of the route was direct & most of it was by the best & most twisty A & B roads on the map.
Meticulously planned, the route delivered riding heaven & Scotland is perfect for bikes.
Some of the roads were so tight that it doesn’t take much to close them. However, in rural Scotland – even the detours are great fun!
We used two ferries & passed through tiny hamlets & along the edge of the West coast so close to the sea that we could smell the beach for hours on end. We used B roads so remote we were chased by dogs, scowled at by huge cows, leapt at by sheep & ignored by goats. We rode through torrential rain on day one & through gale force winds on the last day (Otherwise the weather was great!) We dodged gravel and diesel on the road took in some of the finest views on the planet & loved every minute.
The mix of bikes was pretty good too. There was 4 Royal Enfield Continental GT’s, 2 Bullets & a Woodsman. There was a new SWM 445 Cafe Racer & a Mash Roadstar. Our 9 single cylinders where joined on the way up by a BMW R1200R & a Triumph Tiger.
What was interesting was the inevitable comparing of the Continental GT & the SWM as they are both Cafe Racers. For pottering around there was not much between them, similar riding position & so on. However, when ridden more enthusiastically we found that performance wise, the SWM was faster than the standard GT’s and a match for the two GT’s that had the full hot up kits fitted (- but not really any quicker.) Any slight advantage in outright top speed was irrelevant due the GT’s better use of its gearbox, it seems to be able to hold on to its gears for longer before needing to change up. Ride wise the handling is evenly matched & both bikes love to ridden hard but comfort wise the SWM definitely has a better standard seat. One of the GT’s had a deluxe gel seat which was superb! When the rain fell, the block tread pattern of the SWM’s tyres which look like actual full wets where a joy. Stable & full of confidence this bike danced from puddle to puddle & laughed in the face of standing water & wet white lines. Interestingly, one of the GT’s also faired well in the wet on Michelin’s – but the bikes shod with the standard Pirellis where not quite as happy. An easy way to improve the GT for year round riding is swapping the tyres we decided.