Last weekend we had a good weekend with the VRCC, to you non bikers that’s the Valkyrie Riders Owners Club. The motorbike is a Honda Valkyrie 1500cc and its in the cruiser style. it has the same engine as the Honda Goldwing 1500cc, maybe it could be described as a naked Honda Goldwing. Dont throw the knives into me guys I’m explaining to folk who don’t really know about motorbikes! The Valk..known within the fraternity as “The Dragon” has a lot more chrome, a lot more style, a lot more teeth and is a lot louder!
The name of the bike is as special as the bike itself…. “In Norse mythology a valkyrie (from Old Norse valkyrja “chooser of the slain”) is one of a host of female figures who decide which soldiers die in battle and which live. Selecting among half of those who die in battle (the other half go to the Germanic goddess Freyja’s afterlife field Fólkvangr), the Valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin. There, the deceased warriors become einherjar.When the einherjar are not preparing for the events of Ragnarök, the Valkyries bear them mead. Valkyries also appear as lovers of heroes and other mortals, where they are sometimes described as the daughters of royalty, sometimes accompanied by ravens, and sometimes connected to swans or horses.”
To own and ride such a bike knowing the above makes it all the more special, especially if it’s an American version…the real Valkyrie. The European version is known as the F6c, (yawn!) which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it now does it?
We got an invite to join them on our bike for their 3rd Great Northern Meet..The lakes.. by friends Black Bart and Suzi, both these guys ride a Valk apiece, they would ride down from Aberdeenshire and we would run the shorter leg from Doncaster to Lancaster.
So come Friday mid morning we began to dress for a cold ride up to the North West, snow was still lingering as was the accursed Russian wind, so vicious it froze the very land we stood on though it promised to be a bit sunnier at the weekend. We were both looking forward to getting out on the bike for a few days. The bike kit bikers have these days keep the severe cold and most of the rain out, we might look cold but I assure you we are quite warm inside!
The M18 and M62 prove uneventful and smooth..exactly what a motorway should be, we turn off the M62 and head towards Bradford climbing up the M606, the weather turned colder my cheeks turn a rosy red and my eyes water, we rode to the A65 clearing the clogged roads around Bradford and Keighley moving faster along the Aire Valley we opened up as the traffic fell away and flew even more swiftly along the valley floor, we could see snow on the near distant hill tops, it was a crispy dinner-time the clear blue sky replaced the usual dismal grey clag. We had ridden this familiar road many times with a pal of mine at great speeds, its such a beautiful road, twisting, dipping, rising, plunging and long lip curling straight bits, cars don’t get in the way for long, the double lines down the middle forbid any overtaking for most of the way. I heard my phone going off and pulled over to check it. Bart was texting their progress south as promised with just one word messages….DUNDEE…Good, they were making good time. I sent on one back then pushed on, we soon closed on slow-moving cars and set the bike up for overtake after overtake when the lines went down from two to one, an easy manoeuvre on a motorbike but not so easy in a tin box, we had time to look at the scenery when behind a line of cars, the hills looked beautiful with their sugar topped peaks. It was great to be out on the bike after a long protracted spell of “Narnia” weather, it’s practically Spring now and the bitter weather is still with us for gods sake! Still Further north-west we rode passing Settle and the huge flat-topped snow cake that was Inglelborough.
We stopped for a cuppa at the well-known beauty spot and popular bike stop at Kirkby Lonsdale AKA Devils Bridge, today though it was mainly retired folk enjoying it without the weekend crowds..and yes that includes me and her on the back! It’s nice to see fellow bikers but it’s equally nice to have places to our own too! Julie engaged a farmer in conversation by the “buttie van” She noticed he had dried blood caked on both hands as he devoured his bacon sarni, he explained he was dealing with some dead lambs this morning. A farmers lot is hard brutal and basic at times there is no question of that! We exchanged the time of day for a short while before getting back on the bike, we waved goodbye and head to the A683 turning south west now on the last leg down into Lancaster. A dark blue RAF Tucano training aircraft followed us…sorry thats just not true! An RAF aircraft zoomed low and passed us along the same valley, a few minutes later he was coming back along the same track passing us to some other valley, flicking his wings left and right to follow the contours now thats a proper ride out! We were 10 minutes from Lancaster when Bart sent us another progress text….ABINGTON SERVICES…They were still in Scotland though the English border would be only 30 minutes or so away. I think they would have the “hammer to the metal” so to speak and would be in Lancaster about 90 minutes
We passed under the M6 presently and having made such good time and with the 2 flying Valk’s an hour or more away we decided to ride up to Morecambe just 10 miles further on from our hotel and have a look at the sea. It was cold here as the wind blew in from Morecambe Bay. Directly across the bay one could sea quite clearly in the distance the snow-capped mountains in the Lake District. tomorrow we would be in amongst that lot!
Julie sits cosy as a bug in a rug as I take a photo, its a damn cold wind but we are wearing more layers than a piggin onion!
Content in Morecambe
It had been a great run to the west coast, crossing from Yorkshire into Lancashire, Bart and Suzi on the other hand were coming a great deal further. On the map if you look at Aberdeen then track North West about 30 miles and you will find their place…or not.. if using Sat-Nav!! The post code gets you within a couple of miles then its kinda take your pick in any direction from the dozen or so dwellings. we had to drive to the top of one of the hills to get a signal then phoned the man, Bart gave directions for the last mile. I’m glad we didn’t try it at night! It’s in a brilliant place outside a small town and hidden by low hills surrounded by pockets of woodland. There is no X marks the spot or anything like that, no, just an unobtrusive painted nameplate nailed to a tree but there’s a definite whiff of WD-40 emanating from the mystic bunker that whispered bike garage..further in the trees lies their ancient stone enclave.
We rode back to the hotel in Lancaster, a local Premier and checked in. It wasnt long before a roar outside signalled the arrival of the two Valks belonging to Black Bart and Suzi. We met last time at the NEC at Birmingham in Autumn last year when the bike show was on, and now here we were again. An hour later we were in the taxi heading for the Valk riders hotel cum bar cum eatery just the other side of Morecambe. It was a good night the folk who had turned up for the weekends ride came from wide and afar, London..the Midlands.. Wales.. Manchester..Scotland and that’s just the few I got to speak with. Midnight came quickley and it was soon time to head back to our hotel, the ride-out was a 9.15 ish start in the morning so we had to be up around 7. With that in mind we still followed Bart and Suzi back to their room and I was quaffing their whisky like nobodies business, hell I must have been merry coz I don’t like bloody whisky!! I’m due on a whisky fact-finding mission to Oban on the west coast of Scotland at some point, I’m assured the man there has a whisky that I will like….says Bart!
We trooped into the breakfast bar at before eight for a full on heart attack breakfast to soak up the effects of last night, at £8 a go I was eating it come what may! The day was beautiful and blue, the wind had dropped away leaving it just a tad crisp in the air, no clouds could be seen. What a transformation from the constant crap of the last month. We zipped up and got our bikes ready, taking the locks off and cleaning the overnight frost from the seats is what I meant by getting the bikes ready! The bikes were two Honda Valkyrie 1500cc and one Honda Goldwing 1800cc motorbikes. I think everyone on the ground floor was up by the time we left dodge, Ours is the perfect precision engineered quiet breezy space like soul-less powerful 1800cc Japanese cruiser engine, the two Valks on the other hand couldn’t have sounded so different..BRAH!! BRAH!! BRAH!! x 2!!
A huge grin split my face, Ooh how nice does that sound! The grin stayed at the thought of the whole North facing Premier Inn’s 52 bedroom occupants was instantly awake..well hell it’s after 08.30hrs people ought to be awake by now on such a beautiful day!
We cruised along to the starting point 7 miles away in the pub car park at the Valks den, the “den” was The Slyne Lodge Hotel just to outside Morecambe. Bikes were lining up already, the gathering riders polished..took photos..had a fag…had a coffee..went t’ loo…and did other bike like stuff.
Julie and Suzi dressed for some fun
Todays Gruppen Furher was Mr Mick Williams from Manchester he was assisted by Mr Bobbie Gibbons, known in the bike world as MickManchester and BobbieValk respectfully. Mick had spent time and carefully planned the route he even rode up here a few days ago as the snow was still loitering and he wanted to make sure it was OK. I know he and Bobbie have put a huge amount of time and effort organizing the weekend, I’ve done similar work in the past and so appreciate what they have done.
Today’s Team Photo
Q. When is a motorbike not a motorbike?
A. When its got three wheels of course!
Loads chrome adorned this Honda 1500cc flat six engine
Some of the luckier people have to tie their hair back..Suzi!
Soon enough its 09.15 and everyone gets ready to move, the lucky ones just slide helmets onto balding heads whilst others have to “faf about” and tie their hair back. Ah I remember those days!
We pull out one after another following Mick as he heads up the A6 out-of-town towards the Lake District and those far away snow-capped hills, the traffic is not so bad at this early hour, all the same a bike pulls out pauses across the road to let everyone out from the car park as a group, the one or two cars are thanked for their momentary hold up.
There is about twenty motorbikes and the one trike conversion in the group for todays ride out, I pulled out near the end its the place Id sooner be in a group ride,I feel more comfortable either in the No1 or No2 spot or right at the back at the back.
We soon left the fast A6 to join the A590 and head towards Windermere, near to Staveley to be exact, the water was just out of reach for the moment. Now nto the first of many B roads of the day and the first of todays lakes was actually spotted, this was Coniston Water. Love it already!
The light this morning was perfect and the landscape looked pin sharp, really good for photographs, but today I was riding and with a bike or two behind me, not much scope for stopping and still a bit too cold for Julie to play with the camera, with gloves off, she cant do it well with gloves, I guess we shall just have to come back another time! We were at a pretty low altitudeand so every thing was a rich green, the land was coming to life, cold spell or not its April and Mother Nature is beginning to wake up. It was mid morning when we stopped at a place called Hawkshead for a cuppa and a smoke for those who did. Julie bought some of the famous Kendal mint cake, well it would be rude not wouldn’t it? Mick had planned for us to take a short ferry ride across Windermere and called this section “Dragons on the Water” he even got a huge discount for us all and the crossing cost just £1 a bike. Well done that man its not about the money!!
Almost like being on the P+O Ferry but not quite!
It was a short hop across the water, we roared off the ferry in no time, again another rider pulled into the centre of the road and we all flowed onto the main road, one guy in a big black 4×4 ignored the solo sat across the road and drove into the middle of our group, what a twat! Most folk on the road slow down and let us all go, as a group this makes our progress easier and stops any problems for cars stuck in the middle of us, it also saves the bikes having to overtake said twat to keep with the group. Nobody on the highway can demand vehicles stop except the emergency services. What we do is asked for a curtious halt most road users read the situation and give us a break, sometimes just sometimes someone comes along and acts the “twat” and there’s nowt we can do about it unfortunately.
We rode towards Windermere on great little roads and viewed the water to our right through the trees, the sun danced of the water’s surface winking at us constantly, rays of sunshine darted through the woods, we rode on with the same black SUV stuck between us In spite of said “twat” it was a great ride! However at Windermere town centre on one of the mini roundabouts half went one way the rest went the other way.
For me in my day as a rideout organiser there are proven and safe formula’s to use, one being the rider must keep up with the one in front, keeping him or her in sight. “Follow my leader” is deffo the best rule of thumb, the leader will of course keep below the speed limit, never going to max and frequently on difficult stretches pull over when safe to do so to give “laggers” the chance to catch up.To be honest bikers are on the best overtaking vehicle on the road so it should never be a problem..I think it’s just down to skill and confidance. A problem could be that lots of bikers are car drivers first and bikers second so often don’t ride to what the bike is capable of. Basically what I’m trying to say is that some can and some can’t. Sorry guys!I feel strongly about it, Ill get off the soapbox now.
Its only April and this is probably the first bike ride of the season for many so some biking skills get forgotten and these things do happen occasionally. At one of Windermere’s roundabouts somebody lost sight of the guy in front, and with his right hand up to signify “HELP I don’t know where the fook I’m supposed to go” the bikes behind him followed we stuttered on for about a mile before turning around and take the other turn..some shouted ideas across to each other whilst trying to keep with the flow of the traffic. RIGHT turn Clyde we went and along another road we picked up speed to catch up and was the best we could do, another roundabout made us more confused, we pulled over and discussed which way to go. We agreed to go on the little road to Kirkstone Pass. Taking the other right back at the last roundabout. The Valk is not a nippy 250 runabout that can be turned on a sixpence neither is our Goldwing, both needed skill and judgement to perform the 360 turn. Once again a Valk pulled into the road stopped and begged forgiveness, the oncoming bus driver stopped we hauled ourselves round waved a thank you to him. We turned up the A592 into the snow topped hills, hopefully we were on the correct route now and catch up to the leader presently maube.
Personally I didn’t hear the ride out briefing probably because we were at a different hotel, It wasnt the end of the world and I can keep up with a group of touring cruisers no problem, it was a day out in fine countryside and was going to be fun whatever lay in wait for us! We had the map book and the hotel was zeroed into the Garmin, we couldn’t actually make quick progress along these “upsidayzee” roads. Narrow and perambulating they went, the fantastic scenery just had to be seen it reminded us of Austria, church spires with snow-capped hills and all that. Ullswater washed up on our right lapping at the shore just a couple of feet away, it was lovely it was magic. We were now a fast group of seven or eight bikes pushing on quickly, slowing a tad at pub car parks to look for half a dozen Valks, pausing at junctions too. On the frisky bits we opened the throttles more and enjoyed our alternative ride. After a while though our group pulled over at Pooley Bridge and held a “pow wow”. Technology took over as mobiles were rung I- fones activated and pressed, my Garmin came out of the boot. A post code and an address was relayed from someone at the dinner stop to the “phoneee” then to me. Mistress Garmin came to life and flexed her muscles as I caressed the new co-ordinates into her. It was time for me to have a go at the front now, the lead had changed several times today. Our group now turned onto a tiny white road that twisted up and over the land through Bennet Head onto the A66 and west to Keswick dinner lay about 15 miles away. The old 66 cut a river of wide smooth tarmac deep into the land curving here and there. I resisted the urge to wind back the throttle and let the Wing play, It wasnt long before we arrived at the Keswick it lay just to the left of coming roundabout. Mistress Garminhowever hadn’t finished with me and proceeded to take us right at the roundabout then right right, circling a field via a miniscule rotting little lane with a high hedgerow to both sides! Very very occasionally the bitch does this with no obvious explanation, no doubt its my fault as the “imputee”! I turned the bitch off and rode to the roundabout a hundred yards away and to the left exit, the cafe was just around the corner, we slowed and parked amongst the Valks already here.
lunch was longer than usual owing to our late arrival. Mick was calculating in his head and making some adjustments to the ride we didn’t want to be getting back too late because the tour dinner in the lodge was booked for 07.30, meals were ordered so we didn’t want to be late, eventually bikes we rode down in dribs and drabs to the petrol garage to top up ready for part two. We gathered on the roadside ready for part II. Mick was leading us up to Honister Pass via Braithwaite and Thornwaite and Butermere.
At the top of Honister Pass..looking back towards Buttermere.
The car drivers today were abnormally inept at driving, maybe this is the first time they had strayed from the school run / work run /shopping run who knows but a lot of them drove likes ignorant asses (two road traffic accidents today bore testimony to my thoughts) Several bikes nearly came to grief on these narrow roads as car drivers didn’t think about what they were doing, they refused to slow down showing nil tolerance to anything smaller than a panzer tank (we should have been in the Landi!!) I suppose it could have been worse and we could have come up against a caravan or a fekkin camper van driven by a baldi blind twat his two minature lap dogs and his equally blind purple rinsed wife!
A 1o minute loo break at Honister Pass
We managed to dodge duck and dive around several cretinous car drivers and puledl into the dusty grey shale car park at the top of Honister Pass. The car park isn’t motorbike friendly at all, it was made from loose grey shale and very uneven in parts, I for one parked up at the shop entrance with my sidestand on the patio. The problem is it’s still a working slate mine so have to park the best we can.
The sun was glorious the sky was lovely and clean, it still wasn’t short sleeve weather yet but it was still great to be out and about on the bikes, we have been here several times before the ride up to in from either direction is equally as great. You cant loose coming here for a visit, just be wary of the bloody cars, they dare not stray from the treacle tarmac as it drizzled down and round the boulders. Its the likes of you and me on our bikes that have to stop and give way for the most part!
We retraced our route a few miles passing again a pink scooter by the water with two girlies smiling and waving as we passed. Two up on their little pink scooter on these roads with THOSE bstard drivers is certainly a brave thing to be doing, I doff my hat to you both in admiration. You deserve your Tia Maria’s and banana tonight ladies!
Halfway down Butermere Mick turned us onto a narrow than normal little white road, we found ourselves right behind the leader now, Id pulled away from Honister Pass first and now slowed for Mick to work his way through the pack to retake the lead we then tucked in behind him. We tumbled along on this difficult stretch of road, the undulating tarmac turned and twisted seemingly going around 100-year-old trees and into blind bends, this was OK if taken slowly, I’m not sure how our trike was doing but very glad we were not on it!
Mick paused here and there to let the group reform before we burst out from the bushes and back onto the A66. Through Keswick and south towards Ambleside we roared, well, they roared and I hummed loudly!! The traffic was awful for the next few miles it was the nose to tail from Ambleside to Windermere. Stop start for about 5 miles on not a very wide road, the viability was great and we had a trike amongst us so we sat in the slow-moving traffic. We came across the first accident of the day it was between two cars I think, we picked our way through bits of broken car and glass and a part-time cop on the road doing his best to keep the traffic moving. I didn’t take note of the actual accident so can’t really describe it to you. The pace picked up and we got a lick on heading back south towards our final destination. The dual carriageway was a pleasant time gainer for a few miles and at a large flat roundabout Mick turned onto the A6 followed by Suzi..Bart.. and one other! Mick pulled over to wait for everyone to catch up we waited a few minutes but nobody showed! We rode a bit further and paused at our next turn off, the solitary bod now disappeared from the group too. Mick and I were staring into our mirrors when Suzi and Bart pulled up behind, Bart shouted “And then there were 4!” I presumed someone behind Bart decided to hit the M6 that runs parallel to the A6 and blast back quickly to the hotel and I presume the remainder just followed him?
Having put time and effort in organising the ride on some of the best roads in some of the finest countryside in the UK is hard work so for some to go home on the motorway without saying is a bit off I think. Mick was a little exhasperated to say the least!
We pushed on regardless but near Cairnforth we hit traffic and soon became stationary, a quick shout from Mick that we should bang on through, “OK mate we’ll see you later for dinner I shouted back” I flicked Mistress Garmin on for a few pointers to the hotel and pushed up through the traffic. At a set of traffic lights all four directions stood still, I started to push across when two car suddenly moved across me! I grabbed loads and the front forks of the wing dived as we stopped abruptly. This reminded me of riding in London, I lived there from 1986 -2000 it was exciting to ride the bike in the city and kept the heartbeat healthy! So this snarl up in Cairnforth was nothing!
Soon we were at the front and saw a car and a bloody red bus on our side of the road and a car at an angle on the opposite side, the driver moved the bus as best he could and traffic slowly crept around a paramedic’s car, another part-time cop was trying to help the traffic move we rode our bikes around yet more accident refuse, one thing stood out on the road, it was a huge cone of sweets, they had been scattered all over the road, a police car arrived lots of people where on the pavement standing and sitting on the low wall, concentrating again I saw nothing but the bus and the sweets on the road.
Mistress Garmin took us the last ten miles to the hotel, we passed the lodge where the Valk riders were staying I looked across and caught a glimpse of riders in the courtyard and grinned to myself wondering if Mick was hosting a debrief.
An hour later we had lashed the bikes together at the hotel said a quick “Hi” to our blonde in reception, washed changed and returned to the lodge care of a local taxi, we noted the price for the three identical trips (so far) had reduced each time going down from £10.50…£9…£8.40p… if we’d booked in for a week the last night must surely be free! What do you think guys?
Black Bart of Fyve
The evening dinner was spot on and filled the hole nicely. I’ve forgotten exactly what I had, should have took a photo and posted on FB as many folk seem to do these days? Bart had sheep with shoulder-blade. Mick and BobbieValk received a well deserved round of applause for a job well done. Bobbie then hosted a raffle which seem to benefit most of the Valk members from Wales judging by the 95% win rate with the tickets….Guess where BobbieValk comes from…WALES “look you, there it was gone isnt it! The night could have gone on a lot longer but sleep was dragging some of us down. It had been a long ride today we had been up nearly 17 hrs and had been in the saddle 7 hrs. Not bad for the firsts ride of the year. So a taxi was ordered to take us back we left after saying our goodbyes and thank you’s and out the door we went.
The following morning started off with a hearty breakfast again after which we said our own goodbyes to Bart and Suzi. Its been great to see them and have such a fab ride out in spite of the splintering and fragmenting, through the day Bart led for part of the way then I too had a little go as leader, it was different but it was fun.
Sunday morning got into gear as we rode the well-heeled bike road towards Devils Bridge cop vans with cameras were out, race bikes snarled past us leather clad power rangers hugged their steeds tightly as they broke several road traffic laws a minute..probably. Yeah Spring is here!!
Snowy Ingeborough in the distance
Dozens of sport bikes came roaring past us as we rode towards Devils Bridge. We soon turned away and towards Skipton, the two-wheeled traffic quietened a bit. The A65 was pretty lively this morning with motorbike heading to the bridge and quite a few other vehicles taking people about their business or pleasure. At one point two “yoofs” on a bike were so determined to pass me that they pulled a wheelie before the next bend he was so determined to pass us!
OK so now they are grinning as they have just blown those two old gits on their lumbering Honda Goldwing armchair, blown them so out of the water! Ho Hum here we go again! Thiskind of thing happens infrequently to us and we always respond in kind by speeding up to them and keeping pace just a few yards behind. You can see them doing a double take in the mirror as the “old gits” on the lumbering old Honda Goldwing closes them down. I don’t try to be reckless or dangerous, I just like to make my point. We either pass them in kind or they gun it and disappear into the distance leaving us giggling in their wake or they turn off at the next available turning wherever it goes and that’s just what these two young guns did!
The bypass to Keighley came up next and the fun continued with a couple of boy racers in their souped up floor hugging loud tins cans. When will they ever learn? We slowed as we neared Keighley town, it was quiet and we slipped through, the lights and light traffic then up and over the tops towards Cullingworth Queensbury Hipperholme and down onto the motorway for the 50mph run through the road works, it was around 3 in the afternoon when we turned the engine off home at Walnut Cottage in Hatfield, MISTRESS MABLE II had been thoroughly exercised this weekend without a glitch she hasnt run for a couple of months and achieved as that was asked of her.Not bad for a piggin armchair eh?