Blasts from my Past – Hooning on a little Honda

I find it hard to believe but next year  it will be 35 years since I undertook my first ‘epic’ bike trip. To be honest at the time I thought very little of it. I was 17 years old and my motorcycle at the time was a Honda CB100N. Even back then, in a market place where the hot learner bikes were the likes of the Yamaha RD125LC, this was not the most scintillating choice, but it was mine and I loved that little bike. We buzzed around Brum and with every mile covered, gradually earned our motorcycling stripes together.

My Honda CB100N, back in 1982 on the drive of parents place in Birmingham

I was an apprentice engineer back then and the company where I worked, for reasons best known only to itself, decided that sending us to the Lake District for a week of intensive ‘Outward-Bound’ training would be good for us. I was struggling to see the link between building axles for vans and yomping up hills, but hey ho….
The rest of the lads were getting to the Lakes in a mini-bus, but I thought ‘what the hell – I am going on my bike – it’s only 180 miles!’ The furthest I had been before was Walsall, less than 10 miles from home! So I was going to do this on a 100cc bike. I had not even passed my test yet, so I couldn’t use motorways. What the hell? It would be fun! I made way gingerly north following a route planner that I had written out on a piece of cardboard (from a Kellogg’s cornflakes box I think) and then taped to my tank. The key junction changes were written in black marker to make them easy to read. Who needs GPS or sat nav?? All this was planned out using a good old map….remember those?  Over thirty years on I can’t actually recall the route I took, but I do remember the game little Honda covering the better part of 200 miles that day. The last 50 or would were spent picking our way through the stunning Lakes District and the feeling that sense of freedom that only motorcycling can give really hit me for perhaps the first time. Our base for the next few days was a very basic lodge somewhere between Brotherswater and Ulswater…it might have been called Hartsop Lodge. Even though it had taken me hours to get there I would still happy at being on my bike rather than being crammed into a knackered Ford Transit with a dozen other ‘Appos’.
The course was fun as we mucked about in the hills and lakes allegedly ‘team-building’, memorably getting hugely lost on one navigation exercise….NOW a Sat Nav would of been handy! But all too soon the week was done.

Some of my apprentice buddies looking a little lost somewhere in the lake District!

But I wasn’t, and neither was the little Honda. We were in the north of England, my eldest sister lives in the north of England, it only seemed logical to pop in and say ‘hello’ while I was in the area! One little detail…I was in Cumbria, my sister was in Northumberland…completely over the other side of the country and between the two runs the spine of England…the mighty Pennines!! Once again the CB100 just lapped it up, tackling this virtual coast to coast jaunt in its stride…I remember coming down one large dip and as it rounded out at the bottom and then raised back the next side of valley a long stream of slow moving, virtually stationary traffic stretched out before me. I just swept past the lot – it felt great! We forget just how beautiful this country is sometimes, and just how much of it ISN’T covered in housing, offices and industry. The Pennines are wild and wonderful – I must go back someday and ride this route on a more ‘substantial’ bike.

Not exactly sure where this was taken to be honest

After a few hours I dropped down into Northumberland proper, to be greeted by an even more stunning backdrop. Northumberland seems wild and unexplored at times and it’s littered with some of the most spectacular castles you find anywhere in the world. The coastal views and roads are fabulous. Me and my little 100cc friend spent a few days exploring before I had to head back to Brum.

Rolling into my sister’s place in Northumberland, a little row of old tied cottages called ‘Buston Barnes’ near Alnmouth

Trust me the A1 seems really, really long when you tackle it on a 65mph bike! But it just kept going, sipping petrol at well over 100mpg.

Somewhere on the A1 I think

I didn’t even have to stop for fuel. I rolled onto the drive of my parents house in a leafy suburb of Birmingham (it does have them you know!)  having covered around 600 miles in a little over three days of actual riding. What a great little bike….I wasn’t put off riding long distance on this gutsy machine…I repeated that Brum to Northumberland run again a few months later! Happy memories of simpler times…


Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly