Ducati 1260 Multistrada – is it a Better Bet Than the V4?

I developed a liking for V-twins when I test rode (on a whim) a 2019 KTM Superduke. I grinned and giggled during the test ride because the thing was mad. At the end of the test ride I had put a deposit down! I had that bike for a couple of years and mostly loved it. The only thing I missed was a bit more weather protection, and some more touring practicality.

The mighty KTM 1290 Superduke

Checked out my Options First

When I traded in the Superduke I did look at the KTM adventure options but they didn’t do it for me in the looks department. Quite fun on a test ride but big, hefty machines and not the best looking in my opinion. For adventure touring style bikes, I’d always loved the look of the modern Ducati Multistrada range. They also happen to be V-twins so have similar character with loads of low-down grunt and plenty of engine braking. I kind of like to ride on the throttle and rarely touch the brakes unless really pushing on.

Went for Wee One first

I thought I’d be more ‘sensible’ and opted for the Ducati Multistrada 950 S. A bit tall for me really, but only a problem when fully loaded or on an adverse camber. A really good bike and I enjoyed trips round Ireland and to the Alps. There were only three niggles. I wasn’t a huge fan of the 19-inch front wheel as it was ever so slightly vague in hard cornering. I did miss the crazy pull of that KTM. The other ‘niggle’ was that it had a conventional swing arm and I’d always had a thing for the single sided versions.

I Initially went for a 950S

The old Superduke grunt that made me grin in my helmet and encouraged the slightly silly side to come to the fore (you only live once) was probably the main thing I missed. I’m not claiming the 950s was lethargic by any means, but it just didn’t have quite the pull-your-arms-off urgency of the Duke.

The Solution

The solution (we’ll get there in the end) was another Multistrada. This time a 1260s. I know the new V4 is out which everyone seems to love. However, I didn’t want to remortgage to get one! Just as importantly  and if I’m honest (say it in hushed tones) I really don’t think it looks nearly as sexy as the Multistrada 1200/1260 it replaced. Anyone else see it and think Triumph?

So Ducati 1260 Multistrada it was then:

Single sided swing arm? Check.

Lower seat height (despite being a bigger capacity bike)? Check.

Decent touring comfort, luggage capacity and tank range? Check.

17” front to make rubber choice easier?

Check. Sexy looks? Check.

Put one on order? Check!!

Soon switched to the full fat 1260S

Shortly afterwards a very tidy 2018 Ducati 1260 Multistrada was mine. Time to find out if I had made the right shout.

It’s even got a colour Telly!

Good but not Perfect; Modifications required

I had read that the throttle on the 1260 could be a bit snatchy before I test rode it. But I didn’t find it too bad. I had once had a 2015 Yamaha MT09 Tracer that was pretty snatchy and had got decent at controlling it with a smooth hand. Two recommended fixes are a change of sprocket and the exhaust valve ‘fix’. The exhaust valve had already been done when I got the bike, but I did change the standard 15T front sprocket for a 14T before heading to Portugal. The thought of tackling the Portuguese Stelvio hairpins with a lumpy throttle low down wasn’t appealing.

Worked a Treat

This combination I found does make the Multi very easy to live with. And it also improves the acceleration which was already pretty awesome. It does impact top speed, but this not really something I was worried about. I have to say that it slightly increases the revs at motorway speeds but to be honest it’s not made any difference there that’s bothered me enough to notice. The low down difference is noticeable and of value, the upper end changes not so much.

The screen was already an after-market shorty Puig effort with an adjustable spoiler which I quite liked. There were also after-market levers and a bunch of Evotech protective parts but otherwise the bike was stock.

So – what’s it like?

 I’ve ridden the ‘new’ (to me) 1260s on a few longish days around Scotland, on the (afore-mentioned) Euro trip to Portugal and a jaunt down south to catch up with friends in Worcestershire. I can say that it does so far seem to be the goldilocks bike for me. I have the 1260s with full luggage (panniers and a top box). The same luggage setup was on my 950 too and I did a 2-week trip around Ireland, and another to the Alps on that. Plenty of space for me and the obligatory tools for travelling with others on less reliable marques…

Even with that load on the bike is far more surefooted in the corners than I felt the 950 was. The suspension on both bikes is excellent featuring the semi-active Skyhook suspension: Sachs on the 1260 and Showa on the 950. The Multistrada are known for this. I think the larger wheel on the 950 was better at soaking up the really big bumps/potholes

Confidence Inspiring

I have to say the 1260 is good enough even on the really rough surfaces. but also turns in that much more sharply in the tight hairpin bends on mountain passes. Despite being bigger and heavier it’s also very agile. Even at low speed, on steep cambered and really tight Portuguese streets (ask me and my Garmin how I know) the bike turns more tightly than you’d think it should.


The Engine is probably a touch softer than the Superduke. Both acceleration and engine braking, but to be fair the Ducati engine is hauling a lot more weight around: That weather protecting fairing/fuel and luggage all add up.

This doesn’t stop it being an absolute blast. Plenty of oomph to nip past vehicles even on short straight sections of tight Portuguese mountain passes. All this means nothing else can really spoil your fun for long. On the longer straights I found it addictive to twist the throttle and feel the bike propel you forward at great pace.

Comfortable Too

The riding position is pretty upright and very comfortable for long journeys and also allows me to lean forward slightly when pushing on. I stick a sheepskin over the seat for the longer trips: The run to Portugal was for 15 days and just under 4000 miles all in, so a bit of extra comfort was appreciated. Otherwise the seat on it’s own is pretty comfy. I have bought aftermarket seats before for other bikes but have not felt the need on the Multistrada.

The front brakes are excellent but as mentioned I don’t use them a lot as I like to setup for the corners using engine braking unless I’m pushing on more. The rear brake on mine is only there for show as stamping on it doesn’t do much. There is apparently as issue with the rear brake on a lot of Multi’s as the rear brake line is routed too close to the exhaust on the rear cylinder, so the fluid has a tendency to boil once it’s absorbed some moisture. I’ve bought some fluid and will trying changing fluid and bleeding to see if it improves but so far it’s there in name only.

Keep an Eye the Levels

It did burn some oil on the Portugal trip. The weather there was really warm (high 30s most days) and near the end I found it had burned a load of oil and needed topped up. A fellow rider with a Multistrada 1200 has the same issue during the trip so not unique to my bike but something to be aware of. Okay when home so seemed to be a combination of the really hot weather and throttle getting stuck on the on position too often 😉.

Checking out Portugal

So several thousand miles in and I am a happy boy. I have managed to find a bike that mixes the hooligan element of my old KTM and blended it with the comfort and capability of my old 950 Multistrada. All without breaking the bank for the full fat V4!

Words and Pictures: Ian Bryden

Yamaha Tracer 9GT – Love Story

I’m going to start this review of my 2021 Yamaha Tracer 9 GT with this statement…I love this bike.  I really do.  It fits and flatters my riding style to a tee.  When I get on it after a winter layup it feels like I’ve come home.  That Yamaha CP3 engine is near perfection as far as I’m concerned.

It came from outer space!

I even like the style of the, somewhat divisive, dash which reminds me of that beloved 1980s alien, Alf.  Don’t pretend you don’t remember who that is.  It might be an odd dash design but does what it needs to and I have no issues with it.

It’s those doleful eyes

Some background.   I bought this bike brand new in May 2021, just after it’s release.   It has been around Scotland and to England (a few times), Ireland, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany (including a lap of the Nurbergring/Nordschleife), the Netherlands, Spain & Portugal.  It’s been ridden in a variety of conditions and temperatures even though it gets laid up over the winter months (it was cold in the Alps).  I think I’ve done a decent test.

Furka & Grimsel Passes, Switzerland

Serra da Estrela Nature Park in Portugal: Not the easiest place to get to on a road bike

How has it got on?

As of the time of writing, July 2023, it has done a smidge over 19,000 miles and had 2 dealer services and 1 oil/filter change done by myself.  I’m on my 3rd set of tyres, the OEM Bridgestone T32s were pretty good but I like Michelins.  I had a set of Road 6s last year and currently a set of Road 5s.  The 6s were very good but I don’t think they were worth the extra over the also very good Road 5s.  So I’m sticking with them for now.

I have found the bike to be very comfortable for big miles as well as for short day trips.  For the big trips I use a sheepskin which helps keep me cool/warm depending on the conditions.  But I have also done 300+ mile days without and have never found the standard seat to be uncomfortable.  This is rare for me as I’ve struggled for comfort on other bikes.

Bouncy bits are great

The electronic suspension is sublime and it’s easy to switch between the two modes (hard &slightly less hard) whilst on the move.  I like both modes for different road surfaces but the slightly less hard mode is good enough most of the time.It’s also easy to adjust the preload with the remote adjuster.  It would be nice if the electronic suspension included preload but it’s a more budget bike so I can live with this.

There are 4 riding modes, 3 of which are essentially just different throttle maps with the 4th being a power limited “rain” mode which I must admit I’ve never used.  I keep it permanently in mode 2 which is still good for the open road but gives a bit more control in the slower stuff.

The electronic trickery works well

The quick shifter/auto blipper is one of the best I’ve tried, it’s mostly very smooth but can get a wee bit clunky when an oil change is due.

It has a 6-axis IMU with cornering ABS, traction control & lights.  Other than the lights, which are excellent at night, I don’t think I’ve managed to test the ABS and traction control.  Hopefully won’t ever need to but it’s nice to know they are there.

Good comfort levels

The seat, bars and pegs are adjustable but I haven’t needed to, I find the stock position of the bars/pegs and low seat height are fine for me.

The panniers are a good size and easy to get on and off.  They are both the same capacity as the exhaust is hidden under the bike.  They didn’t come with inner bags so I had to buy them separately, but they are worth the extra.  I’ve also added an SW Motech top box and tank bag.  Unless I’m going on a multi-daytrip I mostly just use the top box which is a good bit of kit to add.

Not all has been rosey in the garden

But, and there are a number of buts, it’s not been a perfect 2+ years.

There’s no getting away from the fact this is a pretty tall bike and I’m a short arse with a 28” inside leg.  Even on the low seat height I’m on tippy toes which does make moving the bike around whilst sitting on it very difficult.  I will caveat this, in my 10 years of riding I have never ridden a bike that I can flat foot, balls of my feet is the closest I’ve come.  As such, I am very used to that feeling but I know a lot of people would be put off by this.  I work around it by getting off the bike to manoeuvre it around which works fine as it’s fairly light.

I wouldn’t consider lowering it as this would compromise too much.   Needing to adjust the side & centre stands as well as hitting the pegs down more easily on corners just puts me off.  So, I just suck it up and tippy toe everywhere.

Aftermarket improvements

Another issue that many reviewers & owners have picked up on is the noisiness of the stock screen.  And it is an issue, the stock screen is not great.  I replaced mine with the MRA screen with built in spoiler and it was so much better.  I’d highly recommend this screen.  Unless you also use a Garmin XT on an Evotech mount.  In which case the MRA screen leans on the Garmin in an alarming fashion.  I was terrified it would push the XT off its mount.  I’ve now swapped it for an Ermax screen which is lovely to look at and doesn’t lean on the XT, but it’s a bit noisy again.  Definitely a compromise but one I’m willing to take for the XT.  I might try and add a spoiler but haven’t as yet.

Software glitch?

Since the beginning of this year I have also had the throttle issue that other owners have mentioned.  For the first 5 minutes or so of setting off from cold there was a violent hesitation to the throttle which made slow speed control difficult and sometimes scary.  But it mostly seemed to clear up after 5 minutes of riding.

However, one time the throttle stopped as I was accelerating in a spirited fashion through a corner which really scared me.  Ever run out of fuel?  That’s how it felt, and it was my first thought until I realised that the engine was still running, I just had no throttle.  I pulled into a layby, blipped the throttle a couple of times and it seemed to sort itself out.

The dealer couldn’t find anything wrong with it, there were no error codes.  They re-flashed the ECU and checked to make sure the throttle was within parameters which it was.  So, I merrily went to Spain & Portugal, where the issue just got worse and worse.  Ultimately ending in a drop when I slowly pulled out of a steep car park on full lock and the throttle died.  Not a great look.

Chain problems

I also had another issue rear its ugly head in Portugal, my chain began to let go.  It was fine before we left and I thought it would last to nearer 20k.At about 16k the front sprocket was hooking badly and the chain clanking alarmingly.  I found a Yamaha dealer in Evora (big shout out to these guys, they were awesome) who managed to swap the front sprocket from a recently arrived MT09 SP onto my bike to get me home.  I really should have changed the chain & sprockets before the holiday, lesson learnt.

The flame still burns

I have considered swapping the GT next year for the updated GT+, provided they release it in a decent colour like red, but I might not bother.  Despite the issues, I do still love this bike.

Words and Pictures: Gillian Pierce

Meet the ancestors:

Yamaha Tracer 900GT

Yamaha MT09 Tracer

ToL – Taste of Lincolnshire 2023. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers!

It’s remarkable to think that 2023 marks the 20th edition of this excellent ride out. One of the series of ride outs organised around the country by members of the Yamaha Thundercat enthusiast’s forum. Amusingly barely anybody in the group now actually owns a Thundercat: They arrive on tasty selection of Ducati, BMW, and other Yamahas in the main. I still have one, but don’t use it much these days and the only member who does have one, doesn’t have the most original or pristine example. However, despite this the valiant machine has made many epic trips over the years.

Eventful Runs to the Venue

I rolled up to this year’s event on my BMW R1200RS, my Thundercat staying at home tucked up under a blanket. It deserves an easier life these days. The same cannot be said of the ‘Colourful Cat’ that has the misfortune to be owned by our serial motorcycle abuser Rosco!

On his trip down from Scotland he was nearly collected by wingman Dave on his Multistrada: There was a bit of mix up about when a car was turning into a drive, when to overtake and when to brake. The upshot was that Dave wound up clipping the back of Rosco’s Thundercat. Thankfully, nobody went down and a bit of inventive work with racing tape and zip ties and everyone was soon back up and running.

The lightly restyled Multistrada

I’ll have a Flat White…

I was one of the first to arrive at the meeting. I survived an attempt to chuck coffee at me from car by a random kn@bhead on the M18 as I rode up. Bizarre. Venue for the weekends adventures was the rather lovely Forest Pines Hotel and Spa. Apart from the fact the name sounds vaguely like a toilet cleaner, it’s a lovely place. I quickly dumped off my kit in my room and sat watched the others roll in. For reasons best known to myself, I enjoy doing this. It feels like the atmosphere is gradually building. It reminds me of getting to a football game early and watching the crowd and anticipation build.

Its not a toilet disinfectant, it’s actually rather posh!

Soon we had the full complement of twelve bikes and Nick on his Reliant called Rodney. It was an impressive line-up: Five Ducati, four Yamaha, three BMW and the Can-Am. The golfing fraternity that seems to make up the majority of the clientele were taken aback and seemed unsure what to make of us. A hint of prejudice towards bikers remains. Some think we are all mad gang members rather than the more prosaic reality: We are just normal people with a liking for two (or three) wheeled fun.

All gathered together

The only Thundercat on the ride was treated to flower petals on its seat 

Down to Business

The traditional social was soon underway and despite bar and food prices being a little more than local pubs etc we had a cracking night. We were even graced by the presence of the Gillingham FC squad ahead of their rinsing at the hands of Grimsby on Saturday. We occupied a corner of the comfortable lounge area and on a baking hot evening soon spilled out on the patio area. Things we’re relatively restrained as we have a big day on the bikes (and trike…) ahead.

The usual evening shenanigans

He is a good looking boy

Time to Get Out There

Once everyone fuelled up the morning ride out quickly headed north into Yorkshire. Sharp as ever I managed to entirely miss poor old Steve taking a tumble on his 9GT in the petrol station. No harm done to rider or bike thankfully.

This Way Up…

A Break with Tradition Thanks to Technology

I am not a big fan of bike-to-bike comms, feeling that they are distraction and undermine the simple appeal of riding a bike. However, I must admit that today they were most useful in keeping a line of a dozen machines together. This meant for the first time in 20 years the ‘marker’ system that has served us well could be dispensed with. We picked our way past the Scunthorpe steels works, still imposing and impressive even though now it is but a shadow of its former self. Times change, sometimes for the worse.

Nick on the trike dropped off when we had to go past standing traffic but rejoined us at the first rest halt. As usual the organisers Chris and Pete had designed an excellent route, taking us across the spectacular Humber Bridge and through East Yorkshire and to the wonderful Dales of North Yorkshire.

The Humber Bridge – Spectacular

Over the Dales and on to the Moors

The pace was brisk in places, but I would say a notch or two down from some of our ride outs. Are we getting older and wiser or was the landscape just saying to us to chill and take it in? We rolled into the first rest halt of the day at the NY500 café. after good session.

Lots of Choppers!

Now this is a place well worthy of a visit from any petrol head. As you roll into the courtyard you are greeted by the sight of Chevvy Pick Up on guard duty and three MINI Coopers on the roof! Inside there is a mouthwatering collection of two and four wheeled delights. Not any old junk either: Metro 6R4, Cosworth Sierra in Moonstone, even Damon Hill’s first F1 car! Look up and the walls are lined with Raleigh Choppers! There is also a decent little collection of motorcycles.

The rather cool NY500 cafe

Can you have too many Choppers?

It’s popular with the petrol head community: On the day we visited we shared car parking space with everything from Porsches, Caterhams to a beige Morris Ital! We were amongst friends.

Bangers and Cash

Suitably refreshed the majority of the group headed directly out on the second leg of the ride, over the ridings to the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. But two of us split off and headed to Thornton-Le-Dale. If you are a fan of the TV Show Bangers and Cash, you will know of this as the home of Mathewson’s Auctions. These are the family featured in the show as they run their classic car business. We were both super keen to go and check out their base. I have to say the original site is a bit of a let down and is little more than a glorified gift shop these days. The real action is at the new warehouse a few miles up the road in Pickering.

Glad we went, even if it is a glorified gift shop these days

Peak Performance

We enjoyed the ride over the moors. However, some of roads were much better suited to the Multistrada my fellow splitter  from the main group was riding. Still great to get out in the wilds and taking in the sweeping views. We actually managed to arrive at the lunch venue first. The main group had had sneakily diverted to take in the steepest road in the country, Chimney Bank, to take a few pictures.

Peak Practice

Father and son on a red R1!

Look, I can ride one handed!

The Lion Inn offered fabulous views over the East Yorkshire Ridings, and it was good to have the group back together as one.

The team rolls in

Enjoying the Lion

Impressive Castle Howard

The ride out got back under way and the major attraction for me on the return leg was the absolutely amazing Castle Howard.  The road follows the ramrod straight driveway to the house cutting through the grounds with imposing monuments marking your way. At one point the road pierces the impressive curtain wall through an archway. As our line of bikes approached , a truck was being squeezed through the archway over the road. There were literally millimetres to spare either side. In fact, the driver had to get out a couple of times and check his progress while we all waited!

Imposing monuments and tight fits!

Police Escort!

The pace really upped in the afternoon and after a brief halt at The Percy Arms near Goole things were going along well. A great series of flowing bends for several miles. Steve on the R9T in particular was stretching its legs. It was all going fabulously until a Police car emerged from a side road. Luckily, this was after Chris and his wingman had gone through at the head of the line. The rest of us bunched up behind the plod as he crawled along for the next few miles. No doubt the occupants found the sight of 10 bikes in huddle behind them immensely amusing.


Ross in full swing

Lining up for Percy

Cool Welcome

Back out base at Forest Pines, Lindsay greeted us with a cool bag full of beers as we dismounted in the car park. What a woman. This caused much curtain twitching from our fellow guests, but on a warm, sticky day it was most welcome.

It’s good to get everyone back to base and apart from Steve’s tumble which I’d missed it had been a pretty much incident free day.

I’m surprised they let us in

Time for a Curry and Chilli!

One great thing about the venue was the onsite pool and spa and we all had access to the facilities. A few of the group decided to have a cool off in the pool before we all headed into Brigg in a couple of minibuses for a curry. The night passed in a blur of beer and banter if I am honest. A few of us made it as far as the local Wetherspoons for a nightcap.

Enjoying the delights of the Mumbai Lounge

A glimpse of ToL 2033??

They wont even let Dave in a Whetherspoons!

Then Things Got Really Hot

But the evening was far from over. It was time for the ‘Chilli-Chip’ challenge! Steve had thrown down the gauntlet to see who could eat the hottest chilli chip and keep their cool. But in the end only three others were prepared to take it on: Rob, Rosco and his wife Janet joined Steve on the start line. When I say start line, I actually mean Rob and Lindsay’s room where the entire crew was packed in to watch proceedings. I have to say it looked far more fun for those watching than those actually taking part.

Rob’s eyes immediately started to water, Steve turned redder than a F1 Ferrari, Rosco just seemed to explode. Meanwhile Janet remained cool as a cucumber. From my point of view Janet won hands down. Kudos to Mrs. S! At this point I sloped off back to my room before anyone made me try one!

Rob struggles, Steve winces, Janet looks like she is having a Cornetto…

Ross meanwhile…

Another highly successful ToL. I rode home the next morning having said my farewells with a head full of memories. So, thanks to Chris and Pete for another beautifully organised and executed ride out. Here’s to the next one!

Words: Tony Donnelly

Pictures: Tony Donnelly, Steve Phillips, Ross Barbour


Ireland 2023 – Rory Gallagher’s Brother

Today was a transitional day on our tour: We moved across from western to the eastern side of the country. In what was generally workmanlike ride we did work in a few points of interest. Notably Glenquin Castle, which is in fact an armoured tower house, rather than a full-on castle. Impressive structure all the same. Andy also managed to work us up onto higher ground and we enjoyed the sweeping views on offer.

Glenquin Castle

Impressive Vista

Took me back in time

On a personal level it was good to come across a roadside memorial that was erected to mark the visit of Pope John-Paul II to Ireland in 1979. That was in fact the last time I had visited the country to see the Pope in Dublin and near Knock. I had not been motivated by some religious fervour, rather as a spotty 14-year-old I would have done anything to get out of double physics!

Quite a thing to stumble across

We did wander past a large wind farm and were impressed by the sight of a man in climbing gear and harness, dangling from the end of a turbine blade seemingly redressing the edge with an angle grinder!

Our route essentially cut through the gap between the Mullaghareik and Ballyhoura Mountains. Initially on a series of R roads before picking up the N72 into Mallow and then down the N20 towards Cork. We did stop off briefly in Blarney, home to the famous stone, that gifts you the ‘gift of gab’ if you kiss it. Have you heard that old saying ‘they’ve kissed the blarney stone’ when somebody is waxing lyrical about something?

Yet again a tearoom left a load of stuff randomly on our table…

However, we were a little underwhelmed by the town and didn’t bother stopping long or checking out the castle that hosts the stone. Instead, we chose to press on.

Offered Ice Lollies!

Yet again we were riding in hot and humid conditions and as we struggled to find our digs briefly, we pulled up outside a house and have a chat to sort where we were. No sooner had we stopped than a women and daughter came over and asked if we were ok and offered us ice lollies! Luckily, they also knew where we had to get to and put us back on track. Yet more friendly and helpful people!

Barnbrow Country House was our destination. We rolled up its long, tree lined drive and broke out into the reception courtyard. We quickly got our rooms sorted and I somehow wound up with the best one. Just rewards after two days kipping on a sofa bed I suppose. It was sumptuously appointed and spacious. I did however have an evening long battle with the coffee maker in a bid get to deliver hot water for a cuppa. Then much later I discovered a kettle in the wardrobe doh!

Idyllic digs

Not everyday day of a biking trip has to be about covering hundreds of mines or going as fast as you can. This had been a chilled days riding. Just what we needed

Magical musical night

We sorted a taxi and headed into the local town of Ballycotton to have a few beers and get something to eat. His proved to be a bit of an unexpected highlight. Gerrard our driver arrived in a rather swish Audi A6. He whisked us into the town whilst simultaneously showing us the local sights, taking us to a viewpoint, before wittily recounting the tale of Rory Gallagher’s brother. The closest thing the area has to a celebrity, I think. All the time he was also on his phone laying horse racing bets and getting racing tips from his mate. What a character.

‘Shall we go to another pub? Ah, go on…’

We took in a pub he recommended ‘The Schooner Inn’ where we had the best scampi I have ever tasted, before crossing the road to take in the delights of ‘The Blackbird’. A couple of beers were quickly dealt with. The soft, lilting sound of Irish folk music played could be heard from the back of the pub. We wondered down a corridor and into a packed room to investigate. This was ‘The music room’. A feature of many a local pub in Ireland apparently. Here local folks were singing traditional tunes, accompanied by others playing guitars, accordions and Bodhrans (a circular, handheld drum). The atmosphere was fantastic and before we knew it,we were amongst the crowd and singing along. Magical.

I was chatting away to the locals about my Irish roots. A bit too much I later learnt, but anyway. What an epic evening. I had heard of these places but thought that the tales were exaggerated. It seems there were not. I was gutted to come away when Gerrard returned to collect us. It was great to sample a little of this Irish magic off the tourist trail.

Musical Locals

Day Eight – In The Thunder and Rain

It was a good job that I had a great night’s sleep in my super comfortable room as today that other great Irish tradition finally hit us: Rain. Lots of it too! We were all kitted up and made our way down the drive. It was at this point that Matt on his GS dam nearly went off the track and down a steep slope as he tried to give room to a car coming up the drive some. I was just behind him and genuinely thought he was going to go. Luckily, he just about got through ok. Phew

In light of the poor weather, we just went directly to the appropriately named Waterford. Home to the world-renowned crystal used in glasses and decanters etc. But we were wet and in need of food and a hot drink. So, we checked the McDonalds instead. OK, I know, but I have to say rarely has the sight of a ‘Golden Arches’ been so welcome!

Old memories re-kindled

From here we took a beautifully engineered and all but deserted motorway (M9) to fast track us to the Wicklow Mountains. Another place I vaguely remember from childhood holidays in the 1970’s. Even in the rain it felt good to be roaring along in a line of three BMW 1200s rather than crammed into an asthmatic 1960s Ford Zephyr!

Taking a break from the gravel

Once in the National Park that encapsulates the Wicklow Mountains, we found ourselves picking our way along heavily wooded lanes. It was still raining and a little grey. To be honest the sights, when compared to what we say on the Atlantic coast, did not compare well. To make matters worse one section had been freshly re-gravelled. This went on for several miles and at times we were down to less than 30 mph. Not fun.

Only one thing for it. We stopped at a tea room. This time Matt didn’t, I repeat didn’t have a huge scone with cream and jam. However, I did. They were great! Yet again we bumped into more chatty locals, a Harley-riding ex-pat and his sister this time. She took a shine to Andy and keep mentioning she was single. Hilarious! There was also a family visiting from California in the USA. Quite a contrast in surroundings for them, but they seemed happy enough!

The next section was much better, no fresh gravel as the road wended it’s way through a lovely landscape of rolling valleys. A particular highlight was beautiful waterfall where we stopped for a while to get off the bikes and appreciate our surroundings better.

Sweeping views, mist hanging low

Then all of a sudden it seemed we dropped down from the national park and into the suburbs of Dublin. The traffic as so heavy that we crawled the 5 or 6 miles to our digs for the night. The only thing of note is that we did cross the famous River Liffey. Once reviled for the level of pollution it suffered. Now much improved and a notable landmark

Expensive city, so back to Uni for us!

We had really struggled to find affordable accommodation in the capital. Being quoted hundreds of pounds each in some cases! But a little thinking out of the box had us sorted. We stayed in the student halls of the DCU (Dublin City University). They rent them out over the summer when the students nurse their hangovers back with Mommy and Daddy. They are very basic but a relatively cost effective way to stay in Dublin

Back to Uni (Not that I actually went to Uni…)

We did have access to a kitchen but chose to head to the student bar, which still open to support the international students who were still on campus. The sight of three middle-aged bikers wondering in didn’t seem to raise eyebrows. So, we ordered beer and pizza and proceeded to have an excellent night! We didn’t head into the city centre as I feel it would just be like many other big cities and didn’t gel with the vibe of our tour.

The only way to sign off the trip!

One last pint, until the next time…

The next morning it was up early to head tot ferry port for our 9am sailing. Only 3 miles so the digs were super handy from that perspective too. The ferry we boarded the Norbay is a bit of shed, very much more oriented for freight traffic: Coming up from the vehicle deck involved negotiating narrow metal walkways and steep, steel steps. It genuinely brought to mind HMS Belfast, which I toured last year!


However, the lounge was comfy enough and the hot food and drinks were included in our ferry fare. We had got a good deal at £59 per bike/rider. So having the meals too was a real boon. A decent breakfast, soup and a roll at lunch and a three course meal about an hour before docking. Absolutely spot on! Then as an added bonus, just as I went up on deck to get some air, the BBMF Avro Lancaster flew directly over us! What a fabulous sight and the sound of the four merlin engines roaring away…awesome!

Andy eating Matt’s bread roll

The mighty Avro Lancaster PA474 of the BBMF was apparently on route to the IoM

Old tub, but such a smooth crossing

The crossing was smooth and uneventful and after getting of the ship first we all headed back to the midlands, splitting at Whitchurch as we had on the way up. I got home with 1332 mils added to odometer and a mass of memories that I will treasure forever. That, my friends was an epic trip. Thanks to Andy and Matt for being top company throughout and full praise to the people of Ireland, both north and south for your warmth and your welcome. To quote a certain Austrian, ‘I’ll be back…’

Here’s to the next trip.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

The first two parts of the trip are recounted here:

Part One 

Part Two

Honda VF500FII – The Svelte Superbike

Editor Introduction: Back in mid 1980’s I rode a Yamaha RD350YPVS. At the time it was the weapon of choice for the young lunatic on budget. But there were alternatives. Most were air-cooled, 4-stroke 550s as typified by the Kawasaki GPz550. A good, swift bike, but no YPVS. Honda had tried to get in on the quick middleweight action with the CBX550. However this was killed by tales of woe regarding cam chain adjusters and the frankly silly inboard disc brakes. But Honda decided to have another go at it and came up with a bike that I hold in equal regard to the YPVS. A sophisticated, stylish, swift bike with proper brakes. It quickly built a reputation as a fine handling bike. Perhaps not as ‘edgy’ as YPVS, but now regarded very highly in many circles.

The Interceptor

This article is the first in an occasional series about some of the bikes, and their owners that come along to the  Oxford group meetings of the VJMC. First Saturday of the month at The Chequers, Weston on the Green if you’re interested in joining them . To kick things off let me introduce you to Martin MacQueen’s 1985 Honda VF500FII. Known in some markets as The Interceptor, it’s an embodiment of the remarkable engineering prowess that Honda demonstrated in the 1980s. This middleweight sports bike has a unique blend of performance, handling, and retro charm. This continues to make it a desirable machine among motorcycle enthusiasts. And that’s a conclusion Martin would certainly endorse. He’d wanted one of these since he was 17. Quite a few years ago, although for the sake of decorum we’ll gloss over exactly how many!

Long Haul to where he is now

He bought this particular example in December 2012 and spent the next two years stripping and completely rebuilding it.  As is the  case with many of us who have gone down this path the rebuild costs totalled nearly three times the purchase price. Was it worth it? Well he certainly seems to think so and having seen the bike close up while taking the photographs I’d also agree. The bike is a testament to the quality of his work.

Get to know the VF

If you’re not that familiar with mid 80’s Hondas here’s a quick rundown of the VF. At its heart is a 498cc liquid-cooled DOHC V4 engine. This compact yet powerful unit provides a lively and engaging ride. It revs up to an impressive 12,000 RPM, producing a power delivery that is both linear and exhilarating. Its V4 engine is a testament to Honda’s innovative spirit, and its distinctive exhaust note adds to the overall sensory experience of the ride. You might think that a 12k redline and long engine life are uneasy bedfellows but with over 54,000 miles on the clock Martin’s VF still sounds crisp and mechanically quiet.

Well worth all the blood, sweat and tears

Intricate, the restoration work is meticulous

Great Combination

The engine is paired with a six-speed transmission, offering a broad range of power that suits diverse riding conditions. In city traffic, the bike feels agile and responsive, while on the open road, the engine’s top-end rush provides an adrenaline surge that still holds up well even when compared to modern sports bikes.

He is particularly impressed by the bike’s handling. Its low weight: approximately 200kg when fully fuelled. Combined with its compact size, make it agile and nimble. The bike provides excellent feedback to the rider, instilling confidence in various riding situations. Its adjustable anti-dive system in the front forks and an adjustable ‘monoshock’  set up for the rear suspension help the bike remain composed over different road surfaces: They contribute to its stability even when cornering at higher speeds.

It’s not perfect

Despite these strengths, the VF500F is not without its drawbacks. The ’80s era switchgear and instrument panel are outdated and can feel quirky to operate for those accustomed to modern motorcycles. Additionally, the V4 engine’s complex design can make maintenance a challenging task. The bike’s relatively short production run also means that finding replacement parts can be difficult, which may deter potential owners who are not up for the challenge.

Some say outdated, or is it just crisp and clear?

Typical of the period

Aesthetically, the VF500F is a distinctive representation of the 1980s. Its bold, vibrant colour schemes and square-edged design stand out in today’s motorcycle landscape. The square headlight and angular bodywork are distinctly retro, adding to its charm. The sporty yet comfortable seating position combined with the reasonably plush seat make it a suitable choice for longer rides.

Fabulous looking bike to my eyes

The VF500F also features a 16-inch front wheel. This was a design trend in the ’80s aimed at reducing steering inertia and improving handling. While it might give the bike a somewhat unusual look to the modern eye, it is a part of the VF500F’s unique character and contributes to its excellent manoeuvrability.

Not one dimensional

Despite being a sports bike, the VF500F offers a comfortable riding experience. The fairing provides decent wind protection, and the seating position strikes a fine balance between sporty and comfortable, which is appreciated on longer rides. The bike also comes with a dual seat, which, although a bit cramped, allows for a pillion rider, a feature not common in many modern sport bikes.

Another area where the VF500F shines is braking. The dual front disc brakes provide strong stopping power, offering reassurance to the rider. The rear disc brake complements the front system, contributing to overall confident and safe braking.

Tiddly 16′ front wheel. Whatever happened to those

So what’s the verdict?

In summary, the 1985 Honda VF500F Interceptor is a testament to the golden era of sports bikes. This middleweight carries the essence of the era with its V4 engine, unique 16-inch front wheel, and excellent handling capabilities. Its distinct 80’s aesthetic combined with its well-rounded performance make it standout in the realm of vintage motorcycles.

Yes, it has its issues, particularly when it comes to maintenance and parts availability, but for those willing to embrace those, the VF500F offers a rewarding and engaging ride. Its captivating combination of power, agility, and retro appeal has stood the test of time, cementing its place in the annals of motorcycling history. Owning and riding a VF500F is not just about getting from point A to point B; it’s about enjoying the journey and being part of a storied legacy. This motorcycle encapsulates a specific period in Honda’s history and continues to delight those who have the privilege to ride or own one.

A big thanks to Martin for his help with this article and the next one will be available after the next VJMC meeting all being well.

Words and Pictures: Stuart Holding

Based on his post in the VJMC – Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club HQ UK/International Facebook group.

Used with permission

Introduction: Tony Donnelly

Ireland 2023 – Flying Boats and Fairytales

On to day four of ‘Lap of Ireland’ and we beginning to get into the rhythm of the trip. All the dull planning and the anxiety about catching ferries etc a distant memory. Now, it was all about riding, enjoying the company of good mates and taking in the gorgeous countryside that we were lucky to be traversing.

Day Four – Into the Valleys

Today we worked our way along the coast and headed from County Donegal through, Co Mayo and onto Galway. A glorious 233 miles during which we enjoyed seeing so many beautiful sights.

We set up for the day with a hearty Irish breakfast (I had the salad option obviously…), over which we chatted with two German lads. They had also stayed at Moran’s overnight. Both were riding BMW 1200 flat twins of various types. These seem to be the weapon of choice for well over half of the bikers we came across over here touring the sights.

Initially a little rain dampened our spirits, and a lingering mist did obscure the coastal views a little. However, it also added to the atmosphere somehow.

We called at the Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre which enjoys spectacular views of the surrounding hills. The centre housed a great little tea room where none of us, especially Matt, had a huge slice of chocolate brownie. Oh no, we are better than that…

Somebody left these on our table…nothing to do with us!

Sweeping views that my decrepit smart phone in no way does justice

Matt, as our group ‘youngster’ we allowed him to do some reading and colouring in

Magical Landscape

We pressed on across the lowland areas with mountains tantalisingly looming in the distance. What a fabulous way to spend a day’s riding. The thing it is, it only got better. As we worked our way around the coast and into the Connemara National Park were blown-away by the landscape. The Doolough Valleywas just jaw dropping. Many people just pulled up, as we did, and looked on in awe.

Magical landscapes, and it was even more beautiful than this picture implies

I thought I had best include some pictures of our motorbikes

Here we chatted to a lovely German couple who we had seen on the road a couple of times already. He was riding a heavily loaded BMW R1250GS, whilst his good lady wife had the better deal. She was riding a nippy and unburdened 401 Husqvarna Svartpilen. She had only passed her test just over a year earlier, and here she was revelling in touring Europe. They had also been to the TT. Great to see people out there enjoying life and exchanging stories with them. All an intrinsic part of a good road trip, the people you meet and experiences you share.

Blessed to be able to do this

We had to suppress the urge to stop every few minutes to take pictures. So breathtaking was our backdrop. As it was, we pulled up several times. I was amused to note that a slow-moving Skoda we swept past more than once, kept chugging along and going past us as we photographed this or that.

Later we reflected later how lucky we are to be able to experience and enjoy days like this. Life is short, sometimes it pays to pause to saviour these times.

We had hoped to sample the delights of Galway. A town well known for its friendly welcome. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones with this idea, and we became snarled up in a maelstrom of teeming, heavy traffic. Even filtering on a bike progress was painfully slow. On a warm day it was also uncomfortably hot. So, after thirty minutes or so, we called it quits and headed for our digs. We had been enjoying a fabulous day, and it seemed a shame to undermine it.

After our daily hunt for supplies we managed to find our digs for the evening and settled in. Red Robins Nest is a small complex of wooden cabins in a pretty, rural location. Basic, but comfortable. Here we enjoyed a simple meal, one or two beers and whiled away the evening chatting and laughing.

The people we had met had universally been warm and friendly. The Republic has an almost continental feel, especially in the small towns and villages. A relaxed and easy-going atmosphere pervades somehow. Even the roads, which we had been led to believe would be in a poor state, were generally in good repair, well signposted and logically laid out. Halfway around our lap and it could not be going better.

Day Five – Classic cars and flying boats

A bit of an easier day on the bikes. However, it was no less enjoyable as we made our way towards Limerick. As ever rather than go the direct route we hugged the coast and followed ‘The Wild Atlantic Way’ in the main.

Once again, our journey was peppered with great sights and historic buildings: Dunguaire Castle being just the first. We had great fun attacking ‘Corkscrew Hill.’ A tight series of switchback bends up the side of the hill, obviously. The view from the top was expansive and impressive.

Dunguaire Castle


On through Lahinch and its lovely cliffs and beach. We stopped off briefly at Spanish Point. So named as in 1588 ships of the infamous Spanish Armanda sheltered here in a storm. Members of the crews that went ashore were executed and buried in a mass grave! Luckily, we received a somewhat warmer welcome!

The sweeping beach at Lahinch

Assuming the pose at Spanish Point

My trusty BMW R1200RS

As is tradition we enjoyed a mid-morning halt for refreshment. Once again Matt resisted the fantastic looking lemon drizzle cake. Andy and I were not so strong. You must admire his bravery!

From Porsches to a mighty Boeing

From here we had a couple of options: We could head around the River Shannon estuary or trim the route by taking the ferry across. We opted for the ferry. It leaves from Killimer and for the princely sum of €12 takes you over the estuary. Dropped off at Tarbet and directly onto the N69 coast road. Joining us on our crossing were a group of Porsche enthusiasts from the Netherlands. All were driving immaculate 1970’s and 80’s 911s. Impressive

Glamorous company

Sister ship to the ferry we were aboard

Yet again the views were lovely. The N69 overlooks a stunning bay. On a sunny day like today a bike is the perfect way to take it in. The pace, once again, was unhurried. Why would you want to rush past this? Then something very odd happened: The back of an old flying boat sticking out the side of a building swung into view! Obviously, we had to stop. Turns out we had stumbled across the ‘Foynes Flying Boat Museum.’

An amazing find

This opportunity could not be missed: We pulled up and headed in to check it out. The aircraft is in a fact a full-size replica of a Boeing 314 Clipper. Similar in size and configuration to the ‘Empire Class’ flying boats made by Short Brothers. In the late 1930’s and through the years of WW2 huge flying boats flew from here across the Atlantic. At one point it was one of the largest international airports in Europe. It closed not long after the war and the existing international airport opened on the other side of the estuary.

That was some landing…

The museum is an interesting distraction. Currently it is undergoing expansion, but we enjoyed checking out the interior of the Boeing 314 replica and the views from the control tower. Foynes can even lay claim to being the home of Irish Coffee! You learn something new every day. If you are in the area, pop in. Entry fee was €5. This is a bargain. Might be worth checking it out once the expansion is complete.

Yankee Clipper and Kidderminster nipper!

Andy found the Boeing 314 easier to handle than his BMW R1200GS

Time to head for our digs. This time we were stopping for a couple of nights as had hit the halfway point of our ‘Lap of Ireland’. The N69 is good road and sweeps through some great countryside. Our accommodation was located near a Forest Park, but initially we rocked up to the wrong cottage. We have form for this…

Adopting a dog!

What was amusing here was just how laid-back people are here in Ireland: Three strangers on 1200cc motorcycles roar into your courtyard and park up. Nobody batted an eyelid. The elderly lady wondered out serenely and chatted away as if she was expecting us. We eventually established we were about a quarter of mile from our proper destination, ‘just after my brother’s cottage’ she said. Like we knew her brother too!

Anyway, we rolled out and quickly found the right place. I was overwhelmed by the heat we had been out in it all day. Not the problem I had been expecting to have in Ireland! The lads popped for provisions while I cooled down. It wasn’t too long before we are eating and enjoying another evening with a few beers and lots of banter. The landlords dog even seemed to adopt us. Unsure of her name, we called her Kerry.

After going past her brother’s cottage we found it ok!

Wee ‘Kerry’

So far, the trip was going brilliantly. Each day we’ve had good riding, amazing views and come across friendly, welcoming locals. The bikes had all run like clockwork too. Spot on.

Day Six – Like being in a fairytale

In a trip that has been rich in fabulous countryside and expansive views it was going to take something special to top what had gone before. Well, we need not have worried. After an initial section on the open and quick N21 we peeled off and headed for ‘The Black Valley’ home to the ‘Gap of Dunloe’ a jewel in crown of County Kerry that separates the wonderfully named MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range from the Purple Mountain group.

We started out from Kate Kearney’s cottage, where there is also an excellent little tearoom called The Coffee Pot. Here, yet again Matt DID NOT, repeat DID NOT, have a huge slice of lemon cheesecake. His strength should serve as an inspiration to us all. Here, just as we mounted our bikes to tackle the gap an elderly gentleman wondered over and just started chatting away to us. A lovely guy, he admired our bikes and seemed impressed by our plans. He even offered to make us a cuppa from his camper. This encounter is yet another example of the warmth and friendliness we met throughout our trip.

One of the highlights of the entire trip

A word of caution here. The road that crosses the gap, whilst metalled and well surfaced, is narrow. It’s only freely open to cyclists, walkers and horse-drawn buggies. Cars and motorcycles can go over but you do need to take great care. As we gently picked our way along the track, we always stopped and turned off our motors for passing buggies. Progress is slow. However, this is a great thing as the valley offers views that are magical. You feel like you are moving through a dreamscape, almost other-worldly.

Dunloe really is that good. We did take pictures obviously, but they utterly fail to convey the spellbinding beauty of this place. It is like time has stood still for generations. To be honest, our presence did almost feel intrusive here. Such was the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of the place. Our pace was very slow and if you do ride this road, please do the same.

Taken to another world

The track winds up through narrow passes and over babbling brooks. For 30 minutes or so you are whisked away in your head to a world at peace with itself. This is a special place…

The excellent Coffee Pot

The pictures speak for themselves here:

The other side of the valley continued to delight. Rather more than the searing heat. Is this really Ireland? Where is all the rain and cold? I decided to change into normal jeans from my riding gear here. Risky, yes, but I was cooking!!

Chilling out and cooling down

Next up was the Killarney National Park. Once again, we were almost overloaded with views that my humble skills as wordsmith cannot do justice. Expansive lakes, picture perfect valleys that ironically pictures do not entirely convey. Ireland just keeps giving. I was concerned that it might be underwhelming and similar to the UK. In some regard it is, but in so many others the beauty when mixed with the serene atmosphere, makes for an enticing combination.

Assuming the pose again

Ireland’s NC500?

This also meant we did ride some of ‘The Ring of Kerry’. If the Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s Route 66 then this is it’s NC500, Scotland’s pride and Joy. The Irish will argue (correctly) that this route became famous first and from the section we did ride, it is very easy to see why. However the air is filled with the gentle ‘thrum’ of turbo-diesel engines straining to pull heavily laden coaches and campervans up hill and down dale. This accompanied by a base line provided by BMW flat twins. Its looks like somebody invited loads of people to a Charlie and Ewan look alike competition and everybody came!

Put more simply, the area is really popular! The downside to this popularity is crowds. God knows what it is like in the peak months?!  However, this doesn’t detract from its beauty in anyway. We checked out the waterfall at Torc. Beautiful but you can tell that many months of dry weather have had their impact on the actual flow down the fall. Had the weather been let’s say more traditionally Irish I think it may have been even more impressive!

The Waterfall at Torc

A full days riding that will live long in my memory. We headed back to our base via the little town of Raithkeale and picked up supplies (ready meals and beer!) at a local supermarket. Incidentally supermarkets seem surprisingly thin on the ground, but there were way more petrol stations than I expected.

Not in my Lifetime!

We parked the bikes up outside the supermarket and a young lad came running over to look at them. His mother appeared and asked he could sit on Andy’s GS. We happily let him aboard. His mother took his picture and then proclaimed very loudly, that was the last time he ever went on ‘one of those things’ while she was alive. Funny. The poor lad looked a mix of little crestfallen and rather embarrassed! Irish mother’s – you’ve got to love them!

Back to the digs with our supplies. More banter and a few cold beers followed. Also our dog collection now expanded to two. Kerry had a friend we christened her Terri. Kerry and Terri!

The rather more timid Terri

In the morning we head east and the final stage of our lap. It has a lot to live up to

Words and pictures: Tony Donnelly

Part One can be found here

A bit more info for you:

A Guide To The Gap of Dunloe: The Walk, Tours + Warnings

The Wonder of Worcestershire 2023: Riders on the Storm

Summer, you know the season when temperatures are supposed to be the highest and rainfall the lowest. So, you’d think setting WoW 2023 smack bang in the middle of said summer, would be a safe bet. After all our previous gathering in 2022 had enjoyed sweltering conditions. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way. You have got to love a British summer: About as reliable as 1981 Lada!

WoW for those of you who don’t know, stands for The Wonder of Worcestershire. It is one of a number of ride outs organised by members the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat owners group. A sorely underrated machine. The group has been running in various forms for over twenty years now.

Welcome to The Thundercat Arms

However, before we got to splash about on the bikes, we had some serious socialising to do! As in now becoming a WoW tradition we had the group for a few beers and something to eat at our house on the Friday evening. As my YZF600R now plays second fiddle to another bike, I thought it would make a good backdrop for a themed bar under my car-port. The Thundercat Arms was born!

Nice pub, but the landlord does look a little dodgy

The guys and girls rolled in from Scotland, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Hampshire the Northwest et al. They were greeted, by me as landlord of The Thundercat Arms. Proudly adorning the bar, was a pub sign featuring my Thundercat on WeeMac 2012. Rather more amusingly my actual Thundercat featured behind the bar. You have got to love a themed pub!

Forming up on the way down

Ross, our sole remaining Thundercat rider, bumped into some dodgy characters on the way down

Some of the guys were stopping at a local campsite. Good to the sleeping arrangements getting sorted.

Starting a YZF600R is a complex process only for the very skilled…

Most of the group run other bikes these days, but the bond of friendship remained like after the bikes had been replaced.

Poor old Pete had not been able to ride down on his Ducati 950 Multistrada. He had managed to knacker his ankle in a bizarre (and amusing) incident at work involving an overpriced German hatchback! Typically, in the spirit of the friendship, fellow group member Chris deferred bringing his Panigale along to gave him a lift down in his trusty, slightly rusty Fiesta. In no way shape or form had he seen the weather forecast…

Catching Up is Always a Highlight

The evening passed all too quickly as they always do. It’s great when a group of old friends get together. The beer, cider and banter flowed freely. All fuelled by the excellent spread of food that my long-suffering good lady had prepared.

My first ‘customer’!

Everybody wondered back to their respective digs looking forward to a good ride-out the next day.

Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Coming Down on Summer’s Day?

Unfortunately, I woke to rainfall that would only put on a smile on the face of Noah! Perfect for floating your Ark off a sacred peak loaded to the gunwales with two of each animal. However not so great if you about to lead a ride-out of 170 miles across demanding A and B roads…

However, we are hardy bunch, so we pressed on despite the biblical rain. We met up at a pub just outside Bewdley. Eight bikes and one Ford Fiesta Zetec carrying ‘Team-Ducati’. Ross was proudly upholding the honour of the Thundercat as his colourful, war weary example, now the soul-survivor of the breed on the ride.

I don’t know why Chris is looking so worried, he is in a Ford Fiesta!

The brand new DUCATI Zetec 1.4i

Getting ready to dive in

See, it IS a Thundercat ride out…

Here Comes the Rain Again

The route had all being carefully planned to include some decent roads that crossed some of the lovely countryside that Worcestershire has to offer. But as the rain poured down, we tackled the A456 and A44 rather gingerly. Dodging the increasing numbers of puddles and pools of standing water that were beginning to form. My old mate Andy was leading the line on his BMW R1200R, and I was playing sweeper/tail-end Charlie on my BMW R1200RS. To the uninitiated it must looked like a Police escort!

All Flights Cancelled

First destination was the historic aerodrome at Shobdon over the border in Herefordshire. In recent visits I have been treated to the sights and sounds of a wide range of aircraft and helicopters coming and going. Today, with the rain still pouring down and the cloud lower than a centipedes todger, not a thing was happening. Everything was hunkering down and waiting for things to improve.

On the upside the café was open. We all piled in and were suitably refreshed ourselves with tea and toast. Meanwhile the rain continued to pour down. How very British! Unfortunately not one aircraft came or went.

Why Does it Always Rain Me?

Back on the bikes, we made our back into Worcestershire and headed for the beautiful Malvern Hills. Another lovely section of road along the A44. However, the only excitement came when we got into muddle at one of the waypoints. We wound up having to undertake that great ride-out tradition: The unscheduled group U turn. This time in a scruffy industrial estate, much to the bemusement of a group of onlookers.

Back on track we picked our way carefully along the sinuous B4220. On better day this is a fabulous strip of challenging tarmac. It bucks and waves back into the heart of Worcestershire before turning onto the A4103 and cutting across the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. On a day like this we had to take the maps word for it: We could barely see the hills through misty visors and screens.

Ross, again…

At this point I was going to glide (surf) to the front of the line and majestically lead our line of sodden superbikes in the Morgan Experience. The home of Worcestershire’s world-famous Morgan Cars. However, one of number, Ross, decided one of the streets had a funny name and decided to stop and record it for posterity. This broke up the line and as a result poor old Andy wound leading the line around a local housing estate having sailed serenely past the entrance. Managing this despite huge lettering reading ‘MORGAN CARS LIMITED’ on the side of the building. Doh!

Ross’s head is obscuring the last word, not sure if it started with a K or a T…?

We had ridden so steadily that even ‘Team Ducati’ had managed to arrive at the same time as the rest of us. Who said 15 year old Fiestas are slow!?

Wipers, heater, dry. Sometimes even a Fiesta can seem pretty appealing

A Comfortable Haven

I am not quite sure what they thought of eight dripping wet motorcyclists traipsing into their lovely showroom, tearoom, and shop. However, everyone was impressed with set-up. Beautiful sports cars, comfortable leather sofas and a well-stocked shop. Most welcome was the drinks and snacks from the beautifully appointed tea-room.

Impressive and comfortable. Above all…DRY!

There’s always one and it’s ALWAYS him…

They even had something our resident Can-Am rider could trade up to!

Wetter Than an Otter’s Pocket. Rain Stopped Play

Looking about it was clear from everyone’s bedraggled state that after a morning battling the elements we’d had enough. Even the Scottish contingent were moaning about our weather. One even quipped the ride should be called ‘The Weather of Worcestershire’ rather then the Wonder of! So, once everybody had a warming cuppa we headed back to Bewdley, our basecamp for the weekend. Plan B was triggered. We hit the pub!

Time for Plan B

Bikes all tucked away, riders warm and dry we made our way to The George Hotel smack in the middle of the charming, Georgian riverside town of Bewdley. We had discussed moving around a few pubs, but once we got settled in that was it. Ross got out the cards, the pints were poured, and the afternoon melted seamlessly from afternoon to early evening. Say what you like about Wheterspoons it’s hard to beat the value they offer. One of our number, Paul from Hampshire was genuinely in a state of shock that he could buy a pint for £1.71!

Good old Wetherspoons!

We have been riding and socializing together for many years now, and it’s a side of biking that I really enjoy. There’s so much to it than the riding. Its like being part of a great big family.

Time for a Curry!

We rounded off an excellent weekend gathering with a super curry in a local restaurant. Ok we had only managed about 90 miles of actual ride-out, rain had stopped play, but we still managed to have a great time.

Great way to round off an excellent weekend. Despite the weather!

The next day everyone headed home and in Worcestershire the weather was mostly sunny and warm. Rats! I was a day out with my weather booking!

Thanks to everybody who made such an amazing effort to come along

Here’s to WoW IV and blue skies!

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly




Ireland 2023 – The Boys are Back in Town

It felt good to be on the quayside in Liverpool alongside a couple of old friends, waiting to board the overnight ferry to Belfast. Eight days of biking adventures lay ahead once we had crossed the Irish Sea to start our lap of the Emerald Isle

Days One and Two

However, as is so often the case with a touring trip before the pleasure first must come the pain. The traffic in the UK has been getting steadily worse. On a busy Friday afternoon, a perfect storm of stifling hot weather, dense traffic and pothole strewn roads did their level best to strip me of any feeling of euphoria as I escaped the shackles of everyday life for a few days. However, as soon as we all met up at the charming Horse and Jockey on the A41 near Whitchurch for food and the all-important first pint of the trip, my troubles soon began to melt away.

The all important first pint

Under a Blood Red Sky

Once on our ferry we dumped our stuff in our cabin, bickered over who went in what bunk and then made our way out on deck. We watched the sun set over Liverpool with a gentle red glow that lent the scene the air of a Sci-Fi film.

An almost surreal sky for our departure

Our cabin was surprisingly comfortable, and this allowed us to grab a little sleep as the ferry chugged serenely across an uncharacteristically flat-calm Irish Sea. Groggily we rose when the tanoy announcement boomed out telling us to make our way back to the bikes. Before I knew it, we were spat out onto the streets of Belfast.

Waiting Game

First port of call was, of all places, a McDonalds. Not the most glamorous start to visit to the land of my forebears, but we had two hours to kill before our main target for the day (The Titanic Museum), opened its doors.

Not the most glamorous of starts for our adventure

What can there be to display?

I was a little concerned that the exhibition might be a little lacking in meaningful exhibits, what with the (White) star of the show, inconveniently, being 12,000 feet under the North Atlantic! Thankfully, the whole set-up is excellent: From the state-of-the-art building that houses the museum to the thoughtfully displayed exhibits.

The museum is housed in a cutting edge piece of architecture

We spent 3 hours in there and could well have taken much longer. From the insight into the development of Belfast to the history of Harland & Wolf and The White Star Line, to the heart wrenching stories of the passenger and crew. Both those that survived and those that sadly did not. Odd things got to me; The violin played by one of the ship’s musicians, a deck chair recovered from the sea…

Poignant relic 

All beautifully done

The list of victims displayed on a huge sweeping wall, had people transfixed, me included. For me one of the most intriguing displays was the full scan of the wreck beneath a glass floor you can walk across. The scan sweeps over the wreck and it almost feels that you are in a submersible observing the real thing.

You could almost be at the wreck site

The actual slipways on which Titanic and Olympic were built are still there.  It is also worth checking out SS Nomadic. This was a ‘tender’ ship to the Titanic used to ferry passengers to it. Beautifully restored after an eventful service life spanning many decades and two world wars. It gives an interesting perspective on ships of that era.

The slipway that hosted the Titanic

The same slipway in 1911

SS Nomadic

We headed away from the museum highly impressed, but completely out of time to check out HMS Caroline which is also displayed nearby. This is a World War One era warship, one of very few remaining. One for another day.

HMS Caroline

The famous H&W shipyard crane. A Belfast landmark

Down to the trip proper

Now we got down to the serious riding. Briefly halting at Larne, another port, and a spot I remember from when I visited the area in the early 1970’s as a child. It’s weird what pops back into consciousness with the right trigger. The main attraction is the ‘The Causeway Coastal Route’. This is a superb road that hugs the northern coastline of County Antrim. The views across some beautiful, near deserted beaches is, at times, breathtaking. Highlights include rock archways over the roads, the golden sands and while they could be ridden at pace and would be great fun, riding in a more measured style seemed the appropriate way to go. Waft along and just take it in. This was to become a running theme for the weeks riding.


Every time we stopped to take it all in, people approached us for a chat. They are so friendly and pro-bike. It makes a refreshing change from what we have become used to back home. We even rode along parts of the NW200 circuit or got close to it. Including the so called ‘Magic Roundabout’ at Ballysally. There are loads of places called Ballysomething. I found this area of NI very reminiscent of the Isle of Man. Both in appearance and general atmosphere.

The only picture I took, doesn’t do this route justice at all

They will have some great wedding pictures hopefully

On one rest halt, overlooking a spectacular inlet down a steep cliff a bride and groom suddenly appeared in full regalia! They proceeded to gingerly make their way down to the water’s edge, accompanied by their photographer! I hope the pictures came out ok and didn’t have three crusty bikers in the background!

No tents for us

We rolled up to our digs in Coleraine, a very comfortable and well-appointed bungalow in residential cul-de-sac. Our arrival, on three BMW R1200s seemed to cause a bit of fuss and neighbours were soon out and saying hello.

Comfortable digs

Has to be done

Motorcycle touring in this way can get expensive. Camping is significantly cheaper, but it is a lot of hassle and there is so much kit to drag about. Where you can save money is by going self-catering where possible. So, two of us popped out and came back with supplies. A couple of frozen pizzas, some snacks and a few bottles of cold beer saw that the evening was sorted, and costs kept reasonable. It had been a baking hot day and the cool beers were particularly welcome!

In a strange coincidence as we settled down to enjoy a cooling pint and stuck the TV on, the first thing that came on was the 1998 Titanic film. Life plays odd tricks like that sometimes.

Day Three – In the Footsteps of Giants

One of main reasons for being in Northern Ireland was to check out the internationally renowned ‘Giant’s Causeway’. The causeway is, in fact a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is natural formation of interlocking basalt columns, in a regular hexagonal form. Local legend has it that the columns are the remnants of path build and used by a giant Fionn mac Cumhall (pronounced Fin MacCool) to allow him to get over to Scotland to take on their giant, Benadonner. The outcome is disputed, depending on whether you have Irish or Scottish heritage. As a proud ‘Plastic-Paddy’ my money is on our man!

Either way it is a peculiar sight to see these hexagonal columns. It’s a bit of a trek to get down to them from the car park, but we had left our bike gear with the helpful car-park attendant. There is a shuttle bus if you’re feeling lazy! Naughtily, as a fellow tourist videoed the scene, I mentioned loudly that the columns are all numbered and stored in a warehouse over winter to reduce erosion! I wonder if they believed that tall tale. I hope so, but somehow doubt it.

We all enjoyed scrambling over the causeway and really does look man-made. Is the place a ‘must- see’? Yes, but not quite as mind blowing as I had been expecting somehow.

The Causeway

Adopting the traditional ‘Boys on Tour’ stance

A bit of mountain goatary

From North to South

Back to the BMWs and we moved on. Heading around the stunning coastal route, passing the ruins of castles as we rode. We skirted the town of Derry, or Londonderry depending on your point of view. In the dark days when ‘The Troubles’ were at their peak, this was a real flashpoint.

The whole section was a joy to ride and to behold. We crossed seamlessly over into The Republic Ireland. Somehow with the aftereffects of Brexit I had expected something like a passport control point, but nope. One minute the road signs where in miles the next there were in kilometres. The villages and small towns we passed through suddenly took on a different character. The north had a feel more akin to Scotland or the IoM, whereas here it seemed subtlety more rural, and the pace of life felt like it had been turned down a notch. I like that.

The pictures speak for themselves really, this is just a small selection

Ireland’s Route 66

We generally stuck to the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, a well signposted route that takes you along the edge of the coast. Sort of Ireland’s answer to Route 66! Those of you wanting a thrilling ride, go elsewhere. However, if you just want to take it and feel the vibe, you are very much in the right place.

We skirted the outer edges of Glenveagh National Park, we mainly stuck on the N56 and some the ‘R’ roads that branched off it.

Things did speed up a little as hit the last section of the road, the N15, from Donegal to Grange on the road to Sligo. But after a long day of riding, it felt good to pull up on the frontage of Moran’s Bar, our digs for the evening.

We quickly unpacked our gear, sorted our rooms and met up at the on site take-away for some food before heading off into the busy bar for a couple of well-earned pints. We all took to a bitter called Smithwick’s. The local’s and staff were super friendly, and we got chatting to a few interesting folks in the bar.

My first pint of the ‘Black Stuff’ in my ancestral homeland 

The perfect way to round off a superb day of riding.

Words: Tony Donnelly

Pictures: Tony Donnelly & Andy Preece








Europe June 2016 Part 4 We Will Fight Them on Beaches…

The last morning in Charleville-Mezieres passed uneventfully; after bit of breakfast and then loading our kit onto the bikes we steeled ourselves for the 300km haul to the French coast. As we pulled away the beautiful young hotel receptionist cried and screamed as she begged me to stay. Oh hang on, I had run over her foot. This bit might be bullshit.

Homeward Bound.

Tomorrow we catch the ferry home. Never the best feeling on a biking holiday, but pretty much unavoidable unless you are going to some sort of  biker version of a Reggie Perrin! (Those under forty look it up…).  Today was about kilometre crunching. Even though we did get a bit damp for a bit, around 80km or so, the real ‘excitement’ came when trying to get fuel for Geeg’s thirsty Thundercat. Ever since his  spill a few months previously, the carb set up had been out. As a result he had consistently used more fuel than my similar model.

Not a problem for the rest of the trip but today for some reason we struggled to find open fuel stations. He was running on fumes for miles. The sat-nav wasn’t helping either as it kept directing us to ‘petrol-stations’ in sleepy backwaters that had, in fact closed. One ‘petrol-station’  boasted one (disused) pump for paraffin or something, not petrol!

Not the most glamorous day of biking

Out with the maps again as we tried to find the Dunkirk Museum

When Defeat Feels Like Victory

To make something of the day we decided to take a look at Dunkirk. Here, Operation Dynamo took place during WW2. The an armada of ‘little-ships’ plucked thousands of British and French troops from the beaches right from under the noses of the advancing German Army. We found a little, but very interesting museum near the beaches and had a hour or so in there.

Good to see the memories and the sacrifice of both the military and civilians been treasured by the locals. The beach itself looks very normal now. I found it hard to imagine the harrowing scenes that unfolded here as men fought to escape the advancing Nazis. All the time been bombarded from all sides. It was reminiscent of our visits to Normandy to visit the beaches that hosted Operation Overlord (D-Day). By then the boot was very much on the other foot…

Turns out it was the place with the ferkin big gun outside funnily enough…

In we go…

Rare French Army outfit

Turns out we had accidentally followed the route of the German advance in 1940…that’s trusting a BMW Sat Nav for you!

We made or way up to see the evacuation beaches too…hard to imagine what went on here back in June 1940

Where’d They all Go?

From here it was a short hop to our hotel, but we managed to get split up on the outskirts of Calais. Not really sure how: Andy who was leading on his BMW,  was there in front of me one moment. We went around an island and then ‘poof’ he was gone! The bike has some clever electronic trickery, but I don’t recall the cloaking device! We had taken different exits: Matt also went AWOL on his GS.

Geeg was still with me and for the next twenty minutes or so we are bombed about looking for each other. Geeg and I finally hooked up with Andy. However Matt had stayed on the main road. We phoned him and thanks to the joy of a crash helmet fitted with Bluetooth  managed to speak to him. He was still riding blissfully into the distance. We agreed to meet at the hotel….

Rounding up the lost sheep

Fun Cut Short Abruptly

We all rocked up at the Campanile eventually and went to check in. Now I have stayed in Campanile hotels before and they are generally pretty decent. This one wasn’t…the rooms were ok, a bit dated but ok. But the customer service? Woeful: Slow, rude On top of  that much of what was advertised on the menu (both drinks and food), simply wasn’t available. We were too tired to move on and we had trouble finding anywhere in any case! We ate what they had available and settled down to watch the Wales game from Euro 2016 live on a big screen. Only to be told about 15 minutes from the end they were shutting up the bar for the night. They had decked the place out in European flags and put up a big screen! Why shut it down so early? Odd…

It was more comfortable here than in the bar…

The bikes had done us all proud

But the hotel was at least close to the ferry port. We passed the migrant camp again, but could see it more clearly on the way in than we had on the outward leg of the trip. It made us feel uncomfortable. We  felt like we were on the set of a film like ‘The Hunger Games’ or ‘District 9’ and there was a privileged few and mass of people not so lucky. It wasn’t a great feeling to be honest. We also had some drama with Geeg’s booking we got on the boat ok in the end.

Homeward bound

Last Chance for the traditional ‘Sh!t Boy Band pic….F*ck That on tour!

I see no ships…

After the Brexit Vote these took on a new significance, bit of Dame Vera anybody??

Happy Ending

The crossing was smooth and gave us time to reflect on another cracking trip. Despite patchy weather we had got in some great riding in spectacular locations, visited some stunning places and had some real laughs. Loads of stuff for the memory banks. All of the bikes had missed a beat and apart from one very minor incident nothing had got broken either. Once back in ‘Blighty’ we were treated to the traditional damp, slippy pot-holed of the UK.

One last rest halt

Back to reality boys the ride is over. But the memories will linger forever. Roll on the next trip!

Thanks to Matt, Geeg and Andy for putting up with me!

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

The educational and helpful bits

WTF is Reggie Perrin:

Operation Dynamo:

Operation Overlord:

The Normandy Bike Trips

The bits about films:

Europe June 2016 – Part 3 – Feeling Hot! Hot! Hot!

After the fun in parts one and two the trip continues:

The trip was going well so far, even if we had done a little less riding and not got as far into Germany as we had hoped. Amusingly our enjoyable final breakfast in Trier was served by a convincing if unintentional Shania Twain look alike! But all too soon it was time to hit the road.

Day 7 – We Under-estimated an Entire Country

This morning we were leaving Germany and heading for France on roads that gently meandered through Luxembourg. I have always thought of Luxembourg as just a city and little else, and while it is a small country it does boast some open countryside. Lovely rolling hills, lined with forests; the place has a relaxed air to it, lightly trafficked so our pace was pretty gentle to be honest. At one point we pulled up just to have a break and take it all in. There was a forest track right next to us and but for a gate blocking their way I suspect our two BMW riders might have gone for it!

The wide open spaces of…Luxembourg? Who knew?

We picked our way through several sleepy villages as we crossed the border over into Belgium and had a lunch halt in the pretty, but bustling little town of Neufchateu (literally Newcastle). The sun and heat were building up by now, in stark contrast to some of the earlier days on our trip. Typically British; the weather is never right for us…now it was too hot. So it was with some relief that we tucked into a baguette and an ice cold drink. We watched the world go by, the towns square filled with the sound of children at play from a traditional small school backing right onto the market square.

Goes Well for a Veteran

The roads became a little more challenging after lunch and I was enjoying myself throwing the 600 about. It goes so well for such an old bike, it will be 19 years old next birthday! After a hundred klicks or so we came across the pretty little Belgian village of Bullion. It nestles on the Semois River and is watched over by a medieval castle. Quite a spot to park up in for a while.

Semois River guarded over by the hill top fort, looks quite stunning on a day like this…

The Heat of the Moment

It was here that we had the only unfortunate incident of the trip with the bikes: Geeg, as he pulled in to park up, his Thundercat ‘fainted’ in the heat and toppled over. He was briefly trapped underneath his bike, but Matt sped to the rescue whilst I stared gormlessly at the unfolding situation. Luckily no harm done to bike or rider. We all needed to cool down for a while, so was good to have a break. I was pretty well bar-be-qued by now and found a local chemist and bought huge bottles of wildly expensive sun cream and after-sun to cool my burning brow. I swear to God it literally sizzled as I applied it!

High Speed Curves to Farm Tracks

Once we had cooled down a bit we re-mounted the bikes and were soon on some fabulous roads, amongst the best of the trip. However it was still baking hot and I wasn’t fully on the ball to really enjoy them to the max. One long, long seemingly never ending right-hander sticks in the memory. Later Andy was filled with glee when the sat-nav took us down a full on track. We did have to turn back and find tarmac, but I am sure the BMW boys would have loved to have pressed on!

By the time we got to our destination for the day, Charleville-Mezieres I was really fully over heated as temperatures hit the mid 30’s. I was getting a bit wound up as we looked for our hotel on the initially baffling one-way system. Yes, I finally had my ‘blue sparkly dress’ moment and threw a proper strop. However once we found the hotel and parked in the cool underground car park I was fine. Especially when we were greeted by a particularly stunning and charming receptionist. I am sure she was just as smitten with me: Who can the resist the allure of a short fat 50 year old bloke standing in a pool of his own sweat?


Impressive Location

We dumped our stuff in our (excellent) rooms, freshened up and headed into the centre of town. Wow, what a stunning place, truly magnificent. Dominated by the Place Ducale, a square of quite massive proportions with each of the four sides lined with the most beautiful of buildings.

Pretty impressive you have to agree

The choice of eateries was almost too great so we asked a very friendly local plod who pointed in the direction of his personal favourite. It was a good call! The food was fantastic, the beer strong . We enjoyed watching the world go by as we ate and the square seemed to  be the focal point for all the local posers: They enjoyed tearing around in ‘souped-up’ hatchbacks and mopeds with screaming exhausts.

The local plod pointed us in the right direction. Thanks!

We were soon down to business and Matt was happy despite his appearance to the contrary!

Today was the day of the Brexit vote back home and it was ironic that we were sat here, four Brits abroad. In fact once back at the hotel we got into a interesting debate with a local gentleman. How much he wanted us to stay part of the project was quite touching. Europe had been torn apart once before he said, he didn’t want it to happen again. Let’s see what the morning would  bring…

Day 8 – Independence Day!

We awoke to the news that UK had voted out. I must admit I was a little shocked. This was probably the biggest event politically in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, or the even the end of WW2 perhaps. But down at breakfast all seemed normal! Funny old world sometimes. All the locals were still talking to us. Andy was moaning that he had a bit of headache, apparently brought on by a lack of water… The small part that several strong lagers consumed the night before had played in this scenario was conveniently overlooked! An excellent breakfast seemed to aid his recovery as did the time we spent planning the next stop. We struggled to get a room for the next over night halt, but got sorted in the end after one place initially took our booking and called back to say they were actually full. Deep joy!

Pivotal Ground

Today we enjoyed a cracking days riding as headed along some great tarmac in and around the Ardennes Forest. This area has so often been pivotal in the history of Europe: The Battle of the Bulge of late 1944 perhaps the most famous occasion. Then Nazi Germany made its last big counter-attack in WW2. Somehow you could sense that history, it is odd but true. The place has a haunting atmosphere. I can’t put my figure on how, but it really does.

Just good to be on a bike on day like this, with this kind of countryside to play in

There was a good mix of roads again. During the afternoon things really opened out and some points we were flying along, especially Geeg; he was really motoring. I am pretty sure this was his best day on the bike of the whole trip. The roads through the Ardennes Forest were pretty spooky in places and we came across a preserved ‘Armoured House’ that had been in the path of the German advance of 1940. It looked like it had taken a bit of a battering!

Into Belgium

We enjoyed lunch in a pretty little Belgian town of Bohan on the River Semois as our day saw us hoping over the border a couple of times.

Pretty little place, ideal for a lunch halt

Andy seems to be enjoying his GS

The Armoured House, complete with a shell hole courtesy of a Panzer II or III in 1940!

The Forest had a sense of history about it, this is the road the German Army advanced along in 1940, a route they had used before WW2

Geeg in particular enjoyed the blast today

Back at the Hotel another larger group of British lads on bikes rolled in. We exchanged a bit of banter with them and tipped them off about the restaurant we had used the night before. As for us we wound up back in the same square ourselves having had a wonder around the slightly less spectacular side streets. Here we enjoyed another super meal in the next restaurant up from the one we ate in the first night.

He had earned this one….


It was a good night: Matt even managed to save a young child from running under the wheels of one the cars posing around the square. The evening rounded off back in the hotel lobby enjoying a few more beers with an older British couple. They were not bikers, but enjoyed our tales about the places we had been. Sadly our trip was entering its’ final fling and in the morning we would be turning for home.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

The educational bits: