The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum – Review

Six years have passed since I last called in on this wonderful museum. I was in the area again and as I heard that some changes had been made a re-visit seemed appropriate.

Changes for the Better

I am pleased to report that the changes have been entirely positive. More importantly the great man himself is still about and as lively as ever. Hopefully, I will be that active when (if!!) I hit 90. Though, unlike my first visit he was not about today.

All won by Sammy Miller himself. Amazing

Back in 2017 I came away thinking this is perhaps the finest collection dedicated to motorcycles I have ever seen. I have visited the National Motorcycle Museum and a number of other excellent places since, but Miller’s eclipses them all.


The collection is immaculately presented and I mean immaculately. Every bike gleams. There is not a spec of dust in sight. I would even challenge the competitors in TV’s ‘Four-in-a-Bed’ to find anything!

The breath of exhibits is excellent too, spanning the years from the late 19th century to well-known race bikes from only a few seasons ago. One indicator of a good museum is discovering something new of interest every time you go. Either something new, or something you did not spot previously.

You can never have too many Yamaha Two Strokes

Mammoth by name, Mammoth by nature

The Oldest bike on display of 1898 vintage

To the newest of 2018

Some Mother’s Do Have ‘Em. Spencer’s mount…

Not quite as fast…

Taking in the Detail This Time

This time it was all the different configuration of engine layouts that caught my eye. Some were really unusual and not seen on bikes today.  Such as really off-beat ideas like a stacked, four-stroke, radial. My head hurt trying to work that one out. Mind you I struggle when asked to count beyond five…

The Stacked Radial

Radial, reminiscent of a WW1 fighter engine

Air-cooled V Twin Vincent – the best looking bike engine of all time?

Rotary DKW

Longitudinally mounted inline four.

Japanese and Italian takes on the across the frame six

Traverse inline flat four

Even the genius Millyard gets a look in

All the cabinets are full of interesting trinketry (c. Henry Cole)

It really pays to absorb some of the details on many of the exhibits and appreciate the intricate engineering that has gone into their design and build.

New Galley and a Multinational Approach

The new gallery was good to see, with many of the vintage four-cylinder American bikes such as the magnificent Henderson concentrated on this level.

The New Gallery

Mentioning the American bikes reminds that bikes of many nations are on display, which is good to see.

It was really interesting to get a glimpse of the onsite workshop. Expansive and very much not a museum piece. A couple of bikes were up on bike lifts being restored and maintained to the immaculate level I noted throughout the museum.

He still likes to get his hands dirty

His workshop made for an interesting comparison with the 1930’s era dioama 

An added bonus the museum boasts an on-site café that serves up a mean breakfast. The friends who I visited with really enjoyed their fry-ups immensely while sipped spring water and nibbled at a lettuce leaf.

Normally I say at this point that if you are in the area pay a visit. In this instance I will go further: Make a special journey. Get on your bike and get down there. You won’t regret it.

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

KTM 890 SMT – Birthday Blast

This very brief ride was unplanned, I had spotted this brand new demo bike outside of the dealer I had taken my Super Adventure to for its first annual service. Well, what else would you do on a Friday afternoon at the start of November? Even if it was your birthday!

Opportunity Knocks

Normally, the dealer provides an 890 Adventure or Duke whilst I get my bike serviced. They do this mainly to stop me drinking too much of their hot chocolate. Riding either is a not a chore, I was hoping to get back on the Adventure for a more productive test ride than last time and riding the Duke is know to be an absolute giggle. However, walking across the car park hiding in the long line up of demo bikes and sale stock was the SMT. Well, it would seem rude to leave it neglected obviously!

How can you ignore a face like that?

A bit less orange than some KTM bikes. The SMT is neat and purposeful to look at

It’s Reputation Proceeds it

What did cross my mind is that the original KMT 990SMT had a reputation for being a bit of wild Supermoto: A full-on wheelie and hooning machine. To be honest that’s not really my thing. However,  I’d be interested to see if this bike was a bit more lively that the 890 Adventure and more like the 890 Duke.

With the paperwork sorted for the service and loan bike, I’m handed the key and as I get kitted up. The dealer briefly runs me through the controls and suggests a quick loop to follow: The rain that rode through on the way in was fast approaching. The seat height was friendly enough for me at 6 foot and my boots flat on the floor and looking back at me were familiar bars, switch-gear and LCD screen of the 890 Adventure.


A familiar ‘KTM feel’ and crisply presented TFT display screen

This is no bad thing as they seem to work on the earlier released bikes. What did strike me was that it was all very black: Black smooth mouldings, black grained mouldings. No real colour at all. Ok, it might be that I had the black version of the bike. Presumably orange is the other obvious KTM colour scheme. Even allowing for this it all seemed a little low rent to me.

Still, the engine sounded good when I blipped the throttle. Adding to this the clutch feel was good; light and progressive as I make my way across the car park and onto the road. Two junctions in close succession and I’m onto the twiddly bit of the loop, a quick glance at the screen to confirm that the bike was up to temperature. The readout says OK rather than being a gauge or a number.

Let’s See How it Rides

Time to engage ‘Demo-ride’ mode! Wind up the motor further until the numbers go red and then quickly snick it into the next gear. This bike is proving to be as much fun as the Duke, just more suited to my physique. Handling is better than my 1290R. I think  because of the smaller front wheel and tighter suspension.

In a bit of a uncomfortably ‘real-world’ situation I discover the brakes are effective at scrubbing off speed! I nearly miss my next junction. But a sharp pull on the lever and little bit of twitching and I make the turn!

A quick glance in the mirrors and up the road ahead tells me that demo mode should still be utilised! The same situation persists for the next couple of miles as I blast through the autumnal sunshine.

At the next junction, there’s a half gap and I’m off into the A-road traffic. The bikes definitely peppy and thankfully hasn’t lifted the front wheel, which would only scare me senseless. A quick blast down the roundabout, gracefully tip it in and blast up the slip road onto the A34 for one junction. I am quickly into threading my way through the moving Friday afternoon traffic. There’s plenty of power and the bike is light enough to flick it into any available gap. The wind protect at elevated speeds is pretty good too considering I am less than aerodynamic.

Time to Give in Back

As the black clouds loom across the sky, it is time to head back via a quick photo opportunity. The bike looks much better off it than on…with the usual KTM colour scheme and decals. They haven’t scrimped on LED lights which is a positive thing but I did notice that there wasn’t a mounting point for a side cases only a top-box. Maybe this bike is not marketed at the commuter and that role is supported by Adventure, this is a hooligan machine obviously.!!

In Conclusion

I have to say, from my point of view, it didn’t really strike me as this type of bike but a very competent bridge between the two existing 890 bikes. The honest truth is that I am definitely commuter and not hooligan, I’m clearly not the target audience. Still, put a top box rack on it and I’d have it over the 890 Adventure pending a proper test ride. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my newly serviced 1290R

Words and Pictures: Stuart Holliday

BMW R1200RS – Maturing Like a Fine Wine

They say that time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. Well, this is certainly the case for me and my BMW R1200RS. Three years have now passed since it joined my fleet as ‘flagship’.

One Busy BMW

So, how has it performed over the last twelve months since I last updated you? Well, it has been a busy old thing: I have clocked up around 10,000 miles on the RS. This has taken the total mileage to around 16,500.  Taking in trips to the West Country, local jaunts in Worcestershire, a wonder to the Welsh Coast, a big tour of Ireland and a few months ago a jaunt around Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. 

Out an about in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. This is the NY500 cafe

Spanish Point in Southern Ireland

Somewhere in Ireland

All these trips have been dispatched in comfort and without a problem. On each outing the comfort of the bike, along with performance and reliability have all been impeccable.

Costs Under Control

The Metzeler tyres I fitted prior to my run to Scotland in 2022 are still wearing well after 4-5000 miles. This whilst remaining confidence inspiring in the twiddly bits. However, there is evidence of them squaring off a little, but I think there is another summer in them! We’ll see…

Other costs have been minimal. Just a service carried out by Cotswold Motorrad to their normal high standard. As an interim service it wasn’t even all that expensive. Just under £200.

Fuel consumption hovers around the low 50’s when pressing on. The BMW can eke a little more out if you are easier on it, nudging 60mpg on a few occasions. This pushes tank range to around the 250-mile mark.

On all the trips it has been ridden in company of others riding a wide variety of bikes ranging from a V2 Ducati Panigale to venerable old 600s. It has acquitted itself well on all occasions. If anything, it is a bit of ‘shrinking-violet’ and tends to blend into the background. When I pull up with a group of bikes it tends to be one of the machines getting the least attention. The RS is the ‘Quiet Man’; just getting on with the job in hand.

Just getting on with it 

Now for the Bad Bits

However not all is rosy in the garden: I remain unconvinced by some aspects of the build quality. The centre-stand has had to be rubbed down and re-painted every few months. I have also noted that the finish of the frame in some areas has needed a little touch up. In the defence of the BMW, it is nearly eight years old now and I am not noted for my fastidious cleaning regime. I do look after a bike, but I am not one of those who must have a spotless machine at all times. The RS gets used in all weathers too.

Overall, three years into my ownership and the RS is continuing to be a capable and dependable companion on my motorcycle adventures.

Pastures New?

However, I do feel that, our time together may be coming an end: As motorcyclists, many of us like to switch out bikes every few years. I have already tried a couple of alternatives. Notably a Suzuki GSXS1000GT. But other options are yet to be evaluated such as the Moto Guzzi V100 Maranello.

How about a R1250 or 1300GS? I hear you say. Of course, the R1250RS is also on my radar. Need to test ride an example soon. For me the RS is the better road bike when compared to the ubiquitous GS. I won’t be going down that path. Smaller, lighter bikes are also being considered. However I am unsure as to what model to go for. That Suzuki GSXS1000-GT did impress me on a test ride recently.

However, with only 16,500 miles on the clock of the RS, it has barely started out on life! It may keep its slot on the fleet for a little while yet.

Watch this space…

Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly

Triumph 1200 2022

A Two Triumph Twenty Mile Taster! Triple or Twin?

As part of the usual due diligence of contemplating a new bike I thought that I’d re-visit the Triumph brand again. Especially as they are the most local dealer to where I live.  I’m not repeating the 80mile weekly round trip to the dealers to keep getting my brakes fixed as per my R1200GS owning days.

They will beat any Deal!

The dealership were also promoting the ‘best px offer for any bike’ nonsense that always happens mid-season. Could be useful  when you have a leggy KTM1290 to move onto pastures new . They had also moved to a swanky new facility and I had not been in there yet. Mainly because the last lot of staff were useless ! Oh and I did fancy the idea of being the next James Bond if I bought a Bonnie Scrambler XC  Hmmm, maybe in some parallel universe.

Time to Tame the Tiger?

Anyway; the sensible option was to re-visit the Tiger 1200. A similar thing to my current KTM1290 and earlier BMW R1200GS. It’s also the bigger brother and the bigger brother of the 800XC. A bike I had previously owned as my first ‘big-bike’.

In truth, I’d ridden a 1200 Explorer before when I was getting my 800XC serviced by the dealer. It was a lovely and smooth ride, great power delivery. The downside being it seemed very similar to my bike at the time. Add in one or two cosmetic disconnects that didn’t gel with me and that meant I never considered it as a replacement for the 800.

My Ride Awaits

Fresh from a Facelift

However, the 1200 has had a number of updates since my last experience: Therefore I wanted to double check I wasn’t missing anything. Apart from a more cohesive design package and some chassis updates the main change was the new T-plane crank. This is supposed to improve torque and give a more V-twin sound and feel.

Suitably freshened up. It’s blue! I really like blue!

If you look REALLY closely the Bonnie is in the background!

The dealer showed me the bike: he ran through some of the functional controls and suggested to start in street mode, then switch to sport later. After this brief pep talk I ventured out into the town traffic heading towards some suitably twisty roads.

Out into the Wilds of Warwickshire

Riding in traffic was simple: A nice high seating position, good balanced feel and a torquey engine. What I did notice is the change to the engine firing pattern: Gone was the silky smooth power delivery replaced by a slightly more lumpy sensation. Nothing new to a KTM rider like myself though.

Having broken free of the congestion, I finally got to explore the higher speed characteristics on the Warwickshire’s rural roads. It was a warm sunny day too! A bit of bonus. This is the UK you know!

Power delivery was good and linear but not breath taking. The 1200 tipped into the corners better than I remember. Also it rode the bumps and other road surface imperfections without issues. Brakes were effective but I didn’t really put them to the test being a old plodder of a rider by nature.

Ergonomic Challenges

What I did notice is that the TFT screen was hidden from view without deliberately tipping my head. This is something I haven’t experience previously. Maybe it was the function of my slightly strange Bell crash helmet obscuring the view. Nevertheless I found it  a little disconcerting, especially when on a demo ride. You do get used to a bike’s foibles in time.

Unfortunately, it took more than a fleeting glance down to get the info processed. This sub-optimal. As a daily ride, I suspected that this would seriously irritate me.

Added to the fact that I couldn’t completely remember how to switch rider modes meant that 1200 stayed in street mode. I have to say that one the rare occasion I actually changed the settings on the KTM or the GS, it was a much more intuitive method.

Having ridden a whole 20 mile loop, I returned to the dealers thoroughly under-whelmed. However, I had confirmed in my head that it wasn’t the bike for me.

A Better Option?

Maybe the Bonneville based Scrambler would be Triumphs saviour ?

Now, I already knew that this might be another style over substance selection very similar to the Ducati Desert-X I’d test ridden previously.  However, it was intriguing me whether it would be a suitable KTM substitute?  The only issue was that due to high demand for the Scrambler they only had a standard Bonnie to try. Oh well, let’s see what we can extrapolate from this brief ride.

Keeping it Simple

The instructions from the dealer were succinct as there aren’t that many buttons or modes: Just hit the start button and off you go.

Clearly the bike is a lot lower than the Tiger. I look a bit like a gorilla on a clown’s bike! It’s all a little bit cramped and the seats hard. Also, it’s a parallel twin, so even with its 270º firing pattern (for that ‘Ducati-sound’), it feels a bit weedy in comparison to the 1200 Tiger.

Mixed it Up a Bit

Rather than taking the same route as on the Tiger, I thought that I’d replicate my normal commuting rout. Meaning  joining the dual carriage on the way out of town. Well, it turns out that a classic looking motorcycle is not quite as fast a KTM1290! Who knew? The poor old Triumph really needed to be worked to get to 70mph. The fact that when I sit up, I act as a massive airbrake wasn’t helping matters!

I persevered and pushed a little harder up to the point where the engine was just making more noise. All the frantic throttle twisting  producing little more by way of significant forward motion. Subsequently, I rolled off and bumbled along at 60mph. This seemed to be a much more comfortable level. I took the time to appreciate the friendly handling around the next roundabout and the way that it coped with the winding A-roads home.

The Crunch

The return to the dealer would be the acid test, we have a long hill into town. It’s sufficiently steep to test the performance of all modes of transport: Trucks and buses struggle, my old Ford Mondeo estate required some planning and judicious application of the right boot at the appropriate time.

In contrast both my previous R1200GS and current  KTM1290 just romp up the incline. Turns out the Mondeo approach was required for the Bonnie. All fine but you knew you were working it and there wasn’t that much more capacity for reckless overtakes.

Not for me – Not so much as a piccie!

Back at the dealers, it’s clear that the bike is built for weekend bimbles not my usual brisk commuting.  The Bonnie looked ok parked up. In truth it didn’t realty tick any boxes for me and the low rent switch gear only confirmed that the bike is built to a price.

I was pretty sure that the Scrambler version wouldn’t be that different. You can tell how impressed I was by the fact that I didn’t even bother to take a picture of the bike!

Good, but no cigar

The post-ride debrief with the dealer resulted in an great px-offer on my slightly tired KTM1290. I respond with a  ‘I’ll have a contemplate’ response from me.  I don’t think he was very optimistic about a call back!

Words and Pictures: Stuart Holliday

Norton 961SP Commando

Norton Commando 961SP – Class on Two Wheels

A couple of years I tagged along to a factory tour of the Norton facility at Castle Donnington with a bunch of proper bikers and whilst it was interesting, there was definitely a massive feeling of “cottage industry” going on. Whilst the other older gents on the tour were happily swallowing the “it’s all being made in Britain” commentary from the tour guide, our group of jaded automotive engineers could see the real truth. The carpeted final assembly floor was a surprise and something I have never seen in 20 years in the industry.

Re-Birth of an Iconic Brand

Maybe because of our visit, it wasn’t long before that incarnation of Norton went bump along with its well published shenanigans of its board. I’d kept an casual eye on what was going on and was happy to see that TVS had rescued the brand and was setting up a new plant in the Midlands. Whilst there might be some die-hards who scoff at the Indian’s buying the group, you only have to look at what’s happened recently with Royal Enfield that there is a commitment to making English brands work. The fact that JLR still exist is testament to the Indian’s support like it or not and this jaded automotive engineer is very happy about this !

So, when a scroll through Facebook resulted in an invitation to test ride the re-launched 961, I thought it was opportunity not to miss:

It would be rude not to

Checking out the New Place

The demo ride was organised from the Solihull factory as they run a sales office from there. I turned up early (a first for me…as anyone who knows me) to a very quiet factory. Well, it was 9am Saturday morning.  Entering the foyer, there’s a fine selection of historic Norton’s on display, along with a couple V4S variants. A long chat with the Sales Manager, whom I knew from when he worked at Kestrel KTM in Coventry, about the companies current and future plans whilst filling in the demo paperwork meant it was a painless exercise. Then the keys were mine along with the instructions “go out and enjoy, can you be back around lunchtime?” You can’t say fairer than that !

Looking Good

Outside on the ‘drive’ stood a very traditional looking Norton but with some modern touches. I have to say that it looked very purposeful, substantial gold Ohlin forks, Brembo brakes and carbon fibre mud-guard combined with the traditional parallel twin engine with signature crank case shape and tank gave a very cohesive design.

Perhaps that rear light light needs a bit more work?

The only style grumble I would have is the rear light integration but like my ever increasing bald patch you’d rarely look at it. What you do notice is that is a substantial unit which you doesn’t translate in the publicity pictures: It’s a size up from the comparable Triumph Bonneville even if they have the same style theme. Having ridden a Bonnie recently, fit and finish is in a different league to the Triumph. Along with this, all high spec parts fitted, along with the ‘assembled in England’ label it would go some-way to explain the £16K price tag.

Contrast to my Current Ride

Sitting for the first time revealed a reasonably comfortable seat at a lower height than my KTM, a set of traditional styled clocks, a key and not much else. Hitting the start button wakes the parallel twin: It sounds glorious, even with ear-plugs in! like a proper parallel twin and reacts promptly to a pre-requisite throttle blip. But my God, does it vibrate!! Don’t take this as a criticism, it’s just nothing like a now seemingly silky smooth KTM V-twin. Perhaps it’s part of the character that attracts the traditionalist’s but it was a surprise to this rider.

Lost already!

However, it didn’t take long to ignore it completely. Once you give it some throttle you just accept it as part of the riding experience. However, before I could start to fully enjoy the ride, I had to escape the confines of the factory. That meant a 20mph max ride around of the perimeter road. Now, normally this isn’t something to write about but it did highlight a couple of issues: Riding in a more normal style on a new bike meant that I wasn’t sitting up as much as normal. This meant I was not properly looking at the directions and resulted in me briefly staring at the dead end of the car-park. Still, it did reveal that the bike doesn’t have much lock! Luckily it is light enough to paddle around on a 5-point turn and make a hasty exit before anyone spotted my mistake!

I Escaped

Back on track and I’m on the way out of the factory. Around the twists of industrial estate and out into the delights of Solihull’s traffic. TBH its not too bad for a Saturday morning, keeping a lid on the speed gave me time to get acclimatised to the position and for the bike to warm up. Also, there’s at least one speed camera on the route out of town and you have to factor in all the sleepy retards pulling out of MaccyD into your path. Approaching traffic lights confirmed that the Brembo’s worked nicely, the clutch was nicely weighted and gearbox un-obstructive.

Out into the Wilds of Warwickshire

Escaping the confines of suburbia and out onto the twisting roads of Warwickshire, I’m heading toward my Motorcycle Sensei in Kidderminster for chat and to give him a chance to look at the bike. I was looking forward to seeing his face when I turn up on it as I hadn’t given him a hint that I’d be on the Norton.

This meant I was following a well-trodden path that I’d been doing on my KTM during my commute to work, all reasonably quick single track A-roads which would suit the un-faired bike. Due to the familiarity with the route, I could concentrate on enjoying the Norton and its not disappointing. Keeping the tacho between 4k and 6k provides a good substantial chunk of power that pushes you over motorway limit speed. All the time the sonorous exhaust gently encourages you to open the throttle a bit wider.

Onto to the ‘Twisties’

Diving off A-road to a B-road cut through gave a chance to check out the handling: This section is six miles of bends and hills. It’s a great bit of road to test any vehicle. Keeping the bike between 3rd and 4th keep me in the sweet-spot for the engine and give me plenty of opportunity to power out of the tight corners. Approaching the next corner again showed the brakes were more than up to the task of wiping off speed. The exhaust barked and popped as you closed the throttle; lovely. Very much a case of rinse and repeat for the next couple of miles and I was having a ball.

Time to turn up the Wick

Back on the A-roads and I know there a nice long straight coming up with great visibility. Naturally the perfect opportunity to open up the Norton. I move my self imposed rpm limit up to 7k and snick the 5 speed gearbox into top and hunker down a bit so I don’t act as a big sail. Well, we were ‘definitely motoring’. The Commando took the elevated speed in its stride.

I have to say that its not as quite ballistic missile as the KTM but that’s to be expected. Winding my KTM past 7k  towards its redline unleashed all the unruly banshees and things get very frantic. This generally only occurs when I’m out riding with other bad influences. Generally I chicken out and blast along just-below mad-man rpm. However, back on the Norton with the straight over, I’m back to the twisty roads heading towards Worcestershire. Carrying a bit too much speed into downhill tight right hander did cause the bike to get a bit squirrelly under braking as I tried to wipe a bit of speed off. If I was a better rider I suspect that I could of dipped the bike a bit deeper into the corner and carried the speed, but I’m not and I didn’t but I made it round without incident.

Muscular Experience

The meet point with the Sensei was at his local muscle car emporium. This is home to a street legal 800bhp Dodge Challenger, a land-based aircraft carrier with a Lincoln badge and anything else that has single digit mpg. The first obstacle was the speed humps which didn’t agree with the reasonably low-slung exhaust. Maybe it was my lardy a$$ weighing the bike down and reducing the ground clearance? The solution was to ride on the path of the deserted industrial estate and completely avoid them! I nearly made it to the meet point but couldn’t see anyone. However, the acute hearing on a die-hard biker resulted in appearance of the main man! He led me to workshop and I followed him at walking pace.

British Beef meets Prime American Steak

Taking it all in

This gave us a chance to walk around the bike, admire the various features and discuss the riding experience. In general, everyone that saw the bike was very impressed with the visuals and my positive riding impression.

Delight in Details

With time getting a bit tight and a grey cloud looming, I made a swift exit and headed home on the same route. Now that I was more experienced with the bike I started to utilise the full rev range. The 961 really responded to a more positive riding style showing plenty of pace and riding the road imperfections perfectly. As the route home literally took me past me past my front door, I thought that I’d better show the Chief Financial Controller what I’d been messing about with on a Saturday morning. She seemed suitably impress although didn’t like the gold forks with the silver tank. I did suggest that the alternative could be a black bike. This seemed to be an acceptable solution until she asked the price. I suspect that I’m going to have to work hard to justify one of these Commandos!

Time to Give it Back

I left the house and made my way back to the factory, again enjoying my B-road cut through until I re-joined the main a-road. Once on the home straight it gave me chance to think about this bike:

Want a handsome traditionally styled but dynamically modern hand build British motorcycle? One that is made in limited number with great heritage? Then you’d be hard pressed to match what Norton is offering. Whether you could justify the £16k price tag is another thing. In this price range there is a vast amount of choice depending on where you want to compromise your choices. Due to the low volumes predicted, buying this bike as an investment would be one option. However not riding it to maintain its residual value would be a real waste. This bike is too good to not enjoy. In truth, it’s too good for a Sunday morning bimble and sandwich run. The Norton really thrives on being ridden.

The sales manager was pleased to see his bike returned in time. He was clearly happy that I’d enjoyed the experience. However, he was a little disappointed if not unsurprised when I responded to his inevitable question that ‘the Norton didn’t really fit with my riding profile’

The 961SP its not really for commuting. All I need to do now is to keep an eye out for one of these updated secondhand examples in black. Maybe the depreciation will bring it into my grasp! Then all I will have to do is work out how to sneak it into the garage without the CFO noticing!!

A Interesting Bonus

As the factory wasn’t working, the Sales Manager took the opportunity to walk me around the new, bespoke facility. It was very much like all the OEM automotive facilities that I’ve experienced, which is promising for the future. What was a surprise was that they make both the steel and aluminium frames (for the V4S) in-house and assemble all the engines also.

The factory is clearly not just an assembly shop for a collection of pre-assembled sub-assemblies but a proper manufacturing plant. Whilst walking around I had the opportunity to sit on one of their V4S press-fleet bikes. We both knew that a £44K sports bike was never going to be my thing. But when do you get a chance to say that you’ve sat on one!

All in all, I’d judge the day as a success. I’m off to work out a plan to hide a Norton behind a KTM!

Words: Stuart Holliday

Pictures: Tony Donnelly


Ducati 950 Multistrada 2021

Ducati 950 Multistrada – V Twin Virgin, Love or Hate?

Let’s get this out there, my biking preference has been for Yamaha’s offerings: FS1E, XT125, RD200, RD250, RD350LC, XJ650, a certain YZF600R, FZS600, FZ6 Fazer, FZ8 Fazer and most recently a MT09 Tracer. So how on earth did I end up on the 2021 Ducati 950s Multistrada?

I Have Been Assimilated!

Well the seed was sown back in 2011, when a friend of mine took a gamble and bought a Ducati 848. Prior to that he had ridden only Japanese sports bikes such as the Kawasaki 636. Well ever since then I have had the pleasure of following his various Ducati machines about and watched how things developed.

Fast forward to February 2023 I took him and my  boss (without whom the last few bikes would not have been possible), along to Pidcocks, the Ducati dealer in Nottingham. I did the deed and bought myself a Ducati: It was with some disbelieve that it would ever happen and have to say the service I received there was exceptional. I cannot recommend them enough. A 2021 950 Ducati Multistrada is now my ride!

A fine looking piece of kit, it has to be said

Cool Start

The first trip I ever did on the 950 came on April Fool’s day of all days!  My old friend was with me. He now rides a rather lovely V2 Panigale. It was over to Sheffield to his bike serviced and it was bloody freezing: Only 3º degrees! To be honest was bricking it having never had anything this expensive!!!. The ride back was much better temp wise as we got a max of 7º degrees, positively balmy

But my thoughts were maybe had made a mistake: The Multistrada didn’t feel as lively as my old MT09 Tracer or as involving. I was thinking when does the power come in? When we got back and said to my friend  that I thought he had taken it steady for me. He replied no, he’d just rode back in his usual style. Well normally he would have had to wait sometime for me to catch up! So clearly the 950 is a deceptively quick bike.

The seating and riding position for me is just perfect: My battered body is now unable to take foot pegs mounted too high that force my legs to be bent back too far. The Ducati I can ride for hours on end with no pain or aches, other than those I would normally get from being in one position for that long.

Well Judged Equipment Levels

The toys with this model are just what I need. There is no Satnav. Even the new Yamaha Tracer 9GT can have that in the dash now, but comes at a price: £15k for a Yamaha? Seems somehow expensive to me. Back to the Multistrada and Cruise-control, cornering ABS, Heated grips, electronic suspension, LED & cornering lights , illuminated switchgear, keyless ignition , Quick-Shifter and a colour TFT screen are all fitted. The list goes on! Remember the conveyor belt on that 11970’s game show The Generation Game? I half expected a cuddly toy to appear!

Crisply presented TFT screen in both day and night modes

I haven’t done as much riding as I wanted to this year. In fact due to the sudden economic downturn that has hit so many of us, I have considered selling. But I’ve hung in there. Chin up eh. I have gone on trips up into the Yorkshire Moors with friends to reccie for a group ride out we organise. These gave me a chance to gel with this bike. Prior to that the longest trip was my when I attended a fwllow biker’s funeral. This was in weather best described as interesting  and a chance to start adjusting to the V Twin concept.

On the ‘Taste of Lincolnshire’ run with a group of like minded souls

Now having spent time going to work on it etc and some smaller trips I was beginning to understand how to use the gears better: Ride the torque curve rather than rag the arse of it .

Then came the bike group ride out, (‘ToL’ or Taste of Lincolnshire) , which I was a bit nervous about. This  would be the first time in a large group and wondered if I could keep up and the momentum going. I need not have worried. The ride went perfectly as did the Multistrada and me!

Now , the good points:-

  • The electronic suspension: What can I say? It’s just sublime. The ride is just bang on for me, totally adjustable, so much so that when I took a pillion to Sheffield to pick his bike up, I set it up so I couldn’t tell the difference between having him on it and not!. There is something like 450 settings for the suspension and abs, engine , luggage etc.
  • Handling is just so much easier and it doesn’t bounce and wobble as the Tracer did when set for me. There is a definite difference between the 3 main settings , Touring, Sport and Urban, or as I see it Medium, Hard or Soft
  • Hydraulic clutch: So much easier for my left hand and smoother for setting off
  • Heated grips! Thank you Ducati!
  • Cruise control. The first time I have had it on a bike and really like it
  • Quick shifter. Love it, but more in the bad points
  • Fit and finish is exceptional

The Not So Good points:-

1) Quick shifter: When it works it is great! However I  had a lot of issues when I first got the bike. But after phoning the dealer and being told to do a tyre calibration it has been a lot better, Although I wouldn’t say 100 %

2) There is a vagueness on the edge of the front tyre when leant over in a bend. I can’t say whether it’s the electronic suspension or the 19 inch wheel.

3) Price of extras: If I had bought this new with all the kit on it has , we would be talking close to 18k

4) Screen: It protects very well, but I have lot of buffeting from the lower sides with wind noise on the shoulders no matter where I put it. I have fitted aftermarket Iconic Parts screen-risers. This has made a big difference to the point where I have not felt the need to change things further.

5) No keyless tank lock. The bike comes with keyless ignition, but you need a key handy to put fuel in. WTF is the thinking behind that? Ducati want ANOTHER £250 for this! It would cost them nothing really to add this to the S model surely?

Composed and Capable

The ride is smooth and comfortable, the power delivery is good with bags of torque and engine braking. When it really gets going there is an excellent roar from the air-box.

Brakes, Brembo front and rear, are excellent compared to other bikes I have tried. Being both progressive and really biting when needed. However I  cannot comment on the ABS as it has not kicked in as yet. Gearbox is a lot less clunky than the Yamahas I have owned. Yamaha are notorious for this. No whining either!

Controls are light and easy to use and placed logically. For example the switch for high-beam is far better than the Tracer. But the TFT from the V4 Multistrada would be a welcome update.

If an update were to be done properly I would put a slightly detuned engine from the V2 Panigale. A boost to 125 bhp would be great! having said that this it is very quick bike when needed. This is being nit-picky on a 3 year old machine which to be honest has more power than the Superbikes from not so long ago.

I am a Happy Bunny

So in conclusion I would have to say I have fallen for this bike: Like any other it has got its issues: The flaky quick shifter, service costs and that front end vagueness. These are outweighed by all the positives. I love the fact I can get an easy 200 mile tank range , in comfort and pressing on where required. Having only just started to ride in low light and near darkness I can say the lights are fantastic, and the cornering lights really do work! Even when I’m going down Elsham Hill!

If I don’t keep the Ducati very long I can at least say I had one and tried a bit of exotica! This has been the best adventure and leap of faith I have taken. I have to say it has paid off for keeping me going on bikes. The Ducati 950 Multistrada is a truly great ride!

Words and Pictures: Pete Worsley (aka ‘Mechy’)


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