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