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