Back in 2020 the whole world was caught in the vice like grip of Covid-19. Looking back on it, they were crazy times. Just before the bug struck I had treated myself to a hoofing great BMW R1200RS sports-tourer. Great timing, absolute masterstroke!
But after a few months the lock-down restrictions began to ease a little. We could go out! A bit. As soon as possible I rounded up a couple of mates and we headed to Yorkshire for a long weekend of biking and exploring this wonderful county.
Day One – Getting Back Out There
We headed north from Worcestershire variously battling hot weather, road works and heavy traffic. The farther north we went the better things got. We traversed the Woodhead Pass, some impressive viaducts and took in the sweeping views as the miles mounted.
Soon we were crossing over the border and onto the beautiful lanes of Yorkshire and then onto the drive of our digs for the weekend. However there was no key box next to the rental cottage door. That’s odd, hmmm.
Before too long, prompted no doubt by the sudden arrival of three large motorcycles on the driveway, one of the neighbours approached us to investigate.
A very amiable lady, we showed her where we were heading and then she just roared with laughter! Turns out we are over thirty miles from where we should be! The BMW satellite navigation system is brilliant, but is only as good as the information you put in. Andy, the rider leading had got the post code completely wrong. To compound this neither I or Matt had seen fit to enter any info in the system fitted to our bikes either. We were just as culpable! Technology is great, but can be limited by the idiots using it. In this case, us! Lesson learnt for the next trip.
Anyway we enjoyed a happy ending as we found an excellent pub on route (The Craven Hieffer Inn, Kelbrook), and devoured a cracking meal. Friendly locals and attentive staff too. Recommended if you are ever in the area.
We then put the correct postcode into ALL THREE sat-navs and headed for Todmorton. The last few miles to our correct base took us along fabulous road. Called ‘The Long Causeway’ until it blends into Kets Road. Cutting across the top of a moor, the road is fun to ride and is blessed with spectacular views.
Our destination was a charming cottage going by the descriptive name of ‘On the Tops’. Just a couple of miles from the nearest town. Over the course of the next few days this became known as ‘Matt’s road’ as he particularly enjoyed himself on this section
We settled into our comfortable digs quickly. Aided by the provision of three beers the owner had put in the fridge chilling ready for our arrival along with an little note explaining why. Nice touch…
Nice touch. We mentioned to the landlord that we normally do continental trips, but Covid had stopped us this year
The view over the moorland was expansive. The hilltop wind farm I think compliments and adds to the atmosphere and feel of the place somehow. Although I accept this is a view far from universally held.
Not bad, not bad at all. Base camp.
Day Two – The View Gets Turned Up a Notch
The whole area is identified as ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. It’s easy to see why. The weather was a bit mixed, but this adds rather than detracts to the feel and vibe of the area. We also managed to dodge the worst of it all day too! That helps…
We picked our way across the beautiful dales a little gingerly on occasion. This due to the crater like nature of the pot holes on the country A and B roads. I call it taking the ‘council-line’ around a bend, rather than the more sporting ‘racing-line’!
Settle was our first port of call. A popular town with the biking fraternity. Easy to see why. No sooner had we parked up were chatting away with a local XJR1300SP pilot. Lunch was taken in the imposing Royal Oak pub. Here we were served by a lovely barmaid. Clearly impressed by three middle-aged bikers. Maybe not…a lad can dream!
Imposing and Impressive
First up after lunch we headed for the incredible Ribblehead Viaduct. An amazing feat of engineering so typical of the Victorian period. The viaduct has featured in many a film and TV show over the years. It forms a key part of the Settle to Carlisle rail line, once threatened by closure and saved in part, by a campaign that involved former Conservative MP Michael Portillo who is better known now for his TV work and dubious colour choices in clothing.
You can almost hear The Hogwart’s Express Coming
We also went to check out the Wensleydale Dairy. This could just be me, but is impossible not to think of Wallace and Grommet at this point. That’s fine as they like bikes too! Remember the sidecar outfit? We actually didn’t linger long in Hawes the main biker Mecca of the Dales. Purely because even on a grey day it was very busy with hoards of our fellow bikers and there was nowhere to park.
Roads with a Grin Factor
Moving on and the roads continued to be both challenging and fun to tackle. On one section a motorist (in a Mercedes estate of all things), joined in the fun for a few miles. He went for a bit of a ‘yump’ over a hump-backed bridge and gave the underside of his car a hefty thump. Seemed to back off after that. I hope the damage, if any, was superficial.
We worked our way across ‘Green Routes’. These are tight, single track but worth exploring for the views alone. At one point we pulled in just to take in our surroundings a little better. While parked up a couple of adventure bikes came past slowly. Trailing behind them was a Yamaha R1 piloted by a disconsolate rider. He looked completely hacked off bless him. This is not prime R1 country! Having been led down some totally unsuitable roads over the years by my smug GS riding friends, I felt his pain!
We are not great with maps either…
Assuming the stance…
From there we made our way back to base going through the area we had inadvertently wound up in the night before. Luckily there is an excellent chippie in Kelbrook too. I really enjoy a bag of chips next to my bike after a good days riding. Simple pleasures that should be savoured.
This meant no cooking once back at base. We concentrated on beer and talking rubbish. Picking up supplies on route at a supermarket. With the kit at base camp all the top-boxes had plenty of room for a few cans of beer. All three us of sort of forgot about them as we rode back and attacked ‘Matt’s road’ with considerable gusto.
Obviously this served to shake up the cans more than a tad. Matt and I got away with it. However Andy did not and opened his top box to discover an onboard swimming pool of Best Bitter. Oh dear. Obviously his BMW’s computer controlled suspension doesn’t have a ‘Carrying Canned Beer’ setting! One for the updated GS! Best let the chaps back in Munich know! It’s always good to have an evening ‘de-brief’ over a few (frothy) beers. Even if we were a couple of cans short.
The survivors. Very ‘Bloke-Spec’ fridge contents…
Day Three – All Creatures Great and Small Country
We moved to the heart of the area of outstanding natural beauty today. Throughout we were treated to spectacular countryside. It is hard to pin down one particular spot. This was just a generally lovely day of riding.
Good little stop off
Lunch was taken in Foulridge, at the wharf side visitor centre. But even this pretty spot was soon to be eclipsed. Suitably refreshed it was back on the bikes and into the countryside. The afternoon brought one of the highlights for me: The picturesque village of Arncliffe. A place seemingly frozen in time, Arncliffe often features in period dramas on TV, so untouched does it look and feel. Typical of this vibe is The Falcon Inn, the fulcrum of village life. A fabulous little pub situated on the edge of the village green. I would advise you to drop in if visiting the area.
Lovely roads to ride at a gentle pace
Speaks for itself really
Matt has the Adventure variant of the GS and seems very happy with it
The Falcon Inn is well worth a visit
The only fly in the ointment over a great day of riding came in shape of huge diesel slick. Spread over several miles of a narrow country lane. This certainly made me focused on throttle and brake applications! Blessed be the Gods of traction control and ABS! Sometimes I get grumpy about all the technology on modern bikes, but on this occasion, I must admit to being glad that it had my back!
Yet another Pub
Our last call for the day was to Hebden Bridge. Another scenic small town. My brother often works in and around the town maintaining the bridges that span the rivers that meet here. The town sits on the confluence of the River Calder and Hebden Water. Consequently, flooding is a regular occurrence and this where my brother and his colleagues come in to help and to repair and restore any damage done.
We enjoyed the unhurried atmosphere as we sat and enjoyed a drink on the kerbside tables out the Shoulder of Mutton pub in the middle of the town. We didn’t linger too long, but it warrants a longer stop to investigate the myriad of lovely old buildings that grace the town.
Day Four – More Sat Nav Trouble!
The weather forecast for the day ahead looked bleak. Not to worry, just means a chilled morning at the digs enjoying a decent breakfast. Just sit it out and wait to see if things improve. We eventually set off late morning and headed for a transport museum that sounded interesting. However, yet again, between the three of us we managed a huge navigation error and went in completely the wrong direction. We turned up in a residential housing estate located in I know not where! If brains were dynamite, we wouldn’t have enough to knock off your hat off between us.
We moved on and rode into a town called Pendle and parked up. In contrast to so many other places we have visited on this tour, I can’t recommend this one. Very ‘down-at-heel’ to a point where I feel sorry for the residents. You can see that once this was a prosperous place, and hope that one day these times return. In the meantime, avoid.
Back on Track
Things improved considerably once we moved on. Back in the rolling hills and pretty valleys. The views were great, and the hilltops reached into the low cloud base to give a stunning backdrop, The Biblical weather promised didn’t show either thankfully. What rain we did encounter we dodged in our traditional style. We ducked into a convenient pub! This is always a good idea even if you only have a hot or soft drink. Must be better than getting soaked. As a bonus you generally get into a chat with the locals and this a good way to get an idea of the feel and character of a place
We rounded off the day’s riding by dipping into Lancashire and taking in Clitheroe Castle, but not before yet another sat nav inspired trip around a B&Q car park…don’t ask!
Not the most epic day of riding but enjoyable, nonetheless. Another chilled evening back at the digs followed having stopped on route at (yet another) pub for a cracking meal. Good value too. The Ram Inn on the Burnley Road.
Having a central base has several advantages on a bike tour. Not least is not having to worry about having to cart all your kit everywhere every day. Leaves the bike unencumbered and more fun to ride too. Time pressure is removed as you don’t have to get to a certain place by a set time either. Finally, if the weather really doesn’t play ball, just hunker down for the day and have a beer. Just pick you spot carefully in the middle of great biking country. This is easy in most of Yorkshire.
That’s it Folks!
Anyway, that was it for this trip. Just a routine chug home the next morning. I made my traditional stop at my local biker’s café on my way home for one last light salad before signing back into everyday life. All three bikes performed perfectly on a trip where appreciating our surrounding took precedence over burning rubber.
My traditional stop off before clocking back onto family duty
If you have never been to Yorkshire on a bike, I suggest you put that right soon!
The BMW team
Thanks to Andy and Matt for being great company the whole trip. Here is to the next one.
Words and Pictures: Tony Donnelly