NC 500 – an adventure……

Learning to ride is one of the best achievements that I have done. So, when it was announced that some chapter members were going to do the NC500 my immediate thoughts were “Hell yeah, I want to do that. “

I have only been riding for 4 years and had read and seen so many articles about how bad the roads were and how technical the climbs and corners were. Having to squeeze past camper vans and making sure you didn’t get too near the edge of the road as they were crumbling away. So I watched videos of parts of the route, mainly Applecross which made me a little more nervous.

Leading up to the trip I began to over think things. How will I fit in with the group? Am I up to the challenge? What if I let them down or slow them up?

Riding up to Inverness from Durham (Approximately 300 miles) with the group of nine riders did not start well due to the weather conditions.  Just before we set of we had torrential rain and the forecast was not due to get better. I was initially thinking that driving up would be a better option. Doing the NC 500 in the rain would not be fun. How wrong I was. The weather eased and although wet, it wasn’t too bad the rest of the way to Inverness. My waterproofs stayed in my panniers for the rest of the trip.

All the other riders had more experience than me although Ian mentioned that he had never ridden in the rain, so this was a testing time for him too. At first my husband and I believed he had never ridden his current bike in the rain, but it actually turned out that he had never ridden any bike in the rain. So maybe the rain was planned just for Ian.   Bev did a great job in keeping the group together and getting us to our 1st nights scheduled stop. There was one little road exit off the motorway that caught us by surprise and resulted on 2 of the riders missing the junction. Fortunately, one of them had a sat nav and was able to get back on route and to the hotel. Top tip is not to overtake anything and stay in the inside lane around 1-2 miles before the exit. Live and learn.

Day 1 Inverness – Ullapool

I was more nervous as I listened to the group discussions that this part was the most challenging, having to ride through Applecross. Secretly, my stomach was churning.  As we set off on a dry but cloudy day I reminded myself to relax, relax, relax. “A road is a road” someone said. Duncan took the lead on this and I soon settle into the ride. The snow-capped mountains in the distance looked great. Just like a picture post card. Any snow that had fallen on the roads had gone. The copious amount of road salt had seen to that. The pace of the ride was great. We had already agreed that the ride was to be enjoyed and that a steady pace and keeping a safe distance was best for all. It allowed me to look around and enjoy it. I could feel the grin on my face get wider by the mile as we sweep around the bends and viewed the stunning scenery. It absolutely took my breath away.  I’m feeling alive.

As the roads begin to narrow into single track and the corners become tighter, we meet a number of camper vans and cars. All of which (apart from one) were courteous, pulled over and let us past. It helps having a group that is too large to fit into a passing place. My breathing gets a little quicker and my bottom begins to twitch as we start to climb up the valley. I want to look at the views but the slow climb and the twisting roads take all my attention. Towards the top the road gets narrower and you can see others making their way down the same single track road. The verge to the left in places has broken away and has no barriers. Not a great combination. All the time I am hoping that those coming down pull over and wait. It’s a 1st gear job to allow the engine to pull me up. I don’t want to be stopping on a hill or getting too close to the edge.  As I negotiate a couple of severe hairpin bends that have a camber far more severe than my legs are long, I am focused on getting around. If I stop, I am convinced that I would topple over. I say to my husband (who is unusually quiet riding behind me) “God, those corners were scary, I dread Applecross”. To which he replied, “That was Apple cross. Everything else is a breeze”. OMG, I gave a huge sigh of relief.

Our group stopped at the top for the obligatory photo shoot. There were only 2 females in the group. Myself and Trish, our Chapter LOH Officer. It gave me comfort to learn that some of the others had been nervous too and it wasn’t just me over thinking. Trish had done well to negotiate the route on her breakout. We hugged each other of our achievement. Everyone safe and no bikes dropped. It felt good.

 

Day 2 Ullapool – John O Groats

This was a day of sweeping bends, single track roads and some of the best scenery you will ever see. Road conditions were generally good. Some wear and tear as you would expect for a road that is being used by camper vans but designed for horse and cart. A lot of work is being done to improve and maintain these roads.  Again we struck lucky with the weather which made the tea stops and the leg stretches more enjoyable. No midges either, so we could sit outside and enjoy the sun. What a blessing.

Having checked into the hotel, had something to eat (and a cheeky beer or two) we made our way down to the famous John O Groats signpost at the harbour. We had decided that we could get a photo with the bikes in the morning. Wrong! When we arrived in the morning there was a big tourist coach sitting directly in front of the sign, spoiling any photo opportunity. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today rang loudly in my head.

Day 3 John O Groats – Aviemore.

Striking lucky with the weather yet again, we set of on a warm but cloudy day. The route down was mainly via the A9 but that hugs the coast line. Lovely sweeping roads and terrific views as we plodded south. There are so many beautiful views that I would urge anyone doing this route to make a conscious effort to stop and take the photo. There was even a fist pump from Barry the Chapter Director as we rode past Inverness to indicate that we had completed the NC500, this made me smile and think of our achievement.

Aviemore was our next night’s stop and most of us checked into the Vermont guest house, our usual B&B which is ran by Ellen & George which is where we stay when we go to Thunder in the Glens. After a warm welcome a well-deserved beer was on the cards.

The overall trip was absolutely amazing. I can honestly say that it was the best trip I have ever had and learned a lot. Even the experienced riders that have ridden all over the world said that it was some of the best riding and scenery they had experienced. Going early May paid off. Not so many campervans, cars or motorcycles to cause any delays. Perfect timing Barry!

I can’t thank the group enough for what they did. The company and banter that we had was great and they ensured that everyone was okay throughout. Some good advice was offered by the more experienced riders. Not just to me, but also to the other riders to help them improve their riding.

As with all trips, someone has to plan the routes and lead the group (you know who you are), for which I am very thankful. It makes it so much more enjoyable if all you have to think about is the ride. So if the NC500 is on your bucket list, get out and do it. You will not regret it. These memories will stay with me forever.

Sue Asken

(LOH Geordie Chapter member)

 

 

A Geordie Chapter members first toe dipping into an organised four night event/ride to the Scottish North 500.

Expectations were high. An exciting prospect of a challenging ride around the Scotland northern coastline, over the highest road in the British Isles to Applecross from Lock Carron and onto    John O Groats via Ullapool returning to Inverness and onto Aviemore,

Some of my newbie concerns were, how many would be riding?What would the people be like? How would I fit in? Would the riding be too challenging? Would my kit be up to the task?

I set off at 8.30am on  a Wednesday morning to meet the group at the planned 9am meet. From opening the garage door it was raining. 330 miles later arriving at Inverness it was still raining. Temperature was about 7 degrees. Me being a sunny weather only rider,  found the ride fairly difficult at times with surface water and keeping up when not familiar with riding in the rain and wet. Wound the throttle on too much accelerating from a roundabout onto a dual carriageway and felt the back end of my Breakout go sideways, hmm!! wasn’t the only thing I thought and said. Overall I was looked after, we had plenty of fuel and rest stops.First night Inverness, we all sat together for our evening meal, it was good crack, all inclusive, everyone knew each other and were relaxed in each others company and refreshingly I quickly became accepted into the group.

Next morning we were up fed and off on the 500 mile adventure. Finally the rain had stopped the sun was out but still chilly. Stopping for tea at Loch Carran, very pretty place and lovely riding. Next bit of riding was over the Applecross pass known as Bealach Na Ba, pass of the cattle. So quick purchase of the Scottish 500 T shirts, equally quick nervous toilet visit before the ascent over the very narrow twisting ride over the pass. Avoiding the odd pedal cyclist, cars and Motorhomes, hairpins with adverse camber, we all triumphed without incident. Stopping at the top for tremendous views and photo shoot.I was personally overjoyed to get to the top still upright, my riding was a bit messy with the odd steadying foot down but hey ho, no damage no dramas! The single track roads with passing bays continued to our next stop just before Ullapool. Again very pretty ride, the rain returned in the afternoon but didnt dampen our enjoyment. A good point of the hotel were the hot radiators in the room. Dried my gloves and boots. The only kit I borrowed from “biker brothers” which although assured were waterproof leaked like a sieve. Well my skins waterproof.One of the anecdotes, “theres no such thing as bad weather just bad gear” too right Bev.

One of the older guys, funny as Im 60  gave me some friendly riding advice, consider it a critique not a criticism, and I took it in the spirit it was meant and to be honest it was brilliant as my riding improved, well in my head it did, Once again we all met up for evening meal and a few hours of funny bike event stories and bonding.

Day 3 was the best day, sunny all day, fantastic roads gentle sweeping bends rather than hairpins, still single track but later opened out. Vistas were outstanding, better than USA Canyon-lands, absolutely brilliant. Coastal inlets with beautiful sandy coves and sand dunes ruined castles, then turning inland to snow topped mountains then back onto the coast and repeat, amazing doesn’t give it justice. Pleasant stop for soup n roll at lunch stop then onto John O Groats.

Lovely hotel only 400 yards to the iconic signpost for photo call. A friendly barman let us use their hosepipe to give the bikes a cats lick of a wash. A group meal and drink in the bar before bed and good night sleep before the final leg down the east coast to Aviemore via Inverness.  The rain returned in intermittent showers, bit blustery also and we all reached Aviemore safely mid afternoon,that final leg went past very quickly and the sun returned as we reached our destination.

Few drinks in a local bar and meal in the town . It was a joy to spend a few days with a lovely bunch of like minded people who loved motorcycling and the friendship that the Chapter offered.

My gamble to sign up for a Chapter event only really knowing 2 of the group, taking a leap of faith was certainly rewarding and exceeded my expectations. The entire group were nothing but supportive and encouraging, my riding improved thanks to my friendly critique, and I had an excellent time thanks to the Geordie Chapter members and proud to be part of this Harley clan.

Thanks Trish and Barry. and the gang!!

 

Ian Gulliver.  (Geordie Chapter) 

 

Chapter Meeting, July 2019

An impressive turnout (must have been the pie n peas?!) saw the Committee cover several topics.

We had a very interesting presentation by Kelly and Mark from Safe Families for Children. This charity works hand-in-hand with Children’s Services to link families in need with local volunteers who can offer them help and support. From simple child minding for a few hours, to temporarily housing people with children for a night or longer. You can register to be a Host Home, who take children into their loving homes, giving the parents much needed space to deal with pressing issues or even just be a family friend, who befriend, mentor and support parents through their crisis, helping them get back on their feet and making the home stable for them and their children. Barry asked how the Chapter could help them and Mark mentioned fundraising and the collection of food/toys for distribution at Xmas when some families have literally nothing.  Just buying one extra non-perishable item with your weekly shopping will yield a significant haul come Xmas.  Watch this space closer to Xmas for how we can help.

The Charity does so much to help across the country and has 1200 volounteers in the North East alone. If you are interested in knowing more about what they do and how you can help please visit https://www.safefamiliesforchildren.com/

Fundraising – Paul and Kay have helped to raise an unbelievable £23k for the Children’s Cancer Ward with their ‘Benidorm or Bust’ fundraiser. Such a massive achievement, very well done.

A Halloween abseil has been organised for the Teenage Cancer Trust, 31st October in fancy dress down the Sandman Signature building in Newcastle.  Any volunteers please see Paul.

The ABC Ride raised almost £300 with the Marie Curie Daffodil fundraiser raising £164.  The stall at Bents Park Armed Forces Day raised £330.  Very well done to all involved.

Heart n Soul Rally 2019 – Tickets have sold really well, there are now only basic tickets left, so best get your skates on! The ride out on the Saturday is to the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool.  Tickets for entry on the day are £10, but you can book in advance online for £6. The Road Crew have ridden thousands of miles between them planning this route (thank you!) so as many bikes as possible on the day would be fantastic.

Xmas Party tickets will be available next month.  Again this will be held at the Nissan Sports Complex. Last year was a blast so don’t miss out on this one.

 

Henshaw Church of England Primary School visit

Today was something a little different, 16 bikes left Gateshead Harley-Davidson for a short run up to Henshaw Church of England Primary School to visit some of their children who had just finished their Key stage 2 topic ‘Road trip USA’. They were keen to see some actual bikes and the Chapter happily obliged.

The visit was really well appreciated, all who attended said they could hear us well before we arrived. The kids got to sit on some of the bikes and had their pictures taken. All in all a good day.It was a pleasure to have been invited by teacher Mrs Debbie Clarke who along with her husband is a member of Nene Valley Hog Chapter #hogukandireland

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Chapter Meeting, June 2019

As the weather had vastly improved from the afternoons rain, a fair few members attended the meeting on their bikes.

Another well attended meeting, this time there were various cakes to be bought for charity. Congratulations and thank you to all involved in the cake making. I have heard they were delicious, I’m on a diet so had to miss them unfortunately.

Onto the meeting. Barry covered a lot of what has happened lately. Benelux rally in Holland seemed to be very well attended and enjoyed by our members . Discussed the upcoming rallies including our own Heart and Soul rally (get your tickets purchased). Assistance was requested to help set up for the Heart and Soul rally so if anyone has an hour or 2 to spare on the Thursday before hand please contact one of the committee.

We had a few new members with us, however without my glasses I couldn’t scribble anything down! Welcome to all the new members.

Hayley’s Sky Dive for Charity

News just in – Hayley King, After Sales Manager at the dealership, is doing a skydive for Teenage Cancer Trust. Safe to say she is braver than me.

Hayley will be jumping for charity on Saturday 1st of June, weather permitting, from the Peterlee Airfield.

If you wish to Sponsor Hayley please click on the following link – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hayley-king7

Good luck Hayley from all the Chapter.

 

 

Chapter Meeting, April 2019

A chilly evening saw only 1 hardy soul arrive on his motorcycle, however we had another great turnout. The committee all said a few words on what was upcoming and how things were going.

Everyone is looking forward to getting out their bikes, particularly CRAGG on the weekend of Friday 12th April.

There was a great surprise in store for our Director Barry Gillespie. Allen Glasper, Assistant Head Road Captain, ambushed him with a presentation of a Tankard and meal vouchers for his dedication to the Geordie Chapter. Very well deserved.

So after 10 years of not winning a thing on the raffle, Paul Beattie took home 2 prizes, well done Paul. I however won the bottle of vodka, which is somehow empty already!

We have with us a new member, Mick Herron, from Cramlington who rides a lovely 48 Sportster. Welcome to the Chapter Mick.

Also Kay and Paul Poulton from Durham, who ride a 1200 custom Sportster. Welcome to you both.

All in all another great Chapter meeting. We will see you all there again on Thursday 2nd May.