News feed, 18.8.16

David Clark recently went on a riding trip to the Schwarzwald, with three of his riding friends. They had a great time and you can read David’s write-up of his trip here.

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News feed, 12.8.16

Rachel Ratcliffe, and husband Roy, recently took a jaunt into Europe. Here’s their story.

La Dyna Vita

There is something about Italy. Is it the burning sunshine? The rolling hills sown with vineyards and olive groves? The breathtakingly precipitous shorelines? Or the succulently simple food? It is altogether la dolce vita, it translates to the sweet life.

Add riding a Harley to the mix and you get something even better, La Dyna Vita. As a Lady of Harley, I ride a Harley–Davidson Dyna Wide Glide. This became the theme of our journey through nine European countries in the summer of 2016.

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Having a relatively big country and small population makes France a great place to ride. The roadways are fast and well–maintained. You can cover many miles in a short time.

After Holland and Belgium, we stayed overnight at the city of Reims in the champagne region of France. We had a debate about how to pronounce that. Is it like ream or rem? Is the last final s silent or not? Turns out we were both wrong. The locals say sometime like Rhems.

We got to sample some of the local champers at a tapas bar called Joseph just in front of the city’s magnificent cathedral. My hubby ordered some snails, or should I say escargot, to go with it. The French really know how to cook good food: simple, fresh and mouth-wateringly good. It made me realise that we eat and drink rubbish most of the time. Vive la France!

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Even after just a couple of days riding in the sun, my hands had started turning brown but only underneath the gaps in my fingerless riding gloves: brown finger tips, brown knuckles. Even my husband’s lips burnt in the glorious sun. They were swollen by the time we arrived at the Rhone Alps later the following day. He looked like I’d punched him in the mouth. I hadn’t, honestly.

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We crossed the western Alps from France, via Switzerland, to Italy with some trepidation. On previous journeys we had all–but–kissed the tarmac after leaving Italy’s roads behind. Italians were mad drivers: poor lane discipline, lack of peripheral awareness, driving too fast for conditions. Not this time however. Had we become Italian in our style of riding? Either more mad, or just more defensive. We worked together as a team using our helmet communicators. ‘Crotch rocket, six o’clock‘, was the warning for a racing bike (typically a Ducati) approaching very quickly from behind us. We used many such signals.

The mountain passes proved challenging but very enjoyable. The road switched back and forth as it climbed the slopes.

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The Wide Glide is a big motorcycle for a girl. Its long wide forks are heavy at lower speeds. The large narrow front wheel finds the bumps and grooves on rough roads. I call it the sexy bitch: a beautiful bike with nice lines, but takes a bit of practice to handle confidently in such an environment. Decelerating into a 180–degree switchback, I feel the engine for the best gear while looking into and around the tight bend. The Glide swings around the apex and I open the throttle again. Exciting and nerve–wracking at the same time. Happily, I’m not afraid of heights.

We descended into Italy down the Aosta valley. From there we rode south towards Genoa and then followed the rugged west coastline along the Cinque Terre, Italy’s Riviera.

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Hotter and hotter. We rode in Kevlar jeans, jackets and waistcoats with our Geordie HOG colours. But we started to wonder what to shed for comfort, yet retain some safety. My other half found the heat harder to bear. He was riding a Softail Slim S. It has a larger motor and the seat rests closer to the cylinder heads. He was riding with a heated seat. Heat from below, heat from above. My poor boy was starting to suffer from nappy rash. He said that he was beginning to understand why babies cry. So I bought him a bottle of talcum powder. Then he said he know understood why babies coo. Even so, we both started to remove gear to keep cooler: first our jackets, and later wore shorts and sun cream.

Bees and wasps kept hitting hubby. Our track crossed Italy west–to–east towards Rimini on the east coast, avoiding the autostrada motorway. The byways weaved between the bounteous fields, groves and gardens of Tuscany and Emilia–Romagna, a centre of Italian food production. He rode up front without a windshield. He prefers it that way. Bees and wasps kept hitting him, or rather, he kept hitting bees and wasps. The insects belonged in Italy after all, we were just passing through. After the fifth sting, the pain didn’t seem to bother him. I still gave him the necessary sympathy. Poor hubby.

We passed a lazy week sunbathing in Rimini, drinking Prosecco, enjoying Italian cuisine. We set out northwards, past Venice and up into the spectacular Italian Dolomite Mountains. We crossed the Austrian border at the Brenner Pass, following the ancient Roman trans-Alpine road towards Innsbruck, Austria.

Riding the Dolomites reminded us of the movie Avatar and the imaginary floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora. Our mountains weren’t floating but they made you want to shout Hallelujah.

Spectacular scenery makes you appreciate life. We take too much for granted, or take too little time to stop and stare at the beauty around us. Our rumbling V–twins added some sweet music to the scene.

At Innsbruck I had booked an overnight camp at lake Natterer See. They offer hobbit holes, barrels crafted into miniature apartments comprising one double bunk and a tiny living room. We slept like hobbits, until the thunderstorm stuck. Sheets of rain, thunder and lightning flashed across the mountain peaks. We could only laugh and drink wine in the dark.

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From Innsbruck we rode through Lichtenstein and then to Germany at lake Constance. It was a surprise to see a large airship on the horizon. Aren’t they a thing of the past? Apparently not. Friedrichshalfen by the lakeside is home to the Zeppelin museum. Count Zeppelin started out building airships around Lake Constance.

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Then there was more rain. Southern Germany likes rain. It must be the Alps. My boots started to leak. A pair of plastic bags served as waterproof socks. From Lake Constance to Mainz and Koblenz we were following the mighty Rhine.

Three thousand, two hundred miles later we arrived back home in Northumberland. Glad to be home, but glad of the adventure. Travelling expands the mind, opens the heart. Travel should be mandatory for everyone. We had seen so many wonderful places, met so many wonderful people. One road, two Harleys. That’s why we ride.

Rachel Ratcliffe, Lady of Harley

If you would like to contribute news or photos for our website, email us: GeordieHOG News


News feed, 1.6.16

What rallies are all about … !

Although we have been H.O.G. members since 2009, Chris and I only went to our first rally in 2014. We enjoyed it so much we immediately booked another rally later in 2014, and then did three, including our own Heart & Soul Rally, in 2015. All were immense fun, so in 2016 we planned to try more. Benelux 2016 would be our first larger rally, and our first abroad. Chris only had one experience of riding, or driving, in Europe and I had none, so we would be doing this on his bike with me as pillion. We regularly ride with a group from Geordie Chapter and we were delighted that twelve of us would be making the trip.

Thursday morning arrived and we loaded our packs onto the bike and set off to join the rest for lunch near the ferry terminal. The weather that morning was absolutely dreadful with a really heavy drizzle. Needless to say lunch was rowdy, I dread to think what the rest of the customers thought of twelve soaking wet bikers as we greeted friends and sat down to eat until boarding time.

It eventually stopped raining as we gradually crept forward to the check-in booth. I have never been on a ferry with a bike before and the whole process was a little unnerving. Eventually, we checked in and moved forward to board. Loading on a ferry as a pillion was interesting – I sat completely still as we ascended the ramps and Chris navigated the numerous bumps, cables and cleats onto the car deck. Apparently, we were lucky as there was a corridor just for bikes, away from the chaos of the cars. We unloaded our overnight pack, strapped everything down and headed for our cabin to change out of our waterproofs.

Benelux Rally, May 2016 1

An hour later, after a brief exploration of the higher decks, we established base camp on deck 8 in a suitable bar and settled in for the night. Dunedin Chapter appeared and the banter increased. Steve decided to play a couple of songs, on his harmonica, with the entertainer and a great night was had by all.

After breakfast, we got to the car deck and waited ages to disembark and creep through passport control. We agreed who would lead from the ferry and that we would stop at the first services for a nice meal. We only had about 100 km to get to the rally site, south of Rotterdam. The weather was fine, the riding was great and the food was excellent – a far cry from UK motorway services. After an hour or so, we set off to find the rally site and get checked in.

Somewhere around 2.00 pm, the Geordie Chapter landed at the site! We checked in and tagged our bikes and headed through the camp to find our rally packs and get a cold drink – the weather was great and it was roasting! There were bikes everywhere. At the other end of the site, we were directed to the bike parking area and pulled in together to leave the bikes while we explored the rally site proper and collected our packs.

Benelux Rally, May 2016 2

The site was great – organised around outside tables, benches and a bar the village of about fifteen shops was selling a wide variety of things from food (excellent burgers) to Jekill & Hyde exhausts. To one side was the main marquee. This had its own bar with a stage and further seating and, to one end, a sectioned off local dealer shop with merchandise, bikes and even seat embroidery! Rally packs were collected, refreshing beverages consumed and we collected the bikes before stopping at the entrance to buy shuttle bus tickets for the weekend.

5 km later, we arrived at the chalet village and checked into two, three bed apartments. This would be our base for the next three nights. The self-catering accommodation was first rate and had its own restaurant and bar. Guess where we met ninety minutes later before heading to the shuttle bus pick-up point. Food was not going to be a problem this weekend as our rally pack included two breakfasts and Saturday night meal thrown in. The food was excellent, with plenty of choice, and it was all very well organised.

Benelux Rally, May 2016 3

The music and three bands on the Friday night were great and needless to say we partied pretty hard! Red Rose Chapter and Dunedin Chapter were also there in force, as well as Sherwood Chapter along with loads of Dutch, Belgian and German chapters. We made lots of new friends, and had a fantastic night before heading back to the shuttle bus late in the evening. The walk to our chalets from the bus drop off was hilarious and somewhat difficult, as I seemed to be the designated responsible adult for the group. It was like herding cats – I’m sure some of our group didn’t remember the stagger home: Chris certainly didn’t.

Saturday was a clear sunny day. We met up and rode back into the rally for breakfast about 10.00 am. Today, we planned to go on the mid-day ride to the Rotterdam dealer. So, after breakfast, we just chilled and chatted with folks until it was time to gather for the ride-out. There were other, longer rides available throughout the day and a L.O.H. ride. There were lots of self-guided rides, all available for download to your sat-nav – brilliant organisation again!

The ride to the dealer was about 40 km and our group of seven bikes was directly behind the World Port Chapter road crew. There were about fifty bikes in total. With one guy at the back and two at the front, they managed extremely well to get us all there safely, and in one group. This was our first experience of marshalling outside the UK and they did a great job.

We had an hour and a half at the dealers: there was a great range of accessories and clothes. They had also laid on live music and more food for us. We got back to the rally site about 4.00 pm, just in time for a quick shower and change and back on the shuttle bus for another evening of revelry.

We took things a bit easier on Saturday. There were three bands again, from 4.00 pm to midnight, the last two of which were excellent and large marquee was packed to the rafters. We had a hilarious ride back on the shuttle bus with a few from Red Rose Chapter – the banter was fantastic.

On Sunday morning, we returned for our final inclusive breakfast and some last minute shopping before the rally closed. Instead of the parade of flags, we headed into the countryside, in search of a small village bakery that featured on one of the Hairy Bikers’ shows. An hour later, we pulled up outside for excellent coffee and pastries and explored the eclectic collection of 1940s memorabilia at the bakery. With full stomachs, we then headed back after stopping off to buy some supplies for our last night at the chalets.

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Benelux Rally, May 2016 5

Monday saw us split up with six of us heading home and six heading onto Arnhem, to the museum and bridge to pay their respects. We had some pretty bad weather during the early part of our ride back to the ferry but it was only the first that we’d encountered since leaving the UK. Bill led us on a great run, despite some patchy sat-nav performance, and all arrived in plenty of time. Unfortunately, we had a rather lumpy return ferry journey.

We have learned on this trip that the rally itself is only part of the mix. Yes, it provides the location and backdrop, but that makes a great rally is the people you are with. Our group is the maddest, most hilarious and best group of friends we have ever had. The rally was excellent, the venue, food, music and location great, and the weather fantastic. But without the company of these people, it just wouldn’t have been the same.

The saddest part is that we cannot do it again in 2017 as we’re going riding in the USA. Roll on our own Heart & Soul Rally at the end of July and Thunder in the Glens in August. All being well, next time I go to the Benelux rally I will be riding my own bike, rather than pillion with Chris. Can’t wait!

Ruth Neal, Ladies of Harley Officer

If you would like to contribute news or photos for our website, email us: GeordieHOG News


News feed, 25.5.16

Derek and I recently arranged a Fat Bob ride-out in The Lakes on 14 May. Here’s our story, with some great pictures from the day (photo contributions from everyone).

We had a fantastic ride-out on Saturday, and were blessed with beautiful dry sunny weather with blue skies – a perfect day for a perfect ride!

The idea of a Fat Bob only ride-out was suggested on a Facebook page called UK FatBobs (Harley-Davidson), and the idea quickly grew into reality, with so many enthusiastic riders wanting to be part of it. We’d seen how popular these rides are in Europe, particularly Belgium and Germany, and thought how amazing it would be to have one over here. Having got it all off the ground, we reckon it’s the first ever Fat Bob only ride-out in the UK.

There was a considerable amount of planning in getting it arranged, and we managed much of it with the help and enthusiasm of all those who were participating in the Facebook group. We had interest from all over the country, with some people travelling from Kent, London, Portsmouth, Merseyside and Lincoln. There was a real buzz in everyone’s reactions as many had either never been to the Lake District, or hadn’t been since they were much younger. Like most good riding events, the day centred on the ride itself and Derek planned and led the route around the Lake District.

On the day, we had twenty four Fat Bobs attend including a trike, with most travelling up on the Friday and staying through until Sunday. We helped everyone with local accommodation and booked up a local restaurant for an evening meal.

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Ready to start the ride-out


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Matty Ferguson (middle) – our new pin-up boy – sorry Brian!

On Saturday, we left Penrith at 10.30am, heading towards Pooley Bridge then on to Glenridding and up Kirkstone Pass. We stopped at the Inn for a coffee and to take some photographs. The scenery is simply spectacular up there, just right for some great shots with our bikes and trike.

With everyone fully refreshed, we then rode down The Struggle to Ambleside, taking the lakes road to Windermere and on through Coniston to Great Langdale. We stopped at the Walkers Bar, within the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, for a very welcome lunch.

What we didn’t realise was that the hotel was also hosting a wedding, so their car park was full, and we ended up parked in a field at the front of the hotel. As it turned out, this provided a wonderful scenic backdrop of mountains. We were met by lots of cheering and waving by the wedding party and the bride and groom insisted on having several photographs taken with us!

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New Dungeon Ghyll, Great Langdale

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Our group was completely overwhelmed with the majestic scenery, and many underestimated how much they would enjoy the ride-out, the company and the region.

After lunch, we set off again, riding through Ambleside then on to Keswick via the newly-opened A591. The road had been closed for many months, with much of it washed away by flooding. It was great to see it open again and it was a joy to ride, with exceptional new views across Thirlmere, with many of the trees cleared due to the floods.

We ploughed on through Keswick and headed for Borrowdale before climbing the very steep Honister Pass to Honister Slate Mine, where we stopped for a coffee, more photographs and more smiles!

All too soon, we were underway again heading for Buttermere and a brief stop for some lakeside photos.

Fat Bob only ride, May 2016 1

From there, we then followed the road to Braithwaite and picked up the A66, heading back to Penrith. After riding 130 miles, we landed back about 5.00pm, with a collective groan – everyone was having such a great time and didn’t want the ride-out to end!

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Knackered … !

We then arranged to meet up again for our evening meal and were met by lots of sunburnt, smiling faces. We had a lovely meal with our new found friends, topped off with a specially made cake in the shape of a Fat Bob tank.

Everyone was gushing about how much they had enjoyed the weekend, with many promising to return to the Lake District very soon. We’ve already been asked to organise another one for next year. Plans are already afoot, with a date set for Saturday 27 May 2017.

If any Fat Bob owners would like to attend, please go to the event page on Facebook Fat Bob Only Rideout Saturday 27 May 2017, and ask to join. Or click here.

Derek and Rachael

If you would like to contribute news or photos for our website, email us: GeordieHOG News