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A Right Royal Rideout


Lucky with the weather... The Borders are incredible, which is why I wanted to take people there

I don't mind admitting, I was sweating. It had seemed so simple but now, here I was, waiting for people to turn up for a two-day rideout with an iffy weather forecast. I've lead plenty of rides in the past, but always for other people... this was the first mini-tour organised under my own banner.


I hadn't intended to do this, but I'd accidentally found myself with a whole hotel for the night. Planning the 2023 dates for the Chicken Strips tours I do with Bruce "Teapot One" Smart, we'd planned to begin the Scottish tour from the Buccleuch Arms Hotel in Moffat and Saturday May 6 was one of the few dates in the year when we could have the whole place. But then the Coronation was announced for that day and Bruce realised he'd have to be in London for the weekend. Rather than let the hotel down, I said I'd find a way to fill it and announced the rideout.


Riders, assemble! Pic: Tony Rudd

I was frankly caught out by how many people wanted to come along... I'd expected 15-16. With riders filling the twin and triple rooms at the Buccleuch, we had 25 – plus me and my old Bike magaine mucker Si Hargreaves, who was coming along to act as tail-end charley. I've lead bigger rideouts for Bruce's Paetron "Clan" but this felt plenty big enough. I was a lovely mix of bikes, though: everything from a Yamaha TDM900 to the modern equivalent, the Tracer 900; a BMW R1250RT tourer and Kawasaki Z1000SX and supercharged H2SX sports tourers; a Honda Fireblade and a BMW S1000RR, several S1000XRs – plus of course the inevitable sea of GSs.


Collecting the rental bike from Superbike Rental

Even I was on a rented GS while waiting for the wheels to be replaced on my Kawasaki Z1000SX, with my Honda CrossTourer having decided to scare me with an engine-management light the day before setting off (turned out to be nothing, but by then I'd organised the GSA - from Superbike Rental in Essex). Si arrived on a Honda GoldWing... and I'd already had a conversation with their press officer about making sure it went back with the footpegs intact…


Gradually, the car park at Leeming Bar services (in Bedale, not the one further south) began to fill up. After giving everyone a quick briefing, we set off into the Dales. Naturally, with my brain overloaded, I turned the wrong way out of the services. The sat nav duly had a fit and restarted, so I had to improvise to get us back on route. I would say nobody noticed, but most people had the route loaded on their navs so there was no way I could deny it....


Bikes at the Buccleuch – some in garages, most in the secure courtyard

We made it smoothly to the first coffee stop... or so I thought. "Someone's gone down," one rider told me as he arrived. My worst fear come true. While the rest of the guys got drinks, we tried to scramble a solution. Quickly it emerged that we'd all been very lucky: a low-speed hairpin topple, but the bike was perfectly rideable with very little damage and, a few bruises aside, the rider was fine – even his kit was okay. Just pride and confidence had taken a knock. "We've all done it," I tried to reassure him. "Show me someone who says they've never dropped their bike and I'll show you a liar..."


From there, things got better and better. Heading north into the Pennines, with clouds skitting across a pale sky and – largely – not dropping too much water on us. As we approached the post-lunch fuel stop, I saw the S1000RR looming in my mirrors, its rider Chris pointing at the tank. I gave him the open hand with all digits raised: five miles to the garage. "Planning was exceptional – I was most impressed that you'd planned fuel stops based on the shortest range of the bikes involved," said one rider, Neil. That's not all – I knew it was a one-mile hill down to the garage so the superbike could coast the last bit if it ran dry...


Great roads, epic scenery and a great group

At that point it was starting to rain so Fireblade rider Ashley bravely donned his waterproofs – the sun magnets that ensured half an hour later we were in proper spring sunshine. Stopping for coffee at a McDonald's, half the guys seemed to have McFlurries…


From there we headed up what was one of the stand-out roads of the trip, the Dalveen Pass. "That has to be one of the best roads in the country – everyone should ride it," said XR rider David.


A bit of post-dinner cabaret

When we arrived at the Buccluech, the reaction of the riders was everything I could have hoped for. You won't find a more bike-friendly hotel, with garages for some bikes and plenty of space for the rest in the secure courtyard – not to mention cleaning kit and a drying room… The food was excellent, the hospitality unbeatable and everyone loved it. "It's the perfect destination for a biker group," said RT-rider Declan.


After dinner, Si H and I did a bit of a talk about life on motorcycle magazines… not perhaps the slickest one I've ever done as we were largely making it up on the spot as there'd been no time to work on a script for it, but I felt that with so many riders, it was better to tell everyone the same tall tales, rather only have chats with smaller groups at the bar (though we did that as well...)


Next day we made a gentle start, with good weather. I'd tried to put together a stimulating ride, up past St Mary's Loch before turning south past Kielder Water and into the Pennines again. Riders gradually peeled off to take more direct routes home, but a good 20 of us arrived together at Scotch Corner at 4pm in glorious sunshine. It felt like a perfect end to a great weekend. "A very well organised trip with all the i's dotted and t's crossed. All we had to do was turn up, ride the great routes, enjoy the hospitality and refuel the bikes and ourselves," said Tony afterwards – which is all I could have hoped for.


Will I do more events like this? Probably – keep an eye on the site or use the contact form to drop me a line if you'd like to be involved with the next one. And check out this week's Route of the Week, which is a condensed one-day version of the ride



The full crew assembled in the back garden of the Buccleuch. Thanks guys

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