The 3 Amigos go to Wales

Firstly let me apologies for the delay in getting this post up! To be exact, nearly 6 months! After getting the bike, the whole, ‘moving into a new house’ thing kind of got in the way, but while the weather was still fine, the 3 Amigos set off for a weekend in Wales.

First let me explain the 3 Amigos; they’re my brother (Richard) and a good friend of his that he went to uni with (Ewen) and myself and we’ve been biking together for over 20 years! Bloody hell, how did that happen?

The essence of the trip was simple, get to Wales, ride some roads, eat some food and stay in some suitably respectable accommodation. The last point may be a little tricky as Ewen was in charge of that!!! He lives up in Cheshire, and spends a lot of time in the Welsh  hills so knows it well, though from his army background he’s happier in more ‘basic’ options – something my brother finds particularly challenging. You would think that Ewen spent years living in a tent on a battlefield, but he was an officer – go figure! The trip was set up quite quickly as it was late in the season; 23-24 September.

Day 1

I set off from sunny Norfolk early Saturday (about 6:00am) with the first stop being Huntingdon to meet up with my brother. From there is was off to Shrewsbury – Dobbies Garden Centre no less, to rendezvous with Ewen. Then it was straight to North Wales.

The roads were amazing, the weather was kind with little or no rain the whole weekend, which was an absolute God send. We road to Bala, and Llyn Tegid then on to Lake Vyrnwy and the Artisans Café for lunch. Richard & Ewen spend a lot of time in Wales walking and climbing (bloody idiots) so know some really good spots off the beaten track, and this place didn’t disappoint; a cracking bacon sarnie!

Gallery

After lunch there was some more riding before Ewen led us up a small track; my first bit of off road riding. I didn’t have much time to figure out where we were going and before I knew it we were in the ruts and heading up the hill. Thankfully the track was not too bad and soon we were in the clouds! There is something very liberating about getting somewhere you wouldn’t be able to get in your normal family hatchback. I performed perfectly, as did the GSA, though my brother dropped his KTM 990 Adventure when trying to turn it around on the wet grass – “road tyres” was the excuse!

The Route


If you’re interested in the route, you can expand the options using the button at the top left of the map – here you can turn on the route for the two days along with the start & stop points along the way. Day one is red and day two is blue. There is a lot (especially travelling their and back) where I was on the same road hence only the blue track showing.

After lunch we headed west towards Llanuwchllyn and then just before Bronaber we found another track up to a spot for some fresh coffee. It’s become a bit of a tradition, that when we’re anywhere with Campbell and the bikes we’d find somewhere to brew a fresh cuppa.

While wondering around and enjoying the view I look down at the back wheel of my bike only to find a HUGE nail sticking out!!! “Arse”, and a few other expletives came out. The tyre wasn’t looking too flat, and showed to be about 20psi. Thankfully Ewen had a pump and we quickly decided not to remove the nail, but just give it a top out of air. I presumed that I’d picked up the nail when riding the trails, but looking back, I think the nail had been in their some time – topping the tyre up lasted the rest of the weekend and ride home, well almost the whole weekend – we did top it up a little to be on the safe side the next day, but it didn’t interfere with the riding. I was hoping it could just be plugged, but when I took it to a shop after getting home they advised a new tyre – £105 fitted – not too bad. Right, enough about that; back to the weekend.

Coffee done & some photo’s taken (see above) and back on the bikes. Now heading along the A470 and A4085 towards Betws-y-Coed. Ewen had found a track he wanted to explore on the outskirts of Betws-y. Unlike the first track which was well used by farm vehicles, this one was more of a walkers path – some vehicles had used it, though it was by no means a well warn path. Lot’s of stone and rock with some big old puddles. “Momentum’s your fried” kept coming over the intercom from Ewen. Up on the pegs and in second gear and the trusty GS didn’t bat an eyelid; for that I was very grateful. If I’d needed any skill to get around this track I’d have been in trouble!

Getting to the end of the track we faced a small obstacle – the gate was closed so we had two options – turn around and go back, or squeeze the three bikes around the gate itself. Panniers off and a little bit of teamwork and we were through.

Next in to Betws-y for some gas – well for the 990 again, and then off to the accommodation. Along the route we found the Moel Siabod Café on the A5 for some grub. Pie and chips and warm enough to sit outside – can’t be bad for late September!

The final leg; towards Base Camp Wales in Lôn Ddwr.  We got their around 8:00pm and it was now dark. It had been a long days riding, though great fun. We were shown to our rooms, one each as Ewen and I are both big snorers and nobody want’s to be riding with Richard if he’s not had a full nights sleep!

The rooms were comfortable enough – a shared bathroom and downstairs a communal living & kitchen. All for £14 per night each – you can’t say fairer than that. Richard may have questioned Ewen’s choice in accommodation, but I was more than happy – biking should not be 5-start. A walk into the village for some beers, then back to bed (after being assaulted by the children of the other guests).

Day 2

We were awake early (5:30am) so were on the road by 6:00. No breakfast or coffee, this had already been planned for the route ahead. We headed east out of Lôn Ddwr on the B4418 and then the A4085 through Snowdonia. All the roads were incredible, well surfaced, grippy with long sweeping turn after turn. Heading along the B4391 Ewen had another spot in mind for coffee. Up the B4407 to an old quarry for a brew.

Back on the B4391 towards Bala we were off to the Ponderosa Café on the Horseshoe Pass for a fry-up. This place is a bikers Mecca. Even though it was late in the season, there were over fifty bikes of every type. Harleys, Italian sports bike, Japanese, retro British and the usual scattering of GSs and other adventure bikes. The breakfast was big and tasty – the two criteria I use to gauge any meal, but it was now time to head home.

We left the Ponderosa and headed back down the A542 and then on to the A5 south before a fuel stop at the BP near Oswestry. Here we said farewell to Ewen who was heading back north to Chester, Richard and I would now crack on back east. We stayed on the A5 below Shrewbury, then the M54, M6, A14 before I broke of at Huntingdon for the last leg back home.  The GSA made the whole journey a pleasure – being able to stick your legs up on the crash bars and relax meant you could use the full 290 miles full stop without needing to stop to give your arse a rest.

It was an amazing trip – a great opportunity to get to know the bike – it performed without a hiccup, and was immensely comfortable.

We now have Scotland planned for June 18 – can’t wait!

And it’s done!

After move from hell we’re finally in. It’s taken us over 9 months from first seeing the house to getting through the door. But I now have a garage.

We moved in on the Monday, and by Saturday afternoon a BMW R1150GS Adventure was sat in the garage and I was looking chuffed.

I won’t bore you with the intricacies of the move, but let me bore you with the intricacies of the bike purchase.

I’d joined the UKGSER forum (www.ukgser.com) and found an advert for a 2003 GSA with 47K miles and a healthy service book. First registered in Cardiff, the bike was actually imported as new from BMW, as the dealer had recently lost their BMW franchise (apparently a lot had in 2002 when BMW restructured the business). The seller wasn’t sure if it was an original UK bike, or an import as he wasn’t the first owner, so I called the dealer and they confirmed it had come via ‘Herman the German’; their contact on Cologne.

Still happy with the history, I explained my position (about to move and nowhere to store the bike) and he was happy to hold onto it until we’d completed – we had exchanged by this point so I wasn’t worried about another bike purchase falling through due to the purchase of the house taking so long.

Exchange date set, I arranged to get the bike on the weekend after we moved in – nothing like getting your priorities right! Only downside was the bike was in Gloucester – 200 miles away.

A plan took form. Hire car from home to Gloucester, then picked up by the seller and taken to the bank to get the money – he didn’t want a cheque, bankers draft or for me to arrive with the cash – he wanted to watch me withdraw it from the bank! Back to his house to look over the bike. 2 hours later, he was very, very thorough going through the service file and as the dark clouds started to role in, I headed for home.

It’s a big bastard, taller than the 1200GSA which I’d test ridden so it was a little daunting at first, but became very quick to get used to. Before I know it I was on the M5 and then the heavens opened and did so for the next 190 miles. I’d not ridden in 5 years, but here I was filtering through slow traffic on the M6 on a bike as wide as a small country, but it was just like riding a bike! – Pun intended.

It took me about 4 hours to get home, though thankfully my new kit and the bike performed flawlessly. I had a 1150GS Adventure! I was Charlie Boorman, and I could take on a round-the-world trip in the morning if I so wanted!

At home following an interesting ride home.

Decision made

Well, we’re a couple of months on and we’ve not yet moved. We’ve sold (twice), but not moved; though I have brought a bike – well put a deposit down anyway!!!

I’ve decided not to go with the brand new R1200GS Adventure – I just couldn’t justify the price, so instead I’ve gone proper old school and opted for the R1150GS Adventure.

The one I’ve brought is a red and silver 2005 model with 46,000 miles. Comes with original BMW aluminium panniers, heated grips but without the troublesome ABS.

It’s currently still in Leads as I’ve nowhere to put it and the seller has agreed to hold on to it for a month or so until I’m ready.

In honesty, the R1150GS Adventure was the original reason I wanted an adventure bike. I, like many many others, got hooked on Long Way Round. The idea of getting on your bike and riding to these places you normally sit on a plane for half a day or more to reach. Riding to the European mainland is great, but it’s still the same as being back in the UK – the language may be different, but it’s still a western culture. Riding to a country that is so different makes the journey feel so much more.

So all being well, the move should be done by the end of August and the bike will be in the new garage!

A little history

So we’re moving house and this one will have a garage… That can mean only one thing. Bike!

I got my first bike when I was twenty one. A Kawasaki 550 Zypher. A great bike. Well, a great first bike. It was brand new and shiny and I rode it all year round commuting to work in London, and then up to Norfolk at weekends (that was where the woman was).

I clocked up about 25,000 miles in the 3 years I had the Zypher, then it was time for something with a little more protection for the winter.

I chose the Zypher as my brother had the 750 version and a mutual friend of ours had started out on a 550 Zypher and I ridden it a few times and liked the way it felt like a proper big bike. Here’s a pic of the three of us, fondly called the 3 Amigos, in Aberystwyth.

A ZZR600 it was and that was a big step up from the Zypher. Not only did it provide so much wind protection (the Zypher didn’t even have a bikini screen) it was double the horsepower – up from 50 to 100. The ZZR got me to work day in day out, whatever the weather and then was an absolute blast on the twisty roads up to Norfolk. I remember one sunny summers evening, it was about 7:00pm and I was almost home – just past Swaffham on the A1065 which is a great road, though it does encourage you to twist the throttle a little too much – this was one such evening. As I came around the sweeping left hander I saw the rozzas at the bottom of the hill and they had a speed camera. Well, all I could think was ‘bye bye license’ and biking had been fun while it lasted. I started to slow down and as I passed them they waved me back. It took me another 200 yards to slow enough to do a U-turn and I worked my way back to the two officers, head hung low.

“Thank you for coming back” was the first thing they said. “I didn’t know it was optional” was my reply. This was thankfully met with a smile. There was the usual statement of “if you saw some of the thing we saw”, which I honestly can’t  imagine. Soon conversation turned back to my exuberance. The started by saying they needed to track the vehicle for 3 seconds with the radar gun to get an accurate speed reading, but… I was past them in a second and a half. Nothing more they could do, but give me some more harsh words and send me on my way. One very big bullet dodged.

Shortly after this, I moved up to Norfolk full time, got a job in Peterborough, which came with a car and the bike was put in the garage for sunny days. Things happened on weekends, as they do when you’re living with someone – long lunches and days spent outside pubs, so the bike didn’t get much use and so it was sold.

Several years went by, a baby came along and a few more years before I was out with my brother (who has a small collection of bikes) and saw a Honda CBR600F4 for sale on the side of the road. Very good condition, and a very good price. Seems too good to pass by – so I didn’t. Although was great to be back on a bike – the missus was not as happy, as we now lived in a Victorian terrace house with no garage and no way of getting the bike around the back of the house – a rental garage was needed and soon found. I had the CBR for a couple of years before finances meant it had to go. This was about 6 years ago and I’ve been bike-less ever since.

It’s now 2017 and we’re house hunting. A house with a garage no less and I need something to put in it!

Like a lot of middle-aged guys, we watched Long Way Round and dreamt of circumnavigating the globe. Ever since I’ve lusted after the GS Adventure. That’s what needs to be in my garage (the one I don’t own yet) – the garage that is. Hang on – the garage I don’t own for the bike I don’t own – we’ll you’ve got to dream!