For the past couple of weekends I have been suffering bike riding withdrawal symptoms. This is due to the unusually early snow and freezing weather that we have had here in North Wales (and we had it light compared to other parts of the country).
I was most disappointed that we had to miss the Wirral Toy Run last weekend due to the freezing cold conditions which left the roads in Buckley unsafe for bikes once you were off the main roads.
It was therefore with some relief that I found the ice-sheet outside my front door missing due to the increase of the recent temperature to about 5 or 6 degrees above freezing and the light rain which washed it away.
I was therefore determined to get some riding in this weekend before the bad weather returned and stopped my biking activities altogether.
The only organised event locally that I wanted to do this weekend was the Stoke based – Star Biker Toy Run, which Chris, the rides co-ordinator, had made as a club run. I was therefore hoping that the temperature would stay above freezing so that I would be able to get out the bike.
It was possible that I could have used either bike, the Wing or the little BMW F650.
The little bike would have made sense if the conditions were iffy as the Wing is a big bike to try and handle in slippery conditions. (The BMW is also cheaper to repair if dropped!), but I really wanted to use the Wing for this toy run if I could.
I was keeping my options open and when I woke up early on the Sunday morning, I looked out of the window to see a thick carpet of frost everywhere.
Common sense therefore dictated that the BMW should be used.
I therefore cannot explain why I wheeled out the Wing and started it up.
Don’t get the wrong impression in thinking I don’t like the BMW, I really do and it is usually the first bike out for most solo runs that I do, but – Well, the Wing looks the business on the Toy Run, it wont slow down the others on the run to and from the Toy Run, and it has a big wind-shield to keep the cold air off my cheat and shoulders!
I kitted up and checked the bike over. Good job too, as the front tyre was in need of some air which I duly gave it, before setting off.
I only went to the end of my street before the first doubts hit me with the roads being more than a tad slippery. For some reason or other, I continued with the ride to the meet-up point, The Beaufort Hotel car-park.
Less than a mile from home I negotiated a 90 degree right hand bend at all of 15 mph only to have the back wheel step out of line on the frozen surface. It was not sufficient to take me down but enough to ensure the buttock muscles had a good workout.
I continue with the crawl towards the Beaufort to see if any of the others were chancing the ride. (It must be a macho thing – “if he can do it, so can I!”).
Knowing that I needed to fuel up I turned into the petrol station just before the meet up point, only to see Nigel there on the new black Wing. My heart sank. Nigel was even more in withdrawal mode than I was, and the chances of the ride going ahead were greater now.
Fueled up, I headed to the Beaufort where Chris and Amy (well, I thought it was Amy as I couldn’t see into the layers of woollen hat and scarves etc. that covered up the person inside) were waiting. Nigel was a bit ahead of me and rolled to a stop in front of me.
Chris greeted us and was obviously in a chirpy mood and looking forward to the ride. He did admit that the main direct route might be advisable due to the frost on the side-roads and we duly set off with Nigel in the lead and me as tail end charlie.
This is quite normal on our rides for Nigel or me to lead and the other to be tail-end charlie as we usually have CB radio to keep thing going, but with Nigel having a new bike and not finished sorting it yet, he has not fitted the CB radio. This means that our usual mode of communication was not working and we would have to rely of other signs.
It went well until we dropped down from Dobshill to Broughton on the A55, when we rode into some fog. It dropped the temperature by a few degrees as well as dropping the visibility. My heart dropped by the same amount. I was more than a little regretting the decision to use the Wing for this trip. In fact, I was also beginning to regret waking up this morning!
A few miles further on I started to feel a bit of a chill around my shoulders and my arms, in particular around my hands. Time to put the heated grips on to warm up the digits.
I noticed that the screen appeared to be getting a bit icy, and the road was looking more than a bit slippery. I began to wait for Nigel or Chris to pullover to call the run off. It was getting a bit cold and scary. They didn’t, so I had to continue with them. (It must be that macho thing – “if he can do it, so can I!” again). It was also time to put the heated seat on.
It remained gloomy all the way to Stoke on Trent and the temperature never rose until we reached the Britannia Stadium, the meeting point for the start of the ride.
At this point Nigel said that he had hoped that Chris or I would have pulled him over on the way down as he was not at all happy in the freezing fog. If only I had known!
There were a couple of hundred bikes already on the car-park when we arrived, and we were reasonably early. I soon sussed out the loos, then a cuppa and a bacon butty and I began to warm up a bit. The Sun had managed to burst through the fog and burn it off so the temperature was creeping back up again.
It was good to see the efforts that the riders had gone to to decorate the bikes, and a good number of riders had also dressed up for the occasion as, – yes – you’ve guessed it – Santas. Even our friend from the Potteries, Goldwing Daz and his partner, turned up so dressed.
We were then joined by Ian and Val, who had rode directly down the motorway to get here on time, having still being in bed when we set off!.
The ride itself was the usual extremely well organised and marshalled event that Star Bikers have become known for. A circuit of 19 miles where there are hundreds and hundreds of people watching and handing over presents for the riders to take to the donation point at the end of the ride. The roads are closed by the police who then put a marshal on the point to stop traffic. It is one of the best circuits that I know and always a pleasure to take part in.
The only incident that I became aware of was one section in one Housing estate where the road was still frozen and there was black ice- at least one bike had gone down and being damaged. It was a very tense few minutes while I moved the bike very slowly forward down the slope,with my feet sliding along the ground without any grip whatsoever to my boots. Having negotiated it, I took several minutes to relax again and I know that Chris was also quite wary and unimpressed with the slippery surface. It later turned out that Nigel, riding quite a few bikes behind us, didn’t even know the road was slippery!.
Eventually the run concluded at the usual place, the Kingsway car-park, where we met up again.
I led the run back and it was a lot warmer than the morning trip so I was more comfortable and was able to maintain a sensible pace to get home.
I’m glad that I did it but next time I really must use the small bike for a trip like this. Having said that I would have been less protected and colder as there is no heated seat on the little bike.
Having thought about it, I would have turned around on the little bike!
Nigel took the photos again for this ride and they can be seen at Stoke Toy Run