In preparation for Cadwell, I’ve put new tyres on the VFR. For the first time in my ownership, it doesn’t have a dual compound rear and it does have matching tyres – nice sticky BT090s.
I’ve not been out on the bike much over the last year so thought I should get some mileage in. For various reasons, today looked like the best/only chance to get the bike out (I’m in Helsinki Sunday/Monday etc.). Some deranged person therefore thought a trip over to the Lake District might be a good idea today…
It started quite well. Took the A69 to Hexham, fill with fuel then back roads to the A686. Except I found they were tar spreading and chippings rolling on said back roads. The warning signs started on the exit of the 90 degree bend with the 2″ deep stone chipings on it. I actually sped up for said corner as it used to be quite nice. The sweeper was sweeping the chippings up around the other side of it! Anyhow, I’ve done a MX course :).
At the stop/go sign waiting for escort I had an interesting chat with the attendant about the F16’s practising overhead.
The A686 was quite pleasant all things considered. Its a weekday so no police presence and just the signs warning you about the large number of casualties as you come over Hartside. I then took the A592 alongside Ullswater. Here the traffic started to get a bit more problematic in the form of a double-decker bus and queue of cars doing 20mph. I manage to get past but this became an ongoing theme.
Eventually I pass the sign about the road being “unsafe in winter conditions” and reach pass no. 1, Kirkstone pass. I love way the road zigzags up there. There’s a lovely spot where you can see about a mile of the road. If its clear, you can then overtake cars for several corners “blind” and they look at you as if you’re mental. No cars in the way at that point today. Several sheep loose though.
Over the other side, I notice a police car driving ahead and idly wonder about where I’ll overtake it. It then starts to rain quite heavily. Coming around a blind bend, I find several sheep in the middle of the road being chased by a police officer and a police car stopped on the road with its hazards on!
Rain gets heavier so I stop and put waterproofs on. Arrive at Bowness on Windemere and have lunch, fill bike with fuel.
Its now raining hard and I have new tyres on the bike. Any sane person would have headed home. I therefore decided to try Langdale “pass” and see what happens from there. On the way to Langdale, I find the A591 on approach to Ambleside is a 20mph limit. Mental :-(. Next, the A593 might be NSL but the cars and then truck in front decide to do 25mph bumper to bumper making overtaking impossible. It was only a bit of rain yet half the traffic was at a snails pace :-/. The whole queue turns off into Langdale and I sigh. Eventually lose most of them at Elterwater and overtake the remains.
Langdale always feels scary to ride up but its just a warm up really. The rain was getting ever heavier but it was good fun and puts me in the right mood so I decide to continue over Wrynose and Hardknot passing a warning about the road being suitable for “cars and light vehicles only”. I found this interesting quote on the web:
“With an overall gradient of 1 in 3 (33%) and up to 1 in 2.5 in places, Hardknott Pass is the steepest road in England. Other major passes in Cumbria include Kirkstone Pass (1 in 4 or 25%), Honister Pass (1 in 4 or 25%), Wrynose Pass (1 in 4 or 25%) and Whinlatter Pass (1 in 8 or 12%).”
I get to the otherside and wonder what to do. The roads are boring from here and will eventually take me back to the A593 for 10 miles which I don’t fancy at 20mph. I do the obvious thing, U turn and take the passes the other way :). I’ve never them that way around before.
I have a moment when I get a bit to enthusiastic going over a cattle grid and the back steps out. Heading back down Langdale my waterproof gloves start to leak. Once down Langdale, it takes a while to get used to roads that are mostly level and wider than my armspan again :). Shame about the diesel now spread liberally along the road but it doesn’t slow me down :-/.
I start to head home. In Ambleside, the hillside which I’m to ascend into to get to Kirkstone pass is shrouded in rain/mist. Coming down Kirkstone, the sky is fantastic with think rain clouds forming an arch which brilliant sun shines under. Along Ullswater there is actually a stretch of dryish road and I wonder if the rain might stop. No such luck though.
I go past Penrith and back along the A686. Chasing up to Hartside on the A686 never fails to make me smile :). Back through Alston. Alston is remarkable in that every road in/out of it is a good one 🙂
This time I take the A686 all the way to the A69 to avoid the tar spreading. I call into Hexham for more fuel and take backroads Hexham to Corbridge to avoid the roadworks on the A69 (more tar spreading by the looks of the next bit of the A69 :-/).
I take the A69 to the A1, then turn off around past Gosforth race course and home to the coast the back way. I have to filter down the A1 and caught and follow another bike down the centreline past the racecourse through traffic.
My left shoulder (still sore after the MX) and hands are killing me. The boots and waterproofs didn’t leak a drop, the gloves did. The leathers still fit although I conclude I will never get my knee down in them as they’re took tight for that. I also conclude that shifting weight around for corners is best left to the track unless you know the road really well 🙂
The bike behaved perfectly throughout. It didn’t overheat in traffic (thanks to the new radiator) and the tyres provided a level of grip I’m totally unaccustomed to, so much so, my wet and dry speeds were probably about equal! Its probably best not to think about the speeds I was doing over the passes, sufficed to say, it was many times faster than any of the cars and I feel like a hooligan :).
With the tyres run in (although not to anywhere near the edges), I’m ready for Cadwell 🙂