Last winter while we were talking about our next year’s holiday plan, my wife said if the weather was good, she wouldn’t mind joining me for a motorcycle holiday break. It has been more that 15 years since she was my pillion, let alone riding on a trip. I was obviously very excited about the prospect of it and started my planning straight away. Firstly none of my bikes could accommodate a pillion and two people’s luggage comfortably. Secondly sitting at the back of the bike for a long time isn’t as simple as being a passenger in a car, it needs fitness and techniques. My plan this year would be a short trip so we can gradually building up our experience for a long haul European tour in the future.
Fast forward eight months later, everything is ready (a big adventure bike with full integrated luggage, latest Bluetooth intercom and three practice runs before the trip) and we are ready to go to Lake District. The plan is an overnight stay in a youth hostel and spend some time on the bike admiring the nature beauty of Lake District. Last two short rides with her proving an intercom with a pillion was very useful especially going through the get-on and get-off the motorcycle routine.
We set off from Liverpool to Glenridding in Lake District in mid afternoon. The ride via M6 motorway was reasonable good considering this time of the summer holiday season. I also planned two comfort stops in between so that she could stretch her legs. Riding with pillion and full luggage as if making me learn how to ride motorcycle all over again: the weight of the bike is really heavy comparing to my solo ride. I’m just about to touch my feets on the group, so stopping and supporting all the weight needs some careful planning, timing and the surface of the group are crucial. After a comfort stop at motorway service station and a very nice later afternoon tea stop at Windermere, we were full of confident to proceed on to Glenridding. The weather was warm but not hot; the scenery along the route was beautiful; a perfect British summer holiday. Knowing she was happily admiring the scene on the saddle was assuring.
According to the Google map the hostel was not far from the main road, what it didn’t say was the gradient and the type of surface. As soon as we turned off the smooth tarmac road, we were going uphill on a narrow path with loose gravels. I managed to get us up safely for a few hundred yards, stopped by a small car park and thought this off road adventure was over. It turned out the youth hostel was at the top the path and I didn’t know exactly how far it would be. Somehow I was in a panic mode: my muscles were so tense that I couldn’t position my body to balance the bike. The fear of dropping the it was immense. To avoid peer’s pressure, I asked her to walk up to the top while I could slowly crawl at a walking pace. It turned out to be the most terrifying motorcycle experience I have ever had. The fear of even riding the loose gravel stopped me open the throttle, without sufficient power and speed, it was even harder to keep the bike upright. Part of the path turned into loose gravels with two cement strips just wide enough for car tyres. Riding on top of any one of them feeling like walking with three hundred pounds weight on a plank. I had to move uphill, support by tip toes, while feathering with the clutch to keep the bike staying upright and moving forward. After 10 minutes, the clutch started overheat, my legs getting tired and I didn’t actually move very far! Time was close to sunset, last thing I wanted was stuck there in the dark. Super panic!
The journey turned into a thirty minutes battle which felt like much longer than that. Physically I was drained, I almost regretted choosing to come to this youth hostel. I thought the sense of wildness would add to the taste of adventure. Big mistake! You could imagine what a relief when I finally reached the hostel car park. I barely could park the bike properly on the slop. It would surely take two of us to get it back out safely on the right direction on the following morning. I couldn’t really worry about that at the time, I just wanted to rest and calm myself down. At least my wife did congratulate my efforts with a big smile.The youth hostel was clean and welcoming. It was well equipped with shared cleaning, cooking and dinning facilities. No wifi and no mobile signal meaning you could fully enjoy the nature. They also offer you for breakfast and dinner if you don’t want to cook, very handy.
After I calmed myself down, my wife suggested to go for a decent dinner to celebrate my effort which meant that we had to walk all the way back downhill to the nearby village. What? The up side was that at least I didn’t need to ride again, not till the following day though.
The walking turned out to be very useful for me. I felt much more relax with the nearby scenery: the soft sun light, sound of the running stream and fresh air. The anticipation of a nice evening meal (and drinks) also helped to put me in ease. It was also a chance to get a good perspective of the road. With my foot firmly on the grounds, I could feel how loose the gravels and the depth of the edges of the cement strips. We chose the first pub that we reached. It was a perfect choice: both food and drinks were good, a very welcome atmosphere. Fellow visitors were friendly and you could easily hook up good conversations. Recommended!
The following morning some fellow hostelers got up early and set off to their next hiking route. We visited the water stream close by the hostel and admired the wonderful nature: the water movement sounded exceptionally sweet and the air was exceptionally fresh. However I started feeling daunting by the tasks ahead after that: how to turn the bike around and ride downhills!
It took all our strength to push the bike backwards. Two passing by mountain bikers did offer to help but we felt that we must learn how to do it ourselves for the future. Fifteen minutes later, I was set. Our plan was that I would set off first while my wife would walk after me. In case I fell, she could help me to lift the bike up. I still felt nerves but I was better ready than yesterday. I pull the clutch in, first gear engaged and ready to go. This downhill ride turned out to be much easier, I even caught up a car that set off 5 minutes earlier. I soften the suspension beforehand, wheels and the suspensions provided good traction, the bike was nicely rolled on the surface. Last night my walk on the route helped me to understand the surface. I thought the change of suspension set up and the gravity possibly helped too. When she saw me waving frantically at the bottom of the hill, she knew I made it. I felt as if I had just won a battle. It’s time for a celebratory breakfast!
We rode to Keswick for a breakfast: fresh farm eggs and Cumberland sausages were perfect for the occasion. Our next plan for the day meant to be a ride through Hostinter Pass. When I turned to an uphill path at Seatoller, I missed read the road sign saying unpaved road, fearing for miles of unfamiliar rough surfaces ahead, I turned back to Ambleside for a ride instead. It was a pity not to ride along Hostinter Pass, however my key priority in this trip was her safety. If she enjoyed the ride and felt safe, it was more likely she would come out for a ride again. On our way home we even popped into a garden centre and she bought home with a small water plant.
It was a much shorter ride than planned. I did feel a bit defeated for not going to Hostinter Pass after miss read the sign. I asked her what she thought, she said, “The ride was reasonably comfortable and the intercom surely helped to kill the boredom during the ride. I liked the location of the youth hostel but a quieter accommodation would be better for next time.” I guess no camping on the card then. The crucial question was: Would she join me for the ride again? She paused for a moment and said, “Why not?” Bingo!