A cold day in Wales – Bala with all the trimmings

The blossom in the garden and the weather reports all suggested that spring and warmer weather was on the way. The ice warning light on my dash suggested otherwise.

The snowflake on the display and the flashing 2ºC had me reaching for the heated grip button. Despite the bright sunshine the wind was strong and bitterly cold. Even as I arrived at my Chester meeting spot the temperature was struggling to hit 4ºC. I got off the bike rubbing my hands furiously trying to revive my pinky finger.

Meeting up at Chester

The route

Today’s route was heavily influenced by a previous trip which took in two of my favourite valley passes. These were the Bwlch Pen Barras overlooking Ruthin and Bwlch y Groes, the second highest in Wales.

The meat in this valley sandwich was the market town and the waters of Bala. A popular destination for bikes with good routes around what is the largest natural lake in Wales.

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Forma Adventure Boot Cleaning and Maintenance

I gave my Forma boots a clean at the weekend. After a sponge and scrub I realised I needed a bit of treatment to keep the leather in good condition. I thought this could also help with the waterproofing, despite the natural properties of the full grain oiled leather. My natural response was to get some old school dubbin. After a bit of research on the Forma website, I saw the following statement.

“Heavy waterproofing products or waxes can block the stitching lines which allow the boots to breath and dry naturally. Any lightweight water-based leather conditioning product is ok to apply from time to time. Oil based leather products are not recommended as they soften the leather too much and can cause bonded soles to separate from the leather.”


I tested out opinion on the forums. The first response mentioned Nikwax, something that I was just looking at on another page.

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Planning a motorcycle tour

A (relatively) stress free approach to planning your next trip

I have planned a few tours now and have numerous trips completed that have been subject to a pre-planned route. Additionally, I’ve had a number of overseas visits that have largely involved riding motorcycles, particularly in the US.

Planning is part of the enjoyment of the trip

There is a lot of information out there on websites, in forums and other media such as podcasts, but I wanted to tell you about my approach to planning. Hopefully you will find this useful if you plan to do the same.

A service such as Bikeshuttle can remove many of the tedious motorway miles
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New year ride solutions

Fair weather riders

I was going to open with a reference to my latest ride being the first of the new season but I realised that a ‘riding season’ is so subjective. There are those that ride all year and those that only ride when the weather is warmer and drier.

I sit between these two camps. I don’t get pleasure in riding in inclement weather but it certainly doesn’t bother me. I’ve invested in enough suitable clothing to ride in all conditions. While a warm sunny day brings out the best in all of us, I wouldn’t see the lack of sunshine as a reason not to ride. Its all about choice, and I ride when I choose to.

With only a few days gone since the passing of the new year and with the weather cool but stable a decision was made to take the bikes out for a run. There was no plan other than to meet in Chester at 10am on a Sunday morning with the inference that the ride would be North Wales based on our meet up point.

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Planning the Alps Tour 2019

A long time ago….

It was never in doubt that I would do another tour of the Alps. Not only is it a stunning place to ride but with the BikeShuttle service that I used last time, its very easily accessible.

This time however we were going to be joined with a number of my friends travelling from the US. 

Having talked about 2018 then 2019 it felt that the final planning was always way into the future. That was until the last few weeks where it seems everything has fallen into place.

The plan

There will be eight of us in total with an even split of four from the UK and four from the US. We are making our way to Geneva, myself using the aforementioned BikeShuttle, where we will meet on the 4th July.

After eight days of riding we will return to Geneva and return to our respective bases.

Following a flurry of activity flights, transport and rentals (for those that need them) have been booked and confirmed. It was now down to me to work out where we would be going.

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Three Valleys in Wales

The love of the journey

Car drivers are often too keen to reach their destination. So much so that the aim is getting to the end of the drive rather than the journey. Sure, that isn’t always the case but these are the day trippers, the caravans and the motorhomes. Let’s not go there.

It seems that many of the A-roads were built to facilitate this speedy passage of car and driver such that there is a detachment to the surrounding landscape as they listen to their in car entertainment and will the journey on to their terminus.

Many of these roads are very enjoyable on two wheels. I’m not taking anything away from a well surfaced road with long sweeping bends and the occasional scenery, but many of the long forgotten ‘slow’ B-routes are some of the best rides you will find on two wheels. And so this was the aim of my latest planned route.

If you browse the Internet you will find a number of picture postcard views of certain valleys in Wales that re-occor on a frequent basis. These are the vistas that force you to pull over and pull the camera out then sit and take in the view after capturing the moment on your smartphone. These places existed long before they were marked on a map as a POI and should be savoured.

When planning a route I like to seek out these points of interest and join them up using the B-roads like a dot to dot drawing on a massive scale with my GPS tracking acting as the pen.

It is on this occasion that I selected three well known locations. These were the Welsh valleys and passes called Bwlch Pen Barras, Bwlch y Groes and Nant Gwynant. My previous post gave more detail into the history and background of these locations. Continue reading “Three Valleys in Wales”

Day trip planning in Snowdonia

Destination Snowdonia

It’s been well over a month since I returned from the North Coast 500 and other than the occasional short run there has been nothing worthy of a planned route. With the unprecedented weather giving us an actual summer, it has given me the luxury of being able to plan for a ride without being a slave to the breaks in the rainfall. Time to break out the routing apps with an initial destination of Snowdonia.

Where to go?

Wales is a regular destination offering easy access to some stunning scenery and great roads. Being based in the North West UK its easy to become complacent at the options available with the Peak District to the east, Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District to the North, and of course Wales to the west. I always find that planning a route starts with zooming out on Google Maps and heading for any area on the map that is green. You can’t go wrong. Continue reading “Day trip planning in Snowdonia”

Forma Adventure Low Boots and Wunderlich 3D Ergo screen deflector revisited

I recently bought and did a preliminary review of the Forma Adventure Low Boots and Wunderlich 3D Ergo screen deflector. Some 1700 miles later and with a North Coast 500 trip under my belt I can give you an update on how both are performing.

Forma Adventure Low Boots

I had high expectations of these boots given the favourable comments I had seen before I bought them and I have not been disappointed. While they were comfortable from the first time I put them on they have become one of the best items of footwear I have had the enjoyment of wearing.

My preliminary requirements were for grip, we all know that feeling of putting your foot down on loose gravel, and for wet weather capability. The boots excelled in both departments.

They had initially felt a little cumbersome but soon bedded in. It was not long until I was shifting on the protective pad to the top of the boot rather than the occasional missed shift where I had connected with the lever using my toe. The rugged tread pattern on the sole gave me the confidence I was looking for when wrestling a fully laden GS on any surface that came my way.

I was also pleasantly surprised on how comfortable these were to hike around in. They felt neither cumbersome nor clumsy on the off bike excursions, notably a stroll around Urquhart Castle or a slog down and back up the steps at Smoo Cave on my NC500 trip.

Despite their solid construction my feet never felt uncomfortably hot in hot weather or cold on the miserable rainy days that confirmed their waterproof properties.

Putting the boots on was also a pleasure and the velcro closure held the side flaps in place and the two quick release buckles snapped shut with ease. Taking them off was similarly effortless, a godsend after a long days riding.

I would recommend a tall pair of riding socks as, despite the padded neck of the boot, they could possibly rub your shin being a low boot but I didn’t experience any discomfort. That being the only unfavourable comment, and hardly worth a mention, I would wholeheartedly give them a 5/5 rating.

Wunderlich 3D Ergo screen deflector

I had bought the deflector without actually having any real issues with the stock screen. Sure I was aware of the air passing over the helmet but nothing that concerned me greatly but with a few motorway miles ahead of me I thought that I’d give it a try.

It wasn’t until I had got a few miles under my belt that I truly started to appreciate the difference. It was notably more peaceful behind the screen and this also had the unexpected benefit of making me sit more upright, thus improving my posture. I have on short day trips occasionally found my lower back to be stiff but on the last 1700 miles since I put it on I have had no such repeat of the experience.

Testament to its performance and looks is the fact that it has remained in place since it was fitted. I did leave a torx in my bar bag with the intention of taking it off after the motorway miles, prior to a good hack on the curvier routes.

While it never got in the way of my field of view while clean, It did obscure my sight slightly in the grubby weather but then so would a dirty visor. A quick wipe corrected this, and while on the topic of visors I found that it gave me notable protection from flies hitting my helmet. I only once had to wipe a particularly juicy specimen from my visor.

Another product that I would have to give a 5/5 rating.



North Coast 500 Track logs on MyRoute-app

At the end of my previous post I gave you a link to download my routes. There were a number of options, notably the route that took us off the A9 and gave us a much better run through the Cairngorms.

I had used MyRoute-app to create the initial routes before passing them through Garmin Basecamp to make sure that they were recalculated with no mapping errors.

I would normally publish my routes taken at this stage using Garmin Adventures but to my disappointment and frustration, the service has been pulled. I have yet to find an equivalent since I particularly liked the ability to drop geotagged photographs onto the adventure and have them automatically placed where they were taken on the route.

In the interim I have uploaded my track logs onto the MyRoute-app site. You may need to register for a free account to fully open and explore the route but that shouldn’t be any great hardship. You will then be able to convert the track to a route and download it directly from the site.

Northwest England to Inverness

Inverness to Bettyhill

Bettyhill to Ullapool

Ullapool to Poolewe via Gairloch

Poolewe to Applecross via Loch Ness

Applecross to Kylekin with a loop of Skye

Kyleakin to Oban (via an aborted run to Armadale)

Benderloch nr Oban to Northwest England