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.
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.
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.
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.
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”→
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”→
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.
The North Coast 500 is a route around the north coast of Scotland. Since its launch in 2015 it has become an iconic route for motor vehicles, cyclists, walkers, or any mode of transport you care to use. It links many features of the north of Scotland from the barren east coast, through the unspoilt beaches of the north, down through the dramatic coastal landscape of the western highlands.
There is much written about the North Coast 500, also referred to as the NC500, both in guide books and numerous sources on the internet. Having visited the official website, I even became a fully paid up member for the year thus gaining an official route map, card for the wallet and sticker for the bike. I’m not saying I’m obsessive but if you are going to do something you may as well do it right?
The NC500 initiative’s aim was to work with all aspects of the tourism sector and bring a boost to the businesses around the route. The guides reflected this with many opportunities to explore the areas off route. However, our goal was to seek out the best roads on the official route, and to seek out the best that could be seen from the roadside while we stretched our legs. For those following our footsteps I hope that I can highlight the places that we enjoyed, and the places not worthy of a visit since we were enjoying the ride.
All four riders were setting off out from the northwest of England. The official NC500 starting point regardless of whether you are doing the North Coast 500 clockwise or anticlockwise is Inverness, so this would be the first leg of the journey from home. You could start anywhere but we were starting at Inverness and staying faithful to the official route.
From Inverness we would head up the east coast on an anticlockwise loop to Bettyhill via John O’ Groats taking in the northern coast. Dropping down to the western side of the run where the route slows with many single track roads breaking up the A-roads to Ullapool. A short day to gather our thoughts at Poolewe then leads onto a run to Applecross via a trip to Loch Ness. It is at this point that we would have all but covered the official route, so our extended run (the beyond in this story) takes us around Skye and then down to Oban.
With all the planning for the North Coast 500 trip you’d think that I would be relaxed about my preparations. With four days to go its not until I ride off the drive that I’ll truly say that’s it, I’m done.
I couldn’t have done more. I’ve researched the NC500 routes with the help of members of the UKGSer forum and had some tips from friends who have lived up in Scotland. It even looks as though the weather will be kind to us, not that we expect any favours on that front when travelling in Scotland. I can only say that the Motorrad Rainlock kit that I bought from Chester Motorrad has been tried and tested in some pretty abysmal weather both on my last trip to Scotland and across the Alps. One of the best purchases I have ever made.
Follow our progress
I hope that you will follow us on our NC500 journey via the posts I will be making. I’ll look forward to doing a full write up on our return.
All that is left to mention is a reminder to where you can follow us.