When the sun shines.. ride
The weather is becoming more reliable which means it’s considerably easier to plan a ride in advance. The weather we had over the easter break was especially good. If it were possible to do so, one might think that the good weather was ordered in advance.
We are down into double digits to the upcoming trip to the Alps, so the opportunity to get a few more miles under the belt is very much welcomed.
Riders without a plan
I don’t always meticulously plan out my trips and this was one just occasion with little more than an indicative meet up time outside a Costa coffee shop. All I knew is that we would once again be carving a route around North Wales.
A brief discussion over a latte offered the first two waypoints. A regular feature of any ride where the meet up point is Chester, would see us ride down to Ruthin, and then onto Betws-y-Coed.
Go where you know
It’s a good road to ‘Betsy’ and with a good pace it didn’t take us long to get there. By 10:30 we were fuelling both the bikes and our bellies, having arrived at Betws-y-Coed with an appetite and a yellow fuel light.
There were a few bikes out for the bank holiday but it was early enough for it not to be too busy.
With the breakfast despatched a further discussion took place on the next direction of travel over a good old fashioned map.
I took the opportunity to create an adhoc route on the sat nav. Not realising that Aberdyfi is listed as Aberdovey I had to fudge the route on the device. The joys of Welsh!
Valleys and Beaches
We had been out some weeks earlier and revisited a couple of my favourite valleys. Our trip around to Beddgelert took us through another, Nant Gwynant. Having stopped for a brief photo it was back on the road. Bypassing Porthmadog, we travelled down the A470 towards Barmouth, devoid of any low flying jets at the time.
The road into Barmouth was a bottleneck of cars that was difficult to filter past. I started regretting the decision to visit since it was eating into the schedule. There were better places to visit. It was the briefest of pitstops. After a drink at an utterly forgettable cafe we headed towards Aberdovey.
Partly because of lost time and partly for the hell of it we decided to take the old wooden Penmaenpool toll bridge. It cuts out the corner of the A496>A470>A493 around the Afon Mawddach estuary. It only takes 30 seconds to cross but it always makes me smile and it well worth the 50p toll.
Picking up the coast road we headed for Aberdovey, or a location in the sat nav that was close by. As mentioned earlier I had failed to find Aberdyfi and it was only as we rolled into town it dawned on me that they were one and the same.
We pulled into the carpark and took a few minutes to watch the holiday makers building sandcastles. I pondered as to what would be my preference, the Welsh seaside or a beach on a Greek island. I didn’t ponder for long.
It was time to think about the return leg and I punched in a destination of Bala. The route took us on a surprisingly enjoyable A487 before emerging at the familiar Cross Foxes Inn.
Arriving at Bala we pulled over at the Loch Cafe for a welcome bottle of water. There were a good 20 to 30 bikes also parked up among the water sports types, day trippers and motorhomes.
I could see that they had had a good day out and from their body language they were all ready for their ride home. In my case home would only be an hours ride but not before fuelling up in Llangollen.
Cars, an avoidable obstruction
There are times when you enjoy being on two wheels and are relived not to be in a car. This was one such occasion. The A5 was a carpark with all the easter traffic returning home. Despite the tight roads we managed to make good progress. We were infinitely faster than the cars that would still be on the road for a good couple of hours beyond my home arrival.
The M56 motorway was no different and was at a standstill. Again I benefitted from a bit of filtering. Riders of motorcycles accustomed to heavy traffic are aware of the way cars react. For every few cars that move over to give you a bit more room, there’s alway one who goes out of their way to block you.
Them’s the rules…
The best rule of thumb is common sense. Take it slow and steady. Personally I only tend to filter in stationary traffic and traffic that moves up to around 25-30mph before falling in line. I let the road conditions dictate ultimately. However, after a brief moment of hesitation when passing a police car on the A5, I decided to brush up on my Highway Code.
This is what I found:
The Highway Code
In 2006, a judge ruled in the case of Davis vs Shrogin that, “a filtering motorcyclist passing stationary or very slow-moving traffic could not be to blame if a collision occurred if the rider had no chance to take avoiding action.”
Checking the Highway Code, under Rules for Motorcyclists, Rule 88 states, ‘Manoeuvering. You should be aware of what is behind and to the sides before maneuvering. Look behind you; use mirrors if they are fitted.
When in traffic queues look out for pedestrians crossing between vehicles and vehicles emerging from junctions or changing lanes.
Position yourself so that drivers in front can see you in their mirrors. Additionally, when filtering in slow-moving traffic, take care and keep your speed low.’
In Rule 160, where the advice is aimed more at other vehicle drivers, it clarifies this with, ‘Once moving, you should be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic. These are more difficult to see than larger vehicles and their riders are particularly vulnerable…’
There are places where you certainly can’t filter legally: Crossing a solid white line, including into hatched areas bordered with a solid line.And while you can filter past traffic queuing for a crossing, even in the zig-zag zone, you can’t pass the lead vehicle until it has passed the crossing.
You can filter legally in a cross-hatched area that is bordered by broken lines. However, the Highway Code’s Rule 130 is less clear about just how legal it is:‘
Areas of white diagonal stripes or chevrons painted on the road. These are to separate traffic lanes or to protect traffic turning right.
- If the area is bordered by a broken white line, you should not enter the area unless it is necessary and you can see that it is safe to do so.
- If the area is marked with chevrons and bordered by solid white lines you MUST NOT enter it except in an emergency.’Note that they use ‘should not’ rather than ‘absolutely no way, matey’ in the first clause. When ‘must not’ is used, that’s when a rule becomes legally enforceable.