A newbie's attempt at the National Road Rally 2016
Last weekend, motorcyclists attended the National Road Rally 2016 across the whole of the UK. Riders, controls, spouses, cafes, volunteers and more all got involved. We would like to give everyone a massive thank you for their support.
For those of you thinking about getting involved next year, Martin Webb has kindly given us an insight into his first time:
Some time ago whilst amusing myself on t’interwebs, I came across the National Road Rally. Having persuaded a friend to accompany me, we awaited our packs to drop through the letterbox with two weeks to go…
We had to plot a route taking in a set amount of control points and covering a mileage appropriate to our category – we decided to be bold and aim for the gold daytime category. Basically, visit 12 control points in less than ten hours with mileages between 260 and 280 miles.
Quickly, it became apparent that there was not much in the way of controls in the north east. So we would have to head south a little bit to Thirsk for our first “start” control.
We quickly realised that there were a lot of fantastic bikes of all vintages about to set off and most of them were heading our way!
We all wound our way out of Thirsk heading west towards Harrogate. We took it steady rather than tearing off, simply enjoying being in company with some superb vintage bikes instead.
Our second control was near Harrogate, kindly manned by the Ilkley and District Motor Club, where we gained our first stamp.
At this point we got our first taste of some of the weather in store as we set off for Skipton. The heavens opened and my gopro mount gave up the ghost.
They say you should never ride frustrated and angry. Well I proved it.
Having blasted past the control point, I tried for a quick u-turn in a barely used layby to discover it was inches deep in glistening wet mud.
Fortunately no bikers went past as I picked myself up off the deck, suitably embarrassed having dropped this bike for its first time ever. No-one to blame but myself, and a good wake up call.
After a good check over to make sure the bike was okay to continue, I headed back to the control where I collected my wits and a third stamp from the chaps from BMF North West.
The rain kept on and off as we headed for out of Skipton towards our next control at Accrington. Apologies to the Amigos running the control, completely forgot to grab a quick photo!
The next control was a “virtual” control at Wigan. This is one you count towards your controls and mileage but not actually a point to visit. We logged it on out way to the next manned control at Warrington. This was probably our longest stretch on motorways and dual carriage ways as we skirted Manchester, and again the West proved to be the wet side of the country.
We eventually pulled into the Anchor Inn where the local Congleton and District Motorcycle club bravely manned the awning where we got our stamps and laughed in the face of the elements.
We gave up on any hope that the weather would let up and headed back out into the storm on our way to Ashbourne. The friendly gents from the Vincent Owners Club stamped us up – apologies again as I completely forgot to grab a quick photo, mainly due to my buddy showing up with cakes he rustled up from the local bakery whilst I got fuel.
The ride on towards Tideswell should have been through some spectacular countryside and rock formations in the Derbyshire National Park. What we could mainly see was copious amounts of water however. More and more bloody water. I swear I saw the animals paring up and looking for an ark at this point. I’m pretty sure we took the scenic route as well, but as the visibility was more akin to something from the shipping forecast I can’t be sure.
We found the control and, like sirens tempting sailors, the lovely ladies from The Anchor stamp marshals tried to waylay us with pieces of fish and chips. Our resolve held though, and we managed to get away with just our stamps and maybe a few small pieces of home made millionaires shortbread…
Next, we skirted Sheffield and crossed the M1 to the Moto Demon Speed Shop at Rotherham. As if to light our way home, the weather finally cleared as well, and we began to see dry roads for the first time in hours.
There was a definite party atmosphere at the shop as they were gearing up to go through the night for the riders on the hardcore rally categories. As relative newbies, however, we had a schedule to keep, so after a short break for more food and caffeine we headed Barnsley bound…
Our penultimate control was courtesy of the Barnsley Bikers Club. A fleeting stop as we pushed on to make sure we could keep to our time limit.
Despite the Highway Agency’s best plans in closing the M1 (top tip for future rallies – check the planned road closures!) we still made our final control at Squire Biker Cafe with plenty of time to spare.
Squires provided an ideal last port of call – the cafe and bar was open so we could bask in the glow of a great day and grab some more caffeine and admire our completed stamp collection.
We both agreed on the whole that it had been a cracking day out. Some great scenery, if viewed through a rain soaked visor. Definitely some great people met.
The true test of the day was that we both immediately agreed it was something we would do again…
Martin's tips for trying your first National Road Rally
- Plan but be flexible. By all means have a route, but be aware of alternate fuel stops, roads etc.
- Take breaks. Drinks and food are a must: they help you stay alert and on the ball.
- Check for any planned road closures that might be on your route!
- Any bike can do it! I saw scooters, classics, crutch-rockets, endurance tourers, customs and my own VN900C SE cruiser. If you can ride it on roads it’ll get round.
- Make friends. Every person, and I mean every single person I met on the rally was friendly and happy to chat, give advice, tips, routes and laughs.
Just do it! The absolute worst that can happen is you don’t enjoy it and sack it early. Not much of a loss is it?
The best that can happen? A fantastic ride out, meet loads of great people, see loads of great bikes and explore some of this fine land.