Jewells In America

 Some 21 bikes, one with pillion, departed from the Tesco carpark at Winnall, Winchester for what was to prove as one of our most memorable rides, this time for all the right reasons!!! The 8.30am start did not put people off, nor the thought of a brisk pace and 350+ miles. The weather was a tad chilly, occasional sunny periods and a few heavy April showers to add to the demands of the day. The outing really fell into three sections. First, there was the blat down the A303 for some 80 miles to Podimore with the reward of coffee or whatever breakfast/beverage took our fancy. At Podimore we were joined by 2 more bikes and fully refreshed plus a little warmer, the fun began for real with the section section. Heading off on the twisty A372 towards Langport & Bridgwater. Then on the A39 towards Minehead with some terrific views of the sea and Somerset coastline before arriving at Dunster and turning left onto the A396 for the real roller-coaster ride of the day. This stretch of road had everything a biker ever dreams about. The road is technically quite fast and there is generally not too much traffic with plenty of opportunities for overtaking. However, 100% concentration is demanded of you in order to make the most of this fantastic road. The hills & trees with many glimpses of the river Exe make a terrific backdrop, but you must focus on the visual point and road conditions to safely navigate this road with any degree of pace. So, towards the end of this road we found the Exeter Inn and once again it did us proud with food and drink and the opportunity for us to recuperate before setting off for the final stage home via the fabulous A373 and then the fast & furious A30. On the way to Stockbridge, we stopped at the Little Chef in Shaftesbury for the usual civilised afternoon tea and gossip roundup. So that was our day. Which only leaves me to thank the one and only "Captain Sensible" alias "Slim" or "Fat Controller" for leading another fantastic day, Tim and Neil for back marking and ensuring nobody strayed or got lost as well as all the participants. The next ride will be on the first Sunday in July. So put the 2nd of July in your diaries and watch this space for more information. - John Barnes (Silver 1200GS)

 Very much a cliche I know, but doesn't time fly when you're having fun. I have only just realised that our regular first-Sunday-of-the month rideout is 3 years old. I can still remember our very first run to the Ogri Cafe in Horam for an Armagedon Burger attempt. There were only 3 of us then and I recall one of the participants saying to me, "I will follow you anywhere out of curiosity". Well in the 3 years since our band of "usual suspects" has grown considerably and some quite close friendships have been formed. Over the 3 years we have done ride-outs regardless of weather conditions, our record was an Exe Valley run with over 27 bikes attending last summer. For me it has been a pleasure seeing different people leading and back-marking rides and at the same time develop their riding skills within an environment of mutual support and good humour. It is the people taking part that have made these ride-outs such a pleasurable experience and I would like to thank you all. My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year and here's to an even more enjoyable 2006! Panos Simou, aka The Fat Controller, Captain Sensible, Slim or whatever you like...

 Out of 13 bikes gathered on an almost freezing misty morning, we could at least claim it as a BMW run, with five GS's, a K1200GT, a K1200R (the most beautiful one there, of course) and a R1100S. Even when the 1100S left the run before it even started and two more "guest" bikes joined later, Beemer remained the dominant brand. And with 3 newly accredited RoSPA Gold achievers, a quality ride was in prospect. As the weather warmed to allow finger-tips to thaw, John Barnes led us on a combination of old favourites and new routes through Andover, Hungerford and Devizes to arrive at one of our most intriguing lunch spots - a canal-side restaurant next to a lock with a floating barge dining. With the bikes lining the towpath, we certainly made an impression on the cute locality. A cosy environment, some good hot food. What more could one want? Well, another large handful, of course. How our youngest participant avoided a good slapping from the prettiest waitress, I'm not entirely certain. Striking out after lunch, the return route led us through more new road, until familiar ground at Shaftesbury, Salisbury and the final stop at Stockbridge. Some interesting positioning, some determined testing of brake lights (it was just testing, wasn't it?) and some more "individual" styles of marking. Obviously the scenery was a tad too distracting in places! Or maybe some took the "handful" suggestion too leterally! But all seemed to have fun, all had cheeky grins and all had a great day. Thank you for organising it John and to everyone else for the company. I've only got one complaint - my bike's got some funny brown stuff all over it, and I'm not quite sure what to do next..... Tim Considine K1200R
 So as usual, meeting time arranged was for 9.00am with a 9.30 start from the Tesco carpark at Winnall Trading Estate outside Winchester. The weather was just the ticket, dark and overcast, raining heavily and very windy. At this point I seriously considered staying at home, having a lay in, watching the final round of MotoGP or genarally doing what "normal" people do on Sundays. But then I thought of Panos, or Slim if you like, having put all the work into working out the route for us all as well as all the other "usual suspects" who regardless of weather would undoudtedly turn up for the monthly social ride. Well after waiting until 9.45am for any late arrivals, the grand total of takers for the day's action packed adventure was 3, not including of course 3 other people huddled in the trolley shelter of the carpark trying to avoid nature's finest. Although counting Silm for 2 would have beefed up the numbers! Sooo, Panos on the Sunny Yellow GS, Paul on the blue TDM and Baldrick on the silver 1200RT set off for the Avebury Stone Circle. After a while riding in such "lovely" conditions our ears were ringing to the sounds of a piercing whistle, a close call as to what was preferable. A high pitched sound or the constant chatter endured during the last ride, a tough choice! Water has found its way into Paul's radio connections and that seemed to be the reason for the sound effects. With one radio down, we continued our ride at a pace appropriate for the conditions. We rode to Andover and across Salisbury Plain through some very wild and hostile conditions, through numerous patches of standing water covering the entire road to finally arrive at the Red Lion Pub for lunch We might have been windswept and thoroughly soaked but there is nothing like it, riding through such adverse conditions is fantastic practice for keeping the concentration going. After a very enjoyable lunch, Paul rode north towards Swindon in order to make an late afternoon engagement leaving Slim & Baldrick to make their way back to Stockbridge in even stronger rain. After two stops to wipe the water from inside our helmets on account of auto-pilot not functioning, we arrived at out destination but decided to give tea & cakes the rain cheque. The owners would have probably appreciated our gesture as I'm sure they did not need two very wet bikers to their usual lot. The route would have been challenging enough in the dry, but the day's conditions made for an even more demanding ride, excellent fun. I can honestly say that it did not stop chucking it down ALL day. Sadly, I will not be able to make the December ride on account of an unavoidable engagement, despite that my gear would have dried out by then... Baldrick on the silver 1200RT

 Topping last month's run for entertainment value is not going to be easy. The word impossible comes to mind but we can do the impossible. It is the miracles we're having a spot of trouble with at the moment. Notwithstanding that a good number of the usual suspects will be having a jolly with Andy riding to the Ardennes, some 14 bikes pitched up once again at the Tesco Carpark at Winnall Trading Estate, outside Winchester for 10.00am aiming for a 10.30am start for another brisk run. Minus Chris and his blue Triumph ST as they both overslept, bless!!! After a short burst on the A303 - apart from those who went up the A34 instead - we rode the A3057 to Stockbridge to meet up with the lost sheep and then the A30 through Salisbury to Ludwell, longing for the delights of Zig Zag Hill only to find that the road was closed off, then to Shaftesbury via a cross country detour and Sherborne on the A30. We turned into the A352 for a cracking run to Dorchester for a snackette. We were just in time to see the coach carrying the England over 65s team arrive and make the food ordering a tad more challenging. One of our number was even lucky enough to be given "Ethel's" ice cream as it was too cold for her. The next photo opportunity was discussed, the local Tesco has a rather amazing fountain, perhaps even a Gore-Tex product testing session? The idea was dismissed due to lack of time and and efforts were concentrated to evaluating the "new improved" Wicked Breakfast which now comes with a separate plate of chips!!! Whilst lunching we considered the bus as a safe alternative to this biking lark but then thought, on balance we might as well carry on as you can never have too much of a good thing. Tempting as it was though... As we attempted to leave the Carpark Panos' ABS decided to "do one" and headed towards the nearest garage for brake fluid - still being held ransom by Baldrick. Alas the problem was not fixed but as he does not very often use brakes, he headed off at an icreased rate of knots to make up for lost time back to Shaftesbury through some more cracking roads to hit the A30 all they way to Stockbridge in time for afternoon tea where we met up with Tim on the yellow GS enjoying a cream tea. So what better idea than to get him to do the write-up as apparently he was with us in spirit rather than physically! His version is now eagerly awaited and will be duly appended. Does it get any better? Well, you tell me... Thanks to John on the new silver 1200GS for backmarking and all the troops which made it again another great day out. See you all on the next run... Slim, or Captain Sensible if you prefer, with some considerable input from Baldrick

 You might be forgiven for thinking that 12 blokes stood looking at their bikes for 30 minutes on a Sunday morning might not exactly be the start of a good day. You would definitely be excused the thought that the woeful absence of car-park gymnastics would herald a very conventional and uneventful day. Ah, but then you would not be taking into account the careful preparation and un-selfish sacrifice of our leader for the day, Sir Chris of “Why-haven’t-you-got-a-Triumph-then”. He likes to ensure his mates have a good time, and on this occasion he obviously put a lot of thought into how to make it a special day to remember. I mean, how many other people would put on a show like he did. Carefully building-up the expectation of whether he would arrive. Throwing away his keys on the motorway. All just to create challenges for the team to solve. How to get the alarm fob working? Was he going to have to keep the engine running all day? How to find a ladder? Would a window need to be broken? Would a spare set of keys be found? The tension was unbearable but the morale was high. By 10:30am, Chris has skillfully honed the team into an efficient fighting unit second to none. No challenge that day would be too much now, but still every ounce of the morning’s training was going to be needed by the enlisted men for the tasks ahead. Overcoming bad-mouthed ignorant road-rage from a Basingstoke car driver (without rising to the bait). Refusing to doubt the leader’s sense of direction, no matter how much he tried to trick us into thinking he didn’t know any Macdonald sites in Wiltshire. Even resisting the drip-drip torture of Bristol’s lesser-known back streets, with no appealing eye-candy to soften the view. Building to the finale of an unexpected road closure – amazing, just how did he co-ordinate the timing? (Let’s hope he didn’t also organise the broken pelvis of the biker half an hour ahead of us.) Undaunted, the ride went on. Who needs a plan anyway? We had roads, bikes, sunshine. We even had a volunteer who selflessly took on the burden of marking most of the junctions single-handedly. Of course it was inevitable that he would then have to get from the back of the ride up to the front again, in time for the next junction. Oh well, what a burden – clearly no truth in the rumour he might just be enjoying himself! No, his bike was simply the most visible, a nice bright sunny yellow – no-one could miss that one! With a final lesson about pre-ride tyre-inspection from one recruit, we all descended on the tea-rooms in Stockbridge for a gentle civilised de-brief. So if you think a ride-out is just an excuse for a mad blast, think again. The planning, the sacrifice, the discipline, the adversity, the team-work, the trust, the good humour. Tony, next time you’re bored, don’t bother invading Iraq. Just get yourself a bike and come along the next session. You might learn a thing or two, and even find a new hobby for when “you have more time to spend with the family”. It doesn’t even need much fuel! Thanks for an excellent day, Chris, and thanks to Clive for his patient back-marker duties. - Tim Considine, dirty red 1100S.

 Some 17 bikes pitched up at the Tesco carpark, Winnall Trading Estate all ready for action, but not before setting up for the customary photo opportunity. It was handstands at the last ride, a two bike pyramid on this one, who knows what next... Any ideas, even half sensible ones, will now be considered for the next ride. The weather was good despite the Fat Controller doing his rain dance the night before. So we set off at a brisk pace down to Morestead Road with Captain Sensible on the sunny yellow GS at the front and Baldrick with the grey 1200RT as the back marker. In addition to the usual suspects we had a number of "social ride" first timers, amongst them Paul on the 900TDM, Karen on the pink 650SV and Mark on the R1. We welcome them all over to the dark side, we do have cookies there! After the fabulous Morestead Road and a brief stop on the A32 to re-group, we turned off at East Meon towards Langrish and then Petersfield and South Harting for the B2146 and B2141 and back to South Harting for a break. What great bits of road they were too, just what the doctor's recommended. On the way there we were also joined by a stranger called Kevin on a blue 11550R. Having suitably recovered, we moved swiftly on through some more unmarked roads through Elsted to join the A272 for a short burst and then more of the same through Woolbeding to Liphook for lunch where we were join by Phyl on Ruby, that is the red Triumph ST. The food was seriously tasty and very good value given the outrageous portions. I would even go as far as to say that the "wicked breakfast" in Dorchester has now been comprehensively topped! After Karen and Neil finished their ice-cream, I believe it came in a bucket, we rode through Liss and Selborne to Alton to join the famous A339 to Basingstoke and the the B3346 through the Candovers and Alresford to Cheriton. Our leader for the second leg was Paul - Baldrick to his friends - on the grey RT with the Crazy Frog as number two Neil on the yellow TLR. Phyl will no doubt remember this ride for quite some time on account of a close encounter with a certain gentleman on a sunny yellow GS. So we stopped and hugged and laughed it off before setting off for another burst of Morestead Road, oh what joy, to finish at the newly refurbished West Meon Hut. By all accounts, stringing together most of our southern training routes into a ride turned out to be very popular and a repeat perscription in the future will get the thumbs up from the doctor, I'm sure. A big thank you to all the participants and these rides will be no fun without them. Until the next one - Panos aka Captain Sensible

 We all met as usual at the Tesco car park at 9.00am for a 9.30 start. There was a particularly good turnout with 17 bikes in attendance and a couple of new faces too, excellent. Panos arrived fashionably late on his new K1200R - named "Arnie on Steroids" - to a waiting crowd of eager spectators. For a minute, I thought he looked not dissimilar to the "Crazy Frog" cartoon. Panos had obviously been performing his rain dance again and by the time we left it was drizzling and getting rather cloudy. Colin set a brisk pace which kept the pack well placed & allowed for riders of different abilities to go at their own pace. We stopped at the Little Chef in Shaftesbury for a coffee break and them moved on to "sunny" Swanage. Weather was still trying to dampen our spirits, but not gaining much ground. The section from Corfe Castle to Swanage provided an excellent opportunity for reading the road, with blind summits and tightening bends making for some tricky riding. Lunch was fish & chips by the sea front, still no sun though! Panos tried to entertain the troops by asking for electrical checks to be performed on a number of bikes on account of brake lights coming on at inappropriate times. The concersation also covered some "unconventional" advanced riding techniques we had witnessed along the way. The excuses however were even more entertaining. Our return route took us along the hilltops of Lulworth, the sun had come out by then, and the scenery was fantastic. Colin could not resist taking us all for a minor detour to the Lulworth Army Camp, much to the amusement of the armed guard at the gates. Having paid attention to Panos' remarks, I was trying particularly hard not to brake unnecessarily into the corners. We found ourselves on a very twisty country road with blind tightening corners and I was doing a lot braking. Chris on the new Triumph Sprint ST, who is acknowledged as a very competent & technically proficient rider, overtook me on a straight. Perhaps he was bored watching my brake lights! So, I followed closely, matched my speed to his, watching his every move and trying to follow him into a corner without touching my brakes. In comes what looked like a tight right hander, so we both change down on the approach and go in. However, as the bend tightened further we both ended up running wide onto the gravel and Chris was heard saying over the radio in a cool non-committal way "woops, went a bit wide on this one". No brake lights came on though which is probably why we our paintwork remains unscratched! Final stop for cream tea in Stockbridge, we sat beside the river in the pleasant afternoon sun and discussed the day's events. At this point most participants said their farewells and headed into the sunset. A final small group headed by Colin then rode towards West Meon with one section being a narrow country track. We came face to face with a Range Rover and it looked like we had nowhere to go. However the driver just climbed up the bank, leaning a 45 degrees, and we all rode by under him. Not bad for a car driver, hey? All in all, another excellent day out. Thanks to Colin for his skillful leading and route picking - he really makes it up as he goes along - and The Crazy Frog for bringing up the rear in style.... Paul (Baldrick) on the R1200RT

 An Exe Valley run is always special in its own right, but a wet one is even better. The weather forecast was for heavy rain coming in from the west and it did not disappoint! No sooner did we leave Podimore the wet stuff come down, and boy did it come down. Anyway a number of the usual suspects turned up at Winnall for a 7.30am start. Chris was on his new blue Triumph ST, Colin on his new red Daytona 650, Phyl on her "ruby" ST, John on the silver RS, Tim on the yellow GS, Andy on the silver Adventure, Adrian on "Percy the Pig" and the Fat Controller on the sunny yellow GS. Adrian with Percy lead the way to Podimore where we joined by Tim on the red S on account of some mix-up with the alarm clock, allegedly! Once we've hit the twisties traffic was relatively light due to the bad weather although we did come across several shining examples of driving at 40mph for many miles in double white systems when the 60mph speed limit would not have endangered anyone but the most incompetent of drivers. Still, hey ho there's no law that says you must drive at 60mph when the limit is 60mph, is there? The best kept secret of the UK biking roads, the amazing A396 from Dunster to Tiverton was the highlight of the day, as always. In addition, the food at the Exeter Inn was even better than last time, the portions were even larger and we had loads of time to get served, etc, etc. As for the company, it was first class as always. Gentlemen and lady thank you all for making it another cracking run as it is the people that make these rides such an enjoyable event. A big thank you to Tim on the red S back marking most of the run and hope to see you all on the next ride then ...... The Fat Controller on the sunny yellow GS
 It certainly was the real thing! Lunch was in Dorchester, the home of the famous "Wicked Breakfast", which remained as wicked as ever. Some 13 bikes pitched up at 9.00am for a 9.30am start at the Tesco Garage, Winnall Trading Estate roundabout near Winchester and rode west on some of the best biking roads in the south. Whilst we have done this route before, my doctor said "you can never have too much of a good thing". In fact, we also had to do Zig-Zag Hill twice. The return trip from Dorchester took us back to Stockbridge for the usual afternoon tea & treacle tarts. My thanks to Andy on the Boxercup who was the run's photographer and a fine selection of photos from the run can be found on tastefully put together. My thanks also to Tim for back marking and to all the participant for making it such an ejoyable run. If I get a proper run write-up it will be posted as soon as I get it. If I don't, its not a problem as life is too short to worry about such little things. Until the next time.....

 As planned we did all meet at the Tesco Garage at Winnall, around 9.00am for a 9.30am start, some 11 bikes in total and then made our way to arrive at Oxford BMW for around 11.00am. Leading us was Adrian with "Percy the Pig" hence the rather rapid progress up the A34 with most cars getting out of our way. We met up with Dominic on his silver 1100SS who took us for a stonking 90-mile run on his favourite Cotswolds roads. After a short burst on the A34 we rode jems like the A4095, the B430, the B4100, the B4031 & B4022, the B4450, B4026, B4437 and then on the A44 back to Oxford BMW. I did put in a firm request for a substantial high colesterol lunch at a suitable location along the way, but my original sceptism as to whether Dominic will deliver on this front turned out to be justified. I would not recommend the Bell Inn in Stow on the Wold for a high colesterol lunch. Even the burgers looked too healthy for my liking, and I think most of the usual suspects felt the same. As for me, having broken down again with a leaking final drive my appetite was gone for the day! The return trip allegedly took in the glorious B4494 from Wantage to Newbury but the Fat Controller was chewing the fat with the driver of the recovery vehicle on his was back home. A text from Dominic with photo of all the bikes with caption "was you're missing" did not help to improve the mood. This was a very progressive run and Dominic's section required very good riding skills to stay on the pace. Save for the odd "senior moment" and Panos' strange request for Paul to check some or the riders' brake lights during the lunch break, the overall standard was high. Martin on the blue/silver K1200RS had promised to do a write-up.... However in the meantime, here's a version from the Fat Controller on the sunny yellow GS on the back of the recovery truck....
 It was a fantastic run and John Barnes produced a route which is a very close second to our long standing favourite the Exe Valley run. Some 13 bikes pitched up at the Tesco Garage at Winnall despite the cold weather, 11 BMWs and 2 Triumphs riden by 12 Daves and 2 Dave'esses. With John leading and the Fat Controller with the Dark Angel pillion on the tail, we rode to Stockbridge our first unofficial stop to adjust our radios. This also gave Dominic, who came down from Bicester to join our ride, the opporunity to attempt a visit to the WC. Chris promplty obliged and ferried him pillion on his Triumph, there and back! On the way out towards Salisbury Panos decided that our observation skills needed sharpening and over the radio he asked how many tyres were hanging on the garage wall in Stockbridge, and of course the make, the size as well as the tread pattern! How boring, Panos was the only person to get all four right, clearly he must get out more! After some lovely sections of the A30 we stopped at the Little Chef in Shaftesbury where Panos decided to pay for everybody's refsrshments. I think he must have been feeling guilty on account of his observation exercise. The next section was the A350 to Blandford, one of RiDE magazine's best biking roads in the South, to finish at Swanage after some more lovely twisties. On the way to a suitable Cafe for lunch - far too healthy in my opinion - Panos provided the photo opportunity of the day. He jumped on a model Harley for little kids in one of the amusement arcades and luckily did not break it! After lunch with radios in full form again we set off over the Purbeck Hills on some narrow roads with spectacular scenery only to be spoiled by a number of "considerate" tailgating car drivers. Well, it was Sunday and cars drivers do have more rights than bikes when it comes to road use, haven't they? After some strategy discussions over the radio, Chris duly rose to the ocassion overtook one car and opened up the gap to enable bikes to overtake. Next time this manouvre will become part of the initial pre-ride briefing. Talk about "considerate" road use though, the award on the day went to a certain car driver who decided to overtake 3 other cars over a right hand junction, it was classic stuff! We discussed the notion of catching him up to present him with his award but he was clearly far too fast for the likes of us faddy daddies. After some brisk strectches from Blanford to Salisbury we all arrived at the Hill Top Cafe, our final coffee stop, with very high spirits as this was a rather exeptional ride. Dominic has now been awarded honorary "usual suspects" membership by popular demand and we all look forward to his next appearance. A huge thank you to John for a stonking route and some spirited and consistent leading. I hope to see you all on the next one .... Neil on the red 1100S

 THE ARMAGEDDON BURGER RUN – Sunday 6th February 2005 You though I had left the country? Well computer problems have held me back a bit but this comes with apologies to you all for the delay…..Well, it was a marvellous day! With 15 odd, no I mean BMW bikes plus some others; joining together for the outing when really a cold and misty start began to look extremely inviting. The sun came out and we set off across the A31 on to the famous A272 towards Midhurst and beyond. This was, it turned out, to be a fairly “interesting” ride for some of us. The rest of us just enjoyed the view! To let you in on a secret, don’t tell anyone, there was some trouble with the intercoms again!! I’m glad to say it wasn’t the Saint, this time, as he was aided with some cool green bottle top technology – marvellous what a Semi-skimmed plastic milk bottle top can do for wind protection on the mike! We were of course VERY aware that Panos was without a pillion, the Dark Angel was apparently otherwise engaged, and he did start with a rather downward turn to the day when he realised that maybe some of the problem was down to his own autocom system. Did he really admit to it I wonder? A stop and sort out soon got us back and talking – boy can Chris talk – and we dived down the road at a brisk rate to be joined by a floating brown sofa, no was it a Honda, or was it an RT? That was at the join of the A23 as we pressed on down some of the loveliest lanes in Sussex towards a BIGGER burger break at Wesson Café in Horam! No offence meant here of course but we were impressed by the way both the “sofa” and the Harley… whatever…. were able to not only keep up but make good time! We remember occasions in the past where that was not the case but we will not go there! Of course that was until we witnessed a certain large bike blind overtake on the brow of a hill… but we won’t dwell… and earlier we had been aghast as a certain 1100S (was it a shade of red or was it the rider?) overtook on a double – he was heard to excuse himself but the immortal words “they were annoying me…”! Anyway, we all take our turn in embarrassing ourselves as we learn better riding and I’ve done my share (as Panos will be able to recall)! Talking about embarrassing, our erstwhile leader on the Triumph (Silver one that is) decided to take us on a double, or was it triple ride round one of the roundabouts and side roads on the way to the Café until some of our more seasoned BIGGER Burger Bikers pointed the way! I noted a gusty laugh or two…was it three from the lady on the Red Triumph in the background! Fortunately we all know the giggling is in the best of spirits anyway. As we arrived we were met with a HUGE armada or bikers coming and going from said Café and it has to be said that even the impressive Burger could not satisfy all our appetites – the shop did some brisk trade as we waited! The ride back was great. Long stretches of good road with some exquisite scenery and the view as good too. Panos still looked lonely on his Yellow Peril GS without his companion but he did give us a good belly laugh as he explained he was “back on the market again” as a certain person had flown the coup – the Dark Angel is watching over him anyway so he can rest in peace…. I think?….As various members peeled off at appropriate points along the road home I think we owe another vote of thanks to Chris and Panos, aided and abetted as usual (!) by Tim, deserved for a marvellous day’s ride with lots of laughs and good fun. Here’s signing off (at last!) and looking forward to seeing you at the next one…The Saint on the 1200C Cruiser.

 Yes the sensible pillion with "certain backprotector" is back!! No I hear u scream? Twas a lovely sunny winters day, frellin cold! We met at the Tesco Garage at Winnall Trading Estate for 9.30am. I was informed I was in charge of taking pictures, and just before the 9.45am start, attempted to take a picture of the 15 bikes (couldn't quite fit them all in one shot), including the Aprilla. Our leader for the day was Tim on the red 1100S, with the Fat Controller on the tail. We set off for a short burst on the A34, then stopped off to refuel on the A303 to Andover. Boy was it freezing, to the point I couldn't feel my fingers! Fortunately Clive had a spare pair of gloves and once again I was a happy bunny. So I attempt to take a couple more pics and what do I see? A Harley! First time I've seen one of these on the ride. Well kewl! Onwards we travelled, to the gorgeous scenic route thru the Devizes & Chippenham. There's truly nothing like the fresh country smell of dung. LOL!! We continued on the A350 to Malmesbury and the A429 to Cirencester for lunch. By the time we arrived at the pub, we had 20 bikes in total. Oh yeah, and we promptly got told by the Manager to park round the back. Strange, considering the car park was fairly empty, both when we arrived and left! Still, the food was good, the company much better. We were joined by Chris and Phyl on their pretty Triumph's. I revealed my new "backprotector" corset, got some more of the same "is this a kind of back protector?" comments. And yes, I assure you I was quite comfortable. The tell tale signs is usually after I've worn one for 23 hours or longer and start to turn blue, like a smurf :D As we were all walking down the back to get on the bikes, the FC asked me to photograh the Aprilla parked next to the bins, and wondered out loud whether anyone would notice the Aprilla. Have no fear Mr owner of the Aprilla, I shall punish the FC later :)) So we left, our stomachs full and our spirits high, 22 bikes & 2 pillions later. We immediately had a lovely tour of roundabouts thanks to our leader, who took a wrong turning! I believe they call it "town riding practice". The rest of our journey back was thru Lechdale, Faringdon and Wantage and the glorious B4494 to Newbury. We stopped off at the BP garage in Andover, so Chris could fix his radio. I was asked by Simon if he'd offended me because of the tone of some of my comments to him at lunchtime. Told him no, I'm always like that! He said I obviously went to the school on how to win friends and influence people. I started laughing really hard, so he walked off! And so after that little gem we set off again. There was a bit of confusion at the roundabout right before the high street in Stockbridge. So we and a few others went round it a couple of times. Very entertaining! We were all then invited round to Tim & Debbie's for some refreshments, including lots of cake. Sadly there was no cleaning services offered for the bikes, much to Chris' disgust. So Tim quickly offered his boot polishing services, much to everyone's delight! It was great to see such a fantastic turnout. So until the next time, behave! - Dark Angel - pillion on FC's sunny yellow 1150GS

 Advanced Riding is a safe, skilful and enjoyable way of riding. Advanced Riders are more observant and better at anticipating changes in the surrouding conditions. Because of this, they are able to plan their riding to create space and time to deal with any situations. Advanced riding is achieved by riding to a system which is simpe, efficient, effective, always applicable and gives those precious gifts of space and time with which to deal with hazards. The advanced rider is never taken by surprise. The word "suddenly" does not appear in their vocabulary. With all this in place, the advanced rider will be able to make unobtrusive, planned progress consistent with safety and the law.
 The Thames Valley Group, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, very much welcomes new members who are interested in training for the RoSPA Advanced Motorcycle Test. The RoSPA test is regarded as the most comprehensive and challenging available to the public and is the only one monitored and approved by the Driving Standards Agency. For further information please contact the Group by either writing to TVRG Motorcycle Section, PO Box 532, Reading, RG2 7YY or by e-mail at or have an exploratory discussion with Panos Simou - aka The Fat Controller - who is the Group's Motorcycle Training Officer.