Alton to: Basingstoke
Ah the infamous A339. The site of several deaths lately. It's a great, technical road with a good surface, but beware. High speed corners + miscalculation = risk of severe trauma/death. If you want to do it, ride the road several times up and down below the national limit. Look for the junctions, look for cops, look for crap on the road, look out for squids riding it too: they sometimes cross the centreline oncoming. When you're sure, try it out, it's a lot of fun: but don't wind up in the Newspaper.
Glencoe to: Glencoe
Throughout its length from Glasgow to Inverness the A82 is a joy. An A-road metelled for bikers - it doesn't so much change direction as gracefully sweep with a confident camber and no road furniture. It's almost as if you'd laid the tarmac yourself.
The bonnie bonnie banks of loch Lomond set the tone for the whole route as the road clings to the magnificent landscape. On through the splendour of Glencoe and past loch Ness (an opportunity to spot some of the more elusive wildlife such as Nessiteras rhombopterix) on to Forts William & Augustus - no boring straight Roman road here. Here you can see so far ahead it's unreal. There's nothing, absolutely nothing coming. Just breeze by and smile. During the summer the A82 is littered with Germans and the Scot's old ally the French. They come here in droves - well, cars and bikes. Perhaps they are overawed by the Alps and come here for scenery that's a bit less severe. Even with holiday traffic there's that sense of freedom, a feeling that simply glides you along this ride to remember.
The highpoint of the A82 is the stretch Bridge of Orchy, over Rannoch Moor through Glencoe to Ballachulish. Reverse the trip to double your pleasure. From the Bridge of Orchy the snaking black ribbon climbs rapidly as the Moor opens out before you. 1000 metre peaks fence in the vast, intimidating bog. Don't hang about as it could be Scotland's own Area 51. Lean and flow quicksilver across the elevated expanse of peat and rock. The Three Sisters wait to swallow you into fast approaching valley. As the sides begin to loom now you ease off. The roadside crash barriers give away the vital sign. Find your religon and pray to the great god Michelin as the clear opening bends invite you and your bike to shine. You're bathed in stunning landscape with heather, bracken and conifers partially clothing the huge great lumps of towering rock. Fresh mountain air and that immense feeling that the bike is part of the road. That big grin creeps over your face and sets hard.
This is perfect for that long get-away-from-it-all weekend. A chance to clear the lungs and recharge the head. Whether you're a bumbag or tank bag or full panier kit biker there's no problem finding a place to kip & scoff as the area is dotted with B&Bs, guest houses, hotels and hostels and of course - campsites. Grab petrol at any one of a number of modern or quaint stations. This is where they make Scotch Mist so check with Bill Giles first. The Ballachulish Hotel and The Kingshouse Hotel afford more comfort than most around here - and the Youth Hostel in Glencoe is spot on. The Clachaig Inn serves good food and decent ales - but won't serve Campbells!
In Glencoe stands a stone cross to commemorate the MacDonald's massacre by the Campbells. Down the road in South Ballachulish is a monument to James Stewart who was wrongly hanged for his alleged part in the massacre. If the tales of blood, guts and betrayal in the Visitor Centre don't put you off your food then head for the Fish & Chip caravan or local Spar. The Thunderace's brakes are tested just once as a deer bounded into the road - at least the flat cap in the Volvo is half predictable. After all this is sheep and deer country. It's also skiing country - either the dry or the snowy variety - we could try anything once. Whisky distilleries are scattered here and there to tempt you once the bike is tucked up safely.
Once you head has cleared the A82 has tributaries that each in turn lead to something special. And for my next trip... Wonder up to Ben Nevis or nip over the Corran Ferry to Strontian & Ardnamuchan? Twist down the A828 to Oban and perhaps a ferry to Ireland? Whistle up the A87 over the sea to Skye or catch the A830 to Mallaig? The strange roundabout at Ballachulish could prompt a few circles whilst you decide which way to go. Sod it! Let's go back up the glen just one more time.
Banbury to: Stratford on Avon
This road has a good mix of long straights, twisty bits and several drops and climbs. Not a great surface but that just adds to the excitment - about 28 miles in all and passed through some nice villages with decent pubs. From Banbury follow the signs for Stratford and beware of a couple of Gatsos until u get out of the town. 3-4 miles out of Banbury is Wroxton - keep you speed down (30mph) and stop for a pint or grub (there's a couple of places on the main road and a nice traditional pub in the village centre).Heading towards Edge Hill the road is good for 100+ but as you approach EH itself there are a couple of sharp twisty bends that can catch you out. Watch out for Volvos and Sunday drivers especially in summer. Going down Edge Hill fast is a challenge (hairpin) and if u do wring it's neck watch out for cars crossing over as you come out of the dip at the bottom. Great view over the countryside as u descend by the way.
Futher on towards Pillerton Priors it's twisty and fast. Just before u get there u can do a left on to the Fosse Way and head for Cirencester but that's another story. Cross the A429 (roundabout) and blast through more twisties followed by some sweepers with good overtaking opportunities. As you come into Stratford beware of plod and tourists. Head for the river and on Sunday you'll find a shed load of other bikers have a fag and a choc-ice. Stratford itself is full of the usual tourist tat so it's good to make loads of noise and generally play. There are tons of other good routes around the area and if you want to meet loads of other bikers on a Wednesday night head for the Watermans Arms on the A4177 at Hatton near Warwick (about 10 miles). Enjoy...
Bedford to: Somewhere near Peterborough (A1)
I first rode this little blinder back in 1986 when I passed my bike test and have never tired of it. Coming out of Bedford past the Golf centre on your right there is nearly always a speed trap, so take it easy until you see the G.L.F (go like f..k) sign. You start off with a tight right hander and then swoop downhill- watch for blind car drivers at the jct at the bottom of the hill. This road consists of many 90 deg. bends but all are visible and the land is mainly undulating. Because of these it is a cracking place to learn how to get your knee down. In one of the tiny villages there is a primary school right by the side of the road so PLEASE keep your speed down thru there folks. When you reach the T- junction at Kimbolton turn left and through Kimbolton itself. Immediately after the village turn right and carry on, the road becoming a litte bumpy in places. Cross over the A14 on the flyover and turn right at the T jct.After Old Weston turn right at first jct (this is easy to miss!) and carry on. Enjoy until the A1 and turn round- the road is very different the other way as some bends have non constant radii!
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