Friday, 30 March 2018

At long last 2018 is underway!

Is it just me, or is this winter lasting for the longest time?  Maybe it is because all my trips were planned and booked by the end of February, maybe because we had a couple of new riders join our wee group and we were all desperate to get out or maybe it is just because there is no end in sight of the shite weather.
On the second attempt we finally managed to get out for the day, after calling off due to snow and ice two weeks beforehand.
As the weather was still a bit on the cold side, we decided to head south.  Andy and I hatched a route around Dalveen pass, Crawfordjohn, Wanlockhead and then back up the Dalveen pass for food at Abington services.
I met up with the two newcomers, Scot and Stuart outside Polmont then headed along the M9 to Stirling services to meet up with the old hands, Andy and Colin.
After 15 minutes farting around trying the get the Scala Riders to pair up we gave up, got on the bikes and headed for the the motorway and Abington for a coffee before picking up the good stuff, nothing much to note about the M74!

Bikes ready to go at Abington

Coffee consumed and route passed around we picked up the A702, Andy leading the way for the first run south down the Dalveen pass.  As I was on a loner GS, the RT was in for some work, I decided to stay at the back to try and keep everyone on the route.
Passing through Elvanfoot the A702 begins to twist it's way along the Dalveen pass with the Lowther hills rising up on either side of the road.  Three bikes ahead I can hear Scot's stunning red 1260  Multistrada popping and banging away as the quickshifter helps him up and down the box.  The road is surprisingly quiet and for most of the way we have the road to ourselves.  As the miles Stuart, on his first group outing, is making better progress as he gets his eye in and the feel for his Triumph.  The GS is coping well with the long sweeping curves.  I think the RT, being road biased is a better bike for these long sweeping well surfaced curves.
Turning off the A702 onto a rutted and gravelly single track road the GS suddenly comes into its own.  Good visibility over hedges and softer suspension make negotiating the pothole strewn road a breeze.
After a mile or so of single track we turned north on the A76 and headed for Sanquhar.  Even though it is a main road it has some really fast, well surfaced corners between Carronbridge and Mennock.  After stopping for a quick fuel stop for some in Sanquhar, we were looking for the B740 on our right.  I found this road by mistake last year and what a find it was.  It's a junior Dalveen pass.  The corners are a wee bit tighter with a wee bit more gravel and mud about, but just as much fun.  Closer to Crawfordjohn the road opens up a wee bit and I passed Stuart on a right hand bend and made after Colin.  I wanted see if Colin's Arrow canned Triumph triple or Stuart Scorpion canned triple sounded better.  The Scorpion wins, just...
Andy pulled over at Crawfordjohn to let us group up again before we picked up another single track road over the the B797 for Leadhills and Wanlockhead.  The bikes sounded great climbing up to Leadhills with the road closed in with low hills and forests.  The road surface through the villages is shocking and I was glad to be on the GS!  After Wanlockhead the road dives steeply down, winding it's way down to a wide open pass.  We pulled up here for a wee leg stretch and a few photos.

The bikes after Wanlockhead
Pano on the ride down from Wanlockhead

A few miles later we were back on the A76 heading south enjoying the curves from Mennock back to the Dalveen pass.  Andy missed the turn and we had to negotiate an uphill hairpin onto the A702 that made the Bealach na Ba look tame!
This bit of the A702 is fast becoming one of my favourite bits of road.  The scenery is stunning, the road surface is smooth, the corners are fast with good visibility ahead and it has always quiet when I have been here.  All the way back up the Dalveen pass we never had to pass a single other vehicle, it was as good as it gets.
Back at Abington after a Burger King and Stuart wishing he had filled up a Sanquhar after being held up for £1.39 a litre at the the services, we headed home.
Avoiding the motorway we headed north through Carstairs and Forth before stopping near Linlithgow before going our separate ways.
A grand 200 mile Sunday and a great way to start the 2018 riding year...

Despite the clear skies, Stuart discovered the roads are still filthy!