Last weekend I went to meet up with my brother, Tim, and a friend, James, for his 30th birthday celebrations in Cardiff. As we all ride we thought we’d take advantage of the sunny weather and take a ride on the Saturday.
My brother rode down from Bingham, near Nottingham, and I headed across from Leighton Buzzard on Friday night. Our bikes: I was on my Ducati 848 Evo, Tim on his CBR 600RR and James on his TL1000.
As I was staying over on Friday and Saturday (thank you Nan for putting us up!) I used my new Oxford tail pack. The tail pack was really good but the Duke has even less places to fit bungee cords than you might think. With a bit of lateral thinking I soon had the thing attached and virtually forgot about it the whole time I was riding with it on. I would recommend using some protective rubber mesh matting under the tailpack to protect your paintwork – thank you Chef for letting me nab some of your supply. I don’t think I can give a better recommendation for luggage than: You can ride and not really notice it. This is a pic of the tailpack, which expands upwards (I forgot to take a pic of it on my bike):
In the end I didn’t get to Cardiff until quite late but nonetheless we all got together around 8am to head out for our ride. After brimming the tanks and checking pressures we headed off on our route from Cardiff to Aberystwyth. I will talk through our route in outline as if you’re in the area it’s a really fun ride to do. First we headed up towards Brecon (A470) riding through a section of the Beacons. I love this part of the world (probably because I’m from South Wales) as the scenery riding through the Beacons is spectacular.
Once we got near Brecon we then headed towards Llandovery. This section was one of my favourites of the day – only about 10 miles or so but loads of fun. Once we hit Llandovery we stopped at the West End Café for a drink before setting off up the A483 to Builth Wells. From there we rode up towards Rhayader to get on to the A44 towards Aberystwyth. If you have not ridden this section of the A44 then make sure you do at some point. On any bike, but especially a sportsbike if you enjoy cornering, this is some of the best fun you can have whilst fully clothed. There are a few hairpins about 15 miles short of Aber which are the sort of corners you ride a bike for.
When we got to Aber we were starting to melt in our leathers so found some shade and took on some food. If you go to Aber head straight to the Promenade as there is a big bike parking section right on the seafront. To the north end of the promenade there is a large hill which, if you climb up it (or pay £4 to go up on the train), has a café on top where the views are great.
On the way back, we didn’t have time to do the same route so had to be a bit more direct. We did still get to ride back down that section of the A44 though and the road was fairly clear on our way back.
By the time we got back to Cardiff we had done about 250 miles, we were all aching a bit and my knee sliders were a little more worn. It was one of those rides where, after a while, you felt completely ‘in tune’ with the bike in a way that you realised you were negotiating fast complex sections of road without having to think at all about what you are doing. With that said, you do not have to do bonkers speed on the road to have fun. We saw a few bikes out doing really stupid speeds and it annoys me that we all get tarred with that brush (I’ll leave that hobby horse for another time).
The Duke behaved perfectly and can actually go quite a long way on a tank of fuel. I don’t know about you but I find it frustrating that the reserve light comes on when you have at least 1/3 of your tank left. Give me a 15-20 mile warning, that’s fine. Perhaps petrol stations are further apart in the Bologna region. I took a fairly scenic route back to LB from Cardiff on the Sunday and didn’t really hold back on the bike. I did 145 miles with quite a bit of fuel left in the tank and I worked out afterwards that it did it at just over 57mpg! Not bad for a bike which at over 7000rpm feels like you’ve just started up a warp drive.