I'm Matt, 31 years old and I live in Scotland. This is me:
What I'll be doing in this thread is quite simple. I'll be riding around Scotland taking photos and videos of this beautiful country. I don't do offroad riding (neither does my bike) so these are strictly on road ride reports. The photos at the start aren't very good but they improve as time goes by. Here's what you can expect:
I'll also be giving you my thoughts and insights as I go. They'll be crap but you might be a weirdo like me and find something interesting.
I have a new (to me) bike! It's a 2000 Honda Deauville. It doesn't do offroad and it doesn't do 150mph but it's reliable, very comfortable and is fast when it needs to be. It's a Euro-Tourer so I have some storage with built in panniers but they're not so big that they stop me filtering through traffic. Certainly for my long term touring plans (UK, Ireland and Europe) I would consider it my ideal bike.
The bike being replaced is this one:
Here is my bike in Adventure Mode. It's a Suzuki Marauder 125. It doesn't have heated grips, metal panniers, sump guard, suspension, beak or anything else to get excited about. It's a pretty good bike for what it is though. I like it, though it became obvious very quickly that when I do get a licence and a 'proper bike' that I'd be looking for something more capable of handling rough roads without bottoming out every ten minutes or so. Also, the riding position is comfy for a while but seems to concentrate all your weight onto one point as you can't really move about in the seat. This means long journeys end up with you having a pretty painful ass. And no-one wants that. Up until today, my longest journey has been about 120 miles round trip:
I'll give you my life story now. Feel free to skip this, there won't be a quiz at the end. I'll put it in green so you know when to start paying attention again if you decide to give it a miss.
I'm new to bikes. While numerous members of my family have had them over the years, biking isn't in my blood like it is for some of you. I was 28 before I took it up and bought mine in August 2010. The main driving force was that my dad had bought one a few months earlier. He had owned one a long time ago and was re-discovering biking in his retirement. He imported a cheap bike from China and we built it together in the garden. It was pretty enjoyable father-son stuff and we both got a lot out of it. I know nothing of mechanics but I'm good at coming up with solutions to problems while my Dad was an engineer so knew what he was doing for the most part. We worked well as a team. It was on this Chinese Wildcat that I had my first go on a bike in a carpark.
I passed my CBT and bought a Suzuki Marauder. I had decided I liked the more laid back approach to biking that cruisers provided and had narrowed down my shortlist of bikes to about two or three. The Marauder appeared locally at a good price and I bought it as quickly as I could.
So we did a bit of short distance touring together. It was great. I fell head over heels in love with biking from that point on. We'd find little decrepit back roads that were totally unsuitable for novice riders and road bikes and go visit parts of Scotland I never knew existed. Our plan was to get our licences together, get bigger, comfortable bikes and do longer tours of Scotland and even Europe.
It was just 50 days after getting my bike that things went wrong. On one of these dodgy back roads, I lowsided. A rookie mistake, I knew what I'd done wrong before I hit the ground. I'd been coming down a gravel covered road too fast and snatched at the front brake so it locked up and I fell off. I landed on my left knee and slid down the road with all my weight on it for a short time before I fell onto my side. Luckily there was nothing solid for me to slide into and I was geared up. Had my gear not had knee pads, due to the nature of the fall I would likely have permanently injured my knee. As it was I had a stiff knee for a month. The bike had superficial damage to the paint and both indicators on the left hand side were gone. My Dad was gutted as taking that road had been his choice. It was clear he felt responsible but it was also clear that the only person at fault was myself. Lesson learned.
The next day Dad took me to a local bike place and we looked at replacement indicators and discussed what was needed. As much as he was upset that his choice of road had led to my accident, I could tell part of him was looking forward to getting the bike fixed up. It'd be the two of us working on a bike again. I'm ashamed to say I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as he was. I was still annoyed with myself about falling off and couldn't bring myself to get excited about anything.
The accident, the bike and everything else was about to become trivial however as the next morning my dad suffered a sudden heart attack and died. This was very hard to take. I had been very close to my Dad. He wasn't just my father, he was my best friend too. He was overweight and smoked so it wasn't exactly unbelievable but this did not make it any easier. At times I've selfishly found myself wishing he'd had just a mild heart attack so I could have spoken to him before he went. He had watched his own father suffer and die in a hospital bed though and it haunted him something fierce so I've taken solace in the fact that we did not get to share a similar experience.
My sister decided that the best way to get over the loss of Dad was to go travelling on a once in a lifetime trip. I agreed. Flights, hotels, campervans and bus tickets were all booked and off we went. It was a 7 month trip around China, NZ, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. It was fantastic and was exactly what was needed.
What it did mean though was that the bike repair had been put on hold to plan the trip and apart from a few hours on a 50cc scooter dressed up like a cruiser I did no riding in 2011. In fact there was a point when I wondered if I would be giving up riding. There were two reasons behind this.
1) The last time I was on it I had fallen off. It sapped the confidence from me.
2) I would be doing it without my Dad. This was the hardest part. I associated everything about biking, with him. It wouldn't be the same on my own.
The beautiful landscapes of New Zealand and Australia however had ensured that I was soon itching to get back in the saddle. When I did get back on my bike in early 2012 it was with mixed emotions. Happy to be back on two wheels but obviously sad that I wouldn't be sharing it all with my Dad. My travelling had done a good job of getting my head straight though and I had come to accept that I'd be doing everything without my Dad and biking was no different.
All this is a long way of saying that I'm a n00b. One with L plates no less. While I did cram in quite a few thousand miles in the short time I had in 2010, I don't have a lot of experience. I'm also rusty, having not ridden for a year. In the last week I've been out almost every day though so shaking the cobwebs off as well as enjoying myself.
Right, storytime over. Let's get down to business.
In Scotland it's pretty easy to decide where to go for a ride; North. For me, this means passing Stirling. There's a ring road that takes you round the outskirts which is handy. Drops you off right at the foot of the castle.
Today's trip was the longest I've done so far. A whole 200 miles. My plan was to head to a small village called Killin and sit by the Falls of Dochart
and head home again but it was nice and I was feeling good so decided to push on a bit. The further I got, the further I wanted to go so made the decision to head to Glen Coe
Glen Coe is Scotland's Natural Wonder. It's had a hold on me since I got the bike. But between crashes, deaths and holidays I'd never really had the chance to go. I had seen amazing sights in loads of countries around the world but never seen the most impressive one here in my own country. That was going to change today.
Almost the entire road up to Glen Coe is superb. The road following Loch Lubnaig is a personal favourite. It follows the banks of the loch and weaves in and out of the landscape. There are times when you think the guy that designed it must have been a biker.
Further north is Glen Ogle
. It was not named after a leering pervert but is rather a bastardisation of the original Gaelic name (Glen Eagal). I think.
Next stop was Killin and the Falls of Dochart.
The Fall of Dochart was the last place my Dad and I visited on the bikes before he died. It was on the way home from here that I had my accident so it will always be special to me. It was while sitting on the rocks here (I'm amazed Health & Safety haven't declared it too dangerous to venture out onto the falls) enjoying my lunch when I decided to keep going. It would have been easy to head home and be back before my ass hurt but the sun was shining and I had a natural wonder to see. Ass hurting be damned!
On the road to Tyndrum. It was cold:
The Green Welly Stop is a favourite stopping place for bikers and other tourists. When I arrived it was full of both. From what I could tell, most of these guys were from Northern Ireland. I got the feeling that everyone was watching me leave the car park, waiting for me to make a mistake. Thankfully I got away without stalling or falling off. I was probably imagining the scrutiny anyway!
So after a quick pitstop, it was on to Glen Coe. It's hard to describe the feeling you get when you see it come into view. The hardest pat is not pulling over every hundred yards to take more pictures. Just as I pulled over an RAF Tornado screamed by over head, lower than the hilltops in these photos. If I was an RAF pilot, I'd fly through Glen Coe as well.
I had been worried about the amount of tourists I'd encounter. It wasn't bad. Only saw 2 buses the whole time. I felt bad for them. I've done the bus tour thing before, elsewhere. It can be a laugh and you tend to meet cool people, but you don't get to experience things properly. They weren't getting off the bus at the beauty spots just to get pictures. There were getting off the bus to they could see the fucking place full stop. On a bike, the whole world is a beauty spot. I didn't even envy their heating.
It was time to head off home. By this point I was pretty tired and very cold. The wind had picked up quite a bit which chilled things even further. So off I went. Was hard taking my eyes off the wing mirror though. I was riding into the wind at this point which was slowing me down terribly. The bike would not get over 45mph. At first I thought I'd damaged the bike somehow until I realised what the problem actually was. You know you need to buy a bigger bike when the wind increases your journey time by an hour.
A couple of hours later and I was home. All in all it was a 7 and a half hour trip . Which isn't really at all impressive when you look at what some people on this website do but it was hard going for me. Still, it's been far and away the best ride I've had yet. Let's hope I can top it sometime!