Day Two: The Big One
As I strapped my panniers back on to Kingpin I was buzzing from a mix of excitement and trepidation. In just a few minutes I would start my first real foray into touring with a vague idea of where I was going and no idea what to expect. And as I reached Porlock about 6 miles away from Minehead my first challenge loomed menacingly ahead of me: Porlock Hill. A 1 in 4 gradient incorporating s-bends and a turn that almost doubles back on you near the top. This was going to be interesting! As Kingpin started to complain on the shallower part of the hill, I changed down into first to come round the corner and be faced with what I can only describe as the start of a roller coaster – you know the part where you start to chug up a steep gradient to get to the top? That as how it felt, albeit more scenic. The canopy of the trees kept the sun off me as we slowly made our way to the top and round the corner ; after that the gradient shallowed out and we managed to get into second gear,then third. Then we got into the real county lanes: narrow twisty ribbons of tarmac through variations of tall hedgerows and stone walls. Since the traffic was pretty much non-existent at this point it was easy to make the most of these roads, leaning over steeply into the corners and accelerating hard wherever the opportunity arose.
Then after a while the roads opened up into the Moors, and what an amazing experience- with the Moors over my left shoulder and the coast to my right. Truly a difficult ride to describe – the only way you would know exactly how it feels is by experiencing it for yourself. And I would encourage anyone who hasn’t travelled this road to do so – it’s absolutely phenomenal.
The road climbs down a steep hill, with a sheer cliff face on your left and the sea unnervingly close to your right, into Lynmouh – a pretty village with a small harbour and the entrance of the river (?) To the sea. Nestled within steep hills it’s a picturesque place for a stop – which I did briefly before carrying on through the tree canopy-covered road of the A39 on towards Newquay.
Now I’m well aware that I was very fortunate with the trip: I had barely any traffic and superb weather. This experience however has got me hooked on touring, and given me a determination to eventually ride to Madeenah. Not that here haven’t been a few niggles – don’t get me wrong. The most annoying was the fact that I brought my action camera with me – but forgot to bring the helmet mount! So I couldn’t film ANY of the roads I’d travelled. Photos only then – which I was really gutted about, but is completely down to me packing on the same day I left.
The second niggle was fuel. Kingpin’s tank range is 150 miles according to the specifications, but at motorway speed and also in the twisty roads that came down to around 120. So I found myself juggling between wanting to top the tank up when I had the chance to worrying about whether I had enough in the tank to get to where I was going.
My third niggle was comfort. Kingpin’s seat, being a sports tourer, is more padded that a sports bike. I was also wearing padded cycling shorts whilst riding (THAT was a weird feeling; imaging walking around everywhere with a rolled up towel between your legs and you’ll get the idea). But I found that about 2 hours in the saddle at a time was enough – after that I would start to get uncomfortable. Especially on my wrist from vibration at higher speeds. But on some of the twistier roads stopping wasn’t a particularly easy thing to do, and a couple of times I ended up riding for about 3 hours before stopping. That was too long for me: the first time this happened was trying to reach Newquay.
By the time I got to my accommodation I was a bit of a mess: I was uncomfortable pretty much everywhere, hot, sweaty and a little stressed out. Not exactly how I’d wanted to be during this trip. Once I’d changed, showered and fallen asleep for about 2 hours, however, I felt better. But I used the experience as a reminder not to do it again. And, as I’ll explain later, it didn’t necessarily work.