It was Sunday afternoon just before the half term break started and as I sat on my sofa writing this post I could feel the excitement of planning a trip welling up inside me – to the point that I was grinning inainly to myself.
My first real trip out on the bike I could only call a success: the ride to Portsmouth had improved my confidence in both the bike’s capabilities and my own. I’m no longer as nervous as I was when I saddle up now.
Anyone who has been following my blog will know the reason I’m taking these steps. For those who don’t, my aim eventually is to ride from London to Madeenah and Mecca. That goal is a while off yet. For now, I’m taking steps to try and prepare myself for long rides. So the next logical step was to travel a bit further, probably to stay out for a few days, to see what riding long distance is like and to find my ‘comfort zone’ ie how far can I ride before being too uncomfortable in the saddle?
There were a few factors that needed to be considered here. My CBR600F will apparently average 38 miles to the gallon, and has a range of 150 miles. However: there’s no fuel gauge. And if I was ever going to have to stand on the side of the road at some point with a bike that won’t go, I’d rather it was due to some sort of mechanical failure and not because I was too daft to stop and refuel in time. Therefore I would need to plan for a fuel stop,say, every 75 – 80 miles to begin with. Just to see how it faired.
By the way my beloved bike has a name. It’s Kingpin, and I will be referring to it as such as we go through this blog. Why Kingpin you ask? Well it’s a bit of a story and not really relevant to this topic. Oh alright I’ll tell you.
About 7 years ago I started work at Heathrow airport. When I first started, my shift meant that I had to wake up at 3:15am to the on a bus by 3:45 and to start work at 5am. Not fun. And it wasn’t cheap either – in fact even on an oyster Card it was costing me close to £45 per month just to commute.
So I had the idea of buying a moped to get in: it would be cheaper for the fuel than the oyster card, and it meant I could get up later and be home sooner. It would also help wake me up in the mornings – because a can of Monster while sitting on the bus at that time of morning wasn’t really doing it.
Fortunately a friend of mine had a Yamaha moped he didn’t use any more so I bought it off him. And that’s really where my love of bikes began. Anyway on the route in to work I was having to turn left at traffic lights, where the road turns into an s-bend before straightening out again. I mentioned to one of my friends that it must look a bit odd for other drivers to see a guy on a moped leaning in to the curves as if he was riding a sports bike. My friend laughed and said “we should call you hairpin”. I liked the name, but not for me – for the bike. So I nicknamed my moped Hairpin. Then unfortunately Hairpin and I were involved in an accident; somebody broadsided me on a roundabout and Hairpin was deemed a write-off. Once the insurance money came through I bought another bike, but a manual one this time. Another yamaha but a YBR in black. I loved it. Especially having manual gears, and leaning into the curves didn’t look so silly now. I nicknamed it Hairpin II.
After 4 years on a CBT I decided it was time to move on to something bigger, so I took and thankfully (and on second try) passed my A licence. My CBR600F is my first big bike and it’s absolutely brilliant. Once I actually got it running – but that’s another story. Anyway since it is the biggest of the bikes that I’ve owned, a suitably statured name was required. And Kingpin seemed to fit in nicely with my choices so far.
Anyway back to my plan. I needed to allow for fuel stops on the way to wherever I went. Next step? To plan where I was going.
Having looked at a combination of Google Maps and the weather forecast for the next week, I settled on Torquay as my destination. I liked the idea of heading towards the coast through the countryside of the New Forest and Dorset in to Devon, with plenty of interesting places to stop along the way should the whim take me. The distance shows as 189 miles – which should be plenty to test my touring mettle to start with.
As my intended departure day approached I started to gather everything that: a) I thought I would need without going too overboard, and b) I could fit in my tail bag without it bursting open somewhere along the motorway.
However. As Muslims we know that everything is destined for you. From when you are born to the day that you die. Everything you do, or say, and everywhere you go is already pre-determined. And, as it turned out, even though I had planned my route and my luggage and my accommodation, and was excited about leaving, it was not my destiny to go at that time. You see just before I got paid I was hit with three financial issues which I had to deal with within the next week or two.I also replaced Kingpin’s brakes, which cost a little more than I had expected. In short I no longer had enough money left over to make the trip. Of course I was disappointed. But just because we intend to do something it doesn’t mean it will actually happen. If it is not something that is willed for you to do then that is that. And we accept that. After all there’s nothing you can do about it. Allah’s will cannot be altered by anything a mere human can do.
So Saturday morning arrived. The day after I was meant to leave. OK so I wasn’t sitting in a hotel room. I was at home. On my sofa. Looking out of my window at the same view I saw yesterday morning. No seagulls. But: it WAS sunny. And although a bit cold it wasn’t enough to put me off riding anywhere. So in that moment I made a decision: I was going to ride to Brighton, but by staying off the motorway and taking the scenic route. Not only would the route be a lot more scenic – taking in the Surrey Hills and then heading towards Crawley and on to Brighton – but when I looked on Google Maps the route showed as just over 2 hrs to get there. This, I thought, would be an opportunity to see how long I could ride for without having to stop for a rest.
So, after making note of the time, I set off and headed for Esher then out past Oxshott to join the A24 through the Surrey Hills.
Remember how I said earlier that Allah’s will cannot be altered and does not change? And that just because you have an intention to do something it doesn’t mean it will actually happen unless Allah has willed it for you? Well at just before 11 o’clock, whilst approaching Box Hill, I made an impulse decision to go to the top and stop to admire the view since the sky was so clear. So my intention to ride non-stop for experimental purposes went straight out the window in a heartbeat. But on the plus side I had already been riding for just under an hour and I’d had no issues with either Kingpin or myself. And if you’d seen the view from the top of the hill you’d have been as pleased as I was that you’d stopped too.
See what I mean?
Anyway, 15.8 miles ridden and 54 minutes to do it. I decided it was time to carry on, but this time with no more stops. Next destination was Brighton seafront. I carried on down the A24 through Dorking and Horsham, then joined the A27 for the final leg into Brighton town centre.
Once I arrived I checked my time and distance: overall I had ridden 70.2 miles and it had taken me 2hrs and 20 mins to do it. That made my time in the saddle about an hour and twenty minutes. Again no issues, but it wasn’t much longer than the first part of my ride, so it was unlikely to reveal anything new.
I walked into town: it was pretty much the same as any other town on a Saturday. Plenty of bustle, plenty of noise. I walked back down to the beach and sat with my lunch looking at the sea. I stayed about two hours in total, once I’d finished my donuts (well I didn’t say it was a healthy lunch) and the seagulls had stopped trying to guilt trip me into giving them some, I bought some rock and fudge to take back to friends and family then headed back to Kingpin. The interesting thing was that I’d actually enjoyed the ride up more than the destination, and I was keen to get going again.
The ride home took me an hour and fifty minutes to double back the same way I came. And I did it without stopping this time ,which brought up a couple of issues that I didn’t get on the way up; presumably because I stopped for a while. The first was discomfort in my left wrist, which got progressively more uncomfortable to the point where I was having trouble cancelling the indicators with my thumb. The second, however, was more acute. It was cramp in my left hip, which seemed to be triggered by moving my foot forward to change gear. Once it started it didn’t matter what position I put my leg in I couldn’t seem to get rid of it. At one point it was so painful I was going to pull over and try to walk it off. It went eventually, but I will need to research both issues to see what causes them and what can be done to stop them happening again.
So what did I learn from my trip? Well firstly don’t always expect things to go the way you expect.
Secondly from the checks that I’ve made myself (ie looked in the tank to see how much fuel was left) it looks like the tank range figure is pretty accurate – but I’m not willing to try and push that theory to the absolute limit. So realistically any long trip I take now would need to have a stop every 100 miles for fuelling.
Thirdly being in the saddle for long periods may not be an option for me. In fact I think my fuel stops will have to coincide with a rest stop as well, so my riding limit will be either 200 or 300 miles per day.
Fourthly, and probably most importantly, is that a long trip is not going to be as much fun if I worry too much about how much distance I’ve covered per day: I’d much rather have a relaxed trip where I can enjoy the scenery and make any stops that take my fancy.
Remember brothers: life is about making the most of your journey to reach your desired destination. Just as you try and make sure you cover as many details to make your vacation as enjoyable as you can, so should we be doing the same to reach Paradise. So try and do as many good deeds as you can-especially when you remember things that you have perhaps forgotten in the past. If your memory is anything like mine then this will DEFINITELY have happened to you. After all doesn’t everyone