A report by Mick Culpan:
Having been unanimously elected to the highly prestigious position of ride out co-ordinator for 2013 I was somewhat apprehensive of what lay ahead as I fastened my helmet, started my bike and made my way through Wakefield to our new rendezvous point at the Redbeck Cafe on Doncaster Road at our new start time of 8.30am for 9.00.
It was around 8.00am when I pulled in to the car park and to my relief found Tracy had already arrived and was leaning on the fence watching the traffic pass by. At least I'm not on my own I thought as I parked my bike next to hers. We made our way into the Cafe and sat at a table while tucking into a full breakfast. Now this is what I call a good start to a ride out I recalled, but hoped my choice of change of venue and start time would be vindicated as I know it did raise certain concerns when I first suggested it.
I was just in the middle of stating my intention to resign from my post at the next meeting if no one else showed up when the door was flung open and Sharon, Terry, Laura and Tom bustled in. I knew they wouldn't let me down but they were the only ones who had definitely said they were coming.
Shortly after my old YPR drinking buddy and fellow rock and roll legend Jagster pulled up, followed by Wakefield MAG stalwart and new Vice Rep, Chas. I was particularly pleased to see Chas as I know he had expressed reservations about my changes to start point and time but he seemed well happy as he tucked into his full breakfast as did Harley Pete, Jill and Andy who had joined our now merry gathering. We now had a total of 11 riders on 9 bikes which considering the time of year and uncertain weather conditions was a creditable turnout and made the months of planning and critical preparations well worthwhile.
After giving a quick briefing on the '2nd man' system of marking route deviations and advising estimated travelling time to our first pit stop (p1ss stop) and identifying lead bike and end bike we were on our way. Tracy had volunteered to lead us to our first stop at Tesco's in Rawtenstall (pronounced Rottenstall) not because she needed to do her weekly shop but because there was a large car park and Cafe and toilets and so was considered most convenient.
I took up position at the rear of the column as I grasped the opportunity to test my recently purchased Satnav, and also I wanted to observe the rest of the group as we had some fairly new riders with us and I needed to see if my instructions had been understood or if I ought to improve my presentation techniques. I needn't have worried as everyone including Laura, who had only been riding a couple of months, was using the 2nd man system to such great effect that we actually found our way out of Wakefield without losing anyone - a triumph in itself!
We proceeded along Agbrigg road towards Durkar, then along Denby Dale road until we turned off towards Midgley before heading through Flockton towards Grange Moor and Kirkheaton. It was around this point where we were held up by mobile traffic lights at some roadwork's which appeared to be stuck on red! It was an awfully long time before we were able to make any progress. We cautiously filtered our way through the snarled up traffic to the front of the queue of cars, many of which did actually move to the side to let us through - such is the power and influence of Wakefield MAG - they obviously knew who not to mess with!
We then dropped down into Elland and took the first of our unplanned route deviations much to the consternation and annoyance of my Tom-tom which insisted I make an immediate 'U' turn which I of course ignored completely. However we were soon back on the same route as the Satnav again and heading off towards Ripponden, then Littleborough and Todmorden. We were well up into the hills now and around every sweeping bend opened up thrilling new vistas of rolling countryside interspersed with silvery ribbons of rivers flowing into the glistening glassy surface of vast reservoirs, I imagined monster pike chasing down rainbow trout beneath the glass-like surface.
Our progress was being watched with a sort of uninterest by flocks of sheep and their new lambs that playfully butted each other as they vied for their mother's attention. We passed through Bacup without incident and arrived at Tesco's in Rawtenstall for our first convenience break.
There was a mass exodus in the direction of the toilet after which we settled in a corner of the Cafe that might have been reserved for us as we were all gathered together and spent a jovial time over our coffee. I'm not sure what sort of coffee Jagster had ordered but it arrived in a pint glass and had a big frothy head on it. I was going to order a large Americano until I saw the size of the mug which was more like a casserole dish, so opted for a small one instead but it was still the size of a soup bowl.
We were all in high spirits at this point as we had made good progress and hadn't lost anyone, also the route we were travelling on was awesome, for which Tracy deserves the credit as she had planned it meticulously. After a group photo in the car park we were back on our bikes this time with yours truly in the lead.
I headed towards Ramsbottom and Edgworth then Chapeltown and Belmont. This was real bandit country; I was imagining being chased by marauding Blackfoot Indians and fully expected to see a war party of Apache's trying to head us off at the pass to Dead Man's Gulch. It then dawned on me that I wasn't in America but southern Africa and those drums I could hear were not drums at all, but the sound of spears striking shields as thousands of Zulu braves ran barefoot over the hills towards the next battle. It was then that I was brought back down to earth not by gunshots as I had thought but Chas's exhaust pipes cutting into my reverie.
It was hard to imagine that only a relatively short distance from home we were travelling on such good traffic free roads through glorious scenery that only 2 weeks previously would have been buried under 10 feet of snow. We were fast approaching our destination and rather than turn left as I knew I should have, I turned right as I had spied a narrow road which went winding through a forest and I was curious to see where it went. I was really enjoying negotiating a tight twisting undulating track that led us between dry stone walls and pine tree plantations never knowing what lay around the next bend, when I realised my enthusiasm had got the better of me and I was riding alone. Had the rest of our merry band been swallowed up by the tree spirits for daring to break their silence or had they been captured by mountain trolls who were preparing them for breakfast? I decided I had better wait to find out.
Before too long Jagster appeared so he had obviously escaped unscathed but what of the rest of them? We didn't have too long to find out, as it appeared one of our crew had been attacked by a giant boulder no doubt hurled from an Orc's catapult, they had fortunately survived the ordeal and were in good health. I made the decision to turn back the way we had come lest we meet more of Sauron's army or marauding wolf packs. And so it was that I led our merry band through the enchanted forest and up the road to Rivington Hall Barn.
Many more bikers had decided it was high time to put some air in the tyres and give their bikes a much needed blast after months of snow and ice had kept them immobile through the dark days of winter. We went into the barn which has been converted into a huge restaurant and found some tables and chairs to park our weary bones upon. We now decided to sample the many and varied culinary delights on offer. I had heard that Rivi was known for its generous portions and this was proven to be a fact, as I struggled to force the last of my home made steak pie down my throat. I noticed the rest of the gang were having similar problems with their hot pots and carveries etc. In fact much to my disappointment and to everyone else's dismay I couldn't manage any of the delicious looking homemade cherry pie, but Andy did!!!
There were a few trade stands set up around the periphery of the barn and we browsed their wares before making our way outside to find everything soaking wet through. It seems whilst we were tucking into our dinner there had been a mini cloudburst which fortunately for us had dissipated. After a short walk around looking at all the weird and wonderful bikes on display we decided to start our journey home. Once again I took the lead and searched for a petrol station as Terry was running rather low. It was around this point that my Satnav stopped working due to a charging issue which I have since rectified. However, all was not lost as Jagster produced his Garmin with a flourish and volunteered to lead us home.
Little did we know it was set to go to Dodworth by the shortest route possible and would not allow any deviations. This took us further south than we would have planned and through more built up areas than we would have liked, but nevertheless it did its job and brought us back to the right side of the Pennines and back to civilisation. We stopped just before Holmfirth and as everyone now knew where they were we decided to disband and make our own way home.
So our first ride out of the year had been completed successfully, with everyone having a good day out and arriving home in one piece. As I have said previously the rides this year have an emphasis on the ride itself not necessarily the destination, it is all about enjoying the experience of riding your bike on good empty roads through breath-taking scenery. Hopefully we achieved that, but believe me the best is yet to come, so try to join us on the next ride out - and the one after that - I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
Ride safe, ride happy