Having accepted the offer what was I going to ride up there? It was going to be a mini tour as such so I plumped for the 2008 Honda Pan European, a bike I have admired and secretly wanted for a long time, so this test would either enforce my idea of it or blow it right out of the water.
To save myself some ear ache on my return I asked er indoors if she fancied a trip up North, and once work was sorted she came along for the trip.
First I had to get the bike so a trip to the Honda Institute was made on the Friday and the trip home of some 80 miles gave me a quick insight into what the bike would be like. A quick blast on the motorway to ‘swerve’ speed produced no sudden weave or any other problems so I was happy.
The bike itself makes you realise why so many people have bought, and keep buying them. The 1300cc V-tec engine is a peach, there is power everywhere in the rev range irrespective of which gear you find yourself in, and when it is kicking out 117bhp @ 8,000 and maximum torque of 117Nm @ 6,500 you can see why.
As the FJR the pan only has 5 gears but the way they are set means the engine never struggles, even at high speeds and the bodywork keeps you in a nice little cocoon out of the worst of the weather. The electric screen works very well from a switch on the left bar, and a 3 position riders seat means you can set it up just right for you.
The dash has everything with multi trip meters, speedo, temp, fuel gauge etc. The tank holds 29 litres of go go juice and once you start travelling that’s what you do…go, and for a long way. We hit 200 miles around 10 miles south of Lockerbie and you then get a trip metre counting down the miles left, a great tool.
One of my favourite pieces and not necessarily something that others consider is the view behind from the mirrors, the fact they are mounted in such a way you look UNDER your arms makes a tremendous difference. We had ABS but I never got to use it…that’s good isn’t it?
Saturday morning saw me at a meeting at the ACU for the National Rally which I arrived at totally fresh, the wife was dropped off in town with no aches and pains to have a nosey round before meeting me at the ACU offices to continue our trip up country.
Instead of jumping onto the M6 and joining the ranks of ‘fixation person’ who is either on his/her phone, eating a roll, reading a map, doing their hair etc, I chose the A5. From my years on the trucks I knew this road and if caught right was a steady route to take but it was better, there’s more dual carriageway than I remember and we sailed across to jct 12 and joined there.
The bike had been faultless which was no more than I expected to be honest. After a dinner stop at Poplar service (M6 jct 20) we got back onto the motorway and opened her up a bit, it was mid afternoon and we didn’t fancy arriving in the dark a the hotel. It turned out we had been covering ground at a greater rate of knots than we thought.
We had time to divert of the motorway and ride up through the lakes so out came the map (on a slip road) and we chose a route. We decided to go to jct 26 and take the A590/A5074 to Windermere which was a nice route with some twisties thrown in.
After a cuppa we headed up the A592 which eventually brings you out at Penrith and there are sections on this road that become very narrow and bendy so watch yourselves if your up there. Some of the tighter areas are around Ullswater where you have to breath in.
Back on the motorway and it was a straightforward ride to our destination at The Buccleuch Hotel (www.buccleuchhotel.com ) in Moffat, a small town just off the M74in Dumfries & Galloway. The owner Dave Smith and his son Clint made us very welcome on arrival and after having locked the bike in the secure area at the back of the hotel, we were soon in our room having a nice hot shower.
The hotel is renowned in Scotland and elsewhere for it’s food, and with the majority of it’s food supplied locally, some of the most tasty steak I’ve had in a long time had come from the kitchen, having said this I think the main area of expertise is in wine, not the one the wife does when you go for an hour ride and come back 5 hours later, the one you drink.
Morning saw us in the Breakfast room being served by Mary, with everything from cereal to a full English your spoilt for choice. I love porridge and seeing that they were World Champions I had to try some. They do all the variations you can think of whether sweet or plain, they do it with Golden Syrup and one with Honey which were gorgeous and set me up for the day.
Food over with we hit the road to take in some of the scenery but which way, we were told any road would have us smiling so we went North to join the A702 to Thornhill and on to St Johns Town. What a road, it has all the corners you’re ever likely to come across, some with good surfaces, some on excellent nearly laid ones.
Taking the A713 North is more of the same only faster as the road is wider; turn off when you reach the B741 across to New Cumnock and the A76. This road is much more open and a consequence of that is speed cameras; we came past a mobile unit slightly faster than I should of but nobody followed me. At Mennock take the B797 and you’ll find yourself back on the A702 and into Moffat. That night more fantastic food was to be eaten, this time in the company of Andy Downs and photographer from MCN.
The following morning saw us being driven to a couple of B&B’s to have a look at the kind of accommodation that is available. The first, Lochhouse Farm (www.lochhousefarm.com) has rooms of all sizes and 2 self-catering cottages. Situated on the opposite side of the M74 at jct 15. The second is in the heart of Moffat and called Limetree House (www.limetreehouse.co.uk), again with numerous rooms of all sizes.
Both these locations are listed on a new website called Motorcycle Scotland www.motorcyclescotland.com a website designed and built to draw in the bikers to the town and surrounding are, backed by the local population it is something that deserves to work well. You will find everything you need for riding in Scotland here.
Departing the 3rd day I wanted to cut across country to Keilder Water in Northumberland so had to plan it first trying to use the no so used roads. In the end I went for the A708 to Selkirk, a nice road with a 50 limit on most of it and you don’t need to go any faster, trying to ride it fast in places could be your downfall.
Taking the A7 to Hawick and the A6608 as far as the B6357 you end up at the lake, stopping en route for a drink, in around 3 hours. By this time I am at one with the bike, the weight I was conscious of at the beginning is gone, the lean angles have been steadily increasing and the comfort is excellent. When the wife says she likes a bike it must be good as she can be a fussy cow as a pillion, but again no problem with comfort and I would go as far as to say she could probably have a kip with a top box fitted…
Break over we head for the A68 and ‘the big dipper’, well that’s what I call it and anyone who has travelled this section will understand. It is around 10 miles long between Ridsdale and Corbridge and it’s full of blind crests one after the other, one of these hills has a 30mph limit and at the top you see why. Go any faster and your airborne and with a 30ft drop the other side it will hurt.
Sadly from here it as basically dual carriageway and motorway the rest of the way home but as expected the bike wasn’t bothered in the slightest, when I normally travel this route I am looking for a reason to stop as it gets so monotonous but I’m quite happy to sit on the bike for 200 miles between refills as is the other half.
So all in all it was a very worthwhile trip, I found, and have told you about the roads around the Scottish borders (don’t forget further over around Jedburgh, Kelso, Coldstream and across to Berwick) the food – first rate, the people – very friendly and helpful, and being a biker knowing that you are welcome somewhere does make a huge difference.
The bike was top class. As a full on tourer it works very well and giving you the opportunity to cover large distances at high speeds it’s hard to beat. As a Sunday morning toy, fair enough it won’t keep up with a well-ridden sports bike but will hold it’s own against most bikes and riders. Good protection means you don’t mind getting caught out in rain or anything else the gods throw at you.
I think I’ve found my next bike, @ a price of £11,700 rrp new it isn’t cheap but you can pick up a good used version for around £7-8000 with 10-15,000 miles on it which could have a lot of the extras already on it. All we need now are donations to the ‘Dave needs a new bike fund’.