I’ve been outside – on a bike!
In the week we saw the lockdown eased, we also saw plenty of ‘road’ bikes out. We’ll gloss over the hordes at my local ‘biker meet’ that I cycled by – having spent two months complaining about not being able to ride, they promptly rode to a car park and parked up, probably whinging about not being able to ride for two months!
Not me. Hopefully not you either… I dusted the GSA off – the GS Trophy Mongolia GS, smaller and much more suitable for trail riding, was trapped at my local dealers, so the big girl it was. I’ll be honest I usually reserve the GSA for touring and ‘road bike’ purposes. But I’d promised Uncle Rog* a ride out on the big bikes for a while. Given that we were allowed out, to meet one person and the TRF had given us the all clear to trail ride, it was on. Steady, but on.
I rode the Peddars Way a few years ago on my mountain bike. Back in my student days I used to do a van delivery round in the Norfolk area, dropping parts off at truck service garages. Truck fitters generally like a bit of a gossip, and I’m not averse myself, so a brew and a chat with the old boys was about 50% of my time. Blowing engines and gearboxes on slow vans the other 50%. These boys were the original cafe racers of the 60s and 70s. Most of them now wobbling about slightly crooked having ended up in ditches, some perhaps having spent too long at the various seaside bars. Different times! Anyway, a couple of them mentioned a bit of a cheeky route/run from Hunstanton which passed close enough to most of their homes to be used as a run/race home when they perhaps shouldn’t have been on the bikes. The Peddars Way is quite famous for many things, this probably its least, but it was a good enough reasons for me to have a look.
Fast forward a few years and I’d got this big old beast of a GSA, had done a trip on it (the reason for buying it, I was aiming higher with my mid life crisis though) and needed to find things for it to do now it was back in the garage, so I offered to take Mrs 275 to the seaside. Via Thetford. We live about 14 miles over the Lincolnshire Wolds from Cleethorpes, but she’s used to this sort of caper, and so we rode what is left of the old byway two up on road tyres and got frowned at a lot by various grumps with handsome beards on XRs and Serrows.
Steeped in history, and essentially an ancient, pre-Roman route the Peddars Way now spans the gap between a pay for parking, gift shop adorned country park in Thetford Forest and the seaside town of Hunstanton. Seemingly our ancients were fans of over-priced, frustrating family days out, and fish and chips… The stuff of true adventure! Roger has done a few trips with the BMW ORS boys now, and was keen to get his own GS grubby, so with lockdown eased we elected to take a dawn run out to give it another pass.
It’s a little broken up now, for us at least, and it’s not possible to legitimately follow the original route, some reasonably – being protected from us hooligans on enduro bikes, as its stunning and a nature reserve – some has gone the way of the neighbours complaining, and some has been swallowed up by development, being as we all prefer to live in houses. Most of it is still used by tractors though… There is no mention of motorcycle access on the National Trail website of course, us riff raff are frowned upon (those lads in the 70’s didn’t help here!) but you can GENERALLY follow the cyclists’ route. I managed, given that I had whole weeks to do so, to load up a GPX trail into my BMW Navigator and it worked a treat. I did forget about Rog on a particularly cheeky little bit of trail, which is littered with deep, and now rock-solid, tractor ruts, where for a brief moment I forgot I was on a GSA, too.
I did plenty of research into what remains legitimate, and where the trails are out of bounds the alternative roads are generally single track and poor, so it’s not so intrusive. We met a few dog walkers and cyclists, but most seemed to be local and we were smiled at and waved by. Plenty of it feels like you really shouldn’t be riding it, and I’d say it’s too narrow for 4x4s now. Rog did ask/wonder a few times why it wasn’t all torn up and ruined. Helps that it’s not that easy to find.
Rog made it through the ford at Castle Acre unscathed, which let’s be honest, I was 50/50 about as he, too, was on a shiny GS, so better it didn’t get submerged. The last time I went through there were families playing in the water (which is a road), throwing bricks at ducks and generally upsetting the newts until us ruinous bikers dared to ride through their play area.
From my secret location in the Lincolnshire Wolds (the ‘hilly’ bit of Lincs) we’d set off early doors and managed a 250 mile loop. We joined the beards and had taken a flask, some pack-up, kept our regulation two metres apart, and didn’t speak to anyone else (though we waved and smiled at them). It was joyous. The weather helped of course, but to be back out on the bike again, even on the big girl, on some trails was marvelous. It would probably have been better for some fish and chips, and you really must be a bit sensible on what is a sensitive route, but all in all, it was good to be back.
*Rog is not my uncle, its his nickname
How did you get on with the “rutty” sections to the north end of Peddars, near Fring, on the big bikes???
I’m not 100% familiar with the whole route, but think thats the long straight section where you only really cross a few single track roads at old ‘cross roads’? We didn’t have any real bother all day, and I didn’t loose Rog for longer than a few seconds if he did. He mentioned a few little moments behind around that section, but it was pretty dry and for the most part everything was like dusty concrete, so easy to take and stick to a high line (which seems to be the 4×4 diff casing line for most of that section). I’ll be honest though – I tend to treat the big bike like its a little bike, even the GSA, so on a dry day like we had its only when you run out of suspension you really have to worry about it! On that Northern 1/3 of the trail we didn’t see anyone else at all – So we made pretty good progress – No stopping and starting – which also helps on the big bikes. I’d not hesitate to recommend the trail to anyone on a big bike during the summer. No residuals or PCP’s we’re harmed on our day out!