KTM Big Day Out

Early sunday mornings across the UK mean something special for one particular breed of man...

(You can read this in Attenborough’s voice if you like…)

Unlike the rest of the country, which spends sunday mornings, warm in bed with their families, this particular breed ventures out early in search of something rare in the UK. Empty roads. 

The typical English Biker has spent the week cooped up at the office, working hard to provide for their brood. Now, with everyone still safely asleep, the biker has a few hours to themselves to get out and search for the twistys. 

Considerate of the time, many bikers will push their bike to the end of their drive, or even their road, before starting their mounts. Once on the roads, you’ll usually hear them coming before seeing them. Most have loud exhausts that have little more purpose than making them smile and announcing across the land to other bikers to get out of bed. This is because the typical biker is not a adult, they are a child that is only allowed to make noise when away from the burrow. 

There has been much government anti-biker narrative over the years and so, sadly, this breed seems to be reducing in numbers. However, by getting up early, you can easily see a biker local to you, as they prefer to dress in brightly coloured leathers. This show of colour is typically matched to their mount of choice and is a way of showing off their mechanical allegiance to other bikers. While the loud exhaust makes the biker smile, seeing chubby adults in power ranger suits makes biker spotting an enjoyable past time for everyone.

Enough of that

Today I’m enjoying being up early and biking again, on my BRAND NEWto me KTM SM-T 990.

I’ve not been doing much biking the last couple years, despite owning a very enjoyable (ahem) … Ducati Multistrada 1000 DS. Honestly, I do love this bike, its got amazing power and performance and it looks drop dead gorgeous (from the rear). But like many highly strung, high maintenance Italian ladies, she is unreliable. No matter how good the weather is, or how long shes had her battery charging for, sometimes shes just not in the mood and refuses to get out of bed. Or even if shes been coaxed to life… if you stop too long at a petrol station, she may just decide not to start and then you are stuck with no alternative but to run along, in your heavy leathers and helmet, trying to bump start her before you expire from heat exhaustion…

All I’m saying is, it was time for a change.

I head out this morning and quickly found a flock heading up the coast of Loch Lomond. I pootled along behind them a while before heading off up the A82 towards Glencoe. This road is just spectacular and often spoken about so I won’t butcher it by trying to describe the view again. 

As I was on my own I enjoyed going as fast as I wanted and also as slow as I wanted. It’s funny because it’s quite stereotypical to see bikers going fast and overtaking quickly, and I did my fair share. But that just means you have to concentrate more, the view changes quicker and you enjoy it for less time. I found I would be doing normal 60-ish but when I caught the campervans I’d zip past and then relax back to a comfy cruise again. Then when some twistys turned up, I could have a nice blast for a bit.

My route has taken me north out of Paisley and Glasgow, past Loch Lomond to Tyndrum and the Green Welly stop. Following the A82 up to Glencoe, then around the coast to Oban. 

I’m currently enjoying wonderful sunshine and a postcard worthy view across Oban’s marina, sitting outside a restaurant called Piazza. They just supplied me with probably the best italian pizza I’ve had in a while – Chicken and cherry tomatoes with fresh rocket on top – amazing. 

Next it’s a straight shot south down a finger of land to Campbelltown where I’ll catch the last ferry over to Ardrossan, finishing with a short blast back to Paisley.

This is the part I’ve really been looking forward to. I came thru here with Angus on a campervan holiday a few years back and the roads were awesome. Tricky and single track in many places, but swoopy and with an amazing view, I had vowed to come back on the bike. Well, it took me a few years, and the excuse of buying a bike in Glasgow, but I’m here….

… Well I didn’t go the route I went in the campervan. I figured I’d already done it, and after I’d been sitting in the cafe for a long lunch, enjoying myself, I checked the time and had 2 hours to do a 2 hour trip. Perfect you say, until I tell you check in at the port was 30 mins before departure! I jumped on the bike, fuelled up as quick as I could and set off on the fast side of the coast. 

And WOW! I thought the single track side was good because it was slow with good views. This side was like the most perfect rollercoaster of tarmac I’ve ever been on! It was an incredible 2 way road with perfect surface and nearly zero traffic the whole length AND good views of the rugged coastline. 

Not long after I set off, a group of bikers pulled up and accidentally included me in their ride. They took off from some lights with me in the middle of the pack and I had no choice but to keep pace (I said, beseeching the officer) The 2 leaders were on big BMW GS’s and my gosh they threw them around like sportsbikes! There was no way I was keeping up so I let the rest slide by. 2 street bikes of some brand or other and the last bike was a Kawasaki ZZR 1400 that was a little slower – but not much – who I nearly kept pace with. I needed to get a wiggle on, so I rode fast blasted blitzed along made good progress. But after a couple too fast miles I remembered what I tell all less experienced riders who come out with me.

“Don’t try and keep up with anyone else, just ride at your own speed and get there in one piece”

I’m pretty well experienced on bikes, and I make good progress on twistys, but I now understand just how fast some people can be on bikes. In this case, I was the inexperienced one, and would end up in a ditch if I didn’t get back within my comfort zone.

I backed off and then found a layby so I could take a couple photos of the bike and let them get way ahead. I didn’t see them after that, they must have been really going for it. I turned up in Campbelltown, checked in and waited for the ship. It’s always fun going on a ferry, feels like I’m off to a distant land – usually – In this case, I’ve ridden 200 miles and I’d have to ride that all the way back again if I didn’t get this ferry. Once docked on the other side, I’ll have just 25 leisurely miles to get home. 

I think I’ll stop and get some beers and chill in the garden this evening. It’s been a great day on a great bike!