Jim battles the elements

23rd October 2013 by  in Motorcycle Touring & Travel, Riding TIps

Travelling back to Yorkshire from my overnight stay in Moffat at the Buccleuch Arms, (why is it that I’ve never yet managed to leave the Bucc’ on time?! – I always find myself chatting to someone / having another cup of coffee / jet-washing the bike / meeting another rider, and setting off hours after I had planned to), I discovered that, for once the forecasters had got it right – “gale force winds”, biblical storms, ferries cancelled, and high sided vehicles advised not to attempt any of the cross Pennine routes.

Of course, those self same forecasters wouldn’t know a lot about riding a bike, particularly not a bike laden down with panniers, top box, & tank bag.

Those of you who know the M74 / M6, will know that section just south of Gretna where the M6 rises up on its supports and is exposed to the elements, even on a clear, calm day, the side winds can be tricky. Well today there were considerably more than tricky, they were diabolical, so much so that I even considered heading off the motorway and completing my journey on more sheltered A & B roads *.

But my later than scheduled departure from the Bucc’ meant that I was already pushing my luck more than usual, and I opted to continue on & use the conditions to test out all the techniques advised for coping with crosswinds.

Counter-steering, slowing down, (to as little as 40mph), hanging off on the windward side, maintaining drive, (accelerating to a suitable speed), remaining relaxed on the bike with a light touch on the bars, and adjusting the bike by weighting the pegs, were all deployed for the next hour and a half.

And the results of my selfless research; bearing in mind that every bike is affected differently by crosswinds, (I cannot imagine how a “solid” wheel cruiser would cope in such conditions), were?

Remaining relaxed, light touch on the bars, counter steering, and compensating for the gusts via weighting the pegs. I wasn’t brave enough/silly enough/skilled enough, to even attempt to dispense entirely with counter steering, but the rewards of controlling the bike in such conditions via the pegs were considerable.

Halfway down the M6, towards Penrith, a couple of Highways Maintenance workers were struggling to deal with some “Roadworks” signs that had blown over, across the carriageway, and what with these metal sheets almost developing a mind of their own each time they were raised off the tarmac, and drivers continuing along at 80mph, they were having the time of their lives. I don’t expect that these boys are paid a lot, but whatever it is, it is nowhere near enough!

I made decent time despite the adverse conditions, and even had time for a five minute break at Tebay Services, rooting around in a hedge attempting to retrieve my tank bag rain cover that had decided to take up hang-gliding whilst I paid for my petrol.

So, a quick mug of Bovril and a cremated bacon buttie at the Devil’s Bridge wagon, and I was just in time to arrive at home only a little later the ETA I’d given Marilyn prior to setting off.

All in all a good day!

*  Local knowledge – there’s a fantastic little back road that runs alongside the motorway here, between Gretna & Carlisle that’s a lot more sheltered – enjoy, James.

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