Following the enjoyable weekend in Wales, we'd arranged to hook up with Andy & Dave of Clayfield Studios fame. Having 'criss-crossed' one another travelling north through Wales, we'd exchanged details and have been in touch a few times over the past three weeks. Andy had been planning a ride around MCN Magazine's test route - the MCN250 - and kindly invited us to join them.
The route begins at Leamington Spa, heads along a stretch of Motorway to Banbury, before turning north-east towards Peterborough. Switching south, through Huntington, Bedford and Milton Keynes; passing over the M1, through Buckingham, across the M40 into the Cotswolds, to Cirencester. From here the route loops back around north-east, taking in Moreton in Marsh, before finishing in Stratford upon Avon.
We suffered the boredom of the M40, north from London, to meet the guys at the 2nd waypoint, off the Banbury turn-off; they'd taken in the first stretch of the route down through Leamington Spa already. Andy and Dave are on a 2018 GS and GSA respectively; a friend of theirs, Paul, also tagged along on his 10yr old Fireblade. Andy, in charge of recording our exploits, invited us all to say piece to camera before jumping on the bikes and heading off in convoy.
Stretches of dual carriageway, interspersed with A roads, made up the majority of the morning out past Northampton. Whilst not the most varied or enjoyable style of roads, we made steady progress, stopping at the 'super sausage' for a coffee a little way in. It's only when turning towards Huntingdon that the roads narrow and begin to curve; a little more enjoyable for most of us; a little more bumpy for poor old Paul. Another consideration when out with a Fireblade is fuel, taking a slight detour to fill up the sports bike's smaller tank!
Cutting back across the M1, we made good progress through Milton Keynes', over the many 'dual-carriageway' laden roundabouts and suffering the stupidity of an M3 boy-racer. Free from suburbia, we stopped for a sandwich at Buckingham, before crossing the M40 north of Oxford.
Much more attractive scenery, the afternoon was filled with many more enjoyable Cotswold roads - a highlight being the ice-cream stop in the lovely village of Bibury! Just under an hour further, we made our destination for the night, the Greedy Goose, just outside Morton in Marsh. Paul, who'd stoically stuck with us throughout, had naturally found the lanes less favourable; his derrière slightly worse for wear!
Pitching our assortment of tents and settling in, just in time for dinner! Good Food, the camp site is pleasant enough, pretty basic, though perhaps slightly too close to a couple of busy roads for the best night's sleep. We wiled away the evening with stories and experiences, comparing notes on our different bike years, models and overall thoughts on the BMWs.
A reasonable night's sleep, we were all packing down the camp around 07h00, ahead of our 08h00 planned departure, we headed along the final stretch of empty roads to a welcome breakfast in Stratford Upon Avon. As on the Saturday, Sunday promised to be great weather and after a sorted farewells, we mapped a pleasant route back south, home in time for lunch.
FOOTNOTE - after the deliberations of last year, I'd just switched onto a new set of Continental TKC70s: after 8,000 miles, they'd worn well and provided confidence in their slower speed and grippy road performance. I'd almost forgotten stability issues at motorway speeds - experienced when riding up through Scandinavia on the first set in 2017. Around 70-80mph, the front wheel becomes very unstable; this then transfers to the rear and the whole bike begins to fishtail - the workaround last year was to drop the GSA screen to the lowest position. On this new set, screen height becomes irrelevant. Moreover, the instability is occurring through a range of speeds.
BUYER BEWARE: even if you are a capable rider, the uncertain feel of these Continental TKC70s outweighs the benefits and it's worth considering something else!