Fine ride out from London on one of the warmest days of this summer on the hired VFR800A9. Lots of fun in the Cotswolds, coming down the challenging curves of Fish Hill, there’s a convenient roundabout at the bottom at Broadway to turn around and run the curves uphill. One lap to check it out and then a couple more for fun.
The Malvern Hills aren’t huge but the roads are good for some careful sport. Pause for a family lunch and then back down interesting roads to ride along the west side of the Severn Estuary to Chepstow. No toll eastbound on the bridge to leave Wales, pause for tea with GSXR Tony in Bradley Stoke, then the M4 back to The Smoke, beautiful sunset in the mirrors. About 375 miles, I saw 28°C highest temperature, and even after sunset, nothing lower than 21°C: what a treat!
About the VFR800A9 (2013 model), part of my reason for hiring was to check it out as a touring bike. I’ve had a lot of fun with it but it does have some bad habits too. In many ways it’s the best 750 I never had; great for good B roads and single carriageway A roads. It’s a V-Four, the engine sounds and responds quite differently to a parallel four, there’s more low revs torque but there’s a tendency to pudder lilke a twin at low revs. This seems to be dependent on the petrol, not all fuel sold as “Unleaded 95” is the same.
I rode a VF750F for quite a few miles in the 1990’s (the one with “chocolate cams”) and this is much the same engine but the V-Tec technology added and bored out to 800cc, this kicks in pretty smoothly at throttle / high revs with a distinctive hammer type noise. Power was never a problem: plenty of it.
The windscreen/fairing is effective at catching flies but the engine gets hot relatively readily and the fan can't cope, even on just a hot day in England; you have to crouch down right on the tank to get out of the wind flow, too low for it to be sustainable, at least with the stock bars/pegs geometry. The handling benefits from a one-sided swing arm and did everything I wanted it to do with ease and even grace, fun to hang off on curves and very much worth it for the extra stability. But the bike’s heavy, and it seems heavy also on tyre wear, Bridgestone Battlax BT023R Sport Touring fitted. This one (15,000 miles showing) already had the same head bearing and/or front fork wear that mine had, so still something to watch out for.
Would I buy one now? Maybe specifically as a sports tourer with a riding position that you can actually hang off with but compared to my 600RR it’s far heavier and a bit longer, so more comfortable and stable for getting there but less fun when you have arrived.
A previous ride to Fish Hill: Cotswolds biking - May 2013
Aust Cliff under the Severn Bridge on the east bank of the Severn Estuary exposes a sequence of layers of rock that both appeal to the eye and to the fossil specialist. It’s a section through an area that was near the equator in the Triassic period, 230 million years ago. The area was alternately a lake (represented now by a layer of red mudstone) which dried out as salt flats (now white gypsum).
The upper layers (yellow/green and brown layers) are more recent, 210 million years old, representing a tropical sea; these layers are one of the UK’s most important sites for marine reptiles. Aust Cliff overall is a site unusually prolific in fossil finds, thus is classified as a site of special scientific interest (SSI).
When I was cycling to there as a schoolboy, the Aust Cliff site with its range and number of fossil finds, was important in determining the sequence of evolution of the fossil animals from the Triassic era. This work would now be regarded as calibration and/or confirmation of dating by radioactive isotope techniques.
My telephoto view across the Severn Estuary from Beachley avoids the perspective distortion common in photos from the cliff shoreline at Aust.
VFR800A9 (2013) on hire for a couple of days. V-four engine that's quite lively, plus Honda's friendly handling. This one pudders a bit at low revs as if it is a twin, maybe they all do it or maybe this one could do with a tune. Hope this hire works out better than the last one: A problem
Huge hurrah for Cal Crutchlow, clear winner of the Czech MotoGP 2016. Fingers crossed for Silverstone in ten days time. Britain hasn’t had a winner of a premier class motorbike Grand Prix since London’s Barry Sheene won five 500cc Grands Prix in 1976, bringing him the 1976 World Championship, he retained the Championship again in the 1977 season with six victories. Barry Sheene’s last win was the 1981 Swedish Grand Prix, that was on a privateer Yamaha bike. My photo from the January 1980 Motorcycle Show at Alexandra Palace shows me astride Barry Sheene’s Heron-Suzuki RG500 that had been his ride when I saw his battle at Silverstone for the hard-fought 1979 British Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Hardknott Pass (383 m.) is one of the Lake District’s notorious road passes, notorious for its unusually steep gradient (posted as 30%, nearly One in Three) and a narrow roadway. In Roman times the route was defended by Hardknott Fort (Mediobogdum) manned by the cohort (500 men plus auxiliaries) of the Fourth Cohort of Dalmatians.
Arnside is famous for its sunsets over the estuary of the River Kent as it meets the sea at over Morecombe Bay. Here's a view of the dawn upstream of a dawn railway train on the viaduct crossing the River Kent, Lakeland fells and Pennines in the background, birds feasting on the exposed mud below.
Here's my postcard from a previous hiking visit to Arnside.
A sunny day in Langstrath, Borrowdale; apparently a rare thing as one of the villages (Stonethwaite) is the wettest inhabited village in the UK. Herdwick sheep browsing contentedly, the upper fell glowing pink with heather in bloom, as we saw at Dock Tarn.
An island of fresh green on Dock Tarn (400 m.) surrounded by heather in bloom on the fells above Borrowdale in The Lake District.
Full flow in Langstrath Beck on its way down Borrowdale in The Lake District, Cumbria.