Yesterday I took the longest ride yet on my scooter: from home in Highgate to the Novell office in Bracknell. I set off at 0630 on a beautiful morning, with blue skies, sunshine, and no wind. There are faster routes to go but I wanted to avoid traffic and busy roads and use as many country roads as possible, and because I know the area I was able to ignore Google Maps’ advice and choose my own route.
First hurdle was to get out of London: Highgate to the North Circular Rd, all the way down past Wembley Stadium to the Hanger Lane Gyratory System. Right turn there to head West on the A40. Came off at Uxbridge and rode through the town and out the other side, towards Iver. This is where it got interesting because now I was on rural roads with few hazards, and hardly any traffic this early in the morning. Gliding round bends on my scooter is such a great feeling, and every day I ride my cornering technique gets better. From Iver it was through Langley, then Datchet (where I come from and where my parents still live), then along the River Thames to Old Windsor. Along Straight Rd, which crosses The Long Walk by Windsor Castle, then along the long and winding road that cuts through Windsor Great Park to North Ascot.
Again turning off the main road to Ascot I went right, through Winkfield Row and Warfield before finally arriving in Bracknell at 0750. A journey of 40 miles that took 1hr 20 minutes. I could have got there quicker by taking motorways but this ride was far more rewarding, with beautiful scenery and great riding roads.
Here’s the route:
The work day ended, it was time to head home. This was around 1815, so in the middle of the rush hour. I retraced my morning route almost exactly, only taking a slight detour through Windsor to avoid some stationary traffic. From there it was a breeze until I got to Long Lane in Hillingdon, which leads up to the A40. The traffic here was backed up for a couple of miles, but being on a scooter I was able to — carefully — thread my way past and between the rows of “parked” cars and vans, and make progress. The A40 Eastbound to Hanger Lane was very slow: as it turned out because of a broken down lorry on the slip road. The A40 is a three lane highway so I joined the other bikers as we filtered our way down between the lanes of slow-moving traffic. There are lots of dangers to watch out for when filtering: you have to watch for cars changing lanes suddenly, weaving about (and hence narrowing your corridor between one lane and the next), and other bikers queuing up behind you. This made things a little more stressful but I made steady, careful progress and finally got back on the North Circular. From there the traffic was clear and I made it home safely in a total time of 1hr 35 minutes: just 15 minutes longer than the morning.
I got home tired but not stressed. If I’d taken the car the morning journey would have taken around 1hr 45, but the homeward journey would have been at least 2 1/2 hours. On top of that I calculated that it cost me around £4 in petrol.
Motorcycling in and around London can be very dangerous. It doesn’t matter how skilled a rider you are, you’re still vulnerable to idiotic driving by other road users, and that’s an argument the biker is always going to lose. Karen worries about me, and her concerns are valid, but I’m very careful and for me, the rewards outweigh the risks.
Watch this video of the XMAX 125. It pretty much sums up my experience (except the bloke in it isn’t as good-looking as me of course).
Now: need to find an excuse to go to Bracknell again!