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Offline SteveMat

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NC500 Two Up
on: 19 Sep 21, 12:23:32
I’ve not long come back from doing the NC500 on my 2018 Z1000SX.  This was my first two up tour and I thought I would share what I have learnt, for others who may be thinking about it.  To make the data relevant, for all the nerds, first the technical bits:

My dry weight - 11 ½ stone.
SWMBO dry weight - assume to be 1 stone less but not declared!
Bike loading - just panniers, i.e. no tank bag, ruck sac or top box.
Tire pressures - 36F, 42R.
Comms – Packtalk Slim
Accommodation - Hotel/B&B.

I’m only 5’8” and SWMBO a couple of inches shorter, with a dodgy hip and shoulder injury from a previous fall from a horse.  Whilst she has been on the bike for short rides, she has never been on, with fully loaded panniers and therefore we took some time to research and practice, various methods to mount and dismount the bike.  This paid dividends with no problems or mishaps and our favoured method was with the bike on the stand and me leaning the other way.  The comms helped, as communication was key, allowing me to let her know when it was safe for her to move around.  The Packtalk Slim being voice controlled, she appreciated having access to her music on the motorway stretches.  I also covered the top of the panniers with paint protection film, as we both occasionally kicked them.

Our route was SE Wales to Preston, where I picked up SWMBO.  She took the train to Preston as I didn’t want her introduction to touring being a trawl up the M5/M6.  From here we headed cross country through the Yorkshire Dales and Pennines to Alston for the first stop (Total 315 miles).  The second day took us to Inverness (275 miles) – what a long, boring ride!  Whatever you do, avoid the A9.  It is average speed cameras all the way to inverness.

Day 3 (173 miles) took us to Bettyhill via John O’Groats.  Originally, I wanted to stop at Tongue but there was no accommodation and in the end, the Bettyhill Hotel was great.  The road from Inverness is nothing to write home about but there are some nice views.  At John O’Groats, most bikers park down the bottom and not in the car park, as the car park attracts a £2 charge.  I paid anyway, as it supports the facility.  From John O’Groats, the roads start to get better, as does the views.  We did experience a couple of petrol stations being out of petrol but this may have been due to the switch over to E10.  There is a Tesco garage before John O’Groats and a couple of stations at Thurso.

Day 4 (193 miles) took us to Gairloch.    The majority of roads were single lane, with passing points.  We found both car drivers and mobile home drivers were courteous, giving bikes priority and pulling over to let you pass.  In hindsight we should have stayed at Ullapool, as getting accommodation and dinner reservations at Gairloch was a nightmare.  I would advise that you avoid The Old Inn, as the place was an over priced dump, with an ignorant, unhelpful host.  Also, Gairloch was the only place we experienced a problem with midges, but that may be because we had to grab fish and chips and eat outside.

On Day 5 (130 miles) we headed for Fort Augustus and Loch Ness.  Following advice from others on here, we opted to cut out Applecross and the Bealach na Ba and we were thankful we did.  Sat in the Bealach Café watching the road up, it was like a motorway, with cars and mobile homes backed up, all the way down.  A couple of biking groups set off but turned back, to wait until it got quieter.  We’ll save this one for another day.  We also appreciated the shorter day.  Fort Augustus is very picturesque, with lots of places to eat and drink and watch the cruise boats go by.  If you want to treat your partner and not blow the bank, stay in Appin House B&B.  Four poster bed and double jacuzzi bath!

Day 6 (251 miles) and we start heading home.  Just to further dampen the mood, we had a huge deluge on the way to Fort William but on the bright side, we got to see how waterproof our kit was!  Be aware there are mobile speed cameras on the A82.  They tend to sit on the long straights and we didn’t see any of the usual warnings from oncoming drivers.  That night we stayed in a B&B in Penrith called No3.  Alison, the host was fantastic, bringing out a stand puck for the bike and offering us use of a drying area.

Day 7 (258 miles) and the final stint to home.  We head for Wrexham and the route down through Wales – there are a lot of road works on the M6 and I couldn’t stand anymore motorway, and these are the types of roads the Z was meant for.

The bike was perfect for this trip.  Eating the motorway miles (throttle lock helped) and cruising the slower, breath-taking roads of Scotland.  Nice and smooth with minimal gear changes required, which made it comfier for the passenger.  As for fuel use, I got better milage with fully loaded panniers and SWMBO on the back than when out scratching with the guys.  I had planned on refuelling every 100 miles but that plan went out of the window, as we easily got 180 miles (or more) out of a tank.  We tended to do a 2 hour stint before a break, and then two 1½ hour stints.  This made the Z seat just about bearable.

The Metzler 01SE now have 5,850 miles on them, 1,800 of these two up.  Whilst the rear has squared off, they still feel okay, with no noticeable step when leaning them over and there is milage left in them.  In fact, I would say the front is only about 60% worn.  After 4800 miles since the last oil change, the oil is now as black as tar and the chain badly needs adjusting.

What did SWMBO think?  Tired, saddle sore and having not seen a set of hair straighteners for a week …….. she cannot wait for our next adventure!

#1

Offline Bladesman

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #1 on: 19 Sep 21, 02:53:20
Nice one matey,well done. Cheers.
Get a Big Black Dog up you!

#2

Offline Timmy_Biker

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #2 on: 19 Sep 21, 07:15:07
Great run down of your experiences! I am thinking of doing it next year, early summer. I may have a couple of questions if you don't mind??  :087:

#3

Offline SteveMat

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #3 on: 19 Sep 21, 07:59:50
Fire away.  I posted it in order to help others and if I can answer your questions, even better.

#4

Offline Timmy_Biker

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #4 on: 20 Sep 21, 10:20:16
Hi Stevemat,

      Yeh, i have been contemplating the trip, with the group i am in, for a while now and talking to someone who has done it seems the best way to find out! Very much appreciated.  :828:
Here's my questions.
* Did you find, at any point there was a real risk of running out of fuel?
I only ask because one of our group has a rather thirsty Harley with a small fuel tank.
* Was booking accommodation difficult, i mean how far ahead in time did you book?
* Were there any technical/ challenging roads, for instance with hairpins.
 I ask, because of an incident i had few years back, i went up Hardknott pass in Cumbria.
There were three of us, me on the SX with lightly loaded panniers and a small tank bag, full tank of fuel. The other two where on a BMW GS and a Triumph Speed triple. The GS had large panniers on.
I was leading us, followed by the Triumph.
About three quarters the way up you come to a tight right-hander, its narrow and sudden. Its not easy to keep your speed up enough to be stable, without cutting the corner somewhat, and the camber is all over the place!. I had seen the two cars stopped a little after the bend, assuming they were letting us through. I made the corner fine, however coming out of the corner, and just starting to straighten up, the car moved out and progressed down the hill. It was very narrow and the tarmac falls off quickly on the edges of the road, so if you have to stop and put your left foot down on the edge of the road... your going over. It was clear that we both couldn't make it through, plus, i knew the other two in the group where close behind and would have been even more compromised by the car on the bend. I had to stop. I leaned right and put my right foot down, holding the bike with the front brake. On my left was a drop off on the tarmac of about 8 inches or so.
I had no hands free to lift my visor and stand some chance of signalling the driver to reverse back a little. (on reflection i would now lift my visor before such bends). I could see that it was a young girl driving, looked very nervous, and i am guessing pretty inexperienced and having no idea of what its like taking a bike up hill like that! She wasn't going to reverse, and we just stayed there for what felt like eternity... I knew my right leg couldn't hold out for much longer, so i took the decision to move for ward, knowing full well, there was almost certainly going to be some contact with my bike and the car. I figured the plastic pannier would have to squeeze past the rear quarter of her car. I went forward and, as i approached the car, the driver lurched forward slightly (i think she was coming off the foot brake and onto the hand brake to anticipate a reverse hill start). Well that small lurch was enough to close the deal and i was over and into the ditch with the blink of an eye! Surprising, i was fine and just bruised my shoulder and arm a little. The bike had fell mainly into soft turf so no proper damage, just a couple of minor scuffs and a LOT of soil.. I was shook up a bit and the other two parked up the way a little and helped me back onto to road. The car driver, i kid you not, just drove off...  :005:. and said sorry to the guy on the GS at the back!! In the minutes that went by, other passing bikers stopped and offered help.
It still shakes me up a little, even now. But i don't think there was anything i could have done differently to come out of it better, well apart from having my visor up perhaps..

But anyway, any technical bits i should know about??

oops! That has turned into a small novel...   :430:



Last Edit: 20 Sep 21, 10:28:17 by Timmy_Biker

#5

Offline SteveMat

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #5 on: 20 Sep 21, 10:48:44
* Did you find, at any point there was a real risk of running out of fuel? My fear as well.  No, never.  If you look on Google Maps and click on the option for fuel stations, you will see there are plenty.  The majority of roads are not that fast and so a tank goes a long way.
* Was booking accommodation difficult, i mean how far ahead in time did you book?  I booked 2 – 3 weeks in advance.  I started with the most remote sites and worked around them.  I did have to change my start date but then September seems like peak period.
* Were there any technical/ challenging roads, for instance with hairpins.  Yes.  Another (needless) worry of mine.  But none that couldn’t be taken 2 up.  More of a worry (when 2 up) is what traffic you meet on the narrower/twistier sections but cars and motorhomes realised you can’t reverse and always gave way.  There are plenty of passing places and you learn to time you meeting of other traffic, with these.  I can’t remember any of the roads having steep, unprotected drop offs.  Others on this forum have advised that Bealach na Ba can be tricky due to all the traffic.

Ultimately, you have to remember that they take motorhomes around this route.

Met 3 bikers from Devon, on the route.  Their first day took them to Wrexham, as they came up through Wales.


#6

Offline whyhaveone

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #6 on: 20 Sep 21, 11:46:22
Nice write up @SteveMat.  :028:

I went with a group at the end of August and might just include my write up here as well.  :002:
Kawasaki: 1975 250-S1C; 1977 Z650-B1; 1980 Z1000 MKII A3; 2011 ER6n; 2013 Z1000SX ABS; 2016 Z1000SX ABS Tourer, 2020 Ninja 1000SX Performance Tourer.

#7

Offline SteveMat

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #7 on: 21 Sep 21, 06:58:45
That would be good, especially if you camped.  It would be useful if others add their experiences and how they overcome any problems.

#8

Offline ed

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #8 on: 21 Sep 21, 11:11:40
Great write-up SteveMat. Glad you and your Mrs enjoyed the trip. You did well to skip the Bealach na ba road - it sounds like it’s a right pain in the ass at the moment.

I’m quite envious of you- it’s spectacularly beautiful in the northern Highlands and the north west coast!
Last Edit: 21 Sep 21, 11:15:16 by ed

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Offline whyhaveone

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Re: NC500 Two Up
Reply #9 on: 21 Sep 21, 11:53:28
*Originally Posted by SteveMat [+]
That would be good, especially if you camped.  It would be useful if others add their experiences and how they overcome any problems.

No camping! Thanks for the go-ahead to add to your post though, I'll do so soon.
Kawasaki: 1975 250-S1C; 1977 Z650-B1; 1980 Z1000 MKII A3; 2011 ER6n; 2013 Z1000SX ABS; 2016 Z1000SX ABS Tourer, 2020 Ninja 1000SX Performance Tourer.

 



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