Saturday, 31 August 2013

Touring On The NC700X - Part 1 The Southern Loop

I finally managed to take some time for some touring with the NC700X, it also synced nicely with my final push to snap the last of the Irish Photo Rally locations. I broke down the remaining points into two groups, a Southern Loop and Northern Loop. Both routes will take a night or two camping, include roads of every state and lots to see and enjoy. If long days in the saddle are not your thing you could always break it down into smaller bites or even just do the entire thing in one go.

Travelling up The Healy Pass, not bad at all on a nice day

The Southern Loop

There was no specific reason for choosing to start by heading South, its just what I chose to do. It ended up being a 1,075 KM loop around the bottom half of Ireland over two days. The choice of locations to visit are based on the Irish Photo Rally 2013 points, so you can find more information there.

Google Map view of the route
The route points are:

A - Start
B - Noughaval Market Stone, County Clare
C - De Valera’s cottage, County Limerick
D - Glanmore youth hostel, County Kerry
E - Hungry Hill Campsite, County Cork
F - Thatch Bar, County Cork
G - Kilcooly abbey, County Tipperary
H - Stroan Fountain, County Kilkenny
I - Suir Bridge, County Waterford
J - Sigginstown castle, County Wexford
K - Brew / Natter / Food
L - Finish

Bring a snack and soak up the views

There really is a bit of everything in terms of roads and things to see on this route, from motorway runs to unpaved roads and plenty of miles of each. I was on a time constraint so if you had more time to take then avoid the motorways and enjoy the regional roads which are a lot more interesting. Kerry gets special mention as it is always a fantastic place to travel to on a motorcycle, not just because of the never ending scenery and the roads, but because you can go from tourist/cosmopolitan spots like Kenmare and Killarney to the middle of nowhere in no time at all. The main regional roads are a joy to ride usually being in very good condition and on a dry day that just means hours of chasing vanishing points around the twisties. Of course a caravan/campervan/RV can spoil some of that and if you are like me and prefer to take a slower pace then by taking the passes and other poorer quality roads you generally avoid much of the tourist traffic, bar walkers and cyclists, and better still you get to soak in the scenery. Bring a snack, park up on a nice viewpoint and take some time to enjoy it all in before getting back on track.

What I Pack

The NC700X was loaded up with all the usual equipment and I was all set. My general rule of thumb for packing the bike goes as follows; a pannier for personal items (clothing/toiletries/etc), a pannier for tent / motorcycle cover, luggage roll for long items and 'other' (sleeping mat / tripod / first-aid kit) and then the topcase often is left light / empty with maybe cooking items. Depending on the trip, location of items on the bike and other specifics will change, maybe I want to bring a larger/smaller tent, more or less clothes depending on the weather and so on. So none of it is set in stone but it rarely (if ever) changes once on the road.

Plenty of this when travelling through County Kerry

Where I Stayed - Hungry Hill Lodge Hostel & Camping (Biker Friendly)

What a little gem of a camp-site (location E on map above). Its not a massive location and the privacy from the road is limited but they are the only negatives I have to say about the site. I was camping so only got to use the facilities available to campers, but that did include a clean shower and toilet block, a campers kitchen complete with electric kettle and toaster. The washer and drier are also located in the campers kitchen, I did not use them here but its not a bad idea being able to sit and have a brew while you wait for the wash to finish.

Getting comfy for the night at Hungry Hill

Some camp-sites I have visited will not let you bring the motorcycle onto the grass to leave beside the tent but Hungry Hill had no issue with this, they even suggested several good spots to set up. I did go mid-week so got the benefit of a relatively empty camp ground and when leaving the next morning I only saw the manager enjoying a breakfast brew. It was dry when I got my head down for the night, but it was soon raining and was still raining when I packed up to leave. My tent, a Coleman Cobra 2, performed perfectly and I did not notice any drainage issues around the grounds. Overall I had a very positive experience at Hungry Hill and I would definitely visit again. I highly recommend considering staying here and to keep an eye on how it progresses there is a Tripadvisor page here.

How The NC700X Managed

Fantastic little touring machine. I have obviously added several accessories since I first purchased the NC but I think I have found my almost perfect set-up. The 'trunk' on the bike is an absolute marvel. It defaults for what I would normally put into my tankbag for ease of reach, but being able to stow your helmet in there and walk away is a superb bit of security when touring. The way I look at it is that somebody might whip my sleeping mat, but that would not be the end of a trip, its even replaceable by finding a local Tesco. But anything happens to any of my gear and that's a world of problems.

Ireland's mini-alpine pass, The Healy Pass in County Kerry

The only irritation at the moment is the seat, about 90mins to 120mins into a ride I start getting a little uncomfortable, then it gradually gets increasingly unpleasant. I do have an airhawk seat cushion but I gave up using it on the Buell due to the extra height it added to me reaching the ground. I think I will dust it off for my next trip and see how I get on. Worse case it gets thrown into the topcase.

Next - The Northern Loop

The second part of this will detail my Northern Loop, which should be a little longer and I might add an extra night of camping to calm down the pace. More on that as soon as its done.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.