It's always a sign of a great weekend when I only find a handful of random photos on my dilapidated phone as I nurse my hangover on my return; if I forget my journalistic duties for a short time it was evidently a good time. And last weekend in Derbyshire was one of those.
I didn't even know the event was on and hadn't been invited until a couple of days before; Jonny Wilson, who regularly snaps for GKM, asked if I was going to Fnarmegeddon. Naturally, my reply was 'huh?'.
It's a little event put on by a crew who call themselves the O-Branch (no, I'm not revealing why) and like all the best events it's simple: ride through some of England's finest scenery, pitch a tent next to an old pub, drink it dry and in the interim enjoy a ride around, cream tea and top banter. One of O-Branch's lynchpins is Sumo, who regularly fettles my Panhead at his VintageChop workshop in Huddersfield. The promise was "High times, low expectations"!
I couldn't make the first night, but rode down for the Saturday night, arriving at around 4.30pm. The ride down from north Yorkshire is around 100 miles; about half of it on fast A-roads and the M1, the rest on wonderful winding roads through the Peak District. Truly some of the best riding you can do in the UK, especially when the sun shines (which it did).
After pitching my tent (I really must stop camping; I hate it) I wandered into the 15th century pub which was venue for the weekend. The Bull i' th' Thorn is one of the most bizarrely-named – and indeed bizarre – pubs I have ever visited. For over 500 years it has been offering travellers respite from the road between Manchester and Derby and it looks like a medieval pub should: higgledy-piggledy interior, tiny olde world bar, suits of armour, bizarre taxidermy and a warren of little corridors and rooms.
I met up with lots of old friends, chatted to some new ones and enjoyed a few reviving beers. The bar was so small that customers have to form an orderly queue to be served one by one. From around 5pm it became chaotic, with one woman behind the bar and families rubbing shoulders with bikers waiting (a long time) for food and drink. The landlord was (of course) an eccentric character who shouted from the bar 'we're running out of food!' at about 8pm. Then at about 11pm they ran out of all the ales they had. They weren't short of customers… just competence.
It was a vey enjoyable night though, top 'n' tailed by some glorious riding through the Peak District, up through Buxton and Glossop, joining the motorway at Barnsley. I love drinking in the scenery on rides like this; it puzzles me that other bikers on sport bikes want to ride through such wonderful countryside pretending they're doing a lap of the TT.
The Panhead continues to suffer from its 'bogging' at speeds of around 50mph, especially at high revs. Sumo couldn't find the cause and we know the timing is spot-on; I will have to go throughout the electrics systematically when I have time but perhaps it is the ol' Linkert playing up. The bike is also leaking badly from the gearbox; another job for winter. I am getting a little tired of the coating of oil all over the rear tyre and frame.
Thanks to O-Branch for a great 24 hours and to Jonny for the invitation.