What an RAF Pilot can teach us about road safety!

“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”. Is a catchphrase used by drivers up and down the country. Is this a driver being careless and dangerous or did the driver genuinely not see you?

Your brain fills in the blanks

According to a report by John Sullivan of the RAF, the answer may have important repercussions for the way we train drivers and how as riders and cyclists we stay safe on the roads.

Read more ...

I always look forward to spending a good few days on the bike in Europe – apart from the variety of roads, there is the culture, food and thirst quenching offerings that are so different in every country you go to.

This year’s Continental Jaunt (or CJ) was organised by Neil (or to give him his Italian name, Neil Nerobruciare, but more of this later) and we were heading for the French Alps, then going on into Italy.  It was to be a first for us all – we were using Bike Shuttle to get the bikes across to Europe, rather than having the two day slog into the Alps (not to mention the return trip!).

Day 1 saw us ride down to Bike Shuttle’s base near Northampton – an easy ride, which we used the motorway route for speed (well relative speed, given all the 50 limits in place!).  Breakfast at our usual stopping place – Hollies Truck Stop on the A5 near J12 M6 – it has been renovated significantly, and offers good value, no nonsense grub – recommended (http://www.rktruckstops.co.uk/ ).

We arrived for our 11.30 check-in time, the bikes are quickly loaded onto the purpose built transporter, and our helmets, leathers etc. put into transportation boxes.  All we needed was a small overnight bag for our hotel in Geneva.

Whilst the drivers got underway (they travel overnight, double-manning, so they are in Geneva at our hotel when we get up the next morning), we were taken by minibus to an excellent local pub for lunch… and a little liquid refreshment.  A couple of hours later, fed and most definitely relaxed, we are taken to Luton Airport to catch our Easy-Jet flight.  Easy peasy so far!


A couple or so hours later, we are in Geneva, collected by the hotel’s courtesy coach and dropped off just in time for a night-cap!  So far so good.  The gang head to bed – they are me, Dave (Il Piccolo), Gary E (Prosciuttoest), Gary L (Dominare) and of course our guide Nerobruciare!  The daft pseudo Italian names appeared on team t-shirts to celebrate the trip.

True to promise, when we’d finished breakfast, we went out to find the bikes unloaded and ready, the sun shining and the Alpine roads beckoning.  Our leader (Nerobruciare) had the routes ready on his Tom Tom (which by the way, rarely agrees with my Garmin on details of route planning), and led off along the Southern shore of Lake Geneva… where there are far too many 50 limits, but we got past them as we headed out onto the foot hills of the Alps, starting to get the feel of the twisty and mountainous terrain.

The first three days we were to ride the Route des Grande Alpes (RdGA), using the routes from the Ride magazine website, with no modification.  Have to say, they worked a treat too.  We also used the hotel recommendations suggested by Ride’s Simon Weir, and again, they were all absolutely fine.  Day One took us over the first part of the RdGA, passing close to Morzine, and over a number of passes, including Col de la Colombière (1613m) and Col des Aravis.  Although total distance covered was only about 125 miles, it felt like a full day, and our appetites were well and truly whetted, looking forward to the next day.

Day Two took us a further 175 miles (around 7 hours riding…) along the RdGA – by now we were pretty adept at hairpins… there were literally hundreds!  Skirting Lac de Roselend, we followed the Isère valley, reaching Val D’Isère, as the low cloud and rain started to spoil the views.  A quick coffee before heading up the highest pass we would cross – the Col d’Iseran at 2,764 metres… or over 9,000 feet to you and me!  We expected the temperature to drop, but didn’t quite expect the all enclosing cloud (which stopped us “enjoying” the vertiginous views along the road), nor the snow… approaching the top of the Col, the temperature dropped to 1 degree, and the snow came down, or at least came at us horizontally!  Fortunately not for long. But we definitely hoped for warmer weather as we descended!

And we weren’t disappointed!  The route took us through the Arc valley, taking in Col de la Madeleine (1,993m), more tight, tight bends to enjoy, with some respite between to enjoy the majestic scenery.  Col du Galibier came next – a magnificent 2,645m climb, with views to make you giddy… yet again.  It really was a case of sensory overload.

By this time we were getting quite good at the old hairpins… not complacent, I’d add, but definitely a lot more comfortable!  Parts of this day’s route were quite open and flowing too – a nice change from the rigours of the hairpins!

So… what next?  You guessed it… more passes, more hairpins.  Before reaching our night stop in Guillestre, we crossed the Col du Lautaret (2058m), then the impressive Col d’Izoard (2,360m) – often playing a pivotal role in the Tour de France… I can’t imagine cycling up there!  The Col is generally closed from October to June… glad we chose wisely!

Shortly after the breathtaking stop at the top of Col d’Izoard, we reached our overnight stop – the very pleasant Le Catinat Fleuri, in Guillestre.  Nice town with pleasant restaurants and bars… but we did end up in the locals’ disco bar, where chain smoking, banging music, tattoos and piercings were de rigeur… we had a quick drink and left, brave bikers or not, shut-eye called!

Day Three, and 145 miles to cover – M. TomTom suggested around 6 hours riding… so more hairpins, we guessed!  This day proved both fascinating and challenging, as the RdGA took a turn for the smaller, with the roads generally being narrower and tighter than the previous two days.  We were going through prime skiing country, again here, passing slope after slope, but with very few people about.  Passes included Col de Vars (2,108m), Col de la Cayolle (2,326m), plus a host of smaller ones.

At one point on this section, we came out of a small French town, feeling comfortable with our progress and hairpin prowess as we climbed towards the next pass… only to be blown off by a couple of locals on scooters… oh well, a little local knowledge always comes in handy.  We didn’t follow them… far too progressive for us!

The route today seemed busier with more cars about – especially sports cars with ambitious drivers behind the wheel.  It made blind bends (of which there were many) a bit more fraught at times!  In fact a hastily driven Porsche 911 encountered Prosciuttoest on the apex of a hairpin, and managed to beach himself on the concrete drainage gutter giving Gary room… we felt a bit guilty not stopping!

Despite the narrower roads, the scenery was magnificent – we stopped frequently to soak it in and enjoy the views.  At the stop shown here, we were overtaken (!) by a couple of Scottish guys on cycles.  They were going to Nice… which was a sobering thought, as we weren’t expecting to get that far ourselves in the day! 

After a couple of lesser passes, we reached our hotel for the night, L’Auberge Provençal in Sospel.  Our last night in France before heading into Italy. Again, another Ride recommended hotel, and it hit the spot – too far to walk out to local bars, but well-appointed and a good meal was had by all.

Day Four – a nice coastal run from Sospel to just outside Genoa.  On the map it looked great, with lots of nice seaside spots to linger in - it was a short 95 mile saunter, so plenty of time to enjoy the journey.  It turned out to be a bit disappointing, with end to end townships and 50kph limits.  If you are thinking of doing this link, you might want to plan an inland route!  Our hotel was great – the luxury one on the trip!  Hotel Punta San Martino in Arenzano was an oasis of comfort and friendliness from the staff – not cheap, but recommended.

Day Five - we had planned originally to go into Italy (heading for Lake Como) over the recently collapsed bridge in Genoa… S. TomTom helped us avoid the chaos there, and we had an uneventful, but not hugely exciting ride up to Como.  Northern Italy is an industrial heartland, and there are a lot of towns and villages running into each other, so plan your route carefully.

Lake Como is beautiful – really stunning.  Our small hotel (Hotel Anton and Art) was a short walk back form the waterfront in Como, whilst the (Sicilian) restaurant next door was “friendly, good value and not too expensive” to quote our receptionist… and he was right… we ate there both nights in Como.  House wine (quite acceptable) at €8 a bottle… remarkable!  We had two nights here, with a day off the bikes between.  We took the opportunity to soak up local culture (it comes in nice glasses) and take a boat for lunch in Bellagio – home of stars of screen and stage… but they weren’t at home that day!

Day Seven, we head north to return to Geneva.  The route through Italy to Switzerland was mixed, with open roads, then leading into more mountain areas.  An enjoyable run, if not epic.  Overnight in Martigny, an excellent beef fondue shared with Nerobruciare completing the Swiss experience!

The short final day saw us take the north shore of Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman as the locals call it), reaching our hotel in time to have the bikes loaded by BikeShuttle for the trip back to the UK.  We enjoyed a few beers, a nice meal, and then an early night before the morning flight back to Luton.  The bikes were ready and waiting for us at Northampton, everything having gone like clockwork.


BikeShuttle, headed by the friendly and helpful Guy are highly recommended.  The cost, including EasyJet flights really is no more expensive than riding out to Geneva… but you get up to 4 more days to play on the great roads of Europe.  They also do a route to Toulouse – perfect for the Pyrenees and Northern Spain.

Now where are we going next year?

Words and pictures courtesy of Colin Stanfield

Well after the ‘beast from the east’ and the prolonged cold spring we were ready for anything that Scotland could throw at us in early May. As it turned out the weather, while changeable, was relatively benign for Scotland so we set off from Clitheroe in good spirits taking the scenic route to the Border with a big loop through the Dales in all their spring glory. Really, on a good spring day you can’t beat the UK for riding!

Nine bikes of assorted types (plus two pillions) made superb progress to our first stop at Orton, like a well-oiled machine with little need to ‘drop off’ but good use of the system when needed.

The M6 saw us rapidly to our turn off for Longtown and onwards to Gretna, shadowing the motorway for some distance until our next stop at Moffatt. The southern uplands are full of superb riding and we carved our way along mile after mile of sweeping bends before arriving at the central belt and the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Crossing the new QE2 Bridge was a highlight of the day and took us on towards the still, snow lined, mountains of the Highlands.

The Green Welly stop at Tyndrum was buzzing with bikers enjoying the Bank Holiday sunshine.

Now for the final awesome stretch to the Bridge of Orchy, across Rannoch Moor, past the Shepherd of the Moors, that huge monolith of a mountain (the Buchaille Etive Mor) that guards the eastern entrance of Glen Coe, and down into the stunningly impressive Glen itself before emerging out to Loch Linne and our destination at Fort William, which despite its iconic setting isn’t the most inspiring town you’ve ever come across. But tomorrow was Skye so no one’s complaining!

By the way, roundabouts in Fort William have some useful ‘warning’ names!

Now the coast road to Skye via Mallaig is such an icon of Scotland it should be included in any Tour but our Tour organiser (cheers Pino – nice one ) had intel’ that the ferry from Mallaig only takes 6 bikes at a time so we took the more northerly route to the Kyle of Lochalsh through Glen Garry, Glen Cluanie, and Kintail. Well, what a road! Simply amazing and in many ways more European than British with exquisite bends of consistent angle followed by long open stretches, relatively little traffic (just enough overtaking to be fun rather than frustrating) all surrounded by stunning Scottish scenery. Today was even a bit of a safari, with Red Deer, Buzzards, a Golden Eagle, and feral Goats to see and negotiate – the Goats that is!

So, ‘over the sea (or Bridge) to Skye’ and it’s weird geology and landscapes, from the huge bulk of the Red Cuillin to the spikey ridge of the Black Cuillin and the ‘Tolkeinesque’ rock formation of Stor and the Quirang.

Stretches of single track A roads (yes A roads) and the ubiquitous camper vans made for some slow going but gave time to soak up the scenery. Road surfaces were generally good though, as with any roads, there were potholes and sloughs of gravel to catch the unwary.

In all we did over 100 miles just on Skye itself and got a great sense of the island as a whole with its outlying fishing villages, crofts, inlets, and views across to the outer islands.

Stopping at the iconic Eilean Donan castle on the way back to ‘Fort Bill’ gave us classic photo opportunities before the joys of the Glen Cluanie road again.


Sorry – it just had to be done!

‘Go west young man’, was the order of the next day as we set off to Ardnamurchan point and its lighthouse, the most westerly point on the UK mainland. Setting off on the Mallaig road to Skye allowed us to sample at least some of the beauty of this classic road as it follows the Skye rail track alongside the Glenfinnan ‘Harry Potter viaduct’ and the numerous white sandy inlets and beaches.

Now the Moidart peninsula extends many miles out into the north channel and the narrow, often single track, roads made for slow progress, especially given the surprising number of oncoming vehicles, even a Dust Cart at one point. What an amazing area to provide such services to.

Given its coastal location and height we spent a lot of time in light rain and the hills were wreathed in mist but the route was nonetheless spectacular as was the rocky coastal outline as we finally arrived at the lighthouse.

Retracing our steps east we crossed Loch Linne at the Corran Ferry and took the scenic tour around Loch Leven to the ‘Ice Factor’ climbing centre at Kinlochleven, and enjoyed a welcome respite from the now somewhat heavier rain.

The next day was a big expedition north west to Wester Ross (yes, it is a real place and not just the area you all know from Game of Thrones), and then East and back via Loch Ness.

This gave us a chance to ‘play’ on the Glen Garry and Cluanie Roads again on the way to the Loch Carron.

Riding scenery doesn’t get much better than this!

However, my good deed for the day almost threw a spanner (literally) in the works. As TEC, I stopped to help a damsel in distress. Well actually a lady with two young children desperately jumping on the wheel brace trying to change wheels after a flat on her rather ageing Audi. No AA / RAC and no phone reception. I’ll soon fix that thinks I and catch up with the group – no problem. In good SLAM style Pete Cole, next in the line of bikers was keeping an eye on his TEC and also stopped to help. Offending wheel soon removed but then the rot set in. The disk and hub on the car were out of line which made locating the spare on the bolts a major two man task. Overcoming that problem, we then lowered the brand new spare tyre down onto the ground only to find that it too was flat, and no foot pump! There was nothing more that we could do. Taking her phone number I said I’d leave her details at the next shop / garage, whatever. Of course in this part of the world that was another 25 miles! Postscript – she texted me later in the day to say the Police had come to her rescue.

The group reunited we headed into Loch Carron to fuel up, which, with 9 bikes, takes quite some time, especially when other pump users don’t move their vehicles while they spend time on the phone, in the shop, or whatever else they are doing when they should be moving out of the way.

From Loch Carron it was a short but superb ride to Torridon and a stop at Sheildaig. Now for those of you who know the area this is where the famous (infamous?) Belach na Baa road can be found as it rises to 2500ft over the mountains to Applecross.

Pre tour intel’ had said that the road was closed for repair but as we passed the turning there were no signs suggesting closure, only those warning that, ‘ in winter conditions this road is always impassable’ – hey that sounds like my kind of road. Stopping at Sheildaig a couple of us decided to forgo a Latte and headed off anti-clockwise along the stunning coastal road to Applecross. Despite the very strong cross wind (Andy Hall’s panniers on his GS acting like a sail gave me ample warning of particularly strong gusts!) the road was fast and flowy and in surprisingly good condition. If you have ever ridden the Nochalmstrasse in Austria it’s like a single track version of that!

From Applecross the Bealach na Baa rears up ahead of you and today it looked dark and foreboding with an ever increasing cross wind. Rising from sea level (on the West side) to 2500ft it is a challenging but exciting route (despite the oncoming vehicles – there are numerous passing places) and is a must for anyone who likes this kind of riding. From the summit the road plunges East, down a series of Alpine like hairpins until the gradient lessens and the route becomes fast and flowy again.

The Bealach na Baa - Go do it now!

From Torridon we road east to Loch Ness where, despite the collective observational power of nine advanced riders, not a single siting of Nessy was to be had!

The roads to, along, and around Loch Ness and through the Great Glen were superb and, as is his way, Pino managed to link them all with quieter, twistier and even more scenic routes.

We arrived back at Fort William after a 270 mile day buzzing with the fun of it all. Could it get any better……………..read on!

Today was the ‘snow roads’ day and having been climbing in the Cairngorms just 4 weeks earlier I knew that these roads had recently lived up to their name.

Essentially we circumnavigated the Cairngorms National Park but that would be to underplay the whole day which consisted of much faster, flowing roads, often linking passes between mountain ranges. The classic Cockbridge to Tomintoul road, past the Lecht ski centre, was a highlight as it rises high along fast open roads with great visibility, and then drops steeply down towards the Dee valley and the Balmoral Estate. A favourite of car groups as well as bikers you’ll often see lines of classic and vintage cars on this road, or groups of Porsches and other classic marques enjoying the delights of this route.

A classic stretch on the ‘snow road’

Refreshed after a stop at Braemar we carved our way up the Glen Shee pass and on to Pitlochry. While today was our best day weather wise it had turned much colder as evidenced by the fresh dusting of snow on some of the higher tops and the occasional beat of hail on the visor.

Our route back to Fort Bill was becoming familiar now and bends which earlier in the week had been new to us could be taken with a little more pace.

All great things must come to an end someone once said, but I don’t know why! Anyway, our last day saw us take the Argyle Coastal route south west. This was unfamiliar territory to me so what better way to explore these classic roads than by bike. As we progressed south the roads became busier which presented the need for more care with overtakes. As TEC it’s interesting to see the ‘imagination’ that some people put into these manoeuvres. Take care up front I think to myself, we have a lot more miles to go yet.

The busy Dunnoon Ferry was a pleasant way to cross to Gouroch and allowed us to make good progress into the lush farmland of Dumfries and Galloway with a stop at Gretna to refresh for the final push home to sunny Lancashire.

Picking up the M6 we could up the pace to Penrith where the final highlight of the tour was the good old A6 Shap road – always an awesome stretch to ride.

So after 6 days and 2000 miles we all said our farewells and left with memories (and in my case an urgent need for a new rear tyre!) of the epic Scottish Highlands.

Thanks must go to Pino and to Jane for taking time out to organise such a fantastic trip. These things don’t just happen and inevitably as a tour lead, there is some added pressure on top of the normal need to ride well, safely and to enjoy the trip. So cheers Pino, nice one!

The "runners" and "Riders" were:

Pino and Jane Guarino - Yamaha Tenere
Pete Cole - Kawasaki
Ken Chute - Ducati Multi  Strada
Andy Hall - GS1200
John and Kath Know - GS1200
Martin Robinson - BMW 1000
Deborah Robinson - BMW 1000
Jane Dowbiggin - Honda  Crossrunner
Author and photographer - Yamaha Tracer 900


Latest SLAM Events

07 Jul 2022
08:00PM - 10:00PM
SLAM Social
16 Jul 2022
09:00AM -
SLAM Ride - Derek
23 Jul 2022
09:00AM - 05:00PM
Lake Vernwy Run
30 Jul 2022
09:00AM - 05:00PM
SLAM Ride - Al
31 Jul 2022
10:30AM - 04:00PM
Bowker BMW Test Ride Day
04 Aug 2022
08:00PM - 10:00PM
SLAM Social
13 Aug 2022
08:00AM - 05:00PM
Devil's Bridge to Devil's Bridge Run
01 Sep 2022
08:00PM - 10:00PM
SLAM Social


Routes to Ride 2020

SLAM Rides - click here to download your favourites

        sat nav road

Where We Meet

We've now resumed face to face meetings - watch the events diary for details.

The monthly SLAM Social Meetings (1st Thursday of every month) start at 8 pm - although there are always folk there early for a natter!

SLAM Merchandise

SLAM Logo Clothing - Click HERE

        slam new logo