Saturday, 19 August, 2017: Kimbolton to Crawford

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Grove Farm B&B, Kimbolton.

I was up at 06:30 the following morning. On my own in the accommodation, I helped myself to a bowl of cereal, a bit of toast and some coffee, then packed my things and made my way over to the stable to collect the bike.

I was relieved to see that it had charged fully overnight and was ready for the second day’s adventure. Naturally, under the circumstances, the unlikely scenarios did cross my mind. What if it had stopped charging overnight for some reason? What if I had a puncture?

I satisfied myself with the standard bike checks that all was fine, pushed the bike out carefully from the stable and took a couple of photos to capture the nice morning scene. The ground was wet following the previous day’s rain, but there were encouraging signs of blue skies ahead.

At 07:18, I headed off, making my way along a couple of single track country roads, covered in the usual farm-related surface hazards, but was relieved and appreciated the contrast from the previous night and took in the beauty of the surrounding countryside in the early morning sun.

Picking up the A49, I deviated briefly off the road briefly to take a shorter route into Shropshire directly through one of my favourite haunts, Ludlow: a place I visit quite frequently on my petrol bike.

Today, however, I had no time to stop at my favourite café, near the castle, nor to appreciate the beauty of the town, save for a set of traffic lights on the approach to the town outside the Charlton Arms pub, which, already red when I approached, detained me for a full 2 and a half minutes, which sounds like very little time when said out loud, but sat at traffic lights feels like an eternity. Fortunately, the view afforded and the brief ride through beautiful Ludlow mitigated the seemingly endless wait.

Back on the A49, the small number of other road users made the run from Ludlow up to Shrewsbury an enjoyable and tranquil experience, the Shropshire Hills in the morning light making for a very pleasant backdrop.

Shortly before entering Shrewsbury, I stopped at a service station where the A5 intersects the A49 to rendezvous with Chris, who had accompanied my brother Peter and me on our recent mainland Europe trip. I had arranged with Chris to meet up there, with a view to him accompanying me to my first charge stop of the day.

He greeted me with a characteristic quip.

“Almost done!”

Almost done indeed.

We didn’t hang around at the services, but opted to head straight off and continued into the centre of Shrewsbury, which, I am reliably informed by my friend from there, Mark, is pronounced Shroosbury, like the small animal, and not Shrowsbury, as I had always pronounced it until he put me right.

It had been over thirty years since I had gone into the centre of Shrewsbury and I had not appreciated how beautiful a town it is, so I was glad of the opportunity to take a quick route through its centre as part of my trip.

From Shrewsbury, we took the pleasant A528, then the B5476 on dry roads up to Wem, entering the small market town with the impressive Wem Mill, a former corn-grinding mill, to our right. From Wem, we continued on the same road up to Whitchurch in the northernmost part of Shropshire.

Leaving Whitchurch, we joined the A49 and, crossing into Cheshire, the skies ahead started to cloud over a little more again, and we had the first spots of light rain of the day. We stayed with the A49 for the remaining part of the first stint of my journey of the day, crossing the Acton Swing Bridge over the River Weaver, whereupon I decided to pull over to tighten my right wing mirror, which had become a little loose.

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The Partridge, Stretton.

A short time later, at 10:00 and with 11% of battery remaining, we arrived at my first scheduled stop for the day: a very pleasant pub, the Partridge at Lower Stretton, just south of Warrington. This was on my changed route, away from my original planned route through Runcorn, and I’m actually very glad I went to the Partridge.

We turned up, just as it started to properly rain. It was a lovely pub, out of town, and recently refurbished. I had arranged with General Manager, Neal Thacker, to charge there and the staff were very obliging. I found a couple of sockets near the fire exit door and was able to use my two extension cable method to charge the bike, leaving my waterproof coat over the top-box to offer some further resistance against the rain.

While the bike charged, Chris and I went in and I had a brunch/early lunch of porridge while Chris tucked into a proper English breakfast. After a while chatting, Chris said farewell, wished me luck and headed off.

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John Chivers' Zero DSR electric motorcycle charging at The Partridge, Stretton.

By 13:25, the bike had fully charged and I was ready to be on my way again. I thanked the staff and headed off on my own again.

The next section of the journey proved to be an excellent opportunity to practise urban riding, as it saw me continue on the A49 into what I should, as a Yorkshireman, consider ‘enemy territory’: Lancashire.

I rode through Warrington, Wigan, and then into Preston, where I picked up the A6. There’s little I can write about this part of the trip, save that it was mercifully dry for the main part, with a couple of showers. That particular part of the country on the route I took provides little respite away from urban centres and traffic.

Once clear of Preston, however, I was away from the main urban centres of the North West and enjoyed some pleasant, more open country road, travelling the A6 in the Red Rose county. I managed to maintain a nice, steady speed along that stretch.

Lancaster itself is a lovely place and it was nice for me to pass through the city again and across the River Lune. Once clear of Lancaster, I continued on the A6 and travelled through Bolton le Sands, which afforded me a lovely view over Morecambe Bay. Then it was on to Carnforth, after which I left the A6 and joined the A6070 into Cumbria, through the narrow main road in Burton in Kendal, and followed that road up to Milnthorpe, where I joined the A65, the remainder of the leg providing me a lovely ride up to picturesque Kendal.

Approaching Kendal, the skies had once more clouded over and the roads were damp as I entered the town. Kendal is a popular market town in Cumbria and is a tourist favourite. Consequently, it was reasonably busy on the high street as I arrived, but after a short time I arrived at my second charging stop of the day, the Duke of Cumberland pub, at 16:34 with 34% of my battery charge remaining, having covered 77.8 miles since the previous charge stop.

I was pleased that the battery was already a third charged, as I was keen to press on with the trip. Nevertheless, I needed to charge and was starting to get a little hungry, and the weather had turned rainy again, so it was a good time to stop and recharge both the bike and me.

I met the landlord and landlady, Trev and Liz Crawford, with whom I’d spoken to arrange stopping to charge and after a bit of pondering again as to how we could charge the bike, I wheeled it outside the pub’s beer cellar and managed to gain access to a couple of sockets. Once again, this necessitated the rather longer extension lead approach to charging and it was a little awkward to get the bike set up in the cramped space, but I was nevertheless grateful to be able to charge there, and, once set up, I headed into the bar to get myself a drink initially, followed by something to eat.

At around 19:00, the bike had finished charging. By the time I’d noticed, unplugged the leads and moved the bike back into the main car park, and said my thanks and goodbyes, it was 19:26 and time for the off again.

The next stint was going to be challenging. I had an estimated 112.5 miles of range, according to what we EV owners call the ‘guessometer’: the estimated remaining range based on recent riding or driving in the case of cars. I had 102 miles to do on the next stage, simply because I was heading up to the Scottish borders and there were few built-up settlements around my route which would allow me to charge. I knew that despite the claimed range on the guessometer, that 112 miles was a wholly unrealistic range, especially since my next stint would include several miles of motorway and the climb into Scotland.

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John Chivers' Zero DSR electric motorcycle charging at ASDA, Carlisle.

With that in mind, I had planned an additional, minor stop in Carlisle, which I knew really that I would have to make, albeit for a shorter period of time.

No sooner had I left Kendal than I began the ascent on the picturesque A6, skirting the edge of the Lake District, and it quickly became apparent that the ascent was taking its toll on the range at that early point in the ride. Once the road levelled off, I continued on through Shap and successive villages and on to the town of Penrith, then stayed with the A6 on that long, predominantly straight stretch as the sun began to set.

At 20:43, having travelled 43.3 miles from Kendal I was at 47% battery and so made my planned additional stop at a Polar charge point in Carlisle’s Asda superstore (only one of the two spaces ICEd). I was able to make use of the type 2 cable and so setting the bike up to charge was fairly straightforward. While I was charging, I was approached by someone and we soon struck up a conversation about the bike.

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John Chivers' Zero DSR electric motorcycle charging at ASDA, Carlisle.

Paul Higgins, with whom I spoke, was a chef by trade, but also had knowledge of and dealings in infrared heating panels. Funnily enough, I’d only recently heard of this technology via another friend, but it transpires that they were used extensively during recent floods in Carlisle to dry out houses, and Paul took an interest in them. Essentially, they use infrared energy to heat up objects, notably people in a room, rather than the standard way we heat homes, which is by heating the ambient air. As such, they are reputedly far more efficient. I resolved to find out more about these. We chatted for an hour, when, with the battery at 80%, I decided to make a move on the final leg of the journey for the day.

The final part took place in the dark and once I had got out of Carlisle, comprised exclusively motorway miles, travelling up the M6 and then, as I crossed the River Sark and the border into Scotland, the A74(M).

This section of the journey was by far the most demanding in terms of power on the bike. The long and steady climb into Scotland, combined with the wind, which had picked up again, and still fairly poor weather, all took its toll. I took my speed right down to speeds which I admit were a little uncomfortable on an unlit motorway, hovering around the 35-40 mph mark, close to the minimum speed on UK motorways.

I initially left the motorway at junction 15 near Beattock, but quickly realised that this was due to a poorly-placed waypoint on my route plan and so I got back onto the motorway and continued. By this stage, I admit I was starting to suffer a little with range anxiety. Perhaps I should have stayed a little longer at Carlisle, but as the miles went on and the distance towards my intended destination decreased, I started to relax a little more.

By the time I arrived at my destination, Holmlands Bed and Breakfast in Crawford, it was already 23:12. I had made it with 4% battery remaining and a mere 6.4 miles left on the guessometer. That stop in Carlisle for the extra hour had definitely been a wise move. In battery terms, the stint from Kendal to Crawford had used a total of 128% to cover 102 miles.

Nobody heard me arrive, but I noted that there was a television on and someone sleeping on the couch. Having knocked on the door and failed to get a response, I tapped on the window, hoping I wouldn’t startle the sleeping man.

He responded, got up, opened the door and escorted me, with the bike to the garage at the rear of the building. I apologised for the lateness of the hour, but he was quite understanding. I had telephoned from Carlisle to update them with an estimated arrival time.

I plugged the bike in, once more only requiring one socket and one lead, watched it start charging and then my host, John Damer, showed me to my room. By this time, I was very tired and, following a nice, hot shower and having copied the day’s video files off the camera, turned in, grateful that the next two days were going to be comparatively easier and shorter.


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