If one is invited to break a world record, no doubt one must oblige! The World’s largest female bike meet, took place on Sunday 24th July 2022 at the Triumph factory in Hinkley, and three out of our four active female riding members signed up; meanwhile Rebecca, our chair, was philandering in sunny Spain. Who can blame her?
Three very different riders set off to Nuneaton, where the Holiday Inn Express Hotel was booked for the night before the event. One must do those things in style! Who wants to arrive flustered and look horrible on the photo of attendance proof?
Three very different riders indeed: Amanda, our most recent addition to the branch on her gorgeous, red 1200 Speed Twin, who loves the "swoop, swoop" of the back roads; Rika, that’s me, whose pet peeve are "swoop, swoop" back roads, on her rough beauty of a 900 Legend TT, and then Sue on her beautiful and beloved 900cc Street Twin, who just calmly rides whatever is thrown at her.
It was an adventure trip for us! Needless to say: Of course, we went the 'swoop, swoop' back roads. Amanda however did not get away without her own challenge: she was the only one with a Satnav, so she had to lead. And what a great job she did!
But first things first. The pickups and prep!
On the Saturday morning at 8:30, I set off from Felixstowe to pick up Sue in Needham Market. First pitstop, needs must, and off went the two of us, still via A14 to the Bury St Edmunds Sainsbury's coffee shop, to meet Amanda. It's a very recommendable place for a meeting point. One can wait with a cuppa and a roof above for the others to arrive, while parked in proper bike spaces on the right-hand corner of the shop front.
We never rode together before; riding rules needed to be established, phone numbers to be exchanged, and of course, the route to be decided. We would stay South of the A14, towards Haverhill, and then to Nuneaton via Bedford, Northampton and Rugby. Bikes and riders refuelled, off we went with Amanda in the lead and me as 'Tail-end Charlie'.
Goodness me, did this bit of business talk at the beginning of the trip turn out to be a saving grace. A good hour into the trip my engine temperature light came on. Scary! It's very red!
Stopping at a layby, I saw my ladies vanish between the trees, yet by the time they found a place to stop, they had my message. And when my fan eventually stopped hissing so that I dared to move on, they had found the perfect spot for lunch, with Amanda playing signpost on the roadside. What a team, eh?
Well, the light stayed on for the rest of the trip, the bike rode well, the fan kept hissing, what else option was there? If she decided to break down, it still was time to deal with it then!
Interrupted by many pleasant breaks for us and for cooling the bike, we swooped and swooped, and by the time we arrived at the hotel at 6:30 PM, I even enjoyed it a little.
The Nuneaton Holiday Inn Express has friendly staff, 24-hour reception, parking in the front and back, breakfast included, and a weird room numbering system. Finding a room was a bit like hide and seek in the woods.
A good night sleep followed a very nice meal at the Beefeater across the road, a couple of drinks at our hotel bar and the reassurance of the hotel staff that they would look out for our bikes, which were chained up at the front. The next morning, we found our bikes safe and sound, while others weren’t quite so lucky. Although theft attempts at the rear of the hotel had been deferred, bikes had been nicked at other hotels.
Leisurely breakfast done we watched as most of the other bikes roared off for their 15-minute trip to the Hinkley Triumph Factory. By the time we set of, the parking lot was almost empty and the roads were clear. Stopping at a random petrol station on the way in readiness for the way home I thought: “Must not put my fuel cap on this ridiculously high petrol pump, I will forget it” So, I put it on the seat, something which I usually try to avoid. A couple minutes into the trip Sue frantically gestured… she had put her fuel cap on this ridiculously high pump and forgotten it. Finding the way back was a challenge. It shows how much one toddles along, following the lead. Neither Sue nor I had an idea how many round abouts we had passed and which turns we’d taken. Amanda came to the rescue and led the way back, so bike and fuel cap could be happily reunited.
And then we queued! Three by three making use of the road space, we got randomly mingled with all those other magnificent bikes, made our way to the counting gate and rolled through; Amanda first followed by Sue, and I got there a bit later.
It needed another good 500 bikes before the record was broken, so we parked up, tied Mr Dobbs, our mascot, to my hip bag and were ready for a cuppa and maybe some cake.
That was the only down side of the event: No cuppa, and no cake!
The food queues were ridiculous. From a previous visit I knew that the Hinkley Factory coffee shop is lovely and quite big, but not thousand plus people big.
Apart from the factory coffee shop there was one Burger van, fish & chips, and ice cream, that was it. High noon – sunshine, about a thousand people with another thousand more to be expected! We went for ice cream. 20 minutes later we happily sat on the grass, taking the mandatory ice cream selfies and got the sugar rush giggles.
We paid our visit to the TOMCC stall and said ‘Hello’ to Ken, the Chairman, toured all the other stalls and before Mr Dobbs got bored, I decided to try some of the bikes on display. No offence to my old girl, but my two companions are riding brand new bikes, one must at least see if the feet would reach the ground on those modern things. It was the Rocket GT that appealed the most, but a 2.5 l engine and £21k are a tad bit out of my league, so we decided to make a move. It still was a long way home. Almost ready to hop on our bikes we received a message from the lovely Jenny Vaudin: “Can be with you in 2 minutes!” We had met her at the Guernsey Trifest in May and talked about the event. And indeed, she came all the way from across the channel. It was a short but sweet catch-up with a great lady!
Satnav programmed for the bigger A roads but still avoiding the dual carriageways, we swooped our way under glorious skies along the A47 via Leicester and Peterborough before dropping off towards Thedford.
In Glaston, we found a gem of a village pub, The Old Pheasant. It’s actually a hotel and restaurant, but due to the cosey pub ambience we didn’t realise. We felt at home like at our local, and fantastic food it was, too. Rest over, bike cooled down, leftover pizza fitted into the top box and off we went again. At Ixworth it was bye-bye for Amanda. She dropped off towards Bury St Edmunds while Sue and I moved on to hit the A14 at Woolpit. Sue waved good bye at Stowmarket and a good half hour later my hot and bothered bike was glad to stop at home in Felixstowe.
And of course, we helped beat it! The old record of 1,132 from 2017 was beaten by 1,549 female riders turning up. A fantastic adventure in great company and blessed by beautiful sunshine.
PS: My bike is getting fixed now. It was the thermostat that freed itself within the housing and got wedged into disfunction. The housing is not sold anymore, we’re hunting for one now. Old bikes, eh? I wonder why I keep dreaming about the Rocket GT.