Just returned from a wonderful seven days ride around (literally) Scotland. I will use this post as a marker, and I will be posting ride details as I compile them from memory and helmet-cam video into words, over the next couple of weeks.
I have been wanting to visit Scotland for many years now, and what is a better way to be one with the area than to ride my favorite motorcycle around and be truly one with the countryside! I had started looking seriously to making this trip around last September, and made the commitment to reserve an RT for rental, by December.
For those who might have been thinking about visiting Scotland to ride, I can highly recommend that you go ahead and do so. The ride will test your skills of motorcycle riding in every ways imaginable! This first post will give you some clues as to what kind of riding you will find over there, and some advice on preparations of gear, and the kind of weather that you can expect.
Foremost - make sure that you look at the post that I had entered under "Dealer Experience". My recommendation is to stay away from those guys!
Weather - my research had indicated that I should expect wet/damp weather, and that was not wrong! The best chance for reasonably good weather is to be found during the month of May and June, and so I elected for the early part of June. The temperature for the whole 10 days that I was there was decidedly cool - 45 deg.F to not much above 55 deg.F.
Gears - every motorcyclist in Scotland wore ATGATT, and hi-viz color jackets are very popular. DO take rain gear, but avoid the small mistake that I made. I usually ride with mesh riding over-pant and my main jacket is a Motoport Kevlar Mesh 3/4 length jacket with liners zipped in as appropriate. Those liners were excellent, and I had always been very comfortable using them. However, for this trip, I didn't want to pack such a bulky jacket, and so I had bought a relatively inexpensive Tourmaster mesh jacket, thinking that it will be good for the peak of the summer here later, and the water/windproof liner of this jacket should be fine for use in the wet weather that I might encounter in Scotland. Not a good decision. The less expensive jackets have liner that might be water/windproof but it was not breathable, and if you overheat easily the way that I do, you will soon find yourself somewhat wet under the liner! "Performance" undergarments helps, but they can't wick away that much moisture, and I felt a little uncomfortable for the whole trip.
Roads - of course, they drive/ride on the left over there. Be sure to always be vigilante. Before going, I thought that it's going to be easy to stay left, and in general it was......until my conscious attention lapse by some distractions, and I had found myself on the wrong side of the road a couple of times. This happens when making right turn, and so I took to reciting to myself at every right turn intersections "turn right, go to the other side!" and that seem to work!
There are speed camera all over the place, and as pointed out to me here, before I left for the trip, that "average speed" camera are gaining popularity and are widely used on the highspeed sections of their highway. Quite frankly, I like the idea of those camera over the instant speed ones! The "average speed" cameras are clearly visible and marked. The idea is that is you go under them, they take a photo of your vehicle, and there will be another set of cameras a few miles further down the highway that will do the same again. If the time that it takes you to go from one set of camera to the next is shorter than a calculated value, then you will get a speeding ticket. IMO, this is good because there are times when one might knowingly exceed the speed limit (like passing), where an instant speed camera will nab you, but with the "average speed" camera, you have the chance to slow down so that your average speed for the distance is within limits! BTW, whenever speed cameras are used, there are big signs to warn you of the fact.
In Scotland, you can be riding on a major 4-lanes highway with speed limit of 70 mph, for many miles, to find (with ample warnings) that the road narrows down to 2-lanes highway with 60 mph speed limit, and further on the road will narrow still with the same speed limit....and then the whole thing turns into "single-track" road....with the same 60 mph speed limit! No, they are not crazy over there, but they do expect you to be rational in your driving/riding! Motorists over there are very polite and considerate in their general driving, and are more conscious or motorcyclist than drivers on this side of the pond! Filtering is legal in the UK, and I had experienced that on my first day. Here is a picture snapshot from my helmet-cam, and you should note how the other vehicles keeps far righ in the right lane, and far left in the left lane to allow us, the motorcyclist, to filter through!
If you are going to ride in Scotland, you WILL encounter "single-track" roads, and you need to learn the rules for using those roads. These are very narrow roads, with traffic going in both directions. Traffic means big trucks, campers, cars along with our little 2-wheels bike. The following is what I consider to be a typical single-track road. Note the logging truck in front. I could have encountered it coming in the opposite direction.....and actually had at some points. Note also the passing place to the right:
The next picture is of the narrowest single-track road that I was on, and this one had no room even for a single passing place! I think I was on this road for about 22 miles, and had to maneuver past a motorcycle, a Rang Rover, a small van, and another car, all going in the opposite direction along the 22 miles stretch!
Oh, yeah.....and the sheep! Can't forget the sheep!!!