With the lack of rallies due to the pandemic, those scooterists that are craving the challenge of long-distance jaunts are looking for a new challenge (or excuse to get some miles in). The National Road Rally provides this and, to be honest, it’s a lot more grown-up than riding 300 miles to the seaside, drinking your own weight in cooking lager then riding home feeling like death on a Sunday morning.

The National Road Rally (NRR) is a “scatter rally” where entrants pick their own start point, route and finish point from a series of control points which are included on a matrix supplied by the organisers. Each control point contains a unique number which the participant records and the control points are linked by routes that carry actual points or scores. The object is to pick a category, they range from Platinum (most difficult) down to Chrome (easiest).

Going for gold

Our group of six decided that’s what we were going to do. With the annual event taking place on the weekend of the 3rd/4th July. After deciding that the Platinum award (13 controls on the Saturday and nine on the Sunday) may be a bit too much of an ask as a first attempt, the Gold category of 13 points on the Saturday followed by a night on the ale and a steady ride back from wherever on the Sunday morning was the one for us. Obviously not expecting England to get further than the group stages in the postponed Euro 2020, we had not taken account of the fact that there may be a football match to watch on the Saturday night.

I’d like to claim that I pored over maps for weeks and then again over the matrix of control points, released as a download 10 days before D-day, plotting the best route from the nearest control point etc. etc. Alas, I did not do anything of the sort and just agreed with whatever our own Lee Maddocks presented, he loves that kind of thing.

We decided to start in Warrington and finish in the Midlands close to the NEC at Coleshill so we booked into a budget hotel and then prepped the Lambrettas for the trip. Lee, John Rodaway and myself all running the latest Quattrini kits and Kev Johnson (Avanti 230), Seamus Murphy (GT240) and Two Stroke Films’ very own Paul Woodsy on his trick S1 Casa250. We meant business.
First control point at Warrington where the journey begins…
The weather forecast for the weekend included everything up to and including yellow warnings for thunderstorms so even Woodsy left his loafers at home and dressed appropriately for the ride.

No sooner had we all met up on the very wet Saturday morning at the first control point in Warrington, we heard three other scooters roll up, consisting of LCGB committee members. We said our hellos and waited patiently for the 9 am start (you have to start between 9 and 10 am and finish before 10 pm or you face disqualification). Bondy of the LCGB contingent had a poorly running scooter and whilst trying to start his lovely painted GP, it backfired directly into my eyes only for me, to stagger, with ears ringing, and trip over one of Seamus Murhpy’s nasal hairs. Danger averted we thought that was that. How wrong we were.

Control Point 3 was Prees, Whitchurch and after fuel in Newcastle under Lyme and zigzagging through leafy Cheshire we arrived with no drama. The weather still had not let up and all our gear was soaked through. There were a few motorcyclists and patrons of the Raven café present, no doubt impressed with the way we rolled up like The Black Widdas and disappeared moments later in a cloud of blue smoke.
So a blast further down into Shropshire to a filling station at the Cravens Arms which was also the 5th control point and we were on our way to Bridgnorth to a popular bikers café for our 6th marker at 3.40 pm. Where the hell was the time going? No time to stop for a fry up, we were again on our way to a Hipster style Indian Motorcycles dealership in Stourport on Severn for point number 7. We received plenty of cheery support from the assembled bikers present but we were now moaning to each other that we were (possibly) only halfway. The football was kicking off at 8 pm and some of us started to worry.
Onto Welshpool for the next point via another fuel stop and for some reason it had taken quite a while, not helped by Kev’s split carb rubber (that was replaced at the roadside).

It was starting to dawn on us that the poor weather and road conditions were really impeding our headway. It was nearly 2 pm and we were only on our 4th control point.

Mutiny

Exactly what you don’t need at a time like this is the group splitting up. After getting separated at a junction, the lead two riders followed the planned route and waited for the other three who were following their own satnavs and turned off the planned route. The sensible thing to do would have been to call the leader and let them know we could head for the next control point but we didn’t, we just headed there anyway and rang them when we got there which went down well, as just at that point a massive thunderstorm ensued and Dom’s Bike Stop, control number 8, was almost completely submerged as torrential rain hammered into the ground creating floodwater surges. The two lead group members showed up to our amusement like drowned rats.

After sitting it out, a committee decision was made. We would head to the 8th control point in Ross on Wye and then divert to Coleshill the planned final point, get a silver award instead of gold and then watch the football in our hotel. It was 5.45 pm when we left and less than half an hour later our illustrious leader suffered a catastrophic exhaust failure which even he (famed for roadside fixes) wasn’t prepared to tackle. Decision made, he was on to the recovery company, an estimated 90 mins pickup and we left him and planned to continue to Coleshill (me kicking myself that we didn’t try and get to the next point in Ross).

Every man for himself

Back to Hereford for fuel and then a satnav check. ETA in Coleshill 8.55 pm. I knew at this point that I was less than 100 miles from home and could (probably) be there in two hours or so especially with most of the rest of the country watching the game the roads would be quiet. With the other three debating where they were going to watch the match our close-knit group who have travelled literally thousands of miles all over the UK and Europe in harmony for years were morphing into splitters!!

Chrome may get you home

At this point the NRR had lost all significance, all that was in mind was watching England beat Ukraine. Coleshill as a destination was now forgotten. Two ended up in a hotel in Droitwich, another in Worcester and myself? Well, I had a lovely sunshine soaked evening ride home along the A49 back to mid-Cheshire. The best part of the day to be honest, thrashing the Quattrini within an inch of its life on deserted roads was bliss. As I sat in my lounge, home by 9.10 pm, watching England slot a fourth goal in to get through to the semi-finals with a beer in my hand, I reflected on what was a great day and although it didn’t end as we planned it was still another day mostly enjoying our ridiculous hobby with a brilliant group of mates.

Our illustrious leader didn’t get recovered until 4.30 am and spent the night in the darkest place possible to break down, a remote A road south of Leominster with no street lighting and nothing around. Bugger. Our very own stuntman also made a full recovery and the damage to the scooter wasn’t as bad as it first looked so all good in the end.

The last thing to do was upload the control point numbers onto the NRR website to claim our Chrome award which was not what we set out to achieve but nonetheless was still an achievement considering the horrendous conditions on our route. Would I do a scatter rally again? Certainly, I recommend it.

Gerry Baldy

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •