Sum­mer even­ing blasts help make ev­ery­thing bet­ter

To cel­e­brate the long days, MCN’s Matt Wildee es­caped the of­fice to en­joy de­serted roads and qual­ity time on his R1

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My R1 is lithe, alive in my hands as we trace the con­tours of East Anglia’s most beau­ti­ful road. The Yamaha’s a will­ing com­pan­ion: cut­ting neat, faith­ful lines, fill­ing me with con­fi­dence and joy. All around is sen­sory over­load. The cool, crisp air of a coastal sum­mer even­ing, hedgerows and verges so green they’re al­most flo­res­cent and a deep blue sky that meets a deep blue sea. This is heaven.

It’s a quar­ter-past-six on what could be any Tues­day be­tween May and Septem­ber and I’ve bunked off nor­mal life for the even­ing. Right now, I should be wedged in front of a creak­ing com­puter or con­tem­plat­ing a con­gested commute, but in­stead I’m chas­ing the van­ish­ing point on per­fect, clear roads. The heat of the day is be­ing re­placed with a cool, re­fresh­ing breeze and a soft, golden light that makes ev­ery­thing ma­jes­tic. This time of year is mag­i­cal for bik­ers. Af­ter months of pray­ing for dry, cle­ment week­ends, evenings are now are a play­ground, too.

It’s light un­til 9pm and once I’m through the school runs and rush hour there’s a world of de­serted roads, long shad­ows and grippy tar­mac that’s spent the day gen­tly warm­ing in the sum­mer sun. It’s time to ex­ploit it.

The goal

I’ve cho­sen the North Nor­folk coast road as my des­ti­na­tion of choice. We’ve all got a favourite road, a place that we’re drawn to time and again and mine is the 36 miles of the A149 be­tween Sher­ing­ham and Hun­stan­ton. The gen­tle beauty of East Anglia’s best bik­ing route is al­ways a draw.

Cut­ting be­tween pas­tel-painted for­mer fish­ing vil­lages, it rises over the salt flats and carves its way be­tween field and sea. It’s bumpy and can be clogged with tourists, but ride it at the right time and ev­ery­thing flows. One sum­mer back in the 90s I rode it every day, scrap­ing to­gether enough dole money to fill my Kawasaki KR-1’s tank and sate its thirst for £12-a-litre two-stroke oil. It was a time of per­fect bik­ing evenings that is long over­due a re­visit.

The frus­tra­tion

The 75-mile ride from Cambridgeshire has been pretty stan­dard: lines of traf­fic, slow­mov­ing trucks and dis­tracted par­ents weave in front of me. But there are still mo­ments of pure plea­sure. An empty, per­fectly-sur­faced cor­ner on a Fen­land road, a par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing five-car over­take near Down­ham Mar­ket and a grippy, traf­fic-free round­about near Swaffham are high­lights, but the sim­ple fact that I’m on my bike is enough. Even a bad day on a bike is a good day com­pared to nor­mal life. It’s helped by this be­ing the first proper ride of the year on my Yamaha R1. Bought as a snap pur­chase be­fore the con­tents of my cur­rent ac­count would be wasted on nap­pies and prams, I’ve gen­tly fet­tled it over the years to the point where it has bet­ter sus­pen­sion and more midrange power than a mod­ern 1000cc superbike. I wouldn’t swap it for any­thing.

The plan was to start at Sher­ing­ham, but I’m get­ting bored of the con­ges­tion, so I cut through Holt and take the back roads to Kelling. The first glimpses of the sea be­tween the trees and through dap­pled light and long shad­ows are a tri­umph. The last hour-and-a-half of frus­tra­tion has been worth it af­ter all.

The re­ward

I’m head­ing straight for my favourite sec­tion, a 1.5-mile jaunt be­tween Kelling and Salt­house. The road climbs steeply as you leave Kelling be­fore flick­ing into a blind left and plung­ing down­hill into a steeply-banked right-han­der and then snaking and soar­ing its way

‘The first glimpses of the sea be­tween trees and long shad­ows are a tri­umph’

to a steep crest which at its apex com­mands aerial views of the marshes and the dis­tant sea. The de­scent into Salt­house is just as good, with a down­hill sweeper that has enough vis­i­bil­ity to use all the road when its safe.

Rid­den with a lit­tle bit of com­mit­ment it’s phys­i­cal, de­mand­ing and pos­si­bly the most ex­cit­ing bit of tar­mac in Nel­son’s county. And, amaz­ingly it’s also com­pletely de­serted.

With the rise of mid­dle-class tourists spend­ing a for­tune in the re­gion, vis­i­tor numbers have spiked but it seems that af­ter the bank hol­i­day, they’ve all gone back to their jobs in The City. I’m alone. The soli­tude re­minds me of those long sum­mer evenings 20 years ago when all that was im­por­tant was my bike and this road. Of course, ev­ery­thing hap­pens a lot faster on a 1000cc sports­bike than it does on an old 250, but the thrill is the same. Just like in 1998, the tyres dig into the rough, coarse tar­mac and I lever the bike from side-to-side as I swing through steady sweep­ers. The bars go slightly light and shake play­fully at the crest of small rises, just like they did back in the day. And just like then, all of this is done with­out hit­ting speeds that would land you in the back of a po­lice car. It’s so much fun that I have to turn around and do it again. And again.

The cruise

The rest of the route to­wards Hun­stan­ton is serene. I stop off at Blak­eney har­bour to watch the sea re­cede across the salt flats. Af­ter the vi­bra­tion of the ride, the bumps and the blare of my pipe, the si­lence is deaf­en­ing. The carpark is empty, the only noise is the bob­bing of moored boats and the tick­ing of the bike as it cools. It’s al­most a lit­tle too much and I move on.

Time to re­trace my steps to Hun­stan­ton. The road here is just as chal­leng­ing and again eerily quiet, just like it was in my youth. Long bumpy straights mix with switch­backs that can sucker you in. It’s best just to be smooth. Sunny Hunny is still the des­ti­na­tion of choice for every Nor­folk biker. I was a late-90s reg­u­lar. It was a time when sports­bikes ruled the sales charts and the seafront was packed with GSX-Rs and R1s like mine, but when I roll into Hunny, there’s just a hand­ful of bikes. The place is just as chilled-out as the rest of Nor­folk. The tran­quil­ity is un­ex­pected, but wel­come. The only thing to do is grab some fish and chips and cof­fee as the sun dis­ap­pears be­low the hori­zon, cast­ing long shad­ows over the ex­posed shore and shroud­ing the town in muted orange light as it oc­ca­sion­ally breaks through the clouds.

It’s been the per­fect, stolen even­ing. It is the best time to put a mo­tor­cy­cle ride be­fore the mun­dan­i­ties of life.

‘Long straights mix with bumpy switch­backs’

Long shad­ows and golden sun. Bliss

Burn­ham Overy Mill is a great lo­cal land­mark The end­less switch­backs of the Pyre­nees are the per­fect play­ground for the new Brough Su­pe­rior

You can prob­a­bly get some cream for that

The rises and falls of the A149 be­tween Kelling and Salt­house are loved by every Nor­folk biker

The views re­ally do make it all worth it

Stun­ning wind­mill at Cley is also a lovely B&B

Banked left near Kelling is a chal­lenge

Blak­eney har­bour is beau­ti­ful and quiet on week­day evenings

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