Ducati Monster 797
The girls go to a ladies-only bike weekend
AN INVITE FROM three work colleagues to head to Camp VC - a ladies-only biking weekend in Wales - was the perfect excuse to get some more miles on the Ducati Monster 797. I was slightly sceptical about the ‘ladies-only’ aspect of the event. I mean, why do we need an all-ladies event? And what if the shoe was on the other foot and it was an all-male event; how would we like that? But with a weekend ticket costing a very reasonable £60 it was time to keep an open mind, get packed up and head off.
Easier said than done with the Monster, it turns out! Fitting luggage is a bit tricky as I discovered with RIDE’S luggage challenge in the September issue. Universal-fitment soft panniers hang too low, so you run the risk of fouling the rear wheel when riding. With the bike having a metal tank, it was easy enough to use a tank bag but I wasn’t happy with the prospect of having to carry my tent, mat, sleeping bag and a change of clothes on my back. Thankfully Alison came to the rescue with her Honda X-ADV and its copious amount of space and storage capacity. I did feel a bit of a wuss when Sarah turned up with exactly the same problem as me but with her tent and weekend necessities strapped to her back. Oh well, first come, first served! The route from Peterborough to the Brecon Beacons where the event was taking place can be done purely on A-roads and motorways, which didn’t inspire any of us
SPEC YAMAHA TRACER 700 £7139 + 689cc parallel twin + 74bhp + 196kg + 17-litre tank + 835mm seat + Miles so far: 3327 SPEC DUCATI MONSTER 797 £8035 + 803cc V-twin + 72bhp + 193kg + 16.5-litre tank + 805mm seat + Miles so far: 2444
in advance. The Ducati is more at home cruising through lovely bends rather than monotonous stretches of straight road so we tasked Simon, our RIDE route guru, with creating a fun route for us with a couple of stops for some refuelling for ourselves and our bikes. This was transferred to a sat nav which I helped fit to the Monster without too much drama, although it did mean lifting the tank to neatly route the wiring.
To get us to the twisties quickly, we had a short blast on some familiar dual carriageways which the Monster deals with very well. It’s very smooth for a V-twin and despite not having any screen at all, some clever headlight-and-clocks design must have included wind deflection in the brief as it copes well.
We arrived at the Cotswolds quickly and the roads there highlighted the Ducati’s capability of not just being a city bike but also great fun in the country too. There’s plenty of punch available from the engine and, thankfully, enough torque (49lb·ft) to get away with being in the wrong gear on unfamiliar roads something which is easily done as there’s no gear position indicator.
I made a point of shifting my position regularly and stretching my limbs as I
“Why do we need an all-ladies event?”
know from experience how stiff even the most comfortable bike can make you feel on a long journey. The Monster’s seat is adequate but I have sat on better ones. The bike isn’t a tourer though, so I can’t really knock it for that.
We arrived at Camp VC before sunset and in the dry, which we were grateful for as there was some mild off-roading to do before our pitching spot was found. It was only over some gravel, through a barn and across a grass field, and reminding myself to keep away from the sharpbiting front brake ensured no mishaps. It might have been a very different story had it rained though! Our spot located, we pitched tents and went to explore some Camp VC entertainment. That night in the barn, there were talks being given by influential women from the biking world and we had the pleasure of listening to Elspeth Beard telling her fascinating story about circumnavigating the world on a BMW R60/6 in 1974 - the first British woman to do so. Tamsin Jones, who owns the farm we were camping on, spoke about her life riding enduro bikes (she finished the Dakar at her first attempt in 2010). You could join off-road beginners courses with her in small groups around the farm land, with bike and kit provided.
There was a large barn on-site which was set up with Blondies Bar, the Vans skate ramp, a display of various small capacity Honda and a stage surrounded by hay bales for perching on. It took us a while to work out what was going on when we entered the barn. It looked like an elaborate game of musical bumps but it turned out to
“We had aching bones from camping”
be Disco Bingo! Who doesn’t like a boogie to a bit of disco?
If we’d got up early enough on the Saturday morning (we didn’t, thanks to Sailor Jerry rum), we could have joined the yoga session, followed by breakfast which was provided from a retro Citroën van - and the smells emanating from it thankfully weren’t the usual greasy, pungent, fried-breakfast variety.
Daily activities included three choices of rideout around the Welsh hills and valleys. Unfortunately we’d left it too late to sign up so headed out on our own ride to Barry Island. Arriving there we had to search hard for a space to park as it was very crowded with lots of traffic and people wandering around - all of them too interested in ice cream to watch out for filtering bikes. The very keen front brake on the Monster (two Brembo monoblock calipers always feels like overkill to me, so the brake lever needs a very delicate touch), combined with a very wide turning circle, did mean that there were a few moments of trepidation but we survived and parked up ready for our own ice creams.
For those not wanting to venture too far from camp on the Saturday there was still plenty to get involved in and, for non-riders, there was the chance to actually get on and have a go with mini taster lessons. The more adventurous could have a go at off-road riding or flat-track and by the looks of the worn-out faces when we got back in the evening, plenty had given it a go!
Riding back to camp that evening saw us caught in our first Welsh downpour. Thankfully, smooth and predictable throttle response always sees the Monster behave well in wet conditions.
Afterwards was another enjoyable evening, being entertained with talks from inspirational women including Leah Tokelove (a pro flat-tracker), Sophie Allen (skateboarder), Tamsin and Elspeth. Later there was an all-girl band.
Sunday saw us venturing back to Lincolnshire with good memories and stories to tell. We had aching bones from camping but thankfully, they were not made any worse by the ride home. On a longer journey I would like to try the optional Comfort Seat, as the standard is on the firmer side, though it’s never been a problem until this long (ish) trip.
Camp VC proved that my reservations regarding a ladies-only event were unfounded, as the weekend benefited from its exclusivity, encouraging new and existing riders to feel comfortable and relaxed. Long may it continue.
All Sarah’s gear went in a backpack Caz’ kit went in a mate’s luggage instead - winner
Free pre-ride out bike checks there
There was a huge variety of bikes attending the event from all over the country
A short stretch of off-roading was necessary to reach the pitching spot
The weekend had a great social vibe going on
Sarah and Caz rode-out to Barry Island Both the Monster and the Tracer proved excellent cross-country rides
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em