If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ride of Respect 2011 - the day itself

I've just got back from an awesome day at the Ride of Respect 2011 at Royal Wootton Bassett. (I posted about it here and here for the background.)

I missed my early alarm and ended up leaving the house at about 5.15 am, half an hour later than I had planned. I had been outside in my dressing gown to check the weather, which was mild and dry, so I opted for leathers rather than textile waterproofs. Of course, within two miles it was drizzling and then raining, and my boots filled with water. Once it's in, it's in (as it were), so there was little point in stopping to put waterproof overtrousers on at that stage. I met up with two friends from the TOMCC in Carmarthen, and we rode up together.

We stopped at Leigh Delamere services on the M4 to grab another coffee and a chance to drain the previous one, and I took the opportunity to fix the flags on the bike ready for the ride. A large Welsh flag for Anna, and a small Union Flag for me (you don't carry an English flag in Wales if you know what's good for you). Already there were hundreds of bikes there.

I was booked in to arrive between 8.00 and 9.00 am at Hullavington Airfield, and it was towards the end of that interval that we actually arrived. We were marshalled into rows on the main runway and told we had about an hour before we set off. In the end, this was nearer to two hours, but the purchase of a bacon roll and a coffee made this quite a pleasant wait. As usual at motorcycle events, everyone there was a friend you just hadn't met yet. It was amazing to see so many bikes in one place.

There was this little scallywag there:

and some who could barely keep their eyes open:

All kinds of bikes were there - many sportsbikes, but just as many Harleys and cruisers, lots of GoldWings, hundreds of trikes, and a smattering of learner bikes, trailies and even a couple of proper Mod-style Lambrettas, complete with RAF roundels and zillions of mirrors. Many had national flags of various kinds, and many had special Ride of Respect 'Thank You' flags. There were lots of military bikers and their families, too. All two-wheeled life was there.

I have no pictures from the ride through Royal Wootton Bassett itself and the surrounding villages, as I was fully occupied in keeping the bike upright, but the experience was amazing. The avowed purpose of the ride was to say 'thank you' to the people of RWB for their dignity and compassion in watching so many of our brave troops make their last journey home through RAF Lyneham, but many of the people seemed to want to say 'thank you' to the bikers who came from all corners of the UK to see them. I found this quite hard to handle, and could merely say "no, thank you" in response. It was a happy, friendly and emotional experience, which must have gone some way to counterpoint the many sombre occasions that RWB has seen. All along the route, people had decorated their houses and gardens with Union Flags and bunting, and many had brought furniture out and were treating the day as a spectacle, with sandwiches and a Thermos flask. They waved, we waved; they shouted, we tooted our horns; they pointed at us, we revved the nuts off our bikes in reply; they reached out their hands and we high-fived them as we passed. Many children were along the route, waving and smiling, and I think everyone present was grinning from start to finish. It was joyous.

(Incidentally, the high-fiving of stationary pedestrians was quite a feat even at 5 mph, especially if they were young and low to the ground. One biker had stopped towards the end to take photographs and held his hand out to me as I was passing at about 30 mph. Afterwards, I had my hand clamped under my other armpit in pain, and when I checked in my mirror he was still spinning like an ice skater as I left the village.)

Two moments stand out for me. One was an elderly gentleman standing in his small garden holding a little brown dog in his arms, holding the dog's paw and making it wave to all the passing bikes. He got a special wave and a loud toot from me. The other was the people in the house in (I think) Malmesbury with a Welsh flag on display, who saw my red dragon and went wild. I almost fell off with waving and grinning at them. It was a good job I couldn't stop and explain that I wasn't really very Welsh, and that the flag was really for someone else.

Once through RWB, it was all over and we were decanted back onto the M4 and headed for Wales again. We took the journey home a little more easily than we did the frantic journey up, and I was home by about 5 pm. I emptied the water out of my boots (they are truly waterproof, and didn't let a drop out) and surveyed the purple dye that had leached out of my leather trousers and onto my legs, making me look as if I were in the advanced stages of some gross vascular disease.

The Bonnie didn't miss a beat all day, although it went through three tankfuls of best unleaded. I did try to use the free satnav on the iPhone for the last stages of the journey, but it was a little unsatisfactory. I put the phone in the clear panel on top of the tank bag, but with the movement of the bike it slid around a little and often decided that it was upside down and displayed the info screen the wrong way up. With a proper mount, upright and more visible to the rider, it would have been better, so a report on this will have to wait for another day. Two things I have noticed, however, are that using the GPS chipset gets the phone very hot, and also that with the GPS in use it eats the battery in no time at all. A permanent power supply is essential.

I am now cold, stiff and ready for bed, so that's where I am going. It was a great day and well worth doing. RAF Lyneham will soon be closing, so there will no longer be a role for RWB, but I am hoping that next year on Mother's Day there will be something else of this nature planned. A long ride, lots of friendly people, and a bacon roll - what more would anyone want?

Apart from raising an estimated £130,000 for Afghan Heroes, of course.

BBC report here.


  1. Well done Richard & your fellow Bikers.

    The Beeb reports your group efforts will have raised about £130k.


  2. Richard

    Sounds like you had a great day and quite an experience (I'll send you my spare waterproof socks - they are too small for my size 14s)!

    I would however say that Welsh "flag" was a bit OTT.....

  3. @Joe - thanks, and well worth getting cold and wet for.

    @Nikos - thanks also, I think :) If you think that flag was OTT, it wasn't. Some were flying the proper 5x3 foot items, although they were Union flags. With the wind in the right direction, they didn't need an engine.

  4. Well done. When that many people assemble from all points of the compass it makes it visible that something is being thought about and has been marked.

  5. Wow, great to see such a turn out for a great cause.

  6. It looks like an excellent day out was had. And £130k for charity is not to be sniffed at!

    "Two things I have noticed, however, are that using the GPS chipset gets the phone very hot, and also that with the GPS in use it eats the battery in no time at all. A permanent power supply is essential."

    Here's where I suspect bikes are at a disadvantage over cars. No handy cigarette lighter to plug into?

  7. Ah, Julia, you are skimming the technical posts! I did fit a power socket, detailed here and here. I didn't bother with it yesterday and only used the GPS for a few miles, so the remark about battery life was merely an observation. As for getting hot, that's 'hot' as in useful for warming your hands on a winter's day, alarmingly hot.

    Yes, the (anticipated) £130k for charity was very satisfying.

  8. Well done Richard - a nice combination of raising cash, thanking RWB and the services and a tribal gathering. Spirit lifting stuff.

    The high fiving the chap at the roadside reminded me of tv (not that sort) films of my youth when cocky young proto-knight tries jousting at the quintain and gets thwacked in the back of the head. Perhaps you could rig up a quintain (in hoodie form, patent applied for) in the garden and get in some practice on the Bonnie before next R of R . You know it makes sense.


  9. Thank you Derf for those kind comments.

    I like the idea of the hoodie-clad quintain. I'm wondering about using the splitting maul post here as a substitute for a lance or mace. Watch this space.

  10. "Ah, Julia, you are skimming the technical posts! "

    Guilty as charged! ;)

    I've noticed the iPhone gets pretty hot when in continuous use by some apps too. Most games and playback of movies or songs are ok, but the live radio app can make it very warm indeed.

  11. Heh - you are doing exactly what I hope all readers do: read what you want and ignore the rest. There's a lot on the web about the GSP chipset getting hot in use. Some are even recommending that the GPS function shouldn't be used continuously (as if there is any other logical way to use a GPS - stop every half hour and switch on to find out where you are?).

    I'm wondering if Apple need to have a re-think.

  12. "I'm wondering if Apple need to have a re-think."

    No, it's a feature!

    Keep your phone in your back pocket on a cold day, and it'll help keep your bum warm.

  13. Well done Richard and every other biker. It gives another meaning to the old slogan "Think once, think twice, think bike".
    By the way, is there an Ex-Services Motorcycle Group? I reckon it would be an excellent way for veterans to continue the camaraderie of service life into civvy street.

  14. I don't know the answer to that, but I would be amazed if there wasn't.

  15. Well done Richard, a combination of helping a worthy cause and having a good day out with never a mention of 'community cohesion' or "big society".

  16. If it were not for my hand I would have joined you m8, I
    I know you had a brilliant day, purple legs and wet feet included, and may I thank you for being there as well!
    If youre ever 'up' (north Wales) my way do give me a shout and tea and bacon sarnies will be on me!

  17. If anyone starts on about the 'biking community' I reach for my gun, but there is a community spirit, perhaps better described as a brotherhood. You wouldn't believe the support at almost every event for NABD, which supports disabled bikers. It's huge. Big Society my arse. It's happening, it's just that no-one has 'approved' it.

    Sorry about your hand, Nominedeus. Next time, perhaps? (If there is one.) We get to mid-Wales regularly on rideouts in summer, and occasionally as far as Machynlleth and even Bala, so a push on further in the hope of a bacon roll is surely not out of the question :) When the weather gets a bit more settled, I may take you up on that. Thanks.

  18. Big Society is people doing it for themselves with a politico running to the front for the photo.

  19. Kerching! We have a winner.

  20. Excellent Richard, thanks for the write up.

    Sadly due to Lyneham closing any further repatriations will no longer go through RWB. It's been confirmed on my local news that although the repatriations are going back to Brize Norton, the journey will not go through nearby Carterton. So a similar mark of respect in future that RWB showed will be unlikely.

    Slightly OT did you pass a pub just outside RWB called Sally Pussey's Inn? I only mention it because I used to pass it regularly in my previous job and it made me chuckle in a rather silly immature manner.

  21. I knew about the change to Brize Norton, but not that the journey would be planned to avoid a RWB substitute - I wonder if that is deliberate ...

    I didn't see Sally Pussey's Inn, I'm afraid. Good job too, or I would have been guffawing into my neckscarf, with unpleasant consequences. Immature is good - remember, growing old is mandatory, but growing up is voluntary.


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