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A Biker Riding Bends In Scotland
Image credit: Catrina Cowie

Getting the bends

There are many reasons why Scotland is one of the world’s great motorcycling destinations, but the biggest reason is simple: it’s the joy of riding bends.

I once witnessed an entertaining online flame-war where a biker (British, of course) suggested that UK riders naturally developed better skills than their US counterparts because British roads are so bendy. While the first half of that assertion was evidently a wind-up, the second part seems inarguable. According to popular wisdom (and Wikipedia), the longest straight stretch of road in the UK (the A15 between Scampton and the M180) covers only 18 miles. As an Aussie relocating initially to south-east England, I certainly noticed the twistiness of British roads (that, plus the incessant English roundabouts, which took some getting used to.)

As any seasoned rider will know, one of the biggest differences between driving a car and riding a motorbike is the experience of cornering. In a car, cornering feels like fighting physics. When you’re driving, cornering forces tend to push you sideways towards the outside of the bend. You have to resist them, tightening your neck and other muscles, to maintain your posture and position in your seat.

On a bike it’s completely different. Once you’ve got the hang of counter-steering and looking through the bend, riding bends is an experience of total harmony. You and the bike lean together, the lean produces the effortless magic of the turn, and everything feels perfectly balanced. It’s poetry in motion. That’s why we do it, innit?!

For me as a biker, moving to Scotland was the best decision ever – less traffic, much more wilderness and even better bends! Outside urban areas and off the motorways, Scotland’s roads are chock-full of magnificent corners, from wide, laid-back sweepers to tight technical esses. The Crieff Cloverleaf routes take in some favourite biking roads for good reason – they’re simply wonderful to ride.

If you do come from a part of the world where the roads are very straight, or if you’re mostly used to urban riding and haven’t toured before, you can expect a very different experience riding the Crieff Cloverleaf (or indeed other rural routes in Scotland.) Riding corners safely and fluently takes a lot of concentration, so take your time, go gently and expect to get a bit more tired than usual. Take full advantage of the morning, lunch and afternoon rest stops designed into the Cloverleaf routes, and don’t forget to refuel yourself as well as your bike. And then get back out and relish still more of those glorious, glorious bends.

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