I had been the proud owner of a red BMW R80RT for some time and had intended the RT and I would remain in partnership for years to come. Anyway that was the plan when I stripped the RT down during the last weeks of August, 1991, serviced it mechanically and had the bodywork repainted and re-badged. However things were to change.
I returned from the IAM Motorcycle Groups' annual rally in Wales to find one of my friends was selling his R100GS and the prospect of combining touring capacity with the off-road exploring ability appealed to me. I already owned a trials bike and knew the fun of running about on the hillsides. Two of my good friends also owned GS's so I knew what the machines were capable of, in the right hands.
I had better set the record straight on a few points before I continue. The GS does not have the weather protection of the RT, though with its small windshield, hand protectors and heated grips, it is not as bad as one might imagine. The GS is no trials bike and 60 bhp and 210 kgs are not the specifications one would look for when tackling a stage such as the "pipeline" at Kinlochleven, during the Scottish Six Days; Trial. The law as it applies to "green lanes" is not the same on both sides of Hadrian's Wall.
I would commend the GS to most motorcyclists for normal use, but I must point out I am 6'4" and would have serious reservations about suggesting a rider of diminutive stature attempt to take "the beast" off-road on anything other than a reasonably smooth farm road.
Enough preamble and more about enjoying two wheels in Britain. It was a rather cool Autumn Saturday (26th October, 1991) morning when Roger Saltmarshe*and I left Cupar (Fife) to head for the Borders. Roger and I had previously travelled the length and breadth of the country on our bikes with my R80RT and his R80G/S turning up in the strangest of places. But this morning we were in for something different. We were meeting Ken Kay and his R100GS in the Borders and Ken had been asked to "have a look at the highways and byways in the Borders and come up with a run for the GS's."
My RT had been safely locked up in the garage (pending being uplifted by its new owner - the retention of three motorcycles would have led to a divorce and that would have been even more expensive than motorcycling!) and this was the first real run for my GS. The normal (for Scotland) quilted waterproofs were being worn over the leathers and the Derriboots indicating the prevailing weather and the anticipated terrain of our jaunt to come. The question was: would we be warm enough if the weather continued as forecast? Little did we realise by early afternoon we would be sitting on a bridge in the middle of nowhere with all our foul weather gear stripped off, enjoying the cooling effect of the near sub-zero temperatures and the light drizzle.
Leaving Cupar, all togged up, with the statutory flask of hot coffee and four filled rolls in the knapsack on the rear carrier, things looked good. Traffic was light and the two bikes progressed as one unit, through the roads to the Forth Road Bridge. Once through the tolls, out of Fife and into Lothians Region, we headed for the Edinburgh bypass. Normally dual-carriageways and motorways are to be avoided on runs for pleasure but we needed to get to Kelso with "respectable progress." In my part of the country it gets very cold when the sun goes below the horizon in the late Autumn through to mid Spring, so daylight driving time was at a premium. Off the bypass and on to the A-68 past Fala and over Soutra.
Climbing Soutra the temperature dropped, visibility decreased and I was glad of the heated grips. Thankfully this was not a sign of things to come and the weather improved as we descended from the summit and down to Carfraemill and the turn off at the hotel on the A-697 towards Kelso. The roads were quite greasy and damp and I had to be careful not to get carried away with my new found ground clearance on the bends! We turned off onto the A-6089, through Gordon and into Kelso. Oh the joys of riding on damp/greasy cobbles with the torque the 1000 cc boxer engine produces! Up though Kelso to Ken's house and a most welcome mug of hot coffee.
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