XSR700 ~ an evening on NW Scotland’s NC500

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by Chris S, Jul 5, 2017.

  1. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    243
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    Evening all.
    F i n a l l y got my XSR on the road.
    It's a retro-style FZ-07, fyi, and might make a sexy scrambler with a little magic dust.
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    Bought it smashed up a couple of months back, but have been a bit busy.
    Once the parts were in, repairing it was easy enough.
    Big relief when I pressed the button and it started up without horrible noises or squirting fluids. Alright then!


    They say XSRs are made to be customised with a superb range of unique, off the shelf parts from Yamaha Inc. In the UK, Bike mag are getting one done up, apparently. Will look like this, or so they hope.
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    Looks a homage to the 250 Ryoku Yamaha concept from a few years back. Great looking machine – note the detachable shovelhead bashplate. There's probably a 436-post Ryoku thread on adv.
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    US/UK Yam price disparity can be staggering; F7-07 clutch cover <half price from Partzilla.
    My customising extends to an LED ebay headlamp - 3rd cheaper than a new OE headlamp shell - plus a pair of formica indicator brackets. It’s all I could find in the barn and we're miles from anywhere.
    Scavenge and improvise, like the locals. Will get some proper brackets lasered up later.
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    I'm going to christen my XSR on an 80-mile lap that doesn’t have one dull mile in it. It’s basically a circuit around the amazing, glacier-carved Assynt - easily the most dramatic corner of the Scottish Highlands, and too far north of Loch Ness to get busy. Weather’s set to be good too, after days of summer gales.

    Part of my route is on the North Coast 500 'Scotland's answer to Route 66' - a 516-mile loop around the best of the Northwest Highlands. In the last year it's become a big hit; too big some locals feel, given the car-wide roads up here.
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    I head out east along the top of Loch Ossian. It’s just about all going to be single track with passing places until Kylesku, so I need to keep alert.
    Stac mountain up ahead, looking like a volcano.
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    Before Stac I swing north onto what they call the Wee Mad Road around here (‘WMR’). A fun singletracker - until a motorhome meets a fishfarm lorry on the pass. Then people get a wee bit mad.
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    After a spin past lochans and down through old birch woods, a little valley drops you into Loch Unpronounceable, the eastern seashore of Enard Bay and one of the prettiest sections of the WMR. At times there’s only a dry stone wall on a blind summit/bend between you and the drink.
    I pass two bikers sitting down for a smoko. Orright mate?!
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    Back up over the gnarly headland (zillion-year-old bedrock of the Assynt), I pop into Achins near Inverkirkaig Bay, Britain’s remotest bookshop.
    I’m wondering about doing an illustrated moto guide to the NC500 region. The old owner isn't so enthused. Maybe I won’t be either in a week, but ideas are free!
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    Up over another headland with cute white stone cottages from the 1700s and snatched views of Suilven (below). ‘Pillar mountain’ the Vikings called it, landmark for Cape Wrath, just up the coast (top left corner of Britain). Wrath means ‘turning point’ in Viking - turn right for Denmark and proper mead. But of course 'wrath' could describe the seas up there on most days.
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    Lochinver fishing port, famous pie shop and the only fuel on the route. Matey here is filling up his SV650. Looks a bit racey to me for these winding single roads, especially with that huge baclkpack. Could be a plucky newb on an NC adventure.
    My XSR can show actual and average mpg and I’m on a mission to get it into the 70s (Imp). Don’t suppose it will be as economical as my CB500X (nearly 100 Imp once), but it sure is a nicer motor.
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    You're never more than a tartan biscuit's throw away from a gift shop in the Highlands. Ullapool has even more. But you must admit, these painted pebbles are quite cute.
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    More to come...
    #1
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  2. kurien

    kurien adventurer

    Joined:
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    Wow! What a bike and what a ride. All ears and eyes. Bring on more. Awesome pics as well.

    Ride safe.

    Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
    #2
  3. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Thanks kurien.

    Just north of Lochinver I turn left onto the actual NC500 route coming from the north and east.
    Here we’re at the pass before over to Clachtoll.
    This side loop onto the Stoer peninsula is like the WMR; barely half a mile of flat, straight single track.
    We pedalled it once or twice - hard yakka.
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    A lot of the Stoer is particularly unforgiving – sodden bogs and lochans between lumpen hills of gneiss bedrock.
    I packrafted across it once, along Glen Salach. This is looking SW over the Stoer to Clachtoll.
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    A mate came with in a slackraft – a £20, sawn-off pooltoy. Here
    I am towing him when I couldn't wait any longer.
    The experience was enough to make him buy a proper packraft.
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    Late afternoon near Clachtoll beach. One of the coastal settlements where the clans got forcibly resettled, 200 years ago, to make way for more profitable sheep grazing.
    There is a ruined kirk and a a big walled graveyard, but many chose to seek their fortunes in Nova Scotla or New Zealand.
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    I realise this beach is the source of those flat, hand-sized painted pebbles from the Lochinver gift shop.
    I pick one up for the g-friend. She can do the painting.
    A pic of the XSR, why not.
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    Around the corner in Clashnessie Bay, a chap is trying out his slackraft.
    A kayaker was rescued off this beach just last week, but luckily slackman has an onshore wind, and anyway it'll puncture as soon as there’s a sharp noise.
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    The cold north wind blows in exceptional clarity and helps bring out the vivid colours.
    I'd say that sea is teal.
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    XS looks great (it’s a 2016 '60th anniversary' paint job, fyi). I’ve not had a yellow bike since a shite MZ when I was 17 and none the wiser.
    (Back then, camera lenses were made of recycled jam jars.)
    Notice the second 6-v battery strapped in to run the 12-volt courier radio.
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    Drumbeg is a village with a SHOP, the only one for miles, but it’s closed.
    North across the bay are the last mountains of Scotland before Cape Wrath and the Arctic.
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    East of Drumbeg it’s extra uppy-downy, swingy lefty, swingy righty.
    The motorhomes struggle on some climbs but the XSR pulls them down like - well... you decide.
    I notice cars pull over into passing places for my bike much more than when I’m driving, though it’s often possible to squeeze past them on the single road. Much depends what’s immediately on your left. Here it’s fine, but if it’s a boulder-strewn slope down to crashing waves, I’d not want to be on anything with yard-wide hard boxes while tourists grapple with ungainly rental motorhomes.
    That’s Quinag mountain at the back – along with Suilven, one of the best mountain days in the Assynt, if you're of the hill-walking persuasion.
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    Back on the 2-lane main road it’s a relief to regain some flow.
    I pull over for a photo, and a couple of bikes obligingly haul into view. I seen about 8 bikes in 2 hours, and maybe 5 times as many cars.
    About as bike-busy but traffic-free as anywhere in the UK.
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    The slender concrete span of Kylesku bridge with Ben Quaver behind.

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    Never mind the imminent T7 (latest spy shot from today, below), what this bike needs is a 19-inch front wheel, a little more- and a lot better suspension, a bash, some barks and a set of K60s. Like my old Rally Raid CB500X, in fact. Or a Ducati Desert Sled.
    S10 wheels have been fitted by custom builders, but are rare used.
    Something will work out.
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    I think I am liking my new X-Lite 551, though I much prefer open face.
    Especially good is the long beak that pivots down for low sun angles.
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    Over the col past Quinag, swinging left….
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    … and swinging right.
    It’s fun to ride normally, but lately I’ve become spoilt with bikes running good suspension.
    I’m sure the FZ7-ers have similar complaints.
    Still, they got the engine right, and my XSR sounds just this side of great on the Akra’ twin pipes which, being an overpriced Yam option, probably helped write the bike off and drop it into my price range.
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    Rain showers over Cul Mor mountain. I'll get wet. Oh well. That's adventure motorcycling.
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    I turn back west onto more simngle-track for home, and take a quick shot of Stac from the other side. You don't get greenery like that without 36.7 inches of rain per year, pal.
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    Stac is a very popular climb. It only takes a couple of hours, has an actual path, and the views across Assynt are fab.
    The summit pic below frames this evening's 80-mile ride: up the left side (WMR and Stoer) behind the mtn at the back (Quinag), down the right side and back left behind the camera.
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    The rain beats down as the the sun bursts out - quite a pleasant sensation, as things go.
    I look in the mirror and see I’m riding under a rainbow.
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    Better take a picture, a!
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    And one more for good luck.
    A great couple of hours in the far northwest.
    How could it be anything else?
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    Thanks for reading.

    #3
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  4. JimRidesThis

    JimRidesThis Local celebrity

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    Cheers Chris, great words and pictures. :thumb
    #4
  5. Erinaceous

    Erinaceous ...................O#O

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    Excellent post! Love the pics and the adventure. Went to Scotland back in the 80's before we
    started having kids....loved it, and was surprised how much of it looked very much like here
    in Maine. Cheers.
    #5
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  6. Dessert Storm

    Dessert Storm Dances With Drunks

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    Fantastic report and photos. Love Scotland. :clap
    #6
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  7. dave6253

    dave6253 GCBAR Explorer

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    Entertaining report, Chris. Glad I found it from your build thread. I'm looking forward to seeing the progress on the bike.

    BTW, I visited with you in Arizona last year at Al's place. :wave
    #7
  8. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    Dave, how are you doing.
    Just looked again at your GCBAR map.
    What an achievement, and all without even leaving the state!
    Great place to live.
    In Scotland trail riding does not exist – completely forbidden.
    #8
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  9. steelerd

    steelerd Adventurer

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    very awesome ride trip :) looking forward to getting up there myself :)
    #9
  10. cptdrew

    cptdrew Adventurer

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    Great pics and write up Chris. I'm heading over to Scotland in September to do the NC 500 and visit the Orkneys and Skye. Can't wait to see it in person. Cheers
    #10
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  11. Chris S

    Chris S Been here awhile

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    You will have a great ride – less busy and often freak 'dry spells' that time of year. Or could just be gales.
    Apart from Hoy, we found the Orkneys surprisingly 'east coast'.
    As you will find on the NC500, the east coast of far north Scotland is not without interest, but flat and agricultural.
    On the wild, peat-sodden, less populated west side is where all the scenic drama is, including Skye.

    Below. Opposite the Summer Isles (near Ullapool) with the mountains of Skye on the far horizon, about 60 miles.
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    Foot-thick walls and roof weights on the Outer Hebs – or it'll all end up in a pile on the mainland.
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    Some of the Cal-Mac ferries to the Outer Hebrides have sinister names...
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    #11
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