A few years back, Nathan Millward took Dorothy, his Honda CT110, from Australia to the UK on a 19-month overland journey. Since then, he’s been writing about that and other trips (see the books here) and having other adventures, eventually guiding his own trips called Garbage Runs. Now, he’s teaming up with his trusty ex-postie bike once more, founding Dorothy’s Speed Shop in the UK’s North Devon region. It’s sort of a launching pad for his tours, with a twist.

Wait, you say—What’s a Garbage Run? There’s nothing fast about a postie bike, so why call it a Speed Shop? And isn’t this a terrible time to kickstart a new business, what with COVID-19 and all?

Want to see Devon? Hie thee down to Dorothy’s Speed Shop, and Millward will show you the way around.

What’s it all about then?

A Garbage Run is really just a not-so-fancy name for the not-so-fancy motorcycle tours that Millward guides along back roads (sometimes abroad, sometimes at home in the UK). These are seat-of-your-pants tours, usually on a small-cc motorcycle. Garbage Run tours usually have a set starting and end point each day, but whatever happens in between is up to the riders, the weather, and whatever adventures happen along the way. It’s a realistic, budget-minded adventure riding experience.

As for the Speed Shop name—the Garbage Runs started as a thing for postie bikes and similar machines, but now, bigger machines are coming along (relatively speaking—a 400 is still a small bike, compared to an Africa Twin).

And as for the coronavirus pandemic, Millward says it was sort of responsible for starting Dorothy’s Speed Shop. It forced him to find a new way to run his life-in-the-slow-lane tours, guiding shorter rides closer to home.

Can’t do business as usual, running international tours? Millward’s solution was to set up tours closer to home, out of Dorothy’s Speed Shop.

“The Speed Shop is mainly a consequence of COVID,” he says. “I needed a base. I have a fleet of eight postie bikes (Honda CT110s) that I shipped back from Australia in 2019 after the Garbage Run from Brisbane to Perth. I take people on mini adventures on those and it was proving impossible to operate out of the house.”

Millward needed more space because, along with the old Hondas, he also has a new rental fleet of small-capacity adventure bikes: a Royal Enfield Himalayan, a Honda CRF250 Rally, a BMW G310 GS, and a KTM 390 Adventure. If you visit the Speed Shop, you can ride one or all of them, allowing interested riders to see the machines’ relative strengths and weaknesses.

In the future, Millward is hoping to expand to even bigger bikes.

“Ideally I’ll add more bikes such as the Honda CB500X and Sinnis T380, then look to add another class such as mid-capacity bikes and have a fleet of those. There’s certainly room to expand the concept,” he says. “The Honda and the Sinnis are the two obvious additions, but then I’d like to branch out and have a couple of Royal Enfield Interceptors on the fleet. Perfect bikes for around here and also cheap to buy and popular at the minute.”

If you want to see how these small-cc bikes stack up against each other, you can go on a mini-tour out of the Speed Shop.

Test rides in the real world?

He’s looking for machines that customers want to test, but can’t find elsewhere. In that scenario, it’s worth it for them to rent a machine from him, and test it in real-world conditions.

“When choosing a bike you want something that’s going to hopefully make you the money back. The Sinnis is a good one because there’s a bit of interest in it what with being Himalayan money but with an extra 10 horsepower, but there’s not many dealers with demo bikes so maybe people would come down to me to ride them back to back,” Millward says. “Ideally I’d have manufacturers loaning me bikes to add to the fleet but it’s a gamble for them, but maybe one day when the business model has been better proven I’ll be able to guarantee them a certain number of bums on seats.”

It’s a good idea, because it’s getting harder and harder to try out a machine you’re interested in. You’ll rarely find a chance to test-ride such a wide range of bikes, and it’s even more rare to get a chance to test them in a suitable environment. Millward’s location isn’t exactly the Kalahari Desert, but the terrain is a lot more rugged than London’s streets (and you’re less likely to be mobbed by a scooter gang).

It’s not Asia or the American Southwest, but Devon looks like a place for a proper adventure nonetheless.

“We’ve got some brilliant single lane Tarmac roads that sweep around the coast and dip down to coves and sections that are almost like jungle. Then there’s some easy green lanes and some a bit harder for the brave. North Devon’s got some beautiful coastline and old fishing villages. It’s just a perfect place for a day on the bike and can feel really remote,” says Millward.

Because of the roads and scenery in the area, he sees the Speed Shop not just as a place to visit for a rental, but a place that’s just plain worth visiting.

“I basically see the Speed Shop as a bit of a hub for adventure,” he says. “We’ve got some great riding in the area and people sometimes just need a destination.”

Dorothy’s Speed Shop is back in business for now, despite the UK shutdown interrupting business for a few weeks this fall.

Back in business

Like much of the UK, Dorothy’s Speed Shop had to close down recently, because of COVID-19 regulations. The Brits have lifted their most recent lockdown, though, so Millward’s back in business. He’s also planning new Garbage Run expeditions, although it’s hard to nail down dates and destinations for sure in a pandemic. The best way to keep abreast of what’s going on is to keep an eye on the Garbage Run website. Otherwise, you can see the website for Dorothy’s Speed Shop here.

Photos: Nathan Millward

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