Bike Tours UK - Motorcycle holidays and touring around the National Parks of England and the UK   Motorcycle tours and rental in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Isle of Man TT races, plus biking vacations to France, Thailand, India, Cyprus & South Africa.  
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About Bike Tours UK

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ABOUT ME

Full contact details here.  Proper names and full address. Not just a PO box number.

Don't you think that the "About Us" section of a website is often the most interesting part?  It tells you a bit about how the organisation ticks.  What are its ideals & aspirations and its very raison d'etre.  Are the pictures REAL not just nicked off the Interweb?

I think Bike Tours UK is unique in the way trips are run.  Read on down and you may understand why.  A sanitised, tame, well-packaged tour is not my style. There's almost always an adventure element to it :)  It's almost a disappointment if EVERYTHING runs entirely according to plan :)

That's me, pictured left, dressed in hot-weather trail riding gear, having just arrived in Khun Yuam, after a long, 150km hard day's off-road adventure from Mae Chaem (Thailand).  This was the only off-road tour I offer, but it's just so amazing, I have to plug it from time to time.   I now offer Iceland as well, where much of the trip is on unsurfaced, gravel roads.

Ha - I used to think this Thailand section was a hard day's riding - then I did Morocco!!!!!!!!   With hindsight, Thailand is EASY :)

Bike Tours UK is a small enterprise, in fact, just me.

MY CV

I could start by telling you about my days in the corporate world, and bore you to death with exciting tales from within the various Personnel & Training departments, and the thrill of delivering Health & Safety courses,  But I wont.

You don't want to hear a word about ISO9000, SPC, just-in-time manufacturing or any of that old management-speak either , do you?  No, I thought not. No "Blue Sky Thinking" here.

So let's talk about bikes, and travel.

The story starts at the age of 8 years old...

I was an angelic well-behaved schoolboy, taught by Nuns whilst at Primary School. After school, I'd cycle miles and miles with my mate, "racing" around newly built 1960s housing estates, cornering hard on all the bends.  After hitting a sportscar head-on, I learned that "T" junctions should not be regarded as bends. On leaving hospital, I had a new-found respect for hard crunchy things on 4 wheels.  Don't mess with them!

I went on to be a perfectly average pupil at an all-boys, Roman Catholic Grammar school, and even played classical violin in the Yorkshire Schools Youth Orchestra for a while. I could have been heading for a safe career in something like Accountancy, until I discovered internal combustion engines at the age of about 14.

I built & flew model aeroplanes, powered by small glo-plug or tiny model diesel engines. These planes made a lot of noise, and strangley enough, attracted girls to come and watch. A local lad with a proper, brand new Trials Bike (an Ossa 250) also hung around watching my displays of aerobatics.

So, out went the violin practice I'm afraid, and in came the girlfriends & motorbikes.  Trials boy Nick, would say someting like, "introduce me to the girls over there, and I'll give you a go on my bike".  This seemed like a very fair exchange to me.  He got a snog, and I got to learn to ride a top class trials bike around the fields and up in the woods around Mirfield, West Yorkshire.

(to be continued - a time consuming story - I'll elaborate on it one day, when I have time to dress up the website)

Although my Dad never owned or rode a bike while I was little, he never stopped talking about the Vincent he used to own, how he bought it brand new (£260, " A lot of money in those days, Son"  6 months wages or something similar). He droned on about touring holidays to Scotland with his mates "Ginger", and "Squiffy", and how "Chuffer Dandridge" (this one's nicked from Terry) ran off the road, through a hedge into a field.  Oh how they laughed.  In the great years of his youth, not long after the war. "Before he met my mother" etc etc. Blah blah blah.......

 This must have planted a seed.

When I was about 10, he fixed a bike for someone who knew he'd been a Mechanic, and was good with engines.  After the work to get it running, he had to test ride it, of course.  He took me on the back, and I remember being terrified, but very excited at the same time.  NO HELMET, no jacket, NO TERRIBLY IMPORTANT GLOVES of course, no back protector, no kidney support, no knee sliders, no stretch kevlar panels.  None of the stuff that has obviously made motorcycling so damn safe today.   Just little me, on the pillion, in shorts & t-shirt, leaning the wrong way into bends.

Aged 15, had a go on a mate's Ossa 250 trials bike in the woods, as previously described, and the slippery slope into motorcycle owenership had begun.

Aged 16.5, I saw an advert in the corner shop window for a BSA Starfire 250cc.  £60 ono.  I'd saved enough money from my part time supermarket job at Hillards, and my Dad reluctantly came long to demonstrate how to haggle and beat the price down to account for its many faults.  Little did my parents know, that while they were out - that 250 did a few unauthorised sorties into the countryside - before I was even 17. I hoped the engine would cool down and stop ticking before they got back.

My parents didn't want me to have a bike, and actually bought me an old Moggie Minor at one point (which I ungratefully spurned - not passing my car test until 25).

But they could hardly stop me could they? - it was Dad's fault after all - all that talk of his Vincent, and the adventures it brought him, plus his fond memories of the TT in the early 50s, when Geoff Duke was his hero.  This isn't just how I got into biking - it's why I first went to the TT Races; in a home-built micro-light.  But that's another story entirely.

 A question I was asked

Someone setting up a new bike tour company in a far away, remote part of the world just asked me what qualifications one needs to run a Bike Tour company.  I hadn't really thought about it before, but I said this..

There don't appear to be any recognised qualifications or aptitudes for being a Bike Tour Operator.
 
I haven't produced a CV for years.  The last one I did was probably way back in 1997, and I don't have a copy on Word.   That's the beauty of doing this - I don't have to jump through those hoops anymore.
 
I no longer have an official current CV, and have no need, or desire, to produce one.
 
Probably of almost zero value, but here's an informal summary.
 
Bill Roughton.
DOB 1958.  Married with 3 kids.
1970-77  Cardinal Hinsley Boys Roman Catholic Grammar School. Bradford.  8 O levels and 3 A levels - crucially (?), with A grades in French & Geography.
1977-80  Trent Polytechnic, now known as Nottingham Trent University.   BA (Hons) Degree in Modern European Studies (main subjects French & Geography).
1980 to 1985.  Set off to the South of France on a motorcycle to "discover the world".  Various short term jobs - some temporary, like casual work in the South of France for 3 summers (sales on beaches, plus grape harvest, plus restaurant work), some supposedly good "career" moves - i.e. trainee manager in textiles industry (so entirely not for me).  I was actually a motorcycle despatch rider for about 6 months once as well, right though the long cold Winter.
Spent one year as a Rep for Dream Machine - selling custom motorcycle paintwork right across the UK - covering 65,000 miles in that one year!
1985 - Holiday Rep for Haven Leisure - based in Dordogne, France.
1985-1986 - back to university to do a PGCE (post-grad Teaching qualification).  Guess which subjects? French & Geography of course.  Did a little bit of teaching at a run-down inner city school.  Taught a tiny bit of French in between crowd control and breaking up fights between illiterate youths.  Pretty much decided that it was pointless trying to teach a foreign language to inner city Chavs who could scarcely master English. And that was back in 1986 - things have really gone further downhill since then.  I became sensible for a while.
1986 to 1997 - Kodak Limited.  First 2 years in Quality Assurance, then moving up to semi-managerial position of Site training Officer for all 400 staff.  I managed the provision of training, did some direct training in Health & Safely & other subjects, and kept all the training records.  I was on the implementation team for the introduction of ISO 9002 and Investors in People.  (that did 'em a fat lot of good eh?)
1997 - made redundant in the first major wave of thousands of job losses worldwide.  The manufacturing plant where I worked was subsequently closed down a few years later.  The whole world went digital, and no-one wanted conventional Silver Halide 35mm film anymore.
1997 to 2000.  Divisional Training Officer for Balfour Kilpatrick (part of Balfour Beatty - Civil Engineering). Based in Derby.
2000 - started Bike Tours UK.  Began very small with low risks, low overheads and low potential losses.  It grew to become profitable after a couple of years.  Now a stable and viable "lifestyle business", although scarcely viable by conventional monetary standards.
 
Travel - I've visited perhaps 25+ (I've lost count) different countries across the world.  Most of this has not been on standard package tours where everything is done for you.  Nearly every trip I've done has been independent, and self-drive either by car or motorcycle.  I've had some scrapes; blown up some engines & gearboxes in France, suffered tyre blow outs in India, 6 punctures in one day in Sri Lanka, and I once slid a jeep into a drainage ditch in central Kenya.  All these minor mishaps were taken in my stride, and dealt with minimal external assistance.  I firmly believe in "self-rescue".
 
I've attended several short first aid courses, some aimed specificaly at bike injuries.
Completed the Bike Safe course run by North Wales Police and the IAM.
Attended several photography courses (amongst other topics) whist in the employment of Kodak limited.
Attended or presented courses in HS&E, instructional techniques, presentation skills, quality assurance systems, SPC, basic PC skills, personality profiling & personal assessment interview methods.  More training courses than I can remember.
 
Hobbies..
Motorcycling since age of 15 - first off road, then on roads since age of 17.  Passed both motorcycle and car driving tests at first attempt.  Got back into off-road riding again in 1998.
Photography.  
Art house films - mainly French Cinema - not predicatable Hollywood car chase rubbish.
Worldwide Travel.
Music - both live concerts and extensive LP / CD collection.  Tendency toward rock, folk & blues (despite playing classical violin at school).  I like Hi-Fi & gadgets!
"Adventure Sports"  still enjoy regular skiing and some easy mountain biking, and in the past have been fairly accomplished at caving (Speleology), rock climbing and white-water kayking.
Pubs, Real Ale and socialising.
Food & Cooking. There's a surprise!  Curries & Chillies :)
Must take up swimming again to reduce the ever expanding beer gut :(
 
 
 
 
I've never been pushed to do so, but if I had to say why I'm suited to this "job", I'd have to say.....
 
Sociable and usually able to mix quite well with wide range of customers, but there always exceptions.
Knowledgeable in European Geography & fairly well travelled.
Fluent in French (degree level).
Still reasonably fit & active (errr ?  "relatively" fit for my advacning years).  I don't tell really big lies.
Can handle the admin (but I hate the paperwork side) and have good enough computer skills to get by.
I still have a sense of adventure, which is a bonus to most customers, but a serious worry to others.

 

Back to the present day

The most rewarding thing for me is to see the real country, meet the real people and see the things you wouldn't usually find on the main tourist trail.   I cannot abide sterile 4 star package tours; mass-produced holidays for the none-too-discerning. 

Bike Tours UK trips just aren't like that.  Not at all.  Not one bit.

My website normally appears pretty high up on Google's first page.   Well, it's either me or White Rose, depending on the search terms you use.  I'm proud of this, and it's not accidental.  I try and add good content to the website, and do not use any irritiating pop-up and banner ads, and and I don't sell junk. 

I try and link only to decent, interesting websites which offer some value or entertainment to you.  I generally avoid linking to directory sites.

All the information on here will help you to decide whether my trips would suit you, or whether you should go for the softer options instead. (scroll right on down to see a description of YOU) 
 

I do this Bike Tours thing because most of the time, I enjoy it. I tend to treat every tour as if it's a group of friends with me - like the way it started off in the beginning.

I have a pretty laid back attitude to life and I prefer the trips to be fun, even chaotic, with plenty of flexibility & transgressions allowed. (It doesn't always work like this, but it doesn't stop me trying anyway)

I have no ambition for this business to become a massive organisation - that would be like working in a proper job again - no thanks!

Because I also still have fairly children to look after, I only run a small handful of trips per year (6-8 trips maximum).  Because of this, I limit my motorcycle tours to destinations which I genuinely believe to offer a superlative riding experience.  

 My tours are not sterile over-organised affairs as they are supposed to be fun - expect the unexpected sometimes - especially in Thailand or Iceland. 

Things do not always run like clockwork, with even the best planning, things go wrong from time to time, but life's like that.   At least you have a group with you to offer support & help should it be needed.

Photo, below right, my wife & I riding an Enfield 350 in Goa, India. Now there's a great place for a biking holiday!  Sunshine, classic Enfields, great beaches, cheap cold beer and curry.  What more do you need?


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ABOUT YOU

It's impossible to predict in advance what the mix of people on a tour will be like. And, actually, it's often the mix of people, the "group dynamics", that can make or break a tour. However I can give you some guesses.

I have tried to describe my trips accurately on this website, and I'm going to make the descriptions even more explicit for 2005 and beyond.

Let me make some wild generalisations.

With most organised tours (nearly all Bike Tour companies I would suggest), you'll usually get the slightly less adventurous type of person, often in the older age bracket, and people who need looking after a bit. The wilder, more independent ones usually organise it themselves and avoid group tours like the plague. The vast majority of people have enjoyed my trips, but a very small minority have found them a bit too challenging.    I do package tours for people who HATE package tours.

Basically, I enjoy riding a bike, I like the performance of a bike, I like twisty roads and high mountain passes, I like a bit of a challenge, and I purposely select the most demanding and exciting roads to travel along.

I'd drive a car -  or ride a Hardley Abelson otherwise :) 

This approach doesn't suit everyone, so I've started to say that I run "adventurous tours".   I don't plod along, on dead straight roads.  I purposely seek out "real bikers' roads".  These are often NOT the roads a Sat Nav would send you down.

Under 2% of customers have found my trips too much of a handful (Too far, too fast, too long - I'm sorry - my tour descriptions do explain this), but no-one has ever said my trips are boring. I'd be absolutely mortified by that!

Many tour companies actually lean towards the steady, more conservative customer. Although perhaps well over half my clients fall into this category, I actually like to cater for the more "young at heart" and carefree types. I'm actively trying to encourage the younger person to give it a go, and prove to them that motorcycle touring is far from boring, and it isn't just reserved for beardies on BMs. Actual age, in years lived, has very little to do with it.  It's your attitude and outlook which count most .

On the other hand, some of my craziest, most adventurous guests in the Alps and in Thailand, have been guys who are well into their sixties, with one or two nudging 70!  Dirt riding across Northern Thailand with only a few months to go to 70 years old?  Well, yes.  

I've also had quite a few Police riders - they know a thing or two about riding and have often been quite an inspiration :)

The type of person I get, depends partly on the destination. The further away the destination, the more adventurous the guest is likely to be.

Oh - and what about the mix of male / female?

It's a sad fact that the vast majority of bike riders are male, therefore most riders are male on my trips. Some are single males, some are married but have escaped from the missus just for the bike trip. However I also get couples on one bike, I sometimes get couples on a bike each, and occasionally I get a single female rider on her own bike. This should be encouraged, single females are more than welcome - but be realistic here - how many women ride bikes compared to men?

The ladies are gladly invited to join in the fun, but you'll need to "muck in" with the lads a bit, as rightly-or-wrongly, biking's usually a bit of a man thing.  There'll be a lot of bike talk and bulls**t at the end of the day, and we all become riding Gods (in the telling) after a beer or two.

TT races - overseas guests (many from the USA), late 20s to 50s, high proportion of serious race fans on sporty bikes (obviously) and party animals. Normally quick riders - the TT can be an ENORMOUS shock to plodders.  It is a RACE event after all.

Thailand - the most adventurous trip I do. People must be prepared to rough it a bit, experience heat, dust, discomfort and physically demanding riding (off-road on dirt tracks). For an experienced trail rider, these routes are easy-peasy (much easier than trails in UK) but if you haven't done it before, it can be exhausting, both mentally and physically.

Generally, the Thai fans realise this, and I'll get guys who are reasonably fit and adventurous, aged mainly from late 20s / early 30s, most in their 40s (an income thing, plus middle age crisis to combat?) with some real heroes in their 50s plus.



Alps - France / Italy / Switzerland.

The Alps are arguably the most demanding roads in Europe and equal to anything in the world. I actively seek out the twistiest roads, with the most dramatic drop-offs and take people over the highest paved mountain pass in Europe. It's also a fair old ride to get down there - so a certain level of riding skill and endurance is needed - mainly for the journey itself, and but also for the shorter day trips. 

I've had all ranges of riding ability, outlook and ages on this trip. I would say the younger end (or young-at-heart), late 20s to 40s get the most out of the trip - but there are always exceptions to the rule. Campers tend to be more laid-back, and the money saved buys more cheap supermarket beer! 

Dordogne / Spain - Mid Sept / Oct
Somewhere in between. The roads of the Dordogne are nowhere near as demanding as the Alps, but the scenery is pleasant if not in the same breath-taking league. And of course, we do cross over the Pyrenees and go into the Picos mountains, so there is still scope for the sportier rider. Suitable for all except pure novice I'd say.

Best of Three - National Parks in the UK
I do a couple of these a year. 3-day trips, covering 500+ miles in 3 National Parks. Short trips, OK for someone as a try out to see if they'd like the Alps. OK for those of less experience perhaps - BUT BE WARNED - once again, I deliberately pick the most challenging and demanding roads. I call it the "best" of three - ie. in my opinion, some of the best riding roads in these areas. I ride a bike for the challenge, the performance, the concentration and the skill required and of course, the great exhileration and fun. If this doesn't float your boat, buy a Cruiser and look elswhere.  The Wrynose Pass and the Hardknott Pass in the Lake District are likely to be the most intimidating roads you'll see in the UK.

Sorry to be blunt, but that's the way I see it.

Read this http://www.biketours-uk.com/catman/view/17/156/index.cms if you want to partake in a discussion about tour styles. Read it anyway - it pretty much sums up my tour philosophy, although the original text was penned by John Arthur. For practical reasons, I can't use all John's preferences, but go on, read it, and see what YOU think.

 
  My new bike

  My next new bike

  My Sports Bike

  My Old Bike

  My first Touring Bike

  My Second FJ1200

  My macho all-rounder

  My Ex Bike

  Triumph Thunderbird Sport

  My New Dog

  My Dirt Bike

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