Multistrada V4

Getting lost and finding perfection on the Great Mallé Rally 2021

The great Mallé Rally by Ben Bowers

 

The Great Malle Rally is the longest motorcycle rally in the UK. Comprising 1500 miles from the most southernly point of the UK mainland, The Lizard, up to the most northerly point at Castle Mey near John O-Groats. Tackled over 6 stages ranging from 200-300 miles taking almost entirely A and B roads it’s an epic challenge through some of the very best countryside the UK has to offer. 

As a marshal my role was to open the route with my fellow marshals each morning and man set checkpoints where the participant teams would stop to have their roadbooks stamped and times logged. The rally is not a race to be the quickest but all about pacing each stage to get as close to the “ideal” time as possible. The one disadvantage the riders face is that no-one is told this optimum time! 

Bike wise, the suggestion from the Malle team is that the adventure is tackled on in-appropriate bikes, but I felt perhaps something more appropriate was fitting in my support role. And being slightly selfish I wanted to make the very most out of the trip in everyway possible given the opportunity to get out after the last year or so locked up. 

Having owned the last few models of Multistrada including my current 1260s, It seemed logical to see what all the fuss was about with the brand new V4 model. Knowing how very capable the 1260 is on all roads the promise of the V4 with all the new bells and whistles was irresistible. 

The team at Ducati agreed and made arrangements for the use of a fresh out of the box Multistrada V4S fully equipped with touring accessories. This 170hp motorway munching, twisties devouring rocket ship promised much. But with some significant differences to my 1260 model, would it live up to the hype?

First Impressions don’t always count:

Having picked up the bike from Ducati HQ at Silverstone, I immediately headed off to Caffeine and Machine some 30 miles away. It’s always interesting how different bikes feel despite them sharing the same component parts, two wheels, an engine and handlebars. The immediate difference that struck me at the first corner was the larger 19” front wheel. It significantly changes the slow speed handling of the bike and definitely took some quick readjustment. My acclimatisation ride was quickly thrown into disarray however when my route took me along a newly resurfaced road. You know the one, where they just lob a load of gravel on the road and leave the cars to squash it into the tarmac and who cares about the bikes washing out on the ensuing marbles and flying projectiles! With a distinct lack of desire to throw a brand new bike down the road before the trip most of the journey to Caffeine and Machine was spent tip toeing along and taking in the riding position, controls and toys that the bike comes with.  

Surrey – Lizard – 268 miles

With summer in full swing the forecast for the trip to the start of the rally on the Lizard peninsular in Cornwall was for rain. So with the bike fully loaded up for a week I set off.

First stop was Fleet services to meet up with a few other marshals for the ride down. Once collected it was motorways and the joy of the A303 all the way to Devon then the A30 down to Cornwall and chance to evaluate the wind protection of the bike. It is a massive step up from the old models to the point where I could comfortable keep my visor up at motorway speeds. That added protection helps with keeping the rain off your front too which was awesome. 

With the V4 purring away as the Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind Spot Indicators keep me in the pack, heated grips on low to take the edge off the damp and cold, I was in a nice little bubble as we munched the miles. All very pedestrian and effortless really. Ideal for those roads. But when we hit the A303 past Stonehenge the riding changed from “cruise” mode to “make progress”. Filtering was a breeze past stationary traffic but always being mindful of the panniers. The bars and mirrors sit quite high so you can slip above most wingmirrors in those tighter gaps. As is often the way there are limited opportunities to overtake but any small gaps that presented themselves where almost instantly filled by the Ducati. The torque available in all gears and the 170hp means that overtakes are instinctive; think it and the bike makes it happen. It was commented on during the trip by my fellow riders that some of my overtakes looked perhaps a little “ambitious” from behind. But from where I was sat, there was not a single manoeuvre that felt rushed or high risk as I knew the bike was more than capable. They were riding bikes with much less torque and HP so for them it may have been a risk. That effortless power on tap makes riding much safer as you spend less time in dangerous areas on the road and less time unsighted from following caravans. The scurge of the UK this summer! 

So before we knew it the first 270miles of the trip have been completed in the blink of an eye and we had arrived at the first camp ready for the Grand Dèpart the next morning. 

A quick trip to the Southernmost tip of the UK, a spot of dinner at our 15th Century Camel farm camp, a briefing and chance to meet the riders who would be joining us on the adventure then it was off to our staff bell tents.

The Lizard – Aldwick Estate, Cheddar – 211 miles

  

Monday morning and a 5.30am rise to leaden skies gave promise of a challenging day on the road. 200+ miles through Cornwall and Devon ahead, the first priority was hot coffee and a hearty breakfast. With the marshals tasked with departing at 6.30am it was a slightly frenetic morning getting the right kit packed and making educated guesses about appropriate clothing choices for the day. At 14 degrees it was a morning for heated grips and seat as we made our way east towards Plymouth and the high tors of Dartmoor with some stunning roads and epic vistas across the south west. By the time we had crossed the Tamar bridge we were suitably soaked.

As we headed up onto Dartmoor and our first checkpoint at Princetown the wind picked up and the temperature dropped to 10 degrees. In June!!! By the time we hit Princetown we were all chilled to the bone and pretty miserable. 

The briefest of stops and onwards through the rain heading north towards drying roads and clear skies and approaching, arguably, the greatest road in the south west, the A396 from Tiverton to Dunster up the Ex Valley. After the toils of the morning, this 25 or so miles of fast sweeping A-road through the beautiful Devonshire countryside warmed both body and soul as grimaces were replaced by broad grins. And the bike? Well at last I could properly stretch it’s legs and boy do they stretch. With the purr of the V4 turning to a visceral roar as the revs built, accelerating hard out of the corners all my senses came alive. They needed to as well with the bike launching itself towards the next corner with glorious speed. A blip down on the quick shifter, engine braking doing most of the work with a dab on the Brembo stoppers, pick a line, tip in and sweep around the apex. A fist full of right hand and we are powering out of the corner as the front wheel goes light. Up the gears with the front wheel lifting as once again the next bend appears in the blink of an eye. Despite the weight of the bike, high wide bars and fully loaded panniers, I feel fully engaged with the bike doing what I ask almost instinctively. The 19” front doesn’t seem that big all of a sudden and the bike is so planted on the road. The standard fitted Pirelli Scorpion Trail II rubber is really rather impressive for grip levels. Any bumps and ripples in the road are flattened out by the terrific suspension and changing lines mid corner does nothing to upset the handling. It adjusts without getting itself tied in knots and just builds confidence. Smiles for miles. 

I’m really starting to enjoy myself already knowing that this is nothing compared to the roads ahead! 

A quick pastie stop in Dunster, an hour of holiday traffic and eventually we reach our allotted checkpoint. Half way up Cheddar Gorge. An awe-inspiring scar in the Somerset landscape with the road twisting its way through the escarpment. It’s like riding through an amphitheatre with the watching goats and walkers silently urging you on. 

With all the teams through it’s time to pack up and head the 10 miles or so to tonight’s overnight camp. Priorities are beer, eat and dry kit before getting our heads down. The next day brings promise of clear skies and the whole of Wales as our playground.  

Aldwick Estate – Hawarden Castle (Deeside) 287 miles.

  

On the road by 7am again waving farewell to the paying guests who get a somewhat more leisurely start to the day. Heading through Bristol towards the Severn Bridge and Wales. Again, the bike is showing off as the heated grips and seat are on to take the edge off the chilly morning. 

As we skirt the Bristol Channel and look North there is a line of cloud running east-west and beyond that nothing but blue sky. Could it really be? As we cross the Severn Bridge the line of cloud passes overhead and touching Welsh soil we are in under a cloudless blue sky. Those motorcycle God’s smile upon us once more. Time to pull off the motorway and head North for the Brecon Beacons before the run up to Snowdonia. 

If you’ve never been to Wales, you are missing out. Some fantastic roads, wonderful people and surprisingly remote wilderness, it’s a little haven for motorcycling with the benefit of being close enough to most places to be a weekend riding destination. 

As we climb into the Brecons, trees make way for heather and everything gets bigger in scale as we round another corner to be greeted with the next jaw dropping vista. The bike is starting to feel part of me. Everything is becoming more instinctive as I start to push harder and see how the bike reacts. As good as the roads are with fast sweeping A roads, twisty rollercoaster single track lanes and mountain passes, this bike seems to have so much more to give. It’s not stepped out of line once even when being asked some more significant questions around stopping and cornering. It is just behaving so well that these roads perhaps don’t offer enough of a challenge to upset it. Don’t think for a second that makes it less engaging and enjoyable to ride. It just means you can push harder, faster and for longer without feeling like you are taking too many risks or getting too tired from extra concentration. The bike is in Sport mode having spent the motorways and transition roads mostly in Touring. Touring smoothes out the throttle response, softens the suspension setting and turns up traction control, ABS and wheelie control. But Sport mode is where the fun happens. I’ve set the pre-load to auto so the bike detects the weight of me and the panniers and sets up accordingly. I’ve tweaked the Sport mode setting a bit too to stiffen up the suspension, turn down traction control and anti wheelie a bit. I’m no MotoGP rider so I’ve not gone mad but I’ve found l like quite a stiff suspension setting when pushing as it gives me a better connection with the road and good responsiveness with a slight sacrifice of comfort.

Navigation is easy today. From Llangynior straight up the A470 to Llanbrynmair. From there it’s a loop around Snowdon to my checkpoint under it’s watchful gaze at Capel Curig. The last few miles is up over the Pen-y-Pass. As my fellow marshal Alex and I approach we come up behind a group of riders. Frustratingly they seemed like they were not in a hurry to clear some slow moving cars as we started up the twisty pass. I didn’t ride all the way here to miss the best bits stuck behind cars. Time to show everyone what a fully loaded new V4S can do. I see my opportunity. There are 4 corners ahead but the visibility around all is clear. The cars and riders ahead hesitate waiting for a straight but I’m confident the road ahead is clear and make my move. Dropping down the gears quickly and checking no one behind has had the same idea I launch the bike forward. Past 4 riders quickly as we approach the first bend. As I pass the last rider he looks as if he’s considering the pass himself. Thankfully I’m alongside quick as a flash before he can make a decision and I’m already past the car. The road ahead is clear and as the V4 roars its way up the mountain I’m fully committed to making the most of this. I’m sure the views up Pen-Y-Pass are incredible and equal to the thin ribbon of tarmac in front of me but I’m not interested in that right now. It’s just me, the bike and the road as we come together in purity of the moment. 

At the bottom I stop and wait for Alex. He’s not far behind on his custom DeBolex Kawasaki and I was pleased to hear he took my lead and followed me through at the start of the pass.

Once everyone is through all the marshals and support team are together plus a few other friends so we ride the last 60 miles or so to the overnight stay at Hawarden Castle together. The sun is still shining in the late afternoon as we cruise along in an group of 12 having ridden the length of Wales in a day and had a hoot whilst doing so. The evening’s camp was another stunner set on the cricket pitch underneath a ruined castle. A few well-earned beers, an epic sunset and fantastic traditional Welsh Cawl stew for dinner and life was feeling pretty good.  

Hawarden Castle – Windermere – 199 Miles

   

You guessed it. The alarm goes off at 5.30am. The dawn chorus is in fine fettle as I rise to a stunning clear morning in North Wales. Showered and packed, a quick hunt for coffee and a welcome cooked breakfast and it’s time to head off again. Whilst the days are long, it’s hard to complain about riding a bike day after day. Especially when each morning you get to swing a leg over the Multistrada. As the crow flies, todays leg would be a 2 hour blast up the M5. Luckily we are avoiding motorways and make a beeline due East to the Peak District before heading North into the Yorkshire Dales then a Westerly run into the Lake District. As we enter through Winnats pass the sun is beating down on a cloudless sky and it feels a bit like we are in a movie. The views are once again just wonderful and the sun warming the road has me licking my lips for snake pass which is the next destination. 

By now I’m starting to bore myself with the superlatives about this bike. It’s just doing everything so well and effortlessly that I can just enjoy riding and pushing as hard as I feel and that noise of the V4 engine when on full gas is so good. I’d love to take the cat off and but a full system on. I imagine it would be antisocially loud but all the better for it.. 

The only issue with riding through the peak district and the dales is the bit in between. That being Huddersfield and Halifax. Perhaps not the jewel of the county, certainly not from a road system perspective. A long slog through mile after mile of traffic lights felt more like London than Yorkshire. 

Eventually through town and back out into the open countryside the Yorkshire Dales lay before us. Before that however a lunch stop and checkpoint. I confess to be feeling rather fatigued after the mornings adrenaline rush ride through the peaks. So a quick 5 minute shut eye in the sunshine was needed and welcome before the first riders rolled in.

We leave the support truck and head up into the dales. The low cloud closing in perhaps made the run through the dales all the more atmospheric. The rolling hills and narrow lanes flanked but dry stone walls transports you to the world of Postman Pat. Soon enough the we start to hit some serious gradients and hairpin bends. Steep enough to lift the front wheel with a little too much throttle and given the weight on the back of the bike I’m being cautious. No need though as anti-wheelie is on so the protection is there if it gets out of control. We are riding in a group and Robert (Malle Founder) is setting an excellent pace. Smooth and spirited without being reckless or dangerous. So without having to worry about directions I can just enjoy this spectacular countryside and patchwork of roads that are leading us through it. We eventually head west towards Ingleton and our way out over the Pennines towards the lakes. A smidge of rain in the run in towards Kendall and some low cloud requiring extra caution as we pass over the M5 but the bike is inspiring confidence in the wet conditions and the tyres are gripping the slick roads wonderfully and we are soon at our evening accommodation. The stunning Windermere Motor Boat Racing Club. We’ve been on the road for 14 hours and I’m in need of beer and food. Some of the team have other ideas however and I’m quickly coerced into an evening swim in the lake. And boy what a good idea it turned out to be. A running jump and swim out to a buoy sees us bobbing around in a mirror calm lake in the heart of the mountains. What a spectacular way to end day 4. 

Windermere – Kelburn Castle, Largs – 215 miles

   

My bell tent is 10m from the water’s edge and during the riders briefing the night before I made an announcement for everyone to join me for a morning swim. So as I roll out of bed into my trunks, I’m pleasantly surprised to see a couple of faces strolling down ready for a dip. Today is a wonderful route of high passes through the Lake District before a jaunt over the Scottish border and across Dumfries and Galloway to our evenings accommodation at the graffitied Kelburn Castle. 

No time to settle into the ride this morning though as it’s a short ride to the bottom of the legendary Hardknot Pass. A very steep, very tight and very twisty pass, this road is not for the feint hearted. To compound things for us the cloud is sitting very low on the hills and as we turn onto the pass itself we are almost immediately in the white soup. Damp steep roads, cold tyres and about 5m of visibility. The lack of view did ensure full focus as the tyres skipped over rutter hairpins and the traction control lights burst to life, made all the more striking in the eery whiteness of the cloud. Soon though we reach the summit safely but if going up a mountain pass in thick cloud sounds fun/challenging, try going back down the other side! The good thing about going up is you tend not to see the drops behind you. Going down however, you are suddenly very aware of the front wheel’s adhesive qualities as an abyss appears a matter of inches away from the side of the road. 

We eventually emerge from the cloud base into a lush green valley and our first checkpoint of the day. A few more hours hearing happy riders effervescent with their experience of Hardknot and we are heading off towards Buttermere. A quick stop to pick up the next marshals in Buttermere turns into a longer stop unintentionally. The Multistrada has an electronic key that works on a proximity basis. Stick it in your pocket and when within 1m of the bike you can start it which is really handy. As the sun is now out I take the opportunity to strip off my marshal suit and pack it in the support truck. Shortly after I realise I’m missing my key and having only moved a little I start to look for it. 10 minutes later, a lot of head scratching and retracing of steps I still can’t find it. Meanwhile a couple of the team have headed off and the rest are keen to get going. I then take to a hilarious search method akin to metal detecting by wheeling the bike to locations outside the café we are stopped at where I have been and trying to start the bike hoping to roughly locate where the key is. Genius you say and as I hit the button by the bins I think the bike comes to life. Bingo! They key must have inadvertently been scooped up and chucked in the bin. Rifling through 3 bags later and no sign of the key but plenty of odd looks and unhelpful input from the other customers of the café… Trying the bike again by holding each bag up to the bike we confirm no key. Last resort.. What if one of the guys that left picked it up by accident? It’s the only remaining possibility before I have to call Ducati and get a code to start the bike. That would not solve the fuel key issues mind you. 

A reply 5 minutes later on the WhatsApp group confirms our fear that one of the team has indeed headed off with my key. Max heads back (he subsequently stole my swimming shorts as well btw.) and whilst I wait the rest head off towards Scotland and the next checkpoint in Gretna Green. Max returns shortly after and we are good to go. Phew. 

Buttermere pass can best be described here as ‘spirited riding’ and ‘making progress’. Read into that as you see fit. It’s a bumpy, open mountain pass with the sun beating down and visibility of the single track road ahead good. So before long the bike is starting to talk back to me a bit as I really start to see how far we can push this engineering masterpiece. Turns out it’s quite a long way and there was still plenty to go. Not that my heartrate would agree as I hit the bottom of the track and back on the A roads. Just before Gretna I catch the team and we ride across the border together. 

Kelburn Castle – Torridon Estate – 277miles

  

It’s going to be a long day but an epic one as we head North into the highlands proper. It’s a chilly start again but dry as we head out towards Glasgow. Feeling really in the groove of the adventure now. Still fatigued but feeling very comfortable on the bike and very excited about the roads we will start to ride. It’s a bit of a morning commute towards Glasgow, but soon enough we pull off the M8 (one of only two stretches of motorway on the whole journey) and head toward Milngavie. A small town I know well as it’s the start of the famous walking route, The West Highland Way which runs all the way to Fort William. 

From Milngavie we head to Aberfoyle. A detour from previous years having received information of an amazing road that is well worth a visit. The road is Dukes Pass and runs north from Aberfoyle towards Loch Earnhead on the A84. I didn’t know it before but I sure won’t forget it in a hurry. It’s a wonderful route of switchbacks and undulating bends with great views. As we get further North, the traffic thins out significantly and we can really enjoy these roads uninterrupted. Finding your flow in the corners, getting into a good rhythm with the bike. Up and down the gears making use of the engine breaking and torque. There is plenty of power in any gear to be fair but with the quick shifter and rasp of the V4, working it harder brings more rewards. 

Before you know it, Duke pass is in the past and we are making our way towards Glen Coe on the A84. It must be said that volume of traffic and the obsession with Average speed cameras has somewhat ruined this stretch of road as 50mph is a little pedestrian especially on the Multistrada, but eventually we pass the Green Welly Boot stop at Tyndrum and normal service resumes all the way to Glen Coe. As we pass over Rannoch Moor the Great Heardsman of Etive Mor sits at the head of the valley and as we pass we descend into one of the most visited places in Scotland. And with good reason; It’s a stunner. Nestled away towards the bottom of the glen is the Clachaig Inn. If you are ever passing through the area it’s a great little watering hole for a recharge and refuel with epic views all around of the peaks of the mountains looking down. We were clearly not the only ones of that opinion as we were joined by the guys from Biker BnB whilst they were on their Highland Scramble trip with their clients. A good catch up with them, wrap up of our checkpoint and it’s onwards to Fort William past the Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge then a left at Invergarry and on towards the Isle of Skye. 

By now it’s getting pretty late but we decide on a detour to the famous Applecross Pass, Bealach na Ba.. We finally make our way to the bottom reaches of the pass having already had an amazing day’s riding that anyone would be more than happy with. And now at around 7pm and over 12 hours since we started riding, we are tackling one of the most stunning stretches of tarmac on the planet. Fatigue is swept away by a wave of adrenaline as I take lead position of the group and give the Multistrada its head. Not a soul in sight, weary of stray Red Deer on the high mountain pass and this weapon below me, the next 10 minutes will live long in my memory. Pure, unadulterated motorcycling bliss. You simply have to ride this road and I could suggest no better bike to get you from the bottom to the top. I suspect I may now hold the unofficial record time for a motorcycle assent Bealach na Ba. Maybe we need to go back and ratify it one day. 

Once the group have caught up we make out way more sedately down to Applecross village where we find the last marshals ready to go. Unfortunately one of our team has picked up a nail on the way down. We are about as remote as you can get on UK roads so now is not the idea time to have an issue and the support truck has gone straight to Torridon. Luckily the Ducati comes with a Plug kit and we can fix the puncture. The gas won’t give us enough pressure for the length of ride left though and the pump at the petrol station has a broken valve. 

Terrific. 

Thankfully there is a pub just down the road and as is the way of that part of the world, a local is only to happy to grab his car with a pump and help us get back on the road. 

So onwards around the coast to Torridon. I didn’t think the pass to Applecross could be beaten but the next hour and a half of riding was superb. A fast and twisty undulating coast road in the twilight was just relentlessly fun. You know it’s good when you stop because you need a break but you are still in the middle of the fun. Most roads end and you break after. Not here and it almost feels wrong to stop and break the flow. Just mile after mile after mile of the best roads going. By now it’s gone 9pm and we are dog tired but the fun keeps us fresh. As we round the headland and drop to the loch side, the sun is setting (it’s nearly 10pm) and it’s just so staggeringly beautiful that our little team of 4 now pull over and have a moment. It’s these little experiences that so enrich the adventure and the soul. 

We ride the last few miles towards Torridon and as we round a corner a mere mile from home (The most dangerous statistically) I have Robert’s constant words of warning from the briefings ringing in my ears. ‘Watch out for deer crossing the road’ just as the biggest stag I’ve seen in some time trots out in front of me heading for a small wood on the other side of the road! Thankfully I saw him in time and as we were just cruising could quickly break and avoid an unwanted interaction with nature. Timing is everything… 

We roll into the Torridon Estate at gone 10pm. Just a gentle 15 and a half hours on the road! This overnight camp is notorious for being a bit of a party and as we are still buzzing from the last few hours of riding and adventure I’m more than happy to buy into the atmosphere.  

Torridon Estate – Castle Mey - 239 Miles

   

With little sleep I rise for the last days official riding to our end point at Castle Mey. Just a gentle pootle along the now popular North Coast 500 route and the skies are clear. 

Very soon we start to see more and more bikes and supercars. An oddity perhaps but given the travel restrictions and the great job the Scottish tourist board have done promoting the NC500 as a new destination it’s probably no surprise to see so many people making the effort to get up here. Another wonderful mornings ride on faster sweeping roads brings us to Ullapool. The biggest town on the West coast north of Fort William, this fishing port is also the gateway to the Hebrides via the ferry. It’s another stunning spot and my checkpoint for the day. 

As we head north towards Durness it’s a good time to reflect on the journey. I’m still riding awesome roads through mountains, over high ground and down by the coast. The views are relentlessly awe-inspiring and I’m feeling so blessed to be here, riding an amazing motorcycle with new friends. It really doesn’t get much better than this. We arrive at Durness and head to the beach. It feels like we have ridden across the Atlantic to the Caribbean with the stunning white sandy beach and deep azure blue of the sea. More superlatives and a moment of quiet to just enjoy the moment and be present sees my wellbeing in tip top form. My fatigue is not so healthy and some of the guys are also feeling the strain of 7 days of long days riding days. We find an artisan chocolate shop randomly and have a break and sugar hit. Then it’s a quick refuel before the off. I haven’t mentioned fuel stops much but suffice to say they were numerous given the mileage covered. The old adage, of fill up when you can rather than when you need rings true. As all the bikes were different they had varying ranges. Especially the Debolex which had no fuel gauge so need to stop was guessed on mileage… That meant more often than not, I had more than enough fuel when we had to stop but tended to top up. The Ducati is definitely a little thirstier than my 1260s but that’s to be expected with two more cylinders I guess. The tank is a little larger to compensate and I was probably getting about 180miles from a tank. The dash would suggest over 215 with a full tank but we were on A roads and riding fairly hard most of the time so It’s no surprise consumption was higher. Average consumption for the trip showed 39.60mpg over 2522 miles. 

Now heading East along the Northern coast of mainland Britain it’s more glorious twisting roads through the Scottish Highlands. I’m following Callum and become aware of him starting to miss lines through corners, having to adjust mid corner and shaking his head. He slows too and it’s clear that he’s tired as he’s a much better rider than that! I’m feeling it too and I pull alongside to check in and suggest a stop. We have quite a long way to go still but safety is paramount and the three of us sit on the roadside for 10 minutes, breathing in the fresh air and taking a much needed timeout. That does the job and we hit the road again. This stretch of road has plenty of supercars on it which is fun. Shortly after our stop I need to swap jackets as it’s hot now in the sun. We’ve just overtaken a McLaren and Aston Martin which were cracking on but struggling with overtaking traffic. No such issues for us and they are now following the guys. A few minutes stop and I’m now playing catch up with the boys and the cars. It’s a wonderfully fast and open stretch of road and I can spot the targets a few miles ahead as I round a hilltop. The bike is absolutely flying with that addictive sound of the V4 engine at high revs just launching us forward as it zips through the gearbox. Adrenaline once again sweeps fatigue to the side and I’m absolutely loving my life right now. I soon catch the group and pass the cars like they are standing still. That’s what makes bikes so much fun and so accessible. For a tiny fraction of the price of a new McLaren you can hit the roads with more performance and more opportunities to use it. The whole experience is more engaging and arguably more rewarding. Bikes for the win. 

Finally we turn into the grounds of Castle Mey (A royal household and restored by the Queen Mother) which is just a few miles west of John-O-Groats where our adventure officially ends. Happy faces from the teams who have safely completed the adventure and some keepsake photo opportunities. Once done we head to tonight’s camp just along the coast. The evening consists another awesome feed from the Nomadic Kitchen, a prize giving and speeches on the cliff top looking out over the North Atlantic. 

After the prize giving as the sun is setting over the Islands of Orkney I’m asked to talk a little about mental wellbeing and the importance of taking the time to enjoy these opportunities and check in with friends. It’s been an unprecedented time with the Pandemic and this has been one of the first opportunities to get back to some ‘normality’. It was important for me to take to time to appreciate that and later speaking to the guests it was clearly very important and potentially life saving for many of them. 

Whilst the Ducati Multistrada was an amazing piece of machinery and an absolute joy to ride, it was perhaps what the bike allows us to do that is it’s greatest asset. The opportunity to escape, to explore and to get lost can often lead to the greatest discoveries and understandings about ourselves. 

Sometimes you have to get lost to be found. 

The last leg..

   

The rally is over but I’m a very long way from home. Whilst most of the riders are dropping bikes in Inverness to be shipped back and taking flights home, I’ve opted to ride back to Surrey. I have to be back on Monday and it’s Sunday morning. The plan is to head to Gleneagles and stay with an old school friend tonight. It’s an easy run down the A9 but the trouble is there are average speed cameras the whole way. That makes riding very monotonous and tiering and if I’m honest I had quite a few beers and a late night which is not helping. So I opt for the back roads and passes through the mountains via Aberfeldy instead to liven up the ride a bit. More wonderful hours of riding tick by and it’s great that the adventure is not over just yet. I drop into Crieff where I lived and went to school and reflect on how far (literally and metaphorically) I come since those times. 

Then it’s onto my mates new biker friendly glamping site, Muiredge, which borders the Gleneagles Hotel and sits looking over the stunning Vale of Earn. 

A good nights sleep and an early start see me munching the motorway miles all the way home. Fun mode over, its touring mode and letting the bike devour mile after mile of M5 and M40 then the pearl of the South, the M25 which feels a very long way from Torridon. 

And that’s me home. 2500 miles over 8 days. The length of the UK (and back) on the Multistrada. I need to sleep. 

So is this the perfect bike? There is no such thing as perfection perhaps but the Multistrada V4S is knocking on the door. Honestly, for the trip I cannot think of a better bike to have used. It just did everything asked of it not just adequately or even very well, but excellently. From motorways to b-roads, traffic light racing to mountain passes it just kept delivering smiles. It’s comfort and ease of use belies the violent beast just waiting to be unleased. It’s an amazing piece of engineering and a true advancement in technology, safety and performance. 

So why not check one out and book in for the next Malle Rally and experience the adventure for yourself. www.mallelondon.com 

New Multistrada V4

The fourth Multistrada generation. Sportier and more touring, stronger in off-road use and easier in urban action.

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