Experience: The Garbage Run featured image

Experience: The Garbage Run

27 Jan 2019
Tony Hoare extols the virtues of The Garbage Run, a wallet-friendly biking adventure that shows off Great British riding at its best…

What is The Garbage Run?
It’s a semi-guided run from the tip of Cornwall’s toe to the top of mainland Scotland’s head, where a group of 25 riders navigate from campsite to campsite over the length of mainland Great Britain by bike.

It goes the interesting way, running along the Cornish and Devon coasts before cutting through Wales, over to the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District and into Scotland. The route follows the beautiful Scottish west coast and skims over the north coast before finishing at John O’Groats, after an eight-day, 1500-mile trip.

The ‘Garbage’ tag might mislead into thinking it’s aimed at people riding small bikes or inappropriate old heaps, but there’s no restriction on the cost or standard of the bike.

You can ride with other people in the group or head out on your own if you prefer and meet up with everyone else at lunch or the next campsite.

Who is it organised by?
Nathan Millward is a respected motorcycle adventurer and writer who is on a mission to show the world that bike touring doesn’t require an expensive bike and a loyalty card for a hotel chain.

He devised The Garbage Run in 2017 and has since expanded the idea to create new runs that span Ireland, Australia and the United States as well as different routes across the UK. As of 2022 the closest event to the one I took, in May 2018, is ‘The Garbage Run Rally’ and is now fully self-guided.

How often does it happen?
In 2022 there is one Garbage Run Rally, starting on July 2. It was fully booked at the time of writing, but Nathan says that situation could change.

How much does it cost?
As of 2022 it's £350 and that includes seven nights of camping accommodation, a marked map book and a support van bringing up the rear.

"I should have taken less stuff with me... and bought a lighter tent!"

What did you get up to on the event?
I went in 2018 and I was exceptionally lucky to hit one of the rare spells where no rain fell on Britain. It allowed me to go on a British odyssey without once having to share a tent with sodden bike kit.

I rode in areas I’d never covered before, and re-rode old favourites in some of the most glorious weather Britain has to offer.

I made new mates and got much better at stripping carburettors on my shonky old Yamaha XJ600S Diversion. The old Divvy needed a trip on a breakdown truck along the way, but got me to the end – and even made it home to Lincolnshire again once it was all done.

Did you enjoy it?
Bloody loved it. I did cheat on one night by finding a B&B for the night rather than camping, and I’m not sure how I’d have felt if there had been day after day of incessant rain, but my experience was great.

What was the best bit about it?
Seeing new places, like the Forest of Argyll, and meeting new people who share a passion for going places by motorbike.

Anything you would like them to improve?
Not really. It delivers exactly what it promises – there’s guidance and help for those who need it, but it’s not a full-on guided tour.

What did you learn from the experience?
That 15kg of luggage is too much for a knackered old middleweight (I’m talking about the bike!). I should have taken less stuff with me and bought a lighter tent.

My payload would have been fine on a beast like a BMW R1200GS but it was way too much for the Divvy and made it an even bigger pig to ride than it usually is.

What sort of person would get the most out of doing the event?
Someone who’s not done much touring and wants to get a taste for it, preferably someone who can cope without a complete set of home comforts.

On my trip there were people who’d been riding for decades and others who’d been riding for months; folks who’d crossed continents and some who’d barely ventured away from their local roads.

It didn’t matter about the experience level – but those who seemed to blossom the most during the trip were those who’d previously had more limited biking horizons.

Where can we find out more?
Head to the events section of the Dorothy's Speed Shop website for more info.