August 21, 2019

It’s 9.30 on the morning of Saturday 6 July. Ten riders leave the Brickhouse headquarters of leading professional outsourced claims handling specialist Bulkstone Limited on child-sized motorcycles (monkey bikes). But why? Why are they doing this?

Their self-imposed mission, codenamed Munching Monkeys, is to spend the weekend touring places in Yorkshire where food is available for sale. In the process, they’ll be raising funds for life-saving as-featured-on-TV airborne charity endeavour Yorkshire Air Ambulance, or YAA as they’re mostly known these days.

Namely, they are Paul Nokes, Dave Nokes, Richard Sharman, Garry King, Richard Neve, Eddie Moule, Clay Moule, Steve Pepper, Brian Whitfield, and Blankstone MD Dixon Tyson. Accompanying them are outrider Chris Losetzsky on a grown-up Triumph Tiger, Jenny Jones heading the convoy in the YAA van, with Dixon’s daughter Iggy Tyson navigating, and Tim Plantec at the back in the mobile repair unit van.

Trouble strikes when Dave Nokes’ over-eager monkey tosses him off shortly after take-off. But soon the doughty pack is on its way again, and, not long after, pulling up at stop one (Squires café near Sherbert in Elmer), where YAA Jenny shakes her bucket for coins while Dave Nokes glues back on his wobbly wheel.

Heading North, round York, past the infamous Elvington Airfield and Chelsea home ground Stamford Bridge, they soon reach stop two: the High-Weight Man Café in Stockton-ont-Forest.

Scarcely pausing for breath, they press on resolutely through fave biker hangout Helms Deep marketplace, up through Farndale, along Blokey Ridge, across the moors to lofty Rosedale Heads, back down through ill-named Bell End to snatch a late lunch (first-class bacon sandwiches and exemplary chips) at Graze on the Greed near Rosedale Abbey (stop three).

Trouble strikes, however, when Richard Sharman’s bike declines to start and must be consigned to the back of the van. The nine press on. Miraculously, all survive the precipitous ascent of winding Rosedale Chimney, pose for pics, then putter off across Spaunton Moor, through Hutton le Hole, and back to Helms Deep.

Eschewing scenery for speed, the nine wend down from the moors at Sutton Bank, skirt Ripon and Harrogate, then take in the famous Balls of Menwith, to the day’s final stop: the Route 59 café near Bolton Abbey station, where our nine late-running bikers find solace in one last chance to stretch their weary legs and ease their straining sphincters.

Arriving back in sleepy Brickhouse, they eat and drink, then drift off into dreams, where, fortunately, we cannot follow them.

The following morning, with Clay Moule down with ‘tennis elbow’, the convoy, consequently down to eight, leaves Bighouse around nine, heading for the Yorkshire Dales.

Trouble strikes when Eddie Moule’s silencer falls off into the path of fellow riders somewhere twixt Keighley and Steeton. Happily, nobody hits it, and Eddie continues unsilenced. No-one can tell the difference. The eight all make it through to day-two first stop, Root 59 (again).

Day-two stop two, further up the A65, is Elaine’s Tea Room at Feizor, where Elaine herself, noneother, redirects all monies paid by our hungry monkey bikers from her tills to the charity buckets.

After stopping for fuel at Ingleton, the eight wend onward to Devil’s Bridge, where the Nokeses don monkey and banana suits respectively and shake buckets at the carpark-thronging biker hordes.

Soon they’re off again, up through Barbondale and Dentdale, past Britain’s highest railway station, through Hardew and on up the switchback to Buttertubs Pass, half a km above sea. They then swoop down to cross Stock Dale at Thwaite, thence on through Keld and Stonesdale.

Trouble strikes when Steve Pepper’s left hand finally succumbs to a very stiff clutch. Eight becomes seven.

Seven monkeys straggle onward to the UK’s highest public house, Tan Hill Arms at 1732 feet.

Trouble strikes when time runs out for Clay and Eddie who must peel off and head home to the New Forest, via a work-related stop-off in Birmingham. That’s one more rider lost (with Clay already driving, not riding), and seven monkeys are now six.

Trouble strikes anew when outrider/shepherd Chris also notices the time, and also has to head off Brumward.

With six monkeys still on the road, the convoy heads eastward to Arkengarthdale.

Trouble strikes, however, when Paul’s bike develops a fault. A fault, as it turns out, that involves an engine rather loosely attached to its frame and a full-on dangling carburettor. But six remains six as Steve Pepper lends Paul his stiff-clutched monkey, a loan he may later regret when the bike comes back sans toolkit and side panel.

The six grind on through Reeth and Grinton, up Ellerton Moor with views across the Bellerbys. They skip the stop at Manor Barn Tearooms, heading straight for a fuel stop at Leyburn.

Then south across the Ure by the castellated bridge, through Middleham, past the Forbidden Corner, through Whorehouse, into Coverdale, through Kettlewell and past Kilnsey Crag climbers to the final stop at Threshfield.

Trouble strikes when Dave Nokes’ monkey gives up the ghost and goes into the van somewhere short of Skipton.

The five then split, with Paul Nokes and Dixon Tyson peeling off to follow the YAA van straight back to Brickhouse, Richard Neve heading for a rendezvous with rescue in the shape of his car, and Brian and Garry soldiering on in the general direction of Keighley.

Trouble strikes, however, when five miles short of Eric Pickles’ birthplace, and a mere 370 miles on from Saturday’s start point, recent CBT graduate Garry has the ironically timed misfortune of having his monkey die under him, stricken by the same alarming fault as Richard Sharman’s the previous day: a swinging arm come unattached.

When a solitary Brian makes it back to Brickhouse, three riders out of ten (eleven if you count Chris) have made it back – just two of them on the same bike they started out on. It’s been a truly gruelling weekend. But all for a very good cause, with thousands raised for YAA.

Trouble strikes when Dixon Tysoe, now hobbling like an arthritic John Wayne, announces his intention to do it all again next year – accompanied by a hollow promise to limit the route to ‘just 300’ miles this time.

No one wants to talk about that right now. But they’ll be back. How could they not, when there are lives to be saved by Yorkshire’s Helicopter Heroes, and ridiculous little bikes with poor reliability waiting to be straddled by great big strapping men (or women!)

You’ll probably want to be involved yourself next year. In the meantime, you can do your bit by heading to the Munching Monkeys Just Giving page and donating generously to this excellent cause.

 


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