We’ve had a great summer at Watergate Bay with our friends from Harley-Davidson up at the Wavelength Drive-In Cinema, offering attendees the opportunity to check out their range of classic and contemporary bikes up close. Don’t forget, you can still win the chance to ride one for a weekend. Click the link, or scroll to the bottom of this article to enter now!
To celebrate the partnership, we’ve been penning a series of articles exploring the unholy union between surf and bike culture. We kicked off with a potted history of potent cultural crossover and here, for the second instalment, we’ll share some of the finest coastal bike rides to be had in Britain along with the waves you can find along the way.
Equidistant between Cardiff and Swansea, Porthcawl provides an ideal surfing pitstop when heading west along the south Welsh coastline. Photo Porthcawl Surf School
Cardiff and The Gower, Wales
Located on the outskirts of the city centre, Cardiff Harley-Davidson is the perfect spot to collect bikes, load up gear and make a beeline for the Welsh surfing mecca: the Gower Peninsula. But before checking the expansive swell magnets of Llangennith and Rhossili, there are some of the UK’s most famous riding and driving routes to chalk off the list.
The A470 catapults boards and bikes to the depths of the Brecon Beacons National Park, where you’ll find a smorgasbord of fast, flowing and open roads with spectacular views. Take your pick from the B4560, A470, A4059 or A4067, but make sure to leave plenty of time to loop back towards the coast on the B4588, which skirts the staggeringly beautiful Talybont Reservoir.
The A465 acts as a fast lane towards Swansea, which is essentially the gateway to the surfing scene in Wales. Once on the Gower, wave hunters benefit from beach breaks, points and reefs that attract swell from a multitude of directions. Hit this for a sunset session and you won’t be disappointed.
As with most surfing in the UK, the best months for swell are going to be in the autumn, throughout the depths of winter and into spring, which isn’t that appealing to riders, but it’s possible to find fun surf all year round on the south coast of Wales. You’ve just got to go looking for it.
The North Coast 500 is renowned for its spectacular scenery; towering mountain ridges, expansive lochs and sweeping coastal vistas. Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson
The North Coast 500, Scotland
With regular flights heading into Glasgow or Edinburgh from most major UK airports, these two Scottish cities are usually the starting point for any hardy Highland adventurer. Harley-Davidson has rental spots in both, with West Coast H-D and Edinburgh H-D serving as perfect places to launch any road trip.
Be warned: Scotland’s epic North Coast 500 route begins in Inverness, which is a good three-hour ride from Edinburgh and a bit longer from Glasgow. Your best bet is to take it slow, ingesting the breathtaking surrounds of the Cairngorms National Park on the first day (take the A93 towards Braemar for the most spectacular roads) and subsequently seeking shelter in Inverness before tackling the 500-mile route after some local whiskey tasting and a good night’s sleep.
While the north coast of Scotland boasts hundreds of quality surf spots, Thurso East remains the jewel in the region’s crown. Photo: Luke Gartside
The riding is simply stunning, ranging from bracken-lined twisties to full-on alpine spectacles as the altitude climbs. Ride in the summer and the fauna is bristling with life, while the spring and autumn months have a beautiful barrenness about them. Don’t fancy the full 500-miles? Frothing to get in the water? You can cut out the west coast entirely and blast straight up to Durness, where you’ll find clear waters and punchy tubes of Balnakeil Bay and the adjacent Sango Bay. Hug the coast via the A838 and it’s a picturesque two-hour ride to Scotland’s most famous break at Thurso East. Venture that bit further and you might be treated to a few lonesome nuggets at the unnervingly vast Dunnet Bay or Murkle Point.
Sun-flushed trees light the way in the New Forest. Photo: Flat-Out Creative/Lewis Harrison-Pinder
Guildford to Selsey, England
Guildford might not sound like the most glamorous destination to venture towards with a freshly waxed stick, but Guildford Harley-Davidson has one of the finest selection of rental bikes in the country, stocking everything from a monstrous Road King to the latest electric LiveWire.
With that in mind, it only seems sensible to put the whopping medieval castle and quintessentially British 17th Century abodes in the rear-view mirrors ASAP and slice down the A3, peeling off around Haslemere to tackle the South Downs National Park en route to the English Channel. Beautiful areas of elevation afford some great views over the rolling hillside, with roads just outside of Goodwood House and the A286 towards the brilliantly-named Cocking proving challenging enough for riders of all skill levels.
This should plonk you right on the doorstep of some classic south coast surf and yes, it will be fickle as heck and you’re highly unlikely to score during the warmer summer months, but the breaks from West Wittering, through Bracklesham Bay and Selsey offer a little something for everyone. Plus, the sandy beaches of Bournemouth and Boscombe are only a short hop away.
While often denounced as fickle and crowded, Bournemouth and Boscombe piers can offer classic waves on their day. Photo: Luke Gartside
Point the bikes towards stag-do haven Bomo and you’ll be slashing through the New Forest in no time, ensuring you dodge the wild animals chilling in the roads. Check out the Blackwater Arboretum if mimicking the expansive oak-lined routes of Harley-Davidson’s spiritual home, Milwaukee, is your thing.
Plan your movements when big bouts of South Westerly or Westerly groundswell are due to march up the Channel and you could be in for a corker of a road trip. Just don’t expect the sunshine, swell and wind gods to align, because that’s a rare occurrence my friend.
One of the North Sea’s more formidable surfing prospects. Photo Greg Martin
Newcastle and Northumberland, England
Longsands might be the most popular and famous surf destination outside of Newcastle but the North Sea can dish out some seriously good waves if you can read the charts and don’t mind donning thick rubber.
Pick up bikes from Gateshead Harley-Davidson and admire the architecture of Newcastle before taking the scenic route north via the Kielder Forest Park. There isn’t a plethora of stunning roads but those in the know leave the big city to the west via the A69 and then join the A6079 just outside Hexham.
This classic rolling country road soon joins the B6320, which heads up towards the beautiful Kielder Observatory and officially the darkest place in England. If solitude is what you are looking for, it doesn’t get much more introspective than the landscape around Kielder Water, despite only being a few miles from civilisation.
With a smooth and quiet electric engine, The Harley-Davidson LiveWire is the perfect steed for exploring serene stretches of coastline. Photo: courtesy of Harley-Davidson
Cut back towards Bamburgh, heading through Otterburn, Hepple, Snitter and Lorbottle (no, this isn’t JRR Tolkien country) for a smattering of twisting country routes lined with green pastures. Bamburgh Beach itself is stunning and many memorable surf shots have been snared with a backdrop of Bamburgh Castle’s impressive turrets.
Expect fun lefts peeling off reef beds, as well as decent sandbanks and solid peaks when it pumps, but seeing as this beach stretches for miles, it will deliver a secluded spot for most to surf without hassle. What’s more, it’s also fairly consistent, so you could even score a few fun ones when the sun shines.
North Devon offers a multitude of options for all surfing abilities, from the whomping beach break barrels of Croyde to Saunton’s easy peelers. Photo: Luke Gartside
Bridgwater to Braunton, England
For quick, easy access to good waves, you can’t get much better-placed than Riders of Bridgwater, which offers an excellent selection of rental Harley-Davidsons on the doorstep of the quaint Quantock Hills and only a two-hour ride from the big beaches and booming peaks of Woolacombe, Ilfracombe, Croyde and Braunton.
A simple, picturesque route takes the A39 all the way to Barnstaple and on to the sands of Braunton. The road starts off fairly mundane but gets really good after Porlock and particularly the route into Countisbury. There are sections after Lynton that become extremely narrow but hug the cliffside, offering unrivalled views out over the wild Atlantic.
The properly adventurous can carry on clinging to the craggy cliffside by taking the smaller A399 towards the first real surf checkpoint at Combe Martin, ticking off Watermouth and Hele Bay for the stunning azure water of these small coves. Get the right swell direction and you could get lucky here, too.
Depending on the season, Woolacombe and Putsborough can offer fun waves in the summer yet transform into hulking beasts during the major autumnal pulses. Similarly, Croyde Beach isn’t for the faint-hearted when it starts to pump but it is a spectacle that’s worth riding for.
Explore a little further south and you’ll find the longboarders hotspot Saunton Sands and a number of little bays and secret spots as you pick your way towards Cornwall. As for further saddle time, there are plentiful smaller country roads to enjoy, but one of the best stretches is on the way back to Bridgewater, peeling off the A39 towards the Hawkcombe Woods National Nature Reserve and getting lost on the roads that extend like veins across the moorland.
Inspired to head off on your own coastal moto adventure? Check out Harley-Davidson rentals full list of authorised rental locations here and enter below to win a weekend’s worth of free motorcycle rental.