nr's blog

Tour de France 19 February, 2018

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 4:32 pm

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that this blog starts back in 1997. Back then, blogging wasn’t really a thing, and there certainly wasn’t any kind of readily available blogging platform, like WordPress for example. So, everything I wrote was stored as text files, and I bodged together some cgi-bin scripts to insert the formatting and linking. However, I’d actually been keeping diaries for much longer that that. And just at the weekend I was recovering an old hard drive that I found in the corner of my shed, and came across a few of them. Most of them will never be published – but I thought that this one was interesting.

It was 1994. I had my first ZXR750, and my mate Lee was riding a GSX-R750 at the time. We would often potter up to the Lake District for the odd few days, and then we had the idea of a trip to France with our girlfriends. The planning was, well minimal, and from memory it consisted of buying a map, pointing at the crinkly bits around the Italian border (I didn’t even know that this was The Alps at the time) and hoping to get there.

We never made it to The Alps. But it was still a brilliant holiday, and I have very fond memories. This lot was originally typed up and printed, and then scanned and OCRd. So there’s going to be some odd spellings and weird autocorrections in there. I may go through and correct them at some point. There are no photos that I know of from this trip – I didn’t own a camera at the time, I kept diaries instead.

So, without further ado – a trip around France. July, 1994:

 

Saturday. 15th July

5am. Urrrgh, why did I have that last can of Fosters last night? It seemed like a good idea at the time, but this morning I was suffering the consequences. I was pondering this as I lay on the bed stark naked scratching my bum when Lee came strolling into the room and was either too polite to say anything or too blind to notice. We completed final packing, and sat around for a quick breakfast of toast & honey. At 6:45 we hit the road for Portsmouth. Why had we chosen the early morning ferry? Normally I’m not even conscious at this time, let alone capable of piloting a barely controlled missile around the M25. It was cold & fairly miserable, and was just starting to rain as we hit the A3. Just south of Guildford I found a nice straight bit of road, and decided that this would be the best time to test the stability of my recently acquired luggage at high speed. The run up to high speed was OK, but as we decelerated through the high 140s the bike went unstable, flapping the front in quite an alarming manner. I later discovered that this was due to me packing all the heavy stuff in the rear throwovers, and leaving the front end dangerously light. Whatever, it made for an exciting few seconds as I wobbled my way down the road.

We got to Portsmouth around 8: 15, and were waved straight onto the boat. That’s one of the major advantages of a bike – You’re always guaranteed a good seat on the ferry as bikes are always loaded before cars. After carefully chocking the bikes front & back and roping them to a bulkhead, we headed off up to the lounge and found a table with four chairs suitably arranged nearby. Once the requisite amount of coffee and croissants had been consumed, Lee went for a wander, and came back 5 minutes later proclaiming that he’d found some far more comfortable seats. We all got up, wandered to the comfy seats, and found that they’d already been taken. So, we all wandered back to our original seats, and found that they’d been taken too. Not one of Lee’s brighter ideas really. We spent the next hour or so wandering around aimlessly before deciding to go for some breakfast in the ships ‘restaurant’. The food itself was OK. The service was terrible. I couldn’t even get a knife to manipulate my Curnberland sausage with.

After food, Vicky went to get some sleep, and Faye and I went on our circumnavigation of the ferry. That lasted about 10 minutes. So we did it again. Still nothing exciting, so we tried again. This got a little bit tedious, so we sat down on the aft deck, and fiarted around for a bit. After we had finished farting around, we noticed that we still had 3.5 hours of this to go, and so we tried walking round the boat again. It’s amazing how tedious a ferry can become within such a short space of time. Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime, the port of Cherbourg loomed through the gloom. We went back down to the bikes, and waited for the loading ramp to drop. Straight through customs (they didn’t oven check our passports) and we were in France at last! We got the map out, found a campsite just down the coast a bit, and headed off. it took a bit of time getting used to French roundabouts, but at least I now had an opportunity to wear out my left boot to match my right one. Obviously, we got lost, and ended up in this charming little village where we found a charming little boulangerielpatisserie. I put my somewhat rusty French into action:
“Bonjour madame, je voudrais quatre pain au chocolat et un brioche grande s’il vous plait”
“Cinquante-cinq francs monsieur”
Blimey! Seven quid for a lump of brioche and four chocolate rolls. We decided this was obviously the tourist price, as nobody in the real world can afford those prices. Tasted heavenly though. At that point a wedding procession decided to blast down the main street. It appeared to the untrained eye that the sole purpose of a wedding procession in France was to make as much noise as physically possible.

The rest of the journey to St. Germain sur Ay was very pleasant indeed. The sun was high in the cloudless French sky, the roads were nice, and we were all in a very happy state of mind. We bundled on to the campsite, got our pitch number for the next two nights, and promptly got lost on the campsite, After a bit of enthusiastic arm waving with a delightful French couple we found our way to the pitch, and started the great erection race. I was fully erect a good 10 minutes before Lee, as could only be expected as his tent was far bigger than mine. After this was complete, we toddled back to the campsite reception, and asked for directions to the nearest supermarket. With a great deal of enthusiastic arm waving and map drawing we finally knew which way to head, so off we went. We picked up all the essentials, burgers, sausages, beer, wine, charcoal and orange juice. Strapping a crate of beer on the back of the bike turned out to be a test of ingenuity and advanced bungee cord technique, but we managed it in the end, so we headed back to the campsite. First project was the construction of a beer fridge using some ice purchased from the campsite shop and a bin liner. This was duly accomplished, and we left the beer to cool while we started preparations for the barbic. We needed an implement to dig a barbie pit, so out came the Kawasaki toolkit, and within a matter of seconds Lee and myself had dug such a pit using a 22mm and 27mm ring spanner respectively. I’m sure Mr. Kawasaki didn’t have that in mind when he designed the toolkit, but it coped admirably well. Faye and Vicky were rather skeptical that it was possible to cook food using nothing more than a hole, some charcoal and a grill, but they were soon proved wrong. In fact, the food was some of the best I’ve had in a long time, but that was probably due in no small part to the beer and the location rather than any cooking skills on my part. After food we sat around drinking under the French moonlight. We were here at last, and had a tremendous feeling of expectancy about what the next two weeks were going to bring. All in all, a very long day, but a highly successful one. Life was looking good.

Sunday, 16th July

Pitter patter pitter patter… Sounded like rain to me. I cautiously poked my nose outside the tent and had my suspicions confirmed. I hate camping in the rain. It’s impossible to get anything dry, and a general sense of miserable dampness permeates everything. Only one thing for it. I turned over and went to sleep again. I awoke the second time to glorious blue skies and sunshine. My mood lifted instantly, and it looked like being a good day. We all slowly came to life, accompanied by a good deal of yawning, stretching and farting. Lee & Vicky wandered to the campsite shop and returned with croissants and pain au chocolat while I got the coffee on the go. A good continental breakfast if ever there was one. After a leisurely breakfast had been completed we sauntered along to the campsite shop and asked if the supermarket was open on a Sunday. Yes, it was, but it closed at 12:00. Vicky looked at her watch. 11:40. Could it be done? We ran back to the bikes, pulled our leathers on and went for it. We got about half way there at a reasonable pace, when we rounded a corner and were greeted by the sight of a car in a ditch. Time to slow down a bit… At precisely 11:55 we screeched to a halt outside the supermarket, and all ran inside. On the way in we couldn’t help but notice that in fact the supermarket closed at 12:30. Oh well. It was a fun ride, and nobody had landed on their ear, so that was alright. Once again we loaded up with beer, wine and barbie provisions, and headed back to the campsite rather more slowly than we headed out. I was so conscious of getting lost and riding on the wrong side of the road that I shot straight through a red light without even realising it. Good job nothing was coming the other way. Lee, being the sensible fellow that he is, obligingly stopped at the red light,

In the afternoon we wandered into the village of St. Germain sur Ay, but it was boring, so we sat in a bar. Eight quid for four glasses of Kronenbourg. But it was cold and nice, so money well spent. Next stop was a quick game of crazy golf on the campsite. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but after we had all taken 12 shots at the third, our enthusiasm started to dwindle in the afternoon heat. By the time we got to the tenth, we were all starting to get slightly fed up with the whole affair. However, Lee rescued the situation with a mighty drive that almost clobbered a German. That livened proceedings up a bit, and things picked up from that point. After finishing the crazy golf challenge, Lee decided that he might quite like to go for a swim. Vicky pointed out to him that his shorts were still packed up, and that in fact he’d have to jump in the pool stark naked.
“Nah, couldn’t do that. The kids in there would think there was a wild conger eel on the loose”
We picked up the barbie stuff and headed for the beach. We found a suitably sheltered spot, and set about digging the pit. Once this had been done and the charcoal had been lit we sat back and got on with the business of drinking the beer and wine. There was a bunch of kids nearby attempting to fly their kites with remarkably little success. Whoosh. Thud. Whoosh. Thud. Whoosh. Thud. This sound was to repeat itself with painfully monotonous regularity over the next few hours. Lee wandered off to find a shrimp that he could throw on the barbie, but predictably failed in this task. In all honesty he probably would have had more success had he been hunting kangaroos. After a few hours lazing around eating French sausages and drinking beer, we wandered back to the tent. Just as we got there it started raining, so Lee’s tent was converted into a party room, and we carried on the evenings festivities. The rain looked pretty well set in for the night, so we just hoped that it would clear up before tomorrow, as we were due to travel to our next port of call, wherever that was to be.

Monday, 17th July

Pitter patter pitter patter… Rain again. I tried yesterdays tactic of turning over and failing asleep again. It didn’t work this time. Packing up was a pain, as we had to leave everything in the tents to keep it dry, and only pull the tents down at the last moment. Fortunately I had remembered to bring some bin liners that we could use to waterproof the sleeping bags with. We paid our bill (21 FF) and headed down the road. It was now raining heavily, and this looked like being a fairly miserable journey. One thing we hadn’t counted on was that the French road markings appeared to have been freshly greased for us overnight. After about an hours travelling and some fairly horrific slides from both ends of the bike I pulled over at Granville to stop for a eiggic to calm my nerves a bit. We got the maps out, and agreed to stick to the main roads and head for Pontorson, then decide where to go from there. We trudged back to the bikes, and headed off again. This time we were both a bit more cautious of the road surface and probably averaged no more that 40 mph for the next couple of hours. We got to Pontorson, and as if by magic the clouds broke, and we had bright sunshine. To celebrate this we stopped of at a little cafd for food & coffee. Lee volunteered to pay, and probably wished he hadn’t when he was charged about a flyer for four Lion bars. Ho ho. I never realised the French ritual for making coffee involved so much banging & clattering about. We sat at a table, and ordered four cofrees. The guy at the counter disappeared, and all sorts of noises started emanating from the vicinity of the coffee machine. Mainly mechanical thumping noises, but punctuated by the odd grunt and puff of breath from the guy wrestling with the machine. After about I 0 minutes he reappeared, red in the face, out of breath and looking for all the world like he’d just gone 7 rounds with Mike Tyson. God knows what he’d been doing, but the coffee was delicious, so we were prepared to forget about the finer points of how it was made.

We wandered outside, picked up a map and decided to head towards Cherrieux, a few miles down the coast. The sky was looking ominously heavy again, so we packed up quickly and hit the road. 5 minutes later I rode through the storm of my life. The rain was so heavy that it was painful, even through my leather trousers, Every now and then a raindrop would find it’s way to my soft unprotected neck, making me wince in pain. Great gusts of wind were coming in from my right, threatening to whip my aquaplaning front wheel away from underneath me causing an unplanned sky/ground/hospital situation. Then, as suddenly as it had started, we were out the other side of it, and riding through glorious sunshine. We found Cherrieux, found the campsite, and stopped. It was appalling. No other word for it, so we carried on up the road, and found the beautiful little fishing town of Cancale, and decided to stop there for a couple of days. The campsite was ideal. Nice showers, swimming pool, and reasonably priced. We pitched up, then headed off to the supermarket for yet more barbic supplies, a map, and a new headlight bulb. The barbie was a good one. (Most of them are when accompanied by a crate of beer).

After the food, we went for a walk down to the beach. The town itself was beautiful. Definitely the nicest place I’d seen in France so far. (But then again, we’d only been there two days). On the way down to the beach we wandered past numerous creperies and other such things, and one very posh restaurant. (36OF for one main course. That’s about fifty quid by my reckoning.) We did debate wandering in and upsetting a few people, but thought better of it- Lee took it upon himself to strip down to his undies and go for a swim when we got to the beach. (Well, he could hardly do it beforehand). He’d got a good 50 yards out from the shore when a local girl came running up to us and warned us of the jellyfish in the bay. Knowing Lee’s pathological hatred ofjellyfish we decided to keep quiet until he got back on dry land rather than have him panic and attempt to swim back to dry land at warp factor 3. After that little episode, we all wandered back to the campsite, and got some sleep.

Tuesday, 18th July

Woke up to the deafening silence of no rain whatsoever. Our first sunny morning, and it looked like being a nice one. I wandered over to the shop for croissants while Lee got the coffee going. Yet another typical continental breakfast was consumed at great speed, and we jumped on the bikes and headed into the town of Cancale. Wandered around for a while, but it was all a bit hot for that sort of thing, so we pottered back to the campsite and had a rest. The afternoons project was a trip to St. Malo. The ride there was one of the best rides I have ever had. The coast road hugs the coastline (not surprisingly) as it winds its way along cliff tops and vast expanses of golden sand in a succession of sweeping curves and short straights. I was feeling confident, the bike was handling well, and the sun was in the sky. Time to go for it. This was one of those rare times when everything was perfect. It’s really hard to explain what a perfect ride on a road like this actually feels like. All I can think of at the moment is phrases like “My hands and feet danced over the controls as the bike flew through the hot salty air. Scarcely upright for a few seconds at a time, we peeled into the corners in one fluid movement, man and machine in perfect harmony. My brain absorbing information and my body reacting to it quickly and precisely enough to create something beautiful” or some such pretentious bollocks, All too soon though, it was over, and we reached the town of St. Mato and promptly got lost. This was the worst part of the holiday so far. 1 hate riding through towns. After about half an hour my temper got the better of me. 1 pulled over and shouted at Lee:
“You fucking lead for a while, I’m pissed off with this”
Lee led, and promptly got us lost again. Eventually, we conceded defeat, and followed a sign for Cancale. Lo and behold, 50 yards down the road was the supermarket. As we parked up, a grotty little girl wiped some dirty water over my headlight and demanded 10F.
“Fuck off” said I, still in a bad mood. But she was not about to do so. This was going to turn into a battle of wills. Lee, Vicky and Faye went inside, while we stayed outside staring at each other. She wouldn’t leave, I wouldn’t pay. Had I spoken French it may have been a lot easier. We continued staring at each other. She made a menacing advance towards Lee’s bike. I could see that this was going to be very expensive indeed when she pushed someone’s bike over, so I gave her SF, which was all the change I had. She wouldn’t go, so I turned out my pocket to show I had no more change. Still she wouldn’t go. I was now very, very angry so I thought now might be the right time to give her a good twatting. She must has sensed my mood change, as she ran off pretty damn quickly at this point.

The others emerged from the shop at this point, and we headed back to the campsite. Lee & Vicky went swimming, whilst Faye and I wandered in to town to try and get some ineths for the burners. We were singularly unsuccessful in that respect, but did manage to get some jolly nice ice cream. We slowly ambled our way back to the campsite. It was really too hot to do any serious rushing around. We set up the beer fridge ready for the evenings festivities, and Lee jumped on his bike to try and get some rneths. 10 minutes later he was back. Still no meths, but due to a bit of seriously overactive arm waving he had found somewhere that sold some stuff that might work. All he had to do was take the burner down there. Obviously riding without a passenger for the first time in a few days was too much to resist – We heard him hurtle down the road at what must have been an insanely illegal speed. 5 minutes later he was back complete with a bottle of cooking alcohol. Perfect.

We started work on the great campsite chilli experience. Rarely has so much ingenuity gone into the cooking of such a simple meal, but armed with only a hole in the ground, two Trangias and some charcoal we had to improvise somewhat. Lee & I hit the beer, whilst Faye & Vicky started on the wine. We all just sat around in the heavy evening air chatting, while the chilli bubbled away on the barbie behind us. It was another of my personal “isn’t life wonderful” times. After an hour or so, the chilli was demolished with the aid of a couple of handy baguettes- I have to say, the food was marvellous. The night carried on the way it had started. Beer and wine. After a couple of hours we were all in a fairly advanced state of drunkenness, when Lee went for a wander round the campsite without any clothes on. Luckily it was pretty late by now, so there was nobody around to comment on his wild conger eel. I don’t really remember much more about the evening. Not surprising really…

Wednesday, 19th July

24 empty beer bottles, 5 empty wine bottles and the paraphernalia associated with cooking chilli. That was the sight that greeted me as I staggered out of the tent. The dull throbbing in my left temple served to remind me that maybe we had gone a little over the top last night. I cleared up as best I could, and went for a shower to try and make myself feel better. Miraculously, it worked. I wandered to the shop for croissants etc., and Faye got the coffee going. Lee emerged from his tent blinking in the early morning sunlight, and I suddenly remembered how I had felt an hour or so earlier. He then wandered offto the bogs, and shoved his fingers down his throat in an effort to make himself feel a little better. Breakfast was consumed at a leisurely pace this morning, and lots of coffee and Andrews liver salts were consumed to clear the worst of the collective hangover. We cleared the tents, packed up, and headed South.

The plan was to hit St. Nazaire, via Rennes and Redon. A pretty straightforward journey by anyone’s standards. The road to Rennes was easy – it was all fast A roads. As soon as we got to Rennes, I got us lost. This wasn’t a major problem however, as in doing so I found a petrol station which was desperately needed by both of us. Once we had located the relevant ring road, we sped off in the direction of Redon. After a few miles, for some reason that now escapes me I pulled off the motorway onto a little B road. We sat around for a few minutes in the heat, then tried to get back onto the motorway. Sadly the junction I had chosen was a limited access junction. Once ofi`the motorway, there was no way back on to it. I carried on down the B road for a few miles, in the vain hope of picking up a signpost. It was no good. I was lost. Hopelessly so. I pulled over again and got the maps out. At that moment a local chappie who had been working on his garden sauntered over, and we managed to communicate in very basic French that I was to go back a mile, turn right, turn left, through the village, and turn left by the church- I shook the nice mans hand, and ofF we went. Right, left, through village, left by church, and we were back on the road to St. Nazaire. Perfect. All in all it had been a rather pleasant little interlude in the otherwise tedious motorway journey. We carried on heading South. It was getting uncomfortably warm in full leathers, but there was no way I was going to ride down a motorway alongside psychopathic French drivers without them. A little later we hit Redon, our second port of call. Stopped off at a little general store for bread, ham, cheese and water. Another typically French snack, but seeing as we were in France it was rather fitting. Lee led the rest of the way down to St. Nazaire. It must have been somewhere around 4pm, and the temperature was around 34C. Too hot. We found the tourist information place, and located a campsite at St. Mare sur Mer. Back on the bikes and we headed West up the coast, and before we knew it, we’d located the campsite. We found our pitch, and before we got the tents up, all four of us stripped each others leathers offin the middle of a field- We got some rather strange looks while we were doing this, but we were all so damned sweaty by this time that it was a physical impossibility to remove ones own leathers. The tents went up in record time, and we all then fell asleep. Obviously the days travelling and heat had taken its toll.

At about 6pm we wandered into the town of St. Mare sur Mer. It was still uncomfortably hot to walk, but at least we were not roasting in our leathers any more. We found the supermarket, and stocked up on food. Strangely enough, nobody fancied a beer or barbic tonight. Probably something to do with this mornings hangovers. A varied selection of melons, nectarines, bread, pate, cheese, fish and ham was on the menu tonight, and jolly nice it was too. We wandered back to the campsite, and began our meal. The heat was still there, but it was now bearable to sit in the sun without feeling ill. I was still wearing my factor 15 sun block everywhere though, just to make sure. I really could think of nothing worse than trying to ride a bike in full leathers with burnt arms. After the food had been demolished, I went to find the showers. They were pretty dismal really. A button on the wall said ‘push’ so I did exactly that and was rewarded with a I 5 second blast of reasonably hot water. I pushed it again, and received the same treatment. I then worked out that if I leant backwards against the button I’d get a constant supply of water. This was all well and good in theory. In practice I did get a constant supply of water but it was now missing my head by about a foot. I leant forwards, stuck my bum out and decided that this was the best position to actually get wet. Not amazingly elegant or comfortable though. After about 2 minutes, I was treated to a blast of ice cold water, which I think aff@oted everyone else in the shower block too, judging by the sudden noise of approximately 30 Europeans of varied age & sex simultaneously inhaling sharply. It sounded very slightly like a whale inhaling.

After the showers had been completed, we wandered down to the beach to watch the sunset. There were some seriously large waves pounding at the shore, and 1, for one, was glad to be sitting 30 feet away on the beach- Some kids were playing in the waves, something that seemed remarkably stupid to me at the time, but also looked to be strangely good fun. I guess the average wave must have been five or six feet, as most of them towered over the kids. The noise of the waves was thunderous, yet at the same time remarkably soothing and calming. I like the sea. It gives you a good sense of insignificance on a global scale. I guess we sat there for a couple of hours, in complete silence, staring at the sea. Faye & I then wandered back to the tent, and left Vicky & Lee on the beach.

Thursday, 20th July

We all woke early due to the heat. I tried laying in my tent for a bit, but it was no good. The early morning sun was serving to turn my tent into a rather effective sauna. Faye & I crawled out of the tent, and wandered of to the shop for breakfast. The campsite shop had a fine selection of top shelf magazines for sale, something I’m not sure exactly why I noticed. Probably titles like ‘Euro-sex-bonk-fest’ or some other such nonsense caught my attention. Breakfast itself was the normal routine of coffee, croissants and pain au chocolat, Normally after eating something for more than two days I tend to get rather bored of it and demand something else. Not so with the continental breakfast. The heat was starting to become rather unpleasant by about 10 in the morning, when the old lady with the cigar in the campsite next to ours came to the rescue with a bucket load of ice. Jolly decent of her. But, rather than plonk the ice in my orange juice I simply lobbed it down the back of my neck. Much nicer that way. I plastered myself with factor 15 sunblock, and we headed to the beach.

I cannot swim. Well, I can just about paddle to save my life, but in no way can I be considered a strong swimmer. For some strange reason this small but important fact didn’t bother me as I stripped down to my undies and waded into the six foot waves that were pounding the beach. The water was cold enough to take my breath away, but I soon got used to it. Lee, being the strong swimmer that me is, swam off into the nearest wave, only to gracefully bob up over the top of it. Me, being the complete pillock that I am, and with no thought for my own safety, followed suit. The next thing I really coherently remember was crawling up out of the surf coughing my intestine up. Not to be beaten by something as trivial and insubstantial as the Atlantic Ocean, I waded my way back in. After a couple of minutes floundering, I got the hang of it: When you spot a big wave on it’s way in, get your head down, and swim like hell straight at the bottom of it. The hot sun and salt were stinging my shoulders as I serenely bobbed up & down over the waves. I really thought I had it sussed at this point, when I noticed a F. Big wave heading in. “No problem” I thought, as I headed straight at it. I must have got about 10 feet away from it, when I suddenly realised I was in big, big trouble- There in front of me was a sheer wall of water, seven or eight feet high, and it was just starting to break. I cannot explain the feeling of complete terror that engulfed me. I had approximately I second of complete, total and absolute panic before the wave hit me, in much the same way as a rabbit sees a car headlight one second before it is splattered all over the road. It went dark, and strangely silent as the wave picked me up, and smashed me against the sea bed with shattering violence. All sense of orientation had vanished, I couldn’t tell up from down from left from right as I hit something else solid with another forceful blow. My left temple exploded with pain. I was still underwater, I couldn’t breathe and my terror stricken brain was just managing to hold on to reality. “Just relax – You’ll be washed up on the shore in a few more seconds”. It was still dark, but now I could hear the deafening roar of the wave crashing onto the beach – We were nearly there now. Those few seconds took an age to pass, but eventually I found the sea bed, put my hands and feet down, and got my head into air. I breathed deeply, and opened my eyes. Washed up on the beach next to me was Faye. It was her that I had hit on my journey back to the shore. I couldn’t speak for a few seconds as I gulped down great lungfuls of fresh air.
“You alright?”
“Think so. I’ve lost my hat though”

Great. I’d nearly died, and all Faye was worried about was her hat. I just laughed, and promptly got poked in the ribs for my sins. We both walked back up the beach. I now had an awful lot more respect for the ocean than I had before. The sheer overwhelming power that had picked me up could quite easily have shattered my body against the sea bed. I was just grateful it was soft sand. I lay on the beach pondering this when suddenly I felt very, very happy to be alive.

I’d had enough of the sea now, so Faye and myself decided to wander into town to get some food for a beach picnic. It really was very, very hot. I’ve no idea what the temperature was, but it felt substantially hotter than the 34 degrees of yesterday – I pulled on a shirt to cover my arms & shoulders and we began the leisurely walk into the town of St. Marc sur Mer. All of the shops were closed for lunch when we got there, with the continental lunch ‘hour’ lasting until 3:30pm. It was now 1:15 pm, and I couldn’t be bothered to wait that long. We found a bench near the sea, and sat down for a few minutes. I rested my head on Fayes shoulder, and promptly dozed off. I’m not sure how long had passed, as Faye had dozed off too when we were awoken by what sounded like a nest of hornets on acid – In fact it was three French kids on their dubiously silenced mopeds, but it served as a timely alarm call. I was starting to feel weak and dizzy as the effects of dehydration started to set in. We wandered to the nearest shop that was open, and gulped down over two litres of water between us. The walk back to the campsite shop was not really particularly enjoyable, but it had to be done. Afler picking up food, we sauntered back to the beach to meet Vicky & Lee. We sat down to eat, and I broke the habit of a lifetime and started eating some nectarines. They tasted awful, but at least I felt a lot better for eating them. With no warning Whatsoever, Lee suddenly rushed off, dived into the sea, and promptly returned with Fayes hat.
“Blimey. How did you find that?”
“There were some kids over there screaming that they’d found a jellyfish. Then one of them mentioned that it was actually a hat”
It was now too hot to be enjoyable, and everyone was feeling the effects of the sun. A plan was hatched… We jumped on to the bikes, and headed for the nearest supermarket. Once there, we ran inside and stood in the ftozen food section for a good half hour in order to cool down a bit. Food & beer were also picked up for the evenings barbie. It was now 6pm, so we wandered outside and sat in the car park for a quick snack. A few passers by wandered over, had a good look at the bikes and wished us Bon Appetit. Back borne we’d probably have been moved on by the supermarket security guard.

The evenings barbie was a good one. We found a secluded spot on the beach, and dug a large pit for the beer fridge, and a small pit for the barbie. We had melon to start with, followed by kebabs, followed by steak. All washed down with lots of very cold beer. The sun was setting over the Atlantic, and everything was perfect.

Friday, 21st July

We decided to go for an early start this morning, so we could get the bulk of the travelling done before the blistering afternoon heat made things too uncomfortable. So, by 8arn we were all up and packing the tents away. We blasted off the campsite at about half past or so, and headed through St. Nazaire towards the Pont St. Nazaire. I’m always impressed by bridges for some strange reason, and this one was no different. As we approached the bridge from the North, all I could see was the road climbing off into the distance. I couldn’t even see the other side of it. Just as we got over the bridge, Lee suddenly pulled off the road. Vicky had managed to collect a wasp in her jacket, and just to show it’s displeasure at having its day ruined, it promptly stung her on the neck. Out with the wasp-eze… We took this opportunity to have a quick drink as well. (With yesterdays heat in mind we’d stocked up on water before starting the journey. We each had three litres strapped to the sides of the already overloaded bikes). We carried on the journey for a couple of hours, and then came across a sign informing us that La Rochelle was still 99km away. We were all simultaneously demoralised by this, and so pulled over at the nearest supermarket at Les Sables D’Orlonne for lunch, petrol, cold drinks and to give our buttocks a rest. We lazed around for a good couple of hours, while I brought some maps and planned phase 11 of the journey. The idea was to stick to the coast road as it would be cooler, and prettier. Bad move… It was now getting on for the hottest part of the day, and I had seriously underestimated the length of the journey. After another three hours of farty little country lanes, we reached the outskirts of La Rochelle, and I was suffering from a devastating attack of complete and utter buttock overload. I found a tobacconist, and pulled over for a 15 minute break and tab stop. Faye promptly attempted to push my bike over, and Lee and myself managed to rescue the situation with a desperate lunge to grab hold of the thing. Lee then led the way to the Ile de Re, which mercifully was only another 5 miles away, but meant crossing another bridge.

After managing to get hopelessly lost on an island seven miles by three with only two major roads, we eventually located our chosen five star camp site, and jolly nice it looked as well- We all trooped in, demanded a pitch, and were informed that it would be 302F. Per night. Ho ho. So, we duly gave up on that idea, and attempted to find another campsite. Another 30 minutes of travelling, and we were on the islands only I star campsite. By this time, I was just ready to put the tent up and sleep, but the other three wanted something more luxuriously equipped. The heat, and the days travelling had taken their toll on me, and conspired to put me in a terminally bad mood, so I shot off down the road at warp factor 9, quite probably scaring the crap out of Faye, and promptly shot the wrong way down a one way road. Serves me right for losing my temper, and I was rightly ridiculed by everyone else for being so childish. Eventually, we got to another campsite at Les Grenettes, and I had decided that we would stay here no matter what it was like. Luckily it was a nice one. The guy on reception seemed incredibly impressed that we had ridden all the way from England, but that’s probably because nobody mentioned that we had taken 5 days over the journey so far. My temper was just starting to abate somewhat now, and this was helped no end by Lee buying a case of beer. We sat around drinking it before even putting the tents up, which may have been a bad move. After the days tribulations, knowing that we had somewhere to sleep and didn’t have to ride anymore was a wonderful sense of relief Lee & myself walked back to the reception to inform them which pitch number we had taken, and were handed the official campsite rulebook. Bloody hell, this place was more like Colditz that a campsite. The worst rule of the lot was no barbies, so we picked up some ravioli and a few other bits & bobs from the campsite shop. Miraculously, it tasted OK. Particularly after a few beers. The remainder of the evening was spent just lazing around chatting.

Saturday, 22nd July

After a really bad nights sleep I woke early. Faye & I went to the shop, wandered to the beach, then went back to bed again having achieved remarkably little, A couple of hours later, and fortified by the now standard breakfast of coffee, croissants and pain au chocolat, we headed across the bridge and back into La Rochelle. Riding in jeans & T-shirt felt wonderfidly rebellious, until we were passed by two French policemen on their bikes wearing T-shirts too. We were aiming to find a castle of sorts that Lee remembered from his youth, but got completely lost and ended up in the market place. So, in the absence of anything better to do we parked up and went for a wander around the town of La Rochelle. We spent a good couple of hours wandering around in the heat of the day, before deciding to hit a little boulangerie for a birthday sticky bun & coffee.

Ah yes, the coffee… I hate coffee. Never ever got a taste for the stuff. But, French coffee is different. Strong enough to stand a spoon up in and with enough caffeine to transform the most ardent narcoleptic into a hyperactive whirl of activity- I now have a taste for French coffee.

Back to the plot – After the caffeine hit we wandered around the town for a couple more hours before heading back to the bikes. Lee was determined to find his castle, and so we shot through the streets of La Rochelle in ever increasing circles until eventually we found it. We parked up, and paid our three quid or whatever to get in. The first thing that hit us was the coolness – After the heat-blast outside it was very welcome indeed. We wandered around, up a series of increasingly narrow spiral staircases until we emerged on the top of the main tower. It really was very, very high indeed. Vicky & myself kept well away from the edges while Faye & Lee had a good look. The view, even from where I was standing was pretty spectacular. After a photo session it was back down some even narrower spiral staircases, and out into the heat of the day again. Drink was the next thing on the agenda, so we wandered around the harbour, and sat down in the shade outside a small backstreet cafe. We were served with tourist priced Cokes at two quid a throw, and just lazed around for half an hour or so. The journey back to the campsite was fun – We followed signposts to Ile de Re and they took us straight onto the motorway. I don’t think I’ve ever done 80mph in a T-shirt before, and it felt more than a little bit dangerous. Still, it was better than trying to wear leathers in the intense heat of the day. We blasted over the bridge, and straight into the supermarket in St. Martin de Re. Once again, we stocked up with barbie provisions and beer, and began the 10 minute ride back to the campsite. Well, it would have been 10 minutes had it not been for the Ile de Re half marathon cutting straight across our chosen road. What is it about French people that causes them to the strangest things in the heat of day? We were all suffering from sporadic bouts of dehydration just bumming around doing nothing, whilst you average Frenchman was running a half marathon with typical Gallic stoicism. After sitting at a police roadblock for about half an hour we were eventually waved through by the smiling Gendarme, so we pottered back to the campsite, and from there wandered to the beach.

When we got to the beach Lee went shrimp hunting again, while I got the barbie on the go. Lee actually managed to find two shrimps this time, but we decided against cooking them as they would have just fallen through the grill. Large was not a word that immediately sprang to mind when looking at these particular shrimps. We just started eating as the sun was setting over the Atlantic to our fight. In the next ten minutes the sky went from blue to orange to crimson to purple and finally black. One of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen, and accompanied by beer and steak it became even better. Suddenly a large burst of light to our left alerted us to the fact that there was a major firework display in progress over the town of La Rochelle, ten miles away or so. I’m not sure exactly what the celebration was, but I like to think it had something to do with my birthday. The fireworks continued on for a good hour or so, as behind us in the sand dunes some kids got a bonfire going and started singing Bob Dylan songs to the accompaniment of a very out of tune guitar. Once again, creepy crawlies stopped play after a few hours, and so we wandered back to the campsite past the Ile de Ms only nightclub. We could see into the building from the path outside, and were slightly amused at noticing the sum total of three people in there. We weren’t really that tempted to go inside, and so we wandered back to our tents to try and get some sleep. Bad move. Kids on mopeds were hacking past our tent all night, and at one point a chap suffering the worst coughing fit it has ever been my misfortune to hear strolled past, waking me up yet again. This was one campsite I was going to be glad to see the back of

Sunday, 23rd July

Another early start had been planned so we could avoid the heat of the day. Surprisingly enough, that is exactly what happened too. Woke up, packed up, and we were on the road by 10am. After the hammering our buttocks had received on the trek down from St. Nazaire we plumped to stick to the motorways this time, and simply blast down to St. Emilion as quick as possible. French motorways are a giggle. The speed limit (130km/h) seems to be there purely for the exceeding, something which most traffic seems to have very little trouble in doing. I was cruising between 100 and 110 mph (160 – 180km/h) and was being passed very swiftly indeed by everything ranging from top of the range Mercedes down to rusty old Peugeot 205s. At least I wasn’t passed by a 2CV. After about 80 miles were covered in considerably less that one hour, we stopped for petrol. 10 litres went in (under 2/3 of a tankful) and I was charged over 50F for the honour. That’s about seven quid in real money. Bloody hell, Another short blast saw us reach Bordeaux, at which point we tumed sharply left off of the motorway, and onto some back roads to Libourne and fin0y to St. Emilion. Our plan to blast down quickly had worked perfectly. We arrived at our campsite somewhere around Ipm, just before the real heat of day set in, and we all felt a whole lot better for a reasonably short journey. The toll for using the motorways was a measly 22F. Money well spent it was agreed by all.

The next problem was trying to find a pitch that offered any shade whatsoever, a task we were singularly unsuccessful in achieving. All the decent pitches had already been taken, leaving us with about 20 feet square of baked earth. Putting in tent pegs was no fun at all. I could only get 4 pegs into the scorched earth to secure my tent. I prayed for light winds for the next few days… After the tents had gone up we jumped onto the bikes, and headed to a little food store we had noticed on the way down for lunch. Melons, bread, ham and cheese were purchased, and we sat outside the little shop in the only available shade to eat our food, We were chatting to the shop owner in a curious mixture of broken French and English, when suddenly a massive commotion ftom our right was swiftly followed by a bicycle race. Suddenly, the real meaning of France was unveiled. Here we were sitting in the middle of a vineyard on a blisteringly hot day, eating melons, idly chatting with the shop owner whilst watching a bicycle race hurtle by. France is about appreciating the simple things in life, and enjoying the pleasures that those simple things bring.

The town of Libourne appeared to be closed when we got there. Certainly we could not find any shops open to get food. We rode round in circles about 50 times, and ended up back where we started at the little food store we’d stopped at for lunch. All we could find was an onion, tin of tomatoes, pasta, garlic and a small bottle of bright orange bolognese sauce. I can’t honestly say that I was looking forward to eating this lot, but before we could even try we had a major hurdle to overcome. Digging a barbie pit in earth the consistency of cast iron was not much fun. Lee and myself hacked at it for a while with sparmers, screwdrivers and hiking boots, and finally, after much grunting and cursing, we agreed that we had a big enough pit. We got the barbie going, mixed up the various ingredients in the relevant proportions, and ate the resultant creation- Somewhat surprisingly, it turned out to be bloody nice.

Monday, 24th July

Very lazy start to the day. Up late, and bummed around the campsite for a couple of hours achieving remarkably little. Managed to find the campsite washing machine, and erected a washing line involving three luggage straps, two guy lines, and a couple of spare tent poles we had lurking around. Another triumph of campsite ingenuity. I took the opportunity to clear up last nights mess, and found that the bolognese sauce we had created was a mightily effective ant-killer. There were thousands of the little buggers dead in the mess. After successfully clearing them up, we took a quick hack into Libourne and picked up supplies for a chicken curry that was to be the evenings meal. In the afternoon, we took a ride into St. Emilion. Vicky & Lee walked, as they wanted to get on with the serious business of wine tasting. Faye & I, being lazy, decided to ride there.

We started off walking around the town of St. Emilion. It really is very, very beautiful. The gothic architecture of the place is breathtaking, and the fact that it remains largely unspoiled by tourism, motor vehicles or MacDonalds is a blessing. The town itself is situated in a small hollow, with all streets leading steeply down to the centrally located market place. After wandering around for a couple of hours, the heat was getting to us a bit, so I looked for sonic shade. The first thing we found was an abandoned wine cellar, and it was a good 20 degrees cooler inside than out. We sat there for half hour or so in the damp darkness, enjoying the silence and the refrain from the fierce Bordeaux sun. We then wandered down to the very picturesque market square, and ordered two small bottles of Perrier water. Or, to be more precise,
“Bonjour monsieur, je voudrais deux boutteille de Perrier s’il vous plait” said I in my best French.
“Do you want ice and lemon with that mate?” replied the English speaking waiter…
After being charged five quid for two small bottles of water, we decided to drink them very slowly indeed. Vicky & Lee turned up about now, and sat with us and ordered a bottle of wine. We sat for a couple of hours, just chatting and enjoying life to the full. Another one of my personal “Isn’t life wonderful” times.

By about 7:00pm, we had to start heading back to the campsite to start on the evenings meal. As I was the only one with transport, I agreed to run taxi service- I started off running Faye back to the campsite. I turned round, and headed back to town to get Vicky. It was the first time in two weeks I had ridden the bike with no passenger. It was hot. It was a nice country road. It was too much to resist. The journey to the town was completely irresponsible, illegal, insane, dangerous, and bloody good fun. The bike was going ballistic off some of the bumps in the road, and the fourth gear 110mph wheelie off of the last bump was exhilarating in the extreme. Had I been wearing leathers, it would have been dangerous. Without them it was plain suicidal. I got back to town, out of breath, relieved, and with a bloody great smile on my face. There is no way I would ever ride like that again. I think. But, I got away with it, and enjoyed it immensely. I picked up Vicky, and rode back slowly, then did the same with Lee, It really would have been tempting fate to try any warp factor 9 heroics again, and the thought of sliding up the road with no leathers on was really too nasty to contemplate- After we had all got back safely, the chicken curry was started on. Once again, another test of ingenuity and imagination, but we succeeded, and thoroughly nice it was too. Vicky had been pining for a curry ever since we left England, and now she was happy.

England seemed a very, very long way away at this particular point in time. Even though we had only been away just over a week it already felt like I never wanted to return. I don’t mind admitting I was falling in love with France and the French people. Particularly in Bordeaux. Suddenly, Hayes seemed to offer very little in the way of enticements to return there. If I lived in Cumbria it might have been different, but I doubt it somehow. At this particular point in time I was laying in a field, looking up at a crystal clear night sky, having just had one of the best days of my life. I didn’t want it to end.

Tuesday, 25th July

in the morning we rode into the nearby village of Castillon, but it was a horrible little place that smelt of stale urine so we turned round, and went back to the campsite. We spent the rest of the day just looking for shade and sleeping. It really was too hot to move, and we were in constant danger of dehydration, so regular trips to the campsite shop for ice-cream and bottles of water were the only activity we could bear, Since being down in Bordeaux we had each been drinking 4 or 5 litres of water a day just to replace the fluid we were losing through sweat.

Late in the afternoon we took a ride into town to pick up a few bottles of wine to take back home. We fell into the first wine cellar we found, and were treated with courtesy as we poked our way around the cavernous cellars. I dread to think how much wine was down there. Thousands upon thousands of bottles dating back to 1967 were stacked up as far as we could see. Certain areas of the cellars were closed off to the public, but looking through the rusty iron gates revealed even more bottles caked in dust stacked up to the ceiling. Presumably theses were the really old ones, as the thick layer of dust precluded us from actually seeing what year they were. After we had finished looking, we were all sat down at a large table, and invited to try a glass of whatever years we fancied. I declined, but the general consensus of opinion was that the 1989 was particularly splendid, so we brought four bottles between us before riding back to the campsite.

At about six or so, when the worst of the heat was over, we all walked into St. Emilion for a meal. We had been saving our pennies for the past few days in order to afford one good meal out, and as this was to be our last night in St. Emilion we decided that it would be the best time to do it. The walk into town was a leisurely affair that took the best part of an hour or so. The countryside around was spectacularly beautiu, with mile after mile of rolling vineyard punctuated occasionally with rambling farm houses and associated outbuildings containing a variety of very old and rusty farmyard machinery, most of which looked like it would be better placed in a museum. We reached St. Emilion, and sat at one of the tables in the market square, and proceeded to eat and drink. I cannot remember exactly what was eaten, but it was (quite obviously) the best thing to be eaten since arriving in France. The meal was very unhurried and sociable, and after we had finished, we just sat in the market square eating and drinking as the sky darkened above us. It was about midnight before we began the walk back, accompanied by the rumblings and occasional flashes on the horizon of a distant thunderstorm. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Wednesday, 26th July

We had to leave St. Emilion today, even though none of us actually wanted to. The chosen route was to blast up to Nantes today, then tomorrow up to Rennes, then Friday to Cherbourg. Todays leg of the journey was the longest, and looked quite daunting. We packed up the tents slowly, and hit the road. It was sad to leave St. Emilion, as this meant the holiday was effectively over. The rest of it now revolved around us getting to Cherbourg in time to get home, and having a deadline sitting over your head makes it much harder to relax and enjoy yourself.

The ride was very, very tedious and trying. Mile after mile of motorway punctuated by occasional petrol stops. My idea was to simply blast to Nantes as fast as possible, and so there were no long stops for food or sightseeing. The wind made the journey extremely tiring and more hazardous by a factor of about 10. Several times massive gusts from both sides threatened to whip my front wheel away from underneath me. Simply hanging on to the bike and maintaining concentration were the biggest problems of the day. At 7pm we hit the outskirts of Nantes. The original plan had been to find a cheap B&B, but nobody was in the mood for quartering the streets of Nantes looking for such a place. We stopped at a petrol station, and asked the attendant where the nearest hotel was, Luckily, it was close. We found it OK, and sent Faye & Vicky off to see if it looked OK. The smiles on their faces when they returned said it all. The rooms were clean, well equipped, and came complete with a bath. But, before we could settle down for the night, we needed food. Miraculously, there was still a shop open, and so we stocked up with biscuits, bread, pate, crisps and beer. This was duly smuggled into our room, and we sat around eating in almost complete silence. The days travelling had taken its toll, and we all just wanted to sleep- After an hour or so, Vicky & Lee went to their room, and I simply collapsed on the bed. I was asleep before Faye could finish brushing her teeth.

Thursday,27th Juty

Slowly open one eye? Where am I? It seemed very strange waking up in a bed after the previous two weeks of sleeping bags and hard floor. I was just starting to enjoy lazing around when out of the corner of my eye I noticed the clock, 11:30. Shiti We had to be out of our rooms by 12! I pulled scwic trousers on and rushed across the hallway to wake up Lee. Half way there, we bumped into each other, as Lee had just woken up too. We packed quickly and paid our bill, and hit the road. Todays plan was to Et Rennes, and stop there for the night. The journey was far, far shorter than yesterdays and spirits were a bit higher following a good nights sleep in a hotel, We left Nantes on the ring road, and once again I succeeded in getting us lost. No problem though, as a couple of quick stops to check the map soon had us on the right track. After a couple of miles on the Nantes ring road I noticed Lee stop behind us, so I pulled over and waited for him. Aller a few minutes he started off again, so I prepared to do the same. We had about a five yard run up to enter a nose to tail 70mph rush. I warned Faye to hang on hard, and dumped the clutch. We were just going into fourth at about 90 or so when the firont wheel touched down again, giving a little chirp as it landed like a small airciaft. After an hour or so, We stopped for petrol, and Lee explained the reason for the stop. He had lost one of his strapped on bottles ofCoke at high speed, and the idiot car driver 3 inches behind had. collected it on his windscreen. This obviously didn’t appeal too well to his Gallic temperament, and so he started flashing his lights and waving his fist at Lee who decided that stopping was the safest option before the driver started playing dodgerns with him.

We got to Rennes at about two, and were suddenly thrown into a dilemma, Do we head the rest of the way to Cherbourg tonight for the I I pm ferry, or stop, and get up early to catch the morning ferry? It was unanimously decided that paying for another hotel only to get up early would be stupid, so we decided to head straight to Cherbourg. We had to up the pace a bit to get there in time, and so I set off in the lead, probably averaging 95 – 100 mph or so on the reasonably straight roads. After a few miles we were passed (!) by a psychopath in a Peugeot 205. I have never, ever witnessed such a display ofaggressively dangerous driving, We stayed with him for a few miles, purely for the entertainment factor as he overtook another lorry on a blind corner only to nearly be wiped out by the oncoming tractor. Eventually, it got too dangerous to follow, and we let him go. I freely admit that this was time first time I’ve tried to stay with a car and failed. At Granville we stopped for food and goodies to take back. Lee managed to turn his bike into a mobile off license by somehow cramming 5 bottles of wine into the luggage, whereas I simply picked up a packet of French sausages.

At 8pm, we reached Cherbourg, and all sat around feeling rather miserable really. Just to make things worse, the only available food was the local MacDonalds, which was as crap as ever. We got to the ferry port at 8:30 or so, and were waved straight to the front of the queue again. After sitting there for a couple of hours, we were waved onto the ferry, tied our bikes up, and wandered to the lounge for a beer.

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The Light Pours Out Of Me 5 December, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 6:33 pm

 

As noted in my last post, I’ve been having a few problems with the lighting on the TRX. I decided to do something about this in time honoured tradition, by just doing the first thing I thought of, rather than doing a bit more thinking. So, I went out, and bought a headlight unit from an entirely different bike, on the offchance that it might work. The first immediate problem was the connector was obviously different, but more importantly, about 30 seconds after plugging stuff in, a quick bit of mental arithmetic showed me that I’d be pulling pretty much double the current through the aged wiring and handlebar switch. I could ‘do the math’ as the saying goes, but I’m not going to do that. I’m going to do the maths instead. It’s a small distinction, but an important one, I think you’ll agree. So, the standard H4 bulb draws 60W on main beam, 55 on dipped. So, with a 12V supply (give or take – I’m not planning to land a probe on Uranus or anything like that, so I don’t mind being a few % out either way), that will draw 5A on main, and about 4.6A on dipped. The new headlight has a pair of odd P30T-40 bulbs, which are 55W main, 40 dipped. Each. So, that’s about 9.2A on main, and 6.7A on dipped. A pretty substantial increase in current draw. So, it was immediately apparent that to get the most out of the new light, and to prevent the handlebar switch melting, I’d need to add a relay. Better than that, I’d add two – one for dipped, one for main beam.

A quick visit to the Vehicle Wiring Products website soon relieved me of another twenty quid or so, but in short order a large envelope turned up with everything I needed – a pair of relays and connectors, some wire, a couple of fuse holders and some relay sockets. For this job, I only needed four pole relays – which is handy, as they’re a couple of quid cheaper. First job was to decide where to mount them on the bike. You can put them next to the fusebox in the seat unit, but I decided to run them at the front of the bike, attached to the fairing mount bracket. This simplifies the cable run a little bit, but more importantly, makes them easier to get to when I undoubtedly break one of them. Five minutes with the drill, and the sockets were mounted.

Now, at this point, I should probably draw a nice little wiring diagram to show you how to wire the things up. Only I’m not going to, as I’m terrible at drawing, and there are already a million nice diagrams drawn by people who are far better – just google ‘headlight relay wiring diagram’ and look at the pretty pictures. Now, one notable short cut that I took was to wire a single fuse in place, rather than a pair – one for main, one for dipped. This means that if the fuse fails, I’ll lose all my lights, as there’s no provision for a sidelight with these lights either. No worries though. As has been determined already, I’m quite used to riding around without any lights at all. Anyhow, with the sockets mounted at the front, some nice fat cable was run from the battery directly to the live side of the relay, and the existing bulb holder was hacked off to wire the existing high and dipped feeds into the switching side of the relay. It was about this time that my soldering iron exploded. Literally. I was using a gas powered iron, and after many years of faithful service in the paddock, it finally shat itself and blew the end off the gas reservoir. Good job it was pointing away from me at the time, as it went a good 5 metres, bounced off the wall at the far end of the garage, and landed back at my feet.

So, where were we? Oh, yup. Relays wired in, cabled up, so just needed to physically fit the headlight and plug it all in. And in a surprising turn of events, it worked first time. So, is it any good? Well, most of my riding at the mo is being done on some pretty busy roads, so I’ve not had the chance to test it yet on a completely unlit, empty road. But initial results are pretty positive for sure. The beam pattern on dipped is noticeably wider, and there’s definitely a lot more light coming out of it. So all in all, I’m calling that a bit of a success. Total cost was about £75 or so, for the light, and the relays and stuff. I probably could have saved about 50p by reusing some old cable, but I decided that it was worth buying some new stuff. Oh, and I suppose I need to buy a new soldering iron now too. Dammit. Just as importantly though, the twin projector headlight just looks so much better than the old unit. I’m going to keep the old one, just in case the new one falls foul of an MOT law at some point. As long as I wire in a decent weatherproof connector, it will be a 10 minute job to swap them over.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that I’m painfully aware that blogging is now *so* 20th century. And to be fair, I did start this one in 1997. But, as my children have pointed out before, vlogging is where it’s at now. So, with that in mind, and because it’s easier to just set up a video rather than take a million photos, here’s a couple of quick videos explaining some of this stuff. Firstly, the why?

 

And, of course, the what?

 

I was going to do the how? but the battery died in my camera. If anyone is even remotely interested in watching me burn my fingers with a soldering iron for 20 minutes, I’m sure I could be persuaded to do something along those lines for another project. Alternatively, I’ll just resort to my 20th century ways, and take a load of photos.

 

Vision Thing 20 November, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 6:20 pm

When I first rebuilt the TRX, one of the things that Mike, one of the previous owners had mentioned to me was the headlight. I won’t repeat his wording exactly on this page. No, actually, I will. “It’s fucking awful. Really dreadful”. I can get away with the strong language as I’m quoting 🙂 Anyway – I absorbed the information, and filed it away for future reference, safe in the knowledge that I’ve ridden a Suzuki TS100 through unlit country lanes in the middle of winter.

So, last week, I was riding home from work. The days are obviously getting shorter now, and I’ve been spending more and more time riding in the gloom, if not the complete darkness. And it was obvious that Mike was right about the lights. I didn’t realise just how right though, until the seventh or eighth car coming the other way flashed me. I’m used to getting the odd flash, particularly when filtering, but never normally this many. And then, a van that I’d just passed on the A505 re-passed me with some mad gesticulations from the driver, and a lot of flashing and honking. I thought I’d best stop, to see if there was something dangerously wrong with the bike. The headlight connector was hanging loose. I’d had the fairing off, and forgotten to reconnect the headlight. And I hadn’t even noticed – that’s how bad the headlight is. I popped the headlight connector back on, silently apologised to the driver I’d cursed earlier for flashing me as I was accelerating onto a roundabout (I thought he was giving me a hard time for nipping in and out of traffic. I didn’t realise he was actually warning me that I was about to die a messy and painful death when a tractor pulled out of a side road in front of the un-illuminated idiot), and carried on my way. And I still couldn’t tell any difference.

Now, there are several ways to go about improving lighting these days. But, the problem with just whacking in, say, an LED bulb or a HID kit is that they’re not designed to work with the reflectors you get with a ‘normal’ 1980s halogen light. And while they may appear to work well from the drivers perspective, they’ll instantly fail an MOT, and irritate every driver who has the misfortune to be coming the other way. Next time you see a chavved up Nova or Saxo with improbably dazzling headlights, this is what’s happened. With the TRX, it’s even worse, the problem is really one of reflector design. It does emit light. Just not where you need it. Or as we’ve found out, not where you can even bloody well see it. I made the quip in Another Place that it was almost like it absorbed light when you switched it on, to which I instantly got the brilliant response “are you sure you haven’t wired it up backwards?”

So, enter the headlight unit from the FZR400RR 3TJ:

P1060621

So, straight away, we can see one massive advantage. It looks bloody brilliant. Twin projector headlights, with red-rimmed lenses? What could possibly go wrong? Well, the bulbs cost £16. Each. Gulp. Hope I don’t blow too many of them. At the moment, I’ve not used it in anger, so actually have no clue whether it’s any better. One thing for sure, is that it can’t be any worse. The only real fly in the ointment is the connector. The TRX loom has an H4 plug (makes sense, as the standard fitment is an H4 bulb). The 3TJ headlight unit has some other form of connector. Currently it’s bodged up with a few spade connectors, but if I decide to keep it, I’ll get a male H4 connector and make up a proper adaptor.

So, if you’ve noticed an idiot on a bike with no lights whizzing around the A1/A505 kind of area over the past few weeks, errr, sorry. It’s me. Hopefully you’ll at least be able to see me now. And it’s a good job the damned thing is so noisy, as I suspect that’s the only thing that’s kept me alive over the past few weeks.

 

(get a) grip (on yourself) 10 October, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,The Racing years — nr @ 6:30 pm

So, 12 years ago, give or take a few days, I retired from racing. And while I always maintained an interest in the sport, and many friends kept at it, I was done with it. I’d had great times, made great friends, and was happy to be walking away with nothing left to prove. If you’ve ever read any of my old race diary, you’ll know that I’m not a competitive chap, and the fact that I’d never won a race never bothered me in the least. I’d raced all sorts of bikes, in all sorts of classes, and wanted to spend more time with my family. It’s also safe to say that I was completely bankrupt, and a few years off to repay my debts was also a Good Thing. Of all the races I’d had, the fondest memories were endurance racing. It suited me more, for several reasons. Firstly, the team spirit – no single person can win an endurance race, and working in a close team of friends was brilliant. But also, it suited my temperament more. I was never good at the aggression needed in a six lap sprint, but the more analytical approach to endurance racing definitely suited me. But anyway, none of this mattered, as I was retired, right? But then, back in March, a message popped up in my inbox from Alex, team principal at Darvill Racing: “Ronkers, Have you still got an ACU licence?” I replied that I hadn’t, and got another reply, this time from old mate and ex-TZR racer, Chris “Fozzy” Foster: “Get one before October and book a weekend off”.

A few weeks later, I was sitting in a classroom, chatting with BMCRC safety officer Pete Bartlett, taking the necessary course to renew my race licence. Dammit. I can resist anything except temptation.

In the intervening weeks, a plan had been hatched. I was to accompany Foz on the Darvill Racing SV650 at this years end of season endurance race, with the Andreas Racing Association, at Jurby airfield. Was I nervous? Hell yes. The nerves were tempered somewhat by the fact that I had the backing of such an experienced team, but still, I was nervous. The arrangement was basically that I would drive over to the Isle of Man with my leathers and boots, race, drink beer, and come home again. The bike was being prepared by Alex, and we had Phil doing pit signalling, with Liz and Maz supplying tea, cake, and big smiles. And as an added bonus, another couple of mates, Andy and Champ were to be in the same race. I’ve known Champ for years, and he’s often tried to tempt me back into racing – so it’s only fitting that my first race back would involve him in some way. The final travel arrangements were that I’d spend a couple of days in the office in Reading, drive up to Congleton with Champ, pick up Foz, and then get the ferry. Tickets were booked, holiday was arranged. Everything fell into place nicely.

“I wasn’t expecting to see an 18 stone Vietnamese transvestite in Reading this evening.” It’s safe to say that’s a sentence that I never thought I’d have to use, but there in front of me, on stage in The Oakford Social Club was, indeed, an 18 stone Vietnamese transvestite, and I exclaimed to Vanessa, Champ’s lovely girlfriend, that I was mildly surprised at the turn of events. We’d arranged to pop out for a bite to eat and a pint the night before an early start, and ended up watching a Drag cabaret act. And it was bloody brilliant. So much so that all thoughts of an early night went out the window, and we just scraped onto the last bus home. The next morning, with slightly dull heads, we both hopped in the car, pointed it North, and spent the next six or so hours on the road to Heysham. Everything was pretty much routine, as we sat on the ferry, chatting about events that were to come, drinking tea, and reminiscing about old times. Being stuck on a ferry, with no internet access, and a couple of old mates is a brilliant way to spend a few hours. Just chatting. No resorting to Google to sort out arguments. No sudden distractions from social media. Just a good old chat. Brilliant. We ended up dropping Champ off with another old mate, Keef, in Ramsey, grabbing a bite to eat, and then Foz and I heading back down to Douglas where we were based for the weekend. We both decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and got our heads down for an early night, rather than spending a night on the town. Besides, I rather think that Foz was scared that I’d try to find another Drag cabaret given my enthusiasm for the previous evenings entertainment.

Saturday morning was spent in the local cafe with Liz, drinking tea and eating cake, after which we pottered off to Castletown and the Darvill Racing headquarters, to get everything packed and ready for the race. This was the first chance I’d had to see the bike in the flesh, and I instantly fell hopelessly in love with it. Alex is fastidious when it comes to bike preparation, and every detail was perfect. Other than the 500GP bike of Max Biaggi, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite so meticulously prepared. There wasn’t a bolt out of place. Even down to the shielding of the electronics in the quickshifter to try to eliminate the chance of RF interference. Final setup would be done after the Sunday morning practise session, as this was the first time that the bike had been used in anger in full Supertwin specification. Everything was cleaned, polished, and perfectly fettled.

I was secretly starting to feel that my 1990s leathers, would possibly let the side down somewhat.

With packing complete, Alex, Foz and me wandered into Douglas where we ate an extraordinarily tasty Chinese meal, and again, all got our heads down for an early night. I slept fitfully. Nervous at the events ahead. I obviously didn’t want to show this at the time, but am happy to admit it now. I was, frankly, worried that I’d either crash the bike, or cause someone else to have an accident. I determined that the best way to approach this fear was to basically give myself a damned good talking to. Everything was in place – I just had to ride the bike. And as we all know, that’s something you never forget how to do. It’s just like, errr, riding a bike.

I was obviously awake before the alarm on Sunday. We jumped into the cars, headed up to Jurby, and got set up. Liz and Maz then arrived, made tea, and were promptly despatched back to Douglas to collect Fozzy’s lid, which he’d left in the flat. I busied myself with climbing into my leathers, and scooting out for practise. This was it. Would I be hopelessly slow after all this time?

Well, yes. Yes, I was. I’d guess my first few laps were among the slowest ever seen at Jurby. The requirement was for each rider to complete at least four laps, and we had a 40 minute session. I was starting to doubt whether I’d complete my required four laps, at the pace I was going. However, after a few laps, I started to settle in. I wasn’t that comfortable with the race pattern gear shift to start with, but soon got used to that again. Otherwise, the bike was everything I’d hoped. Torquey, neutral handling, with strong, progressive brakes. The perfect bike for an endurance race really. I popped back into the pits to let Foz have his laps, and when he got back, we decided to raise the gear lever a bit to make downshifts easier. And that was all we needed to do to the bike. It was ready to go. The plan for the race was to run six sessions of forty minutes each. Foz would take the start, then we’d alternate, until I either crashed, or saw the chequered flag. So, Foz took the Le Mans start, and we quickly settled into second place in class, with Foz running steady 1:20s to 1:19s, with the occasional foray into the 1:17s when chasing someone. I knew that I’d get nowhere near these times, but if I could get within 10 seconds, that was my personal goal. Foz really is an exceptionally fast rider, was used to the bike, and I’d not raced for 12 years. I thought that was a safe, sensible goal.

After about 35 mins, Alex gently said to me “we just put out the three laps remaining board for Foz. You ready?” I had a quick glug of water, and pulled on my lid and gloves. This was it. No turning back now.

Foz came into pitlane, looking tired, but happy. We were still holding P2. “The last left hander is a bit greasy, otherwise, it’s all dry.” Alex topped up the fuel, I jumped on, and headed out onto track.

“woooooah, bloody hell, what was *that*?” I thought to myself, as a ZX10R shot past, fully 40-50km/h faster. I later learned that this was actually the ultimate race winners, aboard a ZX10R. But it was all I needed. I realised now, that I was racing. Not practising. And so I got my head down, and tried to find a nice rhythm. At the end of my second lap, the pitboard came out giving me my lap time.

1:39

Holy crap. I was actually ashamed at this. I could imagine the chaps in the pits, all thinking “bloody hell, we’ve made a mistake here”. Still, as we’ve already ascertained, I’m not competitive, right? So, I made a plan. I’d just keep doing the same thing, only looking for smoother lines until I either got faster, or my session finished. And this worked. By consciously forcing myself to relax, and look for corner speed rather than trying to make time with late braking, my lap times started to come down. 1:35… 1:33… 1:32… would I get below 1:30? 1:31… 1:31… 1:30… and then I got my signal to pit.

Foz took his session, and I sat down, and was instantly handed a cup of tea by Liz, with a big smile, and a hearty “Well done!”. And I could tell she really meant it. Liz, if you ever read this, you have no idea how happy that made me. I took stock of things. I felt fine – achy from the braking stresses, but physically, fine. I’d taken nine seconds off my lap times, but was still a few seconds from where I wanted to be. But, most importantly, I was enjoying it. A smile crossed my face, as I sat there. Tea in hand, I realised that I was racing, I wasn’t a million miles off the pace I wanted, and I was enjoying it. It had been a long time.

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However, things weren’t seemingly going so well on track for Foz. His laptimes were starting to slow. From regular 1:19s, he was now running 1:21 to 1:23, and obviously struggling. After about 30 mins he signalled that he needed to pit, and I got ready for my next session. When Foz got back to the pits, he looked shattered. Totally drained. It’s never nice seeing a mate in trouble like that, and my first instinct was to sit him down, and make sure all was OK. But before I could do that, Liz and Maz whipped him away, and I was out for another session.

Again, at the end of the second lap, I got my first time. 1:29. And while this was still, obviously, outside of my 10 second from Foz goal, it was a huge achievement for me. I mean, to put this into context, the winners were doing 1:09. But I don’t care. This was a brilliant spur for me to continue my plan to ride smoothly and consistently. 1:29… 1:28… 1:27…

I whooped with joy. 1:27. I’d achieved my goal.

1:26… 1:25… And then, a whole string of 1:25s. I’d reached the edge of what I was willing to push against for now. And I just kept on turning in 1:25s. It was, plainly obvious that I was nowhere near the limits of the bike. Modern tyres offer an amazing amount of grip, and I just couldn’t bring myself to use it all. Lap after lap, the tyres just stuck, and did exactly what I asked of them. No dramas, no lurid slides as they went off, no sudden and unexpected lurches. Just smooth, dependable grip. No, I’m not sponsored by Continental to say these things… Unbeknown to me, although fully expected, the team had decided to keep me out for the full 55 mins for this session, to let Foz recover. And for sure, at the end of the session, I felt those extra 15 minutes. My arms and shoulders were a little more achy this time, and I was very aware that for the last couple of laps, my attention had started to wander. Again, I handed the bike to Foz, slapped him on the back, and sat down. And again, a cup of tea was placed in my hands. I felt like royalty.

“Is Foz OK?” I asked Liz. The reply was that yes, he was OK, but had just run out of energy, but was fit to run his third session. I expected nothing less. Foz is one of those people who will never complain – he just gets stuck in. And for his final session, he rode smoothly, consistently and sensibly to conserve energy. We were now on the same lap as the third and fourth place teams, and they had their fastest riders out for the final session as Foz handed back to me.

“Go on mate. Enjoy it!” he said as he handed the bike over I was intensely relieved to see that he looked 1000 times better than at the previous handover. And so, I took the final session. And while we were knocked from P2 to P4 in the final 30 mins, I’m not unhappy with that. I was still turning in regular 1:25s, but the teams behind were down in the 1:19 or so bracket. I freely admit I’d have crashed trying to defend the position. And after a few more laps, the chequered flag came out.

I won’t bore you all with the details of packing away. It’s pretty tedious to do it, never mind read about someone else doing it. But, at the end of the evening, Alex, Foz and me ended up eating pizza, and drinking a cold beer. Before, erm, turning in for an early night. Last of the party animals.

I owe a huge debt of thanks to Alex. And of course to Foz, Liz, Maz (I know, it sounds like the cast of a cheesy 1980s hip-hop movie) and Phil. Am I going to do it again? Yeah, I reckon so. Watch this space.

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From left to right: Maz, me (with a cuppa, strangely enough), Foz, Alex, Liz, and Phil.

 

Hollow Hills 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,Outdoor climbing — nr @ 8:14 pm

Blimey. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? This is a sign of two things: firstly, project TRX has been an outrageous success, to the point where I’ve just been getting on and riding it, rather than mithering on about it. Secondly, well, the weather has been rather nice, and I’ve been on holiday. Thirdly, I’ve got a new job, so things have been a bit busy on that front too. Fourthly, and most importantly, I seem to have forgotten how to count.

So. The TRX. Well, it’s bloody brilliant. I know I’ve said it before, but I have a feeling that this one is a definite keeper. It’s just so much fun to ride. I’ve done a few long(ish) trips, lots of little blasts, and a whole lot of just looking at it, thinking “phwooaaar”. I’ve not quite hit my personal benchmark of 500 miles in a day – but I reckon that it’s easily comfortable enough for an old chap like me, and enough fun to stop me having to have a snooze half way through the trip. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting my knee down on the road for the first time in a few years, so there’s no shortage of grip from the s/hand tyres. Nice. There’s a few bits and bobs that I want to sort out over the winter though. There’s a bit of a clonking from the front end every now and then, and I can’t quite work out whether it’s the head bearings or the fork internals right now. To save myself any further confusion, I’ll just replace the head bearings, and at the same time fit a set of cartridge emulators. This is a pretty standard mod to TRXs, as the front end is a bit weedy, even when new. After 20 years, well, it’s both weedy and floppy. Not a pleasant combination. Other than that, it’s been a brilliant ride. At first I thought it was a bit slow, but then I reminded myself to look at the speedo, and it’s embarrassingly easy to hit three figure speeds without realising it. Put it this way – it kept up with Sol’s GSX-R1100 powered Katana without ever stressing it. Nice. And I now go out of my way to look for tunnels, just so I can gas it and listen to the noise. Yup. I think this one is a keeper.

So, what next? Well, regular readers of this rubbish will remember that I had surgery last year for Dupuytren’s Contracture on my right hand. The main reason for this was because I quite fancied getting out there climbing again, and this was a complete pain in the arse. I’d tried a quick climb in Switzerland a couple of years ago, and it hurt enough to stop me pretty much dead in my tracks. So, I had the surgery last year, and after a few months of recovery, this happened last week:

SUNP0011Yes, I know it’s on a top rope, but I don’t care. I’d popped down to Cornwall with my family for a holiday, and decided to get out on the sea cliffs again, and my hand was absolutely fine. Not a twinge, not a niggle, not a weak moment. And this has really fired my enthusiasm to do a bit more climbing now – which is, of course, a complete pain in the arse given that I live in The Fens, and the nearest hill is half a days drive away. Still, there can’t be many more stupid pastimes to undertake when you live in The Fens, right?

At which point, I should probably introduce this:

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Errr, yeah. That’s my longboard. And although I’ve been riding it for a couple of years, I’ve kind of decided that I really want to get a bit more out of it, and do a lot more riding on some bigger and faster hills. So, rock climbing and longboarding. Both perfect ways to spend my autumn years living in the bastard flattest place on the planet.

In yet other news, oh, I’m not quite ready to mention this yet. Watch this space. Plans. Afoot. They very much are.

 

Won’t get fuelled again 26 March, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling,Uncategorized — nr @ 7:34 pm

I’ve been quite lazy about updating these pages recently. (Unfortunately, as can be seen, I’ve not been lazy about thinking of cringe-worthy links to song titles. I’m really sorry about this one). One of the main reasons has been that I’ve not had any nice photos to share, and the other reason is that I didn’t think anyone actually read this – it was a nice thing just to keep updated when I fancied a creative outlet for some stress. And then, yesterday, two things happened that got me to pull my finger out. Firstly, my mate Nick took this photo:

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Dreadfully sorry about the 1980s hairstyle, but then again, I’m probably wearing a shirt form about 1983, so it’s entirely fitting. But I thought it was a nice photo, and then when he posted it to Facebook, Mike (I know about 12 Mikes) asked when the next blog post was due. So, two birds, one stone. Nice.

Right then. The bike. When we left things last time, I think that the things that I mentioned that needed sorting out were the tyres, the chain and sprockets, and sorting out the exhaust system. The tyres were brilliantly easy to sort out, thanks to the chaps at TeamIxion (No, not that TeamIxion. Nor that one. The other one). I put out a request for any old ex-race tyres in the right size, and top racer dood Nogger had a few pairs of Supercorsas left over from last season. Perfect. And even better, I got the delivered for free thanks to other top racer dood Foz travelling in the right direction at the right time. So, that’s a lightly used pair of Diablo Supercorsas sitting in the garage waiting to be fitted. Lovely.

Next up, the exhaust. I’m still not 100% sure that this system will stay on the bike. For the sake of originality (and my wallet) I’m at least going to leave it on there for now. And if it performs spectacularly well on the dyno, I may look at it more favourably. But dammit, it’s badly made. And doesn’t fit that well. I can probably sort out the latter with a bit of time and precision adjustment with the rubber mallet. But I just can’t forgive the welding on it, nor the fact that I’ll be leaving the soles of my boots all over it, as it runs so close to the footpegs. Projection Components do a lovely 2-1 stainless system, which I may have a look at. It’ll be lighter. It’ll look better. It’ll be better made for sure. Dunno. Anyway, given that I’m currently registering around 0.032 on the financial Richter scale, this is a bit of a moot point right now.

So, lastly, the chain and sprockets. As previously mentioned, the TRX comes with a 525 as stock, with 17/39 final drive ratio. There’s no way a wheezy old 850 twin needs a 525 chain, so I determined to replace it with a 520. And while it took a bit of hunting, I found that an NX650 rear sprocket, and R6 front sprocket fitted nicely. I saved 200g on the chain by swapping a 525 to a 520, and added 400g to the rear sprocket by replacing the Renthal alloy jobbie that was on there with a cheap steel JT unit. Hey ho. It’ll last forever. Well, at least until I get fed up looking at it and want to replace it with something nicer. I also ended up running 17/42 gearing, rather than 17/39. This should make things a little more lively. Particularly with the short first gear that I have with the TDM850 gearbox that’s in there.

So, ready for an MOT, right?

Nope. Think again. I popped the bike outside yesterday for a quick run up to temperature to check for rattly nuts and bolts. And overnight, it dropped a large puddle of petrol on my garage floor. Bother. So, time to dive into the dreadful fuel system again. The more I have to fiddle with the vacuum hoses to the fuel tap and pump, the more I resolve to replace them at some point with an electric pump and normal on/off tap. Anyhow. The carbs came off, and were cleaned out, and as expected, some of the rust and crap from the tank was now sitting in the needle valve seat, which was causing the small dribble of fuel. With this all cleaned out, and put back together, I fired it up again. And this time, there was a full on torrent of fuel coming straight out of the overflow. Grrrr… I’m starting to think that this fuel system will be the thing that eventually kills this bike when it catches fire somewhere. So, once again, tank off, fuel hoses off, throttle cables off,blah blah etc. And I stripped the carbs again. And at this point, I noticed that the #2 powerjet was blocked. Now this is a proper pain in the neck, as the only way to get the powerjet out is to completely remove the bottom half of the carb, which is a proper job. Plan A was to just  vaguely squirt some air in kind of the right direction to try to clear the blockage. Needless to say, it didn’t work. So, I bodged up a small aerosol quill to my compressed air gun to a) drop the pressure, and b) get the air in the right place. And with this, I could blow air back from the jet through to the floatbowl, rather than the other way around. This seemed to work, so I had the incredible thought and foresight to check things out by squirting some GT-85 up the orifice, while looking directly at the outlet of the powerjet to see if anything came through.

I’d like to apologise to my neighbours at this point for the intensive use of four letter language that ensued when I got a jet of GT-85 straight into my right eye. Suffice to say, I’ll make sure that I’m not looking quite so closely next time.

In a foul mood, I bolted it all back together, and so far, it seems to be holding tight. I have a feeling that I’ll be sending the carbs away for a proper service at some point, and the removal of the vacuum systems may happen sooner rather than later. But, for now, if it doesn’t drop petrol all over the floor again, it’s ready for an MOT. I shall take a pair of earplugs for the examiner.

 

This Corrosion 22 February, 2017

Filed under: Motorcycling — nr @ 10:29 am

Time for a long overdue update, as things have been progressing rather quickly over the past few weeks. You could blame a slack period at work for me having the extra time on my hands, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m actually working all the hours under the sun at the moment (which is a shame, as I don’t get paid by the hour…) and am feeling rather stressed right now. So, a few bike rides, lots of tea, and a quick bit of creative writing will hopefully go some way to sorting that out. If not, I always have a plan B. There’s always a good plan B.

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Anyway. Enough of my mental health. Although if anyone would like to make me a cup of tea at any point, I’m all for it. Strong, white, no sugar please. Onto the bike. If you look closely at the picture above, you’ll see a few nice things. Firstly, the gearbox sprocket nut looks lovely and clean. And the fact that it’s there is the largest milestone on the bike really, as that was the thing that took it off the road in the first place, when the thing (along with half the output shaft) fell off. The Öhlins shock, nestled in there, looks lovely. But you already know about that. No, the most important thing about the photo above is the jump leads hanging out the back of the bike, running to the battery of my car. This photo was taken on the day of the first test run of the engine. As you can probably guess from the position of the tank, it wasn’t successful on this particular occasion, but that was just a sticky float in one of the carbs allowing petrol to escape through the carb overflow. However, once that was sorted, the engine coughed, sputtered a bit, and then rumbled into life. With hindsight, ‘rumbled’ probably isn’t the right word. ‘Violently exploded into an assault on the eardrums’ would be better. Those Renegade pipes really don’t do much in the way of keeping the noise down. I did get a video of it running, but as I’m a tightwad, I don’t pay enough for this WordPress package to facilitate the hosting of videos. Just imagine an eighty-ton whale farting in a bowl of custard for now, that will give you an idea of what it sounds like.

So, what did it take to get to this momentous state of affairs. Well, firstly, the fuel system. As mentioned earlier, the tank was pretty rusty inside. From what I could see, it was a pretty light surface rust rather than anything really deeply set in, but it was covering most of the inside of the tank. First step to getting this out was to throw a good handful of nuts, bolts, screws and washers in there and give it all a good shaking around for a few hours to knock off the loose stuff. This was a) surprisingly effective and b) a good workout for my limp and baggy biceps. A whole lot of rust came out when I tipped the tank upside down, along with about 1/3 of the hardware that went in. The TRX tank is full of little nooks and crannies, and a lot of the stuff was still stuck in there. It all came out over the course of the next few days (I think – there may be a few more ancient fasteners lodged in there waiting to surprise me in future). Next step was a good cleaning – some POR-15 cleaner and degreaser was poured in, along with some hot water, and the whole lot shaken around every few minutes, then left overnight, then shaken around next day a few times, before emptying out. What came out was a fantastic dark brown sludge, which reminded me very much of the gravy we used to get at school. Tasted pretty similar too. Oh, and a few more nuts and bolts. Next step was a really good rinse through with a hosepipe and clean water to get the last of the sludge and detergent out. And a few more screws. Finally, a bottle of POR-15 metal-prep was thrown in, and again, the whole thing shaken every few minutes, and left overnight, then shaken a whole lot more, before draining, rinsing again, and recovering more bloody screws. And while the finish isn’t perfect, it’s OK for now I reckon. I put some new filters on the tap spigots to catch any remaining rust flakes (and random nuts and bolts), and buttoned it all up again. At this point I should have put a new gasket between the fuel tap and tank. I didn’t – lesson learned, as it all needed to come apart again a few days later. I could (and maybe will, one day) use some POR-15 tank sealer to fully line the tank, but for now I’m going to leave it as a half-arsed job and hope for the best.

The fuel hoses were replaced where necessary, and reconnected. And then I started finalising the work on the loom. I’d previously removed the alarm system, and generally started to tidy things up a bit, but a bit of investigation revealed that the sidestand cutout switch was goosed, and needed either replacing or bypassing. Obviously, I took it out of the circuit, threw it in the corner, and shorted the connector in the loom rather than buy a new one. Other connectors were cleaned or replaced, the whole lot plugged back together, and a battery was purchased (ouch) and fitted. First turn of the key showed the expected neutral light (there’s no oil pressure light on the TRX, which is stupid) and all the circuits work as designed. One of the bulbs in the tacho has failed, but as I don’t plan to ride this much at night (firstly the headlight is known to be pretty awful, but also, I think I’d likely annoy my neighbours, their neighbours, and pretty much anyone in about a 12 mile radius of where I am if I ride it late at night) I’m not too worried by this.

Brakes have had the usual strip and clean and re-filling, along with the hours of bleeding that you get with a completely dry system. New pads fitted, and I think they’re ready to go. Or stop, if you see what I mean. Bodywork is refitted, and I needed to recover the little bum-stop pad, as it was particularly manky. This simple sentence belies the hours of work and swearing that went into the job. The fabric I used (a kind of fake Alcantara sort of thing) is pretty horrible to work with. Still this was worth doing well, as it’s a very visible part of the bike. And I don’t want anyone to think I’m the kind of chap who’ll do a half-arsed job.

What’s left to do? Firstly, the exhausts need a really good cleanup and sort out. They work, but things don’t really line up all that well at the moment, and are completely filthy. A few hours of work will sort that out, I hope. Well, enough to get it through the MOT. Talking of which, I’ll also repack the cans to at least drop the noise a touch. I may well end up fitting some db-killers for road use (and maybe to get below 105dB for the Cadwell Park noise limit) but we’ll see what happens with the new packing. New tyres (probably Contis) will be ordered when I have a few bob, and then just chain and sprockets and it should be good to go. I’m actually a little bit undecided here. Obvious thing is just to buy the stock 17/39 525 kit. But I’m not convinced it needs a 525. I think a 520 will be more than strong enough, and lighter and cheaper. And at the same time I may change the gearing to 17/42. The stock gearing is pretty long, and although I should have the power to pull it with the FCRs and shouty pipes, I think I’d rather have the shorter gearing for giggles and wheelies.

In other news, I was at the dyno on Saturday with the splendid chaps from Cambridge Motorcycles, running up Sol’s Katana after the insertion of a GSX-R1100 motor. Any worries that I had about the TRX being a bit noisy went out of the window. This thing is shatteringly, painfully noisy. Even standing outside the dyno room, wearing ear defenders, I could still feel my eardrums buzzing. Still, 120bhp on the first run wasn’t too shabby.

No doubt the next installment of this drivel will be lamenting the fact that we’ve both been nicked for noisy pipes.

 

 
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