Sunday, 13 December 2009

Last cake run of 2009 for me....

The temperature was hovering around 0 degC yesterday morning at 10am - I was getting the bike out to go for the final "cake run" of 2009 with young Derek. Mindful of the useful information on Troubadour's blog about windchill factors, I had thermal longjohns under my trousers, the heated vest under my jacket and a natty little balaclava under my helmet. Feeling rather like the Michelin man I turned up the heated grips to #2 and set off meet Derek, whose only concession to the weather was to wear 2 tee-shirts under his jacket.

As we rode further west alongside the river Dee the temperature dropped; the scenery was pretty amazing, everything white and frozen and still. A plus point for me was being able to keep up with the R1, in fact it was probably the slowest I've seen the boy ride since he passed his test. In fact the roads weren't as slippery as I'd imagined, although they did get worse the further inland we rode.

A welcome stop at a cafe for a hot soup and chocolate cake (got to keep that calorific intake up in this cold weather) brought the most suprising reaction of the day - from the other patrons of the cafe. No-one could believe we were on bikes in such weather, we were feted, carried around the cafe high on shoulders, pretty women wanted us to have their babies......well obviously I made that last bit up, but we were amazed by the reaction, the weather didn't seem bad enough to treat us like heroes. So we luxuriated in all the attention, then swaggered out of the cafe like a couple of old-time gunslingers with somewhere important to go.

Ah, now it all made sense, the temperature had dropped to -7 degC and there was a nice thick freezing fog spreading up from the river. So we spent a cold miserable hour trying to peer through the murk on the way home while trying to clean the crap off the visors with one hand(why can't they fit screen wipers to a helmet?).

But despite all that, it was a brilliant day out - any time spent on the bike makes me feel good inside; and as I said at the beginning, it was the last "cake run" of the year for me. I've decided to take a little break from reality, well, my reality of constantly working, living alone and feeling suicidal except when on the bike so I'm off next week to....well I don't actually know where; as most of my plans turn to shit I've decided not to make any.

So I'll just wish you all a merry Christmas, hope everyone gets bike-related presents and say "Hasta luego".

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

conflicting emotions.

Conflicting emotions - I flew up to Aberdeen today from a long weekend in London, as I looked out of the aircraft window, there below us was the magnificent sight of the Grampian mountains covered in snow, so picturesque it made me smile. Then came the conflict - yikes! thats where I live. Sure enough, the last few miles to the cottage saw snow drifting across the road and a white-out. The mudslide (drive) had a nice layer of soft snow so I managed to get up to the house, but as I look out of the window now it's still snowing, so maybe I won't be able to get out tomorrow. Which wouldn't be so bad normally, I mean, any excuse not to go to work, right? But tomorrow I should be moving to a new house in town. The romantic notion of wilderness living that I have treasured for some time has foundered on the rock of reality (thats my attempt to lift the literary level of this blog); whatever, I figured if I move into town I'll probably get to use the bike more, and thats what keeps me going.

Especially after the shit weekend I had. I flew down to London to see if me and the soon-to-be ex-Mrs El D could patch things up, but it was not to be. So I visited my son, who's living with a FHM swimsuit model and a lovely pair they are; saw my daughter who's just split up with her boyfriend of many years and is now apparently attempting to sleep with the whole male population of west London; visited my 87 yr old mother who is definitely healthier than me, then rounded it all up with a 24 hour technicolour dream.. I wish. No, sorry, 24 hours of arguments. I tell you, that's the first time I've been happy to get to Terminal 5.

Drifted off the subject there...oh yeah, so tomorrow I get to find out how the GS performs on snow. Can't wait. Cheerio.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Don't beat me up, I'll do it myself.

Well this is written as an apology for the last couple of boring posts - I mean who wants to read about someone going for a ride when that's what we all do, right?

So I'm going to offer up a couple of excuses. The first is of course that I'm pretty boring anyway, what do you expect from a reformed alcoholic living alone in a remote cottage in the Scottish highlands making wildlife videos for fun?

The second excuse is......shit, I've already used that one.

So what happened was that a few months ago I developed a problem with my left eye, which the pretty young doctor lady told me was due to my age. It kept me off the bike for a few weeks only, although it hasn't got much better I've just put up with it. Then last week the other eye developed the same problem. Now I don't know about you, but it seems to me that once is an accident, but twice is more than a coincidence. This time the PYDL (AMAZING...I've only had a German bike for a few weeks and I've started to think in acronyms) mentioned the age thing again, then added in stuff like extreme short-sight and detached retinas.

That's when I panicked. I don't know about you, but I like reading and writing and looking at stuff, especially if it means I can earn a living as well, so I'm not too comfortable with the idea of giving up looking, especially if it means not riding the bike. So (here it comes...) the reason why the last post was so boring was because I was wobbling along at 40mph trying to judge corners and not fall off and so didn't have time to take in anything interesting. Yeah I know that sounds even lamer than the first excuse, oh and please don't say I shouldn't have been riding because some boring bastard in my office keeps going on about it as well.

Highwaylass has been summing it up recently in her posts - riding makes you feel alive. I know I still have a grin every time I get on the bike, even if I can't really see where I'm going.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Better than staying in...

True to my word (see below) I've been using the bike no matter what the weather gods have thrown at us. Yesterday we had gale-force winds and torrential rain, but I still met a couple of the lads for a ride. Mind you, when we got to Ballater and saw the snow above the town we did turn around and beat a hasty retreat.

I'm pretty pleased with the GS, I'm using it in weather that I wouldn't have ventured out in on the Bandit, so thats a bonus. And it looks better all covered in mud as well. I also discovered that wet grass doesn't seem to offer much grip, even for knobbly tyres, so I'll have to stick to the mudslide, as I affectionately call my driveway, for access to the house.

Monday, 9 November 2009


We had quite a heavy frost Saturday night, it looked like it had been snowing. Laying on top of the already iced-up dirt track down to the road, it was enough to make me decide not to go out for the Sunday morning ride - and anyway, Derek had just fitted new tyres to the fireblade so he wasn't going anywhere.

Looking on the bright side, that gave me time to fit some of the new goodies I'd bought for the bike. First on were the Tobinators (thanks for the tip, Nikos) which I'd hoped would be really complicated and trick-looking given their name, but turned out to be a couple of bits of metal with a slot in, but they fitted to the screen easily so that was a bonus. Next up was the carbon-fibre rear hugger which evidently weighs 1 oz, or maybe 10 oz, whatever, it was extremely light and sexy-looking and fitted well.

In fact it all went so well, including fitting the uprated bulbs, that I was soon faced with a whole day in front of me with nothing else to do. So..I cleaned the cottage!!! How sad is that. I even ironed a couple of shirts, made my dinner and watched X-factor on the TV. Oh and by the way what a twat that Simon is, he had a chance to get rid of Jedward and he bottled it.

So next week I'm going out on the bike even if I have to carry it down the track on my back.

Friday, 6 November 2009

a little light relief

How many Scotsmen does it take to change a lightbulb?

"Och, it's nae that dark!"

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Not like in my day....

My goodness we've been having some awful weather up here - it's rained everyday for the last 3 weeks. So I thought it the perfect time to buy a new bike.

Having given up on my cunning plan to convert my bandit streetfighter to a touring bike, the penny finally dropped - that's it El D, buy a touring bike. So I bought this second-hand BMW 1200GS. And believe it or not, today dawned bright and dry so me and the bandit slid down the dirt track and off to the dealers to do the swop.

All proud, I took the afternoon off work to go for a nice long ride; pulled into a little petrol station up in the Highlands and the elderly attendant asked " Off touring then?" When I started to tell some story about where I was going, he stated "rubbish these modern bikes, too big, too tall, engines too big. In my day if you had a 500 you were top of the heap - best bike I had was a Norton Dominator, nice and low, threw a leather pannier on it and went of and toured switzerland and belgium...." shook his head in disgust and wandered away.

Exit one embarrassed El D.

The good news is we despatched the dirt track up to the cottage with ease, and I felt strangely happy to see mud splattered all over the bike. Bit noisy with the screen though, I suppose I'll get used to it.

Monday, 28 September 2009

city of light......

It seemed as if Saturday could be the last day of summer, so I decided to make a visit to Findhorn, up on the north-east coast near Inverness. Got up early and had a fantastic (if freezin') ride up over the Lecht, down through Tomintoul and Grantown-on-spey, up to Forres and on to Findhorn.

Arrived at the 'city of light' as immortalised Eileen Caddy's books, and Mike Scotts "Long way to the light" ( to blazing sunshine and blue skies.

"Hang on El D" I can hear you saying, "bikers and hippies don't mix". Well, I look at it like this - bikers love the idea of freedom, right, isn't that why we do it? So if you're into mechanical stuff, then living off-the-grid has appeal, all those windturbine gears and batteries and wires and stuff and dare I say it living outside the system ... And meditating is pretty much the same as riding a bike - 'empty your mind of all thoughts and concentrate' well thats what I have to do or I fall off!

Anyway, I had a wander around the eco-village, which is really what Findhorn is famous for - they pretty much developed eco-housing, self-sufficient living and community ideals, having first set-up back in 1962. It's a fascinating place, and I have to admit I've made a few trips there over the years. They've also got a great little cafe so I had a nice lunch in the sun and pondered all those questions like..what next? I haven't really got my head around being 60, I should be a grandad but I feel like I'm a grandson - if you know what I mean?

Whoa, this was all getting a bit heavy, so I decided to ride off and visit Loch Ness instead. Didn't see Nessie, saw some great scenery and empty riding roads and spent the rest of the day inside my head. Got home late, weary and saddle-sore, fell into bed and slept like a log. Suicidal Sunday, crap Monday at work; I'm thinking its time to move on from here. I'm still going to keep on riding though 'till the arthritis gets too bad. Must test ride a Harley, they're good for old men, right?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Another great biking day

Got up early today, rode up and over Cairn'o Mount down to the coast to visit an old pal. Then down to Forfar, back over Glen Shee to Braemar then home. The sun shone, my eye seems OK; all is well with my world. Loads of bikes outside the caff enjoying the sunshine, saw a couple of different ones. Another great biking day!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Happy old git

It has been only four weeks since I last rode my bike, but it felt like a lifestime when I got on yesterday. I wobbled off down the road like a learner, my only excuse that it was extremely cold and I had forgotten how awkward winter gloves feel the first time back on. Oh, and I was trying to concentrate on seeing properly - I broke my eye 4 weeks ago and its been like trying to peer out through a black lace curtain, so no driving. The very pleasant young lady at the hospital offered the explanation that "these things happen when you reach your sixth decade" which I suppose was a nice way of saying you're an old git, what do you expect. I was also a bit nervous as I'd fitted a new front tyre the day I broke the eye, so that wasn't scrubbed in, and the road was pretty slipperry (frost in September - one of the wonderful things about living in NE Scotland).

Anyway, once I got a few miles under my belt it all felt great again; isn't riding a bike just one of the best feelings in the world?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Another great day out

Got up at the crack of dawn today and rode up to Strathdon in the Highlands. The event was the 168th Lonach Highland gathering and games. Following a tradition going back to 1823, the Lonach Highlanders, comprising members of the Forbes family and their clansmen, march around the village accompanied by a pipe band and visit each house. There they are given hospitality which comprises of a wee dram of whiskey. The march starts at 8am and finishes at 1pm; the Highlanders are followed by a horse-drawn cart which is to provide transport for anyone overcome by too much 'hospitality'. According to the elderly Scottish gentleman beside me, no-one has needed this assistance - ever. They then march into the park where the games have been going on since 9am and march around the field.

All very colourful, and the sun came out for a while to make it an even better day. By lunchtime I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the crowds, so I got on the bike and rode up and over Tomintoul, past the Lecht ski-slopes and headed down to Braemar for a cup of tea. Just outside the town I spotted a bike coming up fast behind me - then he was past and gone, on some kind of old bike. I caught up with him and he stopped outside the cafe - a nice old Norton. For some reason it was a biker day at the caff, plates of chips everywhere! Had a nice rest then rode home. A very enjoyable day out.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Best laid plans......

Well my planned escape for a week or two with Steve to explore Northern Scotland hasn't worked out - he just can't handle the weather up here and has decided he wants to go somewhere warmer and sunnier. What with that and the non appearance of my seat sent away for a gel insert, I've given up on the long distance rides.

However, as I live in a great part of the country for empty,winding roads I decided I'll just keep going out for day rides. So yesterday I drove down alongside the River Dee to Ballater, stopped for coffee and chocolate cake then turned off the main road onto a single track road that went up to Glen Gairn, then followed an old military road up and into the Grampian mountains. What a laugh! The single track road was full of crests and dips, with no traffic I was able to get air under the wheels for the first time.

The road went back down towards Braemar; it was just so nice riding along, a different view around every bend, the hills are now turning purple with heather and there's still plenty of wildlife to be seen off the beaten track. Had a great ride and the sun even came out for an hour or two. Stopped beside the hump-backed bridge in the photo and had a laugh watching cars trying to negotiate it; you can't see in the photo but it's single track and its impossible to see who's coming the other way - hours of fun watching cars backing up and down in the sun. Then when I got back to the cottage I decided to ride up the track into the forest and disturbed a couple of deer frolicking around - now that was a great day.

Now today I'm supposed to spend the day in front of this laptop; my final assignment for the course I'm doing is due in 3 weeks and I've about 3 months-worth of work still to do but the sun is shining and I can almost hear the bike whispering ride me, ride me; curse you Bandit!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Garage door opener

This is good

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Old bike mags rule!

Sometimes, it's the little things that change a boring day to an enjoyable one. I had to work today, took the bike and halfway through the urgent (aren't they all) job I looked out the window and the sun was shining. This is quite an unusual event here in the North East so I left work and went for a ride, but be assured I will book the whole day!

A while later I was sitting outside a caff in the pleasant little town of Ballater drinking coffee and eating one of their delicious chocolate cakes watching the world go by and considerably cheered-up.

As I had finally fitted my new luggage (found that M6 x 60 bolt I needed in a bin in the local feed store - 20p, bargain!), I decided to browse the second-hand bookshop next door where I knew there were loads of bargains to be had; I usually can only buy one book at a time and stuff it inside my jacket but now I knew I could buy loads of worthless junk.

Anyway, there tucked away in a corner was a stash of old bike mags, result! I rode home post-haste to read through them and now I'm in heaven. Old bike mags and 'sounds of the seventies' on the local radio station, serendipity or what - colour pictures of an Ariel square four with the Stones singing 'you can't always get what you want'AND a Belgian chocolate brownie I got from the caff, it doesn't get much better.

I particularly like the sound of this film advertised in 'Road Rocket no.2' (I know I don't remember it either) 'My little sister rides a motorbike' by Anne Parisio a black and white homage to the rockers of the fifties - wonder if you can still get a copy? Oh and the letter pages are brilliant "If Road Rocket is meant to be a NEW motorcycle magazine, its PATHETIC. A couple of pictures of Vic Reeves and his mates, some poxy astronaut and a jerk wearing platforms doesn't make it new, it makes it PATHETIC. Give up, you wankers" - straight to the point, eh!

So now I'm torn between a fifties British bike fitted with one of those beautiful nose cones, a modified Harley chop with a semi-naked young lady draped over it, or a drag bike!

REALITY - those flimsy extended footpegs I bought only lasted one ride - I couldn't persuade my old arthritic knees to pivot enough to allow me to brake or change gear - the boss that screws to the footpeg mount forced my big feet outboard enough that I couldn't reach the padals. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

plans and forward thinking..not round here

The cunning plan to convert my streetfighter into a BMW tourer has taken a slight stumble - the lowered footpegs arrived, although they do look a wee bit flimsy I'll fit them tomorrow; the HID headlamp kit also arrived although a quick read through the instructions confirmed my aversion to 'white mans magic' so Derek will have to fit that for me in between fettling his R1. I did attempt to fit the rear luggage rack for the smart new soft bag, although inexplicably one of the 4 bolts was 10 mm shorter than the rest so won't screw into the bracket so now I'm trying to source one of the correct length - not easy when you live in a farming community "I need a M8 x 60 long capscrew please" "Ay lad, just tie it on with baling wire"

But the biggest setback is the lack of a seat (obviously). Rather than pay 260 quid to Suzuki for a new gel seat, I thought I'd be clever and send my seat away and have it refurbished for 60 quid..of course it's now somewhere within the postal system and I can't ride the bike. Ah well, at least I can console myself that in this wettest summer since Noah started keeping records I probably wouldn't have ridden it much. Oh yeah, and why would a manufacturer of motorbike luggage make something that wasn't waterproof? I was gobsmacked when the girl asked if I wanted a waterproof cover for it - of course I do!!!

So heres a couple of photos of those Triumphs I test rode, plus a Megalithic stone circle in the churchyard and some flimsy footpegs.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


I just found this photo of my 1966 Airstream; me and Mrs El D lived in it for 2 1/2yrs while travelling around the USA. Happy days!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

the search for a replacement bike hits a snag

I've been spending a bit of time lately searching for a replacement bike - not that theres really anything wrong with the bandit, just a few niggles. Despite fiddling with the rear shock settings, I still keep getting thrown off the seat on bumps, although thats a bit of a blessing as the seat has to be the most uncomfortable thing this side of a plank of wood. As I've got plans to take off for a week or two in August with my mate Stevie, I thought I'd see what could be done to improve my biking comfort.

So I tested a Triumph Rocket III which was bloody BIG and chromey, although it went alright for a cruiser and was reasonably comfortable, but really a bit BIG for me. Then I took out the new Triumph Thunderbird, which was much better than the America I had last year - plenty of go and it handled quite well. Still had that strange riding position though, which seems to make my old back ache after a few miles.

I then spotted a BMW 1200GS lurking in the back of the showroom, so I took that out, What a revelation, no more bumps throwing me out of my seat, I was able to stretch out my long legs and my back didn't ache at the end of the ride. I was smitten....until I saw the price!

It's not that I'm tight (well alright actually I probably am) , but that seems an awful lot of money for a toy. I've spent the last few days thinking it over, and maybe a set of lowered footpegs and a gel seat may be the way forward........

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Any ornithologists out there?

Inspired by Troubador I went out and bought a video camera to mount on the bike; of course I haven't got round to it yet, although I've bunked off work for a couple of days to enjoy the heatwave the UK is currently enjoying so I'm hoping to get it fixed up soon. In the meantime, however I was looking out the window when I spotted this handsome-looking chap, not being a birder I don't have a clue what he is so any answers will be gratefully received (please excuse the shaky hand, old age you know!, and don't mention the music in the background)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

tales from the country

It'll soon be three months since I moved into my cottage - on reflection, things haven't gone exactly how I'd imagined. The idea behind moving here was to be able to ride the bike to work on some of the best riding roads I've been on, and I have to admit that when the sun is shining it is the most fabulous journey; it's like my own personal road-race course, and it's a very busy day if I see more than 2 cars in the first 20 miles.

However, this is north-east Scotland, so in the first 5 weeks I only managed to get the bike down the muddy 1/2 mile track to the main road 3 times, mainly because it never stopped bloody raining! Just lately it's got a bit better, although this morning I was down to 20mph in the thickest fog I've seen since I was a kid and had to walk in front of my Dads Ford Esquire (a 100e van with windows if you're wondering)with a torch to see the kerb down Dagenham Heathway one Sunday night. But then that was before they brought in the clean air act and stopped us burning coal and old ladies dying from breathing in "pea-soupers". Bloody hell, that bit sounds like the 19th century!

Anyway, as I was saying it's been better weather lately so I've been out exploring; for some unexplained reason, ancient stone circles are 10-a-penny up here, with a local speciality being the recumbent stone circle (obviously I read all this in a leaflet )which is your normal stone circle with an additional big stone laid on its side at one end between the two biggest stones (stop me if I'm boring you here). As the nice old lady said that I met in Midmar churchyard, where they built the new church (16th cent.) virtually on top of the stone circle (2500 BC..ish) - "that looks like where they performed the human sacrifices" and then after she walked away I found the internal organs of some animal lying on the ground inside the circle near where she was standing...ooh-er.

So I've been travelling around with my big OS map, riding up little tracks to find Bronze age hill forts, stone circles (I always walk round them 3 times clockwise, I think one of my ex-wives told me you had to do that to open the doorway to the next dimension...yeah, totally bonkers!), even Macbeth's stone, and Macbeth's well - yes the actual Macbeth that Shakespeare wrote about - although to be honest the stone was in a big field full of other stones so I'm not 100% sure I got the right stone - but it's all been educational and fulfilling and has stopped me going to the pub and getting sh*tfaced every night. In fact, all the exercise pushing the bike round gravel carparks has made me feel quite fit.

All in all, then, I have to say the experience of being a city boy living in the country has been...OK. I'll have to move back to town by the end of summer, as it's obvious I'll never get my car up here in the winter, let alone a bike - and I have new plans in that department anyway; have you seen that new Triumph Thunderbird?

Looks nice and I am getting too old to keep up with the young boys - oh I forgot to mention, young Derek had an accident two weeks ago, wrote off his ninja filtering down the dual carriageway between 2 lines of cars when one of them decided to change lanes without looking. He's alright, and the insurance company paid up right away; he's gone out and bought an R1 so there's definitely not a lot of chance of me keeping up now, so perhaps the cruiser is a good way of me saving face "sorry lads, you go on, this thing handles like shit".

Apologies for the length of this (as the bishop...)but the other effect of living up here is not speaking to anyone for days on end except those numpties I work with.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

whats not to like?

6am Sunday morning sharing a bench in Cannes bus station with a comatose drunk and two weary hookers I watched the early morning sunrise glinting off the hulls of the mega-yachts in the harbour and thought to myself this makes a nice change.

A friend of a friend was looking for some help during the Cannes film festival, he wanted someone to drive a van advertising his film around Cannes so I thought that would make a nice little break – I mean, what’s not to like? I love driving, I like looking at attractive women, and here’s someone willing to give me free food and accommodation to do just that.

So I’ve just spent a week enjoying blue skies and warm sunshine; saw loads of famous film stars that I didn’t recognise (well they had loads of photographers around them so they must be famous, right?); and spent time studying the riding habits of our French biker cousins. They are MAD. They seem to show absolutely no sense of danger, weaving in and out of traffic at high speed wearing flip-flops and shorts. I also like the way they manage to smoke while riding; my favourite was the middle-aged gent puffing on a pipe as he chugged along looking rather like a two-wheeled steam train.

I was also impressed with the number of custom bikes, mostly Harleys of course; particularly interesting was the orange creation I spotted cruising along the promenade with an impossible riding position – full marks go to the matching crash lid with spikes on.

Back to reality now though – when I left Cannes it was 29 deg and sunny, here at my little cottage in NorthEast Scotland its 8 degrees and the rain has washed out the track so I can’t get the bike down it. Oh well it could be worse………

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

a little hide-away

There’s a fairly tenuous link to biking this week – I’ve just moved into a remote cottage at the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains. After spending the majority of my life living in cities I thought it would be nice to be part of the isolated rural idyll.

Well, to be a little more truthful, it appears that the present Mrs El Diente is about to become an ex*, so , basing my behaviour on the flight not fight pattern I’ve moved about as far away from London as is possible without falling in the sea.

But (and here’s the tenuous link) I can now commute to work by bike along some of the most picturesque yet empty roads I’ve ridden on; well I can in summer, anyway. Obviously in winter I shall have to buy a 4WD or move back to Aberdeen, but that seems a long way off so I just intend to enjoy it while I can.

*I like to think my Scottish ancestry has blessed me with a character that could be described as ‘reserved’; evidently this can also be interpreted variously as ‘miserable’, ‘moody’ and ‘grumpy old bastard’.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Charity run

The local bike club organised a charity run for breast cancer today. I took a selection of photos at the start this morning. My particular favourites are the lady biker with pink angel wings, the gold custom paint on one of the cruisers, and the guy with the biggest balls in the world who turned up on his restored 1961 Vespa scooter!

Hopefully I've managed to download the photos and they'll be beside this post as a slideshow. If!

Stop Press...yeah as you can see I couldn't do that slideshow thing. I'm bored now, I've spent all afternoon on Flickr uploading photos - curse this old age, I need a 10 year old to show me how to do this! Anyway, if anyone knows how to access Flickr, the photos are in eldientephoto under Sunday Charity Bike Ride.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Swop it or modify it?

I mentioned in a previous post that I was a bit disappointed with the wear properties of the OE Dunlop rear tyre on the bandit - completely shagged after 1400 miles! After reading a couple of intrnet forums I decided to try a dual compound tyre. Dunlop produce the Sportsmax Roadsmart which gets pretty good reviews, so I got the local bike-friendly tyre fitter to put one on for me. What a difference! Obviously I don't know how it's going to wear, but the bike feels much better to ride - no more squirming around in bends, and seemingly (this may be my imagination) much better general roadholding, although that may just be due to the roads finally drying out and not being covered in mud and crap.

I also had a test ride on a Triumph Tiger - after last weekends'longer ride left me with sore wrists and a numb bum I started thinking at my age it's time to get something more suitable to tour around on, but then a chance late-night trawl through some motorbike web pages turned up a set of handlebar risers guarenteed to take away the pain of touring.

I fitted them yesterday and then went for a run out; they seem to help with the general posture as today my wrists don't ache and neither does my back, and of course they're a much cheaper fix than buying that new bike. I'll give them a longer try-out today after I've finished work; hopefully the thick fog that spoiled my ride in this morning will burn off by lunchtime.

Derek's neighbour Alan was showing me his old AJS 350 single last night (its in beautiful condition) and we were comparing it to his BMW 1200 Adventure - it's about half the size and looks so simple to ride. But then we started to talk about biking in 'the old days', when the bikes needed constant fettling to keep them going, and how everyone fitted different bits to them to personalise them and make them more suitable for their own intended use; thats when I realised how ridiculous we've become - how could I think about changing my bike just 'cos my wrists ached; much better to make modifications to make it more suitable. Right , where's that accessory catalogue?

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Hurray for biking!

Well that was the best fun I've had with my clothes on! Well apart from that massage in Wat Po but I won't go into that.

The weather over here on the east coast of Scotland has been rubbish all week, but every time I look at the weather forecast it looks like it's sunny over the west coast. So,I bought a new Givi screen for the bike, fitted a tail pack, printed out a map of the west coast of Scotland and set off to explore.

Saturday I drove along beside the river Dee as far as Ballater then turned north and rode over the Caingorms - bloody hell what fabulous scenery! The high point was riding for mile after mile along a single track roads with not one other vehicle in sight, just enjoying the scenery and the sunshine. Low point - looking in my mirrors to see a line of about 12 bikers coming up behind me at about twice my speed, each one weaving past as if I was a mobile chicane, waving, then disappearing off into the distance! I felt like a right knob.

The basic plan was to ride as far as possible, stop for the night and then ride again all day Sunday, but I did hit a couple of snags. Firstly is the abysmal mileage I get from the bike (caused I admit by inability to be gentle with the throttle)which means I have to stop every 100 miles for petrol. Secondly, and I'm open to suggestions how to get around this; I found it very difficult to ride fast AND enjoy the scenery, so much so that I was bimbling along at 50 mph for ages. And third (I know thats more than a couple) various parts of my anatomy began hurting after a couple of hours riding - wrists, arms and bum.

The upshot being that by 5pm I'd only made it to Inverness, although I had taken loads of photos and drank about a gallon of coffee in various roadside establishments. So I called it a day and stopped in a very pleasant hotel on the shores of Loch Ness. Crashed out early night.

But, and here's the bit I referred to at the beginning, that meant I could get up early this morning and start riding before the Sunday drivers appeared. The A82 south along the north side of Loch Ness was heaven! Bright sunshine, a completely empty road and enough gentle curves to alow me to ride at a reasonable speed while still enjoying the scenery.

A quick stop in Fort Augustus (more petrol and a coffee) and I took the B862 north along the south side of the Loch. This road goes through the Monadhliath mountains, is a single track, and looks like Colorado USA! Grand imposing mountains and forests, another empty road and I was in heaven. After that I gave up planning and just rode down every single-track road I came to, just generally winding my way south and east.

I stopped for lunch at some magical place near Cock bridge; there's this tremendous widing road all hairpins and steeply downhill, at the bottom is a tea shop. The road then hairpins its way back up and over the next mountain, so if you're sitting outside eating your lunch you hear the bikes coming down the hill all popping and banging, a quick blast past the teashop then screaming their way uphill - better than a racetrack. And all the time a huge clear blue sky and sun beating down.

Ride a bit, stop a bit, ride a bit more, stop for a coffee - what a way to pass a weekend! This is the life!

I finally got home about tea-time, washed the dead flies off me new screen and staggered upstairs to soak my aching body parts in a hot bath. Heaven! Hope you all had an equally good weekend - hurray for bikes!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

roll on the light evenings, at least I'll be able to see

Went to a talk given by a local Bike Instructor last night, the topic being better cornering. No suprises, really,in the cornering techniques; just a reminder that we're actually supposed to be thinking about what we're doing as we ride, as opposed to my approach of just bumbling along in top gear with an occasional full throttle blast whenever I get bored. Of course there was one character there keeping up a hilarious running commentary/heckle - the finale was when we were told that police bike riders don't get trained at night-riding...yes, Gus is now going to do all his riding at night!

Had a fairly terrifying ride back along the country lines from the pub, evidently Suzuki fit candles inside the headlamp of my bike; I could actually see better ahead when Sean on the fireblade was behind me than I could with my own lights. The lads tell me I have to fit HID bulbs but I'm not sure if its something I can do myself, electricity being white man's magic as far as I'm concerned.

Of even more concern is the amount of tread left on my back tyre, so far I've done 1500 miles, and the wear bar in the centre of the tread is almost exposed. Now Derek managed 4000 miles on his ninja before he replaced them and he rides like a lunatic - either these OE Dunlops are really crap, or I'll have to moderate those full throttle blasts. Or learn how to ride banked over all the time.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

White lies are not a good idea

It's been a bit quiet on the biking front recently, mostly due to Mrs El D being here with me. Of course it's my own fault; I was whinging about the life of a working man away from home - huge piles of un-ironed shirts, the lack of good home-cooked food, no time to make the know, the usual stuff. Anyway, she took pity on me and volunteered to visit my Scottish hovel and knock it back into shape.

I had a long and boring drive back to London, although it did help run-in my new car; collected Mrs El D and a huge pile of suitcases and drove back.So now I have lots of clean, crisply ironed shirts,etc etc. Unfortunately, I had omited to mention that I had bought a new bike and a new car - thought it would be a nice suprise. That thought was swiftly shown to be false with her reaction to the new car (!!) so I decided perhaps I shouldn't mention the bike until she was in a better mood.

Two weeks later and I'm still waiting!

However, yesterday I decided I couldn't manage without a bike ride any I left work at lunchtime complaining of a headache, got the bike out of Derek's garage and spent the afternoon aimlessly terrorising quaint villages. I even washed the bike when I got back, so that was a bonus.

I did have a little flutter when Mrs El D asked what the funny-shaped dent in my head was (that new helmet hasn't quite bedded in yet!)but I made some excuse about my new baseball cap being too tight.

I'm starting to think this lying to the wife is not worth the stress - well actually I KNOW it's not. Quite soon I shall tell this space.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

"It must be spring.....

...all the bikers have turned up". So said the waitress at Braemars'finest cafe lunchtime today. And she was right on both accounts... there were about 15 bikes AND it was sunny and warm (well, 11 degC is judged warm here) I even unplugged the heated vest!!

I also got to check the other bikers riding apparel, and found (ref my previous blog about helmets)that it's true, the more mature riders to tend towards black or plain helmets. One gentleman did have a shocking pink Mohawk attached to his (black) lid, which livened it up considerably.

So, I'm going to continue to look for chrome tape, and ride as much as possible before summers' tourists clog up all the lovely roads pottering along admiring the scenery.

black helmet bad, chrome tape good.

I've had my present crash helmet about a year now, it's a flip front (I prefer them 'cos it's easier to put on with my specs on). It's also been extremely uncomfortable which is not a good thing. I thought it would wear in, but I still find after 30 mins riding a pressure point on the front of my head which means I'm not enjoying the ride.

So yesterday afternoon I nicked off work early (again...haha) and went to our local large motorcycle gear supplier. Blimey these helmets are getting more expensive, aren't they? Anyway, after talking to the nice man, I actually bought another helmet from the same manufacturer as the one I've got - although evidently this one was designed by Michael Schumaker.

First ride to work this morning (on a Saturday,got to make up for that rate cut somehow!)it all seemed much better. Its a bit smaller, lighter, and has a pinlock insert so my spec didn't steam up at every traffic light. Good stuff. I even got a £100 discount for a special sale offer they had on. Still cost £340 though

The thing is, they only had a black one - evidently the more mature riders who wear these kind of helmets seek out plain colours, which is obviously an untruth 'cos I was looking for something brightly coloured with patterns all over it! So I'm not sure what to do now. I think you can get helmets painted, but thats probably going to cost more than I paid for the helmet.

When I was a lad we used to stick chrome tape on our helmets, but then we never wore them anyway and they were so battered about I'm not sure they would have served a purpose. Does anyone know if you can get tape (ideally black and chrome chequer-patterned) that is suitable?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Cosmetic or functional addition to the bike?

As part of my cunning plan to make up for the rate cut my employers have imposed by working less, I left work early today and fitted a belly pan to the bike. The thinking behind this was that fitting it will either (a) increase my top speed by its streamlining effect, or (b) stop road muck being thrown over the exhaust downpipes and thus decrease my cleaning time.

I then popped out for a ride to test it out, only to find the top speed hadn't in fact gone up, and the exhaust still got dirty. Looks nice though. I thought I'd put a photo up so you can see it. I did have a bit of a moment though; was nipping along a nice long straight road when I saw a car waiting to pull out. It's daylight; I've got the headlight on; the woman driver looked at me and stopped - then just as a I got level to her she pulled out. Bloody Hell scared the life out of me.

A survey recently done among car drivers showed that something like 25% of people admitted they couldn't see well enough to drive properly, and that they probably should be wearing specs. So when you shout out "Oi, are you flippin' blind?" they probably are.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

sunny tuesday

Was it only two days ago since that last horrible cold biking experience? Here we are on Tuesday and its a sunny 13 degC in Aberdeen. I decided the only thing for it was to invent a meeting I had to attend on the other side of town, got the bike out and spent a couple of hours just riding around the lanes. Brilliant!

Not only did I feel happy, but by nicking a couple of hours from work I made up for that rate cut they've just imposed. Let's hope the weather stays the same for two days running; I'll do it again tomorrow.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Slippery, that ice.And cold.

I'm supposed to be spending today completing an assignment for my OU course, deadline next week. Instead I'm dicking around reading bike magazines and checking e-bay for parts. Then Derek phones and says he and Sean are off for a ride, do I want to join them? Well I must admit the temperature has hit the balmy heights of 5 deg, although theres still plenty of ice and snow lying around, so I think I'll give it a go.

The drive up to the garage where we keep the bikes is still snow/ice covered, but Derek assure me it's no problem to ride down "just put both feet down on the slippery bits". I must admit to a few misgivings while kitting-up, but put it down to age-related lack of bottle. We set off, get to the corner and down I go. Bugger! Slippery stuff this ice. And this Bandit isn't exactly the lightest bike around. The boys help me to haul the bike upright, and off we go.

Unfortunately, the roads are bloody awful, mud and crap all over them, rivers running across where the snow is melting in the fields, and it's COLD. I've got the heated grips on, so there's that strange feeling of having warm palms and frozen backs-of-fingers. The two young lads disappear of into the distance leaving me to try and fend off a mad BMW intent on running me off the road for(presumably) not riding fast enough.

Eventually I've had enough; when we get to the turn-off for Stonehaven over the slug road I bottle-it and turn round for home. I decide to ride back on the main road, and it's much clearer, cleaner and nice to ride. Still cold though.

Derek's just phoned to say they got back OK, they had a dodgy bit riding on some ice with gravel underneath(!) but managed not to fall off. And I'm still not doing what I should be doing, and I've noticed there's some good films on the tele tonight so I've only got a couple of hours left. Bugger.

Oh and the irony is, I've bought some crash bungs but hadn't got round to fitting them yet 'cos it was too cold.

Monday, 12 January 2009

A bike is better than a meeting

I was watching a police chase programme on the box last week that focused on bad bikers. They had a policeman with a new Hayabusa all kitted up with a camera and playback screen; he chased some nutter doing 120 mph down a country lane, and my thoughts were "what an idiot, it's bikers like him that give us all a bad name".

Took the bike to work today; the sun was shining at lunchtime so I thought I'd go out for a little ride around the lanes. No traffic to speak of - you guessed, I got to a nice long straight, glanced down and realised I too could be that idiot!

The programme made a big deal about irresponsible riders (and drivers, to be fair they did target bad car drivers as well) but I must admit I didn't really feel irresponsible; I was just enjoying myself. Got back to work, boring meeting, blah blah blah...couldn't wait for home time to get back on the bike. So that must be it, it's this boring drudgery of a life that makes us speed. And meetings.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

First post

Well, first post on this blogsite, and first post anywhere this year; celebrated by the first ride out on the bike this year. I spent all December moping around in London as I'd lost my job in Aberdeen - it wasn't the place I was missing so much as my bike, it being locked up safely in a pal's garage. The quandry was how to get the bike back home (relatively easy) and explain to Mrs El D (not so easy) how I'd bought a new bike just as I lost my job.

Luckily a solution presented itself; I got offered another job in Aberdeen to start 5th Jan. So, waving Mrs El D a sad farewell I drove the car back to freezing Scotland and started the new job Monday. Here we are on Sunday and the temperature has risen to an unbelievable 12 deg, so I just had to go out for a blast. It did get a bit windy, but the sun came out for a second or two, and I managed to blast away a month's worth of cobwebs. Nothing finer!

The plan is to use the bike every day for work as the new office is located outside of town, about 7 miles down some nice windey lanes - I've just got one more minor Op. on my hand to get out of the way next week, and it should be all systems go!