Monday, 28 November 2011

Lovely Autumn

If this is global warming, bring it on. I’m being flippant, of course, but after years of being bombarded with statistics but little evidence, we’ve finally had the warmest autumn ever. End of November and we still haven’t had a frost here in London; the skies have been blue and sunny and the temperature still manages to get into the mid-teens (centigrade) every day. Perfect biking weather or it would have been for me if I hadn’t already sent the Triumph off to deepest Wales for the engine modifications I mentioned in the last post. The garage has also suggested a sixth-gear modification, which evidently is quite easy on the Thunderbird, “just slip a sixth gear cog in, change the selector fork and it’s done” said Sandy, so I’m going for it. He’s also going to re-paint my mudguards; I was going to buy some shortened fibreglass ones and get them painted, but they probably wouldn’t have matched the can see where this is going, can’t you? Might as well get the front forks stripped and re-polished as they were looking a bit weathered, and I suppose I may as well get the seat recovered with some extra padding......

So I’ve found myself enjoying the warmest autumn ever without a bike. Over in Richmond Park, the deer are pretty confused by it all. Their mating season is usually September to mid-October, but the warm weather has encouraged them to keep going; the stags have pretty much shagged themselves to a standstill, they’re to be seen during the daytime lying around with their antlers resting on the ground, looking absolutely knackered. You can walk up close to them without their normal reaction of jumping up and running away; they just sort of look you in the eye, sigh and put their heads back down to sleep. Amazing! Plus we’ve also still got leaves on the trees, so we’re treated to some fine autumn colours instead of the usual bare-branched views of November. Can’t wait to see what Spring will be like, especially as the bike should be done by end of January – which is probably when Spring will start.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Plan B

Triumph update – bike didn’t sell on eBay, so implementation of Plan B has commenced - I’ve booked her in for engine overhaul and upgrade for more power, plus more shiny bits ordered.
I also realise that for a motorbike blog, there’s an awful amount of me moaning about ironing shirts, so I just thought I’d mention – growing up as a teenager in London in the early ‘60’s I adopted the latest fashion style as worn by ‘Mods’, that of the button-down collar shirt. At that time these shirts were only obtainable from Brooks Brothers at enormous expense, or cheaper rip-offs from Ben Sherman. Yes, I was that fashionable teenager in the swinging sixties. Fast forward on 40 years, and this sad old bastard is STILL wearing button-down collar shirts from Brooks Brothers at enormous expense. And you just can’t wear a button-down shirt that’s creased; I don’t know why, that’s just the rules. Of course, having been divorced a couple of times I’m actually a dab hand at ironing, but being of a certain generation I expect to be waited on hand-and-foot by my woman (yes you can blame my Mum for that).
So I promise never to mention the subject again. And I apologise in advance for any offence to the fairer sex.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Here we go again...

It’s been pretty quiet of late here in Diente Towers; I tried commuting to my new job using the Triumph, but what with the crowded roads in central London and Westminster councils’ apparent policy on motorcycling being not to provide parking bays I’ve ended-up using the tube every day, so the bike is now only used for weekend ride-outs. Then LF turned-up on the doorstep a couple of weeks ago, saying she’d like to have another try at living with a miserable old git, so I’ve been busy entertaining her at weekends, building up the brownie points in anticipation of our next bust-up. On the positive side, I have now got loads of freshly ironed shirts!

All this has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with the Triumph; plan A has already been put into action – she’s up for sale on e-bay. If sold, I’m going to buy a newer, lighter, more powerful bike for journeys with pillion (LF insists she wants to share my hobby – huh). Plan B, if the Triumph doesn’t sell, is to modify her for more power and braking, and use her for pillion journeys. Watch this space.

Monday, 26 September 2011

A tale of two quandries

The first quandry I faced yesterday - join one of the bikers' protest rides against proposed EU legislation, or go to a classic car and bike show/autojumble in deepest Essex at the picturesque village of Battlesbridge. The show won, although I did have second thoughts as I was filling up the Triumph at a petrol station on the M25 motorway when a Harley-rider came over and spoke to me about the protest ride. The thing is...I'm not convinced that riding slowly along motorways in a large group causing congestion is the way to persuade the EU not to bring in anti-biking laws. It is a perfect way to piss-off all the motorists whose goodwill I depend on when riding my bike....

Anyway, a couple of hours ride got me to Battlesbridge, and I have to say it was an excellent event. A huge field full of autojumble stalls; classic bikes, classic cars and a few hot-rods too (Essex has a large number of American car fans); hot dog stands; beer tents; fat tatooed Essex birds; a live band, my dear there was so much to see and do!

Nice cafe racer

Very impressive

One for Bobskoot

Trident looked like my Thunderbird except for the siamesed exhaust

Best of both worlds?

Love the burger-eating biker

One for Affer

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Eventually I got jaded by it all and set off back home. Unfortunately, the Sunday afternoon car drivers were clogging up all the nice twisty roads, crawling along bumper to bumper so I ended up back on the M25 motorway which was a fairly unpleasant experience; turned off down the A1 through North London to join a grid-locked North Circular road, fought my way across west London and arrived home hot and exhausted.

The second quandry I faced today. I started my new job in central London, travelled there on the tube, had a normal sort of first day, got on the tube to come home, and it was packed. Sandwiched-in between a fat smelly bloke and a couple of  schoolkids shouting at the tops of their voices, as I looked around in desperation for a seat I spotted a couple of empty seats at the other end of the carriage. Not stopping to reflect on how this almost-impossible state of affairs could exist, I fought my way along the carriage and claimed one of the empty seats, As I sat down, triumphant, I realised that someone had thrown up on the floor. It smelt worse than the fat bloke I'd been trapped against, but...and here's the quandry...if I could put up with it I could sit all the way to my station, 25 mins journey away.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A pleasant Sunday ride-out

Must be exciting riding on the road with that fairing

Complete with fresh oil stains

Immaculate Zed

Unusual Honda - seems to be an American model
The forecast rain didn't materialise today, so I decided to go for a little ride-out on the bike; no particular destination in mind,  I set off out of town towards Surrey. I battled the traffic and the windblast on the M4 for a short while then turned off and spent a pleasant couple of hours pootling around those leafy country lanes lined with old cottages that make you feel like you've gone back in time. Stopping for petrol I recognised the little village of Effingham as being not far from Box Hill, so that became the day's destination. Box Hill is a local beauty spot and attraction for walkers. It also boasts a big car park with a cafe selling burgers and mugs of tea, so is a popular meeting place for bikers. When I pulled in there were about 60 bikes, mostly modern sportsbikes, although there were a couple of customs, and a few old Brits. I got accosted by a couple of old geezers who were there on bonnies, so we formed an ad-hoc Triumph club and spent a pleasant half-hour chatting about bikes and life in general and that girl over there with the tight jeans.. Very pleasant. When I left I rode back via the A3 through Kingston; getting home I realised the little jaunt had lasted 4 hours and 120 miles. An excellent Sunday, although now I've got to iron a shirt for work tomorrow... I miss LF at times like this.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Another day off work...don't tell

Somewhere in a corporate office, an accountant decides that the 750 million US dollars budgeted for a new oil production platform in the North Sea won't give a good-enough return to the company shareholders for the next couple of years, so he cancels the job. Result, fifty guys in the design office where I'm working got instant dismissal last Friday. I got two weeks notice 'cos I have to write a close-out report.

I woke up Monday morning and thought "fuck it, the sun's shining, I'm not going in to work today - what're they going to do, sack me?". So I had a stroll around my neighbourhood, took a couple of photos, visited a couple of cafes and just chilled out. I wandered 'round the back entrance of the church, hadn't noticed these old weatherbeaten carvings before.

Back Entrance Local Church

 Walked over to the park and noticed the leaves were changing colour, autumn must be on it's way.

                                               The deer were getting frisky, too.

Took a photo of this weird-looking fungus in front of an ancient shattered oak tree (oh yeah, blogger now won't let me import photos rotated so you'll have to crick your neck to see this one properly. It's also banished my list of followers, and lost my profile. Could be worse...)

Down by the river in the afternoon, a small boat cruising up towards Richmond town;

I walked back up over the hill towards home and took this photo of the London skyline; thats St Pauls Cathedral to the left; London Eye in the centre and that 'wonderful' new office building in Canary wharf "the Gherkin" to the right of centre - St Pauls is 10 miles away as the crow flies.

Went back to the half-empty office today; glad I took that day off!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A weekend riding a France

A bit disappointed with last weekends aborted trip, I decided that what I really wanted to do was ride my Triumph down long straight traffic-free roads, drifting around long sweeping bends in the sunshine. A quick look at the weather forecast made me realise that wasn't going to happen anytime soon in England; a quick phone call to the helpful folks at Classic Bike Provence and I'd booked two bikes for the weekend, plus a hotel. I then booked a couple of flights to Marseille, told El D Jr. that he was going on a bike trip, polished my helmet and packed a bag.

We had an atrocious flight down with Air France (never again) and finally arrived in St Remy de Provence Friday tea-time (unfortunately our bags wouldn't arrive until Saturday). However, the sun was shining, the temperature was hovering around 34 degC and the welcoming Sarah had our bikes waiting ready to go.

Bike and Sidecar outside Classic Bike - for sale but I'm not sure what it is...Royal Enfield?

Red Ural combination inside Classic Bike
Luckily, we'd carried our helmets on the plane, so Sarah lent us a couple of lightweight jackets and we were off, cruising down the aformentioned long straight roads. We turned off the D99 and took the uphill winding road to Le Baux de Provence, an unbelievably romantic village perched on a mountaintop - the roads were definitely testing, particularly a tight left-handed hairpin that went on and on seemingly forever.

Le Baux de Provence
After an hour or so we rode back to St Remy, found our hotel, booked in and showered before going out to find somewhere to eat. St Remy was a picturesque little town, all honey-coloured stone buildings with painted shutters, blue or green or red, all faded by the sun, with romantic little cobbled streets and charming bistros. Unfortunately I'd come with 'the Kid' so we just wanted a meal and a few drinks and perhaps a little light conversation with beautiful, sophisticated French women. Well, two out of three ain't bad as Meatloaf used to say, so we wandered back to the hotel replete.

"The Kid"
Saturday morning saw us back at the bike shop - I'd originally chosen their BMW R850 as being more suitable for my lanky frame, but decided to swop it for their T100 Bonneville, nice and light for all that bend-swinging we were going to do. The ever-helpful Sarah gave us a map and outlined some routes, lent us some wet-weather gear "just in case" ( a definite case of local knowledge triumphing over tourist optimism) and we set off for....anywhere. We rode fairly aimlessly around Provence, taking any little side road that took our fancy, then when we got tired of really tight bends it was back onto the 'A' roads for some faster sweeping bends. Heaven.

The Old Man
What we did discover was that one picturesque medieval town looks much like another; Arles, Nimes, Avignon, all had that run-down, scruffy look, ancient ruins, rats running over the feet of diners at the outside cafes. Still, we fulfilled our aim of riding, pausing for coffee, riding some more,, etc, with the highlight being a cafe/betting shop in Carpentras where the Kid first encountered a typical French crapper "that's disgusting, it's just a hole in the floor..and there's no paper..and nowhere to hang on to!" I explained that's why the French invented perfume, to cover up the smell of shit on their hands and clothes and he seemed quite happy with that.

Bull Ring at Arles
Saturday night we had another great meal and some drinks in a little bar in St Remy where the Kid took a (drunken) shine to the dark-skinned waitress, I was just happy to get back to the hotel and bed as I was knackered from the amount of riding we'd done.

Cottage at the hotel
Sunday, however, was a bit of a disaster. It started with a thunderous downpour complete with lightning that woke us up, then it rained...ALL DAY. Man, I could have stayed in England for this! To make matters worse, our hotel, booked for us by Classic Bikes, was a wonderful, romantic hideway, small cottages set in grounds overshadowed by huge fig trees and other perfumed plants - with no T.V to "spoil the ambience" which would have been fine if we'd been on a dirty weekend but for The Old Man and the Kid......we ended-up compensating by over-eating and drinking with a couple of naps thrown in. It finally stopped raining around tea-time so we got the bikes out and bombed around until dark then ate even more, more drinks in the bar of the tatooed get the picture.
Hotel Cat

Monday of course was beautiful, hot and sunny and perfect for riding, the clear blue sky etc etc as we remarked as we dropped the bikes off and headed back to Marseille and another awful flight to London. All in all though, it WAS great riding, a bit of fun if pretty expensive.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

More photos from Sammy's

                                                           Ignore the dope in the mirror

Sunday, 28 August 2011

It started out well......

With it being the summer holiday weekend I decided to take a 3-day ride taking in some bike and car-related events. Itinarary prepared and bike packed (2 pairs of underpants and a toothbrush as per Affers instructions) I set off early Saturday morning for the New Forest* and Sammy Miller's Motorcycle museum.

Out of London, riding south on the A3 it was chillier than I anticipated, and pretty heavy traffic. As I got to Guildford it started raining so I pulled into a petrol station, topped-up the tank and changed gloves from the thin summer ones I started off with to the winter ones I put in the pannier just in case. Just past Guildford I turned off onto the A31, much less traffic now and nicer scenery, I enjoyed riding up and over the Hogs Back with tremendous views in all directions. In no time I reached Winchester, where I stopped to take a couple of photos.

Riding on, I stopped somwhere around Romsey for a cup of coffee and a cake in a "Wild Bean Cafe"; sat on the kerb outside the petrol station watching the traffic whizz by I thought "this is the life". Enjoying now the quiet country roads and country smells I rode down through the forest to New Milton and the museum; 100 miles thats the longest trip for me and the Triumph so far.

                                                    Outside and inside the museum
Sammy Millers museum was excellent, great bikes well prepared and presented; friendly, knowledgable staff AND a restaurant that served an all-day breakfast with mugs of tea and young waitresses in mini skirts - biker heaven!

                               All aluminium frame and engine - look at the quality of the welding

                                                                Love the back-end

After a good couple of hours taking it all in I was ready to set off for Bristol and on into Wales.

Unfortunately, that's when it all went wrong - when I got back to the bike it was sitting with a flat front tyre. I borrowed a pump and pumped it up - it went flat immediately. I've got AA breakdown so phoned them; after an hour a guy turned up and said " OK sir, I'll just pull the wheel off and we'll get this fixed in no time"; well that's what I thought would happen, what actually happened was he put some air in the tyre, it went down, he pursed his lips and said "I can't fix it, we'll recover the bike back to your house". I was incredulous to say the least, come-on, its just a flat tyre, but Mr. Negative was adamant " it's holiday weekend, everywhere is shut until next Tuesday, nothing I can do".
                                                        We ain't going nowhere

By now the museum was shut, the AA man cleared off saying he'd called for a recovery van that would be there in an hour, then it started raining. Then the rain developed into a tropical downpour. To say I was pissed-off would be putting it lightly. Two-and-a-half hours later the recovery van turned up, only the staff of the museum had, unknown to me, padlocked the gate at the car park entrance. Panic! I finally rode the bike gingerly down a little dirt track that went behind the buildings, past a private house and down their drive. The lady of the house was bit suprised to see me, but let me out their gate; I then rode very slowly back up the road with the front tyre now completely destroyed and got the bike onto the recovery truck. Oh yeah, by law these trucks are restricted to 56 mph, so it was 11.45 pm when the driver dropped me and the Triumph off at home.

So this morning I went round to the coffee shop for breakfast (did I mention that LF packed her bags and left a week ago?) to reflect what to do for the rest of this weekend; hearing that bloody song by Adele "I'm gonna slash my wrists" or whatever its called didn't lift my mood much, nor did a walk down by the river where all of a sudden the weather has transitioned from summer to winter in a couple of days; then it started raining.

Have a great weekend!

* The New Forest created in 1079 by William the conqueror from the existing Roman Forest of Spinaii, created in turn from an existing Bronze age forest - so not very "new" then.