Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Its not all grey

So I was reading the thread over at Trobairitz' blog about posting a colourful photo to relieve the grey winter days, and reflecting how impossible that would be here in Holland - grey skies reflecting in the grey water of the canals, grey buildings, grey cobblestones....then I got to work and they'd moved this big yellow box out of the main fabrication hall and parked it outside my office. Result!

Yellow box, blue tarp - how much colour do you need?
Anyway, I'm out of here tomorrow, flying down to Menton, France to join LF for a 2-week Xmas break - hope you all have a good holiday!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Busy day

It's been a bit of a hectic weekend; I got a quick trip home to London, although LF wasn't there. That left me free to visit family and catch up (more later). First priority though was to drive up to Birmingham where there was a motorbike show on at the NEC. As I'd never been there, I was interested to see how it compared with the London Excel show.

Had to have some bare flesh to start the show with - good on you, Victory!

Suzuki V-Strom 1000
There seems to be a few new bikes announced recently that I was keen to see and sit on, just in case I do ever manage to sell the Trumpet. Don't know why, but the two that piqued my interest before-hand were the new Indian, and the Suzuki V-strom 1000; two very different bikes of course, but there's no logic to boys toys, is there. The Suzuki looked as expected, was a nice size for me if a bit unexciting; not so the Indian, which looked really well made and put together, but useless for a long-legged chap such as myself.

  I then decided to sit on every bike in the show to save time later when and if I do make a change. The big BMW's were all good, size-wise. Unfortunately all those lovely café racers from the likes of Norton, Triumph and Royal Enfield looked gorgeous but were too small. I guess 6ft 3in, 15 stone arthritic pensioners (moi?) need to be more sensible with bike choices.

New RE 535cc café racer

BMW RnineT


Some nice specials

Dead cool Metisse 'Steve McQueen' replica

Custom Bonnie
Anyway, show explored it was hotfoot back down to London in double quick time to visit the kid, who has just become a Dad; guess that makes me a Grandad. Spent a nice afternoon cradling the little feller and chatting. Good to be with family for a while.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


It seems to have been raining here for the last four weeks - then yesterday it stopped, the skies opened and the sun came out. Bored of staring moodily out of the office window, I phoned Stefan, my friendly taxi driver, to come and collect me lunchtime and go for a little excursion. We went to Kinderdijk, to look at windmills, had lunch in a little cafe then headed back to work; a welcome respite from working, working, working. Today it started raining again.......

Stefan and Kermit, the six-door lime green taxi

Dordrecht from across the water

Thursday, 24 October 2013

A new beginning..,,again

I've been away; out of work, LF and I headed to Spain in the car to get some sun. First stop was the tiny village of Almonaster la Real in the mountains north of Seville near the Portuguese border. An English couple I've been corresponding with for years have a small farm outside the town where they’re experimenting with self-sufficiency, I wanted to visit and get a flavour of that lifestyle. However, the day visit was enough for both of us – using a bucket for a toilet, by choice, isn't really what I want to do! It was a nice village though, so we stayed in the area for a few days to explore.

Ancient monastery - Almonaster la Real
Church in Aracena
Next stop was down to the coast; Tarifa, beside Gibraltar is one of my favourite towns. It's popular with windsurfers due to the strong winds funnelled through the straits of Gibraltar; we stayed in a little bungalow in the tropical gardens of a hotel on the beach, relaxed during the day then visited the lively little walled town at night for food and fun.

Vegetarian restaurant in Tarifa - who'd have thought it?
Hotel gardens

That's a sandy beach
Windsurfing and Kite surfing
After a couple of weeks the funds were starting to run a bit low, so we started back for England. On the way I decided to stop off in Holland - I had a brief trip to Dordrecht a couple of months ago to visit a fabrication yard, and wondered if there might be an opening there; luckily there was, so now I'm based there (here) for a while. LF carried on home to London, I'm staying in a hotel here while I look for an apartment to rent. I've been strolling around each evening getting my bearings, and have to say this is a picturesque little town. Now I just have to get the Triumph over here so I can start exploring the area.
                                          Peaceful waterway in front of cathedral

The last windmill left in Dordrecht

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Spending more money on the Triumph

Isn't it amazing how quickly costs can escalate when playing with motorbikes? The front brake lever on the Triumph had been getting closer and closer to the bars over the last few weeks; as commuting through London traffic without braking is fairly exciting, I decided to do something about it. I'd had the master cylinder rebuilt last year, and bled the brakes a couple of times this year already, so I convinced myself what I really needed was a brake upgrade...wouldn't you know it, Norman Hyde the Triumph tuner advertised such a kit on his website - a larger disc, Brembo 4-pot caliper and braided brake hose. I was assured over the phone that the kit was bolt-in, no further mods necessary, but being a bit wary, not to say hamfisted, I decided to entrust the job to Nick at Revolution motorcycles. I also decided that while he was working on the front end, he might as well fit the uprated front springs I'd bought to match the adjustable rear shock, but never fitted.

I'll skip over the gory details, but needless to say the kit wasn't a simple bolt-in, the caliper leaked like hell, the disc took an age to get to run true; the old master cylinder wouldn't operate the brake properly so I ended up sourcing a larger-bore master cylinder (used) which then needed a rebuild kit.....you get the picture. Then right in the middle of the job Nick got ill and lost his premises, so I've been pulling my hair out (well, if I had any) with frustration for the last couple of weeks.

Finally, I collected her today. The brakes work, the forks spring instead of crashing, in fact she does feel a bit more together. And the new brake is shiny. The bill for the parts was ridiculous, I haven't a clue how much I'm going to get charged for labour, but at least I'm mobile again - I've been so grumpy these last few weeks without the bike you wouldn't believe, especially as we've had a really nice August. Never mind, LF is away in France so I intend to get some miles on her while I can, random trips through the Surrey countryside to try out my new handling and braking.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Revisiting Essex country lanes

I rode over to deepest Essex on Sunday, it was my Mum's 92nd birthday. It was a bit of a slog around the M25 motorway, but once I got close I was able to turn off and ride through some of the little lanes around Brentwood down to South Ockendon where she lives. We usually go out for lunch on these occasions, but she's getting a bit wobbly on her feet. I did offer to take her on the back of the bike - the weight of the crash helmet almost toppled her over, so we forgot that idea.

Granny on a bike - its just not going to work!
So I spent a few pleasant hours soaking up the sun in the back garden, chatting to Mum and the neighbours. I must admit I left a little earlier than I should have, as I had it in my mind to ride again on the lanes than I'd learnt to ride on as a teenager; back then I soon progressed to grinding away the edge of the footboards on my Lambretta TV175, cornering in a shower of sparks round the twisty bits. I'm a bit more sedate nowdays, but still had a very enjoyable ride through Cranham, Upminster and on through Brentwood before making my way back up to the motorway and the slog home. I did pause to take a photo in front of St Nicholas church; this is memorable for a couple of reasons. It is one of the few 11th century Norman churches built with a round tower, and 42 years ago I got married there to the first Mrs El D. Fortunately I long ago escaped from the clutches of that particular nutter, although there have been a few more since.

Scene of the crime

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Walking in Shropshire

 Back in the UK after my flying trip to Holland, weather still hot and sunny so I decided to take LF away for the weekend..or maybe she told me I had to, can't quite remember ;)
Anyway, Friday night we drove up to Shrewsbury in Shropshire. Spent a sweltering day Saturday strolling around this picturesque medieval town. Despite a catastrophic fire in 1593, most of the town was rebuilt on the old street plan, so it's full of charming little lanes with Tudor buildings leaning this way and that way.
Wonder what used to go on down here?

Wildly modified and painted special in the town market square
 Late afternoon we drove out to Church Stretton, a charming little village nestled in the Shropshire hills, and went for a hike. Nothing too exacting, fairly gentle walking in pleasant scenery. It was so enjoyable we went back again on Sunday morning, after a huge breakfast in our hotel, and set off to walk up to Pole Hill. It may not have been the best timing, seems like the hottest weekend (again) this year - 31 degC. Still, there was a nice breeze once we'd trudged up the valley to the ridge.
Gently rolling hills

On the way down we found a welcoming little brook to cool off in

Drove home Sunday evening - that was a nice relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hot summer day ride out

The hottest day of the year so far, Sunday seemed like a good day for me and the kid to go for a ride out. Our destination was to the Jailhouse cafe, which I'd seen advertised in a classic bike magazine; its an old converted 50's bus, and it's parked next to a classic bike shop down in the wilds of Kent. It was the first time out for the kid this year, his Aprilia has spent most of the last few months having various repairs done (he dropped it) so it was a 'steady' ride for the first hour or so. We practised my usual method of navigation, ride in the general desired direction of travel down any road that looks interesting, then when lost, stop and look at google maps on the iphone. Repeat until you get to destination. So it was 21/2 hours and a number of wrong turns before we got there.

The bus had been converted very well, and seemed to be quite popular, judging by the number of customers. The adjacent bike shop was hampered by most of it's bikes being very rough and ready - they also sell old custom bikes, but these were mostly home-built choppers that looked extremely unroadworthy. After a plate of chips and a mug of tea (what else?) we set off back home, with the idea of completing a big circle - with me leading it was pretty much a repeat of the journey down. There was only one little incident when the kid hit a patch of gravel on a bend, I was behind at the time and it looked like a fairly buttock-clenching moment, but he managed to keep the bike upright. Maybe we need to slow down a bit!

This week I'm in Holland, in Dordrecht on business. Had a stroll around the old town centre last night, very pleasant. Its all a bit unexciting here, work mostly, but a nice break from mad London.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Quick bike trip to Normandy, France

Paul from Open roads bike hire delivered the BMW R1200GS Adventure – bloody hell that’s enormous!
Trumpet looks a bit down-in-the-mouth to be left behind
 I set off down to Dover, caught the Eurotunnel train and was off down the A16 from Calais in no time, sun shining, French roads all smooth tarmac and no traffic, this has the makings of a good trip. First toll booth, on tiptoes balancing the bike with its full fuel tank while I fumbled for the ticket, felt it start to overbalance, couldn’t hold it, down she went in a graceful flop. Red-faced with embarrassment, I somehow managed to heave the behemoth upright and ride off with trembling legs – oh well better to get that over with early in the trip I suppose!

First nights accomodation
 Stayed the first night in a lovely Chateau near Abbeville, the vegetarian owners made me so welcome (and prepared me a special evening meal) that I decided to stay in the area the next day. Wandered out next morning into biking nirvana – long straight empty road throttle wide open, then hairpin, hairpin downhill into impossibly picturesque mediaeval village looking like some perfect film set, then uphill hairpin, hairpin then spat out onto long empty straight full throttle again.

This was repeated pretty much all day, each day. I travelled down to Bayeaux to see the war museum, war graves and the famous tapestry we were taught about at school; carried on further into Normandy to Dinan, another amazing medieval city, complete with 3km of walls. 

British war graves at Bayeaux cemetary

Bayeaux cathedral

Water mill

Picturesque Dinan
 At each place I managed to find vegetarian food, even if it was only goats cheese salad, but I enjoyed every minute of it – managed to average around 300 miles a day on those fabulous roads, couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Five days later I rocked up back at the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais, quick return trip and I was home for tea. Knackered but happy.

Looks a bit precarious - but has been there 500 years or so

Guess what they serve in this roadside cafe?

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

75bhp isn’t exactly going to set the road alight....

But it’s not a bad result for my 18 yr old Thunderbird; when new the standard bike made 67bhp. The guy in the dyno shop did say that the silencers are the main restriction, he reckons he saw another 10bhp when he pulled the baffles, but as they’re already loud as hell that’s not an option. Maybe I’ll look around for some better ones.

The up-and-down blue lines at the bottom show how bad the fueling was, nice steady red line shows it now.

In a hilarious follow-up to comments on Bobskoots blog regarding the level of service he gets from his bike shop, not only did this guy manage to scratch the tank on the Triumph – the bike ran out of petrol about 3 miles down the road! As I’d filled it up before I took it in I was a bit surprised when it coughed, spluttered and conked out, by the time I’d pushed it down the road and up and over a railway bridge to the nearest petrol station I was knackered, especially as the sun was blazing down.

Ah, the trials and tribulations of running an older bike.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Down by the river......

We spent another pleasant day on Sunday, strolling along beside the river at Marlow; a strange droning noise from the river caused us to turn and see this............

He likes cars, he likes the river....why not combine the two?

Handsome wooden boat ready for the picnic

And it was.... a thumper

You have to love canal boat names

LF blocking the time on this sundial
The Triumph is yet again languishing in a garage - I put her in to a local dyno-tuning place in an effort to get the running better, evidently it needs new jets & a good tune up so I've left her with the garage until it's sorted, hence my reliance on Shank's pony.