Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A day out in Shanghai

I had a day off last Sunday, so, along with some work colleagues, I visited Shanghai, the largest city in the world and home to 25 million people – most of whom seemed to be walking towards me as I made my way along the riverside towards the Yu gardens and Temple of the gods. 

The Bund

It really is the most amazing city, the ultra-modern skyscape of offices and hotels contrasting with the narrow streets of the old town. My colleagues and I dined out Saturday night in the French quarter, which wasn’t very French but full of expensive western designer shops and up-market restaurants.

Allegedly - the tallest building in the world

 While I explored on Sunday they all got drunk in one of the expensive hotels along the Bund; I have to say my preconceived notions of what communist-run China would be like have taken a big knock – this place rivals any big western city, everyone appears to be well-off, new western cars clog the streets (Audis and BMW’s the most popular), fighting with millions of electric scooters and cycles, all of which disregard any apparent rules of the road including traffic lights or any kind of common sense. It made a nice change though from the little town where the shipyard is – I managed to eat in a couple of vegan restaurants, even managed to get some fresh fruit!
They still do bustling alleyways

Temple entrance


?chinese writing

Spotted on a scooter handlebars



Monday, 1 December 2014

A brief update from China

So it's not possible to connect to the Internet via Google from China as the government evidently isn't happy for reasons I don't understand, so I've been incommunicado until today when a colleague told me about an app called 'hide my ass' which gives a false VPN address (whatever that means). So far I've only got it on my iPad so no chance of downloading pictures yet - I'm hoping another colleague may help with that, although to be honest the place I'm in is such a dump there's not many interesting photo opportunities apart from the daily fatal accidents on the road to work - I've stopped looking out of the bus window now as its too upsetting.

For reasons I don't really understand I'm now working in a shipyard on the Yangtse river opposite Shanghai in southern China. It all started when the news came through about dear bobskoot passing away; I was attending a funeral for a close relative when I read the sad news, and made an instant decision to pack up work and go home to England. Unbelievably, the day I got home my 93-year old Mother had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital; I spent the next few weeks looking after her. She's a tough old bird though, and soon recovered. I spent a lot of time thinking about my retirement and what to do with myself; it seemed like time to stop and smell the roses before it gets too late, if you know what I mean? However, reality soon set in; within a month I had to sell the Tiger to pay some bills; I also had a clear-out and sold some unwanted stuff on e-bay, but realised the only way I could make it work was to sell the flat that me and LF share, and go on the road with the proceeds. Which obviously she didn't think was a particularly great idea. Plan B was to go back to work for a while to try and save some cash, but with global oil prices dropping like a stone all new projects have been cancelled and most of my friends are sitting at home out of work. Then an old friend phoned and said he was running a job in China and was in desperate need of someone to talk to, did I fancy it? So here I am.

I may have made some worse decisions in my life, although I can't recall them; time will tell.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

A stolen day out on the bike

It can be difficult sometimes to justify taking a day off work in the middle of the week just to ride the motorbike in the sunshine, so my justification was..…I needed to see if my new bolt-on screen spoiler would reduce wind noise on motorways. And I needed to visit Durbuy, a town in Belgium that declares itself to be the smallest city in the world, using a route that also took in Reinhardstein castle and lots of wriggly roads. The real reason of course was that I was jealous of Sonja’s recent rides in the Black Forest; the Belgian Ardennes is the closest area to me that has similar winding roads. Plus the bike will have to go back to England soon as the dark mornings & evenings will soon be upon us.

...well I was on a Triumph!

some kind of art in a field
An early start saw me blast down the autoroute past Antwerp and Brussels in the early morning fog, by the time I reached Namur the sun was breaking through; I had a nice breakfast there and then with the satnav set to ‘winding roads’ proceeded to enjoy the picturesque drive across to the city of Durbuy.

Durbuy chateau
An internet search before I set off had shown the only vegetarian restaurant in the area was just outside the town, this turned-out to be in the grounds of a castle now used by the Hari Krishna group for retreats, with delicious vegan meals in a tranquil setting and very friendly people, so even though I wasn’t really hungry I sat down to a pleasant meal in the sunshine.

Hare Krishna castle
After an hours break I set off again on those twisty roads, in no time I was in yet another picturesque village where a coffee and frites were enjoyed in the sun, then following my pre-planned route I headed north to begin the trip home, although somehow the satnav took me south into Luxembourg – a bonus really as the roads are lovely there. Just outside Antwerp I re-joined the autoroute for the final blast home. I got home a tired but happy bunny – 2 tanks of petrol, 540 kms and about a million bends – bliss!
Medieval fortified farmhouse
Oh and the spoiler didn’t make the noise and buffeting any worse, but I can’t say it made it better.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A weekend ride

After three weeks away from the bike I was desperate for a ride; I had a free weekend so I decided to ride down into Belgium and the Ardennes region in search of some winding roads. Saturday morning dawned dark, gloomy and raining but I set off wearing my new waterproofs, iphone mounted on the handlebars and connected via my new bluetooth headset, tom-tom app set to 'winding roads' and music blasting into my ears.The rain stopped just over the Belgian border, although the roads were still flat and straight; then just past Brussels the scenery started to change, became hilly and forested and the roads all twisty - heaven! Shortly after, I discovered the flaw in my plan - after spending all year in Holland I'd forgotten how to ride around corners, the next couple of hours was spent threepenny-bitting down ever-more twisty roads until I popped out in the town of Rochefort. It all looked a bit boring so I carried on to La Roche-en-Ardenne, this looked more interesting so I found a hotel, walked around the castle ruins, had a pizza sitting in the town square - a great day.

La Roche-en-Ardennes

 a bit of a detour......

WWI memeorial

Sunday the tom-tom sent me down more of those twisty roads towards Bouillon in the south; I must admit I only headed there to see why they named a stock cube after the town. When I finally arrived after hours of trying to go round corners, there didn't seem to be much there apart from another picturesque ruined castle and a load of cafes beside the river, so I stopped and had coffee and that famous Belgian delicacy - frites (with ketchup). Facing a long ride home I set off again, the weather by now had deteriorated, with gale force winds and torrential rain so I spent the rest of the afternoon weaving along the motorway. Great ride though.

Monday, 30 June 2014


The next phase of tailoring the Tiger to suit my long legs was to fit a new seat. Touratech advertise a 'comfort' seat; I wasn't too concerned about the comfort part as I don't do long trips, but what attracted me was the fact that the seat had two height settings, the higher of which is 20mm higher than the Triumph's higher setting. A quick swop over of the seat fittings and,,,yep, it's higher. My feet still touch the ground, but the knee angle has improved, Now I just need to get those lowered pegs fitted and I should be knee-pain proof.

Standard seat in high position

New 'Comfort' seat in high position

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

I suppose it was funny...... work colleagues evidently decided that my new topbox changed the appearance of my Tiger to that more reminiscent of a pizza delivery scooter.

The constant phone calls and e-mails placing their orders for pizzas was also funny.....the first few hundred times.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Ferry nice trip

Dordrecht harbour
Time for the Tiger's first service, so last Friday afternoon I rode from work over to the Hook of Holland to catch the ferry over to England. This was my first time on a ferry with the bike, so I was almost excited....Actually, the ferry itself was pretty nice (although I guess after being in a cabin on a construction site anywhere would be nice), not many bikers making the crossing. It took about 6 hours, dead calm sea so I slept most of the way. We got to Harwich at 8pm, rolled off the ferry looking forward to a nice change of scenery and nearly fell off the bike from laughing out loud - round the first bend there in front was a windmill!

Anyway, I needed to get home before dark as these old eyes don't work too well so it was a two hour blast down the A12 then M25 onto North Circular, cruising a nice steady 85mph all the way - easy. I did note that the screen produces very uncomfortable buffeting at higher no doubt there's a new accessory in the Tigers future.

Saturday morning up early and rode down to the dealers in the most horrendous thunderstorm I've ever ridden in - as I stood inside the showroom in a large puddle with water dripping, no running, off me I realised that the jacket wasn't waterproof after all. I'd arranged a loan bike so I could ride down to visit the kid in his new house down in Henley-on-Thames, the trouble was I was soaked through, so ended up buying a new (guaranteed waterproof) jacket there and then - got a 25% discount so that wasn't too bad. The sun came out during the ride down, so I spent a nice couple of hours drying-out in the sun on the kids boat landing watching the river flow by, then a nice ride back on the now-dry roads. Collected the Tiger, now complete with heated grips, topbox and a centre-stand.

The Kid and the river

Sunday I'd booked the overnight ferry back to Holland, so after a relaxing breakfast I rode over to Essex to visit my old Mum for a while, then spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening riding the Essex lanes up to Harwich, what a pleasant ride through all the sleepy old villages. At the ferry terminal the place was packed with bikers, got chatting to some Dutch Moto-Guzzi-ists returning from a tour of Ireland, and some English couples off continental touring on their BMW rocketships. Somehow the Tiger ended up with the BMW's, but got some positive comments based on how small she was (!)

All my mates are BMW's

Another good kip and we rolled off at 8am Monday morning, a quick blast and I was in work for 9am, but wishing I could have tagged along with the Brits going down to the Black Forest and a ride around the Nurburgring.

Inevitably I'd bought some bits for the bike to make it 'more suitable' for me - the bar risers fitted easily and quickly and have completely eradicated my aching shoulders and wrists, so that was money well spent.

Not such an easy fit are the lowered footpegs, oh they are good quality, but I find I just can't fit their shiny aluminium blinginess to the blacked-out Tiger, so I'll have to resort to some home spray-painting (in the hallway) to render them inconspicuous.

And finally, if you remember the picture of the big yellow box I posted up back in the winter? Well that got finished and shipped off by barge down the river on its way out to sea - here's a picture of it on its way; now we can see into the shed where our little platform is getting built - a long way to go yet!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sunday ride out - Dutch style

Went for a ride on Sunday; the weather forecast for the area was good so I did a bit of planning (most unusual for me) by looking at Google maps and trying to identify some wiggly roads – which is not easy here in Holland. Anyway, I planned out a rough route, factoring the probability that I would get lost, and got away early on Sunday morning. My planning proved to be spot on, as evidenced by the other 200 or so bikers using the same route! It was quite a pleasant ride, albeit fairly slow as the speed limits here are quite low and strictly enforced with speed cameras; that is until I got to Kinderdijk, where police were diverting all motorbikes into a car park for inspection - which is where I discovered that you have to carry all vehicle documents with you. It did look for a minute as if I was going to be in big trouble as of course I had no documents, luckily I remembered to act like an Englishman abroad and spoke very loudly and rapidly – in no time the policeman’s eyes glazed over and he told me to leave.

I then got stopped only a few miles away at another checkpoint, which seemed a bit excessive as all the bikers I saw were well behaved – if I contrast it with a weekend in Britain there would have been lads wheelying past the checkpoint and superbikes with loud pipes and max revs in first showing off – especially as the police were only stopping bikes. I stopped for a while for a coffee and took some photos of the inevitable windmills – I fear my photo library is going to take on an even more boring theme – before deciding to head away from the hassle and try some straight roads. 

Not another bloody windmill

After a pleasant and uneventful couple of hours I returned home to contemplate; perhaps bikers are not so bad off in the UK after all – from what I’ve experienced so far, Dutch drivers have much less regard for motorbikes than I’m used to, maybe because cycles have priority everywhere or maybe it’s a cultural thing. I can also see the value in our British system of road licensing, where all details are held in a database that the police can access instantly to see if you’re insured, your MOT is up to date etc. I know, that sounds like I’m supporting ‘big brother’, but you know, if you’re legal then there’s nothing to fear. And at my age I can afford to tax and insure my vehicles, unlike in my younger years ;)

Tiger in the hallway - sideways

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A mini adventure

I flew back to London on Friday with the intention of bringing the bike back to Holland with me, although as usual hadn't made any real plans. Saturday morning I rode down to the Triumph dealer to see if any of the accessories for the Tiger had arrived; they had, but it turned out that they were so busy they didn't have time to fit them for me. So I collected the dinky tank bag and went home. The weather was glorious, so I decided I might as well make the most of it, packed a few bits and pieces and set of for Folkstone and the Eurotunnel. A gentle run around the M25 & M20 motorways saw me there in no time, paid for a single ticket & rode the bike onto the train. Unlike other times I've used it, there were no other bikes travelling so I got a compartment to myself.

Tiger on a train

Unfortunately the train then didn't move for the next three and a half hours as the one in front had broken down in the tunnel, so I just sat on the floor and waited. Eventually we got through and I was faced with a night ride. So I wimped out, rode into the centre of Calais, found a Holiday Inn and stayed for the night. I felt much better Sunday morning, got up late, had a huge breakfast and set of mid-morning to ride up to Holland. France was dispatched quite quickly as I decided to ride down to Ypres in Belgium to visit the First World war military cemeteries dotted all around the area

Tiger in Belgium
I must admit I'd hoped for lots of twisty little roads to enjoy and get used to the Tiger on, unfortunately Belgium's main scenery seems to be lots of fields with dead straight roads running beside them. Not a bend to be seen. I visited a couple of cemeteries; with the hot sun blazing down on the rows and rows of gravestones recording the thousands of young men who died in those pointless I became pensive and a little depressed. Such a waste of life.

Allied troops cemetery at Passendale
I soon headed away across country towards Ghent, keeping to the minor roads I was enjoying the ride, starting to open the Tiger up having kept the revs down to 5000 for the first couple of hundred miles as advised by the dealer. A stop for petrol and a roadside snack saw me sitting in the sun pondering on the friendliness of the Belgians - well the young lady in the burger van smiled at me, at least. Realising I'd spent half of the day without getting much closer to my destination I joined the autoroute and headed north towards Antwerp. Using an iphone for a satnav does have its drawbacks (must get more organised!) as I had to keep stopping to figure out where I was; once on the autoroute a couple of hours of boredom soon saw me across the border into Holland, heading for Breda. Thinking I was quite near home I turned off onto a minor road to (hopefully) enjoy some twisties - yeah with my luck I'd turned off onto a cycle race route, all roads blocked and manned by police. An interminable time spent riding round in circles saw me finally back on the motorway, only to be confronted by a massive traffic jam caused by roadworks. On the bright side, it did give me a chance to practice filtering; I quite enjoyed sailing along between 10 miles of fuming motorists! Eight hours after setting off from Calais I arrived in Dordrecht and my little apartment in the city centre. No street parking allowed, so I managed to squeeze the bike in through the front door and left her parked in the hallway. A mini adventure indeed

Monday, 12 May 2014

So I finally took the plunge .......

Saturday morning dawned wet and windy, which was a shame as I was collecting the new bike and hoped to get some miles on it. Then the realisation set in that I no longer had shiny aluminium and chrome to worry about cleaning, so it was off to my local Triumph dealer, Jack Lilley, to collect it. The salesman Geoff was apologetic that even though it was an SE version, the special equipment hadn’t actually arrived from Triumph, so the bike was minus the top box and heated grips although the tall screen was in place.

Don’t worry about that said I, I just want to ride the thing. Of course, the minute I set off the heavens opened but I carried on regardless with a mile-wide grin, a bit cautiously I admit as I remembered a story about new tyres and wet roads not mixing very well. I eventually had to stop when the puddles in the Surrey lanes grew to the size of lakes, fortuitously adjacent to a rest area complete with burger van. One large cuppa and a veggie burger later, the rain had stopped enough for me to carry on. I got home about an hour later, impressed that my seven-year old Revit jacket had not leaked, and that the new bike was filthy and covered in mud.

Old habits die hard though, so I could not resist giving the bike a quick wash down before putting it away in the garage. Sunday was equally crappy weather, but I still managed a gentle ride around for a couple of hours, explaining to LF that I had to run the engine in on the first weekend, as we intend to be riding to Holland next week. Hopefully.  Anyway, I was feeling so rebellious when I got home that the bike got put away dirty, now that’s a first for me. All-in-all an enjoyable weekend; first impressions are how nice to ride a bike where everything just works – no more looking around to see what just fell off!

Oh and just as a postscript – Geoff the salesman tells me that my old Thunderbird was a star of the small screen, having appeared in episodes of ‘Miss Marples’, or some such crap series. Still didn’t increase it’s trade-in value though!

Monday, 28 April 2014


I was thinking the other day how European travel gives endless opportunities to revel in the smutty humour that we English love so much; in Holland for example,every day I pop down to the local village coffee shop for lunch, I have to walk through a small alleyway that has a large sign above -"Winkelpassage" - I can't believe that I still snigger every day.

This past weekend me and LF were in Hannover, Germany, as the taxi drove past the first road sign that said "Ausfahrt" I started giggling, this carried on the more signs I saw. Not forgetting the endless opportunity to start singing in a monotone voice " Bahn Bahn Bahn , on zee Auotobahn".
Authentic Japanese tea house (donated by city of Hiroshima) in Hannover gardens

Then there is the opportunity to confirm the racial stereotypes we have in our (my) head ( by the way I'm old enough to remember pre-PC days when you could say what you thought without fear of being prosecuted) ; I remember fondly the 'Costa wars' of the 1970's fought out at every Spanish hotel where German and English holidaymakers were staying - every morning at 5am the Germans would go down to the swimming pool and 'reserve' all the sun-loungers by placing towels on them,then return to bed.

A couple of hours later would see groups of Brits wandering around cursing as there was nowhere to sit, this would then escalate as the Germans finally turned up at 11am after leisurely breakfast to claim their places. I remember things escalating, voices raised, towels floating in the pool, "" expressions. Oh the fun.

Anyway, this weekend we were at a conference, and sure enough, Saturday morning when we entered the hall just before the start, here were hundreds of empty chairs, all with a little piece of paper placed on them with a hand-written 'reserved' sign. Oh how I laughed at the memory!

German Hi-speed train not going very fast - stopped again somewhere

Oh and by the way, I discovered that German trains don't always run on time, another urban myth exploded. On the positive side, there is nothing finer than relaxing in the town square on a warm spring evening watching leggy blondes weaving their bicycles through traffic, thin summer skirts blowing in the breeze.....

Anyway, this blog is supposed to be about motorcycles, so an update.... as Troubador foresaw, when I turned up at my local Triumph dealer they fell over themselves to give me a test ride on a Tiger 800. I did ride one last year and thought it was OK, if not exciting, but time and my dicky hip now makes it a
more attractive proposition, especially the taller XC version. The dealer also made me a fairly derisory offer for the Thunderbird, but I might just take him up on it to take away the hassle of selling it online. Hopefully, the next post should have some positive news.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Failed motorcycling in the Netherlands

So Stefan the taxi driver mentioned that he wanted to sell his wife’s motorbike, would I be interested?  He said it was cheap, so I said I’d take a look; he turned up one night unannounced with this goofy-looking bike, like a midget Harley that had been squashed. Anyway, I took it for a short ride but it felt quite strange, besides, it had a single seat with embroidered flames shooting out the rear, which Nikos will tell you is just not desirable.

Not the actual bike - but still goofy
This did, however, prompt me to look for a better bike, after a bit of looking around I found this great little bike shop out in the sticks, run by a father & son they had kept every bike their family had, plus accumulated an extensive collection of bikes, all for sale. Amongst them was a really nice Suzuki GSX1400, a bike I had lusted over for several years but never found a nice one. A little negotiation and the deal was done, it took a couple of days to arrange the bank transfer in Euros, but last Tuesday I turned up at the shop, complete with new kit, to pick it up. All we had to do was to register it, which was (allegedly) a five minute job, I had of course forgotten about the Dutch love for bureaucracy; in the UK we fill-out a form and send it off, here I had to go to the vehicle licensing board and produce a whole raft of documentation to prove that I live in Holland – documentation that I did not have. I then went to the town hall to get a resident certificate, but when they told me all the papers I would need, I just gave up. We talked it over, but with no other option they agreed to refund the money and I went away dejected.

Not the actual bike, but the same colour

This was the final spur I needed to bring the Triumph over to Holland, so last weekend I cleaned and checked the bike over, packed some stuff in the panniers and set off to ride down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel train through to France, then up through Belgium into Holland. After 30 or so miles, my right hip seized up. I stopped to stretch, got back on, another couple of miles and agony set in. Another stop and the realisation set in that I wasn’t going to make it – damn you old age! I turned around and drove slowly home, no tears but a great depression, what if I have to give up riding? Happily, with a couple of days to reflect I’ve decided the solution may just be to find a bike that’s taller and more comfortable for me, so the Triumph’s up for sale on e-bay and the search is on for a good used BMW GS. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Classic car and motorbike heaven

Me and a couple of workmates had to drive over to Rotterdam yesterday to inspect some equipment in the company warehouse; one of the guys mentioned that there was a classic car dealer not far away and suggested a short diversion to take a look. We were expecting a small garage; imagine our astonishment to find a warehouse (literally) packed to the roof with classic cars, motorbikes, model cars, signs and other various motoring ephemera.

Just priceless was the look on young Fraser’s face – he had been telling us on the drive over about his small collection of motorcycles – well when we walked in to be confronted with literally hundreds of motorbikes stacked around the walls and all in running order, his jaw almost hit the floor.

As for the cars, again there were hundreds, of all types and makes including classics that I’d never seen outside of magazines. One floor contained cars in running order for sale, while the lower floor was jam-packed with cars for restoration. In one row I counted 15 air-cooled Porsches; there were 10 Datsun 240Z’s, 30 or more MGB’s – you get the drift.

We ended-up spending hours in there, the owner happy to let us lift bonnets, stare at engines and generally behave like kids. It was car and motorbike porn heaven; I nearly proposed to a 1966 E-type Jaguar, and I believe my pal Dave may have married an 1965 Alfa Romeo Veloce spider with the most beautiful cast aluminium sump, I’m sure I saw him licking it.

Lovely stuff!

All for sale!

MG TF's, TR4/5/6'S

Bikes, bikes, bikes

....more bikes

Porsche spider

No idea!

1967 Mustang fastback

Ten 240Z's in a row

Two of these with 383 Hemi

Downstairs resto projects - Jags, Triumphs

15 air-cooled Porsches

Fiat convertibles on shelves!


Four Ford pick-ups in backgrouns.