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Ducati’s in my Life

The first Ducati in my life wasn’t exactly mine – it belonged to my brother Jim who surprised us all by bringing one of these lil beauties home in 1959.

A 200cc Ducati – this one is the Elite but the one Jim had was more akin to the Scrambler.

To be honest my mates and I weren’t exactly impressed. Being steeped as we were in British ‘exotica’ such as BSA Rocket Goldstars – Velocettes and Triumph Bonnevilles the tiny Ducati just didn’t cut the mustard in our gang back then.

I had to wait until the late eighties before I had my own Duke – the GT860 bevel drive model. I wasn’t particularly impressed with it either due to a noisy top-end and soon sold it on. Just in time because I understand it rattled itself to near death in the new owner’s hands pretty soon after he got it home to Arbroath.

Here she is on the roadside by Loch Lubnaig – part of a collection of roads I considered to be my own private race track.

After that ‘near miss’ I managed to steer clear of Ducatis until 1995 when I rashly bought one of these.

Mine was the last of the 888 family and was the full Monty race version! Bored to the maximum at 926cc – she came with about six sets of bodywork – two race motors and a shed full of lightweight wheels. In fact it was the full package as raced by the late David Jeffries in MCN British Superbikes in 1994.

Things didn’t entirely go to plan after I bought her but such is racing. No worries – I did get one race out of her and that was the Daytona 200 with a young up-and-coming Neil Hodgson aboard. Neil managed a 5th in the Twins race and a creditable 12th in the Daytona 200 itself which was won by Carl Fogarty’s arch-enemy – Scott Russel who managed to kick Neil into the kitty-litter. Youtube is still showing the ’95 Daytona 200 and of course Neil can be seen struggling to get my Duke back on track at the first corner after coming down off the scary 50 degree concrete banking .

I managed to come out of that little flirtation with a beautiful Ducati unscathed too as IRTA – the MotoGP organisers of the day paid all my expenses and I was doubly fortunate that Scania Trucks paid me top dollar when they bought my 888 for one of their sponsored riders. Didn’t do Neil any harm either as he went on to earn a full Works ride with Ducati and actually won the World Superbike Championship a few years later.

As they say in all the best storybooks – ‘Fortune Favours the Brave’.

A-ahhh – almost forgot – there was another Ducati in my life – the white 848\

Here I am trying it for size at the old Grobnik GP circuit near Rijeka – Croatia around 2008 – but that’s another story all of it’s own.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2019 in out and about

 

Sun shines on the X-ADV750

A good thing about having a Maritime climate – weather comes in bursts – one minute it’s raining as if trying to drown you – next it’s sunshine! It does mean you need to be ready for every occasion so a brief burst of sunshine between downpours had me out in the yard with the camera trying to make the most of it.

They say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and this lil beauty works for me. All that was needed was a touch of watery sunlight —

Not for a moment did I think I would go down the Automatic route in motorcycling but that’s what we have here. A dual clutch system means that gears can be selected automatically and she does it quite well. A choice of ‘Drive’ or ‘Sport’ modes alters the rev-band that the gear changes are made at. All I can say is that it does it well .. any momentary lapse can be easily overcome by a finger or thumb brush of the handlebar mounted manual switches giving further control of the up/down gear ratios. Changing down with the thumb or up with the fore-finger becomes second-nature in jig time.

Did I mention the handbrake? There she is on the side of the headlight nacelle – easy to miss but very neccessary. Unlike ‘normal’ geared bikes which can be left in gear to lock the rear wheel when on the sidestand on a downslope such as the waiting ramp for our ferry – this automatic scoot clicks into neutral when switched off.

The handbrake has it’s own caliper hung from the swingarm and acts on the rear disc. I did say it was easy to miss and I confess I have tried to ride off on a couple of occasions with the brake still engaged!

The Honda X-ADV750 is a far cry from the pre-war 1937 Ariel Colt my grandfather sent down to our farm cottage home in the Scottish Border as a first bike for my big brother to ride when I was still at school.

I may have been well under legal age but it wasn’t long before I nicked a ride when bro’ Jim was at work and I was soon wrestling with a three-speed hand operated gearchange fitted up on the side of the petrol tank. There were also inverted handlebar mounted clutch and brake levers plus additional levers for throttle – choke and magneto advance/retard all to be mastered. Riding safely didn’t figure high on that list.

Granpa Wright – little did you know that you had kicked off a love for two wheels that has been with me ever since.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2019 in Honda X-ADV 750, Isle of Luing, Motorcycling

 

Honda X-ADV 750

The new Scoot on our block.

She may look a bit like an electric milk float from head on – but – those angry-eye type headlights tell a different story.

Underneath the plastic she is all motorbike – until you get to the rear wheel which for sum sad reason is a 15 incher! The ADV is generally based on Honda’s NC750 motorcycle which also carries it’s fuel under the seat and what looks like a fuel tank twixt rider’s knees is in fact a luggage compartment. The swingarm has been lengthened on the ADV in comparison and coupled with the smallish diameter rear wheel thus allows for provision of a reasonable sized luggage compartment under the seat without restricting suspension travel.

To be honest I don’t even think about the size of the rear wheel when I’m riding – until of course it’s diminutive diameter exaggerates the surface ripples and minor potholes that a bigger diameter wheel would ride over. For the un-initiated a roadgoing motorcycle rear tyre is usually 17 inch and experienced off-roaders will have an 18 inch dia wheel in there wherever possible..

But that is the only ‘scooter’ type aspect of the bike – the way she spins up on the gravel in the yard and picks her way up our rough old farm track that is more suited to the local farmer’s four-wheel drive tractors is a revelation!

I did have my concerns about the amount of electrics at play with this machine – that dash for instance can do everything except cook my breakfast but then I can be quite fussy when it comes to the main meal of the day.

My morning ride into Oban for coffee and newspaper was carried out in torrential – and I mean TORRENTIAL rain showers and she never missed a beat. Looks like Mr Honda has got things right in that department.

Despite flooded roads I was a few minutes early for the ferry on my return leg – this lil scoot can be deceptive over a distance and what feels like a steady ride tells a different story on the clock. Yes she covers the ground without fuss much quicker than expected.

While the bike was getting most of my attention on the ramp it was a different story once aboard the good ship Belnahua on the crossing. The Cuan Sound appeared to be full of dolphins with two separate schools making their way through! It was quite a sight but the rain ensured my phone/camera stayed safely in the dry in my ‘man-bag’ under the seat.

So the morning two-hour dry spell promised by the weather forecasters didn’t happen – but – I’m not made of sugar and didn’t melt in the wet.

If I had been really worried about getting wet I would have taken a tip from our Seamus and spent the morning curled up on the couch in the dry.

 

Loki in the eye of the storm

Does he look bothered?

Not a bit of it – he’s fast asleep with his eyes open as usual. C’mon Loki – I know it’s blowing a hoolie but let’s nip down to the coast between showers and check out the surf.

Not bad – from up here anyway.

Let’s get a bit closer —

Considering the wind is gusting to 50mph the sea doesn’t look bad at all. Time for a wee ramble before those wild showers come back.

LOKI! – WAKE UP!

OK – I’m sorry – you were just guarding my walking stick.

‘C’mon Dad – try to keep up!’

‘There’s a storm blowing in from Colonsay and that guy over on Easdale told us before we moved here that the gales howl non-stop all the way from Brazil!’

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Isle of Luing, out and about, Walks

 

Auld age disnae come itsel

My old mother was right when she said ‘auld age disnae come itsel Donald’.

I haven’t even been able to access my own Blog for some time now as Google used to remember my password for me. Then – in an attempt to copy the Chinese I banned Google from the Home Farm. Seems I made a big mistake. The all-seeing eye of Big Brother has it’s uses after all.

No worries – I’m back in biznez and hopefully I’m ready to carry on where I left off.

My CRF250 Rally is still around and just get’s better n better. Changing the gearing by fitting a couple of teeth more on the rear sprocket has had the desired effect and keeps her minimal power output in the meat of the rev band.

Fitting a complete Arrow alloy – peashooter type exhaust has also helped by reducing weight and finding some extra ponies.

Oh – and the new Wilber rear shock has levelled her up a bit and set the handling alight as she is no longer draggin her ass on the road.

Sadly the V-strom has gone and so have the two Honda Grom’s. Four hundred miles between the wee Honda’s over four years bears testament to the two wee bikes not fitting the bill although they did nothing wrong really.

So-o – what replaced them? Sumthin different of course. In fact very different. A state-of-the art Honda X-ADV750! Here she is lighting up a dull day with no other visiting bikes at the Green Welly unless we count a big Goldwing complete with sidecar and trailer beautifully ridden by two equally large ladies from Belgium.

My X-ADV750 is on the right – Mr Honda’s motorcycling answer to the SUV range currently gaining popularity in the car industry. A motorcycle in scooter clothing – she has a 750cc twin cylinder motor driving through a 6 speed gearbox and twin clutch system which enables automatic selection of the gears. Riding position is feet-forward – a must for me as it means I can delay the inevitable for a few more years.

Yes – old age hasn’t come itself and I have been putting off a date with the scalpel and power saw as various surgeons have been itching to cut out my right knee joint and fit me with some sort of mechanical contrivance in it’s place for the past four years.

I still haven’t fully recovered from my last encounter with the surgeon’s wayward blade of five/six years ago and doubtless never will. If riding feet-forward scoot-style gives me several more years in the saddle without resorting to the knife then it’s no real hardship.

Now then – where did I jot down that password .. lol

 

Tales from the XJR1300

Having Javier and Bainzie pop in to the site put me back to my XJR1300 years which lasted from 2000- 2010 plus a few dabbles in the years that followed.

The annual club meet for coffee at the Broadway Hotel in the Cotswolds was always guaranteed to bring out some heavy metal —

and sumwun had to keep them all in line —

Especially when you had tearaways like Bainzie there – 4th from left in the shades – he was the best tailgunner in the biznez when the pace got hot and a few fell by the wayside —

Did I see Tony here on the left – just checking his bollocks as usual – last time we ran together was from Matlock and we didn’t get far on that occasion before a bunch of us were spread up the road! A Suzuki riding Loonie from Manchester coming fast on our side of the road round a blind bend wiped us out. It took two armed polis – two ambulances and a whole lot more to clean up that mess.

What else have we got?

Mad Mick on the right and Ollie with their Yellow Perils at Ravenglass in the Lakes – the faster red bike is mine. Poor Ollie there in the centre had recently returned from a trackday on a circuit in the south of France. Having discovered the freedom of the race track the XJR was in the proccess of being exchanged for a go-faster Ducati. He lost his life when hit by a car just a couple of days after this photo was taken — a sad loss.

H-mmm – that memory detuned me a bit – I will dig a few more pics out when I have time because every ride didn’t end badly – even if an over-exhuberant Lampy did make a habit of killing lamposts and bursting holes through stone walls —


 
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Posted by on March 24, 2019 in out and about

 

A Shock for CRF250 Rally

Now would you just look at this lil beauty new arrived from it’s German manufacturers and handed to me by the helpfull ferryman t’other day.

Wilbers rear shock for Honda CRF250 Rally

She should give the wee bike and I a whole new lease of life as the original would barely cope with any rider over 12 stones (old money) and I weigh considerably more that that.

Can’t wait to bolt her in there and try her out — Don

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2019 in out and about

 

Don’t fence me in

With two days to go before Loki’s first birthday it’s only a matter of time before our big boy get’s a whiff of a bitch or even a visiting roe deer and takes off for places he is not supposed to go.

The flapping Tibetan flags do little to dissuade dogs or deer from roaming and with Loki growing by the day it’s time to increase the height of the boundary walls and fences around our patch as seen here from our perch on Rowan Hill —

His two room kennel with small open run is tucked away behind the shed on the far left where we can watch one another through the kitchen door. He has a reasonably sheltered spot for windswept Bardrishaig which is what I thought I had chosen for our ‘Instant Garage’ boat shed.

More fool me! We had little warning of the gales to come but I should have known as it is March after all and had spent a few hours yesterday putting extra pegs and anchors at strategic places around our tent.

They must have helped – but not enough. At midnight I wakened to the crack of flapping canvas outside the bedroom window and a quick look from above showed that the downwind end of the tent had blown out and was vigorously flapping and cracking in the 60+mph gale. There was nothing else for it but to pull on some rough weather gear – grab my big torch and get on out there.

It took me two and a half hours of scrabbling around in the semi-darkness with gusts that threatened to have me off my feet at times – but a quick shufty this morning showed I had been successful and had managed to anchor the tent to the boat in quite a few places in addition to the cross-braces ties I had secured across either end.

The 20×12 tent has obviously taken a hammering but she is still there. A ‘hammering’ is what I almost got from the wee wifie when I woke her with a cup of tea at 2.30 this morning and told her where I’d been for the previous two and a half hours.

‘Foolhardy’ is a polite way of interpreting her views on the subject but at least our visions of the boat sailing across the island suspended from a tent shaped kite came to nout and everything remains safely anchored in our backyard till the next Big Blow.

 
 

Life in the Old Dog yet

Last year might never have happened. I put my blog on the shelf and it feels as if I virtually hibernated. Oh I know I must have done something useful but not a lot. So much inaction must be bad for the body – it culminated in my being lifted by helicopter from the island where I live just a couple of days after Christmas 2018 and whisked off to hospital in the middle of the night.

We didn’t even get our boat in the water last ‘summer’ – having rashly stripped the paint and varnish from her during an early spell of sunshine. Unfortunately this was followed by a never-ending wet season – leaving nothing else for it but to put the boat cover back on and pray for another dry spell so we could splash a bit of fresh paint and varnish on her. We had no such luck and she lay forlorn in our backyard all through the winter too.

With my 77th birthday fast approaching next month I reckon I can’t afford to miss out on another year so things called for drastic action. The old boy’s long suffering wallet had to be prised open and that ‘grassed’ area of the backyard is now home to one of those —

No – not only the horsebox but a 20ftx12ft shelter – or ‘Instant Garage’ as the marketing blurb called it.

Best bit of all was that I erected the shelter – pegged her safely down onto 8×4 timbers and had our boat under cover all by myself in about ten hours flat. The ground there gets rather boggy in the winter so having found a source for cheap pallets she is now sporting a full wooden floor. After the boat is done I can get up to all sorts of mischief in there but I best not get too comfortable or the boat might not make it to the water this year either.

No worries – there’s obviously Life in the Old Dog yet.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2019 in boats, Isle of Luing, out and about

 

Suzuki V-strom 650XT for yamahista

Javier I know you have a banana coloured 650XT now but all I can make from that little bit of info is that they don’t sell the Bonnie Black XT in Spain.

I had our purty black Strom out yesterday for a jaunt across the island to Toberonochy – yes that’s the sweetly named village on the eastern shores of the Isle of Luing – so I popped a pic for you and here she is —

OK – I know it isn’t Barcelona but I managed to fit in a couple of little boats and a bit of seawater for you.

The first third of 2019 promises to be very busy as Helen has a family visit to Japan planned for March and there are various other things like a new knee for me and (at the risk of upsetting the squeamish) removal of knackers for Loki to be fitted in.

No doubt the new knee will require training to ride a bike and Loki will also take time to adjust to his new station in life but Helen and I are hoping to put a few thousand more miles on the Strom this year so who knows —–

It could be a case of ‘catch you on the road sometime’ —

Whatever happened to Shortie? We have lost touch completely! But this pic was taken back in 2002.


Javier and Shortie on the ‘King’s Rock – somewhere north-west of Madrid.