Monthly Archives: February 2015

Motorcycle touring in Spain

Spain can be considered one of the most perfect scenarios for motorcycling touring.  The weather is nice for most of the year, much better and sunnier in the South, but  I have a crush for the North of Spain.  I want to share with you one of those trips to the North.

I live in Madrid, the capital city, and located in the center of the country, so it’s a great place to travel anywhere.

This trip we went to Cantabria, right up North, known for the mountains and the sea views.

As always we start gathering early in the morning at a Gas Station.


Fill up the tanks, a quick coffee and we are on our way.  This time it was 8 motorcycles and 14 good friends.


As you drive North first you come accross a dry scenery and not much to see, but midway in the trip things change and everything gets greener and more beautiful.

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There are always nice stops along the way…

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Until we get to the beautiful coast…

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Obviously a trip like this can not continue without tasting the local food….


We spent the night there and on the way back to Madrid the following day we went across the mountains…

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I hope you enjoy it….

By the way, the Honda Varadero proved to be the perfect bike for all kinds of road travelling.


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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized



Twin Shock Trials Iron

Yamaha XT 500With hailstones rattling off my window it reminds me of my time in the year round sport of motorcycle trials riding back in the eighties when New Year’s Day could involve competing in a snow storm during the annual trial up near Lochailort.

‘Competing’ might be too strong a word to use as I was a late-starter at trials riding – having gone off to seek my fortune in some of the world’s remoter parts at the end of the swinging sixties – only to return to Scotland a decade later to find the other man’s grass hadn’t neccesserally been greener.

But – the experience had stood me in good stead and I treated myself to the new Yamaha XT500 which on looks alone was a surefire winner.

Looks proved to be only skin deep. On the road she was good enough – till the needle crept round to seventy-ish. Then the wind would get under that motocross style front mudguard and maintaining a straight line could prove difficult.

Sometime in the early eighties the XT and I followed parts of the Scottish Six Days Trial running out of Fort William. I managed to keep out of everyone’s way and all went well till I decided to risk a remote mountain route across the bogs and heather climbing out of Glen Clunie. The XT500 is no trials bike and when the degree of difficulty became too much the sensible option was return the way I came – back out to the road.

I had reckoned without Rab P who was closing the course as last rider that year. Boy diid he tear me off a strip for going against the traffic as he put it – even though the traffic had well and truly gone by the time I came along.

I took his bollocking to heart! So much so that it wasn’t long before the pretty XT500 was sold to a guy from Edinburgh and a new Bultaco 325 Sherpa trials bike took it’s place —


The trials bug had well and truly bit! Most Sundays and at times full weekends were spent competing in various wild places in Scotland and the north of England as I enjoyed the challenge of riding the rough stuff without stopping or dabbing a foot down.

The Bultaco was the ideal tool for this novice. Powerful but not flighty – she would trundle through the tricky observed sections and answer the call of the throttle when needed.

Well that’s how it all started – till – one day I drowned her in a deep rock pool in a river out on the moors. I gave her the prescribed treatment of removing the plug and pumping the kickstart to fire the water out of the cylinder and stood her up on the back wheel to drain the water from the exhaust.

She fired up ok – but – something was missing. At the end of the trial off she went to the expert for an engine strip and rebuild.

Typical action shot of the then European Champion – Martin Lamkin on His Bultaco Sherpa – copyright unknown —

Martin Lampkin

Next trial was in Glen Ogle just north of Lochearnhead. All went well till I forded a deepish river crossing. We trickled across but when I reached the high bank on the far side I opened the throttle to lift the front wheel out of the water onto the heather. She didn’t answer the throttle. The front wheel hit the bank – the motor reversed rotation and she took me – feet up – backwards into the deepest part of the river!

It was a strange sensation I can tell you. After that episode she became a conundrum. At times I would park her up outside an observed section – walk the course to check out the obstacles then take my place at the head of the queue – kick her up – select a gear – let the clutch out and sometimes she would take me backwards into the line of waiting riders! There was no telling what mood she was in – possibly why I call all my bikes female.

Ok – I know now it was probably a relatively easy fix. My engine builder had no doubt set the ignition timing too close to top dead centre with the result that the motor occasionaly decided to run backwards. It was all the excuse I needed to go ‘green’.

And how can you blame me – when I saw this lovely green Mick Andrews designed Ossa 250 with gold wheels at the McLellan Galleries bike show in Glasgow I was smitten —

green ossa 250 trials

She was no hardy 325 Bultaco – in fact I was soon to discover she couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding. Even a trip back to the supplier in Ayrshire didn’t help. A chance meeting with Kieth Horseman at the Scottish Six Days came up with the answer – a reed valve conversion would do the trick.

Off she went in the pickup with Kieth – Martin Lampkin and Rob Shephard with Mart’s works Bultaco and Rob’s works four stroke Honda to Kieth’s converted old mill workshop down in Skipton for the treatment. Yorkshire was the centre of the trials world at that time and Kieth knew what he was doing.

Rob Shepherd on his 360 Honda – copyright Honda Trials History and an old aquaintance of mine – Jimmy Young —

Rob Shepherd 360 Honda copyright Jimmy Young

She was a different bike when I fetched her back – pulled like a train – no fluffing or farting – a joy to ride. Just as well cos on a long long downslope part of the snotty mountain crossing from Loch Lomond to Loch Fyne on the second day of the Loch Lomond club’s annual Two Day trial I inadvertently dropped her on her side and we tobogganed down the hillside together.

Rob Shepherd – Honda 360 – copyright Marvyn Smith & Honda Trials History —

Sheperd-Marvin Smith & Honda Trials History

When I picked her up and looked her over she appeared to be all of a piece and it wasn’t till we took off again down that steep hillside downslope that I found I would have to do the rest at a rate of knots! She was stuck in top gear having bent the selector forks when the lever hit a rock or tussock during our fall.

No worries – the now powerful motor pulled me off that hillside and all the way back to the Start/Finish area in Balloch even if it did mean a highspeed excursion through the no-go guarded area which held the fuel for the Nuclear Submarine depot at Faslane. It certainly said a lot for the Ossa clutch which came in for dog’s abuse.

Lots of fun with the Ossa but that brush with Rob Shepherd’s fourstroke Honda must have touched a chord —

Honda RTL 200

OK – that is no works 360 Honda that only an ace like Rob Shepherd could ride. She is the new – cooking TLR 200 for the masses. A nice little bike – she could do everything right and get me through the section – almost! Right at the end when I needed that little bit of oomph to lift the front wheel out past the Observer she would cough and die leaving me red faced in embarrassment.

This is the only photo I have of that little bike. For a change we are coming ‘feet up’ out of a long steep section in a trial north of Stonehaven —

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Boy do I look determined – I must have known the camera was waiting at the top.That little TRL 200 wasn’t available in the UK and I actually brought mine in from Belgium.

What was available over here was the Seeley Honda and for my sins I had one of those as well —


A nice bike – we had a lot of fun together – including a trip down to the Black Forest area in southern Germany for an International Trial. The hospitality which involved loads of beer and a large glass boot was good when signing in at the Rifle Club the night before. Too good in fact and I rode the whole of the One Day event with humungous hangover which did nothing for my final score.

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After the trial I was treated to my first ever flight in a glider. Terrified doesn’t begin to describe my feelings! Mostly down to the pilot who looked to be about twelve years old! It wasn’t till we landed that I was told he was the German under 18 Champion so I had been in safer hands than I thought.

There was another bike in the family around this time – a TY80 which my young son could put through it’s paces —

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As he outgrew the TY a 125 Fantic similar to this 200 version came on the scene —


It had been fun playing in the mud during the eighties but by the start of my ‘numpty nineties’ I had gone road racing – and that is another story 🙂


Thanks to all the photographers who provided pics on line. I have attributed copyright where I can.


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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized



Trials Bikes – Then and Now

Twin shock trials – there’s a whole world built up around them nowadays as a result of modern trials bikes being ‘improved’ since the advent of monoshock technology.

An early example of a modified twin shock machine is this Spanish built Ossa with mono-shock conversion —


She is a very nice bike and not far removed from her original – Mick Andrews designed twin-shock ancestor –

the 1984 Ossa 250 Trials —

green ossa 250 trials

I used a similar bike in competition in the early eighties and loved it’s green colour scheme with gold wheel rims but found her to be underpowered as standard. When Skipton based Kieth Horsman offered to fit my bike with reed valve induction I was made up.

He certainly discovered several more horses and riding her became a whole new ball game.

The early mono-shocked Ossa is still recognisable as a motorbike  – unlike the state-of-the-art machines specially built for today’s trials sections which have seen the introduction of a whole new points scoring system in order to find a winner.

The Gas Gas 2015 TXT —


Wheels and handlebars are about the only things I recognise. In fact so much has been changed that they have become nigh on impossible for mere mortals to ride with any degree of satisfaction.

No worries – it’s given me an idea for another post 🙂

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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized



Reunion Island

Reunion Island – a tiny island in the Indian Ocean – 200 clicks east of Madagascar —


With visitors to my blog from well over one hundred countries it shouldn’t surprise me to have one from Reunion Island –

but it did —


Looks like an idyllic sort of place – if jungle isn’t your thing just find a beach and chill —


Feeling energetic – hire a boat and go fishing —


and let someone else climb mountains and sweat their way through the jungle —


With a smidgeon under one million inhabitants you won’t bump into folks round every corner – so if you get into trouble out back don’t expect an answer when you shout for help —


Looks like a tranquil – peaceful place and for my visitor from Reunion Island here’s a shot I took earlier today of my own peaceful – tranquil part of the world. The invading Norsemen called this area the ‘land of milk and honey’ when they took a rest from raping and pillaging and settled here over one thousand years ago —

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Something tells me that the remote – one-time French colony of Reunion Island with it’s idyllic year-round temperature ranging from 20 to 30 degrees may have won this round 🙂

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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in out and about


FJ1100 and it’s Ubiquitous 36Y’s

Corruption is everywhere these days and no more so than in the motorcycling field where the ubiquitous 36Y inlet rubbers fitted as standard on the FJ1100 are the ‘must have’ tuning accessories for the XJR1300.

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The late arriving XJR uses the same motor but Mr Yamaha strangled the beast at birth when he specified a cumbersome exhaust system and matched it with 33mm inlet rubbers.

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Fitting a free-breathing Akro like the one on my old bike above – plus a set of these 36mm inlet rubbers stolen from an FJ releases a few more ponies as well as lowering the all up weight by a worthwhile margin.

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But my FJ rubbers are going nowhere ‘cept back onto the inlet’s whence they came —

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There’s still work to do on the cam cover seen here in a ‘before’ shot —

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but what goes round under it looks to be in good order with minimal apparent wear on the cam lobes and what appears to be a sound cam chain set-up —

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The carbs are coming along nicely – it’s just a case of deciding how far to go with them in house. Providing they are reasonably clean inside I won’t send them off for ultra-sonic cleaning as it’s my intention to keep the costs sensible —

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A tidy bike – running like she should is my aim.


But I will have to wear my mask —

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and go rob a bank if I want to make her like new 🙂


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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Yamaha FJ1100



Ducati Scrambler Reviewed

I’ve hitched a ride with Bike World all the way to California – USA – to check out the new for 2015 Ducati Scrambler —

Lightweight – looks cool – aimed at the youth market – but – just like sex – it’s wasted on the young.


Ducati badge on the tank – air cooled motor – comfy seat over the 120 mile tank range – competitive price and will hold it’s value – especially the spoked wheel models.

Could this be the smart little fox that will chase my Tall Ten out of the chicken shed?


Thanks are due to Bike World and Cycle World for the use of the vid and pic – the words and thoughts are all mine – Don 🙂

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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized



FJ Auto-jumble

Hoping to bolt a few bits of the FJ together soon.

I lifted the motor down off the table and set it on wooden blocks roughly at it’s finished height —

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It will be a matter of checking through my auto-jumble of bits for things like –

the airbox and carb rubbers which are still at the cleaning stage —

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the carb heat shield which is hanging up to dry after de-greasing. A tidy up with my rubber mallet should see her shipshape again —

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I found the lower frame rails looking sad but when I’m happy with their condition I will give ’em a coat of paint ready to bolt into place —

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after I wrap the main frame around the motor.

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The carbs didn’t appear to be all that great with what looked like thirty years muck on them but I’ve made a start on the cleaning process and I think they will come up ok —

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Just to have something shiny to play with amongst all the muck I bought myself a treat off ebay.

A nice set of soft jaws for my vice. Invaluable when it comes to holding parts that are easily marked – firmly —

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No doubt I will find other bits on the shelf that should be fitted before marrying the frame to the motor – but –

Rome wasn’t built in a day 🙂

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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Yamaha FJ1100



Dust Storm over the FJ.

Caught unexpectedly in a bit of a dust storm towards the end of last week which left me with eye problems I took a break from the workshop to spend some time out and about.

Now things are on the mend I expect to be getting back to work on the old FJ soon.

at home in the boot

Just as well cos all this walking and photography malarkey is hard going 🙂

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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in out and about


The Fossil Hunters

Went on a fossil hunt with Helen today. We were heading for the Mull of Galloway but stopped at a few places on the way to practise.

Didn’t take long to find something —

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but it wasn’t a fossil —

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and neither was this – some people- with their head in the clouds – are easily side-tracked —

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Further down the coast the Birdcage Development by Drumore Harbour might be a fossil all too soon as work has been held up on it for many years – apparently due a planning dispute —

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and it will be a long time before the company yacht – currently laying on it’s ribs out back is ready take fare paying passengers —

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Shame cos the customers would have a wonderful view from the air conditioned top deck —

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Now this ol’ water butt is part-way to being a fossil already. I would love to take her home with us —

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Likewise the vintage ERF with a fossilised Fergie tractor on it’s back —

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I could scratch around old trucks and boats all day – but duty calls —

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Looks as if Helen has found something interesting —

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Could be auditioning for a ‘rear of the year’ competition but has in fact found some colourful lichen on a step stone or shelf built into the wall —


The old boy did eventually find his fossil in this recently split rock —

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and not to be outdone – —

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Helen found her own fearless fossil in danger of being blown off the clifftop —

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A lovely way to spend the day —

sea grasses

fossil hunting on the Mull of Galloway —

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What more can a guy say 🙂

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Posted by on February 15, 2015 in out and about


My Baby Whispers in My Ear

My baby whispers in my ear – mmm – sweet nuthins —

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Says the things I want to hear – mmm – sweet nuthins —

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‘let’s get out there on the track’ – mmm – sweet nuthins —

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‘just don’t drop me on my back’ – mmm – sweet nuthins —

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A guy can’t help it.

Not after working on her all afternoon. It’s well over a year since she carried me while loaded as a packhorse in the Robbie Burns Centenary Run. We completed best part of a thousand miles on a weekend blast around the old Scottish racetracks – all sixteen of them —


At least two of the old circuits are still open for business and both the gixxer and I are still game.

So a Trackday wouldn’t hurt —



Would it 🙂




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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized