Monthly Archives: April 2015

Tenere to the Fore

With the Pan awaiting a replacement rear shock the frugal Tenere is once again in pole position when the sun shines as it did this morning.


If the big single has a fault it’s vibration at low revs which brings a good ol’ rattle from the headlight area.


I’ve suspected for some time that the irritating noise has been coming from the screen mounts although the retaining screws thread into rubber inserts.

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A good thing about having more space to work in over in the chicken shed is that I have found some extremely useful tools that first graced my toolkit about fifty years ago.


Finding my set of hole punches and piece of soft foam rubber material – both on the same day – let me knock out some soft inserts which I fitted onto the fixing bolts between the screen and headlamp cowl.

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The proof was in the pudding. Or should I say – in today’s ride which took me and the Ten quietly through the hills and forests with just a muffled thump from the motor —


and no more annoying rattles from the plastics to disturb the beautiful countryside as it begins to come to life after what feels like a long winter.


A result 🙂

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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Uncategorized



Honda ST1100 Pan Euro

otter pool 007My twenty one years old Honda ST1100 Pan Euro. I want to like her – in fact I do like her for there are some things she is absolutely brilliant at. As a main road charger she can be sublime – some of the time – but unfortunately – not all of the time.

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The fact that she carries a lot of her weight in her fat butt doesn’t help.

Instead of being up-front – the heavy 28 litre capacity fuel tank is mainly under the seat. Only the filler cap is hiding under that shiny little lockable flap where most bikes carry their fuel.

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Her huge old fashioned heavyweight battery – it would probably start a tractor – nestles behind a panel under the rider’s left bum cheek.

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Add the well fed rider and carry an occasional pillion – or a weekly shop from Aldi in the panniers and there’s a lot of weight for the tired old single shock fitted under the rider’s right cheek to handle. I like my corners – but not with sparks flying from some heavy metal down below when the saggy-ass Pan is heeled over.

Which is why I’m out on the Tenere today —

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riding my favourite back roads including the dirt track down to Otter’s Pool —

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where I contemplate the cost of having to order a new shock for the Pan.

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The sun may be shining on the righteous – but it’s bl**dy freezing out here 🙂

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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Uncategorized



Scrubbing the Bridgestones

Scrubbing the Bridgestones? Somebody has to do it and it might as well be me. At least this post has nothing to do with getting rid of grafiti – but – I must admit I’ve been tempted to stop and try to clean the many Yes’s and Saltires which now adorn each stone of a fine old bridge parapet in one of my favourite remote places. The recent Referendum has left it’s mark on Scotland in more ways than one.

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No worries. I had better things to think about today as I scrubbed in the new Bridgestone 023’s on the Pan but I was at the A75 roundabout on the outskirts of Newton Stewart before I had decided on a route for the afternoon ride.

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The church on the first photo is on the Girvan road but I didn’t reach the Ayrshire coast today. Instead I hung a ninety right after the  bridge at Bargrennan and took in Glen Trool on my way over the hills towards Crosshill and Maybole on single tracks.

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The heavy morning rain that hit south west Scotland had gone for the day leaving clean dry roads over the hills.

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And I couldn’t resist the odd stop to take in the views.

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It was a beautiful day to be out there – better still – the new Bridgestones had transformed the big Pan European.

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She was amazing. Fast or slow – she did it all with minimal of effort on my part.

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A twitch of the knees had her dodging potholes and I could savour the effortless drive of the big V4 or just trundle along smoothly at low revs as the mood and road dictated.

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Judging by this ancient milestone the road I took over the hills and through the forests was the main link between Newton Stewart and Ayr in days of yore – but I wasn’t heading for Ayr today.

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Instead I took a sharp right onto a potholed farm track that led me over another hill to Straiton.

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Yup – the Buck was the attraction in Straiton. A nice wee tearoom that serves a fine scone with a pot of tea and home made raspberry jam – just what I was needing by mid-afternoon. From Straiton it was a nice blast on yet another unfenced single track that dropped me onto the main Ayr to Castle Douglas trunk route.

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Any bits of tyre that hadn’t been scrubbed on the way to Dalmellington were certainly taken care of on the inviting fast sweepers as the Pan and I swept back south down that wonderful ‘A’ road.

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I’ve seen a new set of tyres transform the handling of many a bike but never as much as these Bridgestone 023’s have done for the Pan Euro. She has improved beyond my wildest dreams and I’m definitely looking forward to our next ride  🙂


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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized



Bridgestone 023’s for Pan Euro

battlax_bt023_closerlook3The Pan had it’s new rubber boots fitted this morning and what a difference they have made already…..

No more hopping sideways on the overbanding which is part and parcel of every stretch of road these days. No sooner is new tarmac laid than another utility company comes along and digs it up again to bury cables or water pipes. Sometimes both – only weeks apart.

The 023’s also provide a better cushion against the inevitable potholes too as the sidewalls appear to have more flex than the hard old rubber of the ancient 020’s that were only fit for the skip. The pliant 023’s provide the extra shock absorber the Pan needs as the front forks are quite firmly sprung.

No more steps in the transition from upright to lean angles either. A ‘must’ for a cornerhound like mesel. Not that lean angles approaching the elbow scraping antics of Mark Marquez came into play today as I adopted the prescribed ‘go gently till scrubbed in’ approach for the first time in my life. Mold oil and cold damp tarmac have put more than one budding racer on his ass on the way home from the tyre bay and there’s acres of expensive plastic to scrape if a Pan goes down.

The Honda ST1100 Pan European came out on Bridgestone 020’s as Original Equipment and by all accounts did okay on them. Just as well because you won’t find much alternative choice for it’s 110/80/18 front and 160/60/17 rear at your local tyre shop.

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No worries – Bridgestone 023 is the new number and if the sixty mile ride back from the the dealer’s this morning is anything to go by – I’m sure that the big Pan and I are going to be very happy with our new boots 🙂

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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Uncategorized



Meanwhile – Back on the Tenere

Pouring rain this morning with some sleet at sea level and snow on high ground.

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Not a day I expected to be out on a bike but things did improve and I found time to admire the new growth by the burn —

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and talk to the trees. Probably telling that Scot’s pine to stay safe behind the fence.

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The day improves —

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just get’s better and better.

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Was enjoying the Ten —

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as I took to the hills —

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or admired the duckpond where new growth had caught my eye.

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The whitewash of the cottages looked good too —

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while the snow on top of Cairnsmuir blended with the cloud cover.

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Then the Black Knight got in on the act by demanding a selfie.

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It’s his camera so we humoured the brute —

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and we soon get back —

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to biznez as usual.

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Just hour or so in and out of the saddle —

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but a good one —

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was all that was needed to forget the rain 🙂

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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in Uncategorized



Pan Euro Whispers into Kielder Forest

Wasn’t my intention to go anywhere today. A few hours in the workshop followed by F1 Qualifying from China – then the Grand National from Aintree and the last few rounds of the Melrose Sevens should have been enough for any normal bloke.

Well I never claimed to be ‘normal’ and with sporadic bursts of sunshine through the threatening clouds I got the notion to do the two hundred miles round trip to Kielder. Some of us do things the easy way and some don’t. I started off with what I thought was enough fuel in the tank for sixty miles or so.

Eighty miles later I was high in the Border Hills with the ‘low fuel’ warning light flashing.

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I was heading for Hermitage Castle although I already knew that there were no petrol pumps in that remote spot.

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I had hoped there was still a petrol station in Newcastleton – the nearest town of any description. No such luck and although there was an extremely helpful young lady who did her best for me – Newcastleton remained a ‘dry’ town.

It was strange to hear the distances to the three nearest petrol stations estimated in ‘minutes travelled in her car’ – rather than miles from each place. We were standing right on the Border with England so maybe that’s the way they do things over there 🙂

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No worries – Kielder wasn’t the closest but it was where I wanted to go so I took a chance on the ‘thirty minute’ trip and whispered over to the Forest Park using high gears on a smidgeon of throttle. There in Kielder Village I found an unmanned pump accepting cards only. It wasn’t the cheapest petrol I ever bought but I was grateful it was there and that the pump was working because I don’t think I could push that big Honda far.

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It was trying to snow and managing hail by the time I reached the biker’s tearoom on the lake shores but sitting on tha Pan Euro, now with full tank in these conditions is as good as it get’s so I wasn’t too bothered and the well worn tyres did everything asked of them..

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The ride back turned even rougher with nasty crosswinds to contend with as well but that bike and I are beginning to gel and I found myself singing into my helmet all the way home.

I hope this estimate doesn’t come back to bite me in the bum but I now reckon that Pan Euro will do around three hundred miles on a tankful of gas 🙂


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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Uncategorized



ST1100 Catches the Sun

What a difference a week makes. Perhaps I tried to go ‘too far – too soon’ on Easter weekend for I definitely struggled with the big Honda ST1100 Pan European.

Now that I’ve adjusted the rear suspension settings to something like they should have been in the first place and burned a few years worth of WD40 and bike polish off the brake pads, discs and tyres during an ‘interesting’ first thousand miles, she is becoming the relaxing ride I had hoped for in the first place.



Her current average of 47mpg is not to be sniffed at for a big V4 motor and it can only improve as I get accustomed to her low down torque and – unusual for a motorcycle –  fuel saving high top gear that I sometimes overlooked in the early stages.

Yup – with the sun breaking through the mist we were out there again this morning just enjoying the ride 🙂

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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Uncategorized



The Pan Comes Alive

The Pan has come alive at last. Just a few clicks here and there on the rear shock has made such a difference. She is no longer behaving like a half-dead slug and is now kicking up her heels like a frisky teenager.

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My first move was to reduce the rear damping which helped but handling still wasn’t that great and when the centrestand grounded on a bend on my way up from Wigtown I thought ‘more needs to be done’.

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A coffee stop by Clatteringshaws reservoir saw me shake the toolkit out on the grass and luckily there was a ‘C’ spanner so I stiffened the spring a notch. Compression is now one click away from maximum preload and the damping ended up half turn from Fully Hard. Probably as good as I’m going to get with that old shock – but at least the bike is now rideable..

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By this time my mate Phil had appeared from somewhere with his new for 2015 – all singing – all dancing – water-cooled BMW 1200GS. Phil was on a late shakedown ride before shipping his bike off to Spain for a thrash round some of the best twisties in Europe with the BMW Owners Club.

Who ate all the scotch pies? I confess – it was me. That will be another click on the rear shock 🙂

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We also have some of the best twisties in Europe here in the south-west so it was a no-brainer to test my new settings with a blatt along the challenging Queen’s Drive to Newton Stewart – stopping on the way to check out the wild goats.

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There were a few new kids on the block and views to take in. We enjoyed it so much that when we reached Newton Stewart we turned around and did it all over again.

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A note on the tyres: They are a matched – wornout pair of the original Bridgestone Battleaxe 020’s. That means they are probably twelve to fifteen years old – at least.

I had them on my first XJR around 2001. Although the rear was as good as any at the time in the early days of dual-compound tyres. The front just wouldn’t work for long on a heavy bike. Especially when they are well worn like the front hoop on my Pan.

No worries – I have a set of modern tyres on order. The 020’s will get their just desserts and go for recycling next week.

There goes the holiday money 🙂




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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Uncategorized



Assault and Battery by Pan

Assault and battery about covers my Easter weekend. My ol’ body is still suffering aches n pains from the hard ride on the ill-handling ST1100 but she did flow better on the ride home after I had tenderised the stiff rear shock damping.

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We should also be able to put our battery problems behind us. I was handed a new replacement today from the dealer – no questions asked. Can’t say fairer than that.

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Couldn’t help but notice the battery that went down was 12v/12 Amp Hour output.

The new battery is 12v/20 Amp Hour output – a usefull upgrade.

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Confession time – it was my own fault that I was unable to remove the side panel over the battery by the roadside. Fusspot here had replaced the two Phillips type retaining screws with socket headed screws when the bike was in the workshop as they are generally more robust and easier to work with. I wrongly assumed there would be allen keys in the bike’s toolkit to fit. Doh!

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But – there was a Phillips screwdriver to fit the ones I had thrown away – double Doh! 🙂


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Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Uncategorized



An Easter Shakedown for the Pan

I obviously hadn’t learned anything from my outing to Ballantrae with the Pan because midday Saturday saw me heading north with full panniers for a three day ride.

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First stop was at a Biker’s Cafe under the Forth Rail Bridge in South Queensferry where this snazzy Indian caught my eye. It’s a bit of a statement – okay for running down the pie-shop – but not my cup of tea.

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I would rather photograph the new Forth Road Bridge that is being built just upstream from the existing road bridge.

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I was offered a start as a steel erector on the original build back in the day but found they were all on strike when I went to take up my duties. As the saying goes ‘stuff that for a game of soldiers’ and I went elsewhere leaving the boys to build it without me.

One hundred miles from my door on this trip took me to my first overnight stop at my daughter’s place. Then it was on again through the ‘Scotch Mist’ next morning but it soon cleared to give me a view of Ben Ledi just north of Callander.

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I’ve climbed that hill a few times – in fair weather and in foul but today I settled for the view. The first gorgeous view of many as the snowcapped mountains were reflected off the still waters of the lochs I skirted on my route by Oban to the remote Island of Luing where my son is building a house.

That’s Luing over there beyond my bike. An Olympic long jumper would almost clear that stretch of water in one bound but I’m no Olympic long jumper and the ferry that’s usually moored by the pier is nowhere to be seen.

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It’s Easter Sunday – apparently no ferries running on Easter Sunday – unless that tiny ‘foot passengers only’ dinghy moored on the far-side comes over at three o’clock.

Nobody knows nuthin – only rumours. Not even if the ferries will be back to running normal times on Easter Monday. I would have been happy to find a bed somewhere and cross on the Monday if possible but beds and reliable info were in short supply.  About par for the west coast where tourists cash is welcome and even more welcome if they don’t have to bother with the tourists that come with it.

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Nothing much has changed on the Western Isles since I had my last episode with the ferries two and half years ago which saw me hospitalised. This is my first ‘big adventure’ since and I won’t let them spoil it even if they do want  to keep their boats to themselves. At least the sun was shining this time so I trotted over another dead end road to the hamlet of Easdale for something to do while the ferryman let his lunch settle.

This Suzuki Marauder was happily rusting by the pier there as it waited for a ferry. Apparently it has been waiting patiently for five years which explains the rust. I didn’t want the same thing happening to me and the plastic Pan so I rode back across Seil to the Luing bound ferry ramp where nothing much had changed. Unless you count the two local dogs noisily seeing off a visitor.

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Luing is approached by ferry from the neighbouring Island of Seil which is in turn attached to the mainland by this hump backed road bridge claimed to cross over the Atlantic.

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The Atlantic appeared to be out when I was there so I took a photo of the Toll Booth instead.

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I’d had enough of the vagaries of the west coast ferries by this time and turned in the general direction of home. I could have photographed more lock gates – yachts and ‘yachties’ sipping their G&T’s than I could shake a stick at as I fulfilled a long held dream to visit the Crinan Canal.

But – I was really struggling with the big Pan by this time and didn’t have the energy to get the camera out. To be honest I was having a nightmare ride. For a rider who lives for corners I was struggling to get this big bike round them. The front pushed – it skidded sideways when lent over and tried to run wide on the smoother bends. The rear wasn’t much better and each end had me worried at different times as I came close to losing her.

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The Pan is a recent aquisition and the tyres could be ten years old or more for all I know. They are worn flat in a broad band round the centre thereby ‘squaring’ them off as if the bike had never seen a serious corner in it’s life. This means that when I did push it past a point it didn’t like – it told me so in no uncertain terms and I came close to dropping the plot on numerous occasions. I can usually ride round the problems caused by worn tyres and still suspected there was something else amiss.

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It was an aching body that rode into Tarbert Loch Fyne that evening after a long day in the saddle on undulating – poorly surfaced roads. I didn’t mess about. I picked the freshest looking hotel on the quayside and didn’t even argue the price. The Pan was parked for the night next to the boats across the road from my window and to be honest – I wasn’t particularly bothered if she was gone in the morning.

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A quick shower followed by a wander round the harbour enjoying the evening sun helped the humour.

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I even had a look for where I hoped to catch the Cowal Ferry to Portnavadie next day.

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We are on high ground now. From somewhere I had found the energy to climb the hill to Robert the Bruce’s castle.

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Just as well – next morning the mist was so thick you couldn’t see the end of the pier and the notice board claimed the ferry wouldn’t be running because of ‘technical issues’.

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I thought it best to find a petrol station to refuel in case I had to do the two hundred mile road trip home. Tarbert petrol station no longer exists and the nearest one is at Clachan ten miles in the wrong direction. I brimmed her at the pumps only to find she wouldn’t start. The battery was completely flat!

I pushed her away from the pumps and parked by a grass verge and fiddled around for a bit with the few tools in the bike toolkit – as you do. There wasn’t an allen key of any size in the kit so the plastic panels couldn’t be taken off to get at the battery. But – there was a screw driver so I tackled the settings on the rear suspension instead.

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My ‘eureka’ moment! I found the damping on the rear shock had been had been set real hard by the numpty previous owner. This mean’t that over the course of a long journey the shock would pump itself lower and lower – shortening the usable length of stroke to almost nuthin. This makes a big difference to the angle of attack when heading into a corner and to the bike’s ability to change direction during the turn.

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I twiddled the damping setting to where I thought it should be and then – with all running lights off and more in hope than expectation I thumbed the starter button. The Lord be Praised! The short rest had obviously helped the battery and she fired up!

I kept her running – fixed the seat and other bits back together – pulled on my helmet and gloves – then pointed her on the road for home. Time to givitsum non-stop for the next two hundred and ten miles – being afraid she wouldn’t re-start if I switched her off and unwilling to risk the unreliable ferries for the same reason.

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I won’t mention the time taken for the journey home – even I find it hard to believe. What I will say is that the big Pan deserves every accolade going when it comes to mile-munching. A full tank will take her about two hundred and fifty miles and now – with working suspension – she can do it at a rate of knots I’m not going to publish on here.

New battery and tyres will be next on the agenda when funds allow and with the Pan seat proving to be a comfy place for up to three hours or more at 45-55 mpg depending on the right wrist – there’s a fair chance that the plastic rocketship will see a lot more of the road this summer 🙂

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Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Uncategorized