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Category Archives: Motorcycling

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.

 

My Last Bike?

My last bike – how many times have I said that?

I said it to my son at the TT on the Isle of Man in 1993 or was it ’94 after he had cut enough plaster off his damaged wrist to wheelie my precious new model BMW1100GS off a Ramsey campsite and give me a nervous couple of hours waiting for his return from what I thought would be a five minute ride into town.

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Not my James – the wee bugger cleared off and did a fast lap of the whole TT circuit. When I remonstrated ‘mildly’with him on his return – saying amongst other things that this was probably my last bike his casual reply was – ‘ well I didn’t expect you would give me another shot of it’.

Too Right!

So – that ‘Last Bike’ toured Spain and Portugal several times before being pensioned off when I decided to startup a Rider Training enterprise down in Shropshire. Then there were five Yamaha 125s after that – a 600 Bandit – a GPZ 600 – a GP 750 – a BMW 1100R – and a Mick Andrews replica 250 Yamaha based Majesty Trials —

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There were at least three rider friendly – off/on road Yamaha XT 600s. Two mean off-road Honda 600 Rs and a very pretty Yamaha 375 Virago —

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A too-small (at the time) Yamaha Serow —

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and a 1200 Bandit – seen here in Brittany disguised as a sheep. The bare seat was a pain in the jaccsy over a distance!

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Five XJR1300s – this one with the ijit embarrassing his friends in Spain was favourite and featured in many a mad foray during it’s years with the Owner’s Club and reached Dubrovnik amongst other faraway places —

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A very nice old BMW R100GS I imported from the States after an aborted ride from Bar Harbor Maine to Alaska via Oregon due to hospital trauma. A bit agricultural compared to Jap bikes – I didn’t keep her long after she arrived back in the UK at Thames Port. She does look nice amongst my roses.

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Ahh – America – how could I forget the whole Ducati Racing Equipe I bought from the late David Jeffrey family. The 956 Corsa was raced for me at the Daytona 200 in 1995 by an up and coming Neil Hodgson who would go on to become World Superbike Champion on a works Ducati a few years later.

Well – what did you spend your divorce settlement on? At least I got more than a few free airmiles out of it and I did get every penny of my outlay back when I sold the job-lot to the Irish division of Scania Trucks within weeks of coming back into the country.

I don’t have a photo of the Ducati but I do happen to have a painting of the 500cc Roc Yamaha raced by Neil in GP’s worldwide that same year. We did the Australian – Malaysian – Japanese and Spanish 500 Grand Prix’s together with some success. The spots in the colour scheme were considered bad luck and the acne was ditched for the remaining European rounds —

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On and on the list goes — and that’s only since 1994. In my lifetime I reckon I’ve owned and ridden over a hundred bikes which brings me nicely to my current stable consisting of —

The smallest – my Honda 125 MSX which will go for her first MOT on Monday —

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The biggest – the mighty V4 engined Honda Pan European ST1100 – still a lovely ride if a bit of a heavy handful to balance  on our small ferry crossing over Cuan Sound on a rough day. Tiedown straps are only for oil tankers and cissies around here —

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The tallest – my trusty Yamaha Tenere 660Z – should come complete with stepladder —

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The easiest to ride – my sweet Honda CRF250 Rally – especially now that I have lowered the gearing making it easier to keep the smooth little motor in it’s sweet spot —

The dirtiest – looked fresh enough the day I bought her but underneath those plastics lurked thirty years of grime —

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My current ride for all reasons – our hardy – non complaining 650cc Suzuki V-strom —

The toughest? My 1994 all-alloy Raleigh Maxim Hybrid.

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Together we did the Dairi-Pak Challenge event over some of the toughest mountain roads in Wales and came through it alive if a bit sore behind and red in the face. I still have that bike but there are times I wish she had an electric motor in her.

So what about this ‘last bike’ thing? Well have you seen the latest 125cc Scrambler version of the Honda Monkey Bike – dial it up and have a look –  –  –  –  – 

Now that could be my last bike – pity I’m ot ready for her yet πŸ™‚

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Posted by on January 4, 2019 in Motorcycling

 

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Bare Faced Rider meets Roland Sands

It seems I’ve turned the clock back much longer than I care to remember – all because I couldn’t resist an original Bell open face helmet for sale at a knockdown price from the Glasgow Harley Davidson shop recently. The clincher was the Roland Sands quality finish inside and out which I got for free —

I bought my first open face Bell back in 1960 from a pal in Dunblane who didn’t need it any more as he was finished with bikes having crashed head-on into a coal lorry wrecking both his Norton Dominator which my brother was in the proccess of buying and the coal truck. I kept up the crashing habit of that particular helmet a short month after I got it when I wrote off the ill-used Bell and broke my neck while suffering a head-on in my own little mishap while riding my ‘race prepared’ BSA 650 A10.

I might have more to add to this Post if I find any pics from back then – oh – and the facial fungus is my new look – riding in any weather can be a painful experience with a bare baby face when the rain – sleet and snow start pinging off my chin πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2018 in Motorcycling

 

Yamaha FJ1100 in my Shed

A few years back I had a big workshop with not-a-lot happening in it. Modern bikes are pretty reliable and unless you are using them for something they weren’t mean’t to do they don’t take much spannering. Yes winter boredom had set in and I fancied a project.

A ‘friend’ spoke of an 1984 Yamaha FJ1100 ‘going cheap’ that would make a good project – especially with my long interest in the Yam XJR1300 which uses the same motor. I found my FJ in the middle of a D&G forest and of course paid too much for the bike which had been shut in the guy’s logshed for a number of years. She started up with the aid of a set of jump leads as the battery was duff and on the whole she didn’t look too bad.

Previous owner and his dog are not impressed by my first offer —

but she ended up in my workshop and it bit-by-bit she came to pieces —

despite a few pauses to read the newspaper which always looks more interesting second time round —

Wiring? it’s all there —

Sixteen inch rims on the FJ —

with big fat tyres to compensate —

She originally came out as top of the range sportsbike —

then Kawasaki spoiled her fun with a neatly packaged (for the day) Z thou —

A good condition Z thou will cost a small fortune nowadays —

and while prices may be creeping up for an old FJ1100 —

spares parts are still cheap —

Β 

and available —

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if you know where to look —

Β 

but they still have a long way to go —

to catch up with the Z1000 —

The FJ with it’s strong wrap-around front end —

handled well for it’s time —

A dirty beggar right enough when the plastics came off but cleaned up well —

she will make a nice bike when completed —

Just can’t make up my mind whether to go for the ‘Luing Scrambler’ look – build her back as standard – or – flog her as ‘an unfinished project’.

Labouring in a cold workshop doesn’t have the same appeal as it once did πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Isle of Luing, Motorcycling, Yamaha FJ1100

 

V-Strom goes where Tumbling Waters Fall

Tumbling Waters? They are not hard to find in the West of Scotland but a quick shufty at the weather forecast on my mobile this morning came up with the info that for once our own Isle of Luing was to be the driest today and by sticking to the west coast between Tarbert Loch Fyne in the south and Ballachulish to the north we would have a four hour window without a great deal of precipitation.

I need a filler between the paragraphs – how about the happy eyes in the helmet while I wait for the real piccies to download —

For once the forecast was right although overnight heavy rain had caused considerable flooding on the roads which the well treaded Bridgestones on the V-Strom handled with aplomb. So well did she go that we were in Glen Coe village ‘Crafts n Things’ fighting for a vacant table while the ‘People who Lunch’ were still hogging all the furniture.

No worries – wee Helen sorted the seating arrangements out while I nailed the cappuccino’s and Fairy Cakes at the counter. Good coffee n cakes didn’t last long and the skies still looked okay up by Loch Leven by the time we were togged up again so we ventured that-a-way. We had seen waters tumbling off the wooded hillsides on the way from Oban and missed a few opportunities to dig the cameras out so we weren’t going to miss this one —

All that water after a coffee and something has to give – but – ‘here I am back in the picture with you’ —

H is made of stronger stuff and carried on clicking – at hills —

n more water —

Time to head for home – the wee Strom was singing well after her first service but we did manage a stop or two when the sunshine on the mountains across Loch Linnhe pulled us in —

C’mon ‘H’ – be sensible —

I know you want to take home a memento to mark this crackin’ day out on the Strom —

But – you will never fit that road sign under the seat —

πŸ™‚

 
 

Pan Euro ST1100 gets new boots

The old girl sported a set of worn out Bridgestone tyres when she came into my hands a few years back.

With about 21000 miles of light use on the clock at around twenty years old they may well have been her original tyres – they certainly looked and felt as if they might be.

I’ve managed to put another 12000 miles on her since then without really going anywhere in particular – like a tour down to the Balkans or Spain and Portugal like I’ve done in former times.

She is a heavy ol’ girl tipping the scales at around 340kgs and certainly feels it on worn tyres. Having a surplus of bikes at the moment she is in the forefront when I make my half-hearted attempts to sell one to help balance the books. So far I have been offered buttons for the ST1100. During my period of ownership she has had a new purpose-built Nitron rear shock shoved up her chuff – a new battery and two sets of Bridgestone tyres. In fact – make that three sets for last week she got a another set of Bridgestone BT03’s.

I bought the Pan in the first place for her comfy seat as after a series of op’s on the bit I sit on I needed some comfort in that department and despite it’s after-market gel pad and neat leather seat cover I still didn’t find the perch on my other bike – the Tenere easy to live with over a distance.

Saturday saw me heading for the supplying dealer on the 650 V-strom for her first service. She has proved to be a lovely bike in all departments but one – with a peach of a v-twin motor giving honest performance even at running-in revs.

If she has a fault it’s in the seat – it’s too low for 32-33ins inside legs and lacks support. The penchant these days is for low seat heights as the under-nourished – vertically challenged brigade have convinced the manufacturers they are losing sales by not catering for the short-arses amongst us.

My early morning rise on Saturday saw me catch the first ferry from the island at 7.30 and with a brief stop in Oban to garner funds at the hole-in-the-wall – a further stop in Callender for fuel plus a hot choc and to bring the circulation back into my lower limbs – I wasΒ  in Edinburgh booking the V-strom in for her first service by 10.30.

My legs may have recovered in the hour I spent at Saltire booking her in and enjoying a crackin bacon roll with added black pudding washed down with plenty of coffee but 615 miles in a week on the V-strom saddle had taken their toll. To think I have been known to do that mileage day after day on my trans-European rides not-so-long ago puts things into perspective.

No worries – I left the Strom for her service and the fitting of some free extras that had formed part of the original deal then rode home on the big Honda – resplendant on her new ‘boots’.Β The Pan European ST1100 may be built like a bus but she does have the saving grace of that comfy seat πŸ™‚

 

 

Dancing with the V-strom by Loch Leven

Let’s make it clear from the start – this is Loch Leven on the way to Fort William we are dancing round – not the Loch Leven in the county of Fife. As the saying goes ‘it tak’s a lang spean to sup soup wi’ a Fifer’ – substitute the Devil for a Fifer and you will know where I’m coming from.

Anyway – onwards and upwards before I get lynched – Helen with the wee-strom by Loch Leven on Friday —

and – yes – that is almost dry tarmac – a rarity this year.

Loch Leven – a sea loch reaching seven or eight miles inland to Kinlochleven – now famous for it’s National Indoor Ice Climbing Centre but also famous in motorcycling circles as a gateway to the Pipeline trials section and the infamous Blackwater Moor crossing plus many more apparently forbidden things. Signs on locked high wire gates threatening all sorts of violence to ‘criminals’ who have the nerve to take their vehicles onto the moors stopped us in our tracks at the back of the village.

 

No worries – the sixteen or so miles of well tarred and little used highway following a tortuous circuit around the loch are a joy to ride as it follows the shoreline with many undulations and blind crests. Close the roads to the public and we have the perfect motorcycle race circuit – if a little dangerous.

The reason the roads are so quiet is because the authorities built a road bridge over the narrows at the seaward end of the loch – but wait a mo’ cos we’re not there yet –

we have to show you a mountain or two —

peep through the roadside trees at a boat —

or three —

We have the artist in charge of the camera – so – make that four —

before walking down to the old quay in high spirits and doing the ice queen’s ‘Fly Past’ – or is it ‘The Running Woman?’

followed by the ultra difficult – ‘Woman stands on one Leg!’ —

and the grand finale – something you cannot imagine happening —

‘Woman kicks the conversion that sees Scotland win the next Rugby World Cup!’

Yeahh!!! — That’s my girl!!! πŸ™‚

 
 

Rannoch Moor with the Wee-strom

Eight days down the line and our 650 V-strom is nearing her first service call by Suzuki at 600 miles. It’s strange that motorcycles still follow this archaic procedure when car manufacturers have dispensed with the ‘first service’ altogether and settle for regular well spaced service intervals instead.

Not to worry – the wee bike has behaved with impeccable manners since we picked her up in Edinburgh and I doubt if she will get any more than an oil and filter change when she makes the long run back there to keep her service history on course and warranty in order.

It wasn’t all rain in the past week and I did manage a mainly dry run up the coast road from Oban to Ballachulish and through the Pass of Glen Coe leading to Rannoch Moor followed by a coffee at the biker’s haunt of the Green Welly before the last fifty miles or so to Oban and home to the Isle of Luing.

I had a quick look towards Kinlochleven as I approached the village of Glen Coe and thought it might be an interesting ride to do with ‘H’ come the weekend.

But not today and pushed on towards the Pass – scene of the MacDonald’s massacre by Clan Campbell in the distant past and where I was to walk and climb many of the adjacent hills and glens once the snow lay deep and sometimes crisp and even twixt Christmas and New Year before my knees gave up on me.

Roadworks slowed progress today – but only briefly —

and with summer visitors mainly gone till next year I found room in a handy lay-by and clicked the rushing waters at the top of the Pass —

Out on the Moor itself where I have ridden trials bikes in my day – the waters weren’t exactly rushing but forming lochans with no end as even a careless step or two off the main road to take photos had me stumbling knee-deep into the unforgiving morass.

The last word from Kieran at the Saltire Suzuki shop was ‘not to exceed 6000rpm unless I needed a bit extra to complete an overtake safely. But – with 6000 in 5th hitting the national ‘A’ road speed limit at 60mph and 6th reaching all of 80mph at 6000rpmΒ  – running in isn’t proving to be much of a chore on the V-strom.

Once the first service is done and she is declared ‘good to go’ – with the redline at 10000rpm she will be a whole new ballgame.

So – why with fifty five years and more between them – does she remind me of the race-tuned BSA 650cc Gold Flash I ran as a daft teenager such a long time ago πŸ™‚

 

 
 

Suzuki 650XT V-strom rolls in

First ferry Friday morning and the Pan and I were Edinburgh bound. Having listened to enough of my moans and groans after riding the 850 lbs Pan European rising to over half a tonne two-up over our greasy west coast roads – Helen took the bull by the horns and bought us something more suited to our current situation.

Here she is on the Ben Cruachan pave – resplendant after her first 100 miles – our new Suzuki 650XT V-strom —

The trip south had been uneventful apart from a run-in with a Range Rover being driven at cycling pace who took exception to being overtaken by a motorcycle and did his best to deliberately put me over a roadside hedge. Thankfully the big V4 in the Pan had enough grunt to get me out of that situation unscathed – it will be interesting to find out if opening the throttle on the 650 ‘strom v-twin will be an option in similar circumstances —

Only one way to find out and that’s to ride. I left the Pan at the Suzuki dealer in Edinburgh to have a new pair of Bridgestone boots fitted and headed northwest to rendezvous with H who had been walking in the hills above Loch Awe —

The expression – ‘awe’-struck couldn’t have been more apt as she had watched two Golden Eagles circling the hillside above on her walk which was to take her behind the mighty Ben Cruachan. Their presence probably compensated for the soaking she got in a brief burst of torrential rain on that remote hillside trail —

A lively night with Crackin Craik in the Ben Cruachan Inn – formerly ‘The Tight Line’ – the scene of a sore head or two for me in days of old. A belt-tightener of a breakfast the following morning had us checking the weather apps on our mobiles for bright skies in any direction to let us enjoy our first ride on the new ‘strom two-up —

South-west was the best bet for blue skies and dry roads so we decided to head that-a-way and make it up as we rode along —

A wise choice – after dropping Helen’s car off nearer home – thirty odd miles of wet tarmac on the challenging Oban – Lochgilphead road passed beneath our wheels in as many minutes – soon we had dry roads and brilliant sunshine as we crossed the old toll bridge over the Crinan Canal on our way to Tayvallich —

It was smiles all-round – especially from our very own chuckle-bunny —

as she presented me with her first flower of the day —

having a spotted an otter or was it a beaver surfacing and two herons on a nearby island during a brief stop in the uppermost reaches of Loch Sween on the way down.

Yes – there are beavers alive and well in the Knapdale forests —

I could lose myself in that lovely smile forever but just around the corner would have us in Tayvallich and their Heritage Lottery funded corrugated iron-roofed cafe and be topping up our caffiene intake in two shakes of a lamb’s tail —

The view from the virtually deserted deck isn’t bad either —

but someone is sorely in need of that coffee —

No worries – the wee ‘strom ended the day with over 200 miles on the clock leaving us both wanting more —

I’m pretty sure that with one or two tweeks we have a bike for all seasons and most roads – even the rough farm track that leads up to our farmhouse home —

It is more suited to the red deer we had watched from our hotel-room window up on Loch Awe-side as night fell the previous evening πŸ™‚

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2017 in Isle of Luing, Motorcycling, Suzuki 650XT V-strom

 

CRF250 Rally finds a Shieling in the Glen

It was another of those rare ‘rogue’ nice days with some welcome sunshine as we head into October – a day to be out on the hills with the little Honda —

I’ve had it in mind to try a certain long trail to the east of here for some time and I wasn’t going to get a better day for it this side of Christmas.

The first few miles were steep and rough in places with an occasional river crossing to ford but once through a hidden pass that didn’t look entirely natural the trail improved and there were signs of a previous habitation in the wide valley I had ridden into.

So-o – with apologies to Stealers Wheel —

‘rusting roof sheets to the left of me’ —

‘crumbling stonework to my right’ —

‘here I am’ —

‘parked in the middle of you’ —

There’s little doubt that this remote glen supported at least two families not so long ago but there’s not a soul to be seen up here now – just a few flighty blackface sheep with a hint of the wild goat in them plus a half dozen or so hardy cattle.

In fact – apart from the low density sheep and cattle grazing the bare hills and an odd buzzard in the sky above the only other sign of life was a big red fox scuttling out of my was as I entered the woodland above the loch.

The well surfaced track I’m following was probably built when the area was tunnelled and dammed in a previous bout of hydro-electric frenzy —

Thankfully there’s little sign of traffic on it today and not a lot of water in the dam either despite this past summer being one of the wettest on record —

It wasn’t as easy finding my way out of the hills as it was getting into them but the wee Rally bike and I emerged from the hills and forests unscathed and enjoyed a good gallop home – on dry roads for a change. I had thought her over-geared in 6th when I first got her but now with 900 miles on the clock her 250 eager cc’s spin up quite readily and with 10mph to every 1000 revs she might even reach the mystical ‘ton’ one day – downhill with a following gale πŸ™‚

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2017 in Honda CRF250 Rally, Isle of Luing, Motorcycling