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Category Archives: Motorcycling

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

 

Good Bye Old Friend – Tenere Bites the Dust

I didn’t think this day would come – but – through gritted teeth –

I’ve sold the Tall Tenere —

She is still the same bike she always was – tough – dependable – would fight her way through the Frankfurt 80-100mph ‘rush hour’ with the bit between her teeth in torrential rain at the end of a 100mph/400 mile day and gallop solo or bimble two up through the endless forest roads of Dumfries & Galloway without missing a beat —

She is probably the most photographed bike I’ve ever had but no one in their right mind could declare that she doesn’t deserve to be —

Long days across Europe stretching down into the Balkans in her unforgiving saddle have caused me more pain and cost the NHS more money than I ever thought possible —

Five operations on my nether regions didn’t come cheap —

and probably account for my membership of the Ministry of Funny Walks —

Riding the bitch isn’t the problem —

but getting on —

and off —

her tall saddle —

is proving to be —

too much for my geriatric pins —

making climbing into —

and out of her tall perch —

a bit of an —

inelegant lottery —

Since buying her new in Feb 2009 —

I have had so many fun days aboard her —

and judging by the pics in my gallery —

many sunny days too —

I hope her next owner —

treats her with the same care and respect —

she has had from yours truly —

and reaps similar rewards in spades from this great bike πŸ™‚

 

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2017 in Isle of Luing, Motorcycling, yamaha tenere 660z

 

Honda CRF Rally does the Five Lochs

With first service due at 700 miles the little trailie was on an early ferry yesterday morning bound for our local Honda dealer where she got a clean bill of health in the time it took me to catch up with the News and have a cappuccina with the missus in the sun at a waterfront table out front of Kronks.

Then – after a good coffee – a good chat – with good weather and a good bike under me I headed for the hills —

First a visit to Taynuilt to check something out then I crossed the A85 to follow the beautiful valley cut by the River Nant as it runs north to disperse on it’s flood plain by the banks of Loch Etive. I could have followed that river into the hills forever as it rushed over waterfalls and rocks down to the sea. It was so beautiful but all too soon the ‘B’ road swung up and over a hilltop giving me a view of Ben Cruachan for my first shot. The small lochan almost lost in scrub – heather and reeds in the mid-distance is Loch Tromlee. It didn’t look like much from the roadside but there is an island on the loch with the remains of a castle so it must have mean’t something to someone in a former lifetime.

Next port of call at the end of a mainly well-surfaced if twisty and undulating single track was Ardanaiseig Hotel —

This quiet place at the end of the road miles from anywhere and looking like it should have been in a scene from Lord of the Rings is certainly worth a visit if only to check out the 240 acres of interesting and well kept grounds planted by a former owner on the banks of Loch Awe —

I might go back one day and check it all out properly – meanwhile – twisty roads and wider vistas beckon —

This view from the approach road to the remote Ardanaiseig hotel on Loch Awe side is the only sight I’ve had of the dam in the crater of Ben Cruachan mountaintop. I do wish my poor photo showed it as I saw it with the naked eye – maybe I should get that better camera I’ve been yearning for since I started this blog all those years ago – but – it’s a poor workman who blames his tools.

Enough of the doom and gloom on the banks of Loch Awe – this one from a hilltop brings more light to the subject —

Not the one I thought it was – let’s go for another —

That’s better – the bright skies have moved east but at least the wee Honda brightens up this click down Loch Awe.

Thanks to Lachlan and his post-service power-wash she is really sparkling in this next photo taken on the hill road to Kilmelford with a not-so-gloomy Loch Avich nestling in it’s deep bowl amongst the Argyl hills behind —

One shot and one loch left – a sea loch this time – Loch Melford —

With my home on the Isle of Luing on the horizon it’s not too far as the wild goose flies but without the aid of wings the wee Honda and I have several miles of road and a ferry crossing twixt here and there and something tells me I’m cooking dinner tonight.

With first service completed and 800 miles on the clock a quick burst on my ‘private test track’ showed 80mph on the speedo and had her tracking the straights and twisties true as a die on her Bridgestone knobblies – not bad for a five grand 250cc single that runs sweet as a sweet thing come rough or smooth – long may she reign πŸ™‚

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Honda CRF250 Rally, Motorcycling

 

Yellow for CRF 250 Rally

Was heading out of Oban yesterday when I spotted that despite the odd blue bit in the skies above – the electronic traffic warning sign on the roadside approaching Dunbeg giving it Large with ‘YELLOW WARNING – HEAVY RAIN DUE TODAY!’Β It made a change from the usual rubbish Β – ‘Fasten Seat Belt’ – Deer Crossing Road’ – ‘Check Your Tyre Pressures’ – ‘Did You MacClean Your Teeth Today’ – ‘Don’t Pick Your Nose and Flick’ and many more useless sound bites —

So-o – it was up through the lights onto Connel Bridge – I can remember when we shared it with trains in the pre-Beeching era. Probably makes me too old to work a computer and there could be something in that as I have to click the Scroll key every time I want a capital B or N – no doubt today’s infant would know what I’m doing wrong on my old HP laptop —

No worries – being an ancient has its blessings at times – especially lunch times and I’m on my way to a Benderloch cafe cum restaurant where they do pensioner sized portions for not-a-lot of dosh —

I can only think they have n’t paid their dues to the Man above Β —

for all the rain tagged in the YELLOW WARNING appears to have fallen on the lonely CRF in their carpark while I enjoyed my mini chicken chips and salad in the dry πŸ™‚

 
 

Honda CRF250 Rally to Aird Luing

Aird Luing – the high point on the southern end of the Isle of Luing – at a mere 65 metres it’s not particularly high but with sea in most directions the views are spectacular and the trail up and over is a class act.

Quite different from my Saturday ride on her down to the Green Welly at Tyndrum when I caned the lil beauty over the hundred miles or so there and back on the ‘big’ roads.

Having ‘obtained’ permission for this ride I didn’t want to blot my copybook by stampeding the famous Luing cattle that appeared to have laid claim to some of the track although many of the ‘flighty’ sheep scarpered no matter how quietly the jewel-like CRF 250 whispered past.

I guess it’s brightly coloured flanks were like something from outer space to a wooly-back on the bottom end of Luing.

And all too soon we were there —

having looked over to the dangerous Passage of the Grey Dogs twixt Scarba and Lunga and the wild Atlantic Ocean beyond on the way.

No danger on Luing – except from the Red mother cows –

but the wee Honda has a fine turn of speed when needed –

and took me down to Aird Luing and back without fuss or drama πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 
 

Honda 250 Rally on Wishing Tree Lane

A quiet Monday after what has gone before – time to take the covers off the CRF and go for a spin.

There’s a hill way over there I would love to cross —

But first there’s a spot of TLC to attend to – the final drive chain for instance – she looks to be on the dry side. I’m using Putoline Chain Lube on this bike – a first for me. I’m quite impressed with the flow from the aerosol and the job it does.

But – the CRF hasn’t got a centre stand and up till now it’s been a bit of a wrestling match to get the rear wheel off the deck – spin it and spray chain oil with my third hand – which I haven’t got. It’s probably why I needed a wife but they are seldom around when you need them —

No worries – a couple of wood blocks and my scissor jack did the lifting job just fine and set the 250 Honda up in the air quite safely.

Even the hill crossing turned out to be a piece of cake on the 250 Rally —

Some of the steeper parts on the far side had been torn up by tractors or four wheel drive vehicles but they were of little consequence to the CRF which just sailed up them —

I didn’t even bother switching off the ABS on the rear wheel for the long – loose surfaced downhill section with it’s occasional steep bits leading into tighter turns and cruised on down —

The wee bike is proving to be as sure-footed as a mountain goat —

The downside being that tea break arrived far too early —

and the reminder clipped to my binos was hardly necessary as I never raised a sweat on the whole ride – sorry about the picture quality —

just could n’t get ’em right today —

which is a shame —

 

as the views were out of this world πŸ™‚

 

Pan Euro to get a Chance to Shine on the NC500

With that good allrounder – the Tenere XT660Z once again Sorned as a result of the CRF 250 RAL taking over local and off-road duties – the ST1100 Pan European will get another chance to shine on the serious stuff.

Who knows – it might cover itself in glory on the NC500 this summer if we can string a few dry days together.

Yes my long distance rides in any weather are probably a thing of the past.

But I haveΒ suggested to H that we look at heading up there this summer – should we get one – and the rider stays fit.

Shouldn’t be a problem really as I did it clockwise as far as Bettyhill back in 1995 on my BMW 1100GS.

Now there was a bike for any occasion – she could tour two-up complete with the kitchen sink on the back – plus –Β give a good account of herself while scaring punters on their new Fireblades as she scraped her pots round the Isle of Man TTΒ course on Mad Sunday.

I seem to remember clocking up 42000 miles in her first year including an all-time high when I galloped her down a dried up river bed in Andalucia – stood on the pegs – whooping like a wild thing with 100mph showing on the speedo. Judging by that sheepskin on the seat I was bothered with a sore butt way back then too. For once I couldn’t argue with the dealers when I tried to trade the GS in the following summer. Their standard pitch – ‘but your BMW is above average mileage sir’ had a ring of truth in it πŸ™‚

 

No worries — if there’s one thing the Pan has it’s a comfy seat —

After all – it isΒ why I bought her in the first place πŸ™‚