Saturday, 10 August 2019

How Green Were My Valleys

Next up, a 600-odd round trip to Wales for a bike rally organised by old friends in the MZ club.

As I would be camping this time I had to work out how to cram everything I needed onto a bike without hard panniers, a top-box, or a tankbag. In the end, I used a canoe dry-sack for anything that wouldn't fit in the canvas panniers I had recently fitted, and just strapped it and my new tent to sissy-bar/backrest. It wasn't pretty, but it worked well enough.

I had also added my sheepskin to the seat to see if it would make things a bit more comfortable, and I had came across an old beanbag seat cover I bought ages ago and never liked the look of, which now sits unremarked under the sheepskin and both together help even out the worst of the uneven road surfaces.

As the forecast promised dry and sunny weather for the weekend I opted for an open face helmet, fitting a bubble visor for the motorway sections ahead.

The trip down was fairly uneventful. I used A-roads until crossing the border at Carlisle where I picked up the M6 for much of the rest of the journey south. Then, for some reason my new Garmin sat-nav decided that the best way to approach the campsite was via a series of single-track roads over a mountain. 

It certainly made for an interesting last few miles and was probably responsible for a few more grey hairs when encountering the local post van around a blind corner.

Once on site, as is the norm, I met up with some old friends, met a few new ones, and finally got to meet a Twitter buddy and her doggo for the first time. Afterwards, I got the tent set up and wandered along to the pub for a bite to eat and a beer or two. And such was Friday.

On Saturday, rather than hang about the campsite all day, a friend and I caught a steam train into the nearly town of LLangollin where, after a bit of a wander around, we had a spot of lunch before catching the train back to the campsite. 

The railway is run by the local steam preservation trust and the campsite is located conveniently behind the main station. Unfortunately, the beer train (see poster) wasn't running until later in the year.

Later there were two raffles to raise money for club funds. First one was for a nice little RT125 donated to the club from the estate of a late club member. The second was for the usual motley collection of tools, t-shirts, and assorted bric-a-brac. I didn't win anything in either one, although how I would have explained away yet another bike I’m none too sure.

Sunday saw me pack up early, but not quite as early as some, who cheerfully woke everyone nearby up at dark o’clock before disappearing in a hail of expletives and two-stroke fumes.

On the way home, I once again deserted the motorway once the Midlands were behind me and rode homeward on mostly deserted A-roads up through the North of England and the borders.

The roads I used were familiar from many trips years ago on much smaller bikes, so it was with an air of quiet familiarity that I pootled along in the sunshine almost all the way home. Spoilt only by a brief, but extremely heavy downpour just short of Melrose which saw me pull under a bridge till it passed.

The new bike ran faultlessly and the new screen took most of the wind off of my chest area making the longer trip more pleasant, although it did create a bit of a mini tornado around the chin area which messed up my beard somewhat.

My new guaranteed 100% waterproof jacket, however, isn’t, with said downpour putting paid to that advertising claim, which is a bit of a nuisance. However, I’ve yet to find a truly waterproof jacket, most are good for short periods and for light showers, so I wasn’t really expecting any different. It just means that I’ll have to pack the usual assortment of waterproofs when travelling now.



Wednesday, 3 July 2019

More Tinkering

As suspected, the cruiser is difficult to ride at motorway speeds as the wide handlebars and lack of any protection from the wind makes for an uncomfortable and tiring day in the saddle.

While I was away in Ireland the Triumph ‘Roadster’ windscreen I had ordered was delivered. This is an officially licensed spare part and would ordinarily have cost an arm and a leg but I was lucky eough to find an unused one for sale on eBay from a dealer in the north of England.

Fitting it should have been straightforward, it was a genuine part after all, however, as seems to be the norm these days it didn’t quite fit as advertised, needing a few ‘adjustments’ to the bracketry before I could get on with it.

The end result looks quite smart and the screen does a decent job of deflecting the wind off of my chest at higher speeds.

Next up is a six-hundred-mile round trip to Wales and back. I guess I’ll be finding out just how much difference a screen will make shortly.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Cafe Racers at The Cove

The good folk on the Scottish Cafe Racer page on Facebook organise casual meet-ups a few times a year. The most recent one was at The Cove, a cafe in Queensferry under the span of the Forth Bridge. As it was only about a half hours ride from where I live in East Lothian, and as it was a pleasantly sunny evening, I thought I'd pop along for a look.

Not everyone turned up on something which could be classed as a "cafe racer", but still  there were still enough interesting machines for folk to have a look at and chat to their owners. A cup of tea and a bacon roll could also be had from the cafe while you were doing so.

Here are a few of the more interesting bikes to turn up.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Away Days

First trip on the new bike. So, packed and off to the ferry to Belfast, a port I haven't used for nearly 20 years.
Ailsa Craig on the horizon
There were a goodly number of bikes on this crossing, including a number of huge Indians and Triumph Rocket IIIs, which simply dwarfed the Speedy. 

Not feeling in any way inadequate at all
The trip over was uneventful other than being loaded dead last onto the ferry at Cairnryan, something I've never had happen in all the years I've been travelling. Normally they like to get the bikes on and secured first, which often means we can get away quickly once we dock at the other end. Not so this time. More of an inconvenience than a complaint, I'd maybe not be so blasé about it if I'd been kept waiting in the rain for over half an hour while everyone else got on ahead of me, though.

They do say that MZ riders need a sense of humour
The rally itself is technically organised as an MZ Riders Club event, but no one is particularly precious about that and you are made more than welcome whatever mode of transport you arrive on and folk bring whatever they happen to be riding at the time. 

I was particularly taken with the ex-police Velocette LE 200 'Noddy Bike'. It had come a long way on what turned out to be its maiden trip after an oily rag restoration. Not too sure if I'd have been too keen on taking a 60 year-old 200cc machine onto the motorway. I was feeling insecure enough about being on the smallest bike I've ridden in years at 865cc.

Royal Enfield Himalayan
Anyway, the weekend proceeded much as these things do. Eating, drinking, catching up with friends old and new, and riding around the Irish countryside, weather permitting. 

Music at the holiday centre and in the pub was provided courtesy of those who had brought their instruments with them. The pub is used to this after all the years we've been coming. It saves them putting on their own entertainment, I suppose.

And all too soon it is time to pack up and head back to the ferry for the return trip.

On the ferry home we bumped into a couple of lads from London with their teenage sons in tow riding huge BMWs and planning on a road trip with a little wild camping thrown in and taking in the west coast of Scotland, out to Orkney and Shetland, before heading home down the east coast. Originally jealous, the horrible weather in the week since has changed to relief that I wasn’t doing it.

So, overall impressions of the new bike on this its first real test? 

Well, it's actually quite comfortable after you get used to it, but I'm definitely going to need some sort of screen if I plan on using the bike for longer journeys. While never overly uncomfortable, the constant wind in your face and chest make riding any distance quite tiring. 

Acceleration and speed were a bit of a disappointment at first. It's a cruiser after all and isn't intended to win many races. I've since discovered that its output is actually capped, so top speed is about 95mph at a push, though speed is not its selling point, making the name a bit of a misnomer. 

It’s also a bit snatchy at low speeds and around town so I’m looking into changing the front sprocket to a larger one to partly compensate for this as I reckon the gap between first and second gear is a bit too large as it stands.

Ground clearance is an issue and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve grounded the footpegs on corners. I’ll doubtless get used to it but bumping it up a kerb is a definite no-no as I’d likely rip the underslung oil filter right off. Bad enough to hear it scrape a little putting it away into the shed.

The leather tank bib thing was useless, so I've removed it and bought a small magnetic tank-bag to hold things I’d like to hand instead, and I've relocated the sat-nav from its original location near the clutch lever to a mount through the top handlebar clamp to position it more in my line of sight.

Overall, though, I enjoyed its first major outing and after making a few further adjustments it should be ready for the bigger trip later on in the month.