SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

Message
Author
User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

#1 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sat May 28, 2005 3:43 pm

Friday May 20

It's a good day today. I'm leaving work early and riding up to Peterborough to the BMF (British Motorcycle Federation) show. I'm going up with other members of Stevenage and District Motorcycle Club and am looking forward to three days of lounging around, eating crappy mobile burgher bar food, and (with luck) witnessing one or two memorable incidents. I will probably also buy a load of bike stuff I don't really need and can't afford. I've resolved not to do that, but probably will, anyway. Restraint was never my strong point.

It's a straight ride up the A1 - not very exciting. But then, life is what you make it, it's a nice day and I'm in a good mood.

The show is the biggest in Europe and it's mostly outdoors. Fortunately, it usually has good weather.

And then...
OK. So it's not going too well! I meet up with the other guys at the Corey's Mill Roundabout to find I've got my wife's debit card in my pocket and the sixty quid I promised to get her for the weekend. So I dump my camping stuff in the van that is going up with the bikes and head off back home. Cheers guys. I'll catch up with you later.

My wife is glad to have her card back :) She also has a suggestion: that since I am now no longer in a rush to catch the van I can help her with the washing up. :? Her logic is impeccable, her eyes deeply appealing, and her implied threat impressive. How do women do that? I am an hour and a half late setting off. This means I am now going to hit the rush hour traffic. :(

Half way through the 70 mile journey to the showground the sky darkens and some pretty nasty looking black clouds creep over the sun. The world looks suddenly very dull and miserable. So, where'd my good mood go? And then (of course!) the clouds open and drop some extremely heavy, wet rain onto the earth and, more particularly, onto me. It's one hell of a downpour. And then it hails. (Hey, I thought this was May!).

And on top of all that, there's this bloody annoying rattle on the bike. It's getting louder and annoying me more. I can't figure it out and the service mechanics apparently can't hear it. My guess is, they've been riding too long without earplugs! Sometimes I think it must the be clutch, sometimes the gearbox, but it's new and it ain't going away. The bike has also suddenly developed low-frequency vibes and the engine seems to struggle more when I whip open the throttle. Maybe it is just the engine loosening up (it now has 11.5K miles on the clock). Trouble is, I don't have enough experience to tell. The SV has a reputation for vibeyness, but I've never felt anything like this till recently. Maybe it's just the engine mounting that needs tightening up. I don't trust my usual garage. I only noticed a couple of weeks after the last servce that they charged me for one plug. The bike is a V-twin. Who changes one plug except someone who thinks getting to the other one is too much trouble? Maybe the bike needs tuning.

I get too wet too quickly, so there is no point getting out the waterproofs. Wet leathers, yearrrgh! Good start to the weekend. And all the while there are blue skies sitting on the horizon - very nice to see but totally useless to me under all this black stuff. Still, the rain clears up before I hit the fast, eight lane stretch of Motorway just south of Peterborough, and I open her up. Adrenalin is the drug of choice now. That feeling (you know the one) starts down low and slides all the way up to my head. Rain forgotten. Yep... This is one of the many reasons I love my bike.

The other club members have already set up the club tent when I arrive. I pitch mine and settle down in the main tent for the main purpose of the weekend, which is to slob out, to have a laugh, and to indulge in whatever excesses appeal most.

We sit around the heater and listen to CDs: Sweet, Queen, Deep Purple and a load of other more recent stuff I've never heard of. These events, it must be said, are also educational.

Saturday May 21
After a fair start, it rains. No, that's wrong. It doesn't rain, it is a deluge. The sky is a giant cistern full of cold, heavy water which it now drops on everything. Within seconds the huge grassy site has become a quagmire. If we thought the weather yesterday was bad, this is ten times worse. I listen to the hail rattling off the bikes outside the tent and think of paintwork. A huge electric storm brews up and lights up the sky. Why do we have outdoor sites in this country? Why do we buy bikes with chains which have god knows how many moving parts none of which like water? These are mysteries which have no rational explanation.

The storm ends as quickly as it begins. Keyoke turns up at the stall to say hello. Apparently most of the East Midlands Totalmotorcycle Mob are down and camping out for the weekend.

I sneak £2.50 under the window of the 'Wall of Death' show. It's here every year, but I've never seen it before. It claims to be the last travelling 'Wall of Death' show in the country. Last year, under different managment, it had changed its name to 'Wall of Fear' claiming it had been forced into the change by some new nanny legislation which presumably wanted to protect the innocent public from appalling ideas such as 'death'. Apparently we are now allowed to be appalled again (rather than just 'frightened').

The show lasts a pretty perfunctory ten minutes, and demonstrates what nutters can do on bikes if they really put their minds to it. It still retains the raw feel of a 1960s sideshow with all the crude razamataz of the period and a beaten-up, rattley old wooden tub of a track which is probably original. I guess I'm quite impressed - by the noise, if nothing else.

Most of the club have a battle on the dodgems. This is a hoot, though the management don't appear best pleased. I think I'll sell my bike and buy a dodgem car.

In the evening we pay our fivers and trek through the gates into the camping area and make our way to the big marquee for the concert. We've missed the first band. But we get Mick Abrahams, a blues/rock guitarist (and sodding good with it) and a band called The Strangers who do a load of covers ending (of course) with 'Bat out of Hell'. And they're not half bad either.

This year the marquee has no central poles. This is probably deliberate management policy to prevent the traditional main entertainment of the evening taking place: semi-naked (or just plain naked) male bikers shinning up the poles to grab the top ring before presenting their backsides. I don't know why this is so unremittingly funny. It just is. It is also bloody dangerous. We do however get a few naked women sitting on their partners' shoulders. Some traditions must be observed

Sunday 22 May
Last day. The whole East Mids bunch turn up at the club tent. We decide to do the first UK Totalmotorcycle Rideout at the end of the year during the 'Tailender' which is another, smaller BMF show on the same site. We also help Keyoke to find a lid that will fit his magnificently proportioned bonce. Not an easy task, despite the number of traders selling off cheap helmets.

I go into a buying frenzy and end up with:
One camping gas burner in a carry case which I'm sure will come inm very useful (?)
One dark blue double bubble screen for my silver SV to replace the one I cracked while fitting it by overtightening the well nuts. (It looks so pretty)
Two helmets (don't laugh - one cost me £25, the other a fiver). I'm hoping one of them will fit my wife's son Danny who at the age of forty has suddenly become a wannabe biker and is angling for a pillion ride.
A Triumph Leather Jacket (Come on! It's a great jacket and only cost me £40) It's in preparation for when I can afford my next bike, which might just be a Sprint.
A Triumph Keyring (Don't ask me why - it was just there)
One tank bag It cost me a tenner, and had nothing worse than a slightly faulty zip. How could I resist?
One bad conscience and a headful of ideas about how I can break the news to my wife.

But I didn't buy that pair of oval Blue Flame bolt on cans I've been longing for. It was a close call - but I didn't. £320 seemed a teeny bit outside my price range. They will have to wait for a weaker moment.

TO BE CONTINUED... 8)
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#2 Unread post by sv-wolf » Mon May 30, 2005 5:17 pm

Monday 30 May

I went on a rideout to the New Forest with the club today. Nine bikes and eleven people went down. The New Forest is about 180 miles from here, so it was a long day. It was longer than planned, because we spent most of it getting lost.

The New Forest is a beautiful place, and it makes a great day out on a bike. The Forest is a world all to itself. It's mostly woodland with some open commons and it's dotted with small, very pretty, very English villages which nestle among the trees. Ponies and cattle wander in and out of the woodland, over the village greens and the commons, and across the roads, ignoring everybody. There are no fences here to restrain them. Light filters down through the leaves: tiny streams trickle through the villages and across the streets: away from the traffic there is little sound apart from birdsong; and nothing that happens here happens very fast.

Getting to the New Forest is a problem though - if you happen live here in Hertfordshire. Whenever you ride South, there is the problem of getting around London. It isn't easy unless you take the M25 motorway. For non-Brits, the M25 is the world's longest, least-loved, most congested and most boring ring road. It completely circles the outer fringes of London and it was already too small to cope with the quantity of traffic it carries by the time it was completed.

Someone once told me that there is a travel company in London which specialises in bringing coach parties of Germans out to the M25 to see it perform. I have no idea if this is true, but it wouldn't surprise me.

On Bank (Public) Holidays, like today, it is a nightmare - stuffed to the gunnels with near stationary traffic, all crawling along nose to tail. If we'd taken the M25 today, we would have had to filter all the way. My clutch hand feels painful just thinking about it.

So we planned an elaborate route along A and B roads out through Berkshire and Buckinghamshire and then on down to Hampshire. The trouble is, only one person knew the route, and as it turned out even he didn't know it that well, as he got us lost several times. Then we lost him - don't ask me how - and we had to find our own way down through Winchester and Romsey before finding him eating scones in a genteel tearoom on the edge of the forest.

On the way back things didn't get any better. We got accidentally separated into various groups. I had to hang back as the rattle on my bike had become so much worse I was afraid to ride over 80mph. Victor stayed with me all the way though in case anything happened. Good man, Victor. I got home very tired. We had set out at 8.00 am and we arrived home just after 8,00 pm. I like to be positive about most things. It was a good day.

Memo to me. I must get the bike sorted out this week. I might have to ride Sonny for a couple of days. Sonny is my Hyosung Comet GT125. A whole different world from the SV1000.
Last edited by sv-wolf on Mon May 30, 2005 5:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

Kawasaki
Veteran
Veteran
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon May 23, 2005 5:54 pm
Sex: Male
Location: British Colombia, Canada
Contact:

#3 Unread post by Kawasaki » Mon May 30, 2005 5:31 pm

Hey man, sounded like you had a great weekend, and today didn't seem all that bad either, congrats on the safe and fun journeys.

P.S. What kind of bike do you have (in your ava) I like it alot 8)

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#4 Unread post by sv-wolf » Tue May 31, 2005 6:57 pm

Tuesday 31st May

Confessions of a 53 year old teenage speed freak.

I work with a great bunch of people. We get along well together, have a laugh, and usually enjoy our daily 7 ½ hours cooped up in the office, but today is different: today, going into work fills me with a oily sense of horror. Partly this is because I’ve just had three great biking days and work is a poor follow-up.

Ever since I got back onto two wheels eighteen months ago, the world has slowly grown bike-shaped. By the age of 53, I thought, the time of consuming obsessions would be past. But apparently it doesn’t work like that, and on my bike I’m a bigger sensation junkie now than ever. Anything that separates me from my SV1000S for more than a couple of hours is an unwelcome intrusion in my life (my proper, bike-shaped life, that is). At work, I find myself suddenly having reasons to go and talk to someone in the office next door where I can gaze out of the window and see my silver SV parked in the courtyard below. Beautiful! Does anyone else have this gazing thing? It’s bloody worrying if you think about it.

But it’s not just that: there is another reason I’m feeling glum. Yesterday, the vibes and rattle on the SV got so much worse that now I’m afraid to ride her. So there she is sitting in my back garden, pretty as a picture, but maimed at heart and no instant remedies.

I'm out of bed, but even before I’m fully dressed I’m on the phone, ringing dealers to see if there is someone out there who can fix her for me. With the TT coming up, it’s a busy time of year for dealers – round about now it seems that every biker in this land is preparing to ride up to the Isle of Man and wants his bike tuned and in tip-top condition for the trip. No-one can look at the SV till next week. Eventually, I book her in with a dealer in Cambridge for Monday. That means seven days (at least) without her. The pain is too awful to contemplate!

As I ruminate on this sad situation and knock back three vitamin B tablets to deal with the depression that is already setting in, I gaze sightlessly out of my kitchen window into the garden and think about getting to work without the SV.

There are two ways I can do this. The first is to go by train. ‘…By train’ - as soon as this thought goes through my head (a depressingly dull thought, blurred at the edges) my little grey cells react and replace it with images of fried eggs and bacon, but not before the muscles in my neck and shoulders tighten noticeably. It's not just the idea of hurrying off to the station on foot (which is, after all, only two-minutes away) that is so depressing; it’s not the idea of standing on the platform shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of grey-suited commuters either (the trains are frequent enough), or of perching on a greasy seat in a crowded and smelly carriage listening to the crass ring-tones of innumerable mobile phones (it’s only one stop down the line, fer chris’sake). It’s none of these things. No, this is an image thing. Giving up the freedom of my bike for the moronic conformity of an early morning train journey does not grab me by the short and curlies.

I drift off into my own world, and think about thrashing the bike down the Wymondley by-pass, screaming past the long rows of cars. The gloomy mood evaporates instantly and I'm overcome by a technicolour happiness.

Image is so powerful. I used to get contemptuous of Sunday bikers on their sportsbikes, togged up in baggy, colour-co-ordinated leathers with speed bumps on their backs. I smirked at their practiced, wide-legged stances in the car-park. It was all image. But image, is subtle and pervasive. Whatever thoughts you have about yourself (and like most people, I have plenty) they’re all image. If you’re human, you’re into image. There’s no escaping it.

So, the real rock bottom reason I don’t want to go to work by train is because I don’t want to see myself in the same frame as all those dull, company drones on the platform. Bikers are cool. They ride sexy, dangerous machines: commuters are empty, unfulfilled souls who get into petty squabbles about seating arrangements and complain about the times of trains (don’t they?). Wow! So now I know. I'm 53. going on 15.

OK, so no train ride. My eyes focus on the object that's standing on my lawn under a waterproof cover. It’s time to take the wraps off Sonny again.

Sonny is a bright sunshine-yellow Hyosung Comet GT125, and it has been sitting there, sadly neglected, for most of the winter, going quietly rusty under its plastic sheet and dirt-cheap finish. Sonny has a massive(-looking) V-twin engine and a huge tank, and manages to shoulder its 150kg dry weight through the traffic with impressive ease. Sonny, in fact, is a triumph of image over reality. At first sight, most people think it packs at least 650ccs. It's fun to watch their eyes widen as I fire it up, and they hear the purr of its neat little sewing-machine heart.

There still aren’t many Hyosung Comets about yet, so Sonny attracts a lot of attention. A year ago I rode Sonny out to a club bike-meet. Another guy from the club had arrived on his brand new Aprilia Tuono, and a third rode in on his gleaming new custom Speed Triple – the one with the matt-black frame. But there was no contest: Sonny cornered everyone’s attention. The other guys who were expecting to be the centre of everyone’s glowing attention looked thoroughly dejected. And who can blame them?

I hadn’t ridden Sonny for several months. Back in March this year, just before we set off for a week’s holiday, my wife suddenly had a fit of anxiety about leaving Sonny’s battery on the trickle charger. I tried to explain to her that the charger was like the cable television converter box (well, sort of – I was struggling for an analogy), it would only draw current as needed. She was not convinced. Now, my wife is not ignorant of technology: she doesn’t believe, like my mother, for instance, that if you leave the plugs out of their sockets overnight the electricity will leak out over the floor, but I could see right there and then that I wasn’t going to win this one. I unplugged the battery and, for some reason, put it back into the bike. And there it has stayed. I killed the last battery by neglect. I’m a lazy bugger really, and hadn't got round to putting it back on the charger. (In my defence, I did move the bike round a bit every week. I have this theory - I have no idea if it is true - that you should move bikes around if you’re not using them so that they don’t sit on the same bearings all winter.)

Sonny is a hoot. His big wallowy front end and remarkably sharp steering make him ideal for bimbling round the B roads at 40mph, or skimming round town. I used to ride it a lot, but with the SV pawing the earth next to it, there ain't much competition. The throaty roar of the SV vs the friendly chatter of the Comet? - you tell me?

Well, anyway, Sonny’s engine meows into life on the eleventh try. I leave it running for about ten minutes and go in to get breakfast. The Hyosung has one irritating characteristic. Unless you warm it up well and good, the engine often goes to sleep about five minutes after setting off. Power drops almost to nothing, usually after a short stop, and that usually means in the middle of a junction, which is embarrassing, if not downright dangerous. In winter time the carbs ice up as well and it can be a pig to get going.

But this morning, Sonny is up for anything, and apart from the gearbox which has gone a bit sticky over the winter, it behaves very well. On the way out of town I get stuck behind two sports cars. Sportscar owners are so careful about their vehicles. These two, one of them a red Toyota, negotiate the speed bumps across the road at about fifteen miles an hour. In her Peugeot, my wife takes the same speed bumps at about thirty, with total disregard for my spinal integrity and the suspension of the car. She has never been very patient with the finer details of life.

On the hill approaching the by-pass, Sonny winds up to a respectable sixty miles per hour. I play the gears and hold her open. On the by-pass itself I overtake the red Toyota at 72. Hey! Go for it Sonny. What a beast! That’s made my day. I can now contemplate work with slightly more ease.

Back in town we settle down to a comfortable 40m and I realise something for the first time. Riding Sonny at this speed, I'm having loads of fun and feel perfectly at ease. At the same speed, the SV would have been gnashing its teeth and spitting, begging me to let her go. There will always be something slightly frustrating about the SV, because I know that whatever it has got it will always make me want more. But I don’t want to think about that right now.
Last edited by sv-wolf on Wed Jun 15, 2005 6:07 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

Kawasaki
Veteran
Veteran
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon May 23, 2005 5:54 pm
Sex: Male
Location: British Colombia, Canada
Contact:

#5 Unread post by Kawasaki » Tue May 31, 2005 7:48 pm

WEll, that was quite long, but. you never told me what kind of bike you ride, like what company.. that red one..

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#6 Unread post by sv-wolf » Wed Jun 01, 2005 3:50 am

Hi Kwakman

Sorry to disappoint you, but the red avatar is just a stock image from Totalmotorcycle. Being technically incompetent myself, I'vde never found out how to crop a photo of my own bike to a size the site will accept.

BUT the Avatar is the Suzuki SV1000S (semi-faired version) It is different from my bike only in that mine is silver (now silver and dark blue with all the mods) and fully faired. Mine is the 2003 model. The 2005 model has a black frame and about 10 more bhp. It has a modified Suzuki TL engine in it. Brilliant!
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#7 Unread post by sv-wolf » Thu Jun 02, 2005 6:40 pm

Thursday 2 June

I spoke to Simon today. Simon is the ex-Ducati engineer. He has agreed to take a look at my bike. Or rather, he want's to listen to it. Apparently, having listened to it he will tell me what the problem is and whether he can fix it - or whether the problem is 'terminal'.

He's heard that Suzuki have identified a problem with the camshaft tensioner on the rear cylinder, and that a lot of bikes develop this problem. That might be possible, the rattle part of it does sound like chain noise.

Drumwrecker says Simon always diagnoses by ear. I'm already impressed. I'm riding it over Saturday morning.

'Terminal' sounds worrying though. I was trying not to think about that possibility. But it's sounding pretty rough.

In the meantime, Sonny (yeah, I know!) my Hyosung 125 is picking up form after its winter retirement. Having a lot of fun on it.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#8 Unread post by sv-wolf » Thu Jun 09, 2005 8:08 am

Friday 4th June

Well, Simon gave the SV the once over. He listened in with a screwdriver, one end pressed against various parts of the machine the other end at his ear just below his hearing aid. He also volunteered to change the brake fluid in the reservoirs. He walked around the bike, listened some more, leant it over on its stand as though it were a cardboard cutout and yanked at the wheels. His pronouncement: as far as he was concerned there was nothing wrong with the bike: wheels fine, suspension fine etc, etc.

So he took it out for a short ride (just up to fifty mph on the narrow country roads round here) and still couldn't find anything wrong. He didn't even hear the rattle which bothered me on the way over to see him. (Mind you, being a Ducati engineer, you wonder if he would hear a rattle if it were screaming in his ear!). By a process of elimination, he concluded that it had to be an engine problem. At least he didn't imply, like the dealer, that I was imagining things.

It's just bloody typical - like going to the doctor's. The moment you get there you start to feel suddenly better and all your symptoms disappear. He couldn't hear or feel a thing.

Simon was a really nice guy. Very funny. I also trust him in a way I don't trust my local Suzuki dealer. He didn't charge me for the check or for the brake fluid. 'Nah, this is just a Saturday afternoon social', he said, when I offered him cash for his time.

Funnily enough, on the way home the rattle WAS a lot quieter. I wonder if the change of fluid in the clutch reservoir made a difference. Damn! now I'm totally confused.

Still, Simon did give the thumbs up, and said I would do no damage riding the bike, and that it wasn't about to blow up. It feels great to be riding her again.

Monday 6th June

I've taken a day off work today to ride the SV over to Cambridge for a service. On the way over I get lost in the Cambridge one-way system. I hate that. I just HATE that!

The service is over 1000 miles overdue. Stupid. Last month, I looked in the service manual without my reading glasses to check when the next service was due and saw the number, 12,000. I thought that was miles. It turned out to be kilometers. Anyway, I'm not taking the bike to my usual dealer this time. even though they are just a couple of miles down the road from where I live. I'm not too happy with them.

I ask the Cambridge dealer's engineer to take the bike out for a ride to see if he can identify what's causing the rattle and the vibes. I''ve got to get this sorted. It is driving me nuts.



Tuesday 7th June

24 hours without the SV and I'm getting real bad withdrawal symptoms again. I feel like I'm turning uncomfortably into someone else. This is not good. The SV has got right inside and being without it hurts.

Having been used to hauling the thousand round corners, I'm zipping the 125 through the traffic like a breeze. I'm having a real load of fun here, but the 125 just isn't the SV.

Wednesday 8th June

I meant to get up at 6.30 this morning to go up to Cambridge to pick up the SV. I need it bad. But I was exhuasted and I overslept. I had to put off going up to Cambridge for a whole morning and afternoon - till I could get away from work at 4.00pm. Thank god for flexi-hours.

At lunchtime I nip over to the station to buy a train ticket to Cambridge. I put my debit card into the station's new card reader. It won't accept my PIN number. I do it again, it still won't accept it. I try a third time. No good - and it cancels my card! Now I can't use it to pay for the service. What the fu*k am I going to do now.

I storm off across the station booking area in a right two-and-six. At this point I realise I have left my shopping at the ticket office window. I walk back - and its gone!!!!! The guy at the counter says.' you mean a plastic Tesco's bag'. I say, 'yes.' He says, 'Oh, a woman came straight over after you left, picked it up and walked down onto the up platform.' I run down the steps after her, only to see her stepping onto a train and the doors closing after her. I am outraged. She has walked off with my lunch!!!!!!!! No money, no lunch - and I'm due back in the office in five minutes.

I get permission from my manager to go out again and get some money across the counter from the building society where I bank. Hnnnngrrrrrrrrrrh.

Four o'clock and off to Cambridge, arriving at five to five. I'm cutting it fine (the dealer closes at 5.30pm) so I get a taxi from the station. The taxi driver sees my helmet and wants to talk about gudgeon pins and sprockets and things.

The Cambridge dealer seems to have done a thorough service. He's changed the brake fluid again, among other things, but what the hell.

The mechanic has taken the bike out three times. He still can't feel the vibes and only heard the rattle briefly, so there is nothing he can do. I have to tell myself that I'm really not imagining this - Victor heard it too. I'm reluctant to pay for the engineer to crack open the engine at this stage, as Simon suggested. I'm looking at my bank balance. Not good!

On the way home I get the bike up to 95 mph. The vibes are just as bad as ever, but the rattle has subsided to a faint whisper - it's still there though, but perhaps I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't know what I was listening for. Maybe it really is something to do with the brake fluid.

I have to filter down the outside of a long, long line of rush hour traffic outside Baldock. There's roadworks here - they're building a new by-pass. It's a narrow road and I have to nip in and out carefully. One guy pulls out in front of me, and makes me swerve hard. Ar*ehole. He could only have done it deliberately.

Still, it's good to be riding the SV again.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#9 Unread post by sv-wolf » Wed Jun 15, 2005 8:30 am

Sunday 12 June

Yay! Sunday! Rideout day. I stagger out of bed at 7.30 after a very late night and head off for Bikestop in Old Stevenage High Street, where we generally meet. There is a BSA show at Bildesborough Aquadrome on the way to Northampton. One of the guys wants to go and see it. The rest of us are too idle to think of anything else, so that is where we are going to go. The roads out to Northampton are brilliant though: fast, twisty A roads, a real joy to ride. There are quite a few military bases out that way. You always get good roads where there are military bases.

Fifteen bikes turn up, two of them belong to new members who I haven't seen before. We ride out through Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and into Northamptonshire. This is wide open countryside. The route takes us out across the low Bedfordshire plain and then into the gently undulating hills of Bucks and Northants. It is very green and leafy. Some of the villages like Turvey and Lavenham are picture-book pretty. Their houses are timbered and thatched or built of a heavy golden-coloured stone. The roads are relatively empty. They follow the gentle contours of the land, in large sweeping arcs, left, right, left. They dip in and out of woodland and snake through fields. This is a gret ride.

The Aquadrome is charging a fiver entrance fee. As few of us are really interested in spending the afternoon ogling BSAs there is a reluctance to pay out the money. The problem is, that the only cafe in the area is inside the gates. So someone finds a back way in.

Inside, it's steaming hot cups of tea and breakfast all round. Bacon, eggs, sausages, baked beans, black pudding (yeeergh!) and hash browns get consumed on the cafe verandah which overlooks the jet skiers strutting their stuff on one of the smaller lakes. The jet skis look a load of fun. They have really sharp handling. Another time, maybe...

I have to leave the others and return home early. Di has no-one to look after her this afternoon, so I need to get back. I enjoy riding with the club, but I enjoy riding by myself even more. I can go my own pace, cracking the bike open when I hit a nice open road, or slowing down to enjoy the countryside. The vibes on the bike are still there, but they don't seem to be so bad today. I could do without them, but the ride is not uncomfortable. At times the SV reverts to its more usual purr. Confusing.

I arrive home exhilirated. It's been a good day.

Tuesday 14th June

Di's foster daughter, Ann, who now lives in Belfast is staying with us for a couple of days with her daughter, Hermione ('Hatty'). I haven't seen Hatty for about five years. Hatty is now twelve and deeply into Star Wars and makeup - she's no longer a little pink princess who likes to wander about the house in fairy costumes magicking everything with her wand. And these days she doesn't listen (interminably) to the Spice Girls (thank god). At the moment she is deeply into a couple of Ulster-based punk bands.

Over lunch she asks shyly if she can have a ride on the bike. Her mum has pre-warned me that this request may be coming. We try her in a couple of bike helmets (amazing the stuff you can accumulate in a relatively short time) and find a Shoei which is a perfect fit. With the help of a couple of pairs of thick socks Di's walking boots go on very nicely. and we make up the rest of her gear from several layers of denim and an old leather jacket I had when I was in my teens. But she has to make do with outsize gloves.

We go through the rules, no jiggling arounjd on the back, no taking her feet off the pegs, no random leaning. She takes it in, giggling all the while. I'm more nervous than she is. I'll be carrying a precious cargo on the back of the bike, and her mother is looking on. We set off among a flurry of photographs (Ann confides in me that this will increase Hatty's status enormously when she gets back to school). We set off and take it easy for a couple of miles. I take her out on to the Codicote Road, a great twisty road well-known to local bikers.

There are some sharp bends on this road, but I don't intend to go too fast, because Hatty's never been on a bike before and I expect her to be nervous. Hah! It turns out that the little princess lives her young life on a slow burn and her nerves are as solid as a rock. We put on a bit of speed. I wait to feel her tense up behind me, but she stays perfectly relaxed. OK, if she likes it...

There are some really great bends coming up with good sightlines. There's no traffic so we go in fast and lean the bike over hard. Hatty doesn't even tighten her grip. We have a great ride. I whack open the throttle as we hit the motorway on the way home. Then it's some leafy B roads back to town. Hatty gets off the bike perfectly composed, but she is really pleased.
Last edited by sv-wolf on Wed Jun 15, 2005 6:36 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
Sev
Site Supporter - Gold
Site Supporter - Gold
Posts: 7352
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2004 1:52 am
Sex: Male
Location: Sherwood Park, Alberta
Contact:

#10 Unread post by Sev » Wed Jun 15, 2005 9:46 am

I just wanted to say I've really enjoyed reading your blog.
Of course I'm generalizing from a single example here, but everyone does that. At least I do.

[url=http://sirac-sev.blogspot.com/][img]http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a227/Sevulturus/sig.jpg[/img][/url]

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#11 Unread post by sv-wolf » Thu Jun 16, 2005 9:30 pm

Cheers Sev. Glad you liked it.

Thursday 16th of June

I've done very little riding this week, just the daily round trip to work: Hitchin to Stevenage, Stevenage to Hitchin, six miles each way, a restrained trek in and out of the two towns and a blast up the by-pass which connects them. It's a boring and now very familiar journey but there are three nice 40mph corners each way - they are nothing special and not fast, but they are nice and tight and always give me a buzz.

Coming from the office at about 6.00 pm I'm always a little stressed (well, to be honest, I'm sometimes very stressed) - I sit in front of a PC for too long every day and the building is very stuffy and hot. The building has something called 'Comfort Cooling' installed in it - not air conditioning. It's a Swedish system of heat exchange. The roof is stuffed with some sort of gel pack. At night, cold air is drawn over the gel and its temperature drops. By day, the warm air in the building is circulated through the packs and is supposedly cooled down by them. But any cooling power the system is supposed to have is usually used up by 11.00 am. Did no-one ever tell the architects department that they have colder nights in Sweden?

So, at the end of a long ande very concentrated day at work, getting on the bike feels like a real release from discomfort and frustration, from self-discipline and narrow thinking, from bad air and confinement. It's a release from piddling around in my mind and gets me back into my body. So, when the traffic conditions don't let me lean hard round those corners or blast up the by-pass I feel cheated and I get home in a not-so-good mood.

When that happens, like today, I realise all over again that there is no way that a bike is just a vehicle for getting from A to B. Bikes are something very visceral. Get on the throttle and it's like a valve opens up inside and lets the feelings suddenly flow. And because riding is dangerous, there is also a clasping and unclasping of fear. Fear holds on to thoughts and actions, and drives many more. The Buddhists say that fear in all its forms is the primary motivator in life and even our greatest acheivements are mostly fuelled by it. When I listen inside, I hear a constant dialogue going on between restraint and letting go. I get caught between what society considers moral, rational and polite on one side and those huge whoop-it-up, don't-give-a-dodo feelings on the other. I guess that's the same for most people in one way or another.

And there is something about the way that a bike, especially a big f*uck off sportsbike somehow drives the flow of feeling inside you that is unique. When things are flowing there's no distinction between the feelings going on inside you and the power that's vibing between your legs and under your bum. Getting on a bike again after many years has narrowed down my focus so that all I seem to think about these days is the sound of a petrol engine, but it's also exploded my experience into dimensions I hardly dreamed of before. I have an addictive personality for sure but I reckon a bike is a great thing to get addicted to.

I'm off to work again tomorrow morning on the SV. Employment has never been the centre of my life, but the ride to and from the office frames my working day and gives it a much bigger meaning - not a rational, conceptual kind of meaning, the sort you can describe or explain, but the felt sense of a deeper, much more ancient life lived outside the buzz of our ordinary social life. And that feels good.
Last edited by sv-wolf on Thu Jul 07, 2005 6:27 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#12 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:00 pm

Saturday 18th June

Well actually, it's now the early hours of Sunday morning and I really should be in bed because tomorrow is ridehout day and we are setting off early at 8.00am. Now, I'm not a morning person. Anything before 7.30am is an almost undiscovered country for me. Having to get up at 6.45 tomorrow is going to be a torture, especially as it is so late now. Buuuuuut. I feel like nattering on here in this blog and I don't want to go to bed. dodo! I'm gonna be wrecked in the morning.

The first thing I will have to do tomorrow is walk the dog. Did I say, 'dog'. This strange inhabitant of my sitting room furniture is more like a four legged, Jeckyll-and-Hyde psychopath, with the looks of a very sly badger and the bark of a large bore shotgun.

This indescribable creature which we found half-famished, wandering around the Irish countryside is, as far as I can make out, one half Border Collie, one quarter Jack Russell, one quarter Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and one pain in the arse. Or he would be, if half the time he weren't being so cute. 'Cos to tell the truth, he is one of the nicest looking dogs I have ever seen. This guy turns heads. Nevertheless, the prophetic words of the vet uttered on our very first visit to see her, are still ringing in my ears: 'You're going to have trouble with this one', she said.

Bascally, he is just deranged. Cute and deranged. I won't go into details.

My one consolation is that Loki (That's him: named after the Norse god of mischief and destruction) is not a morning person either, and the first walk of the day will be a reasonbly civilised affair. But the chances of me suffering from a dislocated shoulder have recently increased tenfold - and that has nothing to do with me buying the bike.

So far, I'm talking as though I am going to go on this rideout. It's going to be another long one, back down to the New Forest to the Beaulieu (pron: Byuwlee for the uninitiated) World of Motorcycles. I can just hear myself talking myself out of going as I write. After several days of relatively trouble-free riding the bike is beginning to shake itself (and me) apart again, and that bloody rattle is back. I don't know I can face it. On the other hand, I struggle through the working week from one Sunday to the next. I look forward to these rideouts as the one release I get from stress.

OK, so here's the background. My wife is seriously ill. terminally ill, in fact. She was diagnosed last September with Motor Neurone Disease (ALS). It's a very unpredictable disease, but the general prognosis gives her maybe another six to nine months to live. She is slowly becoming paralysed. First she lost most of the use of her hands and now she is very wobbly on her feet. She started using a walking stick last week, and I suspect she will be in a wheelchair soon. She is finding it increasingly difficult to speak. Each week there is another small shock as we find something else she can no longer do. She now needs help with all the basic things in life like dressing and eating. I do most of that.

Keeping down a full time job and looking after her has me pretty exhuasted most of the time. And then there is the emotional stress... How do you cope with seeinhg someone you love degenerate like this? It's taking all the emotional maturity I can muster, and sometimes, like right now, I don't know that I have a lot of that. The bike is the one place I can scream.

But we won't go there. Not just now. Not here.

Sunday I have just to myself, or at least it's the one day I can share with other bikers, and just for one morning and afternoon focus on the practical stuff of enjoying the bike and staying alive. So am I going to go? These days I have what, in my profession (working, among other things, with homeless people) is called 'a chaotic lifestyle'. Not that I was ever very organised. So, this is a cliff hanger. If you want to know (but why should you?) log in early next week - and you may find out.

Happy biking everyone. No, I mean that. Knowing you're out there with a grin on your face is a commitment to the future, somehow - don't ask me to explain. It keeps me sane.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#13 Unread post by sv-wolf » Thu Jun 23, 2005 4:03 pm

Sunday 19th June

It was 11.00am before I finally staggered out of bed this morning. The club rideout to Beaulieu had left Stevenage at 8.00 am: so that was my idea for the day screwed already. I needed to make some plans, organise myself, get out on the bike somehow.

I didn’t know it then, but this was going to be one hell of a day.

As soon as I opened the bedroom curtains, a blast of heat hit me like the opening of an oven door. It was the start of the hottest day of the year so far. It wasn’t noon yet and temperatures were already climbing up into the mid 30s - higher than in Jamaica according to the weather report. English heat is not like Jamaican heat, it’s dense and humid. It shrivels you up from the outside in. Some people cope with it, even claim to like it, but I’m a shriveller. By the time I’d got into my clothes, I was soaking wet and beginning to feel like a lump of sticky dough.

And because I was in a hurry to get on the bike and make best use of the day, there were, of course, a hundred urgent things that suddenly needed doing round the house. And when they were done, the long elaborate ritual of getting ready for a ride just seemed to go on forever - I couldn’t find the road map; the chain needed oiling, the tyre pressures were low; the 125 was blocking the alley; I couldn’t find my keys; I couldn’t find my wallet; I found the keys, then lost them again…

Then I failed to observe the essential sequence of bike things – wallet in inside pocket BEFORE zipping up; keys out of deep pockets BEFORE putting on gloves, that sort of thing. With my brains fried by all this unaccustomed heat and my nerves twitching to get off before the day was over (and being absent minded anyway) I kept on getting it wrong. And when I did finally put my gloves back on just before firing her up, the wrist strap broke. Somehow, I could tell this was not going to be my day.

It was as I was swinging back onto the bike after paying for fuel in the next town that I noticed the hydraulic fluid in the clutch reservoir was low - very low, in fact. I checked around the lower valve outlet. Loads of thick. carbonised fluid was smeared all over the underside of the engine casing. My heart sank. When I got the bike back to the house and took the lid off the reservoir, sure enough, there was almost nothing in it. Air in the hudraulic fluid might explain the rattle (at least, in my innocence I thought it might). It might also explain why the Cambridge dealer and Simon didn’t hear the noise it was making. They had both drained and replaced the fluid before taking the bike for a ride.

So why hadn’t I noticed all the crud on the underside of the engine?. My wife tells me I use my eyes for navigation and little else. So that lets me off – sort of!. But in point of fact, the fault must be very intermittent.

I didn’t have any tubing to properly drain the system, so I decided just to top up the reservoir as a temporary measure. I was determined to get some riding in come what may. (I’ll think of booking it into a dealer’s next week.)

By now I’m not only hot and sweaty but almost frantic not to lose any more time, so I do the one thing you should never do with brake fluid – I spill it over the paintwork. That means another ten minutes of cursing and urgent washing-down. Once I get all this sorted I’m not just hot and irritable but hungry too, so it’s back into the house to get something to eat. I change my clothes (I'm sweating like a pig) eat a quick meal, and then gaze out of the window thinking about anything other than going out on the bike. I have to force myself to leather up again. Getting into my bike gear, something happens. I lose all my weariness and now just want to sling my leg over the bike and get out onto the road. It's always like this. I don't just get my energy and motivation back, I almost feel like a different person when I'm in my bike gear, and the world looks like a different world - a biking one.

It is almost two o’clock before I finally leave the house, so a long journey is out. I make for Cambridge through the villages. I know these country roads like the back of my hand. I’ve ridden them on bikes and bicycles since I was a child. And they are a great ride. The British countryside is always beautiful, but today it has reached a peak of perfection. After a couple of weeks of wet weather, everything is a rich, luxuriant green. And because it’s June, the greenery is still lush and moist, not yet dried up or cankered with weeks of heat.

All around, the hedgerows and waste spaces are rank with new growth. The smell of vegetation is overwhelming. But now, this richness is glowing in brilliant sunlight or deepening in heavy shadpw. If you take a walk through the countryside, on a day like this you're filled with a sense of freedom and lightness. The world presents you with a thousand tiny details you haven't noticed before. But on a bike, you absorb the essence of it, drown in it, love it, feel it. You can open your visor and drink it in.

I love this time of year. The landscape is beginning to put on a hundred summer shades: mauves and purples, ochres and creams, yellows and violets. The young green of the May cornfields now has a hit of ripening gold. Beneath me, the V-twin engine rumbles away happily and synchronises with my mood. Within a mile of leaving the town I’m relaxed and the frustrations of the morning are forgotten.

As I hit the throttle at the first unrestricted speed sign, the road dips down into a dense green alley lined on both sides by tall trees. It’s a short road, under a mile in length, but narrow, twisty and, if the traffic is right, very fast. It’s a perfect gem of a biking road. The hedgerows pressing in on either side cocoon you and magnify the sense of speed. I let the bike loose and soon I’m flying. This road never loses its attractions, no-matter how often I ride it, and the pleasure is increased because I’m riding well this afternoon. Bike and body fuse and move together unselfconsciously. The slightest sense of danger on the bends, sharpens my attention and opens my senses. It’s not often as good as this.

I drop down through the gears – no brakes - and hit 30 exactly as I pass the restriction sign – perfect. I’m not planning this. There’s no effort. It just happens – the sun shines, the world breathes and it happens. I saunter the bike slowly through the village. It’s very like the village I grew up in. The sun, the farms, the open fields bring back a sense of the long, lazy days of a rural childhood. This is so good! I’m just blown away.

Beyond the last cottage in the village, the road enters a long tunnel of trees. So dense and total is the cover that the green is mostly pitch black. The road is an ancient one, worn well below the level of the surrounding land by centuries of plodding feet. Down the years, countless agricultural labourers, have passed this way with the setting and rising sun on their way to and from the fields. Their lives were broken-backed and toil-worn. I know the history well. It’s the history of my own family, who lie – generation upon generation of them – in a small country churchyard only six miles from here. On my bike, I feel detached, yet part of it all. The tunnel of trees is like a tunnel through time: it could be the 13th century or the 21st. Who’s to tell? Up on the high banks ash and oak are interspersed with flowering elder and hawthorn bushes. Frothy blossoms of Queen Anne’s Lace cram the ditches, and glow brilliantly in the few patches of sunlight that penetrate the leaf canopy.

My route takes me through about a dozen villages.and a couple of small towns. Each settlement has its own unique character. Baldock is an old market town, named, if you take such stories seriously, after Baghdad, where, in the middle ages, its resident Knights Templar made their fortunes (Anyone read Dan Brown? – what a hoot!). Ashwell has its half-timbered buildings, its ancient inns and pubs, and its inexhaustible spring still surrounded by ash trees. Steeple Morden has its fat, self-important looking houses and chubby church steeple. Littlington has it’s twisty one-way streets. But Barrington is special. It’s everyone’s dream of an English Village with its clumps of thatched cottages set well back from the road by wide, perfectly kept greens. A Sunday cricket match is taking place on one of them.

I stop in Barrington at the Royal Oak pub for a drink and a rest. I spent so much of my teenage life escaping from this unadventurous village way of life that now, it seems strange to see myself drinking it in, unable to get enough of it. No doubt I’m romanticising, but what else can you do on a day like this? I spend some minutes watching the dragonflies zoom across the benches in the pub garden and back to the line of willows on the other side of the road. Then, all at once, as though out of nowhere, a face appears: an elderly, distinguished-looking woman in a plain linen dress and sunhat smiles at me and asks politely if she can share my table. I say, 'of course', and she sits herself down.

She has a wide, attractive smile and mischievous eyes. She comments on the weather and makes some observations on the swifts screaming overhead. She then slyly confides to me that her daughter has dragged her out for a ride, ‘because she doesn’t know how to relax, even on such a lovely day as this.’ She chuckles unselfconsciously. Sure enough, a moment later, the daughter comes bustling out of the pub, lines of anxiety across her face and fretful of missing the last orders for lunch. The elderly woman winks at me as she is bundled off inside to place her order. ‘I used to ride everywhere on the back of my husband’s motorbike’, she whispers. ’I miss him so much’

As I sit nursing my glass, I’m surprised by the number of bikes that go by. I count at least thirty in half an hour. The weather has brought us out in numbers. A fair few of these bikes are Harleys. That is new. There’s a Harley renaissance taking place in the UK. With the government and police piling up speed restrictions by the minute, the magazines are murmuring darkly that sportsbikes have had their day. So, are we moving into the age of the cruiser? A long-established, local Harley dealer, (his was the first business to sell Harleys in the UK) says he cannot import the bikes fast enough these days. He’s offering test rides to all comers, but is specifically targeting the middle-aged returner. The Harley riders I see are all paunchy and middle aged, and I would guess mostly middle-class as well, despite the occasional tat and set of fringes – the bad-"O Ring" image some of them are playing with. I play a game with myself as they ride past: ‘banker’ I guess; ‘solicitor’; ‘company executive’.

Even relaxing can get tiring after a while on a day like this. The bike is calling to me and I soon get the itch to move on. Perhaps I have more in common with the elderly woman’s daughter than I care to admit. As I leave the village, the greens narrow, the thatched houses with their low gables peter out and the road makes a sudden left turn. Here it is flanked on both sides by tall chestnut trees which hide the village from the rest of the world. Beyond the turn, a huge cement works comes into view. Symbols of the real, workaday world crash in on my dreamy mood. Not for the first time, I wonder what the incidence of silicosis is in the village. But this new bit of road is great for a blatt and I get on with the business in hand…

Meldreth, is an attractive if rather ordinary village, but has the distinction of still retaining a set of medieval village stocks on its tiny green. Once a year, though, Meldreth features on the local biking calender. Meldreth Manor hosts a good little bike show. It is organised by the Royston and District Motorcyle Club. There is a friendly rivalry between the R&DMCC and the nearby Stevenage & District MCC to which I belong. This year the Royston mob swallowed their pride and asked us to help organise the annual show as about six months ago their chairman ran off with most of the club’s funds and disappeared no-one-knows-where. A number of the Royston members have also formed a breakaway group limiting their resources even further.

And so it goes, through the villages to Cambridge. As I approach the city I decide to string out my ride and head for Ely some twelve miles further on. The roads I follow through Cambridge only touch the fringes of the historic town centre and its surrounding greens and commons. The greens are thick with sunbathers and picnickers. These roads are not fun. The contrast with the surrounding countryside couldn’t be greater. I’m now riding on the clutch most of the time amid all the din and fumes of heavy urban traffic. It gets unbearably hot and uncomfortable. I stop and put on my shades so that I can open my visor. It seems like an interminable ride round the Cambridge ring road but in reality, it isn’t that far. I’m pleased when I get out of the town once again.

North of Cambridge the landscape changes as you enter the fen country. The English fens are a wide and immensely fertile region, with black earth and a landscape that is so flat it might have been laid out with a ruler. ‘Fen’ in old English means marsh. The local inhabitants began to drain the Cambridge fens in medieval times and the entire landscape is now criss-crossed by drainage ditches, canals and artificial rivers. For centuries the water was pumped seawards by windmills, of which many survive. Very occasionally there is a case of malaria reported in the locality.

You can see Ely cathedral for miles across these flat lands. It stands on a slight, almost imperceptible, rise in the level of the land, which, in this country, is known as ‘a hill’. Like many English cathedrals it lacks the elaborate grandeur of continental churches, but it makes up for it by being exquisitely beautiful. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in the country, pre-medieval. It’s lower levels have the rounded arches of the Norman architects. Once inside the town I grab a bit of parking nearby.

Near the cathedral close are several groups of elderly ladies in print dresses, and sunhats. Their bird-like features and hunched shoulders might have given them a predatory look if their eyes had not been so round and, right now, full of brightness and fun. Towns like Ely are full of elderly ladies like this enjoying a summer jolly in the last years of their lives.

As I watch them stepping across the grass towards the tea rooms, I am suddenly overcome with a moment of jealousy and resentment. Di will never be given the opportunity to become a little old lady. She would have loved it and she would have done it very well. She’d have grown old disgracefully, playing out the role with great seriousness while mocking everything about it. Di is full of irreverent fun and enjoys everything she does. Even now. She still laughs a lot. She would have made a great biker – if only she had shown the slightest interest in bikes.

I suddenly remember, years ago, seeing a couple necking at the bus stop in Baldock for all they were worth. That’s not unusual - except that this couple were in their eighties and still behaving like teenagers. That’s how I had dreamed of ending my days with Di.

I make straight for the cathedral. I’m not religious in any way, but I love old churches. Churches like this are often places of great tranquillity, even the most commercialised of them. The interior is cool and shady: very welcome after all the afternoon heat. The massive stones seem unaffected by the temperature. It’s almost as though they are untouched by excess of any kind.

For the last hour my senses have been alert for the road, my mind revving up the A10. Inside the cathedral, I feel my thoughts subsiding, quieting down. I walk between the massive columns of the Norman nave totally absorbed in the world they create for me. Above the crossing there is a wonderful wooden octagonal tower, unique in England, which gives the place a tremendous feel of lightness. It’s strange what an air of lightness the whole building has, despite its massive construction. In the north transept though, there is a jarring note. As in so many English Cathedrals the walls are hung with local regimental banners, reminders of the total union between church and state. Here among these peaceful precincts is a grand memorial to past wars and a warning of wars yet to come. This is a celebration of power and destruction in the guise of patriotism. Not my politics. I don’t like it, and turn away

I make for the cathedral refectory for something to eat. It’s a small room with only one other customer. The staff are chatting in one corner. They are mostly very young and have a look of innocence that you would never find in a metropolitan area, such as London. But, what do I know? The teenager in the cook’s apron may be a crack dealer for all I know. Still, that sense of a much simpler, more innocent childhood comes back to me again.

A plump, middle-aged waitress, the manager, I suspect, beams her way across to me and is already chatting before she reaches my table. She comes, she tells me immediately, from a family of bikers: father, husband, sons. She stops speaking for a moment and eyes me thoughtfully, covered in sweat, as I struggle out of a sticky leather jacket. As I sit down again, she launches into an anxious diatribe, directing all her nervous energy against youngsters who ride without proper protection on days like this. She is clearly concerned for their welfare and I wonder if she has any personal grief around this issue. She doesn't say, but she’s right. I’ve seen plenty of beach-gear riders today and fully agree.

When she finishes she looks at me with some degree of satisfaction as though approving of the discomfort my gear has been causing me. Maybe she thinks leathers are some sort of chastisement for the soul. Another waitress brings me over a cup of tea and an egg salad. It’s just too hot to eat anything heavy.

There is a rumble in the stalls and the cathedral choristers softly open choral evensong to the delicate tootling of the cathedral organ. The bodiless notes drift around the ancient columns and into the refectory. English church singing is beautiful but limp and seems to have a kinship with the lettuce in my salad.

On the way home I follow the big lazy sweeps of the A10, left, then right, then left… It gradually becomes hypnotic. For miles, the road swings back and forth under the immense East Anglian skies. Why do British roads do this? Out here in the fen country there are no hills: nothing that would make an engineer count the cost of laying down a perfectly, straight road. After all, the dykes and canals and drainage ditches all run in straight lines, so why not the roads? When I was a kid someone once told me that many smaller roads started off as ancient cattle tracks across the fields, and were gradually metalled over. True? I don’t know. It sounds plausible. And perhaps cows just do not like to walk in straight lines. If that is so, then the domesticated cow must be the British biker’s best friend. My body has really got the rhythm now. The bike and I are sweeping back and forth across this open, almost treeless landscape effortlessly. Wonderful!

Out here in East Anglia drivers are very polite, very law abiding - more so than most other parts of the country, I’ve noticed. You won’t ride far before you come across a little caravan of vehicles all travelling along at about two miles an hour below the speed limit. A friend of mine suggested that the reason they drive slowly in East Anglia is that if they hit someone, it would probably be a relative. It’s that sort of place.

For a while I’m happy to follow a lines of cars travelling along at 58 mph, even though there are plenty of opportunities to overtake. I’m still riding well, smooth and confident. The landscape drifts by happily and my thoughts drift on with it, but there is this faint idea hovering around the edges of my consciousness that this is a sportsbike I’m riding and I should be riding a little more… energetically…? Maybe, even aggressively?

‘Should?’ Where did that come from? An angels and demons dialogue starts in my head – so when this guy on a Honda cruiser overtakes me and disappears off down the road ahead, I’m primed to react. A cruiser!!! dodo! Is it possible to ride a sportsbike and not be competitive? Or is it just me. I seize an opportunity to overtake a couple of cars in front and instantly the horns are out. This is what we ride bikes for, isn’t it? Cornering and overtaking? Cars start pulling over when they spot me coming up behind them. My initial reaction is to feel vaguely guilty. I imagine I’ve suddenly stressed them out, disturbed their quiet, orderly drive. But my mood has changed and I’m having fun - not just overtaking, but starting to ride hard. Maybe the cars are just pulling in to let me by, I think, not stressed out at all. I tip them a nod as I pass.

There is a lot of image in bikingm more than many of us would like to think, I suspect. It’s a commercial activity after all and its not immune from consumerism. Just look in any accessory shop or bike magazine - or listen in to bikers' conversations. There's also the obsession with brands. The big international race series have really made something of this and the manufacturers are cashing in. But the image thing is deeper than that. Few people ride a bike purely out of practicality and no-one rides because they want to be safe - unless they live on a different planet to me. And though not everyone is attracted by the traditional bad-"O Ring" image of biking, most people I know who’re into bikes see themselves at being at least slightly at odds with convention. There’s a lot that feeds into our collective self-image.

Let's face it, bikers are engaged in a highly-charged, highly obsessive activity. It’s sexy, it’s dangerous and that inevitably gives biking something of a cult status. Cults encourage cultish behaviour, and that is always related to image. Cults also create nerds. Bike nerds are some of the worst (or best – it depends on your point of view) there are. Hours of conversation, totally incomprehsible to outsiders, go on in pubs and bikemeets every week. (Except in the Stevenage and District MCC where bikes are hardly ever mentioned!).

So, I’ve just been stung by an overtake from a cruiser. What’re the issues here: internalised peer pressure? history? ancient playground taunts? squaring up to conformity? It's all there - layer on layer, I'm sure of it. But, I'm rationalising now: out on the bike, slinging it round corners or cracking open the throttle... well, forget the analysis. When I hit the gas on the A10 this afternoon, that was a good feeling. How do you describe the experience of the bike responding beneath you: the grunt, the sense of unused power, the lightness, and your own ability to ride it home? It’s a red hot feeling stoked up from somewhere else altogether - and who cares where it comes from. You could say it’s a valve for the pent up pressure of living according to all those social rules. You could say that, yet whatever you called it, you would be wrong.

But now I'm back on the Cambridge ring road again and stuck in lines of traffic. constrained by the 30mph signs. What a pain. Enough said!

And just when I’m beginning to feel that this is all getting too uncomfortable, at last, there it is: the round white disk with a diagonal black slash through it. After all the restraint of urban roads, I crack open the throttle and feel the engine respond beneath me. Immediately I leave all the polite queues of cars far behind. For a little while at least I have an open road and a gut full of attitude.

About ten miles from home, lying to one side of the A10 is Therfield Heath. The Heath looks very tame these days: a golf course runs up the side of it and there is a racecourse at the top. But once it would have been a wild place, an uncultivated wasteland, populated by outcasts, brigands, gypsies, the dispossessed and the poorest of the poor. Yesterday, a friend told me that the word heathen’ just meant, ‘from the heath’. Back in those days, Christian culture, especially urban Christian culture, must have looked warily at the inhabitants of these unmanaged regions. I think of the devastating storm scene on the heath in King Lear. I remember seeing that for the first time at the age of 15 and being stunned by the raw power of it. I suspect there is something of a ‘heathen’ in all of us.

Coming back into Baldock, the earth parallel to the road has been opened to expose a long, white gash in the landscape. In a year’s time this will be another new by-pass. The exposed chalk gleams blindingly in the sunlight. Running alongside it is a band of deepest red. Poppies, millions of them. It’s a stunning sight. I notice that here and there, there are little clusters of purple poppies too. Later in the year the seed pods of the purple poppies will be harvested by the local kids, boiled up in saucepans and made into ‘tea’ when their parents are out of the house.

Riding the final miles back through the traffic of the North Hertfordshire towns, there's a sense of completion, but also regret. If I have a good day out on the bike, I just want it go on forever. IT doesn't matter if I'm tired or planning to do other things, somehow I never want it to stop. How can you convey that to someone who has never ridden a bike?
Last edited by sv-wolf on Wed Jul 06, 2005 5:58 am, edited 4 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#14 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sat Jun 25, 2005 8:21 am

Monday 20th June

The bike was running rough again this morning - lots of vibes, so I've booked it in with the Cambridge dealers to have a look at the clutch hydraulics and see if they can sort out the rattle. Forunately, they are not too busy this week and can look at it on Wednesday for me. This is costing me a fortune in garage fees and time off work just when I can least afford it. But what choice do I have? I could ride the 125 for a while to get me to and from work, but I think doing without the SV for very long would be too distressing :cry: I'd miss all the Sunday rideouts for a start. It'd be like cutting off a limb.

Going to work this morning on the SV I overtook a young girl on the by-pass. She was riding a little PGO scoot and nipping along pretty smartish. When I stopped at the lights she slid up beside me, and shouted that I still had my left indicator on. She had the cheekiest smile. She must have been about eighteen and was absolutely full of it. She was just wearing a dress. When the lights turned green she shot off. 'Jesus' I thought, 'she's racing me'.

A little further on. she picked her lane a bit more slickly than I did. So, when I got briefly snarled up in the traffic she raced up ahead, gave me a quick look over the shoulder, skimmed the roundabout and disappeared. She rode the scoot as though she had been born on it.

Of course, I let her go. That sort of thing doesn't bother me at all - much :wink:
Last edited by sv-wolf on Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:19 am, edited 4 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#15 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sat Jun 25, 2005 9:08 am

Wednesday 22 June

I took the bike into Cambridge this morning for a fix. I left it with them and came back by train. God! Cambridge is a lousy place to ride in rush hour traffic. I needed to get it there by 8.30am because I had an appointment at 10.00 back home. As I was late getting up as usual it was a pretty madcap ride to get it there in time, and then a frantic dash back. Must learn to relax.

Friday 24th June

The SV needs a new 'slave valve' , the drainage valve on the clutch hydraulics. Apparently, the 'old' Suzuki slave valve for this model is available but the 'new' one will take a week to get in. So what was wrong with the old Suzuki valve, I wonder? - as if I haven't just found out!!! I spoke to 'Drumwrecker' in the evening. He is very cynical about manufacturers. I am beginning to agree.

Riding the 125 home this evening I was almost mashed on a big roundabout near my office. I was going all the way round, so I was on the inside lane. I'd signalled to turn off and was preparing to exit. The cars on the road to my left started pulling out slowly as they often do, so I didn't pay too much attention, but a woman driver in a big Merc just shot out in front of me across my line of exit. I had to swerve back into lane on the roundabout. I shouted at her. She pretended not to notice me, though I know she did. %$£$%%!!!!!!!!

Don't you hate it when cars start to pull out onto the roundabout before you have fully exited? These guys are so cocksure of their judgment, they never consider the judgement you have to make about whether you think they have seen you or not. As we know, car drivers frequently don't see us, even if they appear to be looking straight at us.

I was hurrying home because I had an appointment at six o'clock. With Di now sick, I've finally consented to becoming a car driver, so I've started taking lessons. I had one booked. I wasn't best pleased, then when I came across near stationary traffic on the by-pass. There'd been a huge accident on the opposite carriageway Two cars and a van were lying in a smashed heap across the road. It was only about thirty yards from where I had my smash last year. Ouch!

As I filtered down between the two lines of standing traffic, I passed my driving instructor stuck in the queue, tapping his fingers on the dashboard. I arrived home twenty minutes before he did.

Thank god for filtering - that's the best of bikes. Having an accident - well, that's the worst of them.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#16 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:46 pm

No Sunday rideout for me this week. The SV is still garaged waiting to be fixed and we've had visitors. Di's cousin, Gordon, from Halifax (Canada) is staying over in London for a couple of days before going on to Italy. He came up to Hitchin to visit us this afternoon. It might be the last time Di sees him, so it is important for her.

Yesterday Di had a bad fall. As she has very little use of her arms these days she could not save herself and hit the concrete with her chin, cutting it open. We thought she had also broken her arm: she had all the clinical signs of a break but nothing showed up on the X-rays. The A&E team are cautiously treating it as a fracture and have put her arm in a sling. Does it ever stop?

Now that she's in bed and the house is empty, I'm relaxing for the first time today, and my mind is turning towards a bike trip I started planning last year before we knew she was ill. It's the first time I've thought about it for a long time. I've started to allow myself to think a bit about how I'm going to be living my life when I'm alone again. It makes me feel guilty to do that, and I immediately want to protect her - and me - from the idea of a future without her. But sometimes, when I'm getting exhausted, I think I need to do it - just a bit. Somehow it gives me a bit of a breathing space.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#17 Unread post by sv-wolf » Tue Jun 28, 2005 12:44 pm

Tuesday 28th June

I have this friend...

A couple of weeks ago he was on a Sunday rideout with some mates. Drifting along at the back of the pack, he had been held up by traffic at a couple of junctions and a roundabout. And so he'd fallen well behind the others. By the time he had regained a clear road, the pack was well out of sight. Not knowing the area or the route they were taking, he was anxious not to get left behind - so he put on a little speed...

It was shortly after he had turned onto a nice open stretch of road that he saw something unusual up ahead: a set of odd-looking speed cameras perched on an overhead gantry. There was one camera for each of the two lanes. He checked them out swiftly and took appropriate action. A couple of miles down the road he saw, unusually, another set of cameras and another gantry. The third set was hidden by trees lining a bend in the road and took him very much by surprise. But once again, he reacted appropriately and then continued on his way.

By this time he had made up a fair bit of ground, and had caught up with the rest of his mates.

A little while later, in the course of casual conversation he learned that the speed cameras he'd seen were of a new kind that have started to appear on by-passes and dual carriageways. He'd read about them, of course, but never having seen any like them, he'd not paid them too much attention - until now. He learned that they not only clock your speed individually as you pass them but act together to average your speed as you travel the road in between.

Now, as he had been trying to catch up with his mates, he'd been making considerable 'progress' (as they say in the police training courses) in between the cameras. So this aroused a big 'whooops' in his mind (and a churning feeling in the pit of his stomach). He had no idea how fast he had been going.

Being of a theoretical turn of mind he considered the various consequences. He recalled that had he been averaging 90 miles an hour (which he hadn't, of course) then, if caught, a court appearance would be the likely outcome. And that if he had been averaging over 100 mph (which was out of the question, naturally,) he could even lose his licence.

As he made his way home by the same route later that day (taking care to ride safely within the speed limit) he noticed that the cameras on the gantries over each lane appeared to be of the front facing kind and therefore unable to identify motorcycles, which, of course, only have registration plates on the back. However, having no experience of this new kind of hazard, he continued to fret over the possibility that the cameras facing down each carriageway might be able to cover the entire width of the road and therefore pick up details of traffic moving in both directions.

In case anyone is unfamiliar with UK law, the Police Partnerships who 'administer' the country's lucrative speed-camera businesses must advise drivers/riders of a speed violation within two weeks of the offence. So, as you can imagine, this friend of mine remained in a vaguely unsettled state over the coming days and weeks.

As time passed by, nothing unpleasant appeared through the letterbox or was read at the breakfast table. But, as everybody knows, the Partnerships take time to process their information and nasty letters tend to come close to the end of the fortnight. On Saturday, the last day of the notification period, he found himself eating breakfast on his lap in the living room waiting anxiously for the post. It seemed ages before he heard the postie opening the gate and walking up the garden path. (This is a scene, which, I suspect, is played out in bikers' homes all round the country every Saturday morning during the summer months).

The sound of the letterbox clattering open, was followed, as expected, by an indescribably loud roar and a maelstrom of frantic activity by the front door. When my friend had gathered together the torn and scattered fragments of envelopes and their contents left by the cute but deranged canine creature which dominates every aspect of his domestic life, he discovered that the post consisted only of the usual assortment of bills, magazines and charity letters. There were no unkind words in any of them. So, you can imagine what pleasant thoughts must have entered his head at that moment in time, and the subsequent sense of well-being that has flooded his existence.

He was very relieved - this friend of mine.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#18 Unread post by sv-wolf » Fri Jul 01, 2005 6:25 am

Friday Ist July

There is only one bike thing on my mind at present. The SV is still stuck in the dealer's workshop in Cambridge. It's been there for over a week now. The people on the desk there, keep promising to contact me and let me know what is happening, but do they, hell! If I want updates, I have to get on the phone and ring them. I'm getting just a little bit peeved. I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place with dealers and mechanics. I don't trust my local firm and this one is turning out to be not a lot better. So far, they're friendlier, but that's as much as I can say at present.

Several people have said the only workshop you can really trust in this area is in Northampton! Well, that's a hell of a place to get to from here. Still, I'm tempted. If they do a courtesy bike, I might just think about them for the next service.

As for the present situation, the new valve for the bike was due to arrive Wednesday... then I was told Thursday. It's now Friday morning, and it's still not there - @@&*&%$. I spoke to a guy in the workshop an hour ago. He told me that they were 'expecting a delivery at 3.00 pm this afternoon'. He was not sure that the valve would be on the wagon - because 'the girl who sees to deliveries is not here today (!!!?).' If it does come, he 'might' be able to get it fitted tomorrow, Saturday.

Well, I hope so. There is a planned rideout to Rugby on Sunday. Several of us have arranged to go up north to meet Bill and Dave. Bill and Dave have signed up to the British Rally. (I think that is what it is called - I'm having a total mental block here). [Edit - the 'National Rally' is what it's called. The neurological fairies have been playing havoc with my brain recently - I need to slee......eeeep!] The 'rally' is a long evening and overnight ride between a number of fixed staging posts on a route of your own choice. So long as you hit a certain number of posts (in any order) and finish up at Rugby you get a medal. Hmmm! The more posts you hit the higher grade of medal you get: bronze, silver, gold!

When this idea was first mooted, Bill's wife, Julie and Dave's wife, Margaret talked each other into going along as pillions. The last time I saw them, at the club night on Monday, I thought they were looking unusually subdued and thoughtful. If I'm not mistaken, their talk about the rally was just a teensy bit less enthusiastic than previously. It's a long while to hang onto the back of a bike, especially at night when there is nothing much to look at. Margaret had a nice Triumph touring seat to sit on. Julie, however is riding on the back of Bill's Fazer 1000. I am not sure how comfortable that is going to be for all those hours in the saddle.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for getting the bike back Saturday, but on past form I'm not hopeful. The world hasn't been arranged much for my convenience lately. :frusty:

To add to my biking pleasure I've just noticed that the 125 has sprung an oil leak. It doesn't appear to be serious, but... well, you know - Great! :roll:
Last edited by sv-wolf on Mon Jul 04, 2005 5:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#19 Unread post by sv-wolf » Sun Jul 03, 2005 8:47 pm

Saturday 2nd July

Some days go smoothly, and some days are just a mess. Today was a mess.

I was mooching around the house at 10am vaguely wondering which foot to put in front first and whether the Cambridge workshop was going to fix the bike today, when the phone rang.

It was the organiser of a small complementary medicine exhibition who wanted to know why I wasn't manning the shiatsu stand I had booked. There had been a mix up. I wasn't expecting to be there. But I knew this was a small exhibition and the organisers wouldn't make much money out of it, so I agreed to turn up for the afternoon.

I don't practice shiatsu professionally these days, but I still do the odd exhibition to keep my hand in.

It was about three vague misgivings later that I realised I'd boo-booed - by agreeing to do the exhibition I had made it more or less impossible for me to pick up the bike from Cambridge today (presupposing that they would fix it), and so I wouldn’t be able to go up to Rugby tomorrow. How many times do I need to tell myself this? - I should never make spot decisions before by brain kicks into gear at about 10.30 in the morning. Before that I'm about as mentally agile as a three day old leuttice leaf.

I rang the Cambridge workshop to see if they would be able to do the bike today. They said they 'might'. ('might' is beginning to sound very familiar. I've been living on 'mights' for the last week.) They would let me know later in the day.

I did the exhibition with the mobile phone on in case the garage called. Very unprofessional. If it rang while I was giving a demonstration treatment it could be embarrassing, but I was that eager to get my hands on the bike. I could leave the exhibition early perhaps, if necessary.

As it happened, 'might' turned out to be 'sorry, not today' so that was that. There was no way I was going to get to Rugby tomorrow. Bugger!

Sunday 3nd July

So, that's the summer definitely over, then. Several evenings ago, after a week of clear skies and swelteringly hot weather, the big stuff up there turned electric blue, then grey, then black as pitch. Huge thunderheads appeared. There was an initial rumble followed by the mother of all thunderstorms, the fiercest I have seen in years. The clouds moiled, the sheet lightening flashed almost continuously, and huge bolts lit up the sky like broad daylight. It was A-Mazing! It lasted several hours, rolling round and round on the south side of town.

Since then, the days have been grey and muggy, hardly like June at all.

This afternoon, I went over to Breachwood Green on the Hyosung 125 to see a friend. The country roads out that way are generally dodgy. They are narrow – being little more than the width of a single car in many places. The road surfaces are very uneven, their edges are broken and they're full of potholes. Here and there, council workmen have bodged some of the holes and left the surface rougher than ever.

The roads veer unpredictably between the fields, creating lots of sharp bends, and as many of the lanes are ‘hollow’ - worn down over the centuries below the level of the surrounding countryside – their steep banks create frequent blind corners.

Last year, after all the rain, Frogmore Bottom, the lowest lying area in this district became completely waterlogged, and impassable. The floor of another nearby valley turned into a string of ribbon lakes about four miles long. In several places the waters from these temporary lakes flowed across the Lilley Bottom Road, creating wide fords. They weren’t deep but they were fast flowing and they survived long enough to start building up a layer of plant-based slime on the tarmac. I nearly lost the bike twice crossing over them. The soil is very claggy here, so it takes a long while for water to drain away.

There hasn’t been enough of a deluge this year (yet) to repeat these condions but the heavy rains have washed lots of gravel and small stones into the road. These have accumulated on the corners and junctions and make picking a good line essential. On the way over today I had to make a quick calculation on every blind corner: gravel or oncoming traffic? You have to stay very alert, especially in the evenings. The surface gravel gets worse every time I've been out this way lately.

Apart from the gravel you get the odd dead fox, badger, or rabbit lying in the road – sometimes a cat. The Hyosung doesn’t have a very good headlight. At night, this makes riding these roads ‘exciting’.

Deer are another hazard in these parts. Most of the animals you see nowadays are muntjaks, but there are a still a fair number of roe and fallow deer. They roam wild in herds across the farmland, doing a lot of damage to the crops. The farmers treat them like vermin and shoot them when they can. It is well to know their regular crossings, especially in the wooded areas at dusk. One foggy November night, many years ago, I was pushing my bicycle up the final steep slope through the Weston Woods near my home. The fog was so thick and swirlyI could only see a couple of feet ahead of me, but I could see the tracery of bare branches in the full moon overhead. Suddenly a herd of deer passed across the road inches in front of me. All I could see was a head here, a flank there, antlers, legs, a tail, and dozens of huge round eyes. Every one of the eyes started for a moment before disappearing instantly into the mist. It was an eerie, unforgettable sight.

Perhaps more dangerous than dead animals or live deer is the somewhat in-between category of the local nineteen-going-on-twenty-something car driver, who uses these roads for his personal race track as he makes his way home from the village pub late in the evening. These kids drive like they are invulnerable. Behind the wheel, they're as mad as a box of frogs! The only thing I can say in mitigation is that life round here must get very boring at times - "It’s just that if you want to kill yourself guys, try not to take anyone else with you!"

A few years ago, Mike, a work colleague of mine, was out walking with his family on some similar roads on the other side of town when he heard a screeching, rending noise coming towards him. He wasn’t sure what it was but he had the presence of mind to get his wife and daughter up onto the high banks just in time to see a red Audi coming down the steep slope ahead of him on its roof. Just after it passed them on the bend it hit a bank, turned back over, and then after a short pause drove off in the direction of Walkern, a nearby village, as though nothing had happened.

Mike, who is the same age as me, is another bike returner. He’s into classic bikes and has bought himself a maroon Royal Enfield – the updated version of the Bullet with one of those newfangled electric starter things. It also has the gearshift on the left hand side (what will they think of next!). He rides it into work and it stands in the courtyard next to my SV. What a contrast! But what I great looking bike (I want one!).

And just to compound my jealously, my neighbour, another fifty-something returner, who has ridden an ancient XJR for the last two years, has also just bought himself a new bike. I saw it for the first time today: a shiny black Bandit standing in his back garden. Jammy sod! He didn’t tell me. I love the look of those bikes (A black Bandit? I'll have one of those, too!). In the absence of the SV I stand staring at it over the garden fence. Handsome beast! The Bandit just seems as popular as it ever was. It's got to be those agressive, street-naked looks.

Oh yes, the SV. The dealer says they ‘might’ be able to fix it tomorrow for me.
Last edited by sv-wolf on Mon Jul 04, 2005 7:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

User avatar
sv-wolf
Site Supporter - Platinum
Site Supporter - Platinum
Posts: 2278
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2003 8:06 am
Real Name: Richard
Sex: Male
Years Riding: 12
My Motorcycle: Honda Fireblade, 2004: Suzuki DR650, 201
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

#20 Unread post by sv-wolf » Mon Jul 04, 2005 6:24 pm

Monday 4th July

The dealer's workshop says they had someone call in sick today so they weren't able to fix the SV, but they 'might' be able to fix it up tomorrow, Tuesday. Actually, they said they 'would' be able to fix it up tomorrow. It's a long time since I have heard the word 'would'. I think it means 'might'.

I'm definitely taking the SV to Northampton for its next service.

OK. So, I didn't get to the club meet tonight. It was out at the New Inn in Roydon. They always make very good sarnies out there so I'm sorry to miss it.

It's a pretty dull time bikewise at the moment. Despite the fact that I'm eager to have the SV back, I can't say I have really missed not having it over the last couple of weeks. I must be really knackered.

So, in the absence of a real bike, here instead is a rough outline of the fantasy bike journey I have been planning for the last two years. The idea of this trip fixed itself in my head like a stone in a horses hoof after hearing a programme about Estonia on the radio. It sounded like such a strange and individual country, a forgotten landscape, wiped off the map after years of Soviet rule. I often have grand plans to travel here there and everywhere and mostly they evaporate as quickly as they arrive. But this one wouldn't go away.

My original idea was to ride across Northern Eurpoe and have a week travelling around the Estonian countryside, visiting its National Parks and towns, but the idea quickly grew into something grander till it became an epic quest to discover a part of Europe I've never even thought about much before. I'll save it up for my retirment, perhaps, when I can just disappear for three + months, taking my life's savings with me. Or, maybe I will just give up my job and "pee" off into the wild blue yonder, say, in a couple of year's time. It may be that, one day, when I can't stand my job any more I might just dump it, sling my leg over the bike, and go. I did it once before, and maybe now is the time to do it again.

The first elaboration on the plan was to turn it into a round trip, visiting all the countries that border the Baltic Sea - but as a kind of slow introduction I'd start with a few more familiar places further west - just to give me a good run up. So, I began thinking about a journey which would take me through France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Germany again, Poland, Russia (Kalinnigrad), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia (St Petersburg), Finland, Sweden and Norway. I'd stick to the coast, 'cos I love being near the sea.

The next big question was, what kind of a trip this was going to be? Was this going to be a great bike journey? Or was it going to be a great journey on a bike? Would I just go for the ride and the best biking roads and belt round the coastline at full blatt? Or would I head for the most interesting places and lose myself in the most exciting landscapes?

It would have to be a bit of both. The bike is the cause of all this fantasising, but I wouldn't just want to travel for the sake of a bike ride. I could do that at home. The trouble is, it would be hard to combine the two. If I stick closely to the coast, through Germany say, I'm not going to see the best of the country. The North German Plain is pretty boring - relatively speaking. And if I'm going to go to Germany at all, I'd want to travel down the Rhine from Cologne and see the home of German Romanticism. I'd want to go to Heidelberg, Munich, the Bavarian Alps. I'd...

...And so I had this brilliant Idea. I'll travel round all these countries AND visit their capitals. That means I can still keep the 'round the Baltic' idea but as a lo of the capitals are inland... In fact, now that I think about it, this gives me an excuse to zigzag all over the place.

The one problem with this idea would be Russia. Nipping off to Moscow for a quick visit and getting drunk outside the walls of the Kremlin would be a great idea, but it would add on rather more than a few miles. But I realised early on that I could cheat a little. Instead of Moscow, I could visit the old Tsarist 'capital' of St Petersburg, which was what I was planning on doing anyway. St Petersburg is on the Baltic.

And perhaps I could cheat a little more and briefly add in Luxembourg and the Czech republic. They're both landlocked countries, not bordering the Baltic at all, but I could treat them as transitional stops, couldn't I. Maybe I could play this game and allow myself to visit non-Baltic countries so long as I don't sleep there. I'd have to get through in one day. Why not? This is my holiday.

I've always wanted to visit Luxembourg, ever since, as a kid, I read that Luxembourg's greatest capital asset was its national stamp collection. Who wouldn't want to visit a place like that. And I've always wanted to visit Prague, 'cos I love Czech music, and everyone says it is beautiful

The next thing is, where am I going to stay. It's got to be a camping holiday, though I'm prepared to compromise by throwing in a few hotel stops when I get tired and smelly or when it pisses down and I get soaked to the skin. Or when, I'm staying in the city. In Sweden, I will, of course, have to stay in an ice hotel. That's a fixed point in this plan. They cost a fortune, but what the hell!

On the whole, if you stay in hotels you might just as well stay at home, or travel in a luxury Merc - IMHO. The great thing about hiking or biking with a tent (especially if you avoid campsites and find a nice comfortable field or bit of scrub for the night) is that it disconnects you from the drip feed of mechanised urban living. It cuts you off from the responsibilities of civilisation and all the requirements for deferred gratification. When you backpack you meet the needs of the moment, and that's enough for the time. Camping puts you back into the landscape and gives you a sense of freedom from everything but the basic needs of the body: food, shelter and pleasure. I've never felt such peace and detachement and excitement, as when I have been camping wild. My mother had a bucketful of sharp Irish sayings at her disposal for cutting people down to size. One of them was: "Ah, she didn't care where the night fell on her!" She didn't mean by it what I mean by it, but it sums up the experience of camping beautifully. It's the only way.

When to go? - I'd have to time the journey so that I hit Finland, Sweden and particularly Norway in September, when the tourists have all started to trek back home but before the temperature starts to plummet below the zero mark once I get above the Arctic Circle. My camping gear (and I) can handle 0 degrees C for camping out, but I draw the line there. Minus five and minus ten I've done (with bad grace). Minus 15 is for the Arctic Fox.

I haven't worked out a timetable yet, but I'm reckoning on the whole journey (including detours, accidents, and serendipidous happenings) taking four months. That means I will have to leave at the end of May - perfect!

So, that's the plan in its broad outline. I'd load up the bike with my trusty one-man tent (the one I've had for the last fifteen years) and head for Dover. I'd kiss Blighty goodbye, and cross the Channel to France. Then it would be straight down to mortorway to Paris for my first capital and I'd camp - no, probably not in the Bois de Boulogne: the ground is stony and the last time I was there I was kept awake all night by the sound of copulating couples. There's a good campsite in the south of the city.

After a day or three in Paris - money no object - doing the tourist thing and just slobbing around, it would be on to Belgium and Brussels. A visit to Brussels has to include a meal in a resturaunt in the Rue des Bouchers -one of the truly great eating places of the world (sod my allergies, I'm on holiday. They can take a hike!). I'd probably also stop off at Bruges. It would then be on to The Netherlands. The Netherlands has two capitals, Amsterdam and The Hague. So, of course, I'll have to visit both. The Dutch are amazing engineers. My Financial Times Desk Reference says that 27% of the land is below sea level. The coast is defended by a giant infrastructure of dunes, dikes and canals. There's also the amazing dam across the Ijsselmeer behind which thousands of acres of polder land have been reclaimed from the sea. I'd like to ride along that and see some of the country's coastal defences for myself.

I'd then turn south and enter Germany. Cologne would be the first big city I'd head for, and then I'd take a ride down the Rhine, and visit some of the castles. I know, everyone does it but that's what I want to see. After that it would be Heidleberg, Munich, and Berlin.

To be continued...
Hud

“Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley

SV-Wolf's Bike Blog

Post Reply