Cracking.

Temporarily in funds after selling the Lomax I decided to treat AdventureDog for Christmas and buy him an OEM screen for his sidecar from Watsonian. While it is certainly – theoretically – possible to buy a sheet of perspex and bend my own, I thought for once I would go straight to the source and buy something brand new.

It came in a splendidly large and branded box. I took it home and parked it in the hall, waiting for a day when he wasn’t paying attention so I could pop it on the chair for him and surprise him on Christmas day.

Imagine my horror when I took it out of the box to find a beautiful, smooth sweep of plastic – WITH NO FITTING HOLES.

On thinking about it, it’s perfectly reasonable that you should have to drill your own – I’m sure every chair is slightly different in the spacing and location of the mounting holes.
But I know one thing about drilling holes in hard plastic and it’s this – hard plastic cracks. A lot.

I asked my team on Twitter for their tips.

There were many. Use a wood bit. Use a metal bit. Make sure it’s sharp. Blunt it on a grindstone before you start. Drill quickly. Drill slowly. Melt a pilot hole first. Don’t let heat anywhere near the plastic.

I read them all. And watched a couple of YouTube videos just to make sure.

It seemed to me that the most important thing was to have maximum control over what the bit was doing. And that meant a hand drill.

You can’t buy them any more. If you look for Hand Drill on B&Q or Argos you get a cordless power drill.

But for once the gods were smiling and an ebayer 2 miles away was selling a pair of Stanley hand drills with the auction ending on Christmas Eve. Yes, they wouldn’t mind me picking them up. And the sun was even shining so the car would start. (Hortense is Unhappy at the moment, doubly so when it’s raining).

Christmas came and went. I wasn’t feeling brave enough. I didn’t want my first attempt to be on a three-figure piece of plastic.

Then a small lightbulb moment. I had a perspex laptop stand that would still work with a few holes drilled in it. Game on! Six practice holes – and one jammed drill, still need to figure out what has happened there – later, it was time.

The beauty of the hand drill is that you can feel every shaving come off the plastic. There’s none of the brute force of hammer-drilling a blunt bit into a brick wall. If the bit feels like it has jammed, just wind back a fraction, don’t press on until lumps break off.

Into the garage.

Second blow! The screen wasn’t a brilliant fit round the top of the chair. It was a bit uneven, and one of the holes would have been perilously close to the edge.

I felt a bit outraged. I had paid for this ill-fitting white elephant!

I checked in with Boffin. Calm down, dear, he said (though he used more words.) Plastic forming is always a bit hit and miss, the shape changes as it cools. You will always need to do the fine-tuning yourself.

Cup of tea.

Out with the Dremel and the files, and an upturned plant pot to sit on. That went well – it lasted 5 seconds before splintering to pieces under my arse sending me sprawling back into the arms of the Triumph. AdventureDog managed to keep a straight face while I retrieved my dignity and found something sturdier.

Once I’d set about the edge, I felt more confident about drilling the holes – it was the point of no return. “If she dies, she dies.”

It was still a bastard fiddly job though. Because the screen doesn’t sit flat on the fibre-glass. It sits in a rubber gutter. But if you sit it in the gutter you can’t see where to mark the holes….and if you roll back the flap to reveal the hole (ahem) you move the screen.

Reader, we guessed. Or perhaps we Estimated how much clearance to leave between the chair and the bottom of the screen. And checked as we went along. Middle hole first, test fitting, check marks for next two holes. Test fitting, check marks for outer pair.

Five holes, and no problems.

Much pride.

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“Thank you for talking to me.”

I have been trying to track down an exhaust leak on Hortense for about the last 2 years. I know she is blowing, because I can hear it, smell it, and she was about 20mph down on where she should be. Which is a big loss from 70mph.But could I find it ? Hell no.

Here’s why not:

The hole is between the exhaust and the gearbox, where the bracket that holds it on has torn off.  She has been away at a spa getting a new manifold and the chap doing the work said that he had found the hole and I needed a new one. He may have sounded slightly disappointed when I told him thanks but  could do that myself.

When I say, could do that myself, I recall it taking me a day and a half and much trauma. So I have been putting it off, but today dawned (eventually) bright and sunny and there was really no more excuse not to.

Except the nice old boys who kept stopping for a chat. Obviously I look at my most attractive in my official Scottish rugby beanie, two pairs of trousers and three jumpers. So I think it may be curiousity value. “Where’s the motorbike gone?” asked first Cheery Old Cove, walking his Extremely Fluffy dog. We had a quality chat about 2-strokes and the defection of Ernst Degner, which I know about thanks to Mat Oxley’s excellent book, and he told me about his collection of BSAs before the dog decided it was time to move on.

The second old chap had a rather stylish fair isle hat and a rucksack. It is possible he was a rather off-track rambler, but I think he may just have been a little lonely. We discussed the benefits of owning an older car compared to a modern one, how much fun it was to work on your own vehicles, and then he said, rather sadly “Thank you for talking to me” before heading on up the road.

This time, 6 years later, the new box went on in 45 minutes. And bloody hell, does it make a difference!

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Sold!

So that’s the Lomax gone to a new owner. A few friends are worried that I’ll regret it, but 24 hours in it still feels fine.

Not that we didn’t have some brilliant adventures. Hanging above my mantelpiece I’ve got a picture of the Lomax somewhere high in Caithness bagging a Round Britain Rally landmark with the Wingman enjoying the sunshine and the view.

If I had to pick a top three?

  • Orkney in 2016 – blazing sunshine one day, couldn’t see the end of the bonnet for mist the next
  • Getting my Dragon Award in the Welsh National Rally – racing the clouds across the high places and then heading back to the final control in a biblical downpour.
  • The Hardknott Pass – a road I simply can’t do on two wheels, because I can’t convince myself that a motorcycle can navigate an uphill hairpin. The Lomax ate it up.
  • Dartmoor – an early start from Bridgwater and I had the moor to myself. Discovered that if you go through a ford in a Lomax, expect a bath.
  • The Motospeed Cannonball – both hamsters running in their wheels at full pelt to keep up with the Ferrari and the other motoring exotica.

OK, that’s five.

And I rebuilt the engine. More than once. When I got him he was an incontinent dribbler with the oil cooler held on with jubilee clips. And piston ring gaps you could measure with a ruler. After the first year the oil mostly stayed inside the engine and we could get through a journey without cutting out at the lights and refusing to restart. Not bad for an arts graduate.

He lived under a tarpaulin at Badders’ house while I lived in a caravan in Coventry waiting for my house purchase to complete. Then he lived under what appeared to have been a rather sticky tree in Aberdeen while I rented a room in Coventry waiting for another house purchase to complete, and had to take a ride south in the back of a box truck when my Northern Ex got fed up of having an automotive cuckoo in his nest.

I put him back together, again. I patched up the seat where the rat had eaten it. I fitted the rather fine rubber floor Northern Ex had bought for me to replace the mouldy carpet. I womanhandled the steering wheel back into place and tracked down the superlong coach bolts necessary to refit the gear lever.

After all that I paid someone else to put a replacement engine. I still think I could have done it, with the help of a hoist and possibly a loan of a burly chap, but they’re not that easy to find these days.

Regrets? I would have liked to stick a giant Saltire to the bonnet and join a YesBikers independence rally. Otherwise, none.

It’s time for someone else to take over now. I’ve got an MZ with a sidecar that needs to be under cover and I’m excited about being able to come home, put the heater on in the garage and do some work on the bike.

So long, Lomax, and thanks for all the miles.

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Ooh…new Shoei

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in posession of the same lid she has been riding in for 10 years must be in urgent want of a new one.

But I hate buying new lids. I got my head stuck in one in Ally Pally. And I paid a large amount of money for a shiny red AGV one which turned out to be the wrong shape and induced blinding head pain after 30 minutes. So I have soldiered on with my BMW Sport, even though I have dropped it a lot and the visor attchment on one side is broken. And the lining has holes worn in it.

I could (just about) justify this when I was just riding the two miles to work and back.

But now I have an MZ outfit and I have big plans! And a woman with big plans needs a proper lid.

I sidled up to the Schuberth specialist. They do women’s fit helmets these days, you know! He looked at me, my David Coulthard jawline and my Sean Bean chin and, with supreme levels of tact, said ‘You’ll probably find you don’t need the ladies’ fit.’ He did explain that women have different shaped heads to men, usually have bigger hair, and the lining is easily detachable so that you can wash your make up off it. All these things seem sensible. But the medium was too small and the large was too large, even in non-lady sizes.

Thank goodness, I thought. Nothing fits so I can carry on with my baggy old BMW.

But it really won’t do, not for a proper biker which I am slowly returning to being.

So I sidled up to Helmet City. What do you have that will fit a woman with a big chin, I asked? We started with the Schuberth but that was too tight in the forehead and too high on my massive head.  Try this, said the sales chap, handing me a Shoei. Now, I’ve never had a Shoei shaped head. But apparently these days I do. It fitted where it touched and it has a drop-down sun visor so my ambition to be the drop ship pilot from Aliens is finally realised. (though without being eaten by a xenomorph, please).

But buying it would be hasty. I need to build up to it gently, not least because I have already spent 500 quid this week on Hortense.

Pause for lunch.

Interlude for sitting on the new Honda Monkey bike (fab); buying ACF50 (winter preparation!); purchase of Ogri Christmas cards from Tim Midlife Classics (not sure who I shall be sending the Mitzi ones to!); and picking up a flyer for the 2019 Garbage RunGarbage Run (definitely up for this).

Return to the stand with card in hand. Now it turns out that I’ve been putting helmets on wrong for 20 years. I have always pulled the sides apart and dived in face-first (and dear lord, that looks very wrong written down). But apparently the Shoei way is to balance it on the crown of your head and pull it down. It’s unnatural.

So now I am the nervous owner of a grey Shoei with dayglo stripes. It has a pinlock visor shield which some other Shoei experts fitted for me. “What’s your bike, is it a [something modern and up to date which would match the lid]?”

“No, it’s an MZ 250 with a side car.”

Much amusement. It took three of Team Shoei to get the visor on and off so I’m glad I wasn’t doing it myself at home.

I think at full price this lid would be 50 per cent of the cost of my motorcycle. But it is last year’s colour so I got it for much less. I carried it round proudly for the rest of the show and it’s now sat on my dining table looking very beautiful.

It was a fantastic day all round. Last year I went on my own and realised that I had been mediating my motorcycling through other people and vowed to stop it. Unfortunately the universe misheard and mostly stopped me riding at all. Today I went with a friend and though I have done almost no riding in the intervening 12 months I felt much happier about where I am and where I am going. Albeit slowly, and in a cloud of 2-stroke.

Final word to Sam Manicom, who this year has recommended Rice and Dirt – Across Africa on a Vespa by Alexandra Fefopoulou and Stergios Gogos for my winter read.

“A favourite saying. ‘It doesn’t matter how you travel, it’s that you travel which matters.’’ … Of course, a motorcycle is best.”

But an outfit is better 😉

 

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World Kindness Day

What’s the kindest thing anyone has done for you, asked a thread in AIBU (my guilty pleasure.)

That’s a good question, I thought. And one that deserves a proper answer, with pictures. And links.

Maybe even a list.

  1. In 1995 Sean Point (that’s not his real surname but I don’t think I ever knew it) picked up the KH100 I was going to learn to ride on from Lingfield, stuck it on a trailer, brought it round the M25 to Buckinghamshire and headed home again without even accepting petrol money. I don’t have any pictures of this, my ex-husband has them. Not sure why he wants pictures of his ex-wife’s first bike!
  2. Bynzi from the MZ Club sent me the kickstart assembly he was selling on ebay when I broke mine.
  3. Anthony from the MZ Club sold me his spare front brake disc for a Very Reasonable Sum because mine has so many ridges you could play it on a gramophone* and new ones are now unobtainable.
  4. @BikerBear64 and his German Living Free MCC brethren have sourced me a beautiful C-spanner for the exhaust and provided much advice when things haven’t gone quite to plan.
  5. @MichtyMike sent me an original MZ250 workshop manual which has been essential reading as we slide down the ‘things keep breaking’ snake before climbing the ladder back up to the road.
  6. In 2017 Gordon from the Scottish Sidecar Riders Group rode for an hour each way to let me have a shot of his Diversion 900 outfit in a car park in St Andrews, giving me the confidence to buy a sidecar for AdventureDog.
  7. In 2011 Muffy invited me to ride with the Blue Knights in Australia and rescued my entire vacation when the first bike I rented turned out to be a pile of shite. The rental guy in Perth was very, very willing to give me a refund after several large policemen Had A Word.
  8. Also in 2011 Woody the Sweeper gave up his New Year’s Eve to take me on a tour of WA’s coast while I waited for my replacement rental bike to be ready.
  9. In 2010 I was wrestling a tent down in despair (well, actually in Abington) because the person I thought was my future was giving me the silent treatment for daring to go on a motorcycle trip without him. (He didn’t ride.) Graham said, if you get lonely you can come and visit me.
  10. In 2013 Louis sent me The Wingman from Portugal.

That’s just ten things I can think of. There are lots more. Some of them don’t even relate to motorcycles.

*not my joke.

 

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Shafted

So I bought an MZ.

And a week later I broke it.

My biggest worry with buying a kick-start motorcycle was that I wouldn’t be able to start it.  My first bike, a little 100cc two-stroke Kawasaki, was kick-start and I don’t remember having too many problems, but that was in 1995.

The best part of a quarter-century later, a sunny Saturday saw me fruitlessly hoofing away at the kickstarter until it gave up the ghost and dangled uselessly under the MZ’s belly.

Have you broken the spring? asked the multitude.

To find out whether you have broken the spring, you have to take the side of the engine off.

To take the side of the engine off you have to remove the oil pump – and yes, I had just topped up the oil tank. There’s now a knitting needle jammed in the end of the tube from the tank to the pump, because I don’t have any golf tees.

You also have to remove the clutch cable and the nut that sits on the end of the driveshaft and is done up double-bastard-tight.

And then you have to hit either side of the casing with a soft-faced hammer until it wiggles free. All of which would have been a lot bloody easier without a sidecar in the way.

The spring didn’t look broken, so I ordered up new gaskets and O-rings. Then I took the kickstart lever off. Busted! Right at the bottom next to the case, which is why it looked fine.

I ordered a spring.

On Friday night I sat down to clean up the casing and all the bits. And noticed the chip missing from the kickstart shaft, knocked out by the spring when it broke.

I ordered a new shaft.

On Saturday I went to help two friends changing front wheel bearings on a Trabant. I took the clutch bearing, because it felt a bit lumpy.

‘Would you change this?’ I asked.

Hell yes, they said. So I need to order a new clutch bearing. But that’s pressed into a fancy holder that engages with the clutch release.

So I either need to buy a set of bearing squishers, which would make me feel very competent, or buy Rob a bottle of wine and ask him to do it for me.

Sigh.

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Here we go again…

What is life without a two-stroke rolling project? Dull, that’s what. And I felt my hard-won sidecar piloting skills leaking away over the summer, so I have been trying to buy a new rig for months.

I had bought my ticket and arranged insurance for a magnificent classic Suzuki and Watsonian chair on sale in Ayrshire when the vendor changed his mind. 100 quid down on an non-refundable fare to Glasgow Central. Cheers, twat. Though I did once do the same to a man on his way to buy 2Moos, the Africa Twin, so perhaps it was karma catching up with me.

This one got posted to the Federation of Sidecar Clubs facebook group and was, I thought, snapped up by another member who has been on a quest for an MZ outfit for a long time while I was haggling over the Suzuki. I sighed, and cursed our Scottish vacillator.

Then I got a message in my inbox, from the son of the seller. I turned out he was a local chap who I’d visited back in the spring to see if I wanted to buy his Monza (I decided against putting a chair on the Triumph in the end so didn’t.)  Dan had passed on the rig, was I still interested?

Oh yes!

A deal was done,  and yesterday I collected my rental trailer and trundled off to collect the outfit. It is always a bloody rugby day when I hire trailers which means bringing them back requires dodging through the security and the parking chaps in hi viz around the arena to get back to the yard. A 2CV can tow 400kg. The trailer weighed 228kg empty. An MZ250 weighs about 150kg. I was a bit worried.

I shouldn’t have been. The old girl is indomitable and after Matthew and his dad pushed the outfit up the ramp we trundled steadily home.

Last time I brought a bike home on a ramp I borrowed a neighbour’s husband to help me back it down. These days I am an Independent Woman and did it on my own, though one of my new neighbours did watch to make sure the ramps were in the right place. Mainly because she was waiting to get her car into the garage and a pile of Eastern Bloc iron on its side in the alley would have represented an unacceptable delay.

Today we have been out. Once without the Wingman, in case of catastrophe, and once with, as he was sat by the door complaining at being left behind.

“Is the sidecar just for the dog?” asked a chap in the garage as I was filling up.

Yes, I said. I didn’t tell him that the dog also has a three-wheel kit car and a doge chariot. I think he would have thought that to be too many wheels.

 

 

 

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It’s sheep we’re up against

P1070441If you are going to splutter to a halt on a remote Peak District byway in your newly re-engined Lomax then there is probably no better company to do it in that in the midst of a convoy of the Eastern Bloc’s most iconic engineering. Spare length of 5.5mm fuel line? Produced after a brief rummage in the boot of a Lada. Someone willing to suck on the end of said fuel line to clear the vapour lock? The driver of the Lada. Moral support, encouragement and a push? From the Skoda and the Trabant behind.

That was Saturday afternoon. It was a blazing hot day and the Lomax Did Not Like It.

Like the Lomax, I was unhappy.

When I pay someone to do a job I would like it to be done better than I can do it. The new-ish engine suffers from chronic overheating. Since discovering this in Wales I have replaced and adjusted the points, sorting out the over-long screw which was scoring the front of the cam and interfering with the centrifugal advance. I’ve redone the valve clearances, because the exhaust clearances were just about closed. I’ve blown through all the carb jets and reset the float height.

And on Friday after a miserable drive through Stoke city centre we worked out that the oil cooler was clogged like a 60-a-day man’s arteries. Rob bravely put it to his lips and blew until a gout of oil gushed out onto the grass. This is not what I was expecting. I suspect it wasn’t what he was expecting either, but I lent him my spanners in exchange so he could sort out his bent boot hinge.

Al fresco engineering is a tradition of the Foxfield IFA Club meet, and it is comforting to be surrounded by resourceful people who remain unconcerned when the exhaust falls off the back of their bike halfway up a hill out of Cheadle and cheerfully discuss the best way of bungeeing it back on to get home without melting any elastic instead of booting it into the nearest skip.

Being good Communists we believe in the good of the collective. But owing to an administrative cock-up somewhere along the line the family who had booked the station for an all-day party on Saturday hadn’t been told there would be a thirsty collection of harmless eccentrics camped next to the miniature railway.

“Hello!” I said to the woman blowing up balloons on Saturday morning. “Whose party is it?”
“It’s for my dad. He’s retiring, and it’s his birthday, and he’s beaten cancer.”
“Excellent. We’re a car club, we come here every year. It’s a shame about the double-booking, isn’t it”
“No you can’t use the bar.”

I like to think that if it had been the other way round and I’d been the party host I’d have welcomed the leavening of my family party with a few interesting outsiders. But that probably says more about how I feel about my family than anything else.

We went to the pub instead.

Saturday was the road run and the total collapse of the Lomax. With the roadside repair of the fuel lines and a boost from David’s spare battery – kept charged in the Lada, just in case – we got going again, only to run straight into the back of a flock of sheep being herded at slow collie pace up the hill. Yes, just perfect when your car is so hot it’s boiling its own petrol.

Eventually they turned off and we trundled agonizingly into the very beautiful village of Hartington for the lunch stop. AdventureDog enjoyed an ice cream. I enjoyed passive-aggressively saying ‘you’re welcome’ to the woman who ignored the fact that we’d stepped back to let her down the stairs from the ladies loo and headed off into the distance. This infuriated her so much that she came all the way back up the stairs to tell me that she was unsteady on her feet and concentrating, and it was much more sensible for the person at the bottom of the stairs to wait. She tailed off after a minute and said, “You’re not in a very good mood, are you?”

Well spotted.

We staggered on. The company was good even if the engine was struggling. Next on the list is a swop for cooler spark plugs and my special hot-temperature coil. And another round of carb cleaning.

Sometimes when the day has not gone well it’s very nice to sit and drink beer with friends. The problem with rounds is that you sit down and other people bring you the pints. The other problem is that I’ve not been drinking much since last September and have become a truly cheap date. So this year it was my turn to have the intervention and have my mug of sparkling East German wine which I was womanfully quaffing round the camp fire on being rescued from the pub gently removed from me.

Well – if my car is behaving badly perhaps I’m also allowed to be.

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How do you steer this thing?

Me, for most of the last six weeks:

“is it ready yet?”

“is it ready yet?”

“is it ready yet?”

“is it ready yet?”

The loss of the Jawa outfit left me confined to the car for any social trips involving AdventureDog. This was not good. The Lomax had gone off to the doctors at the end of April for a new (new to it, at least) engine. The Lomax Doctor’s other half then underwent massive surgery. I’m not completely heartless. I wholly and completely understand – though in a purely theoretical way, being now permanently single – that caring for the sick must come before transplanting engines.

But you have to understand, I go more than slightly mad if I can’t get out.  The dead Jawa meant I missed out on the VMCC Dorset weekend, which I had been looking forward to since the spring. I stayed at home and cut down the foliage in the back garden. I didn’t go to our local biker meet, because I don’t want to look like a wannabe when I have been riding almost half of my life.

“is it ready yet?”

Hope to get onto it next week.

“is it ready yet?”

Starting tomorrow.

“is it ready yet?”

I passed the time getting the Triumph ready to return to the road. Though I can’t velcro the Wingman to the seat, we are on the path of  getting a chair attached to it to convey him about. I have a deposit on a subframe, which is needed to provide the anchor points, and an offer of a Watsonian Palma. So it seemed wise to get the bike taxed and MOTd, with new plugs, fresh petrol and a change of brake fluid.

“is it ready yet?”

engine is in, just reattaching all the bits.

“is it ready yet?”

We’re just trying to do the MOT now.

So Friday was super-exciting. Not only did the Triumph start, more or less first press of the starter, but the Lomax came home.

This morning I took the Triumph for its MOT. I have been riding tiny bikes for the last three years. The Triumph is a heavy bitch. I tried to turn left, she totally ignored me and sailed across the road to the opposite kerb.

Fuck, I thought. I know it’s been a while but have I forgotten how to do this?

I kicked the tyres a bit in case one of them was flat.

No, I was just rubbish.

We tried again and made it to the MOT shed without further embarassment. We came back the long way, so that I could get into third gear. I think it is three years since I have travelled at 60mph on a motorcycle. The bike with no name does it without breaking a sweat. When we are post-dog there will still be roads to ride. And though the news seems uniformly dreadful at the moment, a day is still improved by riding a ridiculously beautiful motorcycle in the sun.

 

 

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Better days

I am sitting holding a leather jacket while the man it belongs to does something daring. This makes me laugh. It’s the kind of thing I imagine a Pink Lady might do for her favourite T-bird. It’s not what I do. I rebuild carburettors, scour North Wales for spark plugs and drop the needle in the throttle to stop my engine running lean.

It didn’t help. Last weekend I came home from Welshpool in Biker Paul’s car while the Jawa went back to Wisbech with a wrecked gearbox. I no longer own it. It has gone back whence it came, for £1500 less than I paid for it. Add to that the £800 quid it cost me to ferry it up to Scotland and back down again, about a hundred for miscellaneous repair parts and a big tin of Jizer to degrease the baffles, two pounds twenty for the jar of Nutella and 50 quid in fuel and 2-stroke that I filled up with but didn’t get to use for the Welsh National Rally and the tiny number of trouble-free miles it covered seem like an extremely expensive luxury.

I am a bit bitter.

It doesn’t help that I am back in Wales this weekend for the Wartburg-Trabant IFA Club’s Eastern Bloc Vehicle Weekend. The first one of these I took part in was based around Lacock and was Scabbers the Trabi’s only happy outing before his long and painful expiration.

As the Jawa has now followed in Scabbers’ tyre tracks, this year I have come to Llangollen in Hortense, who is trying to blend in with her 602cc engine and lack of top speed. Just to rub salt in the wound, the hotel we gather in for Friday night’s meal is about 400 yards from the hill on which the Jawa’s gearbox gave up.

To be fair, if you are feeling sore about the failure of your Eastern Bloc vehicle, there is no better company to be among. Markus the Barkas didn’t make it at all, having broken his clutch cable over the Bank Holiday. Wilfred the Traction Engineer had to rebuild his top end over the winter after discovering that the Tramp had eaten a piston ring. The Ural pilot sat next to me at dinner had to learn how to set up and time his ignition rotor. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity is the secret. Beer helps.

It was a beautiful sunny weekend and AdventureDog and I assumed our traditional seat in the right hand side of the Tramp for Saturday’s train adventure and road run. With a short pause to reattach the exhaust and a second brief halt to change a spark plug after one of the cylinders stops working. Perhaps my expectations of Jawa ownership were too high.

Why am I holding a leather jacket? Because on Sunday morning we had an excursion across the Pontcysyllte aqueduct. The lad who opens up and sells the tickets also races grasstrack and does first aid at race meetings. He had a cautionary tale about a sidecar passenger who fell out when the outfit flipped over during a race and was found walking back to base with a broken leg. “It’s only a flesh wound,” I said. Without breaking stride he said “Tis but a scratch” and carried on with the story.

On a glorious sunny day, sitting in a canal boat crossing one of the wonders of the industrial world isn’t really challenging enough for the adventurous two-stroke traveller. MZ Tim said, “can we walk back?”

No problem, said the crew.

I thought about it. I have climbed the Diamond Tree. But no-one wants to see a grown woman cry. Dog and I stood on the towpath so that we could say we had done it but returned to the safe haven of the bows of the narrow boat and sat there trying not to look down. We took our jacket-holding duties seriously and handed it back in the sunshine at the Jones the Boat basin.

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