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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Filed under Introspection


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.


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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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Filed under Friends, ifa

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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Filed under Lomax, Triumph

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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Filed under Friends, ifa, jawa


I try to keep the list of ‘things I don’t want the landlady to know about’ fairly short. I don’t drink in the house very often, I haven’t had any gentlemen callers ( though I should perhaps add that they haven’t exactly been forming a queue) and I haven’t sat on her sofa in my pants to watch Strictly.

I am not sure that this adds up to enough in the ‘virtue’ column to make up for ‘arsing about with petrol on her garden furniture.’ Close to the spot she likes to stand for an after-dinner ciggy. But last Friday was dry, clear and still, while the forecast for the weekend was crap again. And, based on prior experience, I had about two hours before she came home. Fortune favours the brave and all that….

Checking the float on a 2CV carb is simple. Whip the top off, turn it upside down, and check that the dimple in the middle of the float is 18mm plus or minus 1 above the edge of the carb body. If you’re feeling thorough, check both floats and average it out.

Checking the Jikov 2829 CE requires a Nutella jar, a ruler, a length of tubing, a syringe, a permanent marker and some non-latex gloves. I couldn’t find my syringe so I had to nab the landlady’s Highland Spring bottle from the draining board. I hope she isn’t still looking for it.

Eat the Nutella. (I had to skip this step as it isn’t Fat Club compliant and spoon it into a tub instead.) Mark a line 10mm from the lip of the glass. Balance the top half of the carb on the jar. If you left the fuel hose on the tap go and fetch it and attach it to the carb. Using the syringe, feed the carb with petrol until the valve closes. Wipe up the petrol you spilled on the table before it melts it. Realise that over-enthusiastic syringing has resulted in overflow, giving a false reading. Syringe the petrol back out of the Nutella jar and try again. Keep trying until the valve closes just as the petrol hits the line that you drew.

Worry about meniscuses and other visual tricks.

Decide that time is short and you are close enough for jazz.

Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Though without dropping any screws down holes this time. David Angel at F2 sends brilliant step-by-step instructions, though not for the fainthearted. I don’t think Haynes has ever suggested I should roll a rubber hose back like a condom before fitting it, but it did the job beautifully.

By 5pm on Friday I had a bike that started and ran. Which was a significant victory. Since then I have mostly been trying to set the air mix screw, with limited success. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos, mainly by a chap called Mustie1 who is fettling a barn find Jawa at the moment. I need him to stop fannying around polishing the paintwork and show me how to tune the carb!

I also found a brilliant description of the process on the Yezdi and Jawa Club of Chennai website.

“select a place far away from the city or your residential area so that you do not disturb the tired, sick, disgusted, old people or babes (babies) living in your colony. You are likely to be shooed away from them when you are at a critical point. You may choose a place near your girl friend’s house just to impress her! Put the bike in main stand and get hold of your screw driver. That is all you need, together with your eyes, brains and ears.”

Yesterday I thought I had this cracked. I headed to a local beauty spot where one of this year’s RBR landmarks is located. I selected a place far away from my colony and adjusted the screw until the engine had a cheerful sound and the throttle response was quick without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Today we were idling like a dog again. But yesterday was beautifully sunny and today was grey and damp. Maybe that makes a difference?

Who knows. After all the surgery I feel it’s now time just to start riding and see what happens. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, I could melt my pistons, lock the engine, crash and die. But I’ve done that once before (the melting part, not the crashing and dying part) so hopefully will feel it happening while there’s still time to pull in the clutch.

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Filed under Garage stuff, jawa, Sidecar



I am buying a house. I owned a house until February last year and I sold it. So buying a new one makes me sad and angry, mostly with myself. And scared, because I don’t want to be taking on a mortgage at this point in my life but prices have gone up and my savings have gone down.

Four days of fettling a motorcycle in the rain have helped to remind me that having your own house is A Good Thing. If this had been my house I’d have put the outfit in the conservatory, put Planet Rock on, and had a lovely time. If the landlady had gone away for Easter I’d have been tempted to do the same. But no, she had the audacity to want to stay in her own home for Easter so I put my kagoule on, tried to find a spot for my cup of tea where it wouldn’t get diluted, and cracked on.

First, the dribbly exhausts. The internet is full of advice on having to take cutting wheels to welds and perform tricks with mole grips to get baffles out. I am here to tell you it’s much easier than that. Undo the 7mm bolt each side of the tailpipe and pull. Inside there’s a collection of objects d’art and two rubber rings, in my case, dripping with oil. Better get a bucket. And some degreaser.

It is much harder than I expected to get degreaser these days. Homebase don’t have it, the Brown Overall Emporium that had my Lomax bolts didn’t have it, and Halfords only do it on pre-order. Even my longstop local car accessories place only had a tiny tin. Has it been banned for our own good? I bet Shetland Janitorial could have helped..

So that was Good Friday. Degreasing, in the rain. After a bit of a James Herriot moment with my rubber-gloved hand inserted up the bike’s rear end I decided to take the pipes off for better access and to give a good clean to the surfaces where the collars meet the head, because David Angel says if these are dirty the seal will be poor.IMG_0598.JPG

Easter Saturday was more degreasing, cleaning of heads, refitting of shiny clean pipes, and then the game of trying to get the baffles back in. You can take them out in pieces but they need to go back as one unit. Have a guess how many tries it took to figure that one out….

2 days down, one job done. I ponder whether TV shows like Shed & Buried raise unrealistic expectations about how long jobs should take but decide that no, I’m just brick slow. My excuse is that I’ve never done this before. Next time will be quicker.

Another cup of tea, and then time to tackle the carb. I have a new float valve to fit and a set of gaskets in case I tear one. I’ve been eyeing up jars in supermarkets because the internet says that a jar with a 7cm neck is the right size to check the float height. And it needs to be really shallow to save me from having to take the whole carb off. Fortunately I work in a university town so roaming the aisles with a ruler and muttering doesn’t attract comment. Or security guards.

Taking the float bowl off, I dropped the screws. No problem, I thought. There’s a kind of shallow dish on top of the engine – the one that filled with fuel when the carb overflowed in Sainsbury’s car park – that will catch them.

So why did I only recover three screws?

Because it’s a shallow dish with a hole in one side that leads down into the engine assembly.

Much despair.

I could buy another screw. But that would leave one inside the bike doing god knows what damage.

There is only one thing to do. Get out the Big Screwdriver and take the side cover off. Underneath is something that I think is the ignition module, something else that I have no clue about, and a shiny carb screw resting gently on a ledge. I retrieve it and back gently away.

Panic over, and game over too – one of the floats is half-full of pale yellow liquid, like a Fanta bottle on the central reservation.

I’m cross because I’m the world’s slowest mechanic and losing screws down holes is really not cool.

But I’m also happy because I was right – the float wasn’t floating properly.

But I’m cross because I wasn’t confident enough to back my hunch and order a float at the same time as the new valve, so now I am stuck for the rest of Easter. And I can’t even pig out on eggs because we had a stern lecture at Fat Club – one large egg has as many calories as two bottles of wine. “Would you sit and drink two bottles of wine to yourself?” asked the leader. Most of us nodded, to her disappointment.

The exhausts look shiny though.


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“My bike is louder than your bike!”

The smalls next door decided to have a sweet shop at the end of their drive this weekend, which was rather unkind at a time when I am strictly bound to the rules of Fat Club.

As I fitted the sat-nav mount to the handlebars of the Jawa they tempted me with less of a siren call, more of a bellow. “Would you like some sweeties?” I’m very glad that it was them offering me sweets and not the other way round!

As AdventureDog and I had a hard weekend of sidecar voyaging ahead, two small bags of cola bottles seemed a justifiable purchase. Larger small carefully tweezered them from her stash into a bag. “What were you doing last week under your car with a chainsaw?” she asked.

I don’t remember doing anything under my car with a chainsaw, but I was hacksawing the exhaust off. I explain, briefly. Meanwhile small small has run off to get his biker boots, for he is one of those tiny motocross riders with no fear, and wants to show me that not only is his bike louder than mine, his boots are better and he goes faster.

I have no doubt.

But it’s OK, because this weekend is about distance, not speed. I was fitting the sat-nav because for the first time in three years I was going somewhere on a bike that I hadn’t been before – the starting landmark for the Round Britain Rally.

Because the bastard snow has kept us within the city limits for far longer than planned, I was quite worried about the  160-mile round trip to the ARSE, the Annual Rally Start Event, when our furthest voyage has been the 13 miles to the Long Itch Diner. Or perhaps the abandoned run from Fife to Dundee last August which ended up on the Proprietor of the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery’s trailer.

So Saturday’s mission was to double that with a trip to Jack Hill’s Cafe, one of my favourite biker stops, and if all went well, make it back to Asda in time to take part in the Coventry Riders Action Group Easter Egg Run. I love a good egg run and I haven’t done one since I lived in East Anglia.

Of course it was raining on Saturday. Just like the good old days. I’m impressed that my personal weather system has waited the four years I’ve been away from motorcycle touring. It joyfully precipitated upon me all the way down the A45 to Jack’s, where I had a cup of tea instead of a fry-up, and AdventureDog gave me the face because he didn’t get any bacon.

Slowly, the niggles are being ironed out. Having 40psi in the rear tyre instead of 5 certainly improves the handling. Backing off the rear drum adjusters released an extra 5mph – may not sound that impressive but when you’re struggling to get up hills it makes a big difference! And all my bad habits are being shown up. On the 125 I brake into a corner and coast round. On an outfit that drifts you out into the oncoming traffic. Get your braking before the corner – biker 101. I may even have muttered IPSGA to myself.

Damp but happy, dog, chair, Jawa and I made it to Asda in time for a coffee, a chat about the insanity of the decision to charge bikers £12.50 a day to ride in London, and a rapid turnaround to head out on the egg run.

“I’ll keep it fairly slow,” said Baz, in the briefing. There must be a local definition of slow I’m not familiar with, I thought as we hurtled along the back roads around Wolvey and back to Broad Park House, a centre for children with learning disabilities. They were so excited to see the bikes and the best thing about the day was that everyone was happy to let the kids scramble into the seats, toot the horns, and generally have a whale of a time, even the chap with a gorgeous BSA and vintage sidecar who would have been quite justified in saying no. With three kids in the sidecar and two on the bike, they looked like they were ready to hit the road and have the best adventure ever, but for dog and I it was back to the cupboard via the petrol station to get ready for our Sunday run.

I have done 360-mile days, I have ridden from Lands End to John O’Groats (more than once) and I’ve even done one Brit Butt (Lite version) but for the last three years I have only ridden the three miles to work and back. Everything else has been done sitting on my arse in the Lomax, and one of the lessons of Saturday was that my riding fitness has withered away. It is OK, I tell myself. When I got my first big bike after learning, I was daunted by the thought of riding from Buckinghamshire to Sheffield, where then-hubs was working. I printed out out maps, wrote myself some tips, and survived.

On Sunday I packed a flask, a bacon sandwich, and a reminder that this wasn’t about heroic stamina, it was about getting started. And my raincloud had decided to take a holiday so it was a lovely day to bimble south, stop to do my velcro up again (it’s given up any kind of grip), stop to let the dog have a wee (should have gone before we went), stop for a coffee (roadside coffee always tastes better when you’re sat on a bike), have a go on the motorway (not a great idea), stop to check whether I’d filled the 2-stroke tank up (yes), and finally make it to the ARSE.

Touring on a 350cc outfit is slow.

It got slower on the way home and when I pulled in to the petrol station I discovered oil all over the crankcase. 2 for 2, I thought, and went home sad. But people who know 2-strokes and Jawas better than me say it is just dribble from the exhaust. So Easter is looking like this:-

  • remove, clean and refit exhaust headers
  • de-gunk the silencers as far as possible without setting them on fire or filling them with caustic soda.
  • clean and refit the carb

I hope Jesus would approve. After all, it is a resurrection of sorts.


Filed under Riding, Round Britain Rally, Sidecar

Happiness is…

…driving to the park on Sunday afternoon in a 2CV with a new exhaust fitted, which has restored her mid-range verve and really, really reduced the engine noise.

Getting there was painful though. The parcel finally arrived on Monday morning – it must have been first out of the gates when they were unlocked. I also got a cute biscuit to say sorry and DPD would do better next time. Their apology game is strong. It didn’t count for much when I was lying on the landlady’s drive in the snow on Saturday morning grinding two rusty bolts off the rear exhaust hangers, though.  I looked like Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes (except his pants) in Friends but still lost touch with my fingers after just 20 minutes thanks to Son of Beast from the East and the sub-zero temperatures it brought.

I really like the biddy next door. She has an amazing garden full of bird feeders and beautiful plants, and she didn’t complain at all when I was fettling the Jawa and making a ridiculous amount of noise one weekend.

“Have you got everything you need?” she asked, as I was taking a break from swearing at the tenacity of the bastard rusty bolts.

“Well, I could do with a burly bloke. Or an angle grinder…”

“Hang on,” she said, and went off to see what she could rustle up.

20 minutes later she returned. “Will these do?” she asked, brandishing a pair of bolt-cutters that were more than half her size and would be the envy of any London moped scrote.

We compromised on the loan of a hacksaw.


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