..and meet these two imposters just the same

I guess they are called shakedown miles for a reason….

After resolving the concern about the front of the barrels being covered in oil (minor fail, oil filter not done up quite tight enough) I was feeling lucky and brought the outfit to the RV for self, Platonic Road Companion and Rödskägg for a trip to Stratford Autojumble.

It was running brilliantly, the new cut-down screen looked the bollocks, and we even found the missing doo-hickey that means you can start the bike in neutral without the clutch in.

We have an established order, PRC goes first because he knows all the good roads, I go in the middle in case of disaster, and Röd rides tailgunner in case anything falls off the outfit. This normally works brilliantly but today we got to one of the big roundabouts on the way to the Fosse where you lose line-of-sight on the approach. When the roundabout came back into view there were bikes everywhere, it was like the casino scene in Sister Act where the nuns scatter to make impossible for Vince’s goons to find Dolores (Van Cartier!)

I guess it sounds a bit romantic but I always think that, a bit like medieval knights, we get to know each other through the colours that we wear and how we sit on the bikes. Even against a scene of a dozen scooter boys and another ten or so adventure riders I know who to follow.

I got even bolder, sneaked up to 70mph on the motorway (which the bike didn’t used to do at all) and tried a “GLF” at the national speed limit sign after some roadworks, my joy only slightly marred by being overtaken by a Porsche driver who didn’t see the need to wait until we’d actually passed the sign before winding it on. My right-hand mirror went limp in sympathy with the Porsche pilot’s dick, he got 30 yards before I caught him up.

Then disaster 😦 on the outskirts of Stratford the bike suffered a massive backfire and started bunnyhopping around. Maybe I’d underestimated the amount of fuel in the tank? Wouldn’t be the first time.  We were just passing a Shell garage so I nipped in, filled  up and that seemed to help, the final few hundred yards to the racecourse went smoothly.

Excellent cheeseburger, some good haggling, nice cup of tea.

Then homewards.

Oh dear god.

An occasional backfire at exactly 4.5k revs was manageable.

Then it became a frequent backfire.

Then it became almost constant with the engine under any load at all.

Then the throttle began randomly surging.

Trust me on this, when you are wrangling an outfit, the last thing you want is unexpected throttle input. That’s going to plunge you abruptly to the left.

So I’m juggling the clutch, bouncing around nearly as much as the rev counter needle, trying to use as little throttle as possible, fighting the bars, cruising down hills -except of course you can’t cruise round a downhill lefthand bend with a sidecar…. many apologies to anyone who had their peaceful Sunday rudely interrupted by something that sounded like Ukrainian air defence at work.

And when not trying to stay in a straight line I’m wondering what the fuck I’ve fucked up.  It feels like ignition. When the Lomax had these symptoms it was condenser failure, but the W650 doesn’t have points and a condenser, it has a black box.

Oh shit – a horse coming the other way, with an HGV behind it. There is NO WAY ON EARTH I can fart and bang my way past.  So I pull over, and switch off.

Unwise. Horse safely past, I try and start – nothing. Nada. Zilch.


Now actually this was a massive clue and led to the problem being spotted and sorted. Should I tell you? Best guesses in the comments and I’ll come back and finish the story tomorrow.


Filed under Riding, W650

Just back from the NEC Show

No, not that one. That would have been a truly epic car park snarl up. The Camping and Caravanning Show. And while it was – perhaps unsurprisingly – mainly full of large white wobble boxes, tucked in a corner was this absolutely brilliant bike trailer. 

I hate loading bikes onto trailers and avoid doing it unless I can rope someone in to come and help me. I just have visions of losing momentum halfway up the ramp and the whole thing toppling sideways and pinning me to the tarmac.

This genius design gets round that in two ways. The tail of the trailer drops more-or-less flat to the road, and it’s a wide piece of chequerplate – you can’t fall off it, though I’m fairly certain I could still drop a bike on it. It is, after all, my special talent. 

And it folds in half for storage! 

Anyway – if you’re as impressed as I am by this almighty piece of kit, you can get one from LNB Towbars. Ask for Clare, she was lovely and very knowledgable about it. 

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Happy New Year

Bah Humbug.  I didn’t get Christmas, again.

Last year I didn’t get Christmas because I had temporary custody of an extremely high-needs rescue dog which I couldn’t turn my back on.  I spent Christmas day sitting on a camping chair in my kitchen, the only place I could make safe for her until she went to the next kennels, listening to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when she was asleep and Classic FM’s Sleepy Dog playlist when she wasn’t.

This year I didn’t get Christmas because I came down with the awful Not-COVID-but-still-shit bug that was doing the rounds.  I started shivering on Thursday 22nd and I’m still struggling with the tail end of it now.

But New Year’s Day was warm and sunny so Platonic Road Companion and I nipped out to Cannock Chase for a toastie and a brew.

On the way back we pulled in beside an ancient church, mainly so I could take my helmet off to cough and de-snot myself.  According to the sign, Henry Tudor had stayed there in the run-up to the Battle of Bosworth, and a few decades later Henry VIII and one of his wives stayed there so that they could visit the battlefield.

I like the idea of Tudor tourists.  And I’m going to go back and be a tourist myself – the church used to be the gatehouse of the Cistercian monastary of Merevale, which sounds well worth a visit on a warmer day.

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Like catching fish in a barrel

a small purple magnet is looped onto the end of a wire and has attracted a number of small iron shavings.There should be a gin at my right hand but I’m keeping it tea at the moment so there’s a mug of Tetley’s finest in a lovely autumnal orange mug from Aldi.

Why should there be a gin? Because I have spent the day crouched over the W650’s crankcase removing swarf from the inside, and it has gone Quite Well.

It shouldn’t be there, but then the barrels should come off without the need to recruit a firm of specialists with a big hammer. They had to drill things free and as a consequence there are little shavings everywhere.

And I’m picking them out, one by one. 

There are other things I will be doing later, like flushing the case out and changing the oil as often as I can afford, but it seems to me that the more tiny crunchy bits I can remove now, the better these other options will work.

I’m a child of the 70s and we had to amuse ourselves in ways that didn’t involve electronics. One game I remember involved magnets on strings, cut-out fish with paper clip noses, and a cardboard “tank” which you fished inside without peeking. The long winter nights simply flew by…. but my magnet-fishing skills have turned out to be an excellent foundation for several hours this afternoon with a small magnet on a wire.

Even better, it didn’t fall off the wire and disappear in the bottom of the crankcase, which I’d placed a 50/50 bet on. 

It’s less than ideal and I’m sure I won’t get all the flakes out, but there are very few examples of people successfully getting those barrels off thanks to Kawasaki’s decision to have four of the retaining bolts run outside the engine and rust into immobility.  I found one person discussing it online and he said he’d had to destroy the barrels to get them off. As replacements are £1,000 (or “one set of Africa Twin wheels”) I’m just glad the workshop got them off. 

More fishing tomorrow. Perhaps a squad of handsome Norwegians will turn up to make sure I’m not going over my quota. 


Filed under Garage stuff

Afternoon at the museum

I’ve been very lucky this year – I’ve actually got a few biker friends to go to cafes with and ride in the sun. We’ve been out most weekends over the summer and I’ve enjoyed it so much that the thought of going to things on my own has become quite unpleasant.

This weekend it’s Museum Live at the National Motorcycle Museum – a sort of open day when it’s free to get in and there are lots of talks and stalls. No-one else was free to go and I sulked a bit, did all my boring chores in the morning and decided the autumn sun shouldn’t be wasted so took Second Africa Twin over about lunchtime. This is why all museums should be free – if you don’t have to pay to get in, it’s much more justifiable to drop in for an afternoon or just an hour.

Second Africa Twin doesn’t have a name yet – being quite orange and from the Low Countries most things that spring to mind are a tad sectarian which I’m keen to avoid! But we are getting along well, the new wheels from Central Wheel Components are just brilliant to ride on, and I’ve even got a couple of winter camping adventures lined up. He’ll let me know his name when he’s ready.

The NMM felt a bit emptier than previous years but it turned out everyone was in the main hall listening to Henry Cole. More space for me to rummage in the sticker box – I had to strip Second AT of the ones that he wore as I don’t agree with stolen overland valour, so he’s a bit naked at the moment – and a lull for my annual catch-up with Midlife Classics Tim.

I don’t need anything and I don’t have spare money to fritter on tat. That was my mantra on heading in but I thought a 2023 MZ calendar by Talanah Gamah counted as a household essential since I no longer have an actual MZ to look at.

And that was my visit really – I’m awarding points to myself for going, it would have been easy to stay at home in my dressing gown but that’s not how I want to live. Ironic really because I’m writing this in my dressing gown using my extra Sunday morning hour. I will be putting actual clothes on shortly, I promise!


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The devil farts in my face once more

At least I still have the Triumph, I foolishly said out loud in the Wednesday sun, talking to a friendly chap outside my favourite engine builders where I had gone to ask about getting the rusty bolts out of the W650 head. 

On Thursday morning there was a small puddle on the concrete underneath the old girl.

Could it be condensation? No, it was faintly blue and slightly slippery. Coolant.

Could it be weeping from the lowest bolt on the water pump, which doubles as a drain point?

No, it’s dripping from the back of the pump. 

What does the book of lies say?

“Failure of the pump’s mechanical seal.”

This makes me sad. 

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No, no new tyres for you

I would have bought the Africa Twin some new tyres about 4 weeks ago but some scrotes decided to nick the wheels off my pushbike when it was unattended at my local railway station. So the £250 quid that would have been invested in new rubber went on replacing the stolen wheels and I took the AT very tentatively and gently north to a camping weekend with the promise that we’d get new rubber as soon as the next payday rolled around.

Well, that’s today. So I took the bike up to Wheelhouse Tyres, my local excellent tyre place. Last night I took all the plastics off the front forks because that had caused some bafflement when I had taken 2Moos for new tyres in Cambridgeshire. (It does puzzle me that slapdash places think you won’t notice when they’ve put your bike back together wrong. There were some significant howls of protest when I stood over them in the workshop to show them how to do it correctly.) Dropped the bike off, went to buy some Rokstraps from the shop on the same site.

Man in overalls approaches. “We can’t put your new tyre on.” The inside of both the front and back rims is corroded away to the point where it’s not safe to go back on the road.

Old ATs are prone to this but I suspect a vendor would react badly if you asked to take a tyre off to check the inside of the rim.

So no new tyres for me. The bike is still there, while Central Wheel see if they can source a rear rim for me. I was very fortunate that Platonic Road Companion is on lates this week so could come and pick me up.

It feels like I am in some psychological experiment to see how much distress one person can take before she folds like a 2CV chassis. 300 quid for the tyres, plus rims (if they can be found) plus spokes and wheel-building – well, that’s going to be a grand, minumum, isn’t it.

The 2CV is in the rented lock-up until I can invest £3,000 in a chassis replacement.

The W650 outfit is off the road until I can get 4 rusty cylinder head bolts out. Have been applying penetrating oil for a month, and getting nowhere

I have the Triumph with no Name and a pushbike. I pray daily that nothing happens to either of these.

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Never assume…

I try to be wryly amused these days rather than unleash my feminist rage but sometimes it’s still a challenge!

The 2CV has died  Its chassis has folded. Given that Hortense is 38 this has been on the cards for a while but it still creates a problem for me in my new disguise as Itinerant Folkie. While I do own a music stand, like most things in my life it is heavy-duty and wouldn’t look out of place on a tank.

This is not terribly convenient when you are trying to bungee it to a motorcycle.

I occasionally pass a music shop on my way home from work so I sidled in to see if they had a folding stand that wouldn’t collapse at the drop of a pin and sever any protruding body parts on the way down.

Yes they did. Brilliant! I explained that I needed it to go on the back of a motorcycle.

Some confusion.

More confusion.

Then it dawned that the comedy banter was premised on the assumption that I was going to be riding pillion and using the stand to hold music that I would play WHILE SOMEONE ELSE dealt with the actual riding part.

Dear, sheltered chaps – Women also ride.

It’s a great stand for a tenner though.



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Do not let the parting grieve thee

The Bishop has gone to a new life in Lowestoft.  He went in the back of a Transit and spent the trip looking out of the window fascinated by the way the road flashes by at 65mph.

I didn’t really want to sell him. To open the garage door and find an empty space in his corner is another giant step away from my life with the Wingman. Yes, there were some tears as I went to wheel him along the back alley for the last time. I tried to call back to my mind’s eye the Wingman trotting ahead of me, lead trailing behind just in case he decided to do a runner towards the road, wrapped up warm in his racing green Equafleece tank top and ready for an adventure. I find it hard to picture him these days and that makes me sad.

When I bought the outfit it was a bit of a basket case, having stood for a long time and then had a brief resurrection for trials riding. It would run for 20 minutes and then cut out, which is quite trying when you are trying to get to rallies.

I de-rusted and restored the brake caliper, changed the piston pin because it was rattling, removed and de-rusted the tank, sorted out why the regulator wasn’t charging properly, and tidied up the questionable wiring around the replacement fuse box. Steve from the MZ Riders Club came and helped me put an external switch on the back brake light after the internal tang fell off inside the hub.   I replaced the master cylinder and had to come up with a solution for the choke because despite how it was described and sold it wasn’t a direct replacement. I sourced a new front disc which was skimmed by the now late Joe Feast, blessings on his memory.  I returned the float to book settings. And I bought the Wingman the large screen from Watsonian for  his Christmas present and had to quickly learn how to drill acrylic without breaking it.

My heart said “keep” but that would have been just indulgence and greed on my part. The new owner is an older gentleman who has become a bit unsteady on his pins and wants to have the security of a sidecar while he carries on adventuring. I think the Wingman would approve.


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Sometimes I get so tired

I’m between jobs at the moment – not for long, just from last Friday to the start of August. And I’m shattered. Sometimes I think it’s because I’m not expecting enough of myself. Sometimes I think I remember that changing jobs is like getting divorced and moving house in terms of the mental load it puts on you. But maybe that’s just an excuse? Sometimes I think that an aching back and a stiff neck is part of getting old.

But then I remember I spent a good few hours today in the garage removing the carburettors from the W650, which involved a lot of leaning over, and the occasional accidental punch in the nose.

“Why are you punching yourself, Highwaylass?”

No, not out of frustration or because Big Tina from the playground was holding my hand and smacking me in the face with it. I was trying to ease a recalcitrant throttle cable end from its lair and the screwdriver slipped. It bloody nearly had my eye out instead of the cable end so I declared brute force the winner and clipped them both with pliers. I’ve got lovely clean new cables to install once the hurley burley is done so it wasn’t the desperate move it felt like.

It seems that the W650 has inherited the Lomax’s love for being taken to pieces every year. I keep swearing I will sell one of the outfits now that the Wingman no longer requires them and upon hearing that the Big K sprang an oil leak. I don’t like to sell stuff with problems so I am on the hunt. So far that has involved removing the cylinder head cover, the battery, the airbox of unhappy memory and the carbs.

I really, really don’t want to have to take the pots off.

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