Barrels round

If it’s spring I must be taking my engine apart. I knew when I bought the MZ that it was going to need some work but that doesn’t make it any easier when it splutters to a halt and leaves me and the Wingman standing like lemons at the side of the road.

Last weekend we were supposed to be making our MZ rally debut at Wainfleet brewery in Lincolnshire. MZ Steve gave up a Sunday to help fix my wiring so I could get an MOT. Even more nobly, Mrs MZ Steve gave up her Sunday to do the driving and spent the day sat in my front room with her crochet.

We had arranged to RV at the Little Chef at Thrapston but I only made it about 20 miles from home, when I slowed down for a junction, and the engine just carried on slowing to a stop.

Now, it had been doing this before and I swopped the fuel cap with the blocked breather for one without a blocked breather and hoped that had solved the problem.

No chance, said the god of engine problems.

Two sorts of people stop when you are broken down by the side of the road. Well-meaning ones, who ask ‘are you OK?’ but don’t really have anything to contribute other than moral support, and really useful ones. A young woman stepped up jiggling a baby. ‘Are you OK? Do you need any tools? It’s just my husband and I restore vintage Lambrettas…”

It turned out I needed an allen key because – and I can’t remember why I had taken the lid off the carb – I’d managed to ping the throttle cable free.

By the time I’d got the cable attached to the slider again the engine seemed happy to start and I had a choice.

Stick or twist?
A sensible person would have recognised that whatever the problem was, it had returned and Lincolnshire was not going to be reached.

A sensible person wouldn’t own an MZ. We got as far as the slip road to the A14 when it went again. Fortunately this wasn’t a busy junction and there was a safe place to wait. After half an hour the engine ran well enough to get us back to the nearby truck stop but only just. A helpful trucker pushed us up to the caff where I consoled the Wingman with sausages from my all-day-breakfast and admitted defeat. The A14 is not a good road to break down on as it’s very fast and has no hard shoulder. We would turn around.

Changed the plug, that seemed to help, for a short while. Got to within 5 miles of home, had to call my rescue people. By the time they arrived, the bike started so of course they didn’t put me in the back. I got to within 2 miles of home and had to call them again. But by now it was rush hour and it took a Very Long Time. And I had stopped in the middle of 6 lanes of traffic which wasn’t cool.

And then they told me that dogs aren’t normally allowed inside cabs any more and they are supposed to wait in the vehicle being rescued. They looked at a distressed and trembling Wingman and agreed that no, he could not be expected to sit in an open sidecar on the back of a low-loader. But it’s just one more example of a world designed for cars and it worries me a lot. Allergies, apparently.

I had left the house at 10.30 and got back at half past 6. On the roll of honour – the lady with the baby and the allen keys, the trucker who gave us a push to breakfast, the helpful chap who told me the postcode of the factory car park where I was waiting for the first truck, and the lady jogger who helped push me out of the traffic to a place of safety so I could wait for the second without dying. And Steve, who said ‘come tomorrow in the car.’

So I went to the rally in the car and had a lovely time and all the boys debated what the problem was with my engine.

The problem with 2 strokes is that everything influences everything else, and deduction turns into the Battle of Wits from the Princes Bride – is the choke sticking slightly on? then the engine is running too rich, which might end up in overheating because more fuel means less oil. But the tank is full of flakes of rust, so I clearly can not count on over-fuelling and perhaps the engine is running lean. Which might end up in over-heating because if there is not enough petrol going through then there is not enough oil either. So I can clearly not assume that it is overheating and it must be some other problem.

So I have been doing what I should have done in the first place, which is to take the tank off, clean out the shite, take the carb off, check all the jets and the float, and while I’ve done that I might as well take the barrel off and change the small end bearing in case that’s the source of the worrying ticking noise that could be the count-down to an engine failure.

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Fail again. Fail better.

1e147592ceaa016531cb2bc55dd6e6b1This week has been a frustrating lesson in the importance of starting again. I’m trying to make a dog sweater for the Wingman so that he is toasty in the sidecar when we go to our first MZ Rally at the end of the month.

It’s pretty complicated but I hadn’t expected to be on my third start with it. I’m new to cable knitting but not so new that I can’t see when something has gone horribly wrong.

Much like my MZ exhaust. I had three jobs this weekend – change the spark plug, in case it’s the source of the odd ticking. refit my lovely round front wheel with its lovely (newish) flat brake disc, and find out why the exhaust is leaking from the head. (Spoiler alert – because it wasn’t tight enough).

Now it turns out that, like the question ‘what’s the best oil ratio?’ exhausts can start a fight in a room of 2-stroke enthusiasts.  Some people like to put a big copper ring in between the downpipe and the barrell. Other people don’t. My downpipe is quite wobbly and it turns out I have a bent flange. (Yes, I will go and see a doctor…) So in went the ring.

There are only three clamps on an MZ exhaust – one at the front, one at the back, and one in the middle. With the other two in place, the middle one was about an inch shy of where it should be. Clearly I had fucked up.

I consulted.

It sort of went on.

I checked back in on my post in the MZ Riders Club Facebook, where helpful chaps look after this numpty woman.

“It’s upside down,” said Andy.

Damn. Of course the rule is that before you take anything off you take a photo of it so you know what it looked like but I forgot.

So I have started again. Again.

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Welcoming

It’s Friday evening, about half past 8, in the main hall at the Overland Winter Warmer. Austin Vince has already gone full maths teacher on the two chaps talking at the back of his presentation on trail riding in the Pyrenees. AdventureDog, BikerIan and I are somewhere in the middle of a row towards the front. Austin is explaining how several classes of schoolboys had enormous fun laying out his first Pyrenees road books in the disguise of an IT lesson.

Sotto-voce grumbling starts from the seat next to me. AdventureDog has decided he is bored and is making this known with a low frequency protest

I fear this will not go down well. We have been given dispensation to be in the hall for the presentations provided there are no objections. A hairy dog building up to singing his bacon-charming song is not going to go down well with Mr Vince and our weekend might be over before it has properly started.

I shush him. I jiggle him a bit. Heads start to turn, wondering if this is some strange new biker tourettes. The groans pick up in volume.

In a few minutes there will be an intermission, Austin says, before launching into a new round of outrageous stories.

I curse, quietly. (unlike the dog.) I should have brought treats. I should have brought a sausage. Anything to keep him quiet. People are starting to laugh and at any minute I expect an expertly-aimed piece of chalk to be launched in our direction, for I went to school in that brief window when smacking was banned but throwing things wasn’t.

We’re saved by the lights and the intermission. Austin pretends not to notice a three-legged dog sat on a chair watching intently and we slope off for stew. AdventureDog sits under the table and polishes off spare stew and bread.

I’ve been on the fringes of Overland since Paddy and Nich set it up – I’ve even had a couple of stories in the early editions, and I wear my Overland t-shirt with pride, though only in bed these days as it’s rather on the large side. But I have never been able to go to the Overland Event in the summer because it’s a no-dog venue. So I was super-excited to learn that Chipping Warden was happy not only for dogs to attend but to come into the hall for the sessions, for a small tent in February is no place to park an arthritic hound, even one with a toasty fleece. I am working on a U-boat captain style roll-neck for him but fixing the spokes stopped play with the knitting needles.

By Thursday night I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. Was it really such a big deal to be going camping? Yes, it was February so likely to be a bit chilly but did that really justify stomach-churning levels of anticipation?

And then I twigged. Although I camped last year in the Jawa of unhappy memory, that was with non-biking friends. And I went in the Lomax to a biker rally, and got stick for it.

This was going to be my first motorcycle rally on a motorcycle since the Wingman had arrived from Portugal in 2013. Damn right I was excited.

And it was brilliant. From riding down (carefully, in case the wobbly wheel gave up or the newly tightened spokes poked a hole in the inner rube) in the glorious spring sunshine, to arriving to cheery waves from the guys sitting outside the pub with a pint waiting for registration to open, right through to waking up on Sunday morning to find that the tent was frozen solid, it was fantastic from start to finish.

I wasn’t the only solo female rider – two tents along was Emma from the West Country who was rightly feted for making the trip having only passed her test a few days previously, on a very beautiful red Triumph scrambler. But the Wingman was the only sidecar dogge present. He enjoyed having his photo taken by Sam Manicom and being fussed by Birgit, and he made lots of new friends.

Standout moments for me? Steph Jeavons’ presentation on Saturday night, which covered the distinctly non-macho perils of the she-wee, what to do when the border guards hit on you, and how to cope when “you’re not ready for visitors.” Emma and I and the other women in the room were in tears and many of the chaps were just a bit puzzled.  Jocke Selin casually demonstrating how to pick up a GS and shake the water out of the exhaust. Finally meeting @biker_ian in real life, catching up with Robin T, and getting to hang out a little bit with Sam and Birgit. And the bass player in Friday night’s band, who simply could not have been more rock and roll if he tried.

Fantastic weekend. Would recommend. 15/10.

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Unwinding

52033885_2304492933129234_7908322633584738304_oSpring has arrived, stealthily. Much like the dog, who sidled up while I was admiring the crocuses which were my clue that winter is coming to an end, and widdled on them.

Two weeks ago I tried to take the outfit on an excursion to the Long Itch Diner and had to turn back in misery. Not only because of my freezing fingers but because the front brake was about as effective as a Tory Brexit minister, and because something weird was going on with the throttle – it felt like a constant battle to hold it open. Maybe the perished, rock hard rubber? Maybe something else.

Once the flu had buggered off, I put the heater on in the garage, for it was still winter last weekend, and got stuck in.

The grips that came from a well-known overseas MZ provider were disappointing. The non-throttle side was too big, and flopped about aimlessly. The throttle grip was too short, and like the party dress I bought when I was 17, could either cover the top or the bottom but not both.

So I went to the shop. My nearest motorcycle emporium is a dirt bike place staffed by gnarly youth, none of whom were familiar with the glories of Eastern Bloc bike design. The Renthals wouldn’t do, they were far too narrow inside. But a set of Oxford Fat Grips looked most promising. Back in the garage, the clutch side went on beautifully. The throttle side required significant amounts of lubricant, a hairdryer, a broom handle and a great deal of huffing and puffing. Much like me trying to get that dress on in 1987.

But I digress.

Saturday was a sunny day and it was time to voyage further than the local park, so we went ten miles to the park in the town where the Posh live and dogs are called things like Harvey and Brian. We met rather more pugs and rather fewer Staffies than we normally see, and no-one took the Wingman’s picture in his sidecar. I think his lack of Boden clothing rendered him invisible.

All was well. The new grips were decadently squishy. The throttle stopped fighting back and stayed where I wanted it. But on turning for home the front wheel was unhelpfully wobbly. A quick inspection revealed just about every single spoke loose to the touch – but also seized solid. Helpful.

Patience is not among my virtues. But in the face of an array of stiff nipples (sorry, anyone who is googling this term and not expecting a blog post about motorcycle mechanics) all you can do is apply the penetrating oil (oh dear, it’s not getting any better, is it!), have a cup of tea, take a firm grip and wiggle the spoke key back and forward until something gives.

And like the crocuses, and the warm spring sun, nothing happens for ever, until quietly with no warning the key turns, the spoke tightens up, and the wheel comes back into stability.

On Sunday we completed our voyage to the diner. Two weeks late but much improved.

Onwards.

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Gripping!

I have been stuck in bed after a run-in with the flu. While there are downsides, there are also considerable upsides – bonus time for catching up on reading!

Sam Manicom recommended this to me at the NEC Show this year and I’m very glad he did. You might think there are no more tales to tell of the ‘biker takes on Africa’ variety but of course there are as many stories as there are bikers.  Rice & Dirt is the story of Stergios Gogos and his faithful Vespa, Kitsos, who carries him through 19 African counties including the DRC, though with a bit of help from the occasional truck.

For me, what makes Rice & Dirt such a good read is Stergios’s personality and the perspective he brings as a Greek traveller.

What difference does being Greek make?

One issue is empathy. Stergios set out from Thessaloniki in 2014, when Greece was in danger of declaring bankrupcy and  crashing out of the Eurozone. Savage austerity measures saw the economy shrink and unemployment rise to 25 per cent. These hard times at home, during which Stergios was a union activist and environmental campaigner, seem to give him a real sense of solidarity with the citizens of the African states he travels through, who are also struggling to get by on very little, sometimes more hindered than helped by governments. He writes: “I had no illusions of us being extraordinary explorers, or that we had any special abilities whatsoever. It would be ridiculous of me to think that, when the locals’ daily lives consisted of undertaking what many foreigners considered achievements worth bragging about.”

Being Greek also allows for a different persepective on the political problems that have challenged African nations. I haven’t travelled in former colonies (unless you count Australia!) but I imagine that being British in those states that we colonised and exploited, and from which we traded people in chains across the Atlantic, must surely stir difficult emotions.  Perhaps I am wrong. A former friend proudly told me that he never gave to NGOs working in Africa because slavery had ended a long time ago and it was surely time for Africans to stand on their own two feet. (This is why he is a former friend). During his journey, Stergios travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo. While staying in Ilebo – a place where there is no running water in the hotel but you can charge your mobile phone in a shop – he reflects on the history of the country. In the twenty years it was the personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium, men, women and children would have their hands amputated if they didn’t work hard enough in the rubber plantations. Half of the population died before the Belgian government intervened – only a little more than a hundred years ago. How does a country come back from such an experience, let alone thrive?

Stergios maintains good humour and an affinity for the underdog throughout his epic journey.

It’s a great read, and I recommend it even if you don’t have the flu.

 

 

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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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