It occasionally troubles me that I seem to need more looking after than a normal person. I do try to be self-sufficient, mainly because the Wingman lacks opposable thumbs and is rubbish at holding ladders, but when things go wrong I sigh, I dry my tears and then, incurring the wrath of all the efficient and effective women in the world, I ask a man for help.
Sometimes it’s even a man I know, though one of my more narrow escapes was when I had to flag a passing driver down to help me pick my Africa Twin up off the garage floor and he was most concerned that I should take his phone number and that he should come back on his way home from work to make sure I hadn’t dropped the bike again.
It’s World Kindness Day today. I’m not a very kind person. In fact I’ve recently been declared the most offensive woman someone has met in 50 years of rallying. But I do know lots of kind people and so I thought I would tell you about all the people who have helped me cure the MZ of all his various ailments. But that’s more stories than will fit in one post. So here’s just one of them…
Back in September I loaded up the tent and the dog and set off to Yorkshire for the MZ Riders Club Pheasant Camp. I didn’t get any further than Hayfield on the Friday because the bike stopped running in the rain, but that was OK because Hayfield has a brilliant camp site with a pub within the Wingman’s event horizon so we took an early bath and dried out in The Sportsman. Yorkshire was achieved the following day, and we had a lovely week trundling about, apart from the days it rained solidly which is a bit rubbish when you are stuck in a small tent with a wobbly dog.
While sitting in Middleton-in-Teesdale waiting for a bicycle race to come through I realised my lovely new whitewall tyre had stripped all of its tread. This was Not Good. I’d bought it in July because the previous tyre also had no tread in the centre. To have one bald tyre could be old age but to make another bald in about 200 miles of gentle 2-stroking – well, that wasn’t good news.
Yes, said the wisdom of the Fed. This is probably a set-up problem. They said things like “My narrow car is .5 toe in level sidecar frame and wheel at 90deg until I lean bike out 3 degrees then the sidecar frame has .187 to .250 rise on bike side so both cycles lean 3 degrees out and car tire ends up leaning opposite direction of m bike wheels the that’s done unweighted then when I sit on bike both my sidecars wheels are at 90 with only bike leaning away.” (It helps to read this in the voice of the recruiting sergeant from Alice’s Restaurant).
I needed a man who knew what that all meant. And by immense good fortune I knew one and he lives about 20 minutes from me.
Sure, said Matthew. Bring it along when you get home and I can look at it.
I didn’t much fancy 200 more miles on a bald tyre. But the north is a practical place and if you need a high-speed trailer tyre then the nearest garage will tell you where you can get one. After declining an invitation to swop the outfit for a Ducati Monster I sat with a cup of tea while a couple of highly efficient chaps refreshed my rubber, though in 20 minutes rather than an F1-style 4 handful of seconds.
And on a sunny Friday morning a week or so later, instead of setting out north for the Haggs Bank Adventure Bike Weekend I headed south for my induction into the mysteries of toe-in.
You need a washing line prop, a tape measure and a BFO hammer. You also need a lot of experience of setting up sidecars and a good eye.
It turned out to be only a one-cup problem.
The washing line prop and the tape measure revealed that my toe-in was immense – less camel toe, more moose knuckle. There was brief contemplation of removing the 8-inch wheel and fitting a big ten inch, but that escalated too quickly into needing to cut and weld the frame, so ambition was scaled back to deploying the BFO hammer to adjust the alignment so that the sidecar wheel was pointing in more-or-less the same direction as the bike.
It’s always a bit worrying watching someone take a hammer to your bike but the MZ is made of sterner stuff than me and raised no complaints. One quick lap of the village later to check for handing problems and we were done. I trundled home and Matthew got on with whatever he actually had planned for the day.
If you don’t have the good fortune to live near Matthew you can buy his book. And if you buy the book you will get to admire a picture of the Bishop illustrating one of the finer points of sidecar geometry.