Category Archives: Other

the things we do to pass the time…

Lockdown continues and with it the pointless rage at having fettled a long-range sidecar outfit only to have all non-essential travel banned. Still, hope springs eternal and there was one job left to do – patch up the seat covers.

The seat base was only suffering split seams so some heavy duty EvoStik (the sort that comes in a can) and some PVC sail trim sorted that.

The back, however – oh dear. Seams as far apart as Donald Trump’s foundation and his hairline. A total replacement was called for, but a new seat cover is the best part of a hundred quid and has to come from foreign parts. Who knows how long that would take in the New Normal?

It is a make-do-and-mend sort of bike, so could I copy the cover and make a new one from scratch? Where do you even start with the quilty bits?

Fortunately for me the ludicrously talented Lilibobs has been learning upholstery and renovating all the interior in Margot the Trabant. I’d say Margot has turned from drab to fab, but she was never drab in the first place.  From standard to outstanding, maybe?  So upholstery is clearly something that a (wo)man can do.

I asked a few questions.

It turns out that the quilty bits are called “tuck and roll.” Now I thought that was an aikido move, but armed with that information it’s only a short step to YouTube tutorials and a new seat cover. I feel I should point out that the seats Lilibobs made for Margot are impeccably finished and fitted, while mine is a bodge.

Still – first attempts and all that.

And much to the joy of bikers in England, our lockdown rules have been relaxed to allow “driving an unlimited distance” to enjoy activities like “relaxing in the park” and “having a picnic.” So in addition to a comedy seat cover I’ve also attached a picnic basket. Meet the Kawasaki W650 Coronavirus Special.





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I didn’t need those knuckles anyway – Kawasaki W650 air box refit

What does the modern woman do on the extra day that science has gifted us to keep the calendar in order? Well, I did offer to propose but no-one was available so I ended up doing what I do every other weekend of the winter – wrestling with a rusty heap in the garage.

I pine for the days when I lived in a house with an integral garage that housed the boiler and a radiator. That was the first year I rebuilt the Lomax and it was not only warm and comfortable, it opened onto the kitchen so top-up brews were only a few feet away.

Now I live in a house with a concrete sectional garage at the bottom of the garden that lets a lot of water in under the door. I need to buy a rubber threshold seal but I also need it to stop raining long enough to let the glue set so that one’s parked until spring.  A bit like the bikes…

What’s the task in hand? I have a Kawasaki W650 and sidecar previously owned by one of my very best friends. He converted it to pod filters but I’m a traditionalist and I do like things to be stock so I thought I would convert it back thanks to a fortuitous find of a complete air box on Italian eBay.

It arrived a few weeks before Christmas and a few days before Christmas I took a closer look, psyching myself up to get stuck in after Boxing Day.

Not quite complete after all.

Missing – one 8-inch long plastic rod. That has to come from Japan, about three weeks after you ask for it. And if you have a bike on which someone has removed the Kawasaki Clean Air system then you need a 50p rubber bung for the hole in the top. So I ordered a rod and a bung and some new seals and some clips and a side order of patience.

There are some good resources about how to remove the air box – and I’m going to give a shout-out here to Captain Jake’s brilliant photo guide. Note this small, helpful sentence

“As you wiggle the airbox back into place, you’ll have to mush the rubber cone to get it around the air horn of the carburetor. I started mine with one finger.”

Worst. Job. Ever.

I started on the right hand side at the end of January. The right-hand half of the airbox butts up hard against the battery carrier, so you can’t ease it rearwards to make room. And when you push the box into place, half the horn gets caught inside the carb.

I soaked the rubber horn in hot water. I applied red rubber grease. I applied washing up liquid. I soaked it in hot water again because it’s cold in the garage and the effects wore off pretty quick. I modified a plastic picnic knife from IKEA to try and hook the folded side out over the bellmouth.

I undid the clips on the carbs to try and shove them towards the bars a little. I tried to evolve an extra hand and a couple more thumbs.

I had more tea.

And then at the hundredth attempt the rubber squished in without folding under and all I had to do (hollow laugh) was squish it onto the end of the carb.

Victory was mine.

Rinse and repeat…..

Here’s the game for the left hand side. You’ve got to do it sitting in the sidecar. You’ve got to slide the left-hand box over the two plastic rods, that you now know take at least three weeks to come from Japan so you DO NOT WANT to fucking break them. And the rubber on this side is rock hard with age. Yes, you could order a new one from the very lovely chaps at Cradley Heath Kawasaki but spring is coming and you just want this job done.

Wiggle the box over the rods, get the rubber stuck. Wiggle the box off the rods. Wiggle the box on the rods, get the rubber stuck.

Get the butter knife and the washing up liquid.

Get the hair dryer.

It reminded me of two things. The first time I tried to replace the driveshaft rubbers on the 2CV, and disappointing sex. Every time – it would almost, almost go into the right place and then just slip away.

The answer to “how do I get a rubber gaiter onto a 2CV driveshaft?” turned out to be “put a pointy cap from a roll-on deodorant over the end of the driveshaft to give the rubber something to slip over.” And the answer to “how do I get the bastard rubber bastard over the bastard carburettor end without the bastard getting bastard stuck” turned out to be “cover the end of the carb with a piece of plastic cut from a milk bottle until you’ve past the danger point and then pull it out slowly.”

So now you know.





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Advent Day 7 – I predict a riot

It had been a bad trip … fast and wild in some moments, slow and dirty in others, but on balance it looked like a bummer.”

More of an anthropological journey today than a physical one, but hey – my challenge, my rules, innit.

There are a lot of books about travelling, but not all of them are good, because the skills necessary to successfully ride round the world and the skills to write a good book about it don’t necessarily overlap.

Similarly, there are many books about the Hells Angels. Some of them written by senior Angels like Sonny Barger, some by the law enforcement officers tasked with infiltrating the club – and this one, by one of the best writers about motorcycling there has ever been.

Hunter S Thompson set out to discover the truth about the Angels at a time when the USA loved little better than a good old moral panic – of which today’s second book is an excellent example!

Hunter is famous for drink, drugs and excess but at heart he was a journalist of the old school. How do you find out about a biker subculture? You hang out with them – and Hunter devoted the best part of a year to his research.

“For nine months I had lived in a world that had seemed, at first, like something original. It was obvious from the beginning that the menace bore little resemblance to its publicised image, but there was a certain pleasure in sharing the Angels’ amusement at the stir they’d created.”

The stakes were high – the Angels took a robust attitude to feedback.

“I remembered a night in my apartment when one of the Frisco Angels had said, with a beery smile, that if they didn’t like what I wrote they’d come over some night to kick down my door, throw gasoline into the hall and put a match to it.”

It’s a great book, and for me, an honest attempt to write about the Angels without buying into the hype.

And it ends with another affirmation of what we all know to be true:-

“The edge is still out there. Or maybe it’s in. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.”


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Advent Day 6 – actually it was my motorcycle

There’s a small subgenre of motorcycyle travel books inspired by or responding to The Motorcycle Diaries. Alberto Granado, owner of the motorcycle in the diaries and road companion to Che, first published his version of the story in 1978, though it didn’t come out in English until 2003.

In many ways Alberto was the more committed activist of the two. The bike he and Che travelled on was called Poderosa II “named after Poderosa I, the bike I’d used day in and day out during my student years for distributing leaflets at demonstrations and then eluding my police pursuers.”

His account of their journey is well worth a read, if only to prove that for any story there are three versions –  yours, mine and the truth.

Since Che and Alberto wrote their stories there have also been any number of people retracing their route or using their travels to inspire new own adventures. Patrick Symmes is one of them. This book must have really annoyed me because I have written sarcastic notes in it. I never write in books – or break the spines, or fold the corners, for these were childhood crimes that would get you seriously punished. But I wrote in this one to take issue with Mr Symmes’ North American, capitalist perspective on my two favourite Marxists.

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The small package good things come in*

2FD5AFDB-8504-4224-87BA-32841B73D36BStrictly has started and that means two things to look forward to – endless rounds of “but it’s a dance contest not a popularity contest” at work, and the slathering of our roads with a toxic brew of salt, molasses and grit that sticks to bikes like glitter to fake tan.

I could park Bishop Brennan up for the winter but I’ve just endured 2 days without a bike and it’s a safe bet that 6 months without riding would see me in an institution. Possibly prison.

So there’s only one way forward – it’s time to apply protection. For the past 5 years maintenance has been an existential battle, involving top end rebuilds, carb refurbs, exhaust decokes, caliper overhauls and welding. The idea of doing something planned in advance – the stitch in time that saves nine, if you like – is a rare novelty.

Like many aspects of biking, asking about the best means of protection from the horrors of winter reveals a community split on tribal lines. Are you Team ACF50, Team Scottoiler, or somewhere on the wilder shores of Cover it in Diesel and Wait Until Spring?

It could be argued that one of the advantages of riding a 2-stroke is that it generates its own oily shroud. But this winter I’m trying the new pocket-sized bottles of Scottoiler’s FS 365 bike protection spray.

FS 365 has been around for a while – in fact I should hang my head in shame and admit I’ve got a litre of it in the garage which I’m fairly certain I’ve moved through six house moves without ever getting any on a bike. It’s big and a bit awkward to use and life has been about lurching from emergency to emergency for too long.

The new bottles are a much more comfortable 250ml, designed with the aim of encouraging new users to pick one up and give it a go.

So on Monday I spent my brucie bonus day off giving the Bishop a bath (and yes, I did need to spell-check that carefully) and then covering him in the special brew of mineral oil, surfactant, anti-corrosion additives and water. The idea is that the water carries the spray across the surface of the bike and then evaporates, leaving a protective barrier between your bike and the winter.

First impressions? I like the colour. Teal is very on trend for 2019 and apparently stands for trustworthiness, reliability and spiritual advancement.  The smaller bottle is really easy to use, especially when you’ve got a sidecar blocking access to one half of your bike. I found there was a fair bit of run-off – it’s possible I was spraying with a little too much enthusiasm – but as the product is water-based and biodegradable I didn’t feel too guilty about sluicing it off the drive into the gutter. And – another shallow one, I’m afraid – even after application, the bike still looked clean, and not like something that had just had a layer of oil spread over it.

The key areas of concern for me are the MZ’s spokes and rims. Stainless spokes aren’t recommended for sidecar outfits as they’re too brittle, so I need to be sure that rust is being kept at bay. So I’ll be keeping a close eye and reporting back.

  • Scottoiler are giving away a FS 365 Complete Bike Protector 250ml Compact Spray with all Chain Oiler Kits and Scorpion Dual Injectors bought from their online shop between now and 9 October; or the spray bottle can be bought as a standalone item from bike shops and online. Normally it’s  £3.99 but until 9 October there’s a 25 per cent discount on all FS products in the online store so it’s yours for a bargain £2.99!

* One of the best lines from The Big Bang Theory.


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Ring out solstice bells

It is the longest night of the year. Traditionally it’s a time for reflection on the year just gone, and a time for renewal and for faith in the future.

I think it is safe to say this last year has not been a resounding success. There has been a lot of darkness. I thought I was going home, to live in the place I always wanted to live, and to do an amazing job. These things did not come true.  Now I am back where I started, precariously housed, indifferently funded (thanks, taxman) and starting again. Again.

But there has also been light.  I lived in the forest, like Granny Weatherwax. Friends came to visit, and we ate cake, drank gin and looked for woodpeckers. I met some wonderful spiritual teachers. I walked with the dog  in an ancient grove visited and decorated by the Picts. Gordon gave me a shot of his sidecar and I bought a Jawa outfit for me and for the Wingman. If I may mix and match my spiritual traditions, the light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

The darkness keeps having a bloody good try, though. Last Sunday Dog and I went out to a pre-Christmas classic car and bike meet. At 40 miles it was our longest sidecar adventure to date and we did OK, if slowly. The tea was good, the sausage baps were excellent and I had a very niche chat with another lady biker about the challenges of persuading recovery services that your obscure vehicle needs taking home, not bodging by the roadside.

It proved to be prophetic. Half an hour later, ten minutes down the road, the Jawa choked and died. 2 hours later the recovery van turned up.

Lessons I need to remember :- always pack a golf umbrella. Buy WD40.

May I judge the chap from the classic meet who, on his way home in his little roadster, pulled over to ask what was happening but carried on when I said I had a fuel problem and was waiting for the wagon? I’m sure he had Sunday roast calling him home, but a nice dry car to wait in would have been lovely. “Thanks for coming, though,” he said, as he fucked off down the road.

Apparently the Japanese recommend a practice called ‘forest bathing’ for spiritual renewal. I was certainly well-bathed by the time Marcin arrived to wrangle the rig into the van and take us home. “It nearly didn’t go in,” he told his boss on the phone. ‘It’s a good job I’m a manly man.”

But now the sun is coming back up and life is renewing, again. There is a lot to look forward to, and many new connections to make.  Blessed be.






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RIP Olga Pronina

I hadn’t heard of this Russian rider, mainly because I don’t do Instagram, until news of her death broke today.

The usual muppets are out in force, saying that bikes are death machines, that she should have thought of her daughter before taking risks, that she should have toed the line and not drawn attention to herself. That death is somehow justified if you are a beautiful woman riding a motorcycle in inappropriate clothing. Though she did team her denim cut-offs with a back protector.

But she wrote this, about riding:

“Thank you for never failing me, for making my lonely nights better, for helping me to forget troubles of my life, for training my body and my brain.

“I am grateful to it for the sparkles in my eyes, for the warm wind blowing on my cheeks when my visor is open, for unbelievable excitement and a feeling of flowing in the air, for doses of adrenaline.”

“Thank you for gifting me freedom… and I know that I am not alone. There are thousands like me, those madly in love with their metal horses.”

It is unlikely that I will pose on an ice-ready Suzuki in a bikini and a smile. But I totally relate to Olga’s words.  Biking is freedom, and excitement, and not being alone.


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Ode to the Road

At first I was afraid

I was petrified

Just thinking I’d be broken down and stranded at the roadside

But then I spent so many days

In the garage on my own

And now it’s strong

And I learned how to keep it going

And so we’re off

To Applecross

I just pulled out to hit the road with a big grin upon my face

I should have done this weeks ago

Just sat down and turned the key

If I’d have thought for just one second

How much fun it’s going to be…

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Heave, Charlie mouse

It’s a sad day when you discover that beloved childhood TV was lying to you.

Mice have moved in to the 2CV. They are cheerully munching their way through the air filter.

I was led to believe that when mice took an interest in something they fixed it. Every little bit of it. Though they may stick it with glue rather than make a permanent repair.

So was I wrong to anticipate a transformed 2CV, Greased Lightning stylee?

Apparently I was.

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Reasons to be cheerful

17015704_1869520966626435_7181847006457450365_oSo I crashed and burned on the big beautiful blogger challenge. In February I had to move out of my first digs into new digs, where I am really happy but there was a certain amount of awkwardness in carrying out the flit and it is not trivial to move four motorbikes, a pushbike and a Lomax.  Then I had to go home to finish selling my house. If I’m honest, I’m finding the new job a bit of a struggle so evenings are either spent keeping up with tasks, sleeping or weeping.  Then the back tyre on my daily commuter went flat. Then I left my phone in the office. Then Hortense simply refused to start. Given that she has trundled up and down the M6 far more times than a 1980s girl with a 600cc engine should be asked to, and mostly without complaint, a small rest cannot be begrudged to her. But it meant I missed a social weekend with friends that I was looking forward to and it also meant that when I had to take the back wheel to Cupar Motorcycles yesterday for a new tyre in the biblical downpour, we had to do it in the Lomax.

As I peered into the spray and enjoyed the bracing sting of the rain on my face, I did my best to find things to be grateful for.

  • I successfully took the wheel out of the frame so the tyre could be changed. That was good. I am grateful for the skills I have built up, and for my friend in the north who gave me a step by step guide. I’m also grateful that my new landlady hasn’t complained about me doing it in the greenhouse.
  • I still had one vehicle that worked, even though it was uncomfortable and Shakey was extremely unimpressed to be sharing his seat with an 18-inch Suzuki back wheel.
  • I live close to a good motorcycle shop. So I didn’t have to travel very far in the uncomfortable conditions.
  • I also live near a good tool shop that was open at 8am on Friday morning when I remembered that the spindle nut is an odd size and you can’t get a socket onto it because the exhaust is in the way.
  • My house sold without problems apart from a late intervention by Storm Doris flattening part of the fence.
  • I live in a warm cosy flat which is very lovely to return to when you are cold and damp!

So I’m sorry about the failure. I tried hard but didn’t succeed. Story of my life at the moment!  But I have friends who help me and the sun came out today, so there is always a bright side.

This post is part of the February 2017 Brave, Bold Beautiful Blogger Challenge by desert-campingToadmama. Find out more here: Brave, Bold, Blogger Challenge.  I really enjoyed #29in29 and know that I need a kick up the arse to start posting again.

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