Category Archives: Riding

..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

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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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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Filed under Garage stuff, Riding

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.



Filed under Riding

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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“Can I rev it?”

I was getting my lid and my trousers out of the undersized locker at work when I heard Dapper Colleague being turned down for a lift home. He lives not far from me so I offered to drop him home…with just the one small caveat that he would have to ride in the MZ sidecar.

Fair play to him, he accepted with gusto and we had a proper giggle as I chauffered him the couple of miles back to his flat. Him being a Modern Person, he filmed the whole way to post to what I believe the Young People call ’the ’gram’.

As we rolled into the flat’s parking we were met by another dapper young chap, maybe ten years old in high-end football kit and a mountain bike.

“Can I rev it?” he asked.

Of course, but gently as it is old.

“Would you like a quick lap of the car park?” I asked him, and he clambered in to the chair.

If only more people were able to experience bike riding, the fun, the freedom and just the sheer coolness of it, I think we would be better off. Dapper Colleague says he absolutely loved it and slightly wickedly greeted me this morning with ”thanks for the ride of my life last night!” No need to involve HR though as he is Out and Proud and I’m not in his dating pool [grin].


Filed under Riding

Make someone happy

If it’s Sunday it must be time to ride. Thanks to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Triumph’s battery yesterday’s tour party ended up as PRC’s Africa Twin, Diana Rig (a splendid Ural combination) and the W650, that doesn’t currently have a name. 

During the faffing between parking up and shedding enough helmets, gloves and other detritus to make the walk to the cafe more straightforward, a small voice said “when I was younger, I rode all around France in one of those.”

The voice belonged to a diminutive but well-turned out dowager on her way back to her car from the garden centre. (Yes, dear readers. I am 50 and I had come to a garden centre on a sunny Sunday. But at least it was on a motorcycle).

She knew her sidecars – the W650 has a Velorex, but “I travelled in a Steib,” she said, before ribbing me for “turning to the Japanese side” for the sidecar tug and going on her way.

Next time this happens I’m resolved to say “I would love to hear more about that, do you have time to chat?”



Filed under Riding

The Cathcart Towers Hotel

The Proprietor of the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery used to joke about a bit of workshop kit you might struggle to get from Halfords.

If a nut or bolt was proving particularly recalcitrant, he’d ask “have you tried the psychological spray.” A quick skoosh (after a short break to find a can that still had some go in it) and 9 times out of 10 victory would be mine.  

Psychological spray

Of course, it probably wasn’t the mystical powers of WD40. Which, as old hands like to point out, isn’t actually designed to penetrate and loosen, it’s designed to disperse water.

It was probably just the short break from the task, which can be equally well achieved with a cup of tea or just a moment of Zen-and-the-Art staring out of the window. Or it was a burst of confidence provided by believing that the spray would dissolve the rust. Belief is a powerful thing, as manufacturers of motivational posters know.

I was thinking about this as I refitted the tank to the Triumph, for about the millionth time since the autumn, after fitting a new set of coils. For the Triumph has been stuttering like Ken from A Fish Called Wanda since its encounter with the tank of E10 last year

Ignition problems often manifest as fuelling problems. Fuelling problems can manifest as ignition problems. And if you’ve checked both of those you still might have a mouse nest in your airbox. I’d had the tank off, taken the fuel tap to pieces and cleared out an aquarium’s worth of sand. Yet still we stumbled at idle and when pulling through 3,000 revs.

A hundred quid for aftermarket coils seemed worth a go (although three hundred quid for Triumph branded ones did not.)

A short test ride suggested that they had done the trick. But maybe I was just persuading myself that the money and the swearing had been worth the effort?

There was only one way to find out. Platonic Road Companion and I agreed that a couple of hours run to a heritage railway would be a suitable distance to test the coils and their breakfast. 

And after a hundred miles or so, double bacon and some very fine toast I’m still on the fence. The bike feels perkier, and feels like it picks up with more gusto. Is that the new coils? Or just the approach of spring?

But then, it doesn’t actually matter, does it? Confidence starts with con for a reason – if my brain can be tricked into believing that the problem has been cured, and so is prepared to throttle on through a corner, reducing the embarrassing lag between myself and anyone else I’m riding with, then the job has been a success.

As was the breakfast.


Filed under Riding