The smalls next door decided to have a sweet shop at the end of their drive this weekend, which was rather unkind at a time when I am strictly bound to the rules of Fat Club.
As I fitted the sat-nav mount to the handlebars of the Jawa they tempted me with less of a siren call, more of a bellow. “Would you like some sweeties?” I’m very glad that it was them offering me sweets and not the other way round!
As AdventureDog and I had a hard weekend of sidecar voyaging ahead, two small bags of cola bottles seemed a justifiable purchase. Larger small carefully tweezered them from her stash into a bag. “What were you doing last week under your car with a chainsaw?” she asked.
I don’t remember doing anything under my car with a chainsaw, but I was hacksawing the exhaust off. I explain, briefly. Meanwhile small small has run off to get his biker boots, for he is one of those tiny motocross riders with no fear, and wants to show me that not only is his bike louder than mine, his boots are better and he goes faster.
I have no doubt.
But it’s OK, because this weekend is about distance, not speed. I was fitting the sat-nav because for the first time in three years I was going somewhere on a bike that I hadn’t been before – the starting landmark for the Round Britain Rally.
Because the bastard snow has kept us within the city limits for far longer than planned, I was quite worried about the 160-mile round trip to the ARSE, the Annual Rally Start Event, when our furthest voyage has been the 13 miles to the Long Itch Diner. Or perhaps the abandoned run from Fife to Dundee last August which ended up on the Proprietor of the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery’s trailer.
So Saturday’s mission was to double that with a trip to Jack Hill’s Cafe, one of my favourite biker stops, and if all went well, make it back to Asda in time to take part in the Coventry Riders Action Group Easter Egg Run. I love a good egg run and I haven’t done one since I lived in East Anglia.
Of course it was raining on Saturday. Just like the good old days. I’m impressed that my personal weather system has waited the four years I’ve been away from motorcycle touring. It joyfully precipitated upon me all the way down the A45 to Jack’s, where I had a cup of tea instead of a fry-up, and AdventureDog gave me the face because he didn’t get any bacon.
Slowly, the niggles are being ironed out. Having 40psi in the rear tyre instead of 5 certainly improves the handling. Backing off the rear drum adjusters released an extra 5mph – may not sound that impressive but when you’re struggling to get up hills it makes a big difference! And all my bad habits are being shown up. On the 125 I brake into a corner and coast round. On an outfit that drifts you out into the oncoming traffic. Get your braking before the corner – biker 101. I may even have muttered IPSGA to myself.
Damp but happy, dog, chair, Jawa and I made it to Asda in time for a coffee, a chat about the insanity of the decision to charge bikers £12.50 a day to ride in London, and a rapid turnaround to head out on the egg run.
“I’ll keep it fairly slow,” said Baz, in the briefing. There must be a local definition of slow I’m not familiar with, I thought as we hurtled along the back roads around Wolvey and back to Broad Park House, a centre for children with learning disabilities. They were so excited to see the bikes and the best thing about the day was that everyone was happy to let the kids scramble into the seats, toot the horns, and generally have a whale of a time, even the chap with a gorgeous BSA and vintage sidecar who would have been quite justified in saying no. With three kids in the sidecar and two on the bike, they looked like they were ready to hit the road and have the best adventure ever, but for dog and I it was back to the cupboard via the petrol station to get ready for our Sunday run.
I have done 360-mile days, I have ridden from Lands End to John O’Groats (more than once) and I’ve even done one Brit Butt (Lite version) but for the last three years I have only ridden the three miles to work and back. Everything else has been done sitting on my arse in the Lomax, and one of the lessons of Saturday was that my riding fitness has withered away. It is OK, I tell myself. When I got my first big bike after learning, I was daunted by the thought of riding from Buckinghamshire to Sheffield, where then-hubs was working. I printed out out maps, wrote myself some tips, and survived.
On Sunday I packed a flask, a bacon sandwich, and a reminder that this wasn’t about heroic stamina, it was about getting started. And my raincloud had decided to take a holiday so it was a lovely day to bimble south, stop to do my velcro up again (it’s given up any kind of grip), stop to let the dog have a wee (should have gone before we went), stop for a coffee (roadside coffee always tastes better when you’re sat on a bike), have a go on the motorway (not a great idea), stop to check whether I’d filled the 2-stroke tank up (yes), and finally make it to the ARSE.
Touring on a 350cc outfit is slow.
It got slower on the way home and when I pulled in to the petrol station I discovered oil all over the crankcase. 2 for 2, I thought, and went home sad. But people who know 2-strokes and Jawas better than me say it is just dribble from the exhaust. So Easter is looking like this:-
- remove, clean and refit exhaust headers
- de-gunk the silencers as far as possible without setting them on fire or filling them with caustic soda.
- clean and refit the carb
I hope Jesus would approve. After all, it is a resurrection of sorts.