Tag Archives: africa twin

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!


Filed under Riding

Preparations for the Simmer Dim #2

I have done page 62, Air Cleaner (though I really ought to buy a new one); page 63, Crankcase Breather; page 73, Throttle Operation; and page 100, Cleaning.  I have also had a go at re-gluing the heated grip back onto the throttle (it twists round until it acts as a rev limiter) and trimmed some of the end of the rubber in an attempt to stop it sticking open.

I haven’t done page 64, Engine Oil, because I’ll check levels before we set out next week. I haven’t done page 69, Spark Plugs, because it seems to involve taking half the bike apart; or page 75, Drive Chain, because despite working out I still can’t lift 2Moos onto the centre stand. We’ll get there.

I also haven’t done page 84, Wheel Removal, because I’m not sure how this will help. But I’m reassured that should I need to do this, my Owners Manual has helpful pictures, unlike the BMW one which just said “this should be done by your Authorised BMW Dealer. “

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Here’s our Graham with a quick reminder

Across the open countryside,
Into the walls of rain I ride. 
It beats my cheek, drenches my knees, 
But I am being what I please.
The Moos is loaded and I am off to ride all over Wales in the company of Panamaniac. As usual, I am fleeing a trauma and hope to find solace in the beat of a 750 twin and the drumming of the rain on my lid. The white noise will stop me from dwelling.

I have lived 2 years as a solo person with occasional bursts of company. Last week I attempted a blind date, set up by some well-intentioned friends. Although on paper all looked good – 6 foot 4, biker, guitarist – I have decided not to pursue the project.

Although I hope that I aspire to relationships with Happy, Sleepy or Bashful, my recent track record includes Psycho, Pisshead and Pervert. One took from me everything I held of value with the argument that I ought to love him more than living in the city, having an amazing job or spending time with my friends. One drank himself to death; one updated his Facebook status from his girlfriend’s bed less than 12 hours after being in mine.

I have achieved a certain level of peace in my life. I am quietly proud of what I have managed to salvage from a lengthy period of poor weather. It takes a lot of effort to keep the balance and it seems I have some way to go before I am ready to put this back at risk.

So I shall get on my bike and ride through the walls of rain, and all shall be well.


Filed under Introspection, Round Britain Rally

Back in the Saddle Again.

Today is the opposite of Lupercalian Goat Sacrifice Day. It is the first day that there’s been a tart bite of cold at the edge of the morning, and a hint of woodsmoke hazing the view of the horizon.

I enjoy spring because I like to be warm, but I love autumn because on days like today it isn’t just woodsmoke in the air, it’s change. Everything is possible on mornings like this one.

Ruby has gone, and the Metal Mules and I are now mounted on Two Moos Lautrec. I am en route to work but after work I am heading to Scotland to ride the 1,000 miles necessary for a Touring Award. One day soon, when I am bored of the bourgeois requirements of owning capital and making progress in the world, I will ride off and not come back. You’ll know when this happens because I’ll post a photo with a camel in it.

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The good friends that we treasure

It has been an old-school weekend. Because Ruby’s battery is playing silly buggers and stranded me outside the chip shop I thought I’d better not take her to the inaugural Cheddar Mendip RBR Gathering. Also, and don’t tell either of them, one of the two Gnarly Things in the garage has got to go. I can’t afford to run three bikes any more, and one of my lingering doubts has been whether I can do all the things on the Africa Twin that I’m used to doing with Ruby. (Apart from waiting outside the chip shop for the man from ETA.)

This was also a test weekend for the tipi – which means I was probably the only camper this weekend hoping for rain – properly timed, in the hours of darkness, so as not to upset too many people – in order to find out whether rearranging my flaps as recommended by Tentipi UK will indeed prevent unwanted leaks. (The answer appears to be yes. Who’d have thought it?)

The only flaw in this plan is that the Africa Twin has neither a satnav mount nor a baglux harness for the attaching of mapcases to. The challenge this presents to me is amply demonstrated by the fact that it came as a surprise when I sat down on Thursday night to plan my route to find that the Mendips are not in fact near Minehead.

An anxious Thursday night editing the amount of kit I normally sling on the bike for a weekend, writing out instructions that, at a pinch, I could sellotape to the tank, and fretting about the lack of frame to strap the tipi to, was followed by a 6am wake-up call from next door’s screaming child. One cup of coffee and a short amount of faffing with tie-downs later, I was off. Thanks to the miracle of modern communications – and the fact that I’d mentioned my planned route on twitter – I had a rendezvous with @Jezza1956 at noon in Monmouth to hit – and 5 landmarks later I made it just 45 minutes late, which I thought wasn’t too shabby.

“Blimey, that’s big” said a man on crutches as I parked up. Assuming he was referring to the Africa Twin and not the size of my arse, that made it two for two in terms of stops and conversations, which I think may have sealed Ruby’s fate. No-one talks to me when I pull up to a kerb on her. The Triumph is a magnet for nostalgic old men, who like to tell me about their national service, while at the M6 services the Africa Twin had attracted the attention of a chauffeur who wanted to tell me about the Brough Superior he’d owned as a lad but sold on for 25 quid.

Cheddar is Jerry’s stamping ground so we had a short play in the Wye Valley, a steak-and-ale pie lunch in Tintern, a rather hot and sweaty time battling traffic on the M5, and then he very kindly delivered me via Burrington Combe to the gate of the campsite and handed me into the care of Jacki and Mommybear.

Checking in has become my least favourite part of staying at a Camping and Caravan Club Camp Site. “It’s just a small tent, isn’t it?” said the site manager. No. It’s a tipi, it’s 10 foot in diameter, and I did tick the box that explained that on the web site. “Oh, we thought it was just 10 foot in one direction. Well, maybe you’ll fit.”

They took me past Jacki and Phil – and the two big empty sites opposite them – and to the bottom of the site and a small corner about 8 by 6 foot. “No chance,” I said. “Oh. Oh, I’ll see if there’s anything I can do,” said the manager, and vanished.

When you’ve been riding for 12 hours, you look forward to getting your tent up, having a shower and getting changed into civvies. You don’t look forward to being left standing like a muppet on a campsite and then having to go and hunt down the people who are supposed to be sorting it out, to find that they’ve been distracted by selling loaves of bread and tubes of toothpaste to campers who’ve been given a site that does fit their tent.

I had a small strop in the shop and they gave me a great big pitch under a tree. So on Saturday afternoon I could lie in the tent for a disco nap and watch the leaves making patterns on the canvas. Which was nice. Opposite a family with three boys who wanted to play football with my bike as the goalpost. Which wasn’t. Yes, I felt like a bitch when the keenest footballer picked up the ball with his saddest face on and went back to see his dad. But it wore off pretty quick when his dad expressed the view that no-one fucking cared about my fucking bike and people like me should leave his family the fuck alone. The thing I used to like about the Club was that they were strict about noise after 11pm and about ball games outside the play area. This site wasn’t particularly bothered about either and I don’t think I’ll be rushing back.

But the weekend wasn’t about the site, it was about the company. As well as Jezza@cix, who was one of the people who watched over my first wobbly U-turns, figures of 8 and camping weekends when my bike was a KH100, Viv’s birthday barbecue brought together the usual suspects of the RBR social section, a scattering of grandchildren, Gordon’s girlfriend and the RBR debut of Desperado, who packs up a tent even quicker than Paul Belcher.

On Saturday Jerry and Marysa met us at the Rose and Portcullis for carvery and skittles – analogue ten-pinbowling. With only nine pins, Andy picking up the skittles and the balls being sent back to the business end through a length of sloping drainpipe. Told you it was an old-school weekend!

Sunday morning was about packing up and saying goodbye. I am still a long way from coming to terms with going home from these fantastic events to my quiet house and my own company. I distracted myself with a ride over Salisbury Plain and past Silbury Hill, one of my favourite places on earth. Not that I’ve seen much of the rest of the earth yet to compare it to. So this is my new cunning plan. If I just keep going, then I don’t have to worry about going home.


Filed under 2Moos, Round Britain Rally

On the Road Again

On Friday morning a doctor poked my ankle and asked if it hurt – yes, it did, thanks. He looked at the same x-ray the previous doctor looked at a week ago, made me stand on the floor and sent me away plaster-free and with instructions to abstain from sports for 2 weeks. Obviously this will be a hardship. However, he neglected to instruct me to abstain from motorcycling so on Saturday morning I packed up my gig bag and headed to Swavesey for a Mojo Triangle rehearsal on the (still gorgeous) Africa Twin.

After a week on crutches and confined to various low-level reclinatoria, such as beds, sofas, and the devilishly comfortable LaFuma, being back on a bike was a physical and mental joy, the nearest parallel to which I think is probably unsuitable for mention in a family blog, so I will suggest instead the first gasp of a cold pint on a hot, hot day. The Africa Twin even sounded like happy bubbling water as we bimbled along the back roads to the pub.

Music, bikes and beer are making a tripartite twist of happiness for me at the moment, though mindful of the dangers of mixing 2 and 3 too closely, during the rehearsal I stuck to coffee and water. On Sunday we had a birthday party gig and were paid in beer tokens. In my brother’s (slightly eccentric) lexicon, a beer token is a five pound note, but these were actual beer tokens redeemable at the bar of the Duke of Wellington in Willingham. I counted on my fingers and reckoned that two pints of IPA over 5 hours would stay the right side of legal. Everyone seemed happy except for the grumpy neighbour who gatecrashed the party to shout about the volume at Andy. Who told him to “talk to the band ‘cos the bass ain’t listening.”

Next bike outing: Ruby to the Smoke, tomorrow
Next band outing: St Ives Regatta, Saturday
Next beer outing: about 3 hours time…

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