Tag Archives: raceways

the 900cc solution

PeaceThe Wingman had another wobble about a month ago, and it looked for a few days like he would be packing his bags and making his final journey.  Mainly due to failure of my courage, he’s still here, but while I was trying to think about all the things that would need to be done, and all the ways that life would be different, I realised that I had two motorcycles with sidecars attached for the sole purpose of transporting my hairy life companion, and one Triumph that had done 500 miles on its own wheels since 2015 and about twice that in the back of a van up and down the country before descending into the vicious circle where every time I took it out something went wrong – last year, that was fuel pouring out from the air box drain hose – so I took it out less and less for fear of getting stuck miles from the dog and it got less and less reliable.

Of all the unbearable things that would have been life post-Wingman, the worst would have been taking one of the outfits out with an empty chair so I thought after he had gone I would get the Triumph sorted and return to solo riding.

Then I thought, why wait until after he’s gone? Now that I’m at home with him all the time, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to sneak out on my own now and again. Apart from his wobegone face when he sits right behind the door so I can’t even open it, that is.

Who do you trust with your favourite motorcycle?

There’s only really one answer for the Triumph and that’s Steve and Caz Hutchins of Raceways Motorcycles in Stevenage. A very long time ago I started out on IAM training and the first thing you do is walk round your bike (or maybe that was just the first thing my observer made me do…) – anyway, I was in a Tesco car park in Hitchin looking at my bike thinking “that front end is squint.” Turns out when you smack into some diesel-coated tarmac on the way to your sister’s wedding things don’t quite stay lined up. Steve and Caz took a huge amount of care getting it all straight again and became my workshop of choice until poor life decisions took me to the Fens. So I gave them a call, and they said “bloody hell, are you still alive?” and said of course they would sort the bike out.  So a man in a van did a covid-busting run down and last Saturday was time to go and get her back.

You need to know that I’m a terrible pillion. I hardly ever ride behind people because I’m a lot bigger than most women (and in truth, than most men)  and it upsets the aesthetic of the bike. I’m also a total coward. About this time last year I went pillion to the bike night at Jack Hill’s Cafe and genuinely thought I was going to go arse over tit off the back as Meerkat opened the throttle.  Fortunately in Shoei no-one can hear you scream.

“I’ll put the top box on for you this time,” he said.

Didn’t help.

It’s not that I don’t trust him. I just don’t trust everyone else on the road. So for the first half of the trip down I remembered the advice of Big Chief Polar Bear, closed my eyes, sang show tunes and tried not to throw up.   I quite liked the motorway because the speed was just in a straight line but then we were on the rollercoaster which is the Baldock to Buntington Road, my nemesis as an IAM learner – it’s fast and sweepy and then there’s a tight, tight set of esses which we piled through without hesitation or deviation but in complete terror.  It’s just not dignified at my age to be trying to velcro myself to the leathers of a younger chap like some sort of novelty backpack while whimpering.

I had been a bit worried about piloting the Triumph after so long on tiny bikes. If you add the MZ and the W650 together, you’ve only just matched the Triumph for capacity. But after 75 miles of white-knuckle adventure, there was no adrenaline left in me.

When life got dull, Sherlock Holmes would turn to a seven per cent solution of cocaine to stimulate his brain. He would have been better off with motorcycles.

 

 

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Two bikes on the road? Surely some mistake…

Ruby may be a tart when it comes to servicing but The Triumph With No Name is a faithful girl. (Sometimes I worry that having no name will make the bike feel second-best. But then I think that names are only needed by those that come second – after all, there is only one City, and Irene Adler, inamorata of Sherlock Holmes and occasional commenter on this blog, will forever be known as The Woman, so I think the Triumph is in good company being The Bike).

Anyway, while Ruby roams the BMW dealerships of Blighty, the Triumph always goes to Raceways in Stevenage, where Steve and Caz right all the wrongs I have done to her over the last 6 months, this time including (but not limited to) forgetting to top up the battery; letting the forks go rusty over the winter; and having cobwebs in my rev counter. New spark plugs, clean carbs, stern instructions on getting down and dirty with chrome polish and wire wool, and several cups of coffee later I leave riding one very happy motorcycle. The cobwebs are still there (Steve does a lot of things not included in a standard service but pest control is rather beyond the call…) but the engine now sings smoother than Huey from the Fun Lovin Criminals.

PS Steve races in the Wirral 100 club championships – if you’re near Oulton Park on 10th April go and root for Hutchiemura!

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Gods and Monsters

The Ancient Greeks believed that every now and again, when the Gods got bored, they adopted human form and walked the earth in search of entertainment. Now, my knowledge of Greek myths came from this:

so it was a bit of a surprise when I found out later that Enid had omitted quite a lot of details about the kind of entertainment they were looking for.

After today’s experience I can tell you with some certainty that this is still going on, but in the 21st century it amuses Hephaestos to come to earth and take the form of mechanics called Steve.

Back in the days when I drove a series of ropey 2CVs, they used to love visiting Steve Hill, so that he could lay hands on them and get them back on the road. Hannibal liked to spit spark plugs and lose synchronisation on his points, while Baldwin (OK, so I named my 2CVs. I’m a girl, it’s allowed) worshipped him so much that he used to drop something vital off his running parts about once a fortnight – fan off the front of the engine; gearbox cogs…nothing important. I was on the verge of setting up a standing order for a hundred quid once a fortnight when I passed my bike test and sent Baldwin off to a new life in Greenwich.

Anyway… today, the bike was booked back in to Raceways to have the front wheel straightened up (after 3 hours of theory class). I’ve always understood counter-steering (as much as anyone does) and I try to do it, but I’ve always had to correct the bike mid-corner. I assumed this was because I’m not very good at it (like Dr Strangelove, my left arm is not entirely subscribed to the plot and likes to try and hold the bike up. One of these days I’m going to try riding one-handed to see if it helps), so I paid special attention today during the theory class – look where you want to go; drop shoulder; ride with forearms parallel to the road.

All of these things helped.

But not as much as 2 hours with Steve at Raceways.

I don’t know what he did (apart from straightening up the bolt which holds the back brake pedal and the subframe together, as he was still working on that when I came back to pick the bike up – not sure how I bent that, but if it was from dropping the bike, the last time it went down on that side was 2002. Maybe I can blame this scooter boy) but it was magic. The bike now soars. Riding the A507 for one last go before heading back to London, on a couple of corners we even approached a state of grace.

Tony, giving the theory course, says that I am wrong. He says that, in fact, my instructor is God. Now I’m willing to believe this is true, and if it is, I hope that cheese and pickle sandwiches are an acceptable oblation. Because there’s one in the right hand pannier of his BMW…

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