Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Honda Varadero - So Far So Good!

Now that I have the Varadero back, all seems well and she appears to be running sweetly.

No signs of any of the previous problems, so I am hoping that the problems have been solved for good.

I have only been doing the commute to work and back, but she starts and sounds as she should, and I am now feeling a lot more comfortable with her.

With Christmas out of the way, and the New Year just around the corner we need to start planning our trip to Italy!

There are a few modifications I would like to do to the bike and I have started to amass basic spares for the trip.

For Christmas I was given a new Honda rectifier, clutch cable, mirror extenders and a brace bar which goes between the handlebars so I can fit the satnav in a more convenient position.

Unfortunately I cannot get the brace bar to fit, (pics to follow and an explanation as to why).

I then tried the mirror extenders, according to ebay they are correct for the year and model, but guess what? Yep, they don't fit either!

Not doing to well so far!

Obviously I cannot check the rectifier or clutch cable, fingers crossed that if I ever need them they are correct!

Other news but not directly related to the bike is that I have finally got around to updating my laptop. So I am now tapping away at a dogs bollocks Toshiba Satellite!

Although my little note book did me proud and was great for trips away due to it's compact size it was just not able to cope with video production which is something I want to try.

I have a GoPro 4 and the plan is to start a YouTube channel. Having the correct tools to do the job is half the battle, the other half is being able to operate them!

I have mounted the camera to the front of the bike and so far the view is great, but yet to test it fully. As soon as I have and taken some decent footage I will post it up.

So that's a wrap for 2015, a couple of little trips away, a bike licence and a grown up bike bought. It's been a busy year.

2016 will be just as busy with a wedding and a trip to Italy planned. Can't wait.

The journey continues............

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Bike Into Garage and Multiple Break Downs

After my 400 mile plus round trip to Cornwall and back, the Varadero was in need of a bit of tlc.

I had a sneaky suspicion that I had a brake fluid leak, but could not confirm this and there was a rattle when I was in 1st and 2nd gears.

With a day off I had told the dealership I was coming in and set off. Less than 5 minutes from my house the bike died on me.

It was if it just got sluggish, and was slowly being starved of fuel.

I knew there was at least 10 litres in the tank so I knew I had not run out.

Time to call out the AA. They arrived with in 30 minutes and the bike started as soon as the AA man tried it! Sods law. However, he said he was happy to follow me all the way to the dealers just to make sure I got there safely.

5 minutes down the road, it died again. The battery was low so he gave it a 10 minute boost, the bike started and we limped the last 14 miles to the dealership.

They gave me a replacement bike, a Kawasaki ER5 a 500cc single cylinder machine which had seen better days. Even with my short legs I struggled to find it comfortable as the pegs were really high up.

But, a set of wheels is a set of wheels and at least it kept me mobile.

A couple of days later I managed to finish work early and set off back to the dealers to collect the Varadero.

I was told that an exhaust clamp was missing, one was loose and another rusted through, so all were replaced. So that was what the rattling was all about!

The reason it was cutting out or dying was that an earth lead was shorting out, which was draining the battery and making it run like a dog.

The brakes on investigation were absolutely fine and there was nothing to worry about at all.

So imagine my surprise that after driving for less than 2 minutes away from the dealership the bike died on me!

A phone call and 5 minutes later they arrived in a van and took me back!

Sod's law once more, when unloaded it started fine and ran fine. I set off again, but after 20 minutes I was once more with a dying bike!

Not impressed by all of this, they came out with a van and a replacement bike. This time a Suzuki Bandit S 600cc. 

Loaded up the Varadero which left me looking rather nervously at the Bandit! They have a reputation as being a bit of a Hooligan I was unsure how I would get on with it. Especially as when I started it and revved it up it was rather responsive to say the least! Plus it was tipping it down with rain. A fast revvy bike, rain and a novice rider is not a good mix!

However, to be honest I fell in love with the bike, I found it incredibly easy to ride, comfortable and being able to put both feet flat on the ground was a real bonus.

If I did not need such a big bike for touring and all I needed was a commuter type bike, then this would be the one. Good on fuel, immense acceleration and looking good.

I had this bike for a week, and it was a joy to ride. It was a shame that I only had one dry run on it, so could not really open it up and enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Compared with the Varadero it was so light! Easy to move around all though the steering lock I found when getting it in and out of the garage was worse than the Varadero which was a surprise.

Finally I get my Varadero back, with a new fuel pump and a new battery. 

I rode home, a little nervous that I may break down again, but I need not of worried

Once more in heavy rain I made my way home, happy that all seemed to be working as it should.

I got home and attached my panniers and top box, she looks a little naked with out them.

Back to work tomorrow and the 8 mile trip in, lets hope she runs fine in the morning.

The journey continues...........

Road Trip To Cornwall And Storm Desmond

With a couple of days off I decided to visit my friends who live in Cornwall, Praa Sands to be precise.

They have just finished renovating their house and this was the first time I've seen it completed. Last time I was there it was a shell.

I decided to do a circular route, on the way down I would travel over Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor and on the way back up and over the Tamar Bridge.

I was only going for the one night, ride down, a few beers, ride back the next day. I had the panniers on and all my gear stowed away. I did not bother with the tank bag.

So off I set, leaving at 1000hrs as I wanted to miss the works traffic through Bournemouth. This I did and had an easy run down to Dorchester, which is where it started to get a little damp.

By the time I had crossed the Dorset/Devon border the weather had turned for the worst and it was a persistent drizzle.

Going through Exeter and up over Dartmoor it really started to get nasty. Heated grips on and keeping my hands warm.

Little did I realise that this was Storm Desmond. It did some real damage up in Cumbria and the Lake District. Down here it was just blowing a gale.

Side winds were an issue, even with such a heavy bike as the Honda Varadero I was being blown all over the place.

The Metzler tyres working over time to displace water and keep me upright, which they did an amazing job!

I stopped for a brew and a bite to eat at the Hog and Hedge on the A30, and was soon on my way again once I had topped up the fuel tank.

Now, at this point I had all ready thought the weather was bad, but nothing could prepare me for the next part of my journey across Bodmin Moor!

To say it was evil was an understatement, gusting wind, rain falling so hard I could not see, rivers of water on the road. This was the stuff that nightmares are made of!

Some how I managed to make it through and as I neared Penzance it eased off a bit, but only a bit!

I pulled up at Praa Sands, with my kit dripping, but remarkably my inner layers were bone dry, including my feet. My W2 boots having to work overtime to cope with the amount of water.

I was glad to arrive in one piece, and after a hot shower was more than ready for a couple of beers.

Nothing to mad as Sharon and Tom both had to work the next day and I had to ride home.

So after a bite to eat in the Sand Bar, which is just a couple of minutes walk from their house and a couple of pints we ambled back to their house just after 1900hrs.

Funny that the next time we looked at the clock it was 0320hrs, a bottle of Morgans Spiced Rum and a bottle of Lambs Navy Rum lay empty and we were very merry!

As you can imagine, I was not in a fit state to get up early and head back and finally bid my farewell around lunch time.

The journey back was damp in places with some gusts of wind wanting to knock me around, but other wise a non eventful journey back.

I stopped at the Route 38 Cafe on the A38 for a late lunch then ploughed on. Here I was subjected to Chris Rea and "Driving Home For Christmas" 3 times whilst I ate!

I say that my journey home was non eventful, but there were two little niggling thoughts in my head.

The bike has a small box on the handle bars with a tiny window which shows the level of brake fluid in it's reservoir. I could not see a bubble as you are supposed to be able to and I thought that I had a brake fluid leak. Even though the brakes felt firm and strong.

My other concern was that I had a rattle, down in 1st and 2nd gear. I don't have enough knowledge to be able to pinpoint exactly where it was coming from, so it had me a tad nervous to say the least.

I finally got home, nursing the bike due to the two issues and was mightily relieved to turn into my street.

Tired, well in fact exhausted if I was honest. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, even with all the problems. 

I did not take any pictures, it was simply to wet to get my phone or camera out.

Next thing is to get the bike into the garage for a once over!

The journey continues.........

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Pillion Passenger

One of the other main reasons for buying a bike as big as the Honda Varadero was that it not only had to munch the miles and be reliable, but it also had to be able to carry a full set of luggage and a pillion passenger.

Not many lower cc bikes would be able to accomplish this so easily.

But first I had to get used to riding the bike myself!

I was a little nervous, not but half as nervous as Kiera on her first outing.

Before Kiera went out on the bike we made sure that she had all the protective gear, to keep her as safe as possible.

She is particularly fond of her brand new W2 boots!

So one Sunday we got all kitted up with the aim of going for a trip around the New Forest.

But first a few practice goes of getting on and off. With the centre stand up I got Kiera used to just climbing on and off. Then I sat on and she got on.

We found it easier if I lent right over the tank as due to a skiing and then a trampolining accident, she suffers when twisting of her knee.

Then I dropped it onto it's side stand and she got on. We found that as long as she does everything slowly we are fine, just don't sit down hard with a thump as it really does upset the balance of the bike!

We eventually set off and I took it nice and slow, taking it steady as I wasn't too sure what to expect myself.

Mind you, the bike itself almost felt as if it enjoyed having the extra weight, it seemed to handle better. With my limited experience I found this rather strange!

We had an hour out and about and through the forest, and on returning it was evident that Kiera was really enjoying the experience.

This was just as well, as a couple of days before we had booked the ferry tickets from Portsmouth to Le Harve as we are planning a trip to Florence Italy for our honeymoon on the motorbike!!!!!!!!

Pre  W2 boots!

We have since been out again, and the smile is still there!

An early Christmas present for Kiera

The Journey Continues...........

Honda Varadero 1000cc 2001

Well, what can I say! A Honda Varadero 1000cc motorbike, I've gone from my little C90 with 8hp and that's on a good day, to the Varadero with a massive 94hp.

It's like chalk and cheese, as you would expect. Do I like it, Oh yes, the raw power and acceleration is unbelievable and truly mind blowing.

It is so smooth, effortless to ride, and I can sit on her for several hours at a time without a problem.

However, she is bloody heavy! Not only that but damn tall as well!

I have now got use to how heavy she is. The very first time I dropped her I had just collected her from the dealers, ridden back to see Kiera at her work, pulled up and over we went!

I have dropped her 4 times now, but none recently. I think I have got used to the weight!

Mind you once was stupid, as I thought I had put the side stand down and hadn't! That was a good one! Not!

I have had it lowered with a special lowering kit. This turned out to be a little bit more expensive than I thought but it worked out for the best in the end.

I bought the lowering kit which is basically a triangular piece of metal which replaces the original one fitted between the monoshock, frame and swingarm. As it is a slightly different shape it lowers the bike by approx 35mm.

This means I can put the balls of both my feet on the ground instead of just tip toes, and with a heavy bike this is needed I can tell you!

The dealer I bought the bike from said they were happy to fit the lowering kit for me, so when the kit arrived I took the bike back and they took it apart.

All fitted, off the ramp and it looked as if it was a bad boy hot rod that had been slammed into the deck! No way was it safe to ride!

At first we thought it was the wrong lowering kit, but on closer examination we discovered that that the monoshock was badly worn and required replacing.

As I had only had the bike a couple of weeks, the dealer said it would replace the shock with a good 2nd hand one, I wasn't entirely happy with this, but let it go. As it was they could not find one and we agreed to go halves on a brand new Ohlin shocker, which I was more than happy with.

I now have the peace of mind that a new part is fitted and with the lowering kit in place I reckon it has dropped around 25mm, not loads, but enough for me to be more confident and comfortable each time I stop!

(Above) New lowering kit fitted.

You can see the difference between the new and the old part.

When it was in the first time I also had the dealer wire in a usb and 12v charger. This is mounted on the handle bars and also wrap around heated grips.

I have only used the heated grips a couple of times, as it has just not been cold enough, but they work brilliantly. It all ready has hand guards fitted which stops the wind and rain hitting straight on, but when switched on they work well. There are two settings, hot and burn your hand hot! I switched onto the 2nd setting and I thought my gloves were melting! So roasty fingers for me even in freezing temperatures!

I also decided to upgrade the Givi panniers. The bike came with two 26l panniers, which to be honest are perfect for commuting back and forwards to work. But I wanted something bigger for when I was off on my travels.

So a call to Rod at Bikers Yard in Christchurch had him ordering a pair of 46l Givi Trekkers which would fit straight onto the rack all ready fitted. Not only that but they would match my top box.

When they arrived I was surprised at how big they were. Absolutely bloody massive!!!!

The bike now has some presence on the road. You cannot fail to see me from behind, I take the whole road up!

In fact they are that big that the first thing I did was buy some red and amber reflectors to fit on them.

I am well chuffed, I did think I would revert to the smaller panniers for day to day riding, but the Trekkers make the bike look so good I decided to keep them on!

I also bought an Oxford magnetic tank bag, as if I didn't have enough storage!

So that completes the luggage set up so far!

I use the bike every day to get me to and from work, appox 16 mile round trip, and I feel I am gaining confidence each time I go out on her. 

It's still a learning process riding a big bike such as the Varadero, and it will be for some considerable time I'm sure. But, I am enjoying it, no matter what the weather.

The Journey Continues.............

Buying A Motorbike - Making My Mind Up

Ebay can get you into all sorts of trouble!

For a few weeks I spent nearly all available spare time researching 2nd hand bikes.

I had decided that I would not be having a sports bike, I'm too old and not of the right build to have my arse up in the air, plus my belly would be resting on the tank too much!

Cruisers are just not my thing, too much chrome. The bike I get would be a work horse, I will not be overly fussed if it gets dirty.
I did think about a Royal Enfield, I love the simplicity and the look, but I also wanted reliability. Sadly this is lacking. If it was just a weekend bike then it may of been a contender, but this bike had to earn it's keep and get me to work every day.

So I had it narrowed down to two types, a tourer or an adventure style bike.

The Honda Pan European was at the top of the list. Honda reliability and a big engine to eat those miles.

But on the adventure style bike it was down to three, Triumph Tiger, Yamaha Tenere or a Honda Varadero.

I had all ready ruled out the BMW GS, not because of the snobbish owners I had come across, but more to do with the cost of them 2nd hand. You are certainly paying for the badge.

I like the look of the Tiger and being British helped the thought process but being rather short in the leg - I'm 5ft 8in ruled out the Tiger. Even with it being lowered it was just too tall.

This left just two bikes. The Tenere and the Varadero. Both would do the job, but in the end there could only be one winner.

I came across a motorbike dealer in Bournemouth who had both in stock and were both within my budget of £3000.

So I arranged to go a look at them both. I still wasn't sure which one was best, I had spent hours researching them both.

On the day however, it was clear which was the better bike. I tried them both, and to be honest there was not a great deal of difference.

However, the Varadero came with a full set of engine crash bars and Givvi pannier racks and a pair of 26l side panniers and a whopping 52l top box.

It also came with a scott oiler with a reservoir pack bolted behind the number plate, a rear hugger and fender extender.

It has done just 31000 miles with full dealer stamped history. So all in all it seemed like a great bike.

So I stayed loyal to the Honda brand and bought it!

The journey continues............

Summer 2015 Direct Access Motorcycle Course

Well a lot has happened over the summer, with very little of it involving Motorbikes I'm sorry to say!

I had 5 weeks off work due to stress, which was not a good place to be I can assure you. But it did give me time to think about where I was heading work wise. Which is where the stress evolves from. So time for a change.

It all seems to be taking a long time, but I will get there eventually. Step by step I will make things happen.

Now, I prefer to call it therapy, but riding a motorcycle is just that for me. Exhilarating, with your senses on overtime, reacting to every twist and turn, the surface of the road trying to catch you out, all makes me very happy.

I have often thought what it would be like to ride a big and powerful bike, "Lucille" is blessed with just 8 h.p. and she has to work had to shift me and my gear around.

With just a provisional licence enabling me to ride up to 125cc and my CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) fast running out. I was undecided what to do.

Do I resit my CBT again, or do I go for it and take a Direct Access course.

Kiera suggested I go for it, and after a bit of thinking about it decided to book a Direct Access course.

I booked with Maverick Motorcycles - Mike Nelson is ex military, so I knew that we would get along fine, I later found out that we both served at Sennelager at exactly the same time, and both new the same people! Small world.

With just a couple of days before I was due to start my course, I managed to do my back in. This meant that riding a bike was near on impossible and very uncomfortable.

But with pain killers inside me, I carried on.

I was very nervous on the first day, not only had I never ridden a bike with a clutch and gears but I was going straight on a 600cc Yamaha!

The first day was spent on a disused airfield going around cones, and generally getting a feel for the bike and how to control this thing that wanted to get away from me at every opportunity!

The next day, we spent the morning at the airfield practising the manoeuvres then we went for a ride out on the open road!

To say I was nervous was an understatement. I struggled with throttle and clutch control, and half the time I had no idea what gear I was in.

I kept going, and it got better.

Now, my back was beginning to ease, and so I was now off my seriously strong pain killers. However, one of the side affects of these is that they bung you up. Now that I had stopped taking them it is a known fact that what goes in at some point must come out!

With my Part 1 Module the next day all was looking decidedly dodgy!

The test is split into two parts, Mod 1 and Mod 2.

Mod 1 consists of various manoeuvres, one of which is a slalom round some cones which has to be done in excess of 30 mph. Easy you say, but not when you are thinking you are about to shit yourself any second.

Thankfully I managed not to fill my trousers and passed, not sure how, as it was all a bit wobbly.

Next day, was my test. To be honest I was not in the right frame of mind, I had to stop twice on the way up and dash to a loo. 

So it was no surprise that I failed my Mod 2 which consists of driving out on the open road.

Failing to make sufficient progress was my biggest fault, and one which as an ex driving instructor I should of been more aware of.

But, these things happen, as disappointed as I was, I put it down to experience. On a positive note, once more I had managed not to shit myself!

My next Mod 2 test was a few weeks later, and I felt a whole lot better about the whole experience.

Thankfully, this time I passed. Again, there were a few iffy moments, but with the correct life saver checks I managed to keep myself out of trouble, which at the end of the day is the aim of the test.

So there I was with a Direct Access pass enabling me now to ride any size bike I like.

If only I had one!

It did feel good to loose the "L" plates off of "Lucille".

We decided that with a wedding looming that we would put off buying a motorcycle as that was the sensible and grown up thing to do.

The journey continues...........

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Return To Wales On A Honda C90 May 2015

My last trip into Wales was a mad one day dash to Monmouth and back. This time it was going to be at a more leisurely pace.

My other trips all tend to be flat out, but I really wanted to slow down for this one and take my time seeing things, having the time to stop if I wanted to and not feel the need to keep going. That was the plan!

So with "Lucille" ready to go, a fresh set of oil in her I went to fire her up for a last trip down to top up with fuel and she would not start. No amount of kicking over, swearing or trying to jump start her would get her to fire up.

With all the usual things checked off, I thought I would just try a fresh spark plug. Taking the old one out it was a bit sooty. New one in and off she went like a dream.

Next day I said my farewells and off I set, following the exactly the same route as in my previous post all the way to Monmouth. 

Loaded and packed - ready to go!

The weather was a lot kinder as well, no where near as cold as it was on my last trip. This does make a massive difference to your well being.

My target for the day was a small camp site just past Brecon in South Wales. I had checked it out on the web and it looked fine for what I wanted.

I managed to find it ok, and set up my small Vango Banshee 2 man tent. This time I had the luxury of a hookup cable which I had made up myself and carried with me. Brilliant for charging up my mobile and giving me light.

The camp site was called Aberbran Fawr Farm, which is just outside of Brecon on the A40. Well signposted to Aberbran, but be aware there are a number of camp sites all close to each other.

I paid £11.00 for the night and that included my electric hookup, which I was happy about. The camp site was large with plenty of room, there are a few seasonal pitches but the night I spent there I saw no sign of life in any of them. There were just two other caravans on site.

The shower/toilet block was brand new and fantastic. Heated as well! So certainly no complaints about that. It even had a washing up place.

The site backed onto a river so may not be suitable for really young kids unless you keep them chained up all the time.

That night once I was all set up, I did have the notion to travel back into Brecon for a bite to eat, but to be honest I just wanted to relax, read my book and chill out. So with a bit of forward planning I broke out the Super Noodles, but just not any old Super Noodles, no, Beef and Ale Pie Super Noodles. A culinary feast which in the end gave me chronic indigestion and a rough nights sleep!

I was awake fairly early, due to the fact I could hear rain on the tent, not a good start to the day. Upon checking the weather forecast by 0800hrs it was supposed to clear up for an hour or so, then as I travel North it was supposed to brighten up.

So with a bit of time to kill, back to my book and another brew!

All packed up and ready to go, but "Lucille" does not like the damp and would not kick over, so with no kit on I pushed her up the hill, and with a bit of free wheeling, clunked into 1st and away she went!

I left her running while I loaded up and then I was off.

My route today, took me up through Wales with my final destination being a trip down the Llanberis Pass to a campsite a mile from Caernarfon.

From Aberbran I set out North across the lanes and a military training area, which was bleak to say the least. I had to stop and put on my water proofs as it started to rain and blow a gale.

I got to Garth and from here the weather improved. Via B roads to Newbridge on Wye then for a short stint on the A470 to Rhayader where I turned left and headed for the Elan Valley.

I stopped for a brew at Elan Village in the visitor centre. About 20 minutes earlier I was overtaken by a pair of BMW GS's they were parked up in the car park and their owners inside. They completely ignored me even though I sat just two tables away.

I really do not wish to stereotype GS owners but what a pair of snobbish bastards!

The Elan Valley is spectacular, and I was very glad that I had managed to find it and then ride it in sunshine!

The Elan valley is filled with a number of reservoirs with some amazing looking dams.

From here I tried to keep to B roads as much as possible but even the A470 is a quiet road and it gave me no problems. Through Dolgellau and heading for Porthmadog, but turning North before I got there and heading for Beddgelert.

Here the roads and views were lovely, with water cascading over rocks as it wound it's way along the valley floors. 

From Beddgelert I took the A498 and then turned off towards Caernarfon and the Llanberis Pass.

The Llanberis Pass was easy to ride up and posed no problems for "Lucille" just a steady pace and she got to the top, straight over the top and it's all down hill. I stopped 2/3rds of the way down for a quick photo.

I was staying at a camp site called Riverside Camping, a site I last stayed when I was still at school and on a family holiday. To be honest, as I rode in there was nothing I could remember. It was not till I saw the river that borders the camp  site that a few hazy memories came back.

A great camp site, it cast me £15.00 a night which considering it's location I thought was ok. The shower block all though not new, was clean and functional with loads of hot water.

I was more than happy with my spot, right next to the river, with no one else near by. Pure bliss.

That night I went up to a curry house which would of only been a 10 minute walk, but being lazy rode up and had a very good Dansak, and a great pint of really cold cobra.

I wasn't late to bed that night, and slept soundly with the noise of the water tumbling over the rocks as my background music.

Day 3 and I had no plans other than to ride up the Llanberis Pass and just ride where ever the wind blew me. 

After the Pass I turned left and headed for Capel Curig where I had a slap up breakfast, and looked over my map to see where I could go. Headed for Betws-y-Coed and then back towards Blaenau Ffestiniog, which as I entered looked bleak and unforgiven.

Spoil heaps of old slate looked as if it would engulf the town at any second. On I went without stopping. Over some B roads and made my way towards Beddgelert where I stopped for a brew and relaxed in a cafe for a while.

Heading off once more I took the A4085 which runs the other side of Snowdon and into Caernarfon. I parked up right next to the castle and had an ice cream as the sun was out and it was a tad warm in all my bike gear.

From here I rode out towards the airport hugging the coast, not a long trip, but found some great places to stop if we were in the camper.

I then headed back to the camp site, it was still only mid afternoon, but with the sun shining an afternoon of sitting in the sun, with my book and a brew was most appealing.

That night I rode back into Caernarfon for fish and chips, to be honest it was rubbish, but sitting looking up towards the castle made up for it.

Back at the camp site I checked the weather for the next day. Heavy rain all day! Now my original plan was to head back to Brecon, stay the night and then head back the next day. Making the journey back easy and relaxing. But with the weather looking grim to say the least I really did not fancy being soaked, then putting up a tent and staying in it wet.

I decided that what ever the weather the next day I would see how long it took me to get to Brecon, and from there make the decision - camp or blast my way home!

I woke at 0500hrs, the sun was rising and it all looked good, but things can change quickly, and I did not want to be lulled into a false sense of security. So I packed up in the dry, squared everything away, and pushing my bike out of the camp site as it was still only 0600hrs and I didn't want to wake anyone I was off.

By 0900hrs I was still dry, but it was getting more overcast, by 0930hrs I felt my first spots, and by 1000hrs it was pouring down in buckets.

I stopped for breakfast, a little damp but still dry once I had taken off my waterproofs and then pushed on. No let up in the rain, it kept tipping it down.

Even with waterproofs on, it was only a matter of time before I felt myself getting a bit damp around the legs.

I arrived in Brecon just after lunch time and I there and then made the decision that I would push on home.

Refuelled, warmed up, and away once more. The rain did easy every now and again, but by this time my lower half was definitely wet. Top half was ok, which was something to be thankful for.

As I left Monmouth I took a different route, and as I pulled out of a fuel station near Ross on Wye I lost my map book which is normally clamped onto my wind shield. I did not notice that it had gone for a while, but was a bit annoyed as there were notes and camp sites scribbled into it.

Into Gloucester and yet again, I managed to go a way that I had never been before. Are there really that many ways to go through Gloucester?

I was doing ok for time, but as I crossed over the M4 I knew that I had to stop. Bath being the obvious place. I pushed on, very wet by now and cold. Into Bath I noticed a diversion sign, but didn't manage to read all of it and paid no more attention to it. I stopped at Morrisons, and squelched into the shop for a coffee and a pee. My feet were soaking and my boots full of water.

Refuelled, and with a bit of warmth from the coffee inside me made my way through the rush hour traffic of Bath, up the hill towards Warminster to find the road closed! Yes, the diversion was for me and I had missed it! I cursed a thousand curses!

Back through all the traffic once more and back on the A4 towards Chippenham, before cutting across to Melksham and finally Warminster.

At least the rain had eased off a bit. I stopped for my final time at Shaftesbury, for yet more coffee and fuel and then the final push for home.

I got back wet, well, in fact soaked, you could pour water out of my boots! My trousers had leaked but my top half had stayed remarkably dry some how!.

I checked the mileage for the day and I had completed 312 miles in pouring rain, only stopping for grub, coffee and fuel. It had taken me 13 hrs from start to finish.

Looking back I wanted this trip to be all about relaxed riding, taking time out to stop for photo's and enjoying the experience. and that is what I did for 3 days, however, my last day was the best, the day I got soaked and spent 13 hrs riding 312 miles non stop.

Not too sure what to make of that, other than I am not right in the head.

Finally home!

The journey continues...........

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day Trip To Wales!

It's been a little while since I have been out on my bike, and then it was only using it to get to work and back.

This time last year I was in final preparation for my trip around the UK, but nothing planned for this year - it's been a bit busy with just getting on with life!

However, I had a week off and the initial plan was to spend 4 days travelling around Wales, but as the week grew closer I went down with a heavy cold/man flu which left me feeling completely drained. There was no way I was going to be riding a bike for 4 days as much as I wanted to.

By Thursday I was feeling a bit better and pissed off that I hadn't been able to get out, so that night I hatched a plan to do a monster dash to Wales and back in a day!

Now, I live on the South Coast in the New Forest - Wales is a good distance away!

After looking at the map I really wanted to get to Brecon, but realistically if I managed to just get over the border and to Monmouth I would be happy.

So I prepared the bike the night before, which meant topping up oil and loading tool bag on board and I was ready for the off at first light!

The next morning was dry but frosty, but as long as it wasn't raining I didn't care. I said my goodbye's to Kiera who thought I was mad and who thought that I may be back at some point but not the same evening, and so with the mileage reading 14892.4 I was off!

Here is Lucille fitted with sheepskin seat which kept my arse toasty warm and handlebar muffs. This was the first time I had used the muffs and they were brilliant! The panniers were full of tools and spares, just in case I came across a BMW GS rider in need of assistance and I took a rucksack. This was also a first as I had never ridden with one on before so was a bit unsure how comfortable it was. As it happened I felt as if it kept my back nice and warm!

I had no real plan, just a general direction of travel but knew I didn't really want to go through Bath as it is pretty congested at the best of times.

So I left New Milton (home) at 0740 hrs and headed North towards Bransgore where I crossed country towards Hurn and followed the old road up towards Ringwood. Passing through Verwood and heading out towards Cranborne, Sixpenny Handley and Tollard Royal.

Up on the "Chase" as it's known it is high up and exposed and there was a lot of ice around on the sides of the road. Being only lanes, the chances of it being treated by the council would be non existent, so I had to keep my wits about me!

Dropping down to Shaftesbury I had the pleasure of Zig Zag hill. It's not called Zig Zag for nothing! Shaftesbury I stopped for fuel, a pee, coffee and a much needed bacon roll! Of course I needed to warm up, as my feet were suffering the most.

Onwards, and heading towards Warminster, once more up on the downs it was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining so I started to warm up slowly.

Westbury, the outskirts of Trowbridge before I headed towards Melksham and on to Chippenham. Across the M4 and I took my next stop at a little garage by Hullavington Airfield. This was just a splash and dash stop, so no brew this time!

Past Malmesbury then a left on a little road the B4014 towards Tetbury. Keeping to the lanes which were easy to ride it was straight on till I hit Stroud.

Here I picked up signs for Gloucester. No matter how many I times I have been through Gloucester I seem to go on different roads every time and this day was no different.

I then headed out on the A40 towards Ross on Wye turning off just past Huntley on the A4136 which winds it's self through the Forest of Dean and all the way to Monmouth!

I pulled in to Monmouth High Street around 1340, 6hrs of riding and two fuel stops.

A brew in Costa Coffee and refuelled ready for the return trip.

As usual, you cannot help but be noticed when riding a C90. I guy came up to me and said, that is roofing flashing on those leg shields isn't it? Well spotted Sir, and we had a chuckle about it.

Heading back I knew would be harder, due to tiredness and the fact that the last bit of the journey would be in darkness.

So, away we went following the same route back, apart from Gloucester, as I managed once more to go a different way!

I managed to get back to Chippenham before I needed to stop and a thaw out. By the time I was ready to leave it was almost dark, this is where my new lights on the front of the bike really earnt their place on the bike.

With the darkness came the cold as the temperature started to drop rapidly. I got back to Shaftesbury and was very cold indeed. It took 20 minutes of walking around and drinking hot chocolate to thaw out.

It wasn't as if I was wearing the wrong clothing either, I had a compression top, a t-shirt, a fleece jumper, plus my lined motorcycle jacket. My legs covered by Ron Hill tracksuit bottoms and my winter motorcycle lined trousers. My feet were in high performance Falke socks. But I was still cold!

The last stretch was before me, and I knew that this could be the worst part of the journey. I dug out my waterproof jacket and put this on as well, and set off.

Strange though as this now was the warmest I had felt all day!

The trip back across the "Chase" was good, and I headed straight for Ringwood, dropping back through Bransgore and home.

I got in at 2100hrs, cold, tired and hungry but very happy indeed. Kiera said it was the happiest she had seen me in weeks!

Which just proves that a bloke needs to get out on his bike more often!

The final mileage for the day ended up at 15163.5 which gives a total days mileage of 271.1 miles. Not bad for a fat bloke on an old Honda C90!!!!

As per normal, Lucille did not miss a beat and was a joy to ride. For this trip I used my new flip front helmet. I bought this at the NEC bike show recently and I must say it was great to wear, especially wearing it for the length of time I did.

So all in all, a cracking day out, but lack of photographs due to not wanting to stop!

The journey continues...........