• Honda CBX550F

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    My first experience on two wheels started off on a bog basic Puch Maxi 50cc moped. I couldn’t wait to trade up to a “proper” bike though and a year later a Honda CB125N had replaced the dog slow slowped. It was a big upgrade at the time but I’d been bitten by the biking bug and soon wanted even more from  biking, leading me to take out my first bank loan for the purchase of a brand new Yamaha RD250C like the one below. The acceleration was staggering in its ferocity compared to the little Honda, the hit from the power band addictive, and the smoke and the smell of two stroke oil evocative of an era in which most of the Japaene bikes (excepting Hondas) were two strokes, think Kawasaki KH triples, Suzuki GT380,550,750’s and you get the picture.

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    Reminiscing again back to those golden days, I was reminded of a bike that took my fancy as my thoughts turned yet again to the purchase of a bigger engined bike. The object of my desire, the 1982 Honda CBX550F. It came in the red/white or blue/white options shown below, or a half faired version, the FII.

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    Often looking back we tend to see things through rose tinted glasses, so when I saw an article on the CBX in Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine, I had to buy it and find out whether I’d missed out on a great bike or not. Here’s what I found:

    The CBX 550F had a 2 valve per cylinder 572cc 4 stroke engine which made 62bhp at 10,000rpm and had a top speed of 118mph. It required servicing at 2000 mile intervals (imagine if you had those intervals on todays machines!) and the novel enclosed brake discs made wheel / tyre changes unnecessarily long and actually caused braking problems due to the heat and brake fade they created. It had CV carbs, electronic ignition, a Pro-Link rising rate air assisted rear monoshock,  and TRAC anti dive (air assisted) front forks, and a great looking 4 into 2 exhaust designed to mimic the CB400F pipes. At 196kg and with a range of only 100 miles due to its 35mpg thirst, it had some issues, none of which were anywhere near as bad as the camchain problems that surfaced soon after it’s launch though, which were then closely followed by issues with engine and clutch bearings. In the same way as the Honda V4 engines of this decade suffered with camshaft problems which did huge damage to their reputation, the CBX soon fell out of favour because of these problems and was dropped just a few years later, with Kawaski apparently picking up a lot of the sales that Honda lost.

    All of the above was quite an eye opener for me and really highlighted how memories and all that glistens is not gold! If someone wants to buy one of these pieces of two wheeled history, they apparently change hands for somewhere in the region of £1200-£1300. Sadly I won’t be buying one, but I still think they look good!

     

     

     


  • Reminiscing

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    The sale of my K1300GT will leave me in the strange position of being without a road bike for the first time in 20 years. In the past I’ve always had its replacement in the garage before I’d sold the old one, but this time it’s different. I’m in no rush, moneys tight, I’m missing my old riding buddies and the great trips we used to do, and I’m not feeling motivated to think about its replacement. I still have the R1 track bike though which does motivate me to get out on track, as it’s now close to how I’d like it to be vis a vis handling and mods, but it’s winter now and plenty of cold dark months and poor weather before next season comes around.

    So I’ve been reminiscing, like you do. Thinking of the good times, the bikes I’ve owned and loved, the one I owned and didn’t like, trips, tours, speed and adventure, so here are a few of my favourite memories.

    Bikes-

    I’ve owned two outstanding machines, well technically three if you consider I owned two models of the same machine, a Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. I purchased the first one in Switzerland in Y2K with a mere 2600kms on the clock. I knew the second it purred out of the shop floor and onto the Geneva streets it was the one for me. Super smooth, quiet, refined, and SOOO fast, it was my pride and joy, and carried the wife and me half way round Europe at warp speed and in total reliability, well except for a regulator rectifier failure, but they all do that!

    Everyone knows that for a while the Bird was the fastest bike on the planet, but the best thing about it was the quiet exhaust note which allowed you to creep under the radar whilst Ducati’s and those with loud pipes were getting pulled over. The power came so smoothly and quietly with 100mph effortlessly and VERY rapidly passed, easy to get yourself in trouble with the law. I vividly remember being chased by a bunch of French riders on one occasion, and one coming up behind me shaping up for an overtake. No chance!, a rapid twist of the throttle and I was gone, warp drive engaged, and the guy disappeared in the rear view mirrors.

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    Then there was the ascent of the Pas de Casa in Andorra where we overtook a line of 10 cars in one go, but the best memory was riding back from the Misano superbikes with a mate and his Thunderace. The Italians allow free entry from the circuit onto the autostrada and then anarchy took over. Imagine hundreds of bikes let loose, all heading north and forgetting the speed limit. We set off together, but I soon had my Thunderace mounted mate disappearing in my mirrors as I gave the Bird the full throttle treatment. I averaged 220-240kph for the hour and a half it took all the way up to Bologna, at which time the fuel tank had been pretty much drained, and my hands were shaking with adrenaline. Crazy remembering those overtakes on either side of the traffic ahead just to maintain momentum. Could never happen again, and I’m amazed it did back then, but the bike was awesome. That adrenaline fix was actually better than maxxing it out at 285kph on a French dual carriageway and German autobahn some years later.

    Legal disclaimer- At this stage I should point out that none of these events ever happened, the stories are fictional, and are the result of an over active imagination and defective memory.

    The next “special” bike was the Honda RC45. This was a bike that excelled on the road and disappointed on the track, but however you rode it you were never going fast enough. The seat height was so low you couldn’t fail to get your knee down, the exhaust note so evocative it made you weep, and literally did when I rode it with a Micron open pipe for an hour and a half! The best thing, you rarely if ever saw another one on the roads so it always drew admiring glances from others, and questions from the younger generation who had no idea what it was. I had that bike nearly 10 years and loved every minute of it and to me was the very essence of why we ride bikes, because just looking at it made you want to ride, and when you got on it it never disappointed (on the road).

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    Disappointing bikes? I’ve only really owned one , a Laverda 750S, bought cheaply new when the company had gone bust (again) and only rode it for three months and 3000kms. It had lots of Gucci parts but the throttle control was awful and it stalled frequently. When my mates asked why I’d got it as it and gave their opinion of it having ridden it as being a piece of s**t, clearly it was time to get rid, and I did so very swiftly.

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    Most reluctant sale? Apart from the RC45, this has to be a low mileage ZX-10R l bought in Germany but had to sell when I moved back to France, due to that country’s barmy 100bhp law. This was a superb bike and obviously I didn’t ride it hard enough to be scared by its reputation as a wild ride, but the handling was sorted, it looked the dogs, went like stink, and was safe on track. Bloody French laws!

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    Tours-

    Got to be the 15 day tour I took with the wife on the Blackbird back in 2003. We toured through Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. 7 countries 3743kms and although it was our second big Euro tour since moving over in 1999, it was the most fun.

    I’ve also enjoyed my commercial Alpinebiker tours where I met some great people and shared some great rides and experiences.

    Not sure they count as tours, but I did so many ride outs with friends when I lived in Geneva that it’s difficult to pick any specific one out as being a favourite, I will say though, that sharing those days and tours shaped both my riding and long term memories, so to those people, you know who you are, thanks a million.

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    Encounters with the law-

    When you’ve ridden a bike for 20 years there are bound to have been the odd scrapes with the law, I’ve had a few although none of the ultra serious nature.

    The first came one summers evening whilst riding in Yorkshire with the wife on the back. I overtook a caravan and looking back saw a raplidly driven BMW with its lights flashing following me. No problem, go past I thought, the road ahead was clear, it wasn’t until he was closer behind me that I saw the blue lights flashing under the grill. One lecture later I’d got a ticket for 81mph for the caravan overtake but got let off the 92 I’d been doing earlier, oops.

    Strike 2 was on our 2003 tour when I got pulled over in Bosnia for allegedly doing 65 in a 50, but although I paid the fine I was shocked to see the policeman using the same speed gun reading on the next poor motorist who complained bitterly. Given the dubious nature of this ticket I don’t count it, in much the same way as the ticket in Austria, again for doing 65 in a 50 but I didn’t see any sign advertising the limit?

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    I then had many many years ticket free until I got one in France on a dealer loan bike. I wouldn’t have been on the road if my bike had been repaired on time and the loaner had had a motorway vignette, but it didn’t, so I ended up on a road I wouldn’t normally have been on which on that particular day the police had a radar trap on. Strangely the police seemed to think it amusing that a BMW was speeding, perhaps they see BMW’s as normally being ridden by the more conservative type of riider? Truth is I should have contested the fine though as they had got the speed reading from a 45 degree angle as I was crossing a bridge, and people have won cases before based on the fact you can’t get an accurate reading off a bikes angular surfaces from the side. Think that one cost me €90.

    I’m not proud of these and each time I get one I feel suitably chastised, but they’re all pretty minor offences (luckily). Given the 293,000kms I’ve ridden over the past 20 years, if these “speed awards” (as my US tour riders called them) are all I’ve got to show, then I’ve not done too badly considering!

    I could go on and on, but as I’ve written this it’s clear my life has been changed and shaped by biking, the machines I’ve ridden, the friendships made through ownership, and the special memories that rides, people, times and places create. Get another bike? Probably!


  • Quotations for a service-How hard can it be?

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    Is it me? Is my French so bad? Are dealers down here really so busy with winter coming that they don’t need work coming into their workshops to keep them going? Here’s the story.

    A week ago I decided that to try and make my K1300GT look a more attractive proposition as a purchase, I’d need to get the 90,000 service done before I advertised it for sale. I duly sent an email to three local BMW dealers asking for a quote for this service, which I know is likely to be at least €500 as it’s a major service where the valve clearances are checked. Here is the convoluted story of how this simple request fared in the wonderland that is BMW service .

     

    We start with a positive note as Dealer #1 replied to my enquiry the next day with a quote which was in line with my expectations at €464, but when I looked at it in detail I realised that most of the work quoted for had been done very recently at the 80,000 service (done late at 83,000), and that the radiator purge and refilling with new antifreeze had been done in July this year at 88,000 when I’d had a problem with it overheating. Not wanting to pay out again for work done quite recently, and given I’m selling it, I wrote back the following day with full details of the work done, and asked if they would give me a revised quote, but ONLY for work that they considered necessary, given the proximity and timing of the previous jobs and the fact I was going to be selling it. I guess I expected that they would drop the brake fluid and antifreeze, and maybe even the oil change, leaving the plugs and valve clearances, but still, they’re the experts, I figured they’d know best which elements were critical?

    A simple enough request you would think, but it then went deathly quiet and after hearing nothing for a week, I went back to them asking if they were going to reply or should I consider their silence an expression of their disinterest and that I should take my bike elsewhere? This elicited a response, but not in the form of the quote I was expecting, but a demand that I send them copies of the previous work I had done so that they could prepare an accurate quote. I sent these by return, but wondered why it was strictly necessary to do so, given that they had already had the same information in writing a week earlier!

    Expecting a reply that afternoon, guess what, I didn’t get one, so I chased again, and received a new quote, this time for €628!!!!  So after 9 days I’d now got a quote that had increased by €164 +35% over the original, which only differed from the first quote by definition of the exclusion of the brake fluid change, but now contained five jobs which had increased in price, the oil by +70%, and the addition of four items not even detailed in the original quotation.

    I wrote back telling them this quote was a joke and how was it possible that the original quote had been so inaccurate? I was left seriously unimpressed when I was informed that the original quote had been done by somebody else and contained errors and omissions, no kidding!!! It seems that I was expected to just suck it up and accept that the previous quote had been worthless, and that I shouldn’t balk at having to pay 35% more because they can’t quote correctly.

    I gave them one last chance, and asked for a quote for valve clearances and plugs only, and ended up with a price of €403, plus €50 for a loan bike, which incidently had previously been quoted as being €25. Unbelieveable. The words piss up in a brewery spring to mind.

     

    So would Dealer #2 be any better? The request for a quote was sent on the same day as to Dealer #1 . They replied two days later advising that their service manager wasn’t there and that they would reply at the end of the week. I then sent them the same mail I’d sent to the other dealer explaining about the prior work I’d had done, the fact I was selling it and asked if they would send a quote allowing for these items. I  received their confirmation back immediately that when their service manager came back he would quote allowing for these issues. Looks like they might be a bit more on the ball?

    Of course it turns out I was to be disappointed again, so the following week having not received any quote and knowing the service manager was back, I chased again and received a reply which apologised for the delay, but then asked what bike the work was required for? They also wanted a copy of the carte grise (registration document) so that they could quote correctly.

    In a bid to expedite the receipt of a quote I sent copies of the previous service invoices and the carte grise along with a note stating that the work was required for a BMW K1300GT, as per the heading of my previous two emails!!!!

    Finally, 8 days after my initial enquiry I received a quote for €571, which was €107 more than the original quote from Dealer #1, and they hadn’t removed any of the options I’d thought they might. Admittedly they had included an air filter, which to be fair I forgot to tell them wasn’t required, so this reduced the additional amount to +€62, although this appeared to be the cost of two joints(?) which had been omitted from the initial quote from  Dealer #1(but which subsequently were added to their revised quote). The big issue with the quote, apart from the price, was that they were unable to offer a courtesy bike and wanted mine the night before so that they could work on a cold engine. This is impractical and adds substantial costs and time as I’d then need to make multiple trips there and back by both car and bike to get the work done.

    In desperation I asked for a quote for the valve check and plug change only, but as of this post I’ve not had their offer.

    Wondering if all BMW dealers are so poor I tried to cover all bases by sending the same request to a third dealer (#3). This is probably the biggest of the three but is an hour and a half away. Their reply? After several days they asked to see copies of the last invoices of work done, so I decided to make it really simple and rather than send copies of the invoices I just asked that they quote for the valve clearance check and replacing the plugs, how difficult can that be? Two days later they came back asking for a copy of the carte grise. I GIVE UP!

    I hadn’t realised that asking for a quote was so difficult. I hadn’t expected that the first quote I received would have comprised so many errors that it wasn’t worth the paper it was sent on. It’s mildly insulting and shows inattention to detail when a dealer replies with an incorrect spelling of my name. It’s even worse when they ask what bike I want serviced when it is clearly indicated at the head of emails addressed to them; and asking for copies of registration documents to establish the bike model details days after an initial enquiry had been made when it should have been their first question? Professional, I think not!. Frankly it’s an appalling indictment of BMW service, and clearly if three dealers are showing the same ineptitude and delay in responding, it’s not an isolated incident.

    I’d write to the dealer CEO of each establishment to complain but frankly I can’t be bothered, and I’ve pretty much lost all interest in BMW. Shame, as it’s been a good bike with the odd fault, but BMW can say goodbye to another long term owner. I imagine they think there will be loads along to replace me, but I wonder how many others have given up too?

     

    PS- If you’re wondering what I did in the end? I decided to discount the price of the bike and let the next guy run the gamut of inefficiencies of BMW and their weird and wonderful world of customer service.


  • Holiday

    September saw our annual pilgrimage to Canada, so here are a few pictures to share with those who may not have been to the land of lakes and trees.

    Heading out of Calgary we saw lots of smoke as a forest fire was raging. It’s a perennial problem over there with so many trees and dry weather.

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    Several hours further south and a few days later, no fires here, with low clouds over the surrounding mountains dulling this mid morning picture.

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    On a days outing you get to see so many lakes and trees that they all seem to merge into one although this one was nice and stretched for miles.

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    Further downstream on the same river, the first area with housing for half an hour. Spaces are big in  Canada and unless you’re living in a city habitation can be few and far between

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    We stopped for breakfast at this cafe with it’s humourous parking sign below

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    On the way back we came over the brow of a small hill and saw a brown bear at the side of the road. Crossing over I parked up and gently reversed to take a picture but it was spooked by a BMW RT which was following us and disappeared before I could take its picture.

    Here’s a signpost segment of pics.

    Got to love Canadians sense of humour. Don’t stray onto this guys land!

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    The signage is so different in Canada to what we’re used to in the UK or Europe. Not sure the average European would do too well if he was told head East or West?

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    I usually end up doing some work for my keep, you would not believe the effort and time involved to cut and move these 31 logs back to the wood shed to be cut down into boiler sized pieces.

    Crossing one of the fields to get to the woods I saw movement in the long grass ahead and something moved quickly away from me. I spotted brown hair and pointed ears and at foirst thought it must have been a coyote as we;d seen them there the previous year, but thinking back now, I’m convinced it was a bear cub, although if it was, I’d perhaps have been a bit more worried about where its mother was!

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    We cut another 20 or so logs a couple of days later and once they were all chopped to size created they only filled a small part of the wood store (light coloured pieces)

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    Heading home we were fortunate to finally see some Elk. In 6 visits to Canada we’ve been fortunate to see bears, mountain sheep, and eagles, but Elk and Moose have been conspicuously absent, and today, apart from seeing this group by the road side, later on we also saw another herd up on the hilltops. Pictures aren’t the greatest as it was pouring with rain but we had to stop to prove we’d seen them.

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    It took the best part of a week to get over the jetlag once we’d got home but yet again we’d had a great trip, albeit a very long one!


  • MV Zagato

    I’ve had a soft spot for MV’s since I rode one of the original F4’s back in 2002. Like everyone I was blown away by the stunning design, the sound from tghe four tail pipes, and the blood red/silver colour is such a great combination and looks amazing. Talking of which, take a look at this Zagato version of the bike. A futuristic take on an already beautiful design, just need umpteem thousands to buy one!

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  • Triumph Speedmaster

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    Every now and again I toy with the idea of riding something other than my K1300GT which has now just passed the 90,000km milestone. I bought it intending to run it long term and i’ve already had it 7 years so far, but that shouldn’t preclude me from trying other bikes, should it?

    Sometimes I think the GT is a little large for the smaller roads I’m riding these days, and as I’m not doing long distance touring the thought of something smaller and lighter has some appeal, but would this new machine be a GT replacement, or a third bike to accompany the R1 trackbike? Hmm.

    Recently someone locally was advertising a Triumph Speedmaster, and I wondered if a feet forward slower machine might suit my needs, so what else was there to do other than to go and try it?

    TBH, I’ve not been too impressed with the Triumphs I’ve ridden to date. The first, a 1050 Sprint was, I thought, a very poor VFR800 copy, with soggy suspension and less than impressive engine performance for its capacity. The next model I tried was a friends 675, which initially I was unsure about, but once the suspension had been tuned to suit my weight it was transformed and I became a massive fan. It was, and probably remains, the best handling bike I’ve ever ridden. Number 3 was a Daytona 955 which I hated everything about. The steering was heavy, I found it hard to turn, the engine didn’t win me over with its supposedly charismatic sound and nature, and to add insult to injury, the chain came off, and all this within a mile of the bike shop I was testing it from. So with a chequered history, how would the Speedmaster fare? Read on.

     

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    This particular bike was the early 2004 790cc model rather than the 865cc cpacity which came on the following years model. With only 53.1bhp from its carburetted engine and a top speed of 103mph, clearly there was going to be quite a performance deficit compared to the GT, but hey, nothing to say it wouldn’t be a blast.

    Initial checks brought a smile as I surveyed the petrol stopcock, steering lock, and cable operated clutch. The petrol cap was non locking, and the ignition key was located below the seat behind your left leg. These “old world” details brought back some fond memories of my early bike ownership from the 70’s.

    Sue was horrified to see the perch she was going to be asked to sit on, and without the safety of a top box to lean against, she had to hold on tight as we set off on this new “old” riding experience. The clutch engaged first gear smoothly and quietly compared to the usual clunk of the GT, and it never ceases to amaze me how nicely chain driven bikes change gear vs the shaft on my BMW.  The first thing that immediately required attention and rapid adaptation to was the seating position. The Speedmaster is a cruiser style bike with its footpegs placed forward towards the front wheel. Whilst this is a surprisingly comfortable and natural feeling position once moving, it leads to some panic searching for the pegs when pulling away from junctions, as feet instinctively drop to the position you’re used to finding them in, only to realise they’re not there!

    The engine accelerates quite smoothly but not with any massive urge, as you’d expect though given the relatively low power output. Gears continued to mesh smoothly but I found myself hitting the rev limiter a few times before realising I’d not been using all of the 5 gears, which just goes to show how reliant I’ve become on the gear shift indicator on my bike, and how much concentration I was using on other things. I have to say that although the speedo is very clear and shows both mph and kph (UK import), I found myself searching for the neutral light, as it’s location isn’t in the speedo in your immediate line of vision, but instead is located on the petrol tank. I missed not having a tacho, and am ashamed to say I only realised there was one when I uploaded this picture of the tank mounted instruments and saw the rather large one dominating the head of the tank. How could you not see it you’re doubtless asking??? If I had then I’d have avoided hitting the rev limiter, oops!

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    The handling seemed to be adversely affected by having a pillion, as it seemed very wallowy at the rear. Doubtless this was because we hadn’t firmed up the twin rear shocks, and in combination with a rear tyre that felt underinflated, was giving a feeling from the steering that it was quite light. You’re not massively concious of the fact the wheel seems to be raked quite some way away from you, and to be fair it turned into bends well enough for the pretty low speeds I was riding at, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable riding too much faster without some changes being made to both tyre and shocks.

    On the subject of comfort, we both got back after the ride complaining of back ache. The ultra low seat height forces a slightly hunched position for the rider, and Sue was really unhappy clinging on and being bounced around on the soft rear suspension.

    The nearest thing to this style of bike I’ve ridden before was a Yamaha Virago back in the 90’s, so it was interesting to try something new and different after so many years. Getting back on the GT afterwards highlighted the differences between the two styles of bike with even greater clarity, the GT feeling positively scalpel like in comparison, not something you’d ever expect to say about a 285kg behemoth, but sittting on rather than in the seat, as you do on the Triumph, really does massively affect the whole feel of the bike.

    You’ll have gathered by now I didn’t buy it, but it was an interesting experience, and if you don’t try you’ll never know eh? Maybe there’s something out there to tempt me but at the moment there are only two bikes that might interest me, the Yamaha MT-09 Tracer and the Kawasaki Z1000SX, but the Kwak allegedly has slightly strange handling and I imagine will feel a bit manic in its power delivery, and be similar to the BMW S1000XR I test rode a few months ago.  Still, no rush, after 7 years waiting a few more days, or months won’t hurt!

     


  • Something different-a ride I’m not leading!

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    Variety is the spice of life so they say, but when it comes to riding, planning routes and setting destinations, there’s been very little variety involved as it’s generally me that does it. There have been the odd exceptions, when Karel lived in Geneva he led me round most of the high cols in Switzerland, but once he’d moved to the US I took over the tour leader mantle, and other than a couple of runs where Andy has led, and a paid long weekend tour I took back in 2009, it’s been me at the front. When Mark suggested we go on a ride that he would lead and on roads I’d not been on, well, my interest was piqued. The route was planned to be scenic along several smaller level cols, and very much a “bimble” rather than a thrash, one to enjoy the sights on.

    This morning we’re back on the Thoiry bypass again, riding back through the covered orchards towards Clarafond I’d taken earlier in the week on my TT route ride, and from there dropping down to Seyssel and heading out towards Belley.

    At Culoz we head on over the roundabout instead of going right to Belley, and take the parallel road on the other side of the river before stopping for coffee in the picturesque villlage of Chanaz, which nestles below a hill alongside the river which had frequent pleasure boats on it even at this time of the morning.

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    The road winds alongside the river for a while before we start on a myriad of smaller cols such as the Col Mont Tournier; Col du Lievre and Col de Lattaz; before ending up at the Col de L’Epine and these fabulous views over Lac Aiguebelette.

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    Marks definition of the route as one to bimble on and enjoy was pretty accurate, impossible to go quickly on any of the small cols but with the occasional blast on some wider gorge roads, we were enjying ourselves and ar around 12.30 we arrived in Corbel and the Aubege Thimelet where we enjoyed an excellent Charolais steak on the terrace outside.

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    The view from the terrace outside where we were eating reminded us a lot of the Italian Dolomites

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    After lunch and more small cols and riding a winding gorge road in both directions, we decidied to visit the Cirque de Memes. There’s a €2 charge per bike to enter and shockingly we only had €2 between us in cash and they don’t take cards, so I ended up having to write a cheque for the €4 entry.

    Here’s what we found when we got there.

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    Marks interminable photo taking

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    But worth it for the result below.

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    Back to my pics from my trusty Lumix point and shoot

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    After spending an hour or so at the waterfalls we headed back towards Chambery where Mark led us over the Col du Chat, but in all honesty I was gettting a little tired by then and would have enjoyed coming back along the low level roads rather than the 14kms of ascent and descent we had along tight switchbacks and gravel strewn roads. Anyway, at the top of the Mont du Chat you’re rewarded with these great views. The runway at Chambery airport can clearly be seen in the middle of the picture.

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    We eventually got home after a long day having spent 7 hours 11 in the saddle and ridden 431 kms but yet again the bike had held up in 27C temps so looks like the cooling issue is ok, fingers crossed! Thanks to Mark for leading, although I have to say I found it weird to be following not in front setting the pace, but it was different, and as I started this piece by saying , variety is the spice of life.


  • True costs of running a K1300GT over 7 years

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    Over the years I’ve posted several times about my K1300GT, it’s performance and issues, but given the recent costs and issues I’ve had with it and after an article recently published in MCN saying that the K BMW bikes are practically disposable items due to high cost of repairs and depreciating values, I thought it would be of value to share with others my experiences regarding running costs and residual values, ie the true monetary outlay required to keep it on the road. I’ve not included costs for insurance or petrol as these will vary massively dependant on the rider, their experience and where they live, neither have I included petrol expenses, although with the bike averaging 50mpg over 56,000 miles, a simple calculation shows that  I would have used around 1120 gallons.

    I’ve also not included around €725 of extras I chose to add (including derestricting it) as these are very specific to my bike and others will be unlikely to add the same parts.

     

    Here then are the figures:

    Purchase cost new in July 2009                        €19500

    Owned 2556 days    Current kms 89,678  = ave 35 kms per day

     

    TYRES

    15 pairs of tyres: ave life front 7484 kms, rear 6387 kms

    TOTAL                                                              €3329

     

    SERVICING every 10,000kms – 8 to date costing €3071

    but next service due NOW with likely cost of €500

    TOTAL  (incl. 90,000 service due now)         €3571

     

    REPAIRS             

    Switchgear (L) at 70,000kms                               €343

    Switchgear (R) at 87,000kms                              €161

    Radiator overheating & oil leak

    at 88,000kms                                                       €457

    TOTAL                                                               €961            

     

    CONSUMABLES

     Battery at 73,000kms                                           €121

    Brake pads ( originals plus 2 replacement sets)   €295

    Air filters (2) at 40,000 and 83,000                         €73

    Clutch at 80,000                                                    €739

    TOTAL                                                               €1228

     

     

     

    GRAND TOTAL                                                €9089 equiv 47% of purchase cost

    Current book value                                              €8780

     Remaining value in bike today                           €1631 equiv 4.1% of purchase cost

     

    Daily running cost equiv.                                        €3.56

    Running cost per km                                              €0.10

     

    Looking at the book resale values it would have been better had I sold it in 2012 after 3 years of ownership as at that time it would still have retained 75% of its value. After 4 years that drops to 68% then plummets after year 5 down to 55%, although in years 5,6 and 7, annual depreciation has droopped to just a few hundred euros per year compared to the €3000 it lost in year 4. I should also quantify my specific bikes value which is around €500 less than bikes which would have covered only 10000kms p.a, mine has done nearly 13,000 and is valued accordingly.

    Looking at the costs above it seems that the repair element is pretty low with the bulk of these costs taken up by switchgear replacements which BMW declined to assist me with despite me writing to them and complaining. They replied that the bike had been out of warranty since 2011 (only 2 years given in France) and had high miles, however should I choose to buy another new or used bike from their dealers within the next year they will look sympathetically towards the cost of that purchase or trade in.

    The bike has been run without extended warranty and has had the suspension relay brace recall, one set of switchgear, an ECU and two rear driveshaft bearings replaced under warranty.

    I leave you to make what you will of the above, clearly any future costs could potentially be high, the ESA suspension and driveshaft are a worry and I know others with lower mileage bikes have already had these replaced.

    My view is that the more you ride these bikes the better they perform and the less problems you have, keeping one as a weekend toy may keep daily running costs down but parts may not react well to being stood for long periods. I rode mine 1161kms within 3 days, 2090 within 7, 5140 in 28 days and 9091 within 60, not the norm by any means but its been ridden long and hard with huge amounts of time in the mountains in low gears driving out of hairpins so overall I reckon it’s not done too badly, trouble is I haven’t found anything I’d like to replace it with so maybe I just have to steel myself to potentially big future bills and run it into the ground, after all, don’t we buy these bikes expecting trouble free reliability and big mileages?


  • The TT route revisited

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Having survived a full days ride without bike issues, Mark and I started planning another days riding. A check on the forecast though showed that tomorrows weather was bringing potentially severe storms which put paid to the idea of a full days ride, so we agreed to postpone until later in the week. I reckoned though, that I could probably get round one of my favourite rides, the TT route in 4 hours, but with the storms which had been forecast as due at 14.00 now changed to midday and possibly even 11.00, I’d need to leave very early.

    The next morning mindful of the coming storms, I was up early, had breakfast, and was dressed and had fired up the GT and had set off at 06.21am. Within 50 metres the bike decided to play it’s occasional game of flashing up a lights out warning symbol. Knowing that the garage had just replaced a bulb I stopped, switched everything off, restarted the bike, checked the lights, and lo and behold all was working. Scare over, it was time to get going.

    The autoroute is less than one minute from the house, I joined it and 13 minutes later a bunch of sequential numbers appeared on the dash, all the 8’s, 88,888 marking advanced age and even more kms  on the battle bus.

    It’s 18C even this early in the morning but already commuters are heading into Geneva from Lausanne, and I’m amused how aggressively someone in a small red Honda is trying to overtake the small red Citroen in front of him, often times speeding up the inside lane trying to undertake it. Must be keen to get to work!

    Soon I’m passing through the unmanned douane at Ferney Voltaire and passing Prevessin en route to the roundabout near Cern, before joining the Thoiry bypass. I’m careful to keep to the 110 speed limit as there are often radars along this stretch of road, but not today, it’s too early for the police to be about and besides, most of the traffic is heading into Geneva not away from it as I’m doing. Many many years ago I maxxed out my Honda Blackbird on this stretch of road, but that was LONG before radars were placed on it. There are plenty of buzzards flying overhead this morning, shame Sue’s not with me this morning as she loves watching them, but she preferred to stay and catch upon some sleep, so I watch as they soar above.

    We had been diverted en route to Bellegarde on Saturdays ride, so today I take the diversion signs crossing the river, and then turn right through the rows of orchards beneath their gossamer like covers, and head toward the viewing point of Fort L’Ecluse, but today I’m taking pictures of the valley back towards Geneva not the fort.

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    The road has been resurfaced along some of this stretch and I’m enjoying the smooth tarmac until it ends and I’m faced with my least favourite obstacle, tar snakes. Superman had kryptonite, I have tar snakes. Faced with these demonic slivers of raised tarmac I become fixated by their positioning and take all sorts of bizarre lines to avoid them. Years ago I had a really bad ride on country roads where the whole surface seemed to be these snakes. The bike slipping and sliding so badly I thought I’d got a puncture. Stopping several times to check the tyre pressures, eventually I realised it was the tar snakes, and even though some years later a fellow rider tried to assuage my issues by deliberately accelerating over them to show it was safe, I have never got over been massively unnerved by them, maybe some therapy or hypnosis might help?

    Passing through Clarafond I join the main road dropping down into Bellegarde, skirt around the city and soon join the road out towards Chatillon en Michaille and the start of the my favourite stretch of road. This section to Nantua is the same as we’d ridden on Saturday, but as it has a sequence of some of my favourite bends I’m not complaining.

    In Nantua the diversions are still in place but this time I know the drill and am soon out the other side of town and passing alongside the lake out of town. At the roundabout I turn left, then it’s off to the Gorges du Cerdon around 10 minutes up the road  More great bends and well surfaced, it’s a blast to have the roads almost to myself, and descending the gorges I decide to go back and take some pictures, but not until I’ve taken this one at the bottom.

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    For probably 7 years I rode down this road passing the statue at the bottom, and one day when I asked my riding buddies about the statue, not one of them had noticed it!! A quick blast half way back up for these pictures then it’s off again.

     

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    The next stretch is a boring transition but only takes about 10 minutes before it’s back to the good stuff again and the amazing stretch from Les Hopiteaux to Piegeu. There’s a right hand bend nearing Belley that even at 160kph (alledgedly) goes on for 20 seconds. Once I was leading a group of 4 and we took this bend at 120 (alledgedly), only to be followed by a police motorcyclist who had been manning a radar on a layby on the other side of the road. Luckily as we’d been riding closely together he couldn’t register individual speeds so we got let off with a little “chat”, amazing bend though!!!.

    Knowing the storms were coming I resisted the option to stop at McDonalds near Belley and kept going, stopping only to take these shots. The first near Belley and the second two looking across to the Jura near Clarafond.

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    The return leg was uneventful and an hour and a half later I was back with the GPS showing EXACTLY four hours riding time. Skip back to the first paragraph and you’ll see my estimated time to get round had been 4 hours, am I good or what?!

    So another great circuit ridden and another 328kms covered without cooling problems. With just the faulty light out reading which I hope I can clear with a GS-911 tool, hopefully there will be some days to come where I’ll have a fuss free ride!

     


  • Tentative first ride after radiator problems

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

    15 or so years of riding Japanese bikes has shown me that it’s possible to turn the key in the ignition every day, have the engine start, and ride for tens of thousands of miles without breaking down, if faults existed they were relatively minor, and looking back on my riding history (perhaps through rose tinted glasses) I don’t remember too many issues with whichever Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Honda I’ve owned. I’ll admit that there was the well known regulator/rectifier fault on the Hondas, but they’re known for it and it’s almost an acceptable fault as nothing else goes wrong. My R1 had a TPS fault but didn’t actually break down, and only my beloved RC 45 left me needing a trailer ride home after its regulator failed, but these were all isolated incidences and NOTHING else ever went wrong, it’s only the BMW’s I’ve owned that have managed to leave me stranded, and on more than one occasion.

    The first breakdown came on a K1200GT demonstrator I bought from a dealer. BMW saw fit to create an electrically assisted braking system, which whilst being boosted by battery assistance, suffered the fate that if the battery started to discharge in stop start traffic with constant braking, it would fail, as happened to me on a trip to Luxembourg in motorway roadworks. Strike 1.

    Strike 2 came within 3moths of the purchase of a brand new K1300GT which replaced the K1200GT, when the ECU failed.

    In fact there have been several occasions over the past couple of years, notably at altitude and in very hot weather, when the bike has refused to start or needed bump starting, culminating in various changes of switchgear (at no small cost) and a lot of inconvenience. A booster plug helped the poor running, but combine this with driveshaft bearings which self destruct every 30,000kms, and you’re probably wondering why I’m still riding the GT, especially after the latest overheating problem?

    I guess it’s because I don’t actually know what I’d replace it with, and probably because after having ridden it for the past 7 years in restricted 100bhp mode I’d quite like to enjoy the full fat 160bhp it has now it has been derestricted. In truth I’m a little worried about the impact of suddenly having an extra 60bhp on an engine that has had such an easy life with only 100bhp for so long, but for now I’ve got a sickly machine that may or may not be ok after its overheating incident, so all I can do is ride it and find out, so here’s what happened after its first ride after having been side lined with radiator problems.

    It’s the day after I collected the bike from the dealer, and Mark and I have decided to do a relatively local ride on some of my favourite roads. The distance won’t be so great that if there are issues it will take a day to get trailered back home, but will be far enough to enjoy. Planning to arrive at Marks at 10.00am we arrive as the clock strikes the hour. Marks K1600GT is warming up and we’re soon off, stopping at the petrol station at the local supermarket. Signs warning of a diversion to Bellegarde suggest we take a different route, but we continued on past Fort L’Ecluse and the winding road to Bellegarde, which we can enjoy as it has very little traffic on it this morning. 5kms outside Bellegarde we reach the roadworks and diversion onto small backroads as a sign indicates the road ahead is closed for roadworks until April 2017!

    Eventually we end up on the outskirts of Bellegarde and joining the road we want to take towards Chatillon en Michaille, and from there onwards to Nantua. There are some great sequences of bends on this route, and overtaking any cars ahead of me I’m able to get maximum enjoyment of them.

    In Nantua there are yet more diversions. It’s summer so the French are digging up the roads and sending you on badly signposted diversions to wherever they think you might want to go. We stopped so I could mount the GoPro before climbing the TT hill coming out of Thoirette . This hill has a great surface, great bends, takes two minutes to ascend even flat out, and you only need to back off slightly for two corners until you reach the top and the great viewing point there.

    Strangely, given it’s mid season, our target restaurant at Pont Le Pyle is closed, but there are others close by, and after a jambon/fromage sandwich, coke and ice cream have been consumed, we’re off again, this time Mark leading, with the destination being the Source du Lison, which he tells me was full to overflowing last time he visited a couple of weeks earlier. I should have known better than to believe it when he told me he knew the way though, as 25 minutes later we are arriving at Lizon (spelt with a Z ) not in Salins where we should be to see the Lison, neverthless the sun is shining, we’ve got all day, and at the moment the GT isn’t showing any signs of repeating it’s overheating issues, despite the warm temperatures.

    An hour or so later and after some searching around due to poor signposting, we eventually arrived at our destination, where the source of the river Loue has it’s  origin. It’s hot though, so our first call is the cafe by the side of the river for a couple of refreshing drinks before the short walk to the water gushing from the hillside.

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    Here’s one of Marks shots using a “proper” camera

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    Here’s a picture of Mark and his super expensive camera which he spent forever composing shots with. Apparently he take lots of the same shots but on different settings, and then manipulates them in Photoshop. Check out picture 3 above

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    After seemingly hours waiting for Mark to compose his pictures, we decided that as it’s still only late afternoon, we’d take advantage of the opportunity of having Mark  show us somewhere we’d not been before, the Cascades du Tuf, which are on the way back anyway, so off we shouldn’t have any navigational problems getting there?

    Parking the bikes up later the 300m uphill walk is an efffort in the heat, but here’s the waterfalls at the top.

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    We couldn’t help noticing how much this tree stump looked like a rabbit

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    After cooling off in the shade whilst Marks 5 minutes of photo taking took 20, it was eventually time to head for home. Mark having realised that he was due at his neighbours at 20.00 might just about make it back in time, but we decided to stop off in Champagnole for a McDonalds and toilet break. Later we decided to descend via Arzier rather than the 73 hairpin bends of St Cergue, and as we headed back down it was pleasant to see the evening sun setting over the Alps and Lac Leman.

    Arrtiving back at 21.15 with 518kms having been ridden, it had been a long day, but the bike had behaved and never got beyond 2 bars on the temperature gauge, so now I’m wondering whether I do actually need the new radiator the dealer wanted to sell me? I guess for now I’ll just keep riding it and see how things develop.