• Missing pictures and WordPress changes affecting site

    Back in 2009 when I started this site it was on a very small scale. There wasn’t a huge amount of content and the only way to post pictures was by using a service like Photobucket. Over the years I’ve posted hundreds of pictures using this option, but now it seems they’ve changed their policy and have arbitrarily decided to stop allowing this facility to be used unless people pay them $400 a year!! I have only found out today when looking back through some old posts that pretty much all of my pictures are now missing, only those I was able to upload directly from my laptop have survived. Also, changes to WordPress has meant that any words in a colour other than white are so dim that they can’t be seen.

    It will take an age to try and remember which images went with which story as there are over 330 posts here. I can only apologise to those who are reading through the site and can no longer see images supporting the stories. Clearly $400 a year is an exhorbitant amount of money which I do not intend paying, but hopefully the written content will still be the real reason people visit the site, the pictures just being the icing on the cake.

    I will begin the job of trying to repost the pictures over the coming months and hope Photobucket come to their senses and realise that their charges are way too high and offer an alternative plan, in the meantime, sorry you’re not able to see the full posts.

    Update 7/8/2017

    I started the work of trying to find which pictures go with which posts, and to simplify matters I decided to find which album each shot came from. Then I thought I’d download them to my laptop, but guess what, apparently there are technical problems when you try this, UNLESS you download each picture individually. This company sucks big style. I hope they lose the majority of their customers as these tactics to keep your pictures trapped is appalling.


  • Kawasaki Z1300

    I saw this Kawasaki Z1300 in Switzerland today, and it brought back many memories of my early days of biking when this was one of the biggest bikes around. The overriding memory I have of it, was seeing one being ridden by a woman who was filling it up at a petrol station, she must have been extremely competant and strong given it’s size and dimensions! This one was in especially good condition, so I thought I’d share some old school nostalgia, as I’m sure there will be many who have never seen one!

    It’s an imposing bike for sure. It was extremely heavy at 314kg, had shaft drive,and was powered by a 1300cc straight six engine which allegedly made in excess of 120bhp. It was first launched in 1979 and had a 10 year production run in varying formats. It was heavy on fuel, as you’d expect, with 30mpg seemingly the norm, and due to it’s weight the handling wasn’t anything to write home about!  Wikipedia claims it’s elevated power output was the reason that France introduced it’s 100bhp limit. If true, Kawasaki have a lot to answer for, as the 100bhp rule was only finally repealed in 2016, some 37 years later, having left French riders sufffering on restricted power bikes for over 3 decades!


  • Indian Chieftain- review

    Posted on by Paul

    Following on from my 1000km tour on a 2016 Indian Chieftain, I thought it might be interesting to write up some thoughts on the bike.

    I’m guessing that those in Europe reading this will probably not really have considered the marque as a purchase, and are even less likely to have taken one for a test ride. For starters, the dealership coverage is sparse, In France there are only 28 dealers, whilst the UK fares a little better with 15, 2 of which are in Ireland. The other thing potentially holding sales back over here, are the roads we ride on, and our prediliction towards sports bikes, and due to repressive speeding laws in recent years, nakeds. Neverthless they are a strong competitor for Harley Davidson so are worthy of consideration if you’re looking at a bike in their camp, so here is my review of what you’d find if you tried one.

    The first impression is one of size and quality. The chrome looks deep and thick, even the footstand is beautifully finished. The bike is adorned with the Indian logo everywhere, just to make sure you realise the heritage of the machine you are riding.

    Walking around the bike you can’t fail to be impressed by the detail. The panniers are centrally locked with either the key fob or via a button on the tank, or you can of course lock/unlock them manually using the key. The bike is started like many modern cars, with a button which is only activated when you are close by with the key fob, and like some Ducati’s, you only need to thumb the starter briefly, which then starts the motor cycling until it fires. The petrol tank takes 20.8 litres and has two filler caps but only the right hand side is used, the left side is a dummy.

    The rear footpegs fold up to preserve the lines if you are riding solo, and the footboards are wide enough for support, but not so wide that they ground easily. I didn’t manage to deck them once, and I’ve managed to do so with a Goldwing before, so I’ve been known to corner hard! It’s also smart having crash bars fitted, again they’re covered in a thick lustrous chrome.

    The dashboard is multi function, and scrolling through the multiple screens you’ll find: dual tripmeters with distance and time, instantaneous and average fuel economy; fuel range; clock; compass; ambient air temperature; gear position display; front and rear tyre pressures; engine hours of operation; engine oil life percentage; average speed; battery voltage; and radio stations!!!

    Cruise control is standard and works extremely well, ABS probably works well too, although I never had occasion to find out. One small quirk comes from the fuel gauge, which sometimes flashes up the low fuel warning light, but then extinguishes itself again, often then showing around 100kms of range still left in the tank. I realised this happened on steep downhill inclines. It’s not a big deal or a problem, just an observation.

    The electric screen looks so small as to be next to useless, but in fact is superbly sized, and once set to your favoured position does an extremely good job of deflecting wind from you without creating any wind noise, great ergos. There is a radio with flexi aerial mounted to a rear pannier, and a power socket for your MP4 player, so all bases covered from the technology standpoint.

    Sticking with controls, there are LED indicators, and an additional pair of driving lights which can be switched on independently, thereby giving any myopic car drivers zero oppportunioty to say they didn’t see you coming. If they can’t see something that big with three headlights blazing they really should visit their opticians immediately and give up driving! The mirrors have the obligatory “Objects are closer” warning, and are well shaped, don’t vibrate, and give an excellent view of the road behind, so jobs a good un.

    The bike runs on 16″ wheels and you’ll find braking is optimal when both front and rear brakes are used together, using the front only doesn’t really give the stopping power you need for a bike this heavy.

    Panniers are quality items which can be locked via 3 different methods. The first by simply using the remote key fob lock function, which is cool; the tank mounted lock/unlock button, or of course by key. The lids have engraved Indian logos on the hinges. I’m sure for a single rider the combined volume of these would be sufficient, but for two up riding the bike could really do with a top box or an additional bag attached to the rear rack. Our bike had a detachable rear backrest, which I’d say is a must if you’re taking a pillion.

    The engine is an 1811cc fuel injected twin which Indian call “Thunder Stroke111”. Peak torque of 135nm is available at only 2100rpm, which leads to extremely low revs at cruising speeds and little need to change gears for rapid acceleration. It starts to rip once past 3500rpm, but it’s not worth revving past 5000, and comfortable ( read legal) cruising speeds are nearer the 110-120kph mark. The belt drive is quiet and I never had any changing difficulties, other than occasionally having to reach a little to get to the gear change lever which is mounted at an angle, but then again I have small feet. Engine braking is useful, and although I’m not a big fan of riding twins as I always seem to lock the rear downshifting, the only time this happened was on some oil on the entrance to a hairpin bend. Generally one change down is sufficient to set you up for a bend and give good drive out of it. I wouldn’t say I was blown away by the power, but also I didn’t have any cause to think about it too much, so in my book that means it was ok.

    The seat height is a low 660mm which makes putting both feet down a doddle. Handling was the biggest surprise of the trip. Despite the bike weighing a not inconsiderable 385kg, you’d never know it. When riding the weight just disappears, and maybe I had been smart parking in ideal spots, as I never had to move it or wheel it around, which meant I didn’t have issues with slow manual movements. It held a good line in long sweeping bends, turned plenty fast, and never gave me a moments concern in 1000kms, so I have to give it top marks for manouevrability, which was most unexpected given it’s physically imposing dimensions.

    Reading this review you’re probably wondering by now when the “but” is coming? After all, I’m a long distance sports tourer who enjoys an R1 on trackdays, so there had to be something I didn’t like? The only thing I can comment on is that the width of the grips caused my left hand some discomfort, but I have small hands, so this comment probably wouldn’t apply to the majority of riders. Similarily the seat was comfortable for me and I never felt the need to stretch or move around to get comfortable, although Sue wasn’t quite as comfortable on her pillion seat and started fidgeting after 100km or so.

    Overall I’d have to score this bike highly. Once you’ve adjusted to how the front goes light and waggles a bit when you’re slowing in traffic, you’ve pretty much found its sole weakness. I never thought I’d like a bike like this so much, but if I lived in Canada and regularly rode on the type of roads we’d been on, I’d have this bike at the top of my wish list, it was that good! Maybe its not the right machine for Europe, but over there it was ideal. Move over Harley Davidson, there’s a new king in town!


  • 1000kms on an Indian- Part 2

    Posted on by Paul

    Just for a change we were up early the next morning and were downstairs having breakfast as soon as they opened for service. An excellent spread saw us utilising the waffle maker and eating our fill, before readying ourselves for an unexpectedly early start to the days ride. Whilst eating I had asked a couple of ladies which was the route to take to get to Salmo, explaining that I wanted to get to Balfour to the ferry, but they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go via Nelson. It took a while and showing them the map before they understood I wanted to go the scenic route across to Creston, before running up the side of Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Bay, where I wanted to catch the ferry over to Balfour.

    When I told them we were going to be passing through Nakusp to Faquier, they warned of a bad left hand bend which had caught many a rider out. I was amazed that a bend on a road some 350kms away was so well known, but rode that bend later on in the day at 120kph whilst still accelerating, so I don’t know what the problem people had with it? Eventually with the correct route sorted we were off, and it’s only 07.20!

    We stopped almost immediately for petrol, where a quick calculation showed that the bike was averaging 47.8mpg, which I thought was pretty good!

    Once on the bike I’m full of the joys of spring, the early morning sun is warming but it is a bit chilly when it gets hidden behind the trees. Bizarrely I’m whooping and hollering like a big kid, I’m enjoying the ride, the experience, and the bike so much more than I ever expected to, life’s good!

    Looking back in the mirror I spot this fantastic view and have to stop to take a picture.

    With a full days riding behind me I’m now riding the Chieftain with confidence. The engine is most comfortable below 130kph, which is good as the limit is 100kph!. It starts to take off with a lovely intake gurgle from just over 3000rpm and at 3500 it’s starting to motor, but north of 130kph things start to get a bit shuddery and you quickly realise this isn’t where it’s going to spend much of its time. Braking is best accomplished using the rear brake in tandem with the front, something I’ve not done on a road bike since I last rode a Goldwing many years ago, but using both pulls you up more than adequately. The horn is loud, the seats comfortable, well for me more than Sue, and the handling is surprisingly good. It turns into bends quickly and holds a line well in fast sweepers. Importantly the sidestand is long and gives plenty of support. No centre stand for this 385kg behemoth, but it doesn’t feel 100kg heavier than my old GT, the weight being very well distributed when moving. The footboards offer a choice of positions and are perfectly placed for my 5’11 frame. The only small niggle was the occasional slight pain in my coccyx where the seat support sometimes rubbed, but overall I’d have to give it a massive thumbs up on pretty much every aspect.

    When you’re not having issues with your bike the time and miles sail by, as you’re concentrating on nothing else but the road, and enjoying yourself. The roads this morning are fantastic, and continue to be throughout the whole day to come. Salmo to Creston saw us crossing the highest point of the tour over the Kootenay Pass at 1774m, where the uneven surface and lack of crash barriers made me a little uneasy as we neared the summit. There was snow at the top, but we were soon over it and onto The Crowsnest Highway, descending towards Creston and passing over this girder bridge.

    As you can tell from the picture below the USA border was close by, I think the next sign said only 21kms.

    From Creston it’s North on the 3A and more fun and games with lovely long sweepers and superb vistas.

    Here’s Sue enjoying the view.

    Here’s what she was looking at

    Bike parked outside impressive wooden entry to viewing platform

    More filming on this stretch, but the suction mount on the Contour camera I was using decided to lose suction 3 times and the camera fell off. Luckily I had it tethered so didn’t lose it. Annoyingly I’ve not yet been able to locate the chipmunk that ran across in front of us, or the caribou in the undergrowth, that I know are on this film.

    Later on in the ride, the road to Kootenay Bay becomes super twisty with very few straights on it, and is restricted to 60kph in many places, but wasn’t the PITA you’d expect riding a big cruiser. The Chieftain took it all in its stride and we made it to the ferry on time, albeit the large time margin we’d built in so that we didn’t have to rush to get on the hourly crossing, had dropped to a mere 10 minutes.

    The ferry across to Balfour is the longest ferry crossing in Canada and takes 35 minutes. Iniitally we weren’t sure if there was going to be enough space on board as we were pretty close to the back of the queue, but like the tardis, the ship swallowed all the waiting vehicles.

    Underway and admiring the beautiful scenery behind us.

    Returning from the upper deck and sightseeing, I looked under the bike and saw two small puddles of oil. I checked the bike over and the oil seemed to be emanating from the dipstick housing, running down onto the crankcase, then being blown back onto the exhaust and pannier. Worried there may be something amiss on the uber machine I pondered what to do next, but as we were in the middle of nowwhere and any dealer would be half a day away, we decided to ride on gently and see if the problem got worse.

    Once off the ferry we joined Highway 31 to Kaslo. Here we overtook a couple of extremely slow Harley riders, demonstrating how we Euro riders do it, before stopping a few miles up the road to check the oil again. I wiped all the surfaces clean and resolved to check it again later. During this time the Harley guys came past,  but less than 10kms later I’d caught and passed them again. Stitch that HD dudes, should have bought an Indian!!!!

    Canada has plentiful trees and wild animals who live amongst them. On the Kaslo to New Denver leg of the ride we had this run-in with some local wildlife.

    In the first picture you can just about make out a deer at the side of the road which has just been spooked by the noise of an 1800cc twin thundering his way.

    Just in case you hadn’t spotted it, look directly above the letter D

    In this picture he’s decided it’s time to get away from the noise

    At this stage I’m braking hard and wondering whether it will carry on in front of me or turn back the way it came

    Still looking like we’re going to collide, until at the last second it turned and ran the other way!!

    In New Denver we’re only an hour and a half or so away from tonights stopover, so we took the time to refuel and have an ice cream to cool down. After a good run down to Nakusp and Arrow Lake, we arrived at our destination several hours earlier than planned, thanks to our 3 hours earlier than expected morning start. So with another 5 hours plus of superb riding under our belts, an ever increasing appreciation of the bike, and the 375 kms daily total matching my projected distance exactly, I decided to call Jack at McScoots and discuss the oil problem.

    I had been concerned that if the oil leakage became too bad it might cause some damage. I voiced this concern to Jack, who asked if I would be able to get it to a dealer somewhere, but as Kelowna was the nearest big city and less than 3 hours away, I suggested that it might be better for both of us if I returned the bike there first thing the next morning, knowing that he had it rented out to another customer the following day. It would be a shame to have to cut short our tour, but we would still have had a decent ride to return it, and I wouldn’t have wanted Jack to lose his coming rental in case the problem was bigger than a dipstick leak. Agreeing to have it with him before 11.00 the following morning, I ended the day by taking multiple photos of a bike I had come to like immensely.

    Brake reservoir cap

    Seat

    Pannier hinge

    Frame stamping

    1800cc twin

    Clutch cover

    Just to let you know how big the motor is

    Not pictured, countless other logos on bar ends, dials, footboards and pegs, mirrors, backrest…… I gave up counting after 24!

    And leaving the coolest part on the bike til last, the Indian war bonnet head illuminates!

     

     

    Day 3- Returning the Chieftain

    We were up early again to catch the 06.30 ferry, which began its service in Faquier back in 1922, and is cable operated. I spent 5 minutes talking to some good old boy with a fantastic downward coiled moustache about the bike and his hot rod.

    He told me the workers onboard today were heading up to 6000ft to plant trees. He also told me that there were moose up near some marshlands on the road ahead, so never having seen one, we resolved to have a good look out.

    We should have realised that it would be cold that early in the morning and through the shaded wooded areas, and nearing Cherryville we almost decided to have another breakfast, but carried on to try and stay warm. Unfortunately we didn’t see any moose which was disappointing, but the roads were much more enjoyable on the bike than they had been in the Jeep 3 days earlier. One thing I did notice during this ride  that had started to raise itself as an issue the day before, was that the handgrips seem quite large. I have relatively small hands so don’t know whether it was the grip size or engine vibration which was causing my left hand to go a bit numb, but it started to become an issue every now and then, although not so for the right hand, which I think this must be because the throttle hand is always moving.

    Annoyingly I manged to somehow miss the turning for Kelowna as we passed through Vernon, which meant a 15 minute or so detour and retracing our steps, but we soon got back on track and were at  McScoots before the promised time. Jack was obviously concerned about the leak and had appreciated my detecting it and agreeing to bring it back early. He had already booked it in to be checked over by the dealer but was mystified as to why there had been a problem, as it had literally only come back from a service the day before I collected it. Using the Indian supplied dipstick spanner which he had omitted to supply (but will for future rentals), Jack undid the dipstick and quckly discovered what we believed to be the root of the problem. The oil seal was split, which would have allowed oil to get past, and which could only have occured by being overtightened after the oil change.

    With a hopefully cheap solution to the problem, Jack then offered to only invoice me for two days not three, as I’d brought the bike back so early in the day. I’d expected to have been billed for at least half a day, but he told me he’d rather have a satisifed customer than be rich. I have to say that his attitude and generosity in making that offer were both unexpected and much appreciated. He thanked me for looking out for a machine that was his livelihood, and in taking that action, I have to say he deserves to do tremendously well in business. Someone who values their customer (and he has an oilman who rents from him every month), will go far, and many others could learn a lesson from that gesture.

    UPDATE- The problem was found to be due to an overtightened dipstick and its broken oil seal

     

    SUMMARY

    In the end we rode 1050kms, the bike was outstanding and drew comments everywhere. The experience was unlike any other biking one I’ve had before, and the combination of the bike, the roads, the scenery, and just being back on two wheels again, made it a tour we’ll always remember.

    I’d like to thank Jack at McScoots who was a pleasure to deal with when booking, and an absolute star when it came to dealing with an issue totally out of his control. I would unhesitatingly recommend his company to anyone looking to make a similar tour. His bikes are immaculate, his business ethics beyond reproach, and he’s a nice guy to boot. Me, I’m wondering what to ride next, it’s just a shame that the Chieftain wouldn’t really cut it for the type of riding and roads we have here in Europe, but over there, it was SUPERB!

     


  • 1000kms on an Indian- Part 1

    All good things come to an end, and earlier this year I called time on 7 years of GT ownership. With 90,000kms on the clock, a valve service and tyres due, and a concern that the electronic suspension and shaft drive may require expensive replacement within the next year, I decided to cut my losses and sell it. On 17th March it was ridden away by its new owner leaving me without a road bike in the garage for the first time in 21 years, although I still have the R1 for trackdays.

    Initially I have to say that I didn’t miss it and consoled myself that I’d put some money in the bank, but as time passed, I started to think that in the absence of any planned early year track days, it might be a long time before I’d be back riding again. Then I had an idea. Why not hire a bike during my annual trip to Canada, after all, British Columbia has some of the finest roads in Canada? I did some surfing on the net, and my research pointed me in the direction of McScoots rental bikes in Kelowna, a few hours away from where I’d be staying.

    I’d always wondered what the attraction of riding a Harley was, and of course I’d never ride one after a dealer in Switzerland once asked me for some matches to set fire to my VFR800, but McScoots wasn’t renting out Harleys, he had Indians!

    Everyone I’m sure, knows the iconic American Indian brand, and even if you’re not a biker you may be famiiar with the name from the film “The Worlds Fastest Indian” featuring Anthony Hopkins?  The website showed two options available, the Vintage and Chieftain, the former apparently being a more comfortable option with a screen and leather bags, whilst the latter looked much more up my street with a handlebar fairing and hard luggage. McScoots owner Jack was super helpful when I called. Naturally when you rent out this type of expensive machine you need to know the person hiring it hasn’t just passed his test, but after running through my riding CV, we soon had the details agreed for a 3 day rental including 1000 kms, which should allow us plenty of scope for exploring some roads, on what would be a totally new experience for me, touring on a cruiser.

    I’d arranged with Jack that we’d collect the bike at around 9.30, although he isn’t normally open until 10.00. My usual modus operandi when on tour is to have breakfast and be away by 10.00, which is what I hoped we could do today. With Kelowna being around 2 1/2 hours away, we got up at stupid o’clock and set off at 05.10am to catch the 05.30 ferry at Faquier. Despite the early hour we’re only fourth in the queue, behind three truckloads of workers in their orange jump suits. Most have less fat on them than a chip, obviously hard manual work keeping them all fit

    It’s light and blue skies are present even at 05.30 in the morning. British Columbia cares for it’s environment and many places have switch off your engine signs when stopped

    Once over the crossing the road soon passes into woodland and there are warning signs that animals are around, in fact the day we arrived in Canada we’d seen a bear after getting off another ferry. After a few miles I complained to Sue that we hadn’t seen sight nor sound of anything, only for her to exclaim less than a minute later that we’d just passed a deer looking out at us from the woods!

    We’re driving on Highway 6 over the 1189m Monashee Pass this morning, and the tight and twisty bends through the Echo Lake Provincial Park are challenging in parts for the rented Jeep Grand Cherokee we’re driving (a pleasant upgrade from the mid size car we’d actually booked). Arriving in Cherryville and with time in hand, we decided to stop for breakfast. If you’re used to European continental breakfasts, you’re in for a shock, breakfasts in Canada are BIG! I treated myself to one aptly named the “Motherlode”, whilst Sue treated herself to pancakes with butter and blueberries. Yum! The waitress, hearing our accents asked where we were from. I told her we’re English but live in France, and have hired an Indian to take a tour, which seems to confuse her greatly until I explain that it’s an Indian motorcycle not a First Nations tribesman.

    After Cherryville the roads open up onto wider and more flowing bends, much more suited to the giant size Jeep. I had to take this picture exiting Lumby as we have a badger in our garden back home!

    Normally I plan everything to the nth degree, but this morning as we got closer to Kelowna, I realised that I didn’t actually have the address of McScoots, dummy! Stopping at a petrol station and asking drew a blank look from the cashier, but checking a phone directory gave me what I needed, so with an address now input into the GPS we should still be on track to get there on time, except even with the address we couldn’t find the place! Kelowna is basically one massive central main street with shopping malls, garages, and businesses on either side. As we passed a Yamaha dealer Sue shouted that she’d seen a truck with McScoots written on the side, but I discounted it, thinking it was just his van parked at the dealer. I wished I’d listened to her, as it was at least another 15 minutes before we’d retraced our steps to that Yamaha dealer having failed to find the address. I asked a guy outside the Yamaha shop if he knew of McScoots, and was surprised when he told me it was behind me, in a container!

    We had eventually arrived closer to 10.30 than 09.30, and after apologising to Jack for not having been on time we quickly got down to paperwork so that we could get off exploring. I’d been expecting a shop, so was a little shocked to see the business was run from a container, but you entered through double glass doors, and inside it was kitted out with table, chairs, and hanging rails of riding gear, whilst the rental fleet was parked up outside glinting in the sun.

    First sight of the massively imposing Indian Chieftain

     

    The Chieftain looked as if it had just come out of a showroom, it was spotless! Jack takes huge pride in his fleet, this bike costing over 31,000 CAD. When a rental comes back he immediately cleans it, and it really was in such good condition I thought it was new! This particular bike was a 2016 model and didn’t have the GPS that the 2017 model does. I toyed with the idea of taking the GPS from the car, but as it’s not a bike system and may not withstand water if it were to rain, decided against it, besides, with so few roads criss crossing the state, it should be simple to locate the ones we wanted using a map, old school style.

    Jack gave a thorough run through of the controls, showing me the tyre pressure monitor and pressures, something I always want to know are correct, although to my shame I was never able to find the screen again, only finding out how to access it when the bike was returned. Suggesting a brief ride round the car park, I quickly found the low seat height made putting both feet down simple, although I did find the left foot gear change odd as the lever is raised compared to “normal” bikes, but the footboards seemed to allow comfortable foot placement.

    Finally after the paperwork had been completed and we’d got togged up in our vented summer jackets and riding gear, we were ready for the off. Jack had given us directions how to get onto Highway 33, although it seemed as if he was sending us North instead of South, still, he knew best! Heading back up the road we’d come into Kelowna on, I soon wondered if I was going the right way, and quickly bemoaned the lack of a GPS which would have seen us on the right road immediately. What followed was about 30 minutes of driving up and down Kelownas main street. At a garage a trucker told us to head back the way we’d just come and to take a left at Costco, except we never saw CostCo and ended up actually crossing a bridge and leaving Kelowna,which was obviously not right!. Thankfully the dual carriageway we’d ended up on had an off ramp, so back we turned and back along the main drag. At each set of traffic lights I felt my legs getting warmed by the big 1800cc engine beneath me, and I wasn’t enjoying the way the front end waggled as I slowed to stop, the heavy front fairing seemingly creating an imbalance as I tried to gently ease to a halt.

    Eventually we found the turning for Highway 33 (having already passed it twice!), and once out of town the bike started to feel more natural and I began to explore the performance of the 1800cc engine.

    Our route (below) saw us heading for Osoyoos, a place whose name I managed to mispronounce every single time I spoke it. We’d been there previously back in 2010 and been impressed with the beauty of the location and it’s amazing salt lake, so we were headed back to see if it was as good as we had remembered it being.

    Highway 33 passed comfortably as I settled into a rythmn riding the big twin. It’s pretty comfortable, and riding at legal speeds and just enjoying the scenery is a real pleasure. We’d brought the GoPro and Contour cameras along to record some of the ride, and after 45 minutes and out into open countryside, we decided to try and do some filming. Pulling off into a roadside layby, I set up the camera and we decided to try some new ways of filming.

    Starting with the GoPro facing us for head on pics.

    We then stopped again, putting the camera on the tripod so we could do a ride by.

    Then Sue held the tripod and camera on the bike allowing her to film ahead and to the sides, all these angles hopefully making some interesting alternatives to the usual forward facing films I’ve made to date.

    Well they would have been interesting if the camera had been switched on and recording! It wasn’t until after I’d asked Sue to check the red recording light was flashing that we found out we hadn’t got any film at all, and that it hadn’t recorded any of the beautful countryside or lakes we’d passed, so we had to go through the whole rigmarole again. The pics above are from the second time of trying.

    Despite the farce of the non filming, the ride was going well. The bike allowing us to “bimble” along enjoying a type of riding we haven’t experienced before, and I was really starting to see why people enjoy this type of experience. In the past I have always been very disparaging of Harleys and their seeming overly loud exhausts, but I have to confess to occasionally just accelerating for the fun of hearing the big twins exhaust note, which l justify to myself isn’t as loud and anti social as a Harleys, but still makes a great noise!

    At Rock Creek we turned West onto Highway 3 towards Osoyoos and descending the steep hill towards the town are greeted with these fantastic views.

     

     

    Stopped on Anarchist Mountain overlooking the Okanagan Valley and Osoyoos below

    Descending towards the town of Osoyoos, whose fabulous location sees it surrounded by desert, vineyards and mountains, and well known for water sports on the massive lake.

    In town I managed to take the only two wrong turns I could have made in my quest to find the road out to Spotted Lake, and once more was wishing we’d got the GPS with us.

    Back in 2010 when we had first visited, this is the sight we had seen and were expecting.

     

     

    After dragging all the way out to the lake, this is what we got in 2017, no salt circles!

    As we headed back down towards town I noticed the fuel gauge flash up a low warning symbol. Strange, as last time I looked we still had plenty, and sure enough when we got down to the lower and flatter level in town, the gauge had returned to indicating around 100kms range left, still, as we were close to a petrol station we stopped to fill up.

    The Chieftain has twin filler caps but only the right hand one is used, the left side is a dummy.  After filling up we stopped at McDonalds, where a couple of locals, one of whom was from Portugal, enquired about the imposing bike parked outside. Although Harley owners they seemed impressed with the Indian.

    Leaving Osoyoos we retraced our route back up the hill stopping for these last few pictures.

    On the way in we had seen some impressive statues so tstopped and took pictures of some of them on the way back out.

    The route we were taking was now heading East, passing back through Rock Creek on Highway 3, which  turned out to be a great road through beautiful countryside, and which would take us right the way through to our overnight stop in Castlegar.

    In Greenwood we stopped for an ice cream

    Lots of red wooden buildings in BC

    Great road sign

    Onwards through Christina Lake, and as we passed through the Bonanza Pass at 1535m in Gladstone Provincial Park, it suddenly got very cold. The nice 72F temperatures we’d been enjoying at the height of the afternoon had been gradually falling, but the sudden plummet from 65F to 55F, and then 44F at 18.30, quickly meant our vented jackets weren’t providing enough warmth, and with teeth close to chattering we stopped and put on our rain jackets to try and get some heat back in our bodies. With our motel at Castlegar still around 40 minutes away, we were grateful when we eventually arrived, to check in and get warm again.

    This sign on the main road outside the motel shows we’re not far from the USA border, in fact it’s only around 40kms away.

    Later on we nipped out to the local supermarket and liquor store to get some food and drink. This impressive full size metal statue was surrounded by several smaller ones.

    Extremely large bike failing spectacularly to hide behind pillar.

    Final ride stats for the day, a thoroughly enjoyable 459kms, which was some 50kms further than I’d initially calculated, showing how much off route we’d been without GPS assistance.

     

     


  • 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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