29 December 2015

Cabin Fever!!

It's been a mild winter so far this year. But since I got back from Ostend, Pepe has sat in the garage unused.

With work and then Christmas, allied with miserable drizzle, I've not been out.

This needs to change.

During a routine in-garage check I found one of the grub screws had gone AWOL from one of the screen brackets.

Dashing off a quick email to Skidmarx resulted in a couple of spares arriving g in the post.

Now maybe I can get out for a ride before the end of the year?

Happy New Year everyone.

5 December 2015

Sinterklaastreffen 2015

Friday.

I like to prepare for a trip and usually lay my riding gear out the day before to look for any defects. So this was a job for Friday. We were both home as the night before we had been to see Deep Purple at the O2 in London, getting home in the wee small hours.

Claire then had provided the extra hands it takes to adjust the Skidmarx windscreen. Loosening off most of the fittings needs a pair of hands to hold it in the right place, and another to tighten the bolts and Allen bolts. In fact I did the holding as the new position meant my hands were too big to get into place to tighten up the lower mounting points.

Once completed,  I was almost ready for the run to Belgium the next day.

Saturday.

I had everything laid out for a 7.30am start but as usual I had forgotten some things. The alarm went and Reggie was up wanting to go out. After a night on the bed he needs his "garden break" before his breakfast.

I double checked the Givi tankbag. All the bike's documents and a spare key were in place. Passport and printed ticket in my jacket breast pocket. What else? Oh, small wallet with Euros! And spare spectacles.

It was about 0725 when I rode off. I filled the tank in Hythe and then headed up to the Channel Tunnel to meet my Meldrews club mate, Cal Price. Luckily it is only about 5 miles from home and traffic was very light. I chose a manned check-in as it is usually quicker. And it was. 

Meeting time was 0800 so for one of those rare times I was early and first to arrive.

I was just locking the tank bag and stuff away in the saddlebag when Cal arrived. It was already quite cold and the gold glow of the dawn had already gone. Now it was grey but clear. All the portents of a cold dry day.

We had time for a coffee and then headed off to the border controls. British police and border agency looked at passports. The French office was empty. Maybe this should have been a warning.

It's probably easier to get through now as everyone has to fill in online the Advanced Passenger Information form.  It has been a requirement when flying to the US for some years but started this year for the Tunnel.

With five trains an hour instead of the published four our booking didn't really mean the specified train, but we were quickly loaded along with a couple on a 1050 KTM. 

I always take a photo on the train or ferry. Ritual I guess.

On the Shuttle
Once across we set the controls to 70mph, and we were away eastwards along the A16.

The screen adjust has made the ride quieter although there is still some wind noise but less buffeting. It also means that I can maintain a higher average speed! 

After the terrorist attack in Paris on 13th November, security has been increased, and that manifests itself with French borders being closed and controlled. The A16 was no exception.

We joined the back of what turned out to be a five mile queue to the last junction before Belgium. We slipped down the side of the traffic until a couple of trucks blocked us off. After a little waiting I cut through the traffic to the hard shoulder (emergency lane) but Cal was blocked by an official van. I waited before the point all the traffic was made to go off for him to catch up.

We couldn't see our way back onto the motorway so we ended up going through a village to the "old" pre-motorway route along the canal. Here the French post was manned by more troops. The Belgian post is about 400 yards away and unmanned.

As this took us past the Adinkerke tobacco shops and we decided to drop in rather than leave it until the way home. I bought 500g of mixed truffles at the attached Leonidus shop.

500g of truffles
We rejoined the motorway for the last forty or so miles to Ostend. 

On the run along the road into town we discovered a road closure due to a big hole in the road. 

At the velodrome we found only a few bikes in the parking area and some hardy souls with their tents alongside the marquee. 

My fingers were cold and I was hoping that my spare Belstaff waterproof gloves would be warmer on the way back home.

It was here I discovered I had forgotten a hat. When you have more skin on top than hair, a hat is a definite plus.

In the end my Oxford neck tube doubled up made a hat. Maybe I should get one of those outlaw bandanas that my brother favours?

It was worth a selfie.

It's a beard!
My ears seem to have gone too!

Pano of Rally site
The rally site
Strange square picture of rally site
The velodrome is no longer in use and part of it has become a skate board park. The graffiti level looks to have increased. 

We had a look around the parking and took a few pictures and then we togged up to ride to where Nick comes ashore, and parked up. 

This Indian caught my eye, not just because the rider was only about 5ft 6ins tall....

Indian!
Old Harley
The organisers said it was the square opposite the Aquarium. It was. It was also right by the long length of motorcycle parking in front of some fish market stalls. The fishy run off wasn't too slippery! And it was cold enough for the ice to stay unmelted for a considerable  time.....

Along the Fish Quay (Visserkai) are the stalls selling fresh fish and also friteries selling chips and cooked food, like bratwursts and other meat products. I do like a braadwurst. We opted for a restaurant with an indoors!

We retired to Brasserie Maritime for lunch. We both opted for steak. Beautifully cooked and without any fat or gristle! A first for me.

We had almost finished when we saw the the lead bikes and Police arrived.

Unlike the Ring of Red where Essex couldn't provide any escort, Ostend manged six bikes and two cars to act as the escort.

Nik arrived with several Piets. This year lady Piets as well as men.

Nik and his Piets
Nik again

In England this can't happen as the politically correct would go mental. It is a tradition that goes back to the Reconquest. Google it!!

Pano of the rdz
Bikers....

We needed to be away for our return train and so when Nik was still talking to kids and handing out sweets and it was past 3pm we needed to go.

We set off leaving Ostend behind, choosing the coast ride over the motorway.

As petrol is much cheaper there was no option but to fill up and save a few quid. We will use it anyway! 

We rejoined the motorway near Nieuwpoort and the wind that had been chilling us all day was much colder as the sun started to descend. We had a loop around a roundabout at the first junction in France and then back onto the motorway. Once again the police and army waved through lots of trucks and vans.

We arrived about an hour early for our train and opted to take an earlier crossing. We lucked out even more when the guy on duty waved us through and we got an even earlier train. It was so cold by now that we didn't need to be hanging about.

It was good to be home again.

All the photos I took on the day are on Flickr

8 November 2015

Where there's a wind...

There's a screen.  Or at least there is now.

The new Skidmarx screen.


The screen worked pretty well. It took the wind off my neck, chest and shoulders but has increased the noise a little around my helmet.

When it started to get covered in wet in the misty conditions I could see over it okay.

It needs a bit of adjustment to shift it forward an inch or so and a little lower to be closer to the headlamps.

Weekend I think for that.

Ring of Red

Decided to go to Thurrock and join there. Arrived about 1230 after a petrol stop on the way.

Pepe does about 180 to the tank before I start to get nervous. So as it clipped up 115 on the odometer I decided to fill up to ensure I had enough to get to the start and join the ride. It is easily 60 miles home from here. Doing the maths convinced me to tank up.

Even in misty drizzly weather sitting in a large column of bikes is hot business, once the fan kicks in.

We were on the road and the M25 just before the allotted hour.

Well done to the marshals in the absence of the local police service. 





The photographer, former SOC member and Kent Centre Sec, Roger Wood, for the run from Thurrock stood atop the van belonging to  one of the charities we were supporting.


I had cable tied one of the Ride of Remembrance car-flags to the sissy bar but sadly I didn't get enough wind to fly whilst stopped.

2 November 2015

Screen fitted


Today I was working from home after the trains were cancelled and I came home from the station!  I did a bit of work, you can only do what is in front of you on the helpdesk software, and so  I had a late lunch and decided to have a look at the screen fittings.

In the end, it was a 90 minute lunch and it is fitted. The four brackets have to be done one at a time, offering up the screen each time before tightening them in place. In the end it looks pretty central.  No time to test it today. That will have to wait until the weekend.

Fitted!


The instructions are pretty rubbish, and look like an eighth generation photocopy of the original drawing. Still, the photo on Skidmarx website was marginally better. My positioning looks a little different but it seems rigid.

Only a test ride will tell if it is okay.





22 October 2015

Screen

The final requirement to take a bit of the wind off my head and shoulders is a screen. I looked at the Triumph flyscreen, and although it looks good, it might not be what I need.

Instead, I ordered one of these and it arrived recently.  I need to spend a few hours in the garage and get it fitted.

Skidmarx advert

The instructions are pretty poor and I have a better idea from the picture of where the fittings go.

So far have only had the time to offer it up and have a look at where it will go.

Trying it for size


30 September 2015

Bikers Loft - Overview

I can't say that I have ever stayed in biker specific accommodation before.  That's not to say I don't like the idea, it's just that anywhere I have been across Europe for the better part of 40 years, I have only ever been turned away from one place, and that was a restaurant in St Tropez! Generally, Europe is far more biker-friendly that the UK.

That said, the Loft is a good idea for a social event like we had over the weekend.  The place was full with different biker groups staying there.  As a former woollen factory it is on the edge of the village. From the loading doors on the front of the building that now act as windows to the bar area to the parking in the warehouse section, and the rooms on two sides on two floors.

Bikers Loft
In the centre, there is a strange looking adobe building that houses the showers, male and female.

It all works though.

28 September 2015

Bikers Loft 3

The last day.

After leading yesterday's run to Ypres, I decided to take a back seat, or a different place in the line of 8 bikes.

And so after a repeat of the previous day's self cook breakfast we packed the bikes and headed off. Aiming for Nieuwpoort aan Zee as the first stop. The plan to follow a canal all the way there to where it meets the sea at a huge marina.

I was bringing up the rear of the column and saw a sign like this one.

"No Motor vehicles"
After only one short section of the towpath/road.

We tried to alert those ahead but Cal and I were the only two not heading past this sign. We chose to turn left across a lift bridge onto the other bank, where Nieuwpoort was signposted 15kms away.

As we headed along we sounded our horns and waved at the "first wave" to no avail. Some miles further on their side came to an end. By then we were way ahead despite dropping the speed to 40.

We carried onto the first agreed waypoint in Nieuwpoort. Luckily a cyclist extracted them from their dead end and they arrived in three separate groups over a period of about 25 minutes.... Some frayed tempers. 

Once we had all been fed and watered Cal got to lead us to Adinkerke, where there is almost a "village" of cheap tobacco and alcohol stores. We had one small detour due to a road closed and I took the lead as I knew where we were. I led us to the coast road and TomTom agreed.

I really like this part of the Belgian coast. The sand dunes separating the road from the sea. They are so high you are unaware what lurks beyond them. And it is clean. 

In De Panne we had to follow the tram as the road is shared with them for some distance. Too narrow to have cars and trams with their own space unlike the open areas between towns.

At Adinkerke we visited the baccy shops and I bought chocolates for work and home.

Then I had a ride to look at the nearby war graves cemetery, but the approach was very muddy and waterlogged. The road was too narrow to turn Pepe around so I went around a rather long block, had I not, I wouldn't have found this Leopard tank on a small plot in the village.

Leopard Tank in Adinkerke

Leopard Tank in Adinkerke

Two Tanks....
I then returned to the baccy shop via the local gas station, where I had ended up chatting to a couple of Latvians about the bike. They were amazed that it is 2300cc.

From the baccy shop we split up into two groups. From leading I was relegated to fifth place. I had missed the conversation where it was decided what junction to leave the A16. Only as we got to the ferry port turn did I see the leading four had turned off. I led the "second wave" the way I know to the Place d'Armes where we were united again.

Calais - Place d'Armes

There was a minor bit of drama when David couldn't find his ignition key. After searches in the street it was eventually found, after several searches of his jacket and tank bag, in the hand warmer pocket of his jacket!!

Lunch was eaten. And then we set off for our 1715 ferry back to England.

A really superb weekend with a great bunch of "lads". A fine bromance though, it's not.

Thanks to Cal for organising the weekend.

The Meldrews were:

Cal Price 
Neil Dalton
Ian Gardner
David Robinson
Graham Reynolds
Frank Snow
Trevor Rice

And Me.

This is the map of today's ride from the Loft to the port at Calais.



27 September 2015

Bikers Loft 2

We were up reasonably after a latish night and the self cook dinner!

Breakfast is included in the room rate and is also self service as well as self cook. I'm not used to eating breakfast and so opted for the continental style rather than the bacon and eggs style! 

The rooms are pretty basic. I shared with Trevor and we had two single beds. A little re-jigging of the room ensured that there was a man-gap between the beds!

Early suggestions for the Saturday ride out had been to the Wire of Death. An electric fence that was built by the German occupation army in 1915 from the coast at Knokke to the German border, and just inside the Belgian frontier. It was to stop Belgians escaping into neutral Netherlands. 

Over the course of the war it claimed over a 1000 lives.


I can't tell you any more as we didn't go!!

In the end we decided on Ypres, only  30 miles away, instead of the best part of 95 away. We stopped for petrol at the local station. Although 100% automatic, it actually took overseas credit and debit cards.  The biggest deal was 95 Unleaded at €1.249 per litre.  The exchange rate the day before when I had got €100 in cash was €1.3480 to the £.  Making a litre well under £1 a litre when it was about £1.10 at home.

After a stop for tea/coffee we had a walk up to the Menin Gate.


The Menin  Gate

Indian Missing

The Meldrews
And then back to the Market Square and from there we decided to go into the Flanders Fields museum inside the Cloth Hall.

For the €9 entry fee it has to be the best military museum I have been into for many a year. Well laid out and stacked with militaria and history of the three battles on the Ypres Salient. 

The Cloth Hall

The Ghosts of the Menin Gate

A few of us spent so long in there that a few of the group managed to hog their way through a waffle or burgers outside.

The last-out crew went across to Ypres Burger, a not so fast food outlet.

Once all back together we set off for the Loft. Eight became six, then two threes as we split up. Reunited at the Loft.

Dinner has been for the regular attendees at a restaurant in Oudenburg itself. A walk of about 35 minutes. The food was excellent. The service was exceptional. A perfect evening with the group. 

Whilst we are out we missed the live band in the Loft, a three piece group made up of Japanese women. Apparently the weren't bad. 

Bedtime beckoned. 

On the way to the room I snapped these.

Honda CBX1000

Rocket 3 Touring

Harley of some sort!


25 September 2015

Bikers Loft 1

Packing Pepe (or Red Pepe to use his full name)  doesn't take too long. The panniers aren't that big. Enough for the weekend for one person. I might have to invest in a sissy bar pack in future!

The plan was to meet Trevor from the Meldrews at 3pm at th fuel station in Dover. I was a little late as the traffic was horrendous and Pepe is a little too wide to squeeze through. 

After a malfunction on the Sprint owned by Graham, another Meldrew, we were checked in and waiting to board the ferry at 3.30! A little early.

The crossing was smooth and once across in France I led the way with TomTom's assistance to the Loft.

Parked up in the Loft

More about the loft later.

We met up with the other Meldrews, eight in total for dinner and a few beers.

Day 1 ended with us already into Day 2 and bed.

29 July 2015

At last a name - Red Pepe

The popular name for the Rocket's in black with white stripes is "Pepe" after Pepe le Pew the cartoon character.


So my R3 can be "Red Pepe".


22 July 2015

Sissy 2

Finally managed to get a picture or two of the sissy bar in place and fitted!

Side view

Rear view

Looks good.

17 July 2015

Sissy!

Not for me! But for Claire as she is used to having a top box behind her back. 

Enter the Fehling Sissy Bar. I checked a few custom websites and it came out at about £135 inc vat. Then I got a tip to check German custom sites and found this one at €115 plus €16.99 to get it to me. Still a massive saving. Bought online on Monday evening, delivered Thursday morning.  Fitted?


Hopefully it will go on at the weekend when Cal comes back with his Allen keys.

Photos to follow.

8 July 2015

Weekend on The Somme - Day 2

Day 2.

After the long day the day before I was feeling a little tired and after the early night,aided by two pints of Monaco at the restaurant, I slept most of the night. I set my alarm on my phone for 0800. By the time I had showered and got changed I got to breakfast to find all my travel mates already there.  

We had a good chat over breakfast and by the time we were ready to leave it was easily 0945.  

The first stop was to be the site where the Red Baron was shot down. Somehow we had missed it last year.  It would be easy to miss as it is simply a small notice board at the side of the road.


The next stop was only a few miles along the road. Grove Town Cemetery where David wanted to look up one of his relatives buried there. Although from Google Maps the cemetery looks to be in the middle of farmland, what it didn't show was the rough track to get there. Unlike the Pals, we couldn't miss this one. At least Neil got to take his new Honda Cross Tourer "off road"!!



Pano with David signing the visitor book

From Grove Town, we retraced our steps back along the bumpy track, across the little "bridge" between the two huge puddles back to the main road. 

We turned left and in just four miles we arrived at the Froissy Dompierre Light Railway, one of the last sections of trench railway left.

Although we found it easily enough, in fact right to the door, we were about 3 hours early.  When I looked on the website I hadn't noticed that it opens only at 1330! So I took a couple of pictures to show we had been and we set off for Peronne and the Historial.


A bit of track!

The ride to Peronne was past a lot of war grave cemeteries, some small but far too many large with the white stones of the British and the white crosses of the French bright in the sun.

Once again, TomTom took us right to the door and we stopped in the parking directly opposite to the old castle that houses the museum and historical.

I have been before, but the displays evolve and so it was worth going in again. But first. A drink before we went on/. Cal booked us a table for 8 for lunch for our return.










Some of the displays give an idea of the casualties and the effects of the Battle of the Somme and also the statistics of each of the belligerents and the Russian Army on the Eastern Front. It came as a surprise to me that Germany, France and Russia had standing armies numbering 4 to 5 million men at arms. The UK had 380000 full timers at the outbreak of war in 1914.

Once finished we headed back for lunch.  The railway being closed had saved us about an hour and so we had a more leisurely lunch. I had a salad!


Time to saddle up and head for the last stop and to say goodbye to Lainy and Ken Sole, who were heading east to Luxembourg or somewhere!

The Souvenir Francais at Rancourt is a large French cemetery and attached chapel. The chapel has a small museum inside.







We were still about an hour ahead of schedule and once we had made our goodbyes to Lainy and Ken, we set off for the A1 and A26 back to Calais.  Here as with the way out it went a bit tits up.

Now with six bikes in the group we arrived at the toll plaza to take a ticket. It seemed we were all through and I led onto the A1 north.  Ken Fulton and David needed petrol before their smaller tanked Suzukis would make it to Calais and so I planned to stop at one of the service areas to the north of Arras; the second after we joined the A26.

We sailed past Arras and Vimy Ridge and the large Canadian monument to the right when Ian came alongside making some strange gestures that I took to mean we had lost two bikes. I decided to make the fuel stop and wait there.

He shot off ahead and I led Ken and David to the fuel stop. All three of us filled up.  With the exchange rate, a litre of French 95 unleaded worked out at just over £1.05, some 10% cheaper than at home.  So why not fill up too?  ;)

There was no sign of Ian and we waited and waited and heard rather than saw bikes go past on the autoroute, By the time we exited the petrol/gas station and got on the A26 we had lost sight (and sound!) of the bikes.  We plugged along at 70-75mph until the toll near St Omer. As I approached the manned toll booth to pay, I saw Cal and Neil the other side putting their gloves on. I tooted the piss poor Rocket horn and they pulled away. By the time Ken and David were through we had to follow on behind. Eventually catching them up on the spur motorway to the Port of Calais.

We were early still and were loaded onto a boat an hour earlier than we had booked. Only to find Ian's BMW already tied down and no sign of him!

We eventually met up again in the self-service where David, Ken and I decided to stay as we had a seat and places to put the pile of jackets and helmets.  The others went off to find other seating.

In the end it was another good trip. I think everyone enjoyed it and we are already looking at going again next year for the 100th Anniversary commemorations.





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