Sunday, March 29, 2015

New Zealand part 1.DSC_2295

Thirty six hours on a plane. That's a long time. OK, it's not all on a plane. there was some farting around in airports, it's still a long time. An hour and a half from Edinburgh to London, eight hours from London to Dubai, another thirteen hours to Sydney and three more to Auckland.
Was it worth it? You're fucking right it was.

Tauranga and Mount Manganui

We had three weeks to spend in New Zealand. We split out time between the North Island where we stayed with HB's family,  Lorraine, John and Catlyn, and the South Island where we'd hired a bike to do some touring.
New Zealand is amazing. We arrived in the middle of February with is pretty much the end of their summer. We spend our first few days doing family things and exploring the area around Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty in Lorraine and John's car that they had kindly lent us.
I had this idea in my head that the North Island was really busy, but it's not at all. It was great driving around and would be great motorcycling roads. We visited Hobbiton from Lord Of The Rings and the Hobbit. We drove up The Coromandel Peninsula to Hahei visiting Hot Water Beach, a place where you can dig a hole in the sand and it fills up with hot water. And when I say hot I mean it. I had to run into the sea to cool my feet down cos I burnt them in the water! We took a boat ride around Cathedral Cove where we saw Dolphins. We went to a nature reserve and saw a Kiwi breeding programme then went up the gondolas and raced back down the luge. The food was awesome, the beer and wine was awesome. Everything was awesome.
Out for a pedal with Lorraine.
Winton Massif down under.
There's quite a few of these wee stickers dotted about New Zealand now...
Hobbiton. New Zealand had a bit of a drought going on. You can see the difference between here and the field next to it. Hats off to the gardeners that look after the place.


In the Green Dragon, Hobbiton.
Having a beer in the Green Dragon. It was 30 degrees outside and they had the fire on!



Heading up the Coromandel.
Heading up the Coromandel. Thats a large black cock.

Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, New Zealand.
Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, New Zealand.
Hot Water Beach, North Island, New Zealand
Hot Water Beach

Hahei, New Zealand
Hahei Beach

Cathedral Cove, Hahei, Noth Island, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
Cathedral Cove, New Zealand
Views from the boat trip around Hahei.

A big thanks to Lorraine and john for putting us up and giving us a loan of their car. Every night Lorraine would cook us nice food and we could chill out in their garden listening to the cicadas.


Part 2 coming soon.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Off Road with Motorrad Central

Happy New Year everyone. Sorry there's not been an update here for a while, I've managed to smash my way through a couple of laptops recently but all is well again computer-wise.
I've not been doing much biking recently, once the road salt goes down I hide my GS away till the salts gone, but more on all that later.

Offroad with Motorrad

Now it's no secret that I'm a fan of the big GS, but I've always said they're way to heavy to be any real use offroad. I've had my GS's up a few gravel roads and stuff which was fun but when ever there's mud or soft conditions the weight was always a problem. Well, the weight and the cost of chucking a really expensive bike down the hillside.

Offroad with Motorrad

Around the start of December I was invited to try BMW Motorrad Central's new secret offroad facility, just up the road between Peebles and the Leadburn Inn. The guys at Motorrad Central have acquired themselves a track to allow people to experience a big beemer offroad. The bikes they use are new BMW R1200GS LCs and are fitted with nobblyish tyres, Conti TCK 80's I think.
I headed over with young Brian and met up with Joe, Broon and Martin from Motorrad at Central Park, (there was another guy there but I cannae remember his name, sorry mate!!) Martin was the Course Leader. He stressed to us that he was in no way an instructor. This is a wee shot to give an Offroad Experience with a GS. If you want to be taught how to handle a big GS offroad there is an offroad school in Wales where Dakar legend Simon Pavey will show you how to do it.

Offroad with Motorrad
Martin drifting about.

Anyways, we started off with a few maneuvers on the flat to allow us to get used to the bikes. It had been raining for a few days before and the place was pretty muddy. I was surprised how much grip the TCK80s gave. A GS is a heavy beast but once you get rolling it does feel a fair bit lighter, untill it starts to go a bit. That's why one of our fist "maneuvers" we practiced was how to pick the bike up with completely fucking yourself up. Don't worry, it's much easier than you'd think.
After a wee while we headed out onto the track. Some bits of the track were really wet. The first time the GS hit a pile of wet mud and slithers all over the shop I shat it and gave the ground a big stab with my foot to keep the bike up. I found I just needed to relax and just let the bike move around under you a bit. After a few laps of following Broon and Martin around I was getting a bit more confident, I even got a wee wheelie and the tiniest bit of air off some of the crests. I was following Broon when we got to one of the muddy bits. I took the opposite side of the track to him to avoid getting sprayed with shite from his back wheel. Wrong choice.

I came over a wee crest and caught the front in a rut. My "if in doubt - flat out" approach didn't work this time. The front came back but I immediately lost the back and went down like a sack of shite. You can here on the video the comedy sounds I was making.

"I've winded ma sel!"

"Al be fine!"

"Garblegarble garble BROOOOOOOOOOOOOM!"

I had winded myself, and young Brian ran to my aid lifting the GS for me before everyone started to take the piss. We headed back to the cars and the flat area for a coffee and so I could get a few photos of Broon and Martin ripping about.

Offroad with Motorrad
Broon has a lie down between doing donuts while Martin runs off with my hat.

Offroad with Motorrad

We got changed out our muddy gear and made our way home. Over the next few days my ribs got sorer and sorer. Turns out I had fractured them resulting in a few days off and some special painkillers.
No painkillers can help the agony of Brian's get up.

So, do I still think the GS is too heavy for off road use? Well, yes. there's a reason people use dirt bikes for going offroad, but that isn't what Motorrad are offering with Central Park. For just under £60 they will give you the chance to try a GS at a dedicated offroad facility. You don't have to worry about chucking your pride and joy down a hillside, buying fuel, or having to buy different tyres. Not having to worry about binning your own bike alone makes it good value for money.

BIG Thanks to the guys at Motorrad Central in Dalkeith for the day out.

If you would like to book a "Dirty Demo" at Central Park have a look here or Contact Motorrad Central  


Monday, September 29, 2014

Test Pilots and Tyre Kickers.

Ducati 748R

A few months back I seen a Ducati 748 in one of the bike shops in Edinburgh. With my best bullshit act I got speaking to the salesman saying I was looking for a second bike (not a lie) and I fancied a 748 (true again). I missed out the bits about being skint and acted like I had a garage full of bikes and a I wanted one more(again this is sort of true, but most of my bikes don't actually run...)
Anyway, that was back in April. the salesman was reluctant to give me a shot of his 748 on the wet roads. I tried a few more times then forgot about it. 
Recently, Faithir was up at the same bike shop.

The 748

"That 748's still up there."

Hmmmm. I phoned them up. It wasn't the same 748 they had in, this one was a 748R. Shiver me timbers! The R has more power and better suspension. It would be good to take it for a spin, y'know, just so I can make my mind up if it's for me before I buy it *cough cough.*

"No probs." Said the Salesman, "I just have to clear it with my boss. We just got the bike in as a trade in from an Older Gentleman just recently."

After a short phone call in which the Salesman assured the boss I wasn't a daft laddie, but a sensible rider in his 40's (I'm 33) he pulled the bike out. My heart sank a wee bit when I seen all the shite stickers stuck to the side. Never mind, you don't look at the mantelpiece when you're poking the fire. 
The guys at the shop gave the bike the once over and, after some trying, got it started. 

If you've never heard a Ducati idling you might be in for a wee shock. Sure, the twin Temignonis give you a lovely, twin cylinder rumble but it's nearly drowned out by the dry clutch rattling around. It sounds like a washing machine full of spanners on a low spin.
Nevermind, once its rolling it'll sound ace....

Obviously the bike isn't going to be ultra comfy, the sporty riding position puts alot of weight on your wrists, but the bike wasn't designed as a sports tourer. One thing though, as i rode along Edinburgh's bumpy streets I was pretty suprised how smooth the ride was. I thought it would be crashing around all over the shop but it rode pretty smooth. 
I got a bit more used to the bike as I got further out of the city. I pulled up at some traffic lights beside a young lad in a slammed VW Jetta.
"Nice bike mate! Is it a Ducati?"
"Aye. Listen to this."
I let the clutch out and his ears were filled with the sound of an Italian dry clutch. 


"Holy fuck!! What the fucks wrong with it??"

"Nothing mate. It's MEANT to sound like this."

I rode out of the city, heading for East Lothian where I could try the bike on roads I'm used to. The 748R is pretty quick. On the open road it sounds great, it revs up just past eleven. Quite the screamer for a twin. The brakes are awesome with loads of power and feel. With the Ohlins suspension this should be incredible. But it's not. Something's not right. It goes and stops but the bike doesn't want to turn. This scalpel has been blunted buy some halfwit who fancied themselves as Jerry Burgess. The bike even looks like its a bit too low at the back. Infact the more I look at the bike the more signs of serious abuse shine out. Every bit of the bikes plastics is either cracked or has been badly repaired. the radiator looks half fucked and there's a few gouges out the petrol tank. Along with the gash stickers Jerry had fitted an equally gash iridium screen. Not good.
The bike cut out a few times on the way back to the shop. I put it down to good old "Italian Character" but even the guys in the shop said that it wasn't right.

So is it a case of never meet your heros? No, just make sure that if your hero is Elvis, you meet him in 1958 and not in 1973.

Still a bonny bike though. Just ignore those fucking stickers.

Ducati 748R

Ducati 748R



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winton Massif 2014 - Closer to the Edge tour.

Here we go again, stage 2 of the Massif's summer trips. Following on from our trip earlier in the year. 
The edge is closer this time. The edge of what is still to be determined.

Just like last time, we met at The Janet's for breakfast before heading off. This time around the table was Smillie, Aidan, Chris and myself. Over breakfast we sorted out our route north. Smillie had forgotten his Filthy Hooligans and I wanted to nip into Decathalon at Hermiston Gate, so we arranged to meet up at a petrol station up the road a bit.
I had with me my new camera, a Nikon D7000, to replace the D80 that I fucked on the last trip. This has the ability to shoot video, so I've got folk to give video updates here and there.

Aidan and Smillie tell us what's happening.

Petrol Station meet up.

We try to avoid the A9 these days. The average speed vultures and revenue vans have dumbed once alert and capable motorists into lemming like zombies, ready to pull out on or swerve into a progress making motorcyclist, turning the main artery through Scotland into a 45mph game of Russian Roulette. 
We chose the A82, this can often be the lesser of two evils. Still clogged with caravans and halfwits but without as many Speed Nazis restricting safe, 65-75 mph overtaking.
The run up was, as always, mind blowing. I can never get used to the run through Glencoe. It really is incredible. I always think "Imagine you were from London or somewhere." Our nearly-Saturday-busy Friday afternoon traffic would seem like a deserted road and the scenery....Ooya bastard, I'd have to stop and take photos every two miles or so, which I did.
We pulled into the road to Glen Etive for a smoke and a joke then headed on up through Glencoe, Aidan, Chris and Smillie leapfrogging me as I stopped to get photos of the bike and videos of them with my new toy.
Chris just before Glen Etive

buchaille etive pani
After dipping our toes into Glen Etive.

Bikes and Buachaille Etive Mor. Smillie on the GS and the two Triumphs and a guy on an RT.

glencoe pano 2
glencoe pano 1
Glencoe. It's a pretty place.

Ride by from Valter and the Trumpets.

Crossing the bridge at Ballachulish.


Our next stop was waiting for the Corran ferry, a five minute journey over Loch Linnhe. By the time we were there the sun was splitting the trees. Between photos and me dispensing my infinite wisdom out to every one, we shot the shit with a bunch of guys heading to Mull for some building work.

Updates from this side of the Corran Ferry.



It's behind you Smillie!

Smillie describes the road from the Corran Ferry to Strontian as 14 miles of tarmac heaven. It really is nice. 
Heaven visited, we rolled into Sunart Campsite where we were greeted by Tim, the site owner, who knew us from our last stay. We got the crack on and off with Tim as he maintained his site and we stocked up from the shop and waited for the rest of the Massif to arrive. And stole shots of Tim's ride on mower. 
The plan was for most of us to stay in out tents, but Tim offered us one of his cabins that slept three. So Aidan and Smillie opted for the cabin, with me bagsying the last space for Faithir.
Ferg arrived. He'd bought a tarp shelter thingy from Lidl, similar to the one I'd bought from Decathalon, which we put up once his tent was up. Ben and Kirsten arrived in their car. They had hired the fancy cabin that everyone stayed in last time. They got their cabin set up before joining us under the tarp and plying folk with gin. Not long after Faithir arrived and our numbers were complete.
Some of us dined on the campsite, Chris, Ferg and I got a chippy, and the rest of us ate in the pub before the the night was passed in the bar.

Smillie on Tim's mower.

Ferg arrives.

You probably don't need to be told this, but Aidan here is on a health kick.


strontian pano 1
strontian pano 2
Views from the Strontian Hotel.

We awoke to a few mild showers. Between these, tents were taken down and shit was packed up. Ben and Kirstin were heading to Cannich while the rest of us were heading for Achiltibuie, following the A82 up the side of Loch Ness through Fort Augustus and Drumnadochit. On a Wednesday mid day this could be enjoyable, but on a Saturday there in a non stop impediment. Caravan follows tour bus follows motorhome. In between all thing cars drone on in complete zombified submission. Right at the front is the leader, some halfwit who can't find their arse with both hands, but will try slowing down to 20 to see if that helps. Fucking idiots.
Anyway. once I turned onto the Ullapool road (I was supposed to turn off for Beauly at the Cannich junction, but never mind that) I was flying along. Fucking cold but flying along. The earlier showers had become rain and although my "Streets Ahead" t shirt was keeping my body warm, my paws were cold as a hoors heart. This was the first time I've ever carries spare gloves. Thicker gloves on and a big long piss taken and I set off, rolling into Ullapool, warm as fuck. Look! There's a palm tree, am I in the Caribbean? Aye, nearly.
Despite my Inverness detour I was the first to arrive at Ullapool. I got some voice mails and text messages from the guys saying they had stopped in Beauly for a coffee and food. Luckily I managed to get through to them and got a bunch of supplies for those who wanted them. Tonight Ferg and I were having Fajitas for dinner. I fucking love Fajitas.
Another thing I fucking love is the road from Ullapool to Achiltibuie. I have never managed to ride it fully without a wee error here or there, or without stopping completely for a photo. It's good shit, innit.

Moby Dick and Stac Pollaidh on the way to Achiltibuie.

In dribs and drabs everyone arrived at the campsite. I always say I'm going to Achiltibuie, but the camp site is around the corner at Altandhu ( Ferg, Faither and I did ride over to the Summer Isle Hotel in Achiltibuie for a nice pint of An Teallach Ale.
As the tents were put up the weather closed in. Everyone cooked their food in the shelter of the amenities block, well, everyone except Faithir, who had got a Chinese takeaway in Ullapool. 
Ferg and I had our Fajitas and they were good, although I think the Chilli we made of a previous trip was more successful as a group meal. We sat around the block till late, had a few drinks and a few Filthy Hooligans were smoked as the rain fell outside. Great night.

altandhu pano

Ferg tells us what's going on.

Good night.

Rainy night.

It pished it doon most of the night. Unusually I was pretty happy with this. My trusty old tent had started to leak and Bob had told me about stuff called seam sealer. It doesn't look too pretty, but it did the job. My tent remained waterproof the whole time. When we awoke the sun had come out and dried out tents. Today's destination was Brora, over on the east coast. We were all going different routes to get there though. Smillie and Chris were heading round the north coast road where as Aidan, Ferg, Faither and I were heading the more direct route through Lairg, with a wee detour to Lochinver at the start. These plans changed within the first few miles however, when Aidan went straight on at the turn off for Lochinver. Ferg tried to get his attention but Aidan just carried on. 

Much nicer today.

On the road to Lochinver.



Faithir at Lochinver



The three of us wise men stopped for ice cream at Lochinver. It was roasting and for some reason Fer had two pairs of trousers on. He tried to hide between the bike to de keg himself but I made quite a scene drawing everyone around's attention to his semi naked body. We carried on along the fast swooping A837 through Rosehall and onto the A839 to Lairg. It was great fun swooping along the road, but there's also great scenery and semi wild goats. The A839 joins the A9 just outside Golspie. From there it's a quick blast north to Brora.

Roadside furniture near Rosehall.


In Brora we met up with Aidan and stocked up on food and beer at the Co-op. The tents were put up at the campsite and we chilled out for the rest of the afternoon getting a heat in the sun. We were joined by Tom in his M3 who came down to get the crack for a bit. A wee while later Ben and Kirsten met up with us again. A few hours later Chris arrived. The plan for the evening was to head to Captain Crabbs, one of the Massif's favourite pubs, where Gus the owner let us get a curry delivered. We waited for Smillie as we checked out the menu. And waited.

And waited.

Finally we heard Smillie coming along. He and Chris had got separated and Smillie had stopped in a cafe somewhere. Together once more we headed along to the pub. We were all starving after waiting so long and the curry was devoured with a few hiccups. 
We had a good few beers in Crabbs with Gus and a few Brora locals. We raised a glass in memory of our mate GHC. Brora was one of his favourite places.
It was a great night.

At the campsite at Brora.


Tom's M3.


Brora views.

Brora views.

Faithir at Captain Crabbs.

Smillie opted to eat on his own.


Ho ho ho

Gid time Ben?

Everyone was heading home the next day. Aidan and still had a couple of days left. We had planned to go to Applecross and get a meal in the pub, but finances were growing tight. Instead we decided to head to Kinloch Hourn. We said our goodbyes to everyone else and headed for Golspie to get food, water, drink and toilet roll. We stopped again at Invergarry to get some peat for a fire, then headed along the super scenic, super twisty, super narrow road to Kinloch Hourn. 
Kinloch Hourn is an amazing place. It really is remote compared with most of Scotland. 
We cooked a nice sausage and pasta dish between us while trying to avoid the midges. They were only out for a couple of hours, but the Hourn can be pretty mean for midges. My last Filthy Hooligan and the fire helped keep them at bay for a bit till they fucked off. Aidan and I had collected plenty firewood which kept us going all night. The only other people there were two French walkers and two Germans who had all walked in from Knoydart. 
The night was spent around the fire. I even tried some night photos again.
The next day we headed down the A82 back through Glencoe, stopping for a wee break at The Green Wellie. 

hourn pano
Kinloch Hourn was busy!

There's no electricity at Kinloch Hourn. This is the exhaust from the generator at the Farmhouse. The guy also runs a wee cafe out his house and keeps a toilet open in an outbuilding for people to use.

These two horses wander about wherever they want. They visited us in the campsite a few times.


Night time at Kinloch Hourn.



A great night to end a great trip.