Friday, August 4, 2017

Winton Massif - Auld bike trip.

I know, I know, It's been ages since I've posted anything up, but this time its due to being busy rather than lazy! I've got loads of stuff to write up. I've got a bunch of stuff that I've been reviewing, I've done a few trips and I've done my first trip with Passing Places Tours with two more booked up! Happy days!
Back in April Ferg had an idea for a bike trip. Quite a few of us in the Massif are now lucky enough to have more than one bike. Ferg wanted to do an "Auld bike run," taking our older bikes, rather than our usual steeds. It was a four night trip, two night s at a Hostel in Flodigarry on Skye, and two nights at Tobermory hostel on Mull. Due to work commitments I could only make it to Mull. My Kawasaki ZZR had just went over the 100000 mile mark, completing Mission ZZR, so I chose to take that. Ferg took his old XT which he'd just recently put back on the road. Yachtmaster Coastal (Ferg's Dad) Took his BMW R80, Mikey Sunter took his XT660 Tenere,  Snake was on his Harley, Fairthir and Chris Jones only done the Mull part as well, Faithir on his old BMW R100GSPD and Chris on his 1200GSA, having had some trouble with his old bike. We were also joined by newcomer Tex, on his BMW R100RT.

Will it need run in again?

Faithir and Chris had left earlier in the day, so I had a wet solo run past the Kelpies which thankfully dried up over Rannoch Moor. Chris was only up from England for the one night, so it made sense for them to get away eary and make the most of the day.
The big Zed was running great for a bike that had went round the clock, the fairing was giving pretty good protection from the wind too. There was still a dusting of snow on the hills, giving a touch more drama to the usual stunning scenery, the A82 running relatively quiet before the summertime surge of tourist buses, campervans and caravans. 

Kawasaki ZZR1100 at Rannoch Moor

Kawasaki ZZR1100 at Rannoch Moor

Two minutes on the Corran ferry got me to Ardgour. I had planned on riding to Lochaline along the coast road round by Kilmalieu, but with the weather closing in I really couldn't be arsed getting soaked, I'd have seen fuck all in the mist anyway. Instead I nipped into visit my mate Tim at Sunart Camping, ADV Scotland, I think that's who it was anyway, were having a rally there so I nipped into say hello to anyone left, and scrounge a brew from Tim. I was blabbering away went I suddenly realised the time, or rather that I didn't know what time it was.  
"Shite, what time is it Tim?"
"Half three."
"Fuck sake!!"
I had only 30 minutes to get to Lochaline. It's only about 20 miles, but that was along, wet, greasy sheep and deer filled singletrack roads. Even Google maps says it'll take 55 minutes....
The ZZR may be 24 years old, but it's still very, very fast. And with the 4 into 1 on it, very very loud. I was screaming along the road, the loud pipe warning all the sheep, and everyone else within a 5 mile radius. There must have been one deaf sheep kicking about, because the wooly daft bastard wandered right out in front of me, casually sidestepping as I went past with the front locked up.
I made it on the ferry with about ten seconds to spare. Braw.



The guys were all hanging around outside the hostel when I rolled into Tobermory. We were all staying there except Snake, Tex and Mikey, who were up in the campsite. Bike chat ensued, as well as the usual slagging and other craic. The evening was spent out in Tobermory, where Tex's short temper earned him his nickname. We had told him we were calling him Tex because of his cowboy style mustache, but it was really short for Semtex. 

Tobermory and the Winton MAssif

Tobermory and the Winton MAssif


Tobermory and the Winton MAssif

Everyone did their own thing for a bit the following day, we had to say our goodbyes to Chris, as he was heading home. Mull is one of my favorite islands. I spend the following day having a run around Mull's north coast with Yachtmaster and Faithir. The ZZR was pretty hard work on the bumpy, gravel strewn roads compared to my last visit on the Africa Twin. The scenery was as stunning as always though and I really enjoyed crashing about the place on the old Kawasaki. The sun was out making the April afternoon feel almost summery. We even caught a glimpse of some Sea Eagles.
Tobermory, Snake, Tex and Mikey

Dervaig Views

Calgary Bay and Kawasaki ZZR1100

ZZR on Mull



ZZR1100 on Mull

A chippy was bought from the van at the harbour followed by another nice night out in the Mishnish. Even Tex had calmed down. Fergus had come up with some bizarre formula where everyone's bike was rated to see what was the best Auld Bike of the Auld Bike Trip. His formula turned out to be a load of shite, so we put it to a vote, Faithir's R100 GS PD winning. The tasteless buffoons had rated the ZZR way down the list!!
Yachtmaster Costal at Tobermory

Winton Massif at Tobermory


An easy run home via the ferry raised a question in my head. I'd achieved what I'd set out to do with the ZZR. It had been round the clock and I'd done a wee trip on it. I really needed the space and Rick always said to give him first dibs to buy it back, which is exactly what he done! I'm happy to say it got him back to Germany with no dramas.
Maybe I'll buy it back once he's done another 90000 miles on it.



Fancy coming on a tour with Mike? Have a look at and give him a shout.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Passing Places Tours.

I've set up a new venture, Passing Places Tours! For a while I've been offering folk advice on where to go in Scotland for the best motorcycle holidays, so I've started a motorbike tour company. The way I see it, I've gained enough knowledge and experience over the years to offer a great wee trip without costing people a fortune.

Winton Massif - Last Trip of 2013

I've got my first trip coming up, so I'm getting a wee bit nervous. I'm taking 14 folk away on a one night trip to Applecross. I'm charging my clients £85 for this first trip. The cost covers a night's accommodation at Hartfield House in Applecross, a three course meal in the Applecross Inn and a guide to show you the way, me. 

ferg bealach top pano

I must have done something right, because all my spaces sold out within a week! So if you want to come on one of my planned trips, or you'd like me to show you around, check out my new website,


Monday, April 3, 2017

Honda CRF250 Rally - Review


My Africa Twin was going in to Two Wheels in Edinburgh for some warranty work and while it was there I was given the new CRF250 Rally to have a shot on. My initial thoughts on this bike were that it looked ok, but it would be a fashion over function "adventure" styled commuter bike. I figured a modern 250 four stoke would be pretty flat and boring, I've found a couple of the larger four stroke singles to be pretty uninspiring so surely a wee 250 strangled by emission standards would be the same?


Leavimg the shop the bike was fine, cutting through the city traffic easily. The bike's capacity might be wee but it's got a nice tall seat height, so you can see over cars and plan your filtering without any dramas. One the roads opened up I was surprised by how much grunt the wee engine put out. I could easily stay with traffic and the bike sat at 70 mph without shaking me or itself to bits. The ditchfinder tyres were a bit vague, but all these road based knobbly tyres seem to have similar feedback. The CRF's 24 bhp wasn't exactly going to light the back end up and its relatively light weight helped too. On the subject of weight I had thought that the CRF250 Rally weighed in at around 165kg, but its actually 157kg fully fueled up. This is still on the heavy side for a dirt bike, apparently it's down to the frame and the heavy, non race spec engine. The upside of this anchor weight motor is that service intervals are nice and long (8000 miles I think) and it only needs a tiny sip of fuel to produce its 24 horses. 
Getting out on to the more rural roads exposed some of the weakness of the wee 250cc motor. My 16 stone bulk combined with a hill proved a bit of an effort and you need to plan your overtaking if there's dithering drivers around. 


On the rural back roads the bike was great fun, but the CRF250 is a proper trail bike, so I headed to the dirt roads and green lanes in the hills. This is where the bike really shines. The soft, nonadjustable suspension lets the bike fly over lumps and bumps while the brakes do a grand job keeping you in control. You can turn the rear ABS off to do skids and the bike's lightish weight means you can dab your foot down without fear of snapping your leg off. I only ventured properly off road once. To get to the cairn there's not really a track, just a boggy bit which I got the CRF250 stuck in, finding the limits of road tyres and 150 kg. It was easy enough to push the bike out of the slop though. 



I carried on down to the coast for a bag of chips before battering up some A roads to Greaser's to show him and Faithir the bike. The extra £900 on the cost of the Rally compared to the standard CRF250l gets you a bigger fuel tank, longer suspension, upgraded brakes, a better headlight and the fairing, which works pretty well. The temperature had dropped and I appreciated the protection the wee fairing gave as I rode the 20 miles or so to Greaser's.


I really enjoyed the wee Honda. If you're looking for a bike to commute on that you could have fun on in more rural areas then I'd recommend it. It's no crosser or dakar bike, but still great fun to chuck about the back roads and trails. It's expensive for what it is too, at £5300. I wonder how much second hand ones will start going for.....?



Like what you see on the blog? Mike has launched a motorcycle tour company! Give a look to join him.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Honda Africa Twin - One year on.

This time last year I was dropping my new Africa Twin in for its 600 mile service. Since then I’ve covered nearly 10000 miles on it. I’ve been up north a few times on it, visited several of our islands, toured Europe with HB and had loads of other days out, so how’s it been?
Honda CRF1000l Africa Twin



I'm pretty happy, the bike has been great so far. There’s been a few wee niggles. I’ve always said never to buy the first generation of a new bike as there’ll always be these minor issues. The Africa Twin’s been no different. The “SET” button to control the onboard computer got a bit sticky, the finish on the spokes has went a bit shite and the heated grips don’t really make much heat. Honda has been good to deal with though, and everything is getting sorted under warranty. Apart from these minor issues the bike has been 100% reliable.

Africa Twin at Kylesku

achiltibuie to lochinver AT pano

Somewhere on Hoy, Orkney.

R1150GS and Africa Twin at Duncansby Head Lighthouse.

Continental Trail Attack 2 tyres have made a huge difference to the bike, giving much more confidence in the wet. The stock Dunlops were OK in the dry but horrendous in the wet, twitching and sliding unpredictably.  I still feel the brakes could be slightly stronger, but the performance of the bike is still more than adequate. The handling is spot on, the Africa Twin feeling far lighter than it’s 232kg wet weight. I was concerned that the bike would toil a bit when fully loaded with a pillion but a quick tweak to the preload and damping of the rear shock had us sorted. The bike took us around the Black Forest and over the Alps without any dramas and returned 50mpg despite me booting its arse up the hills. The Touratech luggage has been great. The position of my Zega Mundo boxes proving themselves more pillion friendly than Faithir’s Bumot panniers.  I do like the wee toolbox that Bumot do. Cosmetically the only thing I really want to do to the bike is get an aftermarket exhaust. I’m still not a big fan of the ugly catalytic converter and its heat shield that looks like Darth Vader’s helmet. The cat is part of the downpipes so It’ll need to be a whole new system to change it. One other thing that’s impressed me is the Scottoiler. It’s simple to use, relatively clean and the chain hasn’t needed much adjustment if any between servicing. I’d recommend a Scottoiler for any chain driven bike.





africa twin bealach na ba pano 2

Africa twin Buachaille

phone pics from euro tour
So am I happy with the Africa Twin? Yes. Yes I am. I had the big GS on a pedestal for years thinking it couldn’t be matched for the riding I do, but the Africa Twin has shown me there are other bikes out there that are more than capable. Like the big BMW the Honda is a bit of a victim of its own success from the people that mistake it for a dirt bike. Sure, it’ll handle a rough dirt road or green lane but treat it like a Dakar Rally Raid machine and you’ll likely have some big repair bills. Servicing has been another revelation, with the Africa Twin far cheaper to maintain than the GS. For me it’s a return to a more basic bike. The lack of a complicated electronics package and an expensive shaft drive is one of the things that drew me to it. The Honda is slightly down on power when compared to other big traillies but 95 horses is more than enough for me. I don’t find myself battering off the limiter all the time or running out of gears. On a closed (cough) road it was a fair bit quicker in a straight line than an 1150GS but nowhere near a tiger 1050. It sounds great, even with that standard exhaust and is comfortable enough for all day riding. My bike is a manual one and at a push I can get 200 miles from the 18 litre tank. I’ve spoken to a few guys with the DCT model (Honda’s automatic/semi auto gearbox) who have said that they can only get 150 miles from the tank. HB says there’s more room on the back of the Africa Twin than there was on the GSA and she finds it more comfortable too. There's been a few folk complaining that Honda used tubed wheels, but I don't have an issue with changing a tube. 
The Africa Twin still brings a big smile to my face in the same way as my 1150GS did. I’ve got some big plans for this year with it....

Bealach Na Ba