Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Winton Massif - Weekends.

Most of the time I'm pretty happy to share the locations I ride my bike with everyone, like I've said before, but this isn't going to be one of these times. So if you recognise any of the locations in the pictures, please keep them under your lid.
You might be wondering why I'm unwilling to broadcast the locations, especially if you live outside Scotland or the "UK". Unfortunately, through a mix of abuse and intolerance, off road riding, especially in Scotland is thought of as a no go. It can still be done though, if you know who to ask......

Young families and other commitments meant a longer autumn Winton Massif trip wasn't on the cards, we did however plan two weekend trips. The fist was a three night affair starting at the secret bothy (mind, if you know where it is, keep it a secret.) Aidan and I met Drew and Mark who walked in, led by Finn the spaniel. We always make sure we bring plenty fuel for the fire and Drew and Mark had done the same. A night in front of a bothy fire is something everyone should experience once in their lives, they're remote nature also let you experience proper quiet. All we could hear outside were the stags and the river. It wasn't a particularly cold evening and the bothy's fire had led us to pen the door for a bit to let the place cool down. We were pretty surprised to have our card game interrupted by two women who walked in about 10.30pm. No matter how many people are in a bothy, there's always room for more and the door is never locked. The ladies were welcomed in and offered beers. They were doing some walking in the area, staying in the bothy for a couple of nights, luckily the bothy has a couple of rooms so they didn't have to suffer us lot farting and snoring all night.

September massif trip
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We awoke to a stunning day. We all said our goodbyes to the walkers who headed to the hills while we split our separate ways. Aidan and I made our way to the A82 and took the roar up the east side of Loch Ness. This is a much quieter route that the tour bus and caravan clogged artery on the other side, it's got some great views too. We'd originally planned to head over to the Isle of Raasay, we'd tried a couple of years ago on the Spit The Dummy tour but it absolutely pissed it down, so we binned the wild camping in favour of a site with a shelter. This time it was, well, time that had us a bit fucked. Aidan was riding home the next day and the long run from Raasay wasn't favouring as well as the shorter cruise from Cannich, our mates Ben and Euan were also at Cannich. So once again wild camping on Rassay was binned, but this time for the better reason of good company rather than shite weather.

September massif trip

September massif trip

In the bothy Aidan had cooked us a dinner of Carbonara (with cream and no eggs, the heathen) and tonight it was my turn. While Euan and Ben were in the pub having a home made meal. I was slaving over my stove preparing our food. Boil in the bag pasta and meatballs tanned, we headed to the pub and discussed the following days plans. Euan and I had planned to camp at Glencoe, but Ben had been worriedly checking the weather forecast and it wasn't looking good. When it's rains in Glencoe, it really rains....... 
We'll check it again tomorrow.
Over breakfast we discussed our options. Aidan was definitely going home, as was Ben. Euan said he was going home but could maybe be persuaded to have another night somewhere and I was going somewhere. Aidan packed up and headed off while the rest of us dragged our heels and Euan chucked his bike on the ground. After we quickly checked Euan's bike (no damage at all, it was on soft grass) we headed back to Loch Ness and south on the A82. I found the busy road surprisingly quiet and enjoyed my run south. It's a great road, just very busy. It's a special feeling when you get a few miles to yourself, even with the slightly damp conditions we had on our ride. Damp was as bad as it got. At the Commando Memorial Euan pulled over. He wasn't heading home. Two of us were now heading to Glencoe. We both looked at Ben.
"?"
"We'll need to stop at the shop for some beer and stuff"
Sorted.

September massif trip

I've not been to the Red Squirrel for years. The popular campsite is situated between Glencoe village and the Clachaig Inn. To be honest, there's much better campsites around than the Red Squirrel. The ground is rocky and there's roots everywhere. The ground is muddy and often swampy in some places and it's pretty expensive for a campsite, but there's something people love about the place, me included. Deer roam about the site, you can have a campfire and you get drinking water out of taps in trees. If you're planning a visit to the Red Squirrel I'd recommend going mid week or on a Sunday like we did. Much less chance of it being full of the Buckfast and Football Top brigade, 
Being a September Sunday the campsite was pretty quiet but as we scavenged around the other fire pits for wood it was pretty obvious it had been busy the night before. We found quite a bit of firewood to go with the logs we bought from the shop, and Ben gathered more semi wet wood lying about the place. Eventually the downpour that was forecast arrived, but luckily Ben had brought his tarp so a shelter was quickly thrown up, the wettish wood giving us a smokey shield against the midges.

September massif trip
red squirrel Glencoe

After a while we wandered along to the Clachaig for some food. You're always guaranteed a good night out in the Clachaig, meeting people from all walks of life and sampling some of the huge selection of beers, whisky and gin. The food's pretty good too.
The following morning's fry up us saw us fully fueled for the ride home. No matter how busy it is, the road through Glencoe is a joy to ride. The scenery is spectacular in all weather, even when the tops of the hills are hidden in cloud like they were. Further south though it's no so good so we cut off the A82 at Killin and I led the guys along the side of Loch Tay then over some of the wee, single track roads I know in the area.

September massif trip

A couple of weeks later I was away again! But I'll tell you about that later. 
These short weekend trips are great.......

IMG_20170923_172557_187

Mike



Like what you see? If you want to join Mike on a tour of Scotland give him a shout at www.PassingPlacesTours.com

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Adventure Bike Rider.


Adventure Bike Rider magazine Norway article.


In July, Faithir and I set off on a bike trip that was a bit longer than our usual trips. I'd tell you all about it, but Adventure Bike Rider have it in their current magazine (September/October 2017 issue)
Needless to say I'm pretty happy about being paid for my words and photographs.
If you'd like a copy you can buy it online here https://www.adventurebikerider.com or maybe find it in your local newsagents.
The plan was to ride to Nordkapp via the Lofoten then on to Russia, but I wont spoil the story for you.....

Adventure Bike Rider magazine Norway article.
Adventure Bike Rider magazine Norway article.
Adventure Bike Rider magazine Norway article.
Adventure Bike Rider magazine Norway article.

Mike

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Black Widow Exhausts de-cat downpipe for the Africa Twin - Review

Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes

If you are like me, an Africa Twin owner, you probably think it’s a great looking bike, but I’m sure everyone will agree the stock exhaust looks horrendous. Not only that, the big black plastic cover for the catalytic converter’s heat shield catches my foot all the time. In their genius, Honda decided to make the cat part of the downpipes rather than part of the silencer. I’m pretty happy with the Africa Twin’s performance so I didn’t see the point in forking out loads of cash on a fancy “race system” to solve my ergonomic/aesthetic problem. I was pretty close to cutting the cat out myself and getting a de-cat pipe made up for the bike, when I came across the new de-cat downpipes from Black Widow Exhausts. At £330 they are easily the cheapest aftermarket downpipes available for the Africa Twin. Made from 1.5mm thick 304 grade stainless steel, they follow the shape of the factory downpipes so there were no issues with the lambda sensor fouling my aftermarket crash bars. The Black Widow downpipes should work with all aftermarket sump/engine guards too. This is great as I’ve read online that a few people have had compatibility problems with other more expensive systems and aftermarket accessories.


Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes


Fitting the Black Widow Downpipes is pretty straight forwards. They come supplied with exhaust assembly paste and are held together by springs. These can be a bit of a fiddle to get on but a spring hook will make the job much easier. Make sure you clean off any excess paste once the system is assembled. I’m still running the standard silencer but the Black Widow downpipes have vastly improved the aesthetics of the bike. Gone is the horrible plastic lump.


Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes


With the standard silencer the Black Widow downpipes are only slightly louder than the stock system but with a deeper, satisfying note. The Black Widow downpipes are compatible with any silencer that fits the standard system so there’s plenty choice if you fancy a change. I was slightly concerned about the lack of heat shields. I melted a hole in an expensive pair of Alpinestars boots on a Harley several years ago, and I’ve been wary ever since. Luckily the way the Black Widow system fits the bike keeps hot pipes well away from both rider and pillion’s footwear. I have run the system for about 800 miles now and there have been zero hot pipe to boot interactions.


Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes

Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes


I’m really happy with the Black Widow downpipes. After being on the bike through lots of rain, mud and even a small river the finish is still perfect. No longer is my foot catching the plastic cover which has made the bike that bit more comfortable. Black Widow don’t claim any increase of power, but as I said, I wasn’t looking for any big gains so I’ve not went down the dyno/power commander route. I’m only running a Booster Plug on my bike to enrich the fuel/air mixture a bit, as removing the cat can cause the engine to run a little lean. If I had to be critical of any part of the downpipes, I found the finish on one of the brackets a little rough, but that really is me nit picking. If you’re after an affordable, well made, great looking set of de-cat downpipes for your Africa Twin then look no further than Black Widow Exhausts. www.blackwidowexhausts.co.uk


To give a bit of an idea on how to fit the system and what it sounds like I made this wee video to go along with my review.




Black Widow Exhaust Downpipes


Mike.