Bike passed MOT :-D

My GSX1100F powerscreen passed it’s MOT today, so I’ve just taxed it on-line. I must say that appears to be a government IT system that appears to work – I just typed in the reference number from the registration form, and it found the fact that the bike is insured and that the MOT has been done, and all I had to do was provide a credit card to pay the bill, and my new tax disc is in the post.

Now I’ve really got to do more mileage on it this year than I did last year.

Gatso and bikes

This story really made me chuckle a little today.
v sign biker take by gatso
Basically a guy on a bike had been regularly passing a speed camera above the posted limit, but it was one of those cameras that face the front of the vehicle. Because motorbikes don’t have number plates on the front, this guy thought that he was safe, and at one point even felt cool enough to flick the ‘V’s at the camera while doing 105mph.

This annoyed the local Bedfordshire constabulary, to the extent that they identified the model of the bike with the assistance of BMW, then trawled the DVLA registration database to find out that there were only three of that model of bike locally in the area. (A reasonable assumption from the repeat offences)

They then proceeded to look at each of those and identified Philip Coffey by his leathers and the extra headlights that he had added to the bike.

He was given a years ban from driving for the 10 offences, was let off the 72 penalty points given the ban, and was fined £900 and ordered to pay £600 costs. Of course, as he made his crust by driving buses, he’s lost that job as well.

Now I do consider myself lucky to live in a county where there are no fixed cameras – we have mobile units, but they’re in published locations, and pretty sensible ones if you ask me, well except for the one at Southgate junction, which usually has stationary traffic at any times when I’m going through it. We also have some of the best biking roads in the country, but then most people already know that as attested by the 300+ bikes on the prom every weekend during the summer.

Mind you, auntie beeb has been scaremongering again with her typical tabloid reporting on Week In Week Out this week. They appear to enjoy finding the most extreme, irresponsible arseholes and promoting their antics on television, giving a very distorted view of the biking community.

They also appeared to present a picture which indicates that the number of fatalities was on the increase over a number of years, yet BikeSafe Dyfed-Powys indicates a reduction in fatalities over a number of years.

And one last thing that has been annoying me for a while now:
Birdbox or fake gatso.
(Apologies for the rubbish photo)
It has been vandalised, but it keeps reappearing. Apparently it’s a birdbox…come on – what self respecting bird is going to nest in that thing, that close to the road.

Charlie and Ewan are off again!

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are off on a bike trip of a lifetime again – this time it’s the Long Way Down from John O’Groats to Capetown.

Good luck guys, I’m looking forward to another great TV series from this one.

I’ve just booked my GSX in for it’s MOT, so it’s ready for a bit of a trip later on this summer, but I’ve still not decided where… Never mind – I set out for a 2000 mile trip last year with only a weeks planning, and that went great (apart from the camera dying)

France Photos

Well, I have finally got up all of the photos that I managed to take whilst in France. 2006france/DSC_1241.jpg (Click on the picture and it takes you to one of the photos in the album – there are about 90 photos there.)

Some are badly exposed because of the problems with the exposure mechanism in the D70, which is about to be posted off to Nikon UK for free repair.
I will write more about the trip later.

Murphy’s law

Well, I go off to France on the bike for a week, and what do you know, we have a thunderstorm, a power cut, and although I upgraded the server so that it comes up clean after a power cut, I forgot to set the BIOS to power on when power returns, so the server was offline for pretty much the whole of my trip.
I got back to Aberystwyth earlier today, and have just been in to switch the machine back on, and have remembered to change that BIOS setting and save it to CMOS so that it should come back up automatically again in the future.

Now I can upload some of the photos I managed to take with the D70 before it came down with the dreaded “flashing green light of death” – a support call to Nikon customer services is in order first thing Monday morning for a return authorisation.

I almost thought that I’d have no photos, as the CF card reader that we have at home doesn’t appear to work very happily with MacOS, and it corrupted all the photos that it brought across, so I ended up having to import them on Suzy’s windows laptop and put them onto the file server, and get them across to the Mac that way.

The journey home

Saturday morning, and I have to get the chain fixed. I phone Fowlers, and they almost laugh at the idea that I want a chain fitting – they’ve got no space for about a month in their workshop. They do give me a couple of other places I could try though – the first of which offers me a week on Monday, so I phone M R Motorcycles. “Sure, bring it down – we’ve got one on the ramp, but if you’re here in about an hour, we’ll put it straight on” That’s what I call service – I pop down and good as their word as soon as I pull up outside the mechanic wheels it stright in.
The front sprocket I’ve got on there is non standard – it’s a 15 point, and the standard is 14 – I have a 15 put back on, it makes touring easier – gives slightly longer legs between gears, the GSX1100 is renowned for having it’s ratios set too close together. The chain that is taken off is 120 link – and they’ve only got the standard 118 link in – not sure if that’ll fit with the larger front sprocket – I might have to go for the 14 after all, but it goes on fine, and my wallet is £166 lighter. They also had a lovely Norton Commando 850 in there for four grand, but I don’t think tha Suzy would ever forgive me.

Back to Suzy’s parents for some lunch, and the bike feels so much better for the new chain – the old one had started to wear itself against the swinging arm – the tyre will wait until I get back to Aber and Cambrian Tyres.

It’s tough getting back on the bike – I’m aching, and it’s the last leg, less than two hundred miles back home. Back on the M4, then as I turn off onto the A470 I see a brand new Ferrari at the lights in front of me. Now the GSX has a new chain on it, and I’ve filled the oil up again – this guy just can’t out accelerate me – I’m sure that if he kept the hammer down he would have got away easily as his top speed would be better than I could manage on the bike, but I can still do 0-60 in under 3 seconds, and I don’t care what car you have it simply can’t compete with that type of acceleration. He gets to Merthyr and turns off – I carry on over the Beacons, and stop at the biker caff on just after the summit – if you’ve ever been over the Brecon Beacons on the A470, you know where I mean – the big layby on the corner. A mug of good caff tea, and a natter with some guys up from Cardiff for a day out, and I’m back on the road home again.

Boy it’s good to be home, now where shall I go next year… I’ve learned a lot about touring on a bike – mainly take a couple of days off after a thousand miles riding, and take a mate or two with you – if anyone want’s to tour for a week or two next year, then drop me a line…

France Trip part 5

Friday 7th July 2006

Well, my gauntlets are still damp this morning, but at least the map has dried out, it’s a little wrinkled, but readable, and tha pages aren’t all stuck together this morning. It’s a realtivel early start, I want to take things easy today what with the state of the chain. Anyway, my train isn’t due to depart Calais until 22:30, so I’ve got loads of time. I phoned Suzy last night to see if she could find a guest houst or B&B somewhere near New Romney, so I’ll have to make sure that I phone her about lunchtime to find out if she’s booked anything yet.

I planned my route last night, and decided that I would definately avoid Paris – I don’t want to get caught up there again. so I head off towards Chartres on the N20 and N154. I spot the signs to Le Mans, but resist the temptation of going to visit, and carry on towards Dreux, Evreux and Rouen keeping to the N roads.

I’m getting overly obsessed with the noise that the chain is making now – it was so much nicer being unaware of it yesterday, but then again I’m probably overreacting. I have had a chain snap on me before though on my old CB250 – coming onto a roundabout the chain snapped, wrapped itself round the back axle, locked the back wheel, and I had to lay the bike down, ending up wih both the wheels touching the middle of the roudabout. Fortunately it was the roudabout at Llangurig, and not very busy, so I was able to pick the bike up and get out of the way before anyone else came to run me over. Anyway – I get onto the A28 at Rouen, Calais is already signposted, which is one of the first times I’ve seen a signpost for a large town this far away – I’d already memorised Abbeville, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais, and now I don’t need to remember those.

I follow the A16 all the way to Calais, and end up at the terminal a few hours too early – it’s 13:53 when I check in and get the hanger ticket, and I am offered the next departure – at this rate I’ll be back in Blighty by 14:00 (with the hour back).
There’s a reasonable amount of bikes around now, and I chat to a few of them as we queue. I meet a couple who have been down to Venice – it was too hot or them down there, and they came back and stayed with friends in France. It appears for a few minutes that only 3 out of the waiting 6 bikes are going to be allowed onto the train, but they manage to squeeze us all on.

Back in England – rememebr to drive on the left – I stop at the services and meet the same guys we shared the train with. Fortunately, when I phoned Suzy at lunch she hadn’t booked anything, so I’m heading to her parents in Bristol to spend the night. It takes an age to fight my way round the M25 – it’s so different to the clear motorways in France, and I remember that it’s Friday night and it looks like the whole of London is leaving the city on the way to their weekend houses in the Cotswolds, as the M4 is not much better than the M25.

I make it to Bristol about 17:30 – checking the mileage I’ve done exactly 2000 miles since 9:30 Monday morning, and boy does my bum know about it – my shoulders are also aching, too long stuck in one position. The bed feels good and I sleep well.

France Trip part 4

Thursday 6th July 2006

Carcassonne – reputedly the best preserved medieval walled city in the world. A UNESCO world heritage site. 2006france/DSC_1268.jpg I’m looking around at 7:30 in the morning, before the sun gets too high in the sky – it’s been really hot the last few days, and I wan to get a few miles under me before it gets too hot to ride. The camera takes a couple of photos, before the exposeures start going mad, so I’m on the road again.

The A61 to Toulouse is payage, so instead I decide to take the N113, and I’m riding through fields of sunfllowers. The camera is now completely dead, but I remember my mobile phone, knowing that Ben would be fascinated I snap off a photo of the sunflowers 2006france/DSC00011.jpg. The sun is up, but there’s a lot of mist around, and there’s a wonderful atmosphere to the landscapes shrouded in mist.

I join the motorway to skirt round Toulouse, and spot off to the left an Ariane rocket! My thoughts return to work, as it reminds me of Beagle 2, but I’m on the motorway, past it and into the toll booths on the A62 north to Montauban. The weather is somewhat overcast and every so often we get a light shower – not enough to need the waterproofs yet, but I take the opportunity to stop at a couple of rest areas take a drink, and let the bike cool off at bit as I climb up into the Pyrenees. Later into the morning I meet a group of four or five British bikers who have been down to Nice and they spent a few days on the beach down there, and were on their way back to Dieppe, but their ferry wasn’t due until Monday, so they can take it easy on the way back north. I’ve got to be in Orleans tonight to be in with a chance of catching my train back to the UK on time.

The miles roll past on the A20 through Brive-la-Galliarde, Limoges, Chateauroux, and before I know it I’m in Vierzon and I choose to take the N20 to Orleans – it’s been raining quite heavily for an hour or so now, and I can keep my own pace on the N road. The pace is slow, and at some points I simply have to stop – the rain is so heavy that I can feel it hitting me through the leathers and the waterproofs, and I can only see about twenty to thirty meters in front of me – thank goodness for laybays to be able to stop and let the cars pass me, and take shelter while the lightning strikes within half a mile.
The few miles up the N20 seem to take hours, but the rain finally eases shortly before Orleans, and as I stop to fill up with petrol, and get another litre of oil for the engine, the rain has all but stopped. I keep the waterproofs on for the last few miles, and manage to navigate myself to la Chapelle-St-Mesmin in the west siide of Orleans, and after a little while of randomly wandering around an industrial estate I find my way to the Formule 1. The gentleman on thhe desk is the first member of staff there that speaks passable english, although by now I’m starting to get used to hearing and speaking French.

I peel off my soggy gloves and waterproofs, note the mileage at 63153 – over 500 miles today. My fingers and toes are stained blue from the colouring in the gloves and boots – I really need the shower, and hang everything out to dry, including the map – I wasn’t quick enough with the tank bag cover a couple of times today. I’ve got to plan a route for tomorrow – I still haven’t forgotten my Paris experience, and I want to avoid that at all costs. The chain on the bike is looking a bit ropey, I take the last bit of adjustment up but it’s still lookser than I would have liked – I’ll have to take it gently tomorrow – see about a new chain in the UK.

France Trip part 3

Wednesday 5th July 2006

Day 3 is the day where I am supposed to get to look around, but I’m a little worried about the overheating yesterday. I had done a route plan before I left wiih lots of detail including cost of tolls on the motorways – but I’ve already ditched most of that… the only thing I’ve really stuck to have been the overnight hotel stops, which are pre-booked.

So I leave Montlucon about 8:30 and head off towards Clermont Ferrand on the N144 – saving more money by avoiding the payage, and seeing a little more of the country. Somewhere along the way near Menat, I spot a chateau sitting on the hillside across the valley, so I pull in at a convenient viewing point at a layby and take the camera out. 2006france/DSC_1215.jpg
It turns out to be 2006france/DSC_1210.jpg Chateau Rocher.

I arrive in Clemont Ferrand, and make my way onto the A75 – it has been built with European Objective One funding to open up the Massif Central, and has really made it more accessible, but as such cannot be a toll road, so it’s now clear driving down to the Viaduct de Millau. There is a good service area at Severac-le-Chateau shortly before the viaduct, and I stop off there for lunch – I buy what turns out to be a cheese dog – it looked like a cheese salad baguette to me, but when the girl put it in the microwave my suspicions started to be raised. It tasted ok, but I knew that I’d pay for it in the next day or two.
I also managed to pick up a DVD documentary about the building of the viaduct, and as I looked out of the back of the resturant I saw another walled town on top of a hill, it appears that they’re all over the place here 2006france/DSC_1219.jpg

A few miles down the road and the toll plaza comes into view – the viaduct itself has a toll – so I pay that and then turn off immediately into the viaduct viewing area. There is still a lot of construction here, but I get a good view of what I’ve ridden a thousand miles to see 2006france/DSC_1242.jpg It’s two and a half kilometers long, and high enough that the Eiffel tower could almost fit beneath the road deck. The design of the viewing area is interesting, as both the Northbound and Southbound traffic are able to get off here, but the two roadways are separated by an area of earth (no grass has grown yet) so that if you enter Northbound then you cannot turn round and leave Southbound.
I take several photos, but the camera is really starting to play up now, a lot are badly exposed, and I make sure to switch to a different memory card, just in case it’s a problem with one of the cards. With any luck, I think, one of the cards will turn out OK. It turns out later to be a fatal problem with the camera, so I manage to get all of the photos, but the badly exposed ones are of course still badly exposed.

I cross the viaduct about 15:30, and coninue along the A75 towards Montepellier, stopping to have a drink, as the weather is starting to warm up again as I approach the edge of the Massif, the service area is newly built by a church on a hill 2006france/DSC_1253.jpg.

I start down off the plateau, and the road gets a little steep 2006france/DSC_1255.jpg having just come through one of the tunnels on the picture, the road continues down the 7.5% slope that it has had for the last kilometer or so for another two and a half, with some quite tight turns along the way. The Aire Belvedere de l’Escalette is one of the most basic that I have seen, only having parking and a telephone, but it has one of the most stunning views. 2006france/DSC_1259.jpg

Getting down onto the coastal strip the temperature soars again, and I follow the N113 along to Beziers and then to Carcassonne for the overnight stop. I have checked the directions to tonight’s stop a number of times, and manage to find tonight’s hotel without any outside help – it also helps that it’s on the road that I am taking into Carcassonne, and right next to a vineyard 2006france/DSC_1266.jpg

I’ve now done a thousand miles since leaving Aberystwyth, and have started heading back North, and it feels different to be heading home now – I’ve settled into a routine with the bike, and am now getting used to some of it’s regular noises – there appear to be some noises that I don’t recognise – were they there before, or am I just noticing them now as I’m ignoring some of the other regular ones. I’m as far from home as I’m going to be, and know that I’ve got another thousand miles to do, and boy does my bum know that I’ve done so many miles so far. If I ever do this again, I will have to break the journey after this sort of time and distance and have a couple of days. I can’t though – I have to be on the road again early in the morning, to make it to Orleans tomorrow – I’ll have an hour or two to take some photos around Carcassonne in the morning though…

France Trip part 2

Tuesday 4th July 2006

Early start – breakfast at 6:30, bike packed and on the road about 7:15 and onto the N43 towards Bethune, the D937 to Arras, then some difficulty with reading signs and end up a the road to Amiens. Arriving in Amiens I spot a Carrefour, and decide to fill up with cheap petrol, buy some food and flip-flops, as walking around the hotel in the bike boots is not very practical. I checked the oil before leaving in the morning, and I need to find a some engine oil, and there appears to be a Halfords type store next to Carrefour called Norauto, so I buy a litre of oil and some bungees (you never know when you’ll need them), and top the engine oil up. It’s about 10:45 when I get back on the road again. I take the N1 towards Paris through Beauvais, taking it easy on the N1, and arrive in St-Denis.

Now, I don’t know Paris very well, I have been here a couple of times, but never driven in the city. It’s getting to lunchtime, and starting to get quite hot, but I know I want to go pretty much straight out the other side toards Orleans. I’m looking for signs for anywhere that I recognise – nothing…

I spot signs for Gare du Nord, but end up in the wrong lane and end up heading off down the boulevards towards the Arc de Triomphe, but getting nowehere at all fast, as the traffic is pretty much stationary. It’s now getting very hot, as is the bike, and starting to smell a bit oily, so I decide to stop for a while, when I can find somewhere and try to ascertain where I am and let the bike cool off a bit.

I stop in the centre of a Boulevard, just outside Anvers Metro station – it’s about 12:30pm 2006france/DSC_1204.jpg – I think that I know where I’ve gone wrong, and I need to head back towards Gare du Nord.
A couple walk past, and she takes an interest in the bike – doesn’t say anything, just looks a lot, especially at the speedo, and seems impressed by the maximum indication on there, I make polite conversation, but they don’t appear to speak English, and my French is minimal. They wander off, with him swigging from his can of lager. A couple of minutes later he comes back, and starts to talk earnestly in French at me – I understand very little, but he is definately trying to indicate something about his wife, and I start to feel that this is not a conversation that I want to have any part of – I’ve been propositioned by women before, but this is something different again… He eventually gives up for a while, but I get the impression that he may be back soon, so I decide to move on…

Look back at the last photo, and the relative position of the bike and the large hoarding… now consider that I want to go forwards a few feet and then turn left… the panniers are held on by a relatively thin piece of metal when compared to that poster display, and now the left hand one is on the ground. I said eariler that you never know when you’ll need bungees, well I am so glad that I bought them a few hours ago, as I work out how to use the two largest bungees to re-attach the pannier to the sde rails.

I head back off down the boulevards, eventually finding myself outside the back of the Pompidou Centre with the bike again getting very hot, and I’m overheating somewhat as well – I need to stop, so pull the bike onto the pavement outside a patisserie on the Rue du Renard, buy a couple of pastries, and pull a can out of the tank bag. 2006france/DSC_1207.jpg
Time goes by, and the bike cools, it’s now about 3pm and there have been a couple of spots of rain and a few cracks of thunder. the traffic appears to be moving a little quicker now and I have examined the map in some detail – straight down here, a jink to the right, and I should be crossing the Seine, then follow straight down towards Porte d’Orleans, and I’ll deal with getting to Orleans from there I’ve still got a lot of riding today, as I’m booked in Montlucon tonight. I just want to get out of Paris – more slow moving traffic – I attempt some filtering, but forget how wide I am with panniers on, and rub a little against the corner of a car. We stop, no damage, just a rub with my glove removes the deposited dirt, but we’re attracted the attention of a police woman who tells us to get moving.

Thunder and lightning accompany me for the rest of the evening down to Orleans and Bourges on the N20 but it has cleared slightly when I take the A71 and then the N144 to Montlucon. When I arrive in Montlucon, I get to the town centre square, and ask some local teenagers sitting on the steps for directions – they point me in the general direction, and I head off, only to return 2 minutes later, as the roads are all dug up, the way I want to go is completely closed, and the diversion signs are no help at all.
They very kindly offer to escort me in their cars to the hotel, which turns out to be on an industrial estate. One car goes off one way, and the other car goes another – I follow one, who lead me through the diversion back to the main road, so I then head off following the directions they gave me earlier. The directions lead me to an industrial estate, with no indications of a hotel, I keep following my nose, and spot the other car – they beat me here they wave, and I wave back, still a little confused, but round a corner, and there is the big F1 sign. It’s 20:47, 10 minutes before closing, and I’ve been on the road over 12 hours, and the mileage reads 62400 – almost 400 miles and very stressful some of those miles were in Paris – I swear that I will never go through the city again, even if it means a 50 mile diversion. Boy will I sleep well tonight.