Aren’t you hot in all that…

Why yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. And it’s mostly nylon over waterproof membrane stuff and high-tech armour over the bony bits.

It’s been hot this week. 30C. Took hot. Extra fatigue and almost no energy. Activity levels minimal. A great time to have someone else work on the bike.

The XV535 is a classic air cooled V-twin design. Timeless and simple, there’s no fans, radiators or coolant levels to worry about. Air rushing past the finned cylinder heads provides adequate cooling in most conditions. Stopped at a level crossing in winter, gloved hands are warmed on the engine. Stopped for any length of time in summer and the most comfortable thing to do is turn the bike off and get off.

The kit works pretty much the same way, relying on high-speed airflow to cool me down. There’s vents at the thighs in my trousers, and at the wrists and armpits in my jacket. My helmet has an assortment of adjustable vents and the visor can be wedged open a little if the noise can be tolerated.

In weather like this, it’s bearable when the bike is moving fast, town and traffic are avoided if possible.

Today I had things to do. An appointment in a village the opposite side of town, and then dropping the bike off to have the brake caliper serviced and the (probably original) brake line upgraded to a braided steel Venhill part. I took the long way round to my appointment to avoid sitting in traffic, and the bike didn’t seem bothered about being ridden hard in heat. I manage to get stopped at every level crossing though.

On my way back into town the bike begins to splutter and lose power as if it were running out of fuel. Operating the reserve switch does not help. I stop briefly and the problem disappears. I push on and it happens again. The bike cuts out just as I pull off the road onto a farm track. I can hear the fuel pump chattering away. Not good.

I strip my helmet, gloves and jacket off, and realise I am soaked in sweat. The sun is ferocious and if I am stranded here it’s going to be unpleasant.

I pop the pillion seat off, out come the tools, and quickly the rider’s seat is off. I can see fuel in the filter and it looks free from sludge. Off comes the side panel. I unclamp the fuel pump and loosen the fuel pipe between the filter and the pump, petrol streams out so that’s not my problem. The hose clamp on the carb side of the fuel pump is a rusty mess and isn’t moving in a hurry. I refit the fuel pump.

I phone my friend that was going to pick me up from the garage and tell him the story, and then phone the garage. They are really busy and can’t collect the bike. They suggest the fuel pump might be dead, (it’s making noise so unlikely), reserve solenoid might have packed in (again, already stranded me, but I’m getting fuel to the pump) or a trapped fuel line. I contemplate an RAC experience. I’d rather not. I pull off the carb end of the fuel line between the pump and the carbs, empty. I turn the key, the fuel pump whirrs away and a pathetic dribble of fuel comes out of the pipe. Bike off, I curse as I suspect the pipe I am holding has a blockage and I can’t remove the other end easily. Then I realise the fuel pump sounds like it’s running dry. Then I see it.

The usually stiff and impossible to kink high-pressure fuel pipe I fitted between the filter and pump has softened in the heat and has a massive kink in it.

I replace the detached pipe and undo the pump, holding it so the inlet pipe is at a less extreme angle, and turn the key again, instantly the sound of the fuel pump changes to that of one full of fuel. I wrap the section of pipe that is kinking tightly with zip ties, and re-mount the fuel pump, the bike starts at a push of the button. I reassemble the bike and I am quickly at my friend’s. He follows me in a car to the garage.

Looks like it was too hot for the bike as well today, and the high pressure heavy duty fuel line was worse than an unreinforced low pressure motorcycle fuel hose. Nothing that can’t be swapped out once I get the bike back. Zip ties saved the day though.



Grand Tour

…in bite-size chunks

Where did Thursday go? That was the day of sleeping and otherwise not moving and general lack of function.

Rewind. It’s Saturday. Awake mid afternoon and the grand achievement of the day is fetching a pint of milk, some opportunistic bungees and selection of supermarket’s own brand meds and of course a toothbrush. Collapse on the sofa and watch last weeks’s Moto2.

Later that night I have more clothes than I need, blanket, shoes, tools and other key items arranged in carrier bags. My house-mate appears and wonders how I’m going to carry all that on the train. I stare at him until he works out that top-box and day-glo panniers are in fact motorcycle luggage. Creature comforts and all non bike stuff fits easily into the cavernous panniers, leaving the top box for tools, maps, thermal liners from my riding gear, bike cover, other ride related stuff, anything I forgot to put elsewhere, and a healthy dose of empty space. Housemate announces that he is Going To Bed, and I understand this to be a hint that I should cease noisy activities such as pacing up and down wondering what I have forgotten and more importantly what I can get away with not taking. I am shortly in bed.

6am rolls around before the lack of other people’s noise permits sleep, somehow my alarm is turned off rather than thrown at the wall and it’s nearly 11 before I am awake. Rapid shower, start grill, prod kettle, put thermal liners back into riding kit, pull trousers on, prod grill, pour coffee, check bike, strap luggage on. Cheeseburgers, breakfast of champions. Jacket, coffee, earplugs, helmet, gone.

The petrol station seems to have been the victim of people who cannot manage to wait for the flow of diesel to stop before returning the hose to the dispenser. I understand not squeezing the lever helps here.

An MCC has stopped for fuel here, they are not happy about the diesel thing but quite friendly. They appear to have several support vehicles loaded with kit, and have avoided loading bikes with anything other than the occasional pillion. All but one are gone by the time I start filling.

My last journeys towards York were to and from the riding test facility at Osbaldwick for my module 2 and the exploratory trip shortly before. Throttle wide open, hunched over the tank, going as fast as I dare in barely above freezing conditions, aboard a 125 that was allegedly capable of 65mph. As soon as I leave Doncaster the drizzle stops, the clouds disappear, and I find myself in overly warm kit, legs wrapped round a large source of noise and notably heat.

The A19 is a frustrating queue of cars too close to each other to make overtaking easy, held up by drivers cruising to the pub for breakfast, unaware of the fact the the 30 zone ended 5 minutes ago as they are still doing 40.

As the traffic breaks up I begin to make progress through it, I still have not got used to how quickly the 535 gets from 30 to 60 and thus past slow vehicles, and I know there’s more go at the twist of my wrist. Oncoming caravans all seem to have a power ranger astride a big sportsbike about to pop out from immediately behind them. It’s kind of tragic watching so much money being spent on bikes by riders intent on bending them.

The other side of Selby the traffic gets really busy, but most drivers seem happy to give an overtaking motorcyclist plenty of room, then I find myself behind a small police van. It is behaving oddly, like a friendly driver who doesn’t quite get bikes with a dose of pedanticity.  59mph and in control of the road where the good overtaking spots are and when oncomming traffic is favourable. 45mph and towards the gutter in the shit spots with hidden minor roads, or just as the upcoming curve or oncoming truck gets too close. I smell a trap and follow it as far as the A64.

The dual carriageway section is a high-speed traffic jam. I would rather not park that close, let alone ride head-down amongst a relentless flow of fully loaded and flat out Fiestas charging towards an afternoon excursion as if this were the last sunny afternoon ever.

A roundabout with traffic lights ends this madness. Only the approach to the roundabout is 4 lanes wide and every small car is in the wrong lane. Several bully their way past me on the roundabout. As a single carriageway the A64 is at least at upright speed, but nonetheless close, and the drivers of the small family cars that bullied their way past me aggressively block overtaking attempts. Evidently the dickishness of their driving is some kind of virility display, but ultimately futile. The sign for my destination appears, and appears to be a tight left into gravel strewn tarmac. Despite indicating early and flashing brakelights before slowing the bike down, my corsa-driving tailgater flies into a rage and beats up his horn button. I hate York.

claxIt is 15 minutes of wrestling for phone signal before I locate everyone else around the back of the site, I drag the luggage inside, and have just got the cover on the bike when the skies open with an almighty deluge. But I have coffee, and friends I have not seen in a very long time.

Tuesday. It is midday before I am functional, and I am grateful to be fed coffee and bacon butties. My clothes refuse to pack neatly, and the luggage is a wrestling match. I am grateful for the mini-compressor as the missing 0.5psi of air pressure is too much to bear. I take the liner from my jacket as the sun is ferocious. I finally leave at about 2pm, the A64 is much quieter.

Petrol station in York has been visited by the moron who should not be let near diesel pumps. A pair of riders on newish Fazer 8s are nearly taken out by tool driver, who carries on his phone conversation after he gets out and starts trying to fill his dirty white van. He is the kind of person that shouts down the phone. He does not work out why everyone in the petrol station is giving him some kind of stare.

The other side of York ring road is differently bad. A blonde in a Ford Galaxy with stuff dangling from the mirror and my car has eyes because I don’t use mine eyelashes is intent on driving 6-foot away from my rear wheel through roundabouts, not getting the hint of staying the hell away when I roll the throttle back on, and doing the same at traffic-speed once the lumbering idiotwagon has caught up. A dude in a Jaguar works out what is going on and moves enough for me to squeeze past, immediately taking control of the road again, much to the annoyance of the blonde psychopath, intent on following me through a bike-size gap.

The A59 is a scenic cruise and I resist the temptation to push beyond that, I take a wrong turn and end up in Ripley, only to discover the B6161 which is a well worth it, never completely straight mixing tight corners with long flowing sections and lots and lots of gradient. I spill out into Otley, beginning to ache and considering a comfort stop.  chevin

Up the Chevin we go, and I recognise what used to be a fantastic tea shop. The carpark is a dusty gravely mess and I am thankful for the easy handling of the 535. Of course the tea shop is now a restaurant and closed. I head on over the top of the Chevin find the pub at the top closed, and the road like a washboard. More so than I remember, perhaps I am just getting too achey. I get down the west side, and find an open pub, setting about a Pepsi with enthusiasm.

The last few miles of my journey take me through Menston and past where I took this site’s cover photo, it flies by, less daunting in the dry but bumpier than I remember and I am soon at my mother’s very stiff and quickly a heap in an armchair.

I am anxious to get home, so I leave the next day once my fiddling with my mother’s tech is done. In hindsight, twenty past five was not a good time to leave, the first ten miles are done in less than twenty minutes. The parts of the journey I have ridden before feel bumpier than I remember. I must be really achey. Then I hit Halifax, then Elland, then Huddersfield. there are some rapid blasts of dual carriageway between the traffic, and I can’t help thinking the road building has happened in the wrong place. I stop 80 minutes after I set off, having only completed 20 miles, at a Morrison’s of all places as it is the first place I see that has parking, coffee and a loo. The speed bumps feel especially evil. I wonder if I have a suspension problem with the bike, rather than just being achey. I kick a pannier getting off and notice how much it moves. I break out the emergency bungees and strap them down.

Comfort break complete, the traffic has dissipated a little, and seems heavier going the other way. The bike feels right now, and the roads smooth. Must have been the panniers. Probably yesterday over the Chevin too. There are lots of bikes in the oncoming traffic, which suggests I have chosen a decent road. Accordingly the A629 unfolds into a rapid flowing climb into the hills, punctuated by the occaisonal village. There is a smattering of slow-moving cars but the road is mostly wide with good opportunities to overtake, and I quickly find the roundabout near Penistone. I resist the temptation to turn right towards Woodhead Reservoir and turn left towards Barnsley. The A628 sweeps through a forest and the 40 boards are an unwelcome sight, but the corners are greasy and dark so this is understandable. Less than 40 minutes after I got moving again, I stop on the other side of Barnsley, another 20 miles covered, and change to my clear visor, and charge further down the A628. I meant to cut across from Goldthorpe to Conisbrough, towards my house, but there is a lack of signage. Rain hits just east of Goldthorpe, and I reclassify thoughts of cutting through Sprotbrough falls as some kind of recipe for dropping a fully laden bike. I am shortly at the house of the Henna-Haired Virago like some kind of homing missile. The bike is chained up and there is quickly rum. Actually going home can wait for another day.

I am considering the Woodhead Pass as a touristic diversion should I be feeling up to it next time I’m heading towards my mother’s.

Jorge Lorenzo’s collarbone.

Last Thursday at Assen, Jorge Lorenzo had an epic 148mph crash, revieving a displaced fracture of his left collarbone. Ouch. See the inconveniently unembeddable video. On the Friday he was flown to Barcelona, had the bone bodged together with some titanium, and flew back to Assen in time to take part in the warm up on the Saturday morning, and was medically cleared to race.

He started 12th and eventually finished 5th, looking uncomfortable throughout the race, and once he passed the chequered flag is was apparent from his body language that he was hurting badly.

She who is mine was not impressed at all was most vocal about this, particularly when the commentators were discussing how full of painkillers he might be. I’m fairly sure most of the really good painkillers suggest avoiding the operation of heavy machinery. Granted a MotoGP bike is pretty light, but it’s still enough to kill someone if it hits them. I share a similar disapproval of operating motor vehicles in a chemically altered state.

So why did Jorge ride? Because he could. Cal Crutchlow resorted to lying to medical staff in order to ride at Silverstone. Becasue he thought he could ride, and ride he did. I’m not going to link to anything about Bradley Smith’s finger, because it’s really gross. But this is what athletes at the peak of their career do. Because not riding is the hard thing to to do.

I can only imagine the physical effort required to ride a race bike like you mean it. My 535 is quite a soft ride, it only made 46 horses when it was new, and currently has a bit of paper from Fi International telling me it makes less than 33bhp and has shit fuel economy and will continue to do so until December 2014. A Yamaha YZR-M1 makes more than 200 more horses. Still a 60 mile trip through the twisties, averaging no more than 40mph for me is enough to be agony when I get off. An hour of dual carriageway or motorway speed? Plan on not getting out of bed the next day. Longer than that, well for a start that’s time to get petrol (535 tank is ten litres before reserve, reserve switch is unreliable) and take break. I’ve simply not done a trip where I’ve used more than a tank of fuel yet. Occasionally I will refuel leaving and arriving as that is where the petrol stations happen to be, but this is usually on shorter trips where I want a full tank and no messing about the next day.

But the days I can, I’m riding. What else would I do?