Monday, November 4, 2019

Destination Stelvio - Part 1

Stelvio pass
Destination Stelvio.

I had always promised Egor that I’d help him plan a European tour if he ever got the chance. I’ve done a fair bit of touring in France, Italy and Germany and I figured I could come up with a decent enough route if he could free up the time. Egor had a couple of weeks off and could spare some of his time for a bike trip. Usually I’d be away for two to three weeks but this was going to be a bit shorter. After some haggling we had eleven days of his two weeks off to play with. All he had to do was decide which direction we’d head in. I came up with a few rough suggestions but Lake Como was one place he really wanted to see, as was Stelvio Pass, even after everyone had told him it was a bit over hyped.
We booked our ferries. We’d be heading over in July which was a bit of a pain in the arse as that’s high season here and the start of the high season over there. The ferry was pretty expensive and it meant that campsites were going to busy and there was a high chance of it being really hot.
We started to get more prepared as time moved on. Kit was bought, maps were read and more plans were formed. Gerrit decided to join in on the trip and was bombarded with information and route options as a result. I was keeping an eye on the weather too. A couple of weeks before we were due to leave the whole of Western Europe was caught in a heatwave. 45 degrees were being recorded in some areas!

I had been in the area a few times over the past few years so I had a rough idea of a route taking in the Swiss Alps, Como, the Black Forest and the Stelvio area while still allowing for a couple of nights saying in the same place. Having a couple of nights here and there would mean less packing and re pitching tents and would also allow for a day off the bike. The trade off would mean a long first day. This was going to be both Egor and Gerrit’s first European tour and I was aware that the first fay being a biggie wouldn’t be an ideal introduction for them. I made sure we all knew where we were going and had a way to navigate. It’s pretty easy to get separated when travelling in a group on bikes and the last thing I wanted was for one of us to get lost and end up miles off course. I gave them my basic technique for tackling long distance stuff; ride at the speed limit, don’t stop unless you really, really have to. I jokingly said that you have a big drink of water at the start of the day. If you need to stop for a piss you’ve drank too much. If you need to stop for a drink then you’ve not drank enough. I wasn’t really joking though.
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Egor on the ferry.

We took the ferry from Newcastle to Ijmuiden, just outside Amsterdam. After a quick visit to the shops and a fuel up we were on the road. We all made it out of Ijmuiden together easily enough and I got myself comfortable, sticking to the maximum speed limits so I could make progress over the coming 400 miles or so without worrying about all the speed cameras and stuff. I could see Egor and Gerrit in my mirror a wee bit behind me. After an hour or so I slowed up a bit to let them pass and make sure they were ok. As a GS and a maxi scooter passed me I realised the headlights I had seen in my mirror were not those of Egor and Gerrit. Once separated there's not much point in trying to catch up with folk again, their navigation may have taken them a slightly different route from mine. I sent a message out over our group chat and carried on to the campsite at Anould where I'd stayed the year before.
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The journey had taken me around 7 hours, it had been warm but not as bad as I'd thought. I'd received a few messages from Egor and Gerrit who were making good progress. Everything in Anould appeared to be closed so I stocked up at the supermarket, getting enough food for all of us and a few beers each. An hour or so after I'd arrived Egor and Gerrit showed up. It had been a bit of a baptism of fire for them but once everyone was cooled off and fed we were all feeling much better.


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The good roads started pretty much straight away the following day with a run up some of the Route Des Cretes to the Col du Grand Ballon. It's a popular run with local French and German bikers but many tourists seem to skip past the area. If you're taking a trip to the Alps its definitely worth a day or two riding in the Vosges at least. Gerrit and I managed to lose Egor somehow. I'm sure I'd seen him ride past the top of the Ballon where we'd stopped for a snack. Once down off the hill we got him on the phone. He'd stopped in a nice wee village so we arranged to meet at the Swiss border.

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We all bought our Swiss vignettes at the border before heading and hour or so down the motorway to Lauterbrunnen. Out of all the places we were planning on visiting I think Lauterbrunnen was what I was thinking would impress the guys the most. The scenery is the visual equivalent of a chainsaw up the arse. It's on par with Norway. Even the motorways in Switzerland have absolutely stunning scenery. The fines for speeding are horrific but when the place looks this good you don't need to go fast.

Bottom of the Vosges
Swiss border


I was a bit concerned when we arrived at the campsite. There was a big queue at reception with folk getting turned away as it was so busy. Luckily those folk were all in campervans. They had plenty room for three bikes and their wee tents. Switzerland is usually fucking extortionate to eat or drink it but luckily in Lauterbrunnen there is the Horner Pub which serves food and beer at a decent price. We chilled out with a beer and some music in the sun on the campsite before heading along to the pub. While we were at the boozer the rain came on, a proper torrential alpine lightning storm. It was great to watch from under the canopy outside the pub. Well, it was for Gerrit and I. Egor suddenly remembered that he'd left his boots outside his tent! Oh well, they'll be wet now, may as well get another beer.

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More to come in part 2.

Mike

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A run to Cannich


BMW K75s on Rannoch Moor, Scotland

I was getting the itchy feet again. Mikey Sunter had new tyres fitted and was serviced and ready to go. Egor had also got himself a new bike, a near enough brand new Suzuki VStrom 1000 and was champing at the bit to get away on the bike. HB and I had contemplated going away ourselves but I think the cold forecast put her off a bit. I started looking at possible destinations to give us a good run for a night away. Cannich looked ideal, it’s a nice run over Rannoch Moor and up the side of Loch Ness and I was hoping that our late October timing would minimalise the number of fuckwits on the road. There was a camping pod available at Cannich campsite which I quickly booked up. Snake and Other Mike were coming along too. They were amassing extra hardcore points by camping properly in their tents with the pod being a warm safety net if they found it too cold.

Packing Mikey Sunter was a bit of a trip down memory lane. The old BMW clamshell panniers are basically plastic suitcases that attach to the bike. They’re not waterproof in any way so everything has to be wrapped in plastic bags to keep it dry. The weather forecast was for cold and changeable so I ended up wearing most of my clothes with my camera kit and a few bits and bobs in the panniers. Mikey Sunter got a good spraying down with Scottoiler FS365 to keep the impact of any salt and other road shite to a minimum and I was ready.
End of October run to Cannich
End of October run to Cannich

Leaving East Lothian we quickly negotiated our way around the usual Edinburgh bypass pish and up the motorway to Stirling.  The A84/A85/A82 route is one I try to avoid in the summer. The scenery is awesome but it's always heaving with some of the worst driving you’ll come across in Scotland. Unfortunately Police Scotland seem to have the attitude if they’re slow, they’re safe and do nothing about people driving like they’ve had ten pints of Stella. Luckily there was far less fuckwittery present, with only two or three attempts on our lives by brand new hire car holidaymakers. The only other hazard we had to deal with was a fuel spillage that went from Callander to Crianlarich keeping us on our toes along the side of Loch Lubnaig. We'd stopped briefly in Callander for fuel but by the time we were at Tyndrum we were all needing a heat and some food. The Real Food cafe gave us both and fuelled up we headed up onto Rannoch Moor. The scenery at this time of year really does hit you like a boot to the baws. The clear air showing off the snow capped hills and the ever changing weather giving a crazy contrasting background. Through Glencoe and around Fort William it was its' usual wet, but once up the side of Loch Lochy things improved once more, but it was fucking freezing!! Even with six layers I was beginning to feel it, so another break was had for a coffee and a sweetie in Fort Augustus. I had told Snake, who was riding down from Caithness, that we would be at Cannich for around three but it was already past four! As we carried on to Drumnadrochit I had visions of us turning up to find a very pissed up Snake.
End of October run to Cannich

We rolled into Cannich campsite and found our pod. Beside it was pitched Snake's tent but there was no sign of the man himself or his bike. The heater was on in the pod though at it was toasty! We got the bikes unloaded. It was taking some time to get used to Mikey Sunter's panniers. I'm a bit spoiled by the huge top loading boxes I have on the Africa Twin meaning there's always room for shopping and everything is easy to get to. If I open up Mikey Sunter's clam shell boxes half my shit falls out onto the road, a nightmare if you're trying to load up on beers and snacks or stop and get your camera out for a quick photo. I was mid way through emptying all my shit out for a run to the shop when I heard a small capacity engine approaching. It was Snake!
End of October run to Cannich

Snake has loads of bikes. His weapon of choice this time was his Italjet Torpedo, a 125cc twist and go scooter. Luckily he wasn't steaming either, instead he'd had a wee explore and had headed up towards Glen Affric. We spent the night our usual way, eating, drinking and talking shite about bikes and bike trips. A visit to the local pub helped us all get warmed up too.

End of October run to Cannich

Egor cleans his VStrom on Cannich Campsite

End of October run to Cannich

Snake headed off to join a classic bike run at Dingwall the following morning while we headed to the cafe on the campsite for breakfast. We followed the route back down the road to Spean Bridge where we turned off to head cross country to Dalwhinnie, a great road with more nice views and snowy hills, stopping here and there for a photo or two. It was on one of these stops that I noticed a wee bit of oil dripping from Mikey Sunter. Fuck! I might have to phone the AA. It was only a tiny wee leak that seemed to stop after a while so we put it down to all the water maybe washing some excess grease or something off a part of the bike.

BMW K75s outside Fort Augustus, Scotland.
Where I noticed the oil.
End of October run to Cannich
End of October run to Cannich
End of October run to Cannich
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I stopped a few times and luckily there was no more drips. We got some food at Dalwhinnie and fuel for the bikes at Ballinluig before saying our goodbyes. It wasn't till I got home that Mikey Sunter decided to leave another dribble on the road. I drained the gearbox oil to find this shit!!

End of October run to Cannich

Luckily it's not as bad as it seems. A wee bit of water had gotten into the gearbox, probably through the clutch rod boot. The boot had been inspected now and looks fine, as is all the vents and breathers. The clutch however was needing adjusted quite badly. The boot relies on the clutch being adjusted to get a proper seal, the clip was also a bit loose. I've refilled the gearbox with clean oil and there's been no drips so far. I'll hopefully take it for a longer run soon and see how it's holding up. 
Apart from that Mikey Sunter handled its first trip with ease. It's an enjoyable bike to ride and can carry enough stuff for plenty time away. I just need to get a tank bag for the camera stuff. I also tried to turn my hand to "vlogging", you can see the finished effort below. I might just stick to photography.
Anyway, where to next?


BMW K75s on Rannoch Moor, Scotland

Mike

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Mikey Sunter, the red BMW K75s


Sometimes something comes up that you can’t say no to. It’s too good a deal to pass up. A no brainer. The K75 was one of these things.
BMW K75s. The first few days.

A few years ago Smillie from the Massif got himself a red K75s, BMW’s bombproof triple from the late 80’s/early 90’s. Smillie ran it for a while with the only niggle being that it occasionally snapped clutch cables.  Smillie changed bikes, selling the K to John from his work. John was getting back on two wheels after a break from biking and the beemer was ideal for him. Being an engineer, when the clutch cable snapped on him, John set about finding the problem. After replacing the clutch and the pushrod he finally found the problem to be the wee plastic piston that had seized. Problem solved, John ran around on the bike for a while before getting something else. The K75 sat in his garden unused and John wanted rid of it. This is where I come in. Long story short is that John was selling the bike at a low price to get rid of it. It had no MOT and hadn’t run for a while, but as I said; it was one of these things I couldn’t pass up.


BMW K75s. The first few days.

I got the bike through it's MOT, gave it a service and gave it a name! Naming vehicles has always been a bit of a bizarre thing to me. My mate Mikey Sunter is the only person I know who has really ever done it properly, so I named the K75 after him. It's called Mikey Sunter, although I'll probably just refer to it as the K75 on here just to keep things understandable. I'm trying to get #MikeySunter trending on Instagram so feel free to join in.

BMW K75s. The first few days.
Mikey Sunter and the Bass Rock.

I've fixed a few niggles like the broken pannier hinge. Doing the service showed the state of the front of the engine, so I'll give that a clean and a lick of paint. It'll need tyres soon too, so if you've got any recommendations get in touch. I'll need something that lasts a reasonably well while working in the wet and cold. Half worn tyres aside the auld beemer goes well. K75s are super smooth and have that slow revving, heavy flywheel feel. It's comfy despite being surprisingly stretched out. I'm yet to do a proper long journey on it but 150 or so miles down the borders proved it to be right enough. It handles ok, if I'm pushing on bumpy roads then it gets a bit all over the shop. Still, it's very manageable. Brakes are good (ABS no less) but there's a slight warp on the rear disk which I'll need to get sorted at some point.

BMW K75s. The first few days.
Mockit.

BMW K75s. The first few days.
Previous owner and abusive Fife halfwit Smillie rides by.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

BMW K75s. The first few days.
Mikey Sunter meets his modern relatives.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

BMW K75s. The first few days.

Mikey Sunter, BMW K75 doon the borders
Great roads down the borders.

Originally I had planned on fixing the bike up a bit and turning it over, but I really quite like it, so Mikey Sunter will be staying for a while at least. It's got heated grips, panniers and everything. It's ready to tour! I just need to come up with a plan.......
Another winter run maybe?

BMW K75s. The first few days.

More soon.

Mike 

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Dam Bike Run

Once a year my local classic bike club, the Lothian and Borders Classic and Vintage bike Club have the Dam Bike Run, where they all meet up and have a run over the small roads around the reservoirs and lochs of the area followed by a meal at the Barony Hotel. Faither and Greaser are members so I decided to join the ride on my XR.

XR600

Only issue was a couple of weeks ago I had went out for a half hour spin around the hills. Half an hour became about three hours after I got a puncture. Having no tools to fix said puncture and no phone signal resulted in a three mile push. Finally I got a message out. Egor collected my van and came to my rescue only for us to discover the XR didn't fit in the van! We strapped the bike in as best we could, tied the doors shut and drove home. Very slowly.

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XR600
There's worse places to get a flat I guess.
XR600
XR600
Not all heros wear capes. Thanks Egor.

With the rear tyre truly gubbed I had to choose a replacement. The last tyre had only lasted 700 miles or so. It was a proper nobblie with loads of grip. I was willing to sacrifice some grip for a longer tyre life so I went with a Mitas E09. It was a total bastard to fit but after sweating profusely, getting blood everywhere, nipping the tube and putting it into the shop where it was done properly, the new tyre was fitted.
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

A couple of spins proved the Mitas to be pretty good. It never had the grip a proper nobbly has but there was enough for what I was doing, plus it was easier to slide the back out which is always fun. The Massif came with me on one of the runs, the heavier, more road based bikes proving a bit of a handfull compared to the XR's dirt pedigree, especially on muddy or loose sections.

XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

 
With the XR cleaned up I headed to meet the folk for the Dam Bike Run. I felt like I was cheating a bit riding my "classic" 1995 XR alongside a 1929 Sunbeam, but everyone makes you feel welcome no matter what you're on. There were a few folk taking part on modern bikes too. The route that the club had organised was really nice. Despite riding around the area for most of my biking life I found myself on a couple of new roads. We stopped at Bowhill for a lunch break and to have a look around the bikes a bit more, before heading over the Megget And Talla road and back up to the Barony for a meal.


XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
Velo the dog on his Beemer.


XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run
XR600 and Dam Bike Run

 
 
 
I had really enjoyed riding with the club. It was great to see all the old bikes running well and hilarious following the haze from the two strokes along the country lanes. There's no danger you'd get lost following a GT500! I had a great day out and I'd recommend coming along on the run next year. The Dam Bike Run is open to non club members. Follow their page on Facebook for info on how to join the club and to keep an eye on when the events are on .
 
 
 
 
Mike
 

XR600 and Dam Bike Run