Sunday, September 20, 2020

Escaping Lockdown

After what felt like ages there was an announcement from the government that tourism was allowed in Scotland from the 15th July! A quick plan was cobbled together involving wild camping, a couple of campsites that were able to open to taking tents, and a night or two staying with friends. There was a lot of apprehension surrounding our trip. We’d all seen folk blatantly flaunting the “rules” around Covid 19, bending them to suit themselves. Unfortunately motorcyclists and cyclists, two activities I love doing, were among the worst groups for said flaunting with a few selfish individuals of the opinion that the requests made of everyone didn’t apply to them. We hoped that the behaviour of this small minority wouldn't have a negative impact on our trip.
Aidan and I decided to head off to a wild camping spot we know about. We had decided that if there were lots of folk in the area then we’d need to carry on and find somewhere else. Turns out that our chosen location was indeed pretty popular with most of the spots already containing a tent. Luckily it was a bit quieter along the road and we found a place to pitch away for other folk and any buildings or houses. If you recognise the area, please keep it to yourself, I’ll go into why this has become quite important later in this post.

Wild camping somewhere in Scotland

Night photography around the campfire

We got up early (for us) the next day packed up, tidied up and set off heading for Glenshee. As always, we prefer the Glenshee/Braemar/Lecht/Tomintoul route over the A9 between Perth and Inverness. It’s a great run and it was good to see so many bikes out with folk enjoying getting out for a run in the good weather.
We carried on north, riding on what they now call the NC500. I’ve heard lots of folk advising avoiding the east side of the route, which suits me, I'll have the roads to myself! The run from Golspie up to Wick is a cracker. Caithness has so much to offer, especially if you’re a visitor to Scotland or haven’t travelled around the country much. The open, barren landscape, cliffs and sea stacks give a good contrast to the hill and beaches of the west. There’s also loads of historical sites and wee harbours to visit if that’s your thing. I stopped in to visit family while property magnate Aidan went to look at a house for sale before eventually finding my way to Ferg’s place. It was pretty easy to spot which house was his…..

Dinosaur riding a BMW R100R
That'll be Ferg's place then,

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K KREW!

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A run across the north coast took us to our next destination, Altandhu. I'd not been over the top of the mainland for a while, I really enjoyed the solo run I took, stopping for photos and wee bits of video here and there. It seemed much shorter than I remembered for some reason and was surprisingly quiet with only a few other cars and motorhomes kicking about. I was surprised not to see more bikes. One of the only other bikes I saw had been clipped by another tourist, a situation which is unfortunately becoming more common, especially on our single track roads. So if you find yourself on a single track road (even some A class roads are single track) then take care!

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When riding the north coast (anticlockwise) you are presented with an option just after Kylesku. The quicker option is to carry on the main road, riding the fast sweepers past Loch Assynt. Option two is to take a left onto the tight, nadgery single track roads through the villages of Drumbeg, Lochinver and Inverkirkaig, riding through what is arguably some of the best scenery we have here in Scotland. I was wanting to get to the site at Altandhu and get my tent pitched so I opted for the faster run. At Altandhu we found the site to be really busy. We managed to get a wee corner away from the masses and had a good night dodging between the busy pub and the quieter campsite. 

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We split into two groups the following day with some folk heading to Strontian for the next couple of nights and the rest of us heading for another secret wild camping spot. I had a great run down to Gairloch with Aidan and Bob where we met up with everyone else at Ian's house. Ian has a great knowledge of the area and had offered to show us a few places to wild camp. If you recognise any of the wild camping spots please keep them to yourself and especially don't band it about online. There was a big problem in Scotland with manky bastards leaving shite and rubbish all over the shop after "wild camping." These arseholes could ruin it for everyone so the less places the cunts can find out about the better. Of course we all took our rubbish away with us and didn't have a fire anywhere it could cause damage or burn anything down.

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Big thanks to Ian.

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I rode down to Strontian the following day with Bob and Ferg. Once again we had good weather and surprisingly quiet roads. We took the best route, via Gairlochy, Glenfinnan, Lochailort and Salen. It's a really nice run. In Strontian we managed to have our usual visit to the Strontian Hotel. They had set up a big tent with open sides for socially distanced eating and drinking. We were all pretty happy with the measures they'd taken to try and keep everyone safe.

Looking down to Loch Maree with Bob and Ferg riding up the road.
Can you see Bob and Ferg?

Africa Twin looking down to Loch Maree.

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The Winton Massif walking through Strontian

It was great to get away. At the time of writing this new Covid regulations have recently came into play here in Scotland. Up to six people from a maximum of two households can meet up anywhere, indoors and out. Obviously this will have a negative impact on bike trips but we need to do what we can to stop the spread of the virus. But fear not! You'll not be bored. I made a feature length film of our trip! Grab a beer and check it out!




More soon hopefully, once again I'm well behind in writing my blog.

Mike

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Coronavirus!!

Like the rest of the world I'm in lockdown. No biking for a while. I managed to get a few runs in before it all happened so I've got a few things to post here. As always I've been pretty active on social media which is a great way to keep in touch with folk in these dark times.
There's been a fair bit of arguing about whether of not you should be riding, with lots of people saying they need to for the sake of their mental health. I can understand where they are coming from. Riding my bikes is one of the few things that keep me grounded and sane but with what's going on with everything the bikes have to stay in the shed. It's just not worth potentially spreading the virus not to mention the hassle an accident or breakdown could cause. So at the moment its all about maintaining the bikes than riding them. Anyway here's a few photos and video from local rides I got in before lockdown.

BMW K75 in the Scottish Borders

BMW K75 in the Scottish Borders


These were from a wee run down the Borders to the Riverside Bakehouse in Abbey St Bathans. They honestly make some of the best bread I've ever tasted and it's a nice run down on some single track roads from here in East Lothian. Definitely one to add to the list of runs to do when we get over all this shit.

BMW K75 and some old fuel pumps.

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One of my last runs on the trusty BMW K75, Mikey Sunter, was a short spin down the coast. I think people are going to really appreciate what we have on our doorsteps if we make it through Covid 19. 

Another thing I done was to make a video of the past year and a bit gopro footage. I'd accumulated a fair bit from the trips so chucked it together along with some royalty free music. I tried to keep it similar to the video I made from our Europe tour a couple of years ago. I don't think I've posted that up before either, so here ye go.




The Sunart Wildcat Rally I was due to hold next weekend has been postponed till September. I managed to collect some of the raffle prizes and the rally has practically sold out. It WILL be happening when it's safe to do so. I know lots of folk were looking forwards to it.

So, back to the bikes. It's the C90 that's came out best. I've given the areas that were looking a bit worse for wear a good tidy up and a paint and fixed some cracks with more high quality cable tie stitching. It's far from good but looks good from afar! I'd MOT'd it and got it back on the road just before the lockdown and it made an excellent bog roll delivery bike when the panic buying started and some of my family members were running short on arse wiping materials. Yes, I even made a video of that. (the C90 MOT run, not the arse wiping)
The XR has had a good clean and is ready to go as is the Africa Twin. I've got a few wee bits and bobs to do service wise as well. Even Mikey Sunter got a new air filter which was a bit overdue a change.

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So that's all there really is to say. I've got a write up from another trip we done to the Outer Hebrides last year which I'll get done when I can drag myself away from Call Of Duty Warzone on the xbox. Apart from that all I need to make sure to do is not drink myself into oblivion, keep the heid and wash my hands. Just keep in mind that viruses don't move, people do. 

Stay safe everyone and hopefully we'll get out for a spin soon.


Mike

BMW K75 and some old fuel pumps.
GOPR0092

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Hunt For A New Bike

Guest writer Chris "Egor" Egan gives us a few words on buying a new bike.

Words by Chris Egan. Pics By Chris Egan and Mike.



Sometimes a bike just grabs you and you think “I’ll get on with this one.” That's what I thought when I seen my F800GSA. It’s not the pride of the BMW fleet but rather a bit of an unsung hero. For all its little pains, a 21 inch front wheel that flexed as much as those guys in the gym who's favourite machine is the mirror, a screen that felt like its sole purpose was to buffet and deafen you to death and front suspension that may have well be steel rods it was that nonadjustable. But I loved it. It took me to some great places all over Scotland, Europe and a trip into deep dark England. 
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After a couple years of renting the bike (bloody PCP) my time was coming to an end with the big beemer. Time to start the hunt, but what can match "The Walloper" as it had been christened?
I hit the net (who knew, there's more than porn on it!) and looked at few options. On a trip to Motorrad in Dalkeith I was handed the fob to a new 1250 Rallye, holy shit what a bike!! So planted and comfy that I didn't want to get off. I took it on a few different roads and gave it a handful, it just got more planted and better. I’m not a fan of quick shifters but having tried one I can see why people like them on the crotch rocket sports bikes but on a giant tourer? Nah, not needed in my opinion. Still had that distinctive GS noise. As I rolled into the forecourt I was sad. I knew in my heart that nearly 18k for a bike was way out my league. A chat with the Salesperson confirmed this. Bollocks, onto the next one.

Next on my radar was a dream bike, a tiger 1200 explorer. From since I got into bikes I've wanted a Tiger. I don't know why but just do. A trip to Two Wheels on a nice afternoon and the fob again was in my pocket. What ever happened to a key?? I like a key, putting in a key is the start of something, the click on the turn and everything coming alive! It’s not the same pressing a button, to me there’s something soulless about keyless. And bikes are all about the soul and feeling alive. But the Tiger? It’s some machine. As smooth as the giant GS but felt more manageable and easier to ride long distance. Makes a great noise to, that triple engine is feat of engineering, plenty poke and torque. It will sit at stupid speed and you can have your visor up thanks to well designed screen. I was happily surprised, not as much as Mike though, he took out a 1200 Scrambler. It looked massive even with his lanky 6ft4 frame astride it, he said it was a great fun bike and very capable.
Again it came down too cash and again it was too much cash for me.
All this time I was still using The Walloper and thinking “why do I want to change this?” Maybe I should refinance it and keep it. But every time I took it out I was using everything it had and everything I was prepared to use of it. It was definitely time for a change.
All the reading and net searches (did you know there’s more than porn on the net??) had narrowed it down to a few choices. They were the new Yamaha T7, it looks the dogs baws and it supposed to be great but on closer looking and reading it’s not for what I do. Tracer900GT, again great looking and riding bike, having tried a MT09 tracer I know what its capable of, but it couldn't pass the garage test. The garage test is when you close your eyes and imagine opening your garage door and what do you see.
After several lists and a lot of thinking a message pinged on my phone. It was from wee Hutch that I work and go for day trips on the bikes with. You'll like this it said with a link to Cupar Motorcycles. It was for a Suzuki V-Strom 1000. I thought about it, did some research and decided to give it a bash. What’s the worst that can happen? At the worst I get to take another bike for a test run and use someone else’s fuel for an hour.
Test ride booked we rode to Cupar on a cold October day. Again, I was thinking why am I swapping this, as The Walloper buffeted and deafened me up the motorway in the way I’ve loved for last couple years. The V-Strom was waiting for me all ready to be enjoyed. Quick run through and I was off into Fife for an hour of fun.

Egor's V Strom
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Holy shit!! was my first thought. I was instantly at home with it, the controls all felt natural and the seat is brilliant. It just fitted my 6ft2 and amply cushioned frame perfectly. Once I got over the childish noise making and over taking I settled into riding how I normally ride. The power from the V twin is brilliant and the peak torque is available from 4500 rpm, just a blip of the right hand and it fires off round cars making a great farty noise as it does so. The screen on the beemer was always a bug bear to me but the Strom has a riot shield for a screen and it’s just as effective as a riot shield. Manually adjustable on the move, even on the lowest setting there’s little wind blast. There’s no fancy electronics, quick shifters, keyless fobs or gadgets to dick around with. It’s just an honest simple motorbike. Fully adjustable suspension front and rear and bomb proof Givi metal luggage make it great for touring and I can be a bit naughty on it. The brakes are fantastic, radial mounted callipers have great power but also feel supple and you just have to brush the lever and it’s on its nose, in a good way.
Egor's V Strom
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The deal was done but due to shifts and being a grown up with a family I had to wait 10 days to pick it up. It was a seriously long 10 days but I was buzzing. The day came and after stripping off the stickers and twat nav from the BMW a few days before, I set off for Cupar motorcycles. After missing the exit for Cupar I had to take a slight detour along some brilliant A&B roads, the beemer was running great and soaking up all the road could throw at it. I still had that nagging thought that “what if I’m making the wrong decision?”
I arrived at Cupar in good spirits, but the doubt was still there. I didn’t have to worry, once I’d signed everything and shook hands I set off for home, I was grinning like Mike when he gets a new crayon to chew on. The bike was everything I remembered on the test ride only this time this one was MINE!! (or will be after a few years of payments). I was seriously impressed and on the route home I was caught in traffic, it handled it well, the Strom is a big bike and has a great presence on the road but also felt slim and agile enough to nip in and out while filtering. 
Egor's V Strom
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Egor's V Strom
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Egor's V Strom pics


I was that impressed that the first thing I did was throw some kit in the bags and go to Cannich for the night, thanks to my loving and long suffering wife Lee for the permission slip being signed. The journey was cold and wet, but I arrived totally buzzing without a sore bit and ready to do the trip again. The bike was outstanding, every type of road was handled and eaten up with ease.
Home on the Sunday and I spent a few enjoyable hours cleaning and polishing. The V-Strom was looking good and as I closed the garage doors I looked back and it definitely passed the garage test.
So ends my tale of hunting for a new bike. Moral of the story, test ride everything and read everything available (did you know there’s more than porn on the net?).

Egor's V Strom pics



Written by Chris “Egor” Egan.
More soon.....


Egor's V Strom pics



Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Possible Birth of a Winter Motorcycle Rally.

First One O the Year

Last year we had the Frosty Pubes Rally at Tim's in Strontian. The only thing was it wasn't very frosty with the weather giving us a relatively warm 9 degrees and loads of rain. This year we wanted to do it again but we needed somewhere a bit colder, plus we're at Tim's all the time so it's nice to go somewhere else. I had somewhere in mind.

"I know where we can go. The Cairngorms!"

I've stayed at Glenlivet Hall a few times in the past and figured it would be ideal for our needs. It's pretty central in Scotland meaning everyone involved would have to travel about the same distance. After some Facebook based organising we had a plan and some willing attendees. All in we had around 30 folk invited.

A few folk had pulled out by the time it came to leave. Old Mike had to help his daughter move, poor Andrea had came down with the flu and Aidan went to watch the football (I know, what the fuck's that all about?) I felt sorry for Andrea. He'd been looking forwards to a winter run for ages, buying himself a winter a bike for the trip and everything.

My run up was nice. The sun was out and it was freezing cold. I had loads of layers on and Mikey Sunter's heated grips so I was nice and warm. This was the first outing of my new Forma Adventure boots. They were great too, keeping my feet warmish and dry all weekend. I headed up the Blairgowrie, Glenshee, Lecht, Tomintour route. This is known as "The Snow Road" as it goes over two of Scotland's highest roads and past two ski centres. Unfortunately for them there wasn't much snow and a fair bit of ice which I don't think makes for the best ski conditions, it look good though. I stopped off at Glenshee cafe for some lunch, getting a few funny looks and laughs from the other folk there.

K75 at Glenshee
K75 at Glenshee
First One O the Year
K75 at Glenshee
First one o the year.

When you're riding in the snow or where there could be ice I've found the most important thing to do is be as smooth and as relaxed at you can. Be extra careful on parts of the road that are in the shade as there's a much higher chance of ice being there, plus you get lots of shite falling off trees which makes the road slippy. I tried my best to stick to this way of riding while heading off down towards Braemar. There was quite a bit of ice at the top as I said, but it all calmed down a bit as I dropped in altitude.

First one o the year.


The Lecht was the same story but with a bit less snow. Mike Sunter was playing up a wee bit going up the steep part off the road. It felt like it was being starved of fuel when holding sustained higher revs and the fuel pump was making a bit more noise than usual. Hopefully it lasts the whole trip! Fuck being stuck at the side of the road waiting to be recovered when it's only 2 degrees!

First One O the Year
First one o the year.

After a few navigational errors I found my way to Ruud's house. Ruud helps run the hall and came down with me to remind me how everything worked. While I was there I got a call from Mikey Sunter (the man, not the bike) who was riding down with Snake from Caithness. They had met up with Tim from Strontian on the road but Mikey had got a puncture on his C90, so they'd stopped to fix it. There no pub or anything near the hall so I headed to the shop to pick up beer for us all. While I was there the rest if them rolled up, puncture fixed. We had a grand total of 4!

First one o the year.

There's no other way to put it. The hall was fucking freezing! We jumped around like lunatics playing tennis with a wee bouncy ball using bars of chocolate and books as rackets but it was still chilly. However there was the kitchen and the bar area which were much smaller and easier to heat. Ruud even suggested sleeping in there as opposed to the hall as it would be warmer. He even though a tent outside would be warmer!

First one o the year.

I was actually OK when in bed. We had all dunted ourselves with beer, whisky and poitin. I had my Exped mat, my sleeping bag, a blanket I'd brought and three base layers, but when I got up for a piss it was FREEZING. You could see your breath and everything. When I woke up in the morning Mikey Sunter (man, not bike) was gone! He'd dragged himself through to the bar as he found the fridge like quality of the hall a tad too cold. 

"That floor is fucking FREEZING!" - Snake.
"I was OK. My sleeping bag I got from a skip is really warm!!" - Tim.

Hot drinks and some food warmed us up as we planned our "ride out". We came up with the following. 
  1. Go up the Lecht which is about 40 minutes away and fucking frozen.
  2. Go to Dufftown where there is a warm cafe, a coopy for more food and beer and a guy Mikey knows on facebook we can scrounge a puncture repair kit from to fix Mikey's knackered inner tube.
Option 1 didn't even get a look in. We waited another hour or so to allow the sun to get up a bit before we set off. Snake led on Pedro, his adventure scoot, followed by Mikey, me then Tim. He was fair hauling ass too. I was pretty concerned by everything around us being covered in ice but Snake ploughed on to Dufftown. He must have really been looking forwards to the cafe because after a quick stop in the shop for supplies it was straight to the cafe leaving his lid in a flower bed beside Pedro!

First one o the year.
First One O the Year

where's my helmet?

Second breakfast was had in the cafe where I entertained the group by showing them how much brown sauce makes me sweat. We found Snake's lid, got the puncture repair kit and set off just as it began to rain. This isn't as bad as you'd think as it meant that the temperature had risen a bit so there would be less chance of ice. The rain became snowy sleet as we headed back up the hills giving a Star Wars feel to ride back to Glenlivet.
First One O the Year
Mikey Sunter and Mikey Sunter.


Back at the hall it wasn't long before Gerrit arrived. We were 5! The sun came out so we had a wee wander down to the old packhorse bridge where I got a few nice photos. The bar at the hall is open on a Saturday from 3 till 7 which we took advantage of, having few beers after discussing the merits of various bikes. Then Colin showed up! We were 6!! Colin was on a flying visit so were were back to 5 in no time. We were speaking to Derek, one of the local folk who had came for a beer. His bike was at his house just along the road so technically he was at the rally. We were 6 again!

packhorse bridge, glenlivet 2
packhorse bridge, glenlivet
Snake on a Bridge

First one o the year.
First one o the year.
Mikey Sunter on Mikey Sunter. I'm yet to convice anyone else to join the "K Krew".

First One O the Year
The rally!

First one o the year.


Once we'd eaten as much of our remaining food as possible the following morning we set off. Gerrit and I opted to ride down the A9. Usually I would avoid it like the plague but it was the fastest way home. Over Drumochter had more snow than the ski centres so it even looked nicer than normal. 
Everyone got home safe, nearly. Mikey Sunter's (bike) fuel pump didn't die, so I'll change the fuel filter and see how that goes. Mikey Sunter (man) got another puncture 5 miles from home but got rescued in a van.
First One O the Year

First One O the Year

So....... We're going to do it again next year around the same time. Who wants to come along? I reckon it'll be £10 to £20 per person to cover the cost of the hall and electricity etc for two nights. I'll probably advertise it on www.PassingPlacesTours.com closer to the time.
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Mikey's C90 and a braw sky.


Mike