Monday, September 29, 2014

Test Pilots and Tyre Kickers.

Ducati 748R

A few months back I seen a Ducati 748 in one of the bike shops in Edinburgh. With my best bullshit act I got speaking to the salesman saying I was looking for a second bike (not a lie) and I fancied a 748 (true again). I missed out the bits about being skint and acted like I had a garage full of bikes and a I wanted one more(again this is sort of true, but most of my bikes don't actually run...)
Anyway, that was back in April. the salesman was reluctant to give me a shot of his 748 on the wet roads. I tried a few more times then forgot about it. 
Recently, Faithir was up at the same bike shop.

The 748

"That 748's still up there."

Hmmmm. I phoned them up. It wasn't the same 748 they had in, this one was a 748R. Shiver me timbers! The R has more power and better suspension. It would be good to take it for a spin, y'know, just so I can make my mind up if it's for me before I buy it *cough cough.*

"No probs." Said the Salesman, "I just have to clear it with my boss. We just got the bike in as a trade in from an Older Gentleman just recently."

After a short phone call in which the Salesman assured the boss I wasn't a daft laddie, but a sensible rider in his 40's (I'm 33) he pulled the bike out. My heart sank a wee bit when I seen all the shite stickers stuck to the side. Never mind, you don't look at the mantelpiece when you're poking the fire. 
The guys at the shop gave the bike the once over and, after some trying, got it started. 

If you've never heard a Ducati idling you might be in for a wee shock. Sure, the twin Temignonis give you a lovely, twin cylinder rumble but it's nearly drowned out by the dry clutch rattling around. It sounds like a washing machine full of spanners on a low spin.
Nevermind, once its rolling it'll sound ace....

Obviously the bike isn't going to be ultra comfy, the sporty riding position puts alot of weight on your wrists, but the bike wasn't designed as a sports tourer. One thing though, as i rode along Edinburgh's bumpy streets I was pretty suprised how smooth the ride was. I thought it would be crashing around all over the shop but it rode pretty smooth. 
I got a bit more used to the bike as I got further out of the city. I pulled up at some traffic lights beside a young lad in a slammed VW Jetta.
"Nice bike mate! Is it a Ducati?"
"Aye. Listen to this."
I let the clutch out and his ears were filled with the sound of an Italian dry clutch. 


"Holy fuck!! What the fucks wrong with it??"

"Nothing mate. It's MEANT to sound like this."

I rode out of the city, heading for East Lothian where I could try the bike on roads I'm used to. The 748R is pretty quick. On the open road it sounds great, it revs up just past eleven. Quite the screamer for a twin. The brakes are awesome with loads of power and feel. With the Ohlins suspension this should be incredible. But it's not. Something's not right. It goes and stops but the bike doesn't want to turn. This scalpel has been blunted buy some halfwit who fancied themselves as Jerry Burgess. The bike even looks like its a bit too low at the back. Infact the more I look at the bike the more signs of serious abuse shine out. Every bit of the bikes plastics is either cracked or has been badly repaired. the radiator looks half fucked and there's a few gouges out the petrol tank. Along with the gash stickers Jerry had fitted an equally gash iridium screen. Not good.
The bike cut out a few times on the way back to the shop. I put it down to good old "Italian Character" but even the guys in the shop said that it wasn't right.

So is it a case of never meet your heros? No, just make sure that if your hero is Elvis, you meet him in 1958 and not in 1973.

Still a bonny bike though. Just ignore those fucking stickers.

Ducati 748R

Ducati 748R



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Winton Massif 2014 - Closer to the Edge tour.

Here we go again, stage 2 of the Massif's summer trips. Following on from our trip earlier in the year. 
The edge is closer this time. The edge of what is still to be determined.

Just like last time, we met at The Janet's for breakfast before heading off. This time around the table was Smillie, Aidan, Chris and myself. Over breakfast we sorted out our route north. Smillie had forgotten his Filthy Hooligans and I wanted to nip into Decathalon at Hermiston Gate, so we arranged to meet up at a petrol station up the road a bit.
I had with me my new camera, a Nikon D7000, to replace the D80 that I fucked on the last trip. This has the ability to shoot video, so I've got folk to give video updates here and there.

Aidan and Smillie tell us what's happening.

Petrol Station meet up.

We try to avoid the A9 these days. The average speed vultures and revenue vans have dumbed once alert and capable motorists into lemming like zombies, ready to pull out on or swerve into a progress making motorcyclist, turning the main artery through Scotland into a 45mph game of Russian Roulette. 
We chose the A82, this can often be the lesser of two evils. Still clogged with caravans and halfwits but without as many Speed Nazis restricting safe, 65-75 mph overtaking.
The run up was, as always, mind blowing. I can never get used to the run through Glencoe. It really is incredible. I always think "Imagine you were from London or somewhere." Our nearly-Saturday-busy Friday afternoon traffic would seem like a deserted road and the scenery....Ooya bastard, I'd have to stop and take photos every two miles or so, which I did.
We pulled into the road to Glen Etive for a smoke and a joke then headed on up through Glencoe, Aidan, Chris and Smillie leapfrogging me as I stopped to get photos of the bike and videos of them with my new toy.
Chris just before Glen Etive

buchaille etive pani
After dipping our toes into Glen Etive.

Bikes and Buachaille Etive Mor. Smillie on the GS and the two Triumphs and a guy on an RT.

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glencoe pano 1
Glencoe. It's a pretty place.

Ride by from Valter and the Trumpets.

Crossing the bridge at Ballachulish.


Our next stop was waiting for the Corran ferry, a five minute journey over Loch Linnhe. By the time we were there the sun was splitting the trees. Between photos and me dispensing my infinite wisdom out to every one, we shot the shit with a bunch of guys heading to Mull for some building work.

Updates from this side of the Corran Ferry.



It's behind you Smillie!

Smillie describes the road from the Corran Ferry to Strontian as 14 miles of tarmac heaven. It really is nice. 
Heaven visited, we rolled into Sunart Campsite where we were greeted by Tim, the site owner, who knew us from our last stay. We got the crack on and off with Tim as he maintained his site and we stocked up from the shop and waited for the rest of the Massif to arrive. And stole shots of Tim's ride on mower. 
The plan was for most of us to stay in out tents, but Tim offered us one of his cabins that slept three. So Aidan and Smillie opted for the cabin, with me bagsying the last space for Faithir.
Ferg arrived. He'd bought a tarp shelter thingy from Lidl, similar to the one I'd bought from Decathalon, which we put up once his tent was up. Ben and Kirsten arrived in their car. They had hired the fancy cabin that everyone stayed in last time. They got their cabin set up before joining us under the tarp and plying folk with gin. Not long after Faithir arrived and our numbers were complete.
Some of us dined on the campsite, Chris, Ferg and I got a chippy, and the rest of us ate in the pub before the the night was passed in the bar.

Smillie on Tim's mower.

Ferg arrives.

You probably don't need to be told this, but Aidan here is on a health kick.


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Views from the Strontian Hotel.

We awoke to a few mild showers. Between these, tents were taken down and shit was packed up. Ben and Kirstin were heading to Cannich while the rest of us were heading for Achiltibuie, following the A82 up the side of Loch Ness through Fort Augustus and Drumnadochit. On a Wednesday mid day this could be enjoyable, but on a Saturday there in a non stop impediment. Caravan follows tour bus follows motorhome. In between all thing cars drone on in complete zombified submission. Right at the front is the leader, some halfwit who can't find their arse with both hands, but will try slowing down to 20 to see if that helps. Fucking idiots.
Anyway. once I turned onto the Ullapool road (I was supposed to turn off for Beauly at the Cannich junction, but never mind that) I was flying along. Fucking cold but flying along. The earlier showers had become rain and although my "Streets Ahead" t shirt was keeping my body warm, my paws were cold as a hoors heart. This was the first time I've ever carries spare gloves. Thicker gloves on and a big long piss taken and I set off, rolling into Ullapool, warm as fuck. Look! There's a palm tree, am I in the Caribbean? Aye, nearly.
Despite my Inverness detour I was the first to arrive at Ullapool. I got some voice mails and text messages from the guys saying they had stopped in Beauly for a coffee and food. Luckily I managed to get through to them and got a bunch of supplies for those who wanted them. Tonight Ferg and I were having Fajitas for dinner. I fucking love Fajitas.
Another thing I fucking love is the road from Ullapool to Achiltibuie. I have never managed to ride it fully without a wee error here or there, or without stopping completely for a photo. It's good shit, innit.

Moby Dick and Stac Pollaidh on the way to Achiltibuie.

In dribs and drabs everyone arrived at the campsite. I always say I'm going to Achiltibuie, but the camp site is around the corner at Altandhu ( Ferg, Faither and I did ride over to the Summer Isle Hotel in Achiltibuie for a nice pint of An Teallach Ale.
As the tents were put up the weather closed in. Everyone cooked their food in the shelter of the amenities block, well, everyone except Faithir, who had got a Chinese takeaway in Ullapool. 
Ferg and I had our Fajitas and they were good, although I think the Chilli we made of a previous trip was more successful as a group meal. We sat around the block till late, had a few drinks and a few Filthy Hooligans were smoked as the rain fell outside. Great night.

altandhu pano

Ferg tells us what's going on.

Good night.

Rainy night.

It pished it doon most of the night. Unusually I was pretty happy with this. My trusty old tent had started to leak and Bob had told me about stuff called seam sealer. It doesn't look too pretty, but it did the job. My tent remained waterproof the whole time. When we awoke the sun had come out and dried out tents. Today's destination was Brora, over on the east coast. We were all going different routes to get there though. Smillie and Chris were heading round the north coast road where as Aidan, Ferg, Faither and I were heading the more direct route through Lairg, with a wee detour to Lochinver at the start. These plans changed within the first few miles however, when Aidan went straight on at the turn off for Lochinver. Ferg tried to get his attention but Aidan just carried on. 

Much nicer today.

On the road to Lochinver.



Faithir at Lochinver



The three of us wise men stopped for ice cream at Lochinver. It was roasting and for some reason Fer had two pairs of trousers on. He tried to hide between the bike to de keg himself but I made quite a scene drawing everyone around's attention to his semi naked body. We carried on along the fast swooping A837 through Rosehall and onto the A839 to Lairg. It was great fun swooping along the road, but there's also great scenery and semi wild goats. The A839 joins the A9 just outside Golspie. From there it's a quick blast north to Brora.

Roadside furniture near Rosehall.


In Brora we met up with Aidan and stocked up on food and beer at the Co-op. The tents were put up at the campsite and we chilled out for the rest of the afternoon getting a heat in the sun. We were joined by Tom in his M3 who came down to get the crack for a bit. A wee while later Ben and Kirsten met up with us again. A few hours later Chris arrived. The plan for the evening was to head to Captain Crabbs, one of the Massif's favourite pubs, where Gus the owner let us get a curry delivered. We waited for Smillie as we checked out the menu. And waited.

And waited.

Finally we heard Smillie coming along. He and Chris had got separated and Smillie had stopped in a cafe somewhere. Together once more we headed along to the pub. We were all starving after waiting so long and the curry was devoured with a few hiccups. 
We had a good few beers in Crabbs with Gus and a few Brora locals. We raised a glass in memory of our mate GHC. Brora was one of his favourite places.
It was a great night.

At the campsite at Brora.


Tom's M3.


Brora views.

Brora views.

Faithir at Captain Crabbs.

Smillie opted to eat on his own.


Ho ho ho

Gid time Ben?

Everyone was heading home the next day. Aidan and still had a couple of days left. We had planned to go to Applecross and get a meal in the pub, but finances were growing tight. Instead we decided to head to Kinloch Hourn. We said our goodbyes to everyone else and headed for Golspie to get food, water, drink and toilet roll. We stopped again at Invergarry to get some peat for a fire, then headed along the super scenic, super twisty, super narrow road to Kinloch Hourn. 
Kinloch Hourn is an amazing place. It really is remote compared with most of Scotland. 
We cooked a nice sausage and pasta dish between us while trying to avoid the midges. They were only out for a couple of hours, but the Hourn can be pretty mean for midges. My last Filthy Hooligan and the fire helped keep them at bay for a bit till they fucked off. Aidan and I had collected plenty firewood which kept us going all night. The only other people there were two French walkers and two Germans who had all walked in from Knoydart. 
The night was spent around the fire. I even tried some night photos again.
The next day we headed down the A82 back through Glencoe, stopping for a wee break at The Green Wellie. 

hourn pano
Kinloch Hourn was busy!

There's no electricity at Kinloch Hourn. This is the exhaust from the generator at the Farmhouse. The guy also runs a wee cafe out his house and keeps a toilet open in an outbuilding for people to use.

These two horses wander about wherever they want. They visited us in the campsite a few times.


Night time at Kinloch Hourn.



A great night to end a great trip.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

MotoGoLoco Sent Us On Holiday!!

So I'm pissfarting around on the internet, instead of chopping wood, washing the bike or doing anything else productive as usual.
Tapity tap tap.
Click click click.
I'm looking at facebook when I see someone has liked a page called MotoGoLoco. Whats this all about then?
I head to their website, and have a look about. it's basically a tool to help plan routes and bike trips. There are recommended Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, Points of Interest. You can plan your route, picking the roads you want to take and avoiding the shite boring ones, then upload it straight to your GPS.
I never had my Garmin 550 back then, but I was still interested in seeing how it all worked and I wanted to know how far one of my local runs was. A few minutes later I got my answer. Finished.

But wait! it saus do you want to save your route?

Aye, OK.

Do you want to make your route public? If you do you will be entered into our "Pick A Route" competition.

Aye sure, why not.

And that's all I thought that was it.

A few days later I got a message from MotoGoLoco.

"Congratulations! You have one a nights dinner, bed and breakfast at the establishment of your choice." Followed by a list of hotels and B+Bs.

No fucking way! I couldn't believe it, I thought there was some sort of catch, but no! I'd won a competition!! Looking at my choices I opted for the Fernhill Hotel in Portpatrick

I phoned HB.


I was quite excited. All we had to do was arrange the date we wanted to go. I figured we could combine out stay with a night camping somewhere. I kept an eye on MotoGoLoco's website, using it to plan possible routes to the Fernhill Hotel. I was on it one day when I seen they had a Great Biking Roads photo competition. My regular reader will know how passionate I am about riding my bike in Scotland and I have a couple of photos of bikes by the roadside so I entered these two photos.

GHC run

Winton Massif - Last Trip of 2013

I got another e mail. I'd won first and second place.




I was pretty happy. 

HB and I planned out trip for the end of June. My photo had won us a night at the Belted Will Inn, just outside Brampton, Cumbria in the foreign lands of England. We'd ride down a scenic route and stay there on Wednesday, head up to Balloch O Dee on Thursday, where we had hired the bothy, before spending our last night at the Fernhill Hotel, Portpatrick.

Wednesday arrived and we set off south, riding down past St Mary' Loch, stopping for a coffee at the Glen Cafe then through Moffat to Gretna, where HB "checked us in" on facebook, causing a few "You haven't... have you??" comments. My mate Paul sent multiple texts asking if I'd got married, caring soul that he is.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
HB at The Glen Cafe.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Folk getting married at Gretna. The guy driving looks the happiest person there!

We arrived at Brampton earlier than we though, so we looked around a few of the touristy sights along Hadrian's Wall, a big wall the Roman's built because they were shit scared of Scottish people.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
MotoGoLoco prize holiday
MotoGoLoco prize holiday
MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Trying on helmets at Lanercost Priory

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Hadrian's Wall.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The GS and an untraditionally friendly cyclist.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
HB at Birdoswald.

When we got to the Belted Will they were just opening up for that evening's service. We were welcomed in by Alyson and the GS was given a nice secure parking space. We were shown to our room, which was pretty big with an extra bed where we dumped out stuff. We chilled out for a bit, got showered then wandered down to the bar. The bar and restaurant is quite olde worldy looking with the exposed beams in the roof, its a nice place to sit and relax. We were having a couple of beers, playing pool and speaking to the staff. Stephen, the owner used to ride bikes and we chatted away before he had to get to the kitchen. My phone was hooked onto the free WiFi and I was getting messages from Stelios, a Greek guy I knew through a GS forum who was on a big tour of Europe. He was heading up north and wanted to meet up to discuss routes. When I told him we weren't in Scotland and we were at the Belted Will he decided to join us. Stelios arrived just as we were trying to decide what to have from their tasty looking menu. 

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The Belted Will

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

I had a huge t-bone steak, HB had a ribeye and Stelios had chicken. The food was tasty and the portions were huge. We had though about having a pudding but we were stuffed. We spent the rest of the evening discussing bike trips, looking at Stelios's map of Scotland and chatting with the staff and other punters at the bar. There was a poster up for an event held by the Leek Club. I'd never heard of a Leek Club before but apparently they are pretty popular in northern England, with people competing to see who can grow the biggest leek. There must be something in the water down there....
The next morning we headed down for breakfast. This is where the Belted Will really stood out. their breakfast was awesome. We both had a full english breakfast with one of the best sausages I've ever tasted. 
Bellies full, we chucked our stuff in the bike said our goodbyes to Stelios and the Belted Will family and headed off. 

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Me, HB and Stelios

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Go here, here, here, here and here, Here's good too, and here, here.....

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
My GS and Stelios's K1600

Stephen and Alyson had recommended going over the Hartside Pass the night before, so we rode over there to Penrith before carrying back up to Scotland. Now the Hartside Pass was pretty good and there's a nice cafe at the top which is known as a local bike meet but, and this is a big but, the AA have it down as one of the top ten drives in the world. Yep, in the world. It's good, but its not that fucking good.
We followed the same route as I rode with Ben a few weeks before through Dumfries and along the A712 New Galloway Forest road. 
Instead of lugging our tent around HB and I had hired the Bothy. The bothy is a single room building that can sleep seven people. There's a wood burning stove for heating and cooking on. Pots, pans, plates and utensils are all supplied. All you need is bedding. For £45 a night it's a bargain. We spent the evening chilling out, feeding the chickens, particularly a greedy guy called George, and eating burgers cooked on the stove. Later on we joined the owners Dad around his fire.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The AA need to get out more.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The Bothy

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Inside the Bothy.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The Roundhouse. That's £40 per night.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Wee horse eating the flowers.

After a breakfast of fresh eggs on rolls we set off for Portpatrick. Portpatrick was only a 40 mile or so ride if we went the direct route so instead we headed up the A714 then over the B734 which ends with nice views of Ailsa Craig a big rock island in the Firth of Clyde. We stopped for a photo and a pee then carried on down the surprisingly fun A77 to Stranraer then on to Portpatrick.
Riding into Portpatrick we found the Fernhill Hotel easily, we parked the bike up in the car park and walked into the reception.
The view overlooking the town from the huge window in reception blows you away. We were welcomed by a member of staff who gave us a complimentary sherry then showed us to our room, which also had an incredible view over the town, a big bathroom and a massive bed. We got the bike unpacked, arranged a time for our dinner then headed down to have a look around Portpatrick. It was still quite early so we got lunch from a chippy van at the harbour, looked round the shops and had a beer in a few of the seafront pubs.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Ailsa Craig.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
At the Fernhill Hotel

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The view from our room. The photo doesn't do it justice.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
Chippy van ran by a crazy woman.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday
The Fernhill Hotel is just above the green building.

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

MotoGoLoco prize holiday

At around half six we headed back up to the Fernhill for dinner. The restaurant is in the conservatory of the hotel. Everything about it was really impressive. Fergus, our waiter, was friendly, chatting about mountain biking with us. We treated our selves to a bottle of Sancerre to accompany the stunning food. It really was seriously enjoyable sitting in the conservatory. HB ordered a fish dish and I had chicken, which was perfectly cooked. 
After our meal we headed back down into the town to watch a band in one of the pubs on the way there I stopped to climb in a big barrel in the park. HB took my photo and we wandered on to the pub. We'd just arrived when I realised that I'd left my blue jumper beside the barrel. I nipped back over to get it only to find that someone had pinched it!! No more blue jumper! I must be more of a fashion icon than I thought. 
After a great sleep in the gigantic bed we tucked into a great breakfast before loading the bike up and heading off. We both really enjoyed the Fernhill Hotel, it gets a full five chainsaws.
We decided to just follow the sat nav home. I thought it would take us a boring route but we ended up going along the A702, also known as the Dalveen Pass, an incredible road, really worth doing if you are heading to Portpatrick or Balloch O'Dee.

We had a great few days away. Big thanks to Faithir for letting me borrow his camera as I still hadn't got my new one through since I knackered it on the Bealach Na Ba.

Thanks also to the following people/organisations. 

MotoGoLoco for giving us the prize!

Stephen and Alyson and the rest of the team at The Belted Will Inn.

Hazel at Balloch O'Dee.

All the staff at the Fernhill Hotel, Portpatrick.


MotoGoLoco prize holiday