Monday, 13 February 2017

Dragon Rally 2017

After the Elefanttreffen last year our new friend Joe Kuhnie from Stuttgart said he’d be interested in attending the Dragon Rally in Wales, Fi and I have never been so we said ok, we’ll organise tickets. The Dragon Rally is a motorcycle camping rally held annually during winter in North Wales since 1962, making it one of the UK's longest running bike events. In the 1960s the attendance at the Dragon sometimes topped 3,000 riders, this year we were told 1400 attendees were permitted. The rally is famed for its toughness and spartan facilities, i.e a muddy field and not much else but they did have a marquee more of which later. Riders often have to endure miserable riding conditions to attend the rally and, once on site, they are expected to camp without regard to the weather conditions. It is an event held in veneration by large numbers of motorcyclists as a test of stamina and endurance (and gross stupidity) because (in the first two decades at least) it was common to have to endure snow and ice to ride there.

 We secured tickets in October and arranged to meet Joe in a Hotel in Bangor, Wales on the Friday night (the Dragon is a Saturday / Sunday only rally) After some weeks of reasonable weather the temperature dropped (of course) just before the meeting. Fi and I set off down the A702 just after 6am on the Friday, mainly to avoid the chaos of the Edinburgh bypass, this was a good decision, despite the dark and cold we had a good run down to Biggar for our first re fueling stop. The outfit is not great on fuel when fully loaded and ridden at high speeds so fuel stops have to be planned with military precision.

The ride then down the M74 & M6 passed without incident, we stopped at Tebay services for Breakfast and we thought we would get some heat but recently I’ve noticed the services are kept at a temperature to discourage prolonged stays, fine if you are in a car or van but not when you get off a motorbike, arseholes, turn it up a couple of degrees!!

Fi took over as pilot for the stretch down to Manchester and another stop for Fuel at Lymm services where I regained the controls for the last leg into Bangor, en route we passed some Germans on outfits so we were obviously going the right way. We found our Hotel, Joe had been there the night before and had gone for a tour, we booked in and still wearing all our bike gear (it was freezing) took a walk along the pier to the café at the end which was of course closed, we found a place eventually to eat before going back to the hotel and meeting Joe.

 A fine night in the bar (12 year old Glenlivet) was followed by a not so fine morning, breakfast and bikes loaded in the wind and sleet we headed to the checkpoint at the services just outside Bangor. The Dragon format is you go to a checkpoint to have your tickets verified and to be told where the rally is. This seemingly was the first time they have used the services and it was chaos, around 300 bikes blocking the whole place up, we queued for at least and hour to have our tickets verified and witnessed the staff losing patience with all those guys blocking up the whole service station, we just lost the cut when they closed the queue down to assess and come up with a better plan.

We eventually got our tickets stamped and made our way to a muddy, windy and wet field around 3 miles away. Of course my favourite pastime is putting up a tent in the wind and rain so once that was done and the bedding sorted that was the fun over, now just stand the rest of the day in the wind, rain, sleet and watch guys drop their bikes in the mud, drink first tea, then beer, then whisky whilst talking nonsense and waiting for hypothermia to kick in.

Around 5pm after a particularly wet and windy spell we decided to go to the marquee to check it out, we got a beer there but realised soon all those bodies inside a cold tent meant we were constantly showered with condensation from the roof, good thing was it meant your pint never got emptier, bad news was the beer was being replaced with other people’s sweat effectively. We left for a couple of laps of the field, some home cooking in the rain then we spent the night basically sheltering from the weather in the front of our tent drinking and talking nonsense. If we could have had a fire (not allowed) it would have been a more pleasant experience. It was still a good rally though , we met some nice people as always and it was good to see a few “classic” bikes on the field being used rather than polished, sorry i never got any Triumph photos George but you never turned up with the chips.

Sunday we packed up as the snow threatened, said goodbye to Joe and headed home. Similar run home but with gale force winds (Fiona piloted the bit over Shap where it was horrendous) The outfit struggled to do much over 70mph into the wind on a full throttle so that gives you an indication of how bad the winds were. On reflection a good weekend, around 650 miles, the onset of hypothermia delayed, good people BUT we won’t become regulars, got the badge, got the woolly hat (to join my large collection of lost woolly hats) that’ll do us for now. Of course next week more camping, excellent………..

Breakfast at Tebay
Petrol at Lymm
View from the hotel steps was nice
Walk along the pier
Old fisherman's houses were pretty
Bangor Pier
It was windy.......
Yet another dram with Joe
12 year old Glenlivet, (we finished it)
Arrival at the checkpoint
The re organised queue
All sorts of bikes, a group of loonies on step through Hondas
Fi Praying for the rain to stop
Nice, used as it should be Vincent over the fence from us
It got busier
Sheltering from the rain for a while
Very nice, not polished but better for it
Boys with too much time on their hands
Used Guzzi, kinda cool, must stop polishing mines
Atmospheric B/W shot
Really dont know
Still even less clue
Anything goes
The only mighty Norton I saw, an ES2
Another Vincent and an owner with a sense of humour
2017 or 1967, probably some of the same people
Chef Fi cooking dinner in the rain
Eventually the rain was too much so indoor dining and drinking in Casa Rondelli
Fi explaining something technical to Joe
Sunday morning snow on the hills, braw!!!!!!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

More mud, no tarmac

The last couple of weekends have been devoted to garage time and trials time. Getting the sidecar ready for the forthcoming Dragon Rally in Wales in a couple of weeks, getting the T3 Guzzi ready for an MOT and looking at the parts for MVD in preparation for the rebuild. Thanks to Laurenne for picking up my bits from the powder coaters, looks like a great job. Hopefully soon we will have a Commando rebuild thread.
I have been up and down the A702 a few times lately, a road which is scenic at times and bloody frustrating at others, because of the disaster that is the M8 / M74 I think more trucks are using the 702, 45MPH is no fun no matter how scenic it is!
Managed to get some nice pics over the last few weeks on it though.

En route to the Guzzi post Christmas dinner
Pretty, takes your mind off following a gritter at 30MPH
En route to work, sunrise, very tranquil

This week saw the annual celebration of Burns's birthday and we celebrated with Bert &Laurenne Friday night in Haddington therefore Saturday was not to productive but we did get the trials bikes ready for Sunday, a great day today proving we still have a lot to learn but great fun despite the bruises!!

Thats not right!
Fi having a dab
Climbing the hill
Which you have to go down again, much scarier
I was tired.......
Giving the bikes a clean
Good practice for river crossings

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Back to off road

I finished off the holidays by organising powder coating of some parts from MVD that are salvageable and ordering new parts that aren't. Just the wait now before the rebuild commences! Meanwhile after an absence of about 20 months we made a return to Drumcarrow in Fife for some much needed practice on the trials bikes. The little we learn't the last period we were trialling has obviously been well forgotten so it was a day on the nursery slopes for us practicing easy (should be easy but aren't) manoeuvres , Fi's mum and dad came along for a visit so Dan took some photos and its thanks to him for the ones here. A braw day oot riding bikes, blethering and meeting folk, canny whack it. I was a bit concerned about the bikes as I had some difficulty getting them going yesterday and ended up stripping Fi's carb from her bike before realising that I probably didn't have the petrol on!! Much swearing but I'm glad to say they both ran fine today. Just as we were finishing Fi was determined to do a "wheelie" I tried to coach her but she misunderstood when I said open it up and she managed to flip it completely, no harm done , just sorry I didn't film it as it was spectacular. After a day of exertion a well deserved chippy in Queensferry was a fine end to the day.

Fi Concentrating
Me trying to concentrate
Tea break (very necessary)
Fi looking for a difficult bit
And again
Me looking for a rest
Nice view to enjoy oor chippy
New bridge taking shape

Thursday, 5 January 2017

MVD stripped

The main job this week apart from heralding in 2017 was to strip and hopefully start putting my old Norton Commando back together, the stripping was the easy part but I realise now it'll take a bit longer to rebuild. Parts have to be cleaned (amazing how much hidden grime can accumulate in the 44 years since it left the factory and the 36 years I've owned it) Although I've had the engine & gearbox out several times this is the first time its been down to the frame. I now realise even more parts will have to be renewed so I'll be playing my part in helping keep the British bike spare parts industry afloat. This bike has helped me tour tens of thousands of miles all over the UK and Europe, it was my commuter bike back in the days when I was racing and couldn't afford to run my old Transit van to work and college and I even raced (and crashed) it at Beveridge park in 85 (I think) after my race bike blew up so it deserves some Tender Loving Care (TLC). I had an ambitious plan of timescales but am beginning to realise it might be too ambitious. Life has to go on, miles have to be ridden, other bikes maintained, camping done etc so the best I'll say is that it should be ready for the Summer. I made this short timelapse movie of the stripdown which I hope you enjoy.


Monday, 2 January 2017

A Guid new Year to ane and awe

First I hope you all have a prosperous healthy and great 2017, secondly apologies for the lack of blogging but recent events have been more partying rather than motorcycling (sometimes both) and I wasn't sure if the readers were interested in photos of our friends in various states of drunkenness. I promise to make up for it in 2017 and try to get more interesting stuff on the blog.
We decided to try and finish what we abandoned last year and go camping but this time on Hogmanay (New years eve) to bring in the new year alone (we invited everybody but unbelievably we had no takers) wild camping in the Meldons, the Meldons are some hills just north of Peebles, nothing there except a road, a river and sheep and the very occasional passing car. We stopped for lunch at the Leadburn , most excellent and waited for the wind to gather speed and the rain to start before we set off to our camping spot. The rest is explained within the attached video. Just before Midnight as we pondered the stupidity of our situation Fi said "we've finally become German" a reference to exactly 4 years ago in Ushuaia  at Rio Pipo campsite when we were having a party in the warm and welcoming refuge at the campsite but just before midnight our German contingent left to go outside into the freezing cold to make a fire and stand outside, we couldn't understand it then but I suppose we kinda do now. Oh and a big thanks to George Martin who appeared with chip butties and some hot tea to keep our spirits up.
Anyhoo, here's to a great 2017 may all your miles be trouble free.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

December weather ok so far

Saturday spent in the garage fettling the trials bikes, almost there so realistically early January we should be back getting muddy (too much partying beforehand)! The sun this morning was streaming through the window so we got the chair out again and headed to one of our favorite cafe's at Gullane. We were early on the road and the temperature barely above freezing but it was dry, roads were quiet and the sun was out, whats not to like. We made it along the bypass (officially one of the most congested roads in Europe) before the lunatics hit the shops in the annual insanity that is Christmas shopping so even that was bearable. The Firth of Forth at Longniddry was like a millpond, still and very blue reflecting the blue sky in its mirror like surface.
The first (and only) shock was finding the cafe is under new management but good news is the tea and food is still excellent. We paid the £2 parking fee at Gullane very reluctantly, charging people to go to the beach is a poor show, there are facilities but I thought thats what we paid our council tax for, still I suppose we all have to chip in to pay the outrageous salaries of the blood sucking self opinionated and non accountable council executives. That negative thought never took away from a splendid walk along the sunny but cold beach and the most excellent day out!

£2 to park.......
For the 4th of December it was stunning
People enjoying the beach in different ways, no fee for horses, think I'll get me a horse!
Fiona's Happy Birthday Sara message, happy birthday Sara!!
It all looked splendid
My "Just grey" for men is working
I thought santa had a reindeer? Mind you maybe they have to pay parking for reindeer?