Classic Motorcycle Mechanics

Pip talks about un-fair weather riding…


Now here’s the thing: I’ve been thinking about the bikes I’ve ridden over the few years I’ve possessed a licence and the amount of cubic fun I’ve had in the process. I say that, but in reality the fun-ometer is brutally calibrated in direct proportion to two external factors – ambient temperatur­e and the level of precipitat­ion before, during, and occasional­ly after the ‘ride’. The other factor, working in conjunctio­n with the above meteorolog­ical input concerns the length or duration of said ride. If the weather throws, let’s say, a two at us, where one is wet with hail, snow and occasional ice, and ten is sunny and warm, then the length of ride needs to be either zero or possibly slightly less than that. Given an eight or nine, then a couple of hours romping in the countrysid­e, possibly somewhere a bit hilly, Snowdonia, Ullapool, The Picos perhaps, is getting pretty close to heaven. Events such as these are rare, I can remember the few occasions I’ve hit the above spots very clearly, but I’m not going to bore you with tales of staccato exhaust notes clattering off ramshackle barns in the rural wastes of Italy on a crisp June morning. Too boring! The recollecti­ons that make my toes curl, even 20 years on, are of intense discomfort brought on by unpredicta­ble, f-ugly weather. A few years ago Bill and I set off on the first day of The Giro in wonderful, balmy, playful sunshine with a light sprinkling of fluffy little clouds. Within 30 minutes the fluffy cirrus had been mugged by a sky-full of nimbostrat­us in a fetching shade of very dark grey. The rain that ensued was biblical, and when I say ‘biblical’ I mean a goggle-fogging, crotch-rotting, spark-killing, boot-filling deluge. We rode for about four hours until ‘wet’ just didn’t have sufficient meaning. Then, as quickly as it arrived, it left. Do I recall the couple of hours of afternoon bliss, after my boots had drained off? Nope! And sometimes it gets worse. Many years ago I delivered a Series 1 Landie to my sis living in deepest Devon. I reasoned that the best way to accomplish the mission was to pop a bike in the back of the little truck (have you ever tried to load a 550 Honda into the very short, very high bed of a short wheelbase Landie?) After delivering the short thing I would jump on the 550 and hurtle back the couple of hundred miles or so homeward. But then the snow started to fall as I approached Devon. What’s the worst that could happen? The next morning the snow was about an inch or so deep in Pixie Lane but I set off on the Honda and as I ventured north the snow started to fall again and where initially there were defined black bits, pretty soon there were only white bits and as I proceeded up onto Exmoor (what was I thinking?) it became apparent that I was going to fall off sooner rather than later. Approachin­g Wheddon Cross I was knackered and the prospect of feeling my toes again became quite appealing; the sight of a ‘vacancy’ sign hanging at a jaunty angle in a tree at the side of the road was all I needed to abandon the bike for a night. I have seldom been so relieved to get my boots off and watch as the poor Honda disappeare­d under a fresh fall of snow. Of course foul weather can occur in places that it shouldn’t ought to. Myself and she who is frequently obeyed ventured across that America a couple of years ago on ‘The Black Pig’. This was a Harley which was half a ton when laden, putting it at the edge of my personal envelope. Of course when marching forwards at 65mph it was a breeze. My better half asked about the weather and in particular the temperatur­e that we might encounter on our sojourn. I figured it would be crisp but warm, up to low 60s around noon. Then we would stop for tea and tab-nabs before romping along for another three hours or so, arriving at the next hostelry before dusk. After a somewhat chilly ride the previous day as we progressed from New Mexico into Texas, we were rather taken aback to observe that the fountain which tinkled so melodicall­y the previous evening was now silent, it was silent because it was frozen solid, did I say 50 to 60 degrees? Hmm, I was just a bit out. With papers stuffed down inside jackets and as many gloves/socks/plastic bags covering our extremitie­s as we could muster we ventured out along the 180. With occasional sheets of ice crossing the Tarmac I glanced up at a display on a nearby hotel, it read 14 degrees, that’s 14 USA style Fahrenheit. Still, at least it didn’t rain.

 ??  ?? ABOVE: Never try to ride your bike through more than half a metre of the wet stuff. NEVER!
ABOVE: Never try to ride your bike through more than half a metre of the wet stuff. NEVER!
 ??  ?? ABOVE: Regaining some feeling in our extremitie­s.
ABOVE: Regaining some feeling in our extremitie­s.

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