Moto Guzzi Panda Camping

2015-05-25 16.41.21Bank holiday Monday – traditionally that day when you rejoice in not having to go to work then arrive at the end of the day having done nothing better with it. That’s usually the case with us anyway. This time however, with a whole week ahead of us and the threat of serious DIY projects, I felt a camping trip would be in order. We’d done exactly the same thing at Easter but this time I had a tweak I wanted to try.

The Panda’s been camping a few times now. We can just about get the basics in there with a few folding chairs and a table thrown in for sheer luxury value. Unfortunately that usually means fitting a roof box. I hate getting the roof box on almost as much as I hate getting things in and out of it. Even with it fitted, we still end up cramming gear into every single nook and cranny the little car offers, including the foot wells, between the children, on the children…

Another less than ideal part of camping with a small car and two kids is that you end up having to pitch a tent and monitor two children exploring their new environs simultaneously. A more competent father would be teaching his children to help set up the tent but not me. Too stressful and I’m not carrying spare poles or patience.

2015-05-25 16.13.17So my plan was a simple one. I’ll pack the car. I’ll make sure everything’s sorted. Then I’ll pop the tent on the back of the bike, leaving the car with one less bulky item and one less person to carry. I then leave early, get the tent pitched in peace and get a free ride out into the bargain. What’s not to like?

Angie wasn’t convinced. I’m not all that sure she is now but the plan worked perfectly. After a fantastic ride to the coast (something I don’t tend to do for the fun of it) I’d paid up and pitched the tent by the time the main party arrived.
2015-05-25 21.09.07
In fairness, the bike then remained parked behind the tent for the rest of the short break. Even there it proved useful. The wing mirrors are a great place to hang your rubbish bag or towels. Then, when the children were tucked up in their bags and the sun was setting, I could admire the view over Robin Hood’s Bay, scotch in hand, feet up on the exhaust. It’s a beautiful view over the bay but when you add a Guzzi, it’s pure stunning. 2015-05-25 16.41.42

Categories: Camping, Moto Guzzi Breva 750, Traveling | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

My Life in Bikes 8 – Suzuki DL650 VStrom

2012-08-01 20.55.41I had a bit of time so I thought I should probably add something to the blog. Having recently sold my VStrom, it figured I should probably just write it’s entry for the My Life in Bikes series. It certainly earned it’s place.

I came to the  Vsrom after a fantastic road trip with my brother, swopping  back and forth between his Suzuki SV650 sport and BMW K75RT. I loved the SV’s stonking power delivery but it didn’t convert me to the sport bike world. The BMW on the other hand, was more appealing right up the the Lancashire Border 4 Bike Down Valleymoment it shredded it’s clutch splines somewhere in a Pennsylvania Forrest.

On my return to the UK, I started looking for something to replace the YBR250 I had. I wanted a midsize tourer but hadn’t even come across the VStrom so didn’t even know that engine was already in an adventure tourer. When I came across one in a showroom, it was a done deal.

The DL650, the less powerful but fantastic sibling of the DL1000, is affectionately known as the WeeStrom. Ours was crossing the border into Scotland withing month of us owning it so it gained the name, Wee Hamish.

2012-08-01 20.55.41In fact, in Scotland, two up touring, that bike was in it’s element. It had plenty of grunt and long legs on the motorway. At the same time, it was fantastic fun and brillient on the twisty roads of Yorkshire, our home playground. The Vstrom is known for budget suspension but I assure you, that bike was the best handling bike I’ve ever owned. On good tyres and technical roads, my friends sportier bikes seldom stayed with me. It was comfortable too. Sore bum came eventually as it does on anything but a sofa with handlebars. The upright riding position and fairing were perfect for long days in the saddle.

2013-02-14 20.34.24As with any bike, there are downsides. The Wee’s Achilles heal is, without a doubt, brakes. They simply couldn’t cope with winter. Whenever the gritters started spreading their corrosive horribleness all over the roads, my callipers would begin to bind. I’d be putting new seals and pistons in every year and eventually having to replace both front callipers, forcing me to lay it up for the winter and depend on the YBR125 for commuting.

That was part of the reason I sold it but not the only reason. It was a big bike taking up a lot space in our garage but we weren’t using its size all that often. Ang had passed her test but wasn’t tall enough to ride it where as she could ride the Moto Guzzi Breva, a bike I have a massive soft spot for. The VStrom simply didn’t offer anything we need but was using up resources.

Then, the weekend before it went, I took it for a ride. I was enjoying it I was loving it. I was having second thoughts, almost. However, as we climbed a steep hill on a sharp bend, I met a farm vehicle coming the other way and had to stop across the slope. I’ve always found the VStrom a little tall so with the ground just a little bit further away, I lost my ballance and down we went. It was a sign. It was time to part ways.2015-04-19 09.28.30

I’ll miss that bike. One day, when I’m richer and in need of something with touring intentions, I’ll certainly be looking at a Glee first, assuming I’m unable to own what I really want, a big Guzzi.

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Recently, with the kids being off for Easter and me being flat broke, I needed a cheep activity to get us into. I’d heard about Geocaching, mostly through twitter and a consultant we’ve used at work. It quickly became an obsession. My daughter loves it and so does my son as long as it isn’t too far and he can swop a toy or two. However, it turns out, it’s most certainly not just a family event.

This particular geochach I'd ridden right past many times but this time I stopped and enjoyed the location. The cache its self was very wet so I never signed it.

This particular geochach I’d ridden right past many times but this time I stopped and enjoyed the location. The cache its self was very wet so I never signed it.

Nor is it that cheep. As well as constantly buying little toys for the children to swop, I paid for a three month premium subscription to (worth it by the way). Then I ended up buying a Garmin Etrex 10 handheld GPS unit as using the phone app just killed the battery way too fast. It’s dead simple and pretty much just tell me the heading and distance to the geocache I’m hunting. It does other stuff as well but having having just a heading and distance is the most important part to me.

I never would have discovered this location if I hadn't been out hunting down geocaches. Just a beautiful place to stop and just 'be' for a bit.

I never would have discovered this location if I hadn’t been out hunting down geocaches. Just a beautiful place to stop and just ‘be’ for a bit.

Thanks to the little Garmin and Geochachin, I’ve got a great new way to explore new places. Now, when I have a bit of time, I’ll choose a geocache based on how far I have time to travel then I mount the Garmin on my bike and just ride. The Etrex 10 is not a sat nav so, with just a heading to go on, you have to figure everything else out for yourself. Whether you get it right or wrong, it takes you to new places and down roads you’ve yet to explore.

I’m currently of the opinion that the YBR125 is the best geocaching bike. I did take the VStrom off geocaching just before I sold it but having to stop on a hairpin bend caused me to drop the bike. The Guzzi, well, you always feel like you’re lucky if it starts and with all the stopping, there’s a lot of starting to do. I don’t like pushing my luck when it comes to the Guzzi. With the YBR, you always know that it will go down any lane and just as easily come back up it after you had to turn it round somewhere narrow. Also, it’s pretty much fuel intolerant. Most importantly, it’s so easy to ride, you don’t struggle to pay some attention to the navigation.

Another unexpected find thanks to hunting down a cache. I parked by the gate to a field and walked the last 450 metres. This old church was in the middle of the field. Apparently it's lit by candles and isn't connected to any water, gas or electric but you can still have your wedding there.

Another unexpected find thanks to hunting down a cache. I parked by the gate to a field and walked the last 450 metres. This old church was in the middle of the field. Apparently it’s lit by candles and isn’t connected to any water, gas or electric but you can still have your wedding there.

I’ve now got a list of Caches I’d like to find on my way home. Once I’ve found them, that’s it. They’re spent. Done. Next time, you go looking for a new one, somewhere new. That’s the beauty. I’ve now found most of the ones on my route to work so next time I’ll be finding a new way. In this way, I’m finding I am visiting new places, or even just noticing places I’ve ridden through or past hundreds of times. It’s been quite a revelation.

I recommend Geocaching to anyone who just likes to explore their world on a motorbike, foot, bicycle, car (if you really must), unicycle or whatever. Check out for more information and a better explanation of what geocaching really is. You could also do a google (other search providers are available) search for other geocaching websites. I also recommend the Garmin Etrex 10 over depending on a smart phone. Give it a go but be warned, you might get addicted!

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My Life In Bikes 2 – Kawasaki GT550

Foff to germanyolk always go on about what your first proper bike was, as if there is some magical cut off point between what is or is not worthy of being called a motorbike. For me, my first proper bike was the CB100n. My next bike, the one you need a full licence to ride, the one which everyone in my family remembers, was a Kawasaki GT550. Actually, according to the log book it was a Z550GT but the side panel said GT550 and that’s what everyone calls it.ang and jake.2

I remember it just as fondly as everyone else. Thanks to its shaft drive, huge range and comfy seat, it was the perfect touring bike for a young mechanic in the army who hadn’t yet seen the light when it came to faired motorcycles. Between us, we traipsed around Germany and the Netherlands, usually wet through and every so completely lost. The air cooled, four cylinder, detuned Z750 motor was a peach, just as long as it got decent petrol. As I remember it, the GT550 loved to carry weight too. Ang and I went two up camping where it was just as happy as it was carrying just me. In fact, I’ve never found a mule like it, though my Vstrom comes close.

bikes 012Again, it wasn’t perfect. Being naked, hanging on, on the autobahn, was hard work, especially in the inevitable rain. We fell out with each other when it left me stranded when the CDI unit blew out somewhere outside of Amsterdam. There were problems with condensation in the winter thus you felt compelled to change the engine and shaft oil much more often as it quickly turned an unpleasant shade of cream.bikes 010

But I loved it and admonished myself for selling it. Leaving the army to be a poor student, I’d assumed I’d not have the money to keep it. As it turned out, I quickly found a reasonable part time wage driving coaches so could have kept running it. If I had, who knows, the rest of history would probably have been very different. I’d happily have one again, for old time’s sake and sunny days, even if it does come with too many cylinders to be a real bike.

bikes 007

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My Life in Bikes – Honda CB100N

You always remember you first, right? It’s a fair wee while ago now so, what I do remember is potentially inaccurate. There are pictures on old hard drives and feint memories stored in my mind.bikes 017

It was my first ever bike. I bought the Honda CB100n, from a girl I fancied back in my school days, for a few hundred quid. Knowing me, I probably paid too much. The tiny blue Honda came with a name too. Yoshi was around as old as I was and I loved it.

Of course, having bought it, I then had to get a licence for the thing. By then I was old enough to go straight for a full licence on Christmas leave. Once back at work, a gun fitter I worked with (he rode an Enfield India Bullet 350) told me I wouldn’t want to keep it after riding the ER5 for the test. “You’ll feel like your riding a plank,” he told me. Seems like a pot calling the kettle black situation coming from an Enfield rider. It turns out he was wrong anyway.

old pic scansI was happy to cut my teeth on that tiny bike. It was the only bike I ever owned that I exclusively maintained myself. It took me from Catterick to Harrogate and back 3 or 4 days a week for a year or so. That was a fair distance but you hardly ever needed to put fuel in the thing. I was younger, fitter and more immune to hardship so I didn’t see any reason to not ride it for miles and miles. I even took it a little further north on a few occasions.

Though I’d love to have one in my dream garage for nostalgic reasons, it had it’s limitations. It was good for 50mph max cruising speed. Faster than that and you’d probably fry the motor. The 6 volt electrical system made riding back to camp in the wee small hours more than a little tricky. Though it had pillion pegs, the only time I ever remember using them was to give a lift to a very drunk corporal a short distance back to the barracks.

It was reliable enough for a very old bike. I had to do some work on the dodgy cable operated front brake calliper. Other than that you just had to adjust the tappets and contact breakers from time to time then choke on, boot on the starter and kick it into life.bikes 011

Of course, all things come to and end. This one hung around for a while though. After I bought my first big bike, I still didn’t want to get rid of it. Yoshi stayed with a friend for a while, and then found it’s way back into dad’s garage. Eventually however, my parents made it clear it couldn’t clutter up their garage any longer. Eventually I let it go free to a good home. I hope they enjoy it as much I did.

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My Life In Bikes – Preamble

I found myself trawling though old blog posts this morning, trying to find if I’d ever had much to say about a bike I owned a few years back. There was barely a mention of it. In fact, there was little mention of most of my biking history.

Why was I looking? For several days I’ve been talking to @bikesandtravels on twitter. It seems we share a preference for smaller motorcycles. He recently toured Scotland on his CBF125 and I’ve been riding the YBR125 around all winter and intend to use it for most of Autumn. He also has a CBF250 which is having ‘issues.’ I’ve had two 250s in the past and both had ‘issues.’ Something else we share I guess.

Anyway, somewhere in this conversation, it was suggested I should write about the Hyosung GT250 I owned some years ago. I thought I’d probably written something but, as I already mentioned, I hadn’t. There’s little mention of the Yamaha YBR250 I had when I started blogging either. And with little else to blog about, it seems perhaps a series of posts on the bikes I’ve owned over the years is in order.

I don’t really do reviews, probably because I don’t really read them when others do, usually preferring to check it out myself or speak directly to owners. I tend not to care about people’s kit or bike reviews because, all to often, they review kit they haven’t had very long. In doing this, I will be writing about things I haven’t had for a long time. They will, therefore, be tainted with that sort of instagram nostalgic filter we so often put on the past. Hopefully a good balance between fact and opinion will be found.

Right then, I’m off to find a picture of the old CB100. That was an awesome bike (there I go).

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Spring is in the air

Late winter / early spring is a wonderful time of year. Commuting involves daylight as long as you leave a little late and don’t stay on too long. And there are genuine opportunities to make the most of the ride with increasingly frost free tarmac.

It’s that time of year when the irresistible urge to go the long way home creeps into the bike psyche. Heck. It’s not like it will get anymore filthy than it already is!

It’s not all good though. The roads are trashed! All that lovely new tarmac laid for Le Tour is already proving itself a cheep job. Gravel, gravel everywhere punctuated with potholes, so many potholes. And mud. Then, in the morning, you still need to be aware that frosty patches aren’t impossible, especially on higher ground.

Soon the spring lambs will be breaking from the protection of their mothers. Hungry for adventure they will wonder the lanes seeking greener grass, oblivious to the dangers of meandering out in front of traffic.  You have to assume a new danger lurks around every corner.

Even so, it’s a great time to be a Yorkshire biker. Go steady, ready for anything. The new season is just waking up.

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New Luggage for the YBR125 and the Guzzi is Fixed.

I’ve spent this week riding to work on the YBR125, preferring to leave the heavier, more powerful and harder to keep clean VStrom at home. Together we’ve battled strong winds, snow, ice and a particularly nasty man in a blue Zafira, coming out on top every time. Other that enough power to reach a reasonable speed in a steady 35mph head wind, the only thing it lacked was lockable luggage.

Well, the lockable luggage thing is sorted, though I don’t think Ang will be impressed. She, for reasons I can’t fathom, prefers to use a backpack. In fact, she was was rather pleased when the last box broke. I’m not a fan of backpacks and using a tail pack every day is a real bind so I waited till Angie was at work and fitted a back box.

This Lextec box is removable so Ang doesn’t need to use it when she rides the YBR. Also it can come off when we need to store the bike. This is particularly necessary as the box makes the bike much longer, blocking the steps.

Whether it’s any good or our not, I don’t know. It’s not been anywhere yet. It seems well made. It’s not Givi quality or construction but then, is not Givi money either. I doubt it’s construction will limit it. The problem is the rack on the YBR125 which isn’t really big enough. It’s only just on there. I will need to be very careful about how much weight I put in this thing. I guess we’ll see how it goes.

Not wanting to wait for something ordered online, I bought the box from G. W. Johnson’s. Alan and Sandra are great and is not uncommon to get a cup of tea and a biscuit out of them too so I didn’t mind paying high street price for luggage. They’ve had the Guzzi since last Saturday and I assumed it was still ‘awaiting spares.’ Imagine my surprise when I heard the distinctive sound of its engine starting up in the workshop below. Leaving the kids to wander the showroom, I popped my head around the door to find the Guzzi in its traditional parking space: atop Alan’s lift.


And good news! Having replaced the surprisingly expensive sensor, the speedo is working again. In fact is all working again. FOR NOW! Keep checking back for next week’s fault of the week.

Actually, the Guzzi will stay there for this week as we’ve no chance to pick it up. I intend to carry on riding the 125. Best bike for the job and, frankly, it’s a doddle and a joy to ride so why not.

Categories: Fettling, Moto Guzzi Breva 750, Repairs and Maintenance, YBR125 | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Guzzi Gremlins

Before I say anything else, I would just life to say, I love looking at, listening to and occasionally riding my wonderful wife’s Moto Guzzi Breva 750. It’s beautiful and the engine is a peach. Both can’t help smiling when we see hear or ride it. Infectious!  But there’s a but.
The thing has gremlins crawling through every wire. First, the indicators started coming on all by themselves. Then it wouldn’t start because of a dodgy starter motor, replaced at great expense. Just before we left for a big rideout, the fuel pump decided it would take a few days off. Now, the speedometer is not working even though it posts at startup.


Shiny looking ain't it!

Yesterday I took it to see Alan at G. W. Johnson’s in Harrogate. Together we located the road speed sensor and removed the rear wheel to test it. What a mare that was. Shaft drives are meant to be easy to take off but it seems Moto Guzzi didn’t see it that way. You have to take off the caliper and break the tyre of the rim to get it out. Even then there are cush driver rubbers all over the place. Daft!


This is where we eventually found the road speed sensor.

In the end, I left the sensor with Alan and brought the bike home, where I tucked it into the back corner. Once again, the trusty old YBR125 comes back into play, filling the gap left by much more expensive bikes.

The worst part is what it’s doing for Ang. She can’t trust it. She probably never will. To be fair, it is 9 years and nearly 28000 miles old’s but there’s more going wrong here than you’d expect in a worst case scenario. We’re both starting to think we should have bought an older SV650, something with a proven track record and performance. Something Alan sees all the time and shares many systems with my DL650.

But we didn’t do that because that Breva chooses you, makes you love it, make excuses for it, forgive it and put up with it. For now. Here’s hoping those gremlins are chased out soon.

Categories: Moto Guzzi Breva 750 | 2 Comments

Christmas Cheese Run 2014

Well, it’s been ages since I posted anything but we’ve been up to a fair bit. Ang passed her tests on the first go and I was informed of this by what is probably the worst quality selfie ever taken.

2014-12-14 14.50.10She then picked up her Guzzi which worked perfectly for her. Needles to say, I had to test ride it for her upon which the indicators (turn signals) went all funny in the wet. She rode it to Masham for her first little ride-out and it played up again, eventually not even starting without a push. As well as some poor peripheral wiring, Alan discovered the starter was stuffed so £300 later it was up and running again, in time for the Annual Christmas Cheese Run.

The cheese run was once a solo affair. It started 2012 when Ang told me I could have a few hours on my bike as long as I brought home cheese and biscuits. I took that to mean I had to ride all the way to the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. I’ve been riding it alone as Kev, my oldest riding buddy, is allergic to winter. This year however, Jim had a bike and now even Ang did. AWESOME! We got us a ride out!

Jim tipped up on the day, his bike covered in tinsel. We had coffee and a joke about the Guzzi going ‘All Italian’ while dressing the VStrom in fairy lights.



With the two Jap bikes looking festive, I joked that we’d better check the Guzzi would start. Guess what. It didn’t. There was no buzz from the fuel pump and it was going nowhere. Ang was really upset: as in, there were tears. However she was determined to ride so we dragged out her old faithful (and no longer for sale) YBR125.

The ride out itself was nothing I haven’t done many times before, though we stayed on the main roads as the weather was decidedly sub-optimal (high winds, stronger gusts and lots of rain). We were ready for breakfast at the end of the first and longest leg from Harrogate to Settle though it seemed odd to me that no one went for a full English breakfast as has been traditional. Following breakfast, we followed Ribble up to Ribblehead where we stopped for pictures before continuing on to Hawes. The good people at the creamery provided coffee, scones, cheese tasting (that chilli cheese had a crazy kick) and didn’t seem to mind too much when we covered the radiators with wet kit. From there it was on to Masham for more coffee before heading home for tea and medals.

Cold and Wet but Having Fun

Cold and Wet but Having Fun

The two Yamahas performed faultlessly. Jim’s Fsomethingorother600 is just right for his purposes. Mind you, he can’t stop those long lingering looks when he sees a Triumph Tiger 800 wander past. As it sometimes does, my Suzuki wasn’t keen to restart when still warm and at high altitude. It’s a thing it does and if you open the throttle just right it will start. It certainly doesn’t scare me like it used to. The VStrom is still easily the best bike I’ve ever owned and now we have the Guzzi for a change of scene, I can’t see why I’d want anything other than my (fairly) trusty Wee.

The Guzzi on the other hand, having singularly failed to join us on Angie’s inaugural ‘proper’ ride out, was still broke when we got home. Fuel pumps for it are big money so I was very pleased when a certain amount of fiddling with connectors eventually brought it back to life. Since then, it’s been OK but I kind of feel like we’re never going to really trust it. It is a beautiful bike to look at and a fantastic bike to ride so it’s not for the chop just yet.

2014-12-23 15.57.11We won’t be selling the YBR125 though. After all, it’s the most reliable vehicle we own and without a doubt the cheapest to run. Call it ‘insurance.’ Actually I really like that little YBR so I’m kinda glad it’s staying, even if we could really do with the money.

Categories: Ride Report | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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