Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ode to the daily driver - Winter edition.

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I love daily drivers in general (whether they be a beat-up car, scooter or motorcycle), and I think they don't get the respect they deserve most of the time because we're so focused on more exotic and fancier machines. So, here we go.

The Yamaha has been pressed into service while the Honda enjoys some well-earned downtime at the Monolith (that's the codename for the new facilities).

Since it joined our fleet, I haven't done that many miles on this bike, and last time around I have to confess that I didn't really like it all that much; I felt like I got bored of it after a week. Instead, this time I'm beginning to appreciate its virtues; at first it's easy to think "this thing just won't move, it's so slow!" but if you can put that aside as you ween yourself off the brutal torque of something like a 1200S Sportster (just a random example), you realize how light and how small it is and those things are just as valuable as horsepower in the right context. It's just harder to understand, that's all.

This little bike lets you get around with zero stress and zero effort. Even in the worst traffic jam you will never get stuck, there's always a way out and it's just so easy!

Because we are plunged in perpetual darkness (at least until next spring) I have to rely on the Yamaha's lights, and this is another area where this bike shines; pun intended! There's nothing cheap here, the taillight is a classic "enduro" design but made out of very clear, durable plastic with a smooth finish, as opposed to the brittle stuff often found on some offroaders. The headlight is remarkably good, and unlike the Lucas stuff I'm used to on British bikes, there actually is a difference when you switch from high to low beam! The high beam is amazingly bright and makes night-time riding outside of town much safer.

Something else Yamaha have done on the Tricker, I think to emphasize that you're riding a small bike, is to fit slightly scaled down switch clusters on the handlebar; they could have easily picked some full-size controls from their parts bin, but instead what you see here is very tidy and very neat.
Like the gas cap, the speedometer and warning lights, the indicators, the gear lever, etc. it's all a little bit smaller than you'd expect. When it all comes together, you really see that this is a small motorcycle, and I have to think that was deliberate on their part. Clever!

When this bike first came to us it had been abandoned out in the open for a few years, which meant that it had started to rust and just get filthy; I think it got caught in a flood at some point. In addition to extensive servicing of the bike, dad did a great job stripping it down to just the frame and motor, pulling the entire wiring loom out so it could be cleaned: it was caked in mud! Routing it back into the frame was a real pain.
So, why was the bike abandoned and essentially left to rot in the first place? I think something very common happened here: some kind of accident. I think the bike was dropped or crashed, at very low speed, and perhaps the previous owner couldn't or wouldn't ride it again. I say this because the clutch lever is visibly bent (and uncomfortable to operate), as is the handlebar on the left hand side, and the left side orange gas tank panel was cracked. The latter was repaired and resprayed by an auto bodyshop and came out perfect, but the handlebar and lever need to be replaced.

I'll do the handlebar sometime in the future as it'll be an occasion to check out an exclusive new boutique garage as soon as it becomes available (can't disclose more at this time, sorry), I can live with the bent one for now; however, I did change both levers for a set of very flash looking ones from Hong Kong:

They're nicely CNC machined, and the fit was absolutely perfect. They make the bike nice to handle which may not be something you'd think about, but having well sorted ergonomics on your motorcycle can actually make you ride better, faster and safer.

I also scored a really neat luggage rack for this little bike, essential as there is no other way to really carry anything on it otherwise. At the cost of sounding obvious, everybody loves a nice rack:

This thing just promises adventure, don't you think? I'll see about when it makes sense to actually fit it to the bike, I'll probably need it sooner rather than later if I want to carry the rain gear, a lock and whatever else without having to use a backpack or a trendy tote bag on one shoulder.

In the meantime I can strap something to the the standard grabrail, but it ends up being a bit too close to the exhaust and isn't ideally secured:

Actually, speaking of adventure, I've started entertaining the idea of doing something similar to what I did back in August and linked to the yearly Campotosto Mystic Trip: perhaps if I have time next summer I could try a new itinerary to the mountain lake, and I could go on the Yamaha... Please, allow me the reverie, I need something to look forward to, to get through the winter. I hate winter.

Here's something else that was badly needed: a cover for the bike. If I left the bike out in the open all winter, it would be rotten through by the time spring comes again (which cannot be too soon).

I'm using the Yamaha to get around town: getting my meridians re-aligned at the Thai massage place, an aperitivo in EUR, going to get some takeout, Blade Runner 2049 , etc.
One last thing! The original gear shift rubber was probably damaged in the aforementioned suspected crash, so here's a new one:
Thanks to Gianluca for the assist, it's nice to be able to use friends' garages from time to time.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

πάντα ῥεῖ

I think years from now we'll be looking back at this moment and this time as marking the end of an era.

When I first moved my bikes and gear into this garage it was so that I would finally have my own space, with the added advantage of being literally in front of Witold's garage.

Our little group has enjoyed many evenings hanging out together wrenching on our bikes, planning and getting ready for trips, or just enjoying a beer with our friends and our rides next to us. We have all, truly, had many good times around here, in a way that any red-blooded gearhead around the world would recognize.

There's no reason to get into the specifics, but basically the logistics have changed, so those two garages will no longer be our hangout.
My garage is not really conveniently located for me, it was just great to have it near Witold, so now that things are changing it just makes no sense to stay. So, once again, it's moving time!

British bikes are seen exiting the garage... Brexit!

Over the course of a few days I moved all my stuff to a new top secret location with plenty of storage for the bikes as well as shelves and cabinets for spare parts and various chemicals; then there is a heated workshop right next door with a hydraulic bike lift, good lighting, an extensive range of tools, etc. Not bad at all...

The bikes were all loaded up in a van and brought over in a single trip, including the Honda, which will receive some much needed servicing and catch a break from the winter.

Honestly, aside from witnessing a cool situation fade out of existence and into shared memories (which isn't necessarily a bad thing!), I can see no drawbacks from this move and actually quite a few benefits!
For starters, I'll be saving a bit of money, never a bad thing. Ironically, I'll have more time to dedicate to my motorcycles, especially through the long, dark and unforgiving winter that is upon us.

The only slightly annoying thing is that if I need to do anything on the one bike I'll be keeping with me (the Honda mostly), I'll have to go squat at friends' garages, since my new location is still pretty far. I'll keep a small toolkit with me and I should manage with the basics should anything happen.

After that, we'll see what the future brings, and we'll keep very busy at the new place with all the maintenance we have to do. I just hope to have it all ready by next spring, when hopefully I'll be riding out on some cool trips and to new destinations.

Time for one last solitary coffee at the place 'round the corner, and to say goodbye to the garage:

In this moody shot above, Gianluca visits the garage one last time on his freshly rebuilt BSA 350.

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Daylight saving time ends tomorrow, which means we're in for at least five long months of darkness, cold and rain.
Batten down the hatches, and with a little luck I'll see you on the other side!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Forbidden love...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

the Campotosto Mystic Trip 4 - "the equilibrium of the Chakras"

Well this was a lovely, lovely outing.

And as is known to happen with the CMT, this was not at all what I expected this trip would be. Unfortunately Witold couldn't make it this year, but we were fortunate to have Gianluca and Marco with a couple of buddies ride along for the morning. My sister Susanna and her Micheal also joined and that was a very welcome addition to our little band.

After reaching Borgo S. Pietro we stopped for lunch at a very nice restaurant with a good view of the lake and plenty of tasty food to keep you busy for a while:

Altogether, we had one hell of a trip, tiring, fun, fast and soaked in good cosmic vibes from start to finish.

As always, our host Mauro, a true mountain shaman and custodian of the forest, welcomed us and looked after us with the warmth of a log fire, wonderful food and wine and the long awaited genziana at the end. He then shapeshifted into a bear and roamed the woods, checking to see that the trees were doing well.
During the nightly astral travels, I sat in conclave with some oak trees and they told me things I have since forgotten, but, I get the sense that with a little luck, and a bit of peace and calm, all will be well.

The yellow autumn sun on Sunday morning was a fitting salute to the good summer we have enjoyed this year, and this trip was a fitting conclusion to the year.

We have a huge amount of maintenance to take care of over the harsh winter months, so that will keep us busy until next spring, when we return on the road looking for more adventures and more mysticism.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Rising Star is for sale.

Yes, you read that right. And I'm selling the bike, not the blog.
I know that this may come as a shock, and you may not understand why I've decided to sell it. You may disagree and think this is a mistake. Well, perhaps. But I've thought this through and I consider this to be the end of a very interesting experience that has taught me a lot: I've dreamt this bike into existence, I figured out its dimensions, what it would weigh, how it would handle, how it would look down to the smallest detail. With the help of some friends I built it, and finally rode it (a lot). Now I feel satisfied about it but another bug has bitten me so the reason I want to sell it is so that I can move onto another project, something that I'll hopefully manage to show you in the not too distant future.
Now, I want the Rising Star to go to someone who will appreciate it for what it is, and look after it.
Together with the bike, I will give a small box of spares and something very special: a twin-carb head from an A50 Cyclone.
Get in touch for details, this is one neat bike: buy it, and go have some adventures.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Triumph 750 for sale

Uncle Fester has a rip-roarin' 750 OIF Triumph for sale. This is a left-hand shift bike with disc brakes front AND rear, it rides really well and is going to a lucky new owner (you?) for a very reasonable price. Get in touch for more info!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Majella tour.

Ever since we discovered the region of Abruzzo years ago, we have been under its spell and have gone back time and again, to revel in its beauty and the vastness of such an unspoilt land, all fairly close to home.
One place I had wanted to see for myself was the Majella national park, yet another huge territory of stunning landscapes and wild natural beauty but for some reason our plans were thwarted more than once. This year, we have finally managed to make it over there and get a first taste of this majestic park.

As I said, having been to Abruzzo several times over the last few years, we have become familiar with how the place looks (to put it plainly), and what the aesthetics of those mountains are.
On some level, I guess I must have expected to encounter the same "look and feel", and I think that was a good thing, because when we finally entered the park I was rendered simply and utterly speechless by a unique landscape, far more beautiful than I could have imagined, or than I can describe for that matter, and very different from what we had seen in our previous trips.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was finding Witold astride his latest machine, an ultra-futuristic early 90s BMW K100RS, outside my garage the evening before we were set to leave; he was in Germany and although I knew he was making his way back, I also knew that he would not have been back in time for the trip, so imagine my joy when I learned that he had made excellent time and would have joined us on this adventure.
Marco on his part has finally taken delivery of the latest incarnation of his BMW, now an unstoppable 980cc "Sports-Scrambler", that got the uncle Fester treatment to sort out a considerable number of niggling little things that were never quite right. The electrics on this particular bike seem to be stubbornly recalcitrant, and it is probably the last hurdle to clear in the near future, but all in all everything worked out ok, despite Marco loosing his ignition key at high speed on the autostrada! This happened because the switch was obviously faulty and no longer able to secure the key in the 'On' position.
Thankfully the switch didn't cut off the engine, or it could have spelled disaster. However, it meant that the guy had to disconnect the battery every time we stopped for more than a few minutes, a real pain in the ass.
A new switch is being procured, so hopefully that will be sorted for good.
Here are some more photos from along the way, I'm really at a loss for words and I think it'll be a while before I really digest all that we have seen and experienced along the way.
We asked a group of pilgrims to take our photo, these folks were trekking across the park on foot, with all their gear on their backs and in quiet veneration of the land and the divine. I guarantee they experienced far more than we did on the bikes... Also, notice Marco's new and far classier handlebar compared to the one he had before:

Do not be alarmed by what may seem like a thousand yard stare, I am simply planning (yes, already!) the next tour of this beautiful park:

If all goes well, next year we'll do this again, and we'll organize things in the light of what we learned and figured out this time around.
For instance, I think the way to do this right is three days, two nights. Hear me out, day 1 is for getting to the campsite from Rome, we'll make a nice trip of it, stop for lunch somewhere, take our time and enjoy some downtime at the campsite in the evening.

We then leave early on day 2 from the campsite, and do the loop with plenty of time to stop for photos, a drink here and there, lunch and generally soaking it all in. For example, one detour we didn't have time for this time is near the top of this peak:

By the time the sun sets we'll be back at the campsite, instead of stuck up a mountain in a deep dark forest like this time. Yeah, I used the word "adventure" on purpose earlier. Finally, day 3 is the return leg, where you can gun it all the way if you need to be back early, or you can take it easy and enjoy some more time on the road, to really appreciate what you've seen. Anyone interested? It'll probably be around the end of May, or beginning of June...

Time to ride off into the proverbial sunset, but check back soon because we're getting ready for the CMT4 and it should be a good one...