Morocco Tour 1 – Gallery

This gallery contains 50 photos.

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Two Books ~ Christmas Special

2booksxmocornerI’m running around Morocco till early December. More news on how the XCountry performed on road and trail around then.

In the meantime may I propose a productive use of your time and money by buying the two books on above left, sprinkled with seasonal seasoning.

Adventures in Motorcycling is new and covers my time as a London bike courier in the 1980s. £8.99. Click the link for more.

Desert Travels is a digitally remastered reprint of my 1996 book covering the same period in the Sahara. £6.99. Click the link

jackyClick this to buy both books for £15.98 sent post free in the UK

notukClick this to buy both books for £20 posted anywhere overseas.

If you just want one book, click the links above under each book’s title.

Posted in AMH News

BMW XCountry – On the Spanish Plain

bullToday the XCo was humming away like a generator, covering 760 clicks of deserted dual carriageway and Autovia strung out in an arc between Madrid and the Portuguese border. All at a 95kph average but never exceeding 110. A week ago I was bracing against deeply unnerving gales in northern Scotland. Today it was the easiest 470 miles I’ve ridden since I came back this way from Morocco  on the F650 twin a couple of years ago. No wonder Spain went bust – they spent it all on great roads and I passed more unfinished. They say motorways are boring, but they’re also free of any ‘sorry-mate-I didn’t-see-you’ perils and so quite restful if the bike is comfy and the weather fine.

It’s good to be reminded what it’s like to leave for distant lands, even if it’s only Morocco. All the usual anxieties flit about, then – with years of doing this under your belt – you relax until the next challenge and the one after that. And so it could go all the way to Cape Town or Vladivostok. Gaining confidence with each new hurdle as you master the game with satisfaction, energised by the newness of things. It’s what they call adventure motorcycling.

The fuel consumption has taken a hit – down to 20kpl or 56.5mpg – nearly the X bike’s lowest ever figure. But that’s the only way to eat the miles if I’m to be in Marrakech by Tuesday. Partly this may be down to the fuel richening booster plug I fitted at the start of the summer, though I realised the the tyres were a bit low. I won’t begrudge the engine-cooling properties of a richer fuel mixture down in Morocco, but when I come back in December I’ll temporarily unplug it and see if I can detect the slightly harsher engine response along with better fuel consumption.

As always I fail to get into Spain, and I’ve been trying long enough. This time I’m on a mission, but over the years I’ve taken various cross-country routes looking for something arresting. But it’s the same old high plains – farmed or grazed and interspersed with higher ranges or deeper valleys. What few towns and villages there are tightly clustered around a hilltop church. Ride in and no one’s around.

a4I’m reading a book about an 18-year-old Scottish anarchist who came here in the 1960s with a bomb in his backpack to do in Franco. He found something arresting all right. Lucky not to be executed or simply disappeared as 1000s of others were, he got 20 years but was out in three and seemingly had a great time in jail advancing his political education. Ironically back then prison was the only place in Spain where people could talk freely away from the secret police. They’d already been caught. Our man was sorry to say goodbye to the inmates. Less Midnight Express – more Express Checkout.
Perhaps in Spain it’s the people more than the land that give the place its appeal – not something you’ll encounter averaging 95 clicks to an hour. But right now with a Euro 25 to a pound, Spain is as cheap as ever. Did the acute financial collapse here bear down on prices? Two lip-smacking coffees, big bun and a fresh OJ – 2 quid por favor. Overnight hostal around £25. Fuel about 20% less than the UK. And at a balmy 20 degrees plus few tourists to be seen, big bike touring here right now could be a treat.

Another interesting X-factoid for you. Using a satnav reveals the speedo is about 8% over – you’re not going quite as fast as you think. But today I finally got round to calibrating the odometer against the roadside PKs which are accurate to within ambient thermal tolerances (and more accurate than a GPS for this task). It’s how you establish your true mpg and so, range. Over 180kms the odometer was just 3 miles out, reading 109 for the 112 miles I actually covered. It makes you think if they can get it that accurate, the over-reading speedo must be deliberate and factory set just within the (UK) legally allowed error of 10%. So you always think your bike is a tad faster than it is.

hs1The big question is how will the X machine manage Morocco’s rocky pistes. Somehow I’m not convinced it will be an improvement over the rorty 21-inch Husky Terra I used last year. I had a blast on that bike – same engine and power, near enough – but as heavy as my modified X bike is now.
As always the compromise is in the getting there as well as the being there. I’m just about to cross from one to the other.

Posted in AMH News, BMW Xcountry | Tagged , , , ,

Gonzo versus the Onesies

gonzobeanzThis Hurricane Gonzo seems to be taking a while to clear the area. It’s been so windy in the UK that yesterday for the first time more power was generated by wind farms than nuclear power stations. Must be all those beanz eaten by the greens. Though right against a wall the X bike got blown over by a gust that also blew my boat out of the park, and twice I’ve had to retrieve the rain cover pressed hard against a deer fence on the other side of the field.

I’ve lavished the BMW with ACF-50 rustbut actually as long as it’s more vertical than horizontal, a spell in fresh rain washes off any rain-bound salt sprayed off the Minch. Ferrous or otherwise, rust never sleeps up here, as the two bike racks on the right testify. I only bought them two months ago!

rukredFaced with the long ride south before an even longer run to Morocco, it’s good to have clothing like my prized retro Rukka  waterproof (left) in which I can confidently face two days of 60mph autumnal showers. It waterproof alright, but it’s only PVC cloth so not especially good against the wind chill.

powerletrukplugProblem is how to run the Aerostich electric vest with the Rukka without wires coming out my trouser leg. The answer: a Powerlet Luggage Electrix Connector (left) normally used for powering/recharging gadgets stashed in your tank bag. Melt a few tactical holes in the Rukka, then screw it on with some Aquaseal for good measure (right)

AustinimogulWith my snug Gul fleece onesie (left), I expect this set up to get me nominated for the Bake Off TV show. It may not get you invited to the best parties (unless you’re the celebrated sartorial unitarian, Austinimo, right), but it eliminates a two-piece’s heat sapping overlap and associated cold spot around the kidneys while stopping you feeling like a turkey trussed up for Christmas. That creates a feeling of comfort which induces relaxation and so defers fatigue. (I think I’ve just hypnotised myself).

Now with my double onesie combo and the Aerostich e-vest I can turn on, plug in but not chill out on winter’s long road.

Posted in AMH News, Gear Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Some 2015 Yamahas

XTZ660-2News in on Yamaha’s 2015 models. Of interest is the latest XTZ660 Tenere, except that it looks like just another paint job with little actual difference to the original model I ran a few years ago.

That’s no bad thing, even if it could lose some weight. But as that won’t happen, the next best thing would be to make an ‘XTra Tenere™’ with the engine from the MT-07, as was speculated about here.

MT07-3With its great success, the 2015 MT-07 has been blinged up with some red detailing into something called the MT-07 Moto Cage (right) for younger viewers. It’s possible that the valve guides may require some attention if all that smoke is anything to go by. My old XS650 used to get like that.

NickSandersferochSuper Tenere-riding Nick Sanders (left) has been promoted to Yamaha’s ‘Destination Adventure Ambassador’, so a box of Ferrero Rocher to him. What it actually means he’ll be hosting Yamaha-branded Destination Adventure tours, as many adventure-moto-celebs get to do.

XTZ1200WCThe adventurised World Crosser version of the S10 that he rides sports all the usual AM-paraphanelia and must be getting close to a real-world 300-kg when fuelled up. Must say though, I was dead impressed with the engine after a quick spin own a Super Ten a few months ago. Not enough to buy one of course – the S10 is said not to have been a great sales success – but it gave me an idea of which more in the New Year.

XJR1300Other bikes that caught my eye, now that I’m looking back at where I came from, include XJR1300Rthe sexy  XJR1300 (right), and an Racer version (left) which reminds of the old  XS1100 Special. Always had a soft spot for the beefy FJs. More here.

We’re all told that the popularity of biking is in retreat in rich countries, and in a couple of decades will expire altogether along with my generation. But Yamaha are still coming up with some fruity machines that appear to demonstrate the good old-fashioned fun of biking, as well as capitalising on the new custom scene with their ‘Yard Built’ range. Factory-built, the twin-shock, naked XJR13 looks fine out of the showroom. A 180-kilo Extra Tenere? One day soon, we hope.

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Mitas tyres for the X bike

mitas2With so many good tyres around these days, for each trip I try to use something different. For me that’s usually a trail tyre for the getting there and being there (Morocco in November). So far, in terms or all surface grip and longevity, it’s hard to beat the Heidenau K60s I used a couple of years ago. Someone told me recently that Heidenau is the modern iteration of the notorious Pneumant East German brand from the 1970 and 80s. Many a prematurely grey MZ rider will know what I’m talking about.

mitass1This time round I’m trying the similar, Czech-made Mitas E-07. Front and rear delivered to the middle of nowhere for under £100. That will do nicely.

Getting the old Tourances off proved the usual struggle. The Mrs had to drive repeatedly over the tyre to break the bead so it had me convinced there was some annoying, tubeless-style safety lip in there. Far from it, so you do wonder how you’d manage trying to do a tube repair alone out in the desert. It’s why I prefer tubeless and/or Slime. The less need for lever swinging the better.

mitas-leverBut when there’s no choice I’ve found tyre mounting is greatly eased with a pair of 350-mm Italian ‘Buzzetti’ Pro tyre levers. I’ve had my pair for years, as well as a little BMW number which is so old it says ‘Made in W. Germany’. Quality steel means both can be as narrow and thin as possible to help tuck under the bead, but without bending. In the UK this place in Buxton sells then for about £11 each.
The other thing I discovered recently is using Aerospace 303 as lube. It’s actually a UV vinyl/rubber protectorant I use on my kayaks, but lubes up nicely. Anything will do of course, but once dried, 303 gives a teflon-like slipperiness, rather than an oily or soapy film. Next time I’ll pre-spray the beads and the rim and let them dry – less wasteful that way. The blue things in the picture are home-made rim savers (bits of thick split hose), though they work best when removing a tyre. Going the other way there’s a risk of them being pulled into the tyre. That will not do nicely.

mitass4Despite all this superb equipment, a task that requires some application can produce a hasty ‘right, let me at ‘em’ attitude – or perhaps that’s just me. So much so that I fitted the front against the recommended rotational arrow. It’s not that critical unless I start pulling stopies for a living, though the tread pattern may wear better (i.e.: cup less) in the correct direction. And on the back I failed to give the tube a few psi to give it some shape so as to clear the levers – with predictable results. Oh well, all good practice which I clearly need. AdvSpec are doing Conti tubes for under £11 a shot.
It does remind me that familiarising yourself with the whole wheel-removal/tyre changing/wheel refitting business back home can save a lot of stress on the road. When you’ve done it once in the back garden (however much of a mess you made of it), you know you can do it again and are familiar with any required knacks or order-specific procedures unique to your bike.

mitas5Even with the 303 all over the front, it took a lot of pressurising/deflating/lubing/a run round the block and more repressurising up to 75psi to get it to sit fully. With that done it was time to do the 50-mile round trip to the shops as the larder was looking as bare as my old Metzelers.

Most of that run is a bendy single track road between mountain and loch (left) with plenty of hard breaking into pull-outs to dodge oncoming traffic. With the new E07s the Xcountry was transformed, reminding me how it ran when I picked it up less than nine months and a surprising 9000 miles ago. Where have I been? Since that time the bike has acquired a lardiness which I put down to the 10-15kg of extras I’ve fitted. With a steel subframe it adds up to 10% extra weight. The front end especially felt heavy, even after a Hyperpro make-over.

mitass8Seems it was only the worn down Tourances after all. Now that both tyres have round profiles, the 650 swung along that narrow road as if on rails. Cornering confidence was much improved and there was none of the new-tyre edginess that the ‘Catspaw’ K60 initially demonstrated on the BMW twin. Far from it; it just encourages you to push on towards the new limits. I did feel a bit of headshake at 70, but that could have been the strong crosswinds, the surface, the screen or just the fresh tread.

mitass6I imagine the chevron-bar ‘tractor’ pattern will work well enough on gravel, letting the tyres roll off small stones which will fall between the tread’s bars. In mud I’m not expecting miracles unless I drop pressures substantially. The depth of the centre tread – about 6mm front and back – seems less than the K60s. We’ll see how it performs on the road to Morocco where, as long as it was dry and you rode accordingly, last year’s Husky TR650 managed pretty well on the Dunlop Trailmax tyres. I expect the Mitas to be a bit more sure-footed on the pistes.


Posted in AMH News, BMW Xcountry, Gear Reviews, Project Bikes | Tagged , , , ,

The wrong kind of Adventure Motorcycling

RR-AIM4-1000I’ve written a new book. A motobiography called  Adventures in Motorcycling – Despatching Through 80s London about my occasionally badly behaved years as a motorcycle courier in London, thirty years ago. The book starts in the ‘sports moped’ era in the late seventies, before progressing on to despatch riding on everything from classic Brit twins and thundering Italian street racers, to East German mangles, demented dirt missiles and nitrox-injected dinosaurs. By the time I finished with that job I’d had many, many more motorbikes than birthdays.

sdidentityaxIf you rode bikes, lived in London, watched films, listened to music and had an opinion on Thatcher back then (as well as perhaps taking in a bit of rioting or protesting), you’ll find something to enjoy or wag a finger at in the new book. For a flavour of what it’s all about, scroll through the year-by-year galleries from those biking boom years which, among other things, brought us the great machines we ride today.

tinakindoThe kindle version will be out in early December (you can pre-order it off amazon now). The 300-page paperback is out in February. There’s a chance there may be some advance copies of the paperback before Christmas. Pre-order the paperback off my website. Free delivery in the UK.

Or, forget all of that and if the old eyes are still up to it, test your skills of observation in the Spot the Difference competition on the website to win a free copy of a kindle or a paperback.
If you do the social media then  s p r e a d  the word!

Adventures in Motorcycling is not a ‘how-to’ handbook


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