“I’ve been to Paradise but I’ve never been to me”

is a very, very, cheesie song released by Mary MacGregor, Charlene and others.

It’s about living a hedonistic lifestyle but never finding self fulfillment – very deep. Hedonists believe that their sole purpose in life is to maximise pleasure and happiness whilst minimising pain. Full-on hedonism is a bit extreme but I don’t see the harm in some pleasure and that’s what I’ve had with Sir Walter, since we became road legal in April last year.

Wherever we go, young children cheer as we go by (or is it “jeer”), teenagers point and laugh, builder’s mates hang out of transit vans and shout “give us a wheelie”, women often smile (sometimes shaking their head from side to side) and even Jack Russells are happy when they realise this is the first “motorbike” they can out run!

We’ve been stopped by pedestrians jumping into the road to ask, “what’s that?” and brought nostalgic smiles to men who were young in the 50’s and had a Cyclemaster as their first “motorbike”. One motorist even asked to buy Sir Walter, as “it’s exactly what I want for Steam Rally weekends”. Virtually everywhere we go, we strike up conversations with strangers. And we’ve been to quite a few places.

We’ve been on the East to West Adventure –

FROM CRIMDON DENE                            TO TEESDALE

AND HARTSIDE                                     TO WHITEHAVEN

We’ve been High and Low  –

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We’ve been to Castles and Windmills

We’ve been to North America

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and in the words of the song

“We’ve been to PARADISE

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and we’ve also been to PITY ME”

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a great year all told. Bring on Hedonism.

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115 days to go to the Motogiro D’Italia…

and it’s turned into a full engine rebuild.

I’d hoped to get away with minor bedding-in but the list of issues has grown to the point where I can’t trust anything,

  1. Burning oil due to to non standard O rings being fitted in the wrong place on the valves
  2. Cylinder head gasket leaking oil due to poor head gasket alignment
  3. Overhead Camshaft bearings not running smooth
  4. Cam chain far too tight as cylinder gaskets were too thick (hence cam bearing problem)
  5. Slipping clutch with springs shimmed up and going coil bound
  6. Excess end float on clutch basket causing clutch to rub on Primary cover at one side and clash a little with the drive gear when it thrusts the other other way. (helical gears)
  7. Gearbox input shaft doesn’t turn as smooth as it should, so there could be a bearing issue in the gearbox.

So that made my mind up for me. Full strip and check everything.

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And it’s just as well I did. The previous engine builder had a preference for using silicone for gaskets and like most people, used far too much. It then squeezes into the engine and can break away blocking oilways, leading to total engine failure. Not something I want to happen in the middle of Italy…

 

 

no going back …

as I’ve now booked my place on,

The 26th edition of the Motogiro d’Italia

that’s 154 days to get the MV sorted, ready and in Bologna for Monday 30th April 2018 for scrutineering. Stage 1 starts the following day with the sixth and final stage on Sunday 6th May, after which I’ll hopefully have covered 1576 km or 979 miles.

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There’s museums and other events along the route and we finish at the Ducati factory, who are sponsoring the event this year.

Next April sounds a long way off but the MV is in pieces and will be until January when the new clutch arrives. I’ll then have to hope the weather is kind, so I can fit in some long “settling-in” rides, complete with thermals.

and there’s the transport and logistics to organise

and a spares package to pull together

and I need to find out what this means:

“a TIME TRIAL event (MOTORAID) founded on: transfers, time check controls, time and stamp check controls and ability trials, that will take place in the localities described in the check cards. for the competition”

and the MV needs fitting with 3 event number plates

and it’s not charging and the speedo doesn’t work

and learning some basic Italian wouldn’t be a bad idea..

As I said there’s, “not going back” because the deposit is non-refundable. So if all else fails, I’ll be the first and probably the last, to attempt the Motogiro on a Cyclemaster.

(979 miles at 15mph average = 11 hours riding per day. That’s doable isn’t it? I may even get an award for the slowest ever finisher.)

NC500 – 500 mile trackday with stunning scenery..

I’d been aware of the North Coast 500 (NC500) for some time but when my son suggested we do it in his MX5, it was one of those offers you just can’t refuse.

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For those that don’t know, the NC500 is 500 miles around the northern coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness. It’s been voted the fifth best coastal road trip on the planet and is Scotland’s answer to Route 66.

Ocean views, dramatic mountains, white beaches, picturesque fishing villages and lonely lochs are all visited on route.

And of course, there’s mile after mile of twisting, rising, falling black stuff, or tarmac to you and me, that’s just perfect for a nimble MX5. The route can be completed in as little as 24 hours (crazy people in sports cars), or as long as a fortnight (crazy people in camper vans) but we chose a sensible 4 days. Accommodation is key to route planning, as it can be hard to find away from centres of population, which are few and far between in the North West.

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We started at Inverness Castle on a surprisingly sunny, late August day and headed west to do the circuit in a clockwise direction.

 

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Day one was 150 miles of this

 

 

 

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and this

 

 

 

 

 

with the highest point being Belach na ba on the Applecross peninsular and yes, that’s the road in the background.

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And the next 3 days were pretty much the same. You can google fantastic photos of NC500 so I won’t bore you mine which can be seen here if you wish (not too good due to weather – at least that’s what I’m blaming. Either that or I need a new camera).

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What I will do however, is recommend you add NC500 to your bucket list, near the top – do it in whatever transport you’ve got and you won’t regret it.

And I’ll share my top tips to help you,

  1. Don’t worry about their being too many camper vans. In our experience the vast majority were very considerate and usually let you straight passed at the first passing point.
  2. Don’t make enemies as you go (or grudges) as you keep meeting the same people and may even be in the same B&B. We were, with the Citroen driver we passed in a passing point when a car was coming the other way.
  3. Watch out for Mercedes SLK drivers (or SLGay as they are often called) as they don’t like being overtaken. One tried to keep us behind him (I was driving) but he didn’t succeed and was history after a few twisty bits.
  4. Also watch out for any car that’s gold or beige, as they are often “slightly nervous” drivers. We went to pass one and it wandered in panic, then tried to dive off the road.
  5. Keep alert for cattle grids. I came across one in the middle of a very fast, downhill, left hand sweeper. Fortunately, I was able to straight-line it as nothing was coming the other way but it could have been “nasty”.
  6. Fill up at every petrol station you come across as you can’t be sure when you’ll find the next one and it may be closed – it happened to us in Aviemore as the BP station was closed for refurbishment.
  7. Make sure your brakes are it top condition AND check the inside pads for wear. We only checked the rear outers which were 5mm and the inners ran to metal shortly before we arrived home. Don’t assume they wear evenly.
  8. Don’t forget the midge cream or assume they won’t like your blood group or aftershave; they will. They are so small you can hardly see them but I’m sure they’d be nothing but wings with teeth under a microscope!
  9. The curries at the Lockinver Mission are excellent and great value. Also the “all you can eat” 3 course meal at the “La Taverna” in Aviemore is not to be missed.
  10. Continuing the food theme, if a B&B asks you what you want for cooked breakfast the night before, refuse to tell them. We didn’t and got a warmed up breakfast out of the microwave that was the worst I’ve ever had. I eat everything but drew the line at rubber bacon and wet soggy mushrooms. Probably the best breakfast I’ve ever had (not just on NC500) was at The Old Armoury Guesthouse in Gairloch which is run by really nice lady called Pam.
  11. And finally, the Moray Motor Museum is definitely worth a visit, to complete your motoring extravaganza. It’s in the centre of Elgin which is only a short detour from the route south. The exhibits are of the highest quality and even include a Cyclemaster – but it’s not as good as Sir Walter!

Finally, relax and enjoy the drive. There are no speed cameras and we only saw one policeman. But please do obey the speed limits in build-up areas; there’s no excuse as they use a count-down marker system which works great.

Enjoy.