Sunday, 29 August 2010

Agnes, an addition to our stable.

Part One:- Road Chaos and desperation.

Have you ever sat on E-Bay, watching intently the item you really want, the seconds are counting down and you have made your final bid, the one that pips every one else and then some bugger beats you by twenty quid?  Yeah, happened to us too last week. Yet this turned out to be a good thing.

You see, we sold Henry the Honda 125cc training bike to a nice lady who is going to use him for what I used him, learning to ride and passing her tests. Henry was faithful and loyal friend who gave us several hundred fun filled miles. He also gave us moments of worry when we though he was going to cost us a lot of money, but he always came through for us and he always just kept going, even when his tank was on reserve.  Henry had charm and with in minutes of his leaving, I missed having his happy little headlight in the garage. I also badly needed a bike I could use to commute to work on, because although Sylvie is a fabulous bike, commuting on her on a daily basis, will ruin her.

Sylvie and Henry out playing in Cheddar.

So Carol and I scoured E-bay and with the money we got from selling Henry, plus some more from a settlement against a school I used to work at, we found a few nice little 250cc bikes I could use. Now, I passed my test in April this year and am on a restricted bike for two years, which suits me fine. I must admit that I find that a restricted Sylvie is still an awful lot of bike for me and I do find her a little scary some times. So any bike I ride has to be thirty three BHP or less. Now I was thinking that a 250 or 300 cc bike would be about right, but Carol was less than convinced.

So while looking at 250cc bikes, we found a really interesting Z250 Hardtail chop and it looked with in our budget. So we sat there watching, the last few seconds came up and I placed my bid, only to be beaten by some other lucky bidder. Feeling a little despondent I looked through the other things that we had on our watch list, nothing really sang out as nice or reliable. Until Carol had an idea, a little research and she finds a lovely 400cc Yamaha XJ. Thinking that it was unlikely to be my power rating, I almost dismissed it, until Carol found on line power ratings. This could be our bike. We began watching with a couple of days to go.

I want this one please

The bike was described as a little tatty, but otherwise reliable and one of the photo’s clearly showed a bright young woman with the bike at a wedding. We checked out the photos and examined the bike as well as we could and hoped that we would not be pipped at the post. However, the bids were going up slowly and it was soon looking like we were going to lose out. Finally the day came and we sat down with our dinner and watched the minutes tick down. With a few seconds to go, we entered our bid, confirmed it and hoped for the best.

A few minutes later, we were scanning Google Earth, looking for a place called Leighton Buzzard, the home of our newly won motorcycle. Now this place just happens to be very near the home of a couple of dear friends of ours, Xander and Boff, two of the nicest and most gentle people you could ever ask to meet and also conveniently married to each other, so seeing them both is nice and simple. The plan was to leave our place nice and early with the car and trailer, drive to see Xander and Boff and then go and pick up the bike. Nice and simple you would think, would you not?

The truth though is much darker, this journey was plagued by accidents and problems, starting before we even got on the road. Carol had to rewire the trailer board because the lights stopped working. She made them work and then they just stopped working again. They continued to be unreliable for the whole of the journey and Carol went through a pack of spare bulbs, just to stay legal. Finally on the road, we were heading out of town when a girl was hurt in a traffic accident. The road was blocked and we sat delayed in traffic whiling away the time looking at the places around us, as we slowly crept passed them. We were running approximately ninety minutes late by now.

The motorway was nice clear and we had a good run, although the chance of making up time is not really there when the car is restricted to 60 miles per hour because we chose to have a trailer. Things were moving along well though until we hit the M6. I hate the M6 now, it is a horrible motorway. A large lorry carrying several tonnes of gravel had crashed into another large lorry and the resulting mess closed two lanes of the motorway, leaving every one, trying very hard to get passed in a single lane. We waited for another ninety minutes, while the car slowly moved in a speed measured using snails as relative markers! Finally, we got to the accident site, just in time to see them sweeping up several tonnes of gravel with one of those road cleaning trucks, no wonder the place was blocked, there was gravel every where!

So once more we began to travel at a speed more appropriate for a motor car and with in two minutes had left the motorway, heading for Xander and Boff. By now our plan was seriously delayed and even if we stayed for only a minute, we would be late to get the bike. Just before we got to the village where our lovely friends lived though, a car towing a large caravan left the road and spun into a bank! The Police were on their way and we managed to avoid being caught up in any more traffic jams.

What can I tell you about Xander and Boff? Well, they are both lovely, Boff is quiet, gentle and as sharp as a tack. She has been married to Xander for awhile now and they seem really happy. What ever you do though, never use her real name, she will kill you! Xander is one of those friends who feels more like a little brother, although not because he is an inch shorter than me! He is another quiet gentle type and he and Boff are a lovely couple. Best of all though, they are also bikers and have a bike each, although I prefer Boff’s bike even if it is huge and terrifying.

Your author with Cat, Xander and Boff.

These two also have a small menagerie of pets, so we were able to see the two beautiful kittens that we gave them last year. Our boy cat Maccie brought home a little queen and they produced two litters of kittens, the two here are from the first litter and look almost identical to their father. I managed a quick cuddle with each one before they turned into wriggling ginger monsters and shot away into the hedge.

Last time I held this one, he sat in the palm of my hand.

Sadly almost as soon as we got there, we were back on the road and this time with company. Boff took the Sat Nav off of her bike and with Xander driving; they lead the way to where the bike was, a journey that took us another hour and  then we knew that we had the right place as soon as we pulled up, sat outside a nice new house was a black lowrider factory custom bike with a tool roll mounted on the forks. It looked good and finally after being on the road for eight and a half hours, we had finally made it to our new bike. Blessed relief at long last.

The sellers of the bike were a lovely couple called Karen and Amanda and the wedding photo in the E-Bay advert had been theirs. I think that they were glad that we arrived at last because they were due to head out that very night and waiting for us had kept them at home. I had most of the money for the bike, but the winning price had been £490.30. Yes, you read that right. Four hundred and ninety pounds and thirty pence. In my purse was £490 only. Carol had the thirty pence, an evil glint entered my eye…

Turning to the lovely woman selling us the bike I carefully informed her that we had a small problem with the money. She looked crest fallen, I informed her that she needed to talk to Carol to get the thirty pence and that I had the rest! Xander laughed and then told me off for being a nasty evil witch! Karen bless her laughed and breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that very soon these odd people would be out of her house.

We then began the difficult process of loading the bike into the trailer and finally after much swearing, cursing and stamping of feet in the cold, we were loaded up and ready to head homewards. Although a quick stop for food and a chat with our friends was also very much needed. Laughing with Xander and Boff as we stood outside the Milton Keynes KFC by the football ground is one the nicest things I have done for ages. However, I was a little insulted that the smokers of our group (every one except me) walked away from me because I happened to have farted rather loudly and petulantly!

Then with a sad feeling I hugged my dear friends good bye and we went our separate ways, vowing to return on the bikes when we could. The rest of the journey home was gentle and quiet. The chaos of he day on the roads was no more, only truck drivers and the occasional boy racer were on the motorway now and we cruised homeward and into the early hours of the morning. Once home we unpacked and put the bike away to bed with Sylvie and retired ourselves. It was four in the morning and I was knackered.

Part 2:- Agnes

Sunday morning should be spent in bed, reading the papers, maybe even a light mid morning breakfast before spending the day wrapped in PVC tape and having electric shocks applied to ones nipples!

However, our Sunday was spent up to our elbows in oil, grease and motorcycles, namely our new bike. First job of the day was to make the engine start, for which we needed a power supply from Sylvie and her battery. Attaching jump leads between the two bikes gave us the magic fire that makes the engine run. The engine coughed and spluttered before firing into life and roaring thanks to a hole in the exhaust, but nothing we couldn’t fix. The bike warmed up, slowly the battery charged up and pretty soon we disconnected the two bikes from each other, while waiting to see if the new bike could run on its own. She purred, or rather growled as the engine gently ran on its own. A quick test ride was now needed and Carol being the brave soul that she is, volunteered to go for the first ride.

Peter Fonda has nothing on this lass.

I can happily report dear readers that the trip was fine and Carol is both safe and well, her trip around the block proved that the little bike has a good engine and will pull well from a standing start. The brakes though are another story; the rear is hugely powerful while the front feels like it could stop a battle tank!

Having ensured that the mechanicals were fine and anything not fine was fixed, it became apparent that both bikes could really do with a wash. Sylvie was still covered in the road grime from Pride in Bristol and the new bike was just dirty from being left in storage for ages. So with a bucket of soapy water and a selection of fine cleaning products, I donned my marigolds and set to work. Washing, polishing and waxing the paint work and chrome of both bikes.

Wash me!
 My first ride on the new bike was something to laugh at, not knowing how to use a manual choke, not knowing how to take it off of the centre stand and not knowing how to start a bike with stale fuel was enough to cause the strongest of instructors to shake their heads in despair and retire. Luckily for me Carol is very patient and before you can say “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” I was on the road to success.

Now this is the first time I have ridden an IL4, or In Line Four for those of you not down with the kids. You see, Sylvie is a lovely V- Twin and Henry was a single. Of course I am referring to the number of cylinders in the engine, Sylvie has a ninety degree v-twin which gives her lots of power and torque for a small engine size. She is a fantastic bike to ride, but her power comes in big meaty lumps and boy does she know how to gallop. Even when restricted to thirty three BHP, she can still give me a good ride out. Do not be fooled, 33BHP is not a wimps choice and DAS is not always the best way to go.

So I jumped on the new bike and tried to make sense of the controls, the lights have to be switched on, the choke is manual and the handle bars are just weird in that they are in front of you and do not require acrobatic agility to use. This bike is already winning me over. The engine though is a little sweetheart, it purrs and then screams and although it is not doing very much, it feels like it is very busy while it does it. There is a lot going on in an In Line Four, four pistons leaping up and down, four carburettors breathing vital life into the engine and four exhaust pipes all screaming their burnt gasses down into one single end can. It feels busy, it feels like it needs to go for a long hard thrash so it can tell me everything it can do, but until we can sort out the MOT, Tax and Insurance, once around a private carpark will have to do.

I worked out this much though, it may be a thirty year old bike, but it is pretty nippy. So friends, welcome a new chum to the stable. Internet folks I present Agnes, she may not be Sleeping beauty, but she most certainly will not be missing out on the ball.

Even Carol's Mum had a go
 By the way, it was Carol who named our new bike Agnes. I think it fits.