Saturday, 2 October 2010

Rain, Rain and more bloody rain...

Imagine the scene if you will, the pub dining room is nice and warm, the food was beautifully cooked and outside if is absolutely pouring with rain, not just little drops, but flooding the road with standing water.

Both the bikes, Sylvie and Agnes, sat in the car park, loaded up and ready for a road trip that was more for purpose than for an adventure, but it soon turned into an adventure, as the rain got heavier and the roads got wetter.

Our trip was a one hundred and eleven mile round trip from Weston to Gloucester and back again to collect Carol’s son, after a promise was made to collect him via motorbike for his weekend visit. So Carol and I pulled on our multiple layers of clothing that would ensure that no matter how wet we got, we would stay warm.

My layers consisted of this.

One pair of cycling shorts and a sports bra.
One pair of cycling tights and a vest top.
One pair of Crag Hoppers Mountain boot socks

Then came some armour.

One pair of Weiss armoured and water proof trousers (that have never been water proof since buying them in 2008).

Then one pair of  Asolo three season leather walking boots and Brasher Gore-Tex Gaiters to keep them dry.

One final pair of water proof walking trousers by Millets (that were water proof until climbing on to the bike last week and splitting the crotch!)

MyOne pink and black Skull print scarf and then my helmet all fitting so that I was sealed in.

Then my thermal lined Weiss Sophie jacket, in pink and Black.

A Hi-Vis vest in Yellow, silver and orange. Just in case Loopy Laura or Half Blind Billy are out driving today!

In the pub, I was feeling all of those layers and was building up something of a sweat! Finally, I pulled on my water proof Duchinn Gloves, brand new and bedding in nicely to my hands as the leather moulds to my hand shape. I was ready to go, I knew that I was going to get wet, but I also knew that I was going to be warm.

The rain was now bouncing off of the road and visibility was some what reduced. There is just the slightest possibility that this was one of the more ridiculous things that we chose to undertake, with in two minutes of starting the bike and pulling out of the pub car park, my left hand was sitting in a puddle of water as the seams on my fingers soaked up rain water, twenty minutes later both hands were soaked, my bum was soaked and I was actually very warm.

Now it is quite commonly known that the Suzuki SV650 suffers with a problem called Wet front plug. This occurs when rain water or road spray penetrates the water protection over the front cylinder of the ninety degree V-Twin engine. Once water gets in there, it shorts out the spark plug and cuts out the cylinder, leaving a bit of a void in the power supply. This was my main worry with Sylvie, especially as I have not yet bought her a fender extender to protect the engine.

Agnes on the other hand has known water based faults, due to thirty year old wiring that has seen more than its fair share of bodges and fixes by previous owners. However, Carol and I gave her a service last week that included new plugs, plug caps and filters, this effectively cured the issues of starting and running in the wet that she had when she first joined our garage.

The rain made the roads treacherous, traffic was bunching up and spray from the trucks coated everything, soaking into every part of our kit. The rain remained heavy and visibility was less than fifty meters, making our speed on the motorway less than forty miles per hour, even allowing two hours for the journey was going to make it tight for our four PM deadline to collect Alex from home.

The first water based problem with the bikes soon became apparent, Carol, who was leading was unable to indicate properly while riding Agnes. The indicator lights simply stopped flashing and when ever she indicated, they lit up with an orange glow and then went out when she turned them off. The wonderful inline four engine continued to pull like a train though and Carol rode the narrow tyred cruiser like it was a world class tourer, which frankly amazes me. Her hi-vis Paramedic jacket, given to her by her late Father was fluttering slightly in the wind, but it was making her the easiest thing to see on that motorway in those conditions.

Now here is a conundrum for you, what is the best thing to do when you can’t see where you are going on the motorway? Do you open your helmet visor, allowing improved visibility, but allowing painfully sharp road grit and stinging rain to hit you in the eyes, or do you keep your visor down and struggle to see through the rain and road grime splattered protective cover? I chose to try both options. When crawling along at below twenty miles per hour, I had my helmet front lifted (The joy of front flip helmets, a fantastic invention!) enabling me to see clearly and not have to worry too much about rain hitting my face. With out much forwards speed, it did not sting too badly at all and the road grit stayed pretty much on the road. Once the speed increased to above thirty, it was visor down and watching like a prey bird for brake lights, sudden lane changes from cars and for changes in speed by vehicles ahead.

Then at long last, we made it past Bristol. It was nearly an hour since we had left and we were only just half way. The rain seemed to sense our mood and grew just that little bit more penetrating of our gear and bikes. Sylvie continued to growl along the road with her usual surefootedness, despite her starting to approach the time when her rear tyre will need to be replaced. It may be a road legal tread depth, but there is a reason why they come with such deep tread, it clears water well when the channels are deep.

Once past Bristol, the traffic grew a little lighter and our pace increased slightly, from an average of about twenty miles per hour, we were now riding along reaching almost fifty, occasionally we slowed to just below forty, but we were at last making progress before pulling into Michael Wood Services for a very quick wee stop. It was nearly half past three, the road conditions were still bad and our deadline was fast approaching, so we were back on the road almost as soon as we parked up, we did not even have time to stop the engines! The glow of adventure was keeping our spirits high and despite the hard conditions, the ride was proving to be great fun.

At long last we approached Gloucester and then finally turned off of the motorway, heading for Alex’s home. That final turn into his street and then on to his houses drive way was all the more sweet for the time it had taken. I was slightly less than ten minutes late of the four PM deadline. Dismounting, I had rain water running down my legs, down my arms and down my body. Every part of me except my feet was damp, but I was still very warm and grinning like a loon. It was as I unloaded Alex’s riding gear from the bike that the rain finally stopped and then as if from nowhere came a glimmer of sunshine, a tiny patch of blue sky opened up and in that joyous moment I knew that we were going to enjoy the ride home to Weston.

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