Saturday, 31 May 2014

Pyrenees: Day 7

The trip to Andorra - and the fate of the BMW Dakar...

Pyrenees: Day 7, Barcelona - Andorra - 2nd September 2013 (134 miles)

First thing in the morning Casey's Dakar was picked up by recovery and taken to an official BMW garage. Unfortunately the BMW garage was super busy and wouldn't be able to look at the bike for about a week, so off we went again to a local small Yamaha garage.

We waited around for a while until we could find out the state of the bike. Initially it seemed quite promising and looked like it would be sorted in a day or two. With this information Rob stayed with Casey, booking another night at the campsite whilst me and Emma headed off to Andorra. The plan was that once the bike was fixed, the two of them would meet up with us on route. I wrote all the information on a bit of paper, addresses and what not of where we would be on what day so they could easily find us when the bike was sorted.

So whilst Rob and Casey spent the day relaxing and doing whatever they felt like, me and Emma got a bit lost heading up to Andorra, ending up on some private gravelly road, home of a local training site. After decided this was the wrong way, we headed back and tried to recalculate the sat-nav on to the correct path (making friends with an upside-down dog on the way).

After getting lost some more we eventually stopped at a rest point where we had something to drink and chilled for a moment. It was a pretty hot day that day so we felt we definitely needed the rest.

There were lots of views of mountains and such as we got closer to Andorra and we arrived at the campsite just before it got too dark. I was really excited seeing all the bike clothing stores as we went through the main Andorra-La-Vella as I never realised it was a popular duty-free motorcycle state. We set up the tent and rode back towards the nearest small village to find something to eat.

We ended up eating at the first restaurant we saw. It was quite quiet that evening, but I think the locals eat later than we do at home as people started turning up after 9pm. I had a lovely meal, it was the best cooked duck I have ever tasted. I can't quite remember what Emma had but I believe she enjoyed it too!

We had a wander round, taking a picture of a dagger for Rob (he likes those :)) and then jumped back on the SV to the campsite. Considering how hot it was during the day, the night was freezing! It dropped to about 6 degrees :/.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Pyrenees: Day 6

Today we went to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres.

Pyrenees: Day 6, Barcelona - Figueres - 1st September 2013 (107 miles)

Adult Price: €12 per person (at time of writing)

Rob and Casey decided they'd rather spend the day in Barcelona and near the campsite, enjoying the beach and having a drink or two and planning different scenarios depending on the diagnosis with the bike. So, Emma and I went to the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres as planned.

So we headed up to Figureres, not the most interesting route on the trip thus far, but we avoided the motorway as per usual, opting to use the national roads instead. The town appeared small with not much activity, other than the museum itself which was an unusual site!

If you are familiar with Dali's work then I needn't say much more really, however there are a few pictures here to give you an idea.

On the way back we stopped at the Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona (I'd always wanted to go). Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to have a peek inside the stadium, so the shop sufficed. Official team shirts cost around the €100 mark, which is a bit on the steep side, so I opted for a casual shirt for half the price. It was my souvenir from Barcelona :).

I really can't remember what we did for food that evening! But we were all very keen to see the situation with Casey's bike the next day... hoping of course that it was going to be good news...

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Cotswolds Ride Out: May 2014

As the weather was pretty good last weekend, and with temperatures expected to rise by the bank holiday monday we decided that rather than go for a cycle ride, we would take the motorbikes out instead :).

So, as suggested by myself ages ago, and to avoid the rush of bikers heading to Hastings, we decided to head west to the Cotswolds District. We followed the main roads mostly, along the A40 to the other side of Oxford and then went off down the back roads. With Emma leading, we made it up mostly as we went along although it was a little colder than we expected.

As we got nearer to Cirencester my blade had done 140 miles... 150 miles... and then  160 miles with no petrol station in sight and no reserve light coming on, which started to make me worry that perhaps it wasn't working. However, the light did come on at 163 miles (pretty good going for a fireblade!) and as it did we passed a sign notifying of services in half a mile - well timed! Although there would have been about 20 - 30 miles in the reserve should I have needed it.

After filling up at the services we bypassed Cirencester, heading via Daglinworth and the back roads towards Stroud. We went through Minchinhampton and saw a nice pub known as the Ragged Cot that we thought we could stop at for lunch. However, after going through the hassle of locking the bikes up in the car park we then found out they were fully booked and were an incredibly popular place to eat. The guy there told us of a nearby place called The Old Lodge and even offered to call them for us but we decided to just try it out and see if they had places.

The Old Lodge is located off the common, a nice large open space where locals can eat, walk their dogs, fly kites and so on. The view from the table was amazing and spread right across the Cotswolds region.

After lunch (after putting our hoodies on) we headed south towards Nailsworth, encountering our first (and only) hairpins of the day. Then, rather than heading back towards home we went further west to Nympsfield before navigating back past Nailsworth towards home.

We ended up in Tetbury and stopped for a quick bathroom break. There was a racing event on at the village, with children and their self-build cars. As we continued east, we saw parents and their sons walking with their cars towards the start of the race and even received a wave.

Emma then tried to get us lost around Castle Eaton but we eventually found ourselves on the A420 and saw signs for Abingdon, where her friend Charly lives. So we headed there for a cup of tea before shooting home.

I took the lead as we left Charly's but couldn't think of the best place to get home from the A34. So we headed up to Bicester and then A41 back to Aylesbury. We then shot down the A41 coming off at Tring and back up to Dunstable.

Its a shame we didn't get down more of the smaller lanes on our ride out, but it was a nice day and local enough :). You could always mix this in with the Dunstable Downs as this is on the way.

Please note, the map is a rough idea of the route we took as I have drawn this after we went out and can't remember the exact way!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Pyrenees: Day 5

No ride outs - just a full day in Barcelona :)

Pyrenees: Day 5 - Barcelona - 31st August 2013

Waking up in the heat of Barcelona, with tents a stone throws distance from the Mediterranean was a rather refreshing start to the day after the troubles experienced from the day before. Next to us camped a solo motorcyclist and his CBR 600 and the rest of the campsite was fairly sparse really as the end of August marks the end of the peak season.

We had breakfast plus a brief stroll across the beach. Casey and Rob started making arrangements to get the Dakar looked at by contacting his travel insurance provider. Unfortunately nobody could do anything until the Monday (today was Saturday). Rob took Casey on the GSXR and Emma jumped on with me as we headed into Barcelona.

After wandering around for a bit we found a cheap fast food outlet for lunch. Then, we carried on wandering, passing a church and a barbed wire looking object.

We headed towards the dock, picking up some lollipops on the way and stopped for a drink. Luckily, we locked our bike gear to the bikes so we were able to withstand the heat a lot better.

We ended up in the history museum, which Rob and Casey managed to get round really quickly and so wanted to head up to the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia before it shut. It takes me a while to take in all the information in a museum so we said we would meet up with them there.

Unfortunately though, Rob and Casey had the map and all we had was an offline map app for the iPhone, which doesn't highlight were the main attractions are. I knew the rough area though so we headed in the general direction of the Basilica. 

On the way we passed a strange object, covered in glass with a chair inside it, with water running down the inside. We also passed Barcelona's Arc de Triomf within a park as we continued heading northwards.

We arrived at the unfinished Basilica, and what a sight it was. Gaudi has truly brought together elements from different sources to create something that fits in with the 21st Century, despite being started in 1882. We found Rob and Casey here who also marvelled at its design and detail. I question the need for such a building but that doesn't detract from what a fascinating spectacle it is.

We headed back into town to which Rob treated as all to dinner :) (thank you Rob). I think this was so that I could have the birthday meal I wanted to do the day before but we arrived too late. When we got back to the campsite Emma went off to sleep whilst us 3 went and had a drink as close to the sea as we could get to chill out from all the walking we did that day!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Fireblade Starting Issue Resolved!

It has taken a while but Wickford Motorcycles have solved my starting issue!

In the first instance we thought it might have been something to do with the Rob Hunter battery that had been installed when I picked the bike up. After attempting to see if the bike would start with one of the workshop batteries (and failing) Wickford waited for a brand new battery that was being delivered for one of their other bikes in the shop.

A couple of days later the battery arrived and after optimising the battery it was tried in the blade. Unfortunately the problems still occurred so one of them went to buy a new battery for the alarm fob to see if this was causing issues. Whilst they were out it was discovered that there were 2 burnt out wires underneath the fuse box. These were soon replaced and for a short while the bike started.

However, the next day I turned up with the second fob (to see if this would make a difference) and the bike started playing up again. There was no choice at this point but to rip out the meta system alarm. Voila! This fixed the issue and I have had no trouble since.

It seems as though something burnt the two wires and shorted the alarm, causing all sorts of immobiliser issues. It is unlikely that the alarm itself burnt the wires but no problems have occurred since and touch wood won't again :).

Thank you Wickford Motorcycles, couldn't recommend them highly enough!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Riders Against Bullying

Riders against bullying are an organised charity set up to help raise aware against bullying. In July 2014 they are putting on a festival in Steeple, several miles east of Chelmsford in Essex.

Several bands, such as Severed Soul, Freeway Mad and Breaking Illusion have already been confirmed with more to follow. The festival is being held on the grounds of a local pub known as the Sun and Anchor with breakfast available for those who wish to camp, with toilet facilities available on site.

Music starts at around 3pm and those who are planning to camp over should arrive by 1pm (2pm for day visitors).

Things to know:

Date: 26th July 2014
Opening Times: 1pm if camping, 2pm if attending for the day
Price: £5 for Saturday only or £10 if camping

  1. Entry fee does not include breakfast
  2. When booking tickets, please advise if you will be staying for breakfast
  3. Stickers provided by club
  4. For campers, no ablutions but enough porta loos

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Pyrenees: Day 4

This was an incredibly eventful day...

Pyrenees: Day 4, Jaca - Barcelona (via Monserrat) - 30th August 2013 (278 miles)

What should have been probably a 9 hour trip actually ended up taking the entire day and here is why.

We left the campsite, Camping Gavin, and headed back down the familiar bendy road. The aim was to head to Monserrat to see the views and monastery and then continue to Barcelona. Not too long after we headed off we started noticing some problems with the Dakar. There was a fair bit of smoke coming from the bike and appeared to be losing coolant rather quickly. So we stopped at a garage to buy some water to fill the bike up and keep us hydrated.

This was a route full of bendy and straight roads and lots of views and so we stopped a few times to take some pictures. We also went through a valley and in parts were out in quite desert-like areas. 

We were heading through a bunch of mountains when we had to stop due to the Dakar overheating again. It was about lunch time at this point so me and Emma boiled some water for some mug shots and Rob took a look at Casey's bike. After managing to get the bike started, Casey went ahead to keep the bike running. I believe I overtook as I had the Sat Nav and noticed after a few minutes that nobody was coming up behind me. I headed back down the mountain and found Casey's bike on the ground, although Casey seemed OK.

What happened was that Casey temporarily forgot that we were in Spain and continued on the wrong side of the road. As a car approached he swerved to avoid it, going over the side. Luckily it was a short drop, especially considering our surroundings. The car driver stopped and helped us get Casey's bike back to the side of the road. Unfortunately though Casey's clutch lever snapped off in the fall. With a bit of improvisation Emma managed to cable tie an SV clutch lever to get him out of trouble. We then carried on, although spirits were being dented with still a fair amount of distance to travel.

Further along we stopped to take some more photos. The lay-by however had a bit of gravel. As Rob went to put his side stand down, it appeared to slip and the bike went over. Not good on a nice and shiny limited edition 600 GSXR... The front fairing panel cracked and had to be taped up as a temporary measure. We pressed on, but the amount of problems and the difficulty of the journey really started to take its toll.

As we got closer to the monastery we encountered a bit of rain but this didn't really last too long. I started to gain confidence in my pilot road standards at this point compared to the Bridgestone's I had previously. We got half way up the mountain and pulled over. Casey's bike was really causing issues and worse still it was starting to get dark. Me and Emma left the other two to look at the bike (mainly letting the GS cool down) and quickly popped to the top to take some photos. We couldn't get into the monastery as we wanted to, but did take some photos from as far up as we could get. You have to pay to go into the monastery but you are allowed 15 minutes free to pop in and take in the views.

We grabbed the other two on the way back down and rode one last time to the campsite, arriving somewhere around 9pm. I can't remember exactly what happened, but I remember Emma staying to sort out the tent whilst I went to find the other two and bring them to the site. But once we were all settled we grabbed some cheap pizza on site and breathed a sigh of relief that we made it. At least in Barcelona we would be able to sort the GS out...