The peacock’s wheels

Sometimes, past achievements and successes get eclipsed by a deed so off the scale that one wonders if he’ll ever see the day when these Olympian heights can once more be attained.

Yesterday was the day when everything I ever did paled into oblivion. For yesterday, people, is the day I fitted the panniers and pannier frames to my Ten.

After a quick look on Sunday, I knew I was missing a tool (a torque wrench) and zipped down to B&Q Woolwich to buy it yesterday morning. After that, it took me 2 solid hours of sweat, shouting and bad knees to finish the job. But finish I did.

This morning I rode to Metropolis Vauxhall to check (and buy earplugs and coolant liquid): no rattling, no shaking, no dropped box, just a job – if I may – well screwed together. How good does it feel!

Yes I have a PhD, and I had some photography shows, and write books. But to be honest I was never proud of these, just happy, or relieved. Since yesterday, I’m proud of having overcome decades of practicality-denying. I’m proud of my own lil’ odyssey from the navel-gazing spheres of concepts and introspection to the strong-scented and humbling island of DIY.

My path to betterment might seem to be going the wrong way. But you know what they say: if you don’t have the right, take the left.

Betterment is a two-way street. It all depends where you’re coming from.

 

Niggling problems

 

This morning, I received the Touratech tankbag I ordered. Made by Kahedo for them.

Fitting the Touratech tankbag on the R1200R had been a doodle. The strapping had been very well thought-out, minimum fuss, bag on and off the bike in a second.

I should have know the same was not going to apply to this new one. Don’t know who’s to blame, whether Touratech or Yamaha. I think that the Tenere is fiddlier to deal with than the BMW, if only for the Telelever suspension of the latter, which made strapping to the frame a lot easier.

On the Ten, you’ve got to stick three velcros on the fairing. Then, when strapped, the bag prevents you from accessing the ignition key, as you do. The additional straps are at a proper stretch if looped around the frame, and I think I’ll use the engine guards for the job instead.

The bag itself if a tad smaller than the BMW one, and as a result the map holder extends length- and width-wise from the top. Bit weird.

My previous laptop fitted just about in the previous bag. The new one being a wee bit larger, it won’t in this one. But believe it or not, I don’t blame Yamaha for that.

The underside of the tankbag is a shiny latex-like black, quite out of keeping with the adventure theme. Apart from that, the two side pockets seem quite flimsy. All the zips don’t look like they can withstand a monsoon, but we’ll have to see. It would be a bit of joke if the adventure bike tankbag was not as resilient and waterproof as the one on the posh roaster.

I like the strings along the sides, although I don’t know yet how to use them and why.

But what caused me distress appeared when I removed the seat to fit a fixation of the bag: the back fifth of the underseat was full of accumulated mud and water. Frighteningly close to the electrics.

Not hard to guess what caused that: having removed the catalyst in order to fit the Leo Vince pipes, a gap appeared just above the wheel, and since that wheel has no hugger, a lot of the road grime sprays up and in.

Rubbish.

Ever since cutting the back part of the rally fender in order to fit the engine guards, I’ve been worried about crap getting into the radiator, let alone road salt.

That will have to change before the Ten sails to Laos.

 

 

 

How horsepower impacts sheeppower

 

Last night, it was about 4am when I finally fell asleep.

Could be down to the very good doppio ristretto I had at Fix at 3pm. Or to my overland Vientiane-to-London trip planning in the evening.

 

I started by leafing through our oversized atlas. Looking for the best way through Asia and Central Asia. Spotting the amazing things to see along the road.

Then I realised two things: that Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are in the way; and that, since I want to avoid China (I’ve already given it three years of my life, and my upcoming book might not go down well), I may have to go pretty high up in the Himalayas.

 

I wouldn’t mind avoiding either.

Which is a problem, because there’s no way out of Laos other than through either China, Afghanistan or Pakistan (without mentioning Myanmar) and the highest mountain chain in the world.

The only solution, as far as I can fathom, is to ship the bike on a train to somewhere and fly there. I’ll have to work out where to find info on railway freight. And which place is best to start from.

 

Oulan-Baator is a possibility. Or one of the Central Asian capitals, like Dushanbe.

 

To get a better idea of distance, I then googlemaped my prospective itinerary. It goes a bit like this: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France and the UK. A lot of border crossings, and a hell of a lot of miles.

Piece of cake, really.

 

Was it the excitement that kept me awake? Or was it the fear?

Anyway, that is still a way away. What will very soon be a reality though, is trips in South-East Asia. Alex is desperate to go to the Singapore zoo since she heard its director on TV. So that’s one. About 3500 miles in total, a trip encompassing Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

And when you’re in Singapore, let’s face it, you’re just a short ferry ride away from Indonesia.

 

 

 

Then there’s Vietnam: she wants to visit Da Nang.

Then Laos: the north, the centre, the south.

South which leads to Cambodia, and south of Cambodia still the Mekong delta back in Vietnam.

There’s also the Pattaya racetrack, which for some reason I fancy giving a go at. My first track day could be in Thailand. How weird.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triumph leather v Held textile

For the last year and a bit, I’ve been wearing the Stockton jacket:

Stockton

Before that, I had the Held Quattrotempi Imola:

Imola

The Held jacket was fine. Slightly too big as I bought it at the start of my biking life and thought I’d need 5 or 6 jumpers underneath in winter. I didn’t, so I did look a bit stupid in my swimming pool-vast jacket.

What annoyed me most though revealed itself on a group ride to Amiens in France. It poured it down apocalypse-style for a good hour, and when we finally got to our destination I was utterly drenched. The driest part of my body was probably my eyes as I’d cried all the tears of my body in the monsoon.

Let’s face it, any jacket would have been soaked, but somehow it really annoyed me to have paid so much for Goretex and all the jazz and find that it was just like a denim garment.

Yes it had a warm winter removable layer, vents, reflective strips, Cordura, adjustable this and that, various protectors and more. But met with the Flood it had called it quits. I don’t like quitters, especially when they cost so much.

Soon, I was looking for the best way to remedy this problem.

And strangely enough, it took the form of two new jackets. One was a cheap mesh jacket for hot day riding – for which the Held was very bad: Quattrotempi my ass -, the other the Triumph Stockton leather.

Until then, I’d always been dismissive of leather clothes. I didn’t like the image attached to them and I knew that leather was even worse than Goretex in the rain.

My problem though was that textile was not good enough in a downpour, and since I supposedly had one of the best textile jackets around, there was no point looking for an improvement down that road.

Reluctantly, I came to realise that the only way to be waterproof was… to wear a waterproof. Which conveniently came with the summer jacket.

So I was now looking for a warm-to-cold day riding jacket that didn’t need to claim to be waterproof.

It’s only out of thoroughness that I started flicking through leathers at Metropolis Vauxhall. Most of them were just too reminiscent of the image I had in mind: black, burly, stubborn, shiny, racing. Nah.

But then I came across the Stockton, and that was it. I tried to fool myself into thinking I might want another jacket, but in the end the heart prevailed.

I’m now converted to leather jackets. At least cool ones. The Stockton looks awesome, a perfect fit for the R1200R: understated chic, casual quality, aware of its worth but not shouting it, there to unconsciously impress the discerning eye, not the easily won-over. The Stockton is all style and substance. A George Clooney jacket.

Having said that, it’s also very good at everything else. I discovered that leather is better at wind protection than textile. That surprised me. I fitted a good back protector to it and it now feels like it’ll go a long way to saving what can be saved in a crash.

My 20mph lowside didn’t even scratch the jacket. Another good surprise.

The vents are generous, the pockets handy and well made, the stitching is so far flawless.

I got teased by a barman in Brittany for riding a BMW and wearing a Triumph jacket. It’s true the jacket doesn’t hide its branding, nor its nationality. C’est la vie, and I DO live in the UK after all.

I won’t be buying a textile jacket in a hurry now. Even if it means getting the waterproof out at the first sign of a raindrop.

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