On this crisp afternoon, on the A20 towards Orpington, I feel unusually lighthearted and eager. For all I know, it’s the first time I’ve ever ridden the Ten without squinting at the very likely possibility of an oncoming disaster.
Also, it’s the first time I’m riding to Fabrice’s since saying farewell to the R that I don’t need him to repair something.
I only need him to help me fit stuff. That’s why I’m eager. Because I’m going to see him. To add the bits on the Ten that I received just a few days ago.
I’m not interested at all.
The handguards, we fitted just after he discovered the fault in my carpark. I had tried a few days before, but my tools had failed me.
I thought we were in for troubles when I saw the white sticker ‘Transalp’ inside the handguards. ‘Oh oh’, a little voice told me, ‘the bastards sent you the parts for another bike, the two-cylinder one that you considered as well before falling for the donkey Ten’.
As it is, the handguards fitted just fine. Bit of twisting here and there, but all very good-natured.
Very useful, I have to say, those handguards. Despite the cold weather, despite my 60-70mph, they are doing a great job at shielding my hands for the chilly wind blast. In town as well. They don’t heat up the levers, but they at least subdue one element in the winter equation. I also found that they keep quite a bit of the rain away, although I have noticed this only in London, and at speed on a motorway might be a different story.
So much the better for them. Next time I crash they will hopefully save my levers, and in the absence of heated grips until mid-January, when we depart for Laos, they’ll help me through the agonising pain of fast-freezing fingertips.
Back then, we had also fitted the rally front fender. The thinking behind this accessory is dual. First, in the event that I ride muddy tracks in Laos, the front wheel won’t get clogged up in brown pizza base, since the rally front fender is about 50 cm away from the tyres, as opposed to 3cm for the original.
Second, I find the Ten looks much better with it on than with the other one. It’s now a vaguely purposeful dog, not a flat-faced monkey.
All good, then, on the Tenere’s front.
In Fabrice’s trailer, wild expectations await me. The crashbars are nothing to drool over, which is not the case of the exhaust.
I remember very clearly the difference fitting the Remus pipe to the 1200R had made to how I experienced the bike, how I viewed it and appreciated it. Although the addition of the Remus was not a change of seismic proportion, it still improved it no end. I went from ‘what bike should I sell the R for?’ to ‘when is the next dry day?’.
The exhaust note was a tad deeper, there was no clunky sound at either rpm anymore, acceleration became musically enticing, in particular past the 5000rpm mark, down shifting proved desirable. No end.
Fabrice, who had already fitted the Remus, had first insisted I ride without the baffles on. I did so for three days. Three days during which I was on a constant look-out for police presence on street corners. The excessive crackling and exploding of the exhaust, especially on downshifts, put the fear of authority into me. And I didn’t enjoy it.
So, one morning, I took it upon myself to fit the baffles back in. I had toyed with the notion for the last 48 hours or so, anxious to put my mind to rest but fearful of losing too much of the musical improvement.
I shouldn’t have been: very much in line with the subtle refinement of the bike itself, the Remus with baffles on sounded way better than the BMW exhaust, yet retained a cool suited and moustachioed dude’s understated poise.
I got to Orpington without a hint of a problem. My enthusiasm probably carried the Ten and all its failings along.
We set to work. Or rather I did, because my team race mechanic got called into an impromptu meeting in his living room. Couldn’t find the right tools. My excuse is Fabrice’s got enough tools to provide half of London’s garages, and the avalanche of bits and pieces hid the one screwdriver I needed.
After keeping quiet for 40 minutes, I finally walked in the living room and dared ask. Thankfully, the chat was adjourned to make way for proper business. Christ!
When I got pointed at where the right tool was in the mountain, I was finally able to set my sights on removing the Yamaha exhaust.
That proved much more problematic that anticipated. The operation on the BM had been straightforward as can be: two or three screws, a few springs, and on it was. This time, we had to reverse-engineer about half the Tenere. Topbox off, pillion handles off, number plate holder off, top box rack off, plate off, rear light and indicators off too… Bloody hell.
Without Fabrice’s advice, I would have got stuck about 50 times. He can see things in front of him before they even start appearing at the end of my galaxy.
Once the way was clear, we released the Yamaha pipe. And catalyst. That was easy. And fitted the Leo Vince one. That was a breeze.
With no exhaust on at all, my mechanic had to turn the engine on. Of course. Young minds… That was frikkin loud, oh boy. Loud dragon-style, with earth-tearing screams and fireball-spitting.
But the real test had come, now that the Leo Vince was on. I let the honours to Fabrice.
The hair on the back of my back stood, I began salivating my blissful horror at the AC/DC tune. Ohhhh yea. Un-PC, loud, dirty, bare-chested, chavy and guitar-smashing – the music of hell with a legal sticker on.
However, I didn’t let it make me lose sight of the next step – the crashbars. With those on, I’d finally let the salacious prospect of riding around the world with Die Hard 1’s Bruce Willis trapped in a tin box with angry cobras and an atomic bomb sink in. Before that, I had a job to do, and a dinner to go to: Alex and her Brazilian counterparts in a Clerkenwell gastropub.
And it was getting on: 6.30pm already. Surveying the crash bars, taking a glimpse at the instructions, we gathered we had just about enough time to fit them in an hour. I’d be 15mins late, or thereabouts.
It was hard going. As with the exhaust, a lot of removing was needed before we could even contemplate appending the bars. The bash plate and all other plastic protective panels had to go. The working angles were not kind, the screws required a lot of brute force. Our backs and knees complained. And to think I’m only 36!
The hardest bits to remove were the two engine support screws, 20cm long devil-killing silver bullets which had to be replaced by a link plate allowing a zigzag around various cables and wires to screw in the bars.
7pm came and went. Then 7.30, then 8pm. I called Alex and apologised: I’d have to give the meal a miss. I sounded aching and sweaty enough that she didn’t argue.
The problem was that we quickly discovered Metal Mule crashbars didn’t fit with the original bash plate on. And, of course, their website didn’t mention anything of the sort.
Worse still, they didn’t fit with the rally front fender on.
I had no qualms about cutting off a bit of the bash plate.
But the fender was more problematic. I’d already noticed that my legs got sprayed with it on. The choice was either to revert to the original mudguard, or to chop off part of it.
The original guard was in my flat, and anyway I still didn’t like it. I elected to chop off the offending rear bit. The bit that shields the radiator. Not good. That’s why I suggested that, at a later date, we cut the front part of the original guard, give the leftover some height, and screw it back in.
While Ab Fab was cutting and smoothing, my task was to fit all that had been taken off back on the bike. Basically, build it back up.
And I did, without crying for help even once. Mighty pleased. How many manually-challenged PhD holders in Literature can say so?
The good and worrying thing is that I quite enjoyed that. Good because it looks like it could be a useful skill to have with the Ten in Laos. Worrying because I have now a hand in the nitty-gritty of life. Yuk. It’s not all ideals and ethereal concepts and metaphors and hour-long silly convoluted talks on nothing at all (trees in Proust, what Deleuze owes to marshmallows etc.) anymore, there’s also sticking my head in the butt of a bike, a real object that has the power to both enchant and kill me.
To my shame, I now read MCN religiously. Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels in on my bedside table. I check the moto GP results, even watch a bit when I perchance upon a race.
I don’t spend money on photographic gear anymore, but on motorbike insurance, fuel, accessories, fines and repairs.
Doc, what’s wrong with me?
Okay, my head’s still partly in the clouds: after all was back in place, including the nicely newly cut fender and bash plate, I found two ni-lock screws stranded behind me. Important bits. Ah well, the road back to reality is twisty.
What’s the lesson here? Simply, that compatibility of aftermarket accessories shouldn’t be assumed – they are an afterthought for overthinking and gullible customers. That the descriptions of aftermarket accessory websites shouldn’t be trusted. That one who has a Yamaha Tenere should also get a Fabrice.
And that the Ten was seen grinning as it put one spanner in the works after another.
It’s as if the guy doesn’t like me. As if he’s taking pleasure in pissing me off, making me swear and giving me a backache. Problems after problems after problems. Must be a bloody teenager. A bloody Tenager.
I was home at 11pm.