July 2018

Sunday 1st July 2018

Rode to the St. Ives show - held this year for the first time at Oldhurst went on the 1959 BSA - temp was HOT, around 28 degrees. Later in the day the Kickstart failed to kick the bike. I will investigate. Jason had an accident on his three day old GSXR 1400 

Monday 2nd July 2018

Had horrific toothache, will revisit on Thursday. Terrys heel bar managed to cut a new key for the Sprint £4.50 it works. Some good news I depart for France this weekend, visiting the Somme. 

Wednesday 4th July 2018

Spent the cooler part of the evening, taking apart the C15 engine to get to the Kick Start Prawl. 

gearbox

Thursday 5th July 2018

Washed the Sprint, and spent the best part of the day planning routes. Slowly working towards an itinerary.

Friday 6th July 2018

Sat looking at the Tech I'm taking. C21 Biking. GoPros, Ipad, iPhone, Sat Nav, Several different USB Leads, Spare intercom module, Remote 2500 USB Battery, Mini Gorilla Tripod, Go Pro Clamps for me and the bike, Go Pro Remote, USB Mains Adapaters, Euro Plugs, Spare iPhone, SD Cards, Mini SD Cards, Micro Sd Cards, i7 Laptop for Blog and video editing, Mouse. Laptop charger, Windows Recovery Disk, USB Sticks. Thats the first pannier full. Sacked the DSLR.

Saturday 7th July 2018

EXPLORING THE SOMME REGION JULY 2018

Set off to the Somme Region of France Yesterday morning. I'm taking a closer look at the Battlefields my grandfather fought in during WW1. I'm based in a wonderful Gite about 5 mins North of Amiens. I rode south purposely early to avoid the high temperatures predicted . Glad I did as they were as high as I feared. Traffic moved easily, and the bikes running temperature was bang on. Surprising really as I moved along at a pace fully loaded.

Arrived at the Chunnel departure holding area with an hour to spare. Sat and read, and spent a fortune on Starbucks. Loaded successfully, however the aircon on the train had failed. Sat with two lads from Lancashire, not there fault.

This is the first year I have used Garmin Sat Nav on the bike. I don't like it. I had my two tomtom units stolen last year. Despite spending hours pre programming the route it insisted in trying to take me off route and go its way. Rather than the pleasant route it had pre programmed. GRRRR

I took the A16 from Calais riding at speed west to the Napoleon Memorial. A route I had ridden on google maps the day before. Having explored the monument, I sat awhile in a local french Cafe ( 5 euro coke ) checked my route before stepping outside into the Furnace again.

On returning to the bike several others bikers were gathered round it. Have to say I panicked and this time foolishly I was ready to go down fighting. Seven frogs to one fat UK biker seemed fair odds to me. Europeans had stolen my 1600 Thunderbird the previous summer, it was not going to happen to me this year. Turns out they were nothing more than a curious bunch of pleasant mature French bikers. Triumph is not a common brand in France. Two of the seven bikers spoke good English.

We chatted for several minutes. Interestingly I was told the Napoleon memorial was a popular target for RAF Pilots flying over during WW2 , they would often strafe the bloke. Several large bullet holes were pointed out. I had to smile. From its location you can see the English coast, so its must have been some light relief.

Leaving the village I returned to the Motorway and headed south a pace. Stopping briefly for fuel. Only another 80 miles to go !!

Once booked in I popped down to Aldi filling every pannier, and the top box with food for evening meals - Lasagne, Pizza, Fish, Cut meats.

I spent the night drinking a pleasant french beer and checking the bike over for the coming week. Chain, Oils and Coolant. I am now set to explore the Somme Region.

Today I am having a down day - that is to say a low mileage day on the bike. I am riding to the Notre Damme Cathedral in Amein, then riding onto an old WW1 Ammo train run by volunteers ( only on a Sunday ) that now carries passengers instead of ammo to the front.

30 Degrees is predicted today. I plan to find a Cafe in the shade, or several, and people watch, drink coffee and practice my schoolboy French which is getting better every time I visit. Although the lads joke it has a Pakistani accent !!!!! - go figure.

Despite going to bed cheered after hearing from Hugo ( village postman ) that England had won against Sweden I awoke this morning to read William Dunlop TT Racer has passed. Gutted. Dynasty of Bikers finished. Only met him the once. Ireland has lost a Hero. I am sure the memorial will be fitting.

I'll say a prayer for all bikers and loved ones in the Cathedral later today.

Sunday 8th July 2018 

Well as planned a lazy start to day two. One thing is for sure the Garmin bike sat nav is going to be thrown from a clay trap and shot the minute I get home.

Eventually leaving the house around Midday to explore the Cathedral in Amiens. As ever not an easy ride after being re-routed at least four times due to bridge re-surfacing. Turned out okay in the end though as I ended up parked in a wonderful location. Right beside the Somme, lined with cafes and bars. Mine was the only Brit bike out of perhaps 20, and the only one locked to the Somme Railings!

It was such a nice location that I made a mental note to return later this coming week. Packing the bike kit away I heard the unmistakable sound of Pipes. I proceeded to follow them up the cathedral steps and spent the best part of the afternoon sat amongst an artificial poppy field in the cathedral grounds listening to pipe music from around Europe. Wonderful.

Late afternoon I rode for 40 mins via the crapnav and ready reckoning mk1 eyeball to ride on “the small trains of the Somme” In glorious sun, and not correctly dressed I opened the bike up. Only to pass a local Police car coming the other way. Fortunately, for me and my wallet he was too lazy to turnaround and tick me off. I passed through several small French villages, some more akin to Hamlets. Not one bar or café spotted. How does one survive with no pub ? Perhaps they all sit at home and drink – sad sods.

Accelerating out of Proyart I almost passed by a large German cemetery, the giveaway being the dark steel head markers. Turning the bike around I went to take a closer look. 
With the wonders of 4G and no roaming tariffs a quick check on Google informed me of the following - Proyart saw fierce fighting on 29th August 1914 during the first months of war as the Germans quickly overran the French Army, rapidly taking the territories situated to the north of Paris. The French showed great resistance at Proyart, but with little success. The battlefields were strewn with dead and the village occupied. In September, during the Battle of the Marne, the French and British Armies advanced on German troops and both sides tried to outflank each other; the battle front was pushed forward allowing the French to recapture Amiens, its surroundings and part of the area known as 'Santerre'. 
The Germans no longer occupied Proyart, which found itself located just behind Allied lines when the front stabilised to the east of the village. Fighting returned to the village in 1918 when the Germans launched a major offensive on 21st March and recaptured the whole of the Santerre plateau. The Germans dead are buried here.

Conscious of the time I didn’t hang around, quickly taking a couple of photos, jumping back on the bike again riding through typically small villages, this time keeping my speed to a Sunday sedate pace, not quite BSA Pace, but one where neither the exhaust note or a scantily clad fat bloke riding would attract the local bobby.

Anyways with that unpleasant thought in your head, I arrived at the train station with twenty minutes to spare for the last train. 21 euros !!! I parted with the coinage and took a shaky 45-minute train ride by steam and diesel amongst the poppy fields of the Somme. An ungated crossing led to a lively exchange between the driver of a 4x4 and the train.

An uneventful ride back to the Gite to do Fish finger and chips. No beans and no ketchup. Heathen!!!

So as my second day in the Somme Region closes I plan to drink the remaining 5 beers this evening.

Early to bed as the battlefield exploration begins in earnest tomorrow. 

Monday 9th July 2018

No Battlefields today, I decided to the head for the coast. 
Riding along the south banks of the river Somme. The device that cannot be named wanted to put me on the A16 Motorway. No Way.

Passing through dozens of small pretty and very French looking villages ( WTF) dotted along the D1235 and onto the D3. With over 15 years of riding in Europe I reserve the right to say this route has to be one of the best routes I have EVER ridden through France. Might be Europe. Its that good.

As I rode I was already planning in my mind a re-visit on a classic bike.

Right back to the plot. Plenty of old Mansions, dozens of pretty well-kept villages, so many old barns and timber framed cottages. Today I have seen a side of France that was new to me. Pretty.

As I passed through each village I consciously noted that not one I passed through had even a shop or bar. How do they socialise? How do they maintain that feeling of community? Perhaps through the church? Gawd help them. Perhaps their name comes from having garden ponds and they retreat into them each night? Gawd knows. Weird what goes through your head when riding.

For the bikers reading this, the tarmac was smooth, very few repairs. One could easily touch 90 and faster should you wish, the bends were placed in such a way that again for the second time I could have been on the TT. However, and a word to wise. Lots of local Police out so great care taken to keep my wallet full. Always respecting the insanely slow village speed limits of 20kmh, I took great pleasure in opening the engine up once outside the Village boundary.

Keeping the river Somme on my right, occasionally as I climbed and weaved my way along it dipped out of sight. Crapnav confirmed that it was still on my right so steady progress was made.

I pulled into LeCroytoy about an hour later and necked a pint of Jupiler. I’d have preferred to meet my Belgium mate Stella, but her bar smelt of six-day old prawns.

So whilst the journey to the coast was uneventful, the ride home did have its moments.

I thought how hard can it be ? Simply keep the river on my left, yeah right.

Crap Nav lost the river. I had a bit of a moment and found myself 15 miles south instead of east. Pulled over, sat under a tree and used the iPhone to get me back on track.

Not that I ever rush unridden roads, but as I rounded a bend at a pace I thought I saw a large deer. I pulled over to watch in silence as nothing was behind or in front of me.

Wrong…. Bloody big Bull trotting towards me at full tilt. Nothing on the road except this dinosaur sized bemoth heading straight to me. Nothing to worry about I thought as I sat on a RED bike and what with my cape and sword back home in Cambridge…….

First mistake, I killed the engine. Suddenly the bike and my fat arse were all dead weight. If it decided to charge I was done for ! Trotting ever closer, and me now thinking Christ can it smell fear? Steak stopped with five yards to spare, he’d decided to veer off into the ditch and have an horrendous bowl evacuation. I was gagging in my helmet as the smell hit me.

As this was all unfolding I had the insurance claim processing in my head. How would I explain to the insurance company that I, and or the bike had been mauled by a randy bull ?

Just at that moment the farmer turned up. Rather hoping he’d shoot my new made friend “steak” on the spot. 
Oh no ….. not Farmer Frog, he decided to try a bit of high fookin chaparral and get his 4x4 between me and the walking Steak.

Let’s just say it was as close-run thing. Steak was moved off down the road, no doubt to terrorise another unsuspecting biker.

Needless to say, I didn’t hang around or worry about the noise of three cylinders starting up and propelling me out of the High Chaparral.

Anyways, back to the plotless plot. I rode home to the Gite, having swung by ALDI. Had planned to get a Steak, but simply couldn’t face it.

Tuesday 10th July 2018

An Underground War.

For several hundred years the small village of Naours has hidden a secret, since Napolenic times its labyrinth of tunnels has sheltered up to 4000 people.

Riding the 10 miles from the Gite this morning I spent several hours exploring the tunnels, and the Napoleonic and more recent first and second world Graffiti. Much was plain to see, and with full names, regiments and in many cases their service numbers I should be able to trace these chaps quite easily.

Being a weekday, I was almost alone exploring the miles of publicly open tunnels, and on several occasions, I did sneak under the barrier to explore the secret non-public side of Naour.

Hopefully my photos will show their writings easily. Post the exploration I rode 120 miles, yep that’s right 120 miles to the Motobecane ( Mobylette ) museum in Saint- Quentin for a 50 minute exploration. For it was on a Mobylette, given to me by my cousin Neil. When we meet again I’ll be sure to thank him and buy him several pints.

I took the motorway back to the Gite, as I am treating myself to a night out to watch the France vs Belgium game, hoping secretly that France win, as I think their the weaker team for England to take on later this week.

 

Wednesday 11th July 2018

HOW Many Dead ?


Today was always going to be a tough day, Battlefields and monuments.

Headed out of the village, and my first stop was to pay my respects to two aviators – Lucas, and Pinkney.

The latter being shot by the SS whilst in a French car looking for a suitable location for an advanced airfield. He was warned by French civilians, but mistook their waving for welcomes. Too late, as he rounded the corner in a car was shot by 50+ SS who were escaping the advancing allies.

Lucas was shot by German Ace Homuth flying a BF109. I stopped awhile, not expecting to bump into the two flyers again. I did.

Both are buried less than 200 yds from their memorial. I rode the bike the short distance to Warloy – Baillon cemetery. I noted with interest the number of lads from different regiments, and countries. Over 50 French infantry are buried. You’ll notice the headstones of the flyers here. Side by Side.

From here I set off to visit Beaumont Hammel, the Canadian battlefield and pay my respects to the New Foundland Regiment. By a stroke of luck, I came across the Avril Williams Guesthouse. I was over the moon to discover this hidden gem. They sold full English breakfast, with English tea. 14 euros later I continued my journey to Beaumont Hammel.

Upon arriving I was greeted by a Canadian tour guide. I joined the end of a recently departed tour. Simply listening to the guide Jena, made you realise just what a tough job these Canadians had in taking the German trenches. you were left with no doubt that you were on hallowed ground. On the day in question comms had broken down and a “white” German flare had been confused as a Canadian flare of success, only for more lads to be mown down with German bullets.

I sat awhile atop of the caribou topped memorial, and wondered how I would have coped with such a trial of endurance.

I rode from BH to the Ulster tower, I was particularly interested in reading up on several of the Victoria Cross Holders from the regimental accounts. I was not to be disappointed. These orange men were nothing less than Heroes. Having taken their objective, they successfully fought off many German counter attacks. Eventually succumbing to German heavy artillery.

I did have a moment when I thought I had left my iphone back at BH – racing back I found the thing under the tank bag.

Relieved I rode back to the tower to order my cuppa. 
From the Tower I passed Theipval, onto my next waypoint – the tank memorial. I was not disappointed. It’s outer barrier made of guns from the tanks, and chains from a tank. It was getting late, and I was totally washed out reading the plaques. Just on the three I visited today they accounted for over 100,000 soliders.

I rode back to the Gite, and messed with the GoPro until the football started.

Thursday 12th July 2018

An Iron Tomb.

A very late, almost midday start today after the England match last night. I set off towards Albert, no motorways today. So plenty of safe fun was had on the quieter B roads along the Somme Valley.

I stopped briefly to call Dad (something I do at 11 everyday) then into Albert to find a coffee shop.

I shouldn’t have bothered. Lots of tacky bars selling their latest wares from the trenches. Bastards.

I stopped for an hour in the square, and soaked in the sights. Bronze statues to Australian tunnellers and British field gunners. Someone had put foam in the towns fountains, I’m guessing but I’d say post the French win at football the other evening. It was blowing everywhere.

I smiled to myself, then puzzled a moment as something came into view that caused me to look twice. A Lady, on an electric powered scooter. She was flying along, she must have been going 40mph. She must have seen me smiling as she gave me a rather reserved nod and smiled back.

Almost immediately as this happened in the opposite direction a girl came past on a Triumph Bonneville, she must have just have set off as she was riding with her side stand down. It was sure to bring her off on the next bend. I waved and pointed like a mad man. She thanked me, moments later her boyfriend passed and nodded far more appreciative. Both on Triumphs. Not a common sight here in France.

Having found no café, I jumped back onto the bike, and headed towards my next destination the infamous Lochnagar crater. This huge hole in the ground was left when a huge mine was detonated under the German lines on the 1 July 1916, it left a crater 98 ft deep and 330 ft wide, which was captured and held by British troops. I walked around the top and sat reflecting awhile.

Whilst doing so I watched two British coaches jostle for parking spaces. Hoards of English teenagers piled out, I watched them almost ant like climb to the top of the craters lip. Upon reaching for the crest they pulled out their smart phones as they began to take in the enormity of the view. Teachers dashed between the respectful teenagers urging them to walk round the craters lip. I was impressed. I drifted off and wondered if that scene was a repeat of one played out over a hundred years ago. Officers encouraging the soldiers to finish the job off. Daft I suppose.

I mounted my trusty steed for my final destination for today. Flesquières, a small French commune to visit a WW1 tank recently given a new home from the barn it’d lived in since being dug up from the field of battle.

I Passed through several French communes, signs of battles were all around me. It was obvious by the signage that i’d entered the British sector. Headstones popping up in their hundreds every mile or so. Purposely I slowed each time, always nodding to pay my respects.

I soon entered the village of Flesquières. Riding the main street at little more than walking pace, fearful I’d miss this Tank. For years this tank “Deborah” had been covered by a plastic sheet in a farmer’s barn. I was eager to find her new home.

I’d almost reached the village outskirts when its new home came into view. A huge concrete bunker, excitedly I parked up and paid my 5 euros.

As you enter your directed to a briefing room with a large circular table. At this table is projected a video map of the tank battle that ultimately led to the demise of Deborah.

Indeed, this was the theme of the whole museum, large touch screens and projections using the latest technology. When the presentation finished I was prompted to follow a route that leads to the main hall containing the tank.

WOW, all I could say was WOW. You can walk right up to it. I stuck my head right inside the tank. I quickly learnt that if you touched the tank you’d set off an alarm. Must have had some sort of earth loop detector.

Being the only one in the museum I wickedly amused myself by purposely setting it off on several occasions. Anyways, I hope the photos do it justice. I thoroughly recommend anyone to see this wonderful tank.

Despite my best efforts I had still not eaten. A quick check showed that there was a Buffalo steak grill nearby. Bound to be expensive, this was France after all. Sod it, I’d not eaten out all week so I tried to programme it into crapnav, but no go. Yet again reverting to the iphone on the tank bag. GRRRRR.

As I rode I spotted what I thought was a Stirling / Lancaster aircraft on a sign (hard to tell the difference at 70mph ) anyways a quick U turn and yep, it was the site of a Stirling that had fallen victim to a German night fighter.

Five lads perished. Local villagers had put up a memorial stone and storyboard. It made for an interesting read. Not that I’m an expert, I had thought that the Stirling had been put out of service by the newer Lancaster. Perhaps not all. I paused a while, took a couple of photos before successfully stuffing my face at the local Buffalo Steak restaurant.

I rode home, tired but still enjoying the ride. My tyres have squared off due to the hundreds of miles of Motorway riding I’m doing on this holiday.

Makes for a nervous moment as you bank the bike over at speed. Ho Hum she’s sat outside as I sit here and plan tomorrows adventure.

Friday 13th July 2018

Penultimate Day.

I had planned to take it really easy today, however I’ll blame the bike and not me. Today’s weather was lovely so whilst the day started as planned. Pop down the bakers, take the remainder of my cheese and the left-over tomatoes, find somewhere nice to sit and have lunch fresco style. It didn’t happen.

I picked up the bread, but found myself climbing out of the Somme Valley on a succession of challenging twisty D roads. Bikers paradise. Passing through pretty villages, but never finding a place I was happy to pull over and nibble on my role.

After several hours, and yep. Getting lost again, I ended up at the coastal town of Mers Les Bains.

I sat on the harbour wall and took in the view; the cliffs are certainly impressive. I treated myself to Crepe and coffee and sat for an hour. For the first time in the car park there were British bikers, of a sort. Trike riders. Never got that scène myself but hey, it’s about choice.

Whilst I’d taken all morning to come a relatively short distance I couldn’t afford to take so long to get back to Amiens. I wanted to take a boat ride through the famous gardens of Amiens, and was conscious that even at motorway speeds it’d be tight.

it was 40mins of painful trundling before I wound the bike up cruising a close to three figures. Arriving at the boat launch in plenty of time. Overzealous use of the throttle had taken my fuel state down to 8 miles left. I made a mental note to ask google to take me to the nearest filling station. CrapNav and I weren't even talking today.

I had a peaceful hour on the boat, cruising the shallow and narrow river ways of the Somme valley admiring its wildlife. My electric boat was near silent. I’m sure others would have pointed out far more than I saw, but what a change from riding a bike.

Post the boat trip I rode to a fast food place and chilled for an hour. Returning to the Gite to dust and wipe all surfaces down ready to hand back in the morning. I was not paying the 60 euro cleaning bill.

Reflections:

I’ve spent a week motorcycling in the Somme valley. I have attempted on all occasions to speak French I have found the French people respectful at my attempts, and I have to say their respect for motorcyclists far outweighs anything I have experienced. Yep were culturally different. I like a beer on an evening, and not many of their villages have bars. I accept that.

When I return I will do so in a car, purely for practical reasons. I want to bring my Quad-copters to film the battlefields and get a different perspective to the one I’ve seen several times before.

France is not cheap. A Pint of Stella will cost 6 euros fify, that’s over £6 per pint. Bread will cost £2 , and decent milk is very hard to come by. It’ll cost you close to £26 to fill up your bike. Their speed limits in villages is infuriatingly slow.

I have seen a different side to France this holiday – both young and old have been pleasant, always made time to have a chat, wave, and on occasion nodded to me on the bike. They have always tried to speak English to me as my French breaks. On all occasions their English was better than my French.

My bike:
My Triumph 1050cc Triple has managed very well. Fully loaded with panniers and top box, it never fails to deliver when a little extra power is needed.

This holiday has seen me ride in temperatures of 31 degrees. Not once has it complained, its electrical fan cutting in and out the second I pull over.

I bought it brand new several years ago. After this holiday I don’t plan to change her. I’ve ordered new plugs, filters, and oils for her, a new chain and cogs are on their way.

Guess what I’ll be doing on Sunday after giving her a wash?

Sat 14th July 2018

Rode home from France, terrible journey. M25 was closed, and I was diverted through Kent and Essex.

 

Sunday 15th July 2018

Opened the C15 Gearbox to determine the cause of the kickstart not engaging.  See video below. 

Wednesday 18th July 2018

Rode to visit John Woods Grave at Sawtry, and then onto the Stilton Triumph owners meet at the Talbot. Lovely road, I might actually do this run again. 

Saturday 21st July 2018

Rode to the Lodge on the Sprint. Very hot. Boring run, but nice to meet up with friends. 

Sunday 22nd July 2018

Started to look at the C15 gearbox. 

gearchange

Tuesday 24th July 2018

Met at Wyton Camp gate and joined up with Simon, Ants and Jo. Rode to the Swann at Connington. D7 puts a smile on my face everytime. Think I better pull my finger out and finish the B175. 

Wednesday 25th July 2018

Spent the late morning rebuilding the Gearbox on the C15. I made significant progress. Needs finishing but cracked the back of it. 

IMG 9815

PM 

Came back from the Pub refreshed, and tackled 99% of the remaining jobs to complete the gearbox rebuild. Still very hot. It does effect how long I can work outside in this heat. 

Friday 27th July 2018

finished the gearbox, but have other problems. I have oil being pushed out of one of the damaged case covers. I am burning the brain cells trying to figure out why. Also the crank breather hole is putting a small amount out. Perhaps the engine was wet sumping whilst on its side ?

Sunday 29th July 2018

Went in the car due to bad weather to the Whittlesea village show. Plenty of laughs. When I returned home I got stuck into the C15. See the video below. Think I have sussed it. Need some help to weld or seal up. 

Started to research the gear lever. Not an easy job to change the shaft. See the link below. 

http://www.bsaotter.com/bsa_unit_single_gear-change_shaft_replacement.html

Monday 30th July 2018

fitted the rear rack and box to FER10D, damaged the rear mudguard. Will provide useful taking bits to Simon and Jerry on Tuesday night.

Tuesday 31st July 2018

Rode FER10D to Whittlesea MCC on D7 FER10D. Lovely evening, plenty of laughs and rode back in near black conditions.