Withdrawal Symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms and loyalty to a great bike (or not).

No motorcycle in the basement where they should be at least one.

Happy Christmas and a great impending New Year to everyone, but I am suffering withdrawal symptoms. Self-inflicted of course. Not the usual, aftermath of Christmas type symptoms. From over indulgence in food and beverages consumed with the Christmas fare, and not even from visits to the purveyors of fine beers and liquors. In the form of the local publicans. No, none of the expected outcomes and consequences of the holiday period.

I sold my Fazer (1000c.c.) a few weeks before Christmas and now, strangely, the basement is entirely bereft of motorbikes. An unusual problem. It is usually a case of trying to squeeze between the handlebars of several bikes. I sold my vintage Z about a year ago and the Fazer has been sent on it’s way too. I sold it a few days after handing over a bundle of greenbacks, coinage or dough. Whichever is your favourite moniker for your hard earned funds, for a new bike. A new bike that I won’t get possession of until 2017.

Of course now, every time I have reason to leave the house I meet motorcycles and motorcyclists. When I was on my way home from delivering the Fazer, for onward transmission to it’s new owner, I stopped at a garage and met two fine gentlemen with the shiniest of shiny sportsbikes. Think Kawasaki with 1400 c.c. and BMW with a bloody jet engine. The riders told me they live in Dublin but originate from Russia. And isn’t it a fine day for a blast. Well it would be if you had a motorcycle. So that was a week or so before Christmas. Everyday since I have met buddies on cruisers or adventure bikes. Hasn’t the weather been really great? Nice to get out of the house after all that turkey. Get lost you teasing pain in the…

Sympathisers such as my wife say it won’t be long until there is a brand new shiny bike where the Fazer was. That is no consolation. None whatsoever. That’s like saying to someone that is going through a break-up that time is a great healer. Never say that to anyone who is going through a rough time. Well, I always believed that the Fazer and I would be together forever. dsc04838-2_liI suppose it’s not the first relationship that seemed destined to be forever that didn’t survive. Now every time I go through the basement of my house, which is very often, because I keep that other form of transport that I use, that shall remain nameless, outside the basement door, all I can see is reminders of what used to be. Helmets, open face and full face; bike jackets and pants, leather and textile; biker gloves, goggles, buffs, scarves, balaclavas, chain oil, tool sets and all the other accoutrements that a biker collects over the years. And most especially the vacant spot dedicated to and supposed to be full of bike. Or bikes. They are a reminder of my loss. So stop trying to console me. Specially on a day that everyone is saying is so fine, and the holidays are still here, if you are a normal person who gets holidays when there are supposed to be holidays. Even my brother-in-Law Declan told me he would probably ride up today on his Triumph America. Well guess who isn’t riding “bitch”. Walkers talking about walking. Runners talking about running. Even swimmers talking about swimming. Get thee behind me Satan!

Fazer and I had some great times together. In the featured picture I was on one of my blasts to Hook Head in the South East tip of Ireland. One of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. In the other image I had Fazer packed for a blast around Europe. Never once did it have as much as a slight mishap or leave me down in anyway. Totally reliable. Oh, what times we had. I am now the person that I have occasionally made a slightly disparaging remark about. A biker without a bike. And I am not in the least bit happy about it. Roll on the early days of 2017 when the folks at AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey can register my new purchase for me and I can try to start a new relationship. Oh what a coquettish, cheating, fickle person am I…

 

Ted Simon’s Original Jupiter’s Travels.

“Those were the times when I felt full of natural wisdom, scratching at heaven’s very door. The days of Jupiter”.

An epic journey around the world that began in 1973 on a 500cc Triumph.

I have previously written about “Jupiter’s Travels In Camera” (here: http://wp.me/p7IHqF-FE),  in an article which concentrated on the 2013 book. In it Ted Simon published 300 images from his original epic journey which began in 1973. While they are a fantastic record of the places he visited and images of the people he met, it doesn’t explain why the original publication, Jupiter’s Travels, which included none of his photographs, was such a resounding success. Ted simon was an accomplished writer and journalist when he began this epic journey. He was German born but lived in Britain. After studying chemical engineering and doing his national service with the RAF, where he had founded a magazine for new recruits, he had been spotted by an editor who gave him work at the Daily Express. He eventually left to start a man’s magazine called “King” which only survived a few years. He continued to contribute to a wide variety of publications. The editor at The Sunday Times was a motorcycle enthusiast, just like Simon, which undoubtedly helped in persuading a serious broadsheet newspaper like The Sunday Times to become involved in this project. Harold Evans was editor of the paper from 1967 until the 80s and obviously had a great interest in travel. He founded the luxury travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler in 1987, but for the purpose of this article his most important attribute was his willingness to support Simon’s round the world motorcycle trip. A trip that was proposed before anyone had ever heard of adventure motorcycling and it was considered a crazy idea at the time.

The secret of the success of the book can be attributed to Ted Simon’s style of writing. His enthusiastic and artistic method of crafting his story draws the reader in to the point that the book is difficult to put down. He tells of surviving war, deserts, imprisonment and particularly his own fears, while telling interesting anecdotes of the vastly diverse people he makes acquaintance with along the way.  From 1973 to 1977 he travelled around the globe on a Triumph Tiger 100. A 500cc bike that was chosen for it’s simplicity as well as to try to bolster the failing British Motorcycle Industry. Simon’s story was broadcast through the pages of The Sunday Times at a time when Triumph was tearing itself apart, to be reborn two years later as a type of workers’ cooperative. It was Simon’s experienced penmanship that made the story of the journey so successful. It sparked an industry related to motorcycle adventure riding, and the accessories and equipment that a would be, round the world rider could possibly need, and all the blogs, websites and publications dedicated to motorcycle adventure riding that now exist. None of which existed when Simon was packing for his trip:

“I knew I had too much stuff, but there was no logical way to reduce it. Some of the problem was, of course, pure sentiment. How could I junk anything as unique and exotic as a mixture of cod liver oil and glucose”. Friends had told him this was an old naval remedy for tropical sores. “But generally I was on the horns of the knife and spoon dilemma; if you take a fork, why not a spoon, if salt then why not pepper; if you are going to ride fifty thousand miles on a motorcycle then at least you want to lie comfortably at night”. He didn’t have access to the ‘wisdom’ that’s available now on a myriad of websites and blogs. Where to find the smallest, lightest and most ‘eco-friendly’ tent, toothbrush, plate etc. etc. in the world. “Who can walk along the pavements of the City of London and seriously contemplate the prospect of being struck by a cobra. I suspended my judgement and went on adding to my pocket universe like an agnostic crossing himself before battle”.  How he chose his route too was as much a matter of sentiment. “Generally the great overland journeys follow the Asian land mass East until the traveller is forced to take to the water at Singapore. I chose a different way because I was powerfully attracted by the challenge of Africa, and in great awe of it too”.

Taking on this massive circumnavigation of the globe that saw him cover 63,400 miles (103,000km) dsc05444-2through 45 countries was not without trepidation for Simon. “People in lightweight suits, with interesting jobs and homes to go to, flaunted their security at me and I felt my gut scream at me to strip off this ridiculous outfit and rush back into that light and the familiar interdependence…. I was lost beyond hope, utterly defeated”. Equally he felt the rush of anticipation and excitement when he set off. “Within minutes the great void inside me was filled with a rush of exultation, and in my solitary madness I started to sing”.

How can I convey the beauty of the writing in this book to you? It’s impossible to pick out just one or two passages and say this is the definitive charm of Ted Simon’s writing. So I will just let you sample a few lines from the first page of the book and you can decide for yourself. “I let the bike roll off the asphalt on to the grass under a shade tree. The trunk of the tree was stout and twisted with prominent roots and a grey scaly bark. Drooping clusters of small dry leaves gave a medium shade. It was a common tree in India though I still could not remember its name”.  He had run out of petrol fifteen miles from the nearest village and waited in the shade of a tree. “I did not doubt that help would come, and with it most probably some unexpected twist in my fortunes. It had taken years to achieve that measure of confidence and calm, and as I waited I allowed myself some pleasure in knowing it”. Some unexpected twist in fortunes on this occasion was being guest of honour at a local wedding where he saw a mesmerizing dancer and was introduced to the name Jupiter in a bizarre and whimsical meeting with a “wise” man.

Many people say their lives were changed by this book and motorcycles don’t have to be your thing to enjoy it. Ewan McGregor attributes at least part of the inspiration for his and Charley Boorman’s journey as described in their book, Long Way Round to Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels. The pair actually met Ted Simon on their journey in Mongolia. Others have read it and only saw a certain negativity in Simon’s fears and the tribulations encountered on his journey. For example: “I was heavily inclined to expect the worst, and when a strange Agente came for me in the afternoon and took me down those grim steps to the basement I really thought the worst was about to happen. But it was only to have photograph and fingerprints taken”.  But equally there are descriptions of times of great contentment and joy. After particular difficulty loading his Triumph on to a ferry, the roof of which he slept on, he remarked about the beauty of his surroundings and the night sky: “For three days and two  nights I drift up the Nile along Lake Nasser. The sunrises and sunsets are so extraordinarily beautiful that my body turns inside out and empties my heart into the sky”. At times he comes to achieve real inner peace: “I needed no better reason for the journey than to be exactly where I was, knowing what I knew. Those were the times when I felt full of natural wisdom, scratching at heaven’s very door. The days of Jupiter”.

Ted Simon’s website is worth a visit. It gives mountains of information about his journeys: Jupitalia.com. The photos are from his publications or are of his books. Jupiter’s Travels was first published in 1979 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd.

Review of 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure.

Rider and Passenger’s viewpoint.

Whoever invented heated grips deserves a medal. My hands were cold when I got to the AMI (Adventure Motorcycles Ireland) Overlanders shop in the Business Park in Gorey, Wexford, Ireland. My own bike doesn’t have such luxuries and the mercury had been down at -2 Celsius (about 28 fahrenheit) when I was putting on the warmest gear to ride to Gorey to trial a demo bike. When I swung my leg over the bike that Gary had kindly provided me with I was delighted when I felt the warmth of the grips. Incidentally it was a guy called Jim Hollander that developed heated grips for bikes in 1976, which he used when he became the top American rider at the International Six Days Trial (now enduro: ISDE) . He developed the potential of his idea into a business at a later stage and the product is now widely used for bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles.

Gary had told me a few days before that there was a demonstration Suzuki V-Strom 1000 ABS Adventure available to test drive at the AMI shop. I had been looking forward to twisting the throttle on this bike since he told me about it. The first thing I noticed as I was pulling away was the instrument cluster. It’s big and clear in terms of the “clock” type rev counter and digital speed reading. It also gives you time, air temperature, engine temperature as well as clear indicator lights and information about the traction control and ABS. Directly under the instrument paneldsc05433 is a power outlet which is perfectly positioned for a GPS system. Another power outlet elsewhere on the bike for phones or other devices might be a useful addition, but if you needed one, they are usually not difficult to install. I did one on my bike in about half an hour. It takes a couple of minutes to find the right seating position on this bike but that is because the seat is big and comfy and so roomy you have to see what suits you best.  After a few minutes I was really comfortable and that lasted the couple of hours I had the bike out for. At the first stop I put my feet down and immediately realised that this is a tall machine. Apparently the seat is just over 33 inches (about 85 centimetres) high, it was almost tippy toe territory for me at about 5’11 inches. I don’t have a problem with being up on my toes but what I did worry about though, was that I felt that the pegs were sticking into my legs when I was stopped. I thought about this for a few minutes and at the next stop I tried something different. I have found before that if you stand up completely, your legs straighten out better and you get a better reach. Standing up at the stop on the V-Strom and consciously getting my legs behind the pegs, I could get my feet totally flat on the street. I realised that I could sit back down comfortably on the seat and my feet were still flat on the ground and the pegs weren’t interfering with my lower calves any more. So for me anyway it was just a matter of remembering to position my legs behind the pegs when I stopped. I got used to doing this in a matter of a few stops and had no difficulties after that.

The V-Strom is a great looking bike and while there is probably no need for the beaked front on adventure bikes, it does let you know immediately what the manufacturers intentions are. The wide handlebars and upright sitting position contribute to the great feeling of control and the 1037cc water cooled v-twin engine moves you along quietly img_7379and effortlessly. I am not going to attempt to tell you about the frame and the engine except to say it all works very well and by some magic the engineers at Suzuki have shaved 13% off the weight of the old V-Strom. It weighs in at 503lbs or 228kgs which is very acceptable and it is nice and narrow in the middle, even if the tank does seem very wide. The V-Strom feels smooth and planted and there is an extra sense of security on a bike with ABS and two stage traction control, especially on a frosty day like this day. The screen doesn’t appear that big, but it is easily adjustable on the fly, with a ratchet system, and it is quite effective, at least for someone of my height. I didn’t feel any buffeting at all, but the day was extremely calm. It might be different on a windy day. The adventure model I was test riding had side cases, heated grips, hand guards and engine bars where two spotlights are positioned as well as a cowl guard, rather than a bash plate. A bash plate is really only required on a bike where the intention is to take on serious off-roading, but this bike, I would suggest, is intended for touring and trail riding, rather than serious bashing about, though it is very light and agile, which is always a big help in the mucky stuff. And just to test it’s off-road qualities I drove across a field with a green cover crop (with the owner’s permission) with a soft enough surface to make the traction control and ABS lights come on a few times. No problems arose and the traction control wasn’t intrusive. I thought I’d have to turn it down a notch or even turn it off because the field was slippy enough after the heavy frost, but it was fine. Really for that kind of surface, knobblies would be necessary, but it was just curiosity to see how the electronic aids felt in action.

Anyone who has read an earlier article on Motorcycle Rambler, “Passenger’s Point of View”, which was a review of the Honda Africa Twin and the Yamaha Super Ten, will know that Mrs. Rambler is interested in the comfort levels available on any bike I test ride, for the obvious reason that she is in no doubt that one day, one of these demonstration rides will result in an increase or a change in the Rambler stable. So the instruction to take it home for close inspection had been issued. On the day in question, Mrs. Rambler and I were celebrating our 31st year since tying the proverbial knot and on that auspicious occasion we went for a spin on the V-Strom Adventure, to see what she made of it. It got an immediate thumbs up for comfort but there were two little queries. A small but noticeable degree of vibration when the throttle is opened wide and a slight issue with space between the pillion’s peg and the side case. The boots being worn weren’t the biggest boots she has ever worn on a bike spin and there was a worry that a bigger boot might make it difficult to get the heel to fit at the back of the peg. As for the vibration, I am happy to say that it is there when you push on strongly, but not noticeably more than what you would expect on any V-Twin.

So, in conclusion, this is a great bike for someone who wants a strong touring bike with some off-road potential. The saddle and sitting position are great for the rider and pillion passenger too. There should be no problem to comfortably cover a lot of miles in a day with the rider and a passenger and lots of luggage on board. A top box along with the cases that come with the adventure model would take a ton of stuff for longer tours. It has about 20 litres or 4.4 gallons (5.3 U.S.) of fuel capacity which should keep you rolling for 180 to 200 miles, if the fuel mileage that is attributed to the bike on various web-sites is accepted. I am not going to hazard any more of a precise guess as I didn’t test the fuel mileage myself. It’s a beautiful looking bike and the adventure model comes in a great matt and silver-grey livery (I don’t think there is any choice in the colour offered for the adventure bike). It’s light and nimble and seems fairly frugal on fuel. I covered about a hundred kilometres and the fuel gauge didn’t seem to move much. Another very interesting factor is the price. The base model is priced at 13, 950 euro and the Adventure model comes in at 14,950 with 500 euro cashback in 2017, I believe. In my opinion, this is a very well priced machine, particularly the Adventure option. It gives you a whole lot of bike with some important extras, for a great price. Thanks very much to the guys at AMI and particularly Gary for a great day on a fine example of an Adventure Bike I will be very happy to own.