Monday, December 02, 2013

Helen’s New Luggage Rack

Yesterday I fitted Helen’s new Givi pannier rails and top box rack. Kawasaki don’t offer the option of a 3 box setup, you either have panniers or a top box but not both. Helen got the bike from Kawasaki with the panniers already fitted. When she bought the bike we were well aware that Givi made Kawasaki’s panniers at that time and so these panniers would fit on the Givi rails. The original pannier rails are really ugly and spoil the look of the bike when no luggage is fitted to it. The new rails are fitted with quick release bolts that allow the main parts of the rails to be removed from the bike when no luggage is  required. As part of this new rail system you can also fit a top box rack as well., due to the wayGivi Luggage fiited it is fitted this has to be fitted to the bike at all times. If you don’t want a top box than you require another kit of parts to be able to fit the rails instead.

So I set about removing the Kawasaki rails first, one of the first bolts I tried to undo sheared off straight away. Looks like whoever fitted it, put it on far too tightly as the nut was rounded slightly and the allen key hex was also rounded. Fortunately I managed to get the nut and the broken off bolt thread out from the other side. Once that was out of the way I then removed the rest of the rails. The next problem came when I had to remove the bracket (different bracket for new kit) from under the seat. Givi had no instructions on how to actually get at the bolts to install this item. I managed to find some instruction elsewhere and then came across my next hurdle which was in the form of a pair of security screws. It would appear they were protecting access to the ECU, but they also stopped you dropping the under tail tray to get at the bracket. This is where the Dremel came to the rescue as I cut a groove in the top bolt and was then able to remove it was a flat bladed screwdriver. I didn’t need to remove the lower bolt as the under tray was now free. I then replaced the bracket under the tail and also had to install a new number plate and indicator bracket. The indicators have to be installed lower than on tGivi rails removedhe original setup as they would get in the way of the panniers being fitted. Kawasaki had already extended the wires for the  other rails so that had saved me a small job, but I still had to disconnect all the wiring to change over the indicator brackets. Once they were all installed back on the bike and working I could then install the actual rails and rack. This was quite straight forward as Givi’s instructions were very well set out. I had no problems installing the rest of the kit and everything lined up perfectly once put together. The panniers now don’t stick out as far as they did on the Kawasaki rails and the whole luggage set up looks miles better. Also once the luggage is off and the rails removed the bike looks miles better as well. The photo above shows the bike with the rails removed, the red circles denote where the quick release rails locate. Once both rails are installed you then install a quick release bar between both rails that sits just behind the top of the number plate, this bar makes the rails very rigid indeed.

For anyone interested here is a list of the equipment that we installed to achieve this set up.
Givi PLXR4100 rapid release rails for V35 Monokey panniers.
Givi 4100FZ Monokey Top Box rack & M5 Plate
Givi V47NN Tech Top Box
Kawasaki Panniers (made by Givi and are V35 Panniers)


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bike Run Up

While it has been dry today I have had all 3 bikes out and ran them up to temperature and let the fans kick in. The ZX-9R took a few goes to get it to start and hold enough revs to keep running, the other 2 started first time without any issues. I did however manage to replicate the sticking (more slower return to idle) revs on the K1300s. It appears that if you only turn the throttle grip slightly it doesn’t snap back firmly, hence it only does it at low revs. If you close the throttle by hand then it drops the revs normally. Generally when riding with load on the engine the throttle snaps back or I am returning by hand, hence why I haven’t noticed it when I’m riding. Whether this is the throttle bodies or something else, remains to be seen. Obviously I am going to be busy over winter as apart from the valve check on the ZX-9R I am now going to have to strip down the K1300s and check all the components of the throttle return. Especially the crap plastic part that is know to fail.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

BMW K1300s Service

Today my K1300s went in to Williams BMW for its annual service. It was the 12,000 mile service and cost around £230. I decided I wouldn’t sit around and wit for the bike so borrowed a F700GS to ride home on. Not my type of bike at all, the wind protection on the motorway was very poor and the riding position far to upright for me, felt like I was falling off the back of it. I collected the bike later on that afternoon when they informed me that my throttle bodies were sticking at low revs. They also explained that these weren’t covered under warranty and would require replacements fitting at a cost of £704. As you can imagine I am not best pleased about this, especially as it is a know problem that has affected K1200’s from 2005. I have yet to get them to explain how they diagnosed this problem as it isn’t evident to me. I do remember it sticking once when the bike was cold sat in the garage. So for now I will be leaving it as it is and monitoring the situation.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kawasaki Z1000SX Bling

Motografix Tank ProtectorsHelen has decided to bling up her Z1000SX with some Motografix tank  protectors. She got the Kneepads KK020G kit and the Tank Protector TK016G kit. Obviously I had to fit the kit and being for Helen it had to be lined up with millimetre precision. The kits are high quality items and do justify the price she paid for them. I gave the areas a good clean and then wipe them down with alcohol wipes to remove and grease. After that I removed any trace of dust with a microfibre cloth and then warmed up the tank with a hairdryer. I also use the hairdryer on the gel pads to help them stick down. I had to lift up and reposition some of them a few times but with the aid of the hairdryer I manage to get them to stick down without any air bubbles.


Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Mini Lake District Tour

Friday 20th – Home to Bouth
We packed up the bikes after work and left home at around 18:00. We had aimed to get away much earlier but as usual it took much longer to sort things out. It was inevitable now that we wouldn’t get there before dark and would just about make it to the supermarket before it closed at 21:00.

Ready for the off Although we were late we still refused to go up on the M6 as it just a boring slog and not at all fun on a bike. We left home and headed towards Clitheroe on the M66/A56. We cut through Sabden and over Pendle Hill as usual and then headed into Clitheroe. We then left Clitheroe on the B6478 and headed through Waddington towards Slaidburn. I had anticipated that the A65 might be very busy at this time of day so decided that we would join it as near to Kirkby Lonsdale as we could. With that in mind we took Lythe Fell Road in Slaidburn, which heads towards Bentham. It is a minor single track road across some beautiful open countryside. We eventually arrived in Bentham and then continued on more minor roads to Ingleton. Here we joined the A65 and headed for Kirkby Lonsdale. We continued on the A65 passed Kirkby Lonsdale and onto the M6. It was starting to get quite dark now but fortunately we were now on main roads. We passed over the M6 and then followed the A590 towards Ulverston. We soon arrived at our base for the week my Mum’s static caravan in Bouth.

We quickly unpacked and headed over to Ulverston to do some shopping for the week at Booths. They have decided to do some roadworks at the A590/ A5092 junction at Greenodd, this no doubt will cause chaos during the day.

Saturday 21st – Middleton-in-Teesdale
Due to a poor weather forecast for Cumbria today we decided to head East for some dry weather. This inevitably meant that we would be going on very familiar roads, but far better to be dry than wet.

Due to the rain we left quite late in the morning and immediately headed towards Kendal on the A590. We then turned North onto the A591 and passed around Kendal and then turned right onto minor roads to cut across to the A6 via Burneside. We did this to avoid Kendal as it can get quite busy at times. We then headed North on the A6, it was still raining and as we climbed up to Shap Fell the weather started to close in and visibility became very poor indeed. As we passed over the Bikes at Hartside summit and headed towards Shap itself the weather started to improve and then suddenly we were on dry roads again. We continued on the A6 through Shap towards Penrith. On the outskirts of Penrith we joined the A686 and headed for Hartside Pass. We soon started the climb up the pass and had a pretty clear run up to the top. They have resurfaced certain parts of the pass, but have put down a decent surface rather than the usual crap. We soon arrived at the top and stopped for lunch. Due to previous poor service we didn’t buy anything from the cafe and just had our own pre-made sandwiches. 

After lunch we headed down to Alston on the A686, they haven’t started to resurface this side yet so it is still quite badly chewed up at the top. In Alston we turned onto the B6277 and headed for Middleton-in-Teesdale. This is a great road, it has some nice fast sections and also some nice Settle at Hartsidetight twisty bits as well. It is also a very  quiet road and you often don’t meet any traffic until you get over towards High Force. We had a great run and only came across traffic after High Force but it was easily dispatched on the final run into Middleton-in-Teesdale. We stopped at Cafe 1618 as usual for a well earned cup of coffee. 

We left Middleton-in-Teesdale on the B6276 heading towards Brough. This is another very quiet and fantastically fast and twisty road. The only minor issue on this road is the sheep that you often come across on the road inbetween the two cattle grids, so always take it easy on this section and expect to find sheep in the road. We soon arrived in Brough and then joined the A685 to Kirkby Stephen. We continued on the A685 through Kirkby Stephen and towards Tebay. At some point along this stretch of the A685 we hit rain and wet roads again, this wet weather stayed with us for the rest of the ride back to Bouth. We passed through Tebay and continued on the A685 to Kendal. We then passed through Kendal and headed back to Bouth on the A591/A590.

Sunday 22nd – Kirkstone Pass & Lowther
We had a much better weather forecast today and awoke to sun and dry roads. We decided to head over to Lowther and go for our annual visit to the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre

K1300s @Ullswater We headed trough Bouth and Spark Bridge and then joined the A5084 towards Coniston Water. This is a nice road and is often quiet as it is off the main lakes routes. However we did come across a few coaches on our way to Coniston. Fortunately we were able to get past, although I did feel sorry for the car drivers who couldn’t. We turned right at Torver onto the A593 and followed the road to Coniston. We then continued on the A593 all the way to Ambleside. In Ambleside we did the usual double shuffle and joined the The Struggle and headed for the summit of Kirkstone Pass. At the summit by the Kirkstone Pass Inn we joined the A592 and then headed down the other side of the pass towards Brotherswater. We continued on the A593 through Patterdale and Glenridding and followed the road alongside Ullswater towards Pooley Bridge. At the end of Ullswater we Ullswater joined the B5320 and stopped just outside Pooley Bridge to take some photos. We then carried on through Pooley Bridge and then joined minor roads to cut across to Lowther via Askham. We arrived at the Lakeland Bird of Prey Centre in plenty of time to catch the start of the flying display at 2:00pm. 

The show was excellent as usual although Otto the Eagle Owl is getting too old now to be flown. The show is also getting predictable for us now as he flies the same birds and talks the same talk every year. But even so we would definitely recommend going and seeing the show as it is well worth the visit. 

Helen near Lowther Castle After coffee and cake we left and had a ride through the Lowther Estate and took some pictures near to Lowther Castle. We then headed back towards Kendal on the A6. We had a nice run today over Shap as it was sunny and the roads were dry and viability was good. We cut around Kendal via Burneside as usual and then proceeded back to Bouth on the A591/A590.

Monday 23rd – South Lakes Wild Animal Park 
The forecast today was for light intermittent rain for most of the day so we decided to visit the South Lakes Wild Animal Park at Dalton in Furness. 

Cheeky Monkey So we headed over to the park on the A590 via Ulverston. We thought that the car park wasn’t great for bikes and was on a slope, but actually there were plenty of decent places to park bikes in. It wasn’t raining but we took our small umbrellas in with us just in case. Nearly every 30 minutes they have something going on at the park, which usually involves feeding some of the animals and a talk. In most cases they let the public feed some of the animals for a small donation of £1 towards the Sumatran Tiger program. Helen decided that for £1 she Lemurwould feed the Lemurs grapes. They came right up to her and took them from her hands very gently. We spent most of the day at the park as there is so much to do so it is well worth the entrance fee. While we were having lunch a Tamarind got on my arm and tried to get to one of my sandwiches. But I managed to move it out of the way just in time. 

We left the park and headed over to the A5087 coast road. We then had a nice ride back to Ulverston on the coast road. We then headed back to Bouth avoiding the roadworks again on the A590.

Tuesday 24th – Scottish Borders 
We decided to have a run into the Scottish Borders today as the weather looked reasonable for most of the day. We also haven’t managed to get up to Scotland this year so far on the bikes, so it was a must that we made the effort. 

St Mary's Loch We took our usual route to the A6 and then followed it all the way to Penrith. We then made our way through Penrith and then joined the A6 again and continued North. We then joined the M6 at junction 42 to make a bit of progress and followed it passed Carlisle and into Scotland, where it becomes the A74(M). We left the motorway at junction 21 and joined the B7076. This road runs Parallel with the A74(M) and is virtually as quick, but much nicer. We passed through Kirkpatrick and Ecclefechan on our way towards Lockerbie. Just before Lockerbie we turn left onto the A709 and headed for Lochmaben. In Lochmaben we joined the B7020 and headed north again. As we headed along this road we encountered a little bit of rain and damp roads but nothing to really spoil the ride. We eventually joined the A701 and headed into Moffat for some lunch. While we were stopped I topped up my bike with oil as the check warning had come on just before we arrived. 

B709 in the Scottish Borders We left Moffat on the A708 and headed towards Selkirk. This is a great road and even though it was a little damp it didn’t spoil it for us. The first bit of this road out of Moffat is quite bumpy so it is worth taking it easy as it can unsettle some bikes. But as soon as it opens up it becomes a lovely smooth open flowing road. We soon arrived at St Mary’s Loch and stopped at the well know Glen Cafe by the Loch for a coffee.  

We left and continued up the A708 towards Selkirk but soon turned right onto the B709 at The Gordon Arms. This is a single track road that cut across beautiful open countryside towards Hawick. After a while we joined the B711 and ran alongside Ettrick Forest and then passed Alemoor Loch, where we stopped to take some photos. We then continued into Hawick and stopped at the new Sainsburys for fuel. As we arrived in Hawick it was dry and so were the roads, which did seem a little strange. 

Alemoor LochWe left Hawick and headed south on the B6399 and were soon back on damp roads. Again it didn’t really spoil our ride as the scenery is beautiful and the road was fairly quiet. The road follows alongside Slitrig Water and through Wauchope Forest. For the most part it is a double lane road but as you head further south it turns it a single track road with passing places, although cars and bikes can pass without stopping. We soon arrived in Hermitage and turn right onto a minor road and headed over to Hermitage Castle. As we are members of Historic Scotland it was a free visit for us and we also knew it had toilets, so the perfect stop for us. Unfortunately as we got off the bikes it started to rain so we had to put our umbrella up. We had a nice visit around the castle and as we got back to the bikes the rain  started to ease off. 

Hermitage CastleWe left Hermitage Castle and rejoined the B6399 and headed south and soon joined the excellent B6357. This is a fantastic fast flowing road and a great ride in either direction to Jedburgh or in our case Canonbie. We soon got back onto dry roads although the sky still looked overcast. The dry roads now enabled us to really appreciate this excellent road. We passed through Newcastleton and continued on the B6357 towards Canonbie. Just before Canonbie we stopped in Rowanburn at a lovely lay-by with a picnic bench to finish off the rest of our packed lunch. 

We then continued on the B6357 to Canonbie where we joined the A7 and headed towards Carlisle. We joined the M6 at junction 44 and headed south but left the motorway at junction 42 and joined the A6 towards Penrith. We then retraced our outward route all the way back to Bouth.

Wednesday 25th – Cartmel & Conishead Priory 
Today was Helen’s birthday and she had decided that she would like to visit Cartmel and Conishead Priory.

Cartmel Priory We left Bouth and headed over to Cartmel on minor roads and we were able to park up in the centre of the village and avoid having to park in the pay and display car park. We had a quick look around the village and the Priory and even picked up a Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Cartmel Village Shop.

We left Cartmel and headed over to Humphrey Head as we hadn’t been there before. It was a nice quiet spot but there wasn’t really anything there so we didn’t stop for long. We then headed to Flookburgh where we joined the B5278 and then followed this road all the way back to the A590 at Haverthwaite. We followed the A590 to Ulverston where Bardsea we joined the A5087 coast road. We stopped briefly at Bardsea for lunch in a nice spot by the sea. We then continued along the coast road and at the roundabout at the end we took the road to Roa Island. For once the sea was in and it was actually calm and not blowing a gale. The lifeboat station was closed as usual though, we have never been here when the station is actually open. After a brief stop we headed back along the coast road to Conishead Priory. We had a walk down to the beach and then went to the excellent cafe for some well earned coffee and cake, before heading back to the caravan at Bouth.

Thursday 26th – Bouth to Home 
We had a bit of a lazy morning as we were just heading back today and not visiting anywhere on our way back. We left Bouth and headed on the A590 all the way to the M6. Devils BridgeHere we joined the A65 and headed towards Kirkby Lonsdale. We stopped at Devil’s Bridge for a coffee and  bacon butties, for once the cars out numbered the bikes.

We left Devil’s Bridge and followed our usual way home from here. We headed over to Ingleton on the A65 and then turned off onto minor roads and went passed Stocks Reservoir and Gisburn Forest on our way to Slaidburn. Here we joined the B6478 and headed through Newton-in-Bowland and Waddington to Clitheroe. We then crossed the A59 and headed over Pendle Hill and through Sabden and then joined the A56/M66 and headed for home.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Helen’s New Bike

After a few issues with the dealer Helen picked up her new bike today. A brand new Kawasaki Z1000SX Tourer in black. She got the bike from Robinsons of Rochdale, but did have a few issues with them. Initially they order the 2012 black which is actually a black/silver colour which she didn’t like. The 2013 model which she has eventually got is actually black and matt black (where the silver was).

Helen's Z1000SX Tourer Due to them initially getting the wrong bike and her wanting it for our forthcoming mini Lake District tour, they had to supply the panniers without the colour coded panels as they could only get green luggage at short notice. They had also forgotten to fit the R&G crash bungs as well. Not a great first impression but it was a very good deal and she only works round the corner from them. So it is very easy for her to go in and complain in person if required. But although they have made some mistakes they have fixed every one of them so far.


Monday, September 09, 2013

Morning Blast around the Dales

I had a quick blast around the Dales yesterday morning on the K1300S. It is its first outing since the final drive seal was fixed. The ride didn’t start too well as the on board computer immediately reported a critical tyre pressure at the front. I had anticipated this and put some change in one of my outside pockets for an air machine. Surprisingly the air machine at our local garage is free, I think I will pump up all our tyres here in the future. Far easier using an air machine than setting up our compressor.

Once I had pumped the tyres up to the correct pressure I headed for Settle and Hawes. I took our usual route to Clitheroe and then headed via Sawley and Rathmell to Settle. I didn’t stop in Settle and by-passed the centre and headed for Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Just outside of Settle I stopped at the local toilets in Stainforth.

I left here and soon arrived at Ribblehead Viaduct and then headed for Hawes. The roads appeared to be pretty busy today so I decided I wouldn’t stop in Hawes and instead head for Devil’s Bridge via Sedbergh. So in Hawes I joined the A684 and headed for Sedbergh, this is a nice road and is often a lot quieter than some of the other roads in this area. I had a fairly quiet run to Sedbergh and only had to pass a couple of cars. I passed through Sedbergh and then joined the A683 to Kirkby Lonsdale. This is a very quick road and is often overlooked by most bikers as they never seemed to go further North than Devil’s Bridge. I soon arrived at Devil’s Bridge but as expected it was very busy so I decided not to stop and just head home. I joined the A65 here and headed towards Skipton. As I approached Ingleton a biker give me the thumbs down, but I am well aware that they often Police this road so I was making sure my speed didn’t creep above the limit anyway. I passed through Ingleton and several other bikers gave me the thumbs down as well. But I always turn off the A65 at this point so didn’t actually see what they were warning me about. I left the A65 and headed on minor roads passed Stocks Reservoir and through Gisburn Forest. I then joined the B6478 and headed through Slaidburn and Waddington and soon arrived in Clitheroe were I stopped to get some much need Super Unleaded. I then headed for home on our usual roads. So in total I had done around 3 hours of riding and only stopped once for 2 minutes. Helen would never let me do this normally, but as she is soon to be picking up her new bike she doesn’t want to ride her VFR anymore.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Helen’s VFR back to Standard

Helen has recently bought a new Kawasaki ZX1000SX Tourer and will be picking it up in a few weeks time. She has decided that she wanted the VFR put back to standard as the Giles Variobars weren’t cheap (£300+) and she will likely get some money for them on Ebay.

So I have spent today uninstalling the Oxford heated grips and the Autocom unit. I have also removed the Variobars and fitted the original VFR clipons back on. We had to purchase a new throttle sleeve as I had to trim the other one a bit to fit the heated grips to it. It was a bit of a fiddly job but nowhere near as difficult as it was to install them in the first place.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Helen’s test ride of Z1000SX

Helen had organised a test ride of a Kawasaki Z1000SX as she thought that it might suit her riding style. The local dealer was a bit useless at organising a test ride so she arranged a ride with MCO Kawasaki over in Orrell. We arrived just before 11:00am but the dealer was open and happy to see us. It isn’t the best location for nice roads for a test ride but there are at least a couple of back roads just South of Croston and Eccleston.

Kawasaki Z1000SX We headed North from the dealers towards Shevington on the B5206. We then turned left onto the A5209 towards Parbold. We soon turned off though onto back roads and our first stretch of national speed limits. We had a decent play and eventually ended up in Rufford. We then headed North up the A59 to meet up with the other end of the A581 to Croston. We joined the A581 and expected to be able to test the bike but to our horror they have recently resurfaced the road with that the cheap loose gravelly crap. A good road has now been turned into a bit of a tiptoe affair for bikes. We stopped in Croston to take some photos and then headed back to the dealers. Helen was very pleased with the bike and has decided if the price is right that she will swap. The dealer eventually offered her a good deal but she is going to shop around to see if she can get a better one elsewhere.

Helen's Review:  Powerful, very responsive but not twitchy in the slightest, very good under slow manoeuvring (even managed a half decent U turn which is a REAL no-no on the Vif!) and not chuggy at slow speeds in town like the Vif can be.  Awesome overtaking.

Nice wide bars at a bit higher than mountain bike height (similar to my old BMW F800ST), so really comfy position, a bit higher than the Vif and it didn’t make my hands go numb like the Vif does so obviously my spine’s not in the position where it traps the nerve that causes numbness (had it within 5 mins of getting back on mine). Pegs feel a little too far forward at first but got used to it quickly.  Didn’t feel exposed or plonked on it like a bar stool like I did when I tested the FZ1 Fazer a while ago.  Seat felt OK but not sure how it’d be after 8 hours, but then I’ve got the Airhawk seat to try with it too.  Am almost flat footed on it (heels both about 1cm off) with standard set up out of the box but the one I tested had suspension fiddled with (only done 700 miles so not due to sagging shocks!) and I was flat footed.  Am flat footed with tiny bend in my knee on the Vif.  Feels a smaller bike physically than mine.

Steering on corners is awesome, didn’t go mental but I’d imagine it’d be easy to get pegs down.  Back end twitched massively (I’m told by Debs who was following me) when I pulled back in after overtaking and tyre went over the dotted white line/catseye but it didn’t feel like an OMG moment like it would have done on mine.  Croston bends to our disgust were covered in gravel as they’d resurfaced in that “chuck tar down with a load of cat litter” style but it felt not so bad as it would have done on the Vif.

Similar weight to the Vif (228kg) but weight is lower (inline 4 rather than a V4) so it’s miles better balanced and doesn’t feel like it’s trying to fall over on slow turns and on stopping like the Vif (weight feels like it’s all between your wrists on the Vif) and I was miles more confident on those slow right turns where you’re waiting for a car to pass so you’re going so slowly then turn and off.  Felt fine padding about and would probably be more confident than with the Vif on gravelly carparks etc. just down to the balance and weight distribution.

Fuel consumption seems similar to the Vif, probably tank range will be around 10-15 miles less.

Update: Helen managed to get Robinsons of Rochdale to match the offer, but with the added bonus of getting the colour coded panniers for free, which is a saving of around £300 on the same Givi ones she was going to get (Givi make the panniers for Kawasaki).


Saturday, August 10, 2013

North Wales with old Crew

Today we went for a ride into North Wales with some of the old crew off NUKB. It was a bit of a reunion ride as we haven’t seen some of them since Ella’s birthday last year.

We meet up at Lymm Services and then headed on the M56 and A55 to Mold. Here we joined the A494 and then followed the A541 and A543 to Denbigh were we stopped at a café to meet up with some other guys.

Bikes in North Wales We left Denbigh and headed on the A543 and then the A544 towards Llansannan. Here we joined the B5382 and headed across to the A548. We followed this to Llanrwst were we joined the A470 and then headed into Betws-y-coed. We filled up with fuel at the local petrol station but decided not to stop for lunch here as it was to busy. We continued on the A470 through Dolwyddelan and Blaenau Festiniog. We turned off the A470 at Trawsfynydd and headed on the A4212 to Bala. In Bala we joined the A494 and headed back North towards the A5. We joined the A5 and headed towards Corwen but soon stopped at Rhug Estate for our lunch and some Bison burgers.

After a late lunch we headed for home the rideout sort of broke up into a few different rideouts at this point. We followed CJ the original rideout leader and headed North on the A494 towards Ruthin but soon turned off onto the A5104 and headed for Wrexham. Near Llandegla we joined the A525 and headed over to the A483. We turned onto the A483 and headed North to by-pass Wrexham. Just North of Wrexham we joined the A5156 and then the A534 and headed towards Nantwich. Here we joined the A530 and headed for Middlewich. We then joined the A54 and headed for the M6 but stopped briefly again for some fuel. We then headed home on the M6, M62 and M60. It was nice to see the old crew but North Wales is far to busy at this time of the year to make any decent progress. It is far more pleasant riding on back roads in the Dales than constantly having to overtake cars going stupidly slow.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Brakes and Fort William

I have managed to get all the air out the brake system on the ZX-9R by having the lever pulled back overnight. The brakes are now fine, but now as I am used to the superb brakes on the K1300S it is difficult to tell if they are any better than before I overhauled them.

Due to the predicted bad weather we never went to Fort William on the bikes in the end. Although the weather had been forecast to be awful, we would probably have gotten away with just the odd soaking on the way back home. But the journey on the Jacobite was the main reason for going to Fort William for my 40th and it didn’t disappoint.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hawes and Back

I went out on an early run to Hawes and back yesterday on the ZX-9R to test the brakes after I had overhauled them.

I had a good run on the usual roads to Hawes and back and stopped at the Penny Garth Café for a Coffee and Muffin in Hawes. The brakes felt OK but where a little spongy, the ZX-9R is a real pain for getting all the air bled out. So over the next week I will keep the brake lever pulled back over night. This usually manages to force any air left in the system to the bleed valves over time.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

ZX-9R Brakes and Oil

We are soon going on a short trip to Fort William for my delayed 40th birthday trip. I have chosen to use the ZX-9R due to it having not done many miles recently. I noticed that the inside brake pads on both sides of the front wheel had worn more than the outsides. I presume this is because the fluid goes into this side of the caliper first. Due to the pads being quite worn on the insides I decided that they would need  replaced before the trip. I also decided wDirty Caliperhile I was changing the pads to overhaul the brake calipers as well. I doubt they have ever been done before and I have previously noticed that some of the dust seal were trying to escape. So I order a new full set of seals for the brake calipers. Due to them being 6 pot calipers that is a lot of seals, 24 pistons seals and 4 caliper joining seals. I got all the seals from Wemoto as I have used them before when I did the VFR’s seals. and had no issues with them.

I loosened all the bolts on the calipers and ejected the pistons out a bit before I drained out all the brake fluid and removed the calipers. Once removed I separated the calipers and then fully ejected the pistons with the aid of a compressor. I also mark the individual pistons and only do one caliper half at a time to avoid putting the wrong piston back into a caliper bore. Once stripped down I cleaned up the calipers and removed the old seals. Due to their age the calipers were in very good condition and showed no signs of corrosion. The only issue was Cleaner Caliper with New Seals crud that had collected under the dust seals which had caused some of them to be slightly ejected out by the pistons. They were easy to clean out with brake cleaner and a small right angled pick. Once they were clean I blew them dry with compressed air and then put in the new seals. I refitted the calipers with a new set of EBC pads and then put in new brake fluid. I dragged the fluid through with a brake fluid hand pump and then bleed the air out with a one way valve attached at the bleed nipples. Everything seems fine and no leaks were detect from the caliper, but I will need to take the bike on a short run before we go up to Fort William. While I was ordering the brake parts I also ordered some oil and an oil filter. So I replaced the oil and fitted the new filter while I had the bike up on the stands.


Saturday, July 06, 2013

BMW Repair & MOTs

This morning I took the K1300s over to Williams BMW to have the final drive seal replaced. I arrived just before my 08:30 slot and while I was waiting I had a cappuccino and some chocolate chip cookies. The repair took around 30 mins to complete, they replaced the seal and the oil as there is no way of measuring how much oil is actually in there. All the work was completed under warranty. They do know how to look after you though, but really I shouldn’t have had the problem in the first place.

Later on this morning we had booked the bikes in for there MOTs. The ZX-9R’s MOT had expire quite a few months ago, Helen’s MOT was still valid. We decided to take them to Summit Service Centre because of a recommendation. It is a car garage but he also does bike MOTs as well. We arrived at 11:30 and the MOTs were completed fairly quickly and both bikes passed. Once we arrived home I had a look at the certificate and noticed that the ZX-9R had only done 500 miles since last year. I couldn’t believe it had only done that little. But due to the weather, Helen’s ankle and the Goats we haven’t been out that much really. When we have been out I have used the BMW to get used to it before our recent tour.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Vosges Tour

Helen and I have recently returned from a 2 week motorcycle tour to the Vosges and back via the Black Forest and Ardennes. We covered approximately 2500 miles on our tour and despite the dodgy weather forecasts only had 3 rainy mornings. The decision to go in the Gore-Tex textiles was a wise one and this time we weren’t too hot either. Although we had an excellent tour it wasn’t without its problems. I discovered that my BMW uses engine oil (perfectly acceptable to BMW) and towards the end of the tour my final drive also started leaking. The SatNav played up again, the Bluetooth sound wouldn’t work without crashing it and due to the internal battery being useless it kept turning off at crucial times (we may have to bite the bullet and buy one of the overpriced bike specific SatNavs now). Helen also managed to use up her rear tyre despite all the rumours of fantastic mileage that the Michelin Pilot Road 3’s have given other people. This may well have been down to the more abrasive surface of the roads in the Vosges.

Tuesday 18th June  - Home to Crawley
We left home at around 9:15am, the weather was sunny although the forecast had been for showers. We headed down to Mottram on the motorway, by now the traffic had eased and it wasn’t really busy. We took my sneaky way around Hadfield and Glossop, via Broadbottom and joined the A624 to Chapel en le Frith. We joined the A6 there and headed into Buxton. We took the A515 out of Buxton towards Ashbourne. This is a nice flowing road but is spoilt by the unnecessary 50mph speed limit. We soon arrived in Ashbourne and stopped just on the outskirts to use some toilet facilities that we have stopped at before.  But due to recent cuts they have now been closed. So we had to make do with bushes like we will be doing in France during our tour.

Ashbourne Toilets Closed!! We left Ashbourne on the A515 again and headed for Lichfield. Again a nice road spoilt by the stupid 50mph limit. Just before getting to Lichfield we turn left onto the A513 at Kings Bromley. We followed this road to Tamworth and it was quite quiet considering it was midweek. We passed through Tamworth and then joined the A5 and headed for Milton Keynes. Not a great road but far better than going on the M6 and M1. We then took the A43 to the A413 and around Towcester. We then passed by Silverstone to the East, passing a sneaky back entrance to the track. We followed the A413 to Buckingham and stopped there at a Tesco to fuel up and have lunch. 

We left Buckingham on the A413 again and headed for Aylesbury. We left the A413 at Whitchurch and went on to minor roads to avoid going through Aylesbury.  We took these roads through some very nice villages to the M40 at junction 6. We then went on the M40 down to junction 4 and then headed South on the A404 and passed by Guildford Castle Maidenhead to the West. We then wound

our way on the B383 past many nice villages but most of the speed limits had been reduced down from 60mph to 40mph and even 30mph for long stretches, so this took us quite a bit of time to navigate. We then joined the A322 and continued heading South until we reached Guildford. We headed into Guildford as we had planned to stop and have a look at the castle. We parked up in a nearby car park that had some free bike spaces, fortunately only one scooter was parked up so we were able to park up for free.

We left Guildford on the A281 and then turned onto minor roads as we headed again past lots of nice villages to our final destination in Crawley. But again the roads had been spoilt with insanely low speed limits. Most of the locals were not sticking to these limits and I can now see why as it take ages to get anywhere. Filtering on the M25 which we did last year almost seems better than trying to avoid it on these minor roads. We eventually arrived at the Premier Inn in Crawley and was pleased to have a room on the back away from the main room, but the room was very warm. It is a nice hotel and also has a nice restaurant attached to it, we would happily stay at this Premier Inn again.

Wednesday 19th June  - Crawley to Fourmies 
It had rained overnight but by the time we were set to leave it had stopped and the roads had dried out. We left Crawley on the A2011 and then briefly joined the M23 before turning off onto the B2036 and heading East on the B2110. We soon turned off the main roads and headed on very minor roads across to the A26 at Crowborough. We even had to cross two fords at some point, thankfully the water wasn’t very high at either of them. We stopped on the A26 for fuel and then continued East on the B2100. We then joined the B2099 at Wadhurst and then the A268. These were much faster roads now and more like what I had envisaged when planning the route. We then joined the A28 towards Ashford but then used the B2067 to cut across to junction 11 on the M20. When then headed for the Eurotunnel terminal and our 10:20 train. The train was fully booked so it took us a while to board and the train left a few minutes late.

We arrived in Calais to very light rain but by the time we left the Eurotunnel terminal it had pretty much eased off. We joined the motorway briefly before joining the N43 to Saint-Omer. We soon arrived in Saint-Omer and the roads had pretty much dried out by now. We then joined the D77 briefly before joining the D341 which we followed all the way to the outskirts of Arras. We stopped outside of Arras for fuel and then had lunch at the local Carrefour Market.

Chateau de Montmorency After lunch we headed around Arras on the N50 and then headed East towards Douai.  We then turned South and headed for Chateau de Goeulzin. We parked up near the Chateau but we were unable to visit it, due to it being on private land. We had a quick look at the Chateau from the road and then headed North on the D135 to Montigny-en-Ostrevent. We stopped here to have a look at Chateau de Montmorency. This Chateau is now a hotel so we could only have a look from outside.

Porte de Paris We left the Chateau and headed back the way we had came to Cantin. Here we joined the N43 again and headed South towards Cambrai. We decided to take a detour into Cambrai this year as it has several interesting historical buildings. We parked up next to Porte de Paris to take some photos and while we were stopped we also had the rest of our lunch baguette.

We left Cambrai on the D942 and headed East towards Solesmes. Here we continued in and Easterly direction on the D43, D959 and D962 to Sains-du-Nord. Here we Fourmies Boating Lake turned South on the D42 and headed towards Fourmies. We then headed around to the South-Eastern side of Fourmies and stopped at our Ibis hotel for the night, by a lovely boating lake. It is a really nice quiet location although the main car park is not ideal for motorcycles. We however managed to park on a level hard standing car park just in front of the hotel.

We had our evening meal at the nearby restaurant, which was superb. We were lucky with the weather today as it had been forecast to be more rainy that we actually encountered. However just as we entered the restaurant the heavens opened and the rain came down very hard for the rest of the evening.

Thursday 20th June  - Fourmies to Metz  
We awoke to heavy rain but by the time we were set to leave it had eased off to a light drizzle. We managed to pack up the bikes and set off without getting wet but soon we found the rain again. We headed East again and joined the N593 and entered into Belgium. We passed through Chimay and continued East on the N99. We then turned South onto the N990 at Olloy-sur-Viroin and soon passed back into France. We headed South to Revin and then turned onto the D1 and into the Ardennes. We followed the river Meuse on this lovely winding road into Montherme, were we had planned to stop for fuel.

We left Montherme on the D31 and wound our way along the river Semois through Thilay, Memebre and then turned South again at Vresse on the N945. We continued South on the N945 and D6 to Sedan. We had planned to visit the Chateau de Sedan but due to the rain we decided Chateau de Sedan to just drive by, but did stop to take a quick photo. We then headed Northeast on the D977 and D4 back into Belgium on our way to Boullion. We had planned to visit Boullion Castle and see the bird show, but again due to the rain we just rode past. Boullion itself was a really nice town and we would have loved to have stopped by the river for lunch. We left Boullion and headed Southeast through Belgium on the N83 towards Florenville. We then joined the tree lined N88 towards Saint-Mard. We could see in the distance blue sky and thankfully we were heading towards it. Within no time at all we were out of the rain and in sunshine so decided to stop and have lunch while it was dry.

Metz Cathedral After lunch we continued on the N88 which was now dry and the sun was now beating down on us as well. We passed around Saint-Mard and then joined the N885 and passed back into France. We then joined the N52 and then the A30/A31 and headed South to Metz. We arrived in Metz at around 3:00pm and were happy to see that the car park at our hotel had a secure gate on it. We parked up at our hotel for the night the Mecure Metz Centre.

Metz Temple Neuf We got changed and then had a lovely afternoon walking around Metz. It is a lovely city with many beautiful historic buildings including the magnificent cathedral, railway station and Temple Neuf. We ate in the hotel restaurant later on in the evening, which turned out to be a very wise choice as it absolutely hammered down while we were sat at our table.

Friday 21st June  - Metz to Seebach  
We awoke to a cloudy sky and wet bikes, but dry roads. We left Metz and headed East on the N3. We followed this all the way to Saint-Avold where we had planned a fuel stop. Although on Google street view the garage looked to have Super Unleaded, it had recently been revamped and no longer sold it. Due to us being short on fuel I had to put the 95 Ron unleaded in instead.

Chateau Licthenberg We left Saint-Avold on the N56 and continued East and then picked up the N61. In Sarre-Union we turned onto the D8 and headed for the D919. The D919 is a great tree lined road that cuts its way into the heart of the Alsace region. We were now on nice fast flowing roads and made good progress to our first castle of the day. We soon arrived in Licthenberg and parked up by a roundabout just below the castle. The village is very quaint and we felt very happy in leaving the bikes parked up while we visited the castle. We walked up to Chateau Licthenberg and had a good look around. Unfortunately the cafe wasn’t open until 2:00pm so we went back down to the bikes and had lunch on a bench by the roundabout.

We left Licthenberg and back tracked slightly before turning North on the D12, another great little road. We continued North on the D37 and headed for Bitche. We soon arrived in Bitche and headed up to the car park by Settle @Citadel Bitche the Citadel overlooking the town. We had come this way last year and thought how impressive the Citadel looked and so had to have a look around this year. The majority of the visit to the Citadel is underground in its mass network of corridors and rooms. The fort also has a small farm which we visited on the way out and were pleased to see some goats. Helen somehow managed to throw Settle into the pony’s enclosure, so we had to open the gate and retrieve him without letting out the eager to escape pony.

Billy Goat @Citadel Bitche We left Bitche on the D35 and headed East towards Wissembourg. We followed the D35 and then the D3 through the forests of the Lorraine and Alsace regions of France and close to the German border. Both roads are excellent and we made really good progress towards the border. We then headed Southeast on the D34 before joining the B500 and heading over the Rhine and the German border into Baden Baden. We stopped on the edge of Baden Baden for fuel, as it was unlikely that we would find Super Unleaded for a while. My bike was very happy as I was able to put 100 Ron Shell Racing v power fuel in it.

This year the tunnel under Baden Baden was open so we quickly navigated through the Spa Town and were soon on the B500 and heading South for the Black Forest. The B500 aka Schwarzwaldhochstraße (Black Forest High Road) is a fabulous road and we were able to enjoy it this year in the pleasant afternoon sunshine. We stopped at the top by B500 Schwarzwaldhochstraße lake Mummelsee to take some photos. Then we turned onto the L87 and headed down into Seebach and arrived at our hotel for the night Pension Williams. The hotel is owned by an English couple and is very biker friendly and is very highly recommended. In the evening the owner David gave us a lift up to the local steak house, which is located part way up the L87 back towards the B500. The steak we had was fabulous and the owners were very welcoming and gave us a lift back down after the meal. We will definitely visit again when we come back to this area of Germany.

Saturday 22nd June  - Seebach to Barr  
After a great breakfast we set out from Seebach back up the L87 back to the B500. Thankfully the sun was out again so we were able to have a great fairly quiet run on the B500. This year instead of the L96 to Schapbach we did the B28 and L93. SchluchseeAlthough it is probably further the roads are much quieter and better progress was made. The L93 in particular was very quiet and very twisty. It is only a car and a half  wide but had a good surface and good time can be made on it. We then joined the L96 and headed down to Wolfach. From here we continued South on the B33 until we picked the B500 back up at Triberg. This part of the B500 is quite a bit more twisty but certainly worth doing. We followed it all the way down to Titisee where we had planned to get fuel. We then joined the L146 and stopped by Schluchsee for lunch.

Bikes @Breisach am Rhein After lunch we continued on the L146 and then the L149 on our way to Geschwend. Both of these roads were excellent and at some point we came across a herd of goats, so had to stop to take some photos. At Geschwend we joined the B317 and then the L142. We then turned back North on the K6341 and the L123. Again all these road were twisty and a lot of fun. Eventually we ran out of really nice roads as we neared the outskirts of Freiburg. We eventually crossed back into France and over the Rhine at Breisach am Rhein. We stopped on the French side for the rest of our lunch at a lovely spot by the river.

We left here and then proceeded on the N415 to Colmar. Here we joined the A35 motorway and headed North. We left the A35 just North of Colmar on the D416 towards Ribeauville. As we neared Ribeauville we could see the three castles above the town on the hill. Due to Helen’s recent ankle operation we decided that it was to much of a trek for her, but we still wanted to see the castles Le Gite De La Valleeso a drive by was the best we could do. The three castles on the hill are Château du Girsberg, Château de Saint-Ulrich and Château du Haut-Ribeaupierre.  From here we took the D1 Bis to Bergheim. We then joined the D42 which climbed its way up to Thannenkirch and then back down again and then followed the D48 to Liepvre. Here we joined the N59 and then turned again North on the D424. We then followed this road and the D253 and D35 into Barr. We then headed out of the other side of Barr on the D854 and soon arrived at our Gite for the week, the excellent Le Gite De La Vallee. The owner Simon gave us a very warm welcome when we arrived and was kindly raking the gravel aside so that we could easily park the bikes on solid ground. We then had a nice chilled beer by the stream at the back of the Gite, which was most welcome after a hard day’s riding around the Black Forest.

Sunday 23rd June  - Strasbourg  
Strasbourg Cathedral Due to one of us having a late evening with the Gite owners we were not in the best shape to do anything first thing. After lunch we decided that we would visit Strasbourg as most of the shops would be shut and it therefore should be quiet.

We left after 3pm and headed down the motorway and parked up in one of the many underground car parks in the centre of Strasbourg. As expected it was quiet and we easily found a space in the car park. We spent a lovely late afternoon in the city and had a good walk around visiting the many historical buildings. We also had a coffee at one of the many cafes and also had an ice cream by the Cathedral. If you are not in to shopping than we would definitely recommend visiting Strasbourg on a Sunday.

StrasbourgAfter we got back from Strasbourg I decided to go on a quick local run and found an easy loop by the Gite. I Headed up the D854 then took the D426 towards Klingenthal and then turned on to the D214. Then the D130 back to the other end of the D426 and then back to the D854 and back to the GIte. A great 24 mile loop with no villages or speed restrictions and plenty of different varied corners.

Monday 24th June  - Natzweiler-Struthof 
The weather today didn’t look great, but was forecast to get better later in the day. So we decided to go to the nearby site of Natzweiler-Struthof a former German concentration camp. The roads were wet but it was only raining lightly when we got to the camp. Although the visibility on the D130 was very poor at its highest point. We parked up and headed into the new main building to buy our entrance tickets.

Natzweiler-Struthof We headed straight into the camp to have a look around. Today it doesn’t really convey the horror that was once undertaken by the Nazis at the camp. After visiting the main camp we headed down the path to the gas chamber. It is quite a way from the main camp and you can drive down and park by it, which we hadn’t realised until we had walked/hobbled down there. The walk did give us a chance to examine the road surface on a hairpin in the wet though. It is much like shiny gravel pebbles stuck together with asphalt. As you can imagine it seemed to be quite slippery in wet conditions, not a great surface for the bikes in the wet. The gas chamber is small and wasn’t used for mass exterminations like at other camps. We walked back up to the car park and had a spot of lunch before heading back into the new main building. The new building has been built on top of Chateau du Birkenfels a massive concrete bunker complex that the Nazis had been building. It was never finished and no one knows its actual purpose.

We left the camp and headed West in search of nice weather and dry roads. We headed on the D130 to Rothau and then on the D392 to the Col du Donon. We then followed the D993 but the rain was still coming down and the surface was a bit gravelly so we decided it wasn’t worth continuing. We back tracked all the way back past the camp and then as we got nearer to the Gite the weather turned dry and we eventually found a dry road. As the weather was now nice we stopped on the D426 and visited Château du Birkenfels before heading back to the Gite.

Tuesday 25th June  - 5 Castles Route  
The weather for today was forecast to be much better so we decided to have a trip down South to near Colmar. I had previously found a road to the Southwest of Colmar called Route des 5 Chateaux, which did indeed have 5 castles along it.

Champ du Feu We left the Gite and headed up the D854 and then the D426, D130 and the D214. The visibility higher up today was excellent and the roads were dry. We soon arrived at our first stop of the day Champ du Feu @1100m. This area also contains a small tower in the middle of a roundabout. It appears from photographs that at one time you were allowed to climb up this tower, but today the entrance has been boarded over. While we where at the tower a farmer drove about 300+ sheep across the nearby field and down the road (see video below) we were about to ride down. 

We continued on down the D214 that got quite twisty as we dropped down in altitude. We stopped briefly at the bottom by a lake before continuing on the D50 to Bourg-Bruche. We then turned South again on the D420 and then the Col du CalvaireN159. We then turned onto the D459 and headed through Raves. We then joined the D23 and headed to Fraize. Here we picked up the D415 through Plainfaing but instead of following this road to the D148, TomTom decided to take a short cut which ended up being an off road gravel track after the asphalt ran out. We had to turn around (rather precariously as the road was steep and heavily cambered) and head back and eventually found a better road through to the D148. We joined the D148 at the Col du Bonhomme but was briefly halted by a tree that had been cut down across the road by loggers. The D148 is a really great tree lined road with no villages on it. We stop at the top of the Col du Calvaire by a ski resort for a spot of lunch.

After lunch we continued on the D48.2 past Lac Blanc and then on the D48 over the top of the Col du Wettstein. Just after the war cemetery we turned East on to the D11.6 and went past the memorial at the Collet du Linge on our way towards Les Trois-Epis. We Les trois châteaux d'Eguisheimthen headed Southeast on the D11 and found our way on to the Route des 5 Chateaux. TomTom refused to acknowledge that we could join this road from the North and kept directing us to the Southern end. However you can join at the North end but it is restricted to certain times of the year, hence TomTom’s routing. We soon arrived at our first castle of the day Château de Pflixbourg.

We left here and then visited Château de du Hohlandsbourg, this is not a free castle and didn’t look particularly inspiring so we decided not to go inside and instead admired the views to the plains and Colmar below. We then headed down the road and visited Les trois châteaux d'Eguisheim (the 3 castles of Eguisheim). It is three castles in one these days, but certainly worth a visit. Due to being quite late we decided to head back to the Gite via the motorway for speed.

Wednesday 26th June  - Grand Ballon Loop  
Today was forecast to be the sunniest day of the week so it made sense to head down to the highest Vosges passes including the Grand Ballon. We left the Gite and decided to use the motorway down to Cernay to get us into position early, so that we could enjoy nice roads for the rest of the day. We stopped just outside Cernay at a massive Leclerc supermarket for fuel and then proceeded into the Vosges

We quickly went up the N66 through Thann and then turned left on to the D14 Biv. We encountered our first hairpins of the day as we climbed to the top of the Col du Hundsruck. We then dropped down into Masevaux and picked up the D466. We then passed a few villages and as we left Sewen we were greeted with a motorcycle accident warning sign. This only means one thing to us - the road iRoute des Cretess going to be good! It starts off with some nice flowing curves before suddenly climbing and getting really tight. We soon arrived at Lac d’Alfeld but I was having too much fun to stop for photos. So we continued to climb up and the road soon changed into more flowing and open corners. After a while we arrived at the top of the Col du Ballon d'Alsace and found a nice parking spot at the top by some picnic benches and brand new WC’s. So we decided that this would be a good spot to have lunch. A word of caution here, I can easily see why this road has a high accident rate especially the first part of the climb out of Sewen. None of the sharp corners are signed and the white lines in the middle of the road are spaced very far apart, which results in some of the corners being very difficult to read correctly.

Route des Cretes After lunch we continued down the other side of the Col and soon arrived at the N66 again. We followed this East almost all the way back to where we had originally turned off earlier in the day. We turned North on to the D13B6 and headed for the Grand Ballon. We joined the Route des Cretes (D431) at Col Amic and started the final climb up to the top. Two of the hairpins are paved with stones and are not particularly smooth on the bikes. We soon arrived at the summit of the Col du Grand Ballon, at 1343m this will be the highest pass we will do this holiday. There wasn’t much to see at the top see we didn’t stop long and soon continued down the other side. We stopped a few times on the way down to take some photos as the views were better on the decent. 

After a while we arrived in Le Markstein where we joined the D430 and passed over the Col d’Hahnenbrunnen and the Col du Herrenberg. We then passed by Hohneck on our way to the Col de la Schlucht. Here we continued on the Route des Cretes (D61) and arrived at the Col du Calvaire for the second Le Hohwald Cascadetime this holiday. We joined the D148 here and headed towards the Col du Bonhomme. Here we continued on the D148 and D48 over the Col des Bagenelles and down into Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. We then followed the N59 to Lieprve where we joined the D48.1 and headed over the very twisty climb of the Col de Fouchy and down into Fouchy itself. From here we found our way to the D425 and headed over the Col du Kreuzweg to Le Hohwald. We stopped just before Le Hohwald to visit the cascade that we had noticed in one of the local maps at the Gite. After that we used the familiar D426 and D854 to head back to the Gite.

Thursday 27th June  - New Tyre and Local Sites  
During yesterday’s excellent run to and from the Grand Ballon we noticed that Helen’s rear tyre had worn completely down in the middle and was starting to be bald in certain places. As we were expecting more rain we decided that we would try and find Helen's Worn Tyresomewhere local that could fit a new tyre. After much searching on the internet (whatever did we do before it??) we found a recommended Kawasaki dealer in Colmar that fitted tyres. 

Although the weather yesterday had been superb the forecast for today was very poor. We left the Gite in slight drizzle but as we headed down to Colmar on the motorway we hit several patches of fairly heavy rain. In about 30 minutes we arrived at Full Power Bikes on the outskirts of Colmar. A really nice bike shop, but small compared to English bike shops and only one person on site. Anyway Helen managed to get across that she needed a new tyre and within 30 minutes we had a new Michelin Pilot Road 2 fitted to the rear. It was a very quick and professional job and the price was as you would expect back home in the UK. It you need a tyre down this way I would certainly recommend going to Full Power Bikes. We headed back to the Gite on the motorway to plan what we were going to do for the rest of the day. Helen managed to have a mini moment on the first roundabout after leaving the garage. Scrubbing new tyres in when it’s wet is never ideal!

Le Mont Saint-OdileThe weather forecast sites were suggesting that it might dry up this afternoon, but with so many over-hanging trees it was highly unlikely that the roads would dry out. Later on it did start to brighten up so we headed up the D854 and D426 to the nearby Le Mont Saint-Odile. We found a cheeky little motorcycle parking space right at the entrance that had created a mini space when some normal parking bays had been changed into disabled parking bays. We headed inside but it was obvious by the low cloud cover that we weren’t going to have any decent views from the top. We had a brief look around and took some photos, but the cloud was too low to get any decent photos. As we went outside to have lunch by the bikes a big black cloud came over and it started to rain again. It only looked like a small cloud so we waited under the umbrella for it to stop and then had lunch. 

It did now appear to be brightening up so we decided to have a look at the two nearby castles that overlook the Gite. We headed back towards the Gite on the D854 and then turned off on a minor road that led to the parking area. We parked up and after a chat with a French couple with a Visla and what looked like a Pygmy Rottweiler we walked for aboutChateau d'Andlau 10 minutes and reached the first castle Château de Spesbourg. From here you could see the other castle Château d'Andlau, which looms large over Barr. From a distance it looks like an impressive castle so we headed over to it, which took about 25 minutes. It has recently had some restoration work done on it and also some new information boards have been installed. These boards had QR codes on them and we were able to download English audio tours from them. By the time we got back to the bikes the sun was really shining and we were quite warm. We decided to head back to the Gite for a cool beer, even with all the sun the roads as expected were still damp.

Friday 28th June – Château de Kintzheim 

The weather today was forecast to brighten up in the afternoon so we decided we would visit Château de Kintzheim in the afternoon and catch the 15:45 bird of prey show. As Helen’s rear tyre hadn’t had much use yesterday I planned a nice 100 mile loop to take in some twisty roads to help her scrub it in.

Château du Landsberg We left the Gite on slightly damp roads so we decided to visit another nearby castle to allow the roads to dry. We headed up the D854 once again and then turned on to the D109 and then parked up at the side of the road. We had about a 20 minute walk to Château du Landsberg, another nice ruined castle. We then headed up to Le Mont Saint-Odile again as the sun was out and visibility was good. We managed to get some much better pictures today as it was completely clear at the top. 

We left here on dry roads and headed on the D426 to Klingenthal. We then turned on to the D214 and climbed up to the D130. We stopped on the D214 at the end of the long straight section for lunch. After lunch we carried on down the D214 and dropped down to the D50. We then followed the D214, D23, N420 and N159 to Raves again, very familiar roads Le Mont Saint-Odilebut more than worth a ride again. We headed on the N59 to Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines again but today we turned South on to the D416. We followed this excellent very twisty road down into Ribeauville. You don’t get the same good view of the 3 castles above Ribeauville from this direction. We then retraced our route from last Saturday to Thannenkirch. From here we took the D42 to Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg, a lovely intact chateau. We weren’t interested in visiting the chateau but a road goes completely around the bottom of it with also has excellent views. It was very busy at the chateau so we didn’t stop to take any photos. We then headed on the D159 to the nearby Château de Kintzheim. We eventually found somewhere to park but the parking isn’t really suitable for bikes as it’s basically rough ground with large chunks gravel of and ruts in the ground. We had some time before the show so had the rest of our lunch while we waited. The chateau is a nice ruin but the bird of prey show is what the place is really about. We had read on various websites that the bird show was excellent and we weren’t disappointed.

Château de Kintzheim After the show we headed back to the bikes, it had really warmed up now. I was down to about 15 miles of fuel at this point so we used TomTom to find a nearby Leclerc supermarket that sold super unleaded. Although the SatNav has had issues again this year, it never fails to find us a petrol station when we are in dire need of fuel. Due to it being late we headed back to the Gite on the motorway. I was tempted to have another run around the local loop I had discovered last Sunday, but the thought of a cool refreshing beer was too tempting.

Saturday 29th June – Barr to Charleville-Mézières
The weather for today was forecast to be rainy with poor visibility. Unfortunately they were correct, although it was forecast to be better to the Northwest where we were heading. I had planned a nice route with the aid of The Best Rides Motorcycle Atlas France and the weather was not going to put me off doing the route.

We left the Gite for the last time at around 08:00 and headed up the D854 in the rain. We then followed the D426, D130 and passed Natzweiler-Struthof on our way to Rothau. From here we joined the N420 briefly before heading West on the D392 to the Col du Donon. We continued on the D392 and D392A for quite a while passing through several small villages before arriving in Raon-l'Étape. From here we followed the D159 Bis to Rambervillers and then the D414 to Sant-Pierremont. We had planned to stop and have aSettle in Grandpre look at Château de Moyen but due to the weather we just rode by. We then continued on the D22 to Bayon, another great road but spoiled by the bad weather. We then followed the D9 West for quite a while, passing through several small villages again on the way. Even in the poor weather we were still making good progress due to the majority of the run being on national speed limit roads. Here we joined the D904 towards Crepey where we picked up the D4. We then followed the D4, D74 and D960 through Vaucouleurs to Houdelaincourt. Here we joined the nice and flowing D966 towards Ligny-en-Barrois. As we approached the town we could see the weather was improving and we eventually came out of the rain and started to find dry roads. We arrived in Ligny-en-Barrois where I had planned a fuel stop at a Carrefour Market. As it wasn’t raining now we also took the chance to have some lunch. Thankfully this would be the end of the bad weather for the rest of the tour.

After lunch we left on the N135 and headed for Bar-le-Duc where we joined the N35. At this point we turned North and headed in the direction of Verdun. This was another fast flowing road with a handful of small villages. I had decided to avoid Verdun so we used a very minor C2 to cut across to the N3. We followed this to Parois where we joined the D946, another great road for making progress on. We had by now left the twisty roads behind and were just using quiet functional roads. It was getting about time for another stop, but as usual no Cold 1664 decent spot could be found. We came into Grandpré and found a nice quiet car park in front of the local church. So we stopped and had the rest of our lunch. We were making such good progress that we allowed ourselves a much longer rest than we would normally have.

We left here and continued on the D946 to Longwe, where we joined the D947 and then the D319. We then joined the D977 at Quarte-Champs and headed for Le Chesne. We followed this road all the way to the outskirts of Sedan before joining the motorway and heading into Charleville-Mézières. We soon arrived at our Ibis hotel for the night. After checking in and showering we had a coffee and cold beer before walking down to the local supermarket for tomorrow morning’s breakfast of our favourite French goodies. Although today had been one of our longer days (and half of it had been spent in the rain) due to The Best Rides Motorcycle Atlas France we had made fantastic progress and what seemed like would be a long day was actually a breeze.

Sunday 30th June – Charleville-Mézières to Saint-Omer
We had our breakfast that we got from the supermarket last night and then headed out. The sun was out this morning which was a refreshing change from yesterday. We left on the N44 and followed a Ferrari for a while. At one point he opened it up as he went for an overtake, the V12 engine sounded fantastic (didn’t out accelerate the K though!). We turned off at Lonny on to the D978 and left him behind. We were now back on nice rural quiet roads again as suggested by The Best Rides Motorcycle Atlas France. We followed the D978 through Liart, Mainbressey and on to Rozoy-sur-Serre. Here we joined the D946 continuing West to Moncornet where we turned North onto the D966. We followed this road to Vervins where I had planned a fuel stop. Unknown to me this was the town that we failed to get fuel in last year due to it being after midday. Thankfully this morning the Carrefour Market was open and we could get fuel. I must remember to not rely on this fuel station again.

Château d'Esnes We left Vervins from what would be our last fuel fill up in France and headed on the D960 for Guise. These are roads that we have been on before last year, but I hadn’t consulted my notes from last time about this year’s route. These were the only roads in this area that the Best Rides Atlas could recommend, so it was inevitable that we would be on them again I guess. We continued on the D960 through Bohain-en-Vermandois, Premont and on to our first castle stop of today in Esnes. We parked up outside Château d'Esnes and took a few photos before moving on.

We continued on the D960 and soon arrived in Cambrai. We had visited the town on the way down, but as it was Sunday it was completely dead today. We then used the functional and arrow straight D939 to Arras. Here we got back on nice roads and joined the D341 and headed for Gauchin-Legal. Here we stopped briefly to have a look at Château d'Olhain, unfortunately it wasn’t open till 15:00. We left on the D57, a short but nice twisty road through a forest, and then joined the D301. We did this little detour to avoid a few towns along the way and then rejoined the D341. We had been looking for a nice spot for lunch, but again so far up North there was nothing really. So we just stopped on the next available parking spot by the road and had lunch.

Saint-Omer Cathedral After lunch we continued on the D341 and soon arrived at our last castle of the day Château de Créminil. Again we only stopped briefly to take some photos before getting on our way. We continued on the D341 again and just after Therouanne we joined the D77 and headed for Saint-Omer. Due to the good roads and it being a Sunday we made very good progress today. We arrived at our Ibis hotel for the night in Saint-Omer just before 15:00.

After a quick shower we headed out into Saint-Omer for a look around and to get a coffee in the square. It was very busy as there was a market on in the main square and most of the cafés were pretty full. We Helen's Bison Steak managed to find a café that had some outside seating under a canopy and stopped for a coffee. We then visited the pâtisserie across the road for some pastries and then went and sat in the park to eat them. We decided to explore more of the park this year and were amazed to see how big it actually was. We even found a small area where they were keeping some animals. They had chickens, peacocks, some fat goats and even some reindeer. It is no wonder that the goats were fat as they were being fed bread by enthusiastic children. In the evening we went down to the local Buffalo Grill, which has become something of an annual event!

Monday 1st July – Saint-Omer to Towcester
Due to us catching the 08:50 Channel Tunnel train we had to leave Saint-Omer early. We did our usual non motorway route and travelled through Ardres and Les Attaques on the N43. We had planned a stop at a Boulangerie in Les Attaques that we had used before, but to our horror it was shut. We arrived at the Channel Tunnel in plenty of time and were offered an earlier train, but as we hadn’t had any breakfast yet we decided not to take it. So after getting our tickets and passing through passport control we parked up at the terminal. We managed to get breakfast there and were surprised that it was a reasonable price at 13 Euros for 4 croissants, 2 pains au chocolate and a baguette for lunch; I bet it wouldn’t have been on the English side. 

Breakfast @Channel Tunnel The train was very empty and so it left on time without any problems. Due to the time difference we arrived back in the England before 09:00. After avoiding the M25 on the way down but enduring very slow going on the alternatives, I decided that it wasn’t possible to avoid it and decided to try the Dartford Crossing instead and look for nice roads to the North of London. To aid me with my route I used the Best Biking Roads website, a great free website with contributions by other bikers to plan the route. I was hoping the bikers were right and we wouldn’t find blanket speed reductions all over the place like we did South and West of London.

We left the Channel Tunnel and followed the A20, I had planned to stop in Ashford for fuel but we came across a Tesco so we stopped there. I know they sell 99 octane super unleaded and the pay at pump facility is very handy for bikers. We then used the A20 and M20 before getting on the dreaded M25. Thankfully it was fairly quiet and we made good progress up to the crossing. The crossing is free for motorcycles we just need to go in a manned lane so they can lift up the barriers for us. As usual we picked the wrong lane and got stuck behind a foreign lorry that obviously didn’t have any money. After a while we decided to back up and use another lane and he wasn’t going anywhere. We went under the Thames in the tunnel and continued on the M25 to junction 29. We then turned on to the A127 and headed for London, but weren’t sure if this was correct. Thankfully it was and we soon turned off on to minor roads and headed North by-passing Brentwood to the West. We then joined the A128 for a while still heading North and headed for Ongar. Here we joined the B184 to pass between Harlow and Chelmsford. We then turned Northwest on to the A1060 and passed under the M11. At Little Hallingbury we turned left on to minor roads and headed West, avoiding Bishop’s Stortford to the North. We were now North of London out in the countryside, so we decided to stop by the side of the road for a brief rest. It was at this point that I noticed that the BMW was leaking oil out of the final drive. A bit had leaked down under the final drive and was very close to the brake caliper. I was slightly concerned about it and decided to wipe it up and keep monitoring it for the rest of the day.

Houghton House We continued on and joined the A10 at Standon towards Buntingford. Here we turned West again on the A507 and headed towards Baldock. Near to Baldock we joined minor roads again and cut across to the B197. We followed this over the A1(M) at junction 8 where we joined the A602 to Hitchin. Then we used the B655 and minor roads to head West over to the A5120 North of Luton. At this point we made a minor detour and headed North up the A5120 to Ampthill. We had planned a visit to Houghton House an English Heritage site. On arrival we immediately put the BMW on its centre stand and had another look at the final drive. It had leaked again down to the calliper but turning the wheel sound fine and there was no play in it either. We wiped up the oil again and headed over to the house. While we were at the house we had lunch, a pretty nice spot for a lunch stop really.

We returned to the bikes and were pleased to see that it hadn’t leaked while it was stationary. So it was only leaking out under load, the only questions now were how much oil is actually in there and how much have I lost. We left and headed back into Ampthill where we joined the A507 and headed past Woburn Safari Park to the A4012. We then headed South to avoid Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard. Once South of these towns we turned West again and on to the A505. We followed this and the A418 to Whitchurch where we joined the familiar A413. We followed this all the way up to Buckingham where we called in at Tesco to get fuel and some drinks.

Old Barn B&B Bedroom Due to me using too many waypoints in the TomTom itinerary file the satnav had not imported all of them. So I just put the postcode in for the B&B in Towcester and told it to get us there. It actually took us on a really nice route up Stowe Avenue and towards Stowe House. We then headed through Dadford and passed the front entrance to Silverstone. It was only a couple days after the British Grand Prix so all the speed restrictions signs were still up. We then joined the A43 and headed into Towcester and found our lovely B&B for the night The Old Barn. We arrived just before 15:00 due to the good progress that we had made today. The roads that had been suggested were all quiet and decent roads and I will certainly use this route again.

St Lawrence's Church, TowcesterWhen we arrived we were greeted by the owner with some biscuits and fresh coffee. After the coffee I went and checked on the BMW again and it didn’t seem to have leaked as much but I was still concerned about whether I was going to be able to ride it tomorrow. After much searching on the internet and discussion with Helen we decided to leave it overnight and see if anything had leaked out by the morning. The forums suggested that this was a known problem because BMW had put too much oil in from new and when it got hot and expanded it burst past the seal. From new they had put 230ml of oil in and when it was changed BMW recommended only now putting in 180ml. So I doubted that I had lost 50ml of oil, as only a little bit of oil looks like a lot, so I was a little happier.

After a shower we went out and had a quick look around Towcester in the sun. Due to some redevelopment in the area around the mill, it currently looks a bit run down which was a shame. In the evening we had a meal at a pub in the town called The Bull. When we came back I checked the bike again and was pleased to see that no oil had leaked out.

Tuesday 2nd July – Towcester to Home
We woke up to a sunny but cloudy day with rain forecast for the late afternoon. Before breakfast I went and checked on the BMW and thankfully no more oil had leaked out overnight. It was clear that it was only going to come out with use and I decided to try for home but to keep stopping and checking it out every now and then. We had a lovely cooked English breakfast and were ready to leave by 09:30 as the rush hour would be easing.

We used our usual tried and tested route home. It is a good route as it is fairly quick and there are not too many holdups along the way usually. We headed North on the A5 and managed to get to Tamworth without being held up at all on the way. We briefly stopped at Tamworth Services where the A5 crosses the M42. I put the BMW on the centre stand and checked out the final drive, there was a bit of leakage again but it wasn’t as bad as yesterday.

We left the services and TomTom manage to guide us around Tamworth on a nice quiet route through an industrial estate. I’m not sure why she did this, maybe there was some traffic on the other route. We then continued North on the A513 to Kings Bromley where we joined the A515. We then followed the A515 all the way to Buxton via Ashbourne as usual. We stopped at Morrisons in Buxton for a rest and to check out the BMW again. Hardly anything had leaked out on this last leg, either it wasn’t getting as hot today or it had found a level above the leak.

We left Buxton and headed for Manchester on the A6 and then the A624. We took our usual sneaky route via Charlesworth and Broadbottom to avoid Glossop and Hadfield. Then we got on the motorway at Mottram and headed for home. We arrived home just before 14:00 and it appeared that the BMW had only leaked a tiny bit of oil again. It was a relief to get home under our own steam rather than on the back of a flatbed. Shortly after arriving home it started to rain so we quickly unpacked the bikes and put them away. We have had a good tour despite the problems, but it has seemed to pass by more quickly this year. Maybe this was down to the shorter riding days this year, not one leg this year felt like a chore. But some days we could have certainly done more miles and could easily cut a few days off the tour if we did it again.