Triennial reflections

Another couple of ticks of the great celestial clock will see the Capo and I celebrating our third anniversary. Something of a miracle, as over the years my bikes have averaged about 12 months each. In fact the Capo now equals the previous record holder – the Triumph Trophy 1200 and will no doubt storm on ahead to claim the crown.

So why have I kept it so long? Well, truthfully, a few reasons …. moving to Italy and a change in lifestyle for one. Secondly, riding motorbikes was no longer to be my source of daily income, but mostly because it’s a damn good all-round machine that suits my riding style at this time in my life.

By sheer luck I heard about an RR languishing in a garage in Southern France, UK-registered and unbelievably low mileage. Contact was made, photographs were emailed and finally on a dismal day at the dawn of 2008, I said goodbye to the Blackbird and stood freezing my nuts off admiring the RR, freshly delivered from Lyon to Oxford. Within 24 hours we were  off the ferry and tanking down through France together, panniers fit to burst and a spare pair of tyres strapped on for good measure …. this was most certainly going to be a make-or-break relationship.

Well of course we bonded … and three years and over 30K later I can’t see me  changing  it just yet. Simply put, the Capo works fantastically as a luggage toting motorway mile-muncher and even better on the mountain  roads where its flexibility and torque by the bucket give me all the fun I can handle. And yes, there’s no getting away from the fact that it tips the scales at a knee trembling 250Kg … but it’s still surprisingly usable off-road, like anything, you just have to get used to it!

I’d like to end by saying that in today’s world, the internet plays its part in the ‘ownership package’, and on that point the support and friendship of the AF1 Caponord forum is second to none … if you’re in the market for a Capo,  don’t read the rag-mags, or listen to anecdotal “I had a mate who…..”, visit the forum and get genuine first hand info. Some of these guys have topped 100,000 miles!

So what’s 2011 going to bring …. maybe a trip back to the UK, but the jewel in the crown looks like it might be the ACIM Caponord International meeting in Portugal. If it all comes together, we’ll overnight in Barcelona on the way and maybe, just maybe, we can rumble into the Gothic Quarter and quaff an ice cold beer at Bar del Pi ….. bliss!!!

Who could forget ‘Little Tibet’

Over the past few weeks the old Capo has had its ECU (brain!) pummelled, all in the name of research. The release of  the freeware program – TuneECU, saw a flurry of activity as some of us tested its functionality against the long-serving TuneBoy package.  I can say without conviction, it works, it’s stable …. in fact it’s now my programming tool of choice for the Capo.

So on a lovely sunny and warm Friday, while Jan was away in Rome, I decided it was about time the Capo got a run to make sure everything was ok and it wasn’t short of a few marbles after all the brain surgery. I wasn’t sure how low the snow line was  on the Gran Sasso, but I guessed it was worth a look.

Duly suited’n booted I headed out toward Farindola, then detoured through Macchie and Vicenne on some very narrow and deserted mountain tracks. The heavy scent of damp woodland giving way to a wonderful aroma of burning logs as I skimmed past lonley building not yet abandoned to the mountain. Back at the main road I turned west, climbing through Rigopano and the eerily atmospheric woodlands, finally popping out at the top with a view of Campo Imperatore (Little Tibet) that never ceases to amaze. When I left home it had been a balmy 19ºC, now it was down to 3ºC …. the ‘Halvarssons’ suit kept me toasty and it was a good excuse to test the heated grips!

The roads coming up are sadly in a terrible state and made all the worse with lots of leaf mulch and a fair sprinkling of rocks and bits of tree. They are however thankfully quiet … I only saw one other vehicle on the way up, so you can take advantage of the whole road to pick the best bits. The roads on the West side though are another story, sweeping bends, fantastic surfaces and excellent visibility.

I stopped for a while, just enjoying the tranquillity before heading down to Castel del Monte, a quick refuel then onward to Villa Santa Lucia Degli Abruzzi, Offena, Brittoli and towards home before dark. If I said I saw half a dozen vehicles the whole way, I’d be exaggerating! In the end I’d really tried hard to stick to bobbling along in ‘tourist’ mode ….. I couldn’t resist it any longer ….. I just had to go back up the road, turn around and give those bends a damn good spanking! The Capo runs beautifully, pulling like a train and happily using the extra 1,000 RPM before the rev limiter kicks in. Only thing to sort out is a slightly nervous tickover,  a smidgin more fuel added on the ‘Idle trim’ should sort that out. Happy days!

Back in the barn, the Capo is contentedly ticking away to itself as it cools down, while I tweak the map in the ECU one last time. Then it’s lights out, night-night old girl ….. till tomorrow.

A little then and now.

I was having a little rummage the other day and came across five copies of ‘The Motor Cycle’ from 1938. Although not in good condition, they are certainly readable and all the drawings/photographs are bright and clear …. so I took a jolly well earned breather and read them in depth.

The last is dated 20th October and to put things in perspective, my grandfather was 25, my grandmother 21 and would shortly receive news of her first child on the way. On Jan’s side, my father-in-law was only 9 and  my mother-in-law just 1 ! …. and in ten days, Orson Wells would  transmit a radio play that was to stun America …. while Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resolutely believed  his piece of paper with Hitlers-still-wet signature, would stop a world war.

So in a nutshell, what do these paper time-capsules tell us about biking in late 30’s England, were things so different then, or do the same issues grip us today?

How about these for a start:-

  • Looking  for 100bhp from a 500cc engine (with supercharging).
  • Tales of rides to Switzerland, Italy, Scandinavia … and even up Vesuvius!
  • Tyre & suspension technology and how to improve the design.
  • The condition of English roads…potholes, tramlines and wooden blocks missing!
  • Restricting events through ‘Elf’n safety’…though they didn’t call it that back then.
  • …and sadly, the ‘ism’ that sees some motorcyclists discriminated against.

Hold on … this all sounds remarkably familiar – power, touring, bureaucracy and crap roads. The long and the short of it is – we don’t do anything new,  yep … gran and gramps did it all long before us, even defeating forward-facing speed cameras with a ‘dummy rider’ – brilliant idea!

Even the travelling it seems was truly hardcore. A pocket full of change, a clean hanky, a tartan thermos and a nice ham & pickle sarni for the journey – Tally-Ho and see you next year! So saddle up if you’re game … no gadgets to help soothe your ego while the world follows every mile in tweetable-HD or pours over your zillionth geo-tagged digital masterpiece on Facebook. Nope …. if you want to do it right, you’ve got to go cold turkey. No electronics, no GPS, no bank cards – cash only where we’re going, right?

So I’m giving up ‘Adventure biking’ and ‘Overlanding’ … no longer dreaming of an ‘RTW’ trip with my ‘Expedition’ luggage. No. Time to drop off the grid, buy a BSA Bantam, load up the biggest dog I can find and hit the highway…maybe with a sidecar, what do you think?

Of course before I go, I’ve still got time to read the books and articles by some of these ground breaking motorcyclists. How about reading Gasoline Gypsy by Peggy Iris Thomas or Across America by C.K. Shepherd (a WW1 RAF pilot) for example, a fantastic account of crossing the USA in 1919  – while Peggy in 1953 also dipped down into Latin America.

So it seems we are indeed following in our ancestors tyre tracks …. the question is, will the next generation follow ours, or  will they have adventures immersed in the womb-like safety  of ‘virtual reality Google Earth 3D‘  – I know which way my money’s going. Cynical to the end, that’s me .. hey ho.


‘Ow long’s the mot boy?’

I think it’s fair to say the last two years have fairly whizzed by ……it’s hard to believe that in September 2008 the Capo first wobbled out onto the Italian highways with its new ‘targa’ (registration plate). The next ‘revisione’ (MOT) would be in Sept 2010, two years away and no more than a passing thought. And now it’s here, dragged kicking and screaming into reality on a balmy Saturday morning.

I finish my second ‘wake-me-up’ brew, faffing about over documents and thinking about what to expect … is the old girl indeed as road worthy as I like to think? I hope so, I’ve spent a fair few hours over the past weeks checking this, fettling that and oiling the other. I’d be miffed if they do find anything … or would I in fact be offended, my rickety chair of motorcycle mechanical superiority kicked from under my feet … left dangling on the rope of the tester’s bureaucratic whim and devastating ability to empty a wallet quicker than a Vespa sump. No fear, I’m not having any of that! So to be safe, I’ve remapped the fuel injection for emissions and generally returned it to ‘factory’ condition. ‘I’s crossed and ‘T’s dotted, nothing left to chance, all very secret squirrel actually.

As I’d not been through this particular delight before, a neighbour kindly went along to pave the way. On arrival I handed over the ‘Carta di Circolazione’ (logbook) and we wandered off for a coffee – they don’t like being watched … I was told.

Coffee over (remember, they’re small cups!), we walked the twenty meters or so back to the bike, still basking in the rising morning sunshine. Time ticked on and a few cars came and went. A van went into the bay marked ‘revisione’ in big red letters – the only bay for revisione – the bay my bike ought to be in by now I thought. My neighbour and I chatted, each trying to hide the mild irritation that nothing much seemed to be happening to the Capo, despite the two minute promise, half an hour ago.

Then activity … a chap wanders out of the dark bowels of the office waving a logbook around, my logbook. Is this yours? Yep! 65 Euros please … and that was it, done. A little sticker attached telling me to sod off for two more years. That was painless. How were the emissions? Fine. Brakes? Fine … all fine in fact, nothing to worry about, a lovely bike … bye-bye.

So I thank my neighbour for his time and as he drives off, I get kitted up, clamber on board and lift the side-stand, it folds away leaving the little ‘x’ scratched on the tarmac … the little tell-tale mark I’d made just before wandering off for coffee.

Damn if the tester hadn’t parked it RIGHT where I’d left it …………

………. now that is skill. See you in 2012, Ciao, Ciao!

Where’s Noddy?

We had a little treat the other day ….. the Pescara Fiat 500 owners club came to town! Yep, on a sunny Sunday they beeped, tooted, moo’d and blew bubbles (I kid you not) as they pottered around Civitaquana.

We wandered through the usual chaos and snapped a few pics of the weirdly modified and wonderfully restored – every one a testimony to the love, dedication and skill of the families that own them. The local bar laid on snacks and drinks for them and in the afternoon they held a time-trial around the local villages. As they dashed off into the countryside we settled down for a beer, or two, or three ….. we weren’t exactly sure if they’d be a few minutes or a couple of hours. Sadly, the little buggers are quicker than you think and in no time at all they started to return, damn! I really was looking forward to that second brew…..

…..maybe next year!

A few more pics…

Back again!

Well a big helllooo to you all!

After dumping Facebook and all thing Google, I couldn’t raise enough enthusiasm to start over with a new blog – especially when hosted (controlled) by a big fat corporation.

Then, over a spiffing lunch one day I got a piece of excellent advice about setting up a website based blog.

I mulled it over for a few days, then tinkered and voila, Moto-A is back again …. hot-to-trot! So a big thank you to you-know-who!!!