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!!!