It occurred to me that I have not written much about the bikes in a while so time for a wee bonus post.
Everywhere we go the bike is key. It takes us to the new places while demanding relatively little in return except for somewhere safe to park and a little fuel. Like a faithful friend it stands in the cold overnight, ready to go again in the morning. We are not crammed onto a bus and shipped round like cattle, milked for money like a lot of other folks (although sometimes its appealing). The bike can (apparently) be shipped on a plane which means not having to turn back just yet.
Steve McQueen is once quoted as saying that driving a car is like watching a movie, while riding a bike is like being the star. It puts you right in the environment, good or bad. If its sunny you are warm. If it rains you get wet and if its cold you wish you‘d fitted heated grips before you left. Everywhere you stop people ask what the story is, sometimes its good, occasionally its tiring. You can‘t hide inside and lock the doors, like it or not the bike really puts you right in the middle of the scene.
For me, riding the diesel bike is that little bit extra special. I look down at the dashboard and cannot believe it sometimes. As the odometer clicks over 8000 and then 9000 miles away from home its hard to believe that I am sat here riding past elephants, camels and monkeys on the bike I built in the garage. The only one of its kind, I have to allow myself a wry smile when most people don‘t even realise. I recall all those nights that Jonny came down and helped me put it together and here it is now in India, the very same bike.
Touch wood, Inshallah, good karma and all that, the tiger has held up to the punishment ok so far. Its been dropped, scraped over ridiculous speed ramps and roads, run over by the police and thrashed in hot and cold, wet and dry. It still sounds like an Ulsterbus Goldliner, chewing up the tarmac with repetitive, ruthless efficiency. A fuel filter in Newcastle and a fuel pump in Turkey were needed so far, hopefully that’s all. I really wish I had the chance to change the sump before we left but in the end ran out of time. I worked out the average fuel economy just before Iran was 102mpg (imperial) and on one tank managed 120mpg average. I worry a little about the fuel quality we get but cannot do much about it.
Helens bike has taken the punishment very well but has needed the water pump replaced twice now. This is a frustrating weak point on such a great machine otherwise. I was considering replacing the mechanical pump with one of the electrical ones I have spare with me but I am not sure how well it would work. Its also not idling particularly well but I‘ve no idea why. Valve clearances are the next thing to have checked, but it might be bad fuel or anything.
Our driving has changed a lot too, Helen is now very good on the rough bits of road, perhaps because she can‘t stop to put her feet down. Riding through large deep puddles and over gravel and sand she seems to take more before she gets tired now. Not bad from someone who had only ever ridden to Cavan before we left. My own driving has taken on a more vocal angle with the horn being blown at anything I don‘t like the look of and I wonder what it will be like driving at home now. Little did I realise that the little bit of off-road experience we gained with David in Turkey would be used so extensively.
A bike is a toy to many, but a lifestyle for a lucky few.