A year, and 17,500 miles

Have you ever sat back to reflect where you were just a year ago, and how much has changed in that year? When I look ahead I often find that I make a general assumption that most things won’t change – how often have you heard the expression “all things being equal”? The caveat that acknowledges that we expect that things won’t change, but acknowledge that there’s a chance that they will…

Yet if we ever take time to really sit down and think how much has happened in the last 12 months, it is amazing how much your life can change in that fairly short space of time.

A year ago I had a ZZR1100, I was married, with three children, very little time to myself, and to be honest I wasn’t at all happy in the marriage, and love affair with the ZZR was coming to an end.

It was time to change the ZZR for something a bit more upright as commuting on it wasn’t really suiting me. I needed to know the trade-in value, so I took it down to Pheonix Honda in Grangemouth and rather foolishly accepted a test ride on a Varadero XL1000V. Was it fate? I fell utterly in love with the Varadero, and a few days later had agreed a trade in on the ZZR. Oops!

When I picked up the Varadero I set about sorting it out to my satisfaction, giving it an e-Scotoiler, a centre stand, a screen lift that holds the screen proud of the fairing, reducing the buffeting massively, the Riderscan that I had liberated from the ZZR, and a set of pannier racks for my Givi panniers.

In about a month’s time things would come to a head with my marriage and we would agree to separate, but at this point in time I still didn’t think / couldn’t accept that this could/would happen. It did.

Well, life can throw these things at you. My favourite motto, if there is such a thing, is that “Life is an adventure”, so the only thing to do is get on with it and make the most of it.

By the end of December I had bought a house and in the middle of February I moved out of the family home and into my own house. I then set about redecorating it from top to bottom as it was a repossession and had suffered a fair amount of neglect and sloppy diy from the previous owners.

In March, through a biker dating/social forum, I met Sharon. Things went slowly at first, and then started to pick up speed. By mid April we were officially dating, and Sharon bravely came along with me to the Aberfoyle IAM weekend.

The last 6 months have flown by in a blur. I did the John O Groats to Mull of Galloway charity ride with the IAM, I did the IAM skills day at Knockhill, Sharon and I went off on the bike for wee trips all over the place, we did a 6 day tour around the north of Scotland together, I did the Slo Mo day at East Fortune, I stopped doing DIY at my house and started doing DIY at Sharon’s instead – such is the nature of love!

As the first anniversary of buying the Varadero approached I needed to handle such minor things as road tax, MOT and a much needed service. I realised that I’ve covered just over 17,500 miles in those 12 months, and during those 17,500 miles I’ve left my marriage, moved out into my own house, met and fallen in love with a wonderful lady (I DO mean Sharon, not the Varadero, although I confess to being very fond of that too), and managed to stay safe despite all the miles covered on our often busy roads.

Looking ahead, my diary is already filling up with more and more IAM events, and Sharon and I are planning more trips on the bike – and guess what? We are making that same old assumption – that things will be as they are now…. I hope to hell they will be, although I’m pretty sure they can’t all be, but if the last 12 months has taught me anything, it’s that you simply never know what life will throw at you….. That sounds like I expect doom and gloom – but I don’t – I’m happier now than I’ve been for a long time, so I fully intend to continue to enjoy the adventures that life offers, and I hope I’ll make the most of them.

What bike to buy…….

After much soul searching I finally made up my mind – it was time to sell the ZZR and look for something a little different.

Why did I decide to sell the ZZR? – mainly because I realised how much effort and money it was taking to maintain it!

It went through it’s MOT absolutely fine, but the tyres were getting low and would need repaced soon, and the brakes were due a service, so there’s £300 odd straight away. When I tot up everything I’ve spent to keep that bike on the road and in good nick, it’s really, really scary!

With my ZZR advertised on autotrader and gumtree I started to look and found a nice Triumph Sprint ST 955i up for sale at a decent price.


Sprint 2

I went to view a Triumph Sprint ST955i on the Saturday – liked it, agreed a price, and gave the guy a £100 deposit.

Then on the Monday, when I had a day off work but the kids were at school and the Mrs was at work, I took the ZZR down to phoenix Honda in Grangemouth to get a trade in valuation. All I really wanted was to know the basic trade in value, so if someone came to see my ZZR and tried to haggle the price down too far I’d know when to say “don’t be daft, I can get that for a trade in”.

Of course I wanted to look like a genuine customer, so I had a good look through their bikes and got chatting to the sales chap. He then offered me a test ride on a Varadero they had there. Well, it’d be rude to turn down a generous offer like that, right? So off I went for the best part of an hour on a 2008 XL1000 Varadero.


Lovely bike, nice torquey twin motor, swift, although not a patch on the ZZR for acceleration, a real sit up riding position too.


Back to the dealer, yes, I like the bike (a lot! shhhh!), what kind of deal can you do? Well, the Varadero is there for £4,995 (ouch!), book price for my ZZR is £1,200 – he offered me £1,700 on it if I was taking the Varadero. Hmmmm.

So, off I went home to decide what to do….. take one of the bikes – which one? Sprint or Varadero? – or take them both…. and if I take them both, how to finance that??? Hmmmmmmmmm

I then spoke to ‘Bank of Mum’ – and bless her, that came good – so I decided to take the Varadero – it simply fits my height so much better than the Sprint would have – plus it’s a lot newer, and lower miles.

Discussion with Mrs was still had to be finalised over whether I also take the Sprint, after all, I had given the guy £100 to secure it, and my Mrs isn’t one to let that go easily.

Having decided to take the Varadero I realised I hadn’t seen what the insurance would be…… that could be a bit of a shock……

Actually, it wasn’t too bad – an extra £28 plus an admin fee of £30 (really must move away from these brokers!) .

I then had a long chat (argument!) with the Mrs over space in the garage for the Sprint – she was adamant there was not space for a 2nd bike, and on balance I was happier not bothering with the Sprint, since it was just going to be hassle and a risk that I could end up losing money on it. I called the seller and explained to him. He was fine about it, and he had another buyer lined up, so I may even get my deposit back – maybe…

Then came the long wait…. I needed the promised money from Bank of Mum to appear in my account…. Having taken ages to finally reach the decision to change bikes, I was getting very impatient to get on and get it done! It’s funny, two weeks ago I really couldn’t imagine being willing to sell the ZZR – I’d just poured far too much time, effort and money into it – but then having actually made the decision, I then couldn’t wait to get that new machine!

The dealer got in touch during the day on Wednesday to say the Varadero was getting it’s MOT and would be taxed on Thursday morning, which was great, but still no word from my Mum on the actual transfer….

I also wanted to liberate a few things from the ZZR before I traded it in – but I wanted to keep that stuff on the bike until the last possible minute as I was still commuting on it, so when to do that?

Wednesday night I did an HPI check on the Varadero, and it came back with finance outstanding…. Dammit!
I called the dealership and someone from the car side did an HPI check there and said the finance was Honda Europe – seems that all the bikes they buy into the dealership are financed on this scheme, so any bike sitting in their showroom will show as having outstanding finance – what a daft system!

The money from Bank of Mum arrived later that evening, so I decided I’d try and do the deal the next day, Thursday, so I set about my ZZR – nicked the wife’s hairdryer to heat up the glue that held the RiderScan onto the screen so I could get it off without damaging anything – man, that was well stuck on! Came off and left no marks though – quality! I removed the top box rack, the scotoiler and its touring reserve.

Thursday dawned – felt a bit like Christmas morning! Very excited. Called the dealer and confirmed that the finance issue on the HPI check was because of the way Honda finance the vehicles they buy in. Decided that it was going to be too tight for time to go and do the deal on the way home and still fulfil my fatherly duties, so I decided to take a rather longer than usual lunch – plan being a quick scoot along the M9, do the deal, quick scoot back, job done

The quick scoot didn’t quite work getting out of Edinburgh – lots of congestion in the town, although much better further out. Gave the old ZZR a last good blast up the slip road to the motorway. Got to the dealers around 12:35, and although it was all straightforward, the salesman had put £1,500 down on the invoice as the trade in on my ZZR. Uh Uh. £1,700 please. No argument, but did mean waiting for the invoice to be redone. I called my insurance broker and paid to switch the insurance over to the new bike, and then hung around for what seemed like an eternity while they faffed with paperwork.

I even had time to take a last few photos of the ‘good old ZZR’ :

ZZR trade in

final mileage

Eventually I paid the balance – and then I waited yet again while the salesman went to find his fuel card, then followed him to the petrol station where he paid to fill the tank, and then it was finally time to head back to the office – got back at 2:20pm – not quite the plan I had in mind!

So, that first ride into Edinburgh on the Varadero – such a different riding position, amazingly little buffeting in what were quite strong winds, certainly not got the oomph higher up that the ZZR has, but cruised up the motorway extremely comfortably. In town it was ace – lovely twin sound and thump, excellent view over the traffic, lifesavers are a whole lot easier, and effective, with the more upright position – and the bike is nicely poised and very smooth power delivery.

The gear change can be a bit clunky, especially from 1 up to 2 when you’re pushing it, but above that and at more gentle acceleration the changes just snick into place silently.

The tall screen isn’t quite tall enough – will see if I can adjust it a bit higher, and failing that, a screen extender will be sought.

So that’s it. The ZZR is away, and I’m a little sad about that, but I have a cracking, and totally different, bike in its stead – win!

A year of motorcycling

One year ago today I bought my ZZR1100, and it’s been a packed and busy year.

I’ve put just over 11,900 miles on it, and that’s inevitably brought a certain amount of cost in wear and tear…

Actually, quite a lot! But maybe some more on that later – if I can face it (sometimes it’s best not to dwell on the true financial implications of motorcycling!!)

Although I passed my bike test almost 20 years ago, I’d not had a bike for over a decade, so I grabbed the chance to do a BikeSafe course. That was fabulous – it’s such a shame that the amalgamation of the Scottish police forces this year has meant no BikeSafe events are being done here this year – although hopefully that’s only temporary (and the IAM are offering a free ride check this year in response to the lack of BikeSafe).

After attending the initial BikeSafe talk I also signed up for the IAM motorbike course courtesy of a birthday present from my dear Mum, and I had the first ride out with my IAM observer just before I got my BikeSafe ride out with a uniformed motorcycle copper.

I thoroughly enjoyed my rides out with my IAM observer, Lindsay Phyall, and I also had a great day on an ‘associate check ride’ with the regional observer, Rory Colville. There was a bit of a low when I didn’t pass my IAM test at the first attempt, on a rather dull and boring route, while I had a cold, but I had another go a month later, with a different examiner, done in and around Stirling, on a proper mix of town, motorway and country roads, and I was delighted to pass that (much harder!) test.

Meanwhile I enjoyed some great biking trips. The first was up to Tayvallich and was a great trip, with lots of challenges along the way – endless miles of loose gravel roads, and then rain and strong winds!!

Later on there was the trip to Lochinver, which may possibly have some of the best biking roads in the UK (made more interesting by yet more high winds and all sorts of debris on the road!).

I also had the pleasure of a few long weekend ride outs with mates, and I even managed to have some fun on my commuting rides!

Now, despite the bike looking absolutely mint when I bought it, there were a few niggles that became apparent fairly soon. The first was the awful rubber – cheap tyres on a bike bike is just BAD! Then there was the weepy fork oil seal. With Bridgestone rubber on, and the fork oil seals replaced, handling was much better, but there was niggling issue with the bike cutting out when it came off the throttle while still warming up.

We replaced the spark plugs, and replaced the Kawasaki coils with individual ‘stick coils’ from a Honda CBR, which seemed to help a little bit, but it didn’t cure the problem. What did solve it was getting the valve clearances checked – turned out that the exhaust valves were all rather tight indeed. With the valve clearances done, and the carbs balanced, the bike was behaving a whole lot better – and power was definitely up – result!!

I was rather bugged by the crappy headlamp on the bike – it provided so little illumination that at times it was positively dangerous. I stuck an HID lamp on my wish list, and my dear Mum bought me one – happy days! It proved a bit of a sod to fit, thanks to the vast fairings on the ZZR, access to the headlamp is poor at best, and space to manoeuvre the HID into place was tight, and then all the other gubbins that goes with it (relay, ballast etc) has to be tidied away somewhere. However the result was, and still is, brilliant! On dark winter mornings, and evenings, it has been fantastic to finally be able to see where I’m going!

I was also rather less than impressed with the instrument lighting – obviously irrelevant in daylight, and just about adequate in pitch black, it was useless everywhere in between (sorry officer, my instrument lights are so dim I couldn’t read my speedo…) so I pulled the instrument panel apart and fitted LED strips inside it.

Now despite replacing the fork oil seals at the summer, by mid autumn they were leaking again. I was not a happy chappy. At least this time round my mate Bruce had discovered that it was not in fact necessary to remove the entire fairing to remove the front forks, although I did have to whip the lower fairings off so I could jack the bike up… The leaky seals were due to dust and muck getting past the wiper seals, creating a kind of grinding paste that damaged the oil seals. So new oil seals, and new wiper seals – Paul at Dunfermline Motorcycles also did a little trick – turning the fork upper in the lathe, and using scotchbrite, he created incredibly fine lines that encourage the fork oil to better lubricate the oil seal as it moves up and down the fork leg – maybe this time the seals will last a whole lot longer!!

Since the front wheel was off, we changed the front wheel bearings as a while ago it had been noted by the tyre fitter that the wheel bearings were a little noisy… well, they were actually pretty well shot – in fact the real proof was that once the new bearings were fitted, a brake shudder – or more accurately a shudder that occurred under braking – disappeared completely. And here was me thinking maybe my brake discs were warping – wrong!

Not long after the New Year I noticed the chain was making a hell of a racket – it turned out to be rather badly worn sprockets – so one new chain and sprockets were fitted, and I rode home from Dunfermline Motorcycles with a lovely quiet chain – in the snow.

The real killer financially was in February – the exhaust started to blow, and the rot was spreading fast. I guess the exhaust was the original – the bike is a P reg, so to be fair, it had done incredibly well, but riding on salty roads, despite copious amounts of F365 (meant to neutralise the salt) had probably been the final straw. Now bike exhausts are crazy expensive, and it also turns out, rather awkward to get! After some calling around, Motad supplied the LAST one for the ZZR1100 from their factory – they claim they are not going to make them for that bike any more…. This one had better last then!!

The bike went back to Dunfermline Motorcycles again, and although the old exhaust came off without any great hassle, the radiator had to be moved out of the way to let the new exhaust fit on, and the bottom of the radiator was rotten and split. So one new radiator later, I faced the biggest automotive repair bill I’ve ever faced (last time I was faced with a potential cost like this for my old Hilux truck, I sold it rather than fix it!) – £802.80 – Owe! Owe! Owe!!

I have to mention my dear Mum here again – she sent me £400 to help with the cost – bless you!!!!

Not long after that, another issue – a puncture on the rear tyre. Dammit. One new tyre required. Still, the old one had managed around 7,000 miles, which isn’t entirely awful for good sticky rubber on a big fast bike..

What else? Oh, I serviced the front brakes – new seals, new pads, and then the heated grips packed in and needed replaced…

The very latest thing I’ve done, is replace the rear shock absorber – a job that had been waiting in the wings for many months, while I slowly gathered all the parts, and also slowly screwed up the courage to pull the bike apart to do the job…

So there we are, a year on, loads of miles done, contrary to popular expectation when I bought the bike a year ago, I’m still alive and not in a wheelchair 🙂

It’s been a blasted WET year, followed by a remarkably COLD ‘spring’ – but I’m still smiling and loving it – even the work on the bike, I have to confess, I love getting into it and getting my hands dirty.

I’ve had endless fun (?) with my scotoiler – weirdly, the old one on my last bike all those years ago was perfect – ran without a glitch – but this time around is a different blasted story… I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to do something with it. Still, if it ever does start performing reliably, I do still rate them highly – a well lubricated chain is a long lived chain, and the darned things are blasted expensive!

What’s in store for 2013?

Well, I still have some maintenance to get out of the way – strip and rebuild the rear brake, and get the steering head bearings replaced.

Rides wise, I have an IAM Observers social weekend later in April, a bike trip to Ireland early in May, an IAM skills day at Knockhill, another bike trip up to Lochinver in the summer, and a bike trip to the Kintyre peninsula in autumn. Hopefully there will be some lovely summer weekend rides in there too.. Can’t wait!