Tag Archive: V7


Our third ferry journey of the day loomed, 5.5 hours from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

We had plenty of time before departure, so took a detour which led us alongside a runway at one point – I’m sure any airplanes would appreciate the fact that it was a tad more level than the road!

Checking in was a little chaotic as Lerwick is not the largest of towns and the ferry port is in the town itself. There were some minor traffic management issues, but eventually we got through and onto the ferry.

There was the added complication of the staff needing to load all vehicles that were disembarking at Kirkwall in the correct place so that we wouldn’t be blocked by those continuing on to Aberdeen, just to add to the logistics. Hats off to these folk – they really know their business (which is reassuring when you think about it!).

Bikes secured, we grabbed the picnic we had bought before boarding, and headed for the upper decks. We munched on a few supplies on the rear deck while we watched the Shetland Islands gradually recede, whilst keeping a hopeful eye out for whales, but the only sea life we spotted was a seal in the harbour and a few birds.

We did at least espy our first Northern puffin, who kept nice and still so Tony could capture a photo.

Eventually we gave up on the whale watching and strolled through the main deck past shops and cafe, looking for a place to sit. Just before reaching the forward bar, who should we see but the Estonian barman from Saxa Vord, who had left for a visit home the day before us. He had a table to himself, so we ensconced ourselves, bought a round of drinks, and settled in for a chat.

We had an excellent view of Fair Isle as we went past, but still no whale or non-stationary puffin sightings…

After a lesson in just where Estonia is and a good old natter about life and travelling, we left our friend to continue on to Aberdeen and his long journey home, and headed back to the bikes for our arrival in Kirkwall.

We were due to dock at 11pm, so had pre-booked a night in a Bed & Breakfast. We didn’t relish the thought of trying to find somewhere to stay at that time of night, nor of setting up camp.

It was only a few miles to the B&B, and still light enough even at that time to make it easy to find our way. We parked up and found the door open and a nice note from the owner with our keys, as he had gone out for the evening. How lovely to be in a place where folk can still leave doors open without fearing for their safety.

We unloaded as quietly as we could as we didn’t want to wake our fellow guests at this late hour, and settled into our cosy room with a can of cider each to celebrate our arrival.

Welcome to Orkney! 🙂

Advertisements

Back on the motorcycles for a mini-fled at last! In June we returned to Aberdeen for the 4th time in 4 months, this time on our trusty Moto Guzzi V7s. We had bought tickets for the Simmer Dim Rally on the Shetland Islands, which is held every year over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice, our wedding anniversary.

We saw a bit of it from the road!The first days ride was lovely – both of us were happy to be back on the road again. We broke the journey at Stirling, staying at a hotel right next to the Wallace Monument.

Sadly our schedule didn’t allow us time to actually visit the monument as we had a 50th Birthday party to get to, so it will have to wait until another time. After a decent nights sleep we packed the bikes up and set off for our second days riding, just as it started to rain.

Gone was the warmth of the previous day – as the rain started to soak through our “waterproofs”, we found ourselves getting colder and colder. I was so very grateful for my heated grips, which I had used on a number of occasions in the past. Tony doesn’t feel the cold as much as I do, so had never used his before. Unfortunately as he tried to turn them on, the control knob broke off in his hand. Bugger.

We were staying with friends about 20 miles North of Aberdeen. Luckily as fellow bikers they anticipated the depth of cold we would be feeling, and greeted us with hot drinks, towels, and a roaring log burner, all of which were very welcome! Once we had defrosted a little we headed over to the 50th party for a few drinks before coming back for a fairly early night.

The following Wednesday we rode back to Aberdeen to catch the ferry to Shetland. It is an overnight crossing so we had treated ourselves to a cabin, as we knew it would be a good idea to stock up on our sleep before the rally.

The ferry port was flooded with motorcycles, all heading to the rally – the lady at the gate said there were only a handful of cars booked for the ferry – I should imagine they were feeling a tad outnumbered!

We settled into our cabins before heading for the bar. Tony commented on how surprisingly quiet it was, considering the ship was full of bikers…

Cue a strolling bunch of biker “minstrels”: a couple of guitar players accompanied by several kazoos. Unusual to say the least, especially as they were playing “Ring of Fire” which is not generally known as a biker favourite. A jolly night of singing ensued before we retired to our cabin for some sleep.

The next morning we awoke bright and early to leave the ferry on arrival in Lerwick, Shetland. The rally site was only about 20 miles from the ferry terminal, which meant that we were there, had the tent up, and were finishing our breakfast by 9.30am.

Now normally we arrive at rallies on Friday afternoon or evening, so once the tent is set up we start socializing over a pint or three, but 9.30 on the Thursday morning was a tad early even for us. The weather was dark and drizzly, so we retreated back to the tent with warming cups of tea and coffee.

.

Wallace Monument photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc

We slept like logs at the Borda El Vilar Casa Rural and awoke refreshed to be greeted by another fantastic sunny day. Throwing open the windows revealed a wonderful view of the Pyrenees with the sun burning off the morning mist from the wooded slopes. Beautiful.

Suddenly there was movement outside the window and a cute kitten jumped onto our windowsill, purring and investigating everything, as cats are wont to do.

The previous night we had done our usual washing of socks, etc and, as they were still slightly damp, Sarah decided to lay them out on the window sill to dry in the morning sunshine.

In a flash the kitten forgot it’s search for Rich in Rabbit and snatched a sock off the window sill. It was only Sarah’s quick reactions in grabbing the other end of the rapidly disappearing sock that foiled it’s plan. There then ensued a right royal tug of war with neither contestant willing to give in easily. Luckily Sarah’s persistance won the day and I had to stop laughing long enough to remove the other sock before the kitten grabbed that one instead.

Our friend’s cat treacle used to have a penchant for catching and killing socks. She recently passed away at the ripe old age of 21 if my memory serves correctly, and it was great to see that her spirit was living on in this Spanish kitten.

After a delicious but simple breakfast of local produced ham and cheese, we re-loaded the bikes, were waved off by our friendly host and rejoined the N260 towards Sort.

Its fair to say that after the fun that I had had the previous day I was eagerly looking forward to riding my little V7 along the next section of the N260.

After a few kilometers we saw a beautiful valley with a stunning bright blue lake, that gave us a wonderful excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

A short distance further on there was a wild mushroom market with stalls selling all sorts of wierd and wonderful fungi. I love the taste of wild mushrooms and so we just had to stop and investigate. We had a coffee at a nearby cafe and learnt that the whole area was in the throes of a gastronimic festival to celebrate their local produce, these very mushrooms.

We set off again and, after refuelling with cheap petrol at only 1.13 Euros a litre :-), we threw ourselves into enjoying the ride.

The N260 is a fantastic biking road with everything from motorway quality wide tarmac to twisty mountain hairpins, with some truely amazing scenery.

I think that the pictures speak volumes.

After another tiring but exhilerating day, we stopped in the town of Fiscal and found a room at the Hostel Rio Ara, where the staff were very friendly and let us put our bikes into their secure garage free of charge.

Not the best or cleanest place that we have stayed at, but it was certainly the cheapest so far and totally adequate for us to get our heads down and have an early start in the morning. Well, early for us, anyway!

My bike chose this moment to develop a slight problem, the choke stuck in the ‘Off’ position. Of course, rather than be annoyed, I was immediately thankful for small mercies as that is much better than it sticking in the ‘On’ position. I have dismantled the left hand switch and choke lever mechanism and that moves freely once disconnected, as does the choke mechanism underneath the fuel injectors, so it must be the cable. Unfortunately the cable is difficult to get to without taking the tank etcetera off, so as I can operate the mechanism by hand and starting is not a problem, I decided to leave it until a more convenient time.

Since before we left the UK Sarah has said that she wanted to have one expensive coffee in Monaco, so we set off from Asti towards the South of France.

There were loads more lovely twisty roads, which we enjoyed immensely, but after lunch I realised that either I was really off my game or that the handling on my bike had deteriorated. I eventually realised that my rubber mounted handlebars were moving slightly and quickly stopped to sort it out. We had taken the handlebar clamps off when working on the bikes before leaving England and one of the nuts had come loose. Unfortunately it was a size of spanner that I didn’t have with me. I spoke to a guy who was chopping wood outside his house nearby, he disappeared inside and lady luck was definitely with me when he came out a few moments later with the correct sized spanner. After a couple of minutes I had tightened the offending nut, checked the others, returned the borrowed spanner with thanks and we were on our way again.

What an improvement in the handling. It must have been gradually loosening for some time but so slowly that I didn’t notice until it got to a significant level. It just goes to show that having worked on something it is worth not just doing the double check once you have finished, but a triple check after riding for a while.

We had a fantastic ride, with some amazing scenery and mountain roads, and took the tunnel back into France. We didn’t see any border control and continued to the village of St. Dalmas de Tende where we stopped for a break. It was 5pm and we decided that this would be a good place to stay for the night.

We wanted to stretch our legs and so went for a walk through the woods along the banks of a nearby river. It was lovely with the sound of the water running over the rocks, and so picturesque.

A sign warned us to be careful about wild animals and snakes but neglected to mention the crowd of hungry mozzies who were queueing up to have a feast at restaurant Tony!

At least I kept them from biting Sarah.

The Moto Guzzi factory opens its gates for a tour of the museum every weekday at 3pm. Our friend Nich arrived at the campsite, unloaded his bike and we made the short ride to the factory in time to join the other Guzzisti waiting outside.

We had our obligatory photograph taken outside the gates and then went into the factory.

The museum is on two floors and contains a large number of Moto Guzzis from the very first one built by Carlo Guzzi to modern machines, although there is a bias towards the older machines. Unfortunately for us our guide only spoke Italian, but we all enjoyed the tour and our only complaint was that it was too short at just over an hour.

Spot the Wed-n-Fled sticker

Very shortly after buying the V7’s we had decided that we needed some windscreens for them, as riding an unfaired bike at motorway speeds is tiring and in the rain is a much wetter experience. Paul at Speedaway motorcycles had been trying to get us a pair of screens but not been able to locate any suitable ones for us before we had left the UK. Having checked with Paul by text that he had not had any luck since we had left, we decided to try some of the local Guzzi shops. We went to Agostini’s,  the official Mandello Moto Guzzi dealer, and of course had to add a Wed-n-Fled sticker to their Guzzisti visitors board.

Agostini’s had five genuine Moto Guzzi screens in stock and also some pattern ones. He couldn’t understand why we had had any difficulty obtaining them in the UK although another shop I spoke to did say that they had heard that there were difficulties getting the screens in the UK. After a quick session of holding them up to the bikes we decided that the genuine Moto Guzzi ones were worth the few extra Euros because of their shape, quality and excellent dedicated fitting kit for the V7 Classic. We negotiated the purchase of two, which got us a decent discount and free fitting.

Agostini Mechanic after staying on to fit our screens

I had also been looking to replace the standard crossover pipe in the exhaust which runs under the gear box. The problem is that it is huge and restricts access to the gearbox oil drain plug. I saw that Agoistini’s had had a batch of much narrower crossover pipes made in stainless steel with the correct fitting for the exhaust lambda sensor. A bit more haggling and a pair of those was also added to the list, again discounted and no charge for fitting. Time was getting on and the shop was due to close but the parts guy had a quick chat with the mechanic in the workshop, who agreed to fit both screens and crossover pipes whilst we waited in order to save us having to come back the next day. Excellent service.

As soon as we rode the bikes it was immediately apparent that the screens were very effective and had been well worth buying. I also thought that the bikes sounded and felt a bit crisper with the new crossover pipes on, but that may well be wishful thinking.

I later visited another bike shop called Stucchi, where I discovered that they had made the crash bars and racks fitted to our bikes. They were very helpful, getting an employee who spoke English to come down from the office to serve me. I was able to get a pair of genuine side panel stickers for my Le Mans, without having to spend an arm and a leg.

Afterwards I popped into another shop called Vallassi (I think) which transported me back in time to an old british bike shop called Autocycle in Bilston. I used to regularly visit Autocycle as a 17 year old, as I had a 1967 Triumph Super Cub (a Tiger cub engine in a Bantam chassis) that I needed to keep on the road! The owner Chris was an eccentric, and the first time I visited his shop he very politely asked me to wait whilst he took a .22 rifle from behind the counter and shot a huge spider on the opposite wall. He apologised explaining that ‘he had been after the bugger for weeks’! Chris had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the hundreds of parts on the wooden shelves in his shop and Vallossi’s appeared to be just the same sort of shop with shelves of gear box parts and crankcase studs all sorted and labelled. A slice of history.

We had a second chance to visit the Guzzi factory when the Valais Moto Guzzi Club and the Leman Moto Guzzi club of Switzerland turned up in Mandello for the weekend. They had arranged a special visit on the saturday morning and we were invited to go along.

It was excellent. We had plenty of time there and the Italian guided talk was being translated into French for the Swiss so we were able to understand at least some of it.

Two of my favourites were the 3×3 tracked pick up that Guzzi built for the army and the bike that they built with skis for a record making visit to Alpine refuges in the 1930’s.

We also saw examples of the original V7, which our bikes are a modern interpretation of.

Sarah enjoying the original V7 special

I have to say that ours are proving to be an excellent choice so far. They are using a bit of oil but I spoke to a Moto Guzzi mechanic who said that they will use progressively less oil over the first 10,000 miles as it takes that long to properly run them in. He also insisted that we use 10-60 oil not 10-40 oil as the engines do run hot.

I only had model airplanes hanging from the ceiling in my room as a kid

Panorama of Lake Como

On previous trips to Europe I had tried to squeeze in a trip to the Moto Guzzi factory but, for one reason or another, it didn’t come off. So now I can’t quite believe that we are camping by Lake Como in Mandello del Lario just down the road from the Moto Guzzi factory.

View from Bar Paradiso terrace towards the mountains

The storm had moved on in the night leaving us bathed in sunshine and gentle steam as everything dried out. The Bar Paradiso has a roof terrace with a wonderful view across Lake Como to the mountains on the other side and we were sat there enjoying an ice cream when I heard the roar of an engine from the lake. I went to the edge of the terrace and was rewarded with the sight of a float plane, it looked like a sea otter, taking off from the lake. Unfortunately I was not quite quick enough with the camera and only got a shot of the tail of the plane and it’s wake as it disappeared behind some trees.

We walked into the centre of town and had Panini’s for lunch outside a lovely street-side cafe, accompanied by a really nice bottle of the local white wine, all for a few Euros.

Tent and Tarp

Once back at the site we decided to set up our tarp for the first time. The plan was to use it to cover the tent to help if there were further storms and to give us somewhere to sit sheltered from the rain or sun. It took a bit of doing as we both had definite ideas of the best way to put it up but I think that our first attempt went well. V7’s make particularly sturdy, if somewhat expensive, tent pegs!

At the campsite we met a Finnish biker with a Moto Guzzi V11 Le Mans and a Dutch Couple with a 1956 Moto Guzzi single, all of whom had been to Mandelo del Lario a number of times before.

In the Old Town

As a result of talking to them and others we got lots of ideas of good places to visit, great rides to enjoy and where the best restaurants and bars were.

Sarah, Nich and I decided to get on our bikes and go out and explore. We had a great ride through some fantastic lakeside and mountain scenery. Our hairpin training in Switzerland definitely came in useful!

This is a beautiful area and I can certainly see why some people keep on coming back to enjoy and explore it.

The view from our bedroom window

We awoke refreshed just in time to see a bunch of paravane parachutists enjoying themselves, swooping and swirling about in the clear mountain air above Chamonix. One tasty continental breakfast later, we were packing the bikes under a blue sky in bright sunshine and getting ready to set off. We have been so lucky with the weather.

In no time at all we were enjoying throwing the V7’s around some more twisty roads with stunning views and before we knew it we were at the Swiss border. We slowed down at the customs post, ready to be checked out, but no one appeared so we just rode on through. We were on our bikes in Switzerland!

We stopped to refuel and had a pleasant surprise as the petrol was much cheaper than in France. The prices were displayed in both Swiss Francs and Euros but my mental arithmatic quickly revealed that it was cheaper in Swiss Francs than Euros. I paid on my card and we decided to keep our eyes open for a cash machine so that we could pick up some Swiss Francs. No problem, after all this is Switzerland, renowned for it’s banks.

Near Martigny

We had a great ride and got to the town of Martigny, which was not too far from the village of Collonges where the Valais Moto Guzzi Club were having their rally. We had been looking out for a cash point on any likely bank looking type building since crossing the borderbut had failed miserably. Sarah pulled up in a layby outside the tourist information office and I went into the bank next door to try and get some Swiss Francs. As I walked in I realised why we hadn’t been able to find any cash machines: they keep them all safely inside. A few moments later I walked out much relieved, with our Swiss Francs in my hand. We were soon on our way again, destination the Moto Guzzi Rally.

Riding down the road from Martigny to Collonges, we had to pull over to admire a cascading waterfall that spewed out from halfway down a mountain. I love waterfalls, actually being around water generally, and this one was pretty spectular. A couple of photos later we were on our way again, only to halt once again by the side of the river we crossed over once we left the main road. We’d noticed when riding through the alps that one of the streams we followed was an amazing bluey-grey colour, and this was a river that was exactly the same! We had no idea whether it was because of being glacier run off or what, and later discovered that it was none other than the Rhone, so at some point we’ll do a little internet research to find out the cause.

Leaving the Chateau

We awoke refreshed but unfortunately we didn’t leave the Hostellerie de Fontanges until quite late. This was due to me wishing to update our blog and having to use their intermittant wifi connection in the bar as we had checked out. I eventually won and we finally continued towards Le Camping Moto.

We followed the N88 and the N102 with a short section of motorway the A75. What a collection of different but truly stunning roads. Initially the only hint that you are gently climbing is the change in the trees with more and more conifers appearing. Then the section of A75 motorway climbs to 740 metres above sea level then drops to 580 metres then climbs again to 760 metres all in a mile or so. There is then is a newish bridge over a stunning gorge, Mip didn’t know about it and thought we were grass tracking then flying! On the bridge we had to really drop the speed as the side winds were catching the bikes. After that the road climbs to 1264 metres above sea level and the temperature dropped to 14 degrees C. I know, I know, but we have been getting used to 30 to 40 degrees recently.

No I didn't enjoy that road either!

We followed the N88 to Pradelles where we turned onto the N102. Wow what a road! It twists and turns, rises and falls, with hairpins and narrow bridges abounding. A wonderful biking road with a good surface that the V7’s were just made for.

We were now in the Rhône-Alpes region of France but we realised that, because of the nature of the roads, our average speed was quite low and that we were not going to make Le Camping Moto before 8 or 9pm. We decided to keep our eyes open for somewhere to stop and subsequently headed for Vals-Les-Bains as it sounded interesting. It is a 17th century spa town where the French have been coming to ‘take the waters’ since 1845 and is still going strong. We passed several campsites en-route but none had any eating facilities and we had nothing left with which to make our own meal.

In Vals-Les-Bains we found an interesting hotel-restaurant called Les Celestins and booked in. We were told to park the bikes directly in front of the restaurant were we provided some impromptu entertainment for the diners as we unloaded them inches from their tables, separated by only a sheet of plate glass. A short time later we ate there and received several smiles and bonjours from the same diners.

The staff were again great and allowed us to store all of our camping gear on the ground floor of the hotel rather than having to leave it on the bikes or cart it up to our room on the second floor, with no lift and a steep spiral staircase.

I have to say that our experience is that France is quite a pro biker country and that, if you have a go at speaking Francais, then the French will bend over backwards to help you out.

We ate a fantastic meal of mostly local produce in quirky surroundings that we felt completely at home in (we can see you smirking there!). In fact we are enjoying the place so much that we have decided to stay for an extra day. I love the freedom that being on a long trip and always trying to plan to give ourselves plenty of time and therefore flexibility between destinations or deadlines gives us.

Innocent looking knives

We have had a wander around, taking care to only go into the shops signed as ‘Entre Libre’ otherwise you are expected to buy something. At one Newsagents they had an extensive collection of knives, some beautifully crafted ones for sale for hundreds of euros, but the ones that amused me were those disguised as everyday objects. Obviously handy if you want to smuggle one in through customs!

Pimms O'clock French style - Neat!

This afternoon we decided that it was Pimms O’clock, but quickly discovered that the French serve it neat with ice! Sarah’s expression says it all really.

The river behind our hotel

So here I am sat at the laptop at Les Celestins, typing away to you all, with a glass of Viognier in my hand and smiling. It has actually been quite difficult at times to walk away from my old life, but it’s now really beginning to sink in just how good our decision to wed and fled was 🙂

Seen parked outside Les Celestins

I love the Dordogne region of France. Hills, forests, twisty roads, a river, medieval villages, castles, and gourmet food with excellent wine. I rest my case.

We were not quite sure exactly which part of the Dordogne that we were going to aim for. Over the years I have stayed at various hotels and campsites in the region, but I recently realised that I was somewhat out of date having not visited for about 17 years (gulp!). Claire in Swindon gave us a recommendation by of a biker campsite called Camping Moto Dordogne, which is situated near to Saint Aubin de Nabirat. We had checked their site on the net and discovered that it was run by a Dutch couple, Pieter and Renske, and decided that we would give it a go.

Again we had 300 km (180 miles) to cover and we wanted to get to get to the region in plenty of time to find the site and to set up the tent and get organised. (We are optimists after all.)

The motorway from Chateauroux has enough bends in it to keep it interesting even at legal speeds, and has one section through some hills, where you exit a series of bends onto a bridge over a valley with a fantastic view. (Sorry no photograph!)

We had the coordinates for the campsite but our SatNav decided that taking us straight there was just too boring and decided to take us down some roads that barely warrented the description. It’s finale was to tell us to turn right up a grassed bank to get there! So with the sniggering of the SatNav in our ears we rode round and round trying to find the site.

It was at this point that I discovered the true folly of wearing a matt black crash helmet in 38 degrees of blistering sunshine, whilst riding slowly. Boiled brains anyone? I was beginning to make some bad riding decisions and I realised that I had to pull over and pour some water over my head to cool off. I was initially going to use the water conveniently situated in the waterbottle attached to my pannier, but I quickly found out that it had absorbed so much heat from the sun that I could have used it to make a cup of tea! The receptionist from Le Boischaut unknowingly come to my rescue as her ice cubes had kept the water in my backpack cool. Within seconds of pouring some over my head I felt much better and realised just how much the heat had affected me. I have been warned about heatstroke when riding in hot sun but this was the first time that I have experienced it. Dangerous.

Set up and relaxing

We set off and Sarah quickly spotted a sign for Camping Moto Dordogne, after which we found the campsite quite easily. Despite being loaded up the V7’s inspired confidence and we handled the gravel roadways leading onto the site very easily.

We were met by the owner, Pieter, who gave us two cold drinks on the house. Heaven. We had arrived.

Appropriate wall paintings

Okay, so, we had set off but we still needed to get power take offs fitted to the bikes, fit a Sat Nav and sort out and fit the comms system. This meant that en-route to the ferry port it was necessary to pay another visit to Tich at TWS wiring services in Swindon, this time for him to wear his proper job hat of electrics guru.

Essentially Tich makes wiring looms and sorts out electrical problems for anything from a moped to an aeroplane. He likes to work on bikes and trikes and is currently completely rewiring my 30 year old V50 Moto Guzzi to include upgrades to modern components and modern Guzzi switchgear.

He has made an independent fused wiring loom for each of the V7’s to run completely separately from the original wiring loom in order to supply power to the Sat Nav and to three separate din power sockets, one under the seat and two waterproof ones on the top yoke by the handlebars. He has also made leads that can plug into these sockets to convert to a standard cigarette lighter power output socket, and other leads to supply power to various pieces of equipment that need power or charging whilst we are travelling.

The wiring is hefty enough to handle plugging the 150w dc to ac converter I had bought into the cigarette lighter socket. This provides a mains type plug socket that any piece of UK electrical equipment up to 150 watts can be plugged into and run, although 150 watts would drain the bike’s battery in very little time!

Together (well I made the tea) we fitted the din power outputs and loom, the powered cradle for the Sat Nav to Sarah’s bike and the coms system to both bikes. Excellent, job done and Tich has made a very neat job of it with everything neat and all properly heat shrink wrapped.