Shiny Things and the Smell of Rubber

It’s the time of year that my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have their annual service. Normally, as part of the service plan I have, they get collected by the Plymouth Harley dealership and delivered back all serviced and nicely clean. That happened with Harls a few weeks back, but unfortunately not for Hettie, I’ve had to ride her to the dealership….!

Now this isn’t really an issue, I love riding my bikes even if just lately i haven’t had much time to do so, unfortunately though, this morning dawned a bit damp and soggy…oh well, suck it up and get on with it Dookes! Regular blogonaughts will know that I’m certainly not a fair weather rider, just that given the choice I’d rather avoid the wet stuff especially when the ambient temperatures are a bit on the low side. Tyres can take an age to warm up this time of year and the added fun of mud, low sun, slippery roads and this morning a liberal coating of diesel oil on a particularly tight corner made for an “interesting” 45 miles from Dookes H.Q. to Plymouth.

So here I am relaxing in the showroom of Plymouth Harley Davidson, surrounded by lots of shiny things and with the smell of rubber from new tyres, whilst Hettie gets the best attention of a Harley Davidson Technician.

I’m also sitting here in a state of shock.

Shock induced by how expensive a new Harley is these days!

There are currently 67 bikes here in the showroom and if I apply a, probably low, average price of £20,000 i calculate that I am surrounded by £1.4million worth of Harley Davidsons!

I’m not sure if that is cool….or scary!!!

Over the last few months I had been contemplating just becoming a “One Bike” rider, possibly parting with Hettie, but I’ve been wavering. This morning has firmly buried that idea, Hettie stays!!! A new Hettie, in basic form would cost me in excess of £24,300 on the road; if I then add on all the little bells and whistles that i’ve put on her it would push the new price to over £25,000!!

Hettie….this girl’s going nowhere!!!

That’s £7000 more than I paid for her!!!!…….Ho hum, it’s only money!!!

Now I must relax and breath deeply, I love the smell of a motorcycle dealership showroom!!

Catch you soon,

PS I really need to check Hettie’s agreed insured value….

Black Circles

They hold up each corner of a car or truck.
They’re round, generally black and often unloved.
They are one of the most technical elements of any motor vehicle yet are frequently ignored…..unless of course you ride a motorcycle; I’m talking about tyres.

So why do us bike riders care so much more about our rubber?

Well, in essence it’s because we rely on our tyres so much more to help us stay alive!

A tyre has to do many things in it’s working life; it has to transmit the power from the engine to the road when accelerating and then be the gripping medium to slow the vehicle under braking. It’s grooves throw water away from the contact area in wet conditions to prevent aqua planing and when you go round a corner it’s your tyres that stop you sliding off the road.

On a motorcycle the tyre has of course to work when in contact with the road at other than the perpendicular, that means when it’s leaning through a corner. If you look at a motorcycle tyre you will notice how it’s profile is very different to that of a car or truck version; in cross-section it’s rounded with curved walls, whilst a tyre on a car has generally straight-ish sides.

Harls Skinny Front Wheel, with new Michelin Commander tyre.

Put a group of motorcycle riders together and pretty soon the conversation will turn to the topic of tyres and then become apparent that there are many different views and opinions on “the black stuff.” Fortunately the tyre manufacturers have noticed this too, so the range and choice available to bike owners is quite large, if not a tad confusing! In general, the sports bike rider is best served of all with tyres for every possible scenario catered for; there are hard compounds, soft compounds, dual hard/soft, wet tyres, road legal slick types and goodness knows how many other offerings!

Now I have a bit of a “thing” about tyres too, particularly those for my Harley Davidson motorcycles.

As standard the tyres that are fitted as original equipment to Harley Davidson’s are made by Dunlop. Indeed, until recently, these tyres were all that was “approved” by Harley Davidson to be fitted to their machines. All good “Union-Produced-Made-in-the-USA” stuff. I acknowledge that motor companies spend many millions on research and development, but that these tyres have earned the nickname “Dunlop Ditch Finders” amongst a lot of end users tells quite a lot about their performance!

It’s in that word “performance” that the issue lies and where the inflexible approach by Harley Davidson is, in my mind, working against them. I’m sure that from their base in Milwaukee the Harley Research and Development Girls and Boys look out at the Mid-West Plains or the sun-baked highways of Arizona and California and truly believe that the good old Dunlop D4xx family are really a “one-size-fits-all” answer. Only they are most definitely not.

On the Grössglockner, sunny but cold.

The tyres are made of a hard rubber compound, rock hard in fact. True they last forever, some folk get well over 15,000 miles out of a set, but it’s a trade-off as the tyres don’t really “work” at the average temperatures we enjoy here in Northern Europe and probably a fair slice of the USA as well! Yes I know that there are folk in the USA who swear by the stock Dunlop, mainly because they last forever, but hear me out…

Riding in Provence a couple of years ago with “Baby” my big tourer, the air temperature was around 40°Celsius and only then did I feel that the D402’s were gripping the road well; though that could have been because the asphalt was melting! Earlier in that trip I had been riding through the Black Forest in Germany, temperatures were around 10°C and it was raining, grip was scarily minimal, especially cornering, when the back-end of the bike twitched as the tyre frequently lost grip through the bends. Not nice!

40ºC it’s hot, very hot.

So what’s the answer?

Well a quick look on a couple of on-line Harley forums threw up two interesting schools of thought.
a) High mileage is good, doesn’t matter if it doesn’t grip the road well.
b) Must grip the road in all conditions, especially the wet, but mileage doesn’t matter as much.

Broadly: a) = North America b)=Northern Europe!

For me it’s a case of find a tyre that does work in cooler wetter climates…but to be honest, for a Harley the choice is very limited. Aside from the stock offerings for my big tourer, I’m looking at tyres made by Avon, Metzler and Michelin.

There is another type of Dunlop, GT502, which H-D fit to some their Custom Vehicle Operations machines and from personal experience on Harls, these are a fantastic tyre; grippy in wet and dry, with a lovely rolling action, but with the trade-off of relatively short mileage….but they don’t make them for the bigger bike!

I’ve used Avon’s on my Softail previously and have been very pleased with them. Metzler are a new manufacturer to me, originally based in Germany, but now owned by Pirelli of Milan…so many decisions! In recent times H-D have begun to approve some tyres made by Michelin, but as yet I haven’t received any reliable feedback on these.

Spot what’s missing!

OK here’s the plan.

Softail Harls needed a new set of boots this summer, she had a set of the Dunlop GT502’s put on a couple of years ago and I wanted stick with them, but unfortunately they seem to be currently unavailable at the moment; bummer! So taking a leap of faith I’ve gone for the Michelin “Commander,” lets see how we get on. Initial feedback is that I like them, I’ve only done around 220 miles on the new rubber so far, but I can report that they heat up nicely, grip well and best of all feel great in the wet; so big smiles all round….if you excuse the pun!

New Michelin Commander on the rear of Harls.

I’ll report further when I’ve done a more meaningful mileage.

Then I’ve got to figure out which tyre to fit on Baby Blue….!

Just to close…

A couple of years ago Mrs Dookes overheard one of her colleagues talking on the telephone to a tyre supplier when their car needed a new set of rubber, it went like this…

“I need some new tyres for my car please. What size? Well, er ‘medium’ I suppose, oh and black ones too.”

Catch you soon.


Milwaukee Eight

It’s that time of year when the Harley Davidson Motor Company and to be honest most of the other manufacturers, roll out their new motorbikes for the coming season. To be honest, I only normally only pay passing interest to the latest shiny stuff, but every now and then something really grabs my attention.

This year it was Harley’s launch of the new Milwaukee Eight engine.

OK, I admit, it did come about in a roundabout sort of way….

When I saw that Harley Davidson had unveiled a 107cubic inch capacity engine, that’s about 1750cc in metric terms, the thought crossed my mind, “Why?”

Let’s face it, Harley Davidson’s aren’t noted for being the fastest and sexiest handling motorbikes on the street, but what they do they do pretty well…in a rather idiosyncratic Harley way that you either love or hate.

The current “Big Twin” engine is the 103cubic inch, 1690cc, which has been around since its launch in 1999 and has equipped the Touring and Cruiser models since then. All of these engines have been air-cooled, apart from those fitted to the bigger Project Rushmoor Tourers, such as my big blue Ultra Limited, which enjoy dual air/liquid cooling. To my mind the 103 with its simple twin cams has been pretty much fit for purpose and certainly pushes out enough power for my needs!

So what’s the deal with an even bigger power unit?

Well, according to H-D, the customer wants more power and an engine that runs cooler. So that’s exactly what they have delivered!
The new engine may at first glance look the same as the 103, but that is really where the similarity ends. Yes, there’s the familiar 45° V-twin shape but look closely and things are subtly different. Inside it’s all new. To start with, the two new cylinder heads each have four valves – hence the “Milwaukee Eight” tag, eight valves in total. The exhaust valves are liquid cooled as standard, quite an innovation for Harley Davidson, but also making life much more pleasant for the rider by assisting in reducing exhaust temperatures by around 100°. The compression ratio is pushed up to 10:1 with thin “low-tension” rings fitted to each piston, Harley claims that these rings will reduce drag inside the engine and hence improve efficiency. To ensure complete combustion each cylinder is fitted with two spark plugs. Engine management is facilitated by knock sensors, that keep everything running smoothly by very cleverly keeping the bang just far enough advanced to prevent pre-ignition. All this leads to an increase in torque of around 10% over the old engines and better compliance to ever demanding emission regulations.

Interestingly the new engine has only a single cam shaft, Harley claim that this reduces mechanical engine noise, though as most owners will probably slap after-market road-rumbler pipes on their bikes, I find the claim that this is important to be somewhat strange!

Cut away view of the Milwaukee Eight. Photo: Harley Davidson.

Cut away view of the Milwaukee Eight.
Photo: Harley Davidson.

Like the old 88inch Evo engine fitted to Softails, such as my Harls, the 107 is counterbalanced to reduce vibration, though rubber engine mounts certainly play their part too; riding proved the point beautifully!

Which leads me to Plymouth Harley Davidson, who very kindly gave me the opportunity to test ride one of the new models.

Now being an engineer by nature, I worry when presented with a brand new bike with only 169 miles on the odometer and the instruction to “Go ride it!” I just can’t let myself get too carried away, but Kevin at the Dealership assured me that I was in for a treat….

Looking around the Demo bike, a Street Glide Special in Hard Candy Custom Hot Rod Red Flake (honestly!) there were one or two nice little improvements; like new manually adjustable rear suspension, improved stiffened front forks and better pannier fixing. The new engine nestles nicely in the frame and the modified exhaust pipes both look and sound superb once the 107 burst into life.image

Drawing away I was struck by the new clutch, it feels crisp and usable, but that could be because it was hardly broken in. Like all Harleys, the gearbox has a reassuring clunkiness – something I like, but I know many folk hate; you’ll never please everyone! Out on the road I got caught at a set of lights and immediately noticed just how smooth and vibration free the new engine was at idle, really nice.

Then things got better, a whole lot better!

I swung the Road Glide onto the dual carriageway of the A38 and accelerated up through the gears. Now allowing that I had ridden to Plymouth on my Ultra Limited, which weighs in at nearly 500kg with a full tank plus me on board and the Road Glide is over 50kg lighter, the acceleration was more than impressive, it was fantastic…particularly at the higher end where Harley’s traditionally fade. This is an engine that gives its best at higher revolutions!

At speed the bike felt nice and “planted” on the tarmac and certainly had power to spare. Leaving the main highway and onto more twisty roads I was impressed with the new suspension, the front end was nice and firm whilst the rear sat nicely on the road without any wallow, though I must confess to not fiddling around with any settings. The linked, abs fitted, Brembo brakes give a feeling of confidence, this baby can stop in a hurry too!

Riding the bike a couple of nice little tweaks were noticeable. On the left hand side the new slimline clutch cover gives more room to the riders ankle whilst on the right the air cleaner case has a nice taper at the rear which allows your knee to sit snugly against the tank happiness on both sides of the body which on a long trip can make the world of difference!

When I returned the bike, Kevin, unsurprisingly, asked me what I thought of it?
“It’s something special!” I replied. “Very special.”

It’s clear that Harley Davidson have thrown plenty of resources at the Milwaukee Eight project and have trod a difficult path between the outright modern and the “Harley Tradition.” I feel that they’ve more than got it right, this evolution of the marque must surely be a winner.

So yes, I like the Milwaukee Eight a lot, an awful lot!

Enough to chop in one of my existing stud, or even splash out on a new one to join them?

Baby and Harls, going nowhere without me on board! Photoshopped by Ninja Alba.

Baby and Harls, going nowhere without me on board!
Photoshopped by Ninja Alba.

No, I’m not ready for that yet. I’m still enjoying getting to know my Rushmore Ultra Limited and as for Softail Harls….well she’s part of the family! Longer term, when I decide that the big Ultra Limited is just too big, I may be tempted with one of those lighter Street Glides, but not just yet.

I have seen the future though and it’s written “Milwaukee Eight.”

With massive thanks to Kevin, Chris and all at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the loan of their bike which made this review possible.

Catch you soon.


Melting Again

I’m quite proud to be labelled as an “All Weather Rider.”

Now normally, to most people, this would indicate I am some kind of mad-man who enjoys riding in the rain! Well, not exactly thank you, like most sensible folk on two wheels I would really much prefer to ride in dry daylight, but when you do long distance road trips you sometimes have to contend with what nature throws at you.

Over the years, weather-wise, I think I’ve just about collected the set, ridden in everything that there is and yes had a few “Squeaky-Bum” moments along the way as well. Sometimes though, it’s the conditions that appear the most benign that can catch out the unwary and hot days are right up there!

The hottest temperature that I’m aware that I’ve ridden in was last year in Provence, South East France, when the mercury was nudging 40 degrees Celsius, that’s about 104 Fahrenheit. Add into the mix a whopping big V-Twin engine between the legs and you can appreciate that it was bloody hot! The biggest problem with days like that is fatigue, you quickly get tired in the heat which screws your reactions and clouds judgement. Dehydration can be a real issue too.

Now all of this is very predictable if you are riding in countries where high climatic temperatures are the norm. Here in the UK though, we don’t have a climate… we just have weather!

On Tuesday this week Mrs Dookes had a business meeting in Plymouth, that’s the famous sea port city about 25 miles from Dookes H.Q. and as her meeting would be over by lunchtime we decided to meet up for a bite to eat. All good so far.

I thought it would be nice to take “Baby” for a little ride around and enjoy some of the good weather. I set out and rode a nice sixty mile loop taking in the lovely A374, with its twisty bends from Trerulefoot to Torpoint, before taking the chain-ferry across to Plymouth.

Torpoint ferry, not high on the list of best looking ships!

Torpoint ferry, not high on the list of best looking ships!

What I didn’t realise was that whilst we were out the temperature would soar to 30 degrees Celsius and guess who put the wrong jacket on and took the wrong bike as Baby’s faring keeps all the passing breeze off me? Fortunately I took a change of shirt and a handy towel as by the time I arrived for our lunch date I was, frankly, dripping!

Our rendezvous was the old Royal William Yard in Stonehouse, a part of Plymouth that lies adjacent to Devonport Naval Base on the Hamoaze estuary.IMG_1681

The yard was a major victualling depot for the Royal Navy from 1826 until 1992. It’s an amazing 16 acre site that is all historically protected and although now in private hands still very much retains it’s identity and heritage.

Once a store for beer, spirits and vinegar; now expensive apartments.

Once a store for beer, spirits and vinegar; now expensive apartments.

Urban re-development has converted many of the buildings into award-winning swanky apartments, boutiques, exhibition halls and restaurants. There are still odd corners that await the developers touch,IMG_1695 but largely most of the restoration is now complete. It is, however, one of the most impressive industrial monuments in the whole of the UK.

The scale of what this place did in its heyday is amazing. On site was a flour mill, bakery, slaughterhouse, butchery, brewery and cooperage, not to mention dozens of other smaller workshops and storehouses. Worthy of note is that the flour mill could produce 270,00 pounds/122,500kilos of flour every week, that’s an awful lot of bread and ships biscuits!

Part of the brewhouse, now a restaurant.

Part of the brewhouse, now a restaurant.

The impressive buildings were designed by the architect Sir John Rennie and are built of local limestone and granite. The whole site is also paved with similar stone cut to engineered precision, these are not common cobbles! image

Anyway, we had a super lunch with great views up the river towards CornwallIMG_1686…..then it was time to start-up Baby and cook a bit more!

Next day, it was ten degrees cooler and today it’s been raining!
Like I said, we just have weather!

Catch you soon.


Taking The Long Way

The wonderful summer weather is fast becoming a mere memory as we slip firmly into autumn. Sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean our county of Cornwall certainly gets more than its fair share of storms and gales, this last week we got the first one of the season. To be fair it was more like 24 hours of squalls, but the leaves started to spin off the trees as the rain came down in whipping sheets.

Not surprising then that Harley and I haven’t been out much in the last two weeks. I’m not at all bothered by whatever the weather is when I ride, but sometimes if it’s just for pleasure and its chucking it down I’ll pass and wait for the clouds to scud by. Coupled with other life pressures I really have not had time to get out on the road. Actually its the longest period of time that I have not ridden her since March this year, shocking, absolutely shocking!

This weekend I have made sure I got everything else done and today I carved out some time to go get mellow, on my beloved Harley.

We needed a few supplies, so I took a right and headed up the A30, crossing the border into England and pointed to Okehampton on the northern side of Dartmoor. It was good to blow the cobwebs away, but hell there were some real jerks in cages out there on the road! A quick stop for supplies and a complementary coffee, some of you will guess which supermarket I shop at, then time for a decision.

I really wanted a chilled out ride, without having to street-fight the cages, so I took the West Devon Ride back towards Cornwall. This is the old A30 road, the one that existed before the dual carriageway trunk route was built. In fact it follows the old trade route that dates back before the Romans. It runs from Sourton on the west edge of Dartmoor to Launceston on the east edge of Bodmin Moor and is twenty five miles of really enjoyable riding. Today it was empty, very like some of my favourite French roads. Harley was able to sit at a legal yet quick pace and I was able to get stuck into some nice corners whilst enjoying the changing autumn colours and the great scenery. The air is beginning to get a bit of a chilly bite to it and I was pleased to be able to adjust my heated jacket to stay snug. Passing through a couple of villages the smell of wood smoke showed that we were not the only ones with the heating on! After Launceston we kept to the back roads, taking the long way and just enjoying ourselves. Those bends were just great! No photos, I was too busy having fun!

OK you want a picture? Not the best but hey, I’ve spoilt you all in the past!

Well, last Thursday evening at Plymouth Harley Davidson we were invited to the launch of the 2015 models. Big emphasis was the new Road Glide, which to be honest doesn’t really do it for me. There is a big boxy faring on the front that I just can’t quite appreciate, but each to their own. I do however, like the Rushmore Electra Glide and also the new metallic blue colour for this year. This is the blue on a V-Rod muscle bike.



…and this is the 2015 model of the Electra Glide Ultra Limited.

P1020643.JPG Silver and black looks nice, but for me it really needs to be a solid colour. These are big bikes, 103cubic inch (1690cc) engine, dry weight of 398kg, 2.6 metres long and a top speed in excess of 120 mph. Nice!

Gotta say I’m pretty smitten, I think I feel a test ride coming on. Can’t hurt to try one, can it????

P1020644.JPG I can just see myself sitting here!

“I always find my way somehow, by taking the long way around”

Catch you soon.


Black Stuff

The season is certainly marching on here in the beautiful South West of the UK and although I have been pretty hectic work wise, Harley has not been forgotten and we have still been clocking up the old miles! The late summer sun and Mrs Dookes’ spearmint has certainly found favour with the butterfly population as well.

Whilst carrying out a pre-ride check the other day I noticed that the tyres were starting to look a little worn, not at all dangerous as there is still plenty of tread depth left, but I don’t like to let them get down to the legal minimum before replacing them. This set of rubber were put on the old girl earlier this year around the time of her service, which got me thinking…

The tyres on a motorbike are one of the most safety critical components that there are. They have to handle every control input that you ask of them; acceleration, braking and cornering, and do it in all conditions be it wet, dry, hot or cold. Unlike a car they don’t just prop up the corner of the machine in a constant plane, they have to work just as well, if not better, when they are leaning over at speed through a bend as they do upright and trundling. They also have to do this keeping the motorbike under control with only a couple of square inches, or centimetres if you’d rather, in contact with the road surface. No wonder all sensible motorcyclists spend plenty of time looking after their tyres, keeping them at the correct pressure and checking that they are in good order.

If you drop in on most good motorbike forums dotted around the internet, sooner or later you will find pages of discussion on the subject of tyres. Yeah I know, it all sounds a bit sad and boring, but believe me when a motorbike tyre decides not to grip with you on board, boring it ain’t! So it’s not at all unusual to find discussion on the Holy Grail of tyres in a seemingly never-ending quest to find which is “best”.

For some time now I have come to the conclusion that this thing “best” is a very personal matter and it really depends just what you want to do when you ride your bike. For most riders, it is, like life, all a bit of a compromise! There are literally hundreds of different tyres on the market these days and finding one that does exactly what you want can take a bit of trial and error. Let me at this point be clear on one significant factor; providing that your choice of manufacturer and tyre model conforms to one of the international standards it is unlikely that you will find a “bad” tyre…its just that some are better than others, way better!

One slight disadvantage that us Harley riders have, is that our choice of tyre is quite limited as not many manufacturers cater for our big bikes. Original equipment and therefore Harley Davidson approved, is covered by just Dunlop and Michelin who supply “Harley Davidson” branded tyres that have been specifically designed for specific bike models. One common complaint that I have heard many times is that these branded tyres whilst excellent for longevity are a tad “lively” in the wet. Certainly my own experience with the bog standard Dunlops confirms this.

My quest for the perfect rubber for Harley has taken us through a number of manufacturers and tyre models, but now I believe I have found the best yet and its all down to my mate Kirk at Plymouth Harley Davidson.

…and so back to when Harley was being serviced in March. I knew that I needed to buy a new set of rubber, but I was not over happy with the idea of a standard set of Dunlop “boots”. In discussion with Kirk, he suggested that I try a different model of Dunlop tyre, the GT502, which it is claimed is more suited to the “sporty” Harley rider. Now, I have to say that I was a bit sceptical as the set of Dunlops that I was replacing were awful on wet roads and I wasn’t sure if Kirk was just going for a sale! When he offered to get in any other tyre that I wanted I was finally persuaded and in due course a new set of the 502’s were fitted.

I think I have probably said on previous posts that all new motorbike tyres need careful bedding in and so these were given about a hundred miles to settle down. Initial impressions were good, but as time went on these tyres just got better and better! They have now done over 5000miles in all weathers and temperatures, off-road in a desert even sleet in the Pyrenees and all without the slightest hint of loss of grip. I am both very impressed and very pleased. So thank’s to Kirk for the advice and guess what, I’ll be back for another new set soon!


Please note usual disclaimer; other than as a very satisfied customer I have no connection to either Dunlop nor Harley Davidson nor am I saying that these tyres would suit everyone, but they work for me…

“This wheel’s on fire, rolling down the road…”



Silly Season and Slippery Stuff

Living in the beautiful County of Cornwall in the South West of England has it’s advantages. For example, we are surrounded by sea, well on three sides anyway! The scenery is generally fantastic, not like the French Alps, but very easy on the eye. The local produce, particularly the sea food and the famous Cornish Pasty is renown the world over. All of which at this time of year leads to one thing, yep that’s right, hoards of visitors, holiday-makers…or as we call them in these parts, Emmetts!

Most of the time these in-comers are pretty benign. They add millions of pounds to the local economy, which in turn provides jobs in tourism, catering, hotels and other service industries. The cost, however, is borne by the infrastructure and most noticeably the roads. We have a joke around here about public holidays, the extra day off is provided because you need an extra day to get anywhere! The last week most of the schools finished for the summer, so this weekend has heralded the beginning of “The Silly Season” as the liberated masses headed off on holiday.

Harley and I hit the road very early on Saturday morning and headed West along the A30, the main arterial highway through Cornwall. Every lay-by across the fifteen miles of Bodmin Moor was jammed up with caravans and motorhomes and even at six thirty in the morning the traffic was both heavy and driving along like total morons! The outside lane was busier than lane one as the overloaded masses lumbered towards the seaside disregarding all laws of the road….you all know my views about most British car drivers by now, but this was my worst nightmares all rolled out as one and right on my doorstep! Oh the joy of another six weeks like this, until they all go home for the winter! That said the weather was superb and it was great to be out, mind you I have ridden Harley just about everyday since returning from France…I just can’t get enough of that bike!

Later in the day we headed up to Plymouth Harley Davidson, via the A38, to buy some bits and pieces, the traffic was still heavy, but as we were generally heading against the flow of holiday traffic it wasn’t too bad, especially in ‘street fighter’ mode! Unlike In France, the British car driver always seems determined to make life difficult for us bikers; little tricks like driving over to the right as much as possible, blocking at junctions and racing at the end of a dual carriageway. Pretty dumb really, as most motorcycle riders are going to be quicker, much more nimble in an overtake and yes, better trained to boot and also as car drivers ourselves know the difference in relative performance between the two machines! Rant over, for now!

I said I needed some bits, actually I wanted to give Harley an oil change as we have been racking up the old mileage since the service in Spring. It has been said that oil is cheap, but engines ain’t, and I certainly buy into that sentiment! This afternoon I jacked Harley up on the workshop stand and set to work. It’s not a difficult job, nor,  if you get it right, very messy…except for removing the old oil filter which is as messy as it gets, cos H-D designed the thing to lay on its side and when you unscrew it at least half of it’s contents of old oil have got to run out, it’s a gravity thing! This what it looks like when the filter is off.imageYes, I’d cleaned up the majority of the spill! And with the new filter fitted it looks like this..image

Three point three litres of this good stuff later.imageOnce all the work was done and the engine was bench tested it was time for a road test, just to make sure all was well. So we headed out onto Bodmin Moor for a gentle(ish) test ride.

She felt fine, but the Emmetts were still in evidence! As I put in an overtake on a heavily loaded Peugeot, with a big Wigan Athletic sticker on the rear window I was treated to cigarette ash being flicked out of the window into my face, nice. Passing the idiot, I gave the driver a suitable glare as he flicked more ash out of the window with his right hand, whilst holding a mobile phone to his ear with the left hand! I can only assume that he had very cleaver knees or was concealing a midget in his crotch who was steering for him!!!! Perhaps his name was William, William Anchor!

I stopped Harley for a quick check, all was well, so I grabbed a quick photo and headed back to Dookes H.Q.. Time to get the barbecue going!

image“I need a shot of salvation baby, once in a while…”



Service and Touring Screens

The beautiful early spring weather is still with us here in Cornwall, which is great for catching up on all those outdoor jobs that I’ve been unable to do in the winter rains. The trouble is that I really want, no, need, to get out and enjoy it on Harley! Today though, I managed to combine both…so totally guilt free!
I think that I have said before that Dookes H.Q. is about 300 years old and as such makes quite a few demands maintenance wise. The current project is to sort out a fifty foot length of French drain where the old terracotta pipes have collapsed and need to be replaced. Having spent the first part of the morning on preparation work I realised that I needed to get an extra pipe connector….better get Harley out!
Earlier this week Harley was in the Plymouth Harley Davidson dealership for her annual service and when I was getting her ready, just to make life a bit easier for the technicians, I took off both the panniers and the Touring Screen. Without the screen I think that she looks as sexy as hell!

So when I popped out for the connector I left the screen off, just to look cool!
It only took a few miles before I realised how much difference that piece of plexiglass makes! Boy, did the wind give me a battering once we got over sixty miles per hour. The round trip was only fifty miles, but by the time I got home I was feeling like I’d been doing a hundred press ups, such was the pummelling that my upper body got! The screen went straight back on! After her service Harley felt crisp and responsive, as always a joy to ride, just a tad sweeter for a bit of T.L.C.!
Lovely light across Bodmin Moor, what a great place to live!

Now it’s time to sit down in front of the T.V. and watch the last of this year’s Six Nations Rugby, the drains can wait until tomorrow!

No wrong, no right.
I’m gonna tell you there’s no black and no white.

Catch you all soon,

Coast to Coast

Today, an autumn gale is drumming on the window of the Dookes Man-Lab, Planet Rock fills the spaces between the staccato of the cold rain and the howling wind. This is also Battle of Britain Day, when we should remember the events of 1940 and the heroic exploits of “The Few” who fought and died in the skies above us and why you and I are free to write and read this in English not German. Yesterday, however, the sun shone and it was time, time to ride.  A nice leisurely mile munching ride, to get the old head straight again. True I had to look in on a couple of work matters, but lets forget that stuff, here’s to two wheels and a pulsing engine between yer knees!

I called into the Harley Dealership in Plymouth, hell, I say that a lot don’t I! The new 2014 models are in…oh boy am I smitten!  This is the new Electra Glide Ultra Limited, I’m not sure about the paint scheme on this particular bike, but the developments that H-D have put into the design are stunning. I’m booking a test ride very soon! DSCF2831

Yes, I know, it’s massive, 398kg to be precise, but it does have a 1690cc twin cam engine, linked ABS brakes, re-worked front end and loads of extras!!!! Just the thing for long distance touring….DSCF2833

Lots of other new models as well, with some really neat details. Fat Bob.DSCF2840DSCF2842Forty Eight.

DSCF2844DSCF2846Anyway, enough drooling; we hit the road and headed north up to Lea Moor. Then on to Dartmoor which was as special as ever.DSCF2852 DSCF2853

Pushing on north we followed the A386 through Torrington all the way to Bideford, coast to coast on the same road, through some of the finest countryside in the South West.  Harley and I popped in to say “hi” at Vifferman H.Q., (Thanks for the tea Mrs Viff!) before heading back to Cornwall via Holsworthy. About 150 miles in total, a nice relaxed ride out.

Catch you all in the fresh air; I believe I’ll ride ride on down the road, as far as I can go…