Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Counting Blessings

Here in the UK we are currently experiencing what the meteorologists are calling “Unseasonable Weather.” In other words, cold, wet and fairly miserable. 

Living on our island, it’s something I am pretty well used to; we don’t really have a climate, just weather and an awful lot of it is wet and cold! Today a gale is blowing in off the Atlantic with strong winds and rain, plenty of both. It could be worse, we could live in a country subject to typhoons and hurricanes or year long droughts, so look on the bright side and count blessings!

The road to Col de la Lombard, 2350m and look, a guard rail!

It’s a good day to watch the rain beating on the window and dream of sunnier places and happier times. In a way it’s a bit like travelling in my mind!

High in the Pyrenees, Catalonia.

With the continuing global pandemic situation, it is not a great time to go travelling anyway.

Lunch break, Col de la Madeleine 2000m, one of my favourites.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to get back out there on the international roads as soon as I can, but I don’t need to nor have to. So I’m resigned to being patient and letting things get back to whatever the new normal is going to be before hitting the highway.

Heavenly twisty roads, Col de la Pierre St Martin 1766m.

In the meantime I have many memories and photos to refer to before that day comes, plus we live in a lovely part of the world too. 

I suppose also there’s also a bit of “Been there, Done that” at the back of my mind and that can straighten things out!

I just wish for now that it would stop raining….!

“I am travelling with you, just as I travel in my mind.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes.

These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Long Nights, Short Days

It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.

I’m very glad about that.

To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.

I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!

Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches.
It’s all magical stuff to me.

Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.

The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Still Rolling

Hello everyone.

Where has this summer gone?

The world is truly a strange place at the moment. Whilst the human population is being ravaged by a planet-wide pandemic politicians across the Continents seem to display a mixture of greed, incompetence and plain ignorance. In exchange, many of the population appear to live in fear, whilst others carry on in a self-centred bubble of denial!
As the song says,”Two men say they are Jesus, one of them must be wrong.” It sort of sums up how I feel!!!!

For lots of reasons my motorcycle activity has been somewhat limited of late.

It’s partly due to other more pressing matters, such as building work at Dookes H.Q., but also a reflection of how the current global situation makes me feel; I honestly don’t really feel that I can justify pleasure rides on a motorcycle whilst people are both dying and working so hard to contain the C19 virus.

That said, I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of our island country.

I’m only five miles away from one of the most stunning coasts in the world. Ok I’m biased, I admit!

A small shopping trip the other day morphed into an extended loop on some tourist avoiding back roads which was nice.

It really doesn’t matter if I’m on two motorised wheels or two Dookes Pedal-Powered wheels….it doesn’t take very long to go somewhere to really lift the spirits!

Then there’s Dookes H.Q., sitting outside having an evening gin and tonic the view is, frankly, delightful, I’m very lucky.

Stay safe people and I’ll catch you soon.
Dookes

Two Wheeled Time Machine

When our British Government announced the “Covid Lockdown” they were quite specific, that whilst the population must stay at home for all but essential journeys, we were allowed/expected to go out and exercise for up to an hour a day.

In other words, stay fit and healthy!

I had I think about this.

Obviously motorcycles didn’t count as “exercise” no matter how physical some rides are. Walking is OK and round Dookes H.Q. there’s lots of nice countryside, but in an hour, you can’t really go far.

Nothing for it, gotta get out the pedal bicycle!

This ticks all the boxes; two wheels, wind in your hair and covering the ground at a good pace and quite a variety of scenery in an hour!

So for the past few weeks that is what I’ve been doing.

I have a long history with bicycles. I can still remember my first, a delightful little thing with solid tyres, no danger of a puncture there! My father fitted it with stabilisers when I first had it, but they soon came off and so did I, a few times, until I got the hang of balancing on two wheels!

When I grew out of it, my Mother thought it was a good idea to buy me a used Raleigh R.S.W. 16. Yeah great, nice thought and good of her to buy it for me….but she never tried riding the wretched thing!

Raleigh RSW 16

These bikes were part of the 1970’s craze for small-wheeled utility bicycles. Do you see any around today? No you don’t, says it all really, they were heavy, uncomfortable and just awful!

Then one day at the back of our garage I discovered my Father’s old Raleigh Trent Sports.

To my young eyes this was cycling heaven. True, it was heavy as hell, but it had a four-speed derailleur gear set and drop-handle bars, it looked like a racer,I fell in love!

The old bike was dragged into daylight and it’s condition assessed.

It needed new tyres and inner tubes, all the bearings taken out cleaned and/or replaced, new brake cables, new gear change cable, new brake blocks, all the bright-work seriously cleaned.

A Trent Sports, but mine was red!


I remember Dad looking at me and just saying “ Well, if you do the work, it’s yours.”

Two weeks later, I proudly pushed the bike out of the workshop and road tested it.

The love affair continued.
I rode that bike everywhere and racked up hundreds and hundreds of miles on it.

At the back of my mind I hankered after a “ten-speed racer” and that dream eventually came true with a hand made Orbit machine.

Oh dear. Never have I been so disappointed; I just never clicked with that bike…

In a way… about 30 years ago actually, that’s where the story ground to a halt,

Until last autumn.

Call it a rush of blood to the head, call it a realisation that I needed to get fitter, call it a return to a simpler time…I wanted, no needed, a bicycle in my life again!

That’s how I became the proud owner of a Carrera Crossfire 2 hybrid.

The Crossfire


OK, it’s not he coolest looking thing on two wheels and not the lightest either, but I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go, off-road or road bike?

I started off riding round forestry tracks near to Dookes H.Q., but really I couldn’t resist getting out on the road.

Fast forward to this Spring and “Covid Lockdown.”

I’ve always felt a tad “invincible” and never thought that any silly little virus would get me…

Well it bloody nearly did for me!

I went down with all the symptoms about nine weeks ago and as it progressed…well let’s just say I wasn’t too good. No, I didn’t need hospital treatment, but it came close. I’m still not quite right; I took ages to shake off the shortness of breath and a really tight chest…but something I found helps, cycling!

Since I’ve set out to make cycling my convalescence, things have taken off for the better. I can honestly say that each time I ride I can feel myself getting better, fitter and stronger.

There’s one other thing I’ve noticed…

I’m riding a time machine.

With this lockdown, there are fewer vehicles on the road and in many ways it’s how I remember the roads nearly 50 years ago. Things are quiet, life seems to have taken on a slower pace, people smile and wave too; it’s nice.

Quiet lanes!


In my mind I’m back on that old four speed Trent Sports riding the country lanes of my youth.

There is only one downside.

I’m hankering after a road-bike now, maybe a carbon frame, 20+ gears, you know… sexy!

“I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike”

Catch you soon

Dookes

Sunnier Days

I’m sitting in our log cabin at Dookes H.Q. and looking out at the world.

The view from the cabin.


All is quiet, still and largely silent, save for the birds singing and the odd noise from sheep in the field.

Our Planet is getting quite a bit different from what it was a few short weeks ago.

Are we managing what is happening, or are we looking at extinction from the wrong end of the telescope?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that thinking of better days helps!

Earlier today I was scanning through some photos taken on my Pyrenees trip last year, they made me smile. Sunny days, people mixing freely, people enjoying themselves.

I spent my first night in the Pyrenees in the small village of Sare, which apart from agriculture and lovely scenery doesn’t have much else except campsites catering for the annual summer influx of visitors.

Just back down the road though at Col de Saint Ignace was the reason for me passing this way and after breakfast I set out to investigate “La Petit Train de la Rhune,” The Little Train of The Rhune.

This is an historic metre gauge rack railway at the Western end of the Pyrenees, which over 4.2km/2.6miles climbs to the summit of the Rhune Mountain.

The plan to build the line was first drawn up around 1908 and local Government law was passed soon afterwards with construction starting in 1912. Opening didn’t happen until 1924 though, World war One got in the way!

The railway climbs 736metres/2415ft from the base station to the summit and for the technically minded is equipped with the Strub rack system, which allows the train to literally pull itself up the mountain by a gear wheel engaging with a rack that is laid between the rails. Normal railways are pretty useless at climbing steep gradients, as the coefficient of friction between steel wheels on a steel rail is not high! The rack and pinion system gets round that problem.

One feature that makes this railway pretty special is that it is powered by three-phase electricity and there are only three others like that in the world! That’s pretty cool for an engineering geek like me!

The Complicated 3 Phase Current Collection Gear.


Services are operated by a four wheeled electric locomotive that pushes two passenger coaches up the mountain, peculiarly each coach has a four wheeled bogie at one end but only a two wheeled axle at the other; I haven’t been able to figure out why!

The railway normally operates from Mid-March until the end of September.


I considered having a quick ride, but the first train of the day was fully booked and I really didn’t feel like hanging around to see if I could get on the next one…but hey I saw it and got a few nice photos!

Just the thing to look back at and raise a smile to sunnier times!

“There is no more new frontier
we have got to make it here”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Time To Breath Again

Sometimes I feel that the world is getting more scary and crazy by the passing of each day.

When I was younger we lived under the seemingly permanent threat of nuclear oblivion in four minutes time; it was the height of the Cold War and all it apparently needed was one crazy finger on the button….!

I guess we sort of lived with it and just dealt with it. Probably most of us were so blissfully ignorant about exactly what and where the threat was coming from that we were able to get on with our lives in that isolated state. Indeed any news that did filter to the general population was either very old by the time of publication, newspapers, or restricted in its broadcast, via television and radio.

These days things are just about as different as you can get. News is instant, a social commodity and generally totally unrestricted, unedited and uncontrolled.

Hysteria by media seems now to be the norm!

Over the last few weeks the world has been gripped by the spread of a virus.

Now please don’t think that I’m making light of the situation, I’m not; I am however totally fed up with the industry that feeds, leech like, on this and any other “Bad News Story” that may be circulating.

This evening I watched a news piece on British television that dealt with hard facts and real information, it took about three minutes; then we were bombarded by a succession of journalists, not scientists nor doctors, but mere wordsmiths who spent the next ten minutes speculating and hypothesising over what “might happen next.” Please people, give us facts not gossip!

Thankfully today dawned fine, very, very mighty fine!

You know what comes next….Time to get out on two wheels!!!

I’ve realised that probably the greatest thing about retirement is the ability to say at the drop of a hat, “Stuff it all, let’s ride!”

I rolled Hettie out of the workshop and hooked up with a mate of mine; Mark is also retired…sort of, he’s an artist, but he’s also a biker who loves the Cornish countryside.

At his suggestion we headed West, to the stunning Sennen Cove.

Sennen Cove


Our ride was superb, dry roads, blue sky, fresh cool air in our faces and an almost warm sun on our backs.

Sennen lies a couple of miles from Lands End at the extreme Western tip of Cornwall, if you put to sea here and turn left, it’s next stop Newfoundland, Canada.

Canada is that way!


It can be wild in Sennen, but on a day like today it’s the nearest to heaven you can find around these parts. I sort of take the view that there is no point in living in a beautiful part of the world if you don’t enjoy it!

Sennen Cove is also home to a famous Lifeboat Station. Here two boats are manned by volunteer crew, ready to go to the assistance of any in peril on the sea at any time of the day or night, whatever the weather or sea state. These are truly very brave and dedicated people.

The lifeboat launches down this slipway.

Just what I needed to keep the old life perspective in balance!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Making Hettie Mine.

Hi Gang, sorry I’ve been off air again, but I’m back now and raring to go!

Regular Blogonaughts will probably realise that in many things I tend to be a bit of a stayer, once I find something that I like, I stick with it. Things like a comfy pair of shoes or a favourite pullover will last me for years and I’m just the same with motorcycles too.

My beloved Harls and I have been together for a long time now and over the many years we have evolved in each others company. I’ve added little things to make our ride experiences more refined and more comfortable for me and easier for her too.

Harls

It’s funny, but for some reasonI never really fully “clicked” with Big Blue, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew that she wouldn’t be around with me for long. On the other hand I’m getting along just fine with Hettie, my lovely Heritage Classic, who joined us at Dookes H.Q. in April 2018; in other words nearly two years gone by, where did that go!

The decision to part with Blue and buy Hettie wasn’t hard after I’d test ridden some of the new Harley Davidson Softail range just before their general release, they were stunningly good. It also didn’t take me very long to realise that I was onto a winner once I took delivery of Hettie either! She is one fantastic motorcycle.

Hettie

If you had told me a few years ago that I would purchase a “Heritage” Harley I would have just shook my head and walked away. The old Heritage Softail was to my eye the very typical stereotype caricature of what lots of Non-Harley riders think of when you mention the marque, all chrome and tassels! Definitely, not me. Then along came the new Softails and things were different and to my eye, different in a very good way. Although it’s fair to say that the bikes retain a certain classic period look, it’s understated and functional, but more than that, they are just sublime to ride.

At least Hettie would be, if I ever manage to get out on her!

Once I took delivery of her I quickly racked up 500miles and gave her an oil change. Now I know that Harley Davidson’s have their first service at 1000miles, but I’m an engineer of the old school…. oil is cheap, engines aren’t!

Since that 500mile oil change things slowed up quite a lot, life stuff got in the way, but now I’m starting to play catch up with Hettie, we’ve managed about 2000miles since then; that’s 2000 smile-filled miles, I’m really loving this bike!

As she looses that “new machine stiffness” I have begun to appreciate just how nice these new Softails are. Although Hettie “only” has the 107cubic inch engine, that’s 1745cc in metric, it’s more than ample for the job in hand and the way the power smoothly feeds in when asked for is lovely, there’s no bad habits with this engine.

As I get to know Hettie, I’ve begun to notice what’s missing and to make the little improvements that will make her my motorcycle.

Some things are very small and simple. I like to know the time when I’m riding and although the multifunction display will show me that, I like a real clock, so there’s an analogue clock on the right hand side of her handlebars now. With a matching air temperature gauge on the left.

On the engine bars I now have a pair of what Harley calls “Soft Lowers.” These are simple slip on wind protectors that keep the weather off my lower legs very nicely, yep, I’m getting older and liking my comforts! I have a pair of “highway peg” footrests that I may just mount on those engine bars in due course.

I’ve fitted a sport luggage rack to the sissy bar, it’s reasonably small, but just big enough to take a Givi tank-bag mounting ring like I’ve fitted to Harls. The Givi “Tanklock” system is really designed for adventure bikes and features a docking ring that is screwed around the tank filler, various different size bags can then be simply locked onto the ring as the user wishes. This system is not designed for Harley Davidson’s, but I figured out a way of attaching one of the rings to Harls’ rack and I have found the ability to have a quick release small bag to be invaluable. I’m now going to do the same with Hettie, there’s no point in having engineering skills if you don’t use them! I’ll show you that in a future post.

The latest shiny things to go on have been a pair of Screaming Eagle Street Cannon slip-on exhaust mufflers. These are the first part of what Harley Davidson call a Stage One tuning package and although they give the bike a nice low bass exhaust note, they are not noticeably louder and best of all they are street legal! We followed that with a “Stage One Tuning” engine re-map and a new air cleaner to help her breath easier.

Next up I looked at more luggage options. The original equipment panniers are ok, but Leather Pro make some lovely bags that are stylish, slightly bigger that the OE ones and have a better lock arrangement than Harley’s design, which frankly gets in the way. The Leather Pro’s have been fitted, along with a pair of luggage protector bars.

Finally, for now anyway, I’ve splashed out on a Garmin Zumo 595 Sat Nav and Touratech mount. Yes, shock horror a SatNav!!! Actually I’ve had one on Harles for a couple of years now, they can be very useful dodging the traffic!

I’m now having a think about what else is needed…as opposed to what I’d like to add!

For now, that’s enough to be going on with, other than just enjoying this wonderful addition to my riding life.

“If you start it up
Kick on the starter
Give it all you got”

Catch you soon.

Dookes