125cc, 2100+miles. Part 4


A view that is well recommended....apparently



Thursday 30th I awoke not recalling exactly where I was. Blinking through the fog of confusion that had been induced by alcohol the nights events began to dawn on me. I had gotten incredibly drunk on only 5 beers. What doesn't help is the beer is served in a stein, which happens to be the equivalent of 2 pints! The more awake I managed to make myself feel, the worse my head pounded. The worse the nausea waves crashed over me. Then it happened.

For the next few hours I would move from the fetal position on the bed, stagger to the bathroom. Vomit horrendously. Then on the return to my bed, consider how long I wouldn't drink alcohol for.

Thursday 30th - 2:30pm I managed a near herculean effort to drag my self from the pits of despair, organise my belongings haphazardly into and onto Jess. And after a final goodbye, set off once more. It didn't take long before my first stop, just 2 miles to be precise. I was still feeling incredibly ill and had just managed to hold the vomit in my mouth long enough to remove my helmet and deposit it at the road side. This happened again in another 2 miles and once more after another 8 miles! I wanted nothing more than to find somewhere warm and cosy to curl up and eat greasy food which would help nurse the demon hangover I was experiencing. The weather initially started dry if a little grey but it didn't take long of following the map towards a recommended road and view point before the weather closed in and drizzle set in. I pulled to a halt at a T junction needing to turn right, however, having only had a breakfast of water and a handful of crisps I was quite thankful to take a short lived shelter inside a Lidl supermarket to stock up on supplies. On leaving I deliberately donned my helmet and gloves extra slowly while huddling under the extended roof of the supermarket as the rain and now mist were looking particularly uninviting but as the moisture in the atmosphere had dropped the temperature, standing still getting cold outside was of marginally less interest.

A last glance at the map received from Rob cross referenced with google maps and I was gone. Unfortunately the combination of mist, wet tarmac and a road surface that made Jess and I feel awfully unstable. The lumps and bumps coupled with the winding roads didn't help much to make me feel any better. I was longing for a place to stop, be it a cafe, a hotel or simply anything! When I saw a wood cabin appear on my side of the road with nobody around I thought I had won the lottery and sheltered inside for a while, eating another pizza and contemplated whether it would be worth staying there and how I might set up my sleeping equipment inside.

The cabin I spent a serious amount of time contemplating whether to sleep in With no obvious way how to do so and the distance between where I was, where home was and only a limited time remaining to traverse that distance I made the decision to keep moving.

The afternoon slipped quietly into evening and my thoughts turned to where I'd sleep for the night. Riding along, scanning the smaller roads that lead off onto the hillsides covered in trees. I would pick a road, ride up the hill into the grey above, find no access or no suitable spot. Then rinse and repeat for what felt like hours. On one of the trips up the hillside the engine started to rev more than I was moving...was it clutch slip? Or had I just tuned into a noise I hadn't noticed before and was my brain now overplaying it and straining harder to listen for more of the same?

My fears were confirmed relatively quickly when on the flat road it became increasingly more difficult to prevent the clutch from slipping. It started that I couldn't use full throttle, then three quarters, then half throttle. It didn't take long before my search for someone to rest myself and the bike for the night became more frantic. More urgent. I was barely managing to keep the bike moving at more than 30mph (50kph). A terrible start to the day, add in unfavourable weather and now mechanical issues... I just wanted the day to end and I was desperate for sleep. If for nothing else, to put the day behind me. In the end I chose to camp where I was completely exposed, next to a side road at the entrance to an orchard. I cooked my food roadside by head torch and hastily retreated to my hammock with my mind running amok with the fact I was hundreds of miles from home, alone and with inadequate tools to begin diagnosing my bikes issues. Alas, tomorrow would be another day.

Mileage - Approximately 12,320


September 1st (Friday)

A later start than usual and a after a brief session on google (thank god for smart phones eh?) and I had found a small motorcycle repair shop a few miles away which I arrived at just after 9am. After a rather short discussion with my poor German and the owners slightly better English he advised he couldn't fix the bike but directed me to a Honda Dealership in Offenburg. At the dealership, and after again a combination of my poor German and even better English spoken by the staff, the nature of the problem was described and the head honcho had come to the car park. Upon setting eyes on my bike and me further explaining he could "see" what the problem was and took it around to the workshop. After a few hours, and many laps of the dealership looking at the exotica, it was explained to me that I needed a full clutch. The clutch works by a mixture of steel plates and friction plates which are either together, slipping slightly or completely engaged which allows you to disengage gears and pull away. What I was also told was the springs which also form part of the assembly needed changing as would the oil.... the best bit of all this? The mechanics were not available tomorrow with it being a Saturday to complete the work so I would have to fit the components myself. Fortunately this wasn't a huge problem as I have had some mechanical training and have always been hands on when repairing my vehicles previously but equally it wasn't one of the options I would have chosen if selecting excursions for my holiday. After an exchanging of just shy of €180, the parts were ordered for a 9am delivery tomorrow. They kindly charged my phone for me and allowed me into the workshop to collect a few belongings to allow me to camp. What struck me as odd was the engine casings had been refitted... I thought it curious as surely if the mechanics had realised the whole clutch was kaput they wouldn't then rebuild the components for me to dis-assemble again?

A short walk away there were some woods overlooking fields which I had chosen as my camping option for the night. I had my cold dinner sat in a wooden hunting hide right on the edge of the wood. The hide was full of spider webs and was slightly run down so I expect it hadn't been used for some time but it provided the perfect platform to watch the sun go down over the brilliantly green grass fields. My hammock is the type that has a bug net strung above you, you may remember seeing the image in part 1 of this story. To top off the last couple of days, I leaned down to collect something from the floor and slightly overbalanced, flipping the hammock upside as quick as a flash. As you can imagine the bug net isn't designed for people's body weight and it tore a huge hole in it while trying to turn myself the right way up! There was nothing more that I could do but put in my ear plugs to drown out the road noise and try and sleep the grump away. The ear plugs were need as the woods were bordered by a huge supermarket similar to the UK or American Costco outlet on one side, a main route through an industrial estate that the Honda Dealer was a part of on another side and the third side was a highway. It was only as I lay back and searched for them I realised I left the ear plugs with the bike. Which was now locked up inside a motorcycle dealership. Damn!

The toilet in the Dealership at least made me smile


September 2nd After the preceding days I had chosen to try to change what I could, and accept what was beyond my control. With a different and more relaxed mind set I meandered back to the dealership and arrived at around 9:20. I collected the parts which arrived and the manner in which the boss spoke with me, clipped and without pleasantries, made me think he had some kind of disdain for me. I thought not much more of it and got underway at the back of the workshop in a long and thin wooden structure. It rather reminded me of some of the wooden bridges I had seen both in Germany and on American movies but this building had been filled with lots of odds and sods like old marketing images and banners and bits of bikes that clearly weren't required any more. After removing the "offending" clutch items from my bike, I requested a service manual from the one technician that had decided to come in on a Saturday to work, and also a micrometer. A micrometer is a highly accurate measuring device which is typically horseshoe shaped with perpendicular measuring probes that will clamp around the item you want to measure. It allows measurement down to microns which are thousandths of a millimetre! I checked the friction plates, the steel plates and even the springs. Every single item was within their respective service limits. I.e. they were NOT worn out as I had been led to believe. I'd been had. I finished the job by 11am and after a quick test ride I was confident to say my thanks and goodbyes, through gritted teeth, and begin my onward journey. The weather had now turned again and was much more in my favour with vibrantly light blue with just a few small clouds for company. I headed back into France through Strasbourg, trying to make a beeline to Calais with just a minor detour to Reims to see the buildings on the D27 which once formed part of the Circuit Du Reims-Gueux and hosted racing from the early 1930's until 1964 but is now a figurative Mecca for petrol heads, myself included. With the sun still high enough in the sky and plenty of km's to complete, I popped back into Reims to fill up with fuel and continue my journey roughly due north. All was well for a short period until the dreaded experience of the engine revs rising and not corresponding to road speed. Clutch slip once more plagued me but what was clear this time is that the the clutch couldn't be at fault. Racking my brains and worried I'd ended up pushing the bike to Calais, whilst simultaneously being incredibly frustrated with the bike shop who had taken my money and not remotely helped solved the issue I realised the best thing to do was stop riding the bike at the soonest opportunity. Thankfully due to the time of the evening the main route I was on had quietened down enough that I could get the bike into a small wooded copse that ran adjacent to the road to make camp for the night without worry of being spotted. It was one of the worst nights sleep as the area had tell tale signs of being frequented by those seeking "adult activities" and it was literally a stones throw from the road. Ear plugs were donned and an early alarm set.


Mileage - 12,598.8


At the iconic Circuit Du Reims-Gueux

Sunday 2nd September

Up early and packing to hit the road as soon as possible. There were still well over 200km to Calais and a bike that I couldn't use full throttle with. My initial thought was perhaps something internal was expanding with heat and meaning the clutch either was reducing the free play in the cable, or that it was keeping pressure on the clutch plates causing the slip. My way to eliminate this from the problem was to ride with the bike whilst it was cold, on account of being sat overnight and see how things went. At first the clutch was fine and I thought perhaps I'd just have to take multiple stops to keep the bike cool however after just a few minutes the clutch started slipping again. With nothing to lose I started fiddling with the adjustment of the clutch cable at the engine casing with nothing but guess work. My thinking being if I were to adjust the cable to the extremes it would make the issue drastically worse or drastically better and therefore pinpoint it and allow me to fine tune. On the first go of adjusting the cable I appeared to hit a sweet spot and the bike pulled normally again. Hurrah! Finally I appeared to solve the issue once and for all. With the majority of the French populations till sleeping I decided to take advantage of the quiet roads and get the wheels turning to make up some time.

As I traveled onward and the closer to the coast I got, the more frequently I saw signs for military cemeteries obviously owing to the many battles that had been fought in and around the region over the relatively recent history. As I passed each one I felt pressured between making sure I got distance done just in case the bike had any further issues and ignoring the history and missing the opportunity to visit and pay my respects. Upon looking at the time I realised I had made much better than I had first thought and made the decision to stop at the next cemetery I passed. It happened to be the Adnac Military Cemetery which was dedicated to those soldiers who fell in the first word war. It was especially poignant as the sun was still rising in the distance behind the cemetery and there happened to be nobody else on the road at the time I stopped other than a few cyclists whom were also making the most of the lack of traffic. Field after field cordoned the area and only birds singing their morning songs were my company. What had shocked me is the fact that some soldiers were only identified by which side they happened to fight for. What shocked me even further is that some were merely identified as a soldier of the great war. Someone completely unknown. As I slowly walked back towards my bike it began to sink in. If it weren't for those that lay their lives in the first, and second world wars then this landscape and opportunity I had just experienced for the last week or so may not have been possible. I decided in that moment despite the issues and challenges I faced that they were insignificant and I was incredibly thankful.

A few shots of Adnac Military Cemetery - located on the D107 near Miraumont


The remainder of the journey to the euro tunnel was entirely uneventful and upon check-in I found I was able to select an earlier train time back to Dover. I still had some time to wait though and ended up chatting with Gabriel, a Romanian gentleman whom now lived in the UK and had been on a trip near the South of France. Sadly he'd had bigger issues than me and had crashed his Yamaha Fazer, though he'd managed to cobble his bike back together enough to ride home with plenty of cable ties and had been fortunate that he hadn't seriously injured himself, though he had needed a little recuperation time before continuing back home post accident. Once again I found myself boarding the train to make the short journey under the English Channel but this time the heat on the train was stifling! Perhaps it was because this time it was well after midday but for me, the train couldn't go quickly enough as the sweat was literally dripping off of me.

Wheels rolling on English soil, home soil, once again was a welcome feeling. I hadn't checked the weather forecast but perhaps I didn't need to. I could feel in the air that there was certainly rain coming and although my first 30-60 minutes were without rain, the rest of the journey certainly rained enough to account for it. Around 5 hours of riding and 4 of those were biblical rains that felt as though I had gone through a car wash, just without the shampoo and rollers. I tried to avoid looking at the miles rolling by or the distances on each signpost because if I did I mentally calculated how much longer I was going to be in this downpour for and tried to "switch off" and ride purely on auto-pilot. Navigating somewhere near Eastbourne I entered a roundabout, or a rotary/traffic circle for those perhaps reading from other countries, which happened to be downhill and off-camber all the way. I had multiple cars up behind me and as is customary, I needed to wait until there is a gap from the right-hand side for me to pull out into. It timed out that I didn't have to stop before entering the roundabout and therefore I was still carrying some speed into the turn and I needed to go nearly full circle to get to my exit. As I approached the tightest part of the turn suddenly and without warning the front tyre started to slip, just as I had realised this the back tyre started to slip also. Instinctively and more luck than judgment, I thrust my inside leg from the foot-peg and pushed into the floor as hard as I dare to try and keep the bike from slipping away any further from me. It was the wake up call I needed and from that moment I made sure I was fully alert and watching out for any further potential hazards. I'd certainly gotten fortunate with the outcome as anything else didn't bare thinking on any further. The rain continued in various persistence but at no point was it less than trickle and at it's worst it was a downright deluge. By the time I arrived back home I was soggy, slightly miserable but above all happy. Happy I was home and could get warm, dry and comfortable. But also happy for the journey, experiences and adventure. Since adjusting the clutch I had not a single further issue all the way home (and then some).


Final mileage - 12,960.7


The final photo of the trip, just outside the euro tunnel

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