Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sunday 28th Feb
Rain, rain go away come again another day! Driving rain and strong winds: not the most auspicious start but then again what can we expect starting the first European leg of our challenge in the depths of winter. The bad outlook was not helped by a phone/alarm/time zone confusion which had me outside packing up the bike thinking I was very clever and early when in truth I was an hour late and Danny had been too polite to knock on my door. Still, we were away by a very reasonable first day time and off into the grey murk. However, within an hour, the temperature was bearable, there was a hint of sun and the music on the iPod was chasing the ‘missing the family for 2 weeks’ blues away. Happy days were short lived though. I have ridden in some strong winds in the UK from time to time. I’d even say that some of them were a little scary. However, today brought a whole new meaning to the need for clean underwear. A solid 5 hours of barely controlled weaving and central reservation avoidance was the worst road wind knows either of us have ever encountered. It’ll be neck aches in the morning. We did come through the first 540 mile day – we even met a guy who knows Craig from his local! Currently sat writing the blog in the gloriously green and red Ibis Geneva – lucky us!
Saturday 27th Feb
After waking up on Saturday morning to the sound of torrential rain on the morning I was to meet Graham Hoskins at the Ace Cafe bike show at the Alexander palace to head off on a 7000 mile journey around the Med. We are taking in 14 countries in 15 days and I was not in any way enthusiastic about hacking down the North Circular Rd. But I did. And got soaked. My phone got waterlogged and stopped working. I was meant to be doing a Radio interview with DJ Elaine for Colourful radio, which I missed. My Mrs and kids were there as were Graham’s. We were introduced on stage by Mark Wilsmore from Ace Cafe. Then it was time for the big send off. After I sat on the most perfect bike ever for me, The Black Jaguar low rider. We set off.... to Victoria to get our passports which were at the Visa Agent because the Algerian Consul didn’t sign the visa in time for the trip. So the first drama had reared it’s ugly head and now we had to bypass Algeria and get a ferry to Tunisia. We were now on our way to the Channel tunnel. We arrived in Calais about 6 o’clock and Got our heads down. Waking up was like the end of a nightmare. I got all my time back to front and what was meant to be a rendezvous at even at the bike turned into heart failure. I looked out of the window and one of the bikes was gone! It was also crapping it down. Thank the lord Graham had moved his bike out of the rain and under the canopy whilst I was dribbling on my pillow dreaming of a Caribbean holiday. I went to rescue my bike and to my horror found my bank card lying in a big puddle in the car park. It was the shape of the things to come that day.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Honda Institute - Thursday 11th Feb

As we've never ridden these particular bikes before and we'll be riding without the benefit of make-up trucks or indeed support vehicles of any kind, it made good sense to get some expert advice from the Honda team themselves. We simply couldn't risk standing on the roadside in the middle of the Sinai desert scratching our sunburnt foreheads because we didn't know how to get a tyre off or where to find the air filter!

So we managed to earn ourselves an invite to that most elusive of treasures, the Honda Institute Press workshop. Here is where you will find a mind boggling array of mechanical wonders from Fireblades to Mugen Civics.

Matt (the Master Technician) showed where to find some of the more obvious parts like air filter, battery, throttle and cluth cable point etc. i have no doubt that we'd eventually have worked them out for ourselves but the thought of having to do so in a sandstorm with a deadline looming over fills me with cold fear so better to be prepared! We're riding with inner tubes rather than tubeless tyres as they are easier to repair on the roadside. Changing tyres was a real psychological barrier for me because for 25 years I've alway taken my motorbike wheels to the shop to get the tyres changed - now I know that we'll be able to deal with any tyre shaped problem. And thanks to Chris Scott's Adventure Motorcycling Handbook for the side-stand bead breaking trick!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

MCN Bike Show, Thursday 4th February

[Graham, 4th Feb]

I'm a regular visitor to the MCN Bike show but this year was very different. We were off to Excel to promote the ‘Iron Butts’ Challenge and to find many more supporters! And what a day it was. After a good look at all the latest shiny machinery, trendy clothing and ‘must have’ gadgets, I was joined by Danny in the afternoon to get to work on our contacts. With our best networking faces on, we worked our way round the show and our ranks of supporters were swelled by MCE Insurance, REV’IT! and Draggin Jeans to name just a couple.

What became apparent very quickly at the Show was the incredible popularity of both the ‘Red Dwarf’ cult TV series and Danny himself, known predominantly for his characters ‘the Cat’ and Duane Dibley. We couldn’t move ten feet without another enthusiastic fan asking for an autograph or a photo. It’s heart warming to meet fans that have followed the series since the late 1980’s to this day.

We also met with a load of young and old hands from the industry – everyone from the young biking maestro Bradley Smith, to the head of BSB, Stuart Higgs. It would not have been possible to find a more friendly and supportive bunch. Even the legendary photographer ‘Mad Dog’ Keith Martin has agreed to take an action photo of Danny with our Honda Transalps, to auction after the challenge.

Finally, we had ourselves photographed for MCN and interviewed for – look at the last 2 minutes of this clip

Follow our blogging next week as we visit Honda for some hands-on mechanical training.