Thursday, 8 March 2012

Rubbish Tuesday
Stayed at a truckers stop last night, about 175 miles south of Santander . Surprisingly clean and welcoming and dinner was only 10 Euros, including wine and beer. Breakfast was 2.euros 30. We’re missing something in the Uk.
Will helped me type tonight’s blog as he said he could touch type, which indeed he can. Unfortunately, his touch spelling was not as good, so he’s been transferred to mechanic duties.

Ice on the bikes when we started out though. Cold, cold ride until it started to warm up around 0900. Had all our gear on but still frozen feet and hands.

Peter’s float bowl held up well, having fallen off yesterday, then mended by him and Iain earlier that morning, with a few screws  nicked out of a plate in the shower. And all went well with my bike until lunchtime. Noticed a slight rattle in the engine, but nothing was obvious, so after a break for a coffee, we refuelled and jumped back on. Managed just five miles before something a horrible metallic screech rent the air and I made a rapid stop on the hard shoulder. From the oil on the leg shields, it  was clear something bad had happened. Ended up with Dennis towing me off the motorway to a service station for a closer inspection. Cam chain cover had shaken  loose and bolts holding the cam chain plate had bent and gouged out some metal – which had then fallen into the engine.
Good news was that as the engine hadn’t been started, it hadn’t gone in far but wasn’t something easily fixed in situ. So  my bike got put on the trailer. Really fed up although  I rode Steve’s Chinese 110 copy ( Steve has missed the start of the ride due to illness but is due to join us in Southern Spain) Unfortunately, his bike wasn;t really run in and had only done  274 k in total from new, which made things difficult as everybody else’s bike was up top speed and running well. It was a bit like driving  a car with the handbrake partially on. Still, better than walking or riding in the truck.
So we continued like that for several hours until Will disappeared; his float bowl had also dropped off, jut fortunately was repairable as the screws were lodged in the engine fins and so were retrievable. With that fixed, we rode on to a hotel just south or Merida. Ate at another truck stop – more good, cheap food.
Debz bike was better today. It had been using a bit of old yesterday, but now seems better, although it does struggle a bit on the hills – of which here are many. Everybody else seems ok with their bikes though.
Better Wednesday
Warmer start this morning, fewer layers, no thermal layers for me. Carried on south, me still on Steve’s bike, which was running well and loosening up noticeably from yesterday. Missed the C90 though, although me riding the 110 will help us both as Steve won’t have to run it in and it should be fully operational by the time he joins us, and I won’t have to walk. Rubbish mirrors though and I can’t see behind me at all, however, I adjust them. Can just about manage to see my arms, which is not very helpful when there are truck s thundering by that need watching. Rear brake light also packed in. Suspect it’s a connection or earth problem rather than a bulb though.
Nadine’s bike developed an exhaust problem and the nut holding the collar onto the manifold dropped out. She managed to carry on Ok though. Debz’ fared a bit better, although still slow on the hills, but everybody else got on OK.
Passed through lots of agricultural land – olive groves, fruit trees, dotted with processing plants and medieval forts. An impressive landscape that seemed to go on forever before changing to pasture land as` we climbed up into the hills. But the sun was well up by then so the temperature was comfortable. The light is stunning – golden and very bright, blue skies and very saturated colours.
Thermostat on the truck then broke, requiring another repair at a service station for about an hour. Iain sorted that, and we finally got underway .
About 100 k north of Algeciras, we hit some very long uphill drags, which Steve’s bike really didn’t. like. Lost quite a bit of power and could only be coaxed along at a maximum 30mph. We all also struggled against the wind, particularly near Seville, which was very tiring and required additional concentration because the bikes are all slight and skip about unless corrected all the time. These are little town bikes, and although they do have a great name for durability and reliability, they are not built for sustained travel at constant speed on good quality roads. They are much happier being put through their paces on rough roads over shorter distances.  Perhaps its the constant resonance and engine pitch that causes things to come loose and fall off. Initial opinion of Steve’s bike when we arrived was that the engine retaining bolts were loose, this causing the engine to vibrate slightly and the exhaust to leak and loose some compression.
Arrived at Sue and Mike’s place near Algeciras safely though. It overlooks the Med, the Rock of Gibraltar,  and the Atlas mountains are visible in the distance. Steve was also here when we arrived, all recovered from his flu and ready to go. I just hope his bike feels the same way. Site security didn’t seem impressed though that a gang of bikers had arrived in what is essentially an exclusive residential area. They arrived to check us out within minutes, but left when Mike explained that as unlikely as it appeared, we were all actually guests of his and Sue’s, and were not about the barbeque the neighbours’ dogs.
Mad the most of the fading light by doing whatever jobs we could on the bikes. Mark and Nadine rode into town and found a place to fix her exhaust tomorrow, while Iain, Steve and Gordon replaced the engine in my C90 with a 110 scooter engine, and it worked first time. Good job boys; thanks. Important note to self; run it in and don’t blow it up. We still have a very ,long was to go.
A pleasant evening and a lovely meal prepared by Sue, a bit of a down day tomorrow as we  having made it through Spain in two days and several  mishaps, we prepare to cross into Africa for the next phase of the ride.


Busy engine fixing day. Iain, Steve and Gordon spent all day at Sue and Mikes fixing various bikes while the rest of us split into teams and went off to source various parts. Mark and Mike went to Gibraltar to get various ‘bits’, and to buys some more consumables. Regrouped later at the house, then Nadine, Belle, Carolyn, Peter, Will and Sue went to  La Linea to get an exhaust  welded,  plus two foots rests. Had a stroke of luck when we happened upon a tyre place when Peter spotted bike handlebars. The man couldn’t speak English but called his wife who turned out to be Lucy from Enfield who acted as translator and explained what we needed. They obliged happily, although that’s not normally what they did, then refused to take payment. Top people – thanks Diego, Lucy and Diego senior.

Sue, Nadine and Belle were then despatched to Gibraltar to source a C90 engine. Despite the efforts of the men in the Honda dealer, Squeaky and Jayne in a back street garage ( Jayne being a South African from Jo’berg, near where Sue comes from) and then a good search of the island, nothing suitable turned up. Took us ages to get out of Gib and back into Spain – a mad traffic jam of about 300 bikes all lining up to ride along a footpath under the gaze of Spanish customs officers. Sat in the jam typing the blog.