Saturday, 25 February 2012

Ride out to Churnet Valley Railway

Our three Suzuki Freewinds at Kinsley & Frogall station 
today; Malcolm's, Tony's, and mine

This weekend the Churnet Valley Railway in Staffordshire is holding a Cauldon Lowe Steam Weekend, with steam trains working from Frogall up the Churnet valley to Leekbrook Junction, then along the eight mile branch to Cauldon Lowe. Malcolm, Tony and myself decided to have a ride out on our Suzuki Freewind motorcycles to get a 'fix' of live steam!

We rode via the Marton, Bosley and Leek and arrived in plenty of time to have a look around before the train from Cauldon Lowe arrived, hauled by Stanier Black Five 45379. The Black Five uncoupled, took on water, and ran around the train to position onto the front ready for the 12:15 departure back to Cauldon Lowe.

Malcolm, on the right, admires the Stanier Black Five on the 12:15 to Cauldon Lowe

Tony takes an interest in 45739's Walchaerts Valve Gear while Malcolm 
(in the foreground) sets up a photo shot. 

 45739's cab; the fireman was preparing his fire for the one in forty gradients on the 
Cauldon Lowe branch

Me and a smokey Black Five 

After some lunch we headed up to Ipstones railway bridge, where we caught 45739 pounding up the bank to Ipstones summit with that distinctive Black Five 'bark' from her chimney

The locomotive tops the incline; the view from the other side of the road bridge at Ipstones

We rode back through Peak District through Hulme End and Longnor. Here we stop for a coffee from our flasks at the Cat & Fiddle Inn. 

My Freewind, back home after the ride and following a wash to remove any road salt 
before it causes corrosion


Thursday, 23 February 2012

The bikes wake up for the new year

T140D Triumph Bonneville UK Special furthest from camera, Suzuki F650 Freewind nearer

Today was the first this year suitable for the bikes to come out. The Freewind was out a couple of times in December, but since then it's been so cold that the roads have been covered in salt, which causes severe corrosion. Not only was today much warmer, but earlier in the week we had a lot of rain to wash the salt away.

First out was the Freewind, which I rode to Northwich to pick up a Givi top box and rack I bought yesterday on eBay. You can see those fitted in the photos here (the rack atop the box). Last year I found a Givi base plate on eBay brand new and unused that was specifically made for the Freewind; these are like hens teeth as they didn't make many and production ceased about ten years ago, so I snapped it up for a very good price and fitted it to the bike. The Givi box I bought today clips straight onto it (the base plate fits onto the bike's luggage rack and allows the Givi box to be clipped on and off - locked onto it by the box's key - at will).

Next, I fired up the Bonneville. She's not seen the light of day since November, but after a few kicks on the kickstart with judicious use of choke (it's either on or off; no in between, so it's easy to flood the engine if it's left on for more than a couple of kicks) she burst into life and sat blattering and vibrating on her centre stand while I got my helmet and gloves on. After filling her with fresh fuel (Super Unleaded - she has refined tastes) we headed off to the Mobberley area for a few miles around the lanes. 

It is interesting to compare riding these two bikes; the Freewind has a high seat and seems to fly along effortlessly and smoothly despite its single cylinder engine configuration. The controls are light and the brakes very effective. The Bonnie is rougher; it vibrates, especially at tickover and though it smooths out at higher revs there's no forgetting its Edward Turner 1930s parallel twin pushrod design. The clutch is heavy, the brakes a fraction as effective as the Freewind's. But it sounds glorious! And it looks good, too.

The Freewind is a far more practical machine in every way, and faster too; a great everyday bike. The Bonnie has the character! Both have immediate, accurate, and responsive handling, the Bonnie in particular feeling very 'planted' on the road. But it's the Bonnie, not the Freewind, that generates interest from bikers and non bikers whenever one stops.

Let's hope we get plenty of super riding weather this year, so both bikes can get out and about a bit.

Completely different characters - Freewind and Bonnie


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Another funeral today

 My wife's mother, Margaret this time. However, unlike my sister (see the relevant post in the blog last month), Margaret had a good innings. She died a couple of weeks ago aged 88 in the Brookview nursing home in Alderley Edge where she had been very well looked after for the last two years of her life. Chris was with her at the end, which was a peaceful one.

When you live that long, most of your friends and associates have pre-deceased you and this was the case with Margaret. So it was a small select gathering who met today on a clear blue-sky frosty morning today at Altrincham Crematorium to mark her passing. My brother in law Peter had arranged for a friend of his, a clergyman from St Mary's in Sale, to conduct the service which he did admirably. Unlike my sister's too-early departure last month, although sad that we've lost Margaret, today's ceremony felt more as though it was marking the natural progression from life to death.

We retired to the nearby Axe & Cleaver pub in Dunham Massey for an excellent lunch to give Margaret a good send off.