We’re approaching MoT anniversary, so I thought I’d get in there early and book the ZRX in for an MoT at a local bike shop, A Force Motorcycles in Aldershot.
I trotted up there yesterday and a thorough MoT test was carried out … with Blue Rex’s first ever failure!
The Clear Alternatives LED rear light illuminates red (and amber with the integrated turn signals) but does not shine white light down onto the numberplate, so it’s a fail. There is what appears to be a small pilot type LED which might perform that function, but the general consensus appears to be that there isn’t one. I may be able to bodge something together, but in the meantime, I rode home and then took off the rear seat cowl – revealing a missing bolt to hold the rear mudguard and under seat plastic in place, so that was replaced. I then disconnected the LED light and refitted the OEM red one (having popped to the local Jet petrol station to get a couple of 21/5W tail/stop lamps) which I keep with all the other OEM parts I’d taken off*.
I also fitted the marginally larger numberplate – I think it’s the same sized font, but just more space around it – which was the other fail item – and then this morning popped back for a free retest and pass certificate.
Mileage this year is 19,621 miles, up 159 miles from last year.
*Now we’ve moved out of London, I’m expecting to do more miles on Blue Rex, such as last weekend’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Guildford & Surrey Hills, so I’ve removed the “spools” and refitted the grab rails for Alison. Next job is removing the rear sets and refitting the standard footrests.
After a comfy limo dash in the morning we were soon enjoying champagne and plant-based curries before our flight in the British Airways B gate lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5.
A short while later, we were on the plane and just as I’d got everything in its place (and a place for everything), Alison demanded we swop seats. Citizen’s Divorce already enacted. And I wondered where all my demons should go…
Once we landed at San Francisco it was off to collect our pre-booked car from Hertz. An absolute nightmare it was too with Hertz, ￼who didn’t have our car when we arrived. After an hour’s arguing with them, they palmed a Florida-registered 5.0L V8 Mustang convertible off on us instead of the Camaro SS Convertible we’d ordered and indeed emailed about earlier that week.
Once we eventually got to the Riu Plaza Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, it was time for a gin and kebab as it was 5am UK time.
British Airways were being a nightmare before we were due to fly: despite booking our Business Class flights many months earlier, a month before flying, BA emailed us to tell us they’d cancelled our flights from London Heathrow to San Francisco.
When we’d been trying to fly out to Corralejo to move into our place out there in 2020 and 2021, the UK and Spanish governments had been opening up and locking down and easyJet were cancelling flights, so I’d become adept at moving flights and amending travel arrangements, so I was straight back online to look at alternatives, finding that BA had flights later the same day. Not ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers. I changed the car reservation with Hertz, the limousine booking with Addison Lee and sat back to make sure our COVID-19 PCR test bookings would also still work.
Later the same day, British Airways then cancelled our return flights from San Diego to London. This was more of an issue, because it meant I had to extend the car hire and the hotel. The first would not work, and the hotel? Not so much as it was fully booked, so we decided to leave the car hire as it was and book ourselves into a hotel near the airport for the extra night to suit our flights home a day later. Thankfully BA ended up paying for the hotel as compensation for the flight delay.
Whilst I was in the USA doing the Pacific Coast Highway in a 5.0L V8 Mustang Convertible, I thought it was long overdue for Blue Rex to have some care and attention, so it was off to Larry at PDQ to give it a good fettle and its MoT.
And it really was a good fettle: the old Datatool alarm was finally consigned to the bin, as was the battery. The carbs were basically overhauled and a couple of pipes and o-rings were replaced. There was a new chain and sprocket set. There was a new set of tyres to replace those that were on there that were many years old and had all the grip of Donald Trump.
It was then MoT’d and it passed with a mileage of 19,462 which was 40 miles up from last year’s and was basically the mileage out of London to PDQ.
Whilst at PDQ, Larry whacked it on the dyno to see how it measured up, some 11 years after the team at PDQ had breathed on it. 154.89bhp at 10,100rpm (158.37bhp) and 90.5lb/ft of torque at 7,830rpm (91.5lb/ft), 2011 figures in brackets.
It’s a new dyno – so not necessarily a true like-for-like comparison – but it’s still close to what it was putting out before, which is pleasing.
Larry was also kind enough to grab a socket and a screwdriver to swap out my Pazzo Racing clutch lever for a shorty one when I collected it. A previous problem with trapping the gloves over my non-existent fingers when pulling in the clutch…
I used my disabled person’s Freedom Pass to get there, so it cost me nothing and the ride back was lovely: back in a little over an hour (with a fuel stop) thanks to filtering and people working from home.
Since then, I’ve not been back on two wheels whilst various bits of me mended or were taken off because they got in the way: I’m think of the second amputation here just before Christmas 2020.
While Blue Rex was off the road, I decided that I should do something with the personalised registrations I have: 8000 RM which was on the Sprint and which is now on retention; 2000 RM which was on my Abarth 124 Spider; and 3RHM which was on the ZRX1200R which wasn’t seeing much daylight. Â So I swapped the Abarth’s registration with the ZRX and bought a load of new plates to suit.
Now my latest amputation is healing well and the physiotherapy reduced, I decided to service, tax and MoT Blue Rex and it sailed through yesterday.
The mileage? 19,422 miles which means since September 2018 it’s only done 36 miles!
So it was holiday time again and despite working until late on the Friday and hence only doing last minute packing, I found myself heading off at Oh Dark Hundred on Saturday, 1st June to the Eurotunnel to meet up with Yox and Purge.
Yox had organised the crossing tickets as well as working out a route that linked up a number of great biking roads in and around the Pyrenees, so we were heading off there with a view to getting all the way down to the Pyrenees by nightfall. The benefit of travelling off-peak as far as the French are concerned should have been that we wouldn’t need to book any hotels in advance and hence we wouldn’t have any pressure to be at a pre-determined destination on any day.
They both took the mick out of the lack of tread on my sporty tyres which I’d though would be fine for the trip … without realising I’d done the 2,100 mile ArdÃ¨che trip on the same tyres before…Â And so we turned out onto the motorways and headed South. As it transpired, the motorways were a leeeetle bit abrasive and by the time we’d lost and found Purge around Paris and made our way down to Clermont-Ferrand, the tyres were well and truly shagged and wouldn’t make it home. Ah!
Purge and I were both using Tom-Tom Rider satnavs – mine a more recent model after my other one was stolen by my psycho ex-girlfriend – and both had been updated to the latest maps … which showed the hotel we selected as being halfway up a hill in a residential area. It wasn’t there, of course, but we went back to where Yox’s Co-Pilot Android software (the same I use on my iPhone) had guided him. I then went in and negotiated a decent room rate for the three of us with use of their own garage for the first overnight stay. Then shower, change, beers and a huge evening meal before bed.
Day Two and we were heading off via Millau towards Perpignan. The twisting roads of the Haute-Pyrenees were fabulous but tiring so as we rode into Quillan, we found a traditional-looking hotel, the Hotel La Chaumiere, to check into. As it was Yox’s birthday, the beers, the wine and the food were on Purge and I.
The view from my balcony
The meal also included the heaviest wine bottle I’ve ever seen: truly bizarre (but tasty)!
The heaviest wine bottle ever
After dinner, it was up to our rooms … and I discovered that my carefully-arranged base layers had flown off the balcony and were laying in front of the restaurant. Ah!
Day Three and it was time to sort out my racing slicks. We delayed breakfast and I then spent the next half an hour ringing around all the motorcycle dealers and tyre depots to see if I could get sorted. They were all shut, despite it being a Monday, as they’d been open on the Saturday. Oh to be French! So I decided to press on into Andorra alone – our planned destination – to try to find tyres and let Yox and Purge head off into Spain to play on the roads. This included my first real view of some of the passes and cols and snow-capped peaks.
Note racing slicks…
Some epic twisty roads towards Andorra then saw me going through the 2.8km long TÃºnel d’Envalira which was like going through a refrigerator!
Emerged from the TÃºnel d’Envalira
Then it was downÂ into Andorra. As I came close to Andorra la Vella, I passed by a KTM dealer and popped inside to see if they could sort me out with tyres using my best Spanglish. They were really helpful and directed me to a car/bike dealer nearby that happened to be a Kawasaki franchise. So in I went, agreed a deal to get new tyres fitted that afternoon and then went off to find us a hotel, theÂ Novotel. While the tyres were being fitted – a process that took the entire afternoon… – I went out scouting for dinner and found an excellent tapas restaurant.
Out with the old…
…in with the new
When Purge and Yox arrived after enjoying what they said were some of the best roads they’d seen, it was off to eat.
Allow me to explain through the medium of interpretive dance
Day Four and we were heading off toÂ BagnÃ¨res-de-Luchon via the twisties. Epic roads out of Andorra – back the way I’d come – and this time, I’d set up my helmet camera to capture some of the footage:
It was warm and sunny … and snowy at the top of the Pyrenees which meant the scenery was spectacular.
Once we were into the Haute-Pyrenees again, we went up a few of the Cols that feature in the Tour de France as well as a few others:
Col du Port
On one descent, I was able to coast for over 3 miles, overtaking cars and lorries with the engine off! Yox also did the reveal on his luxury item: he’d brought some fine coffee and a little fold-up stove to brew it on, so we had coffee at the Col du Port … and he set fire to a picnic table by mistake.
Finally we made it intoÂ BagnÃ¨res-de-Luchon where we pulled up in the square next to theÂ HÃ´tel Panoramic where I did the usual and we checked in.
Day Five and we were headed off to Spain via a few more peaks which were covered in snow … which we duly played in. Obviously.
I’m snow angel
Talking of playing, Yox had rigged up his camera and followed me off down one of the descents:
After a day’s bend-swinging (including a visit to our spiritual home, a village called Perves), we were tired and decided to cut our intended journey short, so we checked in to the fabulous Hotel Cotori in El Pont de Suert.
That’s a pedestrian square… We were recommended a decent tapas restaurant where, despite the protestations of the owner, I went ahead and ordered us a whole selection of dishes that just kept on coming. Delicious! And all finished off by us.
Day Six and it was breakfast with two grumpy buggers. Something about a blue ZRX’s alarm going off at 3.15am. I was unaware of this, given I was sound asleep at the back of the hotel…
So the plan for the day was to head back into France, but we hadn’t reckoned on the nature of the route being so twisty and covering a large vertical variance: up and down like a whore’s drawers! This wasn’t helped by finding out when we were there that the famous Col du Tormalet was shut due to there being 6-9m of snow on the road at the summit!
More epic roads and scenery though. Tired and getting late, we diverted into Lourdes to find a hotel for the night … and we found one: a â‚¬29 a night one that we christened “Hotel Paradiso” that probably charged the rooms out by the hour too… What a dive! Lourdes in general – and our hotel in particular – was full of gangs of schoolkids with various coloured beanie hats and scarves being led around by Catholic priests. What a strange place!
I woke up quite hot at around 3am and my body heat had ‘refreshed’ the mattress such that there was a smell of urine from the depths of the mattress (itself on a plastic-covered bed base). I couldn’t wait to get a shower in the morning! Purge had the evening before found a dead insect in his sheets!
Day Seven. Keen to get a move on and put the Hotel Paradiso behind us, we headed back into Spain via a whole load more passes, peaks and valleys.
We got as far as Jaca in Aragon and after filling up we headed to the Hotel & Spa Real Jaca which did us a great deal for the rooms and underground parking with breakfast. The only downside was the Saga louts that checked in later: a whole coachload of OAPs that swooped on the restaurant to scoff the food.
Day Eight and I woke up to the “shh” of car tyres on wet roads. Looking out of the window, I could see it was absolutely tipping down: not good considering we were hoping to get to Le Mans by the evening. So we had breakfast, checked out and headed out into torrential rain at around 9.00am, up and up into the Pyrenees towards France. My vented race boots started leaking after 16 miles but fortunately the rest of my riding gear was keeping me dry. Stupidly, I’d not worn a base layer under my T-shirt and hadn’t zipped-in the liner to my riding gear either, so the combination of rain storms and altitude meant I was getting really cold. By the time of our first fuel stop into France, I was grateful to be able to put on some more clothes before we headed off back into the worst riding conditions any of us had ever seen (in my case, in 35 years of riding).
The autoroute around Bordeaux was more like a canal and at one point it felt like I was sitting on a chair while someone directed a fire hose at me, the rain was so heavy.
Towards Paris it stopped raining and near Tours at another fuel stop, we decided to pin it and win it: we wouldn’t bother stopping for the night near Le Mans; we’d just keep going for the other 300 miles to the Eurotunnel station and see if we could get on a day early, ratther than getting changed out of our wet gear and potentially facing another day’s wet riding on the Sunday.
We arrived at around 10.15pm, some 780 miles later and were pleased to be put onto the 11.45pm crossing, so we finally had something to eat and drink and on we went.
Back onto English soil at around 11.45pm UK time, we went our separate ways and I blasted back towards London and my apartment, which I reached at around 12.30am.
Roughly 2,100 miles again. Another epic Euroblast.
So yes, I’d ummed and ahhed about getting a new bike for the trip before I left and more or less settled on a new Triumph Sprint GT 1050 but knew I’d not be able to get it run in and sorted before the off. Blue Rex was epic in the twisties and looks the bollocks too, but on the motorways above 90mph for mile after mile and hour after hour it’s a bit of an effort plus some fixed luggage makes sense. So I’m test riding a Sprint next weekend and will probably place an order there and then so I can have it properly sorted before next year’s planned Eurothrash two-up with GT to the Alps.
Or maybe a late summer long weekend sortie across the Channel just to get a feel for it… 😉