I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


I mentioned, in an earlier post, that I loved riding the greenways of Wiltshire/Berkshire and always had small, light trail bikes which were easy to pick up if I came off. Here is a little Honda XL125cc parked up on the Ridgeway, an 87 mile ancient road (3000 BC) across the Berkshire Downs

I always looked forward to the immense enjoyment of that old way as I rode the 150 miles down to it from Kent. (If one puts oneself in the right mind any motorcycle ride is enjoyable, whatever its size) One was alone with the vast panoramas, skyscapes and history. Sitting, eating a sandwich lunch all that could be heard was the song of skylarks as they ascended. The small bike did not make much noise as we pobbled along at about 15 - 20 miles an hour and I would always pull up and turn my engine off if encountering horse riders.

I count myself fortunate to have been able to ride it for 30 years because it has been illegal for about 10 years to take a motor vehicle along this famous trackway. This came about because, as usual, modern enthusiasms spoilt things for the individual solitary. Gangs of 4x4 vehicle drivers, some even over from the Continent would career along the road, churn it up (it gets extremely muddy in the winter) and spoil its peace and quiet. It is now only available to walkers and cyclists and that is a good thing, but regretful to us who sought to quietly integrate - to make love to it rather than rape it.

Pohangina Pete and Vita have both commented on my earlier posts about the monstrous motorcycles used by so-called "adventure bikers" like Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. I think that the following rider absolutely knocks them into a cocked hat. He rides a Royal Enfield Bullet, similar to the one I have just sold. But he rides alone, does all his own filming and camps "wild" in the Himalayas. Here is a short trailer for the film he made. The full film runs for 95 minutes and is available on DVD or can be downloaded. It has won many awards and is well worth having, Even if you are not interested in motorcycles per se it is a record of an individual's effort, discovery of forgotten, threatened nomads and Tibetan customs.



Zhoen said...

And there is a moment in one of those, where they meet a pair of bicyclists going further than they were, and consider themselves wimps.

Avus said...

Yes, it is no great shakes, in my estimation, to have a backup team, filming, with a van and stopping off most nights with the way prepared before you.
Have you ever read the exploits of Ted Simon who travelled around the world, on his own, on a basic Triumph?

Roderick Robinson said...

I too have flirted with that kind of thing. My best friend took me pillion on his Speed Twin (a bike I was later to own) and we struck off from the main road, rode across Rombald's Moor - not even on a pathway - and arrived at the Cow and Calf Rocks, Ilkley, by the back door. It was exhilarating and he showed some skills in staying upright but even then, in the mid-fifties, I couldn't help feeling we were intruding.

And I fear your summary of what has happened is just a wee bit slanted. Yes 4x4 drivers have spoiled it for others as have other bikers "some even from the Continent" (Why can't Johnny Euro-Foreigner stay at home?) but you must remember that your 125 didn't pass soundlessly (Quietly integrating? Hmmm. Pobbling? Ah, that would be the engine note that can't be heard.) along that greenway. Consider too that at 15 - 20 mph you would have been in a lower gear and thus making more noise than at 50 mph. More important still, consider that among those subsequent "rapists" there may have been other solitary 125 riders looking for the Avus experience, their main crime being that they were born after you were born. To be younger is not necessarily to be an unthinking ragamuffin.

So here's the question: At what point does a younger, environmentally conscious, nature-loving biker say to himself, no, what I am doing is no longer love-making but rape and I must stop. And the answer is, of course, never. For this crowded world is what he knows as normal. No person can live simultaneously in a Golden Era and the present day. And thus the government stepped in and cut our freedom to noise up tranquillity. Once upon a time there was just one bike but that proved to be the exemplar. Others followed.

It amuses me that today a majority of bikers riding large-capacity machines turn out to be over fifty, but then who but they could afford these expensive machines? I wish them well and I applaud the fact that engines appear to be quieter and silencers more effective. Which is just as well since a local motorcycle instructor seems to feel that urging his learners round the streets of the estate on which I live will adequately prepare his charges for the wider world.

But I cannot love the H-D enthusiasiasts (Don't tell me; those are "foreign" bikes and therefore by definition beyond contempt.) because their steeds seem to lack silencers and that metallic slapping noise they make under acceleration is an assault on society. Sonically similar, if somewhat noisier, to those 350 cc single-cylinder machines (I owned one myself) made by the Brits who, because they were Brits, could do no wrong.

Yes, I know, you expected all this. You laugh at my comic predictability. But you have to remember I have written about bikes for a living and had I written your piece I would have been hauled in by a sub-editor and told that my sense of logic and of balance had a gruyère look.

Avus said...

I must agree with you. As time went by (in years) I did begin to think your way, which led to me selling the trail bike and keeping to the roads.
Indeed, my first experience of the Wiltshire Ridgeway was during a week's youth hostelling on a bicycle. I rode its full length over two days (hostelling in Marlborough overnight). The second day it poured hard and chalk tracks get muddy and have the friction co-efficent of ice. I managed it though, with frequently clogged-up mudguards. After that I stuck to the road on that trip! If age and health did no preclude it I would love to ride that way again on a bicycle to enjoy that ancient greenway. (Without the noisy intrusion of the internal combustion engine).
Harley Davidsons? The most effective way to turn gasoline into noise without producing any horsepower.

Vita said...

We met Gaurav Jani when he came to the states. I think we gave away all his videos, after watching them repeatedly ourselves, but we used to have two copies of Riding Solo and one of One Crazy Ride. Delightful fellow. He gave HH a Royal Enfield shirt in a trade of M/C shirts. I love your phrase about the cocked hat. Hope I can remember it to use myself in conversation.

Not all HDs are loud. New ones with factory silencers/mufflers are lovely and quiet, but people change them out for loudeners (not really a thing), thereby reducing the efficiency of the engines. Not everyone does it. But I prefer other bikes. I'll stop talking here.

Avus said...

Well, well. You have met and talked to Gaurav - in the film he comes over as a great and thoughtful individual. It is nice to have it confirmed.
My borrowed quote about H-Ds was made tongue in cheek. I have never wanted one but rather like the "potato, potato" note of the engine.

Roderick Robinson said...

Very graceful of you. I am left speechless. Literally.

Vita said...

Sunbeam S7 update: It is running so beautifully he's decided to keep it.

Avus said...

Hard to let them go, what? Glad it's staying in good hands.

Vita said...

Yes, hard to let go, and at least now he rides it again. He just took off the air cleaner, which is cute but not functional.

We've had our own fun with insulting the HDs, so long as we do not tar with the same brush.

You and RR use words I have to look up, and then I still can't find them, though when I looked up "pobbling" I got some interesting results that I suppose weren't what I was after, but I guess the point was making up new words?

Avus said...

"Pobbling" is/was used by the older motorcyclists to denote gently ambling along on a relaxed throttle. I suppose it comes from the days when most motorcycles were "big singles" and is an an onomatopoeia.

To "plonk" is another. It is used by the trials riding fraternity and denotes careful riding through an obstacle at low revs.