so it went a little something like this ...

What was supposed to be a nice (easy?) ride the 537miles over to europe didn't quite go to plan. After Dave, all round superstar, sorted out the bike bits i needed (some pics to follow once i find my camera again) then it was off with it in the van to kent. The week leading up to the ride over had seen me travel back from europe, sleep on a buddies floor, drive to sheffield, 3am drive up to scotland, back down to sheff the same day, 3.30am down to kent to get van back on time, and then I was all ready to ride over.

Perfect not knackered at all by then ;-)

So friday was to be a sunny clear day and it was on. 4am up n at 'em. On bike feeling good taking the open road to the tunnel. And it was ten minutes into the ride when i realised how much i needed some new gloves. No amount of pulling the sleeves of my jumper to use as an impromtu hand warmer would make it better. Rode most of way with one hand in the pocket of my jacket and the other freezing itself onto the throttle.

The tunnel couldn't have come sooner. And the hot coffee. Sitting there inside the warmth thinking only about the first services and a pair of big 'ol workman gloves. Call came out for the tunnel and I rode her over to the border control. Thankful my pipes have a nice NOS 70's muffler that keeps her quiet. Spoke a bit of french with the guy and he looked the bike over a few times. I expected a chat. And he mentioned it'll be a cold one, "bon courage!". Relief, I was expecting a full on examination.

I've been stopped in france before (on autoroute) by the french "douane". They emptied the car and sent the dogs in for 40 mins. All the time I chatted away (in french luckily i'd learnt some) to the guy who stood as our guards. All they wanted was drugs. Drugs? Drugs? In the end they just went "you don't have any?". But before leaving they mentioned I need to change my numberplates over to french ones, as stated on my carte gris (i'd just changed everything over and didn't realise where the new number was). "Don't get stopped by the police" was all they said before the left me to repack the car?

Over in France, into first services that are only about 1km out of tunnel, and filled her up. New leather work gloves 8 euros and it was all good.

All good that is till the next services.

To cut a long story short on the services i stopped at every one of them. A sportster tank, with the tap in the middle, and frisco mounted means a lot of stops. If you're ever riding the A26 south there is only one service gap (97k) you won't make though. I worried myself on this and made Dave shake his head as I attempted to mount a litre spare fuel bottle onto the frame with zip ties. In the end I wrapped it in some waterproof trousers and tied the lot to the handle bars. Only used it that one time in the whole trip.

Next services filled up, and fed up on coffee and croissants. Back on bike, fired her up and next thing i know there's fuel pissing out of the carb. Not a little, a lot. Humm, less than a 100 k into france and here I am with a carb pewking fuel. I could almost feel the sun setting already. Quick call to Dave confirmed what i'd guessed; get the float bowl off. Only, the one thing I didn't have was a small metric (i know i thought it'd be imperial too?) allen key. I sat for a while, tried her again and she ran, sort of. Without many options I decided to run for the next services and try to buy/find an allen key there.

Big mistake.

Riding out i passed the 'security' van that patrols the autoroute. Made the slip road and then spluttered to a standstill. On a 3 lane autoroute with no hard shoulder just a barrier. Lorries come a lot faster when you're sitting there huh? Few tries at getting her going proved useless and then luckily the security van rocked up. They offered to "follow me" to the lay by. Only problem that was 1km up the hill. Pretty light things these sporty's, huh? Here I was just over a 100km into the trip, pushing her up a hill, thinking "you fkn idiot". Got there and the two guys had all their tools out looking for the Holy Grail of allen keys. Nothing. In the end, they opened up the emergency gate and let me out to look for a garage. Directions in hand I waved a "au revoir" and rolled off down the road.

France though was for the main part on holiday. Both garages were closed. But the bike had remarkably started running ok again.

Next services filled up again and tried to find an allen key. Nothing doing in the services. Nothing doing in the van of the man working on the pumps. Some bikers came in, a nice Electra and KTM's. They hunted through and nothing fitted. Got an offer of a tow but declined thinking I need to sort this out. Plus didn't really know where to get tow'd too?

When i first picked her up last year the same thing happened as this. Then it turned out to be stuff in the tank blocking the fuel. So i made up my mind, next services tank off, fuel out, and try again.

She rode perfect till 2000m before the next services and then it all started again. Keeping the throttle feathered I made it in and out came the tools again. Tank off, fuel out, new fuel in but i still knew the float bowl needed off. So got going again and decided to go look for a shop/anything that might be open.

Which lead me to an industrial estate and a huge lorry garage. Unfortunately past an ever growing police check point. At least I thought i'm working at getting the carb sorted. I always find taking something apart that holds fuel when your engine is nice and hot unnerving, is it just me? Everything done that my limited knowledge allowed I raced back for the autoroute. With the encouraging words from the lads in the garage "attention les flics!". Which means in english "watch out for the police!". Luckily they'd camped up to search everyone coming off the autoroute so I kept it mellow, grabbed my peage ticket and rode off.

Back on the autoroute, apart from a few backfires and generally running pretty shitty for the first couple kms after filling, all was good. And stayed good. I was considering that if I kept up like this I might make my destination by 4am. It'd mean a solid 24hrs of riding but with all the stops I was on for the ride. Night came, full beam on, shaded a little by the fuel bottle now tied up in a couple of tees. The rain had started so the rain gear was in full flow. Into the next services and filled up and fired up. Nothing. It was now about 10.30pm and I was seriously over it. Fk!

I had the lights off, bulbs out, fuses out, power, well some but nothing happening. A call to Dave and he goes "explains everything". Batt dead, maybe regulator too. OH joy of joys. The dude in the services was really cool. Tried to bump start me 4 or 5 times and then just shook his head. Dave meanwhile had texted thru the 2 closest HD dealers. Quick chat with the guy and woman in the services and they were cool for me to sleep in the back of the restaurant. Moved the bike in front of the window, moved myself inbetween two tables on the floor and fell asleep. 1am day one over.

Next morning felt just peachy. All day since 4am riding a rigid and sleeping on a concrete floor. Had a few coffees and tried a few folks for push starts. Nothing. Then a big truck towing a Harley trailer rolled in to the services. The guy agreed to jump start me and finally at 8am got her running again. Until the next services. When the gendarmes turned up again and were giving me a good look. So i wandered over and asked for a jump start. They just had a kinda disbelieving look. Offered apologies and drove off. The next guy got me going again and made for Dijon for a new batt.

With no idea where to head for i headed for the city center and promptly lost power at a lights. Parked up I tried to explain what i needed to the girl on the phone. We left it that i'd call back if i couldn't get going again. There was a dude calling down in his dressing gown from his balcony "cafe?'. All very surreal when you're sleep deprived.

Managed to get a french guy to call the shop back for me. He assured me that someone, guy called Giovanni, had put a batt on charge and set off to come and "depannage" (rescue in his van in english). Giovanni was really cool and so was the JB shop. He was loving the bike, the guys in the mechanics were shooting pics, and coffee arrived. He took care of everything and it all came with a "years guarantee". Big thanks.

So finally, just before midday on day 2, the bike was running sweet. There was only a couple hundred miles left. Apart from the mountain passes, the freezing cold, high wind and rain ... all was good. Even had a guy and his gal checking out the bike at the petrol pump. Made all the more sweeter as he was driving a brand new 911 with all the trimmings.

The moral of the story?

Go ride.

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