Sunday, 28 August 2016

Over the Sea to Skye

I recently went camping with a few friends in northern Scotland. As well as catching up, it was also to be the first real outing for yet another new bike, this one a 2005 Aprilia ETV1000 Caponord.

My recent adventures on the Triumph TT600 had confirmed that I’m not really a sportsbike type of person, the Caponord is much more my sort of thing. Very like my Triumph Tiger 955 in many ways.

We would be staying at a campsite in Shiel Bridge in the shadow of the Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range, a rather dramatic setting, and just along the road from Eilean Donan Castle, probably the most instantly recognisable of Scotland's many castles. The site itself was a bit basic, but our needs were few, and the local hotel was only about a mile away for food and a few beers of an evening.

The ride up on Friday was a bit grey and overcast, but I missed the rain which a couple of the others were caught in. It wasn’t looking like the best of weekends, something the ever reliable weather forecasts agreed upon almost without exception.
at a viewpoint looking back towards Loch Duich
However, Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we decided to risk it and take a run around the Isle of Skye. Instead of doing the sensible thing and taking the bridge, we decided to take the small Glenelg Ferry instead.

not the biggest ferry I've ever been on
This is a fairly short crossing, but involves riding on some fantastic wee single-track roads on both sides of the water. Anyway, a ferry is always way more interesting than a bridge.

on board you are advised to remain with your bike in case it should topple over
Once on Skye we headed for the village of Elgol on the SW coast. Once again, a fantastic single-track road and simply stunning scenery throughout. We weren’t the only visitors, though, and the small harbour area was incredibly busy. We stayed only long enough for a few photos before heading back the way we had come, stopping off for a bit of lunch at the Blue Shed Café at Torrin. 

I’d highly recommend the cafe, not only for the food, which was excellent, but also for the views.

the view towards Blà Bheinn (the Blue Mountain), part of the Cuillen range
Then on to Portree, the island’s capital, where after a bit of confusion we located an ATM, filled the bikes with fuel, and headed north to Staffin and Kilt Rock. From there we took the Bealach Cuithraing road over the hills to Uig. Another single-track road which runs coast to coast, complete with a couple of tight hairpins thrown in for good measure.

at Kilt Rock looking over towards Wester Ross
Once in Uig we turned back towards Portree and headed for the bridge at Kyleakin before returning to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh.

heading into Uig
Just as were approaching the bridge it began to rain, resulting in a truly spectacular double rainbow as we crossed. The rain continued, getting really heavy for the next ten miles or so, before clearing up and leaving the air remarkably clear. Well, it wouldn’t be a trip to Skye if it hadn’t rained, now would it?

our route for the day
Back at the campsite it became apparent that the damp humid conditions had brought forth that scourge of the Highlands, the midge. For such a small insignificant thing they are a plague which drives even the hardiest soul demented, so off to the pub it was. And quickly too.

Finally, the walk along the shore of Loch Duich to the hotel as the sun was setting was the perfect end to an almost perfect day.  

However, I can't leave you without sharing this rather surreal roadsign spotted on the road to the ferry.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Dies Ist Keine BMW

This was probably my favourite machine at the recent Red Star Rally. It’s a 1971 Ural which has, according to the owner, had two new frames, a new modern engine, been totally re-wired, and had the electrics upgraded to 12-volt.

"This is not a BMW"

Reminds me of Trigger’s Broom from the TV show 'Only Fools and Horses'.

Red Star 2016

The East European Rally, or Red Star Rally if you prefer, is held every four years. It brings together members of the three main owners clubs in the UK: the Cossack Owners Club, for soviet-era bikes, the MZ Riders Club, for those from the former East Germany (DDR), and the Jawa/CZ Owners Club, for bikes made in the former Czechoslovakia. It also normally attracts a number of overseas riders, usually from the Netherlands.

Trabant P601 Saloon
IZH Planeta 3
Ural 650 outfit
Jawa 175 'Old Red'
CZ & Jawa 350s
Ural M66 650
Despite the weather putting some people off attending this year there was still a healthy representation from all three clubs.

Dutch -registered Chang Jiang M1 750
Unfortunately, drive-shaft problems saw it needing towed home
On the Saturday morning a few of us decided to visit the nearby Bubblecar Museum. This was a great wee place and I'll do a separate post for that in a bit. 

Saturday night saw motorcycle adventurer Austin Vince give a bit of a talk. If you've never heard of him you really should look him up.

He has been riding bikes all around the world since the 80s and you really should try and get hold of a copy of his first film, Mondo Enduro. Made on a shoestring budget, it puts to shame the more recent trips by Ewan McGregor & Charlie Boorman.

Dnepr MT9 650 'Sport'
CZ 175 Trail
Jawa Rotax 650
Dnepr MT11 650 outfit
All too soon it was time to head back up the motorway. Same again in another four years, please.