Happy Saint David’s Day 2017

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru. Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales. Best wishes to you all!

I can hardly believe that a year has passed since last St David’s Day…so much has happened, some good, some bad.

Anyway, a year ago I put up this post, click here

Twelve months on, not much has changed…it’s raining again, but there are daffodils in the house and I’m cooking lamb again for supper. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit!IMG_0069

I’m writing this in the Plymouth Harley Davidson dealership whilst Baby Blue is being serviced. 15000 miles in two years, not bad I suppose.

Later I’m off to see G in hospital. I spoke to him earlier and he sounds a bit uncomfortable after yesterday’s surgery.

Hopefully the Welsh cakes that I cooked for him, plus the daffodils and Welsh flag will cheer him up a bit!

Anyway,
Hwyl fawr for now!

Dookes

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Farkles

Within the greater motorcycle community there are many sub-cultures; trail-riders, sports bikers, trialers, tourers, rat bikers and 1%ers, to mention just a few. It can all be pretty confusing from within the world of two wheels, let alone for those who live outside it!

Alongside these various groups there is also a veritable dictionary of words and phrases used to describe bikes, bike activities, parts and accessories. From baggers to bobbers, cruisers to custom, semi-apes to shotguns and then there are farkles….

Today, let’s have a look at “Farkles.”

When a motorbike owner fits accessories onto their machine, in essence to customise it, the newly fitted parts are often referred to as “farkles.” The word is generally accepted to mean a combination of function and sparkle, hence, farkles.

These added parts can cover a plethora of accessories from Sat Nav devices, heated grips, touring luggage, alternative exhaust pipes; the list is frankly only limited by the imagination and wallet size of the owner!

At this point I have to admit that old Hogrider Dookes is not immune to adding the odd “farkle” on his bikes.

The big blue Ultra Limited is very well equipped as standard and really doesn’t need much in the way of enhancement, however there is one thing that has been on my “to do” list almost since I bought the bike and that’s the windscreen.

As supplied, the screen on these bikes is best described as ornamental, rather than functional; which is a shame as the fairing to which they are fitted does an excellent job in keeping wind and weather off the rider and pillion. image

My friends at Harley Davidson are very cute when it comes to selling accessories for their motorbikes. They advertise that your bike can be customised and altered to your personal taste and fit….of course at a price!

Anyway, back to the screen.

Basically the as delivered screen was to small for my liking. I noticed that at certain speeds the slipstream was catching the top of my crash helmet and giving my head a bit of a rattle! Harley Davidson make a range of alternative screens that they call “Windsplitters,” which they claim can cure the problem. I popped into my local dealership earlier in the year and borrowed a couple of different sizes to try out. Yes winter riding again!

As I tried out the different options I got pretty good at the fiddly process removing and refitting the screens too!

In the end I found one that suited me and as so often happens in my local Harley dealership… cash changed hands…. it’s always from me to them though!

In due course my new screen arrived and it’s been on Baby Blue for a few weeks now, long enough for me to assess it’s performance. p1080249

Was it worth getting?

Yes I think it was. It’s wider than the original which offers greater wind protection to my hands and arms. It’s top edge has a clever little profile change that pushes the air up higher over my head and cuts out the wind buffeting, which is exactly what I wanted.

Excuse the background!

Excuse the background!


I must admit I am a tad disappointed with the thickness of plexiglass that the new screen is made of, it’s nearly 2mm thinner than the original, which meant that I had to make a neoprene gasket to ensure that it was firmly gripped when mounted in the slot on the top of the fairing, minor, but very annoying!

So there you are…

F.A.R.K.L.E. — Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

p1080250

Night Rider

Last Saturday at my local Harley Davidson dealership it was “Dealership Day,” the monthly event when Harley Owners Group members gather to chew the fat and generally spend money!

It’s fair to say that the morning was decidedly murky, ok it was fairly wet and miserable, but although there were quite a few people in the showroom, mine was the only bike outside, everyone else had come by car! My big Ultra Limited looked every inch a working motorbike, covered in a layer of honest dirt, courtesy of the farmers of Cornwall who can’t keep their soil in their fields and the morning’s precipitation that had washed the muck everywhere, but at least we had ridden there!

I got talking to a couple of guys who were discussing their hatred of riding after dark or in low light conditions. One of these hardened bikers even confessed to once calling his wife out so that he could ride behind her car to get home when darkness fell! I must admit to having a disbelieving smile on my face to start, but it soon became painfully apparent that these two fellow riders had a real issue about riding at night!

My mind went back to an evening when I was riding my Ultra Limited, “Baby,” along the A39 Atlantic Highway near Hartland in beautiful North Devon. The sun was just starting to sink into the sea on the western horizon and the air was taking on that golden glow as a prelude to night.
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In recent months I have certainly been doing my fair share of after-dark riding, but the conversation with these two chaps got me thinking.

I don’t have a problem with night riding, in fact I quite like it. I suppose that it is a function of some of the long distance riding that I do from time to time, you just have to deal with the conditions that present themselves to you out on the road.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love riding in warm sunshine as much as the next person; summer evenings being a particular favourite. I am not, however, one of those riders who get to the end of October, or even September, and declare that “the riding season” is over until the Spring! I ride all year round and as a result, I am by default, likely to spend some of the shorter days riding after dark.

So what’s the big deal?

Well, apart from being able to admire the scenery passing by, riding in daylight enables you “read the road” better; hedges, lamp posts, trees and buildings all point the way for you. Hazards are also easier to spot and in addition, you can see what the surface of the road ahead is like, avoiding pot-holes, drains and man-hole covers. There’s a lot to be said for riding in daylight!

After dark things get more difficult, your ability to see the road ahead declines, edges become indistinct as colour and contrast falls.

Darkness is falling on wet country roads.

Darkness is falling on wet country roads.

So how do we go about riding after the sun goes down?

Well, the first thing to do is slow down and just get used to the conditions. Keeping the bike more upright than you would do on dry daylight roads is a prerequisite and just basic common-sense.
Things are definitely different.

Unlike most other road users us motorbike riders only have one headlamp, not one on each front corner of our vehicle! I’m lucky with my big Ultra Limited, it’s fitted with Harley Davidson “Daymaker” l.e.d. head and auxiliary lights which are very good indeed, but still not as good as two, like on a car or truck.fullsizeoutput_6f On my beloved Harls I can only liken the experience as looking down a drain pipe!

As in daylight, you should always be able to stop within the area that you can see to be clear; at night this is only as far as your headlight can illuminate, unless you are riding in an area with full streetlights. Where I live, night-time means black darkness as there are no streetlights at all, but bright moonlight can come in very handy especially when it shines on standing water.

There’s an old horse riding saying, “Sit deep, sit firm, sit relaxed,” that I find really helps when the unexpected little things happen; little things like when the rear wheel slips sideways for a micro-second going through a corner. It’s bad enough when that happens in daylight, but in the dark you swear afterwards that you slid sideways for yards and yards!

At night it’s important to keep your helmet visor or goggles as clean as possible, you need as much clear vision as you can get, so keep the air circulating to prevent misting up as well and if like me you wear spectacles don’t forget to give them a wipe too!

Glare is your worse enemy. A useful feature on my big Harley is the Satnav system night-time setting that reduces the display intensity and hence cuts light shining in the face of the rider, very thoughtful of those folks in Milwaukee! Approaching headlights can often dazzle the night-time rider, particularly when carelessly un-dipped or badly adjusted. Peripheral vision is important in this case and auxiliary lamps can greatly assist you here, I find them invaluable. You need to read all the available information about the upcoming road layout, white lines, reflective road studs (cats-eyes in the UK) and what other road users are doing, are all useful inputs.

Riding at night is tiring, it puts extra strain on your eyes and other senses, it’s hard work dealing with all those different inputs, in addition your body doesn’t function best after dark, nature is saying “go to sleep!” 

If you are a motorcyclist, riding after dark is different, but not impossibly difficult. Go practice on roads that you know well in and in good weather conditions to start with, then spread your wings and ride.

If you don’t ride motorbikes, but come across a rider out there on the road after dark please remember it ain’t as easy as you’ve got it in your car!

Lecture over!

“Keep it all out of sight, undercover of the night.”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes

Milwaukee Eight

It’s that time of year when the Harley Davidson Motor Company and to be honest most of the other manufacturers, roll out their new motorbikes for the coming season. To be honest, I only normally only pay passing interest to the latest shiny stuff, but every now and then something really grabs my attention.

This year it was Harley’s launch of the new Milwaukee Eight engine.

OK, I admit, it did come about in a roundabout sort of way….

When I saw that Harley Davidson had unveiled a 107cubic inch capacity engine, that’s about 1750cc in metric terms, the thought crossed my mind, “Why?”

Let’s face it, Harley Davidson’s aren’t noted for being the fastest and sexiest handling motorbikes on the street, but what they do they do pretty well…in a rather idiosyncratic Harley way that you either love or hate.

The current “Big Twin” engine is the 103cubic inch, 1690cc, which has been around since its launch in 1999 and has equipped the Touring and Cruiser models since then. All of these engines have been air-cooled, apart from those fitted to the bigger Project Rushmoor Tourers, such as my big blue Ultra Limited, which enjoy dual air/liquid cooling. To my mind the 103 with its simple twin cams has been pretty much fit for purpose and certainly pushes out enough power for my needs!

So what’s the deal with an even bigger power unit?

Well, according to H-D, the customer wants more power and an engine that runs cooler. So that’s exactly what they have delivered!
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The new engine may at first glance look the same as the 103, but that is really where the similarity ends. Yes, there’s the familiar 45° V-twin shape but look closely and things are subtly different. Inside it’s all new. To start with, the two new cylinder heads each have four valves – hence the “Milwaukee Eight” tag, eight valves in total. The exhaust valves are liquid cooled as standard, quite an innovation for Harley Davidson, but also making life much more pleasant for the rider by assisting in reducing exhaust temperatures by around 100°. The compression ratio is pushed up to 10:1 with thin “low-tension” rings fitted to each piston, Harley claims that these rings will reduce drag inside the engine and hence improve efficiency. To ensure complete combustion each cylinder is fitted with two spark plugs. Engine management is facilitated by knock sensors, that keep everything running smoothly by very cleverly keeping the bang just far enough advanced to prevent pre-ignition. All this leads to an increase in torque of around 10% over the old engines and better compliance to ever demanding emission regulations.

Interestingly the new engine has only a single cam shaft, Harley claim that this reduces mechanical engine noise, though as most owners will probably slap after-market road-rumbler pipes on their bikes, I find the claim that this is important to be somewhat strange!

Cut away view of the Milwaukee Eight. Photo: Harley Davidson.

Cut away view of the Milwaukee Eight.
Photo: Harley Davidson.

Like the old 88inch Evo engine fitted to Softails, such as my Harls, the 107 is counterbalanced to reduce vibration, though rubber engine mounts certainly play their part too; riding proved the point beautifully!

Which leads me to Plymouth Harley Davidson, who very kindly gave me the opportunity to test ride one of the new models.

Now being an engineer by nature, I worry when presented with a brand new bike with only 169 miles on the odometer and the instruction to “Go ride it!” I just can’t let myself get too carried away, but Kevin at the Dealership assured me that I was in for a treat….

Looking around the Demo bike, a Street Glide Special in Hard Candy Custom Hot Rod Red Flake (honestly!) there were one or two nice little improvements; like new manually adjustable rear suspension, improved stiffened front forks and better pannier fixing. The new engine nestles nicely in the frame and the modified exhaust pipes both look and sound superb once the 107 burst into life.image

Drawing away I was struck by the new clutch, it feels crisp and usable, but that could be because it was hardly broken in. Like all Harleys, the gearbox has a reassuring clunkiness – something I like, but I know many folk hate; you’ll never please everyone! Out on the road I got caught at a set of lights and immediately noticed just how smooth and vibration free the new engine was at idle, really nice.

Then things got better, a whole lot better!

I swung the Road Glide onto the dual carriageway of the A38 and accelerated up through the gears. Now allowing that I had ridden to Plymouth on my Ultra Limited, which weighs in at nearly 500kg with a full tank plus me on board and the Road Glide is over 50kg lighter, the acceleration was more than impressive, it was fantastic…particularly at the higher end where Harley’s traditionally fade. This is an engine that gives its best at higher revolutions!

At speed the bike felt nice and “planted” on the tarmac and certainly had power to spare. Leaving the main highway and onto more twisty roads I was impressed with the new suspension, the front end was nice and firm whilst the rear sat nicely on the road without any wallow, though I must confess to not fiddling around with any settings. The linked, abs fitted, Brembo brakes give a feeling of confidence, this baby can stop in a hurry too!

Riding the bike a couple of nice little tweaks were noticeable. On the left hand side the new slimline clutch cover gives more room to the riders ankle whilst on the right the air cleaner case has a nice taper at the rear which allows your knee to sit snugly against the tank happiness on both sides of the body which on a long trip can make the world of difference!

When I returned the bike, Kevin, unsurprisingly, asked me what I thought of it?
“It’s something special!” I replied. “Very special.”

It’s clear that Harley Davidson have thrown plenty of resources at the Milwaukee Eight project and have trod a difficult path between the outright modern and the “Harley Tradition.” I feel that they’ve more than got it right, this evolution of the marque must surely be a winner.

So yes, I like the Milwaukee Eight a lot, an awful lot!

Enough to chop in one of my existing stud, or even splash out on a new one to join them?

Baby and Harls, going nowhere without me on board! Photoshopped by Ninja Alba.

Baby and Harls, going nowhere without me on board!
Photoshopped by Ninja Alba.

No, I’m not ready for that yet. I’m still enjoying getting to know my Rushmore Ultra Limited and as for Softail Harls….well she’s part of the family! Longer term, when I decide that the big Ultra Limited is just too big, I may be tempted with one of those lighter Street Glides, but not just yet.

I have seen the future though and it’s written “Milwaukee Eight.”

With massive thanks to Kevin, Chris and all at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the loan of their bike which made this review possible.

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Testing The Slim

With planning for an imminent road trip well underway at Dookes H.Q., I thought that I’d better get Baby Blue sorted and serviced before hitting the highway. She’s just turned over 9000 miles and is due her next service at 10k, so if I set out to ride any respectable distance she’s going to pass that easily; better get a service in first and whilst we’re at it a new pair of tyres too!

Soooo, yesterday morning I dropped her off at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the work to be done. I had hoped to wait whilst the technicians did their work, but for various reasons things got a bit stacked up and it was obvious that a quick turnaround wasn’t going to happen. The Dealership Manager Chris Iris appeared and after apologising for the delay offered me the chance to try out a new Harley Davidson Softail Slim on an extended overnight test ride.

I’ve got to admit that I was a tad peeved about the delay, but Chris’ offer was very fair and well the chance to test out a brand new model with only 160 miles on the clock was too good to miss.

The Softail Slim model has been around for about four years now and is the modern successor to my beloved “Harls,” a 2003 Softail Standard Centenary Model. Harris and the Slim share the same frame layout which really shows off the bulk of the V-twin engine. The Slim has “Fat Boy” type inverted front forks with a chunky great 16 inch wire spoked front wheel between. The engine is the 103B twin cam, that’s 1690cc of air-cooled grunt! In the classic way of all Harley Softails the rear suspension is hidden underneath the bike. The wire spoked rear wheel matched it’s front partner and looked super, I love “wire wheels!”image
One thing I took an instant dislike to was the “Hollywood” handle bars, I’m more of a “Semi-Ape” man myself and the wide flat bars are just not my thing at all!image

Harley Davison are making all sorts of statements about how this bike is 1950’s retro-styled and that it nods in the direction of the original custom bikes. I think the modern parlance is “Old School.” Now I’m as partial to old bikes as anyone, but I really feel that 1950’s or any other decade’s styling belongs in it’s original decade. I’d rather buy a genuine old bike, than a new one that’s pretending to be from another age!

The Softail Slim is certainly a smart-looking machine, if a tad Spartan. The seat is only a single, so no room for a pillion. Everything is minimalist, little things like combined rear brake lights and indicators are impressive, but I was left feeling that it was all a bit austere. image

The twin stock pipes look great and give the Slim a nice throaty rumble.

Once I started riding that things started to really get disappointing. I’m very used to riding Softails and this one just didn’t feel “right.” The riding position may look as cool as you like and be ok for a short hop to the local café or shop, but you won’t want to be covering great distances on this machine. The saddle wasn’t at all kind to the Dookes derrière and the knees up under your chin position is frankly uncomfortable.

At low-speed the Slim handles crisply and responsively, turns in nicely on corners and sharply accelerates with swift throttle response. Above 45mph the naked bike and appalling riding position both combine to make for a teeth gritting hang on tight experience. Harley claim a top speed of 110mph, if you can get anywhere near that and still hang on, I wish you good luck!

Overall, I got to say that I was disappointed with the Slim. The on the road price is £14,995, it’s a lot of money for what is basically a posing bike and lashed up from parts of other models at that! So no I won’t be adding one to the Dookes stable anytime.
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Thanks again to Chris at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the opportunity to try out the new model.

Back to the planning now, catch you soon!

Dookes

The Next Little Trip

Regular blogonaughts of these pages will hopefully remember the pilgrimage trip that we made last April to the Somme Battlefield in Northern France, in order to trace the footsteps of my two Grandfathers.

As I explained at the time, it was my attempt at making sense of some of what they were both involved in nearly 100 years ago and the sequence of posts hopefully gave you all an insight into what I found.

Now here we are, just over a year later and a number of things have fallen into place for me about those dark, far off, days. Further research has uncovered couple of snippets;

Grandfather William was awarded a “Wound Stripe,” after stopping a piece of shrapnel with his head whilst in action near Nieuport in 1917! The stripe was a metal badge worn vertically on the left uniform sleeve and signified that the wearer had been wounded in combat. The British Army started awarding them in 1916 but stopped after the end of WW1. Some were also issued after D-day in 1944, but were discontinued after 1946. The fact that William was awarded the stripe is a detail that no-one in the family appears to have been aware of, up until now! I have managed to obtain a genuine, but unissued, WW1 wound stripe that I am going to mount along side his medals and insignia; one day it can pass to one of his Great granddaughters, my nieces, if they ever show any interest. If not then the collection can be sold in aid of veterans charities.

WW1 Wound Stripe,  out of focus pen for scale.

WW1 Wound Stripe,
out of focus pen for scale.

Searches in the Public Records for Grandfather Charles have also been interesting. I found out that he and his unit of the Royal Field Artillery is recorded as “Entering Theatre, France,” on the 12th May 1915.

Now that got me thinking. . . That’s exactly 100 years ago next Tuesday!

I haven’t been able to find out where Charles first “Entered Theatre,” but you can bet it was probably at one of the French Channel Ports. I can just imagine the scene as men, equipment and horses were all being unloaded from a ship. The more I have thought about it, the more I feel that I just have to be in France next Tuesday; nowhere specific, just in France 100 years on.

I shared my feelings with my oldest friend, known in these pages as “Vifferman,” he gets it and is going to ride with me again. It’ll be cool.

We are going to pop over on the night ferry to Roscoff, have a little ride around, then go pay our respects to some guys from another conflict that never made it home, then we’ll come back. I’ll tell you all about that in another post, be great if you ride with us.

Until then, gotta dash and polish Harley for a special day out!

Catch you all soon.

Dookes

PS Serious stuff this, so no Rock n’Roll.

Springing Forward and Coast Update.

Hello everyone!

OK, apologies first…

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted on the blog; that old problem of life just getting in the way of everything again I’m afraid! I’m sorry I have been “Off Air” for a bit, but I’m back now and have some lost ground to make up.

So what have I been up to?

Well, the seasons are marching on and here in the South West corner of England Spring is setting in with a gentle vengeance. We have lambs joyfully leaping around in the field behind Dookes H.Q. celebrating their new care-free lives; the trees are bursting into leaf and the early cherry and crab-apple blossom is beginning to show from dormant buds. Birds are busy squabbling over the best nesting sites and I have even had to cut the not inconsiderable acreage of grass at Dookes H.Q. a couple of times too. The last of the post-winter garden tidy up is nearly finished and best of all, the sound of my Harley Davidson’s engine has been singing it’s “Milwaukee Music” around the country roads that I love!

Yep, it’s always good to ride… but sometimes in the Spring is best of all!

A couple of weeks ago I took a long, meandering, ride over Dartmoor. Instead of heading for my normal haunts of the high ground, I thought I’d take in some of the valley scenery before the hoards of tourists arrived!
This is Holne Bridge over the River Dart near Ashburton, taken just before the trees started to really green up.P1030487

I have certainly been clocking up a few miles and not just aboard the ride-on mower either. The world, for me, certainly looks better from behind a set of handle bars. It gives me time to get my head clear of all those things that we often think are important, but in reality are not. Time to concentrate on staying alive and living this one life in the way that I choose.

The longer days bring the bonus of light evenings and the opportunity to watch the sun take it’s daily dip into the Atlantic Ocean in often glorious golden hues. Last Tuesday we popped over to Bude on the North Cornwall coast about twenty minutes from Dookes H.Q. by Harley and were treated to a delightful sunset.

The remaining section of the old Bude Canal enters the ocean by a sea lock and provides interest to the scene.P1030510
Whilst in the bay boats rest on their moorings as the sun disappears into the sea; if you listen carefully you can sometimes hear the hiss!
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To the left and noticeably lower than the canal, the River Neet runs it course, whilst the old rails of the narrow gauge hay tramway glint in the last rays of the sun.P1030508
All that was left to do then was to mount up and enjoy the ride home, life can be tough sometimes!

“See me ride out of the sunset, on your coloured TV screen.”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes