An auspicious start to the 2015 expedition…
In flight magazine running an article on the great lakes in Ladakh
Last year, in the run-up to the football world cup, David Beckham and a couple of his mates decided to take a bike trip into the heart of the Amazon rainforest. 32 years as a footballer meant that David had never really embarked on any kind of adventure holiday. Of course, he had travelled the world, but nearly always in his professional capacity, and invariably on a tight schedule. This was to be the first time he would visit places where nobody knew his name.
For the trip, the boys didn’t ride the kind of BMW or Yamaha off-road bikes that one might have expected. Too obvious, and too Charlie and Ewan. Instead, they mounted themselves on modern, customised Triumph road bikes. Much cooler. And much more retro. The bikes were worked on both in the UK and Brazil and, in truth, the exercise involved taking bits off as much as putting bits on. An all over black paint job, the removal of mudguards, a custom exhaust and seat, and a new set of off-road tyres was all it took.
Despite the apparent unsuitability of the bikes, they held up well in even the toughest of conditions, demonstrating perhaps that modern Triumphs are just as rugged and dependable as their famous antecedents. Recently, Motolegends decided to make a replica of the Beckham bike and better yet, decided to give it away in a competition. This is their build story: They acquired a donor bike, a 2001 model, from a local ex-policeman. Even though it was over 10 years old, it had been meticulously looked after, and so presented an excellent starting point for the project. The build was actually incredibly simple, and although the end result is quite dramatic, the work is well within the scope of any budding , ‘bike-shed’ mechanic.
Part one was the strip-down. Off came the mudguards, the indicators, the rear grab rail, the exhaust, and so on. What was left was treated to a matt black paint job that included the wheels, fuel tank, engine casing, cylinder head and, handlebars on. The wheels were re-shod with Metzler Karoo 3s as per the original bike; rubber fork gaiters were added, the seat was re-trimmed, and a new rear mudguard and number plate holder was fabricated. The pièce de résistance, and the most expensive single part on the bike, was the Arrow exhaust. But it only comes in a metal finish, so it was sent off for a black ceramic coating. A bracket was fabricated, to allow it to hang correctly off the side of the bike.
Final touches involved moving the rear brake master cylinder to a new location, as the rear brake positioning couldn’t have been at all convenient on the original bikes. Discrete indicators were then fitted front and back. On the Amazon bikes there were no rear indicators; just front ones. The end result is a bike that somehow seems more than the sum of its parts. There are hugely complicated and intricate builds out there that sometimes fail to hit the spot. With the baffle removed, the bike sounds far better than a Bonneville has any right to. Being lighter than the original, it handles well, and the Metzeler tyres give a purposeful look, without any real detrimental effect as far as rideabilty and comfort are concerned. This bike is simplicity itself, yet has an undeniable wow factor to it.
Motolegends are running a publicity competition and will give their bike to the winner; details on how to enter competition: http://www.motolegends.com/beckham-bike
A first ride out onto the Plain on the 1150GS today. Great to test the GS off road – and she did well. Just the one get off early on in a wet rut.
The MOD makes it pretty clear that it can be a dangerous area. The main impact areas are also marked once you get up onto the trails.
Navigation is fine and the majority of accessible byways are marked.
This afternoon I headed west away from the A1/Catterick area and headed out into the Dales. Leyburn is a kind of frontier town before one commits to the real Dales experience; stone walls, narrow roads, twisty and tight roads running along valley floors and grey hamlets en route.
The BMW was perky and on new Metzeler Tourance tyres. A combination that I kept an eye on to avoid any sudden stepping out as new tyres are wont to do.
This afternoon’s ride was one of the first this year, what with a busy work/home life I’ve not been riding much so far in 2014. The plan was to sweep some cobwebs away and take in the Yorkshire countryside as a bit of a stress reliever.
I stopped in Hawes and then picked up this summer’s Tour de France route over the mountain by Thwaite.
After some fast sweepers along a cliff side road I came back down to the Swale River valley – the real “Swaledale”.
Despite the damp and chill it was a good run out. Looking forward to some more riding soon!
The BMW R1150GS is an unashamedly plain yet capable bike. Designed under the Gelande/Strasse concept to be a genuine multi-surface all rounder. With it’s shaft drive power and air-cooled boxer engine it personifies straightforward design and engineering. The world of plaid shirts, yellow visored Bell helmets, retro British customs and Californian sunshine is the very antithesis of this machine and it’s origin. To be honest, I spend a lot of my social media time ‘liking’ pictures of newly glamorous vintage Triumphs and Indians. In the UK the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club, Spirit of the Seventies, Sideburn Magazine, et al are getting an awesome new energy into British motorcycling. I think the US ‘Moto Lady‘ is inspirational for encouraging women to ride – and that’s a GREAT thing! Sometimes I look for local bike projects to get a custom project on the go. Obviously in a well equipped yet comfortable barn/man-cave. Perhaps I could get a tattoo.
However; once my garage door is open and the leaden English sky falls on an old german bike, thoughts of a custom scene fade away. It’s a good bike for the UK. The garage still throws up some confusing questions for me. Why do I own a BMW? Of all bygone industries and misplaced national pride, I firmly believe British motorcycling to be one of our great pieces of heritage. But there the BMW R1150GS is; mocking me. “Well, at least it’s not Japanese” I tell myself. Not that that should make a great difference but BMW, and Germany, didn’t mass produce clones of original British bike legends, destroying a whole industry and sport in the UK. Perhaps it was our fault for not remaining competitive, or loyal, or intelligent enough to realise what was happening.
It would be quite easy to mistake me for a reactionary senior citizen at this point, given to rants about the past and being generally resistant to change, any change.
I’m not. I’m 36. It’s just that, for once, I value something from the past more than the present. In the Baudrillian sense the British motorcycle has a sign, sentimental, economic and functional value for me.
But, I own a BMW. Because why? Well, in the Baudrillian sense again it’s because I value it’s function and economic value more than what it represents. So I’m on the right (read sensible) side of the decision; own efficient, sorted bike and kit, dream about custom bikes on sunlit tarmac. If you’re reading this and live in the UK you will know what I mean. That morning commute in the cold rain on crap roads covered in cars. Those weekend blasts in which you get through the traffic areas to reach the dwindling number of good biking roads. Your bike is most likely a capable all rounder as well. But it shouldn’t stop you having a dream. They can’t take that away from you – no sirree.