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22nd July 2013

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End 2 End Slowly, Part 2

Phil Speakman continues a charity ride aboard small capacity, low powered motorcycles from one end of the UK to the other. Phil opted to take his 38 year old MZ 150...

Our second day - and the first day of the E2E ride proper - dawned whilst we were still packing our bikes in preparation for a long day in the saddle. The ride to Land's End was chilly and visors remained firmly locked open, as a condensing sea mist rendered them completely opaque. Being the first people there, we rode around the back of the hotel complex and lined up our machines for a selection of starting-off photographs. Despite the cold start, it boded well for a fine day for riding and by the time we'd stopped for breakfast at 8:30am, it was warming up nicely.

'Initially we put this down to Roger's generous stature and the extra camping kit he was carrying'...

The bikes were all pretty well matched, with the Honda C90 appearing to be the slowest of the group. However on uphill stretches it seemed that Roger's TS150, which should on paper have been second only in swiftness to the Supa 5, was struggling to maintain momentum. Initially we put this down to Roger's generous stature and the extra camping kit he was carrying, which in a subsequent quiet moment Roger and myself calculated that his bike was carrying an extra eight stone when compared to my ES150/1. The extra smoke he was issuing during these uphill stretches also suggested that he was burning a little gear oil and that his 30-plus year-old crankshaft oil seals needed replacing. Choosing to remain at the rear of our column for much of the day, I had ample opportunity to inhale the evidence.

It was during this part of the journey that I started distracting myself by playing silly word games with the number plates of the group. The first one which sprang to mind was Kieran's MZ, which immediately became known in my mind as 'MOBster', which somehow seemed to suit the Supa 5 as the biggest and most powerful bike of the group. Peter's Enfield's number plate simply begged to be called KENT, once the numbers had been removed and appropriate or not, that's what it remained within my mind's eye for the rest of the journey.

I struggled with Roger's TS150 for a while, because ENVironment just didn't seem right, even with the ironic twist of how much gear oil he was burning. It somehow hinted of disrespect. Then it came to me. A name which would reflect Roger's large stature and his relaxed, easy, yet authoritative mannerisms and (to a callow 44 year old youth such as myself) statesmanlike bearing. And such was our 'ENVoy' appointed.

I'm sorry to say that that's where my inspiration deserted me and Hume's C90 remained unnamed for the entire trip, whilst Jack's Townmate, a machine I came to greatly respect during the course of the week, suffered the ultimate indignity of being christened BumRY.

Phil's bike reclines nonchalently agains some scenery... MZs on now...

The rest of our fellowship had already booked themselves into the Youth Hostel at Wilderhope Manor. However I'd already decided that I would press on for home for the night, jumping onto the M5 as time and necessity required. This moment came when we'd still not reached Bath by 2:30pm and as agreed I bid them farewell at a motorway junction in order to make progress towards Gloucester and the A417 northwards to Leominster and the A49 home. I arrived at 8pm and cracked open a well-deserved bottle of wine. By the end of Day Two my little MZ already had almost half of the journey under its wheels.

Of course, any hope of a lie-in and a late start had already been dispelled during the course of the previous day. The clutch lever, never particularly light on the ES, had gradually felt stiffer and more painful to operate. In reality of course, it had remained exactly the same throughout, and instead it was my grip which had gradually weakened over the course of a day spent negotiating West Country hamlet after village after town.

So by 8am I'd removed the brake and clutch cables and force-fed them with gear oil with my hydraulic oiler. The transformation was frankly astounding. Not so much on the brake cable, although that too felt much easier, but the clutch instantly became as light and as smooth as I'm sure it was designed to feel when it left the factory. It was the only job I hadn't already done in preparation for the trip and, feeling the difference, it'll be a job I'll be including in the service schedule from here onwards.

I knew the others would have set off from their digs quite early, so after a leisurely breakfast I set off shortly after 10am in order to cross their path, as agreed, on the A49 at Standish. As it happened, I'd decided to park up at Coppul, slightly further north and spent a pleasant half hour browsing in a shop which stocked an impressive range of cast iron stoves, fireplaces and appropriately enough, ranges.

I got chatting with the owner, a motorcyclist himself who was happy to tell me tales of his youth, riding an MZ TS250/1 Supa 5; just like Kieran's. At one point, he'd had to buy a completely new clutch basket for it from Sheffield based Wilf Green. Him and a mate were struggling to remove the original clutch unit, using a hydraulic puller with the bike lying on its side. Whilst they took a break over a cuppa, they heard an almighty bang and rushed outside to try to figure out what had occurred. They discovered his now clutch-less Supa 5 lying exactly where they'd left it, but they never did find the clutch basket, nor the puller. He assumes they're both still rusting away exactly where they landed, on the roof of his mate's industrial unit somewhere in Wigan.

Next year's MotoGP CRT rules are much stricter...

Eventually eight of the ten arrived, Roger and ENVoy, Peter and KENT, Kieran and MOBster and Jack and BumRY. But conspicuous by their absence were Hume and his anonymous C90. It turned out that after yesterday's very long day, Hume had decided that he preferred to take a more leisurely approach to the trip, choosing instead to carry on at his own pace.

Once I'd led the way through Preston and Garstang, I dropped into my usual place at the rear for the rest of the trip up the A6. To the north of Kendal we encountered the climb to the top of Shap, which was reassuring… as that's where we'd expected to encounter it. Finding it anywhere else would have been more than a little disconcerting.

After a short session of photographs, we all set off for the climb with each rider choosing the pace most appropriate to their individual machine's characteristics. My MZ buzzed happily up in third for most of the ascent, maintaining a steady 40mph or more with only the occasional dab down into second. Behind me, Kieran and MOBster kept within rear view mirror sight and, when I finally stopped at the top of the climb, it was BumRY the impressive little Yamaha which surprised me the most by appearing over the rise almost immediately.

I've always had a healthy respect for the C90 machines, how could anyone not? But I can honestly say that I don't think I'll be buying one now. If I do decide to treat myself to a sub-100cc step-through, I'll be on the lookout for a shaft drive Townmate. One thing this trip has taught me is that they are indeed a very competent little machine.

MOBster and Kieran, going so fast the image is blurred...

After a break of ten minutes at the top, there was still no sign of Roger, nor Peter, so as the quickest and most powerful machine amongst us (MOBster and Kieran) were despatched to find out what was the problem. It turned out that Roger had encountered such a drop off in power during the climb that he thought it worth replacing the original 36 year old factory fitted plug cap with a shiny new NGK resistor cap.

The transformation was startling and ENVoy climbed the rest of the hill like a new machine. Roger was obviously delighted with the improvement, despite me suggesting that he deserved a right good slapping for not fitting it before we'd originally set off. The final scene of the TS150's ongoing power play came to fruition, when following my lead, Roger decided to fill up with 98Ron fuel instead of his usual 'cooking' unleaded. This improved ENVoy's performance by yet another quantum leap, which was another welcome performance improvement in anticipation of the Scottish Highlands we'd yet to encounter.

As we navigated through the Carlisle one-way system during evening rush hour, Roger flagged me down. My pannier frame had come adrift, due to a fractured mounting bracket. It was something I'd been keeping an eye on for the entire journey, having had an identical failure in Germany on my Supa 5 many years ago. Half a dozen cable ties and a luggage strap had the frame secured and we carried on over the Scottish border.

It was here that Peter really showed his superior navigational skills in successfully guiding us along the entire length of the B7076, which snakes either side of the A74(M). It's a wonderful road, virtually devoid of traffic which took us through Lockerbie and almost to the door of our bed for the night. We'd booked into the Youth Hostel at the New Lanark World Heritage site, where a shower, food and beer were waiting for us, despite arriving after dark. There we recuperated, refreshing our tired minds and bodies in preparation for the following day's big push to John o' Groats…

If you've enjoyed this tale of daring do and would like to make a donation for Red Cross week, you can donate via the End 2 End Slowly website:!donate/c1vnr


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