28th August 2015
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Brit Singles In Scotland, Part 2
Before Stuart Urquhart and Dave, his travelling companion, can continue their travels around Scotland on Brit singles, they must first convince their classic motorcycles to function..
On our third morning, over another ‘Full English’ we hatched a plan to strike west for Gairloch and Torridon with a possible third overnight at Applecross, or further afield. After coffees we returned to the Enfield to try and find the cause of yesterday’s power loss. Incorrectly gapped points or fuel starvation were prime suspects on our checklist, and the points certainly proved to be a tight 10thou on inspection. I reset them to their correct gap of 15thou.
Some debris was also removed from inside the carb’s float bowl and a trumpeter’s puff through the petrol cap’s breather met with little resistance. We could find no other ailments until I attempted to tickle the carb and noticed that fuel was rapidly dripping from the carb’s drain plug. When I removed the plug I discovered its green fibre sealing washer was perished and no matter how much I tightened, it just wouldn’t seal. Then typically, the washer split in half. Finding another washer in Ullapool would be a RealChallenge and our intended trip around the West Coast was a no-brainer unless I sealed the carburettor. Without this vital washer it would be quite possible for the drain plug to vibrate loose and drop off. The carb would then be losing fuel as fast as it could fill, leaving me well and truly stranded.
Then I noticed Dave was having problems starting his BSA. This looked serious, as the B33 usually fires up first or second kick and Dave was impatiently tossing off his gear in an attempt to cool down. But more kicks only produced a dank whiff of petrol. I immediately forgot about the Enfield’s problems and approached Dave, who was now squinting at a very wet plug. We dried the plug and then earthed it to the cylinder head in time-honoured fashion, but there was no spark to be seen.
After swapping plugs, removing the points, filing, cleaning, polishing and checking all the ignition and magneto contacts, we couldn’t entice any life from the B33’s magneto. Defeated, we had no choice but to call for recovery and I realised I would be travelling back on my own. One small concession was finding some fibre washers at Ullapool’s hardware store. Astonishingly, one washer fitted snugly over the carburettor drain plug – lucky old me. Once Dave had organised the B33’s recovery, we then treated ourselves to some conciliatory cakes and coffee before lamenting over our bad luck and of a holiday cut short.
The weather was improving as I blatted blissfully along Loch Broom and I began a debate with myself whether it would be risky to attempt the west coast on my own. I was still apprehensive about the power loss I’d experienced yesterday, but the Enfield was now puffing well and sounded reassuring as it thumped out its hypnotic beat beneath me. Some 20 minutes later, the massive signs for the West Coast Tourist Route were coming into view. As I was deliberating what to do I came up behind a snaking queue of cars and tourist buses, slogging up the steep hill before the exit sign. I was soon changing down to third when the carburettor uncharacteristically belched and spluttered (it never does this!) persuading me that Torridon’s isolated peninsula would be better left until my next trip. In any case, we’d never survive the ridicule if we’d both limped home on the back of a recovery truck.
Once past the turn-off and thumping along the twisty deserted road that skirts Loch Glascarnoch the engine suddenly let go with an almighty BANG! My stomach lurched and I violently grabbed the clutch. In fleeting seconds I’d careered off the road, both feet dragging through gravel, and in the fearful expectation of losing my ankles to a projectile conrod or an exploding primary drive. What on earth was happening? As I bounced up onto the rough shoulder I frantically looked down to see a perfectly functioning engine. My wits were all over the place as I instinctively turned my head to wave apologetically in the direction of any irate drivers that I may have startled in my haphazard dash to the kerbside.
Suddenly I caught the unmistakable flash of a Tornado jet, just metres from the heather-clad slopes. It was now turning impossibly hard over an adjacent mountain slope, being chased by its fleeting shadow. As it headed back in my direction I realised the Tornado was intent on giving me another heart-stopping pass.
In truth, I was outraged by the deafening and rude awakening I’d received during my blissful ride through Glen Glascarnoch. My engine worries had just about receded, only to explode with fear of certain injury when I’d imagined I was about to smack into the tarmac in a frenzy of exploding flesh and white metal. Let me just defend my outrage, because if you are EVER surprised at close quarters by a Tornado jet, it is anything but a pleasant experience!
However, now that I was prepared for a second pass, I could only marvel at the Tornado’s threatening form and astonishing acceleration. Once again it banked hard to my left and white vapour trails screamed from its wing tips as my ear drums rattled and rolled. The Tornado seemed to be tearing apart the very fabric of the atmosphere. Then in seconds the Tornado and its pilot - whom I could clearly see in his Alien-helmeted form - rapidly diminished to a spec over what I imagined was Garve. Impressive, as I would be lucky to make Garve in half an hour.
The rest of the journey went without mishap and I stopped at Tomintoul for a thirst-quenching cup of brew and some delicious carrot cake. Simultaneously, an orange-suited biker drew up and dismounted from his copper metallic MV Agusta hybrid. He sauntered over for a chat, was obviously American, and sounded genuinely astonished that I’d managed to travel there and back from Fife to Durness on such an ‘antique’ motorcycle. His matching MV copper metallic leathers and confident boasts about his machine’s incredible prowess did tempt me to question his tyres and their quite impressive chicken strips... but I remained tight-lipped.
I next learned he was a pilot for some important North Sea oil rig, or was it a supply vessel? Anyway, Captain America was flabbergasted when I explained that the Enfield was in fact a 2003 retro machine, capable of a mind-bending 55mph (I let go an embarrassing laugh, because I could see he was shocked). ‘Retro?’ he bellowed, ‘...it should be mothballed in a museum!’ Then, sucking the air through his dazzlingly bleached teeth, and with an impatient clack of his heels, Captain MarVellous departed just as suddenly as he’d appeared. He paused by the Enfield and mockingly patted its headlamp, shaking his disbelieving, copper-helmeted head. I felt he thought I was ‘off my planet’ and I bit even harder into my carrot cake. But I lingered there for a few more centuries, lest I catch up and embarrass him tip-toeing through the Lecht’s neck-snapping bends.
Moments later I was chugging up the long climb that leads to the Lecht ski slopes. On approaching the summit I noticed Captain America sitting outside the ski centre on his Muddy Varvelous, nonchalantly scoffing what I can only imagine was a buffalo-burger. He raised his head at the approaching drone of the Enfield and bouncing forward he unmistakably gestured with his closed fist, ‘give it some gas.’ I politely waved and cracked open the throttle. As I passed by I watched him punching the air in my rear view mirror and I couldn’t help laughing – what a character!
I enjoyed a blissful summer evening’s run back through Braemar, Glen Shee and over the Tay Bridge to Fife and after a total of five and a half hours in the saddle, I rolled into Wormit. I garaged the bike and grabbed a quick shower before texting Dave to see how he was fairing in recovery. A text immediately bounced back to say he was just passing Perth and was only 30 minutes behind me. We met up the following day and vowed to repeat our ‘classic’ trip before summer ends, and to complete the West Coast Tourist Route we had been unfortunate to miss this time around.
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