I will always reply to comments and always re-reply to re-replies.

Saturday, December 03, 2016


As I seem to have concentrated on posting about motorcycles recently I thought it time to give details of my main mode of pleasure transport these days. My motorcycles have always been a means of release from my "trap" in the south eastern corner of England - trapped by Cobbett's "Great Wen" of London (and even greater now than in Cobbett's day) which effectively cuts Kent off from the rest of the UK and my glorious Wessex.

I tend to travel less far these days (age and health) so motorcycling is less and I have reverted mainly to my old love of bicycles. I am a life-long club cyclist, but, post stroke, I am only able to continue with the help of electric assistance and my roamings are usually deliniated by my neighbouring Romney Marsh. Less is more; I cover less ground more slowly and see in greater detail than I would have done on a motorbike - although when the sun is up and winter gone I shall be looking forward to riding them again.

Abroad e-bikes are proliferating. (A friend has just returned from a week in cycle-friendly Holland where they abound and the streets are thronged with thousands of bikes of all types. Incidently amongst all those thousands he only saw one rider wearing a cycle helmet - the Dutch are far more relaxed about such things - probably why cycling is so popular there.)  Let's discuss my own bike. Its source of power is the battery behind the seat tube and this drives the electric motor in the rear wheel. My first e-bike conversion (of my own Claud Butler, see blog header image) had a motor in the front wheel and I said "never again" when I rode it over ice and the front wheel, losing all traction, spun at peak power and the bike deposited me, very hard, on the road.

The bike has disk brakes, very powerful, I have learnt to use the front one cautiously. It has sprung front forks and a sprung seat post so Kentish potholes are taken care of. The side stand is a boon, one does not have to look around for somewhere to lean the bike. Since my stroke I sometimes have difficulty knowing the position of my feet on the pedals, so I have substituted the toe-strap pedal clips I have always been used to for open ones that are easier to locate. Front and rear lighting is driven from the battery and I have fitted puncture resistant tyres (try removing a rear wheel with a motor therein to get a tyre off!)

Day to day luggage needs are taken care of by the neat top bag.

Note my club badges, I am a life member of the Cyclists' Touring Club and a member of the Veteran-Cycle Club (the bikes not the members, although that is sometimes a moot point on meets!). The faded pin brooch, given to me by my daughter, has an appropriate quote from Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost". The side panels unfold if required to give two panniers bags - useful for the weekend papers or to take our Christmas parcel for Australia to the post office.

A comfortable seat is essential. I dumped the squashy foam item and fitted a Brookes leather one which has a cut-out for male comfort in the perineum area

Let's talk about the controls:

I like foam grips on my handlebars and the "horns" give a change of position and better "pull" if needed. "1" is a twist grip throttle, independent of pedalling which will take the bike, illegally, (15.5 mph is supposed to be the limit) up to 20 mph. However I only use this to give me a push as I move off on hills, or for quickly crossing busy roads. Usually I use pedal assisted e-power which only works if you are actually pedalling. This has 5 modes, first gives assistance up to 3 mph and is practically useless, second assists to about 10 mph, third to 12 mph (the most used by me), fourth to 14 mph and fifth to 15.5 mph, the legal limit. The more power you feed in the shorter the distance between battery charges. (Nothing in life is free)

 "2" in the image is the control panel, let's have a look in detail:

It is controlled by the grey buttons on the left, these are almost impossible to operate, particularly if wearing gloves, so I have glued brass rivet heads to them to use as "braille". Top one turns power on/off (it can be ridden without power if conditions are easy). Third one down increases power levels and bottom one decreases. Power level is shown bottom left (on "0" at present). Top left section gives battery information (as I use it, I can go about 60-70 miles before a recharge pedalling at a steady 12 mph). Top right shows road speed, bottom shows total distance covered. (I have managed 2,664.7 miles to date).

Back to the previous image; "3" is a separate computer I have fitted so I can keep tabs on distance since last battery charge (it's on 15.3 miles above) and also shows speed. "4" is the twist grip change for the derailleur gears (7, but I seldom need more than the top 3 because of e-assistance).

The bell is essential. Ashford has many cycle paths shared with pedestrians and it can be amusing to see  such checking their mobiles when I ring it! Not so amusing when they walk towards or across me, head down to their phones away from this world. Another essential is the mirror, especially since this old geezer has trouble turning his head behind him (arthritis).

Well this seems complete so I am now off for a ride and get lunch some place, before commiting to publishing it.

Some three hours later. Back from a pleasant ride down to the Marsh and across to the little seaside town of Dymchurch. About 25 miles in all. The weather overcast, cold, but frost-free and completely windless. I rode the last mile to the town along the sea wall, the tide was in and the sea was like a mill pond. A hearty meal of fried eggs on toast, sausages, hash browns and baked beans seemed appropriate, followed by a large mug of steaming tea. Total cost only £4.50. (you get the picture of the type of cafe it was).

Friday, November 11, 2016

LEONARD COHEN enjoy joining the "Tower of Song"

Leonard Cohen has died, age 82 - I have always been a fan since his "unfashionable days" when it was considered very avant garde to enjoy him.

I only bought his very last offering "You like it Darker" a couple of weeks ago (he recorded it in October, sitting in a medical chair with his son's lap top in front of him - going until the end). This is an interview with him, where he comments on the phrase "Hineni - I'm ready my Lord" on that last recording


The following obituary does him more justice than anything I can write:


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

SINNIS 250 RETROSTAR , or finding something to suit

A few posts ago I bemoaned the fact that, post stroke, I could no longer manage to heave around a heavy motorcycle so opted to get a Honda CG125 "tiddler".

Experience with this and improving strength led me to consider something a little larger and "classic". A 1981 Honda 200 "Benly", which had been restored to very good condition. Why this particular bike? My wife had one, new, in about 1980 and I remembered it as a delightful, light little machine.

A summer's use of the Benly brought me to realize that traffic and road speeds have increased exponentially since 1980 and perhaps I needed to look at old motorcycles through less rose tinted and more practical goggles!

All these machine changes have been at very little cost (I count "fettling" expenses as part of the fun of owning motorcycles) since they have been bought and resold via Ebay.

What next?  It was time to think outside the box. I needed something with a bit more snap, crackle and pop. It had to be comparatively lightweight and have an electric start. My riding, these days, is of the fair weather variety, no rain if I can help it and definitely no frost or snow. Riding of motorcycles is on hold from November through to March! Rides are at the most 100 miles per day and I eschew motorways, preferring the byways and lanes of this green an pleasant land. So, heresy, I considered a CHINESE MOTORCYCLE. This one, the Sinnis 250cc Retrostar,  is imported by a distributor in Brighton, not too far away from me and they have dealers over much of the UK, Kent included.

Previously Chinese bikes had a bad name for shoddy finish, but quality control has improved considerably. They are also, still, very cheap to buy, a new one of this model retailing at only £2400. I researched Ebay and bought this  for £1700, a year old with only 3000 miles (5000 kms) run. The first owner was moving abroad and delivered it personally to me, his wife following in their car.

It cruises at  60 mph, tops out at 70 and covers about 80 miles to a gallon of petrol. The weight, crucial for me, is only 285 lbs. (130 kgs) and, since it won't be used during inclement weather on our salt-strewn roads the finish  should last for my requirements.

For those  who know about motorcycles, the styling reminds me of a 1960's Triumph Trophy and on the overrun it emits a delightful "twitter and pop" reminiscent of a 1950's BSA Gold Star. So an old man is made quite happy. I think Chinese motorcycles are probably going through what Japanese bikes went through here in the early 1960's when us British referred to them disparagingly as "Jap crap" and look what they did to our complacent and badly managed industry!.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Hallowe'en Approaches!

Out cycling this morning along the ancient Roman road that links my village (Kingsnorth) with the site of the Roman harbour near Lympne - this was the surreal sight in a field to my left.

In a couple of weeks this field will be barren as all the pumpkins will have been harvested for Hallowe'en. Does anyone eat them in the UK or do they just scoop out the middle, cut faces onto them and hang 'em up with a candle inside?

Saturday, September 17, 2016



Being less active these days I tend to spend a lot of time reading. However, my shelves are so packed that I only buy a book if I really need to keep it. It also means that if a new book arrives, a book needs to leave the shelves to make room for it. It is then either donated to charity, or, if valuable, advertised on Amazon.

My daughter-in-Oz (who blogged as HHnB) helped here as I gave her a free run of my shelves when she was over a couple of years ago. This resulted in a large lorry calling and taking away about nine boxes of books for container shipping to an Australian bungalow in the hills behind Perth. There they now sit cosily on new, craftsman constructed shelves, looking back to me in photographs like beloved old friends.

This is all as an introduction as to why I increasingly rely on ebooks and a Kindle. Easy to store great quantities and so easy to prop up and read whilst eating! However it does not have the feel and smell of a good, mature book, which is something never to be replicated .

I felt I should extend my tastes into new areas in old age (Evelyn Waugh was a start). But I had an early attraction to science fiction/fantasy; Barry Alldis, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Kornbluth and Pohl all sit on a top shelf still. Ray Bradbury, of course and the arch fantasist of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien.

My Australian son-in law (the chemist) enjoys Terry Pratchett whom I had never explored. So, let's give him a go - it's easy (and cheap) as he is all on Kindle. I thoroughly enjoyed a few of his DiscWorld series, but he died last year and I  have turned to his post mortem book, "A Slip of the Keyboard", being all of his non-fiction musings. I am reading it at present and it is wonderful stuff, full of cleverness, humility, humour, philosophy and anger.

One particular chapter is a reprint of his Inaugural Professorial Lecture at Trinity College, Dublin in November 2010. It covers how his life developed, school, what  inspired him to write, his first journalistic job as an apprentice reporter ( blogger, R.R.  comes to mind) on the Bucks Free Press and, of course, his Alzheimer's.

It's made such an impression on me that I would like to share it with you. Worth reading and readily available.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


As mentioned in The Guardian (and other media) Leonard Cohen's muse and lover, Marianne Ihlen has died of cancer, aged 81. Two of his most famous songs were inspired by her; So long, Marianne and Bird on the Wire.

So time passes and our youth with it.

RIP Marianne


Thursday, July 21, 2016


In comments to my previous post, RR and I discussed the morality of taking internal combustion engined machines along ancient greenways and I concurred with his views. My Damascene conversion came about on a trip to the Ridgeway. For a change I  had bought a larger trail bike, a Suzuki SP370, which was more "interesting" on the boring 300 mile motorway round trip  down to Wiltshire.

The ancient chalk trackway had been churned up by convoys of 4x4 drivers who delight in finding the "juicy" spots, driving into them and then using their skills to extract themselves.

The result was some 35 miles of a wet, muddy, chalky track with huge areas of very deep puddles (ponds?)

As you can see from the image, I was keeping, with difficulty to the side of the main track. However, at one point the only way through was to negotiate a very deep and wide "water feature". I usually walked such obstacles first but it was not possible on the occasion so I rode through it. Of course the bike hit a submerged rut and I went over. My usual small trail bikes would have been no problem in such circumstances, but the heavier Suzuki was immensely difficult to extricate and push out. By the time I reached the other side I was in a muck sweat ,shaking with effort and needed a sit down!

I rode home at the end of that day, jet-washed the mud clogged Suzuki and advertised it for sale. I was ashamed of what modern vehicles were doing to this environment (with my participation). No more trail rides, but I had had a good innings for some 30 years.