Pt. 8 - The first adventure.
All has been quiet for a while and it’s not because I lost interest. I have been busy racking up some miles... well, that and I’ve been slightly preoccupied building a new bike from the frame up.
In all honesty the divvi has become a true work horse, used for my daily commute and nobody is interested in hearing the tale of a bike going to and from work 5 days a week leaving nothing to report besides an admiration for the pure consistency and reliability this machine has to offer.
Anyway, on with the point. I decided this bike was to become an adventure bike - or a poor mans best effort if you like - so previous work led to the point where we needed to hit the road for an adventure, and adventure we did...
Some months ago I got the approval from work, a week booked off in the middle of October. Who cares what the weather is like? I’m an all seasons rider anyway. Of course the reality didn’t sink in.
The date approached and the weather got colder and wetter and I started having second thoughts - nothing some name calling and advice on effective waterproofs from my dad couldn’t cure - I got a rough indication of the route around Wales planning to leave Monday and be home Friday. Heading from Manchester to Anglesey, to Tyn Cornel. Heading further south to St David’s, then back north to Dolgoch. Back to Anglesey then head home to Manchester... That sounded great, however the extent of MY plan was to follow my dad and ideally not fall off.
After work I headed home on the Friday before leaving knowing I had 2 days to make the divvi battle ready, a quick trip to the auto parts shop to pick up a set of heated grips because there is no way I’m leaving my Knox gloves at home but I knew my hands would freeze.
The bike got the full inspection the only problems I encountered was a torn fork gator exposing a leaking oil seal and a loose gear linkage nut... too late to change the seals, I’m sure they will be fine. With everything checked and tightened, the panniers fitted and luggage packed I was ready for the morning departure.
Day 1 - Manchester to Anglesey. The Met Office issued weather warnings about storm ‘Brian’, recording winds up to 90mph in places. The sun had turned orange in the sky and every few miles I would get an unsettling shove from the side as the wind got around trees and trucks, the storm was certainly making its self known. after a few more involuntarily lane changes I arrived at the meeting point with my dad in Chester. This was the last time I saw a motorway for some time.
We made a mad dash over the mountains heading for his house in Anglesey to bunker down for the night hoping the weather was better in the morning. However the wind still promised chaos for the journey - at one point I had a heart stopping moment thinking my back tyre had punctured at 70mph. Thankfully it was just a side effect of being beaten relentlessly as I rode.
Eventually we arrived safely.
The bike had shelter from the rain but managed to get pelted with numerous mop buckets being thrown around by the wind through the night.
Day 2 - Anglesey to Tyn Cornel. We were up and out bright and early on a cold morning and I instantly fell in love with the new heated grips. We passed through a bit of the rush hour traffic getting back onto the mainland. I discovered filtering (lane splitting) is quite difficult when the widest part of the bike is behind you, but it was over quickly. Anglesey at rush hour is about as busy as Manchester in the dead of night so it was a pleasant change of pace for me.
Onwards through Snowdonia following the narrow windy tracks that showed the aftermath of yesterday’s storm, tree debris all over the road. My riding skills and confidence in this terrain still had plenty of room for improvement, the difference in experience showed almost immediately, riding smooth bends on well maintained tarmac on good road tyres and I could not for the life of me keep pace with the Honda Transalp in front of me wearing knobbly tyres. Every corner, every damp patch, anytime a pile of leaves were on the road I was slowing right down in fear of sliding into a stone wall. I was kicking myself knowing my younger self would have flown through no problem, all the knowledge was there but the years sat in a car had taken my confidence hostage.
We stopped to appreciate the sights of Snowdonia shrouded in trees boasting their vibrant autumn colours while I was informed Wales had plenty more of this to offer as the miles go on.
On we went through more fast sweeping smooth roads. As the miles went on the divvi started to really shape up, a good hot run in cool clean air made a huge difference to the engines mood. We arrived at our destination, a wilderness hostel in Tyn Cornel. Over the mountain, down the dirt track, a bit of off-roading and left my phone signal a few miles behind.
The bike struck lucky and got to spend the night in the barn filled with firewood.
Day 3 - Tyn Cornel to St David’s Via Swansea. It rained. A lot.
It wasn’t too bad as we set off in search for civilization. We wondered our way down to Swansea but as we plodded on the rain caught up. We stopped for food by the football stadium in the hopes that it wold pass over us but we were not so lucky. Instead we decided to get on the motorway for the first time since covering the entire length of the country and make a mad dash to our hostel in St David’s. A few dull miles on the motorway in driving rain trying to find the coast.
... Of course once we stopped riding the rain stopped and the skies cleared for the evening.
Day 4 - St David’s to Dolgoch via Aberystwyth. Once again, up and out early, greeted by better weather and more miles of outstanding roads on our way to Aberystwyth tracking down a bike shop for a rain cover as our final night had no barn to keep the divvi safe from the elements. I figured she earned a new coat as she’d performed faultlessly so far. The only times the toolkit came out was to re-glue the new grips and to tighten the mirror after a fair amount of vibration had shaken it loose, both errors were my own fault.
We found my new cover at a little gem of a shop by the sea front called ‘Electra Moto Gear.’ Bike gear, coffee and cake all in one place, what more could you ask for?
After that we had a quick stop for food before pressing on to Dolgoch where we encountered some more intense off-roading to reach our destination and I had my first river crossing. Only a small one but I nearly ended up sideways and wet all the same. Stumbling up the bank with steam billowing from the down pipes to see my dad laughing fumbling for the camera. After nearly dunking myself I wasn’t quite ready for the second take photograph so we carried on rumbling over the dirt track to our third and final wildernesses hostel. No phone signal, no electric, just solar lights and torches in the middle of a valley which almost spelled a great night a sleep... 4:30am i’m Awake and startled in the darkest room i’ve ever been in. Woken by the pain of a recent dentist visit my dad decided he didn’t need pain killers but he would use his vape, subsequently setting off the smoke alarms throughout the building... We’re not on fire, go back to sleep.
Day 5 - Dolgoch to Manchester Via Anglesey. We set off in persistent rain trying to stumble back over the dirt track that led us here - I decided the bridge was a better idea than a second attempt at the river- once again back into civilisation to make some phone calls and reassure relatives and loved ones that I was alive and well despite my phone not working behind the mountains. The weather was miserable and made no indication of change so we pressed on fast before stopping for food in snowdonia while the weather improved. This gave time for some reflection over the journey near its end. The 24 year old divvi with all its previous loveless owners and pitifully low mileage had done better than I ever imagined it could. This also gave me a huge sense of satisfaction realising I was probably the first owner to ever take her on a trip like this, I felt better for it, my riding was much better for it and the bike felt hugely better. Long fast paced journeys in clean air to clear out the filth of city centre bus fumes and traffic jams.... the Transalp never missed a beat either but that had been tried and tested in various parts of the world already...
Enough sentimental thoughtfulness staring at the two bikes. Back on the road to Anglesey for a quick coffee and part ways with dad.
Let’s get back to Manchester.
Home and covered in mud. Notice how my chicken strips are less than half the size they were before setting off...
My welcome home party was awaiting me straight after the first ‘Manchester’ roadside where I was made to sit in bumper to bumper traffic, unable to filter with the panniers, feeling the divvi get hot and bothered again. 1 hour and 45 minutes later I’d covered the last 20 miles to my front door.
There are a few little additions I have in mind for the divvi as I will certainly be following up with more trips once the worst of winter has passed. For the benefit of my previously broken wrist I’ve invested in some bar risers for a slightly more upright riding position. This will in turn most likely present the need for a taller wind screen.
A large top box will be much better suited than the panniers for any trips without the Mrs on the back purely for the benefit of filtering.
Oil seals and new fork gators will be needed as there is now fork oil all down the leg after the rough terrain.
And of course the previously mentioned respray on the tank and a new seat cover but they were on the list.
For the most part however, she’s set a fine example of how easy (and cheap) adventure riding can be. You don’t need a big heavy bmw to go down a dirt track, you don’t even need a modern bike to do it. This divvi is ready for anything I can throw at it and my admiration for it grows with every journey.
Not bad at all for 24 year old jap-crap.