For some reason I just bought this film originally made in 2001 (and its the ancient Macs that give the date away – Ted uses one of those Batman-ish black Mac G3 laptops that I have stashed away somewhere). The film follows veteran motorcycle traveler Ted Simon on part of his second round the world on two wheels trip made when he was 70 years old. These kinds of films face a couple of challenges. One is that Long Way Round and its sequel have set the tone for these biking travel pics with a kind of fast paced (annoying) reality TV style. Filmaker Manfred Waffender’s approach is very different. This is a more slow paced introspective take on life on the road. Lets be up front. I wanted to enjoy this but found it awful mostly. Ted, despite being a legend can be a miserable old git and talks endlessly about being old. His mission, following the tracks of a journey made in 1974 to ‘see how the world has changed’ was destined to be disappointing and possibly mawkish and misguided. Its a low budget film – nothing wrong with that at all – but part of its low budget is that it ends abruptly with the juorney 1/3 way through, with a voice over of Ted on the phone telling someone where he will go next. In my view, this is a poor ending. But Waffender and his team have a sensitive eye to their surroundings and there are one or two beautifully lingering shots, almost frozen frames, of people and buildings in Africa. here’s an aesthetic sense that you get nowhere in the Way Round documentaries. But once the film ended (abruptly) I found myself recalling that the experience of watching this had set me back €25. Hmm. You can get the film from email@example.com if you still want to. Or email me and I will give you my copy for free.
This machine has been sitting huge and intimidating on the road outside my house, draped in an Oxford rain cover.
It was time to bite the bullet and get the step ladder out and try to climb on top and drive away. I had another dangerous destination in mind – this time Tesco at Milton. Aha, good news! The annoying gear problem seems like the clutch needs tightening up (however you do that on such a complicated bike). A little adjuster screw on the lever gives you an extra millimeter or so of movement and it seems to help – so maybe I’m not looking at a new gearbox. And at last, a biker nodded to me. I had thought there was a conspiracy of unfriendliness to people on BMWs (honestly – I’m not rich and overpriviledged). Tomorrow I get up at the crack of dawn to take it down to BMW Motorad in Hertford for a service and ‘inspection’ (sounds quite military). Two discoveries when riding today: first, I can actually get my foot flat on the ground so will cancel the leg lenghtning session I had booked at the spiritualists and second I have finally worked out what the engine reminds me of – it sounds exactly like the old Citroen Deux Cheveau. Now that‘s high performance.
I couldn’t resist it – I’ve taken the day off to try out this bike….
On my first day of owning this bike I put my continent-crunching world-beating GSA through its paces – Destination Tescos in Ely. No problems getting out of cambridge. The border formalities were easy. Once on the A14 going west I felt a few drops of rain on my visor. Its well known that one shower on the A14 and the road will be impassable until next Spring. Luckily the rains held off. Some of the tarmac was ‘ever so slightly rough’ but the suspension coped really well. By lunchtime I arrived in Ely, a strange and wild place where banditry and corruption are well-known. Keeping a low profile I parked up the bike in Tesco and went inside to see if there was any food and drink available. With lots of gesticulations and shouting I made myself understood by the workers in Costa Coffee next to the pharmacy and cutomer toilets. On my return into Cambridge I was stopped at a chekpoint where I failed some of the questions on the IQ test. But with a bribe I was allowed in.
On the road I noticed some strange things: other bike riders don’t seem to return my nods any more. Instead I get greetings from the drivers of the following classes of vehicles: agricultural machinery, those big mowers that cut grass verges by the road; also scarecrows in the fields near Cottenham.
So day 1 was good – apart from struggling to get this machine into neutral once its warm. The riding position is good and the windscreen is great – I can ride with visor up now. I don’t know about its acceleration so no overtaking at the moment. It doesn’t feel as nippy as my previous bikes but presumably the power is there doing something.
Most of this post is also copied to the UKGSer website.
In that liminal space between parting with the money and owning, and with some time on my hands, I browse the UKGSers website. There are all kinds of useful threads there, including: where to stick your GPS. But there is a strange downbeat feel to some of them and I wonder if it reflects the character of BM owners. One of the most depressing is the ” I’ve had pain and tension in my right arm and shoulder since riding the GSA. I think it is to do with feeling tense about having spent so much money on it….” Then there is the chorus of folk swearing by spending out on the extended warranty listing the £1000s of repair bills, remarking that Japanese manufacturers don’t even offer extended warranty as their products are so reliable that no one would buy it. Then there’s the ‘brake-failure’ thread…
* Its an interesting slip of the keyboard that I wrote ‘owners’ rather than ‘riders’.
I just went down to a motor dealer in Hitchen who had a Beamer for sale on ebay. First I rang up about it and they said, sorry but someone is coming to see it, we’ll call you if they don’t turn up. I gave up and forgot about it. They rang me to say he hasn’t come. I rode down there enjoying getting back on a bike again. they showed me to ‘the bus station’ where it sat surrounded by dusty broken down cars, looking hardcore and beautiful and in immaculate condition – with 11,000 on the clock. They left me the key and said try it. Up on the centre stand I didn’t dare get it down and tried to climb on top and found I couldn’t reach the ground. So I though ok, BMW GS Adventure is not a bike for me. However I thought I won’t get this close to one again to try it out and the seller was including a low seat, so struggling and with the help of one of their salespeople we got the low seat on and the bike off the stand. Now, climbing on it and moving it around became a piece of cake. Where is this heavy unwieldy bike that people have written about? they phoned up the bos whose bike it is and he told me, ah someone is coming to see it and they have first refusal. I give up for the third time, then enjoy a confident ride home, wondering how different a GS would feel. In the bath and covered in soap, the phone rang and I learn that the bike is mine if I want it. Dripping I read out my card number for a deposit. I think this might mean I have become or very soon will become a GS owner. I can’t quite belive it. After all the hype – which is so consistent that I have to believe it – this bike seemed, on first experience, to be so normal and not as intimidating as I imagined. Let’s see how the next week falls out.