Monday 28 November 2016

A Walk in the Park and Some Childhood Memories

During the current period of cold weather I'm not using the bike much but I strolled around some parks on Glasgow's south side where I lived as a child.

Queen's Park - I climbed to the flagpole….

….to get a view of the grimy old city. As children we sledged here.

Only a few autumn leaves left on the trees
   It looks like someone broke the ice on the small pond for there little fellows

The big pond was also frozen. This is unusual at this time of year. An earliest recollection of mine is my younger brother falling through the ice here and being rushed home in our sister's pram. 
Nearby is Maxwell Park, my favourite as a child.

More autumn (but feels like winter) leaves

It may seem strange but I know this stone well. We used to sail boats in the pond and clamber over this shiny stone.

Frozen leaves

The low winter sun reflected on the ice

My preferred mode of transport these days (us old yins get a free pass)

Thursday 24 November 2016

Battery Maintenance

A spell of cold has weather prompted me to think about my bikes' batteries. I've got four bikes but only one is being used at present. This isn't generally a problem but many years ago I had a battery discharge and freeze solid.

There are the idle bikes' batteries being charged. I'm using a charger and a pair of battery tenders. The Yuasa on the right is an industrial battery I got from my brother and used for a 12V supply in the garage. The batteries can be charged on the bikes but once charged I'm going to store them in the house over the winter.

This is a cheap battery tender from Lidl. It supplies a low current to charge the battery slowly and switches off when the battery is fully charged. In theory it can be left on permanently without boiling the battery.

Frost-covered apples in a barrow in my garden.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Game of Fours - Blogger Challenge

Trobairitz  nominated me to give four answers to four questions so here goes.

Favourite Food

1 Pasta. There's an Italian restaurant 100 metres from my house so I have easy access to pasta dishes but I mostly cook it myself. With cheese sauce, cream sauce, pesto, tomato, ragu, carbonara even cold with tuna and mayo. I love pasta and eat it at least twice a week.

2 Vietnamese Pho. This is a broth of (usually) beef with noodles and herbs. I first ate it in London where, at the time, you had go to Hoxton in the East End to find Vietnamese restaurants. I make it myself from a sachet with chicken and vegetables including bok choi.

3 Haggis - Scotland's national dish and thought by non-Scots to be disgusting. It's best not dwelling on its ingredients but enjoy its peppery taste and light texture. I buy Grant's haggis and have it with mashed potato and marrowfat peas (though neeps - Swedish turnip - is traditional) 

4 Persian (Iranian) food - Again we discovered this in London. Somewhere like Alounka in Westbourne Grove. A meal might be starters like humus, mashed aubergine and falafel followed by grilled meats with flat bread.

Favourite Drinks

1 Gin - I don't drink a lot of spirits, well not by Scottish standards. But if I do it's usually gin and tonic. There is a magical chemistry there. Gin itself is horrible as so is tonic water but put them together and you have something special. Until recently you didn't have much choice in bar - Gordon's mostly. But now a trendy place will have a gin menu pages long. The most recent gin I enjoyed was Brecon Botanicals, from Wales.
2 Coffee - I'm probably an addict. In my working days I needed two good strong cups before I could function and I now I like to have a few through the day - six maybe - is that too much? The best coffee would be in a cafe in Spain or Portugal. I'll have it "con leche" - with milk - the thimble full of black liquid the locals enjoy is too strong for me.
3 Torres De Casta - Spanish rosado (rose) wine. When we have a villa or apartment in Spain or Portugal we always get some bottles for the fridge. Light & refreshing - just the thing for a sunny afternoon.


4 Peppermint Tea - I grow the stuff. Well, it grows wild in my garden. I don't like to see it going to waste and there's not much else you can do with it. I put four stalks in a caffetier and have it with some sugar. It's the taste of summer for me and I'm sure that it does you good. 

Places You've Been (I take it that this means places you like)

1 Vienna. My new favourite city. We went there for the first time this July and were blown away. The grand capital of a former empire it is packed full of beautiful buildings. Spotlessly clean and easy to get around by tram and subway (U-Bahn)

3 Southern Scotland. This year I spend a lot of time riding the roads of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. While the Highlands has spectacular scenery the south has a bigger choice of roads. From Portpatrick in the west to Berwick upon Tweed in the east (ok Berwick is a few miles into England) the region has great quiet roads, pleasant towns & villages and a beautiful peaceful landscape.

3 Canary Islands. In recent years we have escaped the Scottish winter for a week in the sun on these Spanish islands off the coast of Africa.

4 London. It's dirty, noisy, congested and hugely expensive but it is the greatest city in the world (some say) We've visited maybe 30 times over the years and can still find lots of new things to see - it's one huge place.


Names that you're known by

1. When I started work as a young graduate in a large design office no one knew my name but because I was the only person who rode a motorcycle they'd say "you need help surveying? take the new guy, you know, Barry Sheene" after the famous racer of the day.

2. Out on a construction site an old Clerk of Works used to get drunk on a Friday afternoon and called me "Hector". I've no idea why.

3. On that subject there was another old guy in the design office who'd greet me as "Shtuarty - Bhoy!", singing like Al Jolson doing "Mammy" in "The Jazz Singer". Another alcoholic.

and finally....

4. A friend sarcastically called me "Hawkeye the Pathfinder" when I got us lost on a bike trip to Ireland.

Friday 11 November 2016

A British Design Classic

On my travels recently near the Lanarkshire village of Douglas Water I came upon an example of a true British design classic - the Bailey Bridge. They were designed during World War two by civil engineer Donald Bailey and were extensively used by army engineering units of Britain, Canada & the USA. Field Marshal Montgomery & General Eisenhower both credited the Bailey bridge with helping to win the war. In civilian use they are still manufactured and used in road construction.

These bridges are made from pre-fabricated modular steel panels. They can be assembled in many ways to provide temporary bridging strong enough to carry a 40 ton tank. They can transported by light trucks, assembled easily and erected without the use of heavy equipment. 

This bridge is an old two span masonry arch that must have started to collapse. The Bailey bridge was erected on top. The road is closed to traffic (but not a bike, of course) due to an obvious sag. This is not the fault of the Bailey bridge but due to deterioration of the support at the pier (I think) 

Sherman tank crossing Bailey Bridge, France, 1944

Sir Donald Bailey

During the war over 490,000 tons of Bailey bridge was manufactured, representing 240 miles of bridge.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

In The News - US Election: The Scottish Perspective

Scottish regional newspapers reported on the US election in their own peculiar way. This is a mixture of blasé detachment with a tenuous Scottish connection.

The Buchan Observer runs a story under the heading " Aberdeenshire business owner wins presidential election", referring to Donald Trump's ownership of a golf resort in the north east.

A driver from the heavy rough? The Donald goes for it.

The Falkirk Herald reports that "Falkirk plays its role in historic US election". Emily Porter, a Chicago student working as an intern for a local politician, mailed her vote from one of the town's post offices.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Featured Bikes - 250cc Adventure Bikes

A class of small adventure bikes seems to be emerging.

Honda CRF250L Rally - looks like a baby Africa Twin

Suzuki VStrom 250 - uses the twin cylinder engine from the Inazuma. Can it be a "V" Strom with an inline engine?
Kawasaki Versys 250 - looks good, but this is only a rendering. Likely to be powered by the Ninja 250/300 twin engine
BMW G310GS - based on the recently announced G310R single.
The Chinese may have been ahead of the game. They offered this Honley RX3 with full luggage a few years ago. 

I'm not sure about these bikes. The adventure sport has replaced the dedicated tourer but 250cc is not enough for long distances with a passenger & gear. These bikes would make good urban commuters or back roads bikes but would be a bit of a pain for a long haul. Their light weight would make them manageable off road though.

If I had the choice I'd go for this little hooligan from the late '80's the Yamaha TDR250. A 50 bhp two stroke twin in a trail bike frame - described as "the Ultimate Dual". A very silly bike! 

Yamaha TDR250

promo video

Monday 7 November 2016