Out with a bang
There’s a certain sense of achievement when you get to test the bike you built in your shed with your own hands, to the absolute limit and finding it’s performing faultlessly. I always said that going to the IOM and using your bike there would be a test of your own technicall prowess, but the fast bits you do there last maybe a few minutes. In the time in Scotland, I had done hours at great speed and nothing fell off, broke or blew itself up; well happy, I was.
When we came to Perth, that’s where the fun ended and we came back down to reality. Some motorwaymiles, a stop for fuel and having waved Deeds goodbye, Katanamangler and I went onwards, following the M90 back home. En route, I clocked a few signs for Knockhill Raceway, and thought it’d be a good idea to see if anything was on when we got home. Parked the bikes up, said hello to everyone at home and opened my laptop; Knockhill Bikefest Rewind festival; “Enjoy the sights and sounds of all the iconic bikes on show at the Rewind festival with 3 special track sessions for classic bikes.” Well shit, we missed that..
Sitting there thinking about what I was going to do next and where to travel, I carried on trawling the internet for ideas and on of my digital stops was the Cadwell Park website. Since I was to be there for fridaynight, I thought it’d be good to know what was on the days before the Classic Trackdays event. What I found was another trackday on that friday, and it was cheap too. It was open to all bikes, but the 105Db limit was in place, so I thought it’d be rude not to get this day in as well. I would be sharing the track with modern machinery, but with groups seprating the Valentino Rossi’s from the Lloyd Christmas’, I guessed I should be fine. That was another blank day in the diary filled. 3 days thrashing Cadwell as a last hurrah to my 3 weeks away from it al; best go out with a bang, I thought.
To keep things simple (and cheap), I spent the next day at the Manglers, going into the city by bus. Got rained on that monday, which had been the first proper rain in all my time away from home. I’ve been very lucky in that respect, the good weather seemed to follow me around. I spent the day actually coding the ccs for OSS in a Starbucks, I got very in touch with my inner hipster. Wandered around a bit more and saw the weather turn from shit to glorious. It’s nice when that happens, but when you left the house wearing kevlar pants, a hoody and a windbreaker jacket to keep the weather at bay, you get warm..
I had gotten in touch with Viz if it’d be ok to crash their place for a day or 2 and catch up with them after my time away. As you’d expect after reading about the way this trip has gone up to now, I was told to “turn up whenever you like, stay as long as you like and do whatever, and when nobody’s in, there-and-there is the key” Another 2 days filled, so that was the plan sorted.
I set off southwards through the Scottish Borders, making a point of staying away from the motorway. The place was nearly as amazing as the Highlands where we had just been, with one very distinct difference; speedcameras. During the 4 days in the north, we hadn’t come across a single one, let alone a policecar, yet in the Borders, they were friggin’ everywhere. Now, in my van, I’m hardly fast, the thing won’t go much over 70 on a good day. However, I could see me not going back here on the bike, because there wasn’t really a point, knowing the Highlands were only a good 2 hours drive where you could have all the fun in the world, and actually getting away with it. Also noteworthy; the amount of Scottish flags on one side of the border, and English on the other. I guess it’s a local thing..
Driving downward to Peterborough, I was going to swing by Wescooley19, of SF Services fame, to drop off a frame I owned, but that had been sitting in Katanamangler’s shed for over 2 years. I had no use/room for it and he wanted to have it; it beats scrapping. I was met with the biggest cup of tea in my life and he took me to the best chipshop in the region. Being served another huge Fish & Chips, I didn’t get to finish it, sorry Si. It really was proper good though. Back in the workshop the most we spoke about was me going to the Bikeshed , the bikes that were there and the whole scene around it, all the while not mentioning skinny jeans. You see, there are some people that actually make their wages building these things. I don’t like the brownseat brigade and their blatant overuse of the Caferacer-handle, but if it keeps my friends in business, there has to be some good in it, right?
Backing into the drive at Viz and Minx for the second time in I’d been in the UK, I wasn’t wecomed. No, I got a cup of tea, was told to put my beer in the fridge and given 20 quid for food; I wasn’t just made welcome, it felt like I lived there. My hosts would be gone for the night and I was left to look after the cats, make myself comfortable and most of all, “don’t burn the place down” I can tell you it’s a pretty strange feeling to be in someones house for mere hours and feeling exactly in place, even the cats acknowledged me. Looking for order-in food, I ended up with worlds most expensive pizza, again. Nice food but 20 quid for pizza, damn..
The wednesday, Viz suggested to take me to FBM Turbosystems, the go-to guy in the UK to have a turbo stuck on your bike of choice and get your boostfix. Topping up the oil in the EF and having charged the battery after me leaving the ignition on (…), we were set to go for the 30 mile run to Oakham. When we arrived, I found myself in the OSS equivalent of a candystore; there was unobtanium EVERYWHERE. Dave made us coffee and let me wander through the shop without worry and answered every question I asked. Also very cool was the fact that whatever came through the speakers, was exactly what I play on the radio in everyday life. I have a pretty obscure taste in music, so I thought that was nice. Also very nice was seeing the near-finished funnybike Dave has been building for a while. The engineering going on in this machine is next-level and very impressive, I can’t wait to see it used in anger.
If you know some of us through Facebook, you might know about the tree Havoc goes to, to take pictures of his bikes. PaulM and Kid Kearsley had both found it before, but apparently both had forgotten where it actually was. I wanted to go there with the van and take a few pics as sort of a suprise to Havoc, but that meant finding it in some way. What followed was a long night of scrolling through pics on Facebook and narrowing the search down on Google Maps. Discussing back and forth with both the Kid and Paul, and later with Minx, Viz, Jelly and Katanamangler, we managed to find it.
It was now thursday and all I had to do that day was turn up at Cadwell for the 3 days on track that would start the day after. The tree was very much out of the way, but I had all day anyway, so I just went. Finding it in real life was still a bit difficult, because from the direction I was coming, it was hidden behind all the other trees. Still, with the modern satnav and a few pics to go by, I managed to find it and made it into a proper landmark.
With that done, I pointed the van in the general direction of Louth and got underway. When I eventually turned up, the paddock was completely empty. I was early; that’s new.. Setting up my awning in a force 8 gale was someting of a mission, but I ended up getting it sussed and in a good 2 hours, my little cloth pitbox was all set. I got the EFE out of the van as well and shot down the A153 to Louth to get something to eat. Having been in the saddle of the bike for days, at speeds we shouldn’t really mention, I went straight into attackmode. Now, I don’t know if anyone local is reading this, but that bit of road is good fun, I tell you. I eventuall managed to find a random kebabshop and got myself fed. For whatever reason, I was bloody tired, even having only done the best part of a 100 miles today. It was to be the first night on my own, after 18 days of being amongst friends. It was to be the first test to see if all this time away had actually fixed me.
The next morning I hobbled out of the van and got the Banana out of the awning. I was met by more than a few raised eyebrows from my fellow visitors, as the bike was the oldest there, by quite a margin. Guys using brand new superbikes and 600’s, and me, with my 28 year old, rattling yellow weathervane affectionatly know as The Banana.
Some call Cadwell Park the mini-Nurburgring and for good reason. There’s tight sections between trees, fast sweeping and completely blind bends, and The Mountain, where you can get both wheels of the floor, if you have a bit more talent than me. The first day was organised by No Limit Trackdays and was as you’d expect your average trackday to go; some red flags, some good sessions, it was over before I knew It. I managed to get 7 sessions in, which is pretty good going and upped my speed quite a bit, ready for the next 2 days when I would be met with likeminded people of equal skill.
Early evening, I was joined by YoshiJohnny and 370 Steve, who both would be out on track the day after as well and soon we had our own little OSS-territory. In the following hours the paddock went from a modern racemeeting, to a more nostalgic feel and one where I feel a lot more connected to. The atmosphere changed from competitive to a lot more relaxed and I was even nice to people on Hondas. I met with a lot of friends that I hadn’t seen for a long time, most near a year ago at Spa, and met with Robert, one of the organisers, to find out if I really would be out both days.
The next 2 days then went on to consist of miles and miles on a racetrack, getting higher wheelies over the mountain every lap and turning into Coppice faster everytime than the time before, it was everything I had hoped it’d be. I got faster as the weekend went on and from having others dissapear in the distance to getting to keep up and actually outrun them in later sessions. It’s not a race, they always say at the briefing during trackdays, but that’s only really for the guy that doesn’t win.
Saturdaynight we managed to fend off some horrible weather, missing us by as little as a mile, but we didn’t manage to get the bbq going due to the wind. After trying for what seemed like forever, YoshiJohnny suggested to throw in the bbq-towel and get food in the Cadwell Clubhouse. We then got up to speed with whatever was going on at home in both of our lives and that had me firmly back on the ground after days of keeping myself busy with all sort of random things, be it bikes, visiting a tree, all sorts, as long as I had something to do.
As the sunday got underway, we were met by more visiting friends; Minx and Viz turned up for their long awaited ride, GSXRSam, GSHub, MeanBean49 (thanks for the chassis advice) and many more, I’m sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone, it’s not intentional. As we worked out way through the day, time to start packing up came and the far away thought of it all ending and having to go home slowly turned into a reality. I had 450 miles to go and wouldn’t be leaving until after 5pm, so I had to cancel the dinner I was supposed to have at Zedhead’s place. It would just mean getting home at even sillier o’ clock and it was bad enough as it was.
Having said goodbye to YoshiJohnny and 370Steve, I made my way back down to Dover and I was thinking about how I was going to get all that I had just experienced, into a frontpage article of our website and I basically came up blank. I had thought about starting to write it while still on the trip but hadn’t done so, because I didn’t want to start looking back while I was still fully immersed in the experience. Now that that moment had passed, I needed to figure something out to actually get it into writing and share with you how special all this had actually been.
All of what I had done over the last weeks, has been possible because of people I met through OldskoolSuzuki.info. I’ve said it many times when explaining to others outside of my bikingworld what OSS actually is and means and more often than not, I call it a place away from the internet, on the internet. It’s hard to understand when you’re only used to the daily Facebook-, Twitter- and Intagram-feeds, all powered by advertising and algorhythms, having a computer decide what you see and who you interact with, that there actually are places different from that. No advertising and no behind the scenes cleverness keeping track of all you do. It’s almost oldschool in itself, and we’re very proud and also very protective of that (rtfr)
I can’t begin to explain to you what these 3 weeks have meant for me and how it managed to get my thoughts directed away from something very heavy and bad, if only for a short time. Every minute enjoyed is a minute no-one can take away from you. When I got home, reality set in and I found myself in the same place as before I left. I had hoped to get better, but I didn’t. It is what it is, the 24 days on the road will not soon be forgotten. When I opened the door and walked into the kitchen, a picture of me was hanging up on the wall..
A BIG thank you to all that have welcomed me in their homes, got me fed, made me tea, offered me a place to sleep and listened to my life’s stories; you have no idea how much it means to me. Thank you Mark, Sarah & Viz, Paul, 2 Step & Yenko, Tom & Suzanne, Kev & Jess + Jack and extended family, Dave and the missus, John & Jo, Kwool, Jon, Darren, Ash, Gary, Katanamangler & Leigh and the girls, Andrew, Deeds, Simon, Dave, YoshiJohnny, Brian, Steve, Rob and Darrin, Rob Bean, Nolan, Chris, Grumpy Gary and Jelle & Pep for the picture.
It’s been emotional…