Stop… Hammer Time!

So the story so far on our two KTM 690 Enduro R 2012 bikes Calvin and Hobbes…

Leaving Weston…

So it was day 2 of having the bikes and I was lumbered with driving the car to Wales as one us had to take the gumph for our Touratech Adventure Travel Stand and Sam wasn’t keen on me riding alone on such a long journey as a newbie!   As Sam rode off through the traffic on the spankingly new and gorgeous Calvin towards the petrol station I was left at snails pace stuck in traffic all a wee bit pouty!

Pulling up at the pumps I hop out and ask how he was didderling and with a big beam it’s obvious he’s a happy boy!  We pay up, Sam kits back up and as he pulls out the bike stalls with an almighty *POP*.  Again, Sam attempts to start up and pull off… *POP*.  Bike stalls.  Third time… same again.

We pull over and a bit bamboozled take a glance over the bike only to spot the throttle body had detached from the engine!  We figured we could probably fix it but seeing as it’s a day old decide it’s best to pop it up to Fowlers and get them to have a goosey gander at it.  A pick up is arranged and my Parents come to the rescue and drop Sam home to grab my bike, Hobbes, so we can get on the road for the event!  Weh hey for awesome Parentals!

Throttle Body Detached from Engine! Boo hiss!

My bike goes like a dream to and from Wales and all the bits in between.  In the meantime Sam’s bike is whisked off to Fowlers and by the time we return we are told Calvin has been sorted and despite there being some cosmetic damage on the rubber seal between the throttle body and engine, all bolts are tightened and he’s ready to be picked up!  In we go, Sam hops on and back home without a problem!  Good times!

Off to Wales we Go with a Pop… and oil… and grease… and some Coolant too!

Day 2 of proper riding the bikes and we both head over to Wales on Calvin and Hobbes for Sam’s Mums Birthday and a meeting with Wales Air Ambulance and the Evening Post!  It’s the first longish ride I have been on which involved a MASSIVE wedgie within the first ten minutes of being on the bike.  2 hours later my legs are about 3 inches longer (had I been a man I would have sounded like Mickey Mouse!)  We need to be changing those seats… they’re like riding a plank attached to a pneumatic drill!

Anyway, all is good, we arrive and both bikes are behaving (although Calvin is a bit finicky when changing down gears) and we’re both grinning despite the sore arses!  Day 3 and we’re off up the Gower on some nice windy roads (where I experience my first back tyre kick out on a tight gravelly S Bend… talk about brick myself silly!  The funny thing is once I had recovered from a minor cardiac arrest, I tootled round the bend to a waiting Sam who smiled but he then pulled off a bit suddenly and popped a wheelie in error! Bitey Bikes but great fun!) After a pootle here there and everywhere, a visit to the WAA and a photoshoot with Evening Post, we make our way to our friends at SMT Motorcycle with Sam leading the way.  Due to being caught behind various cars Sam pulls up whilst I catch up and as I bob past he waves and I wave back and continue past… little did I know he was waving as Calvin had let out an almighty pop again and the throttle body had come off!

In the middle of Wales... Sam pops the seat to get better access to the throttle body!

As it’s Sam’s Mums Birthday we ideally want to stay on another night and get the bike recovered the following day… so at the side of the road we pull out the tool kit and commence trying to realign the throttle body and engine to get it fit enough to slow ride home.  As the rubber had folded under it took a good while of us both tugging and grunting (ooo err Gov) before we managed to slip them back together.  In doing so though…  we discovered a shed load of coolant pooling out everywhere… and then lots of oil too.  Uh ohhhhhhh spaghettiooos!

Brian and Sam loading Calvin and Hobbes

With not much choice we tidy it up as much as possible, tighten all caps and then slow ride Calvin back home where he was recovered kindly by Brian and brought back to Fowlers (organised by Danni at Fowlers who helped out MASSIVELY! Big thank you!).  Fowlers proceed work as soon as possible and Sam is left looking raaaaaaather sad about his courtesy bike (a Suzuki V Strom… “it’s like making love to a dead person” said the sad boy!)

Calvin is fixed up over the weekend, new coolant cap, new O Ring for the oil, adjustments to the gear box and the throttle body reattached.  After a long test run they call us up and we pop up to collect.

WHeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee *POP*….

So.  We arrive at Fowlers… once again they’re brilliant to us and so kind!  They explain they did a number of checks and resets and that all should be dandy!  Happy as Larry we ride off home, with me taking Sam a countryside route to enjoy.  After a good section of us “wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”ing along, we approach the t junction then suddenly I hear from behind *barrm barmmmm barrm… *POP*

Sam’s face was one of utter doom!  The poor boy was not happy!  Once again, the throttle body had come off and only 10miles from home.  This currently does not bode too well for our round the world charity trip at all!  We call up Fowlers and with closing time looming Sara works her magic and asks Malcolm the van driver to come across Bristol to pick us up (this is a nightmare for the poor man as the Olympic Torch was coming through the same day!)  With a cape and mask he arrives and saves us, scooping Calvin up and taking us back to Fowlers where people have stayed on late to take the bike.  This time round, Sam has a KTM 990 SMT which makes him muchos happier than the Suzuki but still heart broken he has to leave Calvin behind again!

3rd time lucky…. Right?

So.  Fowlers technicians look at it again.  Upon calling up KTM they find out that another chap had a similar problem with his 690 and it was all to do with the tuning so they ask Fowlers to check that out and also take a peek at the valves to make sure they’re clear.

The next day we call up and find out that all the checks have been completed and all the diagnostics are correct and it’s been out for a 60mile test run and it’s dandy.  In essence there’s nothing wrong with Calvin.  We decide to go scoop him up and have a chat with the management as we’re a bit bamboozled as to what to do (with the trip 2.5 months away we’re cutting it fine) and we’re recommended to plonk a letter together when we get back as we’re all thinking a replacement bike is the best option!

In the meantime whilst Calvin has been hiccupping, Hobbes has decided that enough thunder has been stolen and he too was going to go on the blink (literally).  Whilst riding, the Oil Pressure light kept flickering on, mainly when stopped or coming off the throttle.  With Hobbes running smoothly I figure it’s nothing major and likely to be a dodgy switch connection but whilst it’s all go go go with bikes I drop mine off at Fowlers when picking up Calvin and am boshed on a Yamaha MT03 (Sam rather likes seeing me on a sports bike apparently – good times!  But it’s not my Hobbes… boo).

So we ride on home, Calvin being fine and despite the Yamaha being comfortable me being a bit sad.  We were about two roads off ours though and in my mirror I see Sam stall.  “And he calls me a rookie!” I laugh until *POP*…  “nooooooooo waaaaaaaaaaay!!”.  And yes… no way was the right response as this time, the throttle body remains intact!  HOORAH!  But, Calvin is reluctant to start and when he does he’s struggling to hold on to 1000rpm.  Buggernauts.  With some fudging and frolicking we get him back home and yet again call Fowlers who were due to close.  We’re advised to try him again later as due to the heat (it’s been mega muggy) it may be an over heating issue (note, it’s muggy but these bikes are supposed to survive deserts! This bikes a SUPER duff!)

Aaaaaaaaaand boys and girls… that’s as far as we have come!  We did try Calvin a bit later and he seemed much recovered once he had cooled down but we’re still super nervous!  We’ll take him out for a bumble about tomorrow…

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Birthday Biking and Muddy Knees!

I have had *the* most awesome of birthdays ever!  After a cuppa tea in bed and receiving a most stupendous pair of tights in the universe we cracked on with a wee bit of work.  Sam kept doing little sing songs alllllllll morning about the house trying to get me to guess my 2nd present… of which I was told:

  1. It could go on the bike
  2. I will use it on the trip
  3. It is on my person
  4. Sam has one (kind of)
  5. I can wear / use it tonight when out on an evening ride
  6. It *may* be at my parents house

So… putting all of the above together I figured it could be a couple things… either a head torch, heated grips or glove linings or a snazzy bandana type thingy-ma-bob (all meet the above criteria!)!  Little did I know what he had in store for me!

Lunch time comes and we hop on the bikes for a bimble about the country lanes to one of our favourite little spots near Blagdon and decide to take our Contour ROAM cameras for a bit of a test run as we’d just received the SD cards!  When we arrive I’m beaming as the ride had been looooovely and sunny with some gorgeous sweeping roads!  Sam is grinning but a bit concerned about some oil gauge with the bike and gets me to go grab a juice whilst he checks it over.

Upon returning we decide it’s a bit stonking hot to be sitting in the direct sunlight with our suits on so wander off into a little nearby woods, find a log and plonk down.   All the time I’m animatedly chatting about this corner and that and how the cameras were when Sam says he thinks they’re having issues, fiddles with it a bit then puts it to one side.  He then asks if I would like my 2nd prezzie and gets me to close my eyes leaving me guessing away knowing it’s only big enough to fit in the rucksack.

Sam then asks me to open my eyes and when I do I get a bit of a shock as I am presented with a rather gorgeous and beautiful ring with Sam asking if I will marry him!  Not quite the heated gloves I was expecting!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!  Needless to say I said yes!!  Sam caught it all on camera too (they were  never duff he was just making excuses to turn them on) and I can honestly say I don’t half look shocked!  I’m even speechless for some time which is a rarity in itself!

So!  What a blooming marvellous birthday! I am stupendously happy and Sam is pretty twinkle toed at the moment… no matter all the struggles we may be having it doesn’t really matter as we have each other to get through!

Happy days in the Chasing Horizons Household! :D

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Finding something SUITable…

… A Mission Impossible?

Snowy iced mountain roads, sleeting showers, tropical climates, sinking dunes, dry heats of the desert, rocky roads, muddy mud mud, river crossings…. these are just a few of the terrains and weather systems we’re going to be facing on our charity RTW challenge.

How on Earth are we going to find motorcycle gear diverse and durable enough?!  Good question… and certainly one we found ourselves struggling to answer 6months ago!

Setting the bar…

Now, considering these suits will be our shell for over a year, with rarely a day going by without us donning them for lengthy and hard riding, it’s not only important they offer protection and adaptability but it’s incredibly vital they are stupendously comfortable.

Having had a colourful history in endurance riding and long term travelling on bikes, Sam’s experiences and knowledge proved to be both invaluable and an utter pain in the bum at the same time in our search.  With his expectations set high we tried on and reviewed countless suits but it seemed we just kept stumbling upon vital flaws or quality issues.

“The weather proofing isn’t good enough, the zip is sticky, you cannot remove the lining, the vents are all wrong”… are just a few of the phrases I would frequently hear.

Sneaky Encounter…

It was getting to a point where we considered making some major sacrifices to our standards when we had a lucky encounter with Rukka at the Birmingham Bike Show.  Having just been closed to the public, we were sneaking around stand to stand pretending to be stall workers when we happened to stumble upon the Rukka team.  An exchange of greetings and explanations of our trip ensued and Rukkas friendly representative introduced us to the Rukka Armas and Armiina Suit.

With a demonstration in full flow, Sam rambled off his extensive list of queries and expectations… all of which Rukkas Armas and Armiina suit had solutions for.  Exhausted of questions, a thorough inspection and trying-on session ensued.  It was then… Sam fell silent.  I knew we had found the suit of our travels.


Rukka Armas and Rukka Armiina AHOY:

Having spoken closely with TranAm and Rukka they have been kind enough to help us out with these fantastic suits.  Rather excitingly they arrived last week!

Clare Rukka Armiina YAY!

Sam Rukka Armas

We have managed to put together a couple of detailed previews of both the RUKKA Armas and RUKKA Armiina suit for you all to have a peak at here:





Once again a big thank you to both RUKKA and TranAm.  As a heads up there will be more photos in the gallery soon and in the gear section there will be full written previews too.  Keep watching and we will keep you posted!

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Sunny Days and Big Packages

What a stupendously sunny day it is!!  It’s the kind of weather we need with all this panic buying of petrol… if it all runs dry then at least we can ponder about in the sunny sunshine!

Sam and I have had an amazing day!  For starters, there was a knock knock knock at the door and we were greeted with this beast of a box:

Sam looking happy with his rather large package!

Inside we discovered some rather stunning Rukka Gear – both the Armas and Arminnas full kit.  This weekend we will be releasing a full preview of the gear with videos and pictures!  If you have anything specific you would like to ask about the gear, please do and we will make sure we cover it!

Not only has the above been super fantastic, but we have just found out good news about the X Lite 551 Helmets – they’re on their way in the next couple of weeks! Happy days!  We’ve also just had some lovely conversations with various biking organisations all really friendly and excited about our charity around the world motorcycle trip, it’s lovely to have such support and a wonderful response!

And… if that wasn’t enough we’ve had some fantastic press releases!  Our mugs can be found in the Mercury newspaper and the Wales Air Ambulance has just completed an article on our journey! Check out the clippings here:

Chasing Horizons Press Release Page

We’re now just confirming details on the bikes which is just crazy exciting but nerve racking too!  Once they have arrived in the next few weeks it’s due to go a bit loopy with an insane amount of training and events to attend!!

So keep watching people and we’ll be back with some updates this weekend including dashing photos and videos of the delightful Rukka kit!

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Module 2 Exam – Featuring Misery Guts and Jigs

March 20, 2012 / My category, Training / 0 Comments /

Today has been a funny one! Before even commencing our module 2 exams I was causing trouble and received a telling off by the examiners!  Whoopsy!  Granted though, they were being miserable… do read on to find out more!…

Wakey Wakey Rise and Shine…

Despite both being utterly zonked after our day of training yester and an evening of us nodding in and out of a sleepy slumber whilst snuggled together on the sofa… when we eventually crumbled into bed we experienced the most restless night in recent history.  The morning arrived too quickly and I found myself having to perform a thorough excavation of sleepy dust before I could squintily roll over and stir the beast that led purring a soft snore next to me.

Sam: “Ughmuhhphughno no..mehtime? Ughgettingup..mehguhfgflufflemmm…hug-sleep-moremm? Test? Hmmughgettingupmugh.”

This… is a standard morning response which is most always followed by what looks like an excruciating yet satisfying stretch, a fluffle of covers and then a poor attempt to sit up which inevitably results in flopping back down and wriggling under the duvet for five more minutes.  As you’re probably gathering, we’re slow starters!  Eventually though we dragged ourselves out of bed, threw on clothes, grazed on a toasted bagel and jumped in the car ready to head to the yard all pensive about the up and coming test.

Enroute we took time to test each other on the types of questions we could be asked prior to the examined ride. With Smart Trainings Module 2 Test Tip Sheet we soon discovered the questions were all fairly simple things; how to check the oil, how to use the horn, demonstrate how to test the front/back brakes, what affects the bike when carrying a pillion etc.  Briefly interrupting our question testing we stopped off at the local Petrol Station to grab wonga, when Sam spotted an immaculate and most stunning Porsche Speedster 356.  It was a beauty!  So gorgeous in fact, Sam couldn’t resist popping over and having a quick chat with the owner.  Despite being bike fanatics, there’s some cars out there that certainly melt our hearts, especially this one when it growled gently pulling off into the sunny morning traffic.  Gorgeous.

Back on the road, we were half way there when we had a bit of a panic upon spotting our instructor, Ianto, bop past us in the opposite direction on his bike.  Had we got the time wrong?!  Were we late?  Surely he would have rung if we were late?  Bugger blast and fiddlesticks!  Five minutes later and panic struck we rocked up at Smart Motorcycles Yard only to be greeted by Mark (current bobby instructor) who explained Ianto was just dropping a student down to the test centre and would be back in a minute… Phew!

Getting Lost…

Paperwork At The Ready

Waiting for Ianto, Paperwork at the Ready!

Surely enough, Ianto returned moments later and before we knew it  we were kitted up and on the bikes ready for a short ride about the estate as a warm up before heading to the test centre.  With Sam up front, Ianto in the middle and I at the rear, I found myself not nervous but incredibly focused on my actions.

 Mumbling to myself in my helmet: “Mirror Mirror, indicate, maneuver, change to correct gear, check again, life saver look, softly pull away…babble babble babble”

It turned out that I was, in fact, so focused on my riding that upon getting stuck behind a bimbly driver and hearing an instruction by Ianto to turn left… I did so… but neglected to consider that Sam and Ianto were a good couple of roads ahead.  Lost and laughing, I meandered up a small steep road only to be greeted by a tight cul-de-sac at the end.  Dropping into first I started into a U turn whilst simultaneously listening to Ianto on the radio stating “I bet she’s turned off before we did… the dozy Dora… Clare stay where you are I’ll come find you!”.  Half way into the turn, however, I realised the camber of the road was actually ridiculously steep and the bike wasn’t quite going to make the turn… ended up hesitating… felt the bike tipping and even though I tried to correct it I realised I couldn’t really save it so lowered it slowly and carefully to the ground.  Standing to the side of the bike, I looked down at it carefully laid up and felt like a right muppet!  Sams test was due in… ooh 20mins… and I was lost and could hear Ianto trying to find me whilst my bike was carefully laid on the floor, way too heavy for me to pick up (after two or three attempts I was left laughing by its side… thank goodness we’re getting lighter bikes and I have a few months more of physical training!) Before long though, Ianto was riding up the quiet small road and I waved him down.  Calling me a ditsy dope, he hopped off and together we lugged the bike up and headed off to catch up with Sam!

Being Reprimanded…

Fortunately, we had left with plenty of time and made the test centre with ten minutes to spare.  After a few minutes of chatting, Sam was greeted by a rather straight faced looking examiner.  Being the polite boy Sam is, he extended his hand for a friendly handshake but it was quickly snubbed and, pulling a Gromit-style-gulp-face, Sam followed the cold fronted examiner into a side room for his documents to be checked.  Waiting indoors with Ianto, we then watched the nervous boy being led outside and interrogated about the bike.  At this point, watching Sam was quite amusing!  I couldn’t hear the conversation but there was a moment where I could see he had been asked a question and Sam just stared at the examiner dumbfounded… opened his mouth… closed it… looked at the bike frowning… opened his mouth again… closed it… and then pointed at the front of it whilst bumbling out some words with a confused look.  I later found out that, despite years of riding and tinkering with bikes and being completely aware of all the possible questions and answers he could be posed at that moment in time, his mind momentarily went blank when asked how he would check the front brake fluid!  There’s exam nerves for you!

Sam Preparing

Sam preparing for his Module 2

A few minutes passed and Ianto and I watched as the examiner and Sam fumbled with radios… it looked like there was some kind of problem.  At this point I plonked out my phone and took a couple of photos which was noticed by another zombified expressioned examiner entering the building.

Examiner of Zombie Expression: *interrupting Ianto who was on the phone* “Is that girl filming?!”
Ianto: “I have no idea! Ask her!” *continues his rudely interrupted phone conversation*

The examiner took one look at me and walked straight past!  How odd I thought!  Once Ianto had finished his phone conversation I asked him what that was all about and he told me he had no idea and not to worry.  A further 5minutes ensued watching Sam and the other miserable examiner fumbling with the radio until eventually the examiner made way for the centre.  Ianto and I nodded as he walked past but quickly scooted out to ask Sam what was the dealio.  It turned out the radio was duffed up…  surely they check their equipment prior to heading out to a test I question? Hmmm.

Miserable Examiner Returning: “Ianto… mind if I have a word?”
Ianto: “Sure sure…”
Sam and I exchange concerned looks nervous the test may be cancelled…
Miserable Examiner: “Was she filming me earlier?”
Ianto: *perplexed* “Eh? I have no idea! Ask her!!”
Miserable Examiner: “Excuse me, were you filming me earlier?”
Me: “Erm I took a couple of pictures but that’s only because during Module 1 I was told I could take photos and videos… Is this a problem?”
Miserable Examiner: “Yes, it’s against DSA rules, delete them straight away”

With the examiner looming over me I apologised and immediately deleted all the photos but at the same time thought “actually mate, I was taking photos of Sam not you and there’s no need to be so rude about it!” God knows why he nor the other zombie examiner spoke to me in the first place!  Nervous I had set Sam off on a bad foot, I watched as they mounted their bikes and headed off on to the roads, radios fixed.

Ianto and I then hopped on our bikes for a quick pootle around the back streets and thirty minutes later, we arrived back at the test centre to be greeted by a smiling Sam!  He had passed!  During his ride he had found that nerves did get the better of him causing him to be slightly over cautious at give ways and also riding the bike at 60mph on a dual carriageway as opposed to 70mph.  When he returned he was faced with the following conversation:

Examiner: *in a condescending manner* “So. Do you know the difference between a give way and stop line?”
Sam: “Erm… yes… the stop you have to stop at and the give way you can continue should the road be clear?”
Examiner: “Right. So why did you stop at the give way when it was clear?”
Sam: “Erm… I guess it’s partly to do with nerves and also not knowing where I was… I thought it would be better to stop, check and make sure it was safe as opposed to riding straight through…”
Examiner: “Hmmm” *knowing Sam was watching hovers his pen over the fail box…. presses pen down without marking… pauses… lifts pen back up…. then swipes it through the adjacent pass box*

What. A. Muppet.  Having passed, Sam was super happy not to have to say “See you next Tuesday” (the next test date to retake the exam) but at the same time a little sad he missed out on the opportunity of this remark too!  Celebrations gave way and not caring the examiner was watching we all looked like planks and performed a little jig laughing and jumping!  After the happy happy joy joy moment I then realised that the pressure was now on for me to pass…

My Turn with Mister Misery…


Mister Misery... Meet Jolly Clare! Mu ha ha!

After what seemed like a century of waiting, the miserable examiner emerged and drearily introduced himself.  “Right you bugger,” I thought “I’m gonna make you smile whether you like it or not and what’s more… I’m going to enjoy this ride even if it’s an exam and have to put up with your droneyness!”.  With Ianto and Sam rolling their eyes at me, I threw on a winning smile and bounded into the gloomy office behind Mister Misery and proceeded to make light conversation whilst my documents were filled out.  Unsuccessful in the smiling department, I was then taken out to the bike.

Examiner: “Right Clare, can you tell me what would be affected should you carry a pillion passenger on your bike?”
Me: “Ahahaha! I answered this earlier to Ianto when talking about a weighty passenger but couldn’t think of the word suspension… kept saying suspense… he laughed at me… I am poop with words I am… Ha! Suspense! Hahaha! What a muppet I am… Heh… ahem… yes erm… sorry what did you ask?!”
Examiner: *brief glimpse of a smile but then upon realisation of showing emotion snapped back to his sombre death gaze and repeated the question*

The blighter had smiled!  That… made me happy!  After answering his question I hopped on the bike and proceeded to listen carefully to his instructions, riding out of the test centre steadily.  Granted, I can be a bit cheeky off the bike… but as soon as I’m riding I kind of zone into bike-mode and am very focused.  Hopefully this is a good sign!  The whole ride went particularly smoothly with only one memorable mistake which found me cursing.  My stupid numb left thumb had caused me to haplessly fumble with the indicator which I struggled to turn off leaving it blinking a few car lengths into a turn.  At the time I knew it would result in at least a minor, perhaps even a major, but I did my best to ignore it and carried on as normal.  After a bimble about a village, along a dual carriageway, over a bridge and round a school, I returned unsure as to whether I had met the mark.  During the ride I had been concentrating so much I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be but what I found rather off putting was having the miserable examiner *right* up my bum throughout it all.  That had made me uncomfortable.  I discovered later also that, rumour has it, the same examiner rear ended a student only a few months ago.  This… does not surprise me.

Dismounting at the test centre I suddenly realised what I had just done and followed the examiner into the box room, nodding at a concerned looking Sam and Ianto on the way past.  Trying best to read the miserable sods face, I plonked myself down and after a long pause…

Me: “So… can I ask if I have passed or not?”
Examiner: “You can ask.”
Me: “ARGHRGHRGHGH YOU ABSOLUTE SMARMY KNOB”… okay okay I didn’t say that but it’s exactly what I thought! What I actually said… “Heh okay… erm… did I pass?”
Examiner: *pauses and without looking up from the form and completely devoid of emotion* “….. yep”
Me: “AHAHA. Ahem. Haha! Yay! Go me!” *beams* 

The documentation was completed, I politely thanked Mister Misery, about turned and joined Sam and Ianto with a big big grin!  After much dancing and hugging celebrations, we hopped on our bikes and with great relief made our way back to the yard!

And… that was that!  We are now fully fledged bike riders! What a relief!  We really wouldn’t have been able to have achieved what we have without the great help from Ianto and Chris at Smart Motorcycle Training in Swansea.  They have been an absolute joy to train with, constantly making us laugh yet imparting their wealth of knowledge with enthusiasm and creativity.  Thank you guys so much – your efforts have meant the world to us both!

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