The outside of a motorbike engine seen up close near the exhaust

Home Travel StoriesCornwall In Winter 2017

Meeting Ian

By Ren Withnell

I sleep the sleep of the dead. And yet when I awake it is still dark and only 0615. What? Oh well I'll stick the TV on and just lie here in the warmth for a while. It's a little nippy actually, I turned the heater down last night otherwise I would have melted into the bed. The big soft comfortable warm bed. I nudge the dial on the heater and climb under the duvet for while to let the heater do it's thing. 

I am not a natural camper. If I were a wealthy man I would stay in luxurious 5 star hotels every step of the way. I camp because I am tight. I camp because 1 night in a basic hotel such as this Travelodge equates to 3 nights under canvas. I camp because it is much more flexible. I camp because it is a challenge. I camp because I enjoy the camaraderie between campers. Maybe I do like camping, it certainly doesn't come easily to me though.

A thick layer of frost covers the headlight and fairings on the CB500XBRRRRR! I'm glad I was indoors last night.

There are but 18 miles between this Travelodge and Ian's place. Looking at the thick layer of frost on the motorcycle I am thankful it isn't far and ever more thankful I wasn't under canvas last night. These 18 miles pass without incident save for a quick check on my phone's map to ensure I was indeed on the correct road. With some curiosity and a little trepidation I park outside what I hope is Ian's abode.

It's hard to describe Ian's house, especially as I realise he will most likely read this. Definitely a semi in the leafy suburbs with no indication at all that there might be a motorcycle or a lathe within. Was I expecting to find a collection of vintage motorcycles outside and a swinging sign stating "Soady's Restorations Ltd"? I really must have a word with my imagination and keep it in check.

I shall try to describe the interior. Books upon books upon shelves, an eclectic range of furniture and ornaments, the old and the new. I can't help but feel as though I am in the home of a retired Oxford professor whom at some brief point in the 60s dabbled with the hippy movement. I am greeted with generosity, hot tea and a plate of biscuits which are again a mixture. Ian's wife of many years is busying herself to go to a meeting wrapped up in many layers while Ian shows me into his garage. 

It's smaller than I expected. It's a regular garage like everyone else's, thought it would be palatial. Aha - here's the Sunbeam upon a bike lift, resplendent with valve springs on show and various tools strewn about. His small lathe is secured to a bench and the 400 Honda is tucked tightly up against the wall. This is a man cave if ever there was with shelving to the roof jammed full of tools in boxes and parts from every era of motorcycling. 

Talking to Ian also makes me think of Oxford professors. He is sharp, political yet open minded, well read and well informed and has obviously spent a lot of time in deep discussion judging by his listening and comprehension skills. He has that annoying trait of being able to argue a case logically and clearly which forces me to question my own thinking, dammit.

We do nothing more than drink tea while discussing everything from motorcycle design to current affairs via computing advances and our past history. I could sit here all day but I am aware I still have 110 miles to ride and Ian probably has his own life to be getting on with. I make to leave while Ian furnishes me with a route to the motorway. My thanks to my host for an engaging visit.

A ford? There is it seems a genuine actual ford across this road in the suburbs of Birmingham. I might expect this along a rural track but not in the city. This area is quite smart perhaps the locals use it to wash the tyres on their cars? Perhaps Birmingham council is so poor they can't afford a bridge? I have no explanation for this peculiar and somewhat out of place ford but here it is right before me. I am a ford spotter so this pleases me deeply.

A ford across the road in the ordinary leafy suburbs of BirminghamWhat the? Oooh, is it on

The rest of my trip passes uneventfully which is a blessing. Motorways lead to motorways, services come and go, junction numbers change and soon it's all very familiar as I get closer to home. I throw the bike into the shed and stagger into my house. It's still here and I haven't been burgled so all is well. A cup of tea is what I need right now.

The thick layer of salt and dirt over the number place and tail light of the 500Think the CB500X might be in need of a clean?

Why Oh Why Oh Why? Ren explains why he thinks it's a good idea to travel to a UK holiday destination in winter. Kind of like asking a madman why he's mad really.
Eating The Elephant It's the first two days of Ren's brief jolly to Cornwall in January. Motorways, could anything interesting possibly happen?
My Guided Tour The winter sun is out in Cornwall and Ren gets a brief yet perfect guided tour of one area. What more could he ask for?
Familiar Faces, Familiar Places It's the fourth day of the Cornwall expedition. After hypothermia comes sunshine and the chance to catch up with an old friend.
Devonian Delights It's another cold cold morning as Ren starts the journey back home. He's expecting a rather dull ride today but there's a few surprises in the countryside.
Meeting Ian Before Ren returns home to end his Cornish expedition he meets a certain Mr Ian Soady.
What Did I Learn? After returning home from his Cornish adventure Ren is asking himself what he has leared and was it all worth the effort?

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
Good to meet you too Ren and thanks for the kind words (I think.....)

But tools "strewn about"? Carefully placed for future use is my version....

I have to say that space in the garage is my biggest problem as otherwise I would be keeping some of the bikes I rebuild rather than having to move them on in order for something else to take up residence.

This is what happens almost every year when someone attempts the ford when it's in flood.

washed away car.....
29/01/2017 11:58:32 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Looks like a future Darwin Award winner in the making.
30/01/2017 18:47:47 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Yes, there are plenty about. In fact the ford is only about 1 foot deep at the moment and one of the prats who insists on speeding through was sat at the other side with his hazards on, probably with his engine having ingested a cylinder or so of water....
31/01/2017 10:39:31 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ian - you really need to think about expanding the garage into the house. Here's my suggestion. Move the kitchen upstairs as I'm sure you'll have a spare room up there. When the kitchen is moved you can then grow the garage into the kitchen and beyond.

I'm sure Mrs Soady will not be overly keen on this idea. As I noted in the article you do have the power of persuasion although I'm reasonably sure Mrs Soady will do too having lived with you so long. In which case you need to put the idea into arbitration. I shall act as your arbiter.

In return for my favourable view of extending into the kitchen all I ask in return is some of the additional space to store a motorcycle or two and a little lathe time.

Ain't I generous!
31/01/2017 10:52:46 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Careful there Ren.
After that brainwave Mrs Soady might use parts of you good selve to sharpen her lathe skills on. ;-)
31/01/2017 11:45:14 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Actually, I spend far more time in the kitchen than she does.....

and there's no room upstairs as it's fully occupied by more books (yes, I know), Electra's hypnotherapy room / office and the broom cupboard where I sit and churn out epics as well as offering a household (and beyond) IT consultancy service.

In terms of persuasive skills we're pretty evenly matched which is mostly a good thing
31/01/2017 12:44:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah Borsuk, if Ian were to go through with moving the garage into the kitchen then I think I'd be as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool. I can see myself watching my fingers being lathed one by one.

BOOKS! Oh Ian have you not heard of this internet thingy? Or perhaps a Kindle? You can get a whole library into a tablet these days. If Sharon reads this she will be on the war path, she works in a library and is still hopelessly in love with paper books. If you don't hear from me soon tell the police to look for a book at Sharon's place with a remarkably human skin like binding.

How come you only get a broom cupboard?
31/01/2017 13:03:50 UTC
Sharon said :-

When Ren told me about all your books I was fascinated. I really must visit you one day. You sound like one of my kind.

I currently have 20 books in my to read pile. I find Riding my bike takes away reading time. So much to do so little time. But I am never ever bored so it is all good.
31/01/2017 14:06:36 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Testing testing:

We're experiencing a problem...Ren is working on it...

01/02/2017 10:28:39 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Oh no he's not....

I think it's objecting to angle brackets.....
01/02/2017 10:29:13 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Yes I do have a Kindle complete with around 700 books.

[Sharon close your eyes] many downloaded from where I shouldn't* [open your eyes now]

The Kindle is absolutely wonderful for bike touring (and indeed holidays of all sorts). I used to travel with one of the Norton's panniers full of tools and spares, the other full of books, the top box full of waterproofs and the odd change of clothing in the tank bag. With a relatively modern bike I can travel with a full wardrobe (although it would still fit in an average pocket). Ironic really as my motorcycle travels are less extensive than they were.

I only get a broom cupboard as my needs are relatively few. Although we don't have many brooms so it's not too bad....

*I take the view that the actual author gets very little of a book's cover price. As I generally used to get my reading material from charity shops (so the authors would get nothing) I now make sure I donate at least as much annually to PEN International which as you will know defends the rights of authors throughout the world, especially in repressive regimes. I do get some stick for this approach from some of my (mostly ex-Eng Lit teacher) friends.

01/02/2017 10:29:56 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Yes, angle brackets the problem. I could probably write you a script to remove them.......
01/02/2017 10:30:36 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The script to remove them is very simple Ian. However as part of it's security ASP.Net by default throws a tantrum when it comes to angle brackets. This can be bypassed but then I'd open up the risk of abusive scripts - even if the angle brackets are properly escaped.

There are some incredibly smart hackers out there and while to a fellow techie like yourself not being allowed to use them may be frustrating most normal folks manage to live without them.
01/02/2017 14:42:43 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Only slightly frustrating especially when I get a message you're dealing with it....

I suppose I'd substitute some innocuous character then substitute back again (or maybe just leave innocuous as I was forced to do).

Anyway seeing as this is bikes & travels not websites for anoraks, now for something completely different.

I've just been trying to start the Sunbeam - it was just coughing and not catching. On closer examination, the exhaust valve was barely opening (nice and easy to see with exposed valves). It seems that the exhaust rocker is too tight in its bush. I seem to remember that it was a bit tight on assembly. The whole lot is a bit crude to tell the truth.

Oh well, the tank is now off again (carefully stashed somewhere safe so I don't drop a spanner on it) and tomorrow morning off will come the rocker box to sort it out. Here it is:

I blame people coming in my garage and bringing cold mucky air with them....

Rocker assembly
01/02/2017 16:28:03 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You're a hard man to keep happy Mr Soady! It's my fault the Sunbeam has nipped up huh? I'm glad I didn't actually touch it or.... actually rode it! I would like to have attempted to ride it but I didn't think you'd appreciate my getting it dirty and mashing the gears, it seems I'd be right.

So what's the solution? Bit of emery cloth over the bushings or is that too unsubtle. I imagine you'll only be a couple of microns out. Or do you need to take more off to compensate for heat when it warms up.
02/02/2017 07:10:42 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
No - rushed diagnosis. In fact it was (as so often) my own silly fault.

It wasn't the rocker tight at all as I discovered when I whipped it off. In fact, it was because I'd mixed the pushrods (on first disassembly I'd marked them but of course when I stripped it to have the barrel honed forgot!)

The exhaust pushrod is actually longer than the inlet but only by 1/8" or so. I did wonder why I had to wind the inlet valve clearance back....

So the pushrod was only barely lifting the valve. I did wonder why although it was trying to start it was spitting back out of the carb - all that compression had to go somewhere...

And what are thee microns of which you speak? Are they something like the mekon?

02/02/2017 11:36:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Muppetry it tell ya. I expected so much more from you Ian and then you go and make a schoolboy error. As for microns...they are not like mekons at all. Think "a bit of a thou". I know you're winding me up but you are still a heathen.
02/02/2017 16:18:19 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
All back together again (properly).

It just shows however long you've been at it you can make stupid mistakes (I have just seen a short tale about a CB250 whose owner displaced the cam chain.....)

I probably rushed that bit of the assembly. I have a bad tendency to concentrate not on what I'm doing now, but on the next job. This can lead to carelessness.

In retrospect I was lucky that the whole lot didn't self ignite as what should have been the exhaust was coming out of the carb. Mind you, agreed valuation on the insurance would have meant I didn't have to suffer idiots coming round making me insulting offers, which I expect to be happening later this year when it goes up for sale.

I have to confess that I do in fact know what a micron is but have never seen one.
03/02/2017 16:09:22 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
"I have a bad tendency to concentrate not on what I'm doing now, but on the next job." That is very un-zen-like Ian. Live in the moment, be fully immersed in the now, the future is uncertain and the past cannot be changed, be at one with your task... enough clich├ęs? I believe you are probably quite in touch with your zen or chakra or whatever you call it but you suffer the curse of intelligence, too much thinking.

Only those with electron microscopes have seen a micron. You probably know that too and are teasing me. I'll get you boy... I'll get you.

Have you ridden the Sunbeam? You should pop up here to Bolton on it, I'll make you a brew. Actually scrub that, go to Sharon's my place is too scruffy.
04/02/2017 08:29:15 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Zen? The only familiarity I have with that is Mr Pirsig's excellent book.

You can never think too much. It's far too easy to not think enough then you start to believe any old rubbish that some orange-faced misogynist spouts.

Yes, I did around 100 miles last year (very little I grant you, but a mile on the 'Beam needs as much mental effort as 20 on something more modern). That was enough to point out various minor failings which I've been addressing this year. Proof that it has moved in the link.....

WRT to over-thinking I have a horrible feeling that I didn't put the split pin back in the engine sprocket nut so the primary drive will have to come off again. It's down to this rushing the final steps again. Oh well.
04/02/2017 11:14:35 UTC

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