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

Home Travel StoriesThe Netherlands 2016

Crashing Out To The Netherlands

By Sharon Parker

The reason for gaining my full motorcycle licence was not the usual reason of wanting to get a bigger bike. The main reason was to enable me to ride abroad. I adored the trips I'd had abroad as a pillion with Ren. However I really wanted to find out what it would be like under my own horsepower.

I dreamed of riding under a hot sun in far flung destinations. So it seemed somewhat strange that my first planned trip abroad became the exotic Netherlands. The Netherlands, a biker's paradise...said no one ever. So err why was I going? Well Ren has already explained in detail the reasons behind out seemingly strange choice in his blog about our trip (Prologue - The Netherlands 2016) so there is no point in myself repeating it all. He also chronicles the actual trip in his usual excellent precise detail so once again I will not repeat what has already been said. So why then bother with a blog myself then about the Netherlands?

Well I am telling it from my point of view and how I felt. We wrote a double blog some years ago about a trip we did together to France (France 2013) and many people seemed to enjoy the dual perspective. I would like to apologise however for the long delay in writing my side of the story. I have yet to learn Ren's discipline and in my defence I have only a small portion of his energy. So I hope you find my blog a case of better late than never. 

The prospect of riding abroad both excited me and terrified me in equal measures. Not only was this to be my first trip riding abroad I had never driven abroad either. So this was a whole new world to me of riding on the wrong side of the road and strange traffic signs in an even more strange language. As I was so terrified I decided my trusty Keeway 125cc would be my steed of choice. I'd only owned my new bike the Kawasaki Z250SL for a short time and I was not yet comfortable on that. Me and Zen the Keeway knew each other well and I would be glad of having something familiar with me in a strange land.

Eventually the first day of our holiday came around, but before I could set a tyre on foreign tarmac I had to get from my home in the North West to Harwich to catch the ferry. I loaded the bike up with probably as usual far more than I need and get myself into my bike gear. I pull on my boots..ouch that hurts. My right big toe is swollen and purple. I had managed for the first time in my life, prior to riding abroad for the first time in my life, to break a bone. Yes I had broken my big toe by being a big fool and smashing my foot into a table in work. But I was not letting a little thing like a big broken toe stop me from riding so I just winced as I pushed my broken swollen black toe into my tight bike boots..owwwwee. 

I then struggle to get my gloves on. Because this little finger on my right is all wrapped up in a bandage. Just two days prior I has been washing a tall glass when it suddenly shattered and sliced my finger to the bone. I most probably should have gone to the hospital to have it stitched but I had holiday plans to sort out and no time for that kind of nonsense. Luckily I found some paper stitches (skin closures) in my first aid box and manage to stick myself together with them. However the wound is deep so and movement of the finger causes it to reopen so I have to bandage it in such a way as to make it immobile. All this proves rather tricky, it is proving even more tricky to try and squash my now big little finger into my gloves without having a bloody disaster on my hand (pun intended). For some people a broken toe and a sliced finger might have been case to wonder if gremlins or bad omens were at work. But no I just winced and cursed my way onto my bike and onto my merry way.

The UK weather is doing it's usual May thing. A mixtures of heavy showers and then sunshine means the waterproofs are on then off. As we approach Derbyshire the sun is once more out and the temperatures begin to rise. I am loving this. I am feeling happy and confident on my bike and enjoying the now sunny day. However the tarmac I am riding along suddenly disappears and gives way to loose chippings. Damn it the road is being re-surfaced in the modern cheap and nasty way of surface dressing. It has only just been laid down so unfortunately it has not been compacted at all. The bike has little purchase on this shifting hazardous surface. I slow down and try not to hold my breath as I slither around with stones constantly pinging off the bike and even my helmet.  I can feel every ping putting a nice scratch in my paintwork. Eventually we once again reach smooth flat tarmac,  The stones are however still flinging off the tyres as we ride along. 

A Tesco appears shortly afterwards and now seems a good time for a rest and a brew. Ren does a right turn into the car park and I go to follow. Then suddenly the world is all wrong. I am not now  following Ren but I seem to be titling to the right and heading for the deck in surreal slow motion instead. I realise I am somehow falling, I try to save myself but the bike is fully loaded and heavy and the road is on a slope, so no we are going down. I hit the floor and here the awful sound of metal screeching across the tarmac as I slide down the road. 

I attempt my usual tactic in such situations of trying to jump up as soon as possible in the hope no one has noticed. However I am well and truly pinned beneath my fully loaded bike. All I can do is hit the kill switch and await some assistance. I am immediately surrounded by helpful folk who get both myself and my bike upright. I am incredibly grateful for the kind assistance offered to me by passer-bys but I feel dazed and very stupid. I quickly assure everyone that I am just fine thank you very much and I am very capable now of sorting myself and my bike out. I hate fuss, I certainly hate to the cause of any such fuss and I wish to just now be left alone to walk the walk of shame with my bike. I go to inspect my bike and to my absolute horror  I see that the bike's brake lever has been completely sheared off. Ok I can feel panic setting in but my bike now needs to be pushed out of the way. As I begin to push it into the car park I realise my leg is hurting me quite a lot. This thought barely registers to be honest as the main thing on my mind right now is the state of my bike. 

As I push the bike a million thoughts crowd into my head. I berate myself for being such an idiot. For my inability to ride a bike even after all the miles I have put under my tyres. Why the hell had I fallen off? Had I inadvertently overloaded my bike? Had I not properly secured my load? Did the luggage fall to one side causing me to overbalance? I am so confused. The whole bike just seemed to have slipped away from under me. I am shaken and despondent. I actually rather hate myself right now. 

Saddlebags, duffle bag, ground mat and rucksack all on Sharon's 125
End view of all the luggage on Sharon's small motorcycleDid I fail to secure my load? Had I actually overloaded my bike?

As Ren also surveys the bike damage I can see he is rattled. If Ren is rattled I know we have a potentially serious problem on our hands. We are in a strange town, we have a deadline to catch a ferry and we have a bike that is going nowhere. I have through my own idiotic behaviour potentially ruined our trip before it has even really begun. Did I already say I hate myself right now. 

Ren suggests a cup of tea. Yes the good old staple of every English crisis ever. Over tea Ren becomes quite efficient, using the internet to look up possible bike shops in the area in the vain hope of getting a replacement brake lever for the Keeway. I admire his resolve but I am so glum I am not hopeful. The Keeway is a rare bike so how the hell are we going to get a lever for it? Even at home where the dealership for my bike is I would have to order one in.  I tell Ren how very sorry I am. How I just do not understand what the hell happened. I say he should continue the trip without me. Why ruin it for both of us? I will just have to hope the RAC will recover me back home. Ren tells me it is not over quite yet. He has found a couple of bike shops within the area and he heads off to see what they may have in stock. 

I go back out into the sunshine as Ren rides off and sit beside my broken bike. Maybe my broken toe and sliced fingers were omens after all. Maybe this trip was doomed before it even started. I start to give the bike a good look over. Apart from the major damage of the broken brake lever the exhaust is scratched as is the foot-peg. All other damage is purely cosmetic. Now usually the site of scuffs and scrapes would have had me up in arms with woe but I know these are of no relevance really when the lack of a brake lever is the real game changer here. 

I inspect the tyres. I am very surprised that they are still completely covered in stone chippings, some of which are quite large. Closer inspection reveals that they are actually stuck fast to the tyres. When roads are being surface dressed a thin film of tar is sprayed onto the road so the stone chippings will adhere to the surface. What appears to have happened here is the sticky tar had indeed stuck to the stone chipping and then the stone chippings had in turn stuck themselves to my tyres due to the wet tar acting like a glue. Even riding along the established tarmac had failed to dislodge and remove the stone chippings from my tyres. I really had to give each stone a good wiggle and a forceful pull to remove it from my tyres. Both the front and back tyres were encompassed in jagged stone chippings. 

It suddenly dawns on me that I may actually be looking at the reason why the bike fell over. The sheer number of stone still attached to the tyres has compromised the tyre's grip. Once the tyres were compromised even further by being asked to execute a turn there was simply not enough surface of the tyre available to provide sufficient grip. The stones themselves would have also been acting like ball bearings beneath the tyres as I tried to corner so no wonder the bike had suddenly and unexpectedly slipped away from under me. I feel slightly better when I realise that the bike going down was not due to me being a complete failure as a bike rider. However the consequences still remain the same.

Sharon's tyre with sticky tarmec and stone chips all over it
Another shot of the stones stuck all over the Keeway front tyre
The stone chippings that were still stuck onto my tyres. This was after I had already began pulling quite a lot of them off
The sticky tarmac is still on the tyres after riding on regular roadThe sticky tarmac that had glued the stones to my tyres still remained 

Ren returns clutching to my utter amazement a brake lever. It is not a Keeway but a Kawasaki lever yet he is hopeful that it may be a fit. Due to Ren's amazing skills he manages to effect a repair. Oh the sweet relief, the joy, the lifting off the 10,000 tons of guilt I had heaped onto my shoulders. A gentleman arrives on a Harley. He had been chatting to Ren at the bike shop and had come to see if we needed any assistance. Don't you just love "real" bikers. Those who still believe in a sense of biker community and have regard for their fellow two wheeled riders. Thank you so much Lenny wherever you may be riding for caring enough to see if we were ok.

As I reload the bike I am still quite shook up by the whole experience. I thank Ren wholeheartedly for staying so calm. He never once ranted at me for being so stupid or blamed me for potentially ruining our holiday. Instead he had taken me in his arms and told me to calm down. He told me that all that really mattered was the fact neither of us were seriously hurt. Nothing else mattered, we were both alive and standing. If this holiday never happened so what, it was just a single holiday. As long as were both alive there could always be other holidays. 

Ren was quite simply my hero that day. Both physically and emotionally, he fixed my bike and help mend my spirit. I have loved Ren for a long time now but if it was possible to love him any more I did so that day in a Tesco car park next to a newly fixed motorbike.   

We got back onto the bikes and I made my way very cautiously to our campsite for the night. I had to admit I was glad to get off the bike to rest both my nerves and my very sore leg. 

Was your 2 wheeled trip over before it began? You must surely have a tale of a nightmare ride out. Even better a tale of triumph over adverstiy. We'd love to publish your travel tales here on Bikes And Travels. Click Here.

Prologue - The Netherlands 2016 Why are we going Dutch? What's that peculiar box on Ren's bike? Why are we taking our 125cc motorcycles? Is there even a plan? Find out more...
Disaster The first day of our trip is not the start we would hope for. Yet with some luck and the desire to improve his mindset Ren manages to keep a calm and positive outlook.
Crashing Out To The Netherlands This is Sharon's take on the first day of The Netherland's trip. Oh the best laid plans of mice and women.
No News Is Good News It's an ordinary day of ordinary travelling for our dynamic duo. Sometimes a lack of excitement can be a good thing doncha know.
Helter Skelter Sharon covers the second day of the trip to The Netherlands. She moves from discomfort and bruises through nervous and fear to luxury and comfort. All in one day!
Hades - I Mean Amsterdam Ah The Netherlands, fields of flowers, windmills, tranquil canals and leisurely cyclists. Or is this what the tourist office would have you believe?
Crying In The Rain And Laughing Gonkeys Sharon's first time motorcycling on foreign tarmac is a baptism of fire. What on earth is a laughing gonkey anyhow?
We Are Tourist So what is Ren's take on the popular city of Amsterdam? Will he survive the bicycles? Is he a wild traveller or just a tourist?
The Lost Experience Once again Ren's expectations get the better of him. Once again Ren gets completely lost. Once again the rain is coming down. Is there any hope at all? Actually it's not all bad.
Smiles In The Rain The friendly Dutch folk mean that a rain filled day can still be a worthwhile day.
Bicycling De Hoge Veluwe Will today be a tortuous day stuck in the tent waiting for the rain to stop? For the sake of Ren's mental health let's hope there's some good weather.
Urk? Is That The Sun? A break in the weather brings a positive feel to the day along with pleasant places, friendly faces and new acquaintances.
A Big Dyke With Edam What is the Afsluitdijk for? Why would you name a town after a cheese? All these questions will not be answered by reading this.
Edam, Marken, Tourists and Symmetry Ren and Sharon visit a town named after a cheese. Why would you name a town after a cheese? Weird folks these Dutch.
Curious Distelloo Sunshine, philosophy and an alternative kind of campsite.
Drowning In Zierikzee Philosophy, friendly people, terrible rain and salvation all in one day! Not bad really for pair of wastrels on 125s.
Exploring Zeeland We're chilling out and exploring Zeeland 2-up on a 125. Is this the Dutch Riviera?
A Short Hop To Oostkapelle How do you get lost in 15 miles on a route you already know? How do you upset a German camper? How do you do all this and remain content in yourself? It's called getting old.
Dodgy Dutch Drivers Their last full day in The Netherlands sums up the whole Dutch experience. "The nicest bad drivers you'll ever meet".
Going Home-ish It's time to leave The Netherlands and return to good 'ole Blighty. There's some shocking news that might change things for the future though.
So, What About The Netherlands? After 2 weeks of riding around The Netherlands on 125s what does Ren think of the country now?

Reader's Comments

Chris Bell said :-
I have ridden my now sold CB500 over/through this dressing of the road (and potholes)and the bike felt unstable. Then later I travelled the same road on my CG125, what gravel?, bliss, but never thought about the stuff sticking to the tyres,to be honest I read this in Ren's article, but,the penny only really just dropped. Thanks for the reminder.I will, I think check from now on, better safe than sorry.
10/03/2017 09:52:56 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The contributing factor was the turning was perhaps 100-150 metres after the end of the roadworks. As such there was little time to clear the stones.

Different bikes on different tyres react differently to the same road surfaces. It is peculiar and seemingly unpredictable too. My 125 is generally poor in the wet yet a few days back in heavy rain it felt like it was on rails. My motto is listen to the tyres they'll tell you how what mood they're in.
11/03/2017 09:34:35 UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Chris,

I certainly will be checking my tyres if I ever go over stone chipping again. I think the fact that I was one of the first vehicles onto the just dressed road made things far worse. The stone chippings had not been compacted at all so they were just flying all over the place with the tar covering them. Therefore they welded themselves extremely well to my tyres.

So in future I will pull over as soon as it is safe to do after such an encounter and check the tyres. We live and learn...usually the hard way.
11/03/2017 10:47:57 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The worst gravel I've ever come across is in France. I was once happily swinging my way through some bends in Normandy on the Tiger 955i when the dreaded sign appeared and the road was completely covered to a depth of at least 5 cm. Being a timid soul I was tiptoeing my way through this at around 20 mph when I was overtaken by a teenage girl on a scooter - unfastened jacket flapping in the breeze, helmet on the back of her head and not a care in the world.

Fortunately as a committed feminist I didn't feel the need to show off my superior riding skills as it would only have ended badly.....
11/03/2017 11:44:54 UTC
Joe Fitz said :-
Hi Sharon, I hope you have overcome the health issues and are keeping well. This post is a little off subject and refers to the photo of your bike loaded for the Netherlands and in particular the yellow dry bag. I have been looking for a dry bag to hold my sleeping bag but find the sizes, described in litres, to be not a lot of help. The bag on your bike looks about the right size. Can you tell me what capacity it is in litres and what the rough dimensions are?
11/03/2017 03:43:21 UTC
Chris Bell said :-
Ren For goodness sake, I feel as safe as houses on my 125,but now it's not just tubed tyres to worry about it's ruddy grip.I must admit in the wet I used to literally drift round a mini roundabout near home when I had a cg in the 80's, what has happend to me?
What tyres are you on, the cg has Mich.. Pilot sport front,Contigo rear (continental).

While I'm here I seem to be sticking with the cg125(took out a 600 Hornet yesterday great, but someone missed off a couple of gears I think) but hate using it much over 40mph(even with decent oil and tappets set correctly), for long,I always think I can here anew rattle etc when I stop, do you ride your CBF hard or pamper it?.
11/03/2017 06:37:05 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
One of the issues I face Ian is the ominously embarrassing spectacle of Sharon being faster than I. Of course my politically correct conscience is perfectly happy to accept women are every bit as capable but I still have a male ego nagging away inside.

There are times when I suspect Sharon is behind me only because I know where we're going.

Joe - the yellow bags are Aldi's Crane bags and are 44 litres. I'll get dimensions up for you shortly.

Chris - my cbf125 runs on Continental Conti-Go front and rear. They are marginal in the wet but they last a long time. 14k rear, 30k front, massive figures for a bike.

I don't believe there are any bad tyres these days but there are limits for every tyre. Some have lower limits, the tyre isn't the problem it's the rider exceeding the tyre's grip!

My CBF is used on motorways quite a lot. About 1/4 to 1/3 of my miles are motorway miles. I'll typically run 50-55mph with the occasional squirt to 60 even 65 if conditions allow. The motor has taken this happily for 61,000 miles so far.

It has covered 260 miles of dual carriageway and motorway in one day and that's with luggage. It has been around the Scottish Highlands at perpetual full throttle trying to sustain 45 into a headwind. The same around Southern Island and The Netherlands.

Then again when being commuted I will be as gentle as a mother with a newborn.

Just ride it Chris!!
12/03/2017 08:34:41 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Joe Fitz - 70cm long, 47cm wide when flat and approximately 30cm in diameter...

Aldi Crane duffle bag
12/03/2017 09:35:28 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
roughly 30cm diameter.

Aldi Bag
12/03/2017 09:37:43 UTC
Chris Bell said :-
Thanks Ren good to know engine wise.I might go out for pootle, no Thrash,Oh in a min it,s sunny ,I needed rain, typical.only kidding,, the sun really IS out.I need a job where it's ok to be wrong mostly, hmm weather forecasting may be.

12/03/2017 10:05:24 UTC
Chris Bell said :-
Thanks Ren good to know engine wise.I might go out for pootle, no Thrash,Oh in a min it,s sunny ,I needed rain, typical.only kidding,, the sun really IS out.I need a job where it's ok to be wrong mostly, hmm weather forecasting may be.

12/03/2017 10:05:33 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Chris your CG125 looks far too clean and shiny. More miles less polish ok!

Actually it looks very smart. There's not that many left out there these days.
12/03/2017 10:15:52 UTC
Chris Bell said :-
I know what you mean.
12/03/2017 11:14:39 UTC
Joe Fitz said :-
Thanks Ren, That looks about right size. I'm fed up using various plastic bags/ sacks that never quite manage to keep things dry. Its time to invest in some proper gear.
13/03/2017 08:46:55 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I guess the only problem with Aldi is you never know when they'll next have them in. There's plenty of other places that sell them though.
13/03/2017 09:49:48 UTC

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