New House – Motorbike Move

22 09 2017

Wed 20 Sep 2017
One of the trickier things I had to move for my house move was my motorbike, ‘Millie’. Why is it difficult to move my bike you may well ask? Well, for a start, she hadn’t gone further than down the end of my road and back once a year for the last 10 years – apart from a quick trip for an MOT in May – and the journey to my new house is 100 miles. A trifle optimistic I’d say…

Wednesday this week I was setting off back for my house after another stint of shifts and it was a pretty nice day. The sun was starting to come out and it was warm and calm. A better day than this wasn’t about to come along as it is now the end of September. I’d missed a superb day at the end of August due to being really ill when the best weather was around so I couldn’t really miss what could be the last good day of the year. I didn’t really want to have her trailered up to Cumbria if I could help it.

I packed an emergency mobile phone, my debit cards for the many fuel stops I’d need to make – the bike only has a range of around 40 miles and the petrol stations were all around 30 miles apart – I’d need to visit them all! As it was so warm, I just put my bike jacket on over a t-shirt – I made sure I put waterproof trousers on though. This wasn’t because I thought it would rain, it was because they give your legs vital extra protection if you fall off – it’s also much warmer with waterproofs on. I put on some winter boots and warm socks and packed my jumper and a polo neck just in case.

I was soon wheeling the bike out of the garage, strapping my bags on to the rack with her outside cover (there isn’t really room in my new garage for the bike without some re-organisation), locking up and hoping both myself and the bike would manage the journey. I had several concerns – one, of course, was that the bike hadn’t really been anywhere for a very long time. The other main worry was my knackered hip. Small trail bikes are kickstart only and it’s the kickstart hip which has worn out – kickstarting is a violent procedure even on a small bike and not likely to do my hip joint much good. I also knew I’d have to re-kick-start the bike after each fuel stop, and there were due to be three of those.

First problem was to get my bad leg over the bike past the baggage on the rack – I managed this very stiffly. I then got the kickstart lever ready and found there was no way I could lift my leg onto it – my leg had to be hauled up by hand onto the lever. Luckily, the bike started in maybe five kicks – pretty good for a vehicle which has been stood for several months. Helmet and gauntlets on and I wobbled off down the road.

I found my riding had become pretty terrible as I haven’t motorcycled for years – also Millie motorbike wasn’t going well at all! There are some biggish hills leaving the village and she only just got up them in second gear and a very low speed, coughing and spluttering all the way. What with that and the huge pall of blue smoke (typical of a just-started old 2-stroke) coming out of the front and rear of the exhaust, I was really glad no-one was behind me yet!

I hit the main road which was flatter and managed to persuade the bike up towards her power band – on a typical 2-stroke, this is around 5000 revs – they really like to be revved hard. The engine was by now warm and most of the smoke had cleared down to a light-grey haze…

By the time I got onto the A65 towards Gargrave, the bike was going fine and had smoothed off and stopped smoking. At the first left-hand bend though, I was riding really badly and went very wide – luckily, no-one was coming the other way. I found for the rest of the journey, I was tending to go wide on left-handers but was fine on right-handers. I think this is partly because I sit skewed now I have my bad hip – my right leg was always twisted anyway since a bad break when I was young.

I kept trying to remember to watch the other traffic hard (always your biggest threat on a motorbike) but found I had to be persuaded away from concentrating on how the bike was going and how badly I was riding! After about ten miles or so, things started to come together and I started to enjoy myself a bit more.

It didn’t seem long till I was flying round the Settle bypass – for a change not having to worry about police cameras as the bike doesn’t really do more than 60mph. I had wavered about calling in at Settle for a quick fillup as I wasn’t sure I’d make it to Ingleton, my planned fuel stop. I decided if I went onto reserve at the end of the bypass I’d turn back to Settle – if not, I’d continue. We made it to Ingleton fine where she took just short of £5 petrol – she must have been almost on reserve I think. There was a couple with a big bike there and they gave me a friendly nod as I set off. Stage 2…

Not long after Ingleton, I turned off onto my usual back road which takes a shortcut to the M6 motorway – I wasn’t planning to use the motorway more than I had to though. The back road was great fun and we romped along it happily.

At the Sedbergh/M6 junction, I set off straight across for a tiny lane which I believed was the one I’d occasionally used beneath the Howgill Fells. This road was pretty evil. It started up a horrifically steep hill (about 1:5) which was bendy all the way and only just wide enough for a car and went on for ages. To add to my worries about meeting a car, there were stones and bits of brick all over the middle of the road so you couldn’t position to see around the corners at all! I kept hitting loose stones and getting knocked around. My bike still wasn’t happy doing steep uphills and she had to be kept in second and revved hard.

At the top of the hill I heaved a sight of relief I hadn’t met anyone and continued to follow the bendy, narrow, barely surfaced lane. I didn’t remember any of this – I thought the road should be pretty straight! I eventually noticed I was heading away from the side of the valley I wanted under the Howgill fells and towards the motorway.

Eventually, I reached a T-junction and took a right to try to get back to the fell road. There was barely any surface on this road and, eventually, I saw a sign on a roadside gate saying ‘Private Road’ – did they mean this road? Yes, they did – I soon hove into a yard between houses and the end of the road. I sighed, turned and went back to the junction – I’d have to go the other way which was completely the wrong direction. I remembered, though, that there was another road paralleling the motorway and just before it – I hoped I’d come out on that. I did but this lane was much worse than I remembered.

The lane was fine for a while but I remembered an evil and steep single-track downhill section at the far end. This was around 1:4, had virtually no surface anywhere and again lots of little bends – oooerr. At least I could see all the way to the bottom and nothing was coming up. I kept my brakes on gently and went into first gear and sidled down slowly – I was pretty terrified! Luckily you then meet another main road up another big hill.

I revved Millie like mad at the bottom of the hill and managed to hit the magic 5000 revs in each gear and we ended up flying up the hill. Not long after, this joins the B road to Tebay village. The B road was lovely and we whizzed up to the village where I had to join the M6 motorway for a short distance as that is the only fuel station in the area. I’d noticed over a couple of bad bumps on this road that, either my head has shrunk or I’ve lost a lot of hair or something – when I went over bumps, my helmet jumped up and rapped me smartly on the top of my head!

I was soon at the Tebay Services where I stopped for fuel – just short of £5 again. By now, the weather had totally changed and I was frozen solid. I bought some 2-stroke oil and filled Millie up and then dived into my bags for my warmer clothes. I put my jumper and a polo neck on and then went to get a quick coffee to warm up properly. I thought it was time my bike had a cool-off anyway – she must have been getting the shock of her life to suddenly be taken on a long journey after sitting all those years.

After twenty minutes or so, we were heading back onto the motorway for the five miles to the Shap junction. Millie was going so well I debated whether to stay on the motorway – she was having quite a bad wheel wobble at around 60mph though which didn’t go away if I went a bit faster. The A6 from Shap to Penrith is a lovely road so I decided to stick to plan and head off down there.

I actually don’t have a working speedo on my bike (the cable is fine but the feed from the front wheel is knackered and I don’t want to buy a new front wheel) so I was pleased to see one of those signs which reads your speed on the entrance to Shap. I’d guessed my 30mph and was pleased to see I was actually only doing 32mph – not a bad guess at all!

At the far end of Shap we blasted off for a superb run along to Eamont Bridge, just short of Penrith – best part of the day this section – what a lovely road. We sidled up to the red light at the roundabout for the A66 and stopped – suddenly the bike died.

I tried to restart her but she wouldn’t start and I was at the front of the queue and in the middle of my lane. As the lights changed, I wheeled her forward to the side. I kept trying to restart but, with my bad leg and trying to keep the bike still on an uphill, I was getting nowhere fast – I saw a pedestrian crossing which was flat and wheeled her onto it.

I wondered if maybe she’d got too hot – air-cooled bikes often do. I decided to give her a few minutes to cool down and then retry. Too much kickstarting wouldn’t do me any good at all! After a few minutes, I retried her and she started – I had to use full throttle though – she normally starts first kick with no throttle at all…

It was a couple of miles to Rheged petrol station just out of Penrith and I filled up again – this time it was only £2.45. After refuelling and paying, the bike again wouldn’t start. I wheeled her to the parking area and again let her cool down a bit. She then started again but only with full throttle – and she was now running very badly indeed. The problem was becoming apparent – fuel starvation. Wondering if the main fuel tap feed was blocked, I changed to reserve – this means going through off momentarily and the bike almost stopped. Definitely fuel starvation!

This was to be expected really as the bike has had old fuel sat in the tank for ten years with only a light top-up here and there. Modern fuel is horrible stuff which goes into a gooey jelly if left a while – I was assuming I’d stirred some of this goo up from the bottom of the tank with the refuellings and it had now worked down into the carburettor.

I put her back on main from reserve as it made no difference and found I just had to stay on as many revs as I could with the throttle very open whatever gear I was in. I got through the lights to the motorway without having to stop and blasted the five miles up to my junction. The road from the motorway to the A595 is around 21 miles and a superb fast road. I knew we’d be fine along here but worried about the junction at the end – if I didn’t have to stop I knew I’d be fine – but the A595 is a very busy road!

As I approached the A595 junction, I stayed in second gear with quite a few revs and it looked clear. I was just about to continue onto the road when a yuppie jeep (4×4) blasted out of nowhere and I had to stop. The bike instantly died again, as expected. This time she wouldn’t start at all – not on full throttle, not after a cool-down, nothing!

I had no choice but to periodically try to start the bike but could see we’d reached the end of the road really. My leg was agony, going very weak and felt like it was going to fall off. Luckily, as this was now Cumbria, unlike my old area, it wasn’t long before I was hailed by a van man. “Are you alright love?” he shouted? I told him my bike had died and wouldn’t start.

He was soon out of his van and I was encouraged to see he was wearing a black bike T-shirt. He said he’d put my bike in his van and where was I headed? I told him my village, which he’d never heard of – I said it was about 4 miles away. I also told him I’d come all the way from Skipton and had broken down right at the end of my journey!

I worried out loud that my bike was heavy to lift and how would we get her in the van? He said no problem – he had a ramp. He did motorcross, grass-tracking and so on and was always putting bikes in and out of his van. What luck!

I felt bad when he opened his van as he obviously used it to sleep in when on the road and he had to spend quite some time throwing mattresses and bedding out of the back to get the bike in. I also felt bad we were causing such a problem at what is a difficult and very busy crossroads.

Eventually, we’d wheeled the bike backwards into the van, she was strapped in and we’d reloaded all the bedding. We set off for the very few short miles to my house where poor Millie was unloaded outside the house – luckily no-one was around to see. What an ignominious end to what nearly was a miraculous and great journey!


Millie Motorbike – a 1975 Suzuki TS185 trail bike I’ve had since 1978! Isn’t she a pretty girl!


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18 responses

3 04 2018
thecaptainnemo

Well glad you made it, even if you didn’t ride all the way, reminds me of my first bike- mine was a 175 Yamaha Enduro https://captnemo.smugmug.com/Family/Oldphotos/Noyo-Fort-Bragg-1989/i-kc8jnRH/A
it was a kickstart only, two stroke as well but was a lot of fun. My current suzuki is much easier to ride though. https://photos.smugmug.com/Places/California/Dish-Hill-and-Rainbow-Basin/i-WNSkJbw/0/b8e7574f/L/P2220134-L.jpg

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4 04 2018
mountaincoward

I’m debating about trying to get an electric start fitted but not sure you can on a 6 volt bike. If you can’t, it’s either convert to 12v or, unfortunately, I might have to sell her.

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4 10 2017
Simon Howlett

What a fantastic adventure Carol, pleased to hear you made it to your new house safely. I remember this model of motorbike, great to see this one is still out on the road. Many moons ago I had a Suzuki AP50 and then progressed to a Yamaha RD250! The van man is a shining example of the friendly folk here in Cumbria!

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4 10 2017
mountaincoward

Exactly what I thought ref. Cumbrians – very friendly indeed around here! I’m loving it so far…

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25 09 2017
tessapark1969

Glad you made it there in one piece, well nearly! Is the bike fixable?

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29 09 2017
mountaincoward

Yes, just need to drain all the fuel (no idea where I’ll get rid of it), somehow clean out the bottom of the tank and then I’m going to try ‘Aspen’ fuel which should hopefully clean up the carburetor. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably have to send it off for cleaning to an expert and I won’t be happy about that. Carburetors are horrible to set up when you have to put them back on and I don’t really like doing mechanics nowadays anyway.

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24 09 2017
Blue Sky Scotland

“The last good day of the year?” Here’s me hoping autumn will bring many good days right up until December as summer has been rubbish, as usual. Cold and hardly a dry day for months. Amazing your bike nearly made it to its destination without help. There was a thing on TV recently about the Scottish 500 circular route around the north west coast. It’s been very successful world wide apparently and loads of folk have done it in motor homes, cars and motorbikes but as some of it is on smaller roads used to light traffic over decades it’s popularity has seen these roads and services take a pounding in just a few short years meaning several need an overhaul. A catch 22 situation where the extra revenue earned by local businesses and hotels may well be swallowed up by having to do costly repairs to the road surfaces, better outside toilets, bigger laybys etc…:o)
Also any major increase of traffic using single track roads with passing places makes journeys that much longer and harder. I remember doing most of that route 35 years ago and the real pleasure, apart from the scenery, was seeing so few cars and maintaining a steady pace, mile after mile, even on single track roads..Did the entire trip, Inverness, Wick, Thurso, Durness, Lochinver, Loch Maree etc for around £20 quid.
Also showed you summer traffic in Skye recently with hundreds of cars parked on grass verges on both sides for miles near outdoor tourist hot spots like the Quirang and Storr areas. So maybe getting your bike fixed for longer trips away is a good idea :o)

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24 09 2017
mountaincoward

I used to do very long trips (including camping/hostelling) on my little bike but I had a harder bum in those days, better resistance to cold and more stamina – couldn’t do it now – very hard on a small trail bike!

We’ve had a good summer here for a change but I really didn’t foresee many more days where it would be calm and warm enough to ride a bike for 100 miles!

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24 09 2017
Gaslight Crime

I think when I had my first bike, petrol was 2 shillings and eightpence a gallon.

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24 09 2017
mountaincoward

I wasn’t driving back then! too young…

Liked by 1 person

24 09 2017
Gaslight Crime

I used to run my first bike when I was sixteen on saved pocket money, which proves how cheap it was.

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24 09 2017
Gaslight Crime

I had one when I was a teenager, then got another about twenty years ago, but it didn’t last long. The state of the roads and the increased traffic put me off. And I see some bikers in the Lakes and Scotland who seem to have a death wish.

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24 09 2017
mountaincoward

fully agree with all that. On a small bike, you have the disadvantage of not much power available to get out of trouble and small, light bikes get battered around all over the place near lorries too with the air turbulence.

Liked by 1 person

24 09 2017
Gaslight Crime

The roads are just too busy for me, and there see, to be a lot more psychopathic drivers around.

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23 09 2017
Jim R

That was a fun story. Glad you made it safe and sound.

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23 09 2017
mountaincoward

Yes, that’s the most important thing – I’d have felt much better if the poor girl had made it all the way and given us ‘bragging rights’ though 😉

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22 09 2017
mbc1955

I’ve never been interested in bikes myself, but my Dad was a motorbike rider, forever nipping up to Aunts and Uncles in the south Lakes from Manchester, taking my Mam and doing his courting, and making an annual trip to the TT Races on an overnight stay. Though he died five years before your Millie was made, she looks like a bike he’d have recognised, and he’d have been following your tale with interest (though with horror at the petrol prices!). I’ve been thinking of him again tonight, and your post is another reminder.

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23 09 2017
mountaincoward

I remember petrol pumps you could put a £1 coin in (when they first came out) and fill up quite a lot!

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