The Quest for Vinyls

Owning a vinyl record player used to be a future dream for us, something that we would get when, at some distant point in the future, we got a permanent living place. Well, in May we realised that we indeed had acquired such living conditions where a vinyl record player and vinyls could be owned and stored. Bear with me, we’re getting to the motorbike-related part soon. Following the purchase of the actual player, we swiftly bought a few key records as new pressings, New Model Army’s From Here, Enya’s Watermark, Killing Joke’s Pandemonium, Penfriend’s Exotic Monsters, The Sisters of Mercy’s Floodland and Mishima’s Ara i Res. I already had the vinyl for Winnerbäck’s Tänk om jag ångrar mig och sen ångrar mig igen as it was part of the collector’s pack that my ex-boyfriend gifted me 13 years ago. This made for a good start, but we needed more.

Vinyl player and Kallax storage shelf
Vinyl player and Kallax storage shelf

During the last year my partner and I have been listening to the Audible version of the Vinyl Detective series by Andrew Cartmel and this could very well have been the catalyst for the realisation of the purchase of our vinyl player, but more specifically it made me want to try out crate-digging for records. The Vinyl Detective’s cases are always a quest for one or several rare records and he travels around London going to record fairs and charity shops for crate-digging. In Sweden, flea markets – Loppis, in local lingo – have become very trendy and during summer they pop up in great numbers all over the country. In addition, the market for used vinyl is also rather good and there are several record shops dedicated almost exclusively to it. This is where the motorbike comes into the picture.

Dad helped me prep a special backpack for crate-digging, naturally large enough to fit one or several vinyls and with a sheet of plywood in for stability and strength. This backpack was then permanently stored in one of my panniers as, in Sweden, there can be flea markets in the most unexpected places. My first, and as it turned out, most economically successful crate-digging excursion was in and around Motala. With the help of friends, I could find several flea markets where they had vinyl – mostly it was old Swedish bands but I could find some others that I liked and I picked up a couple of Simon and Garfunkel records for only 40sek each (roughly 4 euros) that was on our wish-list, as well as Never mind the bollocks here’s the Sex Pistols and Deep Purple’s Made in Japan. These last two I acquired in an unconventional manner. I usually never haggle for prices, and it wasn’t my intention to do so this time either but as it happened the shop owner aked me if I found something. I bluntly told him that the records were in too poor condition and not worth what he was asking and that was how I accidentally negotiated the price down to 50sek for both, rather than 80 and it was only much later, when I deep cleaned them, I noticed that they actually play quite ok and were actually worth their initial price.

A typical loppis sells a bit of everything and might have a few crates of vinyls too
A typical loppis sells a bit of everything and might have a few crates of vinyls too

On a later occasion, I made a dedicated vinyl-tour to Uddevalla and Trollhättan and it was in Evolution records in Uddevalla I learned that vinyls don’t get their price based on their quality only, availability is a great part of it. Therefore, I had been able to buy great quality records with popular Swedish artists for only 10 sek (1 euro). This is also when I learned about Discogs, where you can see how much records are bought and sold for at the moment and learn about special editions, etc. I bought Winnerbäck’s live album Vi var där which was not cheap at all, as it was now sold out on vinyl and only available second hand (it was 400sek, i.e. 40 euros for a triple vinyl).

Parked outside Vinylskrubben in Trollhattan
Parked outside Vinylskrubben in Trollhattan

After Udevalla, I made my way to the neighbouring town Trollhättan and the record shop Vinylskrubben. There, I found several albums that were on our wish-list, such as U2, Enya and Leonard Cohen. The record playing in the shop was Deep Purple and it was bloody good. I wasn’t familiar with that particular record, but I decided to ask if I could buy it when I had finished the crate-digging and was ready to pay. But there I learned a lesson, while I was happily flipping records and enjoying the music a guy just simply strolled in and asked to buy the record playing. Aaargh! After this it became my quest to find this record and, luckily, I was later able to find it. I bought, in total, 10 records on that trip, so the backpack was rather heavy on the return journey and I still had about 150km to go when my motorcycle just died. My first thought was that I was glad that I had chosen to include recovery in my insurance. It is actually dad who insists that I have recovery, as he thinks my bike is old and therefore unreliable and that he is too old to come and get me. Or perhaps that I’m old enough to take care of myself. Or all of those!  Anyway, on this occasion I didn’t need to use the recovery option, I could fix the problem quite easily myself. It was a cable that had come loose, probably when I was riding that amazing gravel road near Svanskog on my way down to Uddevalla. I was pretty pleased that I had all the tools with me to be able to unmount the fairings and access the battery and the cables so that I could fix it and continue swiftly. I thoroughly enjoyed some of my favourite small roads, slowly making my way towards home and halfway there I pulled in to a petrol station to fill up. It was by habit more than necessity, as I always used to fill up in Mellerud with a shade over 100km to go. This was when I became aware that the electrical problem was a bit bigger than just a loose cable. I had to do some more fixing and either Swedes don’t care to ask if someone needs help when they are taking apart their vehicle, or everyone around thought I knew what I was doing. Anyhow, no-one asked to help me and luckily, definitely more luck than skill, I got the bike going and didn’t even dare to turn it off again to replace the fairings but rather put it all together provisionally and rode without stopping straight home. A more thorough examination showed that there was a bit of rust on the battery connector and after scaping that off as well as some other cleaning and adjusting of cables, I nearly didn’t have any more motorbike-related problems.

I've pryed the middle pannel loose to access the battery
I’ve pried the middle pannel loose to access the battery

Another fantastic day trip I made was up to Östanbjörke near Sunne. It was a great day on many accounts as I had started off with visiting a friend on the way – not only was I treated to homemade raspberry crumble, I was also promised that I could come over next time I needed to change oil and he would help me open the plug so that I could empty the engine entirely of the old oil. Hurray! I shall make sure I bring the crumble on that occasion. At Östanbjörke vinyl and flea market, I made several lucky digs. Firstly, I found the Deep Purple record, Who do we think we are? that I lost out on at Vinylskrubben, and then I found an Enya maxi-single with a rare B-side that isn’t available on any album so there were a couple of treats for both me and Christopher. Unfortunately, I later found out that the Deep Purple record has a scratch that makes the needle jump in Tokyo Woman, but to be honest, if I had known I might had bought it anyway but perhaps haggled for the price?! After all, I paid 140sek for it (14 euro) and it was marked G+, which implies that the record should play well. While it is annoying that one of the best songs doesn’t play perfectly, this record had an unexpected perk. When I examined the record’s pressing codes on the run-out groove, I discovered that it had PORKY etched on the A-side and PURPLE PECKY on the B-side, which means that it is pressed by renowned mastering engineer George Peckham and these pressings are very good quality and highly regarded. To conclude this paragraph, I must also mention that on my way home I stopped in Sunne and had a big soft ice-cream in the harbour. Why? Life is too short for small ice-creams, that is why.

On my last crate-digging run, I found the first pressing of Magnus Uggla’s cover album Allting som ni gör kan jag göra bättre at Askers in Grums (translates as “Everything you do I can do better” reflecting the artist’s lack of humbleness). It contains a later banned version of Vem kan man lita på and, in addition, on the back of the sleeve there is a reproduction of the infamous artwork of Carl Johan de Geer which was banned (and all the printed posters burned by the police) in 1967 for violating the flag and being anti-Swedish. Such an iconic album by one of my favourite artists had to be included in my collection. I also found a very good edition of the Smurfs story album that I bought for my sister. When I was visiting, she complained that our brother had lent (or gave away, at least we never got it back) our Smurf record when we were kids, so I think it will make for a very unexpected Christmas present. It was great to finish on a high, and it was also great that this was the last day riding before flying home as I noticed that the right front fork was leaking oil from the seal, here we can probably blame the gravel riding. Another thing to deal with next summer – there will be a long list, I’m afraid.

While I wasn’t able to go on a proper holiday last summer, this continuous quest for vinyls filled my summer in Sweden with fantastic excursions and when it was time to fly home I had a rather heavy backpack that I jauntily carried on one shoulder trying to pretend that it wasn’t heavy at all – the well-tested trick to not get checked by the Ryanair staff.

PS. in these videos you can see how I deep-cleaned the dirty Sex Pistols record and Deep Purple’s Made in Japan with wood glue. It effectively removes all ingrained dirt that has accumulated in the grooves. It is easier than you would first think so don’t be afraid to try it!





Girls just wanna have fun, or newbies on TET Sweden

“No way I’m going to sleep in a tent in the middle of the forest in pouring rain!” was my friend’s firm statement when we laid out the plans for our mini holiday in Sweden. Admittedly, the forecast was for rain and a lot of it at times, so I could agree that accommodation indoors could be a better option.

We had booked our first night at a sheep farm in Floby, and the rain came just after we had taken our luggage in so we were lucky! We were both pretty tired, my friend Ela had worked all week and I’d ridden down to Gothenburg to meet up with her after work to do a joint ride to the cabin. We had agreed that, as we were not actually going anywhere this holiday, we were going to focus on quality rather than quantity. We had chosen some lovely, tiny, twisty roads to get to our destination, where we curled up with a glass of wine and caught up on what had happened in our lives since we last met two years ago. Indoor accommodation proved to be an excellent idea, I have to give Ela that. What is better than a glass of crisp wine and a blanket being warm and cosy indoors, while listening to the rain?

Starting of in sunshine
Starting off in sunshine

The cabin was a refurbished henhouse complete with all facilities and we slept like logs. Some fresh eggs for breakfast made a great start to the day and the sun was out. Hmmm, so much for that weather forecast. Despite what had been predicted for the weekend, the weather would be in our favour almost throughout our trip – with emphasis on almost. One goal for these days was to try out the TET, Trans European Trail, which we would be able to access only 30 km away. I had tried a bit of it near Karlstad but that stretch was actually mainly tarmac with some gravel in between. Now we were hoping for a bit more trail-like roads – but not too much, of course, since I was on road tyres and my experience is limited to greenlaning in the UK and Ireland.

Time for a coffee stop
Time for a coffee stop

We had an amazing start to the day. I was wearing my rain trousers but that was mainly not to get all messy from the spray from the gravel road, it didn’t actually rain more than a couple of short sprinkles. We found some amazing places to stop and have coffee and the riding was under control more or less the whole time. Apart from when there was a scary downhill with rocks and sand and I freaked out and went too slow which made Ela fall over behind me as she didn’t get enough momentum to keep her balance. How dreadfully embarrassing for me, luckily there was no harm caused to neither woman nor bike and this taught us to keep a greater distance between us on the trails. Rocky and stony passages were very challenging with my tyres, as well as anything muddy or even wet grass. But, over all, I was super pleased with the riding and felt that I had improved a bit and that changing to dual purpose tyres for next season will be worth it because for sure I want to do more of this.

Having fun on the TET
Having fun on the TET

Fika was a priority for our mini holiday, or svemester, as we say in Sweden when we stay in the country for holiday (a clipping and merging of the words sverige and semester, the latter meaning holiday). Fika is the Swedish coffee break concept when we spend time chatting and enjoying a drink and something yummy to eat. We did plenty of this, we found some lovely spots by the various lakes we passed where we could have not only fika but also lunch and even pick some blueberries. The picking and eating of blueberries is an integral part of Swedish summer and few things are as tasty as fresh blueberries and yoghurt.

This spot will do for lunch
This spot will do for lunch

... and a nap too
… and a nap too

The last day, by fluke, we came upon a rockabilly restaurant in the countryside. Worth mentioning is that this culture has a strong following in Sweden, where there are lots of classic car and bike meets during summer and a lot of people go all out with 1950’s hairstyles and clothes, as well as the music. These features of the Swedish culture always come across as exotic to me after so many years abroad and I fully enjoyed the experience and the pulled Oumph! veggie burger was scrumptious. This was the last day, and after the meal I called Christopher to tell him how fantastically lucky we were with the weather, “it is like the clouds are parting for us” – yeah, right, after this it was more like we were rain goddesses and the rain clouds flocked around us, pretty much like for the lorry driver in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I learned that my rain trousers, which I had bragged about for their persistence in a forum thread just a week earlier, leaked after less than 5 minutes heavy rain. Now I need to start a thread asking for others advice for rain gear because that is simply unacceptable. And so annoying as I’ve only had them since February 2018. We had our last coffee break inside a petrol station before pushing on home to Ela’s flat outside Gothenburg.

Mandy's Diner
Mandy’s Diner

decoration in the loo
decoration in the loo

The rain continued overnight and became so heavy that I got stuck the following day. Dad sent one of his rare and always very brief messages, it read: “Don’t ride today”, and as he seldom asks for anything, when he does, I tend to oblige. Indeed, large parts of Sweden got hit with enormous amounts of rain that day, more than what is normal for a whole month. Some areas are still under water now, several days after. For me it was a minor inconvenience, I just waited one day and spent one more evening with Ela and the following day I could ride up in good weather and take some nice roads that I hadn’t ridden in a while too. I’m really pleased I could ride the famous twists in Tisselskogen between Håverud and Tösse – there is a section where you cross the same train track three times and you nearly meet yourself in the corners and as it is undulating too you get the same feeling as when you are in a rollercoaster.

Perfect timing for my lunch stop at the aqueduct in Håverud
Perfect timing for my lunch stop at the aqueduct in Håverud

Photo courtesy for photos 1,2,3 and 6, Ela Johansson

Wake up Cool Cat!

I’ve spent the last few days prepping Cool Cat, my blue 2002 F650 GS. It had been stored away in a shed for two full years without anyone looking after it so it was in desperate need of some TLC. Firstly, I am aware that a shed is not the perfect place to store a bike in a cold country like Sweden. It is, however, the best I’ve got. When I extracted the bike I was surprised that it didn’t look too bad, it was dusty for sure – I had chosen not to cover it as a cover could provide cosy spots for mice to nest and I was worried about them gnawing on the cables.

Winter parking together with bicycles, lawn mowers and other garden stuff.

The rubber grips had mould on them, urgh, I hate mould. Luckily, I found a bottle of vinegar to wipe it away and now there is no trace of it.

Unfortunately, there was mould under the seat as well. The taped cables were all mouldy and the plastic cover for the fuel pump too, but worse was that the connector had mould all over. I was worried that it would be damaged by moisture but luckily, no damage was done. It seemed to work just fine when I started it up after I’d wiped everything with vinegar and given it a layer of multispray as a moisture repellant.

Then I gave the bike an all-over wash of course. Fortunately, I had gone over it with AFC-50 to prevent rust and it seems to have helped, the chain and the spokes were fine which was a relief.

Following this initial cleaning I had some more work to do – I had purchased a new battery, and then I needed to change the oil and filter + the air filter. Firstly, I had studied the Haynes manual carefully and watched a couple of YouTube videos to make sure I knew how to do it, then I had to locate the tools I needed. I don’t have my own kit here so that meant going through all dad’s stuff which took some time as I needed spanners, hex keys, allen keys and cross headed screw drivers. I would say that this preparational stage took as much time as the actual work. I also decided to learn a bit more about oils so I started a couple of discussions in online forums. I tend to go all in when I do something.

So far so good! I managed to drain the oil tank without any problems. Prior to this I had taken off the bash plate and warmed up the engine slightly.

The next step was to drain the engine of oil. For this I needed the largest allen-key in the set and an extension to get more leverage. But regardless how much I pulled I couldn’t make it move, dad had a go as well with no success. It is an awkward spot as it is under the bike and there is very little room as the frame is limiting the space as well but, holy moly, someone pulled that freaky tight. I had to give up as I didn’t want to round off the screw. I opened the banjo bolt, this was light and easy, just a quick turn with spanner 22, and let out some oil from there. Then I just had to accept that it wouldn’t be possible to empty the engine completely this time.

The filter was next and for this I needed a specially made oil collecting carton, even with this I made a bit of a mess and got oil to clean up on the engine. The oil cover has hex screws, which I was able to unscrew thankfully. Then a new filter and rubber ring was fitted and new oil filled in . And yeah, the engine started and the oil pressure was normal. At this point I hade an ice cream break to celebrate this success 🙂

I had also decided to change the air filter as I had the bike naked anyway and it seemed like an easy enough thing to do for me. The first thing to do was to disconnect the air temperature sensor, which was a bit fiddly as I needed to bend the metal clip off before being able to pull it apart.

Then, there were two screws to unfasten the duct and take it apart to expose the air filter. To my surprise the fitted filter was a BMC multi-use filter which I can clean and re-fit next time. Without knowing it was there, I had bought a standard paper filter for replacement. There was some oil in the filter hosing that I needed to drain before fitting the new filter.

After having squeezed in the air filter I “just” had to pry the duct together without the filter flopping out and screw it on.

Then all that was left was to put the fairings back on again and fit the bash plate. Since I had removed the battery when I stored the bike away, I had not put back all the screws for the fairings. This is my normal routine for when I remove the battery, I just put back a few to hold it together, not the full 16 of them. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I put them. I had to get some almost but not quite the same looking screws as replacements.

Lastly, I checked that the bike starts ok, that all the lights are working, the horn too and the chain and tyres looks fine. Insurance and tax is paid. All that is left is the MOT, I hope all goes well tomorrow.