Happy New Running Year

This autumn has been a bit slow on the running side. After my 40th birthday-charity run for Pikilily I’ve struggled to maintain consistency in running, nothing left to motivate me and often short runs seems useless to me. I long for the long runs but at the same time I don’t want to put too much pressure on my foot and risk breaking up the stress fracture, again. Being injured is just plain -boooring – and I needed to find a remedy, not only for my foot but also for my mind. I needed to mix and mingle with runners again so I made myself an excuse to go to London and run with lovely Sudbury Court RC, a burst around the streets of Wembley paired with a post-run drink at the club house gave me an opportunity to catch up with friends and get an update of who is running what this spring. This, in turn, motivated me to look for some races for myself, and since the silly season was coming up – Chase the Pudding Santa Race on Weymouth beach was a strong candidate, it doesn’t get sillier than that. 300 Santas chasing a pudding along the beach 🙂 I recommend it!

Super happy to have been able to inspire Sheonagh to join me for Chase the Pudding santa race on Weymouth beach. Photo courtesy Frances Underwood
Super happy to have been able to inspire Sheonagh to join me for Chase the Pudding Santa race on Weymouth beach. Photo courtesy Frances Underwood

As I was going to Brighton for Christmas, I fancied doing a Christmas Eve parkrun as well. Running on this particular day is a family tradition that dad and I cherish and although we ran in different parts of Europe running is still something that connects us. Another parkrun was accomplished on New Year’s Eve, this time on the Hove Promenade. In addition, if I’m being really good, I might treat myself to a New Year’s Day parkrun as well, in which case I can tick off Hove park.

Preston parkrun on Christmas Eve, Julia sports her Vegan Runners club vest while I go all out in a Santa suit. Support by Gerogina and Sue.
Preston parkrun on Christmas Eve, Julia sports her Vegan Runners club vest while I go all out in a Santa suit. Support by Georgina and Sue.

As the new year begins and our plans for our future become clearer, with ferry booked to Spain and job applications sent off to schools and academies, I look forward to more running in the sun. Hopefully, I’ll be fit for a half-marathon soon, aiming for the Barcelona half in February. I’m slowly lengthening my distances now, trying not to overdo it, starting with a 10k along the Brighton seafront. I’m very much back to square one, like 3 years ago, when I trained for my first half marathon and just wanted to be able to complete it. It doesn’t matter, time is an illusion, as long as I can run, I’ll be happy!

What are your plans and your new targets? – please share your thought with me!

Hard Nuts Chunky Tread Winter Meet

After a successful ride up to Stoke, the next event in my riding agenda was a winter meet hosted by Pete Johnson and Chunky Tread Motorcycle Adventure Club. Despite only having a couple of hours to ride, I still didn’t manage to reach destination before nightfall and while bouncing along the last bit of road, a composition of mud and gravel, a thought struck me: I’m on my way to meet a bunch of complete strangers in the middle of nowhere outside Manchester. One of the amazing things with motorcycling.

Since leaving Spain, I have always regretted never making it to Los Pinguinios, the winter meet outside Valladolid. It always seemed too cold for me. Therefore, it felt like quite a victory to make it to this event, although admittedly the weather was quite mild.

This was a small and intimate meet where the focus was on having a good time, exchanging experiences and having a few drinks together. Being a foreigner, I was treated to a local specialty as welcome dinner: chips, gravy and mushy peas – something that I had not yet tried after a shade over 2 years in the UK. Some things are worth waiting for! The weekend continued in the same spirit, at a small meet I find it easier to get talking to people and I learned a lot from talking to Ren, who is an experienced 125 rider. He and his girlfriend Sharon run Bikes and Travels and, with its vast information on this topic, it gives a good insight into the small cc world.

Manchester specialty, chips, mushy pies and gravy - yummy scrummy!
Manchester specialty, chips, mushy peas and gravy – yummy scrummy!

During Saturday we did a short ride out to see the surroundings and check out a few shops which catered for all needs involved with motorbiking and camping. Thanks to Ren for leading our group of mall and large bikes. It was great fun to push the CG to its limits over the moors outside Manchester while the big bikes patiently stayed put behind. Always nice to ride with civilized people!

Small and big bikes out and about
Small and big bikes out and about

As mentioned plenty of times previously, I come from a “big bike” culture where a small bike is considered to be a 650 or 750 (often seen as beginners bikes in Sweden) and I have frequently been told that my Monster 600’s were too small to travel on and that my 650 Versys was to weak to take a pillion – yet I managed very well to do these things. I can only conclude that bikers in Sweden have a lot to learn and that money can be spent in more productive ways than on purchase and insurance of a massive cc bike – for example on petrol 🙂 and travelling.

On the topic of travelling, there were plenty of tales to be told during the weekend. One very unusual story was that of Pete himself and his Road to Manchester: being from Manchester England he set out on a quest to visit 33 places called Manchester in the USA, all being former settlements and named  after the first Manchester – some no more than a couple of houses along the road and others full grown cities. I found it an amusing idea, although it wouldn’t work for me – my home town Karlstad has only one namesake in the USA. So, fortunately for me, I have another working concept: the WIMA rallies always point my direction of travel. Pete won the Bennetts’ biker’s dream and got his journey funded, but only after working hard researching and preparing the adventure so no credit should be taken from his effort. It is all documented on United States of A Manchester – an interesting read I must say.

The musical xmas challenge - it was even sillier than it looks like
The musical Xmas challenge – it was even sillier than it looks like

I was also delighted to meet Bernard and his famous Bertha – the bike that took him and his late wife Cathy around the world. The astonishing detail of this tale being the fact that she was blind. Upon my return yesterday, I started reading their book “Touching the World” – an amazing and inspiring story, first chapter describing their climb of Machu Picchu, something many would think impossible for a blind person. In addition, her ways of describing the world amazed me, being so vivid and colourful. To find out more, please visit World Tour or get the book.

Bernard and Bertha
Bernard and Bertha

I’ll stop here, concluding that I had a fabulous weekend! Now Koneko needs a good clean before being stored away for winter and if we cannot bring her to Spain we would sadly have to sell her. She has really proved her potentials this weekend but import rules are rather complicated and that is the reality we will be dealing with while relocating.


The Small Challenge

As you might recall Christopher and I have spent large parts of the summer touring in Wales, England and Scotland, he on his Honda CG 125 and I on my Kawasaki 650 Versys. While the Versys was originally bought to enable me to take Christopher pillion around Madrid, where we lived at the time, and bring all and everything I could possibly want to take while touring to a WIMA rally somewhere in Europe, the CG was purchased with one sole purpose – to be a learner bike. Christopher has now started his direct access training and is on to a big bike at the traffic school so the CG needed to be brought back up to Stoke from Weymouth. Christopher, who has had a hard time travelling around on the under-powered little bike in wind and storm, thought there was a lesson to learn for me and challenged me to take the bike up. I’m not known from backing down to a challenge and I gladly accepted. The journey measured approximately 340km on small roads and I would have to carry a large packroll on the back. For the record, I must add that I am taller than Christopher and I have neverending problems finding a bike with a good leg position due to my nerve problems. In addition, he never carried more than a small light roll on the bike during our holidays, while I carried the rest of our camping gear and luggage, and we never clocked more than 200km in a full day. Also, as Sweden does the rider’s training differently, I have never been on a bike this small apart from short rides to the shop and back on his CG. I started off on a Kawasaki Z550 then moved on to various Ducati Monsters (600, 620, 695) before my Versys.

Therefore, this WAS indeed a challenge and it was with excitement I set out from Weymouth. It was a drizzly day and it felt like I never saw any daylight to speak of during the entire day, but I had an amazing time pushing Koneko (yes, that is the name of the CG) all I could, thinking that I have never gone flat out on a bike before (ha ha, true story!). Although, overtaking was admittedly a challenge and I had to plan for it to build up speed and then put my chin down on the tank bag… bit since the bike is so weak I only had to overtake twice during the whole day 🙂 This not including the traffic jam where it ran like a weasel between the cars, so there are pros and cons.

As for carrying luggage I’m surprised to conclude that I never noticed the packroll while riding, and that it actually takes luggage better than what my Ducati Monsters did – on the Monster the roll always tugged on my bum, while here there was plenty of room on the saddle to move around. The only slight problem was that the roll made it harder to put the bike on the central stand since it was difficult to grip the handle on the side with the straps. Adding to this, that during the whole journey I had no problems whatsoever with my legs, not from vibrations or the leg angle – I was surprised how comfortable overall the bike is and very well an option for travelling (it is cheap as chips to run as well). As the kilometres passed by, I was getting more and more fond of this little kitten (for those who don’t know Japanese – koneko means kitten).

The problems started when the light went, with the waning daylight it became obvious how bad the headlight beam is, although on full beam it is no more than a parking light really. This meant not only that I sometimes had problems seeing where I was going but also that it took longer for other vehicles to see me. I had a few cars pulling out in front of me early in the evening which nearly made me pull over and stay in a hotel for the night. However, I decided to press on but acting like I was invisible. As it got darker, I think others could spot me better but I got constantly dazzled by cars before they flicked their lights, and I had to pull over on a regular basis to let cars pass since I had no chance keeping up the speed of rush hour traffic in the dark. The salty grease on my visor made it difficult to see and I realized that I’ve actually never ridden in salty conditions before, don’t think they use road salt in Spain… Continuous visor wiping was necessary and I am really pleased I wore my rain trousers, they are normally flourescent – but now they are black up to the knee from road grease.

To conclude my reflections, I must say that the Honda CG 125 is a surprisingly comfortable bike, good seat and overall good comfort for a small old bike. Although, it is a bit on the weak side, I managed to push it up to nearly the national speed limit at times and the overall it handles well. The lack of front suspension gives a lot of feedback (a possible way of describing bumpy rattling 🙂 ) and since the bike is small and has no windscreen you do get a lot of thrill from the modest speed. I could definitely consider travelling on it again, I did 7.5 hours yesterday, which is a long day in the saddle and I was fine afterwards – although happy to receive a glass of chilled wine in a warm house.

There is a lot to be said about small bikes and their advantages and I’ll post more about this later, including my review of the Motorcycle Live in Birmingham, but now I have to get ready  – I’m taking Koneko to a Winter meet outside Manchester, and I want to get there before it gets dark!

And please, if YOU have any thoughts and comments of the choice of bike, large or small – you’re welcome to post them below!

Koneko & me
Koneko & me