For many years I’ve marveled at my father’s garage. I’ve visited hospitals that are less hygienic and libraries less organized. It contains the full compliment of auto cleaning products, white spirit and T cut arranged neatly into plastic boxes on white shelves, the unusual amount of gleaming camping stoves illustrating the evolution of outdoor cooking over the last 60 years and the ubiquitous chest of draws demoted from the bedside to the ‘workshop’, draws fit to burst with cable ties, jubilee clips, nuts, bolts and washers. There’s also a motorbike for most occasions carefully stored under dust sheets made from old tents gently absorbing the smell of fresh polish and motor oil.
Since I was a child there has been a healthy flow of motorcycles in and out that space, being prepared for journeys, renovated or just improved. For a long time I didn’t understand the organized, methodical approach my father took to his bikes. My attitude to modes of transport was just use the damn thing until it breaks; journeys for me are often more about the unknown, the unpredictable and very rarely about the destination or the vehicle. Most of my cars have run on faith or good intension or been held together with gaffer tape. None of them cost me more the 500 quid. Once I swapped a record player for the Hurtwood Girls School mini bus which I converted onto a camper in a day and went chasing a foolish love interest to a Buddhist monastery in Scotland….but that’s another story. I suppose the point I’m getting at is I’ve always relied on luck over preparation. Now with my shinny new bike waiting patiently in my room, I’m preparing more like my father. It’s all a little bit Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance, but I feel that in preparing the bike, I’m preparing mentally for this trip. Either that or I’m just getting older and more obsessive, although I’m still a long way off owning a pair of shoes just for mowing the lawn.
My training regime is strict. I ride to the pub at least three times a week and I have been doing my weekly food shop on the ‘Surly Big Dummy’, That’s the name of my trusty steed although I’m not sure of the Big Dummy title is best applied to me or the bicycle. I wrote only one letter to try and get an endorsement from an American company called Surly Bikes and luckily for me they were behind the project from the word go. I liked the idea of having a solid unit as oppose to a regular touring bike towing a trailer full of guitars. It’s taken a bit of getting used to but considering how much longer than a regular bike it is the handling is not that different and even with a lot of weight on the back it’s a smooth and precise ride.
Over the past few weeks of getting used to a long framed geometry I have (with a great deal of help and advice of Patrick from Surly) changed a few things around to suit me better. The brakes have been upgraded to hydraulics, mudguards are attached for those long rainy days, wide load bars for the extra cycle pannier units to hold the guitars in place and a new fully adjustable seat post has given me a slightly longer reach. For any anoraks among you the brakes are gleaming set of aluminum Hope Tech V2 and seem like they’d stop just about anything…..except Cliff Richard, he’s likely to outlast religion and charm widowed octogenarians until the end of time. That does however give me an idea for a TV program. We remove X factor from weekend television and replace it with Sir Cliff, Lady Ga Ga in a high sided steel cage with a starved grizzly bear and a heavily armed live studio audience. Then the audience could vote with their trigger fingers and the winner could record a Christmas album. Can bears sing? Answers on postcard please to ‘Whose Mind Is It Anyway’ PO BOX 197……Anyway I digress. Got to go and meet a man about a gig in a living room in East Grinstead. More soon.