Monday, 20 February 2012

Little Ben meet’s Big Ben

“Bloody Men”

“Now what?

“Where’s the futon mattress?”

“Oh.......... sh1t! Sorry I forgot”

“I’ll give you forgot, an old woman in Aldi car park thought I’d lost the plot. Full trolley and the bloody boot is full with a damned futon mattress. Thanks for that!”

Hay ho, back to reality with a bang after a fantastic trip down to the Ace Cafe.

Ben & I were up at 6.30am ready and on our way by 7 heading West across the M62 and then due South down the M1. The M62 is a pain at the minute with a “average” 50mph speed limit from Saddleworth Moor all the way to the A1 South so I was running late for my 8.30 meet with Gaz from the Adventure Biker Rider Forum. As it happens we were only 10 minutes late but made good time down the M1. Ben’s new heated Gerbings Jacket Liner was doing a great job but the gloves weren’t, and his hand got very cold till I realised I’d turned them off by accidently putting the portable dual controller back into his pocket at the petrol stop just north of London.

The start of a Fantastic day in London 

Arriving at the Ace Cafe 40 minutes later, Gaz pulled up, dismounted and was gone, never to be seen again. I would have liked to have said thanks for the company (so Thank You Gaz if you’re reading this). A couple of photo’s and it was over the road to have a look around. Ben was having a ball surrounded with so many OverLanders Motorbikes fitted out with every accessory known to man. From home made hand guards made out of 5 gallon plastic cartons, to sheep skin covered seats to a Honda Moped that had been to Australia and back. It was one amazing gathering. Ther are lots of photo's on the Adventure Bike Riders Forum.

Some many bikes, so little parking

It’s the first time I have visited the meeting but after calling in at the Horizons Unlimited meeting held last year in Belper, Derbyshire each year I had a good idea what to expect. Postings about the forthcoming meeting on the ABR Forum had reached fever pitch the day before (48 emails in one afternoon – note to self- unsubscribe to topic). After a few minutes I spotted Phil waving to us from the midst of the crowd.  It was nice to meet up with a few familiar faces and made Ben feel right at home, not that he didn’t already mind, but nice all the same. I turned round to find my best mate Ron stood directly behind us having just arrived. Now how is that for good karma!

After a quick chat with the assembled IBA folks Ben was ready for a drink and a bite to eat so we headed over to join the queue which extended clear out the door. Thank you to the chap with the cap on who pointed out we could queue from both ends, speeding our service by 20 minutes. Top man, keep up the good work.

Brew in hand we took a seat at one of the tables after standing around 5 minutes, the bacon and egg butties came out.

“Number 479”

“Number 479”


“OVER HERE”.................. whoops did I shout that loud, the whole cafe went silent for just a second and looked at me. Ben hung his head thinking “I’m not with him”

I forget sometimes how loud I can go, down to too long in the army shouting for a living I guess.

Now once the hot chocolate had cooled down and butties devoured Ben & I went over for a chat with Sam who had his own little stall set up. I got to meet Birgit for the first time. Seems odd now but I sometimes forget they don’t really know me all that well but having read Sam’s book I feel like I’ve know them for years. Mind I did first meet Sam at the NEC in 2009 so it is technically a couple of years and as we chat from time to time by email I suppose I do get lost with my thoughts. Sam introduced me to Paddy Tyson telling me all about his many “Hat’s” that of Veteran Overlander, Magazine editor and head of M.A.G. I was even more star struck than Ben.

One happy young man, Biker Ben

It was a quick pop upstairs to the loo’s, when I came out I spotted a couple of folks taking pictures from on the roof. I plled through the door with Ben close on my heals only to be told by someone

“You’re not allowed on here, sorry mate”

“Can I just grab a couple of pictures please, Hi Sam” I got the big smile and a nod in response, it worked. (Thank you Mr Manicom)

“Go on then but be quick”

Quick as a flash I had three in the bag, Result!

Now that's what I call a busy Biker Bar 

It didn’t take long outside before Ben was anchoring after a trip to see Big Ben. I’d put a fair few points of interest into the Garmin before we set off but was not really looking forward to traipsing around London looking for them.

“Right folk’s looks like we will be seeing you”

“You off already?” Ron replied

“Yes Ben wants’ to go sightseeing”

“Well I’m off to my sisters soon but need to pick up Jo first”

“Do you fancy showing us round, or pointing us in the right direction?”

“Yes why not”

“Nice one Big Lad, Ben, Uncle Ron’s going to show us London”


We started to say our farewells and head to the big when I spotted Old Git Ray’s blue Tenere.

“Ben look that’s Ray’s bike you know the guy I met at Horizons meeting last year. I wonder where .......”

Out pop’s Ray’s head from behind a couple of guys,

“Hello mate, how you doing?”

“Hello, good thanks, and you?”

That was it we were off, much to the disgust of Ben who was now chomping at the bit to get on the road, London was waiting.

Ray had a good look at Ben’s Gerbings Jacket Liner then came over to Mr. T to see the bike in the flesh. Lifting Ben clean of the floor and putting him down behind him so he could see where I have mounted the heat controller. Ben thought this was well funny.

Ron rolled up and it wasn’t long before I had Ben sorted and mounted. We said our farewells to Ray and headed into the metropolis called London inner city.

I’m not even going to try and describe where Ron lead us but my word I have never seen so many tourist attractions in such a short space of time in my life before. Ben was ecstatic, so much for just pointing us in the right direction Ron took us to every single point I had inputted into the Garmin, and more besides. It was great, stopping to point things out, show us things, and explain what was what and where. Jumping on and off his bike like a man possessed to take pictures of us both.

We had an amazing time, Ron you could give whistle stop guided tours of the London Attractions for a living you were fantastic, thank you.

We saw Battersea Power Station, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Abraham Lincoln, London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Nelsons Column, Admiralty Arch, The Mall, Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade Ground, The Royal Arboretum, and on and on............ It was simply the most fantastic Guided Tour of London I could have wished Ben to have had. There were so many closed roads, road works and other obstructions I know if we had been on our own we would have not seen a quarter of what we saw.

Sadly as with all good things it had to come to an end and for us that was on the side of a manic dual carriageway. Ron was heading home and we needed to carry on around the inner circular towards the M11 then on off up the A1. Ron jumped off his bike for the last time and bid us farewell, until next Saturday on Waterloo, Belgium, that is. Picking his wallet up off the floor which had fallen out of his bike suit pocket, bit of good luck there, again Karma looking after us and that was almost that.

Give or take the 225 miles ride home we had in front of us but with so many sights and memories flying around in his head Ben was not fazed one iota. I plugged Bens heated kit back in at this point and he headed out of London.

“Dad, can you pull over” he said just as I reached the A1(M)

“What’s wrong darling?”

“My gloves, there burning my hands”

“Shit, not good! Ok sweetheart, just hold your hands out in the wind, that will help cool them down a bit”

I pulled over at the first parking area luckily just 2 minutes later, pulling the gloves off revealed how red raw the backs of his hands were. I’m annoyed I didn’t think to take a photo but I was too busy using my own freezing hands to cool his down.

I checked the controller and it was almost on full so turned it down to just on. We set off again but it was no good they did exactly the same. This time I just unplugged them from the sleeves, no harm done but I’m not impressed with them at all.  

We stopped at Peterborough Services and had a KFC, Cola, loo break and fill up before finishing the ride in glorious sunshine.

So to sum up, in all honesty with temperatures ranging from 1 degree centigrade up to 8 degrees in London, glorious sunshine all day, fantastic company and an amazing whistle stop tour of London both Ben and I had a wonderful day out on the bike.

Ben completed half a Saddle Sore 1000 in covering 490 miles in 11 hours 35 minutes and is now very keen to complete the illustrious End 2 End. (Land’s End to John‘O’Groats in less than 24 hours).

I need to sort my speedometer out as for some reason when I wired in the Gerbings wiring looms direct to the battery it switched the read out to kilometres per hour, mind you, with so many ride to Europe coming up in quick succession I may well just leave it for the time being. Odd though that it has switched itself! It even gives me KM per litre how clever is that then?

Little Ben Meets Big Ben 

Foot notes.

I’ve since tried the gloves on myself and no matter what setting on two separate controllers I use the panel on the back of my hand gets unbearable hot! I called Martin and he has passed on my contact details to Gerbings to get in touch. No response as yet I’ll keep you posted. 

Speaking to Dave the mechanic at Keith Dixon Motorcycles where I bought Mr. T all I need to do to revert back to miles per hour is hold in the two buttons on the clocks and switch the ignition back on. Simples! So Mr. T will be running in KM for the foreseeable. 

I wonder if my raffle ticket number 502 won anything? 

Finally I would just like to dedicate this Blog entry to my best friend Ron, I won’t forget what you did for Ben in a long time.

(P.S. Please pass on my apologies to Jo and your sister for making you so late. Sorry Ladies!)

What a fantastic surprise, we got a mention in Sam's write up Ace Cafe Adventure Travel Day, thank you Sam.

Sam Manicom,
Overlander Extrorinar, Writer and
all round Great Guy

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