Tag Archives: Heritage Softail

Heritage Softail Service and Tyre

The other day I came out of work after a late meeting to be greeted by the the Harley-Davidson sitting there with a flat back tyre.  One of my colleagues tried to look on the bright side by reassuring me that it was only flat at the bottom, but I think this was just trying to make me feel better.

However, I wasn’t really worried, except for the fact that this would delay me getting home for my dinner. After a phone call to the lovely people at the RAC, I settled down for a wait. I didn’t have too long to wait before one their bright orange vans arrived, quickly located the problem, which was a hole in the tyre and proceeded to make a temporary repair.

I had been asked a couple of times whether this was a tubed or a tubeless tyre and I neither knew the answer nor realised that the question would prove to be significant.

It seems that temporary repairs are only for tubeless tyres.

After some searching, the RAC man announced his verdict. It had a tube.

This meant that I could not ride it home, even though the temporary repair was holding up. I would have to wait for a truck to come and take me home.

He also announced that I needed a new back tyre as the tread was on the very edge of being legal.

I settled back down in the office at work and eventually the truck arrived. We manoeuvred the bike onto the back of the hi-tech sliding tipping flat bed and the driver proceeded to strap the bike down. After this was done, we finally set off for home with me in the truck.

Apart from getting no dinner until about 11pm, things were OK. Our RAC membership had covered the costs of both of my rescuers and the bike was safely put away at home.

The next step was a phone call to Robin Hood.

No not that one; the Harley Davidson dealership in Nottingham.

They would come and collect the bike, fit a new tyre and carry out the service that was also due.

The ball park price that we were given during that phone call was a bit of shock. We are looking at about £700.

Oh well, nothing is cheap on a Harley.

The shop van turned up this morning and as I write this, the bike is in their tender care. At some point the phone will ring and my Visa card will go pale.

But the bike will be back on the road.

There is some debate going on in our household at the moment about whether we are going to keep the bike. With my job being almost an hour away from home, a car is a necessity, especially for next winter. My heart wants to keep the bike and walk to work if the weather is too bad to ride, but the well-hidden sensible bit of me realises that walking to Swadlincote from Nottingham is not an option.

Anyway, whether the bike stays or leaves, it needs to be roadworthy.


An Easter Family Visit – Part 4

So, we’re up to Part 4 of this epic adventure, but if you’re just joining us, it all starts here.

In fact, it’s taking much longer than I expected to finish this story, but tere is a spell of great weather and we’d far rather be out riding the Harley-Davidson than sitting in front of a computer. However, with part 4, we reach a real highlight of our visit by Maria and Cecilie, the Danish branch of our family.  I have also been beaten to this part of the tale by Cecilie, who has already posted a lot of great pictures of her English trip over on Facebook.

Anyway, the first three parts of this adventure have taken us through most of the weekend, and as we have reached Easter Sunday, it was to be their last day with us before returning home. But before we could think of loading up the car and delivering them home, there were two important things to complete. The first was to take Cecilie out for a ride aboard the Harley. In Part 3, I posted a picture of Cecilie sitting on the bike on our drive, but she really wanted to get out on the road. I was only too pleased to show off oblige.

Cecilie and Chuffing Hog Are About To Venture Out Onto The Roads of Nottinghamshire

Cecilie and Chuffing Hog Are About To Venture Out Onto The Roads of Nottinghamshire

 We set out Northwards from Nottingham, around the Hucknall Bypass and out on the dual carriageway towards Annesley. Bearing left at the north end of the dual carriageway, we rode out towards Junction 27 of the M1 and across towards Selston. Following this road down through Moorgreen and Watnall, we then came through Nuthall and via the A610 roundabout, along Lowmoor Road back towards home.

For me, it wasn’t the most exciting ride of all time and didn’t really last very long, but Cecilie had developed the “biker grin” by the time we got back. She was a really good pillion, keeping very good balance and she seemed to relax as the ride went on, even letting go of her grip on my waist for a while. She responded well to the taps that we exchanged to check that everything was OK.

Although the conversation between Cecilie and her mum was in Danish, I feel sure that Cecilie said something like, “I want one” when we got back.

After the ride, we hopped into the car to collect Sue’s mum, Mercy, so that she would be able to say goodbye to  the ladies. Some of this was done over lunch, but we had agreed to pop into Sue’s sister, Lesley’s, as it was only a few yards off our route to Stansted airport, so we spent some enjoyable time there, with yet more home-made cake before leaving Mercy behind with Lesley and family and heading off southwards on the A1.

Sue's sister, Lesley, with Jack, Sophie and Lauren pictured at our house over Easter 2009

Sue's sister, Lesley, with Jack, Sophie and Lauren pictured at our house over Easter 2009

Airport farewells are never easy, but were eased a little with some more shopping, although this didn’t actually go much beyond looking on this occasion.

Once Maria and Cecilie had finally passed out of sight though the security check and off into the departure lounge, Sue and I headed back to the short-stay car-park and made our way back northwards.

However, we had arranged to stay overnight at a Travelodge near Peterborough. This was not the best maintained Travelodge room that we had ever seen, but we were both so tired that we collapsed into bed and stayed there for the next 13 hours. The following morning, Sue decided to “have words” about the poor state of the bathroom, in particular, and as a result, we were refunded the money that we had paid. Even as a freebie, though, the experience was not great.

We had vaguely planned to visit a heritage railway on the Monday, but I managed to leave my jacket, with my wallet, money and Heritage Rail pass at home. We therefore headed for home, but set the Satnav to find the shortest route, rather than the quickest one. This took us across country, leaving the A1 behind and going past Rutland Water and through Oakham and Melton.

We reached Melton Mobray cattle market sometime mid morning and Sue persuaded me to decided to stop and take a look. I have to confess that I wasn’t all that keen, but I am glad we did. We found lots of really good CDs for 50 p each and Sue picked up a pendant set in silver, along with a book or two. We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours there before tucking into ur sandwiches and finishing the journey back to Nottingham.

It was a great way to end a packed, but extremely enjoyable Easter weekend.

It had been two years since we last saw Maria and Cecilie when we went over to Denmark. I really hope we don’t leave it as long before we get to spend some more time together.

Ride Safe

An Easter Family Visit – Part 3

It’s already a week since the events that I am recording in this series of blog posts and, at last we reach Saturday’s adventures of our Danish family’s visit. If you’ve just stumbled across this, you are perfectly welcome to read this post first, but I suggest that the best place to start this adventure is at the beginning.

Saturday morning dawned just as grey and overcast as the previous couple of days had done, but Sue was determined that she was going to Wollaton Park,where there was a Mind, Body and Spirit show over the Easter Weekend. Originally, I had planned to go along with Sue, Maria, Cecilia and Sue’s mum and Sue had arranged to meet a friend and fellow hippie, Maggie. In the end, I decided not to go and to stay at home and sort out the music for that evening’s disco for a wedding at Lakeside.

A good morning’s peace and quiet was just what I needed to get the music sorted out and be ready for the evening’s work. However, I was very pleased when Sue phoned to say that they were on their way to Maggie’s house where tea and cake were waiting for us. I hopped on the Harley and rode across Nottingham to join them.

Sarah, Maggie, Maria and Cecilia at Maggie's house

Sarah, Maggie, Maria and Cecilie at Maggie's house

Maggie’s very talented daughter, Sarah, entertained us with some great guitar playing, including a great version of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.  

 Maggie had made some fantastic homemade cakes and biscuits and I, of course, contrived to sample as many of them as I could without allowing the “hog” part of my on-line identity to cross too far into into real life.

With the cakes consumed and the music appreciated, it was time to head back home where both Maria and Cecilia had their first look at the Heritage Softail. Although it really could have done with a clean (and, a week later, certainly needs one now) they were both impressed with it size and the amount of Harley-Davidson chrome that it carries. Both of the women sat aboard it, although by the time Sue had rushed off to get the camera, Maria had become a little camera shy and only this picture of a grinning biker-babe Cecilie was captured for posterity.

Biker Babe Cecilie aboard the Heritage Softail. (That is Chuffing Hog's arm hanging on the bike!)

Biker Babe Cecilie aboard the Heritage Softail. (That is Chuffing Hog's arm hanging on the bike!)

Wow, she certainly looks the part!

There’s no doubt that Cecilie enjoyed her moment on the Harley, even though it was on its stand on our drive with me fussing over it (and her) safety. But things got better – much better – on the Sunday ( and in Part 4 of this epic)

Ride Safe

At Last

St Patrick’s Day saw my first ride aboard the Heritage Softail this year.

OK, it was a ride to from Nottingham to Swadlincote to go to and from work, but it was a ride. It was inspired by the fact that yesterday was a warm, sunny spring day and as I drove the now familiar route to work, I found myself wishing that I was on the bike rather than cocooned in the car.

Today, of course, was nowhere near as good. It was dull and overcast all day, but it stayed dry.

The bike got a reaction from most of my work colleagues. Jackie and Alison appeared in car park as soon as I pulled up at about 8am and later in the day, Saira and Chris were both sitting aboard the bike.

I think they were quite impressed.

It took me about the same length of time for the journey, but I think I used slightly less petrol in the bike than in the car. However, a 1440cc engine is always going to be rather a thirsty beast.

I fear that tomorrow I will have to go by car for a couple of reasons. One is that I put a lot of petrol in it on Monday that needs to be used up. (Don’t ask, it’s a long story.) The other is that I have to find my way to a place that I don’t know in the village of Hilton.

Well, this year’s biking has finally started – let’s hope there lots more miles and lots more rides to come.

Ride Safe

Motorcycle Batteries

I remember that the battery on my Sportster was reasonably accessible without the need for a masters degree in dismantling. It’s a pity that the current bikes aren’t quite as straightforward.

The Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail and the Yamaha YBR 125 have both been standing in the garage for quite a while now while:

  • The weather has been Too cold
  • Too icy
  • Too much salt on the road
  • I have had easy availability of a car

So, predictably enough, the batteries on both machines had started to suffer a little. Recognising this as a potential problem when biking conditions finally improve,  we set out on a quest that involved a trip to Ikea to take advantage of their generous money back guarantee on unopened items.

We had bought some furniture, as well as reaching a medical breakthrough and we had to take back the two chests of drawers for which we had failed to measure the space available. This part of the expedition went well, with money being refunded. This was to the great astonishment of my credit card which has become used to the slurping sound of money going out. The balance of the universe was, however, restored when the bill for our subsequent wander around the Ikea store resulted in just one, but taller chest of drawers and and few other bits and pieces. The total, of course, came to rather more than the refund.

As we left Ikea, I’m sure that I heard a sigh of relief from my pocket as your master Visa thought that the pressure was off.

However, rather than our normal route away from Ikea along the A610 towards Nottingham, we took the exit from the Ikea exit roundabout towards the picturesque villages of Eastwood and Kimberley. This was because there is a good motorbike accessory and clothes shop in Kimberley, J & S Accessories. We parked up and went inside this Aladdin’s cave of helmets, jackets, boots trousers, waterproofs, leathers and so much more.

I am sure that the Visa card groaned, but we strongly resisted several hundred pounds worth of temptation and only bought a Dr Bike battery optimiser.

Yesterday evening was spent avoiding the Ikea boxes because I decided to get the Harley battery on charge. In fact, the Sportster used to have a useful little socket for a battery charger, although I never made any use of it. So I dug the socket and its two crimped battery terminals out of the charger box and approached the Harley to fit it.

This is where the fun really started.

I searched the interweb for some advice about how to get to the battery and found a great deal of smart-assed comment on the discussion groups and websites but precious little useful information. I had worked out for myself that the seat had to come off, but I couldn’t work out how to do it. Eventually Sue casually said, why not look in the handbook. Of course this explained, set by step, exactly what I had to do.

Actually doing it wasn’t quite as easy, and judging from the condition of one of the screw heads, the bikes previous owner(s) must have fought the same battles I now have.

Essentially, all you have to do is undo three screws, one on the rear fender behind the pillion seat and one each side of the rider’s seat, then slip the pillion grab strap over the head of the screw on the left side of the bike before pulling the seat backwards and up to release it.

If only the doing was as easy as the telling.

Eventually I did succeed and fitted the rings on the socket cable to the battery. This is when I made another discovery. Removing the battery cable from a Heritage Softail sets off the alarm. Loudly.

By this point, I just put it down to being part of life’s rich pattern and plodded on as the shrieking continued. Once finished, the alarm silent and the battery on charge, putting the seat back on was the work of but a moment in comparison to the voyage of discovery to get it off.

But I gave up on getting at the Yamaha battery for that evening.

Fast forward to today and with the Hog’s battery full, I had to bite the bullet and go for the YBR 125’s battery compartment. Once again, the handbook came to the rescue and saved me several hours of potential swearing. To get at a YBR battery, unlock the left hand side panel using the bikes’ ignition key. pull HARD on the front edge of the panel and a pin will disengage from (I think) a rubber mount. the back end of the panel also comes away and there is the battery in its full glory. Using the supplied pair of croc clips, the charger was plugged in and the kettle was on in just a few minutes.

Every day there seem to be more and more bikers on the road. It can’t be long now before I join them, although my commute to work is now quite a bit longer and I’m not sure that the M1 in rush hour is the place for a 125cc bike, but that’s a story that going to have to wait until I’ve tried it.

I’ve just realised that this the first bike post on here in ages. It’s good to be back.

Ride Safe

A Mid-Life Crisis Or Two

For a long while now I have joked about my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the Sportster, as the manifestation of my mid-life crisis.  This feeling continued into the era of the Heritage Softail and I am increasingly convinced that this is very close to the mark.

In fact, as I look back, I must have been having a succession of mid-life crises for more than 20 years now!

I used to think that the mid-life crisis was exclusively a male thing, but now I’m not so sure. It seems that it the majority of people showing the classic symtoms seem to be men, but I have seen enough women who also do this.

So what are these symptoms?

Essentially, it involves dressing up in some kind of tribal fancy dress.

Some years ago, I had good reason (the love of a good woman, to be precise) to get into the live country music scene in the UK midlands. Now let me make it clear that I have always liked country music on record and CD, especially the rocky end of modern country. (Although I have never been too averse to Dolly Parton or a few other of the more traditional artists – and not entirely for the reasons that jumped straight into your mind). No, my observations were made around a small(ish) circuit of singers, musicians and occasionally bands who would turn up and play covers of American country music, with the occasional bit of original songwriting thrown in that gave the British scene a modicum of originality.  It was not these artists who were earning honest fees for their perfomances, but the fans in the audience.

Other than a mid-life crisis, why would otherwise sane adults of a certain age, dress up as cowboys complete with spurs, six guns and stetson hats? It made no difference at all to their enjoyment of the music, but instead gave them a sense of belonging.

Similarly, I was on the outside edge of the Rock and Roll scene for a while in the late seventies and early eighties. Again, it is the the fans who spend a great deal of money, time and effort on dressing the part. I have also been part of the Northern Soul tribe, community radio groups, a canoeing and sailing tribe and I went through Scouts and was, for quite a few years, a scout leader. I’ve done my share of “belonging”

So on to motorbikes, and to the world of Harley-Davidson in particular. Why do I have so many Harley T-shirts, jumpers and other clothes? Why did I wear a leather waistcoat covered in Sherwood Chapter and Harley Owners’ Group patches and why did I ever go to rallies and chapter meetings wearing this kit?  After all, my best riding has almost always been with Sue on the back and no-one else on the road. Group riding was just part of the tribal aspect. 

There seems to be something of a trend here. The tribe is really about showing that you belong to something.  It is also an escape from the everyday grind of life and work into a fantasy world where you can pretend to be a cowboy for the evening,  recapture what it might have been like to be a Teddy Boy for a few hours or play at being a “Hells Angel” rebel biker for the weekend before putting on a suit and going back into the office on Monday morning.

In each case, alcohol helps to fuel the fantasies. However, it really doesn’t matter if the cowboy falls over drunk and a pissed-up Teddy boy is little more than a joke, but it is rather more worrying that many of the weekend biker rebels guzzle a dozen pints on Friday night then ride a motorbike on Saturday morning.

Now that I have left the chapter committee and have not (yet) renewed my chapter membership, I am looking dispassionately at this particular tribe and at tribes in general. Does this mean that I am now in a post-mid-life crisis period of my life. If so that’s a bit worrying because after mid-life, I guess, comes old age and I’m nowhere near ready for that yet.

Actually, it’s OK. I still dress up as a guard when I go to play trains volunteer at Peak Rail – I must still be in mid-life. Phew!

Ride Safe

Christmas Day On the Road

It’s been a while since my last Ride Report on here. That’s not because I haven’t been reporting, more that we havn’t done a great deal of riding.  I have used the bike as transport on a couple of occasions and I did a quick trip over to Robin Hood Harley-Davidson to complete some paperwork for my insurance. However, until today, it has been months since Sue and I went out for a ride.

With our Christmas celebrations taking place on Christmas Eve and the disco season taking a break, we were able to have some time for ourslves today.

After a relaxing morning, we decided to go out after an early lunch. So well before 1pm we were on the road, heading northwqrds out of Nottingham around the Hucknall by-pass and on towards Annesley and to the M1 northbound. 

Even as the ride started, the lack of traffic on the roads made riding an unusual pleasure.

We left the M1 and headed into Chesterfield before climbing up into the hills towards Baslow and across towards Buxton. The weather was overcast, but it stayed dry all day, although the temperature dropped as we headed northwards and as we climbed ever higher into the Peak Distict.

The ride into Buxton was, again, on almost deserted roads and after a little over over an hour aboard the Heritage Softail, we arrived in the Derbyshire spa town of Buxton. 

I had been there for a conference just over a month ago at the Palace Hotel and I stopped the bike just opposite Buxton railway station to point out the hotel to Sue who came up with the insired idea of stopping there to ask if we could have a coffee.  I was resigned to the fact that there would be nowhere open on Christmas day and that our refreshment stop would be back at home.

We rode up to the hotel, parked and went inside where we were welcomed and directed to the lounge bar area where we thoroughly enjoyed two lattes and two Christmas puddings.

Suitable refreshed and warmed through, we set out again to follow the A515 to Ashbourne and then the A52 to Derby. Although I know these roads well, it was a real pleasure to be the only vehicle in sight for most of the way, although we did come up behind a short queue of cars for the last few miles into Derby.

Normally, I would have taken the ring road around Derby , but today, I deided to ride through the middle. After a brief pause in a bus layby, Sue agreed that we should continue southwards to Swadlincote, where I start my new job on 5th January.

The ride out through Alvaston, Shelton Lock and Chellaston soon took us nto South Derbyshire district, which will be my “patch” in another week or so. Once across the A50, Swarkestone Bridge was soon negotiated and the road towards Swadlincote forked to the right off the Melbourne road.

It dodn’t take much longer to reach Swad (as the town is apparently known by its locals) and I took the now familiar route around the centre to South Derbyshire CVS on Grove Road. Of course, the building was closed and the twon centre itself deserted, but I was able to show Sue where I will be based.

After a few minutes there, we remounted the bike and set off back up the hill to where Sue had spotted what could have been the only petrol station that was open for very many miles. By now we had done well over 95 miles and as the Heritage has a tank range of around 120, it would have been touch and go whether we would have made it home. As we arrived at the petrol station there was a row of cones across the entrance and a man was busy padlocking the pumps – it was clear that they were closing. 

I rode round the cones and approached the man who generously unlocked the pump again so that I could fill up the bike (and it was only 85 point something pence a lite as well!).  He admired the bike and we chatted briefly while the tank filled and we thanked him again for delaying the end of his own working day for us.

It’s amazing how a motorbike can be such a great conversation opener. While we were in the Palace Hotel in Buxton, I started chatting to one of the staff who also rode a bike. We seem to have these kinds of conversation wherever we go.

By the time we left the filling station, it was getting late and the sun was very low in the sky as we rode around Ashby-de-Zouch, onto the A42 and headed back towards Nottingham. As night fell, so did the temperature and we were both quite cold by the time we had run up the M1 back to Nottingham and arrived back at home.

We had covered 130 miles and been out for over four hours of great riding.

It was good to be out on a day when most other people don’t go far and when all the people who drive for a living are off the road. We have ridden on Christmas Day before and I lok forward to doing so again in the future. However, before that, I hope to get more rides and more reports on the blog during next summer.

The first job for tomorrow morning, though, is cleaning the bike.

Ride Safe