Trev’s TT Trip 2018
There might not be any TT this year (2020) due to the plague, but I still thought it might be time to revisit my epic trip to the TT two years ago, 2018, and re-live a motorcycle journey that took in a fair bit of Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and of course, the Isle of Man itself. I hope you enjoy the ride…
Hinckley to the old country…
After unpacking our riding gear and luggage in a spare room at Triumph HQ we then met our mounts that were to carry us through the southern parts of the UK, up in to Wales, across to Ireland and the Isle of Man, then back across to Britain’s Peak District.
My primary machine was the latest and greatest of the Triumph Explorer range, the 1200 XCa, and my partner in crime was on the equivalent smaller sibling, the Tiger 800 XCa.
The headline changes for the new model year on the 1200 include a massive 11kg weight reduction for the 1200 along with a comprehensive suite of updated electronic features that include the latest WP semi-active suspension system, dubbed TSAS in Triumph lingo, a two-way quick-shifter and keyless ignition.
Over the next 2300 miles it was to prove itself comfortable and adaptable to any situation, be that motorway, single lane back roads or the mud of the Brecon Beacons. This sort of adventure required an adventure capable motorcycle and the new Tiger 1200 XCa fitted the role perfectly.
Both bikes were fitted out with Triumph’s Expedition luggage system which comprises of 1.5mm thick aluminium side panniers and top-box. All three boast 37-litres of volume and the top-box easily swallows a motorcycle helmet and then some. Even my Shoei Hornet adventure helmet complete with its large louvered peak slotted in without fuss.
Even when pressure washing the bikes from all angles during the trip the panniers proved capable of preventing the ingress of water. Despite being washed numerous times elsewhere without incident, one particular wash-bay in Ireland saw its soap react in some way with the stainless steel finish on the 800 panniers, but not on the black finished panniers fitted to the 1200. Must have been some nasty solvents in that particular wash!
The piece de resistance of the luggage kit though is the optional inner bags, which I specificially, and somewhat cheekily, requested Triumph UK to provide. For those of you that have used hard luggage on motorcycles, but persist with inner bags not tailored to fit the dimensions of your panniers, I can’t over sell the extra convenience that specifically sized bags can add to a multi-stop journey.
Basically after stuffing, forcing, coercing and swearing into fitting everything you can inside tailored inner bags, you can rest assured that they will then simply slide in or out of their panniers with zero fuss or hassle. Yes, I know, I am getting soft in my old age… But when two of your panniers are filled with work related gear, leaving only one left for the jocks and socks while away for almost a month, every little bit of convenience helps. The added amenity is appreciated every time it comes to unpacking at each stop or loading up for the next leg of the journey. Especially if you have to trudge up numerous flights of stairs with your gear, which on this journey ended up being more often than not!
While the Triumph had two power sockets as standard I did not have the requisite adaptors to actually make use of them. I called into a Triumph dealer to see if they had the adaptors to take a normal cigarette lighter plug, or had in stock the handy dual USB adaptors that fit into the particular Hella style outlet used on most motorcycles, but it was to no avail. I have had the same problem on other brands and the reason they use the smaller plug is that they fit more securely, doesn’t help much when you can’t fit anything into them without adaptors though…
The extra, also standard, USB socket hidden under the seat was too far away to use as a power source for my phone if I was to mount the phone anywhere that I could use the navigation features from Google or Apple Maps. It would only be of use when connected to something inside the panniers to charge while riding, which didn’t help me in this instance.
I did have with me though a small universal DriRider ‘Navigator Mini’ tankbag and a small but powerful battery with a fast charging USB port.
This handy little tankbag fits almost any motorcycle, and despite the very angular shape of the top of the Tiger’s tank the suction cups reliably secured it in a convenient position. It was a godsend on this trip.
The final piece of the puzzle was the Quad Lock Motorcycle Mount. I have long used the Quad Lock cases on my phones but have generally only before taken advantage of the car mounts. The Navigator Mini tank-bag does have a prop stand inside it to hold a phone for navigation in better line of sight but with the Quad Lock I could position the phone right where I wanted it.
The more recent advent of the versatile motorcycle mount has made it really simple to use the advantages of modern smartphone navigation while riding. The mount comes with a couple of different inserts to suit different sized bars and includes the allen key required to affix it. It proved flawless during the trip and for the money can’t be beat. Most Aussie motorcycle shops now stock them.
A short USB cable from the tankbag to power the phone from the battery bank in the Dririder Navigator Mini and we were set to hit the road with some chance of not getting lost.
After leaving Triumph’s Hinckley factory we negotiated a circuitous route towards Chinnor, a village in Oxfordshire that myself and my family emigrated from when we moved to Australia in 1982.
The first destination I plugged into the Google Maps was Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of the most famous bard of all, William Shakespare. A very pretty town in Warwickshire on, funnily enough, the River Avon. We had not got out of Triumph until late in the afternoon and the traffic as we entered the town centre was diabolical. I was keen to get out of there as soon as possible and hit some backroads away from the throng of cars that clogged all the main arterial roads at this peak hour of day.
A run down through Alderminster, Long Compton and Wootton ensued before joining the M40 at Weston-on-the-Green and flowing along with the traffic at a comfortable 80mph (129km/h), despite the 70mph (113km/h) limit. Policing here is obviously, and sensibly, not quite as speed obsessed as Australia.
Fuel is certainly expensive though! While away I had been following the recent reports of fuel prices in most Australian cities spiking to around $1.50 but during our whole time in the UK we were paying almost twice that. At an average price of around $1.30 GBP per litre, to fill from empty both the 20-litre tank on the 1200 and the 19-litre tank of the 800 cost around 100 Australian dollars. Jaysus…
With that shock behind us we eventually left the M40 at Lewknor and approached the place of my early childhood via Aston Rowant and Kingston Blount.
Despite leaving Chinnor for Perth not long after turning nine, I was surprised at how easily the layout of the village came back to me. My family was always heavily associated with the Chinnor Football Club and the accompanying social life, thus my inherent navigational reference points that came back to the forefront of my mind were the football pitches and pubs, a lot of which no longer remain in use as pubs but have instead been converted to shops or other less useful purposes. But I certainly couldn’t remember the roads having a tenth of the traffic that they have now, let alone the parked cars blocking half of all the main streets. A quick lap of my early childhood stomping grounds is shown in the video below and finishes at our last house before moving to Australia. A house my father built and where at about age six I did what I could to help and also laid my first brick!
The very obviously now un-PC named Black Boy that I spent time in with my mother as she cleaned it each day was now an antique shop. I remembed it is as quite a grand building but like almost everything that I saw as I laid eyes on in Chinnor for the first time in over 30 years, was a lot smaller and less stately than I recalled. Including St Andrew’s Primary School, which I had quite fond memories of and reminisced about the fantastic hot school dinners (lunches) that were served up each day, or mucking about in the snow, or clearing drifts of same to create ice runways to slide along. Gee I must have wrecked some school shoes back then, was crap at tying the shoelaces of them too I seem to remember…
One exception to the smaller than what I remember rule was the quite grand, for a village of only a few thousand people, St Andrew’s Church.
Chinnor itself is said to have commenced its existence under that name over a thousand years ago, while the first sections of the current church building were established in the 13th century. A restoration was undertaken in the mid 1860s but by and large, the church building is essentially 800 years old and constructed from stone and flint.
My parents were married there in 1962 and despite our family being largely irreligious, I was christened there more than ten years later. Its gargoyle like spouting adds a somewhat creepy note to what is an otherwise quite glorious building that clearly points out just how relatively young Australian history is in comparison.
I was also able to ride directly to the last house we lived in before emigrating, and to the gates of the farm I used to spend so much time exploring as a young kid, all from memory. The paddocks were smaller than I remembered, some of the chalk mounds were no longer, and my favourite Horse Chestnut tree had seemingly made way for houses. Horse Chestnut trees were an important part of a young kid’s life back in the day as the nuts coerced from them facilitated our games of conkers.
A hole is drilled through the nut via which a piece of string is threated through it. Various tricks were employed to try and harden the conker, the most common of which was boiling it in vinegar. Players take turns hitting each others conker as one player dangles their conker for the other to strike. Eventually one conker gives way and your prize conker earns another scalp that adds to its tally of victories.
A bit different than being given an iPad to play with these days…
After the quick memory lap it was off to my Uncle Alan’s place where we would spend the night. Alan works as a disabled access officer for the local council, a position for which he is eminently qualified, as he has walked with the aid of crutches for essentially his entire life due to cerebral palsy. Thus getting around has never been easy for Alan, but in all my memories of him he has rarely allowed that to dampen his genuinely striking sense of humour, the likes of which can only be generated via a quick and impressive intellect. Thus it is no surprise that he is the resident Quiz Master in the local area and the person called upon when quiz night questions or the like need setting.
It was my pleasure to take him out for a few pints in the company of ‘the twins’, my cousins Sarah and Jane, that I have very fond memories of from my early childhood. And yes, the beer was much too warm for my liking, but I was thirsty…
Next stop, Cornwall via Stonehenge and the Jurassic Coast.