Back on two wheels – but not for long

I used to scorn motorcyclists who hid away their pampered playthings when the first autumn leaves fell and didn't let them out again until the daffodils bloomed. Now I'm in danger of becoming one of them.

It didn't used to be that way. For years I rode all year round (not having a car helped), and even after I moved to the Highlands there were crisp, fine days in January and February when the scenery and quiet roads more than compensated for sub-zero temperatures and the risk of roaring around a corner to discover black ice on a stretch of road where the sun never reached.

But that was before I took up residence in The Rural Retreat. In our small corner of the Black Isle there's little shelter for my ageing Kawasaki and no solid surface on which it can stand for an extended period. Damp would be a problem over the winter along with the associated curses of rust, rotted wiring and decayed exhausts.

The solution was provided by Bob the chainsaw maniac who offered free board and lodging for the winter. When I felt the need I could pop round and take it for a spin. Problem solved.

In December the bike moved into its temporary home and I no longer had need to fret about its welfare during gales, rainstorms and blizzards. However, out of sight proved out of mind, especially as my free days rarely coincided with halfway decent weather. For more than three months the Kawasaki didn't turn a wheel.

That changed last weekend when Matchgirl and I arranged to bring the bike home. The sun shone, the temperature was tolerable – the prospects for a motorcycling renaissance looked good. Except for the flat battery. And the small but possibly significant oil leak.

Bob had done his best to perk it up again but the battery wouldn't hold a charge. Undeterred, we jump-started the bike, warmed up the engine and a little later I headed for home followed in the car by Matchgirl, guardian of the emergency jump leads.

All went well for a couple of miles until the bike suffered total systems failure while doing 60mph down the A9.

I coasted to a halt, pushed the bike the short distance to a layby and applied the jump leads. The bike lived again. Two hundred yards later it didn't.

Disinclined to lose my RAC no-callout-bonus, Bob was prevailed upon to come to our rescue with his converted horse-box, which he did. The sparkless bike was heaved inside and returned whence it came. Yesterday Bob delivered the Kawasaki to the garage in Muir of Ord where over the years it has become well known, although that's unlikely to be with any degree of fondness. Today it will receive a service, a new battery and the many bits and pieces doubtless needed to get it through its MOT for another twelve months.

The joys of motorcycling.

However, the joys will be short-lived, for on Wednesday Matchgirl and I quit Scottish spring for Namibian autumn and embark on our safari honeymoon, which means the bike will stand unused for almost another month.

Will it be operational when we return? Only time will tell.

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