Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BMW R1100S modifications

As many readers know, we have a pair of BMW R1100S motorcycles. I have the silver 2004 one and Jude has the silver/yellow 2001 model. The bikes are almost identical. The minor differences are the brakes and the fact that mine has a twin spark and black painted engine.

This first picture shows the removed catalytic converter. The two pipes from the front now come together in a Y piece. When I did this modification, I did Jude's bike first as she would tell me if there was a great difference, and there was. The cross bars have been removed from the Y pieces as they were not needed and could cause some vibration. This mod had made the engine breathe better, gives more mid range power and is more economical. Note that both bikes have center stands, these were fitted when we bought them. My bike also had an accessory socket as standard.
Now that we have smaller French plates, I made up a couple of number plate holders. These are much neater than the standard BMW plastic ones and move the plate a few inches forward. They were made from 18 SWG aluminium sheet.
This picture shows the GPS mounting, (my bike only) and the white dial faces rather than the black standard ones. This was necessary as it was cheaper than buying KPH speedos from BMW.
This is the standard rear light on Jude's bike with the LED light bulb fitted. Because of the vibration at the back, standard bulbs do not last long. LEDs use next to no power and are not affected by vibration.
The same picture with the brakes applied. The indicators also have additional LED brake lights. These shine red through Jude's amber lenses and red through my white lenses.
The back of Jude's bike showing the pannier rails as fitted to both bikes and the accessory socket which I fitted as Jude's bike did not have one. She has a carbon fibre hugger over her rear wheel and I have a cheap plastic one on mine.
We chose these bikes because they came as standard with 99 bhp and there is a limit of 100 bhp in France. They were probably the best choice we could have made as they are ideal for the twisty roads around here. The bikes are capable of over 140 mph, we have not tried it, and return around 44 to 48 mpg. Mine is a little more economical than Jude's due to the twin spark engine.
Both bikes have heated handlebar grips that were an optional extra but neither of them have the optional ABS as we felt that was not needed here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lest we forget

Today is Armistice Day. On the 11th day of the 11th month most European countries remember the dead of the first war. Here in France they remember the dead of all wars. The picture above shows the war memorial before the ceremony with the French tricolor in abundance.
The Mairie is also ready for the small march to the war memorial. Local dignitaries will assemble here for the march.
As we have no fighting military units in this area, any town uniformed people take part. This is the boss of the pompiers (firemen) in his splendid uniform. When I took this picture, I thought at first that he was a police man.
Here is one of our local Gendarmes (police). In France the Gendarmes are military personnel and answer to the French equivalent of the ministry of defence.
I noticed this chap with his medals proudly displayed and thought him worthy of a picture.
These two gentlemen were the standard bearers and were lead the march to the war memorial.
The march gets underway for the short journey to the memorial.
Just around the corner they pass the band playing appropriate music.
And of course the French national anthem. They also played the last post for the minutes silence.

The fire and police people stood at the front with many towns people behind. It struck me that there were not only war veterans here but also many younger people from the town. French people tend to respect others and the history of their area.
This is the additional marble plaque to commemorate the sacrifices of the second world war. This is similar to many in France in that it is divided into sections. The top part has the names of those who died for France, the second part, were killed while serving in the maquis (resistance), the next part were those that were executed by the Germans, and the last part shows the names of those who were deported and died in Germany, including the four policemen.
I was very touched by the turnout of people of all ages for this ceremony, but realised that this was happening all over the country.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vesunna - A Roman town

Vesunna is the original Roman name for the town that is now known a Perigueux, capitol of the Perigord region of France. The map above shows why it was a very important Roman stronhold. The area circled in blue is the original size of the Roman town. The map should enlarge if it is clicked on. As can be seem this area of Perigueux is still called Vesone, which must date back to Roman times. Being surrounded by the river on all sides apart from the north, it was a good place to defend.
Heading south the first thing that you see is the temple. This has part of the wall missing and the outer columns but considering it has stood for 2000 years, it is still in quite good shape.
Moving around to the south, you can see how substantial the walls were and still are.

The park that surrounds the area has many pieces of stone work laying around, this bit was the cap of one of the roman columns. Much of these stones would have been robbed out in times to come to build the middle age city walls and even private dwellings.
These next three pictures show the fantastic museum which was built over the Roman villa which was excavated next too the tower. Beside the floors and foundations within are many displays of tools, jewelery and other artifacts.

The next two pictures show a part of a ruined 11th century castle which has parts of decorated roman stones and columns in the debris.

This may look like a pretty park in the area and it is, but it is also the site of the amphitheater. It was built during the reign of Emperor Tiberius sometime between 14 and 37 AD. It was one of the largest ever built in Gaul (Roman France). It had a capacity of around 20,000 people.
The center of the park is now very quiet and peaceful, but when you consider what used to happen here during the games 2000 years ago, it makes you ponder.

As can be seen from the pictures above there is still quite a bit of the amphitheater remaining, and people use these old entrances to access the park. Many of them probably don't give a second thought to who has passed that way in the past.
Entrance to the museum costs €5.50 for an adult but I spent 3 hours there and still want to go back. The temple and the amphitheater are in public places and so are free.
I also took loads of pictures of the medieval parts of Perigueux today but there is so much that I will make another post of that in a few days.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Motorcycles we have owned

When I first joined the Royal Air Force back in 1976, I swapped my mini for this Honda CB250K4. I did not have a full driving license at that time and drove it on a provisional license. It used to frighten me silly at the age of 17. This picture was taken at RAF Leeming.
When I was posted to RAF Buggen in Germany, I bought this Honda CJ360T off my dad, it was named the flying banana. It managed quite a few trips around Germany despite not really being heavy enough for a touring bike. I still had the Honda 250 and a Suzuki T500 two stroke at the time.
As if three bikes were not enough, I went out and bought a brand new BMW R75/7 on the 21st September 1977 for my 19th birthday. This was later fitted with a German police touring fairing. I have fond memories of this bike and would love another.
Here is a picture of 19 year old me outside my dads house on the BMW. My dad used to be a trials rider fro the Army and took the bike off road much to my disgust. After this I went through many bikes including a Honda CB750F2, a Kawasaki 360, a BSA 350 and many more, but I have no photos of those bikes. They did not get used much as I had a family by this time.
After a Honda CBX550F2 and a BMW K100LT I went onto this Yamaha XJ900 Diversion, It was a good bike and I used to travel the 60 miles a day to RAF Wyton on it. I used to meet a guy on the way who also worked at Wyton and tried to keep up with his BMW R1150RT, but never managed to get there before him.
So I sold the Yamaha and bought this 6 month old BMW R1150RT twin spark. I could now keep up in a very relaxed style.
Due to the narrow drive I used a turntable in the garage to turn the bike every night. The seating position on this bike was too upright for me and would give me back ache in the lower back. In addition the seat was a little too high and there was always the risk that I would drop it at low speed, so
I bought myself a BMW K1200GT, brand new. The riding position was a bit further forward and the seat in its lower setting was perfect. This had the heated handlebar grips, heated seat and ABS. With 130 bhp it was plenty fast ehough for long high speed journeys. I one clocked 148 mph on the A14 and that was a true reading on the GPS, the speed was showing over 155 at the time.
The same bike with the full sized pannier lids fitted. Taken on the M11 on a return from our first France trip.
This was Judes Honda Blackbird CBR1100XX. The photo was taken in St Ives, Cambs. This bike was supposed to have around 165 bhp and a top speed of over 180mph, but it was a good match fror the K1200GT.
Again taken on the M11 at the same time as the photo two pictures up. On this trip we used to laugh as I had a heated seat and grips, but Jude said that she did not need them as she would warm her hands on my bum when we stopped.
After we had decided to move to France, we changed the bikes for a couple of BMW R1100S's. This is them sat outside the dealer in Northampton the day that we picked them up. Mine, the silver one, was brand new and Judes was a couple of years old, but came with panniers. They both had heated grips, much to Judes delight.
First thing to do was remove the catalytic converters and fit a strait pipe to the silencers. I also fitted pannier rails to my bike as Jude did not like having them fitted. The GPS was also fitted to mine.
An early trip out to Castle Acre in Norfolk was one way of getting some miles on mine to run the bike in.
This picture was taken after we had moved to France and we were on our honeymoon. We took a three day trip through the Pyrenees. Despite the very hot day there was still snow in the high mountains. We eventually strapped the jackets to the rear of the bikes and rode in shirtsleeves as the temperature passed 35C and was on the way up. Most UK riders would never ride without leather, but with a high risk of dehydration and the fact that the French motorcycle cops do it, we though it a good idea.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Montignac, on the Vezere

First off a picture of the war memorial in Montignac. We go here for our weekly shop so decided to pop into town for some more blog pictures. The town occupies the west and east banks of the river, all of these pictures are from the west bank which was the original settlement with the remains of the castle. The east bank was a river port in years gone by.
The bridge now connects both parts of the town. The dates in the 1700s can be seen carved on the left hand pillar of the bridge but I am not sure whether this was when it was first built or rebuilt.
View from the bridge looking along the west bank. some of the buildings are 6 or 700 years old. This was a Roman settlement once, but I can see no evidence of any Roman buildings.
Plenty of very old buildings here. On the left is a small cafe which serves fine local food at cheap French prices.
When they built the 18th century church in on of the small squares they left one if the original 13th century church doorways there for all to see.
This fine old half timbered building still with its balcony still stands next to the church.
Opposite the church are the remains of the castle with a house built into parts of it. The castle was finally demolished in 1825 after many years of being fought over through the various wars.
The other end of the half timbered house shown two pictures above.
A typical small street leading up from the river into the town. This would have been a much used route in times gone by to move goods up and down from the river.
I think this may at one time have been either some sort of customs house or could be the house of the river pilots. Whatever it was before it now stands empty.
View looking south down the river from the picture above. This was a trade route many years ago and the river leads down to the Dordogne and then onto Bordeaux to access the sea. The vikings even came this far up river.
The rear face of the buildings on the river front, note the standard French street cafes further up the road. The tables and chairs are opposite the actual cafes.
This is the one that we stopped for coffee at. The sign on the wall commemorates someone who lived here and was deported by the Germans in 1944 and died in captivity. There are many signs like this in towns and villages all over France.
Following the river downstream you get very nice views of the surrounding countryside. The river Vezier is in the middle of this photo, but cannot be seen due to the undergrowth. Upstream, to the left, is Montignac and Chateau de Losse. Downstream is St Leon (see and earlier post) and Roque st Cristophe (also and earlier post).
Montignac it now a popular tourist spot in the summer, but has not suffered through that. There is a thriving market there. The famous Lascaux cave is also just outside the town and has coloured cave paintings dating back 17,000 years, this is a world heritage site.