So, new motorbike. What about the last one? Unlike owning a car, one of the many great things about motorbikes is that there is a very active second hand market, so it is easy to change bikes often and experience some variety. Not only that, it also means that there are lots of good bikes out there for sale and it is easy to sell yours and pay for a good chunk of the price of the next one.
The trouble was that mine was very special to me. It had been my first big motorbike and even though it started as a commuter bike it quickly graduated to weekend bike, short holidays bike, long holidays bike and finally adventure bike. It took me across Europe into Russia and Kazakhstan. To the Nordkapp and back down to the Adriatic. Across the Alps. Across the Pyrenees. Around Spain and Portugal…
By the time the Yamaha came across and I decided to retire it, she had become a travelling companion and I had no intention of getting rid of it. I told myself that she was too old, that she had no real market value at almost 140,000 km, but that was just a poor excuse. I could break it apart and sell the parts, there is strong demand for V-Strom parts in Spain. I could also sell the accessories, I had spent a small fortune turning her into an adventure bike. But the truth was I just did not want to part with her. So I did what I knew I was going to do from the beginning – keep it.
So by the end of June I got her ready for her last trip – a trip down a route she had done many times before, a trip I had done countless times before her by car, a trip which had always been the very definition of driving and riding pleasure to me.
My late grandparents were born in a remote village deep in the countryside in a region that is very sparsely populated. Their house is still standing and we sometimes spend long weekends or holidays there, it is a wonderful place, quiet, beautiful and most importantly, with no main roads around. There are a thousand different back roads to get there from Barcelona, I have taken from five hours to two days to make the trip, and more than the time I spend there, what I really enjoy is the getting there.
My first long bike trip was there, it took me about six hours at a time I had not spend more than one hour straight on the bike. I had just bought her, and such a long trip was a daunting prospect, I had no idea how I would cope, or what I would do if I got too tired halfway. It was a blast. I fell in love with the bike, with riding, and I have not got off a bike ever since.
So with a place to keep her and a new excuse to make the trip from time to time to go visit her, we set off along those familiar roads one last time with her.
She did not feel old at all. Loaded with luggage for the weekend, all the spare parts and tools that were specific to her and I would no longer need for the Yamaha and a passenger, she could still keep a decent cruising speed and be fun on the windy bits. It was as if she was telling me ‘see? I can go on another 100,000 km, no sweat, I’m made for this’.
I know V-Stroms can last longer than 140,000 km, but I did not want to ride her to the ground. I knew she still had a good few thousand kilometers left in her, my idea was to take her there and put her on long-term storage until I decided to use her again for future projects, and this little village was perfect – the climate is very dry, so I did not have to worry about rust.
Getting her into the house was a different matter… There is no garage as such in the house, just a basement that is accessible from the street through a backyard. Oh, and the house is not finished either… It is what you can call an ongoing project, it is not my grandparents house, but another one we bought some years ago. So when I got there I opened the old wooden door leading into the backyard to find it overgrown with weeds waist high. I paddled the bike across to the back door, the back tire spinning on the grass until I finally got her into the basement, only to find the next obstacle. I inched my way past construction tools and materials to reach two high steps that led to the only clear space where I could keep the bike, at the end of the basement. We used an old wooden plank with a brick under it to prevent it from snapping in two under the weight of the bike and succeeded in getting her up there.
Now, there are a series of procedures that have to be done to a bike in order to keep it store for extended periods of time, but it was a normal weekend which meant that we had get back to Barcelona the following day, and this time by bus, which takes much, much longer than by bike, so I just disconnected the battery and propped the bike up so that there was no weight on wither wheel. By mid August I would come back with everything I needed and prepare her for hibernation.
The following morning we called a taxi and it dropped us at the village where the bus stopped. It was more than ten years since the last time I had done the 8-hour journey back home by bus, and the combination of teenage memories and having let my bike behind made me feel quite melancholic as I enjoyed the views as a passenger again.