by Steve White
Friday 17th September 2004
Two more couples joined todays tour. Jim & Susan Kell from San Francisco, and Dave & Cathy Selwyn from the Forest of Dean area. They would be riding the Honda and the Norton respectively. Neil was going to be on 'Black Bess', the BSA A65; Bill & Rachel on the Triumph Tiger 650; and I had 'Red Rocket', the BSA A65 Lightning. All to change later on of course
In the breakfast picture, clockwise from the left: Sarah Thomas (Neil's wife); Jim & Susan Kell; myself; Bill & Rachel Lee; Cathy & Dave Selwyn. The usual breakfast was croissants, pain-au-chocolat, coffee and juice.
Todays ride was to the coast, in the area of Cassis, which is between Toulon and Marseilles. The first photo opportunity was only after about 10 minutes, at the Aqueduc de Roquefavour, a massive piece of engineering sculpture carrying the fresh water supply down from the mountains to the local area, our hosts house at Ventabren included.
I was really enjoying this BSA, better than yesterday's bike, even though they were both A65 engines they were set up very differently, this one had a sharper acceleration, and quicker steering. The gear change wasn't quite as smooth, but the brakes were miles better. This one was a real scratcher's bike, as I was to find out later in the day. The rest of the morning, I asked to be 'tail end Charlie' because usually (or so I thought), the rider at the back has to keep up a faster pace to keep up with the others!
Going through a small town later on in the morning, a Frenchman was crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing, pushing a bicycle. The first two bikes stopped OK, unfortunately, the third bike, the Honda, didn't, and bumped the Triumph exactly on the rear tyre, and thus pushing it forwards into the BSA 'Black Bess' with Neil onboard. The front wheel of the Triumph went between the wheel and the right silencer of the BSA, forcing it outwards, and snapping the mounting bracket, also pushing the bike onto the Frenchman's bicycle, buckling the front wheel! It was a big heap of metal and much language followed, a mixture of French; English and American, but no-one was hurt. In fact Bill produced a cartoon of the event (including a bit of artistic licence, it must be said).
Just as a postscript to the incident, the vast majority of the oil on the road, was dumped by the Hond... but only because the filler cap came off the separate oil tank as it went down.
Following roadside repairs to the injured bikes, we set off to find a lunch stop at Gemenos, following which we reached the coast at Cassis, and stopped to take in the breathtaking views from the clifftop above the town.
The road around this bit of the coast is called the 'Routes de Crete', and is a delight to ride fast, if you concentrate and ignore the scenery, otherwise it's nice to meander along, taking it all in. There was some swapping of bikes here, with Jim & Sue choosing 'Black Bess', the BSA. Neil went off ahead, with Cathy I think was, to get some shots of us riding roud a slight bend. We were to follow at suitable intervals to allow time for the correct camera to take a photo of it's owner! It worked OK for the first two of us, but Jim and Sue went the other way for some reason, and having changed bikes from the Honda to the BSA, he got the gears mixed up on a bend, and came to grief on some gravel, gathering some more bruises to add to those from the morning, and bent poor old 'Black Bess' a bit more but she kept soldiering on. No prima-donna this one, but a tough old bird!
He returned to the Honda after that, and rode very slowly from that point onwards, I was still the tail end Charlie on 'Red Rocket', and rarely got into top gear for many miles. At one of the 'catch-up' stops, as I pulled in, Neil told me to follow the road, no turn-offs for the next few kilometres, and to wait at the summit! There was no hesitation, as I selected first, and set off up the pass. Again, I didn't get into top gear, but for a much better reason! Really trying! That was a very twisty road, with no traffic, and the BSA was great for the job. I had had all day to get used to her, especially the brakes! That one bit of road is top of my list of many memories of Provence (some still to happen!), it was a five kilometre scratch, from one hairpin bend to the next.... Pure magic! I was waiting at the top, taking in the views and listening to a hot engine ticking and clicking as it cooled for several minutes before the next bike arrived.
After a short maintenance break to re-adjust the brakes on my BSA, and take some photos, we were off again.
After about 10 km of fairly slow riding again, I noticed a faint aroma of cooked brake shoes! It seems we over-adjusted my back brake and it had been binding un-noticed because of the slower progress. So slacken the adjustment off again, and use only the front brake for the remainder of the ride.
We were presented with the usual quality meal, a chicken based paella type of dish (I know I wasn't in Spain, but good food is good food!) Got off to my pit about 12:15am for yet another deep sleep.