|Ex-War Department BSA B40 ran flawlessly, as HM's army and BSA intended.|
When we last met Graham Lampkin, his Royal Enfield "Troglobike" was stuffed in the back of a van, the plan to ride off-road through Spain and France for cancer research sidelined by an electronic ignition system. His story continues:
The next morning I rang the ignition system manufacturers, but the only guy with authority was out, so I suggested how they could contact him and asked for them to get in touch. We spent the rest of the day doing tourist things in the van; the Picos are stunning. Another good meal and night’s sleep.
Suspecting the B40 was running slightly rich, Chris lowered the needle a notch. Chris, being the trooper he is, said he would carry on alone, but we decided to omit the off-road sections due to safety concerns. So on the Wednesday we set off for Labastida, following Simon’s route but sticking to tarmac. Troggy and I were relegated to the van with Richard.
Having not heard from them, I rang the manufacturers of the ignition unit again, this time speaking briefly to the owner before he put the phone down mid conversation. I took that as no help from them then.
We stuck to minor roads, stopping for the occasional coffee in the village bars, something we got better at ordering with practice. Labastida was a nice town and the hotel welcoming. A good overnight stop. It was agreed that the B40 was running better with the slightly weaker mixture.
The next day we continued in this manner to Uncastillo, a lovely village with a castle on the hill top. Tapas lunch in a bar followed by a wander around the village — very pleasant. We rented a very nice flat for the night with another picnic evening meal in the flat. It was a good place to stay except for the locals letting off fireworks for a fiesta throughout the night.
On the Saturday we made our way to Ainsa. By now the trooper was beginning to mention a certain item of underwear that was twisting its way into the gap between two halves of the same part of his body, causing discomfort whilst riding! Helpful as ever, Richard and I ignored him. Apart from that, the B40 just kept thrumming away as the British Army and BSA had planned. Oh how I wished Troggy would do the same.
The next day took us to Tremp, were we had planned a "day off." I took Troggy to X-Tremp repair shop, recommended by Simon. David and Enric only spoke Spanish, but with Simon on the end of the phone to interpret, we managed well. The news wasn’t good, but as expected. There was nothing from the CDI unit, repair was not possible without a new one. Everyone was being so very helpful, except the one guy who could have made a difference.
We spent the day going to a motorcycle museum in the van. Everything from flat tankers (Richard’s mount of choice) to some potent looking off-road Bultacos and Montesas — as you would expect in Spain. Lunch was in a large modern roadside restaurant, one of the few we saw in Spain. By now we were getting reports of the fuel strikes in northern France and filled up before crossing the border.
Next morning we left Tremp after a pleasant stay. I in particular had a heavy heart. The worst had been confirmed (that Troggy and I would be in the van for the rest of the trip), and we were heading towards home.
That morning we crossed the summit of the Pyrenees; as feared the top was in cloud, raining and cold. The views we had dreamt of for so long were — missing! Judging by what we could see, it would have been infinitely better on a clear day, and the views would have been stunning, but how many times would one have to go back to get ideal conditions?
Coffee and two cakes each in Vielha partially repaired the damage. We carried on, dropping down all the way to Bagneres-de-Luchon. What a lovely town: old style grandeur, showing the lack of wealthy visitors. Having been a spa town developed, I guess, in Victorian times, it now survives on some skiing, mountain bikers and a few visitors. Well worth the visit. Another patisserie in the afternoon followed by moules avec frites: a good days eating.
We resolved to top up with fuel when we got the chance, but there was no sign of shortages yet. So on the Wednesday we filled up and made our way to Montaubon. We didn’t go through Lourdes but as we passed nearby, I mentally asked any god listening if they could reduce some of the worlds suffering (including cancer). In Montaubon we stayed in a modernish hotel that served a large trading estate and had its own restaurant. Another good night.
The next day saw us on a very rural route, mainly small lanes, making our way to the Riders Rest near Treignac. Here Chris cleaned and reset the points on the B40 as the running had been "going off" a little. Not a bad choice of bike by the Army or Chris; this was the only maintenance needed on the whole trip.
Hosts Rob and Mandy have recently taken the Riders Rest over, but appear to have found their feet pretty quickly. The idea is to provide a base for touring motorcyclists, and with plenty of beds, evening meals, etc. it meets the brief. Rob and Mandy were telling us of future plans, which should make it even better.
Originally we had planned a day off here, but with not knowing the fuel situation ahead and covering the ground faster than planned (by omitting the off-road) we decided to stay only one night and try to get back a bit sooner.
Gary (who helped enormously with planning the route in France, 'cos he lives there!) got in touch and arranged to meet us the following evening. So the Friday morning we visited the open air museum in Oradour-sur-Glane. I’ve been before, but Richard and Chris were keen to go.
On 6th June 1944 the Nazis slaughtered all the occupants of this large village and some school children from a neighboring village there for a medical. The village has been kept as the Nazis left it, a new village being built nearby. A somber experience, but I believe everyone should go to remember and reflect on the horrors of war (and it’s still happening — have we learnt nothing?).
We left Oradour and headed north, stopping for the night in Le Blanc. The only hotel we found looked more of a doss house, but once inside it proved clean and adequate. We were feasting on pizza and chips when Gary found us and he joined us at the hotel. The next morning Gary rode his CCM to accompany Chris: off road sections at last!
The guys met up with the van at lunch time at Loches: a supermarket cafe for a change. Unfortunately Gary had to head home to greet guests, while we carried on towards Chartres. We had planned to cross the Loire River at Blois, but when we got there we were greeted by a river in flood — big flood. The river was about quarter of a mile wide and travelling at tremendous speed. All the crossings were closed and we had to divert through Tours. As a result "the plan" was ignored and the B40 and Chris loaded into the van, which drove to Chartres for the night.
We stayed in an Ibis budget hotel — great value but this one was a little tired. We were rudely awakened by the fire alarm in the morning, luckily a false alarm. On the Monday we drove straight to the Le Harve ferry for the 5:15 p.m. sailing.
We felt we had achieved most of the objectives. A real shame about Troggy; not only did I not ride much but the real loss was the off-road part of the route not being done, which took up much of the planning and in many respects was the original motivating factor. However, we had made the distance, and seen and experienced parts of Spain and France that tourists seldom visit.
Most importantly you have donated a real sum of money for Cancer Research UK. The total is heading towards £4,000 and the collection hasn’t finished yet, so you’ve still a chance to donate at Lampy Goes 2 L N Back or buy some raffle tickets with great prizes (details on the same website).
Finally a big thanks to the guys, Simon and Gary for helping make it happen, Chris for riding his bike and supplying the van, and Richard for driving the van and helping look after us, to all the people and firms who have somehow contributed or helped, those who have donated, and finally a huge Yah Boo to the guy that made and supplied the electronic ignition but wouldn’t help.
Would I do it again? Not with electronic ignition, but it’s unfinished business. Watch this space.
Postscript: Since I returned I’ve refitted the points and coil to Troggy and he’s running fine. I’m sure not all the electronic units sold fail, as the firm would no longer be in business. Yet certainly some of them do. A good friend of mine in our local trials club had exactly the same experience with a unit from the same manufacturer. After several unhelpful and frustrating phone calls (including being told, "The head gasket changes resistance when it gets hot, which could affect the spark" — I kid you not!), he even drove all the way to the company and knocked on their door, but still didn’t get any help. His expensive unit is gathering dust on a shelf now, just like mine.
No one can expect a 100 per cent success rate in manufacturing, but as buyers spending hard-earned money, we should at least expect a half-decent after-sales service. As it is, a defective product and complete lack of back-up service spoiled an otherwise well-planned and extensive trip. "Fit and Forget" isn’t necessarily fit and forget — you have been warned.
Part 1: 2 L N Back