How A Rat Bike Captured My Heart
My Encounter With a Troubled Beast
I once had a motorcycle that never seemed to act the same way two days in a row. I saw it in a ad. it was too late in the season but I was bored. So I bought it over the phone and took a train to another country to fetch it.
It was a aging xtz660, which is a single cylinder bike. It had done proud service to several owners before me and on closer inspection I decided that this was a genuine rat bike with soft, swaying suspension and lots of paint on it. Anyway, I had traveled far to get it, so no turning back.
The thing with having only one old semi-loose cylinder is that it either fires up, or simply refuses. And once you get it going it may play nice and flex some muscle. At other times it may decide it is wheezing cough day and you just cross your fingers and hope it will sputter and putter around the next bend.
This old bike had temper, not always in a good way. But it captured my heart big time.
Images belong to our family
Robin and David ( the nephews ) both had shiny new BMW motorcycles. Here is a pic of my bike all packed and ready on the first morning of a trip. David is eyeing my bike with a bit of amused skepticism. The Rat did ok though and we managed to do everything the proud Bayerische Motoren Werke beasts did.
Sometimes It Got Sick and Hurt
Having a old vehicle isn't always easy. Rat bikes need a lot of geriatric care. Since a old bike is pretty cheap to buy (unless it is a exhibition piece... which disqualifies it as a rat...) you want to do most of the servicing yourself.
Sometimes you may need to consult with a specialist though. here we are at the mechanic to see what all the swaying was about. In the end, the cure would have been a cash hungry endeavor so we opted to ride on and hope for the best.
My rat had personality problems and would act nice bike one day, and bad bike the next. It came to be something you expected and had it been otherwise it would have been a pretty boring steed.
One thing it always played out was the ignition timing. It would fire up and rev just fine but the next time you started it.. it was all sputter and embarrassing blurps that sounded a lot like breaking wind. On those days, it even smelled bad from poor combustion. Next day - it would be cooperative and even enthusiastic as we slid out from gravel curves.
Not knowing how the rat would behave was half the fun!
If you are getting a old bike, be prepared to get your hands dirty, specially when out riding - that's when all the stuff breaks.
When hitting the trails, make sure you have a bunch of screws, nuts and bolts and even some pieces of bendable metal packed away. This is after a fall me and the rat decided to do. We lost the brake lever as a result. Lucky me.. I had a reserve with me!
Your best friend is always a roll of duct tape!
Best Duct Tape for Field Repairs
Heavy duty duct tape is something everyone should have handy at home, when camping and touring. If you only take one single repair thing on your motorcycle trips - duct tape should be it.
Rust and Vintage Go Hand in hand
Some machines just go on working year after year. We stopped to say hello to this rusty old car which was still going strong. If you ever decide to get a vintage vehicle, prepare yourself for rust. The rat had it too. It is one of those things you have to accept.
If you can't stand seeing rust, spray some paint on it and try to ignore the creaking sounds...
Making New Friends
I always wondered why dogs seemed to like my bike. Even dogs that would bark or be intimidated by other bikes would approach mine and hang around. As I was going through tour pics I realized the musky smell of sheep must have stuck to it.
This is a pic from my Gotland trip. Lots and lots of sheep there and the rat probably squished thousands of sheep dung during that ride.
Maybe this is where the multiple personality disorder thing started too... I mean a bike is sort of a iron horse, but mine was a rat... that smelled like sheep.. and farted like a cow sometimes... There is no denying this beast had character!
My Favorite Off-road Motorcycle Boots
I never liked motocross boots because they always felt like too much protection and were (for me) impossible to wear for any longer duration. So I started my year with the XTZ660 with a pair of extra rugged touring boots I had used with my other bike. Mud and gravel killed those boots after a month or two. Just as well, because they lacked enough protection.
When I got the Alpine Scout my riding experience changed. These boots are as comfortable as a pair of sturdy touring boots while offering heavy duty protection. And they are waterproof.
I've gone through a lot of full body armor in my years in different saddles and out of all that protective gear, these boots get my top rating.
The Metal Rat Video Shoot - Gravel touring in Sweden
See what hunting BMW's looks like. Here is a video with a bit from the ride with the nephews. We had a GoPro camera which you normally attach to something but I wanted to be able to pan and shoot freely... so I ended up shooting handheld with a compact camera while chasing the German Beasts :)
One handed video shooting tip. A old bike will probably have a old worn-out loose gearbox. The bonus is that you can switch gears without clutch if you rev and drop. Takes a while to get the hang of it but it works on lower gears. Now you can shoot videos on the fly with your left hand :)
I think it turned out pretty well but the tunes I made for it are mixed with cheapo headphones and didn't turn out that well.
Who cares.. we (me, the rat, and the nephews) had fun! That's what counts.
The riding starts after about 30 seconds. Sorry about the heavy base in my mix. The real chase starts at 2.50, that was a bit hairy one handed on the loose gravel hehe
Motorcycle Rain Gear
As you can probably tell, the northern climate often includes rain. The trick to enjoying every ride no mater what the weather turns out to be is to have the right gear with you for every eventuality. Anyone going on longer motorcycle rides ought to bring along some form of mc rain suit.
Lovely Memories of a Quirky Beast
The rat was a good companion.
My Hike Through The Frozen Woods
Have you ever taken a hike through a forest during winter? It is a very different experience from a summer walk. One of the first things you notice is the la...
Exploring Gotland | Motorcycle Ride Report
Gotland is a large island about 190 kilometers south-east of Stockholm in the Baltic Sea. Gotland is a region where huge numbers of historic artifacts have b...
A Cheap Way to Pimp a Rat Bike
I don't know exactly what or where it happened but one day, something started to dissolve the seat. I would take a ride and it just didn't feel the same. Turns out the seat surface material was dissolving and acting as a adhesive on my bike suit. It was like being glued to the saddle - something that you do not want when riding terrain - you need to be able to move and slide a bit over the saddle.
The repair budget for this bike was essentially zero, so I rummaged around the house and came up with a outdoor table cloth made of vinyl or something. Done deal!
I simply cut out enough material and draped it over the dissolving seat which now acted as welcome glue between the two. Staples and more duct tape held it all together under the seat.
I think it turned out pretty nice! That's a cool rat.
Good All-round Dual Sport Tires
The tires I used most are the Continental TKC-80 as seen on the pic of my bike above (pretty worn down there). The TKC-80 is specifically made for heavy dual sport bikes. Put these on anything over 400cc and you are set to ride wherever you want.
They perform admirably on all terrain except mud, and are somewhat slippery on wet grass. Sand, gravel, rock, forest trails and everything else they shine. Surprisingly good performance for long rides on tarmac too.
The heavier the bike, the better match they are. BMW delivers many of the heavy terrain bikes with TKC-80 factory mounted.