Tuesday, 26 April 2016

clutching at

Between an engine's spinning output shaft and its gearbox - which transmits that output appropriately to speed and load - there must be a clutch. It allows the operator to momentarily disengage the engine's enormous rotational torque from the gearbox's many, tiny cogs and bits. Or something like that. I spent the weeks preceeding Easter learning the general and the hugely specific about my motorcycle clutch, before the entire four day weekend stripping and replacing all of its wearable parts in a shed at the timber yard where I work. There was a novel kind of joy testing it afterwards, through the tunnel beneath Temple Meads before I'd reinstalled the muffler. I've not read the famous Zen book, but spoke to Dad about starting to understand the appeal of mechanics; intervening in a closed system of finite variables offers the potential to be correct to an extent never possible in the real universe. People get this kind of problem, and I found myself discussing the detail widely with friends, regular customers in the yard, and a whole team of mainly North Americans who populate an online forum devoted to BMW K-bikes. The latter were on hand to respond within hours to my obscure enquiries, patiently explaining, gently chiding and finally advising I go get some yeehaa.

The other, real-universe problems around this trip are less easy, existing as they do amongst an exponentially greater number of variables. How does one justify a leisure tour around European roads and borders in the current geo-politic? Is it still OK to enjoy a roadtrip with so many making a so desperate exodus the other way? Not to mention the very oil upon which my conveyance depends and its inextricable involvement with the aforementioned. Of course there's no answer to these beyond carrying a certain awareness, and hoping it informs my participation in the experience. Whatever that means. I'd rather talk about the clutch to be honest. Whether you want to hear about it...

I am in Basel, Switzerland. One travels quickly with an engine. The question of wild camping by motorcycle has twice been answered positively. It's been raining a lot, which is difficult. There'll be lots to write about the differences between cycling and motorcycling I'm sure. At this early stage I'd paraphrase Bradley Wiggins (I think?) and say it doesn't get any easier, you just get faster. I'm heading for the mountains, for Italy, I haven't decided which way yet - it matters rather less than it does by bicycle. I have a Swiss motorway pass on the windscreen: "you can stick it where you want, but you must stick it" said the border man.

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