Sunday, November 21, 2010

1997 Moto Guzzi Nevada - aka The Widow Maker

Kitten on Wheels
- Seven Months Pregnant!
Jennifer was seven months pregnant. We had been back in Ireland for just two months when I came across this 1997 Moto Guzzi Nevada on eBay for 900 Euros. A steal really and I threw caution to the wind and bought the bike after speaking with its owner via telephone. The bike was located in South Hampton, England which mean't I would be riding it back to Ireland via Holyhead. Although the bike was a far cry from my usual style of bike, I had read good things about the Moto Guzzi and had wanted to try one for some time now. Although, originally, I had been looking for a Moto Guzzi California instead.

I flew down to London and later was collected at the train station in Suffolk by the owner of the bike. The ultimate test was ahead and I recall being rather surprised at how nervous the guy was about my riding the bike to Holyhead. He provided me with a full tank of petrol, a few extra cables (i.e. clutch cable, brake cable, brake pads, etc...) and his mobile phone number in case something happened and he would come and collect me. Perhaps that should have been a sign? I chalked it up to his being a weekend warrior, unlike myself who uses a bike every day rain, sun or hail. However, in the year that I owned the bike I found myself perilously in danger on a number of occasions. On the way to Holyhead where I was to catch a ferry back to Dublin Port, the lad who sold me the bike forgot to tell me about the fuel switch that needed to be turned off and on whenever I stopped. I found myself on the side of a highway for about twenty minutes until realizing the stupidity of my mistake.

On one occasion I was riding along a back road down towards Wexford Town when the clutch cable snapped inexplicably. Believe it or not I managed to make it into town, catching every green light (yes, seriously speaking), and stopping flat out at the local bike shop before the engine cut out. Add to the fact that I was still forty-five minutes out of town, countless street lights and a tempermental motorcycle, and its pretty remarkable the bike made it. On another occasion whilst on my way to work in Dublin in the pouring rain I was drenched by a puddle concealing a pothole big enough to swallow up a scooter. All four gaskets blew and power was lost entirely yet the bastard bike somehow made it yo the exit ramp until it choked, coughed, spattered and vomited outside a pub of all places. It turns out, the previous owner had omitted to mention that he or the owner before him decided to cut a massive hole in the air intake in order to increase the bike's power. It essentially rendered the bike useless in rain. Ironic given that it basically rains 360 days a year in Ireland.

It wasn't all bad though. The bike had a charm to it that was at times irresistible. It had a lot of presence and when idle it sounded sweet. The Moto Guzzi engine was originally based on the Italians bi-planes during world war I and II. Later it was used in tractors produced for the Italian agricultural community. It is unique in that it is mounted sideways giving the front of the bike a V appearance. Unfortunately, as you have probably guessed, the body work and overall quality of build was and is very poor. I have read that Moto Guzzi has since cleaned up its act considerably however in the last five years. Nevertheless, it hasn't convinced me to try another one. I do think it was worth the experience and if nothing else, it was the first bike our first son ever got to sit on.

The trip alone from South Hampton to Holyhead was amazing in and of itself, but that is for another blog altogether. I suppose, the point of the above was really just to highlight the importance of living for the moment. I met so many wonderful people during my trip from Suffolk to Holyhead. It literally took me well over sixteen hours to make it to Holyhead. I arrived in time to catch the final ferry to Ireland at 02:00 am that night. England is one of the friendliest and heartwarming countries I had ever ridden in and I hope to go back for a tour or two in future, though next time, Jennifer will be joining me.

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