Showing posts with label XL600M. Show all posts
Showing posts with label XL600M. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

VHS Wednesday

Cyclone (1987)

Heather Thomas - Cyclone (1987)

Are you tired of all the VUCA shit at this end of the timeline? 

Tired of Covid, the fires, the riots, the murders, the murder-hornets and the lies?

Do you long for a simpler time, a time when nothing surprising or awful ever happens?

You do!?

Well, MERCENARY invites you to travel back to 1987, to a movie in which only one* surprising thing happens. 

Well, two surprising things happen if you count the mildly surprising murder of the protagonist's geeky boyfriend, but if you read the back of the VHS box you already knew that was coming.

That's not to say that Cyclone doesn't raise any questions. Indubitably no! It raises many questions.

Questions such as, why can't a 400 horsepower motorcycle outrun a XL600 on knobblies? If you have a motorcycle equipped with laser blasters and rear facing rocket launchers, why wait 'til the very end of the movie to use them? And the big question, what the fuck is going on with all these betrayals and double crossings? 

Cyclone, a 400 horsepower Superbike, failing to outrun a Honda XL600

Apart from being unsurprising, Cyclone has a couple of other things to recommend it. It has the same sort of production values as an episode of the A-Team  or Nightrider and it's shot in and around LA so it will be deeply familiar to anyone who grew up watching American TV shows in the '80s.

However, Cyclone's single biggest attraction is Heather Thomas. Heather Thomas is probably best known for playing Jody in the TV show The Fall Guy and she plays a similar character here (Teri).

Teri's geeky boyfriend has built a 400 horsepower combat motorcycle in his secret lair cleverly hidden behind a retractable panel in his apartment. The bike has radar resistant paint, laser blasters and rocket launchers but none of that is very important because the machine's real killer app is how it is powered. It can run on regular gasoline, or alternatively by tapping hydrogen in the atmosphere using a free energy device called the Transformer.

Why is it called the Transformer when that name has already been taken by y'know, transformers? Why is the geeky boyfriend fucking about with motorcycles at all when clearly this technology has a much wider application? Disappointingly, these questions aren't addressed and the Transformer is just a MacGuffin that the various back-stabbing parties are trying to get their hands on.

Just as the geeky boyfriend is about to finish the motorcycle he is unsurprisingly murdered in a moderately discomfiting, apparently random, punk-rock-club murder. Teri, who was deeply in love with the geek is now understandably upset. But she's a trooper, so she returns to the secret lair where the geek has presciently left instructions on a VHS cassette on how to finish the motorcycle, arm the various weapon systems, install the Transformer and hand off the finished bike to a secret government agent, who is the only person that Teri should trust.

Heather Thomas adorably plays in Teri in Cyclone (1987)

Teri makes arrangements to meet the secret government agent, whereupon he too is murdered by punk rockers. Teri finds herself alone in the industrial wastelands of LA, forced to survive, armed with nothing more than her wits. And a 400 horsepower motorcycle with laser blasters and rocket launchers.

The rest of the movie unfolds in a blur of motorcycle chases, kidnaps, crosses and double crosses before Teri finally deploys the laser blasters and the rocket launchers in a coup de grâce that pretty much wraps everything up. Except the Transformer, which Teri later casually discards into a very shallow puddle causing the thing to self destruct.

This raises the final unanswered question of this movie - Why didn't the geeky boyfriend manufacture this world-changing device to at least IP66 standard? I mean, it was installed on a motorcycle FFS!

Heather Thomas really shines in this movie and without her, it would be entirely forgettable. She rides motorcycles, takes out a trio of LA rednecks (?) with a tyre iron, bravely resists torture and spits in the eye of evil. She is by turns funny, sassy, gutsy and sexy. In short, she's adorable.

Essentially, this movie is Heather Thomas, the familiarity of 1980s TV, and a low stress, made for VHS story-line. It's deliciously nostalgic, unchallenging and fun.  

In these Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous times, this just might be the movie you need.

Heather Thomas stars in Cyclone (1987) - DVD Cover

#HeatherThomas #Cyclone #TheEighties #VHSWednesday #VUCA #VolatileUncertainComplexAndAmbiguous #XL600 #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

*SPOILER ALERT - The only real surprise in this movie is the first betrayal where Teri finds her gym trainer is not who she purports to be. I'm still reeling from this revelation so I just thought I'd put that out there in the interest of reducing anxiety.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Monday, 11 May 2015

Honda XL600L Desert Bike

This is my own XL 600L pictured on a trip to Morocco in April 2003*.

I have mixed feelings about it - but I look at this picture now and I wish I still had it. It was the first really decent bike I ever owned. I bought it around 1999/2000 with a blown top-end and fitted it with a motor out of an XR600 that I bought, rebuilt, from a breaker in the UK,

I went couriering on it and I loved it to bits. It was light and torquey, handled superbly and was super-fuel efficient. And it was blindingly quick! I particularly enjoyed driving it in the rain! After 10 years of driving CX500s it was a revelation to me that motorcycles could handle in the wet!

But like any other bike, it had it's imperfections. The XR motor was kick-start only which was tedious for a courier bike, particularly so in the mornings. I was (and still am) in the habit of starting my bikes and letting them warm up for a minute or two while I faff around with locks, gloves and helmets etc.

So in the morning I would engage the choke, find Top Dead Centre and kick the bike over. It would usually fire up on the first or second kick and would Chuff-chuff away to itself while I'd check-in on the radio and put my helmet and gloves on and generally get my act together. And just as I was about to mount the thing it would give a little cough and cut out...

And no amount of kicking, swearing or cajoling could get the thing to relight! So I'd call back in on the radio, take my helmet and gloves off and go back indoors and have a cup of tea and wait twenty minutes for the thing to cool down before having another go. It would start easily from cold or from hot, but in-betweeny... forget about it!

So after about six months couriering, the head of the decompression valve dropped into the motor and comprehensively destroyed the piston and barrel leaving the head intact! So I cobbled together a new motor using the original XL 600 bottom end, a Honda Dominator Barrel, the XR 600 head and a Wiseco 720cc piston and set about building a desert bike.

Noel donated the 27 litre X600LM tank and the short seat you see in the picture (the bike originally had a tiny tank and a long seat). I restuffed the seat with stiffer foam and covered it with light grey vinyl to reflect the heat of the sun. In addition to this I rewired the bike like a race-bike with just five wires to run the motor. In the interest of simplicity and redundancy the lights, horn and heated grips etc were in a separate loom. I replaced most of the nuts and bolts with stainless steel items and everything was loctited or lock-wired or both! Anything that wasn't useful was removed and I fabricated a sort of weird side-panel, pannier-support arrangement out of aluminium checker-plate (this worked perfectly well, keeping the panniers away from the hot exhaust and the back wheel, weighing and costing next to nothing!).

High-rise Renthal rally bars, Acerbis Rally-Pro hand-guards and Pirelli MT21 tyres screwed to the rims  (each with an extra thick tube inside another, sliced-open tube, liberally doused in talcum powder) completed the project and I was ready to hit the desert!

It worked pretty well. The only real bugbear was that I ended up carrying a 10 litre bidon of water on the pillion seat and this heavy and undamped fluid would slosh around and adversely affect the handling of the bike. The bike would zig to the right, and the water would slosh to the left. Then the bike would try to recover by zagging back to the left only to be kicked back to the right by the delayed-action zig of the water! That undamped water held high on the pillion seat caused me to crash countless times...

Unladen, as it is in the picture, the bike was a dream to operate in the desert. But laden down with tools, spares, water, food and camping equipment all the dynamic qualities of the bike were lost and it became a bit of a donkey.

But at the end of the day, the bike just wasn't very reliable. The build quality was superb, but it's my belief that those RFVC motors were flawed. The seemed not to get enough oil to the cylinder head and they seemed to wear the camshaft and followers inordinately. So I'm looking at the picture below and remembering all the good stuff about the bike. But I don't really want another one.

I made a second, similar trip a few years later on an Africa Twin and despite being a much bigger and heavier machine, I felt that the Africa Twin was a superior desert bike in every way except one - fuel range.
Mercenary Garage - Honda XL600M Sahara

Note the 'Berber Fridge' on the back carrier! Soaking a tee-shirt in water and wrapping it around a plastic water bottle magically chills the water. This only works if the ambient temperature is hot enough to evaporate the water soaking the tee-shirt. In Ireland, the tee-shirt stays wet and the water in the bottle stays warm!

*There are more images from the trip here...

#HondaXL #XL600 #XL600LM #HondaXL600LM #DesertSled #SaharaBike #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Honda XL600LM

I don't know anything about this for sure but I think it's the Dakar and I'm guessing it's 1987...

Honda XL600LM

#HondaXL600LM #ParisDakar #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

Desert Travels

I believe this shot was taken during one of the adventures related in the book Desert Travels by Chris Scott. As far as I know, it's out of print now but it should still be available from Amazon or Ebay.

Although it's a slightly flawed book, insofar as it's sort of cobbled together out of short stories with a historical account of a disastrous French Foreign Legion mission thrown in for no particular reason, it's very enjoyable. It's set in the late '80s and early '90s when Algeria was accessible to desert tourists and adventure biking hadn't yet become the comodified marketing segment that it is today.

I read it numerous times before giving it away to save weight during one of my own adventures and I'm often tempted to pick up another copy.

Desert Travels - Chris Scott

#HondaXL600LM #DesertTravels #ChrisScott #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Dublin Couriers

This is a very short student documentary about Dublin Couriers. It looks like it was shot in the late 80's and it gets across some of the character of the industry.

Couriers were generally regarded as a law unto themselves and were simultaneously loathed and depended-upon in approximately equal measure. It was a funny sort of business...

Dublin Couriers
Evan on an XL600M, disregarding a red light in the interest of Irish economic prosperity.

The Courier Companies tried to come across as legitimate business enterprises but the couriers themselves were regarded as independent contractors rather than employees and the companies actually had very little control over them. So couriers didn't generally pay Income Tax or Social Insurance and many didn't bother with Road Tax or Motor Insurance!

From the mid-eighties until the mid-nineties when the Celtic Tiger Economy began to take off, there was massive unemployment in Ireland. But there was also a perfectly functional and thriving economy of Banks, Architects, Solicitors, Printers and Small Businesses. - There was money about, it just wasn't evenly distributed*.

This was long before email and electronic banking and all those businesses could afford to pay to get stuff moved in a hurry.

So from the ranks of unemployed youth rose a number (generally between 500 and 1000 at any given time) of opportunistic, anarchic punks on motorbikes to exploit this situation. And there was constant tension.

There was tension between the Clients who wanted high speed at low cost and the Courier Companies who were trying to meet unreasonable demands with an unreasonable workforce.

There was tension between the Base-Controllers, who's main concern was urgency, and the Couriers, who's main concern was efficiency (and fun and beer and drugs and other distractions).

And there was tension between the Receptionists and the Couriers with whom they dealt face to face - The Receptionists were concerned with things like politeness, tardiness, cleanliness and rainwater-puddles on their desks. The Couriers  didn't give a fuck about any of that - all they cared about was NOT WAITING!

At the time, Dublin was abuzz. It was like a gold-rush. There were great bars and the best music and cheap beer, drugs and petrol. It was an exciting time to be young and alive and driving a motorcycle for a living.

 *It's still like that in Ireland now, only it's much more polarised.

#DublinCouriers #UnderTheHelmet #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Algerian Sahara

I love this image. I found it on the Internet and I don't know anything about it's provenance, but for me it's very atmospheric.

Mercenary Garage - Honda XL600M Sahara

The bike is a Swiss registered 1986-ish Honda XL600LM and it's sporting some deserty modifications including a headlight guard/rack, an engine cage and a pretty nice luggage system. It's fitted with Michelin Desert tyres which are serious bits of kit! And it has had it's indicators removed which strikes me as a bit bold for a Swiss bike. Also, the chain-guard has been cut down (rather than completely removed) to expose the chain. (Personally, I like to remove the chainguard all together - it's easier to see wear and tear, it's easier to clean and lubricate, and if the chain does come off, it's easier and quicker to replace).

It's not carrying any luggage though, so maybe the pilot has 4WD support, or maybe he's already set up camp.

The image appears to have been taken in the Algerian Sahara and I'd guess it was taken in the early 90's.

This is a part of the world I've wanted to visit for over 20 years, and the reason I got hooked on the whole desert biking thing. There's been an ongoing civil war in Algeria since 1992 and access since then has been very difficult. In 2002, access to the south-eastern part of the Algerian Sahara opened up slightly and in early 2003, after a lot of work I obtained an Algerian visa.

However, as I was about to leave at the end of January I took on a design job that delayed my departure by about six weeks. A couple of weeks later, in February 2003, 32 European tourists in four wheel drives and on motorcycles were kidnapped by Islamic Militants in the area where I was planning on going, at the time I was planning on being there...

One of the tourists was shot, but nursed back to health by her kidnappers. A group of 17 were rescued by the Algerian army (aided by the German army) in May. One woman in the remaining group died of heat-stroke before the survivors were finally released in August after five months moving around the desert. It's widely believed that the German government paid a ransom but the German government refused to admit this.

It was a very under-reported story. None of the tourists were British (or Irish) and the story never gained any traction in this part of the world. It's my understanding that everyone involved was sworn to secrecy and as far as I'm aware, no first hand accounts were ever published.

In any case, the borders were shut down again and my hard-won Algerian visa became invalid. And I'm still waiting for an opportunity to go there...

I'd spent years gathering a really good collection of Algerian desert maps and I'd done lots of research. After my Algerian visa became useless, I diverted to Morocco armed with a single, useless map of the whole country and no clue! 
It was probably just as well I didn't go to Algeria because (aside from the almost inevitability of getting caught up in the kidnapping) I learned a lot on that first desert trip and in retrospect, I wasn't as well prepared for the real Sahara as I though I was!
There are some pictures from that trip here-

There's an article on the Kidnapping on Wikipedia, here -

And the image came from here -

#AlgerianSahara #HondaXLM #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

Friday, 12 April 2013

10 Years Ago - Morocco April 2003

Some old pictures I found of a solo trip to the desert that I made in April/May of 2003. The bike was a 1986 Honda XL600L with a big tank off a XL600M and very little else.

The franken-motor was a miss-mash of Honda RFVC motors including an XR, XL and XBR parts with a Honda NX650 Dominator crankcase and barrel. It was rebored to 720cc with a Wiseco piston.

The bike was light, torquey and was fantastic to ride in the desert without luggage but was a pig when laden down with tools, camping gear and water.

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

Mercenary Garage - Morocco April 2003

#HondaXL600LM #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage