There’s no doubt about it, winter has us firmly in its icy grip. Whether it be the cold, dark, rain, snow, or fog – most of us will be making our excuses and riding less than we otherwise would, or not at all. It is the time of year for planning adventures, and preparing our bikes for the arrival of spring. However, not all of us are the type to hibernate. There are those amongst us who battle on right through the year. There are even some who search out the snow and claim it as their own. The natural habitat of these legendary few is wide and varied: some seek out the wild places, hiding amongst the countryside hedgerows; some heed the call of the mountains; whilst others are to be found on the inside lane of the motorway, braced stoically against lashing rain at 45mph. Wherever they roam these titans deserve our respect, none more so than Rob Claire from the ‘Great Fun on Small Bikes’ Facebook group. A man who needs only a tiny bike and a cheap tent to shrug off the worst our winter can throw at him. Having seen just a small sample of Rob’s adventures, we thought we’d better catch up with the man himself.
Hi Rob! Please tell us a little about yourself. Hi! My name is Robin, I’m 36, and I’ve been riding bikes since I was 8 years old. I’m actually the third generation of my family to ride bikes. My dad is even still riding at 82. My first bike was a Yamaha TY80 trials bike, and my first road legal bike was a Honda C50.
What bikes do you own and ride? I have a 1975 BMW R80 that was my main mode of transport for five years, a 1974 Honda C70 (with a 12v C90 engine) which I’ve modified for touring, a 1962 Honda C200, a 1975 MZ es250 Trophy, two MZ etz125’s, and a Honda Varadero 125. I’ve owned over two hundred bikes so far. I have a particular passion for small Hondas, and I’ve had more than fifty cubs! I do all my own maintenance and I much prefer the used (some say worn out) look.
What is it that draws you to small bikes? I love the fact that you don’t need to be riding at 90mph to scare yourself, and the challenge of doing big miles on something that was designed for popping to the shops. Their manoeuverability on and off road is great, and travelling at a slower pace means taking in more of the details as you ride. Smaller bikes are cheaper too. Personally I wouldn’t pay more than £800 for a bike even if it were perfect. Spare parts are cheap, and filling both of the tanks fitted to my C70 only costs £8. The small bike scene seems particularly open minded and welcoming. There’s really no ego and nothing to prove on a small bike.
What has been your best moment on a small bike? That’s hard to choose! I did the 1100 miles of JOGLE (John O’ Groats to Lands End) on a 50cc bike in seven days, along with sixty other 50cc bikes. I did 800 miles in four days as part of the 2018 Dragon Rally on the Honda C70, including 320 miles of motorway riding from Kent to North Wales – the look on the faces of all the GS riders when the C50 made it to the top of ‘The Struggle’ in the Lake District was priceless.
If you could own any small bike, what would it be? I’d really love another 4 speed Simson S51 and some of the more obscure Eastern Block mopeds. I’ve also been lusting after a winged wheel motor to fit on to one of my vintage bicycles. I could go on! It’s a disease isn’t it…?
What’s your favourite piece of riding gear? That has to be my Aldi thermals. They’ve seen me through eight winters now! I buy most of my gear second hand or from the army surplus stores. They’re particularly good for boots and oil. I use lots of oil!
Do you have any favourite riding routes? Some of my favourite roads are around the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, and the road to Mallaig if you’re catching the ferry to Skye.
I took a special trip in February of 2018 in memory of my friend Steve, and to raise money for St. Christopher’s Hospice who cared for him during his battle with cancer. Steve had planned the route himself but sadly never made the trip. The route took in some of the best little roads in North Wales from Bala Lake and over the mountains to the Hirnant Pass. The scenery and the snow were spectacular and we managed to raise over £650 for the hospice. That was a really special trip.
Finally, do you have any advice or tips for other small bike riders? You really have to own the road and avoid staying to the left, and don’t be scared of motorways either. I actually find them safer than busy single carriageways, as there are safer overtaking options for everybody else. Also, a TTO cylinder head temperature gauge is the best addition I’ve been advised to make. It really helps you to know what’s going on with your engine.
Thanks Rob! If you enjoy riding smaller bikes, or simply want to join in on all the action from the comfort of your sofa – join the ‘Great Fun on Small Bikes’ group on Facebook or subscribe and follow us on Youtube for regular video updates. All are welcome.
“Crazy, enduring and very cold! What a totally unforgettable experience. If you have heard about the Elefant rally and never been you need to get there next year. Tick it off your bucket list. Do it at least once in your lifetime. I will certainly go again… one day!”
See the BVDM website for details of 2021 65 Jahre Elefantentreffen https://bvdm.de
A 3 am start, excited as a kid on christmas morning! We set off on the Monday and took the ferry from Dover to Calais. Dave works on the boats and gets a discount, otherwise it would have been quicker to get the Euro tunnel and get munching into the days miles ahead more quickly. To be honest, I didn’t mind a chill out, and big P&O breaky to get me started for the week!
On the boat I was sweltering, in all the layers I was wearing and have to remove some. I was too keen and did not need heat packs in my pockets and boots just yet! The weather was quite mild and a 5-10 degrees still. The forecast for the day was wet and windy! My concerns were getting cold and wet on the first day knowing we had 380 miles to cover.
As we rolled off the ferry off we set off for the Elefant. The destination for the day was a small town called Steinback in Germany on the outskirts of Frankfurt. We booked the hotel before the trip. What governed our ride was my fuel stops. The CRF has a small 6.6l tank and I had 2l reserve tanks with me for emergencies. We soon worked out stopping every 60-70 miles was a safe option. Dave didn’t mind as he had a wee every time I filled up. He filled up every other time. We got into a nice little routine and managed to bring the pit stop times down. Once we entered Belgium, it was quicker to use my bank card at the pump rather than pay cash otherwise you had to go in and pay first, guessing how much fuel you were going to put in and correcting the payment after.
“2209 KM’s,1373 miles, 23 fuel stops, 106.4 gallons of petrol”
By the afternoon we hit Germany and the fuel stops became easier. The signs for the next garage on the motorway were great so you could easily work out if you’d make it to the next services in 48k etc…
380 miles later as dark hit we arrived in the evening traffic and found the hotel. Above a noodle restaurant. This was quite funny in a way as the first European outbreak of the Corona virus was in the town we were heading and we were staying with the Chinese…
The family were friendly and the twin room was perfect. Secure bike parking and easy to find. All we needed was a shower and a good sleep. After sitting on the bikes all day a walk was needed and we found a little German sports bar. A few beers later and the aches and pains were gone! What a great little bar. Everyone smoking in there, just like a step back in time. We ate in a German kebab next door and went home for a couple for beers in the restaurant.
Fresh and raring to go. Day 2 was wet and windy still. The forecast was to get colder but still no snow. I was getting a bit grumpy as I was concerned the Elefant may just be a mud bath this year after all. To me the rally was about camping in the snow!
“I was beginning to question whether this was enjoyable or just a challenge“
Putting on our nice and dry clothing which was all warm from the radiators we set off again. Todays destination was Regansburg in Germany. We rode through Frankfurt centre and tried to stay off the motorways as much as we could but ended up back on them to make up time. Dave had booked us an IBIS. I had never stayed in an IBIS before but heard people say how good they were for European bike trips so I was interested to see!
260 miles later of rain but a bit less wind, the temperature was now dropping. There was talk of snow where we were staying overnight. I did think a few times today, this was maybe more of an endurance and a challenge rather than an enjoyable holiday. The motorway miles on the CRF were sometimes challenging in the weather. I wanted to get off the motorway and ride some smaller more scenic roads but Dave was right, we needed to cover the miles and get there by dark. It was not a summer day with long day light hours and warm weather, it was pretty awful riding conditions and after a snow shower on the motorway I soon agreed with him!
The regular fuel stops were perfect for me on the CRF. Despite the gel seat and Shaun the sheep seat cover, hour after hour my arse got sore! Getting on and off the bike got harder as you had to kick your leg up and over due to the luggage, but by now I had the back and wasn’t going to fall over!
Glad to see the IBIS sign! We locked the bikes up and got into the warm. The check in process was great, all automated. You checked in on a computer and got a key code to access the hotel and your room. Simple, cheap and just what we needed! This time we had a double and a bunk bed! I gave the double to the old man! Plus a bunk was more fun! The shower was amazing. We found a Burger King next door and a garage for a few strong “Elefant beers”.
“It would have been nice to avoid the motorways and enjoy scenic routes but short winter days and poor weather, we needed to cover the miles to reach the destination each day.”
Snow! I was extatic, it was finally zero degree and snowing. The forecast was to snow again in the night and after checking the webcam at the Rally, they had just got a load too, with a forecast of a further 15cm overnight! I was like a kid in a sweet shop at this point and enjoying the trip once again! Dave was not! Concerned about the hazards of riding in the snow which I was yet to experience properly!
As I whipped the blind up in the morning hurrying Dave out of bed, there was a little covering of snow. The all you can eat breakfast at the IBIS was spot on for a few euros and the coffee was good.
Today we had less miles todo. My plan was to continue past Solla, the rally town and ride into Prachatice, Czech Republic and stay the night there, then return to Solla, Germany on the Thursday as I was told this was the best day to arrive. We set off, the white scenery was getting prettier as we rode.
At the next fuel stop, Dave pointed out load of bikes with the most outrageous luggage you’d ever seen! Barrels and all sorts of contraptions strapped to the bikes. I suddenly felt under prepared with my little yellow bag and top box. This was our first experience of the craziness of Elefant rally! The group of Germans appeared from the shop, said hello, offering us some sort of alcoholic drink out of a clear bottle! God knows what that was, but it looked strong! I was amazed at a services they were drinking already! What were we letting ourselves in for? A friendly lorry driver warned us of lots of snow ahead and the motorway being closed due to a crash. Dave became concerned about driving conditions, I became ecstatic and seeing as all this lot were off there now we agreed to arrive at the Rally today (on the Wednesday). I didn’t mind the detour as the snow had arrived!
Finally we pulled off the motorway onto the local smaller roads and the fun really started. This is what it was all about! Beautiful Bavarian villages and lots of snow. Snow ploughs, tractors, people digging out their driveways, kids building snow men in their front gardens. Maybe it was the first snowfall of the year here?
We rode cautiously but the roads were pretty well cleared I thought compared to the UK! At least until we met a steep hill where maybe recent snowfall hadn’t been cleared and was now compacted to ice. Cars and trailers were stranded. A guy was fitting snow chains to his lorry. A local tractor was helping people get moving. Dave began struggling on the big old Deauville. If he stopped he couldn’t get going again. If he braked he slid back down the hill. It was funny to watch but I could see him getting grumpy. We both had our ups and downs and today was his! He slid backward and fell off. A German and I helped him upright the bike and with lots of pushing and wheel spinning we eventually got his up the hill to the better road surface. My CRF nobblies suddenly were worth every penny. I was loving routing along in the snow! The grip was fantastic and I wanted to go and play in the snow.
By now loads of weird and wonderful bike outfits were rolling along the same roads, all with the same thing in mind! To drink German beer and camp in the sub zero temperatures and snow.
I enjoyed the winter wonderland scenery. Mile after mile of untouched snow and white trees, it was like the scene from a Christmas card! I hadn’t seen snow like this for years.
A woman came out and cheered us as we rode past her house. The locals seemed to love the bikes. Eventually we rocked up into the village of Solla and past a wooden make shift bar at the side of the road. Bikes parked and people having a beer outside. This was crazy! We reached the gates to the rally site. Hundreds of tents already pitched. Big, small, loads of colours in the white mountain scenery. Camp fire smoke drifted through the valley. The sound of bike engines and drunk people in silly hats walking about! The atmosphere was amazing. Thousands of people expected to arrive over the coming days to camp in the snow.
Dave left his bike outside the rally site with all the other road bias bikes. The rally site was proper snow and off road tyres required! I rode in and parked up for the obligatory photo in front of the 64th Elefententreffen sign! So pleased to have made it on the little 250.
We signed in and paid our 30 euros. This entitled us to camp for the whole rally. We got our bags and stickers etc. Bargain really. People had been here for days already. Most were staying until the Sunday. Glad to have arrived early now seeing the bikes flowing in we needed to quickly find a good spot to pitch the tents.
The site was in a huge bowl. Imagine mountains or hills and the preffered camping spots up on the higher more level areas. We found a nice little spot next to some friendly Germans. They were interested in the Honda and impressed that it came from the UK. We were given a beer each as we started putting our tents up. 5 euros bought us a bale of straw. The Germans lent us their shovel to dig out the snow before we laid the straw for insulation under the tents. We set up our camp and enjoyed a well deserved drink!
“I believe in fate. If I had have packed my shovel, it wouldn’t have snowed…”
Groups of bikers from all over Europe stood around fires drinking beer and talking of their adventures. Some were already hammered and being carried by others back to their tent! Trike outfits, three up, raced around the site sliding about in the snow. Pretty dangerous combination really! Lots wore Elefant hats and big animal skin furry long coats to keep warm.
A scooter towing a trailer jack knifed infant of my tent in the snow, resulting in a cheers from all who witnessed it. Theres something you don’t see every day!
A guy walked past in wooden clogs. How he could stand up in the snow and not have freezing cold feet I have no idea!
“You see the most random things at the Elefant”
The snow started again. It was perfect! The tent was white and everyone was happy. We drank beers from the bar, only 3 euro’s each. I had my first Bratwurst of the trip. Perfect! Just as I imagined. Standing there in the snow drinking beer and watching the chaos unfold. Vikings walked past, people dressed in animal fur coats to keep warm. As night came the music and noise got louder! People become more drunk! All friendly and fun though, not like drunk people at home in the UK who feel the urge to fight everyone. Fireworks like you have never heard echoed through the valley. Some guy played a tune I recognised on a trumpet for most of the night and shouted the same line a song repeatedly. I don’t think I really slept!
We were freezing cold and got into our tents pretty early compared to most! It was the first night and we had days of this to experience. No chance of sleep though! It was so cold my breath was turning to condensation on the inside of the tent and dripping all over me. My sleeping bag was wet and cold. Not so great fun in small tents! However I was still warm inside. The noise carried on all night. Don’t expect to sleep well at this rally! Motorbikes racing past your tent most of the night, the sound of crunching snow outside as people stagger about near their tents.
I must have nodded off as I awoke to a load thumping on the ground next to my head. Unzipping the wet tent, all the snow slid down to the floor. I peered around the door “Morning” a German chopping firewood with an axe! He was already drinking beer and cooking his breakfast which was balanced on the back of his bike.
Dave was still sparko and had the gas for the stove so I went off in search of coffee. The snow was deeper and the scenery was amazing. We later found a well for fresh water for the kettle.
The Germans the other side of us were now awake and let us sit around their fire and we boiled our kettle and joined them for morning coffee.
Dave and I agreed we were ill prepared for the camping! My tent was too small. We had no decent cooking facilities and there was loads we could have done better. Another time we would be much better prepared. But to be fair we had travelled 700 miles or so and all these lot were on big trikes and things with lots of luggage and admittedly had not travelled far.
We spoke with many friendly people and saw some fascinating bike outfits. I spotted a British registered MZ roll in. We pursued the bike to speak with the rider. A veteran Elefefant rally hero! Harry, who is well known and respected in the MZ circle back at home. His badges on his hat were the evidence of attending the harsh winter rallies of the past years. He told us of the Elefant rally history and stories of previous years. He was straight off to the Dragon Rally in Wales after this. His bike was perfect for the job and I have upmost respect for him riding that all the way here! My Honda seemed easy now after chatting with Harry. What had I worried about really? A modern reliable Honda 250. Was it really a challenge? Not for the bike but it was for me!
The rally today was getting busy. Bikes were pouring in. Glad we arrived the day before we watched people building some amazing camp set ups! Some had been there for a while, most had wood burners inside and fantastic cooking facilities and were there for a whole week or more!
Ironically the UK left the EU, whilst we were in Europe, so it seemed symbolic to cross out a star! The journey home through customs. Would it be any different? Not at all! Just the same.
The return journey home was much the same as before. Cold wet and very windy! Happy we made the winter rally and saw lots of snow we chose not to continue into Czech Republic or Austria as planned but slowly head in the direction of home and detour staying overnight in Luxembourg. We took our time, each country becoming warmer until we finally reached some sunshine in France. The trip was all about the rally. If it were a summer rally I’d plan on touring and doing more sight seeing long the way. If we had more time we could have taken much more in but the weather (which was expected for January!) was pretty bleak for motorbike travel.
My advice is, and I am sure Dave would agree… Arrive on the Wednesday or Thursday to get a good spot on the campsite. It fills up quickly and you will end up right at the bottom or on the hill pitching your tent on a slope! Take cash for – wood (20 euros), bales of straw (5 euros), beer and food at the bars (reasonable prices really… 3 euros a beer, a coffee 3-4 euros and a Bratwurst about 4 euros), entrance fee incl badge and sticker etc (30 euros), hat and other merchandise (approx 25 euros). Buy the straw to insulate your tent from the cold ground. Take or borrow a shovel to dig out the snow. Bring some beers and food from the super market in the town you pass on the way to the rally site. If your neighbours offer you to sit around their fire like we did, offer them some wood or beer in return and you will be friends for the week!
I hope this persuades just one person to go (on a small bike even more so!) and makes their experience as enjoyable as mine! I’d love to hear about your trip if you do go in 2021. I plan on attending the Dragon Rally in 2021 to see how that compares!
If you like the sound of fun and adventure such as this on small bikes. Follow the GFOSB facebook group or subscribe and see my other posts below.
12 months ago this group was created for a bit of a laugh as motorbiking had become a bit stale for me. Within a few weeks it was clear that there were many other likeminded people out there who just wanted to have fun and enjoy riding the smaller bikes and didn’t care what others thought! No silly rules or politics, just simply fun and adventure on any bike 250cc and under…
As I write this now, sat here in South Germany having just ridden to the Elefant rally in the freezing cold and wet January weather on a 249cc Honda I realise I wouldn’t have ever done this if it hadn’t been for this group. Another trip is already in the pipeline, and maybe even on a smaller bike still! The seed is well and truly sown and I suspect Iam not the only one either..!?
Thanks to everyone for making this group so great over the last year. Almost 5000 members agree that small bikes are just as great fun as big bikes! There has been so much interesting and quality content, fun rides and amazing adventures shared from all around the world.
Extra special thanks to the admins Rob, Chris and Martin for all their efforts in keeping the group fun and friendly. So many people have commented publicly and also messaged personally on how this group is unique and so much better than many other Facebook groups and that makes it all worth it.
Again special thanks to Stephen and Mark and Chris who have taken on organising some new meet ups and rides in your local areas for this year. Keep an eye out on the group if your in Kent, Devon, Bath or West Yorkshire areas.
If anyone else would like to get involved too in organising a bacon butty meet local to you that would be great. Let’s get more people out riding small bikes in 2020!
What a palava… tyres are a complete minefield. Every person you speak to has a different view or opinion. But then the dual sport tyre is used for so many different purposes it’s bound to be a tricky one. I don’t have much knowledge of tyres and sizes. I really struggled researching the best tyre combo for general dual sport riding and before my Elefant rally trip especially. I wanted grip down there in snow and mud but the ability to ride 1600 miles of road and possibly rough tracks. My riding is probably 70/30 road biased but there is nothing worse than not enjoying the 30% fun bit!
Anyway, if this helps one person with their next tyre choice it was worth it.
After almost 4000 miles the stock 120/80 x18 rear tyre was knackered and over due a change. I had previously contemplated squeezing a few more miles out of it and running it to the Elefant rally, then putting a nice new set of tyres on when I returned. Maybe then I would have made my mind up what to go for…
With just over a week to go and a little (ok big) last minute panic. I found myself at Gear tech racing in Eastry, Kent chatting to Ron.
He had in stock the new 2019 Michelin Trackers. 110/100 and 100/100 sizes. I couldn’t find any reviews online so I was going ahead a bit blind…As an MX expert I trusted his judgement. We agreed leave the front as I was confident with the way it handled on road (albeit shite off road!) it and it had plenty of life left for this trip. Then swop the rear for one of these with rim lock, heavy duty inner tube and some slime to deal with a potential puncture.
I requested the 110 to replace my 120 stock tyre. When I picked the wheel up he explained the tyre sizes were different in MX and Enduro tyres, and that this 100/100 was almost the same as my stock so he fitted that instead. Next to each other could see for myself there wasn’t much in it. I even measured them when I got home after lots of comments online asking why did you go for a 100 over a 120. It turns out after reading up that the tall skinnier tyres are better for soft mud anyway. Being this is only a 20hp 250cc bike, did I need a massive overally grippy rear tyre and risk wearing the clutch out?
In high and sight I feel that I should have ordered a Dunlop D606 before hand but it was my own fault skimping after Christmas and leaving it late! You know how it is in January. My chosen selection for next time is the Dunlop on the rear and a 90/90×21 Pirelli MT21 on the front… convince me otherwise CRF riders!
First impressions of this tyre then. Disappointed with the reviews I was getting since buying it I decided I should make up my own mind. It looks ok to me. Many have said it’s too skinny but make your own mind up from the pics below. Could the 110 have fitted after all? Possibly? I may call in and show Ron just so I know for future reference. There is a bit of a gap either side and at the front still.
I took the bike out on a rainy morning and did 20 miles including a very wet and muddy byway with some sand thrown in!
I have to say on the road, it felt smooth and nice and curved. Not too noisy either or much vibration. Probably after riding on the squared off old stock one anything would feel great!
I gingerly rode gaining confidence in the grip on the wet roads. What was I worried about? It felt fine. I didn’t feel it track at all after testing it on some lines in the road. Stamping on the rear brake a couple of times it would lock up but then it was a nobbly in the wet, what do you expect…? The odd change down the gears quickly and you’d feel it bite a little. But if you ride expecting this then it shouldn’t be an issue. After all I won’t be going mad in freezing temperatures on the trip.
On the byways it felt very grippy and gave me new confidence for off road riding which I do lack. It didn’t slip about like the old one would on sloppy uneven mud.
So reasonably happy with the tyre after all my only concern now was, how long will it last? Again someone mentioned online you will be lucky to make it home before that wears out on the road. All it needs to do is 1600 mile round trip and it will have achieved its purpose. I guess the worst that can happen is I find myself in Germany at a bike shop getting another tyre on the way home possibly…
Well the trip was a success. The tyre performed really well on the wet European motorways. I felt confident on the road with this tyre. Hardly any wear after the trip, see the pic below. Off road in the snow and mud traction was fantastic. I did not worry about getting around the rally site and the bike handled well in the compacted snow and ice on the roads where other vehicles were stuck. For green laning I’d recommend this most certainly on the CRF without the worry of wearing the tyre out on the roads between the lanes.
If you like small bikes and having fun and adventures like these on them, or just like small bikes! Follow us and also see the Facebook group for regular updates and rides etc
If you like having great fun on small bikes. You can’t get much smaller and cooler than the ultimate pocket bike from Honda. These have always been popular and great fun to ride. Since the release of the new 125cc Monkey the craze has reignited and they are now often seen tearing about with oversized riders grinning in their open face lids!
Having never owned one myself, the Monkey is on the wish list! But which would you go for? An old genuine classic monkey, a Chinese Skyteam replica oozing in 00 Racing accessories? Or if your lucky pop out to your local Honda dealer and buy the latest model?
The new Monkey is one of the retro fleet of bikes produced by Honda. With it’s stylish looks taken from the old model and modern performance using the same 125cc four stroke engine as the Supercub. The reviews are great and there is already a massive following for these. A future classic? I reckon so… Now.. what colour are you going to go for? Yellow is so cool, but then again so is red…
Skyteam seem to be the most popular of the Chinese replicas. They produce popular models such as the Dax and Gorilla. Cheap as chips, reliable and after swopping the decals for some Honda replica ones you have yourself a classic monkey for about two monkeys, or a bag of sand! Well worth considering…
Search Ebay and the classifieds and there are bargain genuine tax and MOT exempt Dax’s still out there for a reasonable sum. Classic and well built little Hondas with collectable status. People love these on display at home in their collection. Some would argue they are slow to ride but you can easily swop the engine for a bigger lump?
It is a tough decision if ever there was one. Based purely on cost the Skyteam seems the sensible option. The new Monkey is the most expensive but if your planning on riding regularly or longer distance and want the reliability, I would guess this is the best option. If your thinking of depreciation and classic status then the old monkey is the safest option for your hard earned cash.
Adrian at 00 Racing https://www.ooracing.combased in Kent is the place to go for all your monkey business! If you want performance parts, custom builds and rolling road set up. Check out 00 Racing online. You will soon be spanking your monkey with excitement!
Well stop monkeying around and go buy one! Rest assured it will be fun and adventure.
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A hundred million people can’t be wrong. Simple, light weight and reliable Honda engineering. The economical and basic design 4 stroke OHC engine design is proven. With go anywhere performance and adventure capabilities. You only have to skim through the GFOSB facebook group photos to see the popularity of these little bikes and their adventures. No wonder it’s the peoples choice around the world today, still..
They have been around since 1958. Several models were produced with different engine sizes over the years. Other than updating the electrics to 12v nothing much has changed in the basic design. Many would argue, the most popular being the 12v C90. This model was made between 1985-2002 and was certainly a hit in the UK. With now “classic” or “retro” status. Often still used as commuter bikes or by London cabbies for the famous “Knowledge” test. Despite the prices now creeping up they are still common on the UK roads today. Grab one while you can!
Famously nick named the “chicken chaser” after being used as field bikes as kids, or “stomp” owing to the simple gearbox design whereby you stomp up and down through the gears without a clutch. I am sure there are many other names out there for these amazing little bikes! What fun they are! What do you remember them being called?
The choice for many GFOSB riders as a weekend “fun bike” or “winter hack”. Often pictured in fords, or crossing rivers! Suddenly when you ride one of these the adventure comes out in you and before you know it your green laning or riding charity challenges up and down the country.
These bikes have a huge following. Like the “Mini”, they are iconic and everyone has owned or seen one before. The famous red or blue colours and white leg shields are what most think of when someone says Honda Cub.
“You meet the nicest people on a Honda”
Cheap to own, run and maintain is what makes them the choice for many. Parts or even complete engines are available on the shelf all around the world. Servicing and maintenance is able to take place at the roadside with basic mechanical knowledge. The C90 is the only 4 stroke engine I have ever rebuilt and set up completely myself!
The bikes are simple to accessorise or modify for that trip we’re all planning to do-one day! Thats half the fun of it isn’t it? Installing auxiliary fuel tanks for long distance rides through desert conditions. Strapping luggage to every available part of the frame, just incase we need it. Nobbly tyres are a must for fun in the snow and mud.
There are a few overland C90 celebs out there who have travelled the world on these little bikes. You must have heard of Ed March and Rachel Lasham. Have a look on youtube at C90 Adventures. I guarantee you will rush out and buy one and then cable tie a shopping basket to the front! I hope you have your passport ready…
For about the cost of a set of BMW hard luggage, you have just built yourself the equivalent of a GS 1200 adventure bike. The little Honda can do everything the same and more, but obviously at a much slower more enjoyable pace! I know which one i’d rather pick up when I fall off in that muddy rut miles from civilisation…
After such a successful bike, Honda released the Super Cub 125. The reviews are fantastic and you can buy a new one in the UK currently for about £2600 – bargain adventure bike! Would you be taking one of these on your next adventure?
If all of this small bike talk of fun and adventures interests you. Follow the GFOSB facebook group and have a read of the other blogs below…
So today was the first opportunity to load the bike up properly. The plan was to do a test run and make sure everything was comfortable, worked properly and didn’t fall off after 10 miles or so. The forecast was not great for the day. Very wet and windy! Perfect…
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”
It began dry first thing but the wind was picking up by the minute. Putting all the gear on in the front room was a ball ache. Whilst sweating my tits off I was in a rush to get outside and cool down! I broke my fleece jacket zip too so that was a great start to the day! The first things I noticed were wearing two glove layers was a weird feeling and you lose dexterity. Also getting on the bike was a bit of a mission! I had to step over it like an emu whilst still on the side stand. I am bound to fall over getting on and off of this when in the snow and mud! Oh well, all part of the Elefant fun…
Once I was sat on it the yellow bag provided a nice little bit of back support. All felt sturdy so off we went. It was great to be riding again. Now pleased I cut down on unnecessary stuff and squeezed everything in that yellow bag and lost the bulky panniers as they were more of a pain to fit nicely and just more bulky weight.
First impressions the bike felt alot heavier which you would expect, the Ali box and bag acted like a sail in this wind! Only ever greenlaning in the summer with basic protective clothing and no luggage this felt not that pleasant to me. But this was to be expected with any winter trip on what ever bike so I had to just get on with it.
The gloves were soon back to one layer again as I couldn’t find the indicator switch, it wasn’t that cold today either so I will have to re-evaluate after the ride. I whacked the heated grips up to 100% to test them out. Toasty! With the muffs I might not even need thick gloves…?
“UK Weather Warning. Storm Brenden batters the UK with winds up to 80mph”
Avoiding puddles to begin with, today wasn’t about playing but just testing the gear out. I didn’t realise how much water was about in the countryside. I suppose it’s been miserable weather for a while now.
Then the rain came, along with “Storm Brendan” or what ever it was called. I hadn’t bothered putting my waterproof trousers on as it was dry and too much effort first thing. A few drips in the groin area and I was quickly regretting my decision! That made my decision to wear water proofs all the time on the trip. I won’t have time to stop and put them on and plus I can’t afford to get wet as drying stuff will be a nightmare.
The new helmet pin lock visor was perfect. No fogging and a nice clear lense at all times. Glad I got one of those for the trip. Worth every penny.
The grips were now so hot I was having a job to hold the bars whilst unable to let go of the bike in the gusty wind along the dual carriage way. At this point I did think to myself, I’ve possibly got 1600 odd miles of this… I don’t think the rain and wind can be any worse than today. I can deal with cold, but lets hope we don’t have hours of this!
Stopping off for a chat with Ron at Gear Tech racing, he sounded surprised when I told him of the trip. It is amazing how many people haven’t actually heard of it. Suggesting a tyre change for some better Michelin Trackers I now need to decide whether to stick with these worn stock ones or change them…
After a bit more riding one of the heated grips came loose. I remember not supergluing that one as like us men don’t, I didn’t read the instructions! So that will have to be secured later. Luckily not the throttle side!
I met up with Dave on “Olive”. He has fingers crossed got to the bottom of the fuel issue and joined me for some miles building confidence in the MZ also. He now needs to make his mind up what to ride. I think maybe another longer ride out is planned for him before the final decision. The little MZ flew along nicely though. I love the distinctive sound of it. I do hope “Olive” can join us to the Elefant.
When I came out of McDonalds my sheep skin seat cover had blown away! It looked like that was a dead cat next to my bike. God knows what all the drive thru customers must have thought! Another mod is to secure that for when I am not sat on it! However I was very impressed at how you just shake it dry and off you go again! It is very warm and comfy too to ride on.
One other mod to do is make an Aluminium bracket to support the auxiliary petrol cans so that they have a platform to sit on and don’t slide down the box. I don’t want them coming loose abroad!
Other than that. The bikes is spot on and the perfect choice for me. Fingers crossed we will have a pleasant trip together. I do need to get a bit more confident in my winter riding, especially loaded up and in possible conditions like today! It can’t really be any worse. Can it?
If you like the sound of the trip, follow GFOSB for further updates. Please my other latest blogs below relating to all things small bikes!
This little white corn mill located at Chilenden, South East Kent has become a real selfie spot for GFOSB riders! It’s been there since 1868 but has probably never had so many visitors as in the last year or two. A certain EKCMCC member took a photo and it just spiralled- pardon the pun! A perfect location for a ride out too on small bikes. Somewhere great to stop for a natter and enjoy the scenery in the Kent country side.
Facebook has fuelled the urge to visit and it is now very well known amongst local bikers. There is even a Chilenden Windmill Appreciation Group on facebook!
“Chillenden windmill is a white open-trestle post mill with four spring sails carried on a cast-iron windshaft. The windshaft carries a cast-iron brake wheel with a wooden rim. The brake wheel has fifty wooden cogs, driving a cast-iron wallower on a cast-iron upright shaft. This carries a cast-iron great spur wheel which drives two pairs of underdrift millstones in the head of the mill. The mill formerly had a maize kibbler, but this was removed when the mill was restored in 1958. The mill is winded by a tailpole”. – Wikipedia
“Its great to see so many people out on small bikes”
It is great to see people out exploring the countryside. If ever you need an excuse to jump on the bike and go and find the Mill! Maybe you have just bought a new bike that hasn’t had a photograph yet? On a sunny day you are likely to meet other bikes nearby.
What iconic landmarks do you have in your local area that would make a nice small bike photo opportunity? Get searching and take a picture and share it on the group!
The craze started becoming a bit of an addiction and bikers found themselves visiting when not even on their bikes! What does the local farmer think is going on at the Mill?
Dave has developed a bit of a Windmill obsession and travelled to Holland for a bigger fix!
If you like small bikes or windmills…. No you don’t have to like windmills really! but come and join us GFOSB riders. We are always looking for fun and adventure on smaller bikes.
See the latest blogs below. You are also welcome to join the GFOSB facebook group.
Everyone should own or have access to a small bike. At the very least, should have by now experienced the fun and freedom in riding a small bike at some stage in their life, either on holiday or when they were younger. For many around the world small bikes are a necessity to survive or for commuting to work. For more fortunate others they are weekend toys or budget adventure machines.
Cost is not really a valid argument to dismiss a small bike. They can be picked up for the same price as a half decent bicycle. There are thousands of 50-125cc bikes out there that can be ridden on a UK provisional licence or even on your existing car license. Some may need to complete a one day Compulsory Basic Training course which costs around £120 and lasts for a couple of years. This allows a learner to ride with L plates. In the UK certainly Tax, MOT and insurance are not expensive. See the DVLA website for more information. https://www.gov.uk/ride-motorcycle-moped. Free motorcycle parking where ever you go is a massive bonus. Cheap servicing costs, you can do it at home yourself even with minimal mechanical knowledge. It’s a friendly scene and help and advice is always at hand. The internet has all the information needed for free. Popping into town has never been easier. All combined at around fifty pence a day they are incredibly cheap transport! What do bus passes and taxis cost these days, I dread to think if you tallied that up over a year…
Where would I keep it? A question often asked. Ideally a garage, but if you have a garden with a shed or just a decent cover will suffice. The main issue really these days is security. Motorbike theft in the UK is now unfortunately rife. Out of site out of mind is the answer. A big hefty chain and a lock secured to a ground anchor will stop or slow them down in just picking it up and carrying it away. As many as possible deterrents is best.
Safety. The concerns associated all come under one umbrella. I am almost certain that statistics would suggest bigger bikes are involved in more serious and are generally more likely to have an accident. Probably due to the higher speeds, more miles covered and busier main roads that are ridden.
“Small cost for big fun”
With a decent helmet, gloves and a warm textile protective two piece jacket and trousers on a small bike you feel quite protected from the elements and risks associated.
Fancy a change from the norm and doing something fun?
Imagine in the summer months leaving the car at home and riding into work. Those sunny warm days, fresh air and avoiding the traffic. The daily commute has never been so fun! Before you know it you’d be leaving early to go the scenic route.
Bikes are however not just for commuting. The riding opportunities are endless if you enjoy riding a small bike. Sunday rides with likeminded friends, weekends away, touring holidays in the sun. A whole new lifestyle!
If you know someone who has considered a bike in the past but needs a kick. Please share this post with them. Give this a thought for 2020. We need to inspire more people to ride and keep biking alive.
See the other posts below relating to the fun that can be had with small bikes. If you’re a facebook user be sure to join the GFOSB group for regular updates and rides out.
Are you a self confessed Petrol head? We all probably grew up playing with toy cars and bikes. Dreaming of the day we would one day drive on the roads. Most of us are now victims to the addiction of the combustion engine. The sight, smell and sounds are all unique. Metallic, dirty and oily engines around the world draw us all like zombies outside. The engine transformed our lives. It gave us our first taste of freedom and independence. It took us to places that we could never have otherwise reached. Can you honestly imagine life without petrol?
“Many addicts first experience would have likely been a motorbike engine“
Can you recall your first encounter? For many I bet the answer was a Honda Cub. Did it belong to your Dad? Uncle? Your older brother, or his mate?
Aged about 12 or 13, Barry my best mate and I went halves on an old red Honda C90. We paid £5 each toward the rusty red and white motorbike. Most of our weeks paper round money gone. It was a motorbike to us, not a scooter or moped as some might say. It seemed massive and we could both sit on the dual seat. Neither of us had ever ridden a bike before. It had no number plate, indicators or back light and we had probably just bought some old lady’s bike that had been stolen by the older kids up the park. We didn’t care and were none the wiser. On Barry’s Dad’s drive way we tried to get it going. I remember seeing my grandad test spark plugs on the lawn mower and suggested trying that. We “wannabe mechanics” found a socket and whipped the plug out. I poked the spark plug in the distributer cap and told Barry to hold it near the bike while I kicked started the bike. As I kicked it, Barry lept across the garden and shouted! I now know that we had a good spark! His Dad came home from work and after telling us we had wasted our money but helped us out. Before we knew it the bike was running like a little sewing machine in the garden. I remember the smell of petrol and the mud burning on exhaust where it had been ridden round the fields already. I don’t think you ever forget that smell? I got the bug for all things petrol then and there…
Coldblow woods was up the road. An unused field and woodland. That was where all the cool kids rode their motocrossers. The next weekend we pushed it up to the field, slowly getting more brave as we went and sitting on it while rolling. Eventually near the field we rode it along the path to the field. Hacking across the fields without lids and through the woods. We spent hours taking it in turns riding round the old overgrown Royal Marines sports field field avoiding grumpy dog walkers. We worked out how to wheelie it. The Barry sat on the back and I revved it up then stamped on the foot lever we shot forward into first and off we went. Once or twice Barry rolled off the back! Another great moment, there was a big chalk bomb hole and a rope swing. Anyone who knew the woods would know what I am talking about. The made a great place to ride up and down. Like you do, pushing and egging each other on we would go fast up the hill and jump at the top. I won’t ever forget landing the bike between the v of a split tree trunk and it taking both of us to remove the bike from the base of the tree! Eventually it ran out of petrol and we pushed it home again.
“Are there many Honda C90’s out there for a fiver these days?” I would think not!
We did this weekend after weekend all of that summer. That was my first experience of motorbikes and tinkering with engines. I can’t remember if we killed the Honda or I decided I wanted a bike of my own but Dad helped me get a little red Yamaha Passola. This was all road legal and went at about 20 mph flat out. I spent many days riding this round the same field. I am sure this would have been my younger brothers first motorbike experience too? A couple of years later I got a geared Yamaha DT50 and that’s when I learnt to ride with gears.
Those summers holidays where probably the best ones ever! The addiction still remains. 40 odd cars later and countless motorbikes. I don’t think it will ever change! Will future generations get so excited over an electric motor? I think not…
If you like fun and adventure on small bikes too, please see my other posts below and follow GFOSB both the page and the group on facebook for regular updates.