The Zumo XT is much better than the 346

I’ve bought another Garmin :)

In planning our trip to World Ducati Week it became clear I’d be navigating, and the weather would be unpredictable. I’ve found that whenever I have a problem with a phone navigation it’s my fault, but if the Garmin goes wrong then that’s expected, so I decided to at least take the garmin with.

And then I came into some SportsBikeShop vouchers, so I bought a Zumo XT! And, as if to force me to write this, Jan decided to save my Zumo 346 from the bin and take it with, so I got a daily reminder on the trip of just how bad it could be.

It’s a lot better, and I now use it pretty regularly; I’ve gone as far as taking the X-grip off my bars (though I’ve stashed it under the seat Just In Case).

It’s still quite Garmin, though. Here’s a quick set of things that are better and things that are still poor:


  • Portrait mode!
  • It’s generally much faster; it feels like the hardware’s up to the job of running the software
  • Map display is more usefully-configurable
  • Bluetooth transfer of points and routes works reliably using the Drive app and GPXes from other apps; no more need for a laptop, usb-cable and basecamp!

Still poor

  • The bluetooth audio is really prone to skipping and stuttering, especially during route recalculations
  • Bluetooth pairing with my phone is only _mostly_ reliable; might be my phone?
  • The maps are still really out of date; some of the changes that predated even the 346 are still there!
  • Search is still bizarre; you can’t use the ‘search’ box for postcodes though many other things can go in there. Fortunately, you can search on gmaps or something on your phone and share the location to the device
  • The new bracket makes it really easy to think you’ve clipped the device in when you haven’t-quite, especially if it’s mounted quite horizontally. A few times I’ve pulled away and had the device fall off
  • Sometimes the screen registers rain as keypresses. Exactly the phone-behaviour I use a satnav to avoid!
  • It can slow to something as bad as the 346, though it’s not this bad all the time. This seems to be fixed with a factory reset
  • The charging pins of the bracket are still tiny tiny contacts that will corrode if you leave them outside

Satnav Features

There’s a number of features of a satnav that seem really obvious, yet many or most don’t have them. This is another conversation I keep having, so here’s my list. If you’re building a satnav, please steal these ideas!

Rest-stop preferences

Let’s say you’re travelling to Edinburgh from Frome and your fuel and comfort ranges are 200 miles and two hours respectively. You like Costa Coffee and want to have lunch at a gastropub with vegetarian options.

My satnav could know these things about me (comfort range, coffee and lunch preferences) and plan the whole route for me, without my having to research lunch stops near plausible routes.

Near-home silence

I almost never need satnav navigation within around 5 miles of my house; it’d be great for it to be able to automatically silence its guidance (though keep showing information on the screen) for this bit, where I frequently am not doing exactly what the satnav thinks in any case.

Awareness of junction layout

When my satnav tells me I have to take the third exit at the roundabout in twelve miles I don’t need to think about it until I see a roundabout coming, at which point I can look down, see which exit, and take it.

When it tells me I have to turn left in twelve miles, I could approach it in the same way as the roundabout if I knew it were a T-junction.

I’d like my satnav to distinguish between junctions that I will see coming, and those that I need to keep an eye out for.

Warning of speed limit changes

It’s very normal for a satnav to warn when there’s an upcoming speed camera, and also to warn when I’m exceeding the speed limit. It feels like an obvious and constructive addition is for it to be able to warn when the speed limit is about to change, too. Apparently some Garmins can do this.

“Follow signs to Penzance”

When a human is giving directions, often we’ll think in terms of which signs to follow. The visual display of many satnavs hints at what to look for on the sign, but for some reason the voice directions don’t, and instead they say things like “Take the fourth exit onto the ay one thousand two hundred and forty one”. If there’s a big town up that road, why not mention it?


I keep talking to people about podcasts, so here’s my list of the ones I’ve probably recommended at you:

Ones I listen to regularly

  • Do The Right thing – Comedy panel show where guests have to figure out the right way to respond to given situations. More comedy than panel show.
  • Something Rhymes With Purple – Gyles Brandreth and Susie Dent talk about language and etymology
  • Page 94, the private eye podcast – detailled stuff about stories they’re running, you don’t need to read the magazine for it to make sense
  • Dan Snow’s History Hit – different historian each episode (normally plugging a book) 30-60min of explanation about a different niche of history each time. really annoying ads though
  • Rex Factor – Old, going through all the kings & queens of British history making top trumps cards for each of them, one per episode.
  • Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast – he interviews a comedian each fortnightish, rife with in-jokes and you really ought to get his comedy.
  • More Or Less – Takes some facts, figures or stats from the recent news and explains why they’re interesting, remarkable or wrong, and/or how they were calculated.
  • The Allusionist – Etymology and words in general
  • The Bugle – News/satire/bullshit
  • The Tip Off – Reporters describe the process of investigating and breaking their big investigative stories
  • 99% Invisible – (american) About design, largely the bits of it that aren’t that obvious
  • We Have Ways of Making You Talk – Al Murray and James Holland talking about World War Two. Set up mostly as an amateur enthusiast talking to an actual historian about things.
  • Smart Enough To Know Better – Two Australian science teachers entertainingly talking about science and stuff
  • Twenty Thousand Hertz – (american) about sounds and sound design in a “I’d never thought about that” sort of way, rather than anything too niche and nerdy
  • Radiolab – (american) Well-made and designed science documentaries
  • Radio 4 Comedy of the week – A single episode of a comedy from the R4 schedule from the previous week. Always a single episiode so if you like it you often have to find it on iPlayer to get the rest. Also there’s a good chance you’ll not like it on any given week.
  • Freakonomics Radio – (american) Humans often act irrationally, which has confounded economists in the past and lead to the creation of “behavioural economics”. This show describes and explains some of those weird things humans tend to do; it’s very accessbile though does have the odd episode dedicated to interviewing an economist.
  • Friday Night Comedy (Radio 4) – One of The Now Show, The News Quiz or Dead Ringers, depending on which is in the friday-night comedy slot on R4. Always a satire show.
  • Hidden Brain – (american) Stories highlighting how our unconscious or hidden thinking affects society and human relationships.
  • Off Menu – James Acaster and Ed Gamble interview comedians (and sometimes just famous people) mostly about their favourite food. The set-up is that in the course of the show the guest puts together their ideal meal.
  • International Waters – Pop-culture comedy quiz show about US/UK pop-culture. One team is American and gets questions about British things, the other is British and gets American questions.
  • The Bottom Line – Essentially a podcast about how business works. Each episide has a question or theme, and a panel of leaders from relevant businesses discuss and explain it.
  • New Statesman – A sort-of political/newsy round-up show that doesn’t irritate me with its partisanship.
  • Invisibilia – Examines beliefs, ideas, common assumptions and how they unexpectedly or quietly affect how humans behave.
  • Beyond Today – Some background to a currently-running story (companion to the Today programme, but not at all requiring of having listened to it)
  • Reply All – A podcast about the Internet. It’s hard to categorise, but is wonderful more for the presenters and their attitude than any particular subject matter. Covers the social side of the Internet, really.
  • Cautionary Tales – Stories of problems caused by human error, and how we might think differently to make them less likely to happen

Ones I’ve listened to before but for one reason or another stopped subscribing:

  • No Such Thing As A Fish – by the QI researchers and is mostly trivia (with the same sometimes-made-up problem as QI proper)
  • Answer Me This – Listeners send in questions, Helen and Olly answer them. Largely social/political situations and opinion, rather than trivia
  • The Naked Scientists – science news, not very jokey
  • The Week Unwrapped – Current affairs show about now-small stories that are expected to become more important in the future. I used to listen to this but got really annoyed with one of the regular guests and so stopped. She might not be on it any more and/or you might not find her annoying.
  • Reasons to be Cheerful – Each episode focusses on either a problem for which there are some emerging solutions, or a single large solution to a problem. The focus is on upcoming political positives and improvements.

I’ve never really listened to My Dad Wrote A Porno but it is very popular. It’s three people reading a dirty romance novel someone (the father of one of the presenters) wrote really badly and commenting on how badly written it is.

Garmin Zumo 346 “Review”

I’ve spent a long time using various Android phones and apps to navigate on a motorbike, and mostly been unimpressed with dedicated satnavs. I’ve written a not-unbiased comparison of dedicated units with phones and generally while I’m not completely satisfied with the app offerings, they do seem better than using a dedicated unit.

I did, though, find myself with a surprise £350 and thought I’d figure out what the fuss is about; I bought a Garmin 346 LM in September 2018 (shortly after its release) and here I’ve noted down my first impression, my opinion after using it for its first week-long trip, and again about ten months later. I’ve been editing this ‘backwards’ so that the most-recent opinion is at the top.

Garmin Zumo showing route


In conclusion

It’s now September 2020 I’ve been using this for a couple of years during which there’s been many one-day rides, fewer extended trips, a bunch of trail riding, an awful lot of routine “take me to this postcode”, 3 months going to and around Poland, and I think I’ve formed a proper opinion.

It’s in a box on a shelf and hasn’t come out for a few months. I don’t benefit from using it over my phone.

The good

Contrary to my initial assumptions, there’s some things it does well

  • The mounting bracket is very good – one-handed fitting or removal of the unit, and it’s obviously always automatically charging. It comes with a complete RAM mount.
  • As promised, the screen does not go bonkers in the rain; combined with the powered mount you don’t need to think about the rain at all.
  • It can be set to always track your route, so if the device is on you don’t need to think about whether to start tracking or not.

The not-so-good

garmin fuel-gague warning

There’s also a few things that are good ideas that just feel a bit unfinished; it’s not-as-good as the competition but does still function:

  • Perhaps most surprisingly, it’s bad at showing maps. It takes a long time to render maps (such as when scrolling or zooming), the image quality  of the mapping is poor (presumably a function of the low screen res) and the density of information makes it hard to recognise which area is being looked at. The Talky Toaster maps resolve the last of this, but at the expense of proper routing – you cannot show one set of maps while navigating with another. Here’s a video showing how long it takes to plot a 50mi route:
  • There is a Garmin phone app which allows you to send points to the device from your phone, so you can find a POI in your satnav of choice, or using Google maps, and ‘share’ it to the Garmin. The process is clunky and only mostly-reliable. It does work, but it feels more 2004 than 2019. It also requires the phone have a mobile data connection for some reason. An update to the unit allowed for the sending of GPX files over bluetooth.
  • The search is still leftover from the ’90s. The norm for satnav apps is to have a search box into which you can enter a postcode, or an address, or the name of a business and it’ll just find it. The garmin has no such thing, and you instead need to navigate to the “postcode” box, or  differently to the “City” one to enter a whole address, or open “Foursquare” to search by business. There is something that looks like it will just search everything, but I’ve never managed to use it to find where I’m going and I’m still not sure what it’s actually supposed to be for.
  • It’s not clear what the difference is between searching ‘Foursquare’ or ‘Tripadvisor’, but many things are in both, and many things are also only in one or the other. Quite a lot of POIs are in neither; mostly I transcribe postcodes from my phone.
  • Garmin’s way of routing using specific roads is using a “shaping point”. When you’re in the mode for adding these to a route you can’t zoom in as far as you can in other modes, which is frustrating when what you want to do is put a point at a specific part of the map. There’s also no confirmation when you add a point – it immediately starts calculating the route – which is frustrating with the mix of poor zoom level, poor screen quality and fat fingers.
  • There’s a relatively-useful fuel tracker, where you set a tank range and it can warn you when you’re at only 10% or 15% or whatever of fuel-range left. When this is on, though, every time you start the bike you get a full-screen warning telling you that it is strictly only for bike use and not car use, which you have to tap on to close. The only way to see the currently-remaining fuel range is to add it to the navigation screen, but in that case it’s only populated when the device has a satellite fix,  so you cannot consult it while indoors at a cafe planning the next leg of the trip.
  • One of my favourite functions of CoPilot is the ‘On Route Alerts’ which means you can have an icon display on the app when there’s a POI in one or more of your chosen categories within 50 miles, and you can tap on it to route to it. I set that to show petrol stations and if that’s not displaying by the time my fuel range countdown reckons I’ve ~75 miles left I’ll pull over and find a petrol station. I was expecting Garmin’s “Up Ahead” feature to be this, but it isn’t: it cannot be set to only display things on-route so there is no way to use it passively – you always need to tap through the menu to find out where the thing is. It also can’t be set to show only petrol stations, you must set three categories.
  • It doesn’t automatically-adjust the screen brightness, which I probably only find surprising because most phones can do that and it seems weird to need to find the brightness setting manually these days.

The Bad

  • There’s some sort of Garmin-specific GPX or something. I don’t know the details, but GPXes that are produced by things other than Basecamp and work in other navigators frequently go a bit wrong. You won’t know this when you load the route, but at some point during the day it’ll become a line of flags.
  • It can’t be set to work in portrait mode, only landscape, which is odd on a device whose main purpose is to show what’s coming up.
  • The maps are out of date – there’s a series of junction changes in Central London that predate this device existing by several years, and are not represented on the latest maps. The device is best ignored when navigating around London (and presumably other large cities?) and I don’t know what to recommend to people who don’t know their way round there.
  • When you plug in the USB cable, the device will count down 20 seconds before presenting itself to the PC. There is no way to skip this.
  • Converting from a GPX track to Garmin’s internal idea of a route can take between 30 and 60 seconds for a 100mi route with four or five waypoints, during which the device can turn itself off because it thinks it’s not being used unless you tap on the screen to keep it awake.

First Trip

Garmin navigating down a trail called "Holloway Road"

(October 2018) I went round a bit of the TET and used the Garmin as my main navigation tool for it. The idea was to just follow the GPX downloaded from and follow it, occasionally routing off it to find things like petrol stations.

The Garmin is very good at drawing a line on a map, which is all it can reasonably do with a GPX that involves trails; even with the Talky Toaster OSM maps it was very unreliable at turn-by-turn on the trail. I wasn’t comparing directly (and I’ve never ridden those trails before) but it felt much less useful than Locus Maps’ off-road navigation.

While the Garmin Connect app lets you send locations to the satnav, you can’t send routes (this was added in a later update to the device). The only reasonable way to plan routes mid-trip is to use a USB OTG cable and/or micro-sd card reader. The unreasonable-but-expected way is to just carry a laptop with you. Basecamp also needs a mouse, since you need the scroll wheel to zoom.

I tried using the tools I’m used to (Viewranger and Locus Maps on Android) to create GPXes and send them to the Garmin to create on-road routes but it always complained that there were too many “waypoints” and offered to convert them to “shaping points”. I don’t know what the difference is, but often I seemed to get the right sort of routes, though I don’t know how reliable this is.

So, generally, I stuck to having it just draw the GPX route and follow it by keeping an eye on the screen, which is fine at dirt-bike speeds. I did try to use it to find things to use (petrol stations, cafes, etc.) and it seemed strangely bad at this – it was always faster and easier to use my phone and either transcribe the postcode – so I think I must have missed something, and will read the manual when I’m back.

I think that most of the obvious failings of the device – that you can’t really use it for viewing maps because the screen resolution is so poor – is probably explainable as a result of it needing to be a resistive touch screen, and those having a poor resolution. I’ve not really researched it but I want to believe there’s good reason my £350 navigation device is so bad at navigation.

I can now see myself using this for trail riding and off-road biased trips where I can create a GPX route and send it to the device and have it drawn on the map. I haven’t yet worked out how I’d make it work on an extended road-riding trip where I’ll need something less prone to reinterpretation than a GPX route, but I haven’t yet looked.

Second Impressions

(September 2018) I’ve resolved to try to not have fully decided how good an idea this was until at least post-Christmas, but from a first week-and-weekend’s riding (some commuting, two blood runs and a day’s errand-running) this is better than my phone at:

  • Plugging in one-handed
  • Not worrying about charging
  • Always being a satnav and never pulling out of a cafe with Instagram still open

And worse because it:

  • Keeps sending me to petrol stations that haven’t existed for five years
  • Takes ages to figure out where it is
  • Takes a long time to recalculate routes (it’s always quicker to just muddle back onto it)
  • Is impractical to use to plan/plot a route
  • Has a really poor trip-overview display

I expect some of this this will get better and the rest just more-acceptable with time, but I’ve really not had the “why didn’t I do this sooner” thing that I keep hearing about other people doing.

The “Favourites” feature is very crude and unconfigurable but the Garmin Connect app installs itself as a mapping thing, so when you “open” a location on the phone (from a calendar event, say) you can send it to the satnav. I suspect that I’ll carry on using my phone for storing locations and whatnot, and just send them to the satnav as I’m used to sending it to a satnav app.

I think it’s worth having, but I can’t see myself becoming one of those people who advises other people buy one. This is definitely lacking in almost every way compared to CoPilot and friends, and I’m not (yet) convinced that that’s just familiarity.

First Impressions

It’s 20th September and it’s arrived!

Out of the box, first impressions are not great; they’re still using the USB socket that’s so old that I know it as “the one GoPro still use”, and I don’t even have a GoPro (or any of those cables):

The bracketry is all easy to fit and the lead’s surprisingly long and thin; the 12v/5v step-down box is partly along the wire so it’s easy to have that hidden away under the plastics.

I immediately tried to set it to portrait mode but can’t find that in the menu, might have to actually read the manual!

Buying a dedicated satnav

I misunderstood a bonus scheme and have £350 that I didn’t expect to have. I intend to use this to figure out what I’ve been missing all these years by avoiding dedicated satnavs.

The two brands that make bike satnavs are TomTom and Garmin. TomTom’s cannot be loaded up with a GPX file that goes off-road so I can’t go with one of them, even though they look more polished. Garmin it is!

There’s three Garmin lines – the Zumos are their road bike devices, have the widest selection of features and are the most-modern; the Montana is specifically aimed at off-road riding; and the Monterra is actually an Android device and so may solve all my problems.

The Monterra is an Android 4 device (Android 5 came out in 2014; 4 years ago at time of writing; 8 is current) so even if the apps I like now do work on it, it’s likely they will stop at some point in the future. This was clearly Garmin’s experiment with Android, and they’ve sadly decided to not keep it up.

The Montana is the one everyone recommends, because it’s got an ‘off road’ mode and an ‘on road’ one. The off-road mode doesn’t appear to add anything the Zumo’s don’t do; it’s not any more aware of rights of way than the road-mode one and is still largely used to display GPX routes. The on-road mode is much more primitive than that found on the Zumos. It looks like the OS maps for the Montanas can be loaded onto the Zumos.

The Zumo can be loaded up with an off-road map (courtesy of TalkyToaster, who is recommended for the Montanas over Garmin’s mapping anyway) and can have a GPX file displayed over the top. While you can trivially switch between off-road and on-road on the Montana, it seems you can do similar on the Zumo just by changing the display mode for the map. It’s also got the much-better road mode, and the modern ones have some sort of smartphone syncing.

I’m going to get a modern Garmin.



Front Axle Allen Key14mm
Rear Axle Nut22mm
Chain Slack40-50mm
Spark PlugNGK CR7E
Front Brake PadsEBC FA209/2
Rear Brake PadsEBC FA213
(fill 2L, pause to let it flow down, fill last 0.9L)

Equivalent parts

The brake pads are the same (both front and rear) as a Husky 701

Footpegs are compatible with the XT250 (08-18), YZ/WR 125/250/500 (91-96), YZ80 (91-04), XTZ750 Super Ten (89-18) and Husky TC85:


“What tools do you carry” is something that’s come up a few times on forums I’m on recently, and the raft of issues at the Taffy last week vindicated my tool selection :)

On any ride that I think about, I take my tool roll. This is generally on the Tiger 800 or WR450, but other people break down, too, so aside from the spark plug tools there’s nothing bike-specific.

The photo on the right is what’s in the little pouch:

In the roll, left-to-right:

In the little pouch, that’s:

There’s also usually a couple of 25mm jubilee clips, but I’d just used them prior to taking that photo. And there used to be a spare battery for the multimeter, but I’ve used and not-replaced that, too :)

You can also see the Stop-n-Go puncture repair kit in the background below; that lives in the US5 along with the tool roll. It’s very easy to pack the tool roll to be too-big to fit in the US5; this was all pared down last year in order to easily fit into it.

The tool roll is a Kriega one and while it’s great, the Enduristan and Mosko Moto ones both look better to me (though I’ve used neither). I’ve had this for about three years it’s worn *really* well though – some of the elastic’s a little less tight than it was before, but it’s almost as good as new.


Under my seat, I’ve always got this lot:


In an order that will hopefully become apparent, that’s

There’s also an OBD/ELM reader that I always have, and use either the Torque Lite or Piston apps on my phone to read the error codes.

This stuff all fits in a bit like this:

On the left, the Motobatt battery is lower than the OE one by enough that the compressor fits on top of the battery (only with the seat in the higher position) and its strap. I wedge the front axle tool in under there, too. The brake & clutch lever are stuffed under the intake, and the insulation tape and cable repair stuff just kicks around by the fuses. Normally the OBD reader’s either in there, too, or plugged in.

The clutch cable fits under the bracing arm with the VIN on it (you can see it poking out from the right in the left photo) with both ends disappearing off under the tail (which is also where the breathalysers, and cable-ties are stuffed). The Park Tool and Leatherman fit under that bar, the 22/27 spanner behind one of the clips on the side and the jump leads sit under where my chain normally goes.

IP address changes

All my IP addresses have rather hurriedly changed. If you’re using the names below, you’ll be fine and when the DNS changes propagate (~3h) everything will work again.

If you’re not, you’ll need to update things. Ideally to using the names :) is now the same IP address as, not just the same host.

Old New Name

Tiger 800

Here’s a load of info about the Tiger 800. I’ve got a 2012 one, so this is mostly about that shape, but I’ve noted where I know things are irrelevant to the new ones. Expect this to change as I find things. :)

I’ve a manual, data sheet and service schedule for the bike (pre-2015), here:

And, thanks to Matt McLelland, there’s a manual for the 2016-on ones here:

If you’re looking for exploded diagrams and genuine parts, Fowlers are good for those. World Of Triumph also have exploded diagrams, but they use their own part numbers and don’t warn you of things not being in stock before you order them.

Muddy Sump is generally taken as the go-to for tutorials on how to work on the bike. He’s also a roving mechanic, who’ll come to your house and fix your bike (in the UK).

I don’t know how to tell which OBD readers work on the Triumphs, but what I use is apparently a ‘mini ELM327 OBD2 v1.5’. I’ve heard that OBD v2.x readers will not work, because the Triumph ECU doesn’t support the negotiation. I use the Torque app on my phone to read the data.

I’ve replaced the mirrors on mine with natty folding ones that Wemoto reckon are for a KTM 950. They solve more problems for me than the fantastically expensive Double-Takes, and only cost £15.

It’s a great bike for all the reasons the reviews generally go on about, but there’s a couple of nice little touches that are often missed:

  • The XC and roadie cockpits are interchangeable, so you can raise/lower the bars by swapping risers, and get the same-shaped wider or narrower bars by swapping those. Tiger 1200 bars are a common switch, too.
  • It is approximately balanced on the centrestand with no luggage – you can stably tip it on to either wheel, and can remove either wheel without needing anything to prop the other end up.


Front axle allen key17mm
Rear axle nut27mm (12mm & 13mm for the chain adjusters)
Chain slackRoadie: 15 - 25mm
XC: 20 - 30mm
Spark plugNGK CR9EK - 16mm socket
Front brake padsEBC: FA226
Ferodo: FDB570
OE: T2020377
Rear brake pads EBC: FA140
Ferodo: FDB531
OE: T2020602
Oil3.6L 10w40
Coolant~2.5L OAT
Front tyreRoadie: 110/80 19 or 110/90 19
XC: 90/90 21
Rear tyre150/70 17

Common Problems

It’s not without its flaws, though. Here’s a list of issues I’ve had/noticed, hopefully in descending order of bad-ness:

  • The starter tends to fail relatively quickly (20-30K miles). The 675 engine uses the same part, and Speed Triple ones are often cheaper than those from another Tiger. The problem is the brushes wearing out very quickly, and it looks and feels like a flat battery. The problem, really, is high load (from the poor contact) rather than a flat battery. Not-fixing this for a bit does tend to ruin the battery though. Generally, this is more of a problem on warm engines; left for a couple of hours (or overnight) mine would start immediately.
  • The throttle idle stepper motor stops working if it gets excessively dusty, and it’s not the sort of thing you normally clean. It’s basically the replacement for the idle screw on a carb, and there are people who’ve converted this to use the Daytona’s manual adjuster. It’s easiest sorted with the tank and top of the airbox off (do it when changing the air filter), but you can get a solvent spray on it without taking the tank off when you know where it is – I doused mine with GT-85 at about 20K and as of this writing (60K) it’s been fine. It doesn’t stop the bike working, just means it doesn’t idle. The stepper-motor doesn’t exist on the post-15 bikes (the three-letter ones, XCX, XCA, XRX, XRT) so can’t be a problem there.
  • The stock suspension on the roadie is terrible off-road (really over-damped) and the XC’s variously regarded as a bit better or sorted. Andreani make a cartridge kit for ~£500 (brexit might change this) which adds adjustment, and completely sorted it out for me; they’ve no UK importer so I bought from Italian Ebay. The WP stuff on the post-15 bikes is generally regarded as sorted.
  • There’s a load of stuff hanging out the front of the engine at the bottom, which is a bit of a dirt-collector and makes it all a bit likely to rot (hence the jubilee clip). R&G will sell you a mesh protector for it, but that’ll only stop rocks, really. It’s worth covering the jubilee clips in inner-tube, and generally keeping all that clean. The XC’s bashguard is much more protective, but the whole area does still get dirty.
  • The main fuse is underneath the battery, which makes it tricky to replace on an unlit road in the dark when it’s raining etc. The ancillary fuses are easy to get at (under the rider’s seat, by the battery) and there’s gaps for spares. The main fuse is a normal car-sized 30A blade fuse, the rest are micro blade fuses.
  • If you blow the headlight fuse, the bike won’t start; I think this is part of a ‘safety’ circuit.
  • When refilling the coolant, be really patient and do all the burping, and still expect airlocks. I don’t know why, but the bike seems prone to them. Also, don’t forget about the bleed screw on the top-right of the radiator.
  • There’s basically no sealing of the underseat area – it just fills with mud if you ride in the wet, and with dust if you ride in the dry. It’s also possible to eventually drown the battery and main fuse like this so you need to check this (and clear the drain hole) periodically; the relays are on the way down for the mud and dirt, too, so it’s worth cleaning those, too. Mine drowned after 56K of neglect.
  • The clutch cable rubs on and eventually through the upper fork leg. I’ve heard of people getting these replaced under warranty. and of other people being refused it.
  • The rear shock linkage is the lowest point on the bike, just sort-of dangling there waiting to get twatted by a rock. I’ve not seen a bashplate that’ll protect it.
  • The downpipes sometimes rot really quickly (mine had holes in at 45K); Triumph seem aware of this; mine were replaced under (but out of) warranty.
  • Nobody makes a folding rear brake lever for it
  • The bit of the frame that sticks out the front and holds the headlight unit is welded to the frame and bolted to the lights, so a front-end impact’s likely to write-off the frame.


I’d booked a few days off work for a trip to Germany that Mian was planning, but then he crashed and couldn’t afford to go. I’ve made a few attempts at getting to Scotland in the past, each scuppered by other plans being made, and I’ve been hankering to have a go at a trip on my own, so it seemed sensible to take the five days to get to John O’Groats and back.

A quick fiddle with Furkot suggested that I had something like 1700 miles to cover in five days, which I rounded to 300 miles per day almost immediately before deciding that 300 miles was a reasonable day’s riding. My rear tyre was awfully squared off so the obvious solution seemed to be blat it up the M1 and M6 past all the lovely places I’ve already seen, then get a new tyre fitted at or near the border. And I might as well do that after work on the Thursday (I’d booked the Friday, Monday and Tuesday off).


So I booked the bike in for a new tyre at a Triumph shop in Carlisle on Friday morning and set about finding somewhere cheap and not-too-bad to stay. I ended up booking at the Travelodge at Kendal which wasn’t really success.

Thursday – London to Kendal

Well, this was the easy bit. I’ve long had a strong aversion to motorways on the grounds that I’m riding a motorbike and not driving a lorry, but a couple of trips (most notably leaving work one evening for Harwich and being in Cologne by about 11 the next day) have convinced me to give them a go.

So I worked from home, left at half four, jumped on the M1 and then the M6 and, aside from a brief error onto the M42 and A5, just made progress and dispatched with 250 miles in quite pleasant weather ahead of most of the traffic without once getting distracted by all the fantastic places I was zipping past.


Friday – Kendal to Fort William

Breakfast was at Tebay services (the farm shop one) where I also bought the bits required to fashion a battery charger for my camera since I’d neither charged the camera nor brought a working charger for it. I paused again at Carlisle to get a new tyre and fawn over the new Tigers, before cracking on up through Gretna Green to Glasgow

I’d noticed by now that I’d forgotten to pack a number of things – I had no fuel bottle for my stove, no chain lube at all and while I’d brought a pot to cook in I had no cup to drink out of and no fork or spoon to eat with, so I paused in Glasgow a little longer than I’d intended to.

Heading out of Glasgow past Dumbarton, up alongside Loch Lomond and over Glen Coe was a fantastic suggestion of what was to come from Scotland:


That last photo’s from when I stopped because the temperature gague had been flashing at me in that way that suggested that something’s gone awfully wrong. It’s a weird place for an engine to overheat – a fast, empty road in a country not really known for its high temperatures. I briefly realised I’d never actually fixed the fan after it broke in Germany last year, and then actually had a look:


That’s not really supposed to do that. A handy local stopped as I was wondering what on earth to bodge that together with – I think he was on an air-cooled BMW but I’ll forgive him.

He said that the petrol station on the way into Glen Coe was about 5 miles away and stocked “basically everything”. I somewhat pointlessly filled the coolant system up out of my camelbak (another good reason to only ever have water in there) and cracked on past some more lovely scenery to fix it.

During the application of Magic Network Rail Tape (I think that’s its technical name) and some jubilee clips I heard the familiar sound of an approaching BMW flat twin. Fortunately, this was a water-cooled one so the rider couldn’t gloat, but he did advise me that the ferry I was hoping to catch first thing in the morning from Mallaig (about an hour and a half away still) to Skye was likely full and that I might end up waiting for hours if I turned up without a crossing booked.

He left on his way once I’d persuaded him that I thought the thing was fixed – I decided I’d see how far I could get towards Mallaig and book the ferry when I was reasonably convinced I’d be able to get onto it. After several scares that were just reminders of how carefully this engine needs its coolant bleeding, as I reached Fort William I decided I’d definitely be able to make the ferry in the morning and I ought to book a ticket.

The earliest available crossing was at 16:20, so I found a campsite nearby instead.


Saturday – Fort William to Thurso

I woke up in the morning and reasoned that the current bodge had been ‘fine’ for the couple of hours it took to get to the campsite and it didn’t really look like it had leaked overnight so it was probably fixed, and headed across to Applecross.

Regardless of how much better it might have been to go across Skye (and, really, the only draw for me had been the ferry) I didn’t feel I’d missed much by just cracking on down the main road.

The Applecross road is one that I’ve heard much mention of but never really looked into – I didn’t really know what to expect. The road to the beginning (in Tornapress) is delightful. There’s a singletrack railway alongside it with a lovely lake the other side, and the odd tunnel.

But delightful as that is, the Applecross pass is just a wonderful mountain pass. Almost entirely singletrack with the odd passing place and not a lot of crash barrier, generally poorly surfaced and set in some wonderfully distracting scenery:

Applecross itself is a nice seaside village, providing both a good car park in which to deal with the failure of last night’s bodge and a nice community-owned petrol pump:

Since I’d just rebodged the hose again (and the hole was bigger this time) I thought it would be best to head straight for a town to get some better supplies for this. It also seemed sensible to head fairly directly for the campsite (at Thurso) with a view to getting there early enough to effect a proper repair and then leave it overnight for any glue to set.

This was annoying – in Applecross I was about halfway up the West coast of Scotland, and Thurso is essentially the East end of the North coast. The bit of Scotland that I really wanted to see was the North-East corner, and here I was planning to skirt right round it.

I sighed and thought I’d just take the most major road I could find to the next town that was remotely on the way

Ah well, I’ll go back over the Applecross pass if I must :)

I pulled into a Tesco in Dingwall in order to top up on Cup-a-Soup sachets, but as I parked up I heard the familiar sound of spraying water and looked down to see my front tyre getting another soaking out of the now slightly-displaced Applecross bodge. I headed into town and found a hardware shop.

The original bodge had been Network Rail Magic Tape and jubilee clips, to which I later added duct tape. The second had been thicker self-amalgamating tape and duct tape (and jubilee clips) but this time I sought advice from ‘Papa Greenbury’ who suggested a glue to really fill the gaps. I Uhu-glued some duct tape in place, then added some circlips and thought I’d better leave that to set so went off in search of a Wispa.

By now, this had gone from being a fairly entertaining problem that’s just adding some jeopardy and interest to an otherwise run-of-the-mill trip to something a bit annoying. I was stopping frequently to top up the water and couldn’t really claim to believe my own lie that all I was doing was replacing air that had bled out. Also, all that glorious countryside was just over to my left as I ‘progressed’ up a main road.

There’s basically no photos from the next five hours – I just smashed it up the A9 trying to get to Thurso before it all blew up.

As I pulled into Brora (about 50 miles short of Thurso) the overheating light came on again and I coasted into a petrol station. Here I noticed that the radiator was cold, so the system was empty again; I set about filling it up and told myself that if I properly bled it as well, then I’d probably get most of the way to Thurso on that.

While I was doing that, a man on a Fireblade pulled up into the petrol station and asked if I needed a hand. This had happened a lot by now, and it’s really nice to have all these offers of help. But it’s also a bit annoying how few people (myself included) happen to carry around with them all the tools to repair a steel coolant pipe.

I tried to dismiss this offer, too – “yeah, there’s a hole in a steel coolant pipe, I’m just topping it up and I’ll be fine” but he wasn’t so easily dissuaded – “you wont get anywhere on that. My house is 11 miles up the road, and I’m sure my son will be able to sort that out”.

It seemed a daft offer to refuse, so I headed up there. A few hours later I’d been introduced to three or four generations of the family, all of whom had multiple bikes in various places and, perhaps more importantly, had had a nice plate welded up over the hole in the seriously-quite-degraded pipe. It was absolutely amazing – I cut short an MX session when they were called back from the track, then six people basically spent their evening fixing this complete stranger’s bike.

I left at about eight, just after dusk and thought I’d crack on up to Thurso – I still had 60-odd miles to cover. At the first bit of unlit road I flipped to full-beam and everything went dark… So I’ve got an electrical issue whereby when I use the full-beam circuit something shorts to ground and blows the fuse, taking out the dipped beam, too. Also, presumably in an effort to protect me from myself, the bike won’t start with non-working headlights (this seems more sensible now I’ve written it down).

I got to Thurso very late and tired and also *incredibly* low on fuel – I’d forgotten to actually fill up when the nice man took me off for some welding. Luckily the petrol station on the way into Thurso was still open (just!) since according to the range countdown on the bike I only had fuel for about an extra mile beyond the campsite.


Sunday – Thurso to Dundee, via Aberdeen

I slept incredibly well that night. Perhaps partly because of how tiring Saturday had been, and largely because I forgot to set an alarm and woke with a bit of a start a little after 9. I headed into town for a quick look around, and then on to Dunnet Head (the british mainland’s most northerly point) for breakfast.

That box ticked I headed for John O’Groats. I’ve been to Land’s End a few times and it’s brilliantly tragic and anticlimactic. I expected the same from John O’Groats.

What I got was the finish line to the “Ride Across Britain” and a bunch of closed shops.

which, in a way, was even better than I was expecting.

I’d arranged to meet Alan in Aberdeen on the way down. I can’t remember quite how long ago he moved there but I’ve been saying I’ll come and visit ever since, and he’s moving to Australia at the end of the month so it was about time I actually did that. On the way to Aberdeen I called in and delivered a crate of energy drink and a pile of cake to the family of welders – they’d said that was most appropriate!

And then on down towards Inverness. This is a lovely part of the world for a Triumph owner; all the oil refining means that the smell of hot engine oil that so often means another problem is actually just part of the scenery.

On the way I passed a sign for “Nigg”, which I followed rather optimistically hoping for a sign to something that’s both appropriate and funny. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I did find a cheeky ferry:

At this point I was still regarding the welded-up pipe as just the latest incarnation of the bodge, and I was a bit confident that if it all goes wrong Alan’s probably got something I can use to fix it. Since there’s a large bit of seawater in the way of my doing anything else I headed down and across to Inverness and then out along the fast-but-dull main road to Aberdeen.

I was still running a couple of hours behind because of the relaxing sleep in, and my plan required I get at least as far south as Dundee for the night. I got to Alan’s still with a not-leaking bike, and found that Aberdeen is almost exactly as unremarkably not-bad on first impression as everyone says. I left rather late after dark and headed straight down to a campsite just past Dundee.


Monday – Dundee to Whitby

With the whole of Sunday having gone without a coolant leak this was the first day that could just go as planned, but I’d also not actually planned this far ahead. Whitby seemed a good aim for the night (being about half way home) and Edinburgh, Kielder and the North York Moors are all on the way there.

So, I headed down through Edinburgh past the Forth Bridge and to the difficult-to-photograph-from-a-bike castle.

I Edinburgh I met a courier at a petrol station who recommended the A68 South-East as something “fun, with corners and no cameras” which was broadly accurate. I followed that down to Jedburgh where I turned West so I’d cross the border straight into Kielder National Park.

On the way I passed what turned out to be a Waterloo Momument.

Apparently you can’t drive there, and instead have to park up and walk which I didn’t bother with. I did, however, find a train station up an unpaved road:

Now that the bike wasn’t leaking it all got a bit consistent – I just carried on riding over the border, through Kielder, past a funny-named town and over the Tyne at Newcastle.

I hadn’t realised how suburban the Angel of the North was – I expected it to be on the way to Newcastle from the south, but it’s a bit of a way into it. And while there’s a handy layby for taking photos of it from the northern carriageway, anyone heading south must take photos as they go.

It had to happen eventually on a Scotland trip, and as I rolled in to Whitby it started raining.

Annoyingly this is the first time I managed to get to a campsite early enough that I could spend the evening sitting around and relaxing rather than just sticking up a tent and going to bed, so I sat in my tent and hid from the rain for a bit.


Tuesday – Whitby to London

The morning wasn’t a lot better. As I left Whitby the rain paused and it just felt like it was going to rain soon. But I spent long enough deviating round York and going over the Humber bridge for the rain to catch up.

On the way out of Hull, I saw a three-digit motorway which I thought I may as well go on for the novelty, where the much-predicted finally happened and I dropped the camera…

It was fine and working, but missing a bit of the case so no-longer waterproof. Given the weather, I didn’t really take any more photos on the otherwise quite plain-sailing rest of the ride home.


So, all up that’s about 1500 miles in five days which is quite doable but perhaps not something I’d inflict on anybody else; lunches were in petrol stations and with the mechanical problems there was no time to do anything besides riding the thing.

I definitely missed out a bunch of things that would’ve been really good – distilleries, the whole north-west corner, any form of interaction with the locals besides buying their petrol, the islands – and it was at least a little more stressful than I’d have liked. I’ve definitely got to get back, but with ten days or so…


Even more pictures are here and the Viewranger tracks are a bit split-up:

Work to Kendal
Kendal to Fort William
Fort William to Thurso
Thurso to Aberdeen and Aberdeen to Dundee
Dundee to Whitby
Whitby to Home