Fairwell Travelling Companion

It’s a really hard decision that I have been putting off for a while now, but the time has come to say goodbye. With two bikes in the garage, and only one body to ride them with at any one time, I have decided to sell one of the bikes.

I just cannot justify having more than one bike at this stage in my life. I fully plan and expect to have loads of bikes when I’m older, but… While the tax, insurance and MOT each year is not very much. And the maintenance is not excessive because she is in very good condition, given her age and mileage. I now have 2 adventure tourer bikes, one with a 650cc engine and the other with a 1000cc. I’m not covering monster miles anymore, and I’m not commuting on the bike, so comfort and reliability are not essential. Mostly I’m just going on 1-2 hour blasts around the peak district, or maybe a long weekend away so I’m going to keep the bike that is the most fun.

I’m keeping the Ducati

I’m selling the Versys

I put together the advert and felt quite sad listing all the little modifications and changes that I had made over the years. All the fixes, repairs and replacements I’ve done make her entirely unique in the world of bikes. They each remind me of an event in her life that will now only be prodded to mind by flicking through old photos of past excursions.

These trips started WAY before this blog did, so I’m just going to list a few of the events that stick out in my head so when I read back through this one day, I’ll have more detail than just a photo.

I collected her from North London with Gen. I rode her bike there and then she followed me back on my brand new Versys. I was super nervous taking her out for the first time in London traffic but got her home and parked her on the drive in the gleaming July sun in 2009. 

The first trip was up to Scotland about a month later with my family. It was great fun with Mum in the big Renault Espace as a backup and support vehicle and Dad and David on their bikes. We went all the way up to the very north coast and back again, camping as we went. 

The bike was run in and serviced and then I took off into Europe for my “Big Tour”. This route went from London – Dover – Calais – Lyon – Geneva – Chur – Stelvio Pass – Lake Garda – Milan – Turin – Digne – Monaco – Nimes – Andorra – Barcelona – Valencia – Alicante – Albox and our house in Taberno for a short visit and a stop in Almeria. Then returned straight up the center of Spain through places unknown to Bilbao where we caught a ship home. Apart from the trip being amazing in its entirety and something I recommend everyone take a month out to complete, a few bits stuck out to me. 

  • Meeting Stephen in Lyon where he was skating at the time and having my first take away kebab (which was disgusting). 
  • The Stelvio pass, which was way too busy to enjoy, compared to the lesser known and vastly superior road called Albula Pass
  • Being treated like dirt by the Italians on Lake Garda and deciding to leave Italy directly. 
  • Making friends with a GS riding chap on the outskirts of Turin and him showing me the decent roads over the mountains into France and down to Monaco where he was crewing a ship. 
  • Riding the Monaco grand prix circuit on my bike loaded with camping gear.. 
  • Snapping and then fixing a clutch cable somewhere near Nimes, and then carrying a tin of bike cables with me forever more. 
  • Getting progressively colder and more wet riding up into the clouds entering Andorra because I had only brought summer gear with me. 
  • Cruising out of Andorra and feeling my fingers thaw out the further down into Spain I rode. 
  • Meeting Dad in Badelona (just along from Barcelona) in a hostel and cooking food on the balcony on my camp stove. 
  • Bombing it down to our friends in Albox and Almeria who were stunned we had ridden so far. 
  • Stopping in a creepy motel in the middle of the spanish desert that had loads of taxidermy rabbits in historic army uniforms toting plastic rifles… 
  • Boarding a ship and sailing back to England which categorically excluded the possibility that I committed an alleged hit and run at the same time in north London…

And that was just one trip!

The Versys was my main source of transport for years and as such I travelled to most of the university climbing club trips on her, and other climbing adventures across the UK. We regularly head over to Wales and I remember the joy of swooping along the roads after a weekend of climbing. 

It was also the mundane things in life. Commuting became the most fun part of the day – especially when one day of university was solid maths. Also, going for a big tesco shop was great fun because I’d put the panniers in a trolley and then fill them with cans of baked beans, soups, pasta and sauce. The checkout girl thought I was mad, but there was no choice, because I had to make sure it would all fit on the bike!

I also started a short lived motorcycle society at university which only 2 people showed up to. We went out for the occasional ride out, and watched some racing but it wasn’t much more than that haha!

Two separate times I biked back out into France. The first time with climbing gear on the back along with all my camping stuff, on a long trip in 3 parts. The first part was a biking trip with Stephen, my brother and father. Well no sooner had we arrived in France than dad fell asleep at the handlebars and collided with the motorway barrier at 70mph, breaking a rib and his foot and writing off his brand new bike (also a Versys) After patching him up and sending him home, David and Stephen an I carried on and made it to Barcelona. Here we had a great time competing for the affections of a beautiful girl from the netherlands who took us to a local spanish taverna and got us wasted on Sangria. After her promiscuous promises of a bed for the night fell short, we unwisely biked back to our hostel pissed… Never again. 

The next parts started when I left the lads at the Millau viaduct and headed to Gorges Du Verdon. This is where I met Claire from uni and a friend she had made in Slovakia, Rhiannon (who later became a girlfriend) along with Mat (1T), Sei and her brother Hume. It was a great little group and we spent a week and half climbing the cliffs and swimming in the turquoise lake beneath. 

After that I biked across the width of France and slept in a bush at the end of the airport funway waiting for my London friends to arrive. Once the plane had woken me by landing on my head we all met up and headed to a friend’s house in Sainte Foy La Grande, near Bergerac. This was a full on pissup for a week in the sun with a pool and bikini-clad-babes. After many nights of drinking, games and fun, it was time to head back to the UK. Because it was so fun, I had left it to the last minute to set off and realised I had only 1 day to get to Calais for my ferry. 

That journey remains the furthest I have ever traveled in one day by bike (or car) and the most worrying journey I have ever made. Aside from literally getting down to my last £10 and having to wait in a 24h fuel stop for someone to take my cash and let me use their card to fill the bike… The trip was a solid 16 hours of biking, flat out, all day and into the night. I caught the ferry, barely and then got only a few hours kip before I was in the UK and the only place I had to go was home. The worrying part was that I don’t remember the full length of the M20 and think I must have slipped into an exhausted trance as I powered along to get home fighting sleep all the way. My neck hurt for a month after that day riding from keeping my helmet aloft for so long.

I crossed the peak district multiple times, while living in Staffordshire, to see Stephen who was now in Sheffield. The most notable of which was on approach to Christmas where it was bitterly cold and I took the A53 up over to Buxton. The snow started on the rise to the Roaches and before I knew it, I was knee deep and crawling along at 5 mph sliding my feet along the slush to stay upright. I was battered by wind and frozen to the bone but I made it to buxton and didn’t want to go back again because it was far too dangerous so I carried on (some would say stupidly) and spent a few days in Sheffield. I think I missed the last week of my classes that year. Of course, to get to London for Christmas proper, I had to travel the length of the M1 which was miserable. Stopping at every other service station to use the heated hand dryers to warm my gloves and boots to prevent my extremities freezing solid. Even riding along with my hands on the engine, didn’t barely help. It was the coldest I have ever been on a motorbike.

We went to Scotland with Stephen, heading for another rendezvous at John O Groats. Everything was going really well, until I broke down. This was right at the top of scotland, almost as far north as you can get. The stator had melted from overuse of the heated grips (well it was Scotland in August…) and a replacement wasn’t available for a week. Stephen carried on to JoG and I got 3 different vans and trucks back to Banbury with the Versys over the next 24 hours…

I repaired her and installed a superior Stator and Charging circuit and followed some advice online about which connectors to use. The major components were fine, but the connectors were duff and failed on me coming back from Oxford one night. A friend came out with some spares so I could make a roadside fix and it worked, apart from when I bump started the bike, the chain whipped round and broke an oil pipe, pissing oil out everywhere. While the electrics were now fixed, the bike had no oil, so it was onto a truck again and back to Banbury…

Aside from that escapade, the bike has been very reliable. I did take it apart and get the subframes stripped and resprayed. She was very naked for a couple weeks but she was running really well and I lent her to my cousin for a year. My trials with the Ducati made me want to prevent anyone else falling into the same trap I had, so Graham looked after and rode her for a year.

Dragon Rally – another freezing excursion out on the motorbike during winter. Not clever, but certainly an extreme experience that has to be done if you are to call yourself a proper biker. The first one I went to was in the shadow of Snowdon in 2016, and then I missed a couple years for reasons unremembered. The last Dragon rally I went to was in the spring of 2020, just before the CV-19 lockdown when we had some EPIC storms. This is chronicled in detail in another post here, but it turned out to be the last major trip I did on the Versys and because of that, will forever be remembered as the ultra reliable, hardy, go-anywhere, do-anything bike that she was.

I am truly sad to see her go. I’ve said it before, but there are not many products in the world that are designed to be hugged for extended periods of time. I’ve had the Versys for 11 years and done over 64,000 miles with her. I’ve spent thousands of hours in the saddle and wrapped around the Versys that “it” has become “she” and holds a special place in my memories.

The chap who eventually did buy her, wants to go biking with his sons so I’m sure she will see some big trips again and bring as much joy to them as she has to me.

For Sale Photo – Looking as good as she ever did