Monday, April 22, 2013

Farewell, sweet prints

Image: Wikipedia
Would you prefer to gas the car up, or throw it away and buy a new one? Seems obvious, doesn’t it? 

Apparently not to printer manufacturers, it doesn’t. I’ve just experienced the dubious delights of trying to replace the printer cartridges for my old Epson All-In-One printer/scanner. The only two shops that had ink cartridges for this model at all only had yellow. Clearly, nobody’s been printing pictures of sunflowers, and nobody knows where cyan and magenta may be found. I don’t propose to waste a day of my life trying every shop in Khalid bin Al Waleed Street to be repeatedly told that they’re Not Coming In DubaiTM. I’ve already been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

It’s planned obsolescence. You buy a printer, and then later have to throw it away while it still functions perfectly because the ink cartridges are no longer available. Infuriatingly, they are available. Just not in all colours.

Further stupidity reigns when a new All-In-One printer costs only slightly more than a full set of ink cartridges would have, if they’d been available.

So it’s not the cost that is at issue; it’s the hypocrisy. We’re constantly bombarded with messages to Save The Planet, to recycle, and to wear homespun tofu. And yet if we’re to print documents, we need to consign a perfectly good plastic case, rollers, electric motors, circuit boards and all the other gubbins to landfill, as they are slowly digested over a thousand years.

There seems little point in recycling the device unless someone, somewhere, has access to print cartridges. And if he can find them, then why not I?

I now own a new, faster printer that doesn’t even need a piece of electric string between it and the computer. I also have yet more spare power and USB cables to add to my collection. The salesman was keen to point out that, because it's a new model, ink cartridges will be available for years to come. Me? I expect to be having this exact same rant in about 2018.

I now possess a spare printer. Perfect condition, FSH, light domestic use only, one careful owner, low mileage, ink cartridges rarer than rocking-horse shit.


Friday, April 19, 2013

These boots aren't made for walking

The Goat obviously has trouble finding appropriate footwear for motorcycling. Way back in early 2009 he found a pair of Gaerne racing boots in a bike shop in Cyprus, and he bought them because, by some miracle, they fitted. These boots have been excellent, even if they’re a bit low cut. The Goat has been wearing his jeans outside the boots because when tucked in, they quickly produce muffin tops that resemble part of a Star Trek uniform.

Nothing lasts for ever, and the Goat has been on the lookout for replacement motorcycle boots with limited to negligible success. And then someone gave him a pair of Oxtar brand racing boots for free. They were used, but they fitted and were comfortable. Quite old, though; Oxtar changed its name to TCX back in 2007.

The problem with these newer boots is that they’re not made of leather. The bits that aren’t rubber or hard plastic are made of some man-made material called LoricaTM. It’s an artificial leather that’s claimed to be lighter, stronger, and more durable than the stuff that’s obtained from a cow. LoricaTM seems to consist of about a 1.5mm thickness of acrylic blanket covered by a micron or so of vinyl to make it look like leather.

And this is what it looks like after being used on a motorbike.

Unlike real leather, that can be cared for and fed with saddle soap and boot polish, this plastic stuff falls to pieces.

The Goat had learned that TCX boots are cut on the generous side, and headed off to Al Yousuf in Dubai in search of some actual new boots made of actual leather. The pair he selected included leather uppers, according to the label attached to one of the zips. But upon getting them home, the Goat learned that this is a generic ‘care and feeding’ booklet, and the boots he’d selected were made of LoricaTM.

Back to the shop, then, where the staff were hugely apologetic. By now the Goat had made a list of TCX boots that were made of leather, and he worked with Al Yousuf to find an acceptable pair that fitted and were comfortable. They're taller than the Goat's original pair, and he might resemble a Cossack dancer when off the bike, but an overall success at last! Now that Goat has two pairs, and no longer lives in fear of his only motorcycle footwear wearing out.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Petrol, Pork Pies, Pocari Sweat

The bridge at Sur
The Goat last took a huge motorcycle endurance tour in 1986, when he and Mr Lawful Good of Cowplain rode a Kawasaki GT750 the length of France and Spain in 28 hours. Two weeks later they did the return trip in nineteen and a half hours. At that point the Goat declared that he wouldn’t do such a thing again, age having caught up with him.

And then recently D_ asked if the Goat would be interested in an attempt at the Iron Butt. There are a number of challenges offered by the Iron Butt AssociationThe basic entry-level challenge is the “Saddlesore 1000” which, unsurprisingly, involves a 1000 mile trip in under 24 hours. D_ planned a round trip to Muscat. This wasn’t far enough, so the Goat proposed an extended trip 250km further down to Sur.

The Goat’s plan was to run the trip on a fuel of petrol, Pocari Sweat, and pork pies. This would be augmented by water, Red Bull, and Henri Wintermans.

After gassing up in Dubai at 0850 and getting the guys at Classic Motorcycles to witness the time (0908) and start kilometrage, D_ and the Goat headed off to Al Ain. The border at Jebel Hafeet was quiet. This is worth knowing: a trip like this does not need an hour of sitting in air-conditioned comfort for the UAE exit stamp (AED35). It also turns out that a House Elf visa doesn’t count for the purposes of granting Oman visas for GCC residents, so the Goat got a single-entry ten-day tourist visa for Oman for OMR5. 

So much for “There’s a petrol station every 30km.” D_ and the Goat stopped and gassed up in Dhank after seeing a sign that “The next petrol is 105km away”. Turns out that was the next Shell petrol, but now they were good to get almost to Muscat. Stopping in Nizwa to stretch their legs, it turned out that the souq was as shut as a shut thing. This was unsurprising for mid afternoon, and the Goat sat in the shade and was amused by a couple of local lads on mopeds doing rear wheel slides and burnouts.

Both bikes probably had enough fuel to get to Seeb, near Muscat, but stopped on the long downhill from Nizwa anyway. D_ begged for relief: his back was causing him some discomfort. Meanwhile, the Goat had discovered that the prime source of saddle soreness was his Kevlar-lined jeans. The trousers were imprinting Kevlar into the Goat’s thighs. There may be a solution to this involving those kinky cyclists’ shorts, but only if they’re not nylon.

TGL and J live in Seeb, and were happy to provide relief from the ravages of travel in the form of Nespresso, iced water and comfy sofas. Thank you to TGL and J. Regrettably, the time schedule wouldn’t permit stopping for pizza.

And thence to Seeb airport to meet Ahmed. D_ owns a black Yamaha FJR13. Ahmed’s is white, with chrome tip-over bars, bigger mirrors, and a smuggler trunk instead of a pillion seat. After a chat, D_ and the Goat set off for Muscat harbour and got hopelessly lost in the evening rush hour and the roadworks. The Goat noticed while lane-splitting that everyone who shut the space between traffic lanes was yacking on his or her mobile phone. Hanlon’s Razor: Don’t ascribe to malice that which may be attributed to incompetence.

The souq at Sultan Qaboos Port,
A brief photo and ciggie stop at the Mutrah Souq later, and the Goat got lost in the little lanes before finding an escape route on to the road to Sur. This road is truly excellent. It’s so new that it doesn’t appear on the Goat’s GPS. One minor issue was that for 13km the street lights weren’t working. The Goat noted that it was an excellent opportunity to ride on high beam for more than a few seconds at a time. Be careful what you wish for.

The only southbound petrol station was so new that the shop still had tape Xs on the windows and no stock. And it closed at 10pm, apparently. Ah, good point. The Goat resolved to gas up in Sur before heading back, which should provide enough tank range for at least Muscat.

Another failing in the Goat’s increasingly out-of-date GPS mapping is the absence of the bridge over the mouth of the bay at Sur. D_ and the Goat crossed the bridge (which has been constructed at enormous expense with a heavy vehicle ban and a 3T weight limit) and stopped for Red Bull and pork pies. This was the distal end of the trip. Everything following would be uphill. Time 2150, and clearly getting back to Dubai before 0850 was looking doubtful. There would have to be some serious riding with limited stops. They don’t call this the Iron Butt for nothing.

The trip back consisted of looping around the bay and heading back along the new dual carriageway to Muscat. This time avoiding the port, the Goat navigated back to Seeb, and a fuel stop at the end of the road to Nizwa. It was now 0040, early on Tuesday morning.

Fatigue was beginning to set in notwithstanding the caffeinated beverage. Corners, in particular, were being taken with extra care. And on the way back the Goat selected the new bypass road to Nizwa rather than the slightly shorter old road through various villages. It was pointless stopping in Nizwa, and the bikers continued to Bahla where there was, miracle of miracles, a petrol station open at 0315. The only one at  this hour for at least 100km in any direction, apparently.

There then followed around 100km of unlit single carriageway. The Goat likes using high beam, and his wish was granted. The continuous roadworks were merely a courtesy detail, as were the several Hilux pickups that hurtled past at 130km/h and plunged obliviously into the void on dipped beams.

The trickiest part of the trip was the pre-dawn twilight. A combination of tiredness and the rhododactylous conditions conspired to make vision tricky. The Goat scanned constantly for camels wandering on the highway as he and D_ headed for the border. He missed a last chance to gas up with cheap Oman petrol, which is only two thirds the price in the UAE. The last gas station may or may not have been open for business.

Getting back into the UAE was easy, but for anyone planning a road trip, note the need to present a valid UAE vehicle registration on re-entry. Nobody asked for this on the way out; an omission that could cause unhappiness at the border.

The final reckoning
And it was back to Al Ain, and thence Dubai. Any possible tendency to nod off was suppressed by the rising sun. It’s a lot easier to stay awake when it’s light.

According the GPS the total distance logged was 1654.9km in 23 hours and 14 minutes. The Goat’s GPS did switch itself off a couple of times, so the total recorded time, stationary time, and averages are all a bit off. But 0908 to 0813 as witnessed by Classic Motorcycles is definitely under 24 hours.

As for the Iron Butt Association, there may be a problem in proving the start and finish times. Applicants are supposed to provide a dated and time-stamped receipt for each fuel purchase, which is especially important for the start and end. But nobody provided anything but a handwritten receipt except ADNOC in Al Ain.

However, D_ and the Goat both know what they have achieved. Certificates are a detail. As for the bikes? Both the Kawasaki 1400GTR and Yamaha FJR1300 performed faultlessly throughout.


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