Do not buy MTD or Kawasaki.

Well, obviously. This is a site about Honda, after all. But let me explain.

Last year we needed a new lawnmower, because our 2-year old Briggs & Stratton gave up the ghost. Yes, Chinese-made American rubbish. So I researched lawnmower brands. A Honda-engined one would have been nice, but was waaaaaayy beyond our budget. But then I saw an MTD, at a reasonable price, with a Kawasaki engine. Now Kawasaki (although not a Honda) is still Japanese. Got to be good, right? Not only that, it came with a TWO YEAR WARRANTY! So we bought it.

We used it a few times, and it did the job. Well, this spring we trotted it out of the garden shed to start cutting the grass again. It wouldn’t start.
I changed the fuel. Nothing. Checked the spark plug. Sparking fine. So I was about to start dismantling the carburettor when I remembered: TWO YEAR WARRANTY!

So we took it back to Weldom in Aubigny where we bought it. Their repair boffin took a look, and found that fuel was not getting to the carburettor. He fiddled with the float mechanism for a while and was rewarded with a gush of fuel all over his hand. “There you are,” he said. “All fixed.” So we brought the machine back home again.
Yes, but.
Although the engine was now starting, it lacked power.
Back it went the following day.
The boffin had another look, and diagnosed a faulty carburettor. It would apparently have to be sent away for cleaning, so we left the machine with him.

One week later, still no news.
Two weeks later, still no news.
NINETEEN DAYS after taking the machine back to the dealership, we received a phone call.
“Right, your machine is ready. The carburettor had a problem, so I fitted a new one. And this is not covered under your warranty, so that will be €137. Thank you, kerching.”
We went to get the machine.
“Yes, I’m sorry about that. I spoke to MTD on the telephone, and they told me to install a new carburettor to resolve the problem. But they said it’s down to user error, so it’s not covered by the warranty. Nothing I can do about it, I’m afraid. You can pay at the cashier over there. Strange though, we’ve sold ten of these machines last year and yours is the only one which has come back.”

So be warned. Two-year warranties are not worth the cash register receipt they’re printed on.

Oh – and if you’re in the market for a new lawnmower – buy a goat.

DO NOT buy an MTD lawnmower, especially if it has a Kawasaki engine.

Some Japanese technology is not what it used to be. Kawasaki is, basically, Krap. (Kawasaki Rarely Attains Perfection).

You have been warned.

Not much riding lately…

I’m afraid the poor old ST1100 has been languishing in the garage for a considerable time now. I’ve just been too busy with other things.

Still, I did start it up last week, just to get the engine oil distributed through all the internal nooks and crannies. Because I have an Optimate, the battery is well-maintained so there were no problems.

On the bright side, the reason for my lack of riding is now available on Amazon. You can read all about it – and if you like what you see, buy it!!!

A Bathtub in Our Garden

A Bathtub in Our Garden


A new look…

Welcome to the new layout. If you happen to use Facebook, you may have seen that I was having some issues with the blog recently.

Up until today it was hosted on Google’s Blogger platform. Well, yesterday, Google India’s automated system decided that this blog was SPAM, so deleted it.

I requested a restore, and several hours later received an email from Google apologizing, and the blog was re-instated.

Guess what? This morning (28/02/2014) yet another automated email was received from Google, saying that their automated system had decided that this blog was SPAM, so they had deleted it.

Enough was enough. I have now moved it to WordPress, and am hosting it on another domain which I own. (For technical reasons I can’t host it on the ST1100 domain itself).

So there you have it. Fortunately I had a backup, so the move to WordPress went fairly smoothly. If you have your own blog on Blogger, I strongly suggest you move it from there without delay, or at least make sure you have a current backup!

Insurance update

Agence Eaton called back this morning and have now come up with an explanation.

They originally went via an intermediary based in Paris called Solly Azar. Solly Azar deals with Generali Belgium because their prices are cheaper. However, Generali Belgium are fussier when it comes to documentation. Also, in France, insurance companies give themselves three months to decide whether or not they will actually insure you. (So be warned, if you have taken out a new French insurance policy you may not actually be covered!)

So the outcome is that Agence Eaton will handle the insurance policy themselves, and the actual insurance company involved will be Generali France which works slightly differently. Because Agence Eaton will handle the insurance themselves instead of going through an intermediary, they keep all the paperwork; and were thus able to confirm that they are indeed happy with the English documentation.

The only down side is that Generali France is one-third more expensive than Generali Belgium; but the positive news is that insurance against theft is once again included in the policy. This is because they do not require every part of the motorcycle to be French security-marked. The other good news is that the excess is between €400 to €800, and not €1500 as they mentioned yesterday.

Documentation will apparently be sent for signature later today. But I’m not holding my breath.

Not road legal after all. Or am I?

Right, it seems the insurance saga which has been the subject of the last few blog entries has not quite finished.

Yesterday (8th January) I received a recorded letter, dated 31 December 2012. It should have been collected last week, but the local post office was closed for a week, so I was only able to get it yesterday.

It was from the insurance company, Generali Belgium.

Basically it says I have until the 11th January to provide the “Relevant Information”.

I had no idea what relevant information they require, so my wife called the broker, Agence Eaton. It seems that the problem lies with the proof of my previous no claims bonus, issued by my previous insurance company in the UK, Motorcycle Direct.

Shock, horror. It’s in English. And Generali Belgium cannot speak English; so they have decided that they are no longer going to insure me. This is three months after they received all the documentation, mind you.

The broker has now found another insurance company, Generali Belgium, which will insure me. It’s slightly more expensive, €460 this time. Although the insurance policy does include theft. With a hefty excess of €1500.

And no, I didn’t make a mistake typing the name of the company. Generali Belgium. The name of the previous company which has decided it doesn’t want to insure me? Generali Belgium.

No, I don’t understand it either.

To quote Gerard Depardieu:
"Minable, vous avez dit minable? Comme c’est minable!"

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment!

Road-legal at last

Finally! I’m able to ride the bike legally in France! The entire process from start to finish has taken seven months. Of course, now that winter has arrived, I can’t actually ride anywhere anyway. It’s not that I mind the weather, but in order to get the bike to a tarmac surface entails a journey down a farm track with slippery wet grass and mud for 300 metres.

So, here’s what happened after the Carte Gris (French registration certificate) arrived.

I contacted an insurance company called “Agence Eaton“. Why? Because this agency “translates” the UK NCB (no claims bonus) into the French equivalent (called a “Bonus Malus”). Having approached other insurance companies, I discovered that each one wanted documented proof of my existing French “Bonus Malus”. Stating that I did not have a French “Bonus Malus” immediately put me into the highest insurance risk bracket, with prices approaching or even exceeding €1,000.

Now comparing that with the annual £98 I was paying in the UK left me feeling very slightly annoyed.

So, on the 5th October, I accepted the quote from Agence Eaton for an annual insurance policy, at around €300. However, I had to exclude fire and theft from the policy because my ST1100 does not have every single part marked with a French-recognised identification system. Each part IS marked, but it’s with a Thatcham-approved Honda Smartwater tag. And that isn’t good enough for French insurers, apparently.

On the 12th October, I received the Insurance disc in the post. Oh dear. It was valid from 10/10/2012 to 09/11/2012.

My wife called the agency to ask why it was only valid for a month when I’d paid for an entire year, and was told that this was just a temporary certificate; the proper one would be sent to us within a week.

Unfortunately life became rather busy with my other project, and it was only on the 12th November (two days after the expiry of the temporary certificate) that I realised I had not received the full annual certificate. My wife once again called Agence Eaton, and was told that they were about to post it, and that we would receive it the following week.

19th November: Still no certificate. My wife called Agence Eaton again. She was informed that it had been posted by second class mail (read: escargot), and we would receive it the following week.

27th November: Still no certificate. My wife called Agence Eaton yet again – this time knowing the number by heart. This time she was told that the Agency had not yet received the certificate from the insurers, but it would be with us the following week.

1st December: The annual, full, correct certificate arrived in the post.

The thing is, in the UK if you want to change insurers, you simply don’t renew with your existing insurer, and just sign up with a new one. It’s all very seamless in my experience. In France, two months before your insurance policy is due to expire, you need to send the insurers a registered letter telling them you will be cancelling your policy on the expiry date. Only then can you start getting prices from other insurance companies.

Guess what I’ll be doing on the 9th August 2013? Yes, posting a registered letter to Agence Eaton telling them where they can put their next policy.

Perhaps I’ll do a web page about French customer service along these lines:

So, having excluded fire and theft from the policy, I’m sure you’re wondering what exactly is covered. Well, third party of course. And accident damage. With particular reference to wild animals. Which, living in a countryside over-run with wild boar, is particularly useful.

Finally! Progress!

I have been away in South Africa for a week, visiting my aged mother. You may recall the last post I made on this blog was complaining about the lack of any sense of urgency by Honda France to supply a Certificate of Conformity stating that my ST1100 was legal on French roads. According to French law, I have one month to register the bike in France.

So, Wednesday 5th September dawned. At lunchtime, a letter arrives. I nearly fell over when I saw the postmark. Could it be possible? With trembling hands I opened the envelope.

Yes, it was the Certificate of Conformity! Nearly four months in the making.

Yesterday we visited the Prefecture in Blois with all the documentation, fully expecting them to say that something else was missing. But no, everything went smoothly, and after paying €109.50 to the cashier I was issued with the temporary Carte Gris.

Now I can get the new French number plate. And then a search for an insurance company can commence – at the moment the cheapest quote I’ve found for a year’s fully comprehensive insurance is around €650. This obviously does not compare favourably with the £95 I was paying in Britain.


… if you intend moving to France and taking it with you. You’re probably better off buying a BMW.

Let me give you some background as explanation.

According to the legislation, if you are resident in France, then your vehicle must be registered in France. A resident is someone who spends more than six months (183 days) each year in France.

If you are a non resident, then you are allowed to use your vehicle on UK plates for up to 6 months as long as it has a tax disc, current MOT, if required, and is insured.

If you move to France with the intention of staying more than 183 days, then you only have one month to register your vehicle and the six month rule does not apply.

So, how does one go about re-registering a vehicle (in particular a Honda ST1100) in France?

Here’s how the procedure should work:
Step 1. Obtain a Certificate of Conformity
Step 2. Adjust or change your headlights. Obviously because in the UK vehicles drive on the left, and in France they drive on the right, the headlights are pointing the wrong way. In my particular case, the headlights were not angled left but were pointed straight ahead; in other words they should be legal for French roads. (They weren’t, but I’ll explain that later)
Step 3. Get a tax exemption certificate. This is called a Quittus Fiscal and simply shows that you have not just bought the vehicle and imported it, but have already paid tax on the purchase (if you bought it new). If you bought it second-hand, like I did, no tax is due anyway. (The local Hotel des Impots has informed us that a Quittus Fiscal is no longer needed. We’ll see. We’re fully expecting the Prefecture to ask for one. Left hand not knowing what right hand is doing, and all that sort of stuff).
Step 4.Put the vehicle through a controle technique (CT). I still need to determine if a CT is required for motorcycles; the French were going to introduce this requirement but I’m not sure yet whether it has become law.
Step 5.Fill out a demande de certificate d’immatriculation and visit the Prefecture. They should then issue a temporary Carte Grise.
Step 6. Return the V5 vehicle export section to the DVLA, and obtain new French number plates.
Step 7. The full Carte Gris should arrive in the post; send a photocopy to your insurer so that the vehicle can be insured.

So. Here’s how it works in practice. Remember, according to the legalities, I have a month to get the ST1100 registered.

Ready? Here we go.
Step 1. Day 1. 19th April (We had already been here a month but it took that long to get bank accounts sorted out, so we’ll call this Day 1 for the sake of argument. Let’s pretend we arrived yesterday.)
Wrote a letter to Honda (Marne-La-Vallee in Paris) requesting a certificate of conformity, and enclosing a photocopy of the V5 (UK registration document).

Day 12. A lot of paperwork arrived in the post, which in summary meant that the vehicle had to be taken to an authorised dealer for checks to be carried out. This included (and I’m not kidding):
Serial number of engine
Mileage reading
Number of disc brakes (front and rear)
Number of brake drums (front and rear)
Make and model of spark plugs
Make and model of electronic ignition module
Make and model of tyre (front and rear)
Part number of front light
How many bulbs does the front light have on dipped beam?
How many bulbs does the front light have on full beam?
Part number of indicators (front and rear)
Part number of rear stop light
Part number of rear reflector
Chassis number
Does the vehicle have panniers?
Make and part number of the exhausts

So, we called our closest authorised Honda dealer, which happened to be in Blois, and made an appointment. The earliest appointment we could get was for Friday 4th May.

Day 16. 4th May. The appointment in Blois. The dealer examined the bike, which took several hours, and said that the headlights would need to be changed so that they deviated to the right. Obviously they did not have these in stock, but would have to order them (from the UK, strangely enough). Another appointment was made to do the work, for Friday 11th May.

Day 23. Friday 11th May. Another appointment in Blois. Headlights changed, and all the paperwork from Honda filled up with part numbers etc. etc. I took a photocopy of everything, and stuffed it all into an envelope together with the required cheque for €120, and with a sigh of relief posted it off to Honda.

Day 42. 30th May. Oh dear. Oops, and oh dear once again. What was that about having a month to get the ST1100 registered?

Today the €120 cheque left my bank account. Not a word from Honda.
(My wife is going through the same process for her Hyundai; she called them to enquire when the certificate of conformity would arrive, because the money left her bank account on the 22nd May. She was told that cheques could still bounce up to FIFTEEN DAYS after having been presented. Why the fark do they insist on cheques then? We tried to pay by card over the phone but that technology has not reached France yet.)

Day …. I’ve lost count, but it’s the 19th June. My wife calls Honda to enquire where the certificate of conformity is.
“Oh yes,” the woman at Honda said. “From the reference number you’ve given me I can see that the cheque went through on the 30th May.”
“That’s correct,” my wife said. “So when will my husband receive the certificate of conformity?”
“Oh, we need to do our research first. This usually takes three months.”
“THREE MONTHS??????!!!!!!”
“Oh yes, sometimes it takes even longer.”

Honda France, what the FARK are you doing? How the FARK am I supposed to comply with French law and register my vehicle within a month when you say you are going to take THREE MONTHS to research the vehicle? The badge on the front of the ST1100 proudly declaims “HONDA”. Did you or did you not MANUFACTURE THIS FARKING VEHICLE? So what the FARK research do you have to do? We’ve already given you all the part numbers you’ve asked for.

I’m going to see if I can find the email address of the head of Honda Japan and point him to this post. Honda France need a serious kick up the derrière.

Annoyed? Farking right I’m annoyed. The UK tax disc for the ST1100 ran out at the end of May. I didn’t renew it because (STUPIDLY) I presumed Honda France would be efficient. So I declared it SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification – which means the vehicle is declared “off the road” and may not legally be used on a public road). Now I can’t re-tax it, because it needs an MOT (UK roadworthiness certificate) which can’t be done in France.

So I have a bike that I can’t use, and won’t be able to use until Honda France remove their collective thumbs from their rear end.

Service is resumed

I am pleased to report I have now re-joined the online community.

Owing to the extremely rural location, we have been connected at a massive 1.07Mbps. But I’m not complaining; it beats dial-up at 40kbps!

Obviously there are lots of things to do. Not only do we have to completely renovate the old farmhouse which is our new abode, but complete all sorts of paperwork to comply with the sundry French systems which exist purely for the purpose of creating paperwork. But more on that later. I’ve already sent off a letter to Honda France requesting a “certificate de conformite” which will enable the re-registration of the ST1100 for use on French roads. The local dealership already complained that it was a “foreign” bike because it entered France from the UK.

Foreign because it came from the UK? Good grief man, it’s Japanese!