When cars don’t want bikes to filter through traffic…

When cars don’t want bikes to filter through traffic…

(or “How to make a car driver look like a proper knob!”)

Why do they do it?

If everyone rode a bike there wouldn’t ever be any traffic jams!

By stopping me going past you, you’re effectively making me behave like a car, causing you and everyone else more delays!

It seems crazy to me that some countries still won’t let bikes legally filter or lane split.

Just let them go past, people!

Oh, and you also get to meet my new beast – Yes, I’ve bought a Honda VTR Firestorm!  1000cc’s of V-twin thunder!

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RST Paragon Jacket Review

RST Paragon Jacket Review

The first textile jacket I ever bought for a bike was a Lookwell Goldline back in 2000. It cost about £200, and stayed waterproof despite hundreds of thousands of miles of all-year-round use and even a few crashes.

It was only this year, 13 years later, that I decided to replace it because most of the waterproof membrane was literally dropping out of it!

And you can bet I would have bought another, if I could find one…

As I couldn’t, I started trawling the local bike stores for something of similar quality.

The first thing that shocked me was the lack of armour in modern jackets. The Lookwell has pretty sturdy armour, but I wouldn’t call it extreme. It’s probably on a par or a bit less than a decent set of leathers. None of the new jackets, from any make, could match it for thickness and feel, other than perhaps the one I chose. Back protection is virtually non-existent, shoulder armour thin, and elbow/forearm so flimsy you may as well wear a long-sleeved hoody.

This was testing jackets from Alpine Stars, Spidi and other top brands – and my budget was (to a point) unlimited.

RST’s top line Paragon jacket was the only one that came close to decent armour, with an excellent back protector built in.

It was that which sold it to me, combined with a material feel of the outer layers that felt like it might actually survive sliding down the road – almost all the others felt like you could tear them with your hands, if you tried hard enough!

The price was £180. So you’d expect the ‘waterproof’ claims to be justified, right?

Wrong.

A few days later, I tested it in a light shower of rain on a 30 minute journey. Water came straight through the arms and shoulders soaking my work shirt.

 Absolutely useless!

I emptied a few cans of waterproofing spray onto the jacket, and that seems to have sorted it out, but I still have no confidence and wear a storm jacket over the top for any rain…

And the pockets are made of that red nylon stuff that bike gear companies seem to love?! Looks cheap, acts cheap, and once it starts to de-thread, there’s no recovering it. You may have experienced it on rucksacks as the lining that falls apart within seconds.

I also had a couple of the rivet fasteners pop off, so maybe build quality isn’t quite what I thought… They’re not any parts which I use, and it hasn’t affected my use of the jacket in any way, so rather than taking the jacket back I’ve just kept it.

There are vents and zips and stuff all over the Paragon jacket, but again, it’s more show than go. In the Summer, it just about keeps temperatures bearable on and off the bike, but it doesn’t really direct the air to the bits where you need it. Expect sweaty underarms, and also on the tops of your shoulders. The good news about this is that it’s pretty warm in Winter – so much so that I don’t think I actually used the thermal lining during last Winter!

Other than that, in the year I’ve had the jacket, it has held up pretty well. Better than it was looking in the first six months – when all the above happened.

It would be hard to say that I wouldn’t buy one again, just because of the vastly superior armour over most other jackets – but in all honesty I would try extremely hard to find an alternative. The flaws just seem way too basic, and I think a company like RST should have the experience by now to be able to avoid them all.

 Shame.

Eff Yoo, Friday 13th

Eff Yoo, Friday 13th

I’m not superstitious.

So when the radio this morning advised that statistically there are more car accidents on Friday 13th than any other day, I pretty much ignored it.

Riding into Birmingham I’d done 90% of the journey when I thought “I’ve done this without any kind of incident!” – before a car pulled straight out in front of me at the very next roundabout!

I had both cameras running, so figured at least I’d have some interesting footage from it…

Except when I arrived at work I found the helmet camera had switched itself off having filled the memory card around 10 mins before Death tried to put me over his side.  The Veho on the bike would still have a great angle on it, though!

But the other camera only gave me a corrupt file that I can’t view!  Argh!

Later, I did some minor servicing work on the bike with the petrol tank off.  Everything went smoothly, and I had it all back together quickly, grabbed a sammich from a local shop, and headed back home from the garage.

I’d got a mile or so before the bike started feeling a bit strange.  I checked the reserve switch, but the engine cut out.

Figuring I’d had the fuel switched off, I gave it full choke and the engine started again.  Dropping the choke back to idle it cut out and died again.  Full choke and it started again, and then even cut out on choke, and this time wouldn’t start at all.

I sat on a handy bench to chomp my sammich thoughtfully, trying to work out what I could have cocked up – or more likely, as with every job I’ve ever done on this bike, what major, crippling destruction had randomly befallen the GPZ500 this time after I’d done a simple job on it.

I was getting full spark and could hear the fuel pump, but didn’t have any spanner to get the tank off, so had the lovely prospect ahead of me that I’d have to push the bike back a few miles to the garage…

And this is the hottest day of the year so far (hotter than in Brazil, don’tcherknow)!  And of course I’m in full protective kit as always, with the added bonus of a pair of denim jeans under my leathers because I’d been at work!

Luckily, I hadn’t got far before a biker pulled over to see if he could help.  I asked if I could jump on the back and he could take me to the garage to grab some tools to get my tank off again, which he happily did – you have to love the biking commuinity!

He was on some Suzuki big cruiser-type bike – it’s actually my first ever ride on a cruiser in my 14 years of biking, albeit only as a pillion passenger.

After grabbing tools and getting back to my GPZ, I thanked Cruiser Rider for saving my life, and got to spannering.

It was actually an easy fix – trapped fuel line where I’d mover the position of the main wiring loom – so I sorted it all out quickly and went home for a shower!

So I’m not actually dead or anything, but it hasn’t been the best Friday 13th, either.  Maybe there is something in it, after all?

Mobius HD Action Camera Review/Mounting

Mobius HD Action Camera Review/Mounting

I’ve used cameras on my bike for around 6 years, now, eschewing the ‘popular’ (i.e. expensive) cameras in favour of the cheaper options.  I’ve also found that the cheaper cameras are smaller, and so more covert to use.

Whilst looking for a new helmet camera, someone on a bike forum mentioned the new Mobius HD Action Camera.

It’s designed by the same people as the very first Keychain Spycam I used all those years ago.

It’s far smaller than the rest (although bigger than the Keychain Spycam), and a more sensible shape for most fitments than Go Pro’s and the like.  It was also boasting some extremely impressive HD 1080p quality.

The more I read, the more I liked: 80 min battery life – but you are also able to record whilst using external power, great low light resolution, super-wide lens available as standard, and a promise that this is a camera FOR THE PEOPLE.  As such, there is a user designed software set up package and the whole shebang is still being actively developed.  And a good price of £50-£90 depending on where you buy from.

The only thing stopping me buying it was the lack of waterproofing or any cases for it.  This makes it pretty useless most of the time for what I want it for.

Then, after keeping my eye on things for a few months, I saw mention on a forum that JooVuu have created a custom waterproof case for the Mobius – and so I ordered a camera and case.

The Mobius has been developed primarily for use on radio controlled planes and helicopters, because of its small size and light weight.

My ultimate plan was for something to use on the Formula Vee race car this season – and being able to use it on the bike would be a bonus.

Mounting it on the car won’t be an issue (I’m thinking on top of the roll hoop so it give a view ahead and down into the cockpit), but for the bike it posed more problems.

As an initial test I used the supplied Velcro mount stuck on top of my helmet.  This works fine, but wind noise is a major problem – and there is no external mic.  In the waterproof case the wind noise is massively improved, but the overall sound is also far quieter, so you can’t hear much of the bike engine, for example.

The problem was trusting the extra weight when the camera was in the waterproof case…

I ordered a few new mounts, deciding I’d use a permanent stick-on mount screwed into the camera.

As you can see, this took me back to the whole Go Pro situation of looking like a damned Telly Tubby with the camera sticking out the top of my head!

I couldn’t live with this, so found some sturdier Velcro, unscrewed the bolt mount from the waterproof case, and went back to the tried and tested Velcro method.

This is still far less covert than an MD80 hidden behind my tinted visor, but it’s just about acceptable.

All seems pretty stable using just the Velcro up to speeds that wouldn’t be legal off a race track, but I’m sure there would be an upper limit where things might depart company, but it would take a lot.  How fast to RC planes go, anyway?  120mph plus?

So the Mobius Action Camera itself is well impressive.  File size is quite large (about 1.4GB per 15 minutes), but not too bad in comparison to other action cameras.  You would be wise to choose a 32GB card for it, though.  Incidentally, the software program will allow you to set recording to chunks of 10, 15 or 20 minutes.  There is no gap between the files.  There is also an ‘max’ option which will record up to 4GB to each file, but I found reviewing footage could freeze – probably down to my system limitations than anything with the camera, and all footage was useable.

The only fault I can really find is the picture is a bit blurry/pixelated in the bottom right hand side. It just looks like there’s something on the lens, but is such a small area it’s not a worry.  Also, the spare lens covers supplied with the JooVuu case are pretty scratched up (See comment below – I now know there is a protective sticker you’re supposed to remove- doh!).  You can’t see any difference in picture quality when using the case, and I’m sure dropping a quick email to JooVuu’s excellent customer support would mean a few replacements being sent out – I haven’t done this as it really isn’t an issue.

I’d definitely recommend the Mobius Action Camera to anyone, and the fact that it is still being developed for the end user by Mobius and third parties like JooVuu is extremely impressive, and bodes well for the future of this fantastic camera.

 

Obsession – Not Always A Bad Thing

Obsession – Not Always A Bad Thing

I’m not generally a person with an addictive personality.  I’ve never been hooked on drugs or cigarettes, and am happy to break my daily routine.

However, I do get quite obsessive over stuff.

There’s been martial arts training (ok, so that’s lasted for 28 years), playing bass guitar every spare second of the day when I was in bands, sword fighting/fencing, everything ‘motorbike”, and even girls (not in a stalky way).

Now, of course, I’m living and breathing motor racing as I gear up towards having my first race in Formula Vee later this year.

You may notice that most of these things I’ve moved on from, after a very intense period from months to years.  Even my writing comes in bursts – and at one time I was almost constantly writing poetry and short stories and blogs.

I guess it’s very likely to be my creative side in all these things. 

I will do my utmost to master my latest obsession.  I’m very competitive, and always attempt to be the absolute best, but then also know when to yield and acknowledge I’ve reached my peak and others may be better.

I’m not really a perfectionist – but will strive for perfection from the outset.

This does seem to work for me, too!

With motor racing, it could be the first time that budget gets in the way of my quest to perfect driving a car really quickly around a race track, and that might be tough to take.

So here’s to a big win on the Lottery!

Or maybe to picking up a sponsor who shares my kind of obsession?

The Decline Of The MD80

The Decline Of The MD80

MD80 Helmet Cam

I’ve been using an MD80 camera mounted inside my helmet to film all my motorcycling adventures for around five years.

I started out with the Veho Muvi camera that it copied – and although the Veho had better battery life and lasted overall for around 2 years, the cost difference meant I switched to the far cheaper MD80.

The MD80 had some drawbacks – some versions have a different focus point, that you can’t really adjust.  The battery life declines slowly but surely, so that effectively they only last up to about 6 months.  That wasn’t so much of a problem, as you can now buy them for £6-£10, so they’re pretty disposable.

The main problem I’ve found in the last couple of years is that, from brand new, the battery, which used to last for an hour of recording time (the same as the Veho Muvi), will now last for 30 minutes at best!

Picture quality has improved on them, but file size has also increased.  I have been using a wide-angle lens with mine for a while now (see pics) which also improves things a little.

The second biggest problem, however, is that where they used to record in 30 minute segments (again, like the Veho), the latest 3 or 4 that I’ve had have only recorded in 10 minute segments.  This is compounded by a 30-60 second gap as file is closed and a new one created to record.  So you miss anything that happens during that time.  It also makes it pretty useless to record alongside another camera, as when you join each file from the MD80 it’s out of sync after each 10 minute segment.

I could switch back to Veho Muvi, bite the bullet, and pay at least £60 for one, but to be honest things have moved on.  640p no longer cuts it, with so many other full HD cams on the market for the money.

So it may be time to retire the smallest, and only real covert camera that I use whilst riding.

I don’t particularly want one of these Telly-Tubby arrangements for a helmet camera, but it’s looking like I might have to.  I guess a side-mounted bullet-style camera is the next best option?

Shame, because the whole Veho/MD80 camera was perfect for my needs… and surely someone COULD now make a HD camera the same size??

MD80 wide angle lens

Burger King? Burger Kunts, More Like!

Burger King?  Burger Kunts, More Like!

It was drawing to the end of a long Friday at work, when I found a link to some vouchers – Buy one, get one free on Big Macs and loads of Burger King stuff.

I was already starving to death, and so by the time I’d printed them off and cut them, I’d already hatched a cunning plan.

I’d seen the TV ads for the BK Angus Burger, and it looked pretty good.

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Unfortunately, every BK I’d ever been in was staffed by the dumbest FUCKTARDS I have ever encountered in my life!

I swear to God not one time have they got my order right!  The last time all I ordered was a Big Whopper, Fries, and some Onion Rings.  It doesn’t get much simpler.  No, I don’t want a drink.  No, I don’t want the Whopper Meal, else I’d have asked for that.  No, it DOES NOT work out cheaper if I have the meal, because I have to pay 60p more AND I can’t have the drink because I’m on a fucking bike… etc.

Same story as every damn fast food purchase whilst in my leathers.

After about 20 minutes of Quasi-fucking-modo’s Grandson trying to work it out, I got home to discover I did have the Onion Rings (and that took a LOT of fighting to make sure) – but no bastard fries!!!

Plus BK stuff costs more than McD’s, and it’s all smaller.  Fuck that.

So, being the forgiving and adventurous sort, I decided to give The King another chance to appease the Nasty Evil Ninja.

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Walking in, eyeing Wolf Boy and Lurch suspiciously as they loped about behind the counter, I produced my Buy One Get One Free Angus Burger Voucher, nodding a bit.  Yeah, bitch – look what I’ve got!

“We don’t take them.” Lurch sprayed at me through his mouldy brace.

I looked up at the big Burger King sign, just in case it had become a McDonalds or Filthy McNasty’s since I was last there.  Nope – The King was still here.

“We’re franchised to the motorway services – so we don’t accept regular vouchers.”

Oh, I see!  So you can rip us right the fuck off, eh?  Thought I.

As I’d been waiting to be served, I was looking for some kind of price list on display so I knew how much some fries would cost me with my Angus Burgers.  For the life of me I couldn’t see any prices anywhere!  The old adage “If you have to ask – you can’t afford it” is very wise.  But not in a fast food joint, surely?!

I couldn’t exactly turn around and go somewhere else for food now, or I’d look a bit silly… so I glanced up at the pictures and ordered the best beast I could see – a Triple Pepper Double Angus Burger or something – and large fries.

“Six pounds seventy whatever.”  Lurch said.

I beg your fucking pardon???  Almost SEVEN POUNDS for a burger and fries????

I paid as Wolf Boy capered about getting the food.

“There you go,”  he said as he handed the bag over, “Triple Pepper Double Anus Belcher and Regular Fries.”

Ah.  There we go.  I ask for TWO THINGS, and they get it wrong!!!!

Rage fuelled by hunger was tenuously held at bay as I informed him of the error of his ways, and he threw another bag of fries at me.

I sauntered out of (hopefully) the last Burger King that I will ever visit…

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