The Mean Green Machine

The Mean Green Machine

Bikes are fast.

The Kawasaki GPZ500s I’ve been riding around on over the Winter wasn’t as much of a let-down as I’d expected, compared to my Kawasaki ZX9R.  It’ll still do 0-60 in about 4 seconds – which is plenty to beat most stuff on the road, and top end of around 110mph will also match your average car.

GPZ500s

This weekend I finally got around to stripping the wiring loom of my ZX9R, and with a bit of bodged soldering (some of it on wiring and not just my -ing thumb!!!), I got it all back together and pushed the started button.

…And nothing happened.

I angrily glared at all the beautifully re-wrapped wiring for a while, Stanley knife in hand, before coming to the conclusion that the battery was probably too flat to even turn the starter motor.  I plugged the charger in and left it overnight.

I actually lost sleep in anticipation of getting up early to take it out for a shakedown run (if it started), and bounded into the garage with confidence in my mechanicing, held the starter button down and revelled in the roar of the Leo Vince Moto GP exhaust!

Even climbing onto the ZX9R it feels so much more serious than the little old GPZ.  The seat is higher, bars are miles away and lower, and then you have to try three times to lift your feet up high enough to put them onto the footpegs!

ZX9R Cleehill

This was like going from my very first TZR125 onto my first ‘big bike’ (a ZXR400).  Rolling down the driveway the taught suspension was immediately apparent.

I’d done this on a rare snowless day a couple of months ago, letting the clutch out the same as I would on the GPZ and feeling the back end snaking all over like a happy dog.  That was trying to kill me.  So I let the clutch out far more carefully this time…

Wow.

I know I’ve blogged before about how great superbikes are.  About how they are so mind-bendingly fast they really – no, REALLY – shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the public roads.

God was now in my right hand, and I’d have thanked Him if I wasn’t trying my best not to giggle like a schoolgirl.

Half expecting the electrics to cut out at a critical moment, I opened the throttle and instantly saw silly speed.  Even after the GPZ this is like a whole new level of relentless, penis-shrinking power!

I didn’t even give it everything, because I didn’t want to end up on my back with the bike on top of me.

The familiar part of my brain was still there reminding me how last Summer I used to pin that throttle open and be a bit bored waiting for stuff to happen.  It’s amazing how quickly your brain adapts, and soon wants another 100hp.

Going back to a smaller bike was a lot of fun.  It was like back to the roots.

But then going from that and back to a full-on beast of a ZX9R?

It’s not just fun – it’s like tasting Heaven!

Now I just have to remember how to use it around the corners…

ZX9R Rockingham

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The Rush

The Rush

Anyone who knows me will say that I’m a pretty laid-back person.  Some would say I’m so laid-back you can actually see the soles of my shoes as I’m walking.

In direct contrast to this, my interests (and some of my jobs!) have always involved extreme levels of intensity.

For the most part, I get involved in an activity and it totally consumes me.  I don’t mind not being the best at what I do – but I will put every part of my soul into finding out just how well I can do something!  Then, I’ll move onto the next thing…

Even from when I was an early teen, I found that I got a very intense rush from writing poems and stories.  The experience was almost like being sick – scribbling out the words all at once and then sitting back feeling relief.  Calm.

The band came next.  Playing the bass or taking on vocal duties for a band is pretty extreme – but the buzz you get from stepping onto a stage in front of people can completely overwhelm some people.  I found I thrived on it!

And not just folk music, of course – my choice was thrash, death metal, grindcore – anything fast and loud!

I never had a massive interest in sports at school until I got to do things my way.

None of the pansy-assed school soccer or rugby – I got out there and joined a full kit US Football team, and let my psychosis carry me through!

People say US Football is all stop-starty – but I bet they’ve never played it.  In the time the ball isn’t actually moving, before that whistle blows, the anticipation is immense.

You’re about to smash your way through people who will try to seriously injure you – and everyone is wearing bloody armour so they can hit each other even harder!  If you think THAT is ‘a bit boring’ then you’re a -ing idiot!

Next came the clubbing days.  Not seals – the music type.  Hard as bastardy techno and trance… Dancing like a loon through the night to it…

Each thing seeemd to be getting more extreme – more intense.

Then I bought a motorbike – not for a rush, but just to get me to work.

If only I would have known years before… I still say my bike is the best thing I’ve ever bought in my life.

I guess looking back it’s no surprise I’d get into sportsbikes, where I can experience 1000hp per tonne blasting me to 60mph in under 3 seconds, and stupid lean angles as I scrape my knees on the tarmac at over 100mph!

Not many would have pegged me for getting a cruiser motorcycle and plodding around on it just for the image!  Give me the foetal position at 190mph any day!

Most of these previous things apart from bikes have fallen by the wayside now.  I do still demonstrate martial arts in almost every aspect of my life (and a lot of those activities above!), but I think even that peaked a few years back when I was sparring with friends for hours every single night preparing for a no holds barred tournament.  Now I still learn new techniques, but hardly do any proper training – so you can bet I’m weak and slow compared to how I was.

The bike thing is still going strong, and earlier this week I had this arrive on my doorstep:

MSA ARDS National B Racing License

That’s my car racing license!

For the last few months I’ve been totally immersing myself in the Skip Barber race manual learning ungodly amounts of stuff about race car physics and techniques, so the intensity for driving racing cars has already hit me.

Just wait until I slide myself into that single seater for the first time, and we’ll see what kind of rush I get from this one.

The way I see it – if you’re not constantly chasing that rush, you’re doing it wrong!

 

WINTER: Anti-Freeze/Coolant Time – SAVE MONEY!

WINTER: Anti-Freeze/Coolant Time – SAVE MONEY!

And you thought this blog was all just ranting and porn?

Shame on you!

I’m actually going to pass on a tip here that will save you money!

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Longer-term followers will know that The Mighty Uno (my first car) died at the start of this year.  Well, it was going fine, but it was blowing out all its coolant, so probably a head gasket problem.  Not that it’s really relevant…

Sooo… After riding bikes through Winter before this, I’d never skimped on anti-freeze.  Basically, what happens in severe cold is the fluid freezes inside your engine, and as it freezes water expands.  This will crack the shit out of your pipes and even the engine block itself, meaning you can be left with a huge bill and a very broken car/bike.

It’ s not worth saving money here.  Coolant prices have soared over the last few years so you’re looking at paying about £30 for 3 litres of decent name-brand stuff – that’s much cheaper than a new engine, so it’s a bargain!  You also have to change it every 3 years or so or it loses its effectiveness.

Still with me?

So rather than paying £10+ per day topping up the Fiat, I stocked up on a load of pre-mixed anti-freeze from a local Pound Land (for £1 per litre, surprisingly!).  I scrapped The Mighty Uno back in February, and left the rest of the anti-freeze sat in the garage.  Then recently I bought the old Kawasaki GPZ500, and as I had no idea how long its coolant had been in there, decided to change it.  And remembered the cheap-ass coolant.

I tested it with a proper tester for a laugh, and all the balls floated (it’s very technical), indicating that this cheap stuff was good for at least -30c or -40c temperatures!  For reference, if I’d bought the usual expensive stuff to mix myself I’d have diluted it to protect to around -20c.

Gawd, this was supposed to be a short blog!

So the moral is, if you haven’t changed your coolant for 3 years in your car or bike, for the sake of £3 (most cars or bikes take less than 3l to fill), get some of this stuff and get it in there! 

It’s from Pound Land (but I think other similar shops stock it, too) and called ‘Pro-Driver anti freeze‘. 

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And don’t say I never give you anything!

Bassetts Pole & The Council Shutting Down Bike Meets

Bassetts Pole & The Council Shutting Down Bike Meets

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I saw through a friends Facebook status last night that the Police were stopping all bikers from stopping at Bassetts Pole for the huge Tuesday night bike meet that’s been going on for decades.

There is a pub carpark and a McDonalds where everyone parks, and it seems that the pub is trying to take out an injunction to stop any bikes using their car park.

Whilst I can see their issue with having their car park crammed full with hundreds of bikes for one night a week – are they missing the point that IT’S CRAMMED FULL OF HUNDREDS OF BIKES FOR ONE NIGHT A WEEK?  I bet you anything that even if hardly any of them go into the pub itself it will still be by far their most profitable night of the week!

Bikers like to have a drink when they stop off, and we all know that a few hundred pints of shandy are the best any pub can hope to sell for a profit!  If they’re worried that they’re losing out on selling food (which has a much lower profit margin) someone needs to smack them in the face and point out what they’re GAINING for the drinks they sell!  Plus with a fucking McDonalds literally next door they can hardly blame a drop in food sales on bikers blocking their customers, can they?!

And that’s all assuming none of the thousands of fat-assed bikers are going to eat any of the pubs food at all (about as likely as getting kicked in the head by a quadriplegic dwarf).

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And can anyone actually get an injunction in place to ban ‘bikers’?  Surely that shit went out back in the 60s?  What next?  Ban the blacks and jews, you fucking idiots?

Although you have to be pretty retarded to be anti-biker these days (it’s on an even lower level of intelligence than racism), I was once in a group out on our bikes who a pub refused to serve a meal to.  We went back home, got a load more mates and went back there without the leathers and bikes and successfully ordered an ungodly amount of food.  When it arrived, we informed then that we’d just remembered we were bikers, and walked the fuck out without touching a thing.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Bassetts Pole meeting, because there is always a huge oppressive Police presence and to be honest the ride to and from there is a bit crap, but if we don’t fight against stuff like this you can bet other bike meets will get killed.

Thousands of people would flock to Stratford-Upon-Avon waterfront every Sunday to have a look at all the bikes parked there.  The local businesses must have been raking it in.

But then the Council stepped in and banned all bike parking there, creating a bike-specific park outside the centre where nobody would go, making the waterfront area for disabled parking only, and in the process completely fucking missing the whole point.  And pissing everyone off.

But then the local council doesn’t have to make a profit, does it?  They get paid either way…

So we all need to fight this one, and show the twats in charge of this idiocy that we’re not going to stand for it – especially if their only ‘reason’ is to discriminate against anyone who might fall under the name of ‘Biker’.

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The Real Thrill Of Riding A Sportsbike

The Real Thrill Of Riding A Sportsbike

When you tell people you own a superbike, the main thing they think is that you go really fast.

Inevitably, as a friend asked me the other day, they will ask what speed you’ve done on it.

I answered him saying I’d seen 190mph on the clocks.  The reactions from others listening in ranged from impressed to disgusted to the usual mutterings about killing yourself.

Sure – it’s impressive that I’m in the 300kmph Club, and that puts me in with a select few, but answering the question and thinking about actually doing it, I realised something.

Not only is it pretty damned easy to do 190mph (ok, so maybe it takes some balls but essentially anyone can sit there and crack the throttle open), but there wasn’t much drama involved, and other than the ability to say I’ve done it… meh!  It’s not much fun, to be honest!

The REAL thrill I get from riding bikes is from banking the bugger over to obscene lean angles through the corners, and from the colossal acceleration!

Getting your knee down is part of the cornering experience, and I am a bit of a knee-down junkie who needs a fix every so often!  What most people don’t understand is that you CAN get your knee down at slow speeds!  All you have to do is hang off the bike and tighten your line through the corner, then lean that baby over until the glorious sound of plastic on tarmac sounds over the engine!

It’s a pretty unique view of the world when you’re hanging off the side of a sportsbike.  Your body makes up a third of the total weight of you and the bike, so to do it well and safely you have to gain an intimate and instinctive understanding of body positioning, balance and how bikes go around corners.

A lot of people have heard talk of ‘countersteering’ and see it as the be-all end-all of cornering.  It’s not.  EVERY vehicle that has two inline wheels HAS to use countersteering otherwise it wouldn’t turn at anything over walking pace!  This includes bicycles and Harley Davidsons – whether you realise you’re doing it or not!

Accelerating on a bike also takes more skill than you might think.  If you open the throttle on most sportsbikes you’ll either spin up the back wheel and launch yourself to the moon in a highside, or the front wheel will come up and smack you on the back of the head.

When you get it right, it’s awesome!  I did a video to time what my bike would do from a standing start, and found I can do 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds after only a few attempts!

You simply won’t get that performance from a car. People talk about how fast their car is when it does that speed in 6 seconds – but I’d be getting bored long before then!

Combine the two, like at Rockingham International and I can vividly recall pinning the throttle open whilst scraping my knee on the floor all the way to 120mph+!

Now THAT is a buzz!

Simoncelli Fatal Moto GP Crash – RIP Sideshow Bob

Simoncelli Fatal Moto GP Crash – RIP Sideshow Bob

I woke up late today, having missed the Moto GP race from Malaysia which was screened in the early hours of this morning, and logging onto Facebook was shocked to the core to see a lot of statuses saying that 24 year old Italian racer Marco Simoncelli was dead.

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Not fully wanting to believe it, I clicked on a link to the video.  If you haven’t seen the one doing the rounds, it shows Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi battling it out.  They come around a right-hander, and just before the exit you see Simoncelli come into shot, hanging off to the right of his bike, obviously in big trouble, and he comes straight across from the left in front of Rossi and Edwards.

You see Edwards brake and try his best to tighten his line, but there’s no chance.  He hits Simoncelli directly in the back just before Rossi, alongside him, also hits him in the head…

It was quite similar to the crash which claimed the life of Shoya Tomizawa in Moto 2 last year.

I’m gutted.

This year I’ve grown to really like Simoncelli, aka Sideshow Bob.  He’s exactly the sort of character that Moto GP needed in an otherwise fairly crap year.  I was fully behind him when he had what was blatantly a ‘racing incident’ with Pedrosa, after which a few of the top riders condemned Simoncelli’s riding style.  For what?  Overtaking?  Racing?  Making the sport exciting again???

I think with him becoming the underdog after this it really sealed it for me – he was a new favourite!

And he was really funny in interviews (not just because of his ridiculously huge hair) – telling Lorenzo after he’d had a whinge that he might have to be arrested.

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He also had one of those distinctive riding styles that was instantly recognisable.  He was a big lad, so against all the other jockey-sized riders it was knees and elbows all over the place – and of course he was FAST!

Without a doubt he’d have been a championship winner.

It’s a very sad day for the sport.  It’s strange how much it’s hit me, considering I don’t really know him.

My thoughts go out to his friends and family – and also to Edwards and Rossi.  I hope they can find peace with themselves through the tragedy.

I’ll miss watching you, Sideshow Bob – ride free, dude!

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EDIT RE FATAL CRASH VIDEO

As mentioned, the first I knew was a Facebook status and a link to the video of the accident.

The video is… a crash video.  Sure, it’s shocking because you know someone lost their life, and being the one to hit them you can bet that Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi are having a very tough time of it.

A lot of people are instantly getting the footage banned when it shows up (hence me not bothering to try and link to it here) saying it’s disrespectful etc… but why?  There’s no disrespect in watching a great riders final moments, and I’m glad I got to see it, because otherwise I wouldn’t believe it – I just wouldn’t know all the facts.  Watch the video and you can see how tragic it was, and how unavoidable.  It was Simoncellis skill at being able to save the lowside on his knee  that took him back across the track, whereas a less skilled rider would have just been in the gravel… and ironically, safe.

If you don’t want to watch it – don’t.  But don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t be able to see.  Censorship is NEVER a good thing.  This happened in front of millions, and if you think your crusade to stop anyone seeing it will work you’re deluding yourself.  Just don’t watch it.  It’s that simple.

I will watch it again, and I’ll feel the loss just as much.  Right now I’m raising a glass to Marco Simoncelli and toasting a great racer.

Donington Park GP First Ever Track Day

Donington Park GP First Ever Track Day

I got to the circuit, very nearly coming a cropper on the long gravel driveway near the entrance, and as I knew nobody else there, decided I’d better hope Lady Snoots Bike Hire had a van there with big letters on!

When I saw their van pull in a few minutes after I arrived, I headed over and introduced myself.

Next I walked down to sign my life away, for which I got a free bacon butty and a cup of coffee!  I sold my soul for less, so found it a good deal!

A lot of waiting around followed, chatting to a few other people, getting coloured wrist bands to show which of the three groups we were in etc.  At the riders briefing I smacked a wasp backwards off my head before realising there were people stood behind me.  I kept my eyes forwards as angry leathery shuffling sounds happened behind me.  Oopsie!

The track day was being run by No Limits.  Each of the three groups were scheduled to go out for twenty minutes every hour, providing there were no major incidents.  As a Novice, my group was the last of the three to go out.

I looked very carefully over the Kawasaki ZXR636 B1H track bike.  I have NEVER ridden a 600 sportsbike before, so didn’t have much of a clue what to expect!  I also thought about riding my own bike for a session, mainly to get some photographs of it – I decided against it, as the track bike had super-sticky tyres, upgraded brakes, tuned suspension, race rearsets and tyre warmers… it just wouldn’t be worth the risk of droping my bike!

They called our group and the Father and Son team of Lady Snoots took the tyre warmers off my bike while I stretched out a bit, regulated my breathing, and tried to both clear my mind and focus at the same time.

I threw a leg over the bike (taller than I expected) and joined the other forty or so riders at the end of the pit lane holding area.  Oooh shit!

The first three laps were to be ‘sighting laps’ – following the instructors in single file and getting an idea of the track layout and the ideal racing line.

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Having played the video game over the weekend, the track was pretty true to it in real life.  What a game can’t prepare you for is the breathtaking drop downhill through the Craner Curves, then the climb back up after Old Hairpin!  What a rush coming over the crest and looking down over that!

There was another blind crest on the entrance to Coppice which was a bit nasty, but nowhere near as bad as I’d been expecting.  Then the long back straight with a couple of huge humps which I soon found brought the front wheel skyward when you were hard on the power!  The tight Esses chicane I never got right all day because I was either severely bulked by slower riders, or was too slow on the exit.  This was actually the hardest corner.

A quick blast down to the Melbourne hairpin was again over a blind crest that I thought would take serious balls to power over before the braking zone… then it was around Goddards sweeping back onto the start straight.

After a few laps I was getting the feel of the bike and also realising I wasn’t going to be the slowest, and then they let us loose…

We’d been told to keep it all in perspective.  The main problem with the Novice group is that the others will be taking lots of weird and wonderful lines, and braking in unexpected places.  We were told to give each other plenty of room and not go diving past people with inches to spare.  For the most part I followed people, and was off the power soooo early before the corners it was ridiculous.  But safe.

In this first session I found I could take a wide line into Goddards and cut back to the inside and beat most people down the start straight even on bigger bikes.

Two things from the game, too: I’d found taking a tighter line and staying on the power down to Old Hairpin I could nip through.  This worked for me all through the day!  Even better was that everyone else seemed to be braking for Starkeys, whilst I copied what I did on the game – full power and knee-down all the way up the hill!  Without playing the game I’m sure I’d have just copied everyone else!

I think it was my first or second time out that I started scraping my knee around Goddards!  Now I was racing!

My confidence grew with each session.  There were always a few who came past like I was stood still, but a lot of that was because I wasn’t willing to risk much overtaking.  I stayed glued to a few of the faster people, though.

There were a few crashes but mainly in the other groups.  We had a few waved yellows and I think two red flags where we had to come back to the pit lane while they recovered bikes.  Then, near the end of one session, banked right over going around Melbourne, I got a major misfire that tried to spit me off as the bike bucked about.  I raised my hand and headed straight to the pits, where Lady Snoots got the spare bike straight out for the next session.  I’m pleased to say it felt exactly the same, so I didn’t have to learn it all again!

The other bloke hiring their GSXR wasn’t so lucky, binning his in the gravel and getting told his day was over…

So over the 7 sessions I started braking later into the corners, scraping my knees everywhere, and was very far from the slowest!  I was definitely happy with my performance, although there’s still a lot of room for improvement!

A great day and trouble free thanks to Lady Snoots!  The only real ‘moment’ I had was braking hard for Melbourne and Goddards and getting it all sideways with the rear chattering away!

It was a bit lonely for me on my own, and I wish all my mates weren’t pussies, but it was still good!  I probably shouldn’t say, but it seemed like everyone there who I got chatting to had a crash and disappeared home early….

So a life-long dream has been realised and I did it well!

The photographs from the day should be available for viewing from Thursday morning, so I’ll be buying lots and putting a load up on here!  Hopefully they’ve got some good shots of me!

If you’ve never done it, you NEED to!  One more thing about how it compared to a video game – doing it for real was EASIER!

It won’t be the last time I do it…