Moments That Mark Your Biking History

Moments That Mark Your Biking History

The best thing it’s possible to buy is a motorcycle.

Since that first iconic moment 15 years ago, where I took my CBT test and bought a scrappy little Yamaha TZR125, there have been a few moments that have been milestones in my biking history, for whatever reasons.

On the fourth day of riding, I was following a mate towards an island, and went in a little too hot.

I don’t know if I locked the rear, or it hit something slippery, but either way it ended up highsiding me big-time as I tried to get slowed down on the curve entering the roundabout.

I still remember quite vividly flying through the air several feet up, and looking at the shocked faces of two Police Officers who were driving towards me around the island.

Considering this was my first ever crash, I did well to be thinking about trying my best not to roll as I hit the floor (grass, luckily) so it didn’t snap my back or pull my limbs off, but the bigger thought as I slid along on my back was that I had to get up and back to my bike before the Police closed the road off.

I hurt my shoulder a bit, but was fine to ride the bike away from the scene.  I actually dropped that bike a few times, and always rode it away.

I put many miles on the bike after that, and loved every one.

A few months later I was filtering (badly) through some very heavy traffic in Worcester.  Two ZX7R’s came past me with ease, and I tagged onto the back of them.  It taught me so much watching them – I don’t think they put their feet down once as they carved through the gridlocked roads.  I don’t think I’d enjoyed filtering until then, but that all changed when I saw the skill needed to do it this well.

Having got a bit more experience, of course it was time to learn how to get my knee down.  I raced around as fast as I could, hanging off the bike like a drunk monkey as I did my best to get my sliders to touch down, to no avail…

A big bike came past me on a local road one day, and even though he wasn’t even exceeding the speed limit, he was sweeping the road on every corner with his knee.  I couldn’t believe how that was even possible?!

I upgraded to a Kawasaki ZXR400, which is just an awesome bike for learning to ride fast on.  The front end was like it was on rails and inspired masses of confidence.  Despite this, I still couldn’t quite get my knee down.

Alongside the ZXR, I bought an old 1988 Honda VFR750 FG for courier work.  At first I was terrified to lean it over in case the centre stand bottomed out.  So different to the ZXR it felt like trying to ride a big old skyscraper!

I soon settled in with that bike, and one day I was having a spirited ride around The Cloverleaf, and it was just starting to rain.  I leant it over and hung off and *SCRRRTCH!*!

I nearly jumped off the damned bike until I realised this was my kneeslider touching down!  Even today it amazes me how loud it is when you scrape your knee!

Jumping back on the ZXR after this, I’d crossed a barrier, and could get my knee down on any corner, at any speed.

My mates all got bigger bikes, but the little ZXR had no problems keeping up because of it’s cornering ability.  I still remember my mate trying to get his knee down on a Bandit 1200, and me going around the outside of him about 30mph faster with knee, toes, pegs and damned nearly my elbow touching down!

Life was good – riding was great.

One Sunday morning I left my girlfriend in bed and jumped on the ZXR to grab some food for us.

Before pulling out of my road, I let a Land Rover pass me.  I followed behind, and started to cover my brakes as the Land Rover slowed randomly in the road.

It was about then that something hit my visor, and suddenly I felt a wire across my throat.

Thinking of recent stories of kids tying wires and rope across road to get bikers, I slammed on my brakes, expecting the wire to tighten at any second and take my head off… By some miracle I got the bike stopped before the fallen telephone cable could decapitate me.  That Land Rover driver in front, who had stopped realising I was behind after he hit the wire himself, undoubtedly saved my life.

It was a stark reminder that I wasn’t invincible – and also that however skilled a rider you are, something totally random and beyond your control can take you out in a split second.

It took a while to get over The Fear from that one – I ducked every time I passed that spot for a long time…

Still, my biking continued with a growing love.  I could get my knee down on anything, and as well as being a fast road rider, I was also a safe one.

It was years later that I finally got around to booking my first track day at Donington Park.  I still have no idea why I left it so long, as I have been around racing all my life!

Pulling out of the pits onto that famous tarmac, I rounded the first two bends and nearly shot my beans as I got my first view down the Craner Curves!

So awesome it was almost spiritual!  I had a similar experience around Oulton Park a few weeks later… then a few other tracks as the trackday bug bit me hard!

I have had a couple of crashes during my time, but I’m alive and well.

More alive for riding bikes, I reckon.

And every time I swing my leg over a bike, even today, it still moves my soul.

I Will Swap All My Organs For A ZX10R!

I Will Swap All My Organs For A ZX10R!

I figured if I’m going to get my ZX9R on track this year, I should at least get the valve clearances done to make sure all is well.  I’m sure I could handle this job myself, but can’t be arsed fiddling about getting shims etc, so booked the bike into about the only motorcycle mechanics I still trust to touch my bike – Stealth Motorcycles of Redditch.

Expecting to be bikeless for a while, I was chuffed to the core when a mate offered to lend me his ZX10R Ninja.  And a bit scared.

If I hadn’t been made redundant last year, this is the bike that I would have been buying for myself just about now!  I couldn’t wait to get on it and see what it was like.

So after some quick pre-flight checks and asking what I should be watching out for, I swung my leg over the big black beast for the first time… And all my expectations after this have been shattered!

The bike is a bit smaller dimensionally than my 9R.  And it’s lighter.  And has around 40 horsepower more.

I pottered dow the road, noting that the throttle is a little snatchy at low revs (no doubt just the injectors) but it was all very smooth and well-behaved.  I arrived at a junction and stalled it – again, no drama, it’s just a much more sensitive clutch than I’m used to.

I pulled away smoothly and glanced down at the digital speed readout to see WHAT THE HELL?!?

Pulling virtually no revs with no effort whatsoever the speedo just shoots up.  I know my bike is no slouch, but when you’re trying to get to 60mph fast you know you’re giving it beans.  On the 10R you have no idea until you look down.

With absolutely no drama, and barely a wail from the twin Akrapovic cans it will just grab an illegal number and slap it up on the speedo display with seemingly nothing in between.

The power bogs down a tiny bit below 4000rpm, but above that it’s totally smooth all the way to, well, it says 12,000rpm but I don’t think I’ve even seen the shift light come on yet!  The twin cans sound a lot quieter than I expected – but then that’s whilst I’m sat above and in front of them – the rest of the world may have a different opinion on their sound levels.  To reel it all back in the brakes have amazing feel, and are very progressive whilst having more than enough power to pull you up in a hurry.  They’re perfect.

Suspension is pretty hard, and the bumps do throw you around a bit.  To be honest this is exactly how I prefer my bikes set up, and I’m sure a few twists of the adjusters would soon get it all working to your tastes.

What is clear is that the bike is awesome in the corners!  It goes EXACTLY where you want it whenever you want it there, and you can feel how perfectly balanced it all is.  Within minutes of riding it I was already fully confident keeping me feet on the pegs and balancing at traffic lights without a single wobble.

When you drop it into the corners it just tracks as if it’s on rails.  After only a couple of hours I can already feel it’s the best handling bike I’ve ridden on the roads.  In fact I’d say that it’s at the very least equal to the track bikes I’ve hired in the past.

In short, this 2006 Kawasaki ZX10R is such an amazing piece of kit, it’s unreal.  It would flatter any rider – even a total novice.  Its limits are always just on the horizon, teasing you to just have a go and see if you can get anywhere near them – but of course the closer you think you are to them, you realise they’re still miles away!  If a toddler could reach the controls he’d be in shot of getting a TT podium finish on one of these – they’re THAT good and easy to ride fast!

The scariest thing about it is just how tame it is.  I was expecting to be fighting it everywhere to keep it in line, but the reality is that it will do exactly what you tell it to do – be that pootling through a 30mph zone in heavy traffic to cruising fast sweeping bends without ever worrying you may have overcooked a corner.

I did find I was getting pins and needles in my right thumb and wrist when riding through built-up areas, but otherwise the bike was perfectly comfortable and would be easy to ride all year round without any problems.

I would LOVE to try one on a racetrack.

I would also now swap every organ in my body for one!  What an unbelieveable machine!

Tank Mounting The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+

Tank Mounting The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+

One problem I’ve been having with my Veho HD10 camera is with the sound.  It seems that the microphone is very sensitive, and will even pick up sounds such as vibrations and movement through the casing if you tape it to anything, like I do.

The way to get around most of the sound issues is to either use the mounts supplied by Veho, or to make your own.  I decided to try using one of the ‘official’ Veho mounts.

This one has a strong sticky pad that I stuck onto the tank.  The glue is very strong and even just plonking it on there in the cold it stayed put confidently.  Ideally, you want to make sure it’s set by sticking it on and leaving it overnight to set properly.  There are several of these types supplied.

The camera and mount attaches to this with a velcro pad.  I chose this for easy removal, but as it turns out the extra ‘give’ of the velcro meant the camera has far too much free movement!  The actual mount itself has two connecting joints (you can add more or remove them as required) – make sure these are screwed in as tight as possible, as they do work loose so the camera position moves!

My petrol tank does move a little with engine vibrations, and this didn’t help matters.  Before I’d screwed the joints up REALLY hard, I found the camera started to lean backwards under acceleration so it was filming the sky, and went forwards under hard braking and over harsh bumps.  My advice is to use as few of the joints as you possibly can for maximum stability.

I have no interest whatsoever in filming my speedometer – I don’t use cameras to show off or prove anything, so I’m not a major fan of this set-up!  You may well love it, and it could be good on track.

To eliminate the excess movement you may also want to stick the camera mount directly to the tank, and not use the velcro pad like I did.  If you do this you can still remove the mount and camera quickly and easily, as they all slide and click in securely anyway.

Oh, and the camera itself screws into the mount nicely, with no need for tape, padding, or anything else.

Overall, the mounts are all very good and very easy to use, plus they’re quite adaptable.  They’re well thought out, but you need to have a think yourself about where best to put them and which to use.

So what’s next?  I didn’t like the tank mounted option because there’s just too much movement on my bike.  I think next I will stick one of the pads onto my top yoke and see how that goes.  I’m also tempted to get the suction mount and put that on the inside of the windscreen… I’m not sure on a bike there’ll be anywhere on the screen flat enough to get good purchase, though?

And I finally got around to putting the supplied CD-ROM into my laptop – there’s nothing special on it apart from an electronic copy of the user manual, so those who can’t get it to load aren’t missing anything here!

I’ll get more pics and video of my next run…

Lickey Woods? Lick My FiveFingers!

Lickey Woods?  Lick My FiveFingers!

I was a bit disappointed to see it had rained overnight, but bravely slipped on my Vibram FiveFinger KSO’s and headed off to the Lickey Woods (near Lickey End *sniggers*) to give them a proper first try out.

One thing I noticed about them straight away is that having a much thinner sole than normal shoes and trainers, my jeans were too long for them!  They drag on the floor, and you can feel when you’re treading on them through the soles, too!  I could have worn shorts, but decided against it as it’s still only March here and in single-degrees-celsius, and more importantly you may have noticed from other pics my legs are so white it’s often been suggesting that it was the glare from them that sent Stevie Wonder blind.  Before I was born.

After having to nip into a local supermarket against my will I was surprised not to have people pointing at me and laughing.  I bought the black pair not because I want to look like a Ninja, nor did I buy them because I like the idea of wearing chopped-off gorillas feet over my own – but in the hope that they were a bit less noticeable.  It seems to have worked.

Which brings me to something else I was looking forward to trying:  Driving.

If you’ve ever tried driving a car in socks or barefoot, you’ll know that it -ing hurts.  I knew I was taking this chance with the FiveFingers, but to balance that was the knowledge that proper racing car footwear features very thin soles for extra feel.  Luckily, it seems the Vibrams have far more in common with the latter, and there was no sign of any discomfort at all on a short journey.  In fact I was amazed at the feel through them!  They’ve got to be the ultimate shoes for a racing driver – and it would make the whole skill of ‘Heel-and-toe’ much more literal!  Do they make a fireproof version?  If not, they’re missing a market!

It’s a shame they don’t also make a motorcycle boot version, because they’d feel brilliant, too.  I suppose from a crash protection point of view the toes wouldn’t be a great idea, though, and the strain on your left toe from the gear shift could become extremely uncomfortable…

I only walked around the Lickey Woods rather than running, but that was enough to tell me a lot of what to expect.

As I suspected before, big stones HURT.  If you get one in the arch of your foot in the middle next to the ball of your foot you know about it, and it would be a crippler if you were slamming your feet down at a run.  They’re not as bad as I thought they would be, though.

Loose gravel is like getting a foot massage, grass just feels sublime, and mud like walking on a waterbed!

Certainly, the softer ground is better, but I’m sure I’ll soon learn to watch more carefully where I put my feet to avoid the painful bits, and I’m sure my feet will also adapt and harden to it.

The extra stability really comes through on uneven ground, and where trainers would have thrown my balance off, my feet were able to fluidly mould to the ground just the way our feet evolved to do.  If you ever want a practical demonstration of the principles of Ninjitsu – you won’t find a much better example of it than here.  I wonder if Masaaki Hatsumi wears these?  I wonder if he endorses their use in Ninjutsu practise?

Vibram say in their literature that you should only wear FiveFingers for an hour or two at a time until your body adjusts to them.  On this outing I found my calves were starting to ache quite a lot, so I’m assuming this is related?

I have a problem when I run in trainers where I get muscle pump on the front of my lower legs, meaning although the rest of my body is still willing, I can hardly lift my foot anymore to take a step.  I’m hoping the FiveFingers will help relieve this.

I plan on wearing them to the gym tomorrow, where I should find out…


First Knee-Down Of 2011

First Knee-Down Of 2011


I can’t even remember if this is earlier or later than usual, but today was the first day of the year that I heard that distinctive scrape of plastic kneeslider on tarmac!

It’s still only around 8 degree Celsius here, and the roads are colder than a polar bears winkie – but the sun had been shining all day and so it was on with the Buffy neck warmer and away.

I’m still playing with mounting options for the Veho HDd10.  Sound is a major issue, because not only is it picking up far too much wind noise and high end sound, but it seems to pick up vibrations through the casing itself when taped to anything vaguely vibratey.  Yes, that is a word.  Today I used one of the Veho clip mounts, and taped this to my brake reservoir, rather than putting any tape on the actual camera directly.  Sound seems a lot better, but the very loose mounting point meant the camera was a bit wobbly.

It’s looking like a custom mount will be the way to go – possibly similar to the one I made for the micro cams, where you just slot the camera into some foam.

The bikers all over the UK seem to have woken up today, so I’m sure I’m not the first to scrape my knee today!

I was still worried about cold tyres and the mud still on the sides of mine, but I know the Pirelli Angel ST tyres have excellent grip from cold, so it’s more in my head after getting used to looking out for ice patches all Winter.  Just because the sun’s out doesn’t mean the road conditions are good and grippy…

My riding felt a bit off.  Speeds I’d normally think nothing of were feeling fast to me today – most likely thanks to driving a slow-assed car around so I’m more used to that than bikes now.  Consequently I was taking it relatively easy, because I just didn’t feel very comfortable when cornering.

Despite this, on a few roundabouts I put the feelers out and cranked the old ZX9R over enough to scrape the footpegs, and if you can scrape the pegs you can scrape your knees!

I followed someone on a grey BMW GS with hard paniers for a while before overtaking nice and safely when the opportunity arose.  He turned off on a roundabout, and so I was a bit surprised to see him in my mirrors again shortly afterwards.

Coincidence?  Maybe… but he then followed me everywhere I went.  This is a red flag because the Police do like these bikes, and it’s easy to conceal cameras and blue lights in those hard paniers.

As I’ve said, today I was riding sensibly, so this was even more strange… unless maybe he saw my camera as he turned off?  He certainly had a few opportunities when he followed me to get a good view of it, so perhaps he was watching to see me do something stupid for the camera.

I didn’t.

I rode nicely, pretending I hadn’t seen him, and headed towards a favourite place to see if I could get my knee down without much effort.

He followed me all the way, so I turned off early onto some more fast flowing curves.

Most people are surprised at how well a big BMW GS can move compared to a sportsbike, but when it comes to smooth, fast curves NOTHING beats a sportsbike.  It’s the reason for their whole existence.

Even at legal speeds I pulled out a gap, and then as a switchback curve obscured his view of me I tightened my line around a left-hander, shifting my weight over to the left as I gripped between the footpeg and the side of the petrol tank with my right leg.

Reaching out a little with my left knee was all it took for the slider to touch down.

Ahh, that beautiful, addictive sound!

And literally in front of the police?  Could be…


Women Should Pay The Same Insurance As Men

Women Should Pay The Same Insurance As Men

Insurers cannot charge different premiums to men and women because of their gender, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12606610

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I’ve long championed the view that I stole from Dub War: “Equal rights is for EVERYBODY!”

It’s why things like groups JUST for minorities (of whatever sort) piss me off.  Not only are they segregating themselves, but they make everyone else who never thought of you as different/oppressed/whatever as being, well, different, oppressed or whatever.  And probably makes some people hate you.

So this latest thing about insurance makes me laugh.

Women always say they want ‘equal rights’ as long as it actually means ‘in womens favour’.  When it means ‘equal with men’ a whole shitstorm kicks up!

So you want it equal?  Welcome to paying the same insurance costs as men!

It’s long been said that women are safer drivers than men.  Men, especially younger men, are assumed to jump in a car and drive it as fast as possible until they crash and end up in a fireball, costing the insurance companies millions.

Well I call bullshit.

Whilst there are SOME men who drive like that, I know at least an equal number who drive very safely and conservatively.  Conversely, I know a LOT of women who drive like spastics.

Sure, there ARE women who drive everywhere as quickly as possible, but I’m talking about the other kind of terrible drivers here…

For example, the ones who drive slowly because it’s ‘safer’ – even if it means doing 50mph on a motorway… Or the ones so nervous about driving they would probably die if they ever had to deviate from the three very precise routes they feel just about confident to drive on.

As a biker I see lots of poor driving on the roads.  I’m not going to say it’s all by women – in fact in my honest opinion it’s probably a fairly equal split.

But when it comes to drivers not paying the slightest bit of attention, I have to say women take the crown.

I’ve never seen a man driving along whilst applying make-up.  I don’t see men checking the mirrors every two minutes – not to look at other traffic, but to check their hair is still ok!  I mean, for fucks sake you’re in a car!  You’re not going to pull anyone, nobody gives a kippers dick what you look like, so what in the Holy Blue Fuck are you doing???

https://nastyevilninja.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/hellokittycarinterior.png?w=300

And you won’t see many mens cars around with glaring pink fluffy shit filling the interior, topped off with huge swinging fluffy dice, “Mrs Edward Cullen On Board” signs obscuring their blind spots, and Lord only knows what else!

Statistics my arse!  Here’s your average statistic for safe women drivers – this car was driven by two young women happily chatting away doing around 50mph in the overtaking lane of a totally clear dual carriageway:

Maybe men crash at higher speed, bigger accidents, but if you’re telling me women don’t have more low-speed bumps due to not paying attention or just being a dick, I’ll challenge your claims all day long.  Plus todays culture itself means many women are trying to imitate men with binge drinking and ‘ladette’ behavious etc.  You think this doesn’t extend to driving?

Strange, perhaps, because as I’ve noted before every female motorcyclist I’ve known has been an excellent rider…

Doing A Suicidal 129mph!

Doing A Suicidal 129mph!

That’s the actual line I heard in an episode of ‘Police, Camera, Action’ the other night, as they filmed Police following a driver on a UK three lane motorway: “Doing a SUICIDAL 129mph!!!”

As if 130 would have made him instantly drop dead from speed?!

Because we all know that speed kills…

Never mind lack of skill, inattention or a poorly maintained vehicle.  Nope – these are all perfectly safe as long as you NEVER go above the speed limits that were set for the vehicles of 46 years ago

Don’t get me wrong here – we need some limits and I’m all in favour of 30mph zones and respect them totally.  They’re almost always there for a reason (schools, dangerous roads, old biddies crossing etc).  40mph zones are a bit more dodgy as they seem to have changed a lot of previously 60mph roads to 40mph limits for no known reason… But 70mph on a modern three lane motorway is ludicrous!

 

Let me just put that into perspective for you.  Here is an ‘average’ car for 1965:

1965 Triumph 2000
This kicked out a mighty 89 bhp

And here is 2010’s ‘average’ car:

2010 Ford Focus
This wheezes out a measly 140 bhp

The braking road holding abilities of cars has come just as far, too – and that’s without any electric aids such as stability control.

And we shouldn’t forget how much road building technology has advanced, and the signage on the roads…

I think most cars in 1965 struggled to even reach 70mph!  Now most will cruise at 100 without too much stress…

If you actually DO 70mph on a motorway these days, you’ll find just about everything will come streaming past you.  85 is the new 70, baby!  And to be fair that probably is a nice sensible new speed.  There are people who still do 50mph on motorways, so you can bet they’ll still be doing that speed even if limits are raised, and for the rest of us it makes life a lot easier…

Or how about going even further and introducing an advanced license to let people do faster speeds – only on motorways.  100mph?  Unlimited?  You’d have to prove you could pay attention and display forward planning, and if you did cause an accidents penalties should be severe…

And put motorway driving in the driving test – focusing on making sure people stay in the -ing left hand lane unless they’re overtaking!

You know – just common sense?

It’ll never catch on…

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