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.


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…


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


The Longest Kneedown

The Longest Kneedown

No, this isn’t a blog about Tulisa getting slapped in the face with a cock in her sex video – this is about the beatiful exhileration that is scraping your knee on a bike.

Normally, all you get is a split second of scraping as you take the corner, and then you’re back up again. If this was your first touchdown at this point you’ll be marvelling at just how LOUD the scraping of plastic on tarmac can be.

Living close to a very unique section of road – The Redditch Cloverleaf – means that bikers in this part of the world get to experience this near-constant radius collection of four left hand bends, which are technically national speed limit (70mph). It’s probably thanks to this that I am far more proficiant at scraping my left knee in corners than my right. Accross the rest of the UK you’ll find most bikers prefer scraping their right knee, mainly due to practise on islands.

I thought I’d upload an example of what is probably my longest kneedown, having spoken about my slowest, fastest, and just doing it in general previously:

Is there anywhere else that can provide longer knee-scraping antics? I thought maybe Gerrards at Mallory Park – but although this corner may be longer, you go a lot faster through it, so probably get through the corner quicker overall.

What’s the longest you’ve done it for?

Did you think Tulisas pink tracksuit was sexy?

Rockingham International Trackday 21/05/11

Rockingham International Trackday 21/05/11

I was watching this for ages, and as soon as the weather looked good (just over a day before!) I booked my first trackday of the year and my first for almost a year!  With No Limits trackdays and as Intermediates was all booked I was in the Novice group with a mate…

I quite liked the International track when I did it before, and to be honest liked it a lot more this time.  Compared to circuits like Oulton it’s a bit soulless – but there’s no denying that in the dry it’s still a -ing great place!

This was also the first trackday I’ve done where I was using my road bike – a Kawasaki ZX9R Ninja C2 – rather than a fully tricked-out hire bike.

I figured I’d take it easy in the first session I’d just feel out my bike and then had options from there, as you may have seen in my last blog.  

I HATE sighting laps!  OK, I see their point, but FFS people don’t cruise around them – use them to get some heat in your tyres!  I didn’t have the luxury of tyre warmers this time, but already know my Pirelli Angel ST tyres are good for kneedown from cold (I did a video to prove it!), so unsurprisingly I was still flying past almost everyone on the warm-up laps.  That’s not because I’m great on cold tyres – it’s just because I know the limits and still leave a massive safety margin whilst getting a move on.

There were a fair few incidents, but considering most ‘hardcore’ trackday riders pick mid-week dates, this Saturday event didn’t seem to have any Nob-heads in the Novice group.  Sure, some were slow, but generally the pace was pretty quick and there were a few very fast riders – including my mate and a few from who I met.  I couldn’t stay with them.

I got advice from the Tyre Guru to use pressures of 34psi front and 32psi rear.  After noting that my front tyre was screeching like a teen at her first fisting mitten session under heavy braking, instinct told me to drop the pressure even more, but the same Tyre Guru advised against it, and I had to admit what I already suspected…. That my front brake discs are warped.

Major issue, but I just had to brake early and try and ride around it.

My worries of ground clearance were unfounded, because on track I hang off so much more than the road that my foot pegs were clear.  The tyres were also much better than I thought, and although I could have pushed harder they never failed me.  Sports-touring tyres?  Well the videos will show me on full throttle, kneedown at 12,000rpm and 120mph all the way around the left-hander after the first chicane with not a single glitch!  Very impressive for tyres I honestly thought would overheat and try to spit me off!

I was a bit proud that my mate and I were representing 90s sportsbikes and how cheap trackdays can be done, with him on a 1996 Fireblade, and both of us riding around the outside of much more modern machinery.

Then, in the 5th session my mate lowsided it into the last chicane thanks to one of the TDR riders (only joking lol) – amazingly little damage, but unfortunately he broke a footrest hanger sliding over the curves so his day was over…

I found my fitness was a major problem, and I was proper gassing when I was on the pace.  And I was lapping around 1min 50 – which for a 12 year old ‘sports tourer’ on sports touring tyres and with warped front brake discs that I knew I couldn’t afford to crash – was very impressive!  And also seem to have got one lap in closer to 1m40!

Great day – good to meet all those who I did, and I should have a ‘highlight’ video uploaded soon… The professional photos should be sent out soon.

EDIT: There are 3 good laps through traffic then a load of mistakes, crash victims and other stuff at the end.  You can hear my front tyre screeching under hard braking if you listen closely – and also hear I was doing some serious trail-braking into some of the corners to compensate!

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!

Getting The ZX9R On Track

Getting The ZX9R On Track

I’ve always hired bikes for trackdays.  The way I see it, although it is quite expensive, is that you’re getting the use of a dogs bollocks expertly set up and prepared race bike with super-sticky tyres, brakes that pop your eyeballs out every time you touch them, and generally an ability much better than you’ll have as the rider.

I’d highly recommend trying Lady Snoots for hire bikes from a great bloke, and also Smallboy and Pattracking I had no faults with whatsoever.  The Focused Events trackbikes of a few years ago were shitters.  They did the job, but they were blatantly cutting all the corners they could by using (old) sports-touring tyres and maintaining them like your average ped rider.  Things do seem to have changed, but they’re still expensive…  The biggest pisser is that you HAVE to use their own hire bikes on Focused Events days…

Anyway, my main reason for hiring was that my bike was my only transport.  This has now changed now I have a license and car, and if I dropped the ZX9R and it was off the road for a while for repairs it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

So with funding nowhere near what it was after my redundancy, it makes sense to cut the costs by getting the 9r out on track this year.

It will still be a compromise, but I want to do it for as little cost as possible.

Ideally, I’d want: Full race fairing, race compound brake pads, aftermarket rearsets (I scrape my pegs in normal road riding!), some kind of protection for my engine covers, and sticky race tyres – possibly even a spare set of wheels.

The reality is that this would cost as much as it would to hire bikes for a couple of trackdays…

So, after scouring Ebay for race fairings (£340 from China!), I’ve decided that I’m just going to go for it with the bike in standard trim.  If I do come a cropper, THEN I can buy a new fairing and replace the parts.  I’ll just have to try my best not to come a cropper!  But thinking about it I was well within my limits on the hire bikes, as I didn’t want to be liable for paying out the crash deposit!

What’s left to worry about?

Tyres.  I use Pirelli Angel ST’s on the road, because they give a combination of awesome grip from cold, massive mileage, and just do everything better than any other road tyre.  On track I’m sure they will overheat and slide around a bit – but am I capable/willing to push them that hard for them to become a problem?  I shall just have to try it and see…

Ground clearance could be an issue, as I’m not afraid of leaning the bike over even on the roads.  Someone from came up with an ingenious solution of taping a 5p coin in the hinge of the footpeg to raise them and give a few degrees more ground clearance, and so I may well try that.

Whatever – I can hear the call of the racetrack again, and I need to get back out there SOON!

Plus it would be great to have a few photographs of me on track riding my own bike!

Watch this space!

My Favourite Road – Bridgnorth To Ludlow

My Favourite Road – Bridgnorth To Ludlow

As a biker, I’m happy to just jump on the bike and ride.  It doesn’t matter where I’m going, or for how long.

Much as I hate paying almost £1.40 for a litre of Super Unleaded petrol, I WILL pay it and have fk all to show from it apart from a smile on my face and slightly less rubber on my tyres, and maybe less plastic on my toe and kneesliders.  Yeah, screw you Society!  That’s how I roll!

Of course, I do have my favourite destinations.  The Redditch Cloverleaf is almost impossible to resist anytime I have to ride past and the roads are dry.  I mean, you simply pull off the dual carriageway and scrape your knee around the four corners and then carry on in the direction you were headed as if nothing had happened.  It really is Heaven.

Except this year the road surface on the Cloverleaf is rather shocking… The tarmac is broken and very rough on EXACTLY the line you want to be taking around there!

Anyway, enough about that – what I really wanted to blog about here is one of my favourite roads.

It’s the B4364 that runs from Bridgnorth to Ludlow.  It’s over 22 miles through some of the most beautiful Shropshire countryside, and has everything from open straights and fast sweeping corners to mega-tight OFM (“Oh Fuck Me!”) twisties.

Ludlow itself is a very nice place for a stop-off, as is Bridgnorth – and the Quatt Biker Cafe just outside Bridgnorth is always a mecca for bikers of all kinds who drop in for a bacon sandwich and a coffee.

At the Ludlow end of the B4364, if you head in the opposite direction towards Kidderminster, you cross the stunning Cleehill – where you’ll see a lot of my bike photographs are taken.

This was a lovely sunny day, so I got the Veho HD10+ mounted on the bike and decided to get footage of the whole of the B4364, at legal speeds to show how it is still a lot of fun to ride without being silly.

I hope you enjoy this and don’t criticise my riding too harshly!

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…