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.

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!

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!

Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Full Review After Onboard Test

Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ Full Review After Onboard Test


See this blog for my initial review of what you get and some tech specs: INITIAL REVIEW

The Veho VCC-005-MUVI-HD10+ comes with millions of mountings and attachments.  By far the best option for a sportsbike is to stick it near the front of the tank where it will have an excellent view of the clocks and through the screen.  Mounting it on the tailpiece would be quick and simple, too.  In fact, for a track bike there are loads of options!

For the road, however, I soon realised my options were far more limited.  I don’t want to film my speedo.  That’s far too easy to incriminate yourself when you’re pulled over doing 75mph and the Police view the footage.

My other big consideration is for a bit of stealth – and the HD10 just doesn’t allow this anywhere near as well as the smaller cams such as the Veho Muvi Pro or MD80.  Plus there’s the 1.5″ video screen which draws attention at the traffic lights.

In the end, I went back to duct tape and sponge, mounting the HD10 on the front of the brake reservoir in the same place I favoured for smaller cams.

This still isn’t ideal for fast installment and removal – such as when you stop for petrol and don’t want some Scrote grabbing your camera off the bike whilst you’re inside paying.  This is something I will work on.

The velcro strips are very useful for mounting and as extra ‘security’ measures in case the cam does fly off at 190mph.

I used a simple piece of foam between the cam and the brake reservoir, and vibrations were minimal.  The footage doesn’t go wavy at high revs or over bumps.  There is some jolting, but footage is still continuous and it seems good.

More of a problem is the sound.  I think it’s more sensitive than the smaller cams, which means it does pick up more, but the crisper sound also picks up a lot of wind noise.  I think the hole on the front cover is for the mic, and I will try and dampen it next time by putting some tape across and see how that helps.  It has potential.

The time/date stamp is still there, although smaller on the HD10 it’s still a totally unnecessary pisser.  It is easier to set and can be altered through the menu options at any time – but I don’t want it there at all!  For one it’s unsightly, and secondly it goes back to incriminating yourself by showing the exact time and date the footage was filmed.  It could work in your favour or very much against it, so I randomise any stamps on my cams.  PLEASE GET RID OF IT, VEHO!!!

To be honest, I wasn’t  as impressed with the video quality as I was expecting to be.  It is better than a Veho Muvi Pro, but not by much… that is until you watch it on a full-size TV, where the difference really shows!  It’s still a bit grainy – especially in poor light conditions (see my test video) but the widescreen is good.

The 160 degree fisheye-type lens isn’t as terrible as I thought it might be, and doesn’t distort the footage in ways that make it look weird and unwatchable.  It’s just about right.

Playback on a TV directly from the DH10 is very impressive.  There is no broken footage or waiting around for it to play.  I’ve only tested this with the USB cable into my Xbox, but I should imagine the HDMI connection is just as flawless.

In my test the HD10 was recording at 1.28GB for every 30 minutes of footage – and again Veho needlessly split the footage every 30 minutes.  It does this quickly and does offer some protection if a file goes corrupt, but I doubt anyone likes it.  Sort it out, Veho.  And I got a shock editing my video in Windows Media Player, as this cam records as a .mov file and not a .avi.  This may not be an issue with other software, but WMP has to convert all the file before you can even snip a 30 second chunk out to edit.  Having said this, the .avi’s from the Muvi Pro and MD80 wouldn’t play from the cam through the Xbox or video player, whereas these files WILL.  And this is a Very Good Thing!

What is impressive is battery life.  All these cams make a claim that you can halve and then it’s getting closer to the truth.  Veho claim ‘4 hours recording time’ for the HD10 and for my test I left it recording for well over 3 hours before it switched itself off… and I later noticed that this was because the memory card was full!  Four hours of recording seems very realistic – and possibly more!

So overall the Veho Muvi HD10+ is damned good, but a bit of a let-down in parts, for me.  It’s just about perfect for filming trackdays – aside from it not being waterproof – or other more overt uses.

It IS a good camera, and for the price there isn’t much that compares.  The next one up is a £250 GoPro, and the next one down is probably a Veho Muvi Pro for around £60, so it does sit nicely in the gap.  Would I buy one again?  Well… unless my budget extended to the GoPro (which is even less covert and awkward to mount anywhere for everyday road use), then I would have to say that I would.

I was just hoping Veho would have sorted out things like the file-splitting and especially the time/date stamp.

You may disagree and think it’s amazing – I just think that they could have done better…

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Click here for my review and comparison of: Keychain Spycam, MD80 and Veho Muvi Pro

‘Merkins Vs. Brit Riders

Merkins Vs. Brit Riders

You’d think that riding a motorbike would be a universal skill, with the same style and technique used by riders everywhere in the world.

Looking at the vids on YouTube, and those of friends, I have come to the conclusion that this is certainly not the case.

Now, I could be here all day poking at people, but for the sake of this I’m going to just include sportsbike riders. More specifically, those from the US and those from the UK.

We’ve both got equal representation overall in World class racing, and let’s face it – we ride sportbikes to emulate out on-track heros.

When I got my first Yamaha TZR125 from the off I was concerned how far I could lean the bike over. If you’ve never ridden a bike, then the answer is that you can lean a bike over to an unbelievably stupid angle that your brain simply does not allow you to do without significant practise and experience.

Many bikers, myself included, have crashed where we could have made the corner safely had we just leant it over more instead of panic-braking or going straight on. Even my 1991 TZR would have been awesome in the corners had I had the skill back then to exploit it. I’ve always said that I’d love a go on a 125 again just to see what they’re like in the corners when you can actually RIDE a bike!

Sadly, most of us move on and up the cc’s well before we have any real riding skills…

Even though, I did try to get my knee down on that TZR! A lot. For a year.

Then I tried for another year on a Kawasaki ZXR400 with no success. I actually did it for the first time on a 1988 Honda VFR750 FG streetfighter with raised bars and a 130 section rear tyre! Once I’d done it, I could do it. I still had the ZXR, and once that was back on the road on the very first run I took it on I could scrape my knees on any corner at any speed at will! I still have memories of riding around The Redditch Cloverleaf with my footpegs scraping as well as my knee – when my knee was still tucked into the tank!

Anyway, my point is that doing the two-odd years of my trying to scrape my knee, I read every article and watched every video I could about how to do it, and the biggest factor other than leaning the bike more was Body Positioning.


On a bike your body position is vitally important for it’s stability, and in my opinion it’s the first thing any rider should look to perfect to improve their rising skills as a whole. I’ve followed many mates who should have been able to get their knee down but just couldn’t get down that last inch or two whatever they did. Just like I was on the TZR and ZXR.

Which brings me to the ‘Merkins.

There is an excellent poster on YouTube called rnickeymouse, who films riders on the irrisistable road that is ‘Mulholland Drive’ in California.

Unlike the Brits, the Americans seem able to jump on a brand new sportsbike and lay that sucker over on its side like most Brits never build up the balls to do.

The problem is that their body position is absolutely terrible! This has the unsurprising result that solid bits of bike touch down whilst the rider sits bolt upright, or twisted in the saddle at an obscene angle, and the bike either grounds out or the suspension runs out of, err, suspension and they highside or lowside. Often without even the lightest scrape of a kneeslider.

The idea of getting your knee down… well it’s for fun! But the original function, and as used on a racetrack, is to gauge how much further you can lean the bike over before solid bits of it hit the deck and you crash.

So is it that the Yanks just don’t have that same thirst as us Brits for getting their knees down? Maybe they just have no interest in studying how to ride, and just want to get out there and thrape it?

Or are Brits too scared to lean their bikes – and could our weather and crappy roads be the cause of that?

Mallory Park Trackday 07/05/10

Mallory Park Trackday 07/05/10

The very afternoon before this day, I saw the forecast looked dry and so booked it up!  As it was the first of the year and on a track I’d never been on, I decided to ease into it by booking the Novice group.

After the usual rituals of cleaning/waxing my leathers the night before, I packed a load of water and chocolate bars along with my cameras and settled down for a restless nights ‘sleep’.

I was up bright and early, and got to the dim, cold circuit to find the place almost deserted!  I guess everyone had booked onto the Saturday trackday instead?  I found Martin with the immaculately turned out Kawasaki ZXR636 B1H hire bike from Lady Snoots, chatted for a bit and then signed on ready to go.

The adrenalin finally started pumping as they gave the riders safety briefing.  It seemed like over half the riders were booked into the Novice group, with most of them never having ridden at Mallory before.  I began to wonder if I’d have been better off booking into the Intermediate group just to get the extra track space…

Before I knew it I was throwing my leg over the bike for the first time, but this time it didn’t feel quite as unusual after jumping off my big old bus of a ZX9R.  Either way the first few sessions would be about learning how the bike handled as much as learning the track.  I have to say I quite enjoy this part of hiring a bike!

I lined up right at the back of the pack in the pit lane (as I did in every session – mainly because I had the luxury of tyre warmers so didn’t want to be sat around before we got out on track), and took some deep breaths and got focused.

The sighting laps were painfully slow.  I mean, to the point that I was having to pull the clutch in to get around the hairpin!  I can understand things being a bit slow as this was Novices and first time out, but this was seriously slow.  It seemed the same was true of the out-laps of every session (although not quite as bad).  OK, so I had warmers so expected to overtake a lot who were still getting heat into their tyres, but many people seemed to be riding at a pace that was absolutely useless because there’s no way it would have done them any favours for their grip!  If you’re not working your tyres at least a little then what’s the point?

This was where I realised I had booked into the wrong group, and should have been in Intermediates…  As the day went on they did pick the pace up a lot, but there was only one person anywhere near me, and I think both of us were way ahead of the rest of the group.  Again, I’m not saying this to brag, because I cocked up here and underestimated how quickly I’d find a good pace.  Lesson learned and I think that may be my last time in Novices…

Anyway, the track was much better than I thought it would be.  I thought I might get bored as it’s only short, but there’s a lot of fun to be had and a few corners with plenty of “Shit-I-Should-Have-Done-That-Much-Faster” factor to them!  The weather held off with only a few spots of rain and not enough to wet the track, and I even got sunburnt!

https://i0.wp.com/www.motorbikesport.co.uk/uploadedimages/mallory_park.gif


The first corner is the infamous Gerrards.  I NEVER got the entry speed right.  It takes serious balls to hammer into it without being hard on the brakes, but you tip it in and then it’s a right-hander that goes on forever.  This was great for me because I’m far better at getting my left knee down, and at Mallory I don’t think I touched my left knee down once all day!  Definitely good practise for me.

This opens onto Stebb Straight before hammering the brakes for the left-right flick, getting hard on the power whilst still knee-down on the exit, scraping the knee again through the Lake Esses and back over to the left up the hill to the hairpin turn.  This was another problem place for me as I felt I never committed hard enough around it.  It is amazingly tight, though!

Then it’s hard on the power for a short dive into the very tight bus-stop chicane.  You don’t want to run over the curbs here because they’re nasty.

After this it’s hard on the power again through Devils Elbow.  Martin very helpfully told me to short-shift before this corner, as you really have to change up but as you’re banked over can’t get your foot under the gear lever to do it.  Whacking it up a couple of gears on the entry meant I didn’t run out of revs and had the added bonus of putting less power through the cold left side of the tyre and catapulting myself off.

I’d been warned (and seen the YouTube footage) that Mallory is notorious for people binning it on the left-handers, purely because there aren’t many, so the tyre is still cold on that side.  I took it easy all day on these and consequently didn’t die.  The only ‘moments’ I had were a tank slapper through the Esses (caught on video), and a big wiggle around Gerrards which made me call it a day early as I was knackered to death.

Speaking of which, there were a few people who had offs, and they turned out to be pretty big.  Someone on a yellow Triumph road bike went straight on at Gerrards, but then said the bike dug into the wet grass and flipped, causing pretty severe damage.  Another ZX6R did exactly the same, and ended up in hospital with some neck problems (I believe he was ok).  The biggest off was one of the No Limits instructors, whose wheel collapsed on the first lap with the Fast Group, and I heard he had some pretty nasty injuries…  Hopefully he’s ok.

So my day was great!  I thought it would show up my fitness, but I survived ok!

My right hand had serious muscle pump after the first few sessions (I blame Lil Boo for my lack of right hand stamina!) but that went away.  The brakes on the hire bike were Bastard Strong, and my wrists were absolutely knackered by the end of the day!  Something I’ll train a little for next time.  The usual pain like I’d been beaten up came after the adrenalin wore off that night…

I did have a bit of a play with one bike in my group, and that will be the first video I upload.  He and all the people I spoke to there seemed pretty cool, and there should be a fair few videos flying about from what I saw!

I look forward to doing Mallory Park again, as I have a lot of things to improve on, and I’m sure it will be a lot of fun doing it!

If you follow the links from these I’ve uploaded all of the last 3 sessions of the day!