Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cold days and making it up as you go...

Over the last couple of weeks demands of work, and partly the rotten weather, have stopped me getting out on the bike. This time of year it's rotten dark by the time I've finished work, so there's no evening riding to be done. Today was about 6-7 degrees but, with the forcast predicting a less than 20% chance of rain, I layered up and headed out. I didn't have a route planned, just made it up as I went along. The roads around York were pretty packed with people heading off to do some Christmas shopping at the various out of town retail parks, but once I was away from the ringroad and bypass the roads were brilliantly quiet.

These photos, taken near the top of Garrowby Hill east of York give a good indication of why riding, even on a cold day, is such a joy:

The views are stunning and the road sweeps challengingly right to left down a steep hill. At the bottom the views ahead across sweeping bends on the road towards Stamford Bridge make for an exhilerating ride. It was bit twitchy on the cold wet surface though. 

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Of layers, impatience and a glass half full...

Today the sun came out again. Hoorah! But it was cold. So, by the time I'd got into thermal leggings, fleece, quilt lined cordura trousers, leather jacket, body warmer, boots and gloves, and not forgetting neck warmer, I felt rather like a layer cake. Don't care though, it was worth all the effort (bending down to put on the boots with all those layers, you know what I mean), and I had a great ride out across town to visit my son.

For me a ride out like that is an absolute tonic. It's the only time I get effective relief from this awful screaming tinnitus.

Talking of which; the legal wranglings over my head injury drag on. I had hoped that it would all have been sorted out by now and I'd be riding around on the Harley I've promised myself. This coming February it will be three years since railway catering guy dropped a ramp into the side of my head on Manchester Piccadilly Station. That's almost three years of having to live a very changed life and cope with some very distressing effects. I really am fed up with the whole process. With it still being on-going it keeps it firmly in mind which is rather counter productive when one is seeking recovery. I have just been told I am to see yet another medical 'expert' for futher assessment. I'll be lucky if I get a Harley on the road by next summer at this rate.

So, if anyone has a Harley tucked away in a garage that they don't know what to do with, and don't want anything for it other than the satisfaction of seeing it go to a good home and the knowledge that it will be well used, I'm your man. But in reality I shall continue to joyfully ride the old Triumph. I have made up my mind to run it throughout the winter, making the most of any half decent weather. And hey! it's only three weeks until the days start getting longer again. Glass half full!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A hole in one...

When I talk about a hole in one it doesn't mean I've been lucky while thrashing about with a funny shaped stick - I don't do golf!

Out came the sun today and out came the bike which had been standing idle under cover in the garage for over a fortnight. The battery clearly didn't like the conditions and it only just managed to turn things over enough to fire up. Of course, being a bike with a carb it was choke full on. That meant a bit of visible blue exhaust. That is how I came to notice a little jet of exhaust fumes blowing forwards. I knew before I even looked that the exhaust was blowing. Two great big expensive silencers and I have a hole in one.

As can be seen from the photo it's right at the front underside of the left silencer, probably where a stone has caught it, chipped the paint and allowed corrosion...
As you can see from this next photo these silencers are not small...

So, wrapped up in thermal layers and leather (it may have been sunny but the day's high was 5C) I had a ride out which included a stop at the local Triumph dealer. Price for new silencer - £320 and that's fitting it myself. 

Guess I'll be looking on the internet for after-sales parts, but that may involve having to buy a matching pair. In the meantime I may just get a tin of exhaust putty.

The ride out was glorious though. A good mixture of urban and rural riding. It just puts the world to right.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Playing on a Street Triple...

Last Friday I took my bike in to the Triumph dealer to have the fork stantions replaced. Thankfully, as I had places to go, I was given the use of a demonstrator bike. I was given this little sweetie...

A brand new Triumph 675cc Street Triple

I've read an awful lot of articles about how good this bike is. Many biker journos reckon it's the top of the mid range naked class. As you can see from the photos, this bike is completely stripped back. With that and the fact it is built from the lightest of alloys it has no weight at all. In comparison to my big black beast it felt like a large moped when I first got on it.

The riding position was strange too; feet well back and leaning forward onto the bars. At first it felt as if I would fall face first on to the instrument panel if I let go. I eased out onto the road, with an embarassing stall as a van driver kindly waited to let me out, and then opened the throttle a touch. Wow, a moped it certainly ain't!

This thing can really move. At low revs the engine hums quietly, but when you twist the right hand there's a satisfying growl. By the time I'd ridden the few miles home I already realised that this was a bike that could be thrown around and it would do exactly what was demanded of it. I wasn't dissapointed when the service guy rang me to say there was a mix up with the parts and my bike would not be ready until Monday.

The weather on Saturday was really awful and I was still recovering from a grotty cold so it stayed in my garage. On Sunday the sun came out, although it was pretty cold. I had most of the day at university, but got some miles in around that.

With ABS  and the lack of weight this bike stops on the proverbial penny. The throttle is so responsive I'd swear it was pre-empting the twist of my hand. I liked the digital display on the panel which was so easy to read and it's good to be able to see how much fuel you've got left, unlike my beast with which you've got to physically check the contents of the tank or wait for the low fuel light to come on.

It is certainly a fun bike with a lot of guts and it looks stunning. Lack of torque was an issue for me though as I was having to use the gears a lot more in traffic, but that was well compensated by a silky smooth gearbox. Not impressed by the mirrors, just couldn't position them correctly.

I can understand why this bike is raved about but I'm afraid it's not my cup of tea. Yes, I enjoyed the weekend experience but I actually missed the solidity of my bike and for reasons of comfort I certainly wouldn't want to ride any great distance on the Street Triple. But, I guess that's not what it's designed for.

Big down point of the experience? The bill I had to settle when I picked up my bike. Oo-er! 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Of tramlines, tramlines and bigotry...

In this country tramlines are not generally of concern to motorcycle riders, unless you happen to ride around Manchester, Sheffield or the odd other place that has opted for this 'greener' form of public transport. As reported in an earlier post, encountering a tramline on a bike can lead to a swift trip to the local hospital (or krankenhaus, as I was thrown from the pillion whilst living in Germany).

Since that event and up until last Friday, tramlines never entered my mind in the context of riding. Then I had a ride down to the local Triumph dealer to enquire about leaky forks. I had had them done recently and had resigned myself to the fact that they had been badly done. Service guy gives me a price for new seals and when I tell him about the recent fix he ask if I have any tramlines. My blank expression prompts him to go outside and have a look for himself. There he shows me those neat parallel scratches running up the length of each fork stantion. Apparently it doesn't matter how good the seals are if there are these scratches, the oil will escape.

So, I feel a little guilty at having blamed the guy who had done the recent seal change. But, then I realised that he should have spotted this scratching. Not that I was going to go back to that particular establishment as the technician in question had made a deeply offensive racist remark about a news item on the radio in my presence. I am ashamed to say that as he was in the process of replacing my forks I just stood in embarassed silence. The guy's a bigot and I hope I never meet him again. I'll certainly never push any of my hard earned cash in that direction again.

Next Friday the bike goes in for replacement stantions to be fitted. Up-shot is I get to ride a courtesy bike. Being a Triumph dealer it's not going to be something small. I'll let you know.        

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Out came the sun and out came the bike...

Tuesday was an overcast and chilly day but, as you can see from the last post, I made good use of it. Yesterday was shocking, it rained heavily all day and the wind was blustery. Today was glorious. I didn't even bother with thermals and made use of the summer gloves. Back on to those rural roads...

I've got to get myself a Go-Pro camera to mount on the 
bike, so I can do this on the move and take video footage.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Wet mud, wandering sheep - the joys of rural riding...

Last week I had very little chance of riding because of a combination of poor weather and the need to use the car for work. That was followed by a training weekend for my ministry to which I needed to take enough stuff as to make riding too risky, especially as we were experiencing fairly gusty winds.

So, today I was pleased when things brightened up a bit and I managed to free the Triumph from the garage. It was rather fresh though and I incorporated a number of layers when dressing for the ride, including thermal long-johns. I still felt the cold but it was actually rather refreshing, sort of reminded me how in touch with the elements I am when I ride; and that's part of the joy.

It really is just round the corner from home to open countryside and that was where I headed. The roads in places still had a damp sheen and in some places are in a terrible state of disrepair. Added to that were large stretches of clumpy wet mud left behind by farmers' tractor wheels. It all certainly upped the concentration levels. Nevertheless it was a great ride out, a ride with no destination, making navigational decisions as I went along.

On the homeward part of the journey I travelled from Flaxton across Strensall Common. The road would be great for testing the lean, wide sweeping bends and good views, if it wasn't for the free range sheep. Hundreds of acres of common land to roam around on and they all choose to graze along the side of the road. And boy are they unpredictable! It all adds to the fun though.

The sheep furthest from me in this photo had 
actually stepped out in front of me and stood 
stubbornly in the middle of the road until a 
car nearly hit it just before I took the picture

She's such a poser

I love this time of year as the colours 
change and everything feels so crisp

Monday, 30 September 2013

Just because I like bikes doesn't mean I'm heavily into Rock...

I get the feeling that the ad agency people when asked to create a campaign aimed at bikers, immediately start looking for pieces of Rock Music, often created in the 80s or 90s, to use as a soundtrack to the ad.

Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just because we ride motorcycles doesn't mean we're heavily into Rock Music.

Now, my taste in music is extremely eclectic, and I do enjoy some rock music, even the heavier end of rock. The first vinyl record I ever bought was a Deep Purple creation, and Led Zep could do little wrong for me. But, I like a lot of other music too.

If I was to swallow all the HD hype in the build up to the 110 celebrations I would be believing that a love for aging heavy rock is a necessary qualification for owning a Harley.

I'm not sure what the rules are for obtaining a motorcycle licence in the States. My guess is that they're a lot more relaxed than our own beaurocratic nightmare. I also reckon that the ad men haven't yet cottoned on to the fact that younger people in the UK are giving up on the idea of biking because of the restrictions. If we are going to encourage our younger people to take up riding motorcycles the industry needs to be a bit more in tune with contemporary culture including music.

So, in a little over an hour, I put together this mock ad for the HD Softail Breakout, which you know I love, with an edit of a recently released single as the soundtrack. I'm no expert but it ain't half bad.

Photography is Harely Davidson's own promo stuff.
Edited Track: 'Bound' - Indiana - Released Feb 2013 - Sony Music Entertainment UK Ltd  
Complete track available on iTunes

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Extreme contrast, Army trucks and a bit about bulb changing...

Yesterday I had to go to Hull. I seem to have headed in that direction a bit lately, but that's because I'm working alongside Humberside Police in my day job capacity.

It was one of those days that can be described as late summer rather than early autumn. A bit cool to start off and I was glad I had put a quilted gilet over my leather jacket. (It's a pretty cool look too.) But the cloud was thin and soon beaten back by the sun.

The A1079 from York to Hull is a bit tedious for the first few miles, made more so by the 50mph limit once you cross from North to East Yorkshire. But once past Market Weighton the road to Bishop Burton is great and, if there's not so much traffic you can't take your eyes off the road for a second, the views are lovely.

I got what needed to be done in Hull sorted very quickly mainly thanks to the efficiency of the detective I am working alongside, and I was back on the road within an hour and a half.

At one point I was grateful for being behind a clean van, as the reflection alerted me to the fact that one of my twin headlights was out.

Good progress from Hull to Weighton Hill with some good overtakes of slow moving Army trucks. The Army School of Mechanised Transport (ASMT) is not far away at Leconfield, so there are always plenty of slow moving trucks being driven by learner squaddies in the area. I did my stint of that back in the mid seventies up around Catterick and the NE of the country. I have every respect for these young learners as in a few weeks or months time they may well be driving in convoy through Helmand.

A quick stop for cuppa and bacon and egg buttie at the tea van on Weighton Hill, you know the one...

...and a check confirming my right headlight main beam bulb had failed, and I was off again.

For much of the way back to York it was fairly slow going as there was a wide load trundling along several vehicles in front. But I didn't actually mind, I wasn't in a hurry and it was comfortably warm. Just happy to go with the flow.

I decided to go straight to A1 Motorcycles the York Triumph dealer and get a replacement headlight bulb. Pleasantly surprised when it cost less than a tenner. The headlight bulbs on my Volvo cost almost double that. Then it was home to replace the bulb.

The ride out was just what I had needed. The previous day I had had to travel to our head office which is located at 1 Victoria Street, London. Those of you who have read my early posts may have some understanding of how difficult such a journey is for me. Kings Cross, the tube, Victoria Station and Victoria Street were a blur of head down hand partly over eyes terror, and again in reverse. I must have looked rather strange with my nervous twitching and walking along while facing the walls and shop windows. I am told, by someone who helps me professionally, that I should do this (getting into busy places) as often as I can in order to de-sensitise myself, and also so that I can get on with life. It doesn't get any easier though. So, once again riding proved to be a great stress buster.

Changing the bulb was a fiddly affair. I guess with naked bikes it wouldn't be a problem but having a fairing means looking through a small gap at where your hand needs to be then working blindly by touch as your hand then obscures vision. I do have an advantage though, as the space is small having part of one hand missing means I can get in fairly easily.

I was glad later on that I had noticed the failed bulb and replaced it.

Outside my day job I am very involved in Christian lay-ministry, in particular Chaplaincy at both the local hospital and with the Air Cadets. 110 Squadron (City of York) ATC, of which I am the official Chaplain (known as Padre), has a detached flight based on RAF Linton on Ouse which is about ten miles from my home. I try to visit the main squadron in York and the detached flight as often as I can. It's a terrific priviledge being amongst these eager and motivated young people. My role is mainly pastoral, occasionally ceremonial, and I am there for cadets and staff. I run a formal Padre's hour once a month and they are always interesting and great fun. It's good for me as it gets me out and about and they are places I feel safe, and I hope it's good for the cadets too.

So, last night I tootled off to RAF Linton on Ouse, riding much of the way into a glorious sunset. Needless to say it was dark when I left for the journey home. Ninety percent of that journey is along fairly narrow country roads with a lot of high hedges on both sides. There are many bends, which during daylight hours are great fun, but in the dark they can make the old bum cheeks clench a bit. One thing that does rather sit in the forefront of the mind whilst riding these dark lanes is the fact that wildlife is much more active at night. The thought of a deer crashing through the hedge and into the side of me or a fox darting into my front wheel was an unwelcome thought that I could not completely ignore. I had exeperience of these things, fortunately in a car, many years ago when I was a country bobby. The ride was rather steady. A complete contrast to the ride earlier in the day.

I'm glad I did it though, and I won't shy away from night riding in the future as it opens up a whole new set of skills which clearly need to be practiced.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Name and shame...

Today the weather pattern changed so quickly the Met Office forecast couldn't keep up with it. Before I left home at about 9.30ish the forecast for York was cloudy and cool with rain expected at about 4.00pm. So, off I went on the bike expecting to get back before the rain. Fortunately I took wet weather gear and bike cover just in case. Glad I did because the rain came just before midday.

I decided that, as the rain looked set to continue for some time and I wanted to avoid the heavier late afternoon traffic, I would set off for home shortly after 3.00pm.

It was pretty rotten and the road surface certainly held my attention, especially as I have to negotiate eight roundabouts on the most direct route home.

On the fifth of those roundabouts I entered carefully registering a white van entering from the entry road to my right. There was plenty of room and I was able to avoid braking. I negotiated the roundabout steadily and as I took my exit I went through the routine of checking mirrors and doing left life saver. No sign of white van. Then all of a sudden (and bearing in mind this was an exit onto a single carriage road) he came past me and dangerously cut across. This was without a single doubt a deliberate act born of frustration at my steady progress around the roundabout. Now, I've had some near misses and witnessed some stupid driving/riding in the last few months since I've been riding, but this just took the biscuit. This van driver could have killed me and clearly took some sort of pleasure in his actions. At the next roundabout he was in the right lane to turn right and I was in the lane to go straight on. I glanced across only to see him gesturing. What an animal!

Well, if you're going to get your kicks by risking the lives of other road users I guess you should take into account the fact that you have the name of the company that employs you enblazoned all over the van. This was an Orion Windows van.

Orion Windows is a York based replacement window and conservatory company. They received a call from me advising them of what had just occurred and reminding them of the poor public image this sort of incident creates. To her credit the lady I spoke to, who assured me she was a manager, was very polite and quick to apologise on behalf of the company. Had I managed to get the registration number of the van I may well having been having the conversation with the police. I'm sure the driver will have his own version of events but I am content that however he may wish to recount the event what he did was unecessary and dangerous. He needs educating about the vulnerability of motorcycle riders especially when the roads are wet.

On a more positive note, the very reasonably priced wet weather gear kept me bone dry. Hoorah!  

Saturday, 14 September 2013

If the gloves don't fit - the riding goes to...

With the sudden dip into autumnal temperatures it was time to dig out thicker gloves. You may remember from an earlier blog that winter gloves are a bit of an issue for me as I'm index finger down on left hand. I haven't yet had the time to get sorted with a proper alteration to the glove, so a quick fix was needed...

Yes, it's one of my granddaughter's hair-bands, and it's pink. 
Far from ideal but I couldn't find any other colour.

So, with glove suitably adapted I prepared for a ride around York to my Dad's. Now, I bought these gloves in a bit of a hurry to avoid wearing the smelly ones provided when I did my CBT. I bought them on the net and guessed at the size. They are a bit on the tight size but I coped with the light clutch of the Honda while training. However, with the heavier clutch of the Triumph these undersized gloves really made a difference. The hard plating across the knuckles also began to dig in quite painfully and my clutch control went completely to pot. Clearly, if the gloves don't fit riding goes to......well there was a total lack of smoothness in pulling off and gear changing.

New pair of larger sized winter gloves are now on order. Big up for Helmet City
 who, after I had ordered and paid for said gloves, contacted me to apologise as they were actually out of stock and offered a more expensive pair at no additional cost.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Smooth riding in the rain and lane discipline...

Today I had to deal with another chapter in the long, long saga that is the on-going legal wrangling following my head injury. Over two and a half years and, to me, there seems no end in sight. I had another assessment, this time by a consultant neurologist, in Harrogate. Good opportunity for a ride and the Met Office weather forecast was for showers later in the day.

I set off at just after 8.00am in good time for the 9.20am appointment. Quite autumnal and I was glad I had a long sleeved top under my leather jacket and had opted for leather trousers rather than padded kevlar lined jeans.

Took it easy going with the flow of traffic along the A59. Just before crossing the A1 came unforecast rain. It wasn't heavy but was enough to put that horrible sheen on the surface of the road. It doesn't half make you think about the smoothness of your riding. As this is a well used HGV route I was also especially aware at roundabouts, of which there are a few, where diesel spillages are common. (I once turned a car sideways at the Knaresborough junction roundabout because of diesel.)

The return ride was much drier thankfully.

Talking of smooth riding, I witnessed some riding that was definately not smooth. Riding along the A1237 York ring road later a guy on a bike came past me in the face of oncoming traffic, cutting in and across the traffic he was passing to get into the left turn lane as we approached a roundabout. From that lane he went straight across cutting up a van heading in the same direction from the correct lane. It wasn't clever and is just the sort of thing that winds drivers up and gets bikers a bad name.

Further up the road another biker came speeding past then jammed all on to sit on the rear off-side corner of a box wagon. Sharp braking by the box wagon driver or a slight deviation to the right and the rider would have been off. He had no room to manouvre. Not clever.

I like to make progress where I can, it's one of the good things about biking, but riding in a manner that is dangerous and annoying can only be stressful. There's enough stress in other parts of my life without bringing it to biking. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Altered dynamics and my favourite teashop in the whole world...

It is quite surprising how much, even with a bike as heavy as my Triumph, carrying luggage can completely alter the dynamics of the ride. I really noticed it today because I took my rucksack containing laptop and some paperwork the ten miles to my Dad's house. After dropping it off and having a quick chat I was back on the bike within minutes. The difference was really noticeable. I had strapped the rucksack, which weighed about 25 lbs, to the rear of the seat as far back as it would safely go allowing me plenty of room and therefore putting the additional weight directly over the rear wheel. The bike is fairly top-heavy any way and I could really feel the additional weight when cornering. Without the rucksack the bike handled with much greater agility. I guess I must have raised the centre of gravity quite a bit.

Anyhow, after leaving my Dad's it was much too nice to be heading straight back home so I took to some of the windy/twisty back roads to the north of York and ended up in Easingwold, which just happens to be where my favourite teashop in the whole world is. Now, in the context of my whole life I have travelled quite a bit and spent several years living, working and playing in continental Europe. So, when I say something is my favourite in the whole world it does have some meaning.

TeaHee in Easingwold Market Place is a place I keep going back to. I don't do it very often because it is a real treat and I want it to remain so. This was the first time I had visited on the bike and it made it all the more enjoyable. It's a great place with great coffee, great food and a great buzz. Today's bacon buttie was a proper door-step. But don't think for a second this is anything like the tea vans I have previously blogged about, this is at the other end of the scale and operates as a deli and cheesemonger also. A true delight!

My thanks to the lady at whom I thrust my phone asking her to
take a photo. She mastered it so quickly I didn't have time to smile.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The balance of the Universe is restored...

Today I had to go to Hull which meant a trip along the A1079 from York. As I went up Weighton Hill I looked across at the lay-by and was delighted to see Tea Van in situ. I pulled in, took some photos and had a lovely cuppa and a chat with the caterer and a lorry driver. The balance of the Universe is restored.

For those of you who are from foreign climbs I must explain that the Tea Van, also known as Buttie Wagon (a buttie is a sandwich or roll generally, in the case of these Tea Vans, filled with bacon, sausages, eggs or all three), is a national institution. Mostly they can be found in any lay-by capable of parking more than a couple of articulated trucks and can be easily identified from a distance by the flags hoisted above or close to the Tea Van.

As you will see from the photo of the price lists the cost of a cuppa and a bite to eat is very reasonable. Vegetarian readers please note the cakes and there was a cabinet (out of shot) containing cold drinks and chocolate bars.

The big down side was that as I was travelling for work I was in the car. I'll be back on the bike soon though!
In my excitement I let my finger get in the way, sorry!



Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Doing the splits...

I was thinking back over my ride out in to East Yorkshire the other day. It was, in the main part, a real stress buster. However, on the final leg home I made a navigational poor decision and joined the A64 York by-pass heading east.

For those of you who live locally or have travelled this road trying to get to the east coast, you will know what a pig's ear the 'Hop Grove' roundabouts are at the junction with the A1237 York ring road. A desperately poor piece of road planning made many times worse by traffic lights at the roundabouts. The tail-backs that were the norm for bank holidays and hot weekends are now an every day occurrence. So, having entered the dual carriageway at the last junction prior to this road planning disaster I was faced with a tail-back of over a mile.

Now filtering in heavy traffic on single carriage roads is a fairly tense affair, but this business of lane splitting... well I've not done anything requiring such a level of concentration since I last free-climbed a cliff face in Scotland. I reckon it takes a degree of clairvoyance trying to guess what the drivers of the vehicles you intend to ride between are going to do. I have to say most drivers are happy to let you pass, many actually opening the gap. But there are a few... I've probably said it before in an earlier post, but it's worth repeating just in case any non-biking drivers do read this, I'm not trying to mess with your journey so why mess with mine?

Monday, 26 August 2013

No longer just a spectator...

This morning I got off my bed feeling wretched. There's a couple of reasons but the main one is this awful screaming tinnitus which seems to be bothering me more just lately. So, before 9 o'clock on a bank holiday morning I was on the road astride the Triumph.

Staying off the main roads I headed east from York, vaguely in the direction of Beverley via Stamford Bridge and Pocklington. Some of those East Yorkshire roads are great. The road from Market Weighton to South Cave has some great twists and turns that make it disappear then reappear in the distance as it crests a hill. Blue sky and bright sunshine added to the overall enjoyment.

I've driven some of these roads over the years, but in a car you are almost totally cut off from your surroundings. It's more like watching a film. On a bike you're completely in touch, every sense reacting to the surroundings, no longer just a spectator.

There were quite a few bikers out on the road, more so as I headed homewards around midday. Nice touch from a learner rider coming the other way in Bishop Burton who gave a warning hand signal. Sure enough, hidden just around a bend was camera van. Can't those guys even take a day off on a bank holiday?

I was hoping there may be a tea van at the lay-by at the top of Weighton Hill, but alas no. Haven't seen one there for a while. Anyone fancy taking on the pitch? I really would have liked a cuppa at that point. Still stopped to take photos though.

 Parked where the tea van should be.

Cracking view across the lower part of the Vale of York from here.

For those of you who may travel this way note the speed cameras. There's a set halfway down the hill too.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My heart goes...

My heart goes Boombadyboombadyboombadyboombadyboobooboom!

Goodness gracious me!
The 2014 Breakout - stunning!
(Goodness Gracious Me: D Lee & H Kretzner 1960: artists Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Maybe I'll go all the way...

Earlier today during one of those periods when I try to do anything rather let this wretched tinnitus drive me beyond the edge of insanity, I was messing about on the internet and decided to Google map the Harley Davidson factory in Milwaukee. I got right in and onto street scene and had a trip between headquarters and manufacturing plant. Sort of imagined the ride if you will.

Then I zoomed out and had a look at where it was in relation to other parts of the USA. Chicago not too far away. I'd like to visit there and sample the jazz scene. Maybe one I could go all the way to Milwaukee and get my.... Better stop there before I get too carried away! Anyway, I don't want to do my local dealer, Leeds Harley Davidson out of a sale.

So, why a Harley?...

Harley Davidson kindly left a comment after my last post, reminding me of one of the benefits of owning a Breakout (no chain to clean). So true. But, really there is so much more behind my NEED for a Harley, and in particular the lovely Softail Breakout.

Don't get me wrong, this Triumph of mine is a great bike and it turns heads wherever I go. I'm told by someone at a Triumph dealer that it is fast becoming a sought after classic. That I can understand. I get a real buzz whenever I ride it. But just take a look at this...

...and this...

                                                             ...then I add to it what's in my head and it's up there with the most beautiful motorcycles in the world, ever.

As you will see from earlier posts, I have ridden a variety of bikes over the years, but I have wanted a Harley Davidson ever since I first saw that poster from the seminal film Easy Rider. You know the one...


And for those of you who don't like Harleys... can kiss... tail pipe!

One of those mucky little jobs...

Yesterday was grey, windy and occasional showers blew in. It wasn't a day for fun riding. However, it was a good day for catching up with maintenance tasks. So, I dug out an old tooth brush and on went the overalls. It was time to clean the chain.

A good spray with WD40 and let it seep through for a few minutes. Then to work with the tooth brush on chain and sprocket. Twenty minutes brushing followed by a few turns of the back wheel to run the chain through a cloth, which went from white to black very quickly and bore testament to how filthy the chain had been. Then a liberal spraying of WD40 Chain Wax and the job was done.

  Dirty black chain was lovely and gold.  
 It was one of those mucky little jobs...

...that leaves you feeling very self-satisfied.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Watch 'em come and go...

This evening I had a good run out on the Triumph. Through York, up the Selby Road and turn off on to the B1222 for Naburn. Through Naburn, Stillingfleet and Cawood along a great twisty road to Sherburn in Elmet. Unfortunately the road is closed in Sherburn for resurfacing. So, a bit of a detour via the A162 and the A63 to re-join the B1222 at the far end. Of course many bikers will know already where I was heading for - Squires Cafe. My first Wednesday night there and it was great. Had a wander around admiring a huge variety of machines. Then grabbed a 7Up and sat watching the bikes come and go. Took some snaps too...

Came back from a wander to find my bike blocked in by a Gold Wing and a Vespa! Not that I minded as I wasn't in a hurry to leave. The green Kawasaki and the Harley went not long after I took the photo, so no probs.
I'm sure I'm going to be a regular!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

A slight issue with gloves...

As you will see from this photograph I have something of an issue with gloves...

This was the result of a mountaineering accident back in the mid 80s. I've actually been longer without finger than I was with it. Apart from the odd ghost pain, especially when it's cold, it doesn't bother me or hinder me in any way. Or it didn't until I took up riding motorcycles again.

                          It's OK when I'm wearing summer gloves...

                                                           ...I can tuck the spare bit away.

But, when it's a bit colder and I wear the thicker gloves with the extra armour...

                               ...there's no way the extra bit will tuck away.

So, I'm left with a spare non-digit flapping around and getting in the way of the clutch lever. If I just cut the glove finger off I will be left with a hole letting cold air in and the chances are the rest of the stitching will come undone. Having a pair specially made will be much too costly.

I would be interested to hear from anyone with a similar problem who has come up with a solution.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, my left hand does ache if I have to change gear a lot. Loss of index finger and ray = 30% loss of grip.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

When the bike falls away from you...

I'm sure most of you will quickly guess what happened when you see the following photos:

Yes, I dropped the bike! Fortunately it was at the side of my dad's drive, so no audience and it mostly landed on grass. Just the brake lever caught the concrete.

It's a heavy bike and I was trying to put it up onto the centre stand. Strapped to the seat was a fairly heavy back pack containing laptop and some paperwork. That, it seems, was enough to tip the balance. When the bike falls away from you there's nothing you can do, apart from swear a lot.

As it was mainly on grass I couldn't get the grip for a 'walk back' lift and my very painful back is now testament to the real struggle I had to get the bike upright.

All this happened on Thursday. A quick call to local Triumph dealer (A1 Motorcycles in York) and parts were ordered. Collected them yesterday.

This evening, after a few minutes work with two spanners and a screwdriver all was as it should be as the photos below show:

I just wish my back was as easy to fix.

Monday, 29 July 2013

A short animated ride on a Harley...

I drew this animation not long after my head had been bashed. Clearly my dented mind was formulating the plan.

You can find more of my doodles at
I would love to design custom artwork for bikes. This guy (after some more work) will be on my bike eventually:


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Riding the busy streets...

For the last few days our home has been blessed by the presence of our youngest daughter over from Manchester while her boyfriend does some urban exploring in France, Luxembourg and Germany. (See: for some of his incredible photography)

This meant a trip into York yesterday to do some shopping and browsing with wife & daughter. As you will know if you've read previous posts, being in crowded places especially where there is a lot of movement is very difficult for me. Four hours of that left my head in a state.

So, the best medicine was to take a ride out on the old Triumph. I set off up the ring road and then on to some quieter roads around a couple of the outlying villages. I then remembered that both York Races and a soccer match between York City and Sheffield United were on and as it was just after the last race the roads in and around the city would be very busy. I decided that it would be ideal practice for coping on the busy streets and would up my concentration levels which would distract further from the mess in my head.

I was right! It was slow going manoeuvring amongst coaches full of race goers or tourists, avoiding suicidal (probably drunk) pedestrians and frustrated car drivers on the narrow streets of my ancient home city. It's a good thing to get attuned to every now and again. It is great to get out on to the open road and open up the throttle a bit and do little more gear changing than sixth to fifth and back, but I reckon if you don't get amongst the urban traffic every now and again you could lose the feel for it. For me it did two things, gave me good practice and sorted my messed head out.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Boiling yer bits is a better option...

I have had some great rides over the last week and the weather has been a bonus. There are so many bikers out on the roads that I'm beginning to feel like a nodding dog.

Most bikers I encounter are wearing leathers or other suitably tough and reinforced clothing. But, it seems the hot weather is bringing out the idiot in a few. I'm not referring to teenage twist and go riders who know no better than to wear chavsuit bottoms and t shirts, I'm referring to experienced bikers on large sports machines and cruisers wearing little more than would be risqué on the beach.

Today, as I waited for my wife outside our local Moss Tyres while she paid for work on her car, I saw a sports bike go past two up. Male rider and female pillion passenger, who was clinging limpet like to the rider, were both wearing shorts and vests.

Now I know that in this heat wearing leathers, especially when stuck in stationary or slow moving traffic, is really uncomfortable, but I reckon boiling yer bits off for a few minutes is better than risking losing a large percentage of your skin. OK so I'll admit I've been wearing jeans, but they have knee and hip protection and are Kevlar reinforced.

For those that doubt the wisdom of this check this out:

Monday, 8 July 2013

An insidious slow deflation

Over the course of the last few rides I began to notice that the handling of the bike was not as good as I wanted. I thought at first it was just me and confidence problems. It all came to a head last week when, due to the dreaded resurfacing and the 'Slow Loose Grit' signs of my usual route home from work, I took the longer route home along the by-pass. This is a dual carriageway and I kept it steady not breaking the 70mph barrier. Even so, during a couple of overtakes I felt the back end wobble alarmingly as I crossed the central white line.

Over the next few miles handling got worse and the wobble set in. It dawned on me, and yes I admit to being really slow on the uptake, that I had a near flat back tyre. I managed to crawl the last bit to home. Tyre inflator confirmed a zero psi reading. I reinflated the tyre to the reccommended 41 psi and put bike away for the night. Checked in the morning to find the pressure had dropped to 35psi.

Overnight I had done some on-line research and decided on a pair of Bridgestone Battlax BT023 tyres. Local place quoted £275 fitted and balanced. 'Bit steep' thinks I. Another call followed by a very careful ride the few extra miles to Malton and I'd saved myslef fifty quid. Even tempered by the fact that I was riding on brand new tyres the ride back was the most enjoyable for a while. It will only get better as the tyres bed in.

I have to say it frightens me to think that I was riding at speeds up to 70mph on a nearly flat tyre. Big lesson learned.  

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Roundabouts, junctions, driveways and other traps where car drivers wait to pounce...

Following that dreadful week when the bike was in the workshop I have taken every opportunity, weather permitting, to ride. It's been great and as I predicted has given me periods of time when the after-affects of head injury are diminished to bearable.

One of the reasons why riding helps is because of the total concentration required in order to stay safe. For any, even slightly experienced riders who may read this it will be nothing new to hear a fellow biker saying that the majority of car drivers seem to be totally oblivious to motorcycles.

Anyone who has spent more than a few days travelling in and around my home city of York will know that traffic does not flow easily around the narrow streets and the outer ringroad is little more than an elongated car park at peak times. Although I am mostly content to just go with the flow I have occasionally done a bit of filtering. It is while doing this that I encounter three distinct types of car driver: those who use their mirrors, see a biker and give space, those who just don't look and stay fairly central, and those who take great joy in moving on to the central white lines when they see you coming (that's in both directions). I have no wish to interfere with anyone else's journey, so why do these morons want to make my journey as difficult as possible?

But it doesn't seem to matter where I ride there are those traps where car, van and wagon drivers lurk, seemingly waiting to try and maim a biker. I can't recount (or even remember) every incident over the last few weeks but it was pretty scarey when, having negotiated a large busy roundabout with five exits, giving careful indication and observing good lane procedure, to find, as I did my final lifesaver on exiting, a black sports coupe with its front offside wheel almost touching my rear wheel. Quick acceleration got me out of that one.

Driveways and junctions are like man eating monsters. I've even begun to find it amusing when I see the look on the drivers' faces as they see you for the first time, front wheel inches from their door.

Yesterday, literally round the corner from home, a young buck in a black hatchback backed out of his drive and, with me stationary after a fairly nifty emergency stop, almost backed into me. This one even had pedestrians shaking their heads. Again I saw that look as he saw me for the first time in his rear view mirror and then shot off in embarrassment.

Not to worry though, I ride defensively, almost embarrassingly so at times. None of this is going to put me off. I am enjoying riding and the process of getting better at it.

To make things better I need new tyres. The ones I've got on the bike are OK but are not a pair and they don't give me confidence in the lean. I reckon a set of Bridgestone Battlax BT023 tyres will fettle that. The reviews read really well.

I'm looking forward to getting out on some group rides too. My son's fiancee's dad is a biker, my eldest daughter's fiancee's dad is a biker and so too is my youngest daughter's boyfriend's step dad. (Did you actually make sense of that?) Looks like we could be forming a chapter of the Old Farts mc.

The road to eventually owning a Harley is looking longer as the legal issues re dented mind plod on. But Hey! We'll get there. In the meantime big black Triumph will get me everywhere else.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Bike's back...

Finally after five and a half very frustrating days I got the call I had been waiting for: 'Your bike's ready'. Call came as I was taking eldest daughter and fiance to a wedding. Then followed quality time with wife and youngest granddaughter. Left it rather late to pick up the bike and made it just in time before the placed closed.

Painful bill paid, quick change into appropriate gear at the side of my wife's car and a ride home in the late afternoon sun. Cup of tea and off again for a good ride in the evening sun. Stress levels greatly reduced.


Friday, 7 June 2013

A silent rattle (or caveat emptor)...

As you can tell from previous posts I was elated to have passed my test and over the moon to have acquired a really good (so I thought) Triumph.

Wanting to make sure all was well I took it in for a service and MOT last Monday morning. Within the hour I received a call on my mobile telling me that it didn't sound right and there could be a problem with the cam chain.

Problem was, as my hearing is wrecked and I don't wear my hearing aids when I ride because: a. there's no point, and b. it would be uncomfortable to wear them with helmet on, I could not hear the rattle that the technicians did.

Bike has been in the workshop since. I am assured though that the new cam chain has been fitted and the bike sounds sweet. Just new brake pads and MOT to do. I will be able to collect the bike tomorrow morning. It was reassuring to be told that apart from the cam chain the bike is a good 'un.

This has been a sickener, not only because it looks like the previous owner knew about the problem as he had fitted new tensioners in an apparent attempt to discguise it. Also, my good lady wife was away this last week to visit her sister in London and I had taken the week off work in order to put in some serious miles. Not only that but it has been the longest period of good weather this year.

It'll be even more sickening tomorrow morning as I slip my debit card into the reader.

I have to re-visit said previous owner to collect a new side stand I had not been able to carry when I picked up the bike. I will probably take the old cam chain, which I am told is more than an inch longer than it should be, with me to see if I can prick his conscience. (I promise I won't use it as an offensive weapon). If he just shrugs his shoulders though that will be that.

At least I will know the bike is in good order and a lot better than when he last rode it.

I now hope we enjoy a long hot summer. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


What a great day. Passed Mod2 and collected my new (second hand) bike, the lovely black Triumph Sprint Sport.

I can't pretend I wasn't nervous before the test, in fact I slept very badly last night. But a good ride around for an hour in the morning made me feel better.

My riding companion from a training session on Saturday had her test  just before me. Came back with a clean sheet. That set the bar pretty high. The examiner had travelled across from Hull and because no bikes were available he followed in a car during the test. He was a really nice bloke and made me feel relaxed as we did the pre-test paperwork and the safety questions.

I had informed him that I wear hearing aids but that I could not wear them while wearing a helmet. Radio volume was set high and it was agreed that if I couldn't hear I should give a signal and we would stop to sort it out. All went well at first but then I heard two beeps and the volume dropped. I think I made up part of the test route. Anyhow it got sorted and the test went well. I cannot put into words how happy I was when he told me that I'd passed. Hoo-bloody-rah!

I am so impressed by the instruction I have received from Ride-4-Life in Strensall York. Great bunch of guys. It's no wonder people travel distances to come and learn with them. Their success rate is pretty impressive. Special thanks to Bomber.

Late afternoon drive out to pick up the Triumph and a really enjoyable ride home. It's a big powerful bike and will be good experience before getting the Harley. Looking forward to showing it off to my best mate and my Dad in the morning.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Rain stops play.....

I was due out for my last half day training before Mod2 test today but a deep depression sitting over the North Sea to the east of the British Isles put paid to that. Heavy rain and winds gusting to gale force. I was actually already donning wet weather gear when I switched on my mobile and there was the message postponing until tomorrow morning. Forecast for tomorrow is warm and sunny, so it should be a pleasant session.

However, five day Met Office forecast shows rain on Tuesday which is test day. I don't mind the wet, I just don't want the test cancelled. It would also be nice to bring the Triumph home in the dry.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My new ride...

There can't be many 55 year old blokes who can say that their Dad has just bought them a motorcycle. But this one can.

I had been half-heartedly looking through on-line bike ads when I found a nice looking 1996 Triumph Sprint Sport with low mileage being sold by someone in the locale. Yesterday I mentioned to my Dad that it would be nice to have a bike to ride once I've got my Mod2 out of the way, and I mentioned that I had seen this particular bike advertised on good old Gumtree.

A few minutes later he calls up to me (I have an office in the upstairs of his house) that he would like a word. 'Why not go and have a look at the bike and if you like it I'll put the money in your account' says he. My protests are ignored and it is agreed.

A call to the vendor is made and this afternoon I drove the few miles to his place to look said bike over. What a beaut! Gleaming black, low mileage and full service history. Minor and very polite haggle and the bike is mine. Collect next Tuesday. Best mate, who has full bike licence, on stand by in case I flunk the test.

And here it is..........

This lovely, almost classic, British bike will see me through until I get my Harley Davidson.