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!