Saturday, 14 December 2013

Riding Solo

It's a bit lonely really, riding solo.

Don't get me wrong, motorcycling can be amazing regardless of the amount of people with you. But sometimes riding alone a lot can restrict the amount of fun you have, or for me at least anyway. For the past year or so, I have began to ride my bike alone much more frequently.

Personal commitments and full time jobs have now plagued our summer days, as the whole of S.L.A.P starts to... well, grow up. We can no longer be the sixteen year old's that scive college and go out for a blast on the bikes, coming back just in time for a few beers around a roaring fire. We've entered the real world.

The past few months have been particularly agonizing for me. Donnell crashed his Mt-03 back in June, causing him to be off the road. Alex has been hitchhiking around Europe. Jamie and Andy are both busy at their full time jobs, too exhausted to do much when they get home. I too, work full time and have moved out. This makes motorbike time very minimal.

The Mt03 crash aftermath
There isn't time to do anything anymore. I feel like time is just flying by and I'm stood still watching it pass. I occasionally go for a 20 minute blast to the local cafe and back but that's about it. What happened to the 'spur of the moment' day trips to Wales?

I find myself reminiscing about a time where I would be crouched over my tank, elbows tucked in, peering into my mirror to see if my mate was about to be overtake me. I remember the bursts of adrenaline when I would throw my little 125 into a sun soaked bend, just trying to creep an inch closer to Donnell's Rs. I miss the laughs you'd have when you pull over to take a few photos, the pissing around at traffic lights when there was nothing else to do.

Riding alone just isn't the same.

As amazing as my France trip was, on the journey home I felt like a piece was missing. In 500 of the 700 miles I did on my own that day, I had taken in so many memories and experiences but it felt like I had no one to experience these things with. I didn't have someone pulling up next to me, laughing about what had just happened.

A great trip but lonely at times
Although, riding alone isn't all that bad. Being alone can force you to go out there and speak to new people, it can get rid of the 'sticking with what you know' philosophy. For example, if you're in the middle of Italy with a group of people, you'll naturally stick together and stay quite reclusive. However, if you're on your own you are being forced to go out and meet people otherwise you'd have nobody to talk to.

Perhaps I'm just whinging, lots of people ride on their own all the time and they're fine. So I guess it's something I'll have to get used to and accept...

... but that long ribbon of tarmac can feel a bit lonely when it's just you on it.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

The best £300 I've ever spent

Back in April my neighbour sent his 535 Virago skidding down the road, denting the tank and smashing multiple parts up. He was absolutely devastated but was back on auto trader looking at another Virago. Over a cup of tea, he recollected his accident and shown me the bike. I had a quick look over it as he told me that he was planning to scrap it. Horrified, I told him that I'd take it off his hands for more than scrap value and repair it.

The Virago
A few days later I wheeled the bike across the road and into my garage, £200 down. Chuffed with my little battered bargain, I began to strip the bike down, preparing for a paint job. It proved tricky to take apart with so many bolts rusted through, random wires poking out of every dirty corner and a confusing switch that did nothing on the right side panel.

Cleaning and polishing became a new past time. I bandaged up the exhausts and replaced damaged parts with the wonder that is eBay, costing me a relatively low £25. With funds running low, I decided against spraying it so I built it back together.

Stripped down
After receiving my next payslip, I trooped down the local garage and booked the old Virago in for an MOT. I plugged it into a battery charger and left it untouched for two days.

On the day of the MOT I wheeled it out of the garage and hit the switch. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing. With only 10 minutes left before the test, my time was ticking. Over two hours later, I got it running after a tough bump starting session and quickly rode it down to the test centre before it shut up. After receiving much deserved piss-taking and banter, I left the bike with him.

The next day, I received a phone call from the bloke, telling me that the bike's battery is knackered. Flustered, I rushed to get a battery from a local scooter shop, then fitted it to the Virago. £33. The bike squeezed through the MOT and I left the industrial estate, beaming.

However, after just 2.8 miles, the smile was soon wiped from my face. The Virago started to splutter and die, making strange noises as though it was only running on one cylinder. I pulled over in Sainsbury's car park and started to fiddle with it. One minute the electrics were on, the next they weren't. After half an hour of tampering, pissed off, I resorted to calling the RAC.

A whopping 4 hours later, the big orange van turned up. A bloke jumped out of the van and checked the connections, discovering degraded wires and fuses. He replaced the fuses and gave me some advice on repairing the perished electrics, and then I was finally able to ride the damn thing!

And I've got to say... It's a hell of a lot of fun.

I might have had the weekend from hell but it was worth it for the fantastic, bitter cold, ten miles that I rode that evening. With around the 33bhp mark, the bike doesn't have mind numbing power but it sure does shift. With a spirited twist of the throttle, it accelerates strongly and the exhaust note is one to remember - it is gorgeous. When I'm riding it, I don't feel the need to race around like an idiot. I'm relaxed, doing 45mph and I'm still having fun!

With reams of gaffa tape and home made brackets, the bike is one true bodge job. But I just think that this adds to the quirkiness and character of this kooky bike. I've never been a huge fan of cruisers but this bike is a lot of fun. First impressions can be deceiving but so far, it's great.

I can safely say, that it's the best £300 I've ever spent.