Tuesday, 8 July 2014

My first trackday

I'm staring at a back tyre. My mouth is dry. I smell exhaust fumes and burnt rubber. All I can hear is my heart, beating. My breathing became heavy. I felt choked. My hands tightened around the grips, my knuckles turning white. I raised my arm up to the sky, showing my wristbands and then I was given the nod. Lots of terrifying scenarios were racing through my head, causing it to ache. I was given the thumbs up and then the light turned green.

I was shitting myself.

I've never been one for nerves, I just can't hack it. I turn into a wreck, I begin to shake and twitch. My palms become sweaty and my speech becomes slurred and vague. No matter how much I convince myself that it's all going to be okay, I can never persuade myself enough. This trackday had been playing on my mind for days, making me more and more anxious as each day passed.

I would worry about the obvious... Seeing my bike sliding along some gravel, coated in scratches and dented pride. Then my ego would get the better of me, could I deal with people flying past me? Would I end up bitter and aggravated? Thankfully, neither of these things happened. Well, some people flew past me but I didn't get bitter about it.

Shortly after arriving, the confusion of where to go and where to check in made me all the more nervous. With no obvious means of direction myself and my friend, a fellow YouTuber, squeezed our way into one of the pit garages and parked up. After receiving strange looks from what were quite obviously professionals, their bikes complete with tyre warmers, track fairings etc... I felt a bit awkward. There was even a fourteen year old kid with a fully race prepped Rs125 in the fast group, kitted out in tailored leathers and sending a 2 stroke smell floating through the pit.

We did stick out a bit... but it's cool
A naked Fz6 and a Drz400 amongst a sea of race bikes. We must've stood out like a sore thumb, and that's exactly what I didn't want to do. Unsure of what to do next, I followed a few guys to the sound check where I received a nice little sticker on the windscreen. Then after half an hour of wandering around, we found the place to sign up and had our briefing. Forty minutes later and I was ready.

After my first session, I was in awe of the circuit and the experience but I wasn't really pushing myself or bike to any sort of limit which never gave me any kind of 'buzz'. However, three sessions later and my grin was wider than a Cheshire cat's. All kind of nerves that were with me before had vanished and I was in my element.
Overtaking a Zx6r on the hairpin - who needs fairings?
As I began to learn the track and the capabilities of my bike, my confidence grew and the speed definitely grew. The young lad on the Fazer, who was too scared to overtake people with a fear of doing something wrong, had changed. I began to overtake on the hairpin - the corner which I originally hated the most. A particularly favourite moment of mine was overtaking an R1 on that hairpin, I actually remember shouting the words 'Woohoo!' to myself in my helmet.

It was a fantastic experience. The mental buzz I received from each lap, ever growing faster, was just incredible. It was fun to see just how late you could brake before cranking the bike over into a bend. The triumphant feeling I earned from totally nailing a corner was the best feeling ever. I loved every second of it.

However, the biggest problem that has arose is the overwhelming urge to buy a sportsbike and take it to every track in the country. It truly has opened a new set of doors to my motorcycling - It's not just the Sunday blasts and road trips anymore. Trackdays are up in the mix now. I cannot recommend it enough. Just get out and do one, you won't regret it.

I'll be counting down the days to my next one.

One day maybe...

Friday, 13 June 2014

The Long way round's influence

I'll admit it, I was a sucker for the Long way round.

I was a latecomer for the show, not seeing the first episode until I was eighteen, but I was hooked from the start. The entire first episode was based around the preparations of their world trip and it was instantly gripping. The planning, bike testing and the 'video diary' style was right up my street, I actually began to feel excited for them and had nervous butterflies in my stomach when they first left Shepard's bush.

The aspect of the series that made me fall in love with it so much was that I was picturing myself as them; sat on an r1150Gs in Siberia, meeting interesting local people, dicking around with my best mate at the road side - I just imagined myself in their trip.

Courtesy of www.charleyboorman.com
I had always been interested in travelling but this documentary opened up my eyes so much more than before. It shows you countries that you'd never think of visiting, such as Kazakhstan or Slovakia. It reveals so much natural beauty around the world that is often tucked away, hidden from the west. It makes us ponder on our ignorance, overlooking the poverty and beauty in these eastern countries. It brings you back to earth.

What I particularly admired was that throughout the entire trip it had a natural charm to it - these were real people on real motorbikes. They didn't get the producers to cut bits out that may have caused embarrassment (Ewan falling off frequently, Charley arguing with Russ Malkin) they kept it in and shown us, the public, the true reality of the trip. This honesty and integrity is continued throughout the book, where they reveal the odd squabble or periods of discouragement.

Sadly, this doesn't continue with their following trip 'The Long way down'. Perhaps it's just me but I felt that a lot of the aspects which made the original adventure so brilliant were lost in this trip and it became much less natural. Time keeping was the biggest issue, adding stress onto both riders and the support crew. As well as this, I became very annoyed when McGregor began to include his wife in the trip -  It took away the whole 'two bikes, two mates, one road' thing away and really agitated me. Perhaps I'm being silly but that's just my opinion anyway. Nevertheless, it was another brilliant trip, just with a stronger second half than first half.
Courtesy of www.kickasstrips.com
I'm certain that both adventures will always hold their place on my DVD shelf and in my heart.

But the most impressive thing is that not only did Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman conquer the world on a pair of 1150 Gs' but they made BMW cool.

Now that's a pretty big accomplishment.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The best laid plans...

Stolen from the poem 'to a mouse' or the better known novel, 'of mice and men' the quote:
'The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]'
Translated, this line reveals a hard fact of life. No matter how much you can plan something or prepare yourself for it, something will always go wrong - expect the unexpected. On several occasions over the past few years, this has been so relevant to my biking life.

Since we returned from our 50cc Fairbourne road trip in August 2010, I have done nothing else but plan, research and organise future adventures. I have priced up fuel costs, estimated mileage and discovered interesting places to stay. It pains me to say it but... I haven't done half of the things that I've planned to do.
A very wet trip to Woolacombe
Something always comes up and throws a spanner in the works, for instance our 2011 Woolacombe trip was plagued with delays, people dropping out and awful weather. So it ended up being a very wet four days as opposed to the sunny week we had planned together. My France trip in 2012 was originally planned as a tour of Europe - exploring France, Italy, Germany and Belgium but due to money and people still on CBTs, this plan was scrapped and I visited family in the Charente on my own instead.

Last year we decided to drop our ambitions and plan a cheaper trip - so it would be more doable for everybody. Scotland was in our sights; legal wild camping, beautiful scenery and relatively close to us. It sounded perfect and more importantly, cheap. However, in what seemed no time at all, people were dropping out and this was yet another flop.

This is the main reason why I'm reluctant to reveal upcoming trips that I'm planning because (from past experience) they'll most likely be delayed, changed or perhaps just scrapped altogether.

However, pessimism aside, I have two trips planned within the next 3 months. If everything goes to plan I shall be leaving for Scotland on the 23rd of August, spending nine days out in the highlands. Hopefully I will be accompanied by a couple of members from S.L.A.P and other YouTube Vloggers that I have met before.

The next trip is a big 'maybe' but I'm really pushing to execute it. My 21st Birthday is two weeks into January and I thought; what better way to spend it than on an epic motorcycle adventure? So over the past few months I have been planning a 2500 mile overland trip of Morocco. We will be riding to Portsmouth and catching the ferry to Bilbao in northern Spain. After riding through Spain, we'll board the ferry to Morocco and the rest of the adventure will unfold...
The atlas mountains in Morocco
... but that's not the best part - we're doing it on 125s.

I'm determined to do them. I'm positive that there will be no more flops. I'm pushing harder than ever to make these trips happen and have came to realise that it's okay to do things on your own and not to be put off if others can't make it.

So in six months time, I may have some interesting stories to tell...

Let's hope that these laid plans unfold.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A love for modifications

It's something that not all of us will be interested to do. Some people hate the idea of spending money on things that won't increase the value of a bike. A £900 set of Akrapovic exhausts will never be made back - is it really worth it? Why would you want to make changes to your bike that aren't really necessary? Do you actually need that seat cowl? In all fairness, I actually agree with them... well, maybe just a little bit.

However, customising my bike is something I love to do. There's something a bit special when you see a big super naked, loaded with trick bits, making a scene at your local bike meet. You can go and see a stock bike in a showroom - these are bikes are one of a kind.

But why do some of us have this love for modifying our bikes? Is it to show our creativity? Imagine showing off your homemade bobber, complete with a custom made tank with the paintjob to match and that beautiful, powder-coated frame. Talk about a conversation starter!

Of course, many people customise their bike to produce better performance. They may replace their wheels with super light magnesium Marchesini rims to produce better cornering. Changes to suspension or brakes could be made, producing better stability and stopping power. And of course, engine tweaking. Bigger bore kits, heavy duty clutches or maybe even engine swaps, are just a few of the many things that owners change to make their bike perform exactly how they want it to.
Are aftermarket cans a must?
Some of us may only wish to change the appearance of our bikes. Adding or removing bodywork, to suit the look we want to make. Fitting exhausts to give that oily, noisy engine the appreciation it deserves. We see our bike as a blank canvas, ready to be turned into that mean machine that we dream of.

Although not all modifications have to be cosmetic or based around performance. Commuters and tourers might want to add practical modifications to their bikes. Scottoilers, hard luggage and heated grips can make your bike so much better suited to what you use it for. Not all modifications have to be produce bragging rights.
Not all modifications have to be performance based.
A simple windscreen on a naked bike makes a huge difference.
I've always changed features on my bikes. Admittedly, I tend to buy bikes that already have a few extras on them which I find necessary, such as an aftermarket exhaust or that bellypan that I would've wanted to buy, because quite obviously, this saves me a lot of cash.

Some might not care much for standing out from the sea of standard bandits and 1200gs' but to others, such as myself, I think it really represents what biking is all about. It gives you an option to be different, a reason for people to have a look at your bike and perhaps, with an ego like mine, a chance to damn well show off.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Thoughts on the Fz6...

I've owned the Yam for almost two months now. I've done a bit of commuting, a bit of Sunday scratching and a 300 mile day around Wales. So I'm starting to recognise the good bits of the bike and also the more niggly bits.

First impression:
A bloke in his mid twenties reversed his van onto the drive. He greeted me with a firm handshake and introduced himself. Then the back doors of the van swung open. I remember telling myself not to get too excited about it because it may cause me to buy something I may regret. But as I got my first glimpse of those two underseat scorpion cans and that fat 180 tyre, the excitement got the better of me.

We wheeled the bike out onto the driveway and began to inspect it. There were a few stone chips on the tank, to be expected of a naked bike really, and a few wear marks on the grab rails. This really didn't bother me at all. It had full service history, receipts, the red master key - everything. With only 16,700 miles on the clock and a modest asking price, I knew I was onto a bit of a bargain.

It's dripping with extras, which is not bad thing in my book! It arrived with carbon fibre side panels, a carbon hugger and front mudguard, this compliments the metallic black colour scheme and (in my opinion) looks really trick - far from tacky. A Dynojet power commander is mapped to the twin scorpion exhausts, improving fuel economy and power delivery. Some of the more sensible extras include a smart looking bellypan, to keep the downpipes in good condition, and a decent sized, genuine Yamaha flyscreen - which makes so much difference.

It seemed a shame not to buy it eh?

First ride:

12 hours after buying it, I was finally able to ride it. After taking the fly screen off and the er... decibel killer out I started it up. It was so much louder than the Sv. It was a constant, noisy, buzzy engine and it sounded awesome.

I pulled off the drive and that's when I began to panic. I knew that riding an inline four would be different to a V twin but I don't think I realised just how much different it is. Used to keeping my revs low whilst trundling down my road, at 2,500rpm the Fz6 was spluttering and jerking all over the shop - it just couldn't do it like the Sv could.

I spent a good few hours embarrassing myself around my hometown before deciding to actually take it for a proper ride. So I headed down some familar roads to see how it performed... and performed it did. It is literally the polar opposite of the Sv650; gutless and jerky at lower revs, the Fazer struggles around town, overtakes have to be taken in lower gears and the bike just doesn't suit calmer riding.

However if you take the digital rev counter above 8,000rpm, it sure shows you what it's made of. If you really give it some wellie, the front end feels light and those ridiculously loud pipes are screaming at you, spurring you on. It is such a massive thrill. But what makes this acceleration feel faster than what it probably is, is the fact that you have no wind protection. So when you're pinning the throttle back, the wind is pinning you back. The first time I took it to high revs it took me by surprise and shifted me to the back of my seat, I was clinging on with all my might. It is physically draining. High speed riding is when my fly screen comes in handy, it eases so much strain on your shoulders and neck, you really will be thanking it after a day's riding, even if it looks a bit bulbous.

The first time I used the brakes I was caught out. Taken straight from the R6, these have great stopping ability, superior to the Sv650's poor Toxicos. It handles around corners well and I don't find it worse than the Sv, and that handled brilliantly. The previous owner had dropped the forks of the Fz by 10mm or so, to make it turn sharper. I haven't tried it standard yet so I'm not sure how big of a difference this makes. I've also recently added some flat renthal bars on it which has changed the riding position and handling significantly - I prefer it as it feels much more 'whippy' around corners even though it does lean you a little further forward. Besides - they look cooler and surely that's a good thing?

So how does it compare to the Sv?

On paper, the Fz6n is better in every way. It has over twenty extra horsepower, it's much comfier, better on fuel (but only with the power commander fitted), the brakes are better and it gives you so much more of an adrenaline rush. I personally feel and know that it is a much better bike. But I still feel like there's something missing.

It doesn't have the bubbly, lumpy quirks of that glorious V twin engine. The Sv's engine feels like a playful pet, purring along to that beautiful V twin beat. Whereas the Fz6 engine feels like an energetic insect - brutal and buzzy, must be raced otherwise sat in the garage. Anything in the middle doesn't work quite right.

It just doesn't quite have the character or personality that the Sv had. Maybe it's psychological. I might just be a bit strange, personifying bikes by using words like 'character' but I personally believe that is one of the most important things in motorbikes, it gives a bond between rider and machine. It's a good thing.

That's not to say that the Fz6 is a bad bike of course. As I've said, with decent brakes and a well performing engine, this is one cracking bike, much better than the Sv. With a few issues with snatchy fuel injection on the earlier models and a clunky gearbox being the only real problems, this really is a fantastic bike. The earlier Fazer's from 1998 onwards are brilliant too. There's a lot about and they've been tried and tested over time, meaning only one thing - they're ace.

The Sv still has a place in my heart though. You won't be forgotten.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Why I picked the Fz6

If you have read my previous blog post: 'Thoughts on my next bike' then you may be wondering why I bought my Yamaha Fz6n. A Fazer wasn't mentioned at all - I was originally looking at bikes such as the 650 Vstrom or the Xt660r. I didn't consider the naked 600 an option at all.

However, in my specification I stated that I would like a bike with better fuel economy, superior comfort and practical, hard luggage. For some reason I totally bypassed bikes like Fazers, Bandits and Hornets. How many middleweight nakeds do you see with hard luggage doing road trips? Loads.

The Fz6 ticks all of my boxes... kind of.

The new beast - Yamaha Fz6n
First of all, there is an obvious change in comfort. Compared to my old Sv which had fairly low bars but (more importantly) very high foot pegs, this Fazer feels like I'm sat in an armchair. My 6"1 frame fits comfortably into the roomy saddle. My wrists are no longer aching as the raised bars give me hours of riding with minimal complaints. But the foot pegs make the biggest difference, my flamingo legs are no longer touching my elbows, they are much more relaxed without compromising much ground clearance - although my foot peg has hit the floor once or twice.

Although my bike isn't currently fitted with any hard luggage it quite easily can be. Top boxes are the easiest and cheapest form of luggage for my 2005 model Fz6n. Being a pre-07 model, the pillion foot pegs are welded to the subframe as opposed to being bolted on like later models - this restricts the ability to add on panniers. This is a fairly big deal as the underseat exhausts prevent most soft throw-overs from being used - they'd just melt. Luckily, I have obtained a pair of semi-rigid panniers that fit fine, without coming into contact with the silencers. My trip later in the year is to tour Scotland, nine days wild camping. So by using an upcoming Wales weekend trip in July as a trial run, I will test out my throw overs and see whether buying a top box would be necessary.

Finally, fuel economy. Standard Fz6s average at around 45mpg but with the aid of the power commander fitted to my bike, it's hitting over 50mpg - and that's not bad considering I don't take it that steady. This is about the same, if not better than the Sv's fuel consumption. So there's nothing to complain about, but it's nothing to rave about either.

How well will it cope for a long haul? Only one way to find out...
Compared to the Sv, it is better in every way; it is more economical, comfier and has over twenty extra horsepower. So it fits the bill alright but is still yet to be tested on a road trip, this weekend to Wales will be the test to see how it performs.

Yet the biggest reason I picked this particular Fz6 is because... it was a bloody good bargain! And we all love a good deal, don't we?

Let's just hope I've made the right decision.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

My thoughts on 'new' Honda...

Honda is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in Japan. In 1969 the legendary CB750 was born; a 120mph inline four with a front disc brake - way ahead of anything else at it's time. It made an impact on English bike manufacturers, stealing sales and (along with the Kawasaki Z1) was the beginning of an end to British motorcycles.

21 years later (in England anyway) the Vfr750r Rc30 was released. This homologation model of the already brilliant Vfr750 was put on the road to allow Honda to race it in the world superbike championship. This bike could reach 82mph in first gear and weighed just 180kg dry. Once again, Honda had developed a class leading bike.

Iconic machine: Vfr750r Rc30
In 1992 the original FireBlade was released. The Honda four injected the idea of saving weight and improving aerodynamics as opposed to just ramming as much horsepower into big, heavy slogs - it weighed 34kg less than the lightest rival, Yamaha Fzr1000. It was an amazing bike.

All three of those bikes have reached a 'classic' status along with many other Hondas (Nr750, Rvf 750 etc...) and are worth a fortune. They broke barriers down, they came up with new and original ideas. Their engine reliability is legendary (despite a small dodgy patch... Vf750 era). Their bikes have won Moto Gps, TT races and world superbike championships...

... So what on earth has happened?

The 2014 Honda range looks a bit... dull.

Perhaps it's just me but I'm getting pretty tired of every new Honda bike being released with that weird, triangular, 'Y' shaped headlight - it makes every bike look the same and the face of the bike look like a donkey. It's also pretty easy to guess at what colours their new bikes will be released in, you'll have a choice of; 'bland reddish pink' or 'old man grey'.
Anyone else sick of it?
Forgive me if I'm wrong but they have 9 different engines (above 450cc) which have been shared around a whopping 22 different bikes. They haven't even bothered to retune some of them despite putting them in different variations of bike, for instance the Cbr500r has the exact same power delivery, gearing etc... as a Cb500x. As I said before, they all share the same style headlight  and dull colouring and I'm not sure about you, but I think it's nice to stand out from the crowd and have people interested in the bike you're riding. Imagine a world where everyone rode a grey Cross runner... So why do they insist on everything looking like one?

Can you actually tell the difference at a glance...?
But quite possibly, the worst thing about Honda's 2014 range is definitely the new Vfr800f. The last Vfr 800 Vtec had divided opinions due to it's quirky engine character. However, after ten years without any changes, it still didn't look too outdated and was still a damn good bike - although on the expensive side.

However the new Vfr800f has dissapointed me. I was really excited when I heard about a new Vfr, as they're bikes I've always admired, but what a let down, I couldn't actually work out why Honda had done such a thing. It actually looks like a chinese rip off 125. The gorgeous twin underseat exhausts from the previous Vfr have been ditched for a boring silencer that looks as mean as my Nan's hairdryer, totally blocking that iconic single sided swingarm (which is the only part of the bike that still looks decent).

Do the words 'bland' and 'cheap' come to mind?
They've also added 'self-cancelling indicators' - Wow Honda! How did we all manage before? I mean come on, if they're cutting costs so much then why invest in such pointless technology? ABS, traction control, heated grips and an adjustable seat height are all included in the standard price which, I think, is similar to the previous model's. This sounds pretty good, although if it were down to me I'd ditch the heated grips and traction control to make way for the decent sportsbike image that this bike deserves, not the Chinese look. It may be a sports tourer now but the heritage is still there. Don't make it boring just yet.

Believe it or not, despite all of this ranting from me, I think that they are producing decent bikes. The new 500 range might be cheating by sharing the same engine and looks from other bikes but they are such great value for money. They produce 47bhp (ideal for A2 license holders), kick out 80mpg and are only £500 more expensive than a Yamaha Yzf R125. The Fireblade Sp looks amazing too and I guess hope can hold out for the new Vfr800f... Although it's never going to win me over. Reliability is amazing on all bikes and the finishes are brilliant, I'd put all of my faith in one of these bikes to take me everywhere, all year round.

So Honda might be good in building solid, real-world machines but I think that bright flare they once had has started to flicker.

Let's hope they burn bright again one day.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

What's your dream bike garage?

Come on, we've all thought about it: "What would I do if I won the lottery..." is a question which is both exciting and thought provoking but also a bit of a kick in the balls - the fact it's not really going to happen.

Sweep skepticism aside for a moment and have a bit of fun. What would you fill your garage with? Sports or adventure? Old or new? Japanese or European?

Would it look like this? (picture courtesy of www.gezagear.com)

Personally, I think I would have a bike which was there purely for road trips. Although I've never ridden one, I would love a Royal Enfield Classic T5 in battle green; slow, reliable and timeless, the bike would be loaded up with a few ammo boxes as panniers and a high level exhaust. With my love for V twins and classic sportsbikes, a Ducati 916 would be sat under a blanket - ready for those sunny days. I would have some heavily modified Victory Hammer with pipes that make your ears bleed and a back tyre wider than the Vicar of Dibley. A do-it-all bike, most likely a KTM 990SMT, a few more classics and a few more mad ones. And of course, I'd buy all of my old bikes back again - who wouldn't?

...or this? (courtesy of www.bikeexif.com)

As daft as that paragraph may seem, I think it's a good thing to have a dream bike garage of your own. Although it is reasonably unrealistic for most, it does give us good targets to reach for. Yes, you may never own a Ducati 916, r1200Gs and a Suzuki Kettle all at the same time - but maybe you could own one of them. Perhaps this dream bike garage makes us realise what bikes we really desire or maybe which types of bikes we crave for.

But if someone were to ask you "If you could have any single bike in the world what would you have?" that beautiful, two stroke triple Gt750 might not be top of your list anymore. The more 'real-world', modern, all rounder BMW may be the answer. Of course it might not be but it makes you think about what bike you actually want... or think you should have.

You may wish to own a 2014 'big bang' R1 and I can tell you; if you really want one, you'll have one, one day. Whether that's next year on finance, or in twenty years time when they're less than £1500. If you really want one, it's easily possible. You may have to skint yourself out, you may have to wait a couple of decades, but it will roll onto your driveway one day. Just keep the dreams alive.

Although, I will wish my best of luck to the poor git that dreams of an Nr750...

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

How did you get inspired to start biking?

Apologies for the massive delay between blogs recently. It's a bit tricky sometimes to get yourself motivated but I'm feeling inspired now so I'm back, with a new post revolved around inspiration. Now let me begin...

What inspired you to get your bike?

Was it seeing the local nutter on his crotch rocket race through the streets? Was it watching Ewan and Charley travel the world on them? Or was it to fulfill a commute cheaply?

When I was sixteen I was desperate to get my 50cc and any bike would do, I wouldn't care as long as it had an engine. I found my little Derbi on eBay and went all the way to Sussex to collect it. When we got back we discovered slightly bent bars, few battle scars from a slip the previous owner had and a horrible sumo wrestling sticker - but did I care?

It was a bike. It had wheels. An engine. A headlight. A reg plate. A tank. An exhaust. It was the real thing! Hours were spent sitting on it, dying to turn sixteen. Not before long, I hit sixteen and was off and away. So on and so forth.

It was meant to be... except for the paddington bear pyjamas.

My father has been a biker since I was about two years old and when you have grown up with countless evenings, sat on your dad's knee, scrolling through eBay looking at all the great, fast bikes on there. The occasional trips to the hairdressers where I would nag my dad to take me in  to the local motorbike dealer, just for a look at all these huge, powerful bikes. When I got a little bit older I began to read magazines over my dad's shoulder, my knowledge and thirst for more grew.

I remember times when I had just started middle school and I saw my Dad ready to pick me up at the gates. I remember the excitement as I saw the leather jacket and helmet. Over the moon, I swung my leg over the back seat and hung on tight. The noisy, spluttering V twin roared beneath us and we were off. All of my mates looking and pointing at us. It was fantastic, even if it only lasted a few minutes. They were jealous - and I was loving it.

The shadow... The bike that made me realise biking was for me

That bike was an 80s maroon Honda 1100 Shadow - a very rare bike. That has been one of my all time favourite motorcycles and I can tell you, it's purely because of that moment of feeling like the coolest kid around. A moment never to be forgotten.

Of course, after most of my life spent wishing to ride a motorbike and dreaming of being as cool as my Dad, I was hungry to get one as soon as I could. He was obviously my inspiration - how could he not inspire his son to want a bike? The cool racing leathers he wore, the sportsbikes, the classics, the cruisers, the tinted visors, the noise, the speed. It was all so much to desire.

What were your inspirations in getting your bike? Were they similar to mine? And were you glad they happened?

I wouldn't be sat in this chair, writing this blog to post on the internet if I hadn't been inspired by my father. There would be no YouTube channel. No trips. No S.L.A.P. And I really don't think I would be the same person at all.

Strange how things work out isn't it?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

I love commuting!

It’s something I’ve always said that I’ve never wanted to do.

I’ve never liked the idea of running bikes into the ground, letting the salty, muddy roads corrode your pride and joy. Surely public transport or just walking would be a worthy sacrifice to save your treasured bike?

However after recently coming into a new job, I’ve been forced into a 3 mile commute. There are no buses at 5:30am, so for the first few weeks I had a miserable 45 minute, winter walk every morning.  It was bleak and cold every morning and caused me to wake up very early to get to work on time.

Then December came. The Virago was finally on the road; a cheap and cheerful, bombproof bike that I didn’t really care about cosmetically. In my eyes, it could be thick with rust and corrosion but as long as it had that solid, reliable 35bhp engine in it, I couldn’t care less. A perfect winter hack.

So that’s what I did. Every morning since that day I have jumped on the old thumper and went off to work… and I’ve got to say, it’s fantastic.

The old lunker
Half past five, the roads are empty and quiet. Not a sound to be heard, just the rippling exhaust note and the pitter patter of rain drops on your visor; riding down a few country lanes with no light, except from the small, dim beam protruding from my rusting Yamaha’s headlight.

Although amidst the fun of the past week, there was one slight mishap. Twice on the same journey to work, my bike broke down. Angry and pissed off, I fiddled around with the electrics at the side of a round-a-bout, as previous breakdowns have been electric related. After a few wiggles I managed to get it going again. I continued onwards for another mile before breaking down yet again. Irritatingly, I had broken down at the bottom of a very dark and very wet hill. I gave up and began to push my little nail up the daunting incline.

But despite this, I still love it. Looking back on that experience, it was horrible at the time but man… it makes going to work such an adventure. And that’s what commuting does doesn’t it? It turns your dreaded journey to work into an exciting escapade and there’s no machine better to do it on than some battered up, 24 year old cruiser. Well not for me at least.

But even still, the most strange thing is, is that in the past month I have not had a single dry commute to work. I’ve rode through rain, ice and hail every day. And it’s warming to think, if it’s good now… what’s the summer commute going to be like?

Bring it on.