Hardy outdoor types are fond of remarking that there's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothes.
I beg to differ. When two inches of rain is bouncing off your helmet - it's bad weather.
Sunday was possibly the wettest I have been on 2 wheels - after 120 miles in constant heavy rain, I squelched to the cafe in Toddington services leaving a trail of puddles. The management were looking at me as if they wanted to follow me round with a "warning - wet floor" triangle.
To add insult to injury, Moto have replaced god's honest hot-air hand dryers with fancy Dyson Blades - Mr Dyson's invention is good at drying hands but does nothing for gloves, fleeces, neck tubes or helmet linings....
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Monday, 28 May 2007
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
I've been reading the TRL report, "The Accident Risk of Motorcyclists" (yes, I know I should get out more). Disappointingly it seems to prove that women are worse at this 2-wheel lark than men - while 11% of male bikers surveyed had an accident in the previous 12 months, 15% of females who took part in the survey had crashed.
Or maybe we're just more honest in surveys!!
The good news is that the report also concludes that, contrary to lurid headlines, the accident rate per motorcycle or per km has been stable for a decade. So the case for speed limiters, bans from town centres and the many other strange ideas that get proposed to save us from ourselves remains unsupported by the evidence.
Other statistical gems: the average biker is 43 years old, and rides 4,677 miles a year. 245 of the study participants were over 70.
And finally - p 20 provides justification for bikers feeling superior - "Motorcycle riding is inherently much more demanding than car driving." We knew that :)
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Monday, 21 May 2007
Ask people to describe a biker and they'll probably say, beard, tattoos, beer belly. I'd like to add big heart...Riders for Health is hugely well-supported by all the bikers I know, as is Motorcycle Outreach, both of which do fantastic work to bring health care to remote communities in Africa.
A new charity I've just heard about is the JBF Trust. This charity works in India and have just been given two Enfield Bullets to help them take vetinary support to India's street cattle (do they wear hoodies?!)
Jonny Krause, one of JBF's trustees, is riding from Scotland to India to raise money for the work. He's blogging about the trip here. I find riding from London to Scotland pretty adventurous so good luck to Jonny and his vintage steed.
Sunday, 13 May 2007
Thursday, 10 May 2007
Blogger seems to have decided I'm in Germany, which is rather further than I thought I'd travelled on one of Mr Branson's shiny new Pendolinos. I had forgotten about the tilting bit until I looked out of the window and spotted a rather jaunty angle on a passing farmhouse - a strange sensation until I realised it was just like cornering on the bike - without the panic ;)
Monday, 7 May 2007
According to the current American Airlines ad, it was Johnny Carson who defined a New York Minute as the instant between the traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. It's also how you know you're back in London. I love the space and huge horizons in Wales, but it's also great to come back into the mayhem that is London traffic, where beautiful positioning matters less than having eyes in all sides of your head and a very, very pessimistic nature.
The last 50 miles are always the hardest - on the A41 it feels as though someone is separating every single one of my vertebrae with a rusty cleaver, and I curse to the seventh circle of hell the person who decided that lumpy yellow stripes on the run-up to roundabouts were going to be helpful.
The scores on the doors:
Miles covered: 960
RBR Points: 340
Landmarks in the bag: 17
Sheep Worried: 5
Number of times the B4090 traversed in search of Gallows Green: 2
G & T's consumed: 2
Free Range Chickens not run over: 1
Votes cast for Lee and Craig in Any Dream Will Do: 0 (no mobile phone coverage in hotel!)
Sunday, 6 May 2007
but the natives are very friendly.
Being a city girl, I'm not 100% whether this is a sheep or a goat. I thought goats had the horizontal pupils and sheep the wooly bits. This seems to have both.
It is very peaceful in Shropshire - no mobile phone reception but a wi-fi link!
Saturday, 5 May 2007
The collective noun for a group of mountains is, of course, Wales. They are my mountains and I get very upset when other bikers arrive – especially when they sweep past me in the villages because I’m observing the speed limit like a good citizen and then they can’t pass a white van half a mile down the road. London riding may not be much good for handling small twisty rural roads – though Wales is giving me lots of practice on them – but it does teach you how to overtake White Van Man (as quickly as possible because the smaller they are in your mirrors, the safer you are!).
The collective noun for a bunch of BMW riders I am less sure about – I pulled in for petrol in Mallwyd, Snowdonia to a filling station swarming with GS Adventurers – at least 30, maybe more. The one lonely car driver looked deeply uncomfortable and others simply drove on. Is this an image thing – bearing in mind that a shiny new GS costs on the upside of 10 grand, I don’t think this was a group liable to erupt in violence! – or maybe they were just too worried about manoeuvring to the pump without causing a very expensive domino race? ! The GS boys were off to ride through some fords. I’ve done a couple to get to landmarks on the other side – the first was nice and easy, the second I took a bit quick (overconfidence!) and nearly came to grief, the current was much faster than I expected and nearly had the back wheel from under me. No idea how we got to the other side – I think the bike took control and saved itself! Anyway, I think the collective noun for GS pilots is probably a Gore-Tex, given that the majority of the throng were wearing their Ewan-and-Charlie approved, all-weather adventure suits.
Today was mostly about riding down very tiny back lanes. I remain suspicious that Dave the Disorganiser doesn’t actually prepare the rally on a motorcycle at all but in fact drives some huge Humvee-type ATV – “road less than four feet wide with a giant stripe of crap down the middle, leaving a strip of tarmac only just wider than a tyre? No problem!” When I was riding round these in Pembrokeshire in the morning looking for Dewi Emrys (the landmark remained elusive until I turned round at Fishguard and tried finding it from the east, from which direction it was surprisingly easy - see Rule Two) I consoled myself with the thought that once this landmark was found, the rest of the day would be on B-roads.. But no! The road to Flounder’s Folly is even smaller and narrower, and if I hadn’t been waved at by 2 rallyers coming back down it on their giant Honda, I’d have given up. Because I have promised the bike that this year, I am not going to drop her on some gravel-strewn backwater and have to rope in passing dog-walkers or house renovators to rescue us.
Then just to finish my spine off, the road to the hotel was a mile of corrugated concrete. I think I still have all my fillings but tomorrow I am having a day off to count them.
Today’s photo is of the Welsh coast nowhere near anything to do with Dewi Emrys at all.
Friday, 4 May 2007
Filtering the North Circular on a grey Friday morning – 90 minutes
Getting bored to death on the outside lane of the M4 – 2 hours
Thawing out over a Little Chef baked potato – 35 minutes
Riding over the Severn Bridge as the sun comes out – priceless
Despite predictions of a Bank Holiday Sizzler Friday started both overcast and chilly – so I had to dig into the winter riding pile and get my flask back out. Maybe I hang out with the wrong crowd but the drug of choice among UK bikers seems to be a sensible thermos of coffee…
The RBR landmarks were exactly where they were supposed to be according to my map reading – it’s just making the map resemble the facts on the ground that causes me grief. Part of this challenge is due to the first two rules of Round Britan Rally:
• The first rule: given a choice at a junction, you will always choose the wrong direction. This rule applies even if you try and fool it by saying, normally I would choose left, but that would be wrong, so I will go right instead. Right is still the wrong direction and you should have gone left.
• The second rule: the signpost is always obvious in the direction you are not approaching from.
These are mere Rules, while the First Commandment is, Thou Shalt Not Give Away Landmark Locations until the Rally is Over. So I can’t really tell you about the stops, except to say that the Maharajah’s Well is splendidly incongruous in the stockbroker belt, the Berkshire Museum of Aviation looks exactly like what would happen if someone stopped collecting garden gnomes and started collecting aeroplanes, Kellaway’s Pillar is the kind of bonkers slice of English history that I do the rally for, Pure Life Pure Water earned my undying gratitude for having a parking spot right next to it (one day I fear I am going to get smeared across the landscape trying to Frogger my way across a dual carriageway, camera in one hand, control card in the other), Blaenavon Ironworks made me glad I have a desk job, and Swansea Jack is a much bigger hero than Captain Jack and deserves his own TV series too.
Since pictures of these lovely things are not allowed until October, here’s a picture of the car park of Swansea North Travelodge.
Thursday, 3 May 2007
"The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And mocked my awful ride."
With apologies to Samuel T.C.
I have three weaknesses (actually, I have a lot more than three but these are the ones that count on the bike): Small twisty rural A-roads covered in sand and gravel; riding in the dark; and riding with people faster than me (which at this point in the year is pretty much everybody!)
So imagine my joy when my first assessment ride on Tuesday night managed to encompass all of them in just 90 minutes.
"You were very...consistent" said my kindly observer.
I hold my hand up and confess I have no natural aptitude for riding a motorcycle. But as Damon Hill once said, "if it was easy, lawyers would do it."