The Thundersprint approaches so Nikos, Clarky and I met up this morning to discuss travel plans. Well, Nikos and Clarky met and I turned up an hour later. Not because of the start of British Summer Time, but because I was convinced we were meeting at 11 and they were equally convinced we were meeting at 10. Maybe BST would have been a better excuse...
Yesterday it looked like spring so I put my Gialis on and got soaked to the skin. So this morning I thought, the weather isn't going to catch me like that twice, put full winter kit on and turned into a boil-in-the-bag biker instead. Nor did the fantastic blue skies deter the assembled mods from wearing their very baggiest, greenest and furriest parkas. While it seems that mods and bikers can now turn up at the Ace at the same time and exchange club night flyers rather than blows, at least when it comes to dress codes standards still count for something ;)
Sunday, 30 March 2008
Saturday, 29 March 2008
Riding up the A1 to do some practice "positioning for view" I spotted a sportsbike rider being closely shadowed by a full-dress police BMW. Unlucky, I thought. Maybe he's got an illegal numberplate? Then I passed another pair on my side of the road (doing a very legal 70, I hasten to add). Was this the full-on crackdown that MCN had promised?
It was National BikeSafe, and the police were doing observed rides.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
One of the more interesting emails I got at work today:-
"The email address on which you are receiving this note was in the contact list of Simon Milward which he compiled during his round the world motorcycle trip called the Millennium Ride during 2000-2005
We thought you would like to know that Simon's work and vision is being continued by an organisation called Motorcycle Outreach which supports the use of motorcycles in healthcare delivery in developing countries. Motorcycle Outreach is a registered UK Charity set up and run by Simon's friends and family after his death in 2005.
Currently Motorcycle Outreach supports the Health for All (HfA) project on the island of Flores in Indonesia. HfA motorcycles are used by Health Ministry workers to take primary health services to a population of 55,000 in 55 villages in the area. HfA continues to implement a system of Transport Resource Management (TRM) specifically providing zero-breakdown motorcycles for rural health deliveries. This includes vaccines for children, maternal and child health care, and treatment for tuberculosis, malaria and STD-HIV/AIDS.
We would very much appreciate your continued support. The project costs approximately £7,000 per year to run and our income is limited because we are not a large charity. If you would like to make a donation, however small, it is possible to do this in any currency via PayPal or the Charities Aid Foundation from our website.
You will find further information here about the work that we do, along with contact details. Do please pass our details on to your friends and contacts who may be interested in the work we are doing to continue Simon's dream.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
This week's MCN:
"Plans to raise motorcycle road tax prices slammed by Environmental Transport Association
By Michael Carroll
The Environmental Transport Association has hit out at changes to the law that mean cars emitting less than 100g of CO2 per kilometre travelled would be exempt from paying Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), while motorcycles are still required to pay.
Chancellor Alistair Darling outlined the plans in his first budget last week, under the auspices of rewarding motorists for driving ‘green’ vehicles.
Despite Darling’s aim, the rate of road tax paid by motorcyclists is set to double in 2009, the ETA states, with the annual charge for a typical 125cc commuter bike set to grow from £15 per year at present, to £33 in 2009.
Andrew Davis, a director at the ETA, says the increase “makes a nonsense of the revised rates of vehicle excise duty,” and that “a case must be made for motorcycles,” because they tend to emit less CO2 and use less fuel than cars.
The ETA’s criticism is damning because it is a not-for-profit organisation that campaigns for sustainable transport, as well as providing carbon-neutral breakdown cover and insurance products.
Figures from the organisation state that the average CO2 output for motorcycles is 110g/km"
Monday, 24 March 2008
I have been tetchy all weekend thanks to feeling deprived of my Easter trip to the mountains. So when I woke up this morning to see 2 good omens: blue skies, and the windsock on the balcony opposite not about to tear free from its tether, and only one bad one: big puddle of ice on the roof next door, I decided that it would be Highwaylass 1, Weather 0, and got the thermos out of the cupboard. Of course, by the time I'd made my coffee, the view of the windsock was blocked by the falling snow. But I am practising being of stern stuff so I decided to press on regardless. (Not forgetting a hearty upbringing where the traditional cry on a Bank Holiday was, "Get your jumper, we're going to the beach.") So, resolute but not reckless, I prepared by adding an extra layer of clothes. Like a Russian doll or an onion, if you peeled off my top layer you'd have found a slightly smaller version of me underneath (this time in furry aquamarine north face top instead of black fleece) and if you'd peeled off that layer you'd have found another smaller me, this time in superwool thermals. Fortunately I have lost sufficient weight since Christmas that there's room inside my Belstaffs for the extra insulation! - and just for good measure, 2 pairs of socks. Hands I had to trust to the heated grips.
I've never ridden in snow before, the only time I nearly had to was when I had a service and MOT booked for the Triumph, and the flakes started drifting as I crossed the North Circular - but Flitwick let me bottle it on account of being a girl. So it was a new experience, and it started off not too bad - small flakes that are a bit more like hail than snow bounce off better than raindrops and don't make you wet or cold, and as I headed out of London the clouds split and the sun came out. So determination was rewarded....but it was still pretty chilly and I had forgotten that Ipswich exists in some kind of fold in spacetime meaning it takes three times longer to by-pass than it deserves on account of its size, and by the time you get out, your helmet hurts, you're hungry and in need of some coffee - shelter, warmth and caffeine all admirably provided by the farmcafe on the A12 and their fantastic woodburning stove.
The sun held out as far as the coast (LM 45) but my luck ran out on heading back inland. Big soggy snowflakes may look pretty but they plaster themselves over your visor like a wet white alien facehugger, and the turny-head slipstream trick doesn't work, so it's a one-handed swipe every few seconds, leading to cold wet gloves :(
Of course, none of this is apparent in my RBR photos, as every landmark bagged today was basking in bright chilly sunshine by the time I got there - so I can't claim extra points or sympathy for hardship endured! Though I do think that nothing makes you appreciate riding into the golden evening sun so much as the previous 20 minutes riding into a blizzard. There's a book of cheesy biker wisdom in there somewhere...
Sunday, 23 March 2008
Unwrapping my Fog City fog shield, this message is helpfully printed on the packaging:-
"this printed liner is directly under fog shield. remove and discard - shield is top piece of film"
Have the easily confused been glueing the liner to their visors and wondering why visibility hasn't improved?
Thursday, 20 March 2008
"Soft luggage is designed to carry normal motorcyclists' requirements eg waterproofs, tyre repair kit, small tools....it is not designed to carry full loads of tinned food or drink, house bricks."
Step forward all those foolhardy Baglux customers who've been attempting to transport a gross of Accrington Red...
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
The weather forecast seems depressingly familiar...
"Outlook for Thursday to Saturday:
Rain and strong winds on Thursday clearing to leave bright, cold and windy days on Friday and Saturday with blustery showers, these becoming increasingly wintry with time, especially over mountains.
Updated: 0906 on Tue 18 Mar 2008"
I'm assuming "wintry" is code for snow.
Monday, 17 March 2008
Sunday, 16 March 2008
"We're going to start with some practice moving the bikes around. One hand on the bars, one hand on the seat..." Sounds harmless enough but the last time someone said that to me the next sound heard was CG125 hitting tarmac. So you'll understand my reluctance to try and make it two for two..... Heart in mouth and (someone else's) bike under my hands, I wheeled a token 2 feet and declared victory. It might be inelegant to sit on the bike and paddle it around with both feet, but it does do wonders for the thighs.
10 years after my CBT it seems I have turned full circle - or, more accurately, full, Figure-of-Eight - and I'm back in a car park on a cold damp morning to trace wiggly paths through cones. The rain was falling hard, and a couple of the slow riding trainees also fell quite heavily - though the car park has a roof, the rain was slanting in through the open sides. Back in 1996 I spent too many hours in a Tesco car park practising tighter and tighter circles, so that when I went back for the Part 2 test the cones would be safe from maiming. And once I passed my test I tried very hard never to do another. The rhythm comes back to me - a little weight on the outside hip, a little push down on the bars, breathing space at the cross-over then over to the other side - there's me on Ruby, Chris on a matching red GS (I say matching, his was rather cleaner) and David on a 650 X-country (made for flicking from side to side, but the low car park ceiling meant no standing on the pegs), competing to go as slow as possible and trying not to trip over the stallers and the foot-dabbers.
And today's great mystery - call it a figure of 8 and I have no problem. Call it a U-turn - surely just a one-ended figure of 8? - and it all goes pear. Looks like I'll be heading back to that car park....
Friday, 14 March 2008
I try and stay out of politics on this blog but this is such an important issue I hope you'll forgive me a small rant.
As readers of MCN will know, in September TfL's draft report on bikes in bus lanes showed that allowing motorcycles into bus lanes was good for bikers, good for cyclists and good for pedestrians. The report published yesterday uses a different statistical analysis to claim that there is no clear safety benefit - the opposite of the truth back in September. If other local authorities rely on it as an excuse to keep bikes out of their own bus lanes, then preventable deaths and injuries will be the result.
It is alleged that the report has been changed because Mayor Ken fears the cyclist lobby organising against him on polling day. Politicians will always have an eye on the electoral cosequences of their actions, but we are talking about people's lives here - and not just bikers, but cyclists too.
Here's the MCI view:-
LIVINGSTONE CONDEMNS CYCLISTS AND MOTORCYCLISTS TO UNSAFE ROADS
The Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) has today reacted angrily to the publication of a so-called ‘official’ report into an experimental scheme which allows motorcycles to use bus lanes on routes in London by Mayor Ken Livingstone.
The ‘official’ report says that there is no clear safety benefit for motorcyclists, but that there would be a safety disbenefit for cyclists. Mr Livingstone has said that he will not now allow motorcyclists to use bus lanes in London.
But MCI is aware that Mr Livingstone was presented with a ‘final daft’ of the report before Christmas, which showed a very clear and in some cases, a dramatic safety improvement for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. The original ‘un-doctored’ final draft was leaked to the media and motorcycle organisations in January.
Since the un-tampered report was leaked, Mr Livingstone has been attempting to ‘rubbish’ it as not ‘fit for purpose’ and has heavily criticised the team which prepared the report.
MCI’s Craig Carey-Clinch said: “Mr Livingstone’s idea of ‘fit for purpose’ clearly has nothing to do with motorcycle or cycle safety. The findings of the ‘real’ report were clearly not ‘fit’ for his pre-determined view that he didn’t want motorcycles in bus lanes.
“The report that Mr Livingstone has published today is little more than politically ‘spun’ tripe, pedalled to suit a negative view about motorcycling which has been heavily promoted by the Mayor’s anti-motorcycle transport advisors.
“The original report shows quite clearly that safety can be significantly improved not just for motorcyclists, but also cyclists and pedestrians. By doctoring the results to suit both his and his advisors’ personal opinions, Livingstone has condemned cyclists and motorcyclists to greater vulnerability in London’s traffic. A bizarre standpoint from a Mayor who claims that he wants to encourage cycling and improve road safety.
“If Livingstone wants to get serious about improving road safety, reducing traffic congestion and Co2 pollution then he must start taking motorcycling seriously as a mode of transport in London. The fact is that an increasing number of Londoners and commuters are voting with their wheels and switching to motorcycling. Allowing riders to use bus lanes makes complete sense from an overall road safety and mobility perspective.”
Several other UK local authorities and even some London boroughs allow motorcycles to use bus lanes, some for many years, with no negative safety issues reported.
MCI is now calling for the publication of the original report, so that the results can be properly compared with the tampered ‘official’ report which has been published today.
Monday, 10 March 2008
The power! Sitting opposite a junction pointing firmly right, wiggling gently (give us some movement, they said. Makes you easier to see), while 19 bikes follow my finger. Truly they say with great power comes great responsibility - if I get bored, tired or confused and point the wrong way, Pete the ride leader will find himself suddenly riding alone...
Dropping bikers by the side of the road is the secret of the Marker System, used on IAM Group Rideouts - and I had to join in when it was my turn to get firmly directed by a sweep of Pete's arm. Anxious the first time, blase the second.
My riding is done solo (RBR or commuting), in a pair with my sister, or as one of a cast of thousands (Kill Spills) so to ride with a group of 20 was a new experience and huge fun. Pete took us round the back lanes and peaceful parts of East Anglia, not forgetting stops for food and water at the World Famous Comfort Cafe and at Finchingfield (coffees all round to thaw out after the hail). Ruby got to meet some other GSs but remained serene in the knowledge that she has the gnarliest panniers, now covered in cack (must try and find a hugger!).
Friday, 7 March 2008
14 days to go until RBR 2008 - but no landmark list yet recieved....I forsee some late nights with Google Earth and the Ordnance Survey if my cunning plan to bag as much as possible between Good Friday and Easter Monday is to be realised.
"Panamaniac56" has consoled me for missing this year's dinner and awards by posting a fine set of photos to flickr.
It's also just 10 weeks to go until the RBR 6 points team sets off from Land's End...time to start booking campsites, I think!