Sunday, 16 August 2015

Another World Record Broken!

This morning after a late night out with a friend last night, I got up at 6am, and lay in bed for about an hour asking myself, "Do you want to do this, Shazza?" My eyes were still groggy with sleep but with the excitement of the day on my mind, I jumped up, showered, put on my full armoured gear, grabbed a fruit pack I prepared at midnight the night before, and rode the 45-minute scenic journey to The Ace Cafe. 

I arrived just after 8am to a handful of ladies setting up in the car park for the first World Record Attempt: World's Largest All Female Biker Meet.

I parked up, then went over to help the organisers Sherrie and Nimi set up with the other helpers. Part of the process was an online form which served as a database for each participant's attendance, as well as, critical industry information highlighting the presence of female bikers, what we ride, how we ride, and why we ride. My job for the day was to ensure that all attendees had completed the form online or else complete a hard copy from the set I walked around with. 

By 2pm, and well over 500 female bikers later, I had literally lost my voice. As I walked over to a bunch of ladies near the Cafe entrance struggling to say, "Hi ladies. Did you fill out the online form?" for the four hundredth time, Sherrie promptly gave me a drink voucher. So yeah, after grabbing the drink and sitting inside for a while, exhaustion set in. It was time to head home. 

But what an ├╝ber awesome day! Love every minute of it.  Read more about the day HERE.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Night Rider

So, finally got my new Honda NSS125. After over a year of deliberating on which bike, this is it. I'm very happy with it so far and do not see myself upgrading to a bigger engine. I get nearly 120 mpg and it has enough horsepower for highways. Comfortable enough for touring long distances and light enough for quick trips around town. Who can ask for more?

Last night I did my first night ride on it. It's the kind of unit you ride just for the pleasure of riding. I find myself trying to think of places to go just for the ride. Destination not important... just the ride. 

I've mapped out a few places long distance but my life is so preoccupied with other things I like (architecture, construction, bass guitar, and sailing) that I have to slot bike touring in for two to three days at a time maximum. Ideally, I'd like to do a whole week or two. I thought I'd catch this summer but it looks unlikely now. We'll see.

The ride last night was lovely. I set out to ride up to a certain round-a-bout and circle home but some friends had invited me clubbing. I didn't feel like going but I dressed ready to go in case I felt like riding that far. Well, I sure did. I ended up with a longer ride, great destination, fun friends, and great ride home, too.  The roads were mostly empty, and I was so pleased. 

Oh, the crisp fresh air at night... loved it! I think I'll do that regularly. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

One More Week

It's now been seven weeks since I've been on a bike on the road. Not a sunny day goes by where I do not yearn to get back out there on the road. This is the bane of waiting for bone fractures to heal properly. Medically, they say I should be fine in eight weeks, so that leaves me one more week. Yes!

My knee is still swollen but only mildly. There are still niggles of discomfort moving my right arm but it's functional. Will all this be sorted in a week? I really, really hope so. 

On top of all of this, the weather is increasingly biker-friendly and there are oh so many places to see, roads to ride, places to visit, biker groups meeting up... I could go on. And I just have to settle for being the passenger in a 4-wheeled cage to get around while all of life moves by. Sigh. 

But, I am grateful. I am alive. I am here. I am present. 

Being still (or off the bike... same thing) for weeks on end has given me much pause for thought on the things which really bring me joy. Riding a motorised two-wheeler is right up there in the top three. What's a woman to do but do what brings you joy?  I've also planned the purchase of extra protective gear and full body heating clothing for cooler days. I won't be riding any faster than before and, for sure, I'll be extra cautious. However, I've fantasised that these will make my riding experience even nicer. 

I've mapped out a couple local runs and even an ambitious dash on the continent. I'm not sure I'll have enough time for the latter but the locals are very do-able. Plus, there's the Brighton Burn-Up and a few others similar I'm looking forward to. 

One more week and it's on, baby. Yeah!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Up and Ready To Go

Five weeks ago, I was riding my Peugeot Tweet 125 on private land. It was an industrial estate with a large vacant asphalted parking lot about the size of a football field and a half. There were no cars nor people around, and just great for free riding without obstruction. As I rode up to the far end, turned around to ride to the other end, I turned the throttle to accelerate and out of no-where a man starts walking across my path. Having no expectation of someone appearing, I brake suddenly, the front wheel locks, bike throws me over the front, it rolls over on top of me, and I next opened my eyes with my face down on the tarmac looking through a smashed helmet visor. The bike was on top of me. Between seeing the man walk across, braking and coming to on the ground, I remember nothing. 

Suddenly, my body hurt and I groaned loudly. I heard the man saying over and over, "don't move," as he removed the bike from off of me. He then called for an ambulance and shouted some other men over.  I could hear them running as I lay on the asphalt. 

I clenched both my fists and wiggled both sets of toes; with that, I figured at least they still worked. With the bike now removed, I rolled over onto my back and looked up into the clear blue sky. Not a single cloud to be seen. "What a beautiful day," I thoughtn. "Will I be making a journey up there?" Nope, I was not dying, my gut feeling told me, but I had an unbelievably terrible pain coming from my right arm and lesser pain from my right knee. I moaned, groaned, writhed, and cried like a woman in labour pain. The men were very supportive.

One of them tried to cheer me up as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. He said, "the good news is the bike looks in great shape." I managed a chuckle while shaking my head and thought to myself that he must also be a biker... because really, only a biker would say a thing like that and assume it'd be funny under the circumstances. 

Anyway, (cutting this tale short), having arrived at the nearest hospital by ambulance, it was assessed that I had dislocated my right arm and fractured it: my knees suffered soft tissue damage only. Under anaesthetic, they put my arm in place, fixed me up with a sling and sent me home with my other half who had now arrived, and with very strong pain medicine. The men had given the ambulance crew details of where they'd keep the bike for me to collect after.

So yeah, that was the last week in April. My arm and fingers are now strong enough to type all this and share with you. Heck, I even went to look for my bike replacement yesterday and have settled with a 2015 Honda Forza 125. I'll pick it up in about a month when my arm is 100%, and all the mods I ordered on it are complete. 

The Forza is a great replacement for the Tweet. It is perfect for city runs with a 125cc engine, has 14hp which is great for motorways, and very comfortable seat with huge storage for long haul tours. It's light enough to handle easily and heavy enough to sit solidly on the road. Can hardly wait to get back on the road and get riding it!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Honda Integra Test Ride

There's a saying along the lines of not knocking something until you try it. Too right. 

I set out today to take a 2015 Burgman 650 for a ride and decided to try out a red 2015 Honda Integra instead. Thing is, it looks like a scooter, but it's so not. It is a pretty authentic automatic motorcycle... complete with clutch and all. 

Packed with 750cc, it was the deep growl at the engine start up which changed my mind from taking out the Burgman. The Integra sounded like a massive truck engine compared to the Burgman's purr. I mounted it. 

Firstly, let me clear the negatives out of the way.

Number one: no real step through. Although not impossible to get on leg-over front-ways, it's the kind of machine you bend your right leg and throw your knee over standing at the left of the bike facing it. 

Number two: no massive storage. In fact, the under seat won't even store a helmet. But really, for storage, there's nothing two nice panniers and a top box can't fix. (See stock photo below). Besides, there is a handy compartment at the front left just under the handle bar... big enough for a smart phone. Only just... and not an iPhone 6 plus size one either.

Number three: no special standard features like heated grips, retractable rearview mirrors, and sliding windshield. Nope. None of that. What you will get is a fully digital dashboard with large numbers indicating speed and a smaller set displaying which gear you're currently in. 

This unit, my friends, is not a scooter. This is a motorcycle cloaked in plastic bodywork. In fact, the body frame is precisely as the Honda NC750 and its DCT version. Very same bike. Engine in front. Large wheels. Chain drive. ABS and disc brakes. (The ABS was awesome, by the way). 

The bike offers two modes of riding: auto or manual. Auto is basically twist-and-go with a drive or sport option. You really hear and feel the gears changing up and down, too. Sport option delays gear change longer. Manual mode is handled by two levers on the left handle for gear change up or down. Brakes are on the handlebars: right for front, and left for rear. No right foot braking and there's a parking brake which when engaged, keeps the unit from rolling away.

Riding it offered so much stability because of the wheel size and centrifugal balancing of the weight distribution. It's a heavy bike and it sits very solidly on the road. I felt very secure on it; like there was just nothing it couldn't handle.  I rode just barely turning the throttle before it hit 50 mph. Felt great. 

Phew! What a contender this bike is. I had no idea. If you're looking for a motorcycle with the feel of riding a scooter, this is absolutely it! I rode with my legs extended forward the whole time. It was such a pleasure to ride that I'm doing it again next week and again the week after next. 

So current status is, I want one. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

An Almost Ride-Out

I planned all week to ride yesterday as I had been watching the weather closely. I had the use of a silver Honda CBF500 and I wanted to take her around on some back roads for a good feel.  

There was lovely sunshine in the morning, but around midday it started to cloud up. Looked to me like it threatened to rain. Perhaps the weather guys got it wrong again? Sigh. I put my gear on and included some waterproof bottoms for good measure. 

I mounted the silver lady, backed her out of the garage, and hit the road. Took me only to second gear to get to the first turning. I made a left, then a quick left again up along a long avenue with a mild incline. 

Very smooth to ride. Forgiving. But... I wasn't enjoying it. I pulled up to the side and sat for a while, thinking. 

I dunno if perhaps I had too much gear on. I just wasn't into it. The bike just didn't excite me enough to keep going. I'd done less than a mile. What now? Should I continue? 

I exhaled and did a mental check of how I was feeling. Nope. It's a no go. I don't want to ride when it doesn't feel good. It didn't feel unsafe, I just wasn't turned on by the ride. I didn't want to ride like that. Call me moody, and you may be right. 

I turned around and took her home. 

In hindsight, I think the ride failed to thrill me enough the way I feel about my upcoming Southern Ireland tour in a few weeks. Yeah, let's put it down to that. 

I guess sometimes it's best to get off the road when your mind is just not feeling it. 

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bimble Around Hertfordshire

Just got back from taking a Honda CG125 for a mini-tour. Mostly misty weather with a few moments of sunshine, but the roads were welcoming and curvy for the journey around Hertfordshire. That's the thing with us bikers: as soon as we have a weather opportunity, we hit the road. Does not have to be ideal weather, just enough to stay safe. 

This was my first ride on a CG125, and this one bore signs of a very used machine. She had over 11000 miles on her, and a few rusty bolts to show for it. Once she got to fourth gear, she ran very well. Picked up to 60mph. Could possibly have hit more but I wouldn't have. Comfortable at 55, I'd say, without much shakes. 

I kinda dreaded slowing down with her as she didn't respond well in the gear change downs. Perhaps it was the engine size and I was demanding too much of her. First gear seemed only for pulling off a few feet, then too quickly into second. Could almost bimble in third, but she settled well in fourth. Even so, between 40 and 55 miles per hour felt like the comfort zone. 

A nice little rider, but I wouldn't buy one. It did feel like too small an engine for all that metal. Struggled up hills, and not responsive enough at junctions. 

Next I'll be doing the same with a Honda CBF500. With over double the bph, should be smoother moving away and sailing at over 70. I'll let you know how I get on afterwards. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Oldies, But Goodies

I happened yesterday to make my way up to a town called Nuneaton for work yesterday and was thrilled that it was about 30 minutes away from the National Motorcycle Museum. Of course, I had to visit. 

First of all, the building looked nothing like a traditional museum. There was no political gravitas nor bold nuance in the architecture to suggest that this was the home of treasured relics, let alone a public community building. Perhaps it is none of these? It was just a regular ole office building used to house the over 900 plus bikes on display. 

That said, it really was pleasant inside. I didn't miss the expected lofted ceilings et al. The reception area welcomed visitors with a few tasters of units with side cars from around the 1800's. The walls were replete with photos of royalty and other dignitaries each sitting on a particular motorcycle labelled as number 61.  So, I decided I had to get a photo of this number 61. No idea why it was so special. 

Just passed reception is a souvenir shoppe and cafe. In the same area are dozens of early motorcycles of all kinds and shapes. I thought, wow, this is not even the museum yet and there is so much on display here. Turns out that the real museum area has five large rooms housing the 900 plus bikes. My BFF and I paid our entry fee and went it. 

There. Were. So. Many. Bikes! But what struck me more than anything was how defined and clear it was that what we accept today as a modern motorcycle had its beginning as an ordinary bicycle with a motor attached. Simply that. And for very many years in its evolution, it very much continued to resemble a bicycle with a motor attached.  Some even maintained the original pedals.  I was mostly interested in cruisers and found that there were not that many. I was also continuously on the hunt for the elusive number 61.

I liked ones which had a few modification to fit one purpose or another. Others would have large farings covering the front or side complete with floorboard to resemble an early scooter of sorts. Of interest too, was the gear system used on these older bikes: quite similar to a car's gear stick. Imagine riding at high speed, and having to change gears with one hand off the handle bar!

But still, after walking out the five rooms and back, we could not find number 61. So we doubled back. Still not found. We exited a bit defeated, assuming it was only brought out for photo opportunities with celebrities and the like. 

After we left the museum area, we browsed the bikes on display near the cafe area. They were equally very interesting. They all felt much like masses of mechanics and metal on wheels. I'm guessing aerodynamics and aesthetics applied to motorcycles is a recent phenomenon, or else these all may have been 'the thing' back in the day. On the very last row, there it sat! Number 61! Who would have assumed it was right there on display in the free area? I took a few photos of it, including its description, and still have no idea why it is so special. 

Anyway, I am very pleased to have visited and glad the museum was close by. If you're ever near the Coventry area in the UK, it's a must-visit destination. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year Disillusion

Very happy new year to you. I'm planning to have a really good one myself. 

After a period of hibernation and much thought, I've decided to stick with my 125 for now. I just haven't yet found the next perfect bike so I'll be waiting for a bit longer. Quite frankly, I'm fed up of looking and I want to get on with my plans. I'm particularly waiting on the 2015 models of everything to see if manufacturers have come up with anything which remotely suggests that they're listening to consumers. I know there's no such thing as the perfect bike (is there?) but I want something darn near close.

In the meantime, I'll be making some modifications to my 125 to make it more comfortable for riding. I've got two major rides planned this year so far which should cover most of the areas in the UK I'd like to tour: Wales, Scotland, coastal England, and Ireland. I may get Northern Ireland in, too, while up in Scotland. 

So, I'm looking at installing some footpegs which will allow me the option to ride with legs outstretched. This is one of the top bonuses on a Burgman. Also of importance is a rider backrest. I'm looking at various options and will most likely settle for a rolltype seat bag which doubles as a rider backrest. And that's it! Nothing else to add. Fill up with fuel and cruise along in comfort. I'll keep you posted of each installation as and when. Ciao!