Saturday, October 15
by Andy on Sat 15 Oct 2011 15:15 BST
Summer has come and gone, and another biking season draws to a close.
Tomorrow, the big "Hoggin' The Bridge" event takes place nearby here, with one of the Severn Bridges closed to all except motorcycle traffic, and thousands of bikes making the crossing for charity. If the weather holds, we'll try to get there.
Yesterday was a beautiful autumn day, and my bike was booked in for its annual service. So, bright and early, I took it the 18 or so miles to the dealership in Bristol, and, after a nice cooked breakfast, I took out their Triumph Thunderbird Storm demonstrator, to fill the time.
I like cruisers, although due to lower back problems I've never owned one, and this one certainly didn't disappoint. I think I'm most attracted by their big, torquey engines, which appeal to the lazy side of my personality! The 1700cc parallel twin engine was really grunty, pulling nicely from little over tickover revs, right though to the legal speed limit. The exhaust note, through the optional louder pipes, was enough to make a grown man, old enough to know better, play silly games with the throttle, just to be able to listen to it. The handling was stable, and the seating position ticked all the boxes, with high wide bars, low wide pegs, and a big (wide) tank beween them.
After a brief stop at home, Janet joined me on her bike for the ride back to the dealers to collect my bike. As usual, the transition back to my own bike was a little unsettling, with its low bars, high pegs and narrow tank. But it felt great, with the latest Triumph engine remap on board, and the injectors balanced, and it was a pleasant ride home in the lunchtime sunshine.
To end the day, we took a (bus) trip to town, which, here in Weston-super-Mare, means the coast. After a pinball session on the pier, we retired to a recently opened sea front pub for dinner, and over fine Bath Ales beer and a nice little Shiraz, we watched the sun go down, and the pier lights come up, on the Bristol Channel.
We've lived in this town for well over 25 years now, and we've seen a lot of changes - not least a new pier, after the last one was badly damaged by fire. We've had a lot of fun here with friends over the last quarter century. Some have now gone, sadly, never to return. And many times, we've sat and watched as the sky gets dark, and made plans for the next biking season, or reflected on the last road trip, while as The Boss would say, that pier lights our carnival life on the water ...
Saturday, July 16
by Andy on Sat 16 Jul 2011 12:16 BST
It's been a while since my last posting, but that's not because of a lack of biking in my life - quite the opposite, in fact.
I think I've mentioned before that I reduced my working hours (semi retired?!) in January, so now I work three days a week, and I have four days to fill with fun stuff. Obviously this means that my income has reduced too, but with Janet's business thriving, we get by just fine. For the first few months, as we sat through one of the coldest winters on record, the opportunities presented by this change were mainly confined to indoor pursuits, but then came spring ...
As my previous posting, the season started with the Ride of Respect, supporting our troops and troop welfare charities, and paying respects to the town of Wootton Bassett, and its contribution to all of the repatriations of fallen troops.
The RoR got the season off to a good start, and through the months since, we've really enjoyed our biking. Typically, where we're not limited by event schedules, we try to get away on the bikes midweek, and return on Friday, so the roads are relatively clear of tourist traffic, and likewise the destinations have room(s) to spare too.
So, after a return visit to Wootton Bassett, we headed to Tideswell for a week. Although the weather wasn't good, we still had a great biking week. Then we took a weekend in Poole, including a visit to the Tank Museum, when the weather was glorious.
This week, we headed to the Royal International Air Tattoo, at Fairford in Gloucestershire. We haven't been there for a few years, since we last went with Lee, our good friend from the USA. The crowds at weekends are infamous, and so with the opportunity of a couple of sunny days before the weather forecast deteriorated later in the event, we headed up to Gloucester for the night, then made an early start and had a full day at RIAT.
The Thursday of the event is one of the days when aircraft are arriving, and pilots are rehearsing their displays. We parked the bikes on the apron at the western end of the runway, and spent the day in a near-empty crowd area, enjoying the occasion and the summer sunshine, relaxing and taking pictures. The ride home was fast and fun.
In the six months or so that I've owned the Speed Triple, I've done around 2200 miles on it. Not a high mileage by the standards of some seasoned tourist types, but it's probably the most mileage in a short period that I've done in many years. I find the bike comfortable, fast, and easy to ride on British roads, where engine midrange, rather than outright speed, is the main concern (not that it's lacking in outright speed either!). I've really enjoyed riding this bike, and seriously think that, after several years of changing bikes regularly, this one is a "keeper".
The only slight drawbacks compared with, say, the CBF1000 that I traded for it, are lack of luggage space (though that was pretty obvious when I bought it, given the lack of a top box and panniers!), and the slight odour of exhaust that it leaves on whatever luggage can be secured to the rear seat (or to the rider's back). This seems to be a problem that affects some bikes with high level exhausts, and the way I deal with it is to use cheap luggage (which I can throw away after a few uses!), and to wrap the contents in plastic carrier bags (something we always do anyway, to protect against rain penetration). Like I say though, the odour is slight, and we've had worse, on a bike without a catalytic converter fitted. And these are pretty minor gripes, on what I'm finding to be a really great bike.
We've got more biking events planned for the summer, though we'll probably ease back a little over the next few weeks, as the schools break up for their hols, with the traffic turning major roads into car parks!
It's funny though really, being a biker in the UK - two recurring themes keep arising, don't they. The weather and the traffic!
Saturday, April 9
by Andy on Sat 09 Apr 2011 20:27 BST
Well, my hopes in February for an early start to the biking season were not realised. For nearly two months after my last posting, I hardly rode the bike, with week after week of icy weather and road salt. However, as April, and Mother's Day, approached, we wanted to do a ride, and one ride in particular.
Last year on Mother's Day, the charity Afghan Heroes - established by the mothers of fallen troops and providing support to servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan - organised a huge ride through Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire. Wootton Bassett is the village close to RAF Lyneham where families, villagers and others assemble to pay their respects to the fallen troops on repatriation. We couldn't make the trip last year, as we already had commitments that day. But this year we wanted to be there, as part of the 10 000 bikes and their riders paying repects.
After a wet week, the Sunday dawned dry and bright. We made an early start, but nevertheless, by the time we left the motorway close to the assembly point at Hullavington airfield, the roads were full of bikes, all heading in the same direction.
The organisation of the event was excellent. After passing through check-in, we were directed to the second batch of 1000 bikes, and told when to be ready for departure. Sure enough (after taking a few minutes to see and hear the first 1000 bikes move off), on schedule at 9:30 we were flagged off, in columns, from the airfield and onto the road to Wootton Bassett, around 12 miles away.
The roads were closed in our direction, and as far as the eye could see, ahead and in the rear view mirrors, bikes of all shapes and sizes were underway, all heading for the same place, for the same reason. Added to this were the hundreds of bikes streaming along the road towards the airfield. An awesome sight.
The real surprise was the turnout at the roadside. Hundreds - maybe thousands - of local residents waved and cheered the bikes on their way to Wootton Bassett. Janet was ahead of me, and continually we both returned the waves of the well wishers. We rode through the lovely Wiltshire countryside on what was a perfect spring Sunday morning, hardly stopping along the way, with Police closing all road junctions to permit the riders to pass.
After about half an hour, we came to the little village of Wootton Bassett. I had expected nothing like what greeted us. The roadsides were crowded with residents and others - some of them relatives of the fallen troops - who had come to support the event. They clapped, cheered, and they - and we - reached out to touch our hands together, as we passed. The emotional impact is difficult to relate. The sense of coming together.
All too soon we were through the village. The excellent organisation continued, directing us to the motorway, and to head away if we wished. All along the way the road was full of bikes on their way to - and from - the ride. We pulled over at the service station to talk, and all over the car park were groups of bikers, enjoying the spring sunshine and sharing the moment.
Sunday, February 13
by Andy on Sun 13 Feb 2011 14:58 GMT
At last it seems we're nearing the end of another winter. Just this last week, we've seen temperatures that make an hour's ride on a bike bearable again. Let's not get carried away - we sometimes have awful weather here in February - but you know how it is, the days are getting longer, January is behind us, and we can start planning the summer's bike trips again, usually over a pint of ale (or a glass of red wine, in the case of Mrs Torquemonster).
We came back from a week in Lanzarote ten days ago (strangely there seem to be very few big bikes there for such a warm place, maybe they keep them for the summer?), and since then I've got out on the bike a few times. Just local stuff, but the bike is getting close to 500 miles now, and it's loosening up. I'm aiming to have it run in by the time the spring comes. That's the way to do it if you buy late in the year, in my opinion - look for a good buy, then just take it out on those days when you feel the winter conditions won't take the shine off your new pride and joy. That way it's ready for some serious fun when the biking season returns. And with the recent change in my job (I'm working 3 days a week now, rather than full time), I've got more time to get it ready for summer, which is nice.
Next weekend is one of the first rites of spring - the Bristol Classic Bike show, at Shepton Mallet. It'll be cold and wet, no doubt, but for us it's the first biker get-together of the year around here, and it's always fun rummaging through the autojumble. We'll see this week whether we can hook up with the local Triumph club for a ride in, weather permitting.
There I go again, talking about the weather! Anyway, pics of the show to follow soon, on the website.
Monday, January 3
by Andy on Mon 03 Jan 2011 21:42 GMT
It's the 3rd of January, and it's snowing. Nothing like the amount we saw in December, but just enough to make it unlikely that I'll be able to take the new bike into Bristol tomorrow, for its 500 mile service.
Yesterday, Janet and I were able to get out on the bikes for a short ride. Just around Weston-super-Mare (the road conditions and near-freezing temperatures precluded anything more), but it was good to get out again, after so many weeks.
Today, we put together a review of the last year, and its at:
Looking at it, it reminds me that we had a pretty good biking year really. We got away on the bikes a few times, and we did plenty of other stuff too. Let's hope that 2011 is even better.
Happy New Year,
Wednesday, December 29
by Andy on Wed 29 Dec 2010 15:56 GMT
It's been a while now since I last posted here. The main reason is that I've not ridden a bike for over a month now! The weather has been absolutely appalling here in North Somerset, with snow on the ground throughout December.
All of which is rather frustrating, if one has bought a new bike in November.
It all started well enough. Mid-November was mild and dry. I picked up the new Speed Triple, and straight away I got on with running in. In the first couple of weeks I did 300 miles, and I absolutely love it. It's fun, fast, and full of character - everything I was looking for.
The engine loosened up nicely, and I was looking forward, after a short car trip to the Peak District, to finishing off the running in by mid-December. Then it snowed.
The snow really first hit us when we were in the Peak District - a couple of feet thick generally, with drifts of twice that thickness. Our plans for driving around and long walks were put on hold, and eventually we came back a day early, when the roads out of our upland village were cleared.
Expecting our usual mild southern weather, I was looking forward to putting a couple more hundred miles on the Speed Triple. But I haven't ridden it once since November! Icy roads were soon followed by snow, and sub-zero temperatures meant that the snow hung around until after Christmas.
At last, the snow has cleared. The bike is booked in for its first service next week and, after that, hopefully we'll have some more typical (damp and drizzly!) winter weather.
I don't mind getting the bike wet, but I really don't want to subject it to the corrosive effects of road salt. This one will be a "keeper", and I want to keep its good looks intact for as long as possible.
More riding impressions soon - if the snow stays away!
Sunday, October 31
by Andy on Sun 31 Oct 2010 14:29 GMT
After summer on the CBF1000, I have been thinking lately about whether it's quite right for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a great bike in my opinion, and carries enough luggage to keep us going for a week away from home. But it's not really worked out for me in one key respect. As I've got older, I've begun to get quite a lot of discomfort in my coccyx. In case you don't know, that's the bone at the very base of the spine, that used to be our tail (well not literally OUR tail, but our ancestors had one, millennia ago!).
Anyway, enough of the biology class - suffice to say that my choices of bike have been increasingly limited as the problem gets worse. Over the last 5 years or so I've tried big, soft bikes (read big, soft seats!), race replicas, and all points between. The CBF held out some hope initially, but I found that after riding for around 90 mins-2 hours, the problem made its unpleasant presence felt. Which isn't bad, except that the bike is probably the most touring orientated bike I've owned, and in my heart of hearts I'd hoped for more.
So, after a few eye watering trips, I have finally come to the conclusion that I'll be best to accept the inevitable, and confine my riding to shorter trips - say up to 100ish miles. And the CBF, though very competent, was bought for something different really.
So I had a look around. Janet bought a Yamaha FZ1 recently, and after trying that, and really enjoying it, I decided to look for something similar - a naked bike, with enough power, good handling and instant fun factor. After reading a few tests, I arranged a ride on a Triumph Street Triple. It's not quite as powerful as the Yamaha, but I quite like the Triumph 3-cylinder engine (I owned a 955i Daytona a few years ago), and I thought it would work well in this sort of bike.
So yesterday I spent two hours in the saddle of Fowlers' demo bike. It was a really enjoyable ride, and the bike felt rewarding at real world speeds. Comfort-wise, it felt promising, though in reality there is a limit to just how long and how far you can ride somebody else's bike, to check out yer bum bone! But it didn't feel worse than the CBF, which is probably as much as one can reasonably ask, given that it isn't being bought with trans-European trips in mind. The exhaust note of the Triumph triples is quite different from anything else I know, and provided a nice soundtrack to the ride. Fowlers offered me an attractive deal, so I bought one! Well, to be precise I'll be buying one in two weeks time, when it's been built out of the crate!
So now I've got a couple of weeks wait for the new bike, then we'll try to get it run in before the worst of the winter weather arrives!
I'll let you know how it goes.
Saturday, September 18
by Andy on Sat 18 Sep 2010 10:32 BST
Honda have brought the new version of the CBF 1000 to the UK, and it's appearing in the bike shops now, so I've taken the opportunity to take a demo bike for a spin. Mrs T was going to as well, but was feeling under the weather, so she'll go for it in a few weeks time.
Saturday, September 4
by Andy on Sat 04 Sep 2010 16:23 BST
At the time of writing, we’re just back from Cornwall, having enjoyed a nice spell of Indian Summer weather on the bikes. We set off on Tuesday (today is Saturday), for our third spell away on the bikes this year. Last time, Janet was on her Hornet 600, but now she has her new FZ1, and was finishing the running in on this trip.
We crammed the luggage into the CBF’s top box and panniers - it’s amazing how much they’ll take! That avoided the need for strap on luggage, which makes life so much easier.
The run down to Cornwall was nice and fast - we’d deliberately waited until Tuesday, to avoid the traffic of the previous (bank holiday) weekend. Janet led on most of the trip (other than the odd occasion where she let me!). She was trying out her new bike, and it was nice to do that without having an old f#rt on a CBF blocking the way!
The roads in Cornwall are an interesting mix. We were staying in Helston, right down in the west of Cornwall, and they range from small lanes through to fast, sweeping A-roads. Exploring the little villages and coves can be something of a lucky dip really. It’s not unusual to ride down lovely lanes, with views out over sea, that really remind you why you ride a bike. Then you take a turn into the signposted car park, to find yourself trail riding! I think we’re getting the hang of it though - don’t commit to anything until you’re sure it’s a paved road!
Yesterday’s trip to Land’s End was great - the countryside is wild at the western extreme of England, and the roads were quiet. We spent a couple of hours gazing out over the Atlantic, in this wild and windy spot. Then to Penzance, to enjoy views back to St Michael’s Mount.
Today, with several days of wet weather forecast, we packed our bags and headed for home while the roads were still dry (yup, fair weather motorcyclists and proud!). I led this time, just by way of variety. The trip was much slower, with the usual late summer Saturday traffic jams added to by a couple of nasty looking road accidents, both in the opposite carriageway, but unfortunately everybody slows down for a good look, don't they :-(
Both bikes fared well. Janet has finished running hers in now, and it really is a very fast machine. The CBF is doing exactly what you’d expect. It is a really accomplished all-rounder - fast, predictable, comfortable, and easy to get along with when you want to sit back and enjoy the view.
We had a great time, and some fabulous late summer weather - it's just a shame that autumn is now beckoning!
Wednesday, August 18
by Andy on Wed 18 Aug 2010 18:02 BST
It's been a little quiet on the biking front lately, due to work and domestic commitments, though Janet has already got her FZ1 run in and serviced. The main event for me in the last couple of weeks was the Fowlers KTM demo day. I'd been fancying a go on the new KTM Duke 690R for some time, so when I heard it was coming to town, I booked the first ride of the day on it.
Test day dawned wet, but with the promise of brighter weather later. So we hopped in the car and drove to the dealers. The rain showed no sign of easing, but I ignored my instincts, common sense and wife, and instead rolled up at the dealers and signed in. The Duke was lined up alongside about 10 other demo bikes, and in a brief glimmer of sunshine, seemed quite appealing. This proved to be the last sunshine of the ride. We pulled out of the car park, and the skies opened. As we trickled through the traffic, the rain was trickling too - everywhere. Down inside my gloves, my neck, my ....
I was finding that the bike, a single cylinder 690, was getting pretty lairy in these conditions, and on the greasy city streets the back tyre broke away at the slightest throttle indiscretion. By the time we were on the open road, the rain was hammering down. I had long since given up on using my visor, which was running with water inside and out, and instead I pushed it up almost out of my line of sight, and used it as a peak, to try to deflect some of the needles of rain! I had also given up on any prospect of getting through the ride with any part of me dry, though looking round me at guys on RC8s, in perforated race leathers (I was wearing a textile jacket) I realised that some people had it even worse.
Nobody was pushing it in these conditions, so I had no trouble keeping up with the guys on the 1200 race reps, but I confess that I was struggling to get on with my ride. Perhaps I'm too used to smooth fours, and in fairness it would have been difficult to enjoy any bike in those conditions, but the single cyclinder delivery was hard to manage, especially at slow speeds. On the open road it was easier, though of course lacking the top end BHP rush of a big sports four.
Anyway, we made our way slowly back to Bristol, a task made even wetter by the need to sit in queues of holiday making car trippers! Eventually we got back to Fowlers, and frankly I was glad to get off the bike, back to the car and out of my wet gear.
It was one of those rides that you are much happier to look back on, and smile at your stupidity! But thanks to KTM and Fowlers, for the chance to try out one of their shiny new bikes in such truly challenging conditions.
Saturday, July 31
by Andy on Sat 31 Jul 2010 16:31 BST
Yes, Janet has called it Fozzie! It's her new FZ1, and she picked it up from Fowlers a week ago today. She has already done over 300 miles on it, and scrubbed the tyres in nicely!
We've enjoyed changing our bikes fairly regularly over the past 10 years or so. We wanted a pair of 1000s this year really, as we are looking toward changes in our lives, in terms of work/life balance, and we have now got a pair of machines that will enable us to cover some distance, as well as providing fun on weekend mornings, and for a long time too. No more new ones for the forseeable future!
We've chosen a good pairing, although they are about as different as a pair of 1000cc DOHC fours (both based on race replica engines) could be. The Honda is a great all rounder, with loads of luggage space. Fozzie (!) is like a BMX bike with a 150bhp rocket up its bum!
But as I say, they already make a great pairing, as our first couple of rides together have shown.
Tuesday, July 20
by Andy on Tue 20 Jul 2010 21:04 BST
It all started with the VFR1200. I've been trying to get a test ride since it was launched in February, but each time the weather got in the way. Last week, we had a few days to spare, so I popped into Fowlers and arranged a ride on Friday. Fowlers also kindly obliged with a ride for Janet on Yamaha's latest middleweight, the FZ8. Truth be told, I'm not really looking for a new bike, as I'm very happy with the CBF1000, but Janet, though happy with the Hornet, is open to the idea of a change if the right machine comes along.
The VFR turned out to be a nice bike, but not really quite to my liking - perhaps it's just that I'm not crazy about V4s, as I've found in the past that I've come close to liking V4 bikes, but never quite as much as straight 4s.
Talking of straight 4s, Janet seemed a little underwhelmed by the FZ8. While it had no glaring faults, it just didn't seem to offer many advantages over the 600 Hornet that she currently rides.
We retired to the cafe for a snack, to compare notes. At which point a chance conversation reminded us that the FZ8 has a big brother, the FZ1. And what's more, it looked like we could get a great deal on one.
So, to cut a long story short, Janet took one for a ride yesterday, and next week she'll be the proud owner of a brand new white FZ1.
It's going to be great, having both of us on 1000cc machines. The touring will be easier on Janet, and it'll be a good long termer too.
Tuesday, July 13
by Andy on Tue 13 Jul 2010 20:30 BST
Well, that was a great biking week. We got away to the Peak District in Derbyshire, staying at a little cottage, and splitting the days between biking and walking.
We set out early Saturday, and headed up through the Welsh borders. The trip was reasonably incident-free, except for the rideout that we inadvertently joined. At a roundabout, half of them came out ahead of us, and the other half after, leaving us ... in the middle! We rode along there for a few miles, which was fun, then we flagged the tail enders past us, so as not to spoil their party.
On the first day of our stay, a Sunday, we went to the local biker gathering place, Matlock Bath. It was a warm sunny day, so there was a good turn out, and we sat for a couple of hours, and watched the comings and goings.
The rest of the week was a great combination of rides and walks over the hills and dales. The weather was great, except for one day, and we made the most of that day too, catching up on e-mails in the local Wetherspoons (Wifi hotspot).
Then, of course, there was the local cuisine, which included plenty of pork pies, sausages, ice cream, sweeties and fish & chips!
The ride back was a fast 200 miler, down through the Midlands, and we were home by lunchtime, in time to clean up the bikes before tea.
Both of the bikes performed really well, and we had a lot of fun. The luggage on the CBF was great, and made a real difference to the trip. We were able to carry all the stuff we needed, without a single bungee in sight!
Monday, June 21
by Andy on Mon 21 Jun 2010 19:46 BST
Well, it all started on Thursday evening. As I've mentioned before, we try to get to the Weston Bike Nights in the summer. So we started our biking weekend with a trip there. Mark from work joined us on his new Triumph Street Triple. We met at Burrington Coombe, a deep wooded valley, where the hymn "Rock of Ages" was inspired many years ago.
We rode over the Mendips, down Cheddar Gorge, and on to Weston sea front. We met other biking friends there, including Fiona on her new 1100 Monster, Carl and Jan on their Harley, and Lou on her CBR.
It was a really nice evening, and we all enjoyed watching the comings and goings, and the amazing variety of machinery there.
Friday morning, and it was up to Bristol, where Fowlers had kindly organised a test on their Honda Fury demo bike. I am not really used to riding cruisers, so I was curious to see how I got on with one.
I was well impressed, I must say. The forward foot controls were quite different from anything I've encountered on my recent (more sporting) bikes, but after just a few minutes I was used to them, and other than that it took remarkably little time to get used to it.
The 1300cc V-twin engine felt nice and torquey, but civilised, and the handling reassuring. I wasn't pushing too hard, as it was someone else's bike, but I didn't run out of ground clearance in the hour and a half, and 60-odd miles, that I enjoyed on it. The weekend's main event beckoned, so I got the Fury back to Fowlers by late morning, and we headed home to finish packing.
The CBF1000 Forum held its annual weekender near Llandovery in mid-Wales this weekend, and we went along, to join in the fun. We had a good ride there, which took about 3 hours including breaks, through the scenic Brecon Beacons. We weren't the first to arrive, and by dinner time the front patio was full of bikers enjoying the view, over a drink or two.
On Saturday we all travelled in convoy up to Aberystwyth, on a 130 mile round trip through beautiful scenery, on quiet, fast roads, in sunny conditions. People rode in groups according to their preferred speeds, and it was well organised. We really enjoyed ourselves, and Janet kept her 600cc Hornet right up there with all the 1000s too! The day was a great success, and was rounded off with a barbecue back at the hotel, that continued well into the night.
Most of us were a little slow starting on Sunday, which again dawned warm and dry. Janet and I didn't join the Sunday rideout. We'd had a great time on Saturday, but the prospect of a few rounds of clay pigeon shooting appealed, so we decided to do that instead, and take it easy in the sunshine too, meeting up with the rideout at lunchtime in the nearby West End Cafe, a well known biker haunt.
The clay pigeon shooting was a lot of fun, in a lovely wooded valley, though plenty of the pigeons lived to fight another day! Then we hopped on the bikes, and headed to the cafe for a coffee and a chat.
Back at the hotel, we spent the afternoon getting sunburned, and chatting to friends, until another, final, dinner beckoned.
After breakfast and farewells this morning, we hit the road at 9am, again in perfect riding conditions. After a good ride we were home by just after 11am. Watching the forum, it was good to see everybody else, with some much longer rides, logging on to announce their arrival home.
All in all, the weekend was a great success. It was a great choice of venue, well organised, and we met a lot of friends who we look forward to seeing again soon.
Sunday, June 13
by Andy on Sun 13 Jun 2010 09:53 BST
I had an errand to run in Cheddar on Saturday morning, and as the weather was glorious, I decided to take the bike there, by the long route. We live close to the coast, but we can see the Mendip Hills from our back window, and they are a favourite biking area for us.
So, I was on the road before 8am, and enjoying the (still cool) June morning while there wasn't too much traffic about.
This CBF1000 really is working well for me. If you look at the spec sheet, it doesn't look particularly outstanding, with its "retuned" Fireblade engine, steel spine frame, and conventional suspension. But it really seems to hang together well.
I was able to make a respectable (but legal!) speed on the long, straight roads on the top of the Mendips, which look fantstic right now, with all of the trees in full leaf. There is one favourite but complex little stretch of road, that always gives me a buzz, with a medium speed right hand bend, followed by a dip and a small bump. Occasionally on the Fireblade, when I got it just right, the compression through the dip as I wound on the throttle from the bend was fun, followed by the front end coming up slightly on the bump, as the engine tried to wind in the chain, followed by a wobble as I messed up the front wheel landing! It's not like that on the CBF though, but it is, still, great fun, and, somehow, much more reassuring. Maybe it's true what they say though - the older I get, the faster I was!
Anyway, the long straights of the high road are followed by the tight winding descent through Cheddar Gorge, which really is a great stretch of road, as long as you watch out for the mountain sheep on the road! But the scenery, with the cliffs towering hundreds of feet above the road, is stunning, and worth stopping for.
After I dropped off the present for our nephews in Cheddar, I headed home for breakfast, and preparations for the first England game of the World Cup (beer, chicken wings etc!).
What a great way to start a weekend, eh. Next weekend it's the CBF1000 Owners Rally in Wales. Should be a lot of fun.
Thursday, May 27
by Andy on Thu 27 May 2010 19:42 BST
We were out riding early on Sunday morning, and on this occasion Janet led. We tend to swop around a bit, from one trip to the next, depending on who feels like riding point, and who fancies chasing. The same applies to tours - we've both led while over on the continent.
Anyway, this ride started me asking myself - which is more enjoyable, leading or following? And I came to a conclusion that surprised me. Following is more fun.
Leading is not unlike riding alone - the road ahead is clear, and you can set your pace (albeit you have to make some allowance for the rider/s behind).
But there seems to be a certain poetry to following. You position yourself around the rider/s ahead, you follow their line (or make your own if you choose). Most of all, you get to watch a bike, or bikes, in action. The acceleration and deceleration, the bend swinging, the suspension riding the ripples and bumps in the road. In a way, and depending on how close you ride, it is not unlike (I imagine) formation flying, holding station as the others pitch and roll at high speed.
It may not be the normal "don't follow leaders" biker image, but no matter. Biking is about what you enjoy, and if I'm not riding alone, I'll happily follow.
Saturday, May 22
by Andy on Sat 22 May 2010 18:30 BST
Well we had a bit of a change of plan, and didn't get away for the weekend - life gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it! But the promised brilliant weather arrived, so we wheeled the bikes out for a clean, and got some of the accumulated winter filth off them.
Then we headed into Bristol on the bikes, to grab a bite to eat at our favourite bike emporium, Fowlers of Bristol. And very nice it was, too. We set ourselves up at a table in the sunshine, and watched the bikes coming and going, while grabbing a snack and a drink. Low key, yes, but a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
This very tidy H-D Sportster combo caught my eye. It's pretty unusual to see a combo at all these days, so it's nice to see one so well turned out.
It was good to see a dad and two kiddies (both kids almost too small to see over the dash!) get helmeted up and ride away - happy family!
Back home, we polished the bikes, lubed the chains, and put them away for tomorrow. Now I think it would be nice to sit in the back garden with a glass of wine, and enjoy the evening sunshine - Cheers!
Friday, May 21
by Andy on Fri 21 May 2010 10:18 BST
We had a great evening yesterday - every Thursday through the summer the Royal British Legion Riders Branch hold a big bike meet on the sea front, in our home town of Weston-super-Mare. Yesterday the weather was unseasonably warm, and the turnout was huge.
We took the bikes for a short ride, and by the time we got to the event, there were already hundreds of bikes lined up. There were trade stands too (need a badge sewing on to your leathers?!), and everybody was well chilled and enjoying themselves.
The evening was nicely rounded off over a pint, trying out my new netbook, and learning how to use this software!
We'll do a bigger feature on the bike nights at the end of the season, with plenty of pics of the bikes too.
Wednesday, May 19
by Andy on Wed 19 May 2010 18:05 BST
Well, after years of running a web site (actually, Mrs T runs it, and I just pretend to!), it's time to start my biking blog.
What's it for? Well, I want to record what it's like to actually be biking - and especially the long trips - rather than just doing retrospectives. So, we've splashed out on a netbook, which will fit into the top box, and whenever we're on the road, I'll try to keep an up to date journal, with pics, of our travels.
We'll start, hopefully, this weekend, with a little jaunt to the south coast. The weather looks like being just right for it, so we'll hit the road Friday afternoon, and spend the weekend biking and partying a little.
Watch this space...