Blogathon 21/16: Motorcycle Emptiness

I haven’t been on either of the bikes since before my degallbladderisation (yes, that’s the correct terminology, I checked and everything).

I’ll admit that the weather has been really awful for the last three weeks.

We’ve had snow, ice, extreme rain, and more ice; but that hasn’t been the reason for my lack of two-wheeled action.

For the last few weeks the possibility of sitting on a supersportsbike and assuming the magic position (or the position where the magic happens?) has been far outside of my comfort zone.

In a post-op kind of way.

The scars and the glue and the swellings and bruising don’t make for easy bending.

But today I’m determined to take both bikes out (not at the same time, obv).

Even if it’s just for a couple of relatively minor six-mile trundles around the block.

Or maybe a couple of brief runs down to Melton Mowbray and back.

I’ve been regularly starting the bikes up, and running them to warm.

But just sitting there, listening to the polished idle of the triple-cylindered 955i, and the deeper, grumblier, throatier, angrier rumble of the four-cylindered ZX9R has not been easy for me.

Today, however, I feel comfortable about getting in to that position.

Today is the day the bikes get a little roadwork.

Just as soon as I’ve finished this cup of tea.

And just as soon as I’ve listened to this gratuitously-placed, but appropriately-titled, piece of Manic Street Preachers goodness.

Blogathon 20/16: Snapshot Saturday

I know a guy who restores neglected motorbike relics.

This isn’t a hobby, it’s what he does for a living.

Today’s Snapshot Saturday is a look at his most recent project.

Unfortunately I don’t have the ‘before’ photos, but the ‘after’ shots are well worth looking at

Restored Triumph motorbike

Restored Triumph motorbike

Restored Triumph motorbike

Restored Triumph motorbike

Looks like it’s come straight from the factory, doesn’t it?

Blogathon 17/16: Not Knowing When To Give In

Up until May 2007, she was an Event rider.

She worked with and competed on horses, at various levels, in National and International, One Day and Three Day Event competitions.

She was based at her home in Eye Kettleby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.

And then, in May 2007, whilst out competing, she had a serious fall.

As a result of the accident, which resulted in broken ribs puncturing her lungs and causing pneumonia, multiple fractures on her neck, and a spinal cord injury causing paralysis from the chest down, she is now a paraplegic, with no use of her legs, and only partial sensation in the lower half of her body.

For most of us, it would have been, at this point, the place where we could have fallen in to depression.

Or become wound up in ourselves, become introvert.

And withdrawn.

Not so with her.

Since May 2007, she has ridden a specially adapted bicycle over 400 road-miles, from Nottingham to London, in three weeks.

Lomas pushbike

Lomas pushbike

She has completed the 32nd Virgin London Marathon in 17 days, using the ReWalk robotic suit.

Clare Lomas, marathon

Clare Lomas, marathon

She also found time to take on her own local authority over their promised, but unproduced disabled parking space.

Clare Lomas' parking space

Clare Lomas’ parking space

And she’s done these things (and others) in the name of fund-raising for Spinal Research.

Her latest challenge is to take on motorbikes. Using a specially adapted machine, she has completed laps of Donnington Park circuit.

Clare Lomas motorbike

Clare Lomas motorbike

And she has raised, since her initial accident in 2007, over £500,000 for charity.

Why is she throwing herself at raising so much money?

Because £10,000,000 will treat the next ten spinal injury patients.

Think about that for a moment.

On Saturday 14th May 2016 she’s organising a motorbike ride-out.

The Road2Recovery Charity Ride Out will leave Eye Kettleby Lakes at 11am.

The route will take the ride through Melton Mowbray, Oakham and Market Harborough before arriving at Wistow Rural Centre at approx 1pm.

She will lead the rideout on her motobike.

At Wistow there will be food and drink choices, a bike show, a raffle and live music.

Not bad for a paraplegic, eh?

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s have some respect for Clare Lomas:

Blogathon 15/16: New wheels pending

6' dinosaur

6′ dinosaur

Despite the best efforts of the Very Scary, Hugely Fearsome Guardian Dinosaur Of The Garage Of Immense Treasure, I’m hoping that both the ZX9R and the 955i will be on their way to new homes soon.

I have already sold my car.

And now, very sadly, but necessarily, both bikes are on the market.

And I need them gone.

I have put down a deposit on a new motorcycle.

Motorbike.

Whatever we’re calling them.

Anyway.

I’ve chosen the colour, the tyres, the extras, and the registration number.

If everything goes according to plan, I’ll collect the new bike mid-April.

Blogathon 07/16: A Really Big Motorbike Trip?

I’m reading a couple of books at the moment.

One of them is ‘Through Dust and Darkness’ (a motorcycle journey of fear and faith in the Middle East), by Jeremy Kroeker.

This post isn’t about that book, as such. Though there may be a post along those lines later.

This post is about thoughts that the book has inspired.

Reading Jeremy Kroeker’s book has rekindled memories of my much less worthy motorbike trip around Spain, a couple of years ago. And those memories, together with Jeremy’s narrative, have refired my imagination.

As I lay in bed, this morning, dozing lightly, I started to stitch my imaginations together.

Where did I want to go? What did I want to see? What experiences did I want to notch up?

I mentally compiled a to do-based travel list, and then ordered the list in to a logical travel plan.

These aren’t ‘legs’ as such.

These aren’t a list of ‘sights’ (many of which would be seen along the way, but aren’t commented on in this list).

These are just the ‘stopping off places’ that I would want to visit as I executed the itinerary.

1. UK to France
Base of operations: Reims
A visit to the historic city of Reims, in the heart of the Champagne district. There’s a lot of history in this city (there’s a lot of history everywhere – except in the USA), but because I can’t be everywhere, Reims is as good a place as any to stop and browse and look and learn.

2. France to Switzerland
Base of operations: Lausanne. Or maybe Geneva
I have hardly spent any time in Switzerland which is very poor of me. Lausanne or Geneva? Hard to tell right now. But the lakes? Definitely. And leaving the area, one would have to try out the San Bernardino Pass (I have heard that despite Top Gear bigging up the road, the Stevio Pass is actually not good because it’s full of 4x4s and people-carriers, driven by middle-aged roadhogs).

3. Switzerland to Italy
Base of operations: Bergamo
A mere 30km from Lake Como, this little Lombardian town is on the southern foothills of the Italian Alps. From its sacking by Atilla the Hun in the C5th, to the district’s post-war history, there’s a lot to see here. Too easily overlooked, Bergamo is a good base of operations from which to spend some time cruising the Italian countryside.

4. Italy to Slovenia
Base of operations: …?
I haven’t figured out the base of operations in Slovenia yet. It’s a really long slog to the capital, Ljublljana, which is very centrally located. And a cross-country tip to Ljublljana would take me out of my way by a significant distance.

5. Slovenia to Croatia
Base of operations: Crikvenica
This beach resort will make a handy place to recharge one’s batteries, and have a look around the area. I don’t know much about the town (or about the region), but that’s why we travel, eh?

6. Croatia
Base of operations: Dubrovnik
How could anyone visit Croatia, on a motorbike, and not dream of riding down that stunning-looking Adriatic coastline?

7. Croatia to Montenegro, to Albania
Base of operations: Vlorë
I’m sorry, Montenegro, but there is some kind of a clock (calendar?) ticking away on this trip. So I’m just going to pass right through you and head to Vlorë. The one-time former capital of Albania, and former very important Roman colony, Vlorë is a port and a sea resort. And therefore it would be another good place to rest up and look around.

8. Albania to Greece
Base of operations: Sparti
Who could resist a visit to the ancient home of Sparta? No I’m Spartacus! Well actually he is. Him. Over there. But Sparti just has to be a base of operations.

9. Greece
Base of operations: Thessaloniki
From here I could make little forays in to (FYRO) Macedonia, as well as trips across the north-eastern Greek coastline before heading even further eastwards

10. Greece to Turkey
Base of operations: Tekirdag
A motorbike trip in to Asia? Well of course. Tekirdag is in another rich historical region (you might know it as Thrace, from your history lessons). The Kipoi/Ipsala crossing between Greece and Turkey is busy, and crossing can take some time (and bureaucracy). A stop in the coastal resort of Tekirdag would be a welcome relief.

11. Turkey to Bulgaria
Base of operations: Burgas
Another coastal stop, but this time on the edge of the Black Sea. There’s a lot of mountainous coastline to explore in Bulgaria, and this sparsely populated countryside could be interesting to venture through.

12. Bulgaria to Romania
Base of operations: Tulcea
Tulcea alone is rich in local history. But it should be very worthwhile to spend some quality time in the nearby Rezervatia Biosferei Delta Dunarii.

13. Romania to Ukraine
Base of operations: Odessa
Freddie Forsyth, anyone?

14. Ukraine
Base of operations: Kiev

15. Ukraine to Belarus
Base of operations: Minsk

16. Belarus to Latvia
Base of operations: Riga
The thing is, having got this far, do I continue north to take in Estonia? Or do I begin to close the circle by heading southwards in to Lithuania? Decisions, decisions.

17. Latvia to Lithuania
Base of operations: Šiauliai (or possibly Kryzkalnis)
The whole reason for this stop is to mentally prepare myself for the next part of the journey.

18. Lithuania to Russia
Base of operations: Kaliningrad
Despite heading southwards from Lithuania (ie, I have been travelling further and further away from Russia), this leg of the journey will take me in to… Russia! I have always wanted to visit this spooky (in both senses of the word) Russian enclave. It’s a country within a country. Kaliningrad is also headquarters of the Russian Baltic Fleet (this being the reason Russia has refused to let go of the territory so far outside of Russia, when Lithuania gained independence).

19. Russia to Poland
Base of operations: Szczecin
By virtue of the out-of-state Russian enclave, I could ride the mind-bending journey from Russia in to Poland *without touching any other country*. I would want to see Gdańsk, home of the Solidarity ship-building union.

20. Poland to Germany
Base of operations: Berlin. Or maybe Magdeburg
There is so much I would want to see in Germany: Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Weimar, to name just a very few. I would leave Germany via a long stop at Brüggen/Elmpt, to pay respects to the former nuclear strike air force base that was the home of my squadron for so many years. The former RAF Brüggen was handed to the British Army, but has been decommissioned now, and is temporary home to Middle-Eastern refugees.

21. Germany to Netherlands and Belgium
Base of operations: Antwerp
From Antwerp one can easily access much of Belgium and the Netherlands. There’s a lot to see here, and we seldom give our closest neighbours the time and attention that they deserve.

22. Netherlands to UK
The final trip would be back to the UK via Rotterdam to Hull. It’s a longer sea journey than Calais to Dover, but it would bring me closer to home, and a shorter road-journey at that stage, would be very welcome.

23. Summing up
Allowing for deviations from the planned route, and factoring in some mileage for sight-seeing, I estimate the total two-wheeled road trip would be in the region of 6,700 miles.

And that would probably take around 35-40 days of travel time.

But man, what a trip!

Trip_blog

New ride coming/Motorcycle Live & rampant sexism

New ride coming
I’ve been mulling over a change of chariot for a couple of months.

This started when I thought I wasn’t enjoying the ZX9R, but then I bought the new Daytona and discovered that I didn’t like that, and felt that the ZX9R was the dog’s danglers after all.

Good that I know my own mind, eh?

External factors started becoming an influence with the soon-to-be-delivered cheque from the insurance company for the old Daytona.

Then I got the new job and, with it, a company car.

So I have decided to sell the Jag.

And also decided to sell the new Daytona.

And let the ZX9R go?

And then, in February, I could pool all this cash together and buy myself a brand spanking new ZX10R?

ZX10r

I think so, yes.

Motorcycle Live & rampant sexism
Last Saturday we went to ‘Motorcycle Live’, the UKs biggest bike show, at Solihull’s glittering NEC.

Motorcycle Live gave me an opportunity to sit on a (static) version of the will-be-released-in-February ZX10R.

Even though it was static, I enjoyed sitting on it.

It felt like ‘home’. It felt comfortable, and right.

Sitting on the ZX10R crystalised my thoughts about selling both the ZX9R and the Daytona, and getting the brand new, leaner, meaner, and much, much quicker big brother to the ZX9R.

We browsed various trade stands and I bought (though they haven’t yet called me to complete the sale), a lovely leather jacket.

We had a chat with the highly entertaining motorcycle travel author, Sam Manicom (who I have an enormous amount of respect for).

We also met writer and adventurer Jeremy Kroeker, who promises to be a similarly entertaining author.

We watched the freestyle motorcross nutcases doing their FMX/X-Fighters lunacy.

We thoroughly enjoyed that!

But oh, the sexism.

It started with the LWP* and me looking keenly at a bike, when a punter leant in and began a conversation with her:

Punter: This is a bit sexist, isn’t it love?
LWP: What?
Punter: This bike. No rear pegs. No pillion.
LWP: I wouldn’t want to carry a pillion when I was out on it.
Punter: (genuine surprise) Oh, you ride do you?

Well no she doesn’t, obviously.

Because riding motorbikes is the exclusive preserve of sexist morons like you.

Isn’t it?

Later, as we were ambling about the various halls that comprise Motorcycle Live, we saw the girls.

The high-heeled, spray-tanned, poured in to body-clinging lycra, cameltoe-fronted girls.

In the name of all that is sensible, what is the relationship between half a dozen girls, dressed like this, and motorbike insurance?

Really?

What?

There were several troupes of such girls, and seeing them wandering around the halls, handing out leaflets to goggle-eyed, pot-bellied, midlife-crisis-dodging attendees made me wonder.

It is the 21st Century, and we – as a civilisation – have given women the vote, we are striving for gender equality (because we recognise that women are, after all, people, people who make up 50% of the population of this planet), and yet there are businesses who think it is acceptable to draw a link between a woman as a sexual objective and their product?

Really?

We really think this?

Companies think that this 1950s/1960s mentality is normal/acceptable/right in 2015?

All it made me do was question the ethics of the companies that go down this road.

It made the LWP decide not to use MCE Insurance when she buys her Royal Enfield next year.

 

*LWP = Living with partner. LWP is used as an anonymous, and temporary description that doesn’t denote ownership, gender (though that is implied), or the ability to kill people with her ‘fuck you, moron’ laser eyes

In transit

I’m slowly digesting a larger than sensible breakfast, sitting at the departure gate for Dubai, at Birmingham International Airport.

Is there a Birmingham Domestic Airport?

Or a Birmingham National Flights Only Airport?

Thought not.

Anyway, Dubai is just a transfer point on the way to Shanghai.

For a bit of a break.

Back Friday.

Back to Birmingham on Saturday for the Bike Show at the NEC.

Sunday will be domestic duties.

And on Monday I start a new career move, with a job in Syston.

I’m very excited, about the latter, and really looking forward to it.

Also…

Considering getting rid of the ZX9R and the Daytona, and buying a ZX10R.

Just for the lolz.

 

Demolition, Saturday unsleeping, and other oddities

This morning the builders started knocking down a wall in the house. Not this house. The other one. The one we’ll be moving in to when the worst of the messy jobs has been done.

After I’d let them in I decided to take advantage of the weather, and do a spot of cleaning. And lubing.

Sparkly clean motorbike chain!

Then I went to bed around 11.30 because I’m working tonight – 18.00 – 05.00.

Unfortunately my superpower – the ability that almost compels me to feel very drowsy at 14.00 on a weekday (embarrassing!) and attempts to swamp me with the dozing when I’m trying to get home from work in the afternoons, doesn’t seem to work when I’m in bed.

So I’m wide awake and writing this.

The day after I finish work at 05.00 I need to be in the office at 06.00.

Two hours after that I’m driving down to Newbury for a day of meetings.

What’s the betting that I find it very easy to sleep on the way down and on the return trip?

The good news is I’m not doing the driving. At least I don’t believe I am. So I should be able to deploy maximum antisocialness (word?) and have a kip while my colleague does the driving.

I’m not sure how it’s possible to have sleep evade me with such dexterity.

I’m very distrustful of sleep.

It seems to come and go on its own terms, lately.

So why am I permanently tired?

An example

People who make YouTube videos – for whatever reason – tend to make a trailer for their channel.

The trailer is supposed to be a tease, an insight, something to whet your appetite.

Few people achieve what a trailer really should be.

Almost nobody has ever achieved this: