Blogathon 15a/14 – A motovlog retrospective

I was cruising through some of the YouTube channels I watch when the mainstream TV is rubbish (as it usually is), when I came across this little gem.

It’s a 2013 compilation – from Daily Derps – of some of the motovlogging channels that he subscribes to.

It contains:

  • A nice soundtrack
  • Excellent editing
  • A beautifully-constructed montage
  • Motorbikes

What’s not to like?

Blogathon 14/14 – redirection

It’s too easy, on this dark and stormy winter night, to get sucked in to what doesn’t matter.

And too easy to overlook what does matter.

What doesn’t matter is the weather.

It’s there.

We can do nothing about it (unless we plan on becoming a nation of cave-dwelling troglodytes).

It’s winter.

We have bad weather in the winter. It’s what happens here.

It’s not as bad as the weather that other people on this planet are experiencing.

Cold temperatures the likes of which many of us can barely imagine.

Snowfall several metres deep.

Hurricane-force winds – not mere storm-force, such as we’ve been enduring for the last four/five days.

Of course, we do have a degree of control over a small part of the effects of such weather.

Or we would have a degree of control of the effects of bad weather, if fuckwit politicians hadn’t stopped dredging operations, and hadn’t stopped flood-defence building.

But that isn’t the fault of the weather.

That is the fault of the equally fuckwitted public who voted those uncomprehending arseholes in to office in the first place.

But what can you do, eh? That’s democracy, right? Except it isn’t democracy, because in the last two elections the majority of voters in Witney did not vote for David Cameron, but he still got in. That’s not democracy, that’s just twisted.

But people don’t learn.

People believe politicians. People think that something has to be good if it’s hurting. People think spending on road repairs is wasteful. Until the potholes damage their cars. People think the NHS is wasting money. Until they need healthcare treatment. People think spending on flood-prevention is scandalous. Until they see their homes and streets knee-deep in water. And politicians will just tell them that these cuts are for their own good.

Such bullshit. But people are stupid. They continue to believe the endless litany of lies from our politicians. And, amazingly, people continue to vote for these shallow, see-through figures who do not even wear the thinnest veneer of respectability.

But no, at 10pm on Friday 14th February 2014 we must not fall for the redirection.

Don’t get sucked in to what doesn’t matter.

The weather? It doesn’t matter. It’s winter. It’s what happens here.

The flooding? It’s a shame, but we brought it on ourselves by voting incompetent fucktards in to office.

The falling-apart NHS? Scandalous, but see above.

The world’s most expensive railway network that can’t run with leaves on the line? See above again.

What does matter on this evening of Friday February 14th is other people..

And you’re not being told about it; you’re being told about inconvenience, and big winds, and falling trees.

You’re not being told about so many other things.

Important things.

You’re not being told about the servicemen and servicewomen, thousands of miles away from their wives, daughters, sons, husbands, for up to a year at a time. A year. Think of that. No, really. Stop, for a moment, and try to imagine being away from your nearest and dearest for a year.

You’re not being told about the daily slaughter of innocents in parts of Africa and parts of Malaysia, because they choose to believe in the wrong fictional being.

You’re not being told about the genital mutilation of pre-pubescent girls (and this is even happening in Europe!).

You’re not hearing about the insane cruelty that is being inflicted on women by their menfolk, in countries where servicemen and servicewomen from the UK have died to protect the rights that women should have.

You’re not being told of the complicity of the US and the UK governments in installing heinous, murdering, bandits, to positions of extreme power in the middle east.

No.

What you get when you switch on the news, this evening, is rolling footage of some political mouthpiece or other, in his wellies, with his hands on his hips surveying the damage which, however you look at it, he was instrumental in failing to prevent.

Or you’ll get a news story about a faded celebrity.

Or a story about a major celebrity having a melt-down.

I used to believe in our political system. But all it does now is produce the worst possible examples of mankind, puts them in a suit or a smart dress, drapes them in a party political flag and, incomprehensibly, these people are voted in to high office.

Scrutiny? Governance? Oversight? Accountability? We get none of these things. We’re just the voters.

I used to believe in our media. But the BBC’s output is so lacking quality control now, it’s barely worth considering any longer. And the print media is so divided on party lines, it is contaminated with the sulphurous poison that oozes from the pores of our politicians.

But I still believe in the people. Even, to an extent, the incomprehensibly stupid people who continue voting the current crop of politicians in to Westminster.

But most of all I believe in the people who work for this country.

The people who nurse, the people who doctor, the people who solider, sailor, or airman for this country.

The people who empty the bins, sweep the streets, clean the toilets, drive the buses.

Because if it wasn’t for these people, we really would be in the shit.

Do me a favour.

The person who you see every day at work, or in the street, doing some menial job or other?

Say hello to them. Every day.

The person shoving a broom around at 7.30am in the street outside your office?

Give them a cheery ‘Alright?’, and do it every day; it will cost you nothing. It will make them feel like a million dollars.

The person who you pass in the corridor, who cleans the toilets.

Smile at them and say hello.

And if you know someone in a profession which works for the support and the benefit of other people.

Just say thank you.

And ignore the garbage that the mainstream media is force-feeding you.

It’s shit, in both senses of the phrase.

Go out and be nice to someone. Stop believing the media. Stop believing the politicians.

Believe in people.

Blogathon 13/14 – a run out on two wheels?

I think I’m close to getting the two-wheeled version of stir crazy.

I can’t remember the last time I sat on one of the bikes, but it must be two weeks ago.

The VFR is ready for collection (she was ready a few days ago, but I haven’t been able to get away from work early enough to pick her up).

The bill is significant; the list of replacement parts is awe-inducing.

And the weekend is looming.

Saturday is, predictably, forecast to be wet. Sunday, however, is (currently) being racked up as not only a dry day, but a dry *sunny* day.

A couple of members of Rugby Motorcyclists are going down to Rockingham racetrack, because it’s having one of them there trackdays.

If I can get myself going early enough, I’m going to hop on the Daytona, and join them.

I’m not going to take part in the track day – I don’t think the Daytona and I know each other well enough yet! – but I am looking forward to the run down there, the run back, and a little bit of spectating (dozing) in between the two.

Yeah, that sounds like a decent Sunday activity. Especially as Saturday will involve the routine of food-shopping, laundry and vacuuming.

What are your plans?

Blogathon 12/14 – it’s all good harmless fun

I love the amazing source of information that The QI Elves (@qikipedia – sorry if you’re not on the Twitter) share with us.

I spent this lunchtime amazing colleagues with snippets provided by The QI Elves*, such as:

  • The average winter temperature in Sochi is 3.4c higher than the UK winter average
  • In the 1904 Olympics, George Eyser won 3 gold, 2 silver and a bronze medal in gymnastics, even though he had a wooden leg
  • Backpfeifengesicht is German for ‘a face that makes you want to hit it’
  • There is a Causeway in Cambridge with three signs because the local council can’t decide where to put the apostrophe (Worts, Wort’s, Worts’)
  • George Washington’s dentures were made from a combination of hippopotamus teeth, ivory, horse teeth, human teeth, gold, and lead
  • The word ‘jumentous’ means ‘resembling horse urine’
  • Peroni beer is bottled horse urine

*one of these snippets may be made up

There are not many pieces of random information that I carry about with me, ready to display my erudition, but I do love to collect extremely odd pieces of knowledge.

That, for example…

  • Films on IMDB are rated out of 10, but the film This Is Spinal Tap is rated out of 11 (think about it)
  • Marty Wilde had a massive European hit in 1968 (8 years after his daughter Kim was born) with a song about a small Welsh market town (Abergavenny)

But this has made me wonder…

What’s your favourite piece of information? What’s the one piece of trivia that you bring out, when you have the opportunity?

Come on, don’t be shy. I’m not going to tell anyone…

Blogathon 11/14 – lights, camera, bugger

The Video Shorts project I’ve been working on has hit an interesting snag.

I’d sketched out a background for the scene (it’s a series of sketches against a single setting), and worked it up to a full-size model.

Then I coloured – by hand (I wanted the ‘rough’ look, this is a project for an audience of young children) – the background.

And it all went well.

Or so I thought.

The problem came when I set the scene (easy) and lit it.

Yep.

That’s when it became apparent that. under studio lighting, the subtlety of the colours I’d used washes right out of the picture.

So it’s back to the drawing board.

There’s two courses of action, I think.

I either need to modify the colours so they’ll resemble what I’m aiming for under studio light.

Or, of course, I use green screen?

Hmm.

Blogathon 10b/14 – don’t look now

Now that the mornings (and evenings) are gradually getting lighter, I’ve been recording my trips to/from work.

This is last Monday morning’s trip down on to the Coventry inner ring-road.

Oh yes, and I may, hopefully, be nipping down to Andalusia on the Daytona for a long weekend.

In a couple of weeks.

It isn’t as simple as it sounds; I have a cunning plan.

And now, on with the film. There’s some music. A bit of rubbish singing. Some chat. And a really horrible idea.

Yes, all of these things go on inside my helmet when I’m on a bike:

Blogathon 10/14 – don’t look now

I stole this video clip from FB.

The video just emphasises that sometimes, when you’re out in your car, whatever is going to happen to you next…

It might not come from in front of you…

It might not come from behind you…

Post by Tony Ranaudo.

Blogathon 9/14 – bike comparisons

The first grown-up bike (now there’s an interesting philosophical discussion point) I had was a 1,000cc Laverda Jota.

laverda-jota

I bought it in Germany, almost as soon as my little feet touched down at the RAF nuclear strike station I was posted to.

The Jota was the ultimate 70s superbike.

On the plus side of the balance sheet, the Jota had frighteningly quick acceleration, and handled brilliantly – as if you were welded to it.

On the negative side, the Jota had two issues.

It was quick to discharge its battery if you rode with the headlight on. And even in those unenlightened times, it was compulsory, in Germany, to ride with the headlight on at all times.

The other unfortunate point about the Laverda Jota was that although it had superbike performance, it had slightly less braking power than a fully laden supertanker.

Supertanker

I got scared a few times on that bike.

There’s nothing like cruising down the autobahn at approaching 140mph, and then finding that one has no chance of pulling up within slightly more than a half mile.

I’d like to say that the Jota came in to its own on the Nürburgring, but really, the absence of resilient braking on a track famed for its fearsome ‘steep gradient drop in to hard corner’ combinations, means you won’t ever be able to push the Jota anywhere, except along a straight where you can decelerate using the gearbox.

But since those hairy scary days, motoring technology has changed, and brakes now match engine performances.

In recent years I’ve had three motorbikes.

The Suzuki Bandit GSF650 (a sports/tourer), the Honda VFR800 (also a sports/tourer), and the Triumph Daytona 955i (a superbike/sportsbike).

The first thing to say is that the Suzuki Bandit got me back on two wheels after years of absence, and brought back all the fun memories, the moment I sat on it.

Bandit

I used the Bandit as a runaround in the local area for weeks, with occasional longhops, and a few significantly longer journeys.

The Bandit’s 650cc engine is surprisingly grunty.

It has a declared top speed of 130mph, but I only got it up to 120mph once.

The immediate difference between the Bandit and my first big bike – the Jota – is the brakes.

The Bandit will allow a touch of rear brake to steady up, sure, but if you really need to stop you just apply the front brake and… instant stop!

Also, you get none of that nasty rear-end lifting that the Jota (and the Yamaha FZ750 I had years after the Jota) was all to quick to show off.

I realise these things are due to an overall improvement in motorcycle braking systems across all makes, but it’s the first difference I noticed between my last few bikes (many years ago), and the Bandit.

Working up through the gearbox, the Bandit’s 4cyl engine makes a delicious noise, but the engine is at its best in the midrange.

Oh, and the fuel economy on the Bandit is stunning; if you have one and don’t ride it like a mentalist, it will give you tremendous value per gallon.

But, interestingly, with a full tank of fuel the Bandit is decidedly top heavy – the most top heavy bike I’ve ever sat on (which isn’t that many by some people’s standards).

There’s just something about the weight distribution of the Suzuki Bandit that, on a full tank, makes the centre of gravity so high up the frame that it is, at very low speeds, unstable.

I almost soft-dropped her outside the house, one day, performing a simple slow-speed U-turn. And when one takes the full weight of the bike on one leg, one notices that she’s heavy.

But she’s very comfortable, and easy to ride for hours on end.

But as the Bandit and I spent time together, and as we undertook more long-distance, high-speed trips, I began to notice a thing; she seemed to be working just a little bit too hard.

The engine was just a bit too noisy and strident.

Selling the Bandit was actually very difficult, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

I had been looking at Honda VFRs on the internet for a few weeks, but I bought the first one I looked at.

VFR

She was beautifully clean; the product of a proud and loving owner.

She had an immaculate but unofficial (owner-maintained) service record, and she looked and felt positive.

That was my initial thought about the VFR: that she felt positive.

Steering: positive
Gearbox: positive
Balance: positive
Response: positive
Brakes: positive

She was just too good-looking, too positive, and too… well, tidy, to pass up.

One thing I noticed very quickly on my way home with my new prize; the Honda VFR800 felt lighter than the smaller Suzuki Bandit GSF650.

Well that shouldn’t be, should it?

But she did.

And she balanced much better than the Bandit. Even on a full tank, the VFR did not feel top heavy.

Actually, the 800cc VFR weighs in at 208Kg, whilst the 650cc Bandit weighs in at 201Kg, so the difference is just 7Kgs in the Bandit’s favour.

And they both have metal fuel tanks.

But the reason the VFR feels lighter than the Bandit is the distribution of weight.

The VFR has a much lower centre of gravity, so a greater proportion of its weight, compared to the Bandit, is below the 75% height line.

Both bikes are firmly in the sports/tourer class.

Both bikes offer a non-aggressive rider position (though the VFR inclines the rider slightly more forward than the Bandit).

Both bikes have excellent braking systems (front and rear), and both bikes have better-than-average mirrors as standard.

But the VFR has, undoubtedly, a bigger engine.

It’s not so much that she’s so much quicker 0-30, 0-60, 0-100, than the Bandit, it’s the effortless way the VFR performs through all of those ranges.

I also feel that the VFR is much more balanced than the Bandit at all speeds – including very slow manoeuvring.

And the Bandit, as much as I loved her, did get very noisy when she was working hard; the VFR stays sweet and sounds as if she’s not really exerting herself.

As far as fuel goes, the VFR is thirstier than the thrifty and frugal Bandit, but the bigger engine is such a joy to listen to that really… I just don’t mind the expense.

In some ways, the VFR feels like she is a bigger step-sibling to the Bandit.

These are both factory-standard bikes, not heavily customised machines.

Even riding them, they felt remarkably similar.

But the VFR is just more…

Positive.

As fond of the Bandit as I am, the VFR is a more well-rounded machine. It’s not just the extra lump of cc. The VFR is a better mannered and more capable bike.

She’s just a bit more grown up, compared to the Bandit.

And then there’s the Daytona.

I had always intended to keep the VFR as my commuter; that’s the kind of daily hard work that the 800cc sports/tourer can effortlessly cope with.

But I had been looking for something… zippier… for fun and weekend smiles.

I don’t know why I started focussing on the Triumph Daytona 955i.

I tested a Triumph Street Triple 675cc about 18 months ago; I was unimpressed.

But every time I looked for a sportsbike/superbike, I kept coming back to the Daytona.

Who wants a Gixxer?

They’re everywhere.

I wanted something fast, stylish, distinctive, and sporty.

And the triple-cylindered Daytona 955i ticks those boxes.

Why didn’t the triple-cylindered Triumph Street Triple tick those boxes? Because it just looked meh. And it was only a 675cc engine. And I didn’t feel as if we were part of each other.

Eventually I found a very tidy Daytona for sale near here.

Three weeks later I went to see it. And try it out.

Daytona2

I sat on it in the showroom.

And I nearly dropped it.

What I means is, the first time I sat on the Daytona *I* nearly lost *my* balance.

The engine wasn’t running. I cocked my leg over the saddle, and lowered my bum on to the seat.

I pushed the bike up off its stand with my left leg and Oh My God I’m Going To Overbalance And Fall Over.

Except I didn’t – I saved it.

But how did that happen?

It’s down to weight again.

Or, in the case of the Triumph Daytona 955i, it’s down to the lack of weight.

The Daytona 955i weighs in at 191Kg.

This is lighter than both the 650cc Bandit and the 800cc VFR and what the hell is that all about?

Plastic and carbon fibre, my friend, plastic and carbon fibre.

And, although she’s lighter, the Daytona also manages to cram almost all of her weight below the 75% line.

It’s as if you are sitting on a 250cc – seriously, it is. I’ve spent a lot of time on a GPZ500, and that felt much heavier than the Daytona.

As you would expect from a a superbike/sportsbike, the Daytona puts the rider in a very aggressive forward position.

I think this is why the Daytona caught my eye, and I also think this is why all of the current crop of naked bikes passed me by. The Daytona oozes style and…

The sportsbike/superbike ergonomics, coupled with the bike’s stunning design, make the Daytona in to something out of the ordinary.

It’s as if she’s preparing you for what’s waiting to be unleashed from that large lump of three-cylindered wonderfulness, sitting just below the plastic fuel tank.

This is very subjective. There are Gixxer owners out there who would say their bike has a unique look and feel. And Blade owners. But I didn’t want to be the owner of another four-cylinder Japanese superbike.

I wanted something different.

And how different can a British-built, triple cylinder, sportsbike/superbike be?

Turning the Daytona over on the key is wonderful.

The starter turns slowly and for a millisecond one thinks ‘Oh God, she’s not going to start’. But she picks up quickly and fires on all three cylinders.

The engine sounds larger than the near-1000cc powerplant.

The sound the Daytona makes is stunning.

There is something about this triple-cylinder engine that produces the most awesome noise.

As you sit on this (comparatively) weightless machine, and listen to the engine idling away, you wonder what, precisely, it is capable of.

Hmm…

At very low speed the Daytona isn’t a great fan of being worked in first gear.

In fact, pulling away, one needs to put significantly more fuel in to the engine than any other bike I’ve ridden; you really have to give it some revs.

Once you’re rolling, though, you open the throttle and get a whole new appreciation of just how quickly this bike can accelerate.

And it’s when one is making progress that this bike comes in to its own.

Pulling the rider onwards, tempting you, seducing you with a comely flick of the throttle and a twitch of your hips, and suddenly she’s off, and you’re grinning wider than the Cheddar Gorge is long, and you’re in to third and doing 60mph, and you want to put it in to fourth, and then fifth, and then sixth, and oh my God this bike is beautiful.

The balance of the Daytona is, I have to say, exceptional.

I tried a Gixxer 1K recently and although I loved the ride, I didn’t feel that the bike was part of me. I felt as though I was sitting on a thing.

With the Daytona, the throttle/engine is so responsive, and the balance is so beautifully articulated, that the bike feels as if she belongs between my thighs.

Fore and aft braking is exceptional (but the stock mirrors could be improved).

No matter how hard the bike is being worked, no matter how quickly it is travelling, touching a little front or a little rear brake to steady things up never feels unsafe.

I haven’t done a track day with the Daytona yet (weather!), but I have had just one opportunity to open it up.

We topped out at an effortless – oh, so effortless – 141mph.

I know the Daytona has a top speed of somewhere around 160mph, but I’m never going to get there. Not even on a track day.

However I do know how effortless it was for the bike to achieve 141mph, and that’s enough for me.

Despite the larger engine, I find the Daytona to be more economical than the VFR.

But I’m going to keep the VFR as my daily workhorse/commuter; it can eat up the start/stop/slow-speed grind.

The Daytona and I will have much weekend fun together.

And the Daytona is so very comfortable that I’m planning a longer trip.

Around Andalusia.

This Spring.

Oh, insurance?

The Bandit cost me £122/pa fully comp. The VFR costs me £125/pa fully comp. The Daytona costs me £138/pa fully comp.

I love the Daytona.

It is nimble, it is light, it is super speedy, it is hyper-responsive and – unlike my first superbike – it has tremendously awesome brakes!

But she does scare me, a little, every time I get on.

Because I push her off the stand and…

There’s no weight there!

It’s good to be scared, right?

Blogathon 8/14 – the mail must not get through

(with apologies to Wells Fargo)

When I moved in to this house it had been empty for a month.

I’d been in the house less than 24 hours when there was a knock on the door.

“Hi,” said the bloke. “I used to live here. We’ve just moved around the corner to number X. Is there any post for us?”

There was indeed; a fair-sized dollop of spam-looking post, a couple of anonymous-looking white envelopes and a few other bits and bobs.

I handed them over (it’s alright, I did recognise him, from when I came to view the house).

“If anything else arrives for us, would you mind dropping it around to number X?”

Without considering his question, I said I would.

That was September 2013.

Three months later (four months after they had moved out), just before Christmas, I decided enough was enough.

I started marking the five/six items of post I was getting for the previous occupiers each week as ‘not at this address – return to sender’.

The trigger was a letter from DVLA (looked like a tax disc renewal notice), and a white window envelope addressed to both of them from a credit card company.

These two things arrived on the same day.

The white envelope from the credit card company could have been anything.

But the letter from DVLA meant that they had not informed that agency of a change of address for their vehicle.

And, logically, also probably not informed that agency of a change of address for their driving licences.

Who knows who else they hadn’t told?

And let’s face it, four months is adequate time to get your addressing shit together and tell everyone you’ve moved, right?

Or am I wrong?

What, in your view, is a reasonable length of time to accept mail and stuff it through their letterbox five doors up?

Blogathon 7/14 – fish, water, out of

I do enjoy watching people who have been promoted above their ability, failing to grasp the meaning of the words they are uttering on camera.

The Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us) has claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”.

And yet the Director of the Government’s Coding Initiative (who still can’t actually code, but we’ll let that slide right by us once again) has said she will learn to code “over the next year”.

Not today.

Not tomorrow.

Not one day next week.

Teachers, she feels, can learn to code to a standard sufficient to teach children in one day.

But she, she feels, will learn to code “over the next year”.

Marvellous.

I don’t want to pick on the clearly floundering, but these quotes in particular are marvellous pointers to this woman’s grip on reality:

“At school I was taught how to wire up a light-bulb”

“You can do very little in a very short space of time”

“I think (teachers) can pick up (coding) in a day”

“Every pupil from the age of five will learn how to code”

Some of the Twitter comments on this article are priceless, but I particularly like that from Laura Hammond.