23 November 2006

Fair weather biker? Me? Too damn right!!!

I had hoped this day would never arrive. I've become a fair weather biker – an FWB!

After years of riding to work in all weathers, daily dodging the cars on the M1 to commute to London for a 14-year stretch, with only the snow to get me on the train, I have become that armchair biker.

The bloke I used to laugh at. Now I am he!

On Saturday we had to go to Suffolk to visit my sister-in-laws.

"Let's go by bike,” she said.
"Okay as long as it's not p*ssing down" I said.

It wasn't.

As I looked out at the frost on the car windscreen, a voice inside me said, "She'll be cold and miserable". The outer voice said that it was going to be cold and we should go by car. The outer voice hiding my new found status as a fair weather biker!

I guess if you've always been a FWB you won’t understand. You can’t understand the feeling of loss that accompanies the downgrading of your biker status.

No longer one of the hardy-bys, the guys that laugh in the face of frostbite. Just a bloody FWB!

How can I redeem myself? When can I get out and show that:

A bike isn’t just for summer, it’s for life”?

15 November 2006

Welsh National Rally - May 12th 2007

The Welsh National Rally is a good weekend away riding some excellent (and some awful tiddley) roads in Wales whilst trying to get to checkpoints and answer questions, a sort of treasure hunt, with the need to get some planning done a week or so before starting out.

In 2006 only Dave Clarke and I went from thee Kent Centre, and we met Friday after work near Oxford and rode across near to Wales to stay at a Travelodge.

On the Travelodge website there are some good offers for some of their motels with some at 50% off. Sadly not the one we stopped at in 06! But a few within reasonable range of the start point in Castle Caereinion in Powys.

After the rally I decided to stay locally, well in Birmingham, as I had the last game ever at Highbury the day after, but Dave rode home to Kent.

So who is up for it from the Kent Centre? A weekend away, some great roads…

Click here to see the organiser's flyer.

Here for update - On the Road Again: Welsh National Rally - May 12th 2007 Part 2

13 November 2006

A sunny day...

Trussed up like a chicken, or rather a pork(er) joint, I waddled across to the garage to get the GS out for a short run up to London for the Arsenal home game with the Scousers, aka Liverpool FC.

The weather forecast was for cold and blustery. So it was in bright sunshine that I set off complete with thermal undershirt, rugby shirt and thick jumper. I also decided to give my Nitro N700 helmet a day out. When I don’t need the GPS headset, it is quieter than the Caberg J1S, and more restful. I bought it a few years ago and it had an outing and promptly fell of the seat on a trip to Ypres and the paint got damaged on the chin, apart from that it shows no other damage, but there’s always a suspicion, isn’t there?

Time seemed to be slipping away as I was stuck at 25mph on the lanes getting to the A20. A succession of pensioners wrapped up in their coats and hats despite, no doubt, having the heating on at full pelt in their 51-reg Protons or Daihatsus!

I took the A20, as once again I needed petrol. Last week’s miserable day out to the fords had left the tank depleted and the vagaries of the GS fuel gauge were highlighted as I was only able to squeeze 13.8 litres in the tank after the 158 miles since the last refill.

As usual Tesco, was a riot of colour and movement. Why everyone has to use the two set of pumps nearest the road is anyone’s guess and woe betide the driver or in my case, rider, that tries to get across to the back aisle. Bumper to bumper and moaning if someone dares the think outside the box. Once on the M20 for the run up I managed to get into the “groove”.

Everything was perfect, the bike sailed along and with the needle on 80 I cruised sedately up passing almost everything. You always get some one in a 4WD that can go faster but if they can afford to buy the thing they can afford to cough up for petrol. What does get right on my tits is that they pass you and then pull over and you immediately close the gap. A glance down shows that you haven’t speeded up at all, just that they have slowed down. It’s more infuriating when you have to overtake them again! Only for tit-head to pass you again. Why?

The rest of the trip went like clockwork, all the way around to join the M25 and then the A2…. Smooth. Even the Blackwall Tunnel wasn’t its usual joke considering there are roadworks on the approach. Although we had the usual “I’ve never driven in a tunnel before so I try to drive in the middle” pillocks, and the braking and swerving as the other road users avoid them!

After that spectacle even Hackney was quiet and peaceful, managed to get through without being mugged or any cretin walking in front of me. On arrival at my usual off road parking I found it chock a block. I’d set off late, lost time at Tesco and was behind schedule. In the end I wove through the ranks of parked cars to almost my usual place. “Park behind the Priest’s car” the parking guy said, “He’s not going anywhere…”, which was true as his exit to the road was blocked by plenty of cars. I could park on one of the (few) bike spaces on the road but feel that off road in the front of the church allows a bit of “out of sightness” that might mean I can get back and find it there and the box not jemmied open as has happened on the mean streets of Islington before. Plus, you never know who will be looking down on it from above…

The walk down from St Joan of Arc was pleasant. The Emirates Stadium looms up ahead of you as you make your way down hill. Hard to believe that until recently there was the council tip and vehicle depot there, called Albany Place not Ashburton Grove, and light industrial units.

The game was a little dull at first and then erupted once the Arse had scored the first goal and then we never looked back as the Scousers were eventually well-beaten 3-0. The day made even better that Tottenham Hotspur had gone down 3-1 at Reading.

The ride back was quite uneventful. It was by now 6.30pm when I set off through the traffic and a few short cuts I have picked up whilst working locally for Islington Education. Inching out of the church car-park and then off towards Hackney, double here, double there to get onto Ballspond Road and off. Once on the little motorway towards the Blackwall, the speed limit has been reduced to 40 now. A bit of a joke as everyone ploughs along and brakes for the cameras. Roadworks in the south tunnel forced me on the magical mystery tour that is the A13. Everyone seemed well behaved until a twat in a Porsche decided to undertake everyone and force across in front of the bike in front and me, forcing us to brake. A few choice words and the courier offering some level of violence and we were off past the Ford factories and into Essex, the Porsche lost forever.

It was by now getting a little cold so I was forced to flick the switch to turn the heated grips on, setting 2 and then backing off to 1 as my hands began to toast. There was also the sneaking suspicion that I was getting a little bit of a draught in around my back where the jeans and top meet. Something I didn’t get last week when wearing the Chilli jacket instead of the jumper. Mmm. Re-think?

I arrived home just after 8pm, not bad for 76 miles and some of it through London Sunday evening and post-match traffic. As I put the bike in the garage and locked her up I felt I had had a great day out. The winners always feel they’ve had a great time!

Now when’s the next day on the bike?

6 November 2006

Motorcycle Club Membership? IMTC?

The IMTC is in fact the International Motorcyclists Tour Club, founded in 1932 and still going strong.

The club membership across the UK is about 450 and is very active in the north. It is smaller and less "organised" in the South East and we have only recently started to meet on a semi-regular basis.

The group that we are building locally are pretty close and democratic. There are no Limited company "rules" to follow and no rigid organisation. The IMTC lives purely for touring.

There is a certain amount of fuddy-duddyness in the Club, and as the membership gets older we need to work out how to start getting younger riders to join. Not too young but perhaps 40's!!!

For more information you can go to the IMTC website and see about joining.

If you live in the South East and want to have a look before shelling out the membership fee feel free to contact us.

I am looking into getting some webspace for us on the main site, take a look here and see if I have suceeeded!
See here for an update on this post.

2 November 2006

IMTC Holland Hotel Weekend – July 6th to 8th 2007

As a replacement for the weekend we cancelled for May Day 2007, we have come up with this as a cunning plan. Currently the diary is free for this weekend and rather than the well worn path to nearby France or South Dover as we still call it here in the Kingdom of Kent, we have decided to turn left on arrival at the European bridgehead and go to the Netherlands. Gouda to be more precise.

The weekend begins with an early morning crossing to France with your own choice of conveyance, Shuttle or Ferry and the ride across to Holland via Bruges and the new Tunnel under the Schelde near Antwerp. Although in fine touring tradition members are able to make their own way to the Campanile Hotel in Gouda. I can provide a GPS location for anyone that wants to have it. If you have a Garmin Quest the Campanile is already in the system on Mapsource City Select V7.

To keep costs below that of the average GDP of an African country we have chosen a budget hotel. The room rate is for B&B and is €77 per room per night. Unfortunately, there are no single rooms and as a result no supplements, although for single occupancy I'd expect a reduction for the cost of the 2nd breakfast, at least. Parking for motorcycles is onsite.

Nigel has created a booking form and the hotel will use these to make your reservations. Once received I will collate them and send them to the hotel. As is the norm with IMTC events there is a deposit to pay and we have set that at £40 per room, cheques payable to “IMTC”.

Booking forms are available from me at the address inside the back cover of Tourider; please enclose an SAE for the return postage. If you have the internet you can download the form from http://uk.geocities.com/pauldevall/DutchBookingForm.pdf and post it to us with the cheque.

The forms need to be back with me no later than January 31st 2007 as the hotel can’t guarantee to have the rooms we (may) require.

If you want any other information, please check with Nigel, or me. Contact details inside the front cover of Tourider or by email at southeast@imtc.org.uk.

For some idea of what Gouda has to offer have a look here.

Update on:

1 November 2006

Isle of Man TT 2007 - BMW Club Meeting

The BMW Club Committee have given the green light to the Club having a meeting on the Isle of Man during the Centenary TT in June 2007.

I have already booked the Liverpool Arms, Baldrine between Onchan and Laxey for the morning of the 7th June 2007 - Thursday. I thought it was best to have it on a day when there was no racing.

What I now need are volunteers to assist on the day and in the run up to the event. I have a small budget to spend on publicising it here and abroad.

If you want to volunteer or have some ideas on where and how to publicise the event please email me

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