Thursday, November 16, 2017

Riding an Icon - a dream fullfilled.

Thanks to a couple of friends, (Dave and Mark), I had the delight of some 80 miles on a Vincent Black Shadow yesterday, and in the process discovered just how far us motorcycle riders have come in the last seventy years. Or rather, how far motorcycle engineers have progressed their art over that time. Stepping off my electronically controlled suspension bike, replete with traction control, ABS, and state of the art radial tyres, I was reintroduced to cross-ply tyres, wire throttle cables actuating throttle bodies, and gear box and rear brake levers that had exchanged positions. On the plus side I discovered that everything I did had both immediate and far reaching consequences, no more safety nets, no cosseting, just "if you want something to happen, then you are going to have to work for it", and "if you want it to happen now, then it's already too late!". It has been half a century since I rode a bike that required such assertive mastery, (a Royal Enfield 750 Super Meteor), and it took a while for me to stop changing up when I wanted to apply rear brake. But eventually I began to get a glimmer of an idea as to how to ride again - get the speed - keep the speed - conserve the speed - don't brake - look beyond the horizon - and lope along. The Lincolnshire Wolds had provided the excellent roads, replete with ever changing demands, and my new friend Pete had allowed me to ride his Vincent - I am in your debt Pete, thank you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Oh the joy of trip prep!

With a big trip, (14 days to Norway), on the immediate horizon, comes the pre-packing requirements:- having had the bike serviced, checked the tyres are good for the 2k-3k duration, and that my passport has at least 6 months life left, I've cleaned the bike together with panniers, put my passport and travel documents plus money, "in a safe place", (if only I can remember which safe place that is in ten days), I'm now all set for the vital assault on that list of jobs around the house that I've promised faithfully to have done before I depart. This list is not insignificant, not least because it is, in part, composed of jobs on previous lists that I failed to complete back then. Nonetheless I set to with good intent if not total dedication, and am soon up to my neck in grass and hedge cuttings, rubbish bags full of once necessary items now destined for the council waste site, and half completed jobs involving variously, paint, screwdrivers, spanners and spirit levels, not to mention several cardboard boxes that I was wanting to save in case they, "came in handy", one day/never. If I wanted to be facetious I'd attempt here a justification for regular big trips away, being that such trips ensure that at least some of the tasks assigned to the, "To Do", list actually get done this side of Armageddon - but I'm not that brave. Preparing for the big trip away is knackering. All the best, Jim.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Recently returned from three days at Cadwell, followed by one at Snetterton.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Hoppy's, "Better Riding Day", @ Cadwell, (, immediately preceded by the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership's, "Performance Plus", day, I pootled off to Snetterton in time for the BMW Club's, "Ride Friendly", day. The photograph shows my best profile as I attempt to indicate just where the following riders should be looking, i.e. through and beyond the corner they are in, and not at the apex, or even the corner's exit.
The BMW Club's next day is being held @ Cadwell on Monday the 20th of June, a few places are left, so if interested drop Robert Bensley an email at:- and he'll send you a link to their application form. All the best, Jim.

Monday, March 28, 2016

This year's three BMW Club track days.

One of the safest and friendliest introductions to riding on track : - two days @ Snetterton and one @ Cadwell. All the best, Jim.

A calm and instructive introduction to The 'Ring.

This may be four wheel centric - but informative nonetheless. All the best, Jim.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sunday 13th March.

And the first warm sunny day of the year, warm enough to shed the textiles, don the leathers, clean the visor and head off into the blue.............and there it is, after less than a couple of miles - the first fly of the year, smack in the middle of the freshly polished visor. (There's a PhD thesis awaiting, focusing upon why clean visors attract flies!).

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Some detailed feedback from a recent client.

Dear Jim, Albeit somewhat later than anticipated, I'm giving you my feedback from the report you wrote for me in Sept 2015. The advantages of me responding so late are that I have had more time on my bikes and that I have been able to implement some of the recommendations you made. Since my assessment I have managed to get out on the road numerous times on two different bikes. This has given me more experience as well as time to remember some of the skills I had long forgotten. This notwithstanding, I have broken your assessment into two separate parts; experience and technical. I hope it makes sense. Experience Since September 2015, I have tried to get out on the bike as often as physically able. Unfortunately this isn't regularly as riding for a couple of hours tends to make me suffer for a number of days. No matter how much I may wish otherwise, my medical condition dictates how often and for how long I can ride. That said, I get out on the bike even when I am borderline OK. This has enabled me to rack up over 1500 miles since our meeting and a great number of hours. Although I have ridden on a number of major roads, I have tried to keep my rides predominantly on winding, lesser used roads. This enables me to practice the recommendations you made with less risk to both myself and other road users. I have also been riding in congested cities in order to practice filtering. I have not let weather restrict my riding. Come rain or shine, (or really bad winds), I go out when I am physically able. I have even gone out today when the roads have ice and snow on them. Experience, experience, experience. Can't beat it. My confidence has soared the more hours I have spent on the bike and as recommendations you made finally 'click' and make sense. For example, your point of accelerating around bends was not something I could originally reconcile but after trying it around various bends with differing severity, it finally 'clicked' when I actually found the confidence to drop the bike and speed out of a tight bend. If anything, sometimes I believe I may be over-confident, believing I have more skill than I actually possess. This has not had any adverse consequences so far with the exception of the bike slipping away a few times, but successfully countered. Technical I have tried to implement all of your recommendations over the past months with varying degrees of success. I no longer rest my foot under the gear lever and I use my back brake as you suggested. I cannot judge my riding position objectively although I try to be more relaxed. I do know that I no longer grip the handlebars as tightly as I used to. My road positioning is, (mostly), as you recommended in the report. The only time I differ from this is during really wet weather, (when I use the 'dryer' route), and when there is detritus on the road, be it mud or snow. I ride in position '3' more naturally now but there are occasions when I have to move over more. In essence, I would say that around 80% of the time I am in position '3', the remaining 20% I usually remind myself to move over. With regard to cornering, I move the bike across the road more in order to be able to hit the apex sooner. The only time I do not do this is on gentle bends when the bike barely tilts as I go around it. I experimented with moving over on gentle bends but found it to be pointless as it did not offer me any advantage. I am probably wrong in this and I am sure that you will point this out to me on my next assessment. Unfortunately I still sometimes look with my eyes and don't point my head & chin in the required direction. I try and work on it but.... I do look to the horizon and not just to the vehicle in front of me. This does give me far better control of the situation and allows me to anticipate actions ahead of time. I think I do this most of the time now, (never going to claim to do it 100% of the time as that would be a lie). Conclusions Overall, the riding assessment was a valuable tool that enabled me to identify specific areas that needed improvement and give me the information by which I could improve. Naturally, trying to teach yourself is never easy as you cannot identify any potential failings if you think you are doing everything right but, as I am fairly self-critical, I believe that I am incorporating your recommendations into my riding. The manner in which you managed to relax me prior to the assessment, especially as I was very wound up after the crazy Landrover-driver incident, was great. We worked on a bit of theory and this moved my mind away from the bad ride down and focused it on the ride ahead. Well done you! As I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed our 'session' and look forward to our next one. Your instructing style is to be recommended, (I used to teach instructors how to instruct), relaxed, approachable yet commanding and informative, correcting where necessary. It works well and certainly put me at my ease to the degree that it was like going out for a ride with a friend giving pointers. I'm not sure if this is what you intended but that's how it felt - to me. It worked. Your report was detailed and informative giving me additional pointers to that given verbally during our ride. The only negative feedback is that I think you should be as critical during the ride as you are with your report. This may not be the best approach with some of your students but would be more appreciated by me, (hint). I believe that I have learned a lot from that short lesson, so much so that I have been passing on your experience to one of my friends. Needless to say, he has told me to 'go multiply' numerous times but has taken onboard what I have suggested. He read your report and can see his own failings as well. So, in essence, two of us gained from only me taking the lesson. Bonus! James D. -- Castleford.