Well, during one of the warmest, brightest and nicest weekend of the year, I rode exactly zero miles. This was only as I spent the weekend with Sarah, but I did manage to fill up the radiator with coolant and pop the ram air duct back on the Ducati.
Something very interesting happened to me on Friday afternoon. I received an email from Tim Maccabee, the head of Ducati UK, on Friday afternoon about a Ducati only trackday at Brands Hatch in September. I've met him before and we exchanged a few emails, but for me it was a little unexpected. Still nice thou. Should I have asked him for a job?
Well Brands went well, probably because I didn't take a motorcycle onto the track. I met up with a few guys off the Ducati forum and picked up a brand new right hand side fairing lower for the Ducati. To get it home I cable tied it to the grab handles of the Kawasaki, which must have looked a little weird, but it worked. In more fairing news, my tail section and new fairing panels are currently sitting in a DHL warehouse somewhere near Birmingham, awaiting their swift journey down the M1 or M40 to the big smoke. If they are really lucky they may even get to fly. The last time parts of my Ducati went flying was September last year when I spent the day with Rapid training.
On the way home I popped in on Mike and Artur to confirm the details of a forthcoming ride out and to order a few little bits and bobs. While there I talked through my water pump problem, not that one, the one on the Ducati, and Artur not only spoke me through what I needed to do, but he also lent me some gasket sealant which saved me having to drop forty quid on a tube of the stuff.
I was really pleased with my work today. I had to drain all the coolant out of the engine, so I found a clean plastic tub which fitted the bill. After waiting about ten mins, I unscrewed the bolts and got my Thor leather mallet and proceeded to smack my Ducati. Yep, I was sitting in the garage, spanking the side of my Ducati with a flippin hammer. Thankfully the leather is softer than the metal, so the leather deforms but still directs the required force into the seal, which came free after a few choice strikes.
After removing the old sealant, drying and cleaning the surfaces, I spread a generous amount of the new sealant onto the back of the water pump cover and popped it back on. After loctiting and screwing the bolts down, I waited for 45mins for it to cure. Basically I went inside and watched an episode of Quantum Leap, anyway.... I refilled the coolant, fired the bike up and waited for the fan to kick in. It didn't leak, which I'm overly proud of. As I type, I'm waiting for the bike to cool before I top up the rest of the coolant and put the right ram air duct back on. Saying that, I'll probably do that when I get home after work tomorrow, because I'm comfy now and I've a cup of tea on the go.
Well Ive just spent the last hour or so removing all the fairing panels from the Ducati, in preparation for works to start when the new bits arrive. I've started to contact some companies to see how much they want to charge for repairs and I've arranged the collection of three new fairing panels. Whilst I was on my hands and knees on the garage I noticed another flipping coolant leak
Behind this rather dirty water pump guard, there appears to be a very small leak by the seal where it joins the engine case. This is a little alarming as the bike went down on the other side, ploughing its designer Italian shaped trough the gravel at Paddock Hill. More investigation will be required, but I think on this one I'm going to need a bit of help.
Tomorrow I'm popping down to the scene of the crime, Brands Hatch, to meet a mate who may be supplying me with a replacement belly pan. I was thinking about grabbing a few laps, but the more I think about it, my body isn't 100% and I have some other things to do like get a copy of my glasses subscription. See, its all glam down here
Wow, has it really been seven days since I posted anything? Thats not good, but I do have an excuse as I was on holiday. Today was the first time I had ridden a motorbike since last Wednesday and the bruising on my leg following the Brands Hatch crash, certainly let me know about it. Speaking of the crash, things are coming together with parts being ordered etc, so hopefully not too long to go now. I'm still going to have to source somebody to sort the scaring to the nose cone thou. Gives me something to do tomorrow I guess.
When it rains, it flippin pours. Riding home from work today on the Ninja, the switchgear on the left handlebar that controls the indicators stopped working properly. Its okay when flicked to the left, but when wanting to flick it right, or cancel the signals, it doesn't work. I'm going to have to take it apart and see what the problem is. Firstly thou, I'm going check in my two manuals so I know exaclt
I'm distracted. Not in an absent minded day dreaming sort of a way. I'm totally and utterly distracted to the point where I can't concentrate on anything for longer than a few minutes. I'm in actual discomfort knowing my bike has been damaged, which sounds really weird and comes with an enormous sense of narcissism. Yesterday I couldn't/didn't want to do too much as I was still suffering from the whiplash headache, so I was pretty much plonked in front of the telly/computer for most of the day, but all I could think about was getting the Ducati fixed. Annoying as I've got some serious work stuff to look into.
When I woke up this morning, I still had the headache, but my neck was better. So, after some breakfast and a coffee, I got the Ducati out of the garage, cleaned her up and took stock of the damage caused by Thursdays venture into the gravel
As you can see in the photos, it ain't great. In the fifth picture you can even see where my Drift camera got pulled off during the impact. Most of the problems will be fixed with a simple replacement, the smashed screen and tail piece along with the damaged brake lever for example, but what I'm really worried about, mainly because I'm fearful of the cost, is the damage to the rear wheel, the gravel rash on the tank and gravel rash on the fork bottom below the mudguard. The front wheel seems to have, somehow, stayed pretty much unaffected after ploughing a furrow through the stones, which is probably the only good thing I can see. I'm going to contact a few people regarding the cost getting just the nose cone re-sprayed as I've had some very kind generous offers for the panels that need replacing. This also allows me to keep the damaged main fairing if I want to take it back to the track, but I'm not going to make any really big decisions just yet thou. More research needed.
Well its now a little over 24hours since I crashed. I've had the chance to take stock of where I am and realise that I will get the bike fixed and back into a condition that I am happy with. I've arranged to buy a new screen and a friend is going to help me out with the belly pan. There are several fairings on ebay at the moment, one not too far away too.
Sadly my bike wasn't the only casualty of yesterdays crash. My Arai Chaser took a nasty crack on the top of the head which wasn't helped as I slid face first through the gravel for several feet following the bike (I even have this on film) to a stop, destroying the tinted visor that I liked so much in the process. The helmet was coming towards the end of its suggested five year life span anyway and I was planning on retiring it at the end of the year anyway, but it's still annoying thou.
My leathers, boots and gloves ( I was wearing some Alpinestar GP Pro gloves that I have been testing) all got scuffed and except for a minor puncture on the inside right leg of the leathers, they all did their job. To say thanks, I'm going to clean off all that Kent dust over the weekend.
I was filming the day with my HD Drift Ghost camera, which, as the circuit goes clockwise, I had mounted on the doomed right fairing panel.
I have been very pleased with the performance of the camera over these last few months and despite the Gorilla glass smashing on impact, the camera kept filming and its still working. I have contacted Drift Innovations to see if I can get it repaired, mainly because the camera wasn't cheap and I want/need the camera. I will let you know how that goes.
Now onto me. I managed to ride home without any serious physical discomfort yesterday, staying in the saddle for just over an hour, but this morning it felt like I had really been in a fight. I had a dull headache, both sides of my neck felt sore and stiff, the graze on my leg was feeling a bit raw, my right wrist had started hurting and my ribs hurt when I sneezed.
As my parents told me during childhood, 'if you fall down, you have to get back up' I wasn't going to allow yesterdays accident from stopping me riding to work. I rode in very carefully and it took next to no time to find a riding position that didn't agitate my injuries. During the day I was curious as to why my right leg had started to hurt, so when I got home I took off my leathers and had a look. I found two very, very large bruises at the bottom of my right thigh, which are already practically black and I have no idea what part of the bike hit me there. Looks like a run on Saturday morning is out of the question then. Now where is my Xbox controller.
Oh how I wish I could be sat here writing about all the good parts of todays trackday at Brands, but sadly my day was cut short on the first session after lunch.
The day had started out okay, a bit damp, but okay. We got down to the circuit without any serious problems. The morning sessions went okay, but I felt it was a little too damp in places to really push. There were a couple red flags, and several little offs by some of the other riders.
During the hour lunch break, the circuit had completely dried and warmed and once we were out on the track, we were able to push harder than during the morning sessions. I had been filming all the sessions with my Drift Ghost camera and was getting some good footage.
About twelve minutes into the session I was riding down the main straight approaching Paddock Hill bend. There was a rider in front of me lining himself up for the corner. I had seen him on track all morning and passed in several times as he wasnt the fastest guy out there. He's lined up the corner and I had taken up a position behind him and to the left. Paddock Hill bend is a big downhill righthander. The plan was to pass him midway through the corner around the outside, a move I have made many times on track and especially at this corner. I am now committed to my line and I'm travelling at about 90mph or just above, but certainly not flat out, leaning off the right side of the bike. Next thing I know the rider I'm following has sat up and eased off, or even shut the throttle, putting him right on my line. As he drifted out to the left, I had to swerve out of the way. I think I went down the right of him, but now as I've sat up as well, my line has disappeared and I've entered the gravel at speed.
I managed to keep it upright for about 40 or 50 yards before the front folded and I went over the handlebars, landing on my shoulders and head as I slowed to a stop next to the bike.
I flicked the killswitch and staggered over to the tyre barrier. Looking back I should have got myself on the other side of the barrier to make myself safe, but I wasn't thinking straight.
All the panels on the right side were damaged, including the nose cone and the right mirror. The front mudguard is badly scratched, the brake lever is covered in gravel rash and it looks like the rearset mountings could be a little out of line. The rear tailpiece and the windscreen have been smashed and there are smaller signs of gravel rash on both wheels. Thankfully the bike was wearing its clutch cover so that saved a small fortune and the ride home showed not serious mechanical problems.
So who's fault was it? his, mine, both or nobodies? I think its fair to say that if I crashed because of a fault of my own making, i.e poor braking or highsiding after trying too hard, then I could except that, so to crash because of a mistake somebody else made, that erks some. Would he have been better suited to a slower group? I think the only way I can really look at it, is that it's one of those things and I can't really blame him. As I sit here writing I feel like I've been punched in the ribs, I've got a huge graze/cut on my right leg, where part of the bike and I came together.. My neck is sore and my back is stiff, but it could have been a lot worse. One rider had to be taken away in the air ambulance after loosing it on the same corner today. My pride and joy is sitting locked up in the garage as banged up as her rider. Elvis Costello sang 'Accidents will happen' and that's the only way I can look at it. I'm sore, but I'm not dead and thats the main thing.
So what next for the bike? I could take it to the dealer and ask them to fix it, not sparing the cost, but Mike at Metropolis is a wise man. He suggests taking my time over the repair and have a think about what I want to do. I have another bike to use and there may be alternatives such as a respray. I know for sure that I will have to get some replacement bits, but I will get the bike looking her best. I just know that it won't be tomorrow.
At work today I was being distracted by just one thought. All I wanted to do was to get on my bike and ride. It didn't matter if it was just riding through the city or heading out into the country, I just wanted to ride. The day just seemed to go on forever, but as soon as I put on my helmet, I felt comfortable. I've got a busy week ahead of me, with a trackday at Brands on Thursday. As I won't have time tomorrow or Wednesday, I had to get the bike ready today. Just the standard stuff really, clean, check the tyres and lube the chain.
I got home from work today and found an ominous letter sitting on my doorstep. I was fearing it was a speeding ticket, but opened it to find a tax reminder for the ZX7R instead. The fee is about the same, but thankfully this one isn't licence damaging. I think this means my MOT, which is basically just a vehicle safety test, is also due next month. Shouldn't be a problem thou
My name is Matt Brown and I'm a UK journalist formerly based in London, but now calling the South of England home. I've been riding bikes since 2007, but got hooked straight away. Nothing gives me the feeling of freedom, even when stuck in a city. In 2010 I became a RoSPA gold rider, but when it comes down to it, I'm Just a normal man, riding his bikes as often as he can.