The latest edition of Performance Bikes arrived on Saturday. So I currently have copies of not only Performance Bikes, but a whole issue of Bike, half an issue of RiDE and a few pages of Practical Sportsbikes to read. This is getting insane. I've subscribed to four issues a month for two years now and this is the first time that the magazines have started piling up, but I'm feeling that I want to be able to read some more books as well, so I'm leaning towards dropping one title from my monthly diet. Thankfully the decision of which title to drop isn't a hard one. RiDE remains the magazine I have least in common with, so its the one that has to go. Is it a bad magazine? Not at all, but reading about tourers and waterproof kit doesn't really trigger my excitement in any meaningful way. The great thing about magazines thou, is that if I need/want something to read I can always pick then up from any supermarket or newsagent
'Go Go Juice', 'Gas', 'Fuel' or just 'Petrol' it doesn't matter what you call it, but this afternoon I filled the Ducati up and subsequently spent the rest of the day burning off, a tank of Shell V Power Nitro+, which is the latest incarnation of Shells performance fuel. The car gets whatever its given, but I tend to use Shell in the bike for two main reasons. The first, which has nothing to do with the fuel, is that Shell garages have the 'Pay at Pump' service which is a godsend in a country where some garages insist bikers remove their helmets. The second reason is, and I don't really know why, but I just like using Shell fuels, its seems like the bike runs....err better. I know that's not exactly a scientific reason, but as a customer, its the only real reason that matters. I went for the superdooper stuff over the standard 95 Ron fuel as earlier today I read a small article in this months RiDE magazine which talked about an economic improvement over normal petrol when using a 'Performance fuel'. With 160bhp under my right hand, I certainly don't need any increase in performance, but an increased level of fuel efficiency is certainly worth exploring. I will let you know how I get on.
Anyway, the reason I went out on the bike today was to head up to my nearest KTM dealer; the KTM Centre in Hemel Hempstead http://www.thektmcentre.co.uk/
Before I go on, I should just apologise about the photos. New phone, crap camera. Right, where was I? Ahh yes. I was there to look at and get some information on the KTM Duke 125, which I had in mind as a commuter/winter bike. I spoke with a really nice guy by the name of Jason Jones, who suggested, just from looking at me, that the Duke 200 would be a much wiser choice. Who was I to argue? Sadly there was no 200 there, but there was a 390, which is exactly the same dimensions as the 200, which I got to test for size. So far it looks promising; I can fit my Kreiga tailpack on the rear seat, you can get hand guards and heated grips to help with winter riding. So far so good and we will just have to see where it leads.
After chatting Ducatis with a chap from the garage next door and as I was out and about and already halfway there, I decided to continue North and head up to OnYerBike just North of Aylesbury www.onyerbike.net. Its remains the only place that I know that keeps a descent range of leathers, clothing, helmets, gloves and boots in stock and its always worth a look.
After visiting the service department to ask, what in hindsight was a fairly stupid question, I popped into the showroom to have a look around. Inside was pretty much the full range of Kawasakis, Ducatis, Aprilias and MVs all under one roof, but the one bike that peaked my interest was a black and red 2005 Z1000. You may remember this was the model of bike that I killed on the side of a taxi in early 2011. I've always like them so I was pretty interested. I wasn't standard, wasn't in amazing condition and it wasn't even UK spec (you could tell this by all the stupid bloody reflectors on the side of the bike) but I was still interested. There was no price on the bike, so I asked. £4200!! Well that sorted that. If the price had been £2500 I would have sat down with the man and had a chat, but in my opinion it certainly wasn't worth £4200, especially with 17000+ on the clock and without the standard cans. There was one little highlight thou and that was before I left, I did notice a customers rather tidy original Z1000, which I just had to take a little snap of.
Not wanting to fire it back down the A41, I decided to have a little explore, so after having a Macdonalds, which was actually pretty tasty and fitted the bill, I headed off towards Leighton Buzzard and an alternative route home. It was whilst on the A505, riding...how shall we say...progressively, that I got passed by a yellow 1098. Now I'm not normally a huge fan of yellow Ducatis, but this bike looked amazing. Not wanting to be left out, I gave chase and for a few minutes a V Twin chorus was bouncing off the local hedges. Sadly the bike turned off and I was left heading down the A5 towards Dunstable and St Albans.
I was nearly home and when truddling through the rush hour traffic in Barnet, that I saw my MOT man, so naturally I waved. He waved back, but unless he recognised the bike, he would have no idea who I was. Still nice of him to wave thou.
So now its evening. My bike is locked up safe and sound in the garage. The fuel light has told me that all that 'Go Go Juice' I poured into the tank earlier this afternoon has all but gone, disappeared in a blur of movement, heat and vapour. So what now? same thing tomorrow? Oh go on then, why not?
After Tuesdays bumpy ride I decided to look at the suspension settings this afternoon. I'd had the suspension set up by BG Motorsport in Silverstone www.bgmotorsports.co.uk back in 2010, who set the bike up for my weight, set the static sag and had the bike set up for more track conditions, which is the main reason my bike is so stiff, which normally I prefer. They wrote down all the settings for me, but typically over time, I've lost those. So before I started playing around, I had to find out what those settings were, which was just simply a case of counting the clicks down. Okay sorted...or so I thought. The plan was to set everything to standard and then stiffen it up a little and I wanted to start with the rear shock. This is when I realised I didn't have the right tools to adjust the settings. The front wasn't a problem as all the adjusters are within easy reach but the end result was that I set everything back to my current settings as I didn't want my bike running really stiff at the back and a bit soft at the front. Time to search the web and buy some more toys
After work, I fought my way through the London traffic and met up with my mate Dave at a local garage. We agreed on Monday to meet up for a ride out to replace the one we missed on Sunday. Dave told me the plan was to head to Finchingfield in Essex, which is a lovely little village popular with bikers as the roads in the area are great for riding.
After only 20mins or so, my shoulders started to ache. It looked like getting out of London on the Ducati had already taken its toll due the bikes very forward riding position. To be honest thou, I don't think that a full 8 hours at work was really the best build up to the ride, but the sun was out and I was determined to enjoy it.
Eventually we arrived at our destination and my body was knackered. My hands, back, legs, ankle (I strained one of my achilles tendons whilst running on Monday) and shoulders was crying out for me to stop. We sat and talked for around 45mins, Dave having a pint and me downing a small, but expensive coffee, which not only gave us the chance to catch up, but also gave my body a chance to recoup. For the return journey we planned more of the same sort of roads which snaked past Bishops Stortford and through the fantasticly named village of Steeple Bumpstead. The only problem was that because we started out in the early afternoon, it was now rush hour and this resulted in being stuck being far too many cars and buses, which ruined the ride and left me in agony as I couldn't get up to speed getting the wind to take some of the weight from my upper body. My 1098s is still set up really stiff, which also didn't really help. The roads we were riding on weren't table top smooth, so the bike was unsettled a lot of the time, making the ride harder that it could have been. On its current settings, my bike likes big fast sweeping bends and hitting three figures, neither of which I encountered today.
I finally got home and the bike and the rider were both covered in nice array of insect remains and I could barely walk. Did I regret the ride? Not at all. I'll take any excuse to ride the bike, especially as summer is slowly disappearing and warm sunny afternoons are now only available in limited numbers. It will be winter too soon and I'll be standing in a cold garage looking at my bike, thinking about afternoons like today.
Earlier in the week I got a text from a fellow rider asking me if I fancied a ride out on Sunday. I'm always up for a ride and rarely need an excuse to venture out, so we agreed on a time.
Come this morning and it was all looking a bit grey and damp, but as I had already planned on getting myself to the gym so I got changed and headed out. Post workout I was having some breakfast in my local coffee store (Coffee Republic - great coffee by the way) and I checked my phone to find that the ride had been cancelled as it was felt it was a little too damp, which is fair enough. I got home, pondered for a bit and decided that I still wanted to go out, so I popped my stuff on and headed out to Box Hill for another cup of tea. I was heading back when I decided that I still fancied riding some more, so I dove back down the A3 towards Guildford and did a little explore. My original plan was to try and head North from Guildford up towards Windsor and from there towards High Wycombe and Chesham, but as I didn't really know the roads that well I ended up doing a fairly long loop around some of the local roads, ending up back in Guildford. Ce La vie I guess. After actually looking at a map, I now have a much better idea of where to go the next time I head down. Oh and it stayed dry all day
Yesterday I popped down to the Ace Cafe in North London...twice. I had arranged to meet up with my good mate Kevin yesterday afternoon, so after heading out of work and killing 20mins in a shopping centre I rocked on over and for probably the first time, Kevin was there before me. We ordered some food, had some coffee and just chatted about anything and everything. I have known Kev since 2010 when we met at a Silverstone trackday. He had a very low speed lowside very early on and his 999s still bears the scars. He has been threatening to get it resprayed, but getting his bike cleaned is a massive deal, so maybe before the end of 2015 huh Kev?
I headed home for just over an hour and then headed back along the A406 to meet up with some chaps from the Ducati forum. Stupidly, I only took a dark visor, so I had to leave before the evening really got started. Those who have been to bike night at the Ace Cafe know what I mean when I say it can get a bit raucous. Its almost the polar opposite to bike night at Poole, which is a much more reserved affair
Whilst I was there in the evening I noticed that my tax disc holder and tax disc had both made a break for freedom, which is a fairly substantial pain in the arse. Even more annoying is that my local DVLA centre doesn't open on a Saturday and is only open during office hours Monday to Friday. Really! Why? The vast majority of working people wont be able to get there unless they make the trip during their lunch break, making it a very stressful experience I would imagine. The only people who will really benefit are poor souls like me who start in the middle of the night or the unemployed. Surely, if you only wanted the office to be open for five days a week, it would make much more sense to be open on the Saturday and closed on say the Wednesday or Thursday instead. I guess its lucky 'stupid' people like me don't get to make these sort of decisions. Who knows what we might achieve? Now where's my benefit cheque, the X-Factor's about to start.
Motorcycling, like life, always likes to make things just that little bit harder than they need to be. This morning I set about returning my Ducati back to 'street settings' thats is to say, refit the better body work and remove the R&G clutch cover, which although an excellent piece of protective equipment, allows my clutch to cook when riding in London. I think this was also the cause of the pressure plate bearing seizing. Anyway, so I took the track body work off and cleaned the bike using some Autoglym stuff, which really is rather good and set about fitting my new carbon mudguard and belly pan that arrived a few weeks ago. The mudguard fitted beautifully, but this wasnt really the case with the belly pan. Sadly, like with many aftermarket bits of bodywork, I had to 'modify' them a little to ensure a good fit. This basically meant widening the holes when the M5 rubber nuts sat and the holes that joined both parts of the pan together. Using a sanding drill bit, this took ages as I didn't want to go too far. Its not like you can glue back carbon fibre dust back on now is it. So after widening the holes just enough and convincing it to all go back together, this is the result.
The first photo is the bike striped down for cleaning, with the original mudguard removed, which is why it looks like its been front ended. As you can see the new part are a lovely satin finish carbon fibre, which really goes well with the gloss panels. This does mean I need/want to change the other plastic parts. If anybody wants to sponsor my bike, I'm happy to negotiate.
So, there I was just getting ready to finish to job and lube the chain and I found out I had run out of the stuff. What a tool! So as I don't really need any excuse to head out, I donned my kit and popped up the road.
When showing off the bike to Artur, he noticed a small pool of oil under the bike. WTF! What now? By the time I got home, the bike was leaking a lot, but the flow ceased when I turned the engine off. A quick removal of the side panel revealed oil leaking from one of the hoses leading to the oil cooler. So after waiting for the bike to cool, I broke out the spanners and simply tightened it all up. Sorted. All back together now, ready to ride back to work after my holiday.
I was walking back from my local High Street today after handing over a few quid to sit and have a coffee when I met a man I used to play golf with back in the day. I say back in the day, it was more like 2004, but that's nearly ten years ago now. I knew he cycled but I never knew he had a bike. He told me he's got a GSXR 750, which we all know is a stellar machine and we mentioning heading out for a ride someday. I really used to enjoy his company on the golf course as he's a very easy man to get on with, so hopefully if the timing is right, I'll be chasing him around some local routes at some point.
In site news, my onslaught into social media continues as I and indeed this site, now has a Pinterest account. All together now.....ooooohhh!!. Basically its just a rolling website where you just add pictures you like to your boards, sort a digital notice board, but for fun stuff not boring work stuff. See, your sort of interested already. Here's the links to two of my boards
Where have you been? I hear maybe two of you asking me, well I've been away for a week and I didn't have either a computer with me, nor more importantly a motorbike for all but one of those days. My holiday all started with the Ducati trackday at Brands Hatch last Monday. I got there a little later than I would usually have liked and by the time I arrived there were vans everywhere. So I parked up and went to sign on. This was only the second event that I have attended that was run by Focussed Events and I have to say that although the first went reasonable smoothly in terms of organisation, this one was a shambles. Firstly they were unable to sell out to a purly Ducati audience, so it was opened up to other types of bikes. Then they started dropping the price to entice more people in. So on the day there were people who would have paid the £220 sitting next to people who paid £170. That in my book isn't fair, or right. Anyway moral ethics aside, I effectively queued to sign in three times. I was told that there was a sign on the door explaining the slight differences between Ducati Riders and the others. This sign was a piece of A4 paper stuck on one side of the door way (the wrong side as nobody had to pass it to get in) so I missed it. Anyway once I had finally signed in I got some food and a coffee and sat and chatted with some other riders. The safety briefing was supposed to be at 08:30 in the briefing hall, but then, when everybody was already in the briefing hall, they changed their minds and had it in the pits at 08:45. There was no way that the first group will be in a position to be on track at 09:00.
After a few introductions we went out.....late. I spoke to a few riders who had missed their sighting lap sessions, didn't have time to be noise tested, so they just left. This is customer service at its worst. Below are a few pics from the day. As you can see, it was pretty damp out there, so I'm pretty much bolt upright everywhere. I'm going to writing a full report in the next few days.
The rain had pretty much stayed away and a dry line was making its presence known, but then just before lunch, it started raining, only lightly, but that was enough to soak the track, making it pretty much pointless to go out. After lunch the only people on the track were on full wets. I went out to test the conditions, but realised I was going too slowly and was a danger to myself and the guys on wets, so I came it and got ready to go home. After a quick dash back, I parked the bike, got changed, picked up my car keys and drove to Poole to spend my birthday weekend with Sarah and her family.
Tuesday evening on Poole Quay is bike nirvana. Every Tuesday during the summer, the local bikers descend on the Quayside, so as it was my birthday, it was fairly easy to convince Sarah into letting me go. Here are some pics.
Whilst down in the South I took full advantage of being close to one of my favourite after market suppliers. Conquest Carbon www.conquestcarbon.co.uk down in Wimborne supply as the name suggests after market carbon fibre body part replacements. In the past I've ordered a replacement key guard, front mudguard and full belly pan all of which are excellent. If you can think of it, they can supply it. Have a look at the site and see if they can supply your bike. Its an Aladdin's cave of wonder. Tell them I said hi
Yes a solution. Finally. I rocked up to the dealership after work yesterday, getting there around 13:30. Artur had done a few test rides on Thursday and Friday having replaced all the parts, i.e master and slave cylinder and the clutch hose itself. He wasn't too sure and asked me to take it out for a spin, but within a mile I could see that the problem was still there. After lots of dismantling of parts to see the only thing left to do was to take the clutch itself apart and that was when there was a Eureka moment. The bearing in the middle of the pressure plate which had been on there for less than six months had seized. Thankfully a replacement bearing was in stock and when it was all put back together, it worked perfectly
Now all I have to do is get the bike ready for a trackday on Monday before I start my holiday. Fairing panels changed over, mirrors off, R&G clutch cover back on to. Looks like the weather may be good too. Looking forward to it.
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.