So there you have it, I'm celebrating three years of the blog. Although, actually, its about three years and two weeks of the blog because, well, I forgot. What a bad father. Oh well, not the worst thing that could have happened.
I'd just like to thank all those who have and indeed continue to support me. Huge thanks to Steve and the whole team at Conquest Carbon, Artur and Mike at Metropolis, Stuey and Howard at the other Conquest and my friends and family especially. So many to name, but you know who you are. Thanks for keeping me up when I felt down - thanks for keeping me grounded and thanks to those special few who picked me up when I was broken and in pain and fixed me. I am and always will be forever indebted to you.
Well, the last ten days or so have seen me using the bike a lot more than I expected. I had to attend a meeting in Hackney on Tuesday at around lunchtime, so after the previous weeks ride to Kennington and my utter disdain for both public transport and driving in the Capital, there really was only one option. What followed was a serious amount of mileage that really frazzled both brain and body. So it was Poole to Hackney via the M3, M25, A40, A501 and A107, followed by a trip back to the office via the Blackwall Tunnel, A2 and M25 and to cap it off, a trip back around the M25, through the tunnel to my folks place in North London. In all honesty, looking back, I'm not really sure why I a) went back to the office and b) stayed the night at my parents. Saying that, it was great to see them and I got a decent meal out of it for good measure, but I fear I'm due a speeding ticket thanks to the new average speed cameras on the A40.
On Wednesday the heavens opened and knowing how bad the road surface on the M25, especially around the Surrey stretch gets, I had to head through town. So in the rain and fighting through horrid traffic, I took my usual route South via the A406, A205 and A3, but something weird happened. Once I'd gotten past the roadworks on the A406, I was flying. I just had so much confidence in the bike and the tyres I was really enjoying myself. I wasn't pushing hard, but I was making some really great time and I really enjoying the ride, despite the weather. Sadly though my kit was still soaked by the time I headed for home. Can't win them all I guess.
Onto today then. The Ducati runs out of road tax at the end of the month and as I know I won't want to ride her until Spring she'll be SORNed over winter. Therefore today I took my final little spin on the Ducati for 2015. It wasn't a massive ride, just a rip down to the coast and Lulworth Cove to have a coffee and head back. My temp gauge claimed 20 degrees...at the end of October. It was lovely and I even had a man come up so me and talk to me about my bike in the queue. He was probably one of the cars I passed on the way there. Hell, it would have been rude not to pass. Lulworth is beautiful and well worth a visit, anytime of year. Sunshine, just makes it sweeter.
The biking week concluded with a little wash of both bikes. I know, how original. Hopefully time and money will allow me to continue the modifications on the Ducati over the winter as I would like to replace both levers and fit a slipper clutch for good measure. I've already got new rearsets to go on, which I bought back in Feb from Conquest Carbon and she is due the Desmo service again in March. I could do with ordering up some stainless steel bolts and this bike sheds them like a cat sheds fur. Better threadlock should be the answer.
Despite the Ducati being put away, the FireBlade won't be so lucky. I fully intend to ride that over the winter, although commutes in the real cold (like sub 5 degrees) are highly unlikely unless I invest in some heated kit. There are a few jobs that need to be done on that bike too and I really need to invest in some R&G engine case protectors. Onward and upward.
I was on the bike at the end of last week and it was a beautiful sunny glorious day and as I still hadn't sorted the headlight on the FireBlade, I was on the 1098s. En route up the M3 it fired a fairing bolt into the wilderness and tried to shed a few more. Cable tie to the rescue, but thread lock me thinks.
The route back was pretty good and I had an almost perfect run on the A272 between Billingshurst and Petworth which is probably one of my favourite sections of road. The only problem was the sun was quickly setting and I found myself riding at night with dark visor. Never a good thing and I was pretty much just using the lights of the cars around me to see where the hell I was going. When I got back, I realised just how bloody hard the Ducati is to ride. Not hard in the actual operation, but more in terms of commitment. It just wants to be thrashed and pulling it around corners at a fair lick is draining. When I got home, after about two and half hours or so, my hands and shoulders were crying out for mercy. Saying that the last time I rode it any real distance was the Italy trip in 2014.
Onto today - as I'd sorted out the headlight yesterday, a nice new Philips Moto Vision bulb courtesy of ebay, I was able to take the FireBlade to a conference I was attending in Central London. I really wasn't looking forward to to the journey, especially as it was at The Oval, just south of the Vauxhall one way system. I left the house just after 05:30, but that still meant I was riding in Central London during the height of the morning peak. Lovely.
When I left my job in Central London at the very start of 2015, I felt that my city riding was good. I was able to navigate through the city, happily sliding in and out of traffic, making good progress along the way. Now, ten months later, I clearly have no idea. I was missing opportunities and was generally nervous about being in town. It was bloody pandemonium and I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that I don't have to do it very often.
I was able to get away at around 1530 and just headed south down the A3. The fuel light came on just before Guildford I think, could have been near Wisley, anyway, I knew there was a Shell garage at Liphook so I planned on stopping there. On the way there, I pulled up behind a mini-bus full of school kids. From the back window I saw this smiling face and his hand waving. So, I waved back. Then his mates waved too, so, again, I waved. I could see smiles and laughter and all because some silly fool on a yellow motorbike waved back. Future bikers? I hope so.
So I get to the petrol station, visor up and try to fill up. Now, I'm sat on a nice bike, wearing good quality kit, with a rucksack and a tailpack on the bike. "could the man a pump number 7 remove his helmet!" What? No 'please' by the way. My internal voice starts......"What on earth makes you think I'm going to ride off without paying? I'm trying to fill up with your standard boring petrol, not the expensive stuff. Judging by what I'm wearing, I'm clearly a serious rider and as you recorded my number plate when I rode in, Its highly unlikely that I'm a thief, so, just start the bloody pump!" As I look over, I get that pathetic animation from the lady showing me to take off my helmet. That did it! At that point instinct took over. I closed the fuel cap, flicked her the bird (childish I know - but still funny in my eyes), and rode off. If you don't want my business, the BP down by Loomies can have my money instead. I've been there many many times. The petrol was cheaper anyway and they've never asked me to remove my lid and the staff have always smiled at me. I will say, it is very rare that I get asked to remove my helmet, which is probably the reason for my reaction.
Its very strange. I know its not company policy for Shell to have riders remove their helmets. The team at Burley services on the A31 are great for example. There's one lady in there who always smiles and genuinely greets you when you want to pay. Lid off? Nope, never. Do I go back? Yes. Always when I take the bike to work. Will I go back to Liphook Services. Nope, never, not even in the car. Funny that.
After two days of taking the car to work, I just had to get on the bike. I was sick and tired of being stuck in traffic. It was either roadworks, an accident, or a breakdown that ruined each and every journey, so last night I'd made up my mind that I didn't care what the weather, it was the bike for me.
Leaving home this morning it was dry enough, but the overnight rain hadn't dried from the motorway so I had to fight through the spray. I was wearing my Rukka kit, which I love, but it was really noticeable over a longer distance just how much turbulence it caused. Anything resembling a decent speed and the vibrations over my back were really distracting. Maybe that's a safety feature?
The second 'problem' is that as its a textile suit it doesn't support the body in the same way, which made my legs and arms ache more than normal. Let me try to explain. My Alpinestar suit is pre-cut in a certain way which allows the body in a certain position. I don't have to think about it, the suit feels most comfortable and supportive in the riding position, which is clearly the point. This in turn, over a long journey, seems to actually reduce fatigue compared to the Rukka, which I find actually very interesting, especially considering how much lighter the Rukka is. I shall endeavour to continue these observations.
Towards the end of my PM commute, I come to a series of roundabout, one of which is controlled by lights. Not the end of the world and indeed after the long ride, the brief stop can be a nice rest bite. Today I pulled up behind a dark car and noticed that my front headlight bulb has blown. How flippin annoying! I'm back in the office on Friday, but not too sure if I'll have time tomorrow to find the bulb I want/need. May have to take the Ducati to work as the car, really isn't an option in Friday evening traffic. Maybe I should warn the neighbours now.
Well its October, where has the time gone? As summer slowly gives way to a colder, darker but yet more colourful autumn I still try and get myself out on two wheels when I can.
Take today for example. Meeting Lucinda for coffee in a local town I took the bike, not because it was easy, but because I just wanted a little ride. Nothing big, nothing clever, I just wanted to ride.
As the days draw closer (the clocks go back an hour here in the UK in under a month) it will be increasingly harder to get out on two wheels. Soon I'll just be another light in the almost endless tirade of headlights that make up the commute. Riding for lost distances in the dark is never nice and at times is very dangerous.
What I don't want to happen is I park the bikes in the garage, plug in the Optimate and put a cover over them until spring. I fully intend to ride as and when I can all through the winter as I have done in previous years. However, unlike those, it probably won't be for commuting. Which is annoying.
I managed to watch The War 4 Four, the documentary/film made by BSB which covered the 2013 season. I've put together a little review which can be found under Motorcycle Media. Not terrible it has to be said.
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.