Tag Archives: motorcycling

Preparations for Australia #1


These are the important necessities which I have gathered so far. In no particular order, they are:-

  • small purple sundress (diet is going well; hopefully in 4 weeks time I will no longer be at risk of being harpooned by the Japanese).
  • kick-ass noise isolating headphones for the flight.
  • Sam Manicom‘s book, Under Asian Skies, which includes his travels in Australia.
  • 2 books by Simon Gandolfi.
  • HEMA’s Australia Motocycle Atlas – Peter Thoeming reviews 200 of the best motorcycle roads so I will know which ones to aim for.
  • upper-crust cabin bag.

I’m planning to buy Nathan Millward’s Going Postal when I’m in Oz for the return trip.

I think that pretty much covers it. Though I guess knickers would also be useful.

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It’s true…riding really does make you happier

I’m reading the rather splendid “59 Seconds – Think a Little, Change a Lot” by Richard Wiseman at the moment. It suits me because I have developed the attention span of a goldfish with ADHD and a worrying tendency towards narcolepsy. But I digress…

Chapter 1 is all about happiness. Materialism is not the route, it seems, to long-term happinss. We might feel happy after buying a new thing, but it soon wears off. This is known as “hedonistic habituation.” Wiseman explains: “humans derive a great deal of enjoyment from any new form of positive experience. However, give anyone the same wonderful experience time and again, and they quickly become familiar with their new source of joy and cease to derive anywhere near as much pleasure from it.”

The path to lasting happiness is to create “a constantly changing psychological landscape” in which “the brain is fed with ever-changing positive experiences that prevent habituation and so prolong happiness.”

Now, I’m not going to argue that buying a new bike isn’t a new source of joy(apart from having to endure Haylock’s first law of meterology for the week subsequent to purchase). But it’s not an end in itself. They stop being shiny and bits start to fall off. But they fall off in pursuit of that cornucopia of “ever-changing positive experiences.”

Just as you can never step twice in the same river, you can never ride the same road twice – particularly in the big-sky country of the Fens, where I am mostly riding at the moment. Every ride is different, from the weather to the light, the changing levels of muppetry of the other road users, or simply the time of day.

But for me the best ride is always the one that brings the unexpected. Riding down to Swansea for a meeting last month I left the A-road, chicaned through the traffic calming, passed the GLF sign, crested a rise and laughed out loud at the sheer outrageous glory of the vista in front of me: two lanes of perfect black-top, twisting away across some of Wales’s most rolling and wooly hills, and totally, serenely and beatifully empty (except for the sheep).

Hedonistic habituation, my arse. As I don’t think Professor Wiseman would say.

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Cabin Fever

My rally is usually like a cask-strength Macallan – savoured slowly and with a lot of water added. This year it was more like an Ardbeg Supervona – a smack in the throat with a blunt instrument. I mislaid anticipation and forward planning and have had to scrabble for LMs in the margins of everyday life. No week-long trip to Scotland – for the second year running – to ride under the pines, dodge the deer and get nibbled by the midgies. And I was thwarted in several attempts to get to Wales…

Have I become one of those people for whom riding can only happen when the demands of real life have been satisfied? For the rub there is that the demands of real life are infinite and hydra-headed, and if I allow it to take over there will be no time for frivolities like visiting Venta Silurum at dusk.

Still, better a rally of rags and patches than no rally at all. Admiring Panamaniac‘s photo albums at Conkers, I was amazed to find I’ve been doing this since 2003. Some people will see 6 years of landmark-bagging as little more than an astonishing waste of time and petrol, but (at the risk of sounding like REO Speedwagon) it’s taken me to places that on my own I’d never find. It’s made me a better rider – goat tracks and the Road of Baas would not have been attempted if there hadn’t been points at the end of them. I’ve peturbed and baffled the locals. I’ve been to John O’Groats. I’ve stood on a plinth. And I’ve eaten too many of JD’s bacon rolls.

This year was good, because there is no such thing as a bad ride. Next year will be better – because what’s the future for if not to look forward to?

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Neither use nor ornament

I sat in the car this morning to go to work, turned the key, and was met with the sound of not very much happening, on account of a flat battery. Now, you might think this is due to the very prosaic reason that I left the interior light on all night. But I think it’s actually due to the fact that Ruby has become jealous at being left at home last weekend and, after watching re-runs of I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle, decided to take matters into her own hands. One quick trip back up the stairs to pick up lid and jacket, and this weekend I will mostly be travelling on 2 wheels. As, indeed, I should be.

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Lady Bikers rule!

New figures from MCIA showing that us ladies are, in fact, more likely to ride every day than the blokes:-

  • 28% of women use a motorcycle as their main form of transport
  • 40% use their bike every day compared to 33% men
  • 38% use a bike mainly for general transport compared to 23% men
  • 42% use a bike mainly for pleasure compared to 51% men

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It’s such a perfect day…

Sometimes, when they get bored of freezing us, drenching us, or throwing f***wit cagers at us (presumably shouting ¡Olė! as they watch us dodge left and right, duck through the gap and escape), the biking gods make up for it by arranging a perfect riding day. Today was this decade’s … proper Goldilocks weather, not too hot, not too cold, but just right for riding in summer gloves without the heated grips on, and in a long-sleeved t-shirt without being desperate to throw caution to the winds and go Greek; a Round Britain Rally route with a landmark every 40 miles, and no “short walks” involved (Dave the Disorganiser may have been a mountain goat in a previous life. His idea of a short walk has been christened “motorhiking” by RBR for Charity Blogger John Goodwill); co-operative fellow travellers moving to the left not in order to get a better run-up before taking me out but actually making space for an overtake (apart from the one guy in Donington who was swerving to the left only because the other hand was off the steering wheel giving me the finger. Yes, I was a bit slow through the roundabout because I didn’t know which exit I needed, but if you hadn’t been so close on my arse that you could read the size of my knickers you wouldn’t have had to brake quite so suddenly).

It feels like it has been raining since the Kill Spills rally, so it was with little hope that I watched the weather forecast for this weekend – but the scarily enthusiastic late-night weatherman in the trainee’s slightly too-shiny suit did not lie:



Note to Self: Pack sunglasses not sub-aqua goggles.

This fabulous blue sky is one of the five primary colours of the perfect English ride – the others are fluffy white clouds; dark green trees; bright green grass on the verges and the really rather lovely slate grey tarmac favoured by English local highway authorities (sadly overlaid in some places by yellow rumble strips that shake your teeth out and, in other spots, by beige profiled overlay designed to make you feel slightly queasy in corners. At least, that’s what it does to me).

The first part of the day is a straightforward push north up the A1 with detours – in Hertford, Samuel Stone looks rather like he is hailing a taxi (to get him away from the horde of bikers, we presume). Sutton’s Medieval Packhorse Bridge is rather larger and more impressive than the usual “three slabs on a pile of rocks” that has been the norm thus far; while St Peter’s Church in Oundle has a sign pointing to it from the town centre, making things good and easy (RBR for beginners!)

Heading past Peterborough a small tragedy has occurred – Wansford Little Chef is no more. It’s boarded up and has already grown a coat of graffiti over its slightly battered 1930’s modernist exterior. I’ve eaten a lot of Olympic Breakfasts here because it’s the perfect distance from London, if, like me, you like to start at sparrowfart and get out of the South East three hours ahead of the rest of the traffic before stopping for coffee and cholesterol. It’s also a Control for the National Rally, a cheerful BMF branch camping out in the car park ready to stamp cards and offer you a fly-encrusted sponge for your visor. One more nail in the coffin of back-road biking – if you can call the A1 a back road!

Heading up to bag Matthew Flinders in Donington, the Fens stretch away on each side of the road, flat, open and mostly covered in what looks like cabbages. This means lots of tractors, and where there are tractors there’s heroic overtaking by people who don’t seem deterred by an on-coming motorcycle. Fortunately the roads are good and wide, and my repertoire of Italianate hand gestures is coming along nicely.

Captain Flinders sports an impressively large telescope (arf arf), while the Old Windmill at Bateman’s Brewery also stands rather proud from the surrounding flats, making it impossible to miss (and easy to photograph).

From here it’s a quick blast down the A19 to Kings Lynn for the Greyfriars Tower, “as featured in Restoration” – and opposite the police station, so no driving onto the pavement to get a better shot this time; and then another simple hop down the A10 to the William Harley Memorial, which is a fantastic piece of public sculpture. Can’t show you the Memorial till the rally is over so here is a photo facing in the other direction!

As a Brucie Bonus, because I got a bit lost coming out of Littleport and missed the turn back to the A10, I fetched up in Ely on a route which took me right beneath the walls of the cathedral at sunset.

Mellow sunshine, mellow stone, mellow rider. Makes a nice change!

Scores on the doors:

Landmarks bagged: 7
Miles travelled: 265
Little Chefs Visited: 1
Number of Little Chef staff telling me “I’ve got a scooter but I’m saving up for a ninja”: 1
Number of Little Chef staff with Rossi-tribute “46” on their scooter – in felt tip: 1
(note to self – leave bigger tips so that they can at least afford stickers).

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Photos from Greece

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Bikers abroad

I have come to Greece on a boat by mistake. The sailing part is great, it reminds me a lot of riding, to make best progress you balance forward motion against the wind, while on a bike you try and balance forward motion against the centrifugal forces that want to see you crunching on the tarmac. The sunburn and mosquito bites, not so good. It has been really interesting to see how biking is done in Greece. Motorcycling here is rather different than the UK – helmet wearers are in a distinct minority, though some carry a lid nonchalantly hooked round one arm. Protective gear consists of shorts and a tan. But the way the bikes are used also strikes me as quite different than the UK – here, they are part of everyday transport, people carry all sorts of odd loads, put mates on the back (high score so far is three large teenagers on a C90), and do their shopping – top marks for style to Mr Red T shirt who rode up to the cigarete kiosk on his ducati, left the engine running in that slightly choked bag-of-nails dynamic which is how ducatis protest at not being allowed to travel at an appropriate speed, bought his ciggies without getting off, and then roared away into the Aegean dusk. There's none of that "them and us" you often hear about in the UK, with non-bikers protesting that helmets and leathers make bikers look terrifying and intimidating.

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Only two kinds of bikers exist – those who’ve dropped their bike, and those who are going to.

I love this list from Dave Dragon – 128 ways to drop your bike.

I should own up to 3, 5 (nearly), 38 (nearly), 64, 95 and 112.

Many thanks, in no particular order, to the 4 guys renovating a nearby house, the farmhand on his way home from a late shift, the man who thought he was popping to the post office to pick up some stamps not a 900cc Triumph, and my brother-in-law who turned out to have a very handy trailer with tie-downs and ramp. The one advantage of being a lady biker is that it’s OK to ask people to help you pick it up again!

Haven’t been guilty of 94 but it did make me laugh.

Thanks to the helmet hair blog for spotting the list!

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Kill Spills

It's another public holiday in the UK, so a chance to get some road under my wheels – but the first job tomorrow is to go on the Kill Spills 617 ride, a protest ride about diesel spills starting at the Houses of Parliament and finishing on the track at Donington Park. Photos will follow 🙂

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