Friday, 21 February 2014

My Response to Why We Ride

My little girl on my first bike after returning.
I’m very sporadic with my blogging. It’s a bit like riding for pleasure really. I don’t do enough of either. Work! That’s something I don’t do enough of. Spending time with my kids, yeah, that too if I’m honest. One way or another, someone will be able to read this blog and want to criticise me on one count if not many, of getting the balance utterly wrong. So as I type this, I’m still not sure I am brave enough to publish it. There you go. Into complete.

Last night I watched ‘Why We Ride (2013).’ I lack the vocabulary to say how good it was, how good it made me feel. It took me a while to work out why it made me feel good but I think I’m there now. I know I’m a motorcyclist, a biker. The film was all about us and what we are like. It was about our hopes and dreams, what makes us tick. Diversity is a key feature throughout: different bikes, different activities, different parts of the world and most importantly, different people. From children and young families to an 87 year old woman hoping she’ll still ride at 100, the film seemed to be about amazing people from all walks of life. And yet, for all the diversity there was a oneness. Motorcyclists in their many forms come together as one rich community. The film made me feel good because I’m part of that.

Recently, my friend Jim got his first bike. It happened that he bought it home just as my Half Term Break was starting so, obviously, we had to go out. Even Kev, who’s bike is usually in hibernation 9 months of the year, turned out. We pottered around local roads for the morning and stopped for tea before returning home in time for lunch and whatever else. It wasn't much and it wasn't long but it was great. I really enjoyed myself.

Then, this morning, I was coming to work. I treated myself to riding the VStrom and going a fairly roundabout way. How could I not after watching that film. Riding gives one time to think and before long I was thinking about family and friends. I've often wondered how long it will be before Beth can safely reach the pegs on the bike. Perhaps we should look into an electric bike for the kids to get started on. Sidecar outfits always cross my mind but they never stay long. I wondered that today. I try not to think it out loud in case mum can hear. As she reads this blog, I should probably wonder it no more.

Carrying pillion makes for time together. Separate bikes would also be good.
In the meantime though, what we could do for sure is plan a ride with friends where even if children can’t come, at least Ang could. After getting a suitable amount of work done, I decided to write out a sort of itinerary. It would be intended to encourage people (Jim, Kev, Angie and perhaps even a few pillions) to set a date for a day of being motorcycle enthusiasts together. The route it a triumph! Any other ‘me’ would agree for sure. It has great roads to push your bike on, remote roads to enjoy the beauty of creation and regular stops where you can natter and drink tea. It’s a perfect day, if you’re me and with someone willing to put yourself in my capable hands as guide. Unfortunately, if you’re just me then it’s all that but without being sure of a friendly face to natter with during stops.

And that’s kind of where we come back to the community. I’m not a lone wolf and most motorcyclist I know and respect aren't either. Their bikes aren't just toys, they’re a starting point for relationships with other like-minded human beings. That’s also sort of why I write in my blog, hoping that I might meet other like-minded folk and natter (in which the blog has been singularly unsuccessful for me). I don’t want to ride alone anywhere near as much as I would love to enjoy motorcycling with others. That could be friends; it could be family or just some other chap who also happened to be there. The friends and family option though, obviously that is the platinum standard. I never wanted motorcycles to take me away from the people and love and care about and the more I think about it, the more I think it shouldn't have to.

Six year into parenthood and there are promising signs.
Now, I have no choice but to look forward and figure out where I go from here. We had a ‘discussion’ about work life balance the other day but it was really about work/family life balance. I need to see more of my family and less of my desk. I’d be lying if I didn't say I want to spend more time with my friends as well. Watching Why We Ride left me thinking we can do that because it featured young families that were passionate about bikes. It wasn't just something that started at 17+ and had to be hidden from parents. So now I’m not wondering, I’m planning. 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Never Missed a Beat

I recently claimed that Angie's YBR125 'never misses a beat.' Well guess what: spoiler alert!

It missed it's first beat on a soaking wet, icy cold Monday. I thought little of it. Nearing work after a clear run, I gently rolled over the bridge and disengaged the clutch as I came to a halt. The motor stopped! It started right up again so I assumed it was me being a bit useless. Saying that, it was idling a little low, perhaps 1200. That was it though, until the end of the week.

The week dragged on and when the final bell rang on Friday, it felt a few days overdue. The ringing was somewhat drowned out by rain drumming on the skylights. Fed up and tired, what I want wanted to do was get on my bike and ride. What I didn't want was to get soaked through only to arrive home at the moment storm clouds gave way to bright blue sky. Thus daylight gave way to indecision.

By the time I left, there was virtually no light and still plenty of rain. The YBR125's single 35w/35w lamp is already useless in the face of oncoming traffic. The heavy cloud annihilated what little twilight remained and I was fighting a loosing battle to clear my visor. In such situations you're pretty much riding on a wing and a prayer when anything but a YBR125 comes the other way.

Not five minutes in and already soaked, I met a particularly well lit car coming mid road. Obviously I slowed right down and aimed for the darkness left of the blinding headlights. That's when the engine stopped. Instinctively I thumbed the starter but this time it didn't start right back up. “Oh great!” (possibly words to that effect)

After I pushing to a nearby driveway, it started up again so I rode off but with confidence in the bike utterly lost. Anyone who's been there knows how it affects your riding. Loosing confidence in your bike on a dark, blustery and wet night isn't quite a nightmare but it's super stressful. I soon found that the engine would cut out at speeds over 50 if on full throttle.

Anyone who rides a YBR will know that any slope means full throttle at speeds of over 50. Anyone who rides a YBR around these parts will know that we don't really have roads that aren't sloped one way or t'other. Only your wrist notices them on a big bike. Generally, there's way more thinking involved in getting a learner bike from Harrogate to Ilkley. Each gear change is anticipated well in advance so, ideally, timed to perfection. When you roll on to full and find the motor cuts, blood pressure rises just as fast as the oil pressure drops.

Thankfully I got it home. I've since washed it and can't find anything looking like the culprit. Stand back a bit while you're hosing it off and that bike looks fairly new. However, get in close with the sponge and a soapy paint brush, it starts looking long in the tooth for sure. The swinging arm and parts of the frame are rusting heavily along with the whole exhaust system. The whole rear end could do with pulling apart, stripping back to the bare metal and painting. I might do all that. I thought I might do that last summer. It really needs it now so I really might. Then again, I might not.

One thing's for sure, the bike I once trusted to the point of abuse can never again be described as having 'never missed a beat.' Now it needs some Alan time. He'll probably tell me off about one thing or another but I know we'll most likely get it back in a fit state to see the winter out. That way when spring starts getting serious I'll be able to ride it to work just like I could when I filmed this two years ago.