• Category Archives Stuff
  • Honda CBX550F

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

     

     

     

     

     

    My first experience on two wheels started off on a bog basic Puch Maxi 50cc moped. I couldn’t wait to trade up to a “proper” bike though and a year later a Honda CB125N had replaced the dog slow slowped. It was a big upgrade at the time but I’d been bitten by the biking bug and soon wanted even more from  biking, leading me to take out my first bank loan for the purchase of a brand new Yamaha RD250C like the one below. The acceleration was staggering in its ferocity compared to the little Honda, the hit from the power band addictive, and the smoke and the smell of two stroke oil evocative of an era in which most of the Japaene bikes (excepting Hondas) were two strokes, think Kawasaki KH triples, Suzuki GT380,550,750’s and you get the picture.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Reminiscing again back to those golden days, I was reminded of a bike that took my fancy as my thoughts turned yet again to the purchase of a bigger engined bike. The object of my desire, the 1982 Honda CBX550F. It came in the red/white or blue/white options shown below, or a half faired version, the FII.

    cbx550f-1982

    blue-cbx550

    cbx550f2

    Often looking back we tend to see things through rose tinted glasses, so when I saw an article on the CBX in Motorcycle Sport and Leisure magazine, I had to buy it and find out whether I’d missed out on a great bike or not. Here’s what I found:

    The CBX 550F had a 2 valve per cylinder 572cc 4 stroke engine which made 62bhp at 10,000rpm and had a top speed of 118mph. It required servicing at 2000 mile intervals (imagine if you had those intervals on todays machines!) and the novel enclosed brake discs made wheel / tyre changes unnecessarily long and actually caused braking problems due to the heat and brake fade they created. It had CV carbs, electronic ignition, a Pro-Link rising rate air assisted rear monoshock,  and TRAC anti dive (air assisted) front forks, and a great looking 4 into 2 exhaust designed to mimic the CB400F pipes. At 196kg and with a range of only 100 miles due to its 35mpg thirst, it had some issues, none of which were anywhere near as bad as the camchain problems that surfaced soon after it’s launch though, which were then closely followed by issues with engine and clutch bearings. In the same way as the Honda V4 engines of this decade suffered with camshaft problems which did huge damage to their reputation, the CBX soon fell out of favour because of these problems and was dropped just a few years later, with Kawaski apparently picking up a lot of the sales that Honda lost.

    All of the above was quite an eye opener for me and really highlighted how memories and all that glistens is not gold! If someone wants to buy one of these pieces of two wheeled history, they apparently change hands for somewhere in the region of £1200-£1300. Sadly I won’t be buying one, but I still think they look good!

     

     

     


  • Reminiscing

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

    The sale of my K1300GT will leave me in the strange position of being without a road bike for the first time in 20 years. In the past I’ve always had its replacement in the garage before I’d sold the old one, but this time it’s different. I’m in no rush, moneys tight, I’m missing my old riding buddies and the great trips we used to do, and I’m not feeling motivated to think about its replacement. I still have the R1 track bike though which does motivate me to get out on track, as it’s now close to how I’d like it to be vis a vis handling and mods, but it’s winter now and plenty of cold dark months and poor weather before next season comes around.

    So I’ve been reminiscing, like you do. Thinking of the good times, the bikes I’ve owned and loved, the one I owned and didn’t like, trips, tours, speed and adventure, so here are a few of my favourite memories.

    Bikes-

    I’ve owned two outstanding machines, well technically three if you consider I owned two models of the same machine, a Honda CBR1100XX Super Blackbird. I purchased the first one in Switzerland in Y2K with a mere 2600kms on the clock. I knew the second it purred out of the shop floor and onto the Geneva streets it was the one for me. Super smooth, quiet, refined, and SOOO fast, it was my pride and joy, and carried the wife and me half way round Europe at warp speed and in total reliability, well except for a regulator rectifier failure, but they all do that!

    Everyone knows that for a while the Bird was the fastest bike on the planet, but the best thing about it was the quiet exhaust note which allowed you to creep under the radar whilst Ducati’s and those with loud pipes were getting pulled over. The power came so smoothly and quietly with 100mph effortlessly and VERY rapidly passed, easy to get yourself in trouble with the law. I vividly remember being chased by a bunch of French riders on one occasion, and one coming up behind me shaping up for an overtake. No chance!, a rapid twist of the throttle and I was gone, warp drive engaged, and the guy disappeared in the rear view mirrors.

    p1050932

    Then there was the ascent of the Pas de Casa in Andorra where we overtook a line of 10 cars in one go, but the best memory was riding back from the Misano superbikes with a mate and his Thunderace. The Italians allow free entry from the circuit onto the autostrada and then anarchy took over. Imagine hundreds of bikes let loose, all heading north and forgetting the speed limit. We set off together, but I soon had my Thunderace mounted mate disappearing in my mirrors as I gave the Bird the full throttle treatment. I averaged 220-240kph for the hour and a half it took all the way up to Bologna, at which time the fuel tank had been pretty much drained, and my hands were shaking with adrenaline. Crazy remembering those overtakes on either side of the traffic ahead just to maintain momentum. Could never happen again, and I’m amazed it did back then, but the bike was awesome. That adrenaline fix was actually better than maxxing it out at 285kph on a French dual carriageway and German autobahn some years later.

    Legal disclaimer- At this stage I should point out that none of these events ever happened, the stories are fictional, and are the result of an over active imagination and defective memory.

    The next “special” bike was the Honda RC45. This was a bike that excelled on the road and disappointed on the track, but however you rode it you were never going fast enough. The seat height was so low you couldn’t fail to get your knee down, the exhaust note so evocative it made you weep, and literally did when I rode it with a Micron open pipe for an hour and a half! The best thing, you rarely if ever saw another one on the roads so it always drew admiring glances from others, and questions from the younger generation who had no idea what it was. I had that bike nearly 10 years and loved every minute of it and to me was the very essence of why we ride bikes, because just looking at it made you want to ride, and when you got on it it never disappointed (on the road).

    p1020031

    Disappointing bikes? I’ve only really owned one , a Laverda 750S, bought cheaply new when the company had gone bust (again) and only rode it for three months and 3000kms. It had lots of Gucci parts but the throttle control was awful and it stalled frequently. When my mates asked why I’d got it as it and gave their opinion of it having ridden it as being a piece of s**t, clearly it was time to get rid, and I did so very swiftly.

    scan0002

    Most reluctant sale? Apart from the RC45, this has to be a low mileage ZX-10R l bought in Germany but had to sell when I moved back to France, due to that country’s barmy 100bhp law. This was a superb bike and obviously I didn’t ride it hard enough to be scared by its reputation as a wild ride, but the handling was sorted, it looked the dogs, went like stink, and was safe on track. Bloody French laws!

    2007-04-15 001 309

    Tours-

    Got to be the 15 day tour I took with the wife on the Blackbird back in 2003. We toured through Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France. 7 countries 3743kms and although it was our second big Euro tour since moving over in 1999, it was the most fun.

    I’ve also enjoyed my commercial Alpinebiker tours where I met some great people and shared some great rides and experiences.

    Not sure they count as tours, but I did so many ride outs with friends when I lived in Geneva that it’s difficult to pick any specific one out as being a favourite, I will say though, that sharing those days and tours shaped both my riding and long term memories, so to those people, you know who you are, thanks a million.

    flags

    Encounters with the law-

    When you’ve ridden a bike for 20 years there are bound to have been the odd scrapes with the law, I’ve had a few although none of the ultra serious nature.

    The first came one summers evening whilst riding in Yorkshire with the wife on the back. I overtook a caravan and looking back saw a raplidly driven BMW with its lights flashing following me. No problem, go past I thought, the road ahead was clear, it wasn’t until he was closer behind me that I saw the blue lights flashing under the grill. One lecture later I’d got a ticket for 81mph for the caravan overtake but got let off the 92 I’d been doing earlier, oops.

    Strike 2 was on our 2003 tour when I got pulled over in Bosnia for allegedly doing 65 in a 50, but although I paid the fine I was shocked to see the policeman using the same speed gun reading on the next poor motorist who complained bitterly. Given the dubious nature of this ticket I don’t count it, in much the same way as the ticket in Austria, again for doing 65 in a 50 but I didn’t see any sign advertising the limit?

    bosnian-speeding-fine-001

    austrian-fine-001

    I then had many many years ticket free until I got one in France on a dealer loan bike. I wouldn’t have been on the road if my bike had been repaired on time and the loaner had had a motorway vignette, but it didn’t, so I ended up on a road I wouldn’t normally have been on which on that particular day the police had a radar trap on. Strangely the police seemed to think it amusing that a BMW was speeding, perhaps they see BMW’s as normally being ridden by the more conservative type of riider? Truth is I should have contested the fine though as they had got the speed reading from a 45 degree angle as I was crossing a bridge, and people have won cases before based on the fact you can’t get an accurate reading off a bikes angular surfaces from the side. Think that one cost me €90.

    I’m not proud of these and each time I get one I feel suitably chastised, but they’re all pretty minor offences (luckily). Given the 293,000kms I’ve ridden over the past 20 years, if these “speed awards” (as my US tour riders called them) are all I’ve got to show, then I’ve not done too badly considering!

    I could go on and on, but as I’ve written this it’s clear my life has been changed and shaped by biking, the machines I’ve ridden, the friendships made through ownership, and the special memories that rides, people, times and places create. Get another bike? Probably!


  • Quotations for a service-How hard can it be?

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

    Is it me? Is my French so bad? Are dealers down here really so busy with winter coming that they don’t need work coming into their workshops to keep them going? Here’s the story.

    A week ago I decided that to try and make my K1300GT look a more attractive proposition as a purchase, I’d need to get the 90,000 service done before I advertised it for sale. I duly sent an email to three local BMW dealers asking for a quote for this service, which I know is likely to be at least €500 as it’s a major service where the valve clearances are checked. Here is the convoluted story of how this simple request fared in the wonderland that is BMW service .

     

    We start with a positive note as Dealer #1 replied to my enquiry the next day with a quote which was in line with my expectations at €464, but when I looked at it in detail I realised that most of the work quoted for had been done very recently at the 80,000 service (done late at 83,000), and that the radiator purge and refilling with new antifreeze had been done in July this year at 88,000 when I’d had a problem with it overheating. Not wanting to pay out again for work done quite recently, and given I’m selling it, I wrote back the following day with full details of the work done, and asked if they would give me a revised quote, but ONLY for work that they considered necessary, given the proximity and timing of the previous jobs and the fact I was going to be selling it. I guess I expected that they would drop the brake fluid and antifreeze, and maybe even the oil change, leaving the plugs and valve clearances, but still, they’re the experts, I figured they’d know best which elements were critical?

    A simple enough request you would think, but it then went deathly quiet and after hearing nothing for a week, I went back to them asking if they were going to reply or should I consider their silence an expression of their disinterest and that I should take my bike elsewhere? This elicited a response, but not in the form of the quote I was expecting, but a demand that I send them copies of the previous work I had done so that they could prepare an accurate quote. I sent these by return, but wondered why it was strictly necessary to do so, given that they had already had the same information in writing a week earlier!

    Expecting a reply that afternoon, guess what, I didn’t get one, so I chased again, and received a new quote, this time for €628!!!!  So after 9 days I’d now got a quote that had increased by €164 +35% over the original, which only differed from the first quote by definition of the exclusion of the brake fluid change, but now contained five jobs which had increased in price, the oil by +70%, and the addition of four items not even detailed in the original quotation.

    I wrote back telling them this quote was a joke and how was it possible that the original quote had been so inaccurate? I was left seriously unimpressed when I was informed that the original quote had been done by somebody else and contained errors and omissions, no kidding!!! It seems that I was expected to just suck it up and accept that the previous quote had been worthless, and that I shouldn’t balk at having to pay 35% more because they can’t quote correctly.

    I gave them one last chance, and asked for a quote for valve clearances and plugs only, and ended up with a price of €403, plus €50 for a loan bike, which incidently had previously been quoted as being €25. Unbelieveable. The words piss up in a brewery spring to mind.

     

    So would Dealer #2 be any better? The request for a quote was sent on the same day as to Dealer #1 . They replied two days later advising that their service manager wasn’t there and that they would reply at the end of the week. I then sent them the same mail I’d sent to the other dealer explaining about the prior work I’d had done, the fact I was selling it and asked if they would send a quote allowing for these items. I  received their confirmation back immediately that when their service manager came back he would quote allowing for these issues. Looks like they might be a bit more on the ball?

    Of course it turns out I was to be disappointed again, so the following week having not received any quote and knowing the service manager was back, I chased again and received a reply which apologised for the delay, but then asked what bike the work was required for? They also wanted a copy of the carte grise (registration document) so that they could quote correctly.

    In a bid to expedite the receipt of a quote I sent copies of the previous service invoices and the carte grise along with a note stating that the work was required for a BMW K1300GT, as per the heading of my previous two emails!!!!

    Finally, 8 days after my initial enquiry I received a quote for €571, which was €107 more than the original quote from Dealer #1, and they hadn’t removed any of the options I’d thought they might. Admittedly they had included an air filter, which to be fair I forgot to tell them wasn’t required, so this reduced the additional amount to +€62, although this appeared to be the cost of two joints(?) which had been omitted from the initial quote from  Dealer #1(but which subsequently were added to their revised quote). The big issue with the quote, apart from the price, was that they were unable to offer a courtesy bike and wanted mine the night before so that they could work on a cold engine. This is impractical and adds substantial costs and time as I’d then need to make multiple trips there and back by both car and bike to get the work done.

    In desperation I asked for a quote for the valve check and plug change only, but as of this post I’ve not had their offer.

    Wondering if all BMW dealers are so poor I tried to cover all bases by sending the same request to a third dealer (#3). This is probably the biggest of the three but is an hour and a half away. Their reply? After several days they asked to see copies of the last invoices of work done, so I decided to make it really simple and rather than send copies of the invoices I just asked that they quote for the valve clearance check and replacing the plugs, how difficult can that be? Two days later they came back asking for a copy of the carte grise. I GIVE UP!

    I hadn’t realised that asking for a quote was so difficult. I hadn’t expected that the first quote I received would have comprised so many errors that it wasn’t worth the paper it was sent on. It’s mildly insulting and shows inattention to detail when a dealer replies with an incorrect spelling of my name. It’s even worse when they ask what bike I want serviced when it is clearly indicated at the head of emails addressed to them; and asking for copies of registration documents to establish the bike model details days after an initial enquiry had been made when it should have been their first question? Professional, I think not!. Frankly it’s an appalling indictment of BMW service, and clearly if three dealers are showing the same ineptitude and delay in responding, it’s not an isolated incident.

    I’d write to the dealer CEO of each establishment to complain but frankly I can’t be bothered, and I’ve pretty much lost all interest in BMW. Shame, as it’s been a good bike with the odd fault, but BMW can say goodbye to another long term owner. I imagine they think there will be loads along to replace me, but I wonder how many others have given up too?

     

    PS- If you’re wondering what I did in the end? I decided to discount the price of the bike and let the next guy run the gamut of inefficiencies of BMW and their weird and wonderful world of customer service.


  • Holiday

    September saw our annual pilgrimage to Canada, so here are a few pictures to share with those who may not have been to the land of lakes and trees.

    Heading out of Calgary we saw lots of smoke as a forest fire was raging. It’s a perennial problem over there with so many trees and dry weather.

    p1060157

    p1060159

    Several hours further south and a few days later, no fires here, with low clouds over the surrounding mountains dulling this mid morning picture.

    p1060162

    On a days outing you get to see so many lakes and trees that they all seem to merge into one although this one was nice and stretched for miles.

    p1060165

    Further downstream on the same river, the first area with housing for half an hour. Spaces are big in  Canada and unless you’re living in a city habitation can be few and far between

    p1060170

    p1060171

    We stopped for breakfast at this cafe with it’s humourous parking sign below

    p1060178

    p1060177

    On the way back we came over the brow of a small hill and saw a brown bear at the side of the road. Crossing over I parked up and gently reversed to take a picture but it was spooked by a BMW RT which was following us and disappeared before I could take its picture.

    Here’s a signpost segment of pics.

    Got to love Canadians sense of humour. Don’t stray onto this guys land!

    p1060181

    The signage is so different in Canada to what we’re used to in the UK or Europe. Not sure the average European would do too well if he was told head East or West?

    p1060185

     

     

    p1060188

    p1060186

    p1060187

    I usually end up doing some work for my keep, you would not believe the effort and time involved to cut and move these 31 logs back to the wood shed to be cut down into boiler sized pieces.

    Crossing one of the fields to get to the woods I saw movement in the long grass ahead and something moved quickly away from me. I spotted brown hair and pointed ears and at foirst thought it must have been a coyote as we;d seen them there the previous year, but thinking back now, I’m convinced it was a bear cub, although if it was, I’d perhaps have been a bit more worried about where its mother was!

    p1060190

    We cut another 20 or so logs a couple of days later and once they were all chopped to size created they only filled a small part of the wood store (light coloured pieces)

    p1060192

    Heading home we were fortunate to finally see some Elk. In 6 visits to Canada we’ve been fortunate to see bears, mountain sheep, and eagles, but Elk and Moose have been conspicuously absent, and today, apart from seeing this group by the road side, later on we also saw another herd up on the hilltops. Pictures aren’t the greatest as it was pouring with rain but we had to stop to prove we’d seen them.

    p1060197

    p1060198

    p1060203

    p1060207

    It took the best part of a week to get over the jetlag once we’d got home but yet again we’d had a great trip, albeit a very long one!


  • MV Zagato

    I’ve had a soft spot for MV’s since I rode one of the original F4’s back in 2002. Like everyone I was blown away by the stunning design, the sound from tghe four tail pipes, and the blood red/silver colour is such a great combination and looks amazing. Talking of which, take a look at this Zagato version of the bike. A futuristic take on an already beautiful design, just need umpteem thousands to buy one!

    MV-agusta-f4z-zagato-2016-motofire-600x544

    mv-agusta-f4z


  • Something different-a ride I’m not leading!

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

     

    Variety is the spice of life so they say, but when it comes to riding, planning routes and setting destinations, there’s been very little variety involved as it’s generally me that does it. There have been the odd exceptions, when Karel lived in Geneva he led me round most of the high cols in Switzerland, but once he’d moved to the US I took over the tour leader mantle, and other than a couple of runs where Andy has led, and a paid long weekend tour I took back in 2009, it’s been me at the front. When Mark suggested we go on a ride that he would lead and on roads I’d not been on, well, my interest was piqued. The route was planned to be scenic along several smaller level cols, and very much a “bimble” rather than a thrash, one to enjoy the sights on.

    This morning we’re back on the Thoiry bypass again, riding back through the covered orchards towards Clarafond I’d taken earlier in the week on my TT route ride, and from there dropping down to Seyssel and heading out towards Belley.

    At Culoz we head on over the roundabout instead of going right to Belley, and take the parallel road on the other side of the river before stopping for coffee in the picturesque villlage of Chanaz, which nestles below a hill alongside the river which had frequent pleasure boats on it even at this time of the morning.

    P1060077

    b97c0b63-5102-4e6f-bae5-748f8d889773(1)

    The road winds alongside the river for a while before we start on a myriad of smaller cols such as the Col Mont Tournier; Col du Lievre and Col de Lattaz; before ending up at the Col de L’Epine and these fabulous views over Lac Aiguebelette.

    P1060091

    P1060092

    P1060086

    Marks definition of the route as one to bimble on and enjoy was pretty accurate, impossible to go quickly on any of the small cols but with the occasional blast on some wider gorge roads, we were enjying ourselves and ar around 12.30 we arrived in Corbel and the Aubege Thimelet where we enjoyed an excellent Charolais steak on the terrace outside.

    P1060103

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The view from the terrace outside where we were eating reminded us a lot of the Italian Dolomites

    P1060106

     

    P1060098

     

    P1060104

     

    After lunch and more small cols and riding a winding gorge road in both directions, we decidied to visit the Cirque de Memes. There’s a €2 charge per bike to enter and shockingly we only had €2 between us in cash and they don’t take cards, so I ended up having to write a cheque for the €4 entry.

    Here’s what we found when we got there.

    P1060116

    Marks interminable photo taking

    P1060121

    But worth it for the result below.

    Cirque-Même_1(1)

    Back to my pics from my trusty Lumix point and shoot

    P1060125 - Copy (2)

    P1060129 - Copy (2)

    P1060130 - Copy

    After spending an hour or so at the waterfalls we headed back towards Chambery where Mark led us over the Col du Chat, but in all honesty I was gettting a little tired by then and would have enjoyed coming back along the low level roads rather than the 14kms of ascent and descent we had along tight switchbacks and gravel strewn roads. Anyway, at the top of the Mont du Chat you’re rewarded with these great views. The runway at Chambery airport can clearly be seen in the middle of the picture.

    P1060137

    P1060141

    P1060138

    We eventually got home after a long day having spent 7 hours 11 in the saddle and ridden 431 kms but yet again the bike had held up in 27C temps so looks like the cooling issue is ok, fingers crossed! Thanks to Mark for leading, although I have to say I found it weird to be following not in front setting the pace, but it was different, and as I started this piece by saying , variety is the spice of life.


  • The end of the 100bhp law in France and insurers profiteering

    yosemite_sam2-1-1[1]

    Since the advent of time, or in the context of this article, since the creation of the motorcycle, for every product invented, there have always been companies and individuals who have striven to improve upon the standard item. In the case of motorbikes this has generally been by way of performance in either handling, weight loss, or power output. The goal of making a good thing better isn’t unique to motorbikes of course, it’s a methodology applied to virtually everything you care to mention, and is the driver for the world and how its technology advances. Take an idea and improve it, and over time we get better and better machines (motorbikes in this case), and our life becomes easier and better as we take advantage of these advances, but in France, there has been a limit to how far that advancement has been allowed to progress. I’m talking here about how the French government has stifled the motorcycle industry for over three decades through the imposition and enforcement of its iniquitous 100bhp limit for motorcycles.

    For those of you who don’t live in La Belle France and have been riding for years on machines of ever increasing horsepower, you may not be aware that up until this year, those of us who do live in France, have been deprived of the “right” to ride a motorbike with a bhp figure greater than 100.  The H2 Kawasaki and it’s 220bhp has been but a dream for us. IF we could buy one here it would only have 100bhp. Imagine that if you can? Buying a rocketship but only being allowed to ride it with less than half its power. Take that back a step and it gets worse when you consider that we can’t even have a full power relatively small engined 600 like an R6, as its 120bhp has been verboten. We can buy one and will pay the full retail price for it (another bugbear as the French don’t seem to understand the concept of discounts), but it will have been restricted in performance by any number of mechanical or electrical means. “Why would you pay full price for a castrated bike you ask?”  Well simply put, there hasn’t been any option. Back in 1984 the French decided that speed was a major influence in accidents, deeming that the more powerful the bike and the faster it went, the more likely you would be to be involved in an accident, so they decided that if they restricted power to 100bhp, and consequently speed, this would help prevent accidents.

    In the UK if you’re old enough, you may remember MAG lobbying Brussels to ensure that the UK didn’t implement the same policy? They were successful in halting the implementation of this hated legislation and you should be grateful to them, as for the past 32 years the French have been forced to ride bikes that might on paper make 160bhp, will cost them the same as your identical bike with 160bhp, but are only allowed to have acceess to 62.5% of that power, because somebody decided long ago that it was good for you and the French accident statistics. The Swiss for a time also had restrictions on power but later revoked the limits, an action that unfortunately wasn’t replicated across the border here.

    Over the years French bikers protested against this restriction and had a strong legal case, as it was in effect a restriction on the passage and sale of goods within the EU, and contrary to one of the supposedly fundamental benefits of EU membership. The motorcycle manufacturers argued that there were additional costs incurred in restricting the power of bikes sold in France and that those bikes would be unable to be sold outside that country, as no-one would buy something inferior to the same item sold elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, such was the furore that Brussels told France to drop the restriction, but the French government  basically said screw you, and happily paid the fines Brussels subsequently imposed on them, in order to keep the law on their statutes. Despite countless studies done throughout the world showing that speed was NOT the main cause of accidents, and that there was no correlation in the power of a motorbike and speed related accident statistics, they buried their heads in the sand and ignored everyone and everything and continued paying the fines, whilst the public continued to lobby for equality and legality in application of a supposedly Europeanwide law,which would have rid them of the unjustified horsepower shackles.

    The whole situation is made even less understandable when you realise that in France it’s legal to ride a moped from the age of 14. This creates a youth who become mobile at an extremely early age, but whom also become accomplished riders very early in life compared to other nationalities. Ride or drive in France, and you will find car drivers move over to let bikers pass. This is something seen in very few countries as elsewhere bikers seem to have developed an unwarranted bad boy image, perhaps harking back to the bad press of  the mods and rockers days in the UK, and the gang activities of the Hells Angels. The likelihood in France though, is that this courtesy comes from drivers having started their own mobility as a youth on a moped and knowing what it takes to ride bikes and to stay alive, so they look after their own, and it’s something that ought to be recognised, applauded, and copied worldwide, in order to promote better understanding and safety on our roads.

    Back to restricted power outputs, and here’s a great example of how crazy things used to be. I worked in Germany for a couple of years and owned a ZX10R which I loved. Knowing I was returning to France and wanting to keep my prized low mileage bike, I went to the Kawasaki dealer and asked him to restrict it so it conformed to French law. He thought I was crazy but nevertheless purchased the relevant restriction kit, fitted it, charged me €300, and off I went back to France where I expected to be allowed to ride my restricted bike without any problems. In France I went to the sous prefecture, which is I guess the equivalent of the DVLA in the UK, and presented the paperwork from the German dealer which showed the cost of the kit, the invoice for fitting it, and a re-registration document from the German TUV confirming it was now a 100 bhp machine. After some head scratching the lady says “your frame and engine numbers aren’t on our database”, unsurprising since it was a German machine. After hunting round for 10 minutes she called someone higher up the ladder whom she passed to me and who informed me “you cannot register your bike in France.”  No I can I replied, the bike has a Kawasaki supplied and fitted restriction kit, has been re-registered in Germany as 100bhp, and I have all the documentation. “It doesn’t matter” the guy told me. “We don’t know what kit they fitted?. You have to take it to a French Kawasaki dealer, they will review the bike and fit their restriction kit ”. Knowing this is likely to mean the replacement of the ECU at a cost of several hundred euros, it’s difficult to comprehend that this guy expects that I will now pay several hundred euros more to basically do exactly the same job the German dealer did, but this time they will keep my parts and refuse to return them to me ” in case I refit them as soon as I have regisitered the bike” . Surely this is banditry under any other name and all done in the interests of safety, allegedly!

    075

    A few years ago it was rumoured that the French would be forced to backtrack and allow the sale of full power machines. Originally slated for 2014 they managed to hold out until 2016, but as of Jan 1st 2016 it has been possible to buy a full power bike, if it were new. That of course is great news, but what about the millions of used bikes that are restricted? How can you have new bikes full power and not allow all bikes to be full power? So the next great idea was that if a used bike conformed to Euro 3 it would be allowed to be derestricted, but since a good part of the Euro ruling is pollution based, that got dropped in favour of a bike having ABS, good news you would think? Of course there was even more prevarication and the March deadline for the legislation to have been agreed soon passed with its eventual approveal coming in April 2016, and two weeks after that agreement I was at the BMW dealer having my K1300GT derestricted, so am I a happy bunny now? The answer is both yes and no.

    K1300GT

    Yes, the power increase from 100 to 160bhp is fantastic, the bike has come alive and I now see what all the fuss was about. My perception of my 285kg behemoth as a workhorse with its lowly 100bhp, has changed to a fun bike which elicits whoops and hollers as I have found new and powerful acceleration which has introduced the missing fun element I’ve not had for the past 7 years and 87,000kms, it’s been a long time coming, and it’s been worth it, BUT.

    There’s always a but. The process to have my 60bhp liberated is not without issue. I had to take the bike to the BMW dealer and then hand over €250 for them to spend 20 minutes, tops, loading a new engine map to the ECU, sending the details of my bike to BMW France, who will create a new European certificate of conformity, in order that I can go to the Sous Prefecture with this document and get the bike registered as a full power machine. This will entail an hour and a half round trip and circa €36 in their admin fees. OK, so at least it’s all legal and above board and there is no risk of the insurance company dobbing out of their liabilities because it’s all legit, BUT, and here we go again, they’re not so keen on the idea of us now having access to all this power and it seems they’re not going to make it easy for us.

    I had asked my insurers as far back as October last year (2015) what they would do when all their customers came to them advising them their bikes were now full power, and I was told there had been no word from the top as to their response, so clearly there was little advance planning being done here.

    I duly advised my insurers by mail once the work had been done, and that I would forward them the new certificate of conformity and registration when I have it. I told them the dealer had told me to expect a delay of up to 5 weeks for the paperwork as everyone is getting their bike derestricted and they’re swamped, in fact my BMW dealer had done 28 bikes in 2 weeks, not a bad little earner at €250 a pop!

    I hadn’t heard back from the insurers until this week when I spoke to them on another matter, and this time they demanded the paperwork. I told them it would be forwarded to them as soon as I had it, and I thought she was going to have a heart attack when I informed her that the power had increased from 100 to 160bhp. I was stunned when she told me that the company had no tariff for full power bikes, would likely decline to insure them, and even if they did the premium would likely increase. This was like a red rag to a bull, and I told her that since 1984 the insurers had based their tariffs on the full power output figure of non restricted bikes regardless of the fact French machines could never exceed 100bhp. The reality being that for 30+ years they had charged premiums assessed on the risk of theoretical outputs (160bhp on my bike as an example) and now that the bike is actually legally able to be ridden with that figure, they want to charge more??? Outrageous!

    The bike magazines had speculated that the insurers would wait a year to see if the accident rate increased dramatically before hiking their premiums. If the rate doesn’t go up in that first year  the government will have been proved wrong, but it seems the insurers aren’t prepared to take the risk and want to hike the prices immediately. I find this morally reprehensible. The motorcycle forums are awash with bikers claiming their premiums have increased by up to 40%, and my dealer says all the insurance companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are increasing prices, which just goes to show that insurers are the leeches we always knew they were, onto a good thing in the past 30 years and now a chance to increase profits even more. If the accident rates don’t increase you can bet they won’t drop their prices, they never do, instead French bikers find themselves royally screwed yet again.

    To those of you riding around on your full power bikes with half way decent insurance costs, I envy you, enjoy your bikes and the simplicity of doing so, over here it wasn’t simple before, and it seems it won’t be simple in the future, and we’re undoubtedly going to paying a lot more than you for the privilege of being on two wheels.

    C’est la vie!

     

    UPDATE 3/6/2016 – My insurers MAAF have now quoted a new premium 38.6% higher now the bike is derestricted so they’ve lost my custom and that of my car too when that comes up for renewal

     


  • Catalunya-March 2016

    The mandatory briefing was at 08.30, a time which always seems unnecessarily late given that the first group is due out at 09,00, and never leaves them much time to get ready, nevertheless. the days riders crowded into the pitlane to listen to the briefing notes which were given in 4 languages, French, English, German and Flemish, to accomodate the multi national riders.

    briefing

    briefing 2

    The head honcho giving the briefing was known to Andy who warned me that it may be a protracted meeting, and we soon found out why. “Normally” the trackday organisers representative welcomes you to the track, gives you a pep talk on how we’re there to enjoy ourselves not race, and to take care as they’d like us all to go home in one piece. I say normally, because that didn’t happen today. As he talked, if he didn’t have 100% of the attendees attention and he heard anyone talking whilst he was, he would just stop talking. After a few stoppages he pointed to the watch on his wrist and told us he had plenty of time even if we didn’t!

    briefing 3

    Not a great way to endear yourself to people whose money you’ve taken and who want to hear the briefing and get on with it. When he stopped and directly addressed a guy on crutches who he claimed wasn’t listening, the guy had a great put down line, saying he wasn’t riding (check out the crutches) and that he should get on with it!

    briefing 4

    After the ultra officious briefing which probably alienated a great number of the riders and certainly didn’t win him any friends, finally it was over and the day was able to commence with the first group at 09.00.

    The format of the day was a bit different from that we’d expected. Originally when we’d signed up the schedule showed there would be four groups each with 6×20 minute sessions, but there turned out to be five groups, with the format being one initial 20 minute session followed by 4x 25 minute sessions. All were chrono laps so groups would be revised after the timings from the first two sessions, revised during the lunchtime break, with the final 3 sessions run in the newly revised groups. The groups would also be revised at the end of the day for the following, and we’d need to get a new group sticker regardless of whether we stayed in the same group or not.

    Andy was due out in the first session but decided not to ride as he felt the track would still be a bit cold and didn’t want to risk his R6 which he is hoping to sell shortly.

    Mark and I are in Group D which means we have over an hour to wait before going on track for the first time. With Mark not having ridden his new RR, and with only two sessions in which to put in a good time if we want to move up a group, we need to ride well from the off. When our turn came to go out, we quickly found the huge disparity in skill levels the beginners group always brings  ( we only booked in this group as it was the only one left with two spaces when we booked). There was such diversity of lines and variation in speeds we soon began worrying how safe it was. Panigale riders who rode like demons in a straight line and then literally parked it every time they came to a bend, riders who braked at the most inopportune time, 3 or 4 really very quick riders clearly in completely the wrong group, and young kids and women on smaller capacity bikes looked a recipe for disaster, especially given the chrono times were showing 30 seconds between the fastest and slowest, which on a 2 minute something lap is a a massive discrepancy.

    Checking the laptimer at the end of the first session revealed a not too impressive fastest lap of 2.26, but we were requainting ourselves with the track and I was having some small issues with the new quickshifter, I needed to adjust the kill times and readjust the rearset which seemed to be trying to dismantle itself!

    Session two and it’s Andy’s turn to go out first, and despite “only” being on a 600 he quickly made us look stupid by turning in a rapid 2.05 lap.

    IMG_2121

    Next up we’re out again, here are some shots of Mark from session 2.

    Leaving the paddock

    snapshot_001

    Pitlane

    snapshot_002

    Passing me towards the end of the straight

    snapshot_004

    Being chased by one of the faster guys in our group

    snapshot_014

    snapshot_015

    Laptimes came down to 2.20, so a 6 second improvement, but still a long way to go to the 2.14 I’d done back in 2014 and Marks previous best of 2.04.

    During the 3rd session the organisers were changing the groups, so at 13.00 we checked to see if we’d done enough to improve but no joy, we hadn’t been quick enough, but were holding 22nd and 23rd positions of the 43 in our group, with the quickest having gone 2.08 and the slowest around 2.52!

    IMG_0835

    With the lunchbreak groups sorted and Andy (below) still having only done one session, we decided to go and watch him in action.

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-14

    I was still sorting my rearset when Mark set off for the grandstand nearby, so Sue and I told him we’d be along shortly but we didn’t find him up there! Seems he’d found a good spot to take these photos from track level whilst we watched Andy hassling the bigger bikes from above in the grandstand. Clearly quicker in the bends it must have been frustrating for him watching the 1000’s clear off as soon as the track straightened out, but nevertheless he was riding fast and well and keeping them honest.

     

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-25

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-28

    Here are some pics of other riders in Andys group

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-16

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-15

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-17

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-21

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-23

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-18  CATALUNYA-31_03_16-19

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-30

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-31

    Session 3 and I managed to knock my time down to 2.18, so another two seconds off, but I was still being hampered by a finicky gear change caused by the self destructing rearset which seemed determined to dismantle itself.

    fotomoo (2)

    mark cat 5

    mark cat 4

    Session 4 and another drop in times down to my best of the day, a 2.17.95, whilst Mark was now at 2.16.13. They say Lorenzo is metronomic, but I was amazed to find on the fourth and fifth laps I’d put in two consecutive times of 2.21.84 and 2.21.85, how’s that for consistency?!

    One of the things we all enjoy at these events is the chill out time afterwards. It’s traditional for us to all chip in and buy ham, cheese, meat, crisps, beer and wine, and sit around together and tell tall tales and recount the events of the days riding. Sue and Sev decided to go and do the supermarket run for the food but seemed to be gone ages. I joked that they could have gone to Andorra the amount of time that had passed before eventually they returned, but it seemed there had been a lot of one way streets they couldn’t enter and they’d ended up doing detours. Still, mission accomplished, we’d now got tonights repas..

    fotomoo (14)

    mark cat 3

    fotomoo (17)

    mark cat1

    fotomoo (5)

    fotomoo (10)

    I almost didn’t make the last session as the damn rearset had decided to pull a bearing through one of the moving arms and I was struggling to find a way to keep it in place. Eventually after dismantling most of the rearset and finding a big enough washer, I was able to bodge a repair which held, allowing me to get back out for the last 25 minutes, and I’m glad I did, as no-one overtook me and I was able to ride my own rhythm and pace. I didn’t improve my times but posted two very close laps at 2.19.72 and 2.19.75, split by a 2.20.30. The lap charts posted at the end of the day showed we had now moved up to 6th and 8th overall, which looked to be enough to have us moved a group for tomorrow.

    With the day over after 36 laps, 218kms, and with the benefit of sun all day, we were tired but very happy to have had some great riding, next we looked forward to  enjoying our evening supper.

    You’ll have seen in the pictures from our arrival day that there was a lovely sunset over the paddock. I’d asked Mark to take some pictures but he’d decided to hold off until tonight to take them, so later on he disappeared off to take these pictures of the track.

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-34

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-35

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-37

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-38

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-39

    After a few beers and finishing off a couple of bottles of wine it was time to turn in for the night, but we were all a bit worried that Sues online forecast of rain for the whole of the following day starting at 04.00 might be correct, hopefully not!

    Day 2 –

    The rain had started at around 05.00 and kept going and going and going. We got up at around 06.35 and in between the downpours started to unpack the stuff we’d been smart enough to put in the car overnight to keep dry, to repack it again for the return home. There looked to be little hope of the rain abating as the weather window my forecast had given of being clear from 09.00 to 11.00 never happened. Realising we were going to wet at some time, there was little option other than to continue packing and take down the tents in the rain. Getting wet doesn’t cover it, we were sodden, shoes swimming in water, my showerproof jacket gave up the ghost and turned into a damp sack, and hair and body got colder as we hurried to pack.

    Mark and Sev were first to finish packing and leave after returning his transponder. Saying their farewells and leaving me to get his photos, they departed leaving Sue and I under the cover of Andy’s tent attached to his van, staying as dry as we could. Eventually he too had to capitulate, and after helping him pack and getting even wetter (if that were possible) we eventually left at 11.55 for the return journey.

    Twenty minutes away from the circuit it was a bit galling to find that the weather was not only sunny but that it was dry, and there didn’t seem to have been any rain at all! Andy passed us after 35 minutes, and two hours into the journey we stopped to change into some drier clothes. The towels on the seats were now extremely damp, and I resorted to driving in socks as my shoes were so cold and wet.

    At one of the peage toll stations, two cars and a van rushed through the telepeage automated barrier in quick succession, but the van hadn’t waited quite long enough for the car in front to pass, and we watched in amazement as the barrier lowered and then bounced back up off it’s roof! Later on we got stuck in a toll lane when the payment machine gave up working, as did another car and hapless motorist in the adjacent lane.

    Snow on the mountains

    P1050946

    Tired after a poor nights sleep in the tent again, I stopped for an hours power nap, and later on for this picture of Carcassone

    P1050948

    An early evening petrol and snack stop plus a final comfort break completed our stop start journey, and saw us finally back home at 21.30. Only 7 hours 5 minutes of actual driving time, but a lot of stops.

     

    Back at home and waiting to be unloaded the following day

    P1050954

     

    SUMMARY

    It’s a shame we didn’t get the second day, as having identified where I could gain time, I’m sure I could have gone much quicker, but it had been safe and the most fun and satisfaction I’ve had on track for some considerable time. The change of gearing to 16/45 worked a treat and the bike had handled like a dream, so all in all a great result.

    I’m looking forward to the next track outing with Andy and Mark which is likely to be at Aragon, probably my favourite track. We’ve had some fantastic rides there before and I’m sure we’ll have some great ones next time.

     

    THE END


  • Catalunya March 2016- The prologue

    catalunya circuit sign

    It’s been like the countdown to having a baby, except the period was only 5 months not 9. I’m talking of course about the time elapsed since I was last on track. The winter break had given me time to fettle the R1, and now all I wanted to do was to get out on it again, brush off the cobwebs, and get back to thrashing around a track, and it’s a good one to start the season with, the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

    As per usual there are three of us going. Me and my R1 which has been updated with an HM Quickshifter and Zero Gravity Corsa screen, Mark, who has bought Andy’s S1000RR and will be riding it for the first time, and Andy, who is bringing his R6 Cup race bike, as his brand new purchase of an RSV4 Factory has not yet had sufficient running in miles put on it.

    The phone lines had been buzzing in the days before the off, with the main concern being the weather. It seems we each have a forecast that differs from the others.Mine shows a little rain on day one and all day on day two, whilst Mark and Andys reference sites don’t show rain. Regardless of what the forecasts say, the weather will sort itself out, but of immediate annoyance is the fact that as per usual, the day before an event when the car/trailer needs to be loaded, it’s raining again, meaning quick dashes outside to load the car in between showers, whilst I’ll need to get up early on departure day to load the bike.

    After an early rise the next morning the bike is loaded and Sue and I set off at 9.20, some 20 minutes later than planned. The circuit is circa 800kms and an 8 hour drive for Mark and Andy, and 700kms and 7 ½ hours for me. We’ve planned to meet at the La  Palme Ouest services near Perpignan at around 15.00, which would allow us some time for  catching up and to fill the cars and petrol cans. With the track only being an hour and a half from the services we would hopefully arrive bang on time for the entry time to the circuit which the organisers had advised as being open from 18.00.

    The journey down was largely uneventful, and passing the giant windmills near Carcassone I know we’re nearing the coast and my least favourite bit of motorway in France around Perpignan, The winds down here can be horrendous, and I have vivid memories of riding my CBR1100XX SuperBlackbird down here and being blown from one lane to another as the winds had been so strong!

    Our planning turned out to be close to perfection as first we rolled into the services at 15.07, and just 7 minutes later Mark and Sev arrived. An sms to Andy telling him we were here led to him calling us saying he thinks he’s just passed the services as he was looking for La PalmeOuest, and he only saw La Palme on the services sign, later realising that our side of the autoroute was the west side and the opposite the east. Confirming he has gone past we agreed that he should stop at the next petrol service station and wait for us to join him..

    At this point our well oiled plan started to go off the rails a little. Mark notes he only has 7 litres of petrol left, and after a quick check it seems we can’t get back round to the petrol station from where we’re parked. I suggested he take a petrol can round and get 5 or 10 litres and just top up a bit, but he decided that there should be enough to push on, or so he thought!

    Heading back onto the motorway and driving at the speed limit rather than taking it slowly to preserve petrol, I wondered whether driving so quickly was smart given the lack of petrol he had? Sure enough after 10 minutes he started to slow, another few minutes later and he called asking how far it was to the services? I didn’t know, and passing two pull -offs without petrol, and having to pass a service station on the other side without an exit ramp on ours to get to it, I sensed it must be getting a bit touch and go if he’d make it. Our speed dropped and dropped as we ran shotgun behind before eventually a services 2km ahead sign hove into view, walkable if necessary. Painfully slowly we got closer to the services, only to find 300metres from the exit ramp the traffic had backed up and lorries seemed to have turned the autoroute into a car park. With an engine gasping on fumes and with them sat motionless drinking the last dregs, I sounded the horn and motioned at him to follow me down the hard shoulder to the services.

    Andy had been waiting for quite some time as we had been going so slowly, so after Mark had put some much needed fuel back in the tank and we’d had a quick catch up chat, we decided to head off immediately and have a major fill up at La Jonqueras services, which is the first service station over the border in Spain and where the petrol would be cheaper to fill up the jerry cans. The lorries were still parked up and seemingly going nowhere, blocking the entry to the motorway, but we managed to slip in between the gaps and get into the outside line which was moving slowly, but at least it was moving!

    The cause of the long tailbacks became evident when we arrived at the peage ahead and found not only multiple lines of traffic being filtered into just a few lines, but then into an effective slalom of cones and jeeps created by the Spanish Gaurdia Civil, who were there with their machine guns and dark glasses checking out each vehicle as it passed. Clearly they were looking for someone but their search was causing motorway misery for miles.

    Deciding that La Jonqueras would be busy we decided to continue to the next services, where a quick fill of cars and cans soon had us on the way, although Andy soon left us, as following trailers when you have a bike inside your van means you’re not limited to the lower speeds we were. Arriving at the circuit we were amazed to see it so busy given the entry time was supposedly only 25 minutes before we arrived, but it looked as if people had been there all afternoon there were so many people there!

    Eventually finding our way to where Andy had very kindly blocked off enough space for the three tents and cars, we started to unpack and set up the tents and living space for the next couple of days.

    paddock city

    P1050944

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-9

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-8

    With the tents erected and bikes on the stands we went and registered, and chose to take this rather fetching and top quality cap rather than a t-shirt, as our souvenir of the event.

    catalunya cap

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Next came fitting of race numbers and transponder. Me applying my number, 107

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-5

    Marks S1000RR

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-2

    Andys R6 Cup race bike

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16-3

    As you can see there was a great sunset over the paddock that night

    CATALUNYA-31_03_16

    P1050941

     

     

    Full of expectation for the next days riding and a forecast that looked rain free, we turned in for the night. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!


  • All change!

    A couple of years ago I played a trick on my two riding buddies, Mark and Andy. I came back from Bordeaux and sent them a picture of a VFR1200 I told them I’d bought to replace my BMW K1300GT. Not an entirely implausible action, given I’d often talked of what I’d replace it with. I kept the deception going for a couple of days before cracking and admitting it was a hoax. Since then they’ve tried the odd stunt to catch me out, but these have been easily rumbled by me asking to see their new bikes registration document or a picture of the bike in their garage, and of course these don’t materialise.

    Mark tried to kid me he was buying a Panigale when in fact all he’d bought was a model, then tried again saying he’d bought a Harley, showing me a picture of one in his garage, which later turned out to be a bike he was looking after for someone else.

    This year the stakes were upped. Mark and I have the same R1 track bikes, bought within a few weeks of each other, and we frequently compare notes as to what gearing to use, which parts to buy, how to fix something on the bike, and which parts we want to buy. We’ve both crashed them and done some damage, although Mark did a better job than me and broke his collarbone, so with our first trackday of 2016 booked, and Marks first since his crash in late 2014, we were comparing notes again, with major topics being gearing, quickshifters and quick action throttles. Neither of us had yet fitted or bought the parts but they were on the cards. I thought this time I’d get the jump on Mark as I got a quickshifter, fitted it and didn’t tell him, thinking it would be one up to me when we got to Catalunya, and that he’d be miffed I’d bought something he hadn’t got, which just might give me an advantage, or so I thought!

    IMG_0747

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    SUB PLOT 1 – Andy had been asking me for ages which bike I’d favour or recommend for a new track bike? I like the ZX-10R, but know Andy has had a hankering to own an RSV4 since he rode one a few years ago, but he didn’t follow it through and buy one, instead going for the more clinical and track biased BMW S1000RR. Whilst the RR is a great bike it’s never really stirred his soul, and I could tell he was really wanting someone to tell him to buy the Aprilia. Despite my extolling the Kwaks virtues he wasn’t having any of it, but it was clear that he wanted a change, so what would he get?

    One day he asked me if either Mark or I would be interested in buying his RR. I don’t have the money and am more than happy with my R1, and as Mark had told me hundreds of times how he liked riding an old school bike with no electronics, I told him I thought it unlikely he’d be interested either, and thought no more of it, as with Catalunya being only two weeks away, he’d surely wait until after then before doing anything?.

    SUB PLOT 2- Next day Mark asked me what I thought of Andys bike? I opined it was a good bike, well cared for, but in my view had had a hard life on track requiring a small gearbox repair, had a lot of intelligent extras on it, but was an early model and that if I were to buy I’d steer towards a 2012 model, but that it would be a good buy for someone. After this relatively brief discussion we switched back to the forthcoming Catalunya trip and gearing, stomp grips, and R1 stuff. Hardly conversations you’d spend so long on if you were thinking of buying a new bike?

    A couple of days passed and then suddenly Mark sent me a message saying

    “I’ve bought an HP4”.

    Here we go again I thought, another stupid story, he must be bored and got nothing to do so I replied,

    “Yeah, and I’m the Pope and flying to the moon this afternoon”

    “ No really” he said.

    “ OK, copy of the carte grise and pics of bike in the garage then please”

    “ Haven’t got it yet”.

    “ So where did you buy it and how much”.

    “ Grand Prix Motos and 10k” came the answer

    “OK, Can I have your Akra pipes then please?”

    “They’ve gone with the bike.”

    “When did you sell it? “

    “Just”.

    Now I’m starting to wonder what the hell’s going on. He’s never once mentioned the R1 was even for sale, and has spent forever discussing stuff about it with me, let alone the hundreds he’s just spent rebuilding it, so how come it’s sold so quickly? Who to? Nothing was making sense so I said

    “OK course you’ve bought one, I look forward to seeing it at Catalunya” I said, and  discounted the story as the latest in a line of wind ups, and when I discussed it with Andy, he poured scorn on the idea as it wouldn’t be possible to buy an HP4 for such a low price! Conversation forgotten, especially given the next day he sent me a picture of himself in his Yamaha fleece with an admission he’d lied, and that he still had the R1. End of?

    Next day and a really big shock came when Andy told me he’s sold his RR and asks again what would I recommend he buys? I’d been a bit surprised to find he’d moved so quickly and sold the RR without telling me, especially as he’d said it had gone by word of mouth and not been advertised, but hey, sometimes things fall into place! Ramifications? Well clearly the test ride he’d promised Mark and me at Catalunya wasn’t going to happen, but at least he has an R6 race bike as a back up so he can still ride at Catalunya.

    Trying to answer his question I went back to trying to extoll the virtues of the ZX-10R but could tell it wasn’t going to wash, so in the end I suggested he buy with the heart this time and buy the Aprilia. “Don’t worry it’s Italian and will break and cost lots, you’ll have the time of your life riding it”. He complained that the nearest dealer is over two hours away from him, but so what I replied, I’d once flown from Geneva to Nice to buy a Lexus! so it was a very poor excuse not to go. Anyway,  after thinking about it some more, he drove across to Bern to have a look.

    THEN, a couple of days pass and Mark called and said:

    “What’s this about you getting a quickshifter without telling me?”

    “Well we all have secrets I replied”.

    “‘I’ve got one too comes the response, I’ve bought an RR”

    Here we go again I thought, but this time he sends me a picture from his garage of an RR rear end with it’s exhaust sticking out from under a blanket.

    IMG_0806

    “I see Andy has brought his bike round for new tyres to be fitted before Catalunya “ I said

    “No, it’s my bike comes the reply, Andy is taking the R6 to Catalunya.”

    “So wheres the R1?”

    “Sold”

    “So three days ago you had an R1, sold it overnight and bought an RR? Hardly a credible story?”

    “No really, I had no intention of selling it, but put it up for sale at 12.30 one day and it went the next.”

    “Really, and an RR just happened to be available?”

    “I hope you like it then” I said. I told him that when I’d ridden Andys RR at Dijon I’d  found it to be rock hard, handled very fast, and was nothing like as comfortable as the R1

    “It is Andys came the reply”

    So having been told Andy had sold his bike to a French guy, and Mark outright denying it was him as he’s English, now it transpires that he’s bought Andys bike after all!

    AND, there’s more! Andy has just taken delivery of a brand new RSV4 Factory

    IMG_2098

    So, everythings changed quite dramatically in the course of a week. How will our two days on track go after all these changes and subterfuge?

    Read the coming post !