A Trip to Newquay

It has been some time since I posted on here again – this work lark keeps getting in the way and I find myself increasingly stretched for time; the perils of modern day living I suppose! Regular readers will recall that in my previous post I was extolling the virtues of the Kat as a two up tourer, but was reserving final judgement pending our trip down to Newquay in Cornwall; a round trip of some 500 miles or so. Suffice to say we survived the trip, else I would not be posting this! It was an interesting experience to say the least and I think now that I have covered both short hops and long distances with two of us on the bike, I can give a relatively informed opinion on how the bike behaves. Comfort is a bit of a different beast however, as the next few paragraphs will show! 

Let’s begin with fuel and performance. Hats off to the girl, having an extra person on board does very little to hamper the performance of the bike. We still managed a 180-odd miles on a thankful, and most of the 180 miles was dual carriageway or motorway, so consistent speeds of 70-80 mph (and a bit more in places!), with the engine revving at around 6-7000 rpm. Performance wise the bike copes very well still with two plus luggage. Braking takes a little more planning and forethought, but not much, and the same with overtaking; one has to look for a slightly larger gap as the acceleration is a little bit more sluggish. Compared to a car however she’ll still leave anything standing.

 

The ride down from Hampshire to Cornwall was extremely pleasant. We had the usual negotiating of the car park (otherwise known as the M27) going West, but the delight of the bike is the ability to filter! The ride was also improved by virtue of the fact we’ve invested in an intercom! Nothing fancy, just a tiny box that clips onto my jacket that we can plug two headsets into (and an mp3 player if we wanted). This allows a conversation to take place at anything up to 50mph – anything after that and it becomes somewhat untenable due to the wind noise. Very handy when going along however as it allows my passenger to tell me when she wants to wriggle around for comfort, which then allows me to brace for it rather than be caught out! It’s also handy for navigating as two pairs of eyes are always better when looking for road signs to unfamiliar places. As I said, apart from having to filter through the ridiculous amount of traffic on the M27 we had a nice clear run in warm weather, and had our first comfort break at Dorchester, approximately 80 miles down the line. After a fifteen or so minute break, we headed off again, and carried on until Plymouth, where we stopped and refuelled. By this point we had covered just under 180 miles and it was beginning to take its toll – I was getting quite stiff. With two of us on the bike and the extra luggage, there just isn’t the room available for me to shuffle around to improve my comfort and so it becomes that little bit more uncomfortable. At Plymouth we stopped for the evening and it was a very welcome break!

 

Next morning we headed away towards Newquay. A night’s sleep had negated all the soreness from the previous day and so I felt quite fresh to ride the 60 or so miles to our final destination. No problems there – the sun was shining and the wind negligible so it was a pleasant ride. A night stop in Newquay with friends was a real treat before we headed back for home the following day.

 

The next morning began gray, gloomy and windy. Perfect… not! Still, we had to get home and so we loaded the bike up and set off, intending to take the A30 all the way from Newquay to Honiton before joining our usual eastward road home, planning to make our first stop at the services near Okehampton (incidentally where I gave Timmy Mallet some directions a few years previous) for food and fuel. As soon as I got aboard the bike the mileage was taking its toll – I was stiff within five miles and coupled with fighting against the crosswinds that seemed to be constantly at 90 degrees to our direction of travel (regardless of our heading) it was not making for a pleasant experience. Half an hour in, the rain started! This coupled with the wind and my general soreness made for a miserable trip to Okehampton. Fortunately when we arrived there the rain was abating somewhat, so we decided to stop there for a long lunch break. After an hour or so, the rain graciously decided to stop and the wind died down somewhat so we carried on. Now all I had to contend with was a dull ache and greasy roads! The journey onward passed uneventfully, though by the time we pulled up our drive it was agony trying to put my feet down as my legs had seized! Getting off the bike was a performance in itself!

 

It was a valuable experience however, despite the quite painful nature of it! I think 500 miles in the space of two days or so is a little bit too much, two up. Solo with luggage I think it would be fine, as there is still plenty of room on the saddle to move around to alleviate the discomfort but with the constricting effect of two on board I don’t think it feasible. We had planned to visit Brittany next year on the bike, and I think this is still a good plan – after all, the actual road distance is less than we travelled down to Cornwall, and we would be doing it over the course of a week. A weekend up in North Wales though, for example, will not be happening on this bike. I have seen the DL650 V-Strom, and that looks really capable……

Two Up Riding

Its been a while since I posted on here, but then the last three weeks have been rather hectic between work commitments, the fact my wife has come back from overseas service (after four months) and  various family commitments virtually every weekend. Nevertheless, my journey into motorcycling has continued.

First and foremost, since my wife has returned from deployment, I have been able to add another string to my biking bow, as it were. I now have someone to take as a pillion passenger; something I had not anticipated feeling confident enough to do at this stage in my riding career, but with over 3000 miles under my belt already, I felt confident enough to take her.

She was keen as well, so a couple of days after she arrived back home, with wonderful weather we decided to go out to a pub I’d found on my travels; only about ten miles away but I figured that would be sufficient to start things off with. I’m fortunate in that she was not a bike “virgin” – her father (as existing readers will know) is an avid biker so she has had the opportunity to experience high speed on two wheels relatively safely so she already knew what to expect. For my own piece of mind however I still briefed her on what not to do; namely not to get on or off without my express permission, not to take her feet off the pegs at any time except when getting off the bike and to try and remain in a neutral position and relax. She already knew this of course but for my own piece of mind I had to remind her.

Once I got settled on the bike I invited her aboard and immediately felt uncomfortable – the bike sagged down low, almost bottoming out. I guess that’s why preloads on rear shocks are adjustable then! A quick adjustment to the hardest setting (the suspension on the GSX600F is notoriously poor) and we tried again – on my own it was quite uncomfortable but once she got aboard the bike settled nicely. We set off down the drive and I immediately noticed the difference in the low speed handling; the bike was much trickier to handle – if anything it reminded me of the first time I ever rode a motorcycle! Once we got going above walking pace however the bike felt a bit more familiar but I was being very cautious. After joining the main road outside our house we get to a roundabout and this was where I first experienced cornering with a passenger – I expected the bike to be more willing to lean in, as I had read elsewhere, but in actual fact I found I had to lean more to get the bike around… only when we stopped at the pub and debriefed did I learn that my wife wasn’t very comfortable at that point and had gone a bit rigid, hence why the bike wouldn’t lean as much.

By the time we had reached the pub however, I felt much more confident in the handling of the bike and my wife enjoyed the experience as well so that was good. We decided that we would head out the following day for a proper ride out, taking in the New Forest and its many wonderful roads. This we did and gave me the first opportunity to take the bike on the Motorway two up. Up to this point I had no idea how capable, or feasible, the bike would be at touring two up at speed. She did not disappoint! Though she took slightly longer to get up to motorway speed – and only ever so slightly at that – once underway she handled beautifully and was very comfortable. If anything, the extra weight gave her a bit more stability in the turbulent air experienced on a wide, exposed carriageway. She cruised at 80 quite happily, and although the braking required a bit more planning she coped admirably. I was pleasantly surprised by this as she is after all only a 600cc bike.

All told, we’ve covered about 400 miles two up thus far, but only really in the local area. This forthcoming weekend however, Suzy gets her first proper test – we’re off on a wee tour down to Newquay in Cornwall. Watch this space!

All Year Biker Treatment

Those of you who follow this blog will now I am rather fond of my bike! So when I stumbled across these people (http://allyearbiker.co.uk/) whilst surfing Facebook one day, I was intrigued…

If you haven’t clicked the link, I will sum up the spiel – basically the franchisees will deep clean your bike before treating it with ACF50. This means you end up with a near showroom condition bike that has been treated with aviation standard anti corrosion treatment and is supposed to provide twelve months of protection from the elements. Sounds too good to be true right? Well I thought so too, but after seeing a few photos on Facebook and seeing quite how clean and shiny some of these bikes were coming up I began to think it might be a good idea.

I got in touch with Adam the franchise holder for Hampshire & Dorset (https://www.facebook.com/AYBikerHampshireDorset?fref=ts) via Facebook and found out how much the treatment cost. £65. Not bad, I thought, and so proceeded to book Suzy in for a treat, which I have just returned from! I can honestly say I was astonished with the results, photos of which are below, it really is amazing what these guys can do!7

Before:

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During treatment

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Results!

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The ACF50, which is the anti corrosion treatment, is what I was really surprised by. It has been applied to all the metal work (bar brake discs!) and has brought them up to a great shine, as well as providing them with aviation grade protection. I was astounded to see the rear shock:

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It was absolutely covered in road muck prior to this, but after the guys had been at it it looks almost new, and best news of all there was very little corrosion there and this should remain the case now that the ACF50 is on it. I can finally see what number the preload is set to on the rear shock (and frankly it just adds to my earlier criticism of the bike’s suspension) – it is dialled up to where the manufacturer recommends for 2 up riding! That’s a drip for another post I guess! The chain looks like new as well thanks to this treatment.  In total, the guys spent just over two hours on the bike, which was two people by the way, so I thought the price to be very reasonable. They also gave me some handy tips for keeping the bike looking like this in future as well which I found very useful.

Now, some bikers might say there’s no benefit to it, that it’s all bafflement by science and that a good scrub is all a bike needs. Well, each to their own I suppose but I’m pretty certain the guys behind ACF50 would not be allowed to market it the way they do if there was no basis to their claims, and at the end of the day my bike has never looked cleaner so it was worth it just for that! Time will tell how well the protection works, but given that I am not blessed with a garage to store my pride and joy in, I’ll take a punt on anything that might extend her lifespan!

Three Month Review

cropped-taff2.jpgToday marks the three month “anniversary” of my bike ownership! Which is strange as I have not yet reached the three month milestone of holding a full Cat A licence.. but as I alluded to in an earlier post, I fell in love with Suzy and bought her before I had even commenced my Direct Access training. Some might call that stupid, others might call it fate. For a pragmatist like myself, I call her a bargain not to be missed.

The three months have seen two long distance trips to Devon, a visit to Corfe Castle in Dorset and several local runs out, totalling just over two thousand miles; which is more than some Sunday bikers amass in a year! It’s a good job I have come to the conclusion that its a good job that I do not wish to part with Suzy if at all possible – I doubt she’d hold her value with a mileage rate like that. Nevertheless, the intense riding has given me a valuable insight into her and the process of developing my riding skills along with seeing the abilities of the bike “grow”, as I mentioned in my last post. The result of all this is I feel in a position to give the GSX600F a bit of a “long term test” type of review.

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The GSX600F, or the Katana as they are called overseas, has had a bit of a mixed press. The model I refer to here is the 98-02 W version, and this has, by now, been superseded by the 650cc variant. To the sports bike aficionados the bike is hideous! Derogatory names like “teapot” and “baboon’s arse” are two common comments and it is this attitude that prevailed when the model was in production, certainly here in the UK as the bike press was somewhat obsessed with sports bikes at the time, much like the current trend for “adventure” bikes now. The end result of this, of course, has been a negative stigma that has never really left the bike, and so fortunately for the buyer, has driven used prices right down. Beneath all the negative noises however, a quiet undercurrent of favour has always been running. Talk to any Kat owner and they will sing its praises (but then show me a bike owner who DOESN’T think their bike is the best thing on two wheels!). Indeed, if you look up a review of the Bike by (the now defunct TV channel) Men & Motors you will hear a reviewer sing its praises.

Firstly, lets get the tech specs out of the way – I have unashamedly ctrl+c these from the internet! Credit should go to the author… only they didn’t bother on the website I got these details from so I can’t!

Make Model Suzuki GSX 600F Katana
Year 1998-99
Engine Four stroke, transverse four cylinders, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder.
Capacity 599 cc / 36.6 cu.in
Bore x Stroke 62.6 x 48.7 mm
Cooling System Air/oil cooled
Compression Ratio 11.3:1
Lubrication Wet sump
Oil capacity 4,7 Litres / 1.24 gal
Induction 4x Mikuni BSR32SS Carburettor
Ignition Transistorized
Ignition timing 13° B.T.D.C. below 1500 rpm
Battery 12V 39.6 kC (10Ah)/10HR
Generator Three phase A.C. generator
Headlight 12V 60/55W
Spark Plug NGK, CR9EK
Starting Electric
Max Power 77 hp / 56 kW @ 10350rpm
Max Torque 53 Nm / 5.61 kg-m @ 7950rpm
Clutch Wet, multiple discs, cable operated
Transmission 6 Speed
Final Drive Chain, 118 links
Primary reduction Ratio  1.744
Final reduction Ratio  3.133
Frame Double-cradle steel pipe
Front Suspension 41mm Conventional telescopic, coil spring, oil damped. 41 mm inner tube, fully adjustable rebound damping, 4-step rebound damping
Front Wheel Travel 130 mm / 5.1 in
Rear Suspension Swingarm, progressive linkage, 4-step rebound dampened, 7-step spring preload
Rear Wheel Travel 142 mm / 5.6 in
Front Brakes 2x 290mm discs 2 piston calliper
Rear Brakes Single 240mm disc 2 piston calliper
Front Wheel 3.50 x17 inches, cast aluminium-alloy
Rear Wheel 4.50 x17 inches, cast aluminium-alloy
Front Tyre 120/70 ZR17
Rear Tyre 150/70 ZR17
Rake 25,3°
Trail 99,5mm / 3,9 in
Dimensions Length  2135 mm / 84.1 in
Width  745 mm / 29.3 in
Height  1195 mm / 47.0 in
Wheelbase 1470 mm / 57.9 in
Seat Height 785mm / 30.9 in
Dry Weight 208 kg / 458.6 lbs
Wet Weight 229 kg / 504.8 lbs
Fuel Capacity 20Litres / 5.2 gal

So there are the tech specs for the bike. I’ve deliberately left out things like fuel consumption as that is so heavily influenced by the individual rider, conditions and type of fuel used, that it would be almost irrelevant here. Suffice to say I can get from home to Devon (about 180 miles) on one tank.

The first thing to note about the Katana is that although the original design was for a sports bike, by the time the W model had come on the market, the design was for a Sports-Tourer not an out and out sports bike. And you can see why. With a weight of 229kg, nimble and flighty they are not! However, whilst its never going to be a track busting bike it does its job exceedingly well – touring at pace. I can’t comment on it’s capability as a two up tourer fully laden, but I can speak about it’s abilities as a tourer for one when fully laden. Despite weighing 229kg on its own, when coupled with myself and my luggage you can add another 120kg or so and yet despite this the 599cc engine will happily sit on the motorway at 80, and perhaps more importantly will still easily accelerate away from traffic, getting up to 50/60 in second gear. Despite its weight, once moving the bike actually feels quite light, and more importantly feels stable; probably due to it’s low centre of gravity. Fully loaded it will still corner as well as it does when it’s just rider and bike. The big seat allows the rider to sit “in” rather than “on” the bike and the pillion seat if unoccupied allows a large 50 litre dry bag to be mounted with ease, and will still accommodate soft panniers as well if required. I would estimate with a tank bag, soft panniers and dry bag, one could easily carry 130 litres of luggage quite easily without any detriment to the handling of the bike. The seat is also extremely comfortable – not hard like a track bike but still firm enough to give it a sporty feel; it’s a great combination and will allow the rider to stay aboard for several hours.

This brings us nicely to the riding position. The rider is not completely crouched over as one would find on a sports bike, but its hardly a “sit up” position either. The handlebars’ positioning however means that there is no undue stress on the rider’s wrists, and this combined with the fairly neutral positioning of the foot pegs makes for a remarkably comfortable riding position, both on the motorway and along twisty single carriageway roads. I’ve been aboard for five hours and only toward the end of this period have I begun to experience any stiffness; though this could be down to a lack of core strength – I suspect an Ab workout would do wonders for this. Another bonus of the bike’s riding position is the seat height. At just 30.5″ it’s ideal for the shorter rider. One of the reasons I think I loved Suzy so soon was when I sat on her, my feet were firmly planted on the deck, which for a complete novice, inspired a lot of confidence. Another great thing about this machine is the mirrors. Compared to other bikes I’ve ridden they are fantastic – you get an excellent view behind you and despite being on stalks the vibration is minimal; they are still useable at speeds over 80 mph, unlike some bikes’ mirrors I have seen where the wobble makes them useless over about 30.

Running without any luggage, the bike is a fun machine to ride. Now, having never experienced a “proper” sports bike like a GSX-R600 or an R6 for example, I can’t directly compare. I have ridden Bandit 600s however and the Kat is a much more sporty bike than that, despite having virtually identical engines. The engine is basically a detuned GSX-R engine, and despite being detuned has plenty of grunt in it. Mine has a “flat spot” in its power band between 3000 and 4,500 rpm and it took me a while to figure this out. In order to maximise power delivery, I have found that keeping the revs around the 5000 rpm and above mark does the trick. Obviously for town riding this can be dropped down but when out on the open road, the gear box needs to be worked to get those revs up. The gearbox itself is good – no false neutrals, although first gear is very short, once into second and above its very smooth. I’ve experienced no problems with it and my bike now has over thirty thousand miles on the clock. Feedback from the tyres is pretty good, and fitted with a decent set of sports-touring tyres there’s plenty of confidence inspiring grip. I’m certain the bike is capable of more than I have experienced from her thus far, but the stability and feedback gives a new rider confidence that will help their development – it certainly has mine. The brakes are not awe inspiring by any stretch of the imagination, but they do a good job of stopping and they will give you confidence in their abilities – at no point have I engaged the brakes and thought “shit, I’m in trouble here!”

One cannot talk about the Katana without mentioning the styling. It has a very “rounded” style, which given it was designed in the 90s is unsurprising. This is one of the most divisive elements of the bike. They’re a bit like marmite (apologies to non UK readers who will wonder what the hell that means!) – you either love the look or hate it! I’m yet to meet anyone who didn’t have an opinion on the looks, and all have either said it’s hideous (which is when the teapot or baboon’s arse comments come out) or think it really smart. Naturally I am in the “love it” camp; I like the rounded styling – it reminds me of what sports bikes looked like when I was a child growing up, and I have to confess its nice to ride a bike that one doesn’t see many of. Part of being a motorcyclist, for me anyway, is the individuality of it all. I even like the distinctive tail light, but I will concur it has an air of a baboon’s bottom about it!

Thus far I have done what pretty much most bikers will do when talking about their bikes – namely to sing its praises. A review, however, would not be complete without talking about the bad points of a product and this is no different; otherwise I would have titled this post something like “A Love Letter to the GSX600F”!

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The bike does have it’s down points. Firstly the suspension. Frankly it’s pants! The front shocks are spongy and do nothing for the bike’s cornering, neither do they do much for dampening the god-awful British roads. The preload is adjustable, but mine is dialled right up to the hardest setting. I’ve found this to have improved the feedback from the steering during cornering, and its not horrendously stiff to make British roads totally uncomfortable. The rear suspension is not much better. With a heavy(ish) rider – I weigh about 86Kgs  – I’ve had to really dial up the preload on the rear – I have one notch left for when I take my wife with me. It’s not the easiest to adjust either. Next we come to the horn. The horn can be summed up in one word – pointless! It’s the quietest, tinniest horn I’ve ever heard! I can barely hear it through my helmet so I doubt it would be heard by another driver. The exhaust is pretty uninspiring as well – not loud, not that attractive.

What is interesting about all these bad points however is that they are all easily solved by upgrading components. A decent set of shocks, a better horn and a new end can and all of a sudden the bike’s faults disappear. The priority would have to be the suspension however and is something I am considering. That being said, these faults do not outweigh the plus points of the bike – the suspension can be lived with when adjusted, the horn when supplemented by full beam headlights will announce your presence adequately and as for the exhaust, well, that’s a cosmetic thing really.

So that, in a slightly long winded nutshell, is the GSX600F, certainly from my experience. I’ve often been asked whether I would recommend this bike as a “first big bike”. Its a complicated answer. It depends what you want from your first bike. For me, I wanted something that was sporty (check), looked good (check), cheap to run (check), carried pillions (check) and would nurture my skills (check). So for me the bike is a brilliant first bike. If, however, you want a two wheeled missile that will get you into trouble on the road and thrill (or just might scare) you on the track, then this bike is not for you. Similarly if you’re after something you could go riding round the continent on I wouldn’t say this is for you either. But if you want a fun, fast, stable and forgiving bike then do not write this model off. Similarly if you’re a short arse (I’m just about 5’10”) the low seat height will be a bonus.

I’ll close with saying that at the end of the day all that really matters is that I love MY bike and nothing else really matters….

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2000 Miles Later She’s a Different Beast!

Those of you who read this blog will recall that way back when I first passed my test (all of seven or so weeks ago) I rode down to Devon, which was the third time I had ridden Suzy. You may also recall that I thought she wasn’t quite up to the job of touring; though I did include a caveat that it could be my riding at fault..! Well, roughly two thousand miles have passed since then, and this weekend I went back down to Devon, to Bideford for a quick weekend visit.

I can safely say that the problem the first time I went down was not the bike it was most definitely my inexperience! The weather probably didn’t help things either frankly! This weekend I was blessed with great riding conditions – not too hot, dry and best of all no wind! That helped a lot! However the most noticeable difference was in the way the bike responded. She was sharper, smoother and just better. I have grown in confidence and will happily filter now, and have also learned when I can overtake safely, all of this added up to a great ride down.

Traffic, as is typical for a Friday afternoon, around Bournemouth was very heavy, and I think I must have been in a “slow overtake” for about five miles between the roundabouts at Ringwood and Ferndown, but the bike handled beautifully and so ate up the traffic jams no bother. The same was true of situations where I could see a gap for overtaking that three weeks ago I wouldn’t have dared go for, yet this time the manoeuvre was carried out effortlessly and SAFELY. I did encounter one “brown trouser” moment however, but over a journey of nearly 180 miles one scare isn’t too bad I guess! In this instance, I had a little silver Ford Fiesta pull out on me and proceed to drive extremely erratically; so I decided to get past at the earliest opportunity. Whilst waiting for a chance to pass, I had the misfortune of following this woman (yes it was another woman driving dangerously) drive really aggressively – she was right up the back end of the land rover in front of her, then she’d be hard on the brakes as she evidently couldn’t judge speed. I saw a chance to get past and took it – but as I drew level with the woman, she tried to pull out – either she hadn’t seen me (I doubt that) or she was trying to scare me! Fortunately I have learned where the “sweet spot” of my bike’s engine is so I had no trouble getting away.

At this point, I have to confess I was somewhat exceeding the speed limit for a single carriageway road… but I needed to manage my roadspace and get away from this crazy old boiler! Bugger me if she didn’t then come tearing past me! Now, I was doing around 80.. maybe a tad more, but this silly bitch went past me UP A HILL at at least 120 before swerving in front to avoid the oncoming car. She was a trainwreck waiting to happen so I hung back from her letting her get away till she caught up with the next poor tailgating victim.

Eventually everything calmed down and I got to my destination having, on the whole, thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

It’s interesting how Suzy seems to have grown with me – as I grow in confidence and ability she seems to deliver more and more. Now, as she is not a sentient being, one can only assume that the growth I see in her is just a reflection of the growth of my riding skills; either that or she actually is a living machine! The more I ride her the more I see how little of her potential I have tapped into – I really cannot wait to see what’s in store!

A Love Affair Deepens

Eugh, work! It doesn’t half get in the way of the joys of life! Since I have (to the best of my knowledge) no long-lost rich relatives who will leave me their millions following a freak yachting accident, work is a necessary beast which one has to endure in order to fund the things that make one’s life something more than just an existence. Thus it comes to pass that Taff does not get out on his beloved Suzy as often as he would like!

However! Today being a bank holiday, I had the day to go and play! Even more shocking was the fact that the sun was trying to make an appearance! If there is one thing that can be guaranteed about the British weather it’s this – if a Monday is a bank holiday, then that day and the weekend preceding it will be wet. As if to be the exception that proves the rule, today was dry. After saying goodbye to the in-laws who had spent the weekend here, all that was left to do was take the bike’s cover off and get dressed for the road.

You may recall from my last post that I discovered the difference that correctly inflated tyres can make, so naturally whilst out removing the cover I checked the pressures! All good so if I had a crap ride I could not put it down to the tyres.

I set off with no particular destination in mind, though there was no chance I would be heading to the New Forest today. With it being a bank holiday one could guarantee that that national park would be full to the brim of day tripping cars, which are notoriously dangerous! Random stopping, turns without signalling, driving too close.. you name it – these people in their metal bubbles are out for themselves only. That being the case I decided I would go around the back way to Wickham and Portchester; two of my favourite destinations around here – a mix of quick twists and turns along with some stretches of road that could easily loose you your license if you take the piss.

As I rode along, I could feel the grin growing across my face, more so than normal. Something had clicked again. I was smooth, I was fluid – bends which previously I have slowed down for I found myself swooping through, and zooming out of – I was evidently selecting the appropriate gear… But I was noticing things far earlier too and processing this information without thinking about it; I was just doing it. One could almost say I was experiencing a “motorcycling zen” moment – no there were no great revelations of the meaning of life, but the “system”* surely was kicking in. When I came upon a line of slow traffic, without really noticing I was doing it, I was plotting my overtake before I got anywhere near the rearmost car and, after clocking the gap in the oncoming traffic with a quick check of my mirrors I was past the cars and back on my side of the road in a flash – it was textbook.

I think today was the first day where I truly experienced a connection between man and machine. I’d often heard of this discussed; both in person and in the motorcycling press but I had never quite believed that one could truly feel connected to what is, on the face of it, just a bit of metal and rubber. Today however, my bit of metal and rubber which I have already named, truly came to life and showed her personality. The machine which I had suggested in this blog would not be staying with me for very long appeared a very different creature today – maybe she knew I’d been thinking she was not up to the task! She certainly showed that I had not even scratched the surface of what she is capable of previously.  I feel somewhat guilty now to be honest. Having said in the past that I suspected her to be under-powered, it is clear to me now following today’s zen ride that it is not her who is underpowered, rather it was my inexperience and poor handling and working of the gears and throttle that caused that. She has, as do all Katanas, a flat spot in her rev range. This I thought was something I would not get used to. I was wrong. The flat spot is not an issue when one plans properly; with clarity and forethought the flat spot can be more or less negated, which is what I managed today.

I’ve written a lot of words above, but it can be summarised in one sentence – I’ve just fallen in love all over again with my bike!

*The System – the Police Rider’s System of Motorcycle Control, all explained in Motorcycle Roadcraft – the Police Rider’s Handbook

What A Difference 3 Psi Makes!

Those of you that have been reading my blog will know that lately I’ve not been riding as well – everything has been a bit jerky, rough and generally a bit pants. I had put most of it down to over-thinking things since I have been trying to implement the lessons taught in “Motorcycle Roadcraft”. This afternoon then, I decided I would take Suzy out for a little spin; nothing exciting, no “practising” just ride for the sake of riding – after all, the pleasure of a ride is why we do this, right?

Prior to heading out, I checked my tyre pressures, which I haven’t done for a couple of weeks but at the last check they were just one PSI out so I didn’t worry. Today they were three out, so I pumped them both up to what the manual says. Wow! What a difference it made! I remember my instructor telling me “when you get more experienced, you’ll be able to tell a tyre is out by half a PSI“. Needless to say at the time I just assumed it was one of those things that vastly experienced bikers tell young pups like me to look good… Not so! It was like riding a totally different machine.

It has rained here the last couple of days after a long dry spell (two weeks IS a long spell in Hampshire!) so I expected the road to be greasy and so experience less grip in corners. But the pumping up of the tyres had more than compensated – the wheels felt glued to the tarmac in corners and the confidence it gave me allowed me to take a few familiar corners much faster than previous, whilst still feeling totally in control. Now, of course there could have been a number of factors at play here; namely another ride under my belt, being relaxed, enjoying myself. However, combining my previous form (i,e crap!) with the road conditions I have to attribute the vast majority of this improvement down to having the exact correct tyre pressures.

The ride itself was not a very long one, just around the quieter B roads here, but I did stop off atop Portchester Hill for a little chill and to enjoy the views. Back to work for me tomorrow now, so Suzy is back in bed, having a little rest until the next playtime!Photo 26-04-2015 17 27 49Photo 26-04-2015 17 32 55

I guess the moral of the story is check thy tyre pressures frequently!