Wednesday, 23 March 2016

There must be some bends here somewhere!

With my son Charlie, we flew across the Atlantic so we could ride at Daytona Bike Week.



This is our video we made.

We wanted to make a record of our trip, not just what happens at Bike Week.  We hope you like the results.  The benefit of videos like this is they help you remember the trip, so I am sure to look at this in years to come.

Happy riding everyone!


Friday, 18 March 2016

Essential riding items - The Results

I recently asked what are the five things riders cannot leave behind when on a long ride.  The answers came in via a number of different social media platforms and here are the results.

Many thanks to the people that contributed to this.  We all might learn something from it and maybe this will make us think about what additional thing(s) we might want to carry ourselves.

The answers were interesting, with some items being the things many riders like to carry and other things being somewhat more unusual.  I have collated the answers as best as I could into five categories.

The answers in each category are in order, with the most popular being at the top in each category, working downwards....

FOR YOUR BIKE
Puncture repair kit (way out in front in this category)
Leatherman / multi-purpose knife
Mini compressor
Spare fuel
Small tool bag
Spare key
Fuses, bulbs, etc.
Micro-fibre cloth
Givi tail bag
Maxima Chain Wax.
Grip buddies

SOMETHING YOU WEAR WHEN RIDING
Rain gear (top answer in this category, by a long way)
Riding trousers
Sunglasses
Hi-vis jacket
Buff
Comfortable socks
Icebreaker brand merino layers
Club patch vest
High hiking gaiters (for off road riding)
Silk underwear (really)
Rain gear

TECHNICAL STUFF
(People were encourage not to vote for a phone, as we all carry those)
Camera (the most voted for item, in all categories)
GPS / Sat Nav
i-Pad / laptop
Helmet intercom

ESSENTIAL ITEM TO CARRY WITH YOU
Earplugs (equal first in this category)
Water (top answer, along with earplugs)
Maps
Sunscreen
Camelbak
Heated Gloves
Disc lock
Roadside assistance card
Tent
Emergency contact details
Notebook and pen
Toilet paper
Insulated coffee cup

A LUXURY ITEM
Comfortable shoes for after riding (easily the top item in this category)
Lip balm / lipstick
Credit card
Sleeping bag / pad
Alcohol / Wine
Custom moulded ear plug speakers
Cigars
Seat cover / gel padding
Monarch butterfly chair for camping
Comfortable shoes for after riding
Lip balm / lipstick
Credit card
Sleeping bag / pad






Thursday, 18 February 2016

You cannot ride without...... what?

All of us have favourite items we like to take with us on long distance motorcycle rides, or tours.

Just for fun, I am putting together a list of the top essential items riders take with them.  What are the five things you CANNOT leave behind?

Please give one answer for each category below and I will collate the answers into an essential motorcycling items guide......

1. For your bike.  It could be a particular tool, cable ties, oil, or a puncture repair kit.  What won't you travel without?

2. Something you wear when riding.  A favourite pair of gloves perhaps, a heated jacket, a certain pair of boots, or kevlar jeans maybe?

3.  Technical stuff.  Maybe you won't go without a camera, music, a GPS or a laptop.  What item MUST you take?  Don't list a phone, as we all carry those!

4. Essential item to carry with you.  That could be water, sunscreen, paper maps or something else?

5. A luxury item - Cigars, a favourite hat, shoes, an expensive watch?


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

PLEASE MAKE IT LESS PERFECT

One of the things I have tried to avoid about riding motorcycles is any form of prejudice for one brand over another. To me, it is important to treat all motorcyclists equally and to treat them all as is they were a brother, no matter what the name badge on the tank says. I have tried to always respect the choice we all have when choosing which brand we each ride and so I really don’t like the “my bike is better than you bike” brigade who are so blind as to not be able to see anything beyond their own handlebars.

However, those principles took a bit of a shaking today when I visited a BMW dealership.

I must have seen my local BMW motorcycle dealership dozens of times as I rode / drove past, but until today, I just kept going. This morning however, curiosity got the better of me and I swung around and went to see what it was all about.



The motorcycles were stunning.

With different types of bike to suit every form of riding, be that on-road, off-road, commuting, race bike lookalikes, scooters and even a few with sidecars, every taste was catered for. I marveled at the technology, the sweeping lines, the clean and crisp designs and the cleanliness of just about every aspect of the bikes. Deep down, each one is probably exceeding well designed, with handing, power and performance that is unequaled. It was very impressive stuff.

The sales person who spoke to me knew everything there was to know about every motorcycle – a real powerhouse of information.

Then it struck me.

Everything about the dealership was so perfect, it was dull. The bikes were displayed in an order that made perfect sense. The marketing materials were absolutely factual. Even the china coffee cups were laid out in a symmetrical pattern that likely needed a surveyors tape to be so precise. The clothing department (really just a few rails) had only really dull t-shirts and the same suits that all GS riders seem to wear. The range of helmets on sale were boring, with just a teaspoon of design flair added to each one.

What was missing was any sense of fun or enjoyment. There was no music playing. I was the only customer in the building. Nobody was smiling and there was no banter, but each member of staff had an immaculate desk and a shiny computer that they were fixated to. Groan.

The place had as much character as the local branch of my bank. I couldn’t wait to leave.

I walked outside and noticed about fifteen of the nearest car parking spaces to the building entrance were all marked as reserved for staff. All of those spaces were full, meaning the building was full of people working there. I had needed to park furthest away from the building. Does the dealership really mean to annoy its customers like this even before they park?

I have to say that everything about the place was depressing.

I am so glad I ride a Harley.

Yes, BMW riders can and probably do claim that their motorcycles are superior in many ways to the ones that I ride, but that isn’t the point. Motorcycling should be fun, embracing, inclusive and dealerships should be inviting places where you are made to feel welcome and can fit in whatever your background. So, I say this to BMW. Even if you want to make one of the best performing motorcycles in the world, please make your dealerships less perfect, then you will get more people walking through your doors.


I won’t be going back soon.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Best 20 Motorcycle Roads


There are many reasons why a road might be considered as being very good for motorcycling.  It may be because it is twisty, fast, scenic, or with great places to see along its route.
Some roads are famous and well less well known.  Some are found by accident, but however you came across your favourite roads, they are likely to remain in your memory for a long time.
For me, I can only consider a road to be worthy of ‘best’ if I have personally ridden it.  Here are my top 20 roads, and the reasons why I like them so much.  The lower the number, the more I like it.

20.  Almost any road in Cuba
Cuba is one of the most remarkable places I have been lucky enough to ride.  Despite being a very poor country, it is rich in culture and the warmth of its people is incredible to experience.  Its communist regime has no doubt hurt the country and its people, as has the trading blockade put in place by the USA in 1960.  The road surfaces are terrible and accommodation is generally of a poor quality, but riding a motorcycle around this remarkable country was both eye-opening and a real pleasure.  I saw a way of life that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

19.  St Gotthard Pass, Switzerland
There are many parts to St Gotthard Pass, but my favourite is the old road, called Tremola, to the south of Lago della Piazza.  This is a twisting, cobbled road that snakes its way northwards, up through a series of tight hairpin bends to the lake at the top of the road.  Due to its rough and bumpy surface the road has to be ridden slowly, but the excitement level is high.  The best view of the road is from the later built highway 2 which runs to the west of the old road.

18.  N-621 / C-I 627, Picos de Europa, Spain
There are many good riding roads in the Picos, with my favourite being a road that follows the River Deva as it flows through an impressive canyon.  The road starts at Penamellera Baja and heads south.  The town of Potes makes a good halfway stopping point before continuing onto Cervera de Pisuerga.  The scenery is impressive and the road narrow.  Try to avoid at weekends when the traffic can get heavy.

17.  Pikes Peak, Colorado, USA
At 14,115 feet, this is the second highest paved road in the USA.  It twists and turns its way up this spectacular and steep mountain.  Much of the edge of the road is un-guarded, with steep drop-offs, meaning the road is not for everyone.  It is a toll road, but the fee payable is worth every penny, and it sees an annual motorcycle and car race to reach its summit.  It is so steep, on the way down, all vehicles are subject to a brake heat check, as it would be very easy to overheat your brakes unless the gears are used regularly to slow your vehicle down.  The road is closed in winter.

16.  Atlas Mountains, Morocco
While no single road stands out as being excellent, there are a few really good roads which together make the Atlas Mountains worth riding.  One of these is the Tizi-n-Test Pass, situated to the south west of Marrakech.  This is shown on maps as a ‘difficult or dangerous section of road’, but it really isn’t. Narrow and with gravel or sand covering the road in places, the road twists and turns through some glorious mountain scenery.  The Tizi-n-Tichka Pass and the road in Dades Gorge (pictured) is more well-known.

15.  Verdun Gorge, France
Sometimes a road is considered very good because of the scenery.  The road through Verdun Gorge is certainly one of them.  Verdun Gorge is a river canyon that is often considered to be one of Europe's most beautiful. The river is a stunning turquoise-green colour and the view of the river from the bridge at the western end as it flows into the Sainte-Croix lake of the gorge is wonderful.  There are two roads that follow the canyon and the better one is on the north side of the river.

14.  Million Dollar Highway, Colorado, USA
Otherwise known as US 550, the best part of this road runs from Durango to Ouray.  A diversion into Silverton is also worthwhile.  There are a number of reasons why this road may have obtained its unusual name, with the most popular being how much it cost to build and how much silver was contained within the rocks used under the road.  As you leave Durango and head north the road gets more and more spectacular.  The first part of the road has terrific scenery, the next part as it approaches Silverton sweeps around wonderfully long bends and the northern part, nearer to Ouray, is dramatic as the road is carved into the side of a mountain with no guard rail to protect wayward riders.

13.  Triglavski Narodni Park, Slovenia
In the very northernmost part of Slovenia, road 206 runs broadly south west from Kranjska Gora through the Triglavski Narodni Park.  This is a mountainous area with the road following the contours of the rugged nature of the mountains.  The road is narrow, with certain parts cobbled, but it is certainly good enough to ride and enjoy.  The views from the road are excellent.  Another excellent nearby road is number 902 within the park.  It is a dead-end toll road with spectacular scenery.  The road is to the east of Cave del Predil, across the border in northern Italy.

12.  Needles Highway, South Dakota, USA
South Dakota Highway 87 is a road running through the Black Hills in South Dakota.  The highway runs through the Custer State Park and it is the northern 14 miles of the road that are known as the Needles Highway.  The ‘needles’ are jagged spire shaped rocks that rise out of the wooded hills.  The road is best ridden on a weekday, well away from the August Sturgis Rally which is held nearby and draws hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists.  The road twists and turns through the hills and makes for challenging riding.  The northern end of the road is at its junction with US 385, about 3 miles south of Hill City.  The road has several dramatic tunnels cut through the rocks, including one part that is narrow and often photographed.  The road has a relatively slow speed limit.

11.  Furka, Grimsel and Susten Passes loop, Switzerland
Although four separate roads, these connect to form a 75 mile loop road high up in the Swiss Alps.  Running west out of Andermatt is road 19 which features both the Rhone Glacier and Furka Pass [7,969 ft].  Just beyond Furka you turn northward on road 6 and immediately ride up Grimsel Pass [7,100 ft].  At Innertkirchen, turn eastward on road 11 and ride Susten Pass [7,427 ft], before turning south on road 2 back to Andermatt.  These are three of the best pass roads in the Alps and feature some wonderful views and terrific riding.

10.  Grossglockner Pass, Austria
This is a stunning road set amongst very dramatic scenery.  Grossglockner Pass is a toll road that rises up to 8,215 ft in the Alps.  Near the top of the pass is a spur road up to the Edelweisspitze viewpoint.  The road to the viewpoint has tight hairpin bends and part cobbled, but it is worth the ride up as the view from the top is one of the best in the Alps.  Another spur road takes riders to the longest glacier in the eastern Alps, the Pasterze.  Grossglockner Pass is closed in winter.

9.  Highway 1, California, USA
While not a great riding road, Highway 1 is full of character and it feels like a part of history.  The road runs along the west coast of America, through the states of Washington, Oregon and California, although the best part of the road is starting in San Francisco, heading south and takes in Big Sur, Half Moon Bay, Sanat Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Malibu and the Ventura Highway before reaching Las Angeles.  There are well-known names guaranteed to give you about 350 miles of great memories!

8.  Combe Laval, France
Built as part of the local logging industry between 1861 and 1898, the road at Combe Laval is stunning.  The most spectacular section of the road is cut into the cliff that forms one side of a deep canyon and runs through a series of short tunnels cut into the rock.  The drop to the side of the road is sheer and it is a very long way down, so this road is not for those afraid of heights.  The rest of us though have a great time on this very exciting road.  The most dramatic section is the D76 to the southeast of Saint-Jean-En-Royans as far as Chamaloc.

7.  Monument Valley, Utah / Arizona, USA
I have included Monument Valley in my list due only to one thing.  The scenery is amazing.  Is it really a top 20 motorcycle road?  Its straight roads would lead me to say no, but this is more than made up for by the glorious nature of the geography.  The view in the picture is US 163 in Utah, perhaps one of the most iconic road images from anywhere in the world.  It certainly makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you see it from the seat of a motorcycle.

6.  Beartooth Pass, Wyoming / Montana , USA
On the Wyoming / Montana border, this is US Highway 212 which runs 69 miles between Red Lodge in Wyoming and Cooke City in Montana. Rising up to 10,947 feet / 3,337 metres, the road climbs and falls quickly. Even though I rode the Beartooth Pass in August, it was cold and very windy on the top of the mountains, with a dramatic wind-chill factor.  Occasionally you hear people say they are “feeling on top of the world.” On Beartooth Pass, you really do feel that way, as the view looking down on other mountains is amazing.  The road is good with long fast bends.  To make my top six, each road needs to have the ‘wow’ factor and Beartooth Pass certainly has that.

5.  Stelvio Pass, Italy
What list of the world’s best roads would be complete without Stelvio Pass?  It is dramatic, stunning and with 75 hairpins bends, somewhat challenging.  Split into two ramps, the west side of the pass road is wider, with easy hairpins and less steep.  The east side is more difficult with tighter bends on a significantly narrower road.  The second highest paved road in the Alps, Stelvio is closed by significant snowfall every winter.  Sometime the road doesn’t re-open until May or even June, so check if it is open before you set out.  The road has become very busy in recent years and the best time to ride it is early morning on a weekday.

4.  D8 coastline road, northern Croatia
This is a pure riders road, with no frills, but plenty of thrills.  It follows the Adriatic coast for 130 miles of wonderfully twisty enjoyment.  The road rises and falls as it hugs the coast with the beautiful turquoise colour of the sea being a constant companion at your side.  The best part of the road is from Rijeka to Rovanjska, although there are very few good places to stay or good restaurants to eat at, so take your chance when you see somewhere.  The weather is normally very good too.  What’s not to like?

3.  Sella Group Ring, Dolomites, Italy
The Sella group is a plateau-shaped rock massif in the Dolomites Mountains of northern Italy. There are four roads surrounding this rock formation that are a joy to ride.  Starting at Canazei and working clockwise, the four roads are the SS48 / SS242, which includes Sella Pass, the SS243, which includes Gardena Pass, the SS244, which includes Campolongo Pass and the SS48, which includes Pordoi Pass.  The road is fantastic, the bends amazing and the scenery magnificent.  What a series of roads!

2.  B500, Germany
Running through the Black Forest in a north-south direction, the B500 is a stunning road for motorcycles.  It doesn’t have many great views, but the sheer excitement of the road more than makes up for that.  The road was intended as a tourist route when it was conceived in the 1930’s, but it was never completed and today there are two sections of the road, with the centre piece still missing.  The northern part runs from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt and has a length of about 29 miles and the southern part is between Triberg and Waldshut, a length of 56 miles.  The road is fast in places, with long sweeping bends and an absolute joy to ride on a motorcycle.

1.        Gavia Pass, Italy
Almost everyone has heard of Stelvio Pass in Italy, but very few know about, or have ridden Gavia Pass, which is very near to Stelvio.  The SS300 runs south from Bormio to Ponte di Legno for about 26 miles and has just about everything a biker can ask for in a road.  It is high at 8,701 feet, it has some fast sweeping bends as well as some tight hairpins.  It has a glacier and it has magnificent views.  It has a narrow, tight section as well as a few long straights.  But the best reason I rank it as number 1 is it has very little traffic as most riders / drivers are drawn towards nearby Stelvio Pass, leaving Gavia relatively quiet.  Although the road surface is not great, it is one of the most exciting roads I have ridden that continues to put a smile on my face every time I ride it.  It is my favourite road.

What is your favourite road and why?

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned

The doorbell rang and the courier stood there, holding a shoe-box size package with my name on it. I knew what was inside.

I carefully opened the box and took out the contents. It was a wooden model of a scooter. Most people would not give it a second glance, but it meant a lot to me. This had been half-way around the world and held by many people who all had one thing in common. We all liked and respected the man this model had come to represent. That man was Bob, who also went by the name of BobScoot.

Like many, I first met Bob electronically, when he either found my own blog, or I found his. Soon, we starting reading each other’s writings and probably like many, I was drawn to not just what he wrote, but the way he wrote it. Bob poured his heart and soul into his blog. Interesting, funny, moving and always full of pictures both good and ordinary, his blog postings told us about the man, what he liked, how he felt, his travels, and of course the odd things peculiar to Bob, like his pink Crocs, plus his wish to nearly always include a picture of his feet.

Many people followed Bobs blog. He seemed to be at the centre of like-minded people who enjoyed writing about their motorcycle travels. He was the one person we all read about, as his words and pictures were eagerly read many around the world.

Bob often offered his help. I remember I was about to go on a long motorcycle trip and wanting to film and then edit some videos, then this near stranger called Bob who lived thousands of miles away in Canada, offered his advice which was very gratefully accepted. I think that was typical of the man – he helped anybody that he could. He certainly helped me on a few occasions.

Bob died nearly a year ago. It was sudden and a shock. No doubt it hit his family very hard as I think there was no clue he was ill. I remember hearing the news and sitting there numb, as a good friend had been taken from us. Bobs last post on his blog was very typical – on holiday with his wife Yvonne, he posted pictures and words about the two of them driving his Corvette around Kentucky. I really miss reading his posts.

I met Bob just once. When I rode around the USA I didn’t go near to Vancouver where Bob lived, but I regretted that and afterwards made a special trip, renting a bike in Seattle, and rode to his house. Bob and Yvonne were as kind as I had expected, showing me around, taking me to dinner, letting me stay at their house and genuinely wanting to spend some time with another road traveller. Bob did that a lot. I enjoyed reading about his meetings with other moto-bloggers all over America. Not only did Bob read others’ blogs, but he wanted to meet the people as well. What a thoroughly nice guy he was. I remember he laughed when I arrived in Vancouver wearing a copy of his trademark footwear – pink crocs. Bob and I walked around Vancouver both wearing our amusing pink crocs. I am not sure what people thought, but I can imagine!

So, in honour of the man by those that knew him, this model, appropriately called ScooterBob, has been travelling around the world and has been taken to various places to be photographed with and by the people that knew Bob. It is a terrific idea and I really enjoyed seeing the mementos that people have also placed in ScooterBob’s box.

It seemed obvious to me what picture I should include first on this posting – here I am with one of my bikes, wearing my pink crocs, of course…..

ScooterBob, just outside London
While I live near London in England, I took ScooterBob to St Tropez in France on a motorcycle trip as that seemed the right thing to do. We rode from London through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and back into France to reach the Mediterranean Sea. On the way, Sonja (who knew Bob as well as most as she also lived in Vancouver for a while) joined our group as we made our way through Germany. I had intended to post many pictures of ScooterBob in these countries, but as the title of the post says, sometimes, things don’t work out like you planned. Rather embarrassingly, I managed to accidently delete most of my photographs of the trip. Initially, I was horrified, but in hindsight, that is not a bad thing, as it has allowed me to concentrate on writing something about Bob and remember him, rather than show pictures of where ScooterBob was taken.

So, here are just a few pictures, that don’t do justice to the Bob who took such great pictures himself.

Bless you Bob, you are missed by many.

ScooterBob meets the Leading Ladies

ScooterBob with Sonja, myself, and some new friends.
This would have been a great picture.  Thanks to Sonja for snapping me, snapping ScooterBob
ScooterBob at the H-D rally in St Stopez, picture courtesy of Sonja 
ScooterBob is now travelling once more, on his way to Shelia.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Project Livewire Test Ride


I was very fortunate to be able to test-ride the new Harley-Davidson prototype electric motorcycle, called Project Livewire. Along with son Charlie, we had been invited to go to the Millbrook Proving Track to be one of the first to ride this bike in the UK.

Son Charlie, on the electric Harley-Davidson


First off, I have to say what an amazing experience it was riding this bike. It’s power and acceleration are amazing. 0-60mph on a motorcycle is pretty quick and the 300 volt battery certainly provides enough power to get you up to its restricted top speed of 91mph very quickly. The power is delivered very smoothly, with a constant rate of acceleration throughout the power range – it accelerates as quickly from 50-80 as is does from 20-50 mph – meaning you have to be prepared to hold on tight at any speed when you crank the throttle open.

Charlie setting off

The bike has no gears, no clutch, just a twist-and-go throttle that launches you surprisingly quickly. Of course, the bike is nearly silent, although Harley-Davidson have introduced some noise that is pretty reasonable at reminding you the motor is working hard. Having previously ridden somewhat odd completely silent electric motorcycles, this was a welcome addition.



The bike weighs 210kg or 463lbs, but it feels light and agile. It handles well and can certainly be thrown into the bends. We rode the bike for about 15 minutes and in just that short amount of time, it was easy to feel at ease with its handling. We were glad it was a gloriously sunny day which enabled us to enjoy the dry track to the full. We first took the bikes over Millbrook's Alpine course with steep inclines and both positive and negative cambered fast bends, before unleashing its power on the 2 mile circular speed track, where it was easy to ride the bike at its top speed quickly.





Range is the limiting issue with the bike at the moment. I am sure that Harley-Davidson will wait until the battery technology improves so that a 100+ mile range is possible before fully launching the motorcycle. That is, if they ever do. It is by no means certain that they will, but I for one would certainly be disappointed if they don’t.

Part of the purpose of the test-rides was for Harley-Davidson to solicit feedback on what riders thought of the bike and there was a good process in place to allow that to happen. Now, they wouldn't go to all that trouble if they were not going to take forward the manufacture an electric bike, would they?

My turn



What a bike! Would I want one? Err, yes! I know many will say this is not like a traditional Harley-Davidson and they want to retain their petrol-engined bikes and I would want to do that as well. But, this bike is so special, it will attract a new type of rider and certainly some of those who would like both petrol and electric Harley-Davidson's in their garage.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Riding through Spain to the H-D Rally in Jerez in June?


If you are, you might want to consider this law regarding listening to music or communications systems, which includes motorcycle communications systems.



Basically, the use of any music or communication system with headphones or earphones is illegal. That means ear-buds for listening to music, or even speakers inside your helmet for talking to pillions or to other riders, is prohibited. You might want to consider this before riding in Spain.

This is the relevant part of the law, translated by Google…..

23514 Royal Decree 1428/2003, of November 21, by which approves the General Regulation Circulation for the implementation and development articulated text of the Law on traffic, circulation motor vehicles and road safety, approved by Royal Legislative Decree 339/1990 of 2 March.

Article 18, says: Article 18. Other duties of drivers. 1. The driver of a vehicle must maintain their freedom of movement, the required field vision and ongoing attention to driving, to ensure their own safety, the rest of the vehicle occupants and other users of route. For this purpose , you must take special care maintain proper position and that maintain other passengers, and proper placement of the objects or animals transported for no interference between the driver and any of them ( Article 11.2 articulated text). It is considered incompatible with compulsory attendance driving permanent use by the driver with the vehicle moving devices such as screens with Internet access , television monitors and VCR or DVD. Exceptions to these effects, the use of screens that are in view of driver and whose use is necessary for vision Access or down pedestrians or vision vehicles with rear camera manoeuvres and GPS device. 2. It is prohibited to drive and use headphones or earphones connected to receivers or sound players, except for the corresponding teaching and conducting aptitude tests open for obtaining driving licenses circuit two-wheeled motorcycle when so required by the Regulations on Drivers. Use is prohibited while driving mobile devices and other means system or communication, unless the development Communication takes place without using hands or use headphones, earphones or similar instruments (Article 11.3, second paragraph of text articles). Exempted from this prohibition agents authority in the exercise of the functions that have entrusted (Article 11.3, third paragraph of text Articulated). 3. It is prohibited in vehicles mechanisms are installed
or systems, instruments are carried or upgraded manner designed to evade surveillance the traffic police, or to be issued or made signs for this purpose, and the use of mechanisms radar detection.


So, the law is quite clear and you mustn’t do this.

A few years back, a friend and I were riding through Spain and we were using a bike-to-bike communications system to talk to each other as we rode. Early one morning, we were stopped by the Guarda Civil who, having seen the cables leading into our helmets, told us we must disconnect these and stop using them. They were very polite and told us it was illegal and didn’t prosecute us and we clearly were surprised by this unusual law.

Monday, 9 March 2015

He’s a talented motorcycle artist – and now I go behind the canvas to discover more.

I met a young artist called Albie Espinola last month and was blown away by his work. He is concentrating on painting riders and their motorcycles and he creates pictures that are very impressive.

I chatted with him and learnt how he has turned his dream into reality.

Aside from Albie’s artistic abilities – he’s also a dab hand with videography, as he creates time-lapse films of himself painting his works. Here are a couple of his paintings and some of you may recognise the rider and bike in the second video:









Born in London, Albie has been painting since he was a child. Now in his early thirties, his love for painting has led him to leave his job so he can pursue his dreams as an artist. Albie says: “Logically it’s a crazy thing to do, to leave a job but in my illogical mind, it makes perfect sense. I have brought two of my life’s passions together, motorcycles and painting, and now I’m working towards making a living out of selling my artwork."

There are seven layers of paint in an Albie Espinola painting. He tells me the basic composition is done using two layers of Gesso paint. A light wash of colour is then painted over the dried Gesso where he then uses 3 layers of oil paints to bring the painting to life. Each painting can take 4 to 5 days each to complete.




Albie currently rides a custom Harley-Davidson Sportster. He started riding on a Vespa ten years ago and then fell in love with riding motorcycles.

He found inspiration to paint motorcycles when he saw the work of Dave Mann, the California-based artist, who celebrated motorcycles and the biker lifestyle through his paintings. Albie wants to do the same. He says: “I love the narratives in Dave Mann’s pictures. People designed bikes based on his art and to me, that’s incredible.”

I predict Albie will become a famous motorcycle artist, so get in quick to get your own custom made painting. Before he puts paintbrush to canvas Albie personally meets with each of his clients, so he can get to you and your bike. He takes photos of you and explores how you want to be portrayed in your painting. He can travel to anywhere in the UK and hopes to make regular trips to the U.S. to paint.

Please visit www.albieespinola.co.uk to find out more about Albie and his artwork.  I predict he will become a very well-known artist.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Can You Go Touring on a Chopper?


This is a question I have heard people discussing recently, plus they were saying choppers look uncomfortable and are torture to ride.  I thought I would write about my views.

Yes, of course you can go touring on a chopper, if you build your chopper correctly. You have to think about suspension, handling, handlebar height and how to carry your gear, but it can be done.

Here is a chopper that has won a few custom bike shows. You couldn’t go touring on that show queen, could you!


This picture was taken for a magazine feature about the bike

Well, yes you can. This bike has been ridden from London in the UK, to the south of Portugal, to St Tropez in southern France and right across the Alps mountains (including Stelvio Pass and Grossglockner Pass) all the way to the Harley-Davidson Rally in Rome, and back again. I know, because I rode it to those places.

This is my custom chopper and the bike was built specifically to go touring on. This is how we did it.

Below is a picture of how the bike started out.  It was a  second-hand Harley-Davidson FXSTC softail. From this bike, we only kept part of the frame and the lower half of the engine.


How the bike looked before the modifications

We did these things…..

New springer front end forks, yokes etc
New wheels, larger, wider
Modified the frame to raise the top tubes and accommodate the longer forks
New rear fender
Stage 4 mods to the engine. It is now a 110 Cu Inch engine, or 1800cc
New exhausts
New hand made seat
New controls
New paint job
Extensive hand engraving
Plus lots more

Here are some build pictures….











This is the bike being ridden, in St Tropez...

Taken at the Harley-Davidson European Festival, St Tropez


Okay, so what makes this chopper be able to be ridden such long distances on some of the more twisty and challenging roads in Europe? Well, first of all, you need saddlebags, which have to be completely removed when the bike is being ridden locally, or put in custom bike shows. Here is the bike being ridden on tour and note the saddlebags and you can just see another bag behind me.


I think this picture was taken in Austria

The picture above shows the early saddlebags we fitted, but we soon went to the much larger stiff leather saddlebags. This video shows how we integrated fixings into the rear fender struts to allow saddlebags to to fitted….



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Good suspension is vital for long-distance touring. But, it also has to look good. So, we went for DNA springers for the front-end. What is even more important to get right is the geometry of the frame right, so that the bike handles well. For this bike, we temporarily built the bike (held together with gaffer tape in places, I kid you not) so that we could check the handling before the bike was painted and engraved. Thanks to the guys at P&D, it was perfect and we didn’t need to change anything – their calculations and fabrication had been fantastic. Here is the bike in its temporary mock up form, just before we test-rode it.....


The bike ready to be test ridden


Handlebar height is crucial. If you get it too high, then your arms will ache. The rule of thumb is your hands should not be higher than your shoulders. Again, we got than just right.

So, can a chopper be used for touring? Yes, of course it can. Here is the proof…..

This is a video of the bike being ridden with a group of friends to Rome, including across the Alps. The roads get interesting from about 2:15 onwards. For most of the on-bike video shots, the camera was mounted on the chopper. From about 4:00 the video shows two of us, both riding choppers, on the 2,000 mile journey back to London. The route back included one of the highest and most twisty roads in Europe, Stelvio Pass (4:50). You will see a lot of snow next to the roads – this was in June!




This is the same bike, just before I set out to go touring in the UK, complete with a tent, sleeping bags and everything else I would need while camping…..

Well laden-down with gear

Then, when you have finished touring and camping, you can go for a ride with a few of your freinds.....  




What a great and versatile motorcycle!