I just spent a couple of weeks watching as much of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games as I could. I loved it. It was vibrant, fun, engaging, a true sports spectacle and I watched a lot of sports I knew little about.
Maybe it's just sport in general that I enjoy watching, but competing in an Olympic Games is something special for the athletes and it brings out the best in their efforts to do the best they can. The emotions showed by the athletes is a great part of an Olympics and as a viewer, that helps makes the sport even more watchable. Combined with having the best in the world competing, it makes for exciting sport in an way that is very special.
As a Brit, London 2012 made me feel very patriotic, but watching the Winter Olympics, where people from my country don't often compete at the highest level in most winter sports meant most of the time, I wasn't willing GB athletes on, but instead I could mainly relax and just enjoy watching the sport. The occasional GB competitor of course drew my attention and I so wanted them to do well, but really it didn’t matter who was competing or what sport it was, I enjoyed it all.
Having seen the passion that British Athletes had competing in London and the joy they had of competing on their own patch, more often than not when watching the sports in Sochi, I wanted to see the Russians do well. I knew what a special feeling they would get to win at their home Games in front of fellow Russians.
So, what did I enjoy the most? It isn’t easy to choose....
- Snowboard Cross. It's mad and I revelled in the fun of it. That was my favourite event, that is, until I watched Ski Cross. Wonderfully crazy!
- Halfpipe snowboarding and Halfpipe skiing. I've seen the snowboard version before, but the skiers are amazing.
- Ice hockey, for its toughness.
- Skeleton Bob for the sheer speed and the bravery of the competitors (and of course because Lizzy Yarnold won gold).
- Ice dancing, as it is so elegant.
- Speed skating, especially short track, as I can't see how they turn so sharply on ice at that speed.
- Super G and downhill, for the speed.
- Ski jumping, for the courage of those to choose to fly through the air with planks of wood strapped to their feet.
- The Closing Ceremony. It was stunning!
Most of all, I enjoyed watching the extreme snowboard and extreme skiing events, due mainly to the camaraderie between the competitors. Most cheered on their rivals, embraced them when they won and competed with huge smiles on their faces. They are of course mainly very young and their attitude towards their rivals was very refreshing to see.
The Russian's undoubtedly put on an excellent Games. Despite security threats and demonstrations looming over them, their organisation was excellent and the venues superb. For organising a global sports event, the Russians did a terrific job. In his speech at the closing ceremony last night, Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee proudly said Russia had delivered on its Sochi promise. He was right, for his team had done a brilliant job.
Thank you to everyone that played their part in keeping me entertained for a couple of weeks. Organisers, athletes, TV broadcasters, teams and spectators all did a great job!
We all have a road somewhere in the world that we would like to ride one day. Here is mine, the Tianmen Mountain road, located within Tianmen Mountain National Park, Zhangjiajie, in northwestern Hunan Province, China. What a road! Enjoy the pictures and if you are like me, you will need to close your mouth as you look at them......
It is sometimes easy to forget that the primary aim of a newspaper is to make money. We tend to believe what we read most of the time, but a lot of caution is needed. Often, accurate reporting comes second to getting the paper produced and when the pressure is on to meet deadlines, if that means an article is not accurate, then it seems many newspapers don't really worry about that too much.
Of course, as readers, we only really discover this when we have first-hand knowledge of something and we are able to compare the true facts with what a newspaper says about it.
The headline alone is mis-leading. It links Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Hells Angels. "The father, son and the Harley ghost: Pope proves he's no Hells Angel by selling his Harley Davidson to give proceeds to the poor".
This link is somewhat unfair to most Harley-Davidson owners, as many that I know, who would not sell their own Harley-Davidson's, are most definitely not Hells Angels.
The reporter cannot even spell Harley-Davidson properly. Nor can he spell angels it seems. Further down in the piece, he spells it as "Hells Angles". Oh dear.
The caption underneath one of the pictures states "At the time the Pope laid his hands on a disabled Angel...." I happen to know the man pictured is not a Hells Angel, but a HOG member. Similarly, the article goes on to say "Four days after the gifts were given to him, Francis blessed a crowd of Hells Angle bikers in a congregation at an open air mass in St Peter's Square". Really? There were many thousands of HOG members there, but to suggest these were Hells Angles (sic) is somewhat ludicrous.
So, the reporter, Chris Pleasance, has some facts right, but has largely embellished the article with untrue references to Hells Angels to spice it up somewhat. Either that or he simply didn't check the facts. Whichever is the case, it is very shoddy reporting.
Sadly, this is not the first time I have experienced poor reporting of something I personally knew about. I would say that I have read about six or so articles about things I had good knowledge of. In every case, I have read the newspaper reports and was amazed at how inaccurate they were.
This video is a group of me and my friends having a go for the first time - it was terrific fun!
Although muddy and slippery, the trails were relatively easy and just what us novices needed.
Many thanks to Fred and Peter Woolcott of Off the Kerb Trail Riding, in Dorking, Surrey. We will certainly be going back! There are very few places to ride off-road in the UK, so finding this one was a real bonus.
I did end up with a few sore muscles for a few days, but that was a small price to pay.
This is a fantastic television programme about the early days of motorcycling in the UK. One of the opening lines of this BBC television programme sets the scene…
“By the 1950’s British motorbikes were the fastest, most desirable and coolest thing on two wheels anywhere in the world.”
I recently spent time at Bonneville in Utah with Mike Jackson, who is interviewed on the programme and described as a motorcycle historian. A real gent, Mike knows more about motorcycles than anyone else I have ever known.
What I like about this programme is the old film of British motorcycles and the people interviewed. Between them, they give real character and authority to the documentary.
The story of Brough Superior motorcycles is described and the love affair T.E.Lawrence had with the bikes is described. His words are very poetic when he writes about his riding “The burble of my exhaust unwound like a long cord behind me. Soon my speed snapped it, and I heard only the cry of the wind which my battering head split and fended aside. The cry rose with my speed to a shriek: while the air’s coldness streamed like two jets of iced water into my dissolving eyes. I screwed them to slits, and focused my sight two hundred yards ahead of me on the empty mosaic of the tar’s gravelled undulations.”
Of course, Lawrence was killed riding one of his Brough Supoeriors when swerving to avoid two boys on the road.
The sporting side of riding motorcycles and the communities it spawned are also featured in the programme. The short pieces of film at the Brooklands circuit are wonderful, as are those showing the early days of racing at the Isle of Man TT. The growth of Norton is discussed in the racing scene and how the rivalry between them and BMW was formed.
Just about all of the classic British manufacturers are mentioned in the programme, including the rise of Triumph and the café racers. Life at the famous Ace café is also featured.
Is it any wonder these old bikes are still lusted after?
This looks like an interesting and cheap way of covering motorcycle tanks, fenders, helmets to give your bike a new look. I am not sure about the durability though.
I am sure some enterprising person will soon be providing this as a service in the motorcycle industry soon, if it isn't already being done. Many would not want to use it on their expensive bikes, but as a cheap way of updating an older bike, I can see the potential.
Take a look at the website of the company selling the materials. I was surprised how cheap the films are...... http://hgarts.com/
This year’s motorcycle show at the Birmingham NEC (UK) was excellent. I spent the whole day there on Saturday and wore myself out, looking at bikes and chatting to the many people I bumped into.
It was busy and there was a buzz about the place which seemed to have been lacking in recent years. Perhaps it was the feeling that the economy is finally on the move again that engendered a better feeling about the show.
This year I tried to concentrate on things that I don’t normally spend too much time looking at. One of those might just prove to be a little too tempting for me. Who goes to a motorcycle show and falls in love with a car? More on that later. Back to the bikes....
I wanted to see the new Indian motorcycles and they certainly did look very good. This is the Indian Chief Vintage….
I was drawn to the Moto Guzzi Street V7 Scrambler, which looks cool and classic at the same time. I really like its rugged looks and this is one of the best looking of the new recent Moto Guzzi bikes. I do question though the combination of knobbly tyres with the cylinders sticking out sideways so much. Yes, I know this is the classic Guzzi engine layout, but the knobblies suggest this could be taken off-road, but can you imagine what would happen to the cylinder heads if you dropped the bike a few times in deep mud or on rocks? It does look great though…..
Compare those good looks to the diabolical Guzzi Griso SE. That engine block has to be the ugliest thing recently designed for a motorcycle. It is so fugly, it just makes you wonder “what were they thinking”…..
One of the bikes that really surprised me was a BMW GS with a sidecar fitted. I sort of get it, and sort of don’t. The guy on the stand told me he was selling about one a month, which means they wont be around for much longer…..
One bike was creating a lot of interest and that was the Ducati 1199 Superleggera. Launched this month, Ducati have said that just 500 of these bikes will be made. It certainly is an impressive looking bike….
Red bikes are obviously popular and this striking Aprilia caught my eye. The bike is much better than its model name which is a baffling RSV4 R APRC ABS, which doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue. The bike is stuffed full of technology with 8-stage traction control, wheelie control, launch control and a quickshifter, plus ABS and fully adjustable suspension. Oh and a little matter of 180bhp to go with it all….
This looks like it could be fun. An Aprilia Dorsoduro 750 ABS….
Back in the seventies I loved this MV Augusta. My feelings for the bike haven’t changed….
Love this old Beemer Airhead as well….
I cannot recall having seen a Royal Enfield café racer before. Maybe some of my readers have?....
Talking of unusual, how about a Moto Guzzi café racer with, wait for it, a slipstreamed sidecar attached….
You gotta love a Vespa….
A very nice Victory. You don’t often see them with eight additional cylinders though….
My favourite lady from the show. Who knows who she is?....
Here she is again with some of her friends….
Coventry Transport Museum had a very nice display of old motorcycles. Here are a couple of my favourites….
My friend Henry Cole has launched a new motorcycle, called a Gladstone. Their first model, appropriately called No.1, was on display at the show. A hardtail with a Triumph engine, some of the details on this bike are very nice indeed….
I need to ask Henry where these lever / grip combinations come from, as I really like them and I have a current project build they would suit….
A very nice custom Harley-Davidson, built by Warrs in London….
The Harley-Davidson stand included a replica of the shed in which William S. Harley and brothers Arthur and Walter Davidson first built motorcycles. This shed at the show contained an old model H-D, lent to the show by Warrs….
This is one of the Metisse Desert Racer motorcycles, currently being made as a replica of one of the bikes Steve McQueen once owned….
Back Street Heroes magazine had a big stand with many custom motorcycles on display. I like this shovelhead…..
I imagine not many people go to a motorcycle show and end up really liking a car, indeed some may say that is sacrilege. However, how could anyone not like this Morgan three-wheeler. It is the Brooklands Special edition and I feel a test drive coming soon. 1976cc V-Twin S&S engine, 82bhp, 0-60 in 6 seconds, top speed 115mph….
Finally, what did surprise me was how many people I bumped into at the show. Andy Hornsby of American-V magazine was on good form in a bright orange Hawaiian shirt. I didn’t know he was going, but I was happy to see Jon Hickman who I rode with to St Tropez earlier this year. Marjorie Rae, the Customer Experience Manager for the UK and Ireland spared me some time to talk about my new touring business. I met one guy, Gary Fleshman, who I last met in 2010 while on my tour of the USA. TV personality friend Henry Cole was there chatting to lots of his fans and he presented his new Gladstone bike. Ian Thorburn (AKA Bosunsbikes) was there as well, taking loads of pictures....
All-in-all, it was a terrific day, looking at motorcycles and seeing lots of friends. I slept well that night!
The show continues for another week with its last day being 1st December.
I also love motorcycles, but there is one thing I am very clear on. Using technology while on the move is the last thing a biker needs to do. We all know that to ride safely, we need to concentrate 100% on the road conditions ahead and we especially need to look at what other road users are doing. Anything that distracts bikers from concentrating on riding can only lead to problems.
I am therefore amazed at three motorcycle helmet manufacturers that are proposing to included on-board gadgets and technology within their helmets. Between them, they are suggesting we need Internet enabled helmets, with heads-up displays, inbuilt gps, the ability to make phone calls and send texts, see weather forecasts, and look at 180 degree rear view camera displays. Wait a minute, yes, all WHILE riding. Are they crazy? They all claim these sorts of features will help riders, but are they right?
Let’s look at what they are proposing.
The guy presenting on the Scully video (see below) already struggles with being able to read a sign at the side of the road, let alone look at the in-view displays he is suggesting. He says he slammed into the back of the car in front when looking at a sign when riding. That means he is unable to ride properly now.
This is the guy that wants to fill our heads with wait for it….. gps maps floating in front of me….. an internet enabled heads up display mobile platform that takes data from onboard sensors, gps and rear view camera and renders this up on a heads up display. It is claimed with its onboard micro-processor and Android based OS, it is the smartest helmet on the planet.
It also has a 180 degree rear view camera with a screen built into the helmet so enabling the rider to look behind and to the sides, while looking forward at the same time. The video suggests we could make and take phone calls. It even has a full screen gps view(!). It even invites other developers to suggest other apps that could be used on their platform. Other information says riders can send texts using voice commands WHILE RIDING. This is idiotic.
Just take a look at the video, especially 2:25 for about 25 seconds. This is where you see the rear view camera view in your field of vision. I guarantee when watching the this your eyes will dart about looking at the heads up display and you will not concentrate on the road ahead.
Anybody wanting to buy one of these might be attracted by the technology, but I certainly wouldn’t want one and more importantly, I wouldn’t want somebody riding behind me who was wearing one of these helmets.
The first of the Reevu helmets have been available for some time and these existing models make some degree of sense as it gives a rear view of the road behind on a small screen just above your eye line. You do have to look up though and take your eyes off the road ahead. This though is not too dissimilar from moving your eyes to look in the mirrors mounted on your handlebars.
However, the new innovations that Reevu want to build into their new helmets take things to a different level. Here is one of their images.
It seems Reevu may be planning to connect the heads-up display to the motorcycle to show RPM, speed or fuel consumption, along with indicator repeaters and possibly high beam and neutral idiot lights. From their imagery, it looks like Reevu are also targeting heads-up gps. Can you possibly imagine trying to read this information while riding? The new helmets will use the small mirror above the eyeline for the rear view, plus it will also show the sort of information on the image above. Isn’t this too much to use while riding?
Nuviz claim the world’s first Head-Up display for motorcycle helmets.
This is different from the other two manufacturers as Nuviz is technology that gets mounted to the chin piece of existing helmets. This then projects a heads-up display onto the inside of the visor somehow. The type of information it displays ranges from gps maps and directions, weather forecasts, distance travelled, speed, estimated arrival time, gear selected, revs, as well as allowing telephone calls and listening to music.
It even allows you to take photographs and video. For the social media savvy, photos can be sent to your Facebook page while you ride. Yep, you read that right – WHILE YOU RIDE!
The system uses the Nuviz Ride Cloud app and once again, through mobile internet technology, this allows riders to share data such as routes before, after or even DURING the ride. Really, why?
Okay, so it looks as if this new technology may well be available soon – some of these manufacturers say the technology will be here in 2014, but one big questions remains. Will these gadgets help or hinder riders?
Some will love what is coming our way and will covet the technology for the sake of technology. That is okay, if it is safe to use. I have my doubts though, as riding needs 100% of your concentration all of the time. Gizmos that require us to move our view away from the road cannot be good, nor can the inevitable toggles and switches that we will need our hands to manipulate the data.
Is this really a good idea that will make riding easier, or is it utter lunacy, dreamed up to exploit a potential market? Time will tell.
Reaction to the new Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750 models has been predictably vocal.
What surprises me is the passion from many in their initial reaction to the new bikes. Social media is flooded with the polarised views of the “love it” and the “over-my-dead-body” sections of the biker community.
When the knee-jerk reactions are stripped away, the views about the new models are likely to be good overall. Of course, there will be some who will always consider a smaller, liquid-cooled motorcycle to be the work of the devil and too far removed from Harley-Davidsons core history to be acceptable, but what any vehicle manufacturer cares about is what the majority think, not the vocal few.
Look back just a couple of months to when Harley-Davidson launched the new Project Rushmore bikes, when a lot of the initial reaction in the first couple of days was negative. However, a few months later, when the bikes have actually been test ridden, looked at, sat upon and judged based upon fact, the reaction is very different and has resulted in one of Harley-Davidsons best-ever sales quarters.
Harley-Davidson has very different motorcycle geographic markets to consider. Along with trying to please its loyal, invariably older, existing customer base, at the same time it needs to develop models that appeal to newer, younger riders, and this results in only one thing being certain - whatever it does, it isn’t going to please everyone.
As I see it, Harley-Davidson has to consider many variables when developing new models. The most important five are likely to be…..
One, geography. Harley-Davidson is a global company that needs to appeal to riders across our planet. Motorcycle riding is very different depending where you are in the world and what is right for one market is very wrong for another. Many Harley-Davidson owning Americans love their big twin, large heavy touring models, but those models are very inappropriate for the very congested streets in some parts of Europe and Asia. The smaller, lighter 500cc and 750cc models are aimed at street riders, not open road riders. The clue is in the name!
Two, emissions. Many naysayers have written things like “Water cooled! I will never give up my air-cooled twin!”. They have missed the point here in that the introduction of the new water-cooled models is likely to help Harley-Davidson to keep producing their famous air-cooled models. In many places in the world, vehicle manufacturers not only have to meet strict emissions standards for each model, but they also need to meet standards for their range when taken as a whole.
A quick look at the US Environmental Protection Agency website shows “All vehicles sold in the US must comply with federal emission standards. However, the standards are packaged in various “bins” that manufacturers can choose from, meaning that in a given model year, some vehicles will be cleaner than others.” By introducing some new models with lower emission qualities means that other models with higher emissions can be kept.
Three, a broader customer base. Harley-Davidson has a long-term problem with its business that it simply had to address. The age profile of their customers is too old. Us grey-beards are not going to be around forever and Harley has to target younger customers if they are to maintain or grow their market position. The simple fact is that younger riders don’t go out and buy large expensive motorcycles. Women riders generally don’t want large heavy motorcycles. Newer riders need smaller bikes to ride as they learn. Younger riders want something they can buzz around town on with their friends. Just watch the H-D promo videos for the new models. These new models are mainly for these groups, so I just don’t understand the rhetoric when people complain the new models are too small, or too far removed from what Harley’s should be like. It is simple to understand – if you don’t like it, don’t buy it, but don’t complain about it at the same time!
Four, kerbside appeal vs price. As design is a very personal thing, this is the hardest part of a manufacturers strategy to get right. We all have slightly differing views about what we like and don’t like and designers have to try to appeal to the majority.
Like nearly everyone, I have not yet seen the new Street 500 and 750 models first hand, let along ridden one yet. While they clearly won’t appeal to the traditionalists in Harley circles, they will look pretty cool to many. The prices seem okay as well, but the real test will come when somebody has cash to spend and when they look at the options available to them from different manufacturers. It is likely that many will buy the new Street models because they are different to other manufacturers machines.
Five, profit. Harley-Davidson are not fools. They have to make good profits or they will struggle badly. They need money to re-invest for the future and if that means using a cheaper supplier then that is what they will do. When it comes down to it, most riders care about quality and they don’t want they machines to break down. To most, that is far more important in the long run that where the parts are made, or where the motorcycles are assembled. For most companies, making profit equals cutting costs.
So, reading the initial gut-reaction of many to the launch of the new models has been interesting. Social media is great in that it gives us all a voice.
It will be interesting to see what impact the new Street 500/750 has upon the H-D Sportster models.
For me, I probably won’t buy one of these new models as they are not the sort of motorcycle I ride, but my sons might.
Are you like me in loathing organisations that have very poor customer service and seem to not care about their customers?
I really cannot understand why some large businesses don't do a better job in dealing with the people that keep them in business - us, their customers.
We can all accept that sometimes things go wrong. When they do, we just want it put right quickly and efficiently, but here in the UK, this rarely seems to happen. All too often, when trying to get things resolved on the telephone, we are passed from one person to the next, with nobody either capable or willing to solve the problem. When this happens to me, I am left with a feeling of frustration and often, anger.
It happened today and being tired of getting absolutely nowhere, I have decided to publicly denounce the guilty party, in the hope they do actually do something to improve. Who knows, it might work.
It was Hewlett-Packard that let me down. Having nearly run out of the high quality photo print paper and urgently needing some more for a large print job, I went online and saw on the HP shop website te paper I needed was available and would be delivered the next day. That was perfect and just what I needed. About £100 / $150 of this was ordered. Sadly, it didn't arrive the next day.
Telephone calls to HP were made and the farce started.....
Despite the HP website statement of delivery the next day on this specific product, I was told the delivery could not actually be made for over two weeks.
I spoke with seven different people. Shamefully, not one offered to solve the problem, or even gave good advice.
There is no way to make a complaint on the telephone as HP do not have a process for this. They insist customers write in. (We all know that most written complaints receive not much more than scant attention and nearly always receive just a standard reply).
After being on the phone for twenty minutes, one person tried to transfer the call to someone else but disconnected the call.
Nobody could suggest which of their vendors might have the paper.
One person thought the best way was for me to order the paper from their website as it showed next day delivery! Duh, that is the very problem I was talking to her about.
Two people I spoke to suggested the best thing for them to do was to cancel the order. Pretty unbelievable stuff!
Several members of HP staff gave me the wrong telephone number for their head office. I later learned the number was changed some time ago, but apparently, nobody has bothered to tell the staff.
One person I spoke to told me if customers ask for the head office telephone number, they must be referred to the HP website. That website lists the head office number as the same one I had dialled to speak to the person who suggested I look on their website to get the head office number.
I tried to send an email to their shop, but couldn't because their inbox was full.
Needless to say, I got nowhere and the problem was not even close to being solved.
Does this sort of chaos and disorganisation sound familiar?
What is really silly is I must have been speaking to the various HP staff members for about 45 minutes in total. In that time they achieved precisely nothing, but if just one person had tried to help, it would have taken far less time than that to actually solve the problem. Lets remember this is an IT organisation, so they really should have the systems in place that give their staff the information they need to help their customers. It is purely down to training and attitude.
Sadly, this is depressingly all too common with UK businesses. There are notable exceptions, but they are rare. Quite when and how things will get better is difficult to see. What is important though is than organisations like HP actually try. I wonder if they really do want to improve?
UPDATE 30 November - despite HP first saying the product would be delivered the next day, then saying it would be over two weeks, I drove around my area and found the product I urgently needed. Those buffoons at HP just sent an automated email to me saying the product has been despatched. What good is that to me now? I have already gone and found it elsewhere! I despair of organisations like this.
This blog was originally started to record a five month, 21000 mile tour of the US on my Harley-Davidson. I continue to use this blog to record my own motorcycling adventures, wherever they may be, along with my thoughts and opinions about motorcycling generally.
Having devoted most of my adult life to being a ‘company man’, the transition to the next phase of my life away from the construction industry was always going to include some challenges. Planning and then making my dream trip to explore America on my Harley-Davidson proved to be the ideal vehicle for clearing my mind of old ways of thinking and being.
I rode 21,475 miles, in 27 US states in four-and-a-half months.
My motorcycling trip have continued, with journeys across much of Europe and Cuba.
I live just north of London in the UK.
Please note all photographs on this blog are copyrighted. Do not copy or use, in whole or in part, any image from this blog either in its original form or altered in any way. If you do want to use one of the photographs, then you must ask first and I will almost certainly say yes! Thanks for your understanding.
US Tour - My Favourites Places I Went To....
It is difficult to choose, but here is my list of the highlights of my US tour, in the order I saw them in....