Monday, 29 March 2010

Cool Bike Model

Some time ago I found a company on the Internet that makes models of motorbikes. Not just any motorbikes, but your motorbike!

I sent off some photos of my custom bike and a few weeks later I received in the post the model they had made. This is metal and took around 60 hours to sculpt and it is 9 inches (230mm) long. The model is a very accurate model of my bike and I was impressed with the results. I am pleased to recommend what they do.

The model was made by Tom "Hawkeye" Sarko who is the designer/sculptor/builder of the bikes. Tom has ridden Harleys for over 40 years and now owns a beautiful 1959 Panhead. Tom is retired and used to work as a Weld Technician at General Motors. He has been making these models for about 10 years and has been sculpting overall for around 30-35 years. Tom makes around 30 to 40 models a year from his home workshop and each bike can take anywhere from 36-60 hours (sometimes longer) to individually sculpt/build depending on the intricate nature of each bike.

Hawkeye Metal Works are based in Michigan and like mine was, the models can be shipped internationally.

You can find their website by clicking on this link Hawkeye Metal Works David Tyler handles the customer service and website and he will be pleased to assist with any questions.

Tom Sarko with his Panhead

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

15,000 miles in 23 States

It is now just 3 months to go to the start of my tour. Preparations are on track, with only minor things to do now. I need to arrange temporary insurance and buy some summer bike boots that are good for both riding and walking in.

In preparation for the tour, my wife heard my hints and for Christmas bought a Garmin SatNav system for me. The really good thing about this system is that you can enter your proposed route into some computer software called MapSource and then transfer it to your Garmin unit.

This provides a tremendous advantage over the TomTom systems which require that you enter the route directly into the TomTom unit, which is fine if you have one or two destinations to go to, but pretty useless if you have a long trip to do that you want to enter.

Since Christmas, I have diligently been sitting at the laptop, putting my intended route into MapSource and yesterday, I finished this. I am now able to give a better prediction of the distance I am likely to travel which now stands at just over 15,000 miles.

Here are the 23 States that I will get to.....
New Hampshire
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island
South Dakota

Plus, I will be very briefly riding into Canada.

In case you were wondering, the image is 15,000 in sign language.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Adjustable GoPro Mounts?

In an earlier post I discussed the difficulties of mounting a GoPro camera to the handlebars of a motorbike using the standard GoPro mounts. The difficulty is caused because the GoPro mounts are not adjustable – they only work at 90 degrees to the handlebars. This is fine if your bars are straight and not swept back at all.

What is needed is something like this – a mount that is fully adjustable. In my earlier post I said I would raise this with GoPro and keep you updated. It’s now time for an update.

I have been corresponding with GoPro about this issue and the current need to buy 3rd party vendors mounts to overcome the problem. After some difficulty in getting them to understand the problem, they then said their developers are considering a balljoint type accessory for their products. If they do this and create such a mount, this will be good news for future buyers of the cameras. I imagine this might take some time to design, test, manufacture and bring to market, so in the meantime it looks like RAM mounts are the answer.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Clean Bike Clinic

On the recommendation of a fellow blogger and keen biker, Ian Solley of & Ages Custom Motorcycles, I contacted a guy called Nigel of the Clean Bike Clinic, to discuss having him do a deep clean of my bikes.

Yesterday, Nigel arrived at my house and spent the day cleaning my red bike and I have to say, he did a fantastic job.

Now, I am a person that wants to keep my bikes clean. Dirt on my bikes is just not on the agenda, so when Nigel arrived yesterday almost the first words he spoke after seeing my bike were “Exactly what part of your bike do you think needs to be cleaned?” Meaning it is almost spotless already, but I was on a mission....

I have had my red bike for two and a half years and if you own a bike, you will know that after about that amount of time, it begins to fade and lose its sparkle. Mine was beginning to lose it. Like many who believe in riding their custom bikes to the full, I have put a lot of miles on mine and it was just starting to show. The paint was not a shiny as it once was and the aluminium forks definitely needed some TLC. Hence my call to Nigel – I needed somebody to do what I could not – bring it back to its original pristine condition.

Well, he did that, and some.

Nigel worked on the bike all day. It takes that long. The results are well worth it. The sparkle returned.

If your bike needs to be brought back to its sparkle, contact Nigel through his website. He is based near Gatwick Airport in the South East of England.

Here are some photos of Nigel at work and of the finished sparkle....

Monday, 15 March 2010

Yesterday was a great day

I took part in the Afghan Heroes bike ride through Wootton Bassett.

I was one out of 15,000 people on 10,000 motorbikes to show our support for the British Soldiers who have given their lives fighting in Afghanistan and to also say thank you to the people of Wootton Bassett.

Click on the picture below for an amazing view of riders and the crowds!

I left home early on a cold crisp Mother’s Day morning. Some things are just impossible....being 07:45 on a Sunday morning, I tried to start my Harley-Davidson as quietly as I could. I live in a sleepy village and I hit the starter button softly, but it did no good. The engine roared into life and the noise no doubt entered my neighbour’s bedrooms! I started my ride as quietly as I could....

Soon the open road beckoned and I had 120 miles to ride to get there. I was meeting Clive and Janice about 30 miles into the journey and there they were, just where they said they would be, on time. I first met them on an organised ride we took along with about 20 others to Faaker See in Austria. 2 years ago, riding over the Alps with them was cold at the time and it was cold yesterday morning as well.

Soon we headed out together and after an hour or so of riding, we needed sustenance – Clive soon found a cafe and we ate a hearty breakfast to prepare us for the remainder of the ride. Martin and Christine joined us on their Harley at the cafe. We left, suitably replenished for the remainder of our journey.

As we got nearer, we could tell that the event was going to be large. More and more bikes shared the roads with us and soon we arrived at Hullavington Airfield, a Ministry of Defence facility previously used by the Royal Air Force. The airfield was being used as the gathering point for the riders taking part in the ride. The organisers needed to find somewhere large enough locally that could take 10,000 motorbikes and the airfield was ideal. Luckily, the weather was good all day, so the impossible task of finding shelter from the rain at a vast open area was not necessary.

The video clip below starts with us arriving at Hullavington Airfield and finishes just before the ride got to Wootton Bassett. Even before we arrived at Wootton Bassett, the event was taking on a special meaning. The route from the airfield to the town goes through a rural area with mainly fields and trees to be seen. The route also passed through a number of small villages and many locals stood by the side of the road, waved at the riders, cheered and clapped.

One lady in particular stood out for me. She was very elderly and in a wheelchair. Next to her was a nurse and it looked like they had come out from a nursing home to wave to the riders. The old lady had a huge smile on her face as she waved a small flag. The fact that she had come out to wave us through showed the spirit of the day – very patriotic and dare I say, quite moving. I might try to work the name of the nursing home and write to her to say thank you.

Wootton Bassett is becoming well known in the UK. Soldiers that are killed in Afghanistan are flown back to the UK in military aircraft that land at the nearby RAF Lyneham. The route they then take to the coroner’s office passes through Wootton Bassett and the people that live and work in this small rural town stop what they are doing to line the streets to pay their personal respects to the soldiers as they pass. The town has become the unofficial centre of public mourning for the soldiers. As such the town has rightly been taken into the hearts of many in the UK, with news footage being regularly shown of soldiers’ funeral cortèges, their mourning families and the people of Wootton Bassett standing to honour the fallen servicemen and women.

Three months ago, eighteen year old Elizabeth Stevens had the idea of a small bike ride on Mother’s Day and posted something on Facebook about it. She let 15 friends know and the idea gained momentum. Soon it became a huge event and the police, the local council and the MOD helped in its organisation. Elizabeth remained involved throughout and yesterday rode on the back of her partners Harley-Davidson Sportster.

Riding through the town itself was a treat. I didn’t know what the reaction to 10,000 bikes riding through a small town would be. After all, it was Mother’s Day and people would no doubt be inconvenienced by the inevitable traffic increase. I was very surprised.

We were there to ride our bikes to show support for the soldiers and to say thanks to the people of the town. The people of Wootton Bassett were there in hundreds to say thanks to us! The main street through the town was lined with people, waving, cheering and clapping us. They had placards thanking us for being there.

What a great day.

The video below is far better than the one I shot of riding through the town itself, as it shows the event from the public perspective. I would much rather that you watched that.

To the people of Wootton Bassett, thank you. Most of all, to our fallen soldiers, our gratitude can never be expressed well enough for what you have given. Rest in peace.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Dumb and Dumber

Last week one of my son's and I rigged up a way of fixing my newly purchased GoPro camera to my red bike. Tomorrow, on the UK Mothers Day, I am taking part in a ride to honour British Soldiers and I want to take some video of the 10,000 motorbikes that have registered and are expected to attend.

My son and I created something that would work, but if I am honest, I didn’t entirely trust to be strong enough, so I decided to buy some RAM Mounts. Using some of bobscoots guidance, I contacted GPS City in Las Vegas and ordered some parts from there as I knew you couldn’t get RAM Mounts in the UK. I was hoping that these would arrive in time and sure enough, as I had paid $74 extra to get these shipped by priority air service, they arrived on Friday morning.

As usual, packages with gadgets in usually don’t take long to be opened in this household and just a few minutes later, I was looking at the four parts I had ordered.

I had selected two different sizes of U-Bolt fixing, so that these could be fixed to either the handlebars or the second were ordered specifically for my Road King, the crash bars. I have already fixed one of these to the red bike....

I had also ordered a short RAM Arm in chrome.

And finally I had ordered a small Camera Mount Mini Plate that connects the camera to the RAM Arm.... WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT IS THIS????....

How DUMB is that? This is not a Camera Mount Mini Plate – either I ordered the wrong thing, or GPS City sent the wrong part. I checked the delivery note. I had ordered the correct part, but they had sent something completely different. Argh!! This being Friday, there was no time left to get the correct part shipped from Vegas in time for the ride on Sunday.

My wife suggested I should look for something else in the UK, but I knew it was useless. These parts are not sold in the UK, but I decided to try anyway. Sitting down in front of my laptop I started to search and what did I find within about 30 seconds – a supplier of Ram Mounts just 10 miles away from where I live!!! I know I should have listened to my wife! If GPS City were dumb for sending the wrong part, I was even DUMBER for paying a small fortune to get something delivered all that way when I could get it just down the road.

I gave Buybits a call and they were terrific, helping me select a part that would work (they didn’t have the exact part that I wanted) and it arrived in the mail at 9am the next day - on Saturday morning. Here is the camera base that was delivered....

Here is the completed set up ready for my ride tomorrow....

I hope it works tomorrow and in the next few days I will hopefully post some video of the event.

Even though the set-up is ready for tomorrow, I still feel dumber.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Is it really that small? (extended)

Further to my earlier posting below about the GoPro camera, I really should have written something about the different ways of fixing the camera to a bike. There are essentially 4 different ways of mounting a GoPro camera that us motorcyclists / bikers / scooterists / riders (take your pick) will be interested in....

- Stick-on mounts
- Using the suction cup
- Using handlebar or roll bar mounts
- Create your own!

Looking at each one in turn......

Stick-on Mounts – the version of the GoPro camera that I purchased came with a number of flat and curved stick-on mounts See this link for a picture. These could be used for sticking the camera to your helmet (this is ok on an old helmet that you don’t mind doing this to) or to somewhere on your bike (thanks, but no-thanks!). On his blog RazorsEdge2112 shows the results of mounting his GoPro camera to his helmet and whilst this gives an interesting viewpoint, when he moves his head to check traffic at junctions, the view changes a bit too dramatically for my liking. Bobscoot took the ‘sticking the mount to his scoot' route as seen on his blog. My verdict? - For me, I didn’t want to use either of these as I either personally don’t like the results or I didn’t want to damage my bike!

Using the Suction Cup - as my main touring bike is away being painted at the moment, I wanted to test the camera on my custom bike. This doesn’t have a windscreen, so there were only two ways I could mount the camera using the suction cup that comes with the camera.

The first, pictured on the left, was on the tank and yikes, I had to think about this hard because I didn’t want to do anything that might mark the paintwork. Also, I had to use just about all of the various mounting arms I had purchased in order to get the camera high enough to get a clear view over the handlebars – it did work well as the video in my earlier post shows. This is a picture of what the mounting looks like. My verdict? – being able to have the headlight and part of the handlebars in the foreground is really cool as it gives something to relate the rest of the view to. As a few people have said, watching the video makes you feel like you are right there on the bike and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that you can see part of the bike on the shot. However, you look like a dork with this weird mounting on your tank.

Using the Suction Cup on the Headlight - this isn’t as crazy as it sounds because using the suction cup, I stuck the camera on the bike backwards pointing at me. See picture on left.

I was able to do this because the glass in my headlight is really smooth, but I imagine it wouldn’t work with ridged glass. Here is the result.....

My Verdict? – this is a really cool effect to cut into a longer video that mainly uses the camera pointing forward. Of course, the possibilities of where to mount the suction cup are many, even pointing backwards off the rear of your bike. The suction cup seemed to be achieving a strong fixing to the bike, but I would be wary of using this suction cup for really long journeys.

Handle Bar / Roll Bar Mounts - there are two different sized fixings you can buy for mounting your camera to a round bar. As I didn’t know what would fit best, I purchased the handlebar sized mount and the Roll Bar mount, where the latter is slightly bigger. This is the set-up I am likely to use for my tour of the USA with the camera either mounted to the handlebars or the crash bars of my Road King. However, there is a problem using these types of mount – they only work at 90 degree increments.

This means it is fine if your handle bars or crash bars are at exactly 90 degrees to your bike, but as there is no fine adjustment, it is a problem if for example you handlebars are swept back like this....

Create Your Own! - as this swept back bars is what I have on my red bike, I had to make something up by using the GoPro Tripod Mount, a ball & socket bar fixing and an enthusiastic son (Thanks Charles!) who helped me make this set-up.

This arrangement gives total flexibility both up and down and side to side. The video below contains the results of changing the set up to various views. This is OK, but I think I want to re-make to using something a little more substantial as I am not convinced it won’t move on a long ride due the the vibration. I am going to try it next weekend when I am going to take a long ride, so I will let you know how I get on with it.

This is the video I made from the home-made handle bar mounted camera position....

My Verdict of the Handle Bar / Roll Bar Mounts? – I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of this video as I saw a lot of vibration through the bars and thought it would affect the overall quality, but it is not too bad. This is probably the best solution for mounting to a motorbike, but GoPro need to manufacture and sell a fully adjustable mount. I am going to draw this posting to their attention to see what they say and to see if they have any plans for this. I will let you know what they say.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Is it really that small?

I am of course talking about my GoPro H-D Video Camera, which I received in the post a few days ago. The box has been sitting next to my desk for a few days now and I have had to resist the temptation to open it, because I have had too much to do.

I was still busy this morning but this afternoon I now had the time and I did the following.....

- Opened the box (as Chris said on his blog, this takes quite a long time!)
- Sorted out what-was-what
- Was stunned at how small the camera is
- Fixed the camera to my red bike (I did have some problems with this)
- Shot some test scenes riding around where I live
- Lost my reading glasses from my jacket pocket while riding (bugger!)
- Loaded the results onto my laptop
- Installed Adobe Premiere 7
- Opened the Premiere manual, look at it for 30 seconds
- Closed the Premiere manual
- Looked at some training video clips on You Tube about Premiere
- Loaded my clips into Premiere
- Edited the video
- Added a title
- Created a You Tube account
- Created a video that is web friendly
- Uploaded the video to You Tube
- Took a photo of the camera
- Created this post in my blog
- Worked out how to create a link to You Tube

And then finally, smiled at how easy it all was! Sometimes computers really work well. I think today was one of those times.

It was all remarkably easy. Of course I have only learnt the absolute basics and I am sure I have probably done things wrong, but over time the refinements will happen and I hope to get better at this. OK, I am no Quentin Tarantino, but give it time.

So ..... big drum roll...... here is my first video clip....

In true Oscar fashion, I would like to thank those who starred in the film, my parents, my lovely wife, my children, bobscoot for suggesting Adobe Premiere V7, my dog, and everyone else that helped me achieve a life-long ambition......

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Alexandra Palace Ace Cafe Show

Last weekend saw the Ace Cafe London Motorcycle and Custom Show take place. For those of you that don’t know, the Ace Cafe is very famous in London as being one of the main (if the THE main) motorcycle cafes in the UK.

This year the “Ace” sponsored the new format motorbike show at Alexandra Palace. At present, this is a low key show with none on the big manufacturers attending – it is more for the man or woman that likes custom bikes and oil under their fingernails. This makes it a small but special show in a great location.

Alexandra Palace was originally built in 1873 as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment. In 1936 it became the headquarters of the world's first regular public television service, operated by the BBC. Its famous radio mast is still used today. Londoner’s affectionate nickname for the building is “Ally Pally”.

The show was over three days and whilst Friday was a quiet day in terms of the number of people attending, Saturday and Sunday were busy, despite some pretty appalling weather.

The custom bike show was one of the rounds of the AMD World Championship, so it was an important event for the custom motorcycle industry here in the UK. The selected winner of best in show would be allowed to enter his/her bike into the Grand Final taking place in Sturgis in August, so there was keen interest in the event. The £20,000 prize money drew some attention as well.

One of the differences between this custom bike show and many others is how the judging is done. Many shows simply have one or a small number of judges selecting what they think are the winners and that’s it. This method can throw up some odd results with the personal preferences of a single or small number of people having a large impact on the result. The way the AMD does it is much fairer, with all entrants and a selected number of guest judges all voting. In this way, a wide selection of views and opinions by people who know about motorcycles choose the winners – much better.

Here are a number of photos from the show.....

I have left the winning bike until last....

If you don’t like custom bikes, look away now....

Stunning paintwork....

One of the bikes belonging to a friend, Ian of 7 Ages Custom Motorcycles....

A green monster....

A Roland Sands inspired bobber....

Nice springer front end....

A bit long....

A lovely old Ducati, that I know a German ex-pat would like....

The usual traders helmets, jackets etc....

My red bike in the show....

And now, the three eventual winners....

A stunning piece of engineering....


Many thanks to Andrew Harbron, who is the editor and chief photographer of the London Bikers website for letting me use some of his pictures.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Dry and Sunny Day – Perfect

It was very cold when I awoke this morning. Frost was on the ground. The temperature was around freezing. It had been a clear night and it was a crisp clear start to the day. If the clouds stayed away, it was going to be a great riding day.

I was hoping it was going to be like this today – I had seen the forecast last night and it seemed that finally, the rain would stay away and the sun would make an appearance.

It was with some degree of anticipation that I watched the skies stay clear and the thermometer slowly rise. Today, I would take out my custom bike for its first riding outing this year! The twin-carbed engine doesn’t like the cold damp air. I had made sure yesterday that the battery was fully charged. Being 110 cubic inches or 1800cc, whichever way you prefer to look at it, that sized engine groans a bit as the small starter motor struggles to turn the engine over. If my bike was a woman, she definitely wouldn’t like the cold weather and would want to move nearer the equator.

So, I used the choke, turned on the fuel, held my breath and hit the starter button. There was life there, but not as we know it. I gave it another burst of starter. After a short while, the engine fired and I was happy. My neighbours probably weren’t happy with the noise while I let the engine run for a while to get it warmed up a little. To me, the bike sounds fantastic with its low down, loud, typically Harley sounding engine with straight through pipes. It sounds even better when the bike is in the garage and the noise reverberates around the still crisp air. To me it sounds good – I suspect to some others, not so good.

It was one of those rides where you don’t care where you go, as just the ride itself was what mattered. I didn’t have a destination in mind, nor any idea of a route to take. My first decision was challenging - should I turn left out of my drive, or right? Who cares? I chose left. My ride was only about 30 miles. Living as I do just north of the great metropolis that is London, it takes a while to get out of the built-up areas and onto slightly faster roads, so I was happy just riding around the area that I live.

I went to a nearby large town, to deliver a faulty watch to a jewellery store to be repaired. There was a small group of people looking at my bike as I returned to it, including an elderly couple who must have been in their eighties. “You need a young blonde haired girl sitting on that” said the old lady pointing to my bike. I couldn’t help but smile as she prodded me with questions about my bike. After 10 minutes we said farewell and I continued my journey, feeling better for having met the elderly couple.

After riding a while I remembered I had slipped my camera in my pocket so I began to look for places to take a photo or two of my bike. I suddenly thought of Digswell Viaduct which carries the East Coast Main Line trains over the River Mimram on their journey the length of the country. At 1,560 feet (475 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high it makes a pretty impressive backdrop. The viaduct was opened by Queen Victoria in August 1850. It is said that she was so worried about the height of the structure that the train carrying her had to stop short of the viaduct and she continued her journey at ground level along the length of the viaduct. She then re-entered her train at the other side.

The viaduct is one of the narrowest parts of this important train line as it can only accommodate two tracks while the rest of the route is four tracks. As can be imagined, the structure is a bottleneck on the route causing trains to have to slow down to fit on the two track part across the structure.

I have travelled on trains may times over this structure and the view is excellent. I must try to remember to take some more photos of it with the bike when I have more time. I needed to get riding again as the temperature was beginning to drop sharply. Soon I was home with my hands around a warming cup of tea!

The forecast for tomorrow is good as well. Perhaps spring has sprung at last.....