Friday, 25 February 2011

The Leading Ladies are back!

I had a message earlier this week that my bike, the Leading ladies, after spending 5 or 6 weeks at sea, was about to arrive back in the UK.

It had been raining all week and I wasn’t looking forward to collecting the bike in the rain. However, the weather played ball and I awoke on Thursday morning to a gloriously sunny day – one of the few so far this year.

I was dropped off at the shipping agents yard near Heathrow and a few minutes later my bike was bought outside, still in its crate. I had told the shippers that I wanted to take some pictures of the bike being un-crated and they had duly obliged, with Jim and Steve being ready to take the crate apart. Evidently, the office had told the guys I was going to take some pictures, as they were adorned in some silly hats, ready to be photographed. I did have to laugh!

The crate was very substantial and was bespoke made to fit the bike. The top came off first, having been held by many screws.... There was my bike.....

Next, the sides came off and Jim and Steve posed by the partially dismantled crate....

Finally the structure of the crate was dismantled and after re-fixing the windshield and putting the mirrors back the right way around, I hit the starter button and the bike fired into life, as reliable as ever...

The paperwork was swiftly dealt with and just a short time later I climbed on the bike and rode of down the road. The great feeling of riding that bike came back to me in an instant and it felt really good to lean the bike into corners once more and to use the full power range. I forgot I had left the bike with almost no fuel in the tank, so I hastily had to find a petrol station to refill her.

As I neared my house, Jackie had heard me approach and threw open the front door to snap a picture of the Leading Ladies returning....

Can you tell I was pleased to have the bike back?.......

The Leading Ladies are now in for some special attention. First, the bike is going to have a deep clean to remove the inevitable grime that builds up during a 21,000 mile ride and then it’s off to Warrs, the London based Harley-Davidson dealer for a full check over.

What a great bike! Welcome Home!!!!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I Want One Of These!

Last night on the TV programme 'The Gadget Show', they featured a one wheel, electric, self-balancing scooter. This is called the Ryno. It has gyroscopes to make it self-balancing and the TV presenter was riding it relatively comfortably within just a few minutes. This looks very cool indeed and I want one. It will have a 30 mile range, top speed of 20mph. It looks like a lot of fun.

I found a video on the web that shows what it can do....

I have a nagging doubt though that these would be allowed in the UK. For all sorts of bureaucratic nonsense, Segways are not allowed here and I fear the same fate would happen with the Ryno.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Progress of my Book

Towards the end of my tour of the USA, I decided to write a book about the trip. After I got back to the England and life returned to something approaching reality, I spent the time until Christmas writing one test chapter and investigating alternative publishing routes, book sizes, layouts, fonts, printing costs, book distribution methods and many other things I didn’t know writing and publishing a book.

Each of the 27 states that I visited will have a chapter of its own, plus about another 5 about planning of the tour / other introductory chapters – about 32 in total.

So far, I have written 5 out of that 32 - Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and South Dakota, plus a chapter giving tips about riding in the USA for visitors that Derek Polhill and Chris Luhman kindly helped with. With the help of a guy I used to work with, Brian Bascle, I have the cover and book title all sorted.

My cousins partner, Helen, is editing the book, my brother is doing the laying out of the words and pictures and my son Jeremy is going to draw the maps, so I am sort of keeping it in the family!

However, at this rate, I will take too long to finish writing the book, so I need to speed up somehow.

Having never written a book before, I am finding it quite difficult. To be fair, it is a book of photos supported by words, rather than a book of words that contains just a few pictures, but it is still very hard for me to do. I have always found it hard to concentrate on one thing for a long time, so I keep getting distracted and I find myself doing lots of other things when I should be writing. I am determined however to complete it and I want to finish it all and get it printed and available before the end of the year.

I will post an update in a few weeks time about how I am getting on. For now though, I must get back to writing.....

Monday, 7 February 2011

My Last London Motorcycle Show?

I went to the London Motorcycle Show at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands a few days ago.

As I walked around I found myself wondering why I went. Sure, I looked at and sat on some of the new bikes like the Yamaha’s Super Tenere, Harley-Davidsons Blackline and the Triumph Tiger. But, I looked at helmets I have seen at every bike show I’ve been to, clothing I don't want, tools I already have and paddock stands I don’t need. I walked past insurance stands that wouldn’t insure one of my bikes and pictures of Motor GP racing I’m not interested in. I only glanced at the dolly birds, who seemed much more tarty than usual. Most shows are essentially the same and although I hate to admit it, after you’ve been to a few, they start to look the same. This one was the like that and even though I took my camera, there were so many people, I didn’t feel like struggling to take pictures of bikes without too many people in the shot. I should imagine if you are thinking of buying a new bike, the chance to sit on a number of your possible alternatives is good. I’m not in that sort of new bike market though.

As I walked around, I was bored of mainly seeing the same old things.

Deciding to try to find something different, I walked around the outside of the show and looked at some of the smaller stands and I noticed a large number of people that specialise in motorbike tours. Either I hadn’t noticed there being so many of these in previous years or their numbers had risen dramatically. I stopped and chatted with a few and they confirmed the number of such companies had gone up a lot in the past few years. Motorcycle touring it seems, is growing.

I have been a some organised tours on European roads in the past and I enjoyed them. Travelling around on such tours bikes with like-minded people is nearly always going to be fun. Of course, the people you do it with can make or break the tour and the riding is generally very good as the tour organisers have normally already planned to be on great roads. What I did notice at the bike show however was the large number of adventure tours to places like Peru, India, Africa and even New Zealand. A few of the guys I spoke to put to put this down to one simple thing – the “Long Way Round/ Down” tv programmes that featured Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman which I guess really introduced us to what is possible in adventure touring. Sure, such tours have been around for a while, but that tv series has really made them popular.

This is the list of touring companies I saw.... quite a few really!.....

Adventure Riding Academy
Adventure Peru Motorcycling
Blazin Bikes
Compass Expeditions
Dust Devils SL
HC Travel
Hidden Ireland Motorcycle Tours
Hispania Tours
Kudu Expeditions
M C I Tours
MSL Tours
Nurburg Ring Tours
Paradise Motorcycle Tours NZ Ltd
Pole Position Travel
Toursareus Ltd
Two Wheel Trekkers
VFR - New Zealand

I have decided to give such shows a miss in future and this will be my last London Motorcycle Show. I will go to the smaller and much more fun custom bike shows, where you really see something different in both the bikes and the people, but big general motorbike shows? – probably not. Would I consider going on another organised tour? – to a country where I don’t speak the language – probably yes. Only problem, where.....?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Nathan’s Great Road Trip Video

I was looking at Lucky’s blog, The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour and I watched a couple of videos he had posted on there. They are so good, I have taken the liberty of also linking to them here on my blog.

These videos are about a young guy called Nathan who on the spur of the moment woke up one day and decided to buy his first motorbike and go on a road trip to Scotland. Oh, I should include that this trip was done mainly in the rain! He hasn’t even got a full motorcycle licence, so he has to display “L” plates to show he is a learner rider. He went to a dealer, bought a 20 year old 125cc Suzuki and went for a 958 mile ride on it, which as he says, "Is not bad for my first trip on the bike". He made two short videos about the trip and posted them on the web.

I have lifted the photo below from Nathans website but I am sure he won’t mind....

The videos will appeal to most people but especially to anyone that had a bike when they were young. They are brilliantly made and Nathan is very good at taking a simple story about a bike ride and telling it very well. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman watch out!

The videos are well made and no doubt took him a lot of time. Get ready for the bit about the kill switch – it’s a classic!

Keep up the good work Nathan.

The videos are in two parts.....

You can read more about Nathan's trip at