Monday 31 May 2010

A local ride to check out the Road King....

As it was away being painted, I haven’t ridden the black bike much this year. Tomorrow, it is having a major service before the bike gets shipped to the US for the tour so I thought I had better get some miles accomplished today so I could see if there is anything in particular I want done during the service.

The weather wasn’t great, but it stayed dry so I am grateful for that. I didn’t go anywhere particular, but I did about 60 miles locally – it was one of those rides that I headed in one direction taking roads I never normally use, to see what I found.

I took a few photos....

Not far from where I live, I saw something odd in a field. I don’t think I have ever seen this before where what I assume some seeds of one crop - barley I think – were growing in a wheat field and standing wispy and taller than the main crop....

I then rode over a bridge near Hemel Hempstead that goes over the Grand Union Canal, right next to a lock. Luckily there was a narrow boat in the lock so I stopped and took a couple of pictures....

My route then took me passed Pitstone Windmill which is believed to be the oldest windmill in the British Isles and bears the date 1627. It was badly damaged in the Great Storm of 1902 which ended its working life, but was restored by local volunteers and maintained today by the National Trust....

The final picture is of my Harley-Davidson Road King, near to a local railway viaduct, which I think makes a fantastic background for any motorcycle picture....


Yesterday, I had to go into Central London and I saw the Royal Artillery Regiment taking their ceremonial guns through the city. The pictures speak for themselves, but even motorcyclists get in on the act – see the Police motorcyclist in the final picture. There were a team of these Police bikes escorting the Regiment and controlling the traffic....

Saturday 29 May 2010

New Paint for my Road King

The weather was good this morning, so I rolled my Harley-Davidson Road King out of the garage and took some pictures of it. This is the bike I will be doing the tour of the USA on. As you will see, I have had the bike repainted in its original black, but with portraits of Hollywood movie stars.

I found the sun being out was both a help and a hindrance. It helped give a lot of light, but there were considerable reflections, so one day soon I might get the bike re-shot in a studio where the light can be controlled a lot more.

The bike was painted by Tony Evans and I have got to thank him for doing such a marvellous job. Here is a link to his website. The portraits are all air-brushed and I think they are stunning!

Audrey Hepburn

Judy Garland

Lauren Bacall

Marilyn Monroe

Vivien Leigh

Jane Russell

Marlene Dietrich

Deborah Kerr

Liz Taylor

Sophia Loren

The Author

Monday 24 May 2010

I spent all day with the Police today....

As some of my readers will know, I came back to biking about 4 years ago. I am your typical “born again biker”. As a result of being away from biking for so long, this means that I have not had any formal rider training or any type of riding skills assessment for about 36 years. Gulp.

In preparation for my forthcoming tour of the USA I thought it might be a good idea to put this right in some way and today I did exactly that.

Throughout much of the UK, groups of motorcycle Police run what are called “Bikesafe” days. This is an initiative to help to lower the number of motorcycle rider incidents and casualties. By passing on their knowledge, skills and experience, police motorcyclists can help riders become safer and more competent.

So this morning I rode to a Metropolitan Police centre on the north side of London that was the base for a days assessment of my riding skills. There were 5 of us riders being assessed, ranging from a young student who was new to biking, to a couple of people that had been riding for many years. The ratio of Police motorcyclists to riders was incredible – it was one to one. We were allocated one Police motorcyclist each, for the whole day! I found it somewhat amusing that the name of the Police motorcyclist assessing me was Colin Paris. Paris for France.

The day essentially comprised 3 parts. The first part was a few talks about general motorcycle safety, observation skills, road positioning and awareness skills. The second part was a one hour city ride followed by a two and a half hour rural ride on country roads where the Police motorcyclist rides behind you watching every move you make. It is a little nerve-wracking at first, but the guys work at creating a relaxed environment and after a while, it just feels like a couple of people out riding their bikes. You don’t forget that it is a Police motorcyclist behind you for a good part of a day, but you soon get used to it. The third part is the feedback session at the end of the day when you are told about what is good and not so good about your riding.

My overall impression of the day was excellent. Having a professional motorcyclist assessing you is rewarding and Colin spotted things that I didn’t realise about how I ride my bike. Additionally, you are put into an environment that really makes you think about your riding. I found myself noticing more road signs, thinking about what could happen in “what if” situations and putting myself in a position where I felt more confident about riding. I left the day with a new vision about riding a bike. It is the overall feeling of being more aware of what was happening around and ahead of me that felt good.

The day was very good value indeed. At just £45 (about 65 USD) it is a bargain. This of course is subsidised, so thanks go to Transport for London for re-investing some of our congestion charge money back into something we benefit from.

Overall, a top day.

Here is a link to the Bikesafe days website

Sunday 23 May 2010

1 month to go....

Wow. It is now just about 1 month until I start my tour of the USA.

I have been somewhat busy recently and travelling a lot so I haven’t been posting much on my blog.

The big thing we did recently was Jackie (my wife) and I drove a car to Spain. It was an open top sports car with no roof. By “no roof” I mean just that. I don’t mean a convertible – I mean no roof. This would have been ok, except it rained. It hailed. And it snowed. It was -2 degrees Celsius which is 28F. Ok for me, but for Mrs F it was a little cold! She did really well and didn’t complain and just got on with it. Despite the cold, it was a fun journey. The one thing I did learn was when it is raining, the fastest you drive, the drier you stay…… Here are a couple of pictures of the car near our house in Spain (no the boat is not mine….)

So, with just 1 month to go, am I ready for the USA tour? Yes, just about – I have a few last things to do, including getting the bike serviced and shipped. Oh, and I am going to Thailand for 10 days for my Brothers wedding. Thailand? – that place that is having all the riots (and deaths) at the moment? Well, yes, but we are not going anywhere near where the troubles are happening. At least I hope not.

The weather here today was getting us ready for Thailand. Wait for it….. it hit 86F (30C) here today. In May! In London! Very nice, but crazy weather for this time of year here.

Tomorrow, I am attending a “Bike Safe” riding course with the London Metropolitan Motorcycle Police and I will take some pictures and write something here about the day.

Later this week, I will try to do some more posts. I am aware that the new paintwork on my Road King has been finished for a few weeks and I still haven’t showed you, dear readers, what it looks like yet……

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Ride Out at St Tropez, Day 3 (Saturday)

Today was Ride Out day. The Chelsea and Fulham HOG Chapter that I am a member of met at a villa on the outskirts of St Tropez and rode a 50 mile ride that took a couple of hours. The weather stayed fine, thankfully without the rain that had plagued a lot of riders on their way down to the South of France.

We ran south west along some twisty mountain roads before hitting the coast and heading back towards St Tropez. We stopped for a very good lunch on the beach at the Restaurant Plage Les Bronzes before making our way back to St Tropez.

The photos and video below show the Chapter Members meeting for breakfast, the ride itself and then lunch afterwards.

Here is the video of the ride....

And here are the pictures from the post ride lunch....

My bike back in the Port of St Tropez.

Saturday 8 May 2010

St Tropez H-D Euro Festival, Day 2 (Friday)

Today was a busy day. Up early for a quick ride, then back to the hotel to collect my wife Jackie and to walk around St Tropez. The town still has some of it's previous glamour, but is very tired and many parts are in need to fixing up in order to justify the ridiculously high prices this place charges. Overall St Tropez has a good feel.

The boats in the port are stunning, but it seems odd that despite their multi-million price tags, everybody in the town was, for today at least, ignoring those boats and looking at the motorbikes instead. Speaking to the local traders, they all adore this bike festival, for it is very good for business. Many of the cafes, restaurants, bars and hotels are full so the influx of bikers is very good for business and a welcome boost to the local economy to kick-start the tourist season.

There are Harley-Davidsons everywhere. Standard bikes, tourers and many customs, some good and some not so good. In their own way, all H-D's are interesting as almost nobody keeps them as they rolled off the end of the production line. Just about everybody changes their H-D in some way or another, so almost all of these bikes are worth looking at.

The seafront in the port was full of bikes, making a morning walk very enjoyable. This afternoon a few of us went to the custom bike show in Grimaud - a local village with the show taking over the town square. The weather was good, so the show was very busy. I didn't enter my bike this year (it did well in the show 2 years ago, so it would have been a bit cheeky to enter it again), but I enjoyed looking at some of the new bikes.

Here are some photos of the day....

Cool bikes with a stunning back drop

Big bikes and even bigger boats!

St Tropez Port, with its water facing cafes

I am not sure about the colour, but note the right side drive

Kilts for him and her

Those bars cannot be comfortable

The festival is very multi-national, with bikers attending from all over Europe

Le Mans has to be one of the coolest back patches

Geneva Chapter

This guy travelled a long way!

Nice paint job on a standard H-D bike

My red bike parked in the town square

The Village of Grimaud, where the custom bike show was held

Some of the longer custom bikes at the show

A very cool chain driven throttle to carb set-up

Sleek looking bike

I didn't get the bands name, but they were good, but a little loud!

Front ends at different rakes

Whole lotta bikes

Why would you take off the side stand on a road bike so you need to take a paddock stand with you?

The owner must have thought one day "Lets a a new light to the back of the bike" and it just grew from there

A young woman rode into the custom bike show on a "Chanel no. 5" bike. It looked good and smelled great!

My friend Ian on his custom bike in the show

This guy decided to rest, on his bike when it was in the custom show!

A very narrow street in St Tropez

Look closely - there is a dog in the buggy! It is 16 years old and blind, so its owner takes it for "walks" like this because otherwise it walks into things!

Some of the mega yachts in St Tropez