Been a while..

Anyone would think that I haven’t set foot on a bike all year. That is of course rubbish. Although the summer wasn’t full of the long tours of previous. I spent a little time in Norther Ireland at the fabulous Armoy Road Race, in July.

Armoy is a little village in the North East and totally comes alive in a wonderful road race with all my favourite riders. This trip was all about photography. I was desperate to learn how to take some supreme sports shots and I certainly did learn pretty quickly.

It was great to see the Dunlop brothers out in force, Guy Martin racing and NI man Derek McGee smashing it! Here are a few of my favourite pics..

 

I have always loved road racing over track, controversial I know, but really, these are normal 30mph roads all year then for 6 hours over 2 days they get totally rinsed! It is dangerous, there are fatalities and injuries but these riders have balls of steel!

 

 

Playing at altitude: 1350 miles, a low side and love in Colorado

So this Easter I undertook my first mission to the highest roads in the world, starting with Colorado, USA. Colorado means ‘Colour red’ and rather aptly named by the Indians for the abundance of red rock in the state. But the bright glowing rock isn’t the only geological feature in the Rocky’s, there are also massive sand dunes and plenty of granite bed rock that holds the water, filtering back up through various minerals to create hot springs. Now the highest paved road is on Mt Evans which is the 2nd highest peak in the 14ers (there are 58 mountains that are all above 14,000 feet) however it was too early in the season to get up to the summit as most of it was still ice and snow! Not even all of Pikes Peak was open or the Estes Park Pass so we had to play on other roads.

Entance to Mt Evans road

Entrance to Mt Evans road

Lesson 23. Find like minded people and use social networking for good!

However this adventure doesn’t start here, it starts with a motorcycle group on Facebook known as ‘Motorbike Ladies’ where female riders can ask for help, post pics and generally talk bike related business. I posted up asking if anyone knew any nice roads and rides in Colorado. Within a few minutes Simi, one of the admins, had tagged various riders in the post, within a few hours I had a bike, somewhere to stay and group of cool women to show me around for a week. As it got closer to the trip one member had a job interview exactly the dates I was there so was unable to come out or lend me the bike, so I looked in to rental and the Harley Sportster was the cheapest bike I could find but it still worked out at $150 a day, eeek! After watching Sons of Anarchy I did start to worry that I would go all Jax on people’s arses, wearing white t shirts and shooting shit. I felt that the tassels, chaps and open face look was not for me, not yet.

It was fine and I was coming to terms with this clear change in my riding style in my head and planned on getting a few busses to various towns and riding for 4 days. Bex, one of the ladies advised me not to hire anything yet as she might be able to help out being a Motorcycle Instructor. I sat it out and just waited to get to America before deciding too much apart from riding and visiting hot springs.

I watched numerous thunderstorms from the plane window across Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois appreciating the aerial show on a massive level as the view in the dark with the sky lighting up was simply stunning. After some pretty epic turbulence I arrived in Denver close to 10pm and it was snowing! possibly not the best weather conditions for riding in but was glad that Lee and Bex had a four wheel drive to collect me in.

It was a slow journey south to their home with very little visibility, when the lights were on high beam it made everything look like we were going into hyper drive. We drove past a biker and all winced a little and felt even more snug in the car. On the journey we got to know each other and joked about trying to suss out if either of us were actually murderers as both of our friends had been wary of visiting and welcoming a stranger in to their home. I was not a serial killer and neither were they, so game on! We sat downstairs and had a cup of tea and some light refreshment when we started talking roads and routes.

Now people that know me, know I love a good map! Googlemaps has been great to search out various routes but there is nothing more satisfying than fingering the map over a coffee or breakfast looking for interesting roads to ride on. So to be invited upstairs into the study to this sight was simply wonderful. The entire state was blown up on to a wall nearly 8ft high. I really did feel as if I had come home! We studied the wall with a angle poised lamp and searched out the best places whilst getting a feel for the topography of the area.

The amazing Bex and Lee with their super cool map wall.

The amazing Bex and Lee with their super cool map wall.

Day 2. Monument to Colorado Springs

As it was snowing and we were waiting for altitude sickness to kick in, we drove down to Garden of the Gods and went for a short hike. The rocks were amazing and the sky classic Colorado blue. As we climbed the steps up to the summit we were both a little short of breath, was this the sickness? Nah, just unfitness!

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At the top of the stairs we celebrated with a few other climbers and got our breath back! We looked out at Pikes Peak which dominates the view for many miles around.

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We went to see a few members of the Pikes Peak MOA club including the rather fabulous Helane who has been riding for over 50 years, I shan’t disclose her age as that would be rude, but she is a total bad ass! She had a house full of model motorbikes and an old BMW in the garage that she rode until recently. She had already ridden over the Ladakh Pass (highest road in Asia) and had a great photo of her in a line up with 5 other guys in India. She was a real inspiration and proves that you can do what ever you set your heart on.

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We drove around Manitou Springs and she told me about the history of the town and state. Because of the great air it was known for treating tuberculosis and became quite a large hospital state. We saw another large hospital in Glenwood Springs that is now a haunted hotel that Jean had stayed in where the lift didn’t work and a room smelt of cigars, creepy.

Day 3. Around Monument, Castle Rock and Colorado Springs

Instead of hiring the Harley I took out a 1999 muscle bike, the Kawasaki ZRX, it was a fantastic ride and just the right height for my shorter stature. We rode around the local area to Castle Rock to get a feel for each other before embarking on the trip with the MOA down to Taos, New Mexico.

Maiden voyage on the Kawasaki

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It needed new tyres before going on a long haul ride so we popped down to Colorado Springs and met up with Jay, another member of the PP MOA who fitted them.

Day 4. Monument to Taos and on to Pagosa Springs.

The trip down to Taos was with the local BMW group, I did feel like a bit of an outsider riding the Japanese bike however the people in the group were so friendly. It was an early and rather cold start to the day leaving at 7.45 to get to Pueblo for 9am. The I25 was an easy ride but blowy and pretty cold, especially as I am particularly soft and used to riding with heated grips even in the summer! I had layered up with marino wool, t shirts, hoody, bike jacket, leggings, jeans and leathers! It’s amazing that I could even walk let alone cock my leg high enough to get it over the seat with the rucksack strapped on the back! We then took the 160 West and the 159 South.

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We made it down into New Mexico without a hitch and stopped for lunch at a Mexican diner. I noticed some liquid coming out the bottom of the Kwak, it wasn’t oil and it wasn’t fuel, it was coolant. We went in and ate then decided what we would do to try and fix the leak. The waiter bought over these large doughy triangles called Sopodilla that you ate with honey or syrup. It was carb heaven and clearly a few of the ladies had come across these before and declined for the sake of their waistlines! I on the other hand rather enjoyed the first half (then it got a little greasy!) It was cool to meet Crystal, Jean and Dawn, all of whom ride.

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After a nice meal Eric and Bex had a closer look at the bike and it turned out the water pump was leaking again – it was a problem that had been fixed before but the ride down to NM had obviously unsettled it again.

We tried to limp on but it dumped a load more coolant out at the petrol station and poor Lee (Bex’s husband and owner of the bike) was called to come and trailer it back the 200 miles we had just ridden, in order to save the engine. Not only was it leaking but it was also going on the back tyre making it rather slippery, basically it was an accident waiting to happen. So we were heading back to Monument rather than to Pagosa Springs or the intriguingly named Million Dollar Highway.

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Not to be down hearted we looked around the artisan town and popped in to various shops hauling all of our luggage about, possibly not the best move in tiny little stores with lots of precious niknaks and stones! There were some pretty cool sculptures though in the town and these bright red chilli decorations hanging up.

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So we waited… it’s a 4 hour drive from their house to Taos and not even the litres of McDonalds Diet Dr Pepper could contain us so we sat with the bikes watching the sun going down. Did you know that they put slits in their apple pies to cool them down? What a great idea, perhaps it could be adopted in the UK to stop the molten filling from burning every surface it comes in to contact with!

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Lee came just as night fell and we loaded the trailer to go back. The journey gave us time to chat again and find out more about each other as well as formulating a plan for the next few days. It looked as if I was going to have to hire after all, so we got in touch with a nice guy at Colorado Tour Bikes who agreed to meet us at 9am Sunday to maximise the days I had left.

Day 5. Denver to Buena Vista

He had a Triumph Tiger 800 with a lowered seat so that was my new ride. After taking the Kwak out it was very light and wide in the handle bars, I declined on the hard panniers and went with a top box and my trusty rucksack bungeed on to the rack. I like that fact I’ve had that pack since I was 18 and it is an item that I can really vividly remember buying, even all that time ago!

Lesson 24. Don’t be afraid to ride ‘on the other side’ of the road – try not to ride into on coming traffic though!

The bike itself was very economical but it was a little ‘meh’ in comparison, much like the FZ to be fair and after riding the hooning VTR and the muscle it just felt a little lacking in balls. Anyway, we decided that I would go up to Mt Evans whilst Bex went home and prepared for our new and modified ride. It was nice to be on my own and I felt perfectly comfortable too riding in a foreign country. I know people post on the forum from time to time about the fact that they worry about riding on the ‘wrong’ side but it’s really easy on a bike because your visibility is much better than in a car. You do need to be cautious of looking the right way before pulling out of junctions and going the right way around roundabouts, this is not a problem in the US as there were very few roundabouts, in fact I only saw 2 in over 1300 miles!!!

I rode up to Mt Evans and it was closed however there was a lovely road that headed to Evergreen that weaved through the mountains so I took that. When I got to the end I then realised that I had no photographic evidence so had to ride all the way back 😉 by the time I returned it was snowing and rather grey looking compared to the blue skies from earlier along the pass.

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By the time I got back to Monument, Jean had arrived and Bex told me that she was coming out on our ‘Gypsy Tour’ too 🙂 Fabulous!

We set out along Highway 24 that goes from Colorado Springs round the back of Pikes Peak and across to show the collegiate mountains. We stopped off at a visitors centre and walked up the closed carpark to the most outstanding view, my first real sighting of the vastness of the land and the relationship between the other 14ers.

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We were heading to Buena Vista where we were staying at the Cottonwood hot springs. The road was nice but then straightened out across a plateau where it was pretty windy and chilly, we tucked down behind the screens and just rode looking at various animals and a few rocks! Buena Vista itself is a pretty funky town that looks really old but in fact was mostly built to house the white water rafting tourists that flock to the town in the summer. We stopped off at the Eddyline Brewery and ate dinner, I treated myself to a River Runners Pale Ale and it was the start of more brews over the week! In fact I developed quite a taste for a citrusy, hopsy pale ale! The food was nice and company good, it was the perfect time for Jean to see how we were! We talked about language differences especially when she mentioned a growler (a large volume bottle with a handle) and an insulated growler, of course she didn’t know what that was slang for in the UK and we chuckled, mostly when we saw said growlers at various outlets and left cackling!

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View from the hot spring at Cottonwood just before night fall.

The hot springs were lovely and sat in a valley, there were 4 different pools ranging from VERY hot to cold. It was dark out and most enjoyable watching the stars from the hot water. There was a great mix of people from young locals from the next town to a pair of older ladies who were visiting from Kansas. The minerals in the ground are mostly lithium so they make for a very relaxing bath and it made a change from the sulphur eggy smell that I had encountered in Europe. We slept well and prepared for the next leg.

Day 6. Buena Vista to Glenwood Springs via Black Gorge Canyon.

Now it was cold in the morning! like teeth achingly cold, I had to ride with my tongue over them to stop them from hurting! We saw a few deer on the verge and a fox ran across the road, a good omen I thought. I was glad when we stopped at the Evergreen Cafe to start the day with a good breakfast. I talked to a few locals who were interested in my accent and to find out what I was doing in Colorado. He rode a BMW too and showed me pictures of his bike with a push bike strapped to the back of it, he was right, I had never seen such a spectacle before! They wished me luck on my highest roads mission and we set off.

Evergreen Diner, Buena Vista, CO

Evergreen Diner, Buena Vista, CO

Once we had got down to Salida there was another very long blustery straight to Gunnison. I had to add even more layers, this time waterproofs that act as windproof layers. I wanted to be nice and toasty ready for the next leg of the ride which was around Lake Mesa and up the Black Gorge! These are the sorts of roads I like! The curves were sweeping with fantastic views of the mountains and water on each side. We stopped for a few photo opportunities at Lake Mesa before heading up into the gorge itself.

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3 Musketeers

3 Musketeers

Reservoir at Gunnison

Reservoir at Gunnison

From the reservoir we went upstream to the picturesque Black Gorge Dam and Canyon. These roads were narrower and not as populated by cars but mostly deer and rocks that had fallen from the cliff sides. Now I felt like we were getting in to the heart of Colorado, the sense of emptiness and openness was clear with well weathered roads and scenery that was just starting to bloom after the winter months. Snow was still evident on most of the faces of the mountains and even patches that had been blown across the plains. The roads meandered through the alpine and shrub landscape rather than being carved in one straight line across it.

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Black Gorge

Black Gorge

Black Gorge selfie with the ladies :)

Black Gorge selfie with the ladies 🙂

Lesson 25. Don’t ride like a dick on roads you don’t know

The roads were great (apart from the rocks) and I was having a rather super time feeling rather confident as it was similar to many of the Spanish and Andorran roads I had ridden last summer, it was all fine until I overshot a left hander straight into the path of a 4×4. Luckily he swerved so I didn’t come off. It was bloody close though, in fact my first close call that I had ever had. It was about 5 minutes later when I entered a corner to hot and scrapped by footpeg and straightened up in the apex,  my fate was finally sealed and I came off after my back tyre lost traction on some gravel and I spun round on my arse on the floor, dancing with the bike as it travelled on its side, grinding up the road. It was all very quick and to be fair not as bad as I imagined ‘an off’ to be. Worse though was the fact that I had put down $1500 as a security bond for the bike that had gouged out some of the Colorado road as I scrapped across it. I also had a flash back to the track day where Dale had told me “Slow down or get your arse off the seat.” Well funnily enough I had actually been leaning over and getting off the seat, just not on this corner, over cooked as it’s known.

At least it went in to the road and not off the road. The bike hire owner told me that he had been running the company for many years and it took him a couple of them to realise that accidents do happen. He had loaned out a whole fleet of bikes to a group and they were going up the Mt Evans road when a guy lost it and rode over the mountain, dropping down, with the bike caught in a barrier but written off. He was amazed the rider didn’t die so I felt more humbled for my experience. Was I lucky that Mt Evans was indeed closed? Maybe I will ride it more considered now.

The whole experience was quite surreal and I guess really helped by the fact I didn’t break anything or injury myself apart from a few bruises. Having the girls there with me was amazing as they just jumped in and helped, we were like the A Team: dynamic, operated with military precision and most importantly, no drama. Being stranded on a mountain in the middle of nowhere would be pretty damn rubbish! Even worse if I was surrounded by flapping birds!!

Video here: https://youtu.be/lOI-if2bxcQ

Lesson 26. Get up, get the bike up and keep riding – if you can!

We limped the bike on for another 25 miles to Paonia in 3rd gear as the gear foot lever was bent up and very difficult to change combined with the clutch lever being so overly misshapen but somehow it hadn’t snapped! We got to the garage and borrowed a hammer so the girls bent the pedal in to a more manageable shape whilst I went to the toilet. Still wearing what can only be described as waterproof chaps (after they had the arse ripped out in the slide) I got all hulk on what was left and literally ripped them off!

The bike was grazed and the indicator had stopped working, it was a funny orange bulb rather than a clear bulb in orange plastic, that would have to be something that Bill would fix, although it now meant I was without a front signal.

Fixing the gear pedal at Paonia with a borrowed hammer.

Fixing the gear pedal at Paonia with a borrowed hammer.

Now I’m not saying that ride was easy, I suffered from terrible point fixation for miles! Point fixation on a bike is where your eyes take you, if you are looking at a rock you will drive into the rock, if you are looking at the apex of a corner that’s exactly where you will ride so you have to keep your head up and eyes on the horizon in the direction of where you want to be. I challenged myself to overcome this as it makes for a more nervy ride, however these are just skills that you need to refresh yourself in… my mantra in my head was “look up, look round” and it comes back to you. It’s actually easier to ride when you’re not over-thinking the corners but letting them flow with a good feel for them.

I had been so busy riding that I had forgotten to get any pictures since Blue Mesa as I was just enjoying the road, however after Paonia the landscape changed again from Shrub and alpines to snow and aspen’s with their silvery bark much similar silver birches in the UK. They were bare of leaves in the mountains as it was too early but down in the lower warmer regions they had started to green up. Then it went into the red rock and then yellow sand stone before following the river along to Glenwood Springs, there was so much variation in 150 miles!

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I really liked the variety of mail boxes too, there was one section where there must have been 20 or so in a row all different shapes. I caught these on the road from Redstone to Carbondale

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Finally we arrived at Glenwood Springs and the girls had booked a hotel, we ended up with a free upgrade to 3 queen size beds and use of the pool until midnight. We went out to a little restaurant and ate weird food and drank artisan beers and ciders. My tipple for the evening was the ‘dirty hippy’, it was very mild tasting, nothing like dirty hippies at all! There has been a tradition for ‘googly eying’ objects for some time and I always have a few spare sets kicking around in my handbag. After dinner I found these beauties. We’re not quite sure how they ended up on this fabulous picture. Many thanks to the waitress for unwittingly framing the picture so well lol! Superb.

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Day 7. Glenwood Springs to Monument via Leadville, Fair Play and Tarryall 

If you look on a map this is probably the most convoluted route you could take as it does a big W up and down across various passes. The beauty of this was that each of the areas had its very own characteristics. The first part along the I70 was interrupted when we got pulled over by a cop, what had we done wrong? The speed was good but not suspiciously slow, everyone had paperwork, what was it? Now bearing in mind I knew my indicator didn’t work, I didn’t want to highlight the fact with the double time flashing it does when a bulb is out, so I pulled in after his car and waited to see what he said to Bex. After he looked at her documents and gave her a print out about her year and month of license being the wrong way round on the number plate he came up to me, shades and hat on. “Hey Maam, you need to use your turning signal, even if your friend is signalling and you’re following her, you need to use them too.” he said. Yes indeed I did, however I didn’t want to tell him that I purposefully wasn’t using them to avoid a penalty notice! I nodded and pleaded British ignorance and we went off on our way. No tickets issued 🙂 Screen shot 2015-04-18 at 23.43.00

The road to Leadville was very scenic with big bridges and sweeping snowy curves. I drove past this place and had to stop. It was incredibly quiet and the most heavenly place I have every experienced. The photo really doesn’t do the frozen lake justice.

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We arrived in Leadville which is the highest city in the USA. It was an old mining town and hub on the 285 road that leads back down to Buena Vista. We couldn’t resist a photo by the massive sign on the entrance to the town.

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Then we weaved back north up the 91 over copper mountain, to Frisco to then headed south down the 9 through the snow sports centre of Breckenridge to Fairplay – the home and inspiration for the animated comedy series South Park. It is said that all the characters are actually based on people who live in the town. http://www.oocities.org/pocius8/real.html

Fair Play bar, home of South Park

Fair Play bar, home of South Park

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After a spot of lunch we travelled back northwards to Jefferson and took a turning off onto a newly paved road that went past the Tarryall reservoir. This place was pretty lush with a powerful, blue cloudy sky and clear blue water. I was so envious of the people that had set up a caravan and camp next to the water. It reminded me of my youth when we would rock up in the Merc and camp anywhere, the world was our oyster.

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The landscape here was green grassland with the occasional rock mound but through undulating hills and sweeping round bends. It reminded me of a drier and more sunny Wales in a weird way – if such a place can exist in your imagination!

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I really wanted to get some pictures of the balanced rock at Garden of the Gods, so Bex and I split up from Jean and said our goodbyes. We went and had a giggle taking silly pictures holding the rock up etc. It was massive and it’s only when you see it next to the bike or a person that you can start to comprehend the stature of these magnificent stones.

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The final night we went out for dinner and ended up at the Pikes Peak Brewery where they brew and can their own beers. They had a super chalkboard menu that compared colour, taste, alcohol % and price of a range of beers. I was lucky to have Jenna to show me round and explain about the different casks they use to develop different flavours.

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Night fell and I needed an early start to return the bike and see what damage had been done. We sat downstairs in the bar and chatted, reflecting on the crazy week that was action packed but incredibly cool. Even when things weren’t going to plan it was just cool, and there was no drama. I hope that they enjoyed opening up their home and showing me parts of the country that they are clearly both very proud to be part of. The tiredness hit and we went to our beds a little merry but I was also gutted that the time was coming to an end.

I didn’t unpack my bags so it was easier to get ready in the morning, just a shower, coffee and to layer up. I had become quite used to this now after playing in the altitude. I arrived at the hire place and Bill seemed OK about things and took me to the airport.

We mapped out the various routes that had been taken over the week and plotted them on a rather well travelled and crumpled up map! There is still so much to do! Looks like I will have to go back and this time Jas wants to come with me 🙂

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Lesson 27. Never give up – you’re the only one in charge of your own future, so dig deep!

After a long flight home with no sleep I arrived at Heathrow exhausted from the adventure. I found my bike in the carpark and tried to start it. The damn battery was flat. There was no slope even on the ground to bump it but there was a flyover coming out of the terminal 2 carpark. I looked about for help but there was no one – typical! I actually had a little swear, the first time in the whole damn trip and I was close to tears. Not today though, I was certainly an independent woman so I needed to act like one, so I loaded her up (yes I refer to the FZ as a female! do you personify your bikes?) and set to push the bike with all the luggage up the flyover ramp. Bearing in mind that I was still VERY layered up, thermal leggins under my kevlar jeans, multiple base layers with coats etc I was bloody hot in the UK. The bike was heavy and I just had to dig deep and power it up the hill with my carves feeling the strain. Still no-one came, a man did walk past the bike carpark but I was already half way up. Busses went past, taxi’s, car’s people tired after getting off a plane, but no-one stopped. I had a flashback to a video I had watched about people pulling massive trucks along flat ground, is this what that feels like? I thought.  Clutching hold of the brake lever to stop the bike and al my stuff rolling back down the hill I would brace and push up slowly further, gasping for breath and trying to avoid lactic acid from killing my stretching, burning calves. Finally, sweating like a pig I reached the top. At the bottom were traffic lights so I needed expert timing to bump down the hill with minimal traffic and a green light at the end. Shazzam! it worked and I revved down the M4 to get on the the M25.

Now in America you can’t filter, you simply have to sit in the traffic and wait it out. The drivers seemed more erratic over here but the morning jam on the M25 was no bother as I slipped up the lanes. A rule that separates the cars from the bikes in the UK.

When I think about my favourite view of the trip this has to be one and it was on the way to Lee and Bex’s home. On the way down you could see Pikes Peak just opening up, framed by the trees down the side of the road, and on the way home you could see  it in the wing mirror. Double pleasure whichever direction you are travelling in.

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All in all an amazing Easter time adventure made possible by my sister for having my son, Bex and Lee for their hospitality and work for giving me some overtime!

Until the next one…

Ride on 🙂

Highest roads in the world tour

I have needed a new mission for a while after my disillusioned track day dreams were crushed. I’m just not into track riding, I really like roads and the smoothness you can flow with them, track is a very different vibe.

Feeling particularly forlorn on Monday I decided to plan a mission based on what I love.

I love travelling. The freedom and to feel at home in myself when I’m away. I love mountains and mountain roads. I love taking photos of breathtaking places. So what’s better than going to some of the best vistas in the world on a motorised bike? Mountain hot springs! That’s what! To relax in bath temperatures whilst out in the wilderness after a long ride. That to me is heaven.

So my aim is to ride the highest roads in each continent by 2020 – which coincides with my 40th birthday and take in any local hot springs!

With no time to waste Colorado’s Mount Evans is first on the list. I will follow in the footsteps of Guy Martin and ride Pikes Peak, stay with some amazing lady riders and spend a night in a cabin at the best hot springs in the snow.

Watch this space…

Ride on 🙂

Track day and the realisation…

Excited to the max that I finally got thin enough for a reasonably priced second hand leather onesie I booked a track day at Mallory Park in October.

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It was freezing but with a tank bag on the Fz and I made our way to Leicestershire. image

I was nervous and excited as I had never ridden on a track but knew that my mission to be a road racer would start here. There were loads of blokes, in fact I was one of 3 ladies on the circuit that day. No problem and everyone was so helpful… we were all desperate to get one more ride of the season in! I met a fantastic lady called Audrey who is part of ‘motorbike ladies’ group on Facebook.  It’s fab that all over the country more of us finally put faces to the profile pics. image

The day was foggy as hell and after lunch it finally lifted and it seemed a few people had gone,  great! More room on the track.  I was most grateful for Audrey’s friend for sorting out my tyres.

Lesson 22. Reduce tyre pressures A LOT!

I had reduced the pressure from road riding and 1st lap was ok. 2nd lap round and I was feeling pretty confident after hooning in the country lanes (on my way there and generally about) so I knew what I and the bike could do, then after the chicane I opened her up on a straight and lost the back end and was drastically thrown left, somehow corrected it throwing myself right and back again! Fuck!!!! I wasn’t even sure how I stayed on. Oddly enough as I approached the hair pin I saw a rider all in black leather going past and giving me a thumbs up. When I watched the go pro footage back when I got home there was noone there… weird!

When I got back to the pits the guys checked my pressure and it was in the 40’s!! Was like trying to ride a helicopter, so after reducing the pressure even more I was back out and on it.

I was very grateful for the heated grips and there were some benefits to be riding a road bike such as being practically inaudible on the decibel reader. The twin factory exhaust was the quietest on the track and whilst other fella’s were being turned away, baffled and their can’s well and truly filled with all manner of material to be let on I was happily ready in the pit to ride. There weren’t many of us that hadn’t come with the bikes on a trailer or in a van, I would consider that for the next one. You can’t really push it when you are hundreds of miles from home and not even I am sadistic enough to smash up my ride!

I met a lovely man called Terry who had only starting riding in his late 50’s and had bought himself a blade (CBR1000) as his first bike. We drank tea in the warm and he told me about his first track day at Brands Hatch (I had been there the weekend or two before to watch the BSB final so was quite aquatinted with the track layout) he had come off just after the first corner and smashed his new pride and joy up! NO! he fixed it and was taking it rather more patiently round the track this time!

The cafe at the track was run by a group of lovely old dears who were so helpful and rather tearful as this was their last track day too and they only had the Boxing Day special ride before they retired. They clearly loved the bikers, racers and general atmosphere and had done a grand job keeping everyone in strong tea and mountains of chips with gravy!

I went out for a super session with one of the No Limits instructors which was a great idea, I never got my knee down which was basically the advice, either slow down or get my arse off the seat as my foot pegs were scrapping and my toes dangerously close to being wrenched from my the rest of my body. I don’t want to slow down so I think I will have to squat my way through the rest of the winter ready for hanging off! Eeeek!!! I suppose then I will get some nice photos though 😉

Now I’m no Rossi but I was good in the corners but even redlining the dear Fz6 she was not fast enough to outrun the gsxr and R1s. It made me really sad watching the gopro footage.  I mean so sad that I sulked for days. The track wasn’t the top buzz I had been waiting so long for, I was just disappointed in old faithful. I had finally out ridden the bike, it was an awful moment. Without wanting to cause any more distress there was only one solution.

A track bike…. Merry Christmas to me… introducing black beauty 🙂

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The VTR 1000 should do the job, a nifty little twin instead of the 4 cylinder will add torque especially on the shorter, windier tracks. See you out there next summer folks. Ride on 🙂

Graffiti tunnel – Leake Street

I had a day off and wanted to get some love for the FZ6 again.  After riding the BMW it made me realise how much I work the Yammy. She’s never let me down so she deserved a bit of a treat. Makes a change from her mountain road shots 😉

Leake Street is a designated tunnel for graffiti in London near Waterloo station. The art changes quite a lot and the quality good so it’s well worth a look if you are in the area.

I rode up with camera, tripod and some nice lenses in a tank bag and set up. If I go again I will need some more external flashes as the light is pretty restricted even with a 25 sec shutter speed. Here are some of the shots…

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Ride on 🙂

BMW S1000R TEST RIDE

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Today I went out on my first test ride. I’ve been a fan of the S1000rr but I really can’t ride in racing position, it just hurts my back. So I have been waiting to try BMW’s roadster with flat bars.  The bike is quick but not unmanageable and there’s more than enough buttons to press. I was grateful for the heated grips as the wet was possibly not the best for a first ride out.

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I was pleased that my stumpy legs could reach the floor even with the comfort seat. The ride was pleasant but the naked frame was not enough protection from the wind with the power the bike has making it a bit of a wind up compared to the RR.

The controls and feel are light and comfy and my lovely fz6 felt like a sluggish bag of nails however the design of it with the half fairing makes it a more manageable ride for the distances I like to go. After feeding this back I was very excited to hear about the release of the sports tourer/adventure using the S1000 engine. Roll on May 2015.

🙂 Ride on

A Momentous day

leathers

Finally after losing 18lb can I fit comfortably into some leather trousers. Now there is a difference between being able to get them on and actually being able to move enough to cock your leg over the back of the bike, straddle the seat and get both your feet down (damn being such a short arse!) let alone perform the dreaded ‘step through’ well today is the momentous day that weeks of Shaun T (T25) has paid off. I couldn’t be happier! Why? Track days baby!!!!!! 😀

I couldn’t believe how much more grip they provided over the kevlar jeans when clenched on to the tank after going for a spin yesterday. Oh I can see that I am going to have so much fun.

Lesson 21. Keep a sight on your dreams and make them reality. It’s only yourself that is stopping you from achieving greatness 

Spain and back – twice, Ross Noble… and a Eureka moment!

This has been a busy year since my last post. The summer is of course my favourite time for riding and as this post would suggest I have done a couple of trips down to Spain. But previous to that I have been getting lots of pratice in on European roads taking in several places on the bike including a day trip to Bruges to look at the swans and a champagne drinking spree in Epernay.

euro tunnel this

First time on the Channel Tunnel.

I was not particularly impressed with the lack of seating for motorcyclists on the Eurotunnel. It’s alright for car drivers sat there listening to their radio’s but having to stand or sit on the floor is just not really on, not when a couple of fold down seats would be easy to install! Come on it wouldn’t hurt guys!

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The Champagne region was generally pleasant to ride through, with endless vineyards over the hills but the roads were not taxing, mind you who goes to Champagne to spend their time driving?!

The next big event was in June undertaking the Last mile ride with Ross Noble to raise money for maintaining the bikes that take medical resources in the Sahara dessert. We were a team of lady riders (mostly from Hampshire) called Top Crumpet –  after Zoe had a post removed by a very over sensitive forum member of her idea of hot crumpet on a bike (see below).. you can only imagine the images that had previously been posted on the forum of Gents with .. well.. no protective gear on at all. So with a good sense of humour we adopted the logo below

hot crumpet on bike top crumpet

The day was a charity ride with a twist. We had to do various challenges on the way and tweet in pictures as evidence or collect items to take back to MCN headquarters. We met up at 8.30 and went to a cafe ready to fuel up (on coffee) and wait for Ross to text the tasks. First task Get a pic of your team at the starting point

starting point   last mileEasily done! The day started getting trickier with task 2 Find someone called Ross with proof and have your picture taken with them. Pretty tricky and lots of talking to strangers. You can imagine our team of leather clad beauties jumping off their bikes and running like Amazonian’s towards anyone! for any of the challenges…

Then the texts came in thick and fast.. 3 at once!

Task 3 Find the most random item and bring it with you  Task 4  Find something orange and bring it with you Task 5 Have your picture taken with a mechanic

The game was on. We stopped in a carpark outside a builders merchants still on our hunt for a Ross. Then I spotted some astroturf.. how random and rather topical considering the world cup was on. By the time I had made it inside the girls had found a guy called Ross!! Unbelievable!! I asked if they happened to have any astroturf samples and a really helpful man took me over to a box and guess what was in there? Only ORANGE astroturf!!! Have you ever seen such a thing? 2 challenges in one. I mean who could possibly have something that was orange and more random?

ross name

As it happened the lovely heated grip that I had installed in January had come unglued from the throttle so I had been maniacally gripping for 40 miles so the mechanic task was a good time to stop and quickly reglue it on. Luckily I could borrow a lovely ratchet (useful as when I had installed the grips to get the bar ends off I ended up having to use a wardrobe pole as a lever as the end was on too tight for my allen key!) within 5 mins we were back on the road. I now had a super glue covered hand and tank (any tips for removing superglue whilst leaving paint are gratefully accepted!)

mechanicquick fix

Task 6 have your photo taken using a spanner was performed by Jenniann who adjusted something 😉

Task 7 Find someone who looks like Ross Noble  Jenniann came in to her own again on this one, Whilst having a light refreshment in a local establishment (the Red Lion in Chesham) she went to a local charity shop and borrowed this stunning wig. A few of the locals were only happy to oblige us our photo. Big thanks to Nick and to his very understanding wife! Luckily we had evidence to show her it was all above board 🙂 Yes that is a zimmer frame we are knee downing off!

looks like ross

Whilst happily covorting with the locals more tasks came through. Task 8 have your picture taken at a local landmark. Task 9 Take a picture of you and your team playing in a playground in full bike gear. With new tasks on we had to drink our lemonades fast and head to Dunstable (our tactic, yes we had a tactic, was to get to Dunstable and use Sally’s local knowledge to do as many of the tasks as we could then we could peg it to MCN Peterborough ready for 3pm).

As we were about to set off Task 11 Find a copy of the MCN and have a funny picture taken with it came through and so it only seemed fitting to take this one…

MCN

Obviously taking the whole day very seriously when Task 10 Find a medical centre and have your picture taken infront of it we thought of a serious location.

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The last 4 came through together so we had plenty to do and also some left over from the earlier. Dunstable was super and we got 13, 14, 8 and 15 knocked out quickly. (Task 13 get a picture with your team and an animal, Task 14 get a stranger to wear your vest and helmet, Task 15 Take a photo of  a reflection of your team in something that’s not a mirror) where I was lucky enough to have an iguana scuttle across my lid. Thank goodness I had my lid on because to be fair it was quite icky and very quick!!

My favourite task was number 9 and we ladies did it in style with very odd looks from the children and parents as we have come steaming across the grass in our full kit!

playground challenge

Finally we made it to MCN and sat down to enjoy our well earned lunch 🙂 and were we got to proudly display our findings (the astroturf) and meet Ross himself.

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Put it this way, there were not many ladies there, and there was most certainly not another pack of cackling ladies. We stood out like sore thumbs and our obvious gun hoe style was noted by Ross, especially in his speech. We didn’t win anything with the ‘Nice Boys’ beating us with a ceramic orange Aardvark (yeah that was pretty orange and random too!) but banter was shared.

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The day was not totally lost as we (and our tactic) meant that were the only team to successfully complete all the challenges! Prize time: The brilliant Custardcino mug sat on the Orange astroturf 🙂prize

See all the images from the day on twitter using #lastmileride

The next major trip was the one I had been planning all winter, Austria! I loved the Alps last year but was still too inexperienced to really enjoy them. This year I trained, studied (Motorcycle craft: police guide) and practiced to be better at reading roads, more confident and more controlled – ultimately faster.

Lesson 20. Get help and learn to better a rider 

If you struggle I would suggest watching this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVWLIfChUwg although the story is quite cheesy the message behind has changed my life and riding. I’ve gone from being able to ride a road to dancing with the meanders! I just really wanted to try it out on the mountains.

So week booked off work and ferry booked typically the weather just turned from glorious heat to raining all over Europe especially Austria and France for the whole week!! 😦 So an alternative was sought and the only dry place left was Spain. So you can guess where we went! This trip encompassed Andorra which I drove to in April so I was very aware of the roads (in fact Andorra only has one road so it’s not too hard to go wrong!) There is a lovely pass that has 10 or so hairpins followed by a quick sweeping run into Soldeu. This however is high and in the mornings or bad weather is well in the clouds. That is not a pleasant ride I can assure you, especially with cows and horses in the road huddled together. Quite mad! So we headed for sunnier places… Tarragona

Map of route.

http://goo.gl/maps/x5iFc

We headed out of Andorra and went up towards Viehla. This road was outstanding and technical. It had it all, fast sweeping curves, technical elements of steep graduated hairpins and some beautiful scenery, just the place to practice my new skills. Passed a massive waterfall on the left, the biggest I’ve seen in the Pyrenees, which I hope to see again. The road was not the sort of place to be stopping for frivolous pictures!  It was still a little cold up at such altitude so we came back via a reservoir on a fast, curvaceous road that followed the contours. This was my sort of road, nice tarmac, good curves, no elevation so visibility was great even from the opposite side of a contour, finally I got my pegs down!! It made me jump to be honest and still does!

The remaining ride to Tarragona was across Spanish countryside which is largely uninspiring and pretty flat but there was a nice little row of hills just before the coast that we crossed and explored on another day.

Super short ride map… lots of twisties!

http://goo.gl/maps/iCv32

This short run is a great way to spend a morning. The route is on a tight twisty with great views. There was very little traffic (2 cars) on this entire route so was even more fun. Highly recommend pottering about here if you’re in the area. There is also a really nice little cafe as you enter Prades, stop and buy a drink from the lady 🙂

Hitting up Tarragona we watched the epic match of Germany vs Brazil whilst eating a great meal and drinking mojitos. I had a vested interest in this world cup only because I had a dream that was so vivid in which Germany won and we were in a German bar at the time. Not only was this an outstanding match but my prophecy was one step closer!

Now anyone that knows me will know that I have a particular porchant for cocktails particularly of the rum kind! Seeing this advertised was just super!!

solero

This trip was soon cut short and I headed back 1000kms on my own with no map and not much phone charge in the rain. With what very little knowledge of France I had I navigated solo on the N roads back to the ferry only getting lost once around Le Mans. It was an empowering ride because I did it but was not pleasurable, especially once my waterproof trousers had ripped. I vowed I would never have a trip like that again.

Barcelona

Taking my chances I changed riding partner and had the glorious company of a colleague who is a chef (I know how lucky? food and bikes – lets hope there are some cocktails in there too!) we had talked about his trip to Barcelona before and so we did his route. http://goo.gl/maps/1XzJg

We set off at 5.30am, an ungodly hour but it meant we could be on the Dover ferry ready to do a day of intense riding down to Toulouse, our first stop off. The day was very long as we avoided all the toll roads and my lovely FZ6 only has 150 mile range before things get tricky (See Alps post!) This meant that every 2 hours we had to stop. It all got sketchy when we got separated in the dark and I ended up chasing a different bike down the road, only when I had caught up did I realise it wasn’t my friend and I thought somehow I had managed to be solo again after vowing not to be. An ambulance went passed in the opposite direction and my heart sank… I really wanted to find my friend, now. Anyway a toll booth approached so I prepared to sit it out. Then I received a text, thank goodness he was just up the road 🙂 Funnily enough I bumped into the BMW rider at the next services. Luckily he didn’t think I was a maniac.

Coffee and heated grips got me through the last 200 miles! They are still my favourite and most practical gift ever, in the summer as well as winter! We arrived at 1.30am after going round and over the canal several times trying to get to the hotel because of road works blocking everything.  Finally a beer, shower and bed!

We had an earlyish start the next day and after a good breakfast (hmm I’m still not sold on a continental breakfast.. I mean I like the coffee but really??!!) we set off to do the Toulouse – Barcelona run across the mountains 🙂 It was said to me “Anyone can ride fast in a straight line but I will have you on the corners” I was excited. Game on!!

Not as adventurous as the previous Pyrenees routes I was sceptical about the beauty of the roads and knew I wasn’t going to be challenged to any hairpins or particularly high elevations but I shouldn’t have been so pesimistic! The roads were nice and fast, not too much traffic either considering how easy it was to cross. There were of course waterfalls, tunnels and twisties which is all that really counts! It follows a reservoir similar to the one outside of Vielha but with less tight bends. We did stop for a few sexy bike shots at the reservoir which is also where she celebrated her 30,000 mile! Happy birthday old girl!

30000 mile

I was also lucky enough to be able to borrow a GoPro from work so thought this was no better time to run it in! After being rather paranoid I made some tethers out of go kart brake cable so I knew that the camera wouldn’t be left on the road. You can see a short video of the route here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVddU7fEa6g.

Avoiding a very large grey cloud over the hills surrounding Barcelona we rocked up and base camp and as if it was meant to be, moto parking opposite with room for 2 bikes, Yes :). There looked like some interesting roads similar to the ones outside Tarragona, but we didn’t have time to explore them whilst becoming acquainted with Gaudi’s architectural stylings in the city and sipping daiquiris.

The journey home was uneventful and even the winds of Hurricane Bertha weren’t going to stop us – even though she tried by blowing us across 2 lanes of a motorway (luckily there was no other traffic!) In typical Simply Vik style Something had to happen and in the port of Calais I dropped my bike, well was blown over to be more precise but there were plenty of helpful hands about once we had stopped laughing. I was asked if I would have been able to pick up the bike on my own and I said no, I’m just lucky that I can flail about on the floor and a guy will come over to help.

Today I was shown this rather good link that I would advise all motorcyclist to read as it has pretty clear instructions on how to pick up a fallen bike so next time I will try this out myself! http://www.womenridersnow.com/pages/Bike_Lift_Technique.aspx

I’m still pretty impressed that my mate did 4 days on a sports bike and could still walk! I have no idea how he managed to be hunched over for so long with his knees round his ears. My hat is off to you 🙂

nice view

When I read back to last years posts I can’t believe how terrified I felt on difficult roads when now I just really enjoy them. I would feel really anxious when roads were suggested but with all the training that has disappeared. Time seems to stop when I’m riding nice roads, that Zen feeling when there is nothing else but you, the bike and a beautiful corner. Instead of coming to each manoeuvre I can flow now and it really feels like dancing with the landscape. I think it might be the only thing I can actually do gracefully, or at least I feel graceful when I do it! Wonder how I will feel this time next year…

A good summer, not the one I had planned but still good anyway. Austria will have to wait for next year…

Ride on 🙂

Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

This year for xmas I wanted two things. A Christmas morning ride and some heated grips.  After days of flooding in Surrey I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to take my new Bridgestone tyre out for a spin but miraculously the day was bright but rather chilly. My wonderful OH had his new Dr Big after some thieving little tike stole his bike in the early part of December.  We had a brisk ride from Kent back to Hampshire taking in flooded villages all along the A22 and A25 before the freezing set in. My visor wouldn’t unmist and tbh I was struggling to see with the wind whacking me in the face! I appreciated the balaclava I received in the morning but still wanted heated grips, maybe I hadn’t been that gooda girl after all! After warming up with lots of tea we exchanged our gifts and what was there?? Yes! a lovely set of Oxford grips!!! 😀
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The festive riding didn’t stop there. In Wickham on boxing day there was a wonderful rally with vintage bikes, cars, tractors and just about what ever is legal and road worthy.  It was great to see such an event that is not organised or got a police presence. Well worth a look if you are in Hampshire on boxing day or fancy a jaunt down the A32.

It’s been an adventurous year and I can’t see  2014 being any different.  Have a brilliant year folks and I will see you out there 🙂

Ride on x

Mission to Man

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WOOOOO! what a trip! I met some amazing people from all over the world; was lucky enough to see my mate Zoe in her absolute element in the pit lanes and around bikes (a change from her math teacher look!) and met the most down to earth riders including Maria. So much to say and I haven’t even taken you round the course yet…

If you have read the Alps post then you will know how exciting and tiring it was. The bike was still making noises and I arrived back in the UK at midnight and was resting in London by 1.30am. The ferry to the Isle was at 2pm, in Heysham, 4 1/2 hours away! I appreciate that’s a lot of maths but basically it meant I could get about 4 hours sleep before having to ride through rush hour and then solidly up the M6. I did wake up after 4 hours sleep and made the executive decision to get the bike checked over before the journey and enjoyed laying horizontally on a mattress after weeks of camping.

Was it the clutch? Adjuster? hmmm verdict was “Ride it, don’t rag it. It’s not well.”  But where will the highest density of bike mechanics be? Yeah! the IoM.  I must thank the good people at Steampacket who managed to amend my ticket for a nominal fee so I could get the later Ferry. WIth the news that I shall be going to the ball I got ready for the 2nd part of my holiday.

Lesson 18. Always have a few spare layers with you, riding cold is not safe.

After riding in the warmth of southern France it was freezing in the UK. As I went further north I added more layers with every stop, the merino wool came out, waterproof/windproof trousers and hoodie by Luton, even changed into my winter gloves at Manchester (ha! all the room this lot was taking up in my panniers in the alps was worth it!) After a very boring and long motorway drive up the M6 at night this is what I found at the end of it. Buzzing!

 

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I saw a post about the best way to secure a bike in transit. This is as easy as it gets! Side stand and a rope round the peg and over the seat..3 bikes roped together!

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The nicest thing I found out about the whole trip was the willingness of people to talk to me but I normally had to start the conversation. Same at the local tea spot, I know that girls are fed up of guys hitting on them but really I think that all this is effecting the way that people instigate simple conversation with people, especially if they ride out/are sat on their own. Does anyone else find this or am I extremely unapproachable?!

Anyway it wasn’t a problem on the Isle, everyone was there for motorbikes! After traveling for hundreds of miles the first couple I spoke to came from 20 miles from my house!! Angie and Derek I hope to see you out and about on a Sunday!

It was the first year of the classic TT and was merged into a motorbike festival with motorcross, classics, Manx GP qualifiers all at the same time. The range of sights and sounds and smells was intense! the singles would be grunty and sound fabulous out on the track, the two strokes tapping with loads of high end,  and the 4 cylinders like the strings, really subtle and smooth in comparison – I lecture in sound so it’s hard to escape it.

The campsite was good value! I would recommend Glen Dhoo but not if you’re after boutique camping! The dear Scottish owner will charge your phone for £1 and all the money goes to the helicopter fund – a worthy cause. The location is fabulous and is on Hillberry corner, a good spot as you can see all the way up the straight as well as the corner itself. There was a pub within 15 minutes walk and a chinese with a very friendly lady who loves to chat but hates bugs so shut the door! The temperature difference was quite a lot and I can only reiterate the need for a down duvet and thermal socks when camping, the combination of the two are blissful and make for a very happy camper!

The site attracted quite a few Europeans and there were some amazing bikes that had managed to ride to the Isle, including Sven’s Moto Guzzi, Tim’s pretty little Morini (that didn’t appreciate the motorways!) and a load of BSA’s.

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First day and what’s the first thing a self respecting biker chick would do after drinking a brew? Do a lap of the track! Now the track is of course the islands main road system but it is odd when you experience it as its not like on TV. You can see the racing line but its a roundabout! and the bin men are out.. there are national speed limit sections though that are unlimited as long as you are not dangerous and stick to your side of the road. The best stretch is the mountain (this was my favorite part to the course from gooseneck onwards!) especially as I was fired up after the alps and these roads didn’t have tight bends. First ride was so foggy that I couldn’t even see the end of the bends! As i went passed the 26 marker had a little word for Joey as you would! over the week we tended to avoid the built up areas and just head over the mountain!

There is something very liberating about being able to ride (legally) with no limit and to be honest has only left me a hankering for track lessons and a day on a CBR! After being told not to rag it I just couldn’t help myself and the dear FZ6 coped remarkably to the thrashing that she received regularly during our stay. Looked over by mechanics and diagnosed with nothing serious wrong, I rode on!

We spent the rest of the day down at the paddock with Zoe’s mate Charlie who had qualified to enter the Manx GP, he happened to be pitched up next to John McGuiness! I had a few amazing photos with him over the weekend and he even signed my sons t-shirt before his race with Agostini! Zoe is fab to go round the paddock with as she recognises everyone!  Connor Cummins stuck out like a sore thumb being so tall so he was our first mark for a photo op! We were ridiculous and occasionally verging on obscene… Zoe then worked as pit bitch as I watched from the grandstand.

Riding blisteringly fast… I have never actually considered how this phrase ever came about until I was speaking to a rider who had blisters from literally having to cling on! 38 miles is a long lap! I have so much respect for the riders, hearing them talking about counting curbs as they come in towards you before you make a turn and the way they learn the 200+ bends is amazing. I tip my helmet at you all! and hope that I can do it one day!!

Lesson 19. No one likes warm beer, fact! Spend £1 on a washing up bowl and make the perfect camping drinks fridge

The second evening we stayed up at Hillberry and bought supplies for the evening ahead. Now when practice starts they close down the whole track including crossing over etc so when you go out to watch you know you will be there for a few hours! This in mind we had it covered: ice, rum and coke; tarp for waterproof seating, blanket to make it more friendly, cameras, olives and Waitrose’s essential cheese thins (seen as though they are essential?!) and we had the boys who had just arrived with a backpack of beer! There was a grandstand that you could sit at or you could sit on a raised grass verge right on the corner belonging to the lovely couple below who were really passionate about the racing and all the good that it does for the Isle too. There was a great sign that said “You are welcome to watch the TT racing from here at your own risk, please leave a donation in the pot”

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They introduced us to Ruth, Tom Sheard’s grand daughter. He was the fastest Manxman around the track. You can find more information from the website and even buy the book if you are interested in the history of the TT from a personal perspective. Go and say Hi to these folks as they will really add to your TT experience!

http://tomsheard.4t.com/

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So we sat in the last of the days sun, drinking cuba libre’s and watching people hurtle around the mountain track, bliss. The look on Ed’s face after the 2nd single cylinder bike passed was priceless!

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But then disaster struck and 4 riders came off from all around the course at the same time. We saw the helicopter being deployed and goosepimples ran over our bodies. Luckily no one was seriously injured.

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We did get to talk to a few of the racers though including Wade Boyd and a young lad from Scarborough James Neesom who is in the shot above. I was surprised at how friendly the riders were and we sat there waiting for the road to be reopened and awaiting news of the incident. The sun went down, the road reopened after a 2 minute drive by of all the riders (I will post the vid in a separate post) and we hit the pub for a few more drinks. A good day at the races!

The following days included a trip to the Fairy Bridge, when you go to leave a donation to the fairies for safe passage around the track. There is a load of memorials on there too some of which are heartbreaking to read especially the ones from Mam. I left a dragonfly from the lights that had toured all around France and lit up our soiree so it seemed fitting. The bridge itself is on a main road and quite easy to miss if you come flying round the corner!

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And we did a silly day of photos with as many people as we could, especially if they didn’t know we were coming, the term is photobombing 😉

I was chuffed to bits that Zoe got work there and loved watching her totally buzzing off the atmosphere. And then to see her with Agostini was fabulous, she was just so cool, I’m far to excitable and just not cool! I am very lucky to have had such a brilliant tour with her all stemming back from a cuppa tea at Loomies in July! Yay for sorted lady riders!

So after a very exciting summer and now some good friends and riding partners met through WOAM (woman on a motorcycle) I feel like I have achieved my Alps goal.

Next Goal! Knee down confidently and a track day

When? damn winter is coming and school is back… next spring for my birthday? Yes! I think so.

Ride on 😀

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The Alps – More hairpins than a Tony and Guy stylist

Well what a trip! As planned it involved lakes and mountains, not planned a minor fall and a whole load of new skills and confidence.

As you know I haven’t been riding long and this trip seemed somewhat foolish after the ‘dry run’ to Wales. Only foolish as in my limitations and experience so far – mind you no amount of training could have prepared me for the continuos and relentless hairpins, bends and cyclists! I was very lucky to have a dear friend who is an experienced rider to accompany me and I’m so pleased that I did the mission!

Luggage was minimal – one pannier clothes, the other side important bike stuff and tools, tent, eider down duvet (very important although is a pain to try and squeeze into the canoe bag especially in the mornings and before a cuppa coffee!) and a half tank bag with map, handbag and shoes.

After the awfully cold and cramped night in the one man coffin tent in Wales I upgraded to a 2 man tent with generous porch that was plenty big enough to store all the tat from bikes and protective gear. It was well worth the extra 3kg of weight!

Lesson 11. Don’t skimp on bedding and accommodation. A bad nights sleep will lead to problems riding especially on extended tours! The duvet was amazing and didn’t take up much more room than 2 sleeping bags, it was however much more comfy and particularly useful in the Isle of Man towards the end of the trip!

I’ll start in the Alps as the journey through France was exactly that! apart from seeing seas of sunflower fields there is not much to report!

The first main camp was at Serre Poncon near Gap and located on the D94 (I shall come back to this later!) The lake itself was beautifully clear and actually quite warm, although not the warmest that we visited.

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The region itself was a great place to chill for a day and we visited the hot springs at Plan de Phazy where the best chips and sauces were made! I mean these tasted like the chips you got in the old days made with beef dripping and served with a thin white rectangular plate of 5 coloured sauces that looked like a bit of Warhol art. We sat enjoying a pression and watched the carers contain the 15 or so adults that were on a respite trip. Next a young woman has come over to the table and is looking at the chips, she is staring a little like a dog so I offer her one, she takes the chip puts it in her mouth and goes “Yuck” she then uses the sauces as finger paints. She is obviously a Warhol fan herself. We laughed and she toddled off back to her group. That was our signal to leave and hit up another lake.

The water at La Roche de Rame was the warmest of anywhere in the Alps and was a great place to chill, look at snow capped mountains and watch bikers ride past on the glorious D94. The willow set off my motion sensor and the poor guy sat next to it looked terrified muttering something whilst making “It wasn’t me, I didn’t touch it” gestures, whilst I knew it had disturbed his quiet Sunday sit down. The cafe is expensive but the place very biker friendly.

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I would recommend the Cafe de Gare in Chorges. The owner serenades the tables with his saxophone and they clearly have the best karaoke in the area (as we found out after eating at a few different places!) The Entrecote steak is accompanied by a cheesy potato thing, salad, chips and melon (very refreshing after the rest of it!) and at €17 was well worth the money.

After resting and sleeping off the journey down we set out for the tour.

See the map here http://goo.gl/maps/4mp5a

Embrun – St Tropez : ride through he mountains down to the coast and hang out on beach for a few days before heading up to Menton via Monaco, and cross the border to Italy.

The idea to use Serre Poncon as a base was that it was close to Barcelonette which is a gateway town into the highest roads that cross the Alps. Even to get round the lake was an adventure and I had my first taste of gradient and tight winding roads with no safety barriers and sheer drops. This trip was a slow ride the first time and I was so nervous all the way. I found point fixation a nightmare and was trying to catch up with my mate who had stormed ahead with his 30 years of riding under his belt. My measly 13 weeks was not enough and I doubted myself- this was the first 15km of the 330km journey. You can imagine how I felt!!

The nerves did disappear when I had to concentrate so hard on the road ahead but I wasn’t particularly enjoying it. When we got to near Barcelonette we hit traffic and this was the first opportunity to stop.

Lesson 12. Look where you are stopping – yes this seems obvious doesn’t it? Let me paint the picture… I have short legs, I mean really short for my 5ft 6 stature. I had already had a fair section of the FZR seat removed so I could touch the floor with more than my tip toes. With all the luggage on the suspension lowered about another inch so I could get my boots down. Now when I stopped I didn’t notice the camber of the road and yes you can imagine what happened next… as my right foot went down it carried on going another couple of inches! NO! weighed up with the luggage and panniers the bike and I toppled onto the barriers between the road and the stream in slow motion. How embarrassing! There was no way I could lift the bike with the gear on and my dear friend helped me get it up and we started again. Damage? a little scrap on tape wrapped around the indicator! The panniers took the fall and luckily that was my clothes side! For a fall in the Alps I thought if that is all I get this week then I’m lucky! Oddly enough my nerves got much better after that and I actually started to enjoy the trip

Lesson 13. Biking is 90% psychological and 10% skill.

So instead headed down the Col de Cayolle to St Tropez with the intention of coming back up the Col de Bonette from Menton. This was a fabulous road, although the first section was very bumpy and uneven in the surface. Cyclists would be every 100m as they started their ascent up the 1200m over 29kms from Barcelonette. Fair play to these guys! I needed a 600cc to get me up the mountain! The road climbed steeply with tight twists until it opened out to the peak.Image

After a steep winding descent there is a wonderful stretch through red rock gorges (Gorges de Daluis) that can be ridden fast and are welcomed after the seemingly never ending hairpins and cyclists! This was one of my favourite stretches of road through out the trip.

If you stop in Entraunes check out the salads – you must try the jambon, Roquefort and onion with walnuts. It was the best salad of the whole trip!

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This led out on to the N202, this is my sort of road, winding, wide and fast with not too many hairpin like surprises or changes of gradient which gave my back brakes a good rest. Missing the left hand turn into Castellane we ended up going quite a lot further but captured the scenic road from Barreme to Castellane.

By now I was flying and my second favourite road was the D563 to Mons. Wooded, bendy and with very little traffic on this made for an enjoyable ride with a wonderful view of the town. Totally buzzing we continued at pace to Frejus.

Ha, after 6 hours of beautiful roads with the odd car, lorry and cyclists we hit the French coastal road in peak holiday season. I hate filtering, I find it stressful and totally unenjoyable. I first tried this skill in London on my second solo trip out on the bike and decided to follow other riders to see how they maneuver through the traffic.  Although all was going well I happened to witness an accident where the biker got taken out by a car pulling out from a junction. This has put me off and put a massive dent in my confidence. Living in the countryside it’s something that I just don’t need to do. However this traffic was backed up. I am talking 28Km of slow/stationary Porsche /Merc/BMW 4×4’s. Welcome to hell.

My friend lives in London and filtering is almost a sport for him. You need to use a certain amount of brain power in psyching the oncoming cars out and trust me when you command them to move out of the way its wonderful how French drivers pull over and let you pass (something that is frustrating me greatly about English motorists who seem to actively move into the way) but I certainly did not posses this power. Frustrated, shouting in my hemet and on the verge of tears thinking ‘take me back to the mountains – those roads were fabulous’ carried on. Well it didn’t get better in St Tropez and my friend who was leading had no idea where he was going so we were riding round the centre blind with me trying to still weave through traffic following my spritely mate. It was shit. After nearly being knocked over by a Rolls Royce doing a u-turn in the road, I cried. That was enough. I really felt broken and tired and we had nowhere to camp. My mate didn’t understand why I was crying and I couldn’t understand how he was being so inconsiderate in the pace he was weaving. Turned out that was slow for him it just wasn’t slow enough for me, I needed the power of the psych.

Trying to find accommodation in peak season is a nightmare, people had booked up since April and there we were just rocking up. Luckily his Susuki DR Big 800 was unusual for Europe and as we pulled into a campsite the guy on the desk came out as he had the same bike but an earlier model. Even though the site was full they managed to find us a little plot to stick the tent up and put the bikes for the night. Thank goodness!

The sea here was amazing and genuinely was 29 degrees at night! what a way to freshen up after the journey and hello beach! I refused to ride in the traffic again and so we went for a spin and I was pillion (this is where I saw the master filterer in action) and was relieved to be clinging on the back for once!

Over the next few days quite a few English people stopped and had a chat. All of them were bikers who had left theirs at home. Had some great discussions about specially lowered bikes for shorter ladies and everyone who did it would never go back.

It’s amazing how many people seem to have kids and give up the bike and it becomes something to polish on a Sunday. I thought how bizarrely I have entered biking and none of them could believe how well I was doing (apart from Barcelonette) which did make me feel a little better as it’s pretty cool when strangers are proud of your achievements.

Lesson 14. Ride for yourself, not anyone else. Comparing and riding with different abilities is frustrating for both parties. I can whole heartedly recommend solo riding to avoid these problems and you will have an adventure on the way!

Disaster struck as we were leaving St Tropez to head up the coast. We had already planned to leave my bike and the gear somewhere and to head into Monaco on one bike to save me the stress of the traffic which we had been warned was bad in epic proportions! After fueling we got on the road when my battery died. It was already bad after Glastonbury and sitting for 2 days in ST hadn’t helped it at all. In fact it had triggered the temperature sender and wouldn’t even start with a jump. So it had to be pushed up the hill and bumped. Took 3 goes to get it running including unloading and reloading all the luggage to get it up each time. Change of plan and headed south to a Toulon to get a new battery from a supplier. The next 3 hours included falling out with my friend, solo riding to Orange up the motorway and a Thelma and Louise style maneuver that would get me into trouble should I write it!

Out of all of this came a glimmer of goodness as I decided to head back to Serre Poncon instead of riding home, I hadn’t finished yet! This is where the wonderful D94 came into play.

Orange to Embrun: Favourite road of the trip 

http://goo.gl/maps/BRghG

I must thank the brilliant small white van driver for the 90km race through tunnels, wide fast winding roads and even more impressively he gave me the power! He drove like a tetchy bike rider, always in the centre of the road and overtaking at any opportunity (If this were a film this would be a brilliant action sequence – if only I could afford a GoPro!!) After our spat he pulled into a garage before Gap and waved at me, I felt sad that it was over but there was no stopping me, I had the power!! (see lesson 11 for importance)

This basically meant that the 20Kms of queueing the cars were doing all the way from Chorges to Embrun I simply rode right through with them parting like the Red Sea, It was amazing, totally psyching them out. In fact the only vehicle I couldn’t move was a timber lorry after a bridge so I didn’t feel too bad!

I got back and was buzzing as I had ridden the type of roads I liked at my own pace (which was getting quicker and quicker), a very satisfied customer indeed and the issues of the day were forgotten. My friend also had a similar encounter through the much more bendy mountain roads with a German rider. He on the other hand knackered his starter coils through running the engine too hard. So we were down to one bike.

Lesson 15. Get your own bike!

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Pillion. Hmm not to sure about it, I blatently have control issues and don’t like clinging on round corners not when I could be riding them! We did another 200km trip to a swimming gorge at Lac de Sainte Criox and I was perched on the back of the FZR. I actually have no idea how the girls and women I see being carried around do it. It was uncomfortable, sickness inducing and nerve wracking. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Get your own bike! How can changing gear be so hard to get smooth? is all I could think!

When you have your own bike you know how it runs, what it likes ect… now the FZR has a peculiar fueling. When not ragging it can comfortably do 150 miles to the tank. The first bar goes after maybe 50m and same for the second. But the last 4 goes quickly. Now my friend decided that to save my poor aching arse that he would go up the motorway home and avoid the tight windy roads. Good plan but he was riding at well over a comfortable speed. I tried to get him to slow down but he couldn’t hear and finally as I watched 3 bars drop to 2 in 20kms I knew we wouldn’t even make it off the motorway. Well he did slow down, right down to 40mph as we drove around on a Sunday evening looking for fuel. With another 15kms to Gap it was a limp and to be honest I didn’t fancy the walk to the petrol station and I was the only one with a cash card to get it… hmmm… an imminent bad mood warning was about to be issued when we saw a station. Hurrah! even though it was expensive  fuel it definitely saved the day. with it’s mega 15l capacity it took 14.75l to fill up. Phew 😉

Lesson 16. Know your bike and impart that info on to anyone riding it before you set off!

Next day I rode to Gap to get parts and took the scenic route (only another 60km onto the journey ;). This time I rode the same road as on the first day in the mountains but this time was fueled with the skills from the race and the desire to do it myself from being pillion, I felt much more confident and really enjoyed it! as you can see from the pictures! Thanks to the Italian tourist who took the picture 🙂Image

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I bought a new battery in Gap and changed it by the side of the road with my little tool kit. Feeling very smug that I had actually managed to do something myself. Baby steps 🙂

Coil fixed on my mates bike and I was back on my own bike again ready to hit up the final Lake, Lac Annecy. This was our northern camping point with daily rides going from here. There were 2 nice rides, a short one round the lake which was circumnavigatable with a jaunt up to the gliders jump off point. It really did provide a beautiful view of the lake.

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(Taken with camera) I love the colour on this shot, it looks like it’s been effected when you compare it to the crispness of the Samsung S3 camera shot below. That picks out the gliders nicely though!Image

The town itself is a very nice, neatly divided into the historic, canal centered old town and the modern bit! there are a series of outdoor eateries and bars. However I preferred it down by the waterside, especially at sunset.

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The second ride was nearly 300kms and had a few variations but this is the route we ended up taking going across the D925 via Lac du Roseland and  Col de Petite St Bernard 

http://goo.gl/maps/c1azb

This was taken by a German guy who had got a moped and was basically planning out trip in reverse. He had planned 3 weeks for his pottering down!

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ImageThe route goes through the center of skiing locations and the massive boards and chair lifts can be seen in the town. A little odd when its still 28 degrees but a lift was open as we got up to Col de Petite St Bernard. The roads are easy to ride in the first stage and the downhill before Seez is the only hot braking point where the endless hairpins returned. The Col itself seems long and the border to Italy is always a few more bends away.

The picture above was taken just before the summit looking down the valley. When we arrived at the summit/border there was a festival going on and suddenly we went from the odd biker to 1000 Italians in the road gesticulating wildly and parking cars at the most random of angles whilst wheeling out cattle and watching a little band. It was quite surreal for how peaceful the rest of the journey has been.

I hadn’t appreciated the quality of all the roads in France until we crossed the border and literally half the road surface disappeared. The signs going down in La Thuile numbered the hairpins but the ride was disrupted by numerous cars. When in Italy what do you do? Of course! we ate pizza. Now to be fair it was the best coffee and artichoke pizza I had all trip, it  just seemed a shame that we were so far away!

To return we chose a route through the Mont Blanc tunnel. I had never been through a large tunnel on the bike like this and to be honest I was quite excited as the mountain had been looming over us for a a few hours! I was shocked at how expensive it was! €27 for a single! it’s only 12km of tunnel! and there was a queue for the car drivers of 90 mins just to get to the toll booth. Well you can imagine what happened… filtering through we got to the front in a conservative 10 minutes. It did annoy the car drivers who had sat there but still, this is why we have a bike isn’t it to ride not sit!!

My bike then started making a tapping sound when the clutch was out. Was it the clutch? chain? adjuster? too many things and by now we were some way from Annecy with the tools. Limping home the long route to avoid the mountain passes and more gear changes we took the N roads back around the bottom on the peaks, getting back just before dark, so much for making it up to Lac Leman the only lake I had planned to see but not managed to! Panicking about what the sound was and how to fix it in time to get on the ferry for England then straight up to the Isle of Man, I doubted if I would make it.

The good ole FZR did make it to the ferry and there I met another FZR rider but from the 2003 model. The poor guy was loaded up with a large coffee and can of Redbull so I stopped to see how his FZR had behaved in and where he had been. Unfortunately his mate had been knocked off in Switzerland when he looked the wrong way at the junction and pulled out onto a car. Luckily he was OK but the bike (Triumph Tiger) was a write off and his mate was flying home.

Lesson 17. Look the other way first when abroad, especially coming out of junctions

He had managed to get across in 5 hours straight and only needed refueling twice. We joked about how the petrol gauge is so inaccurate and that the last 3 bars don’t count for much! as I knew and Chris found out!

Will the FZR make it the next 400 miles to the Isle of Man and will it withstand the mountain course? You will have to wait for the next post …

Ride on 🙂

Near life experience

So Zoe and I went on our Brecon Alps training mission and what a super idea it was to have a full test run!

It was eventful in the beginning and after getting a puncture in the fast lane of a motorway in rush hour I feel more inducted to the way of the bike.

If you haven’t had a puncture I shall explain how it feels. Suddenly the bike gets very heavy in the steering and it becomes difficult to move. This is of course worse at high speeds and there is the potential for the tyre to go to the wire and even throw you off! Luckily I managed to accelerate past a van and heave the bike round (using my legs and weight shifting.. to be fair this is hard to explain it just kinda worked!) to get an angle to exit the lanes.  I didn’t break just rolled off the accelerator which is the right thing to do but of course doesn’t signal to the traffic behind what was happening. 

Poor Zoe was stuck behind me watching all this happening and (may I quote) shouting “Fucking Hell, Get off the road.” I couldn’t hear it but still the sentiment was there! With her nerves in tatters after watching youtube clips of such things happening and riders being thrown off the bike we got away very lightly indeed. 

The pic below was taken once we stopped and yes I really was that pleased to be alive and not thrown under the rush hour traffic.

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Lesson 7. Always carry a spare pump with you. £20 is a small price to pay for waiting for the recovery services. I had already bought a repair kit although didn’t fully know how to use it but had I of had a pump we would have saved ourselves a few hours on the side of the road. 

Thinking that the RAC would just relay me back and stop our holiday before it had even started we were pleased when Andy turned up! Ex-biker himself he could see we were ladies on a mission and took the call to repair the tyre and send us on our way. Thanks Andy 🙂 If you see this man, he is a legend and deserves a honk of your horn!

So we ride on! 

After a tentative few miles we were back on track. My nerves were wrecked but it’s important to carry on, I could hear Tyler Durden in my head saying  “God Damn! We just had a near-life experience, fellas.” I decided that I didn’t want to die on a bend in the Alps! or through a blow out somewhere on my own. I guess these insecurities are normal and I was much happier in the slow lane for a few miles. Will it put me off the trip altogether who knows?!

So we finally rocked up at the farm in Wales about MIdnight and were pitched up, drinking a cuppa at 1am.

I would highly recommend Park Farm campsite (http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/sites/details.asp?revid=7133) The owner was lovely and the grounds in an excellent position with good facilities near by.

I had bought a small tent for ease of transporting and trying to be minimal however I hate tents. I mean I hate tents, generally they are cold, not waterproof and to be honest a pain in the arse, but this one man coffin tent is something else. Not only can my hips touch the roof when laying on my side but there isn’t enough room for the bike tat. Luckily I had pre-empted such an issue and bought a tarp which nicey wrapped up everything. I would recommend a 2 man nylon nightmare even for solo missions for comfort. One man is simply not enough!

We stopped at a fabulous cafe in Brecon (in a book store) where they did veggie breakfasts, wheat free bread and lovely cakes and coffee we planned a 90 mile route which you can find the link below. 

http://goo.gl/maps/tmqAS

We took off up the A40 which is a nice road, it’s just a shame about the oil tanker, and bike convey etc.. it wasn’t a fast ride put it that way!

The Black Mountain was our goal and Zoe had identified some lovely hairpins to start my training. After the previous day I was a little hesitant but eased up down a lush road the A4069. It starts with a tree covered road with stream to the side then as you make your way up the mountain there are less houses and more sheep!  There were a few steep cliff sides, the sort that you wouldn’t want to come across on a wet and wild night, but we were lucky and although the rain was steadily making it’s way across the country, it hadn’t reached us yet! We headed back to Brecon for supplies and to give our dear bottoms a break.

Comfort is an interesting point as I seem to have a 4 hour seat limit before I get the saddle ache. Easily cured with a lemonade, portion of chips and a deep massage! I also realised that I didn’t have enough bedding for a good nights sleep. I had tried to minimal as by lesson 2 but bedding is essential as it will no doubt improve the quality of my riding, especially on longer trips.

With the storm fast approaching we prepared for the wet weather but sticking covers over the panniers and donning our waterproof over clothes! I guess this is where textiles vs leathers should be debated but that must be for another post!

I had prepared as best I could for the rain, spare tarp waterproof canoe bags for clothes, waterproof boots and gloves, but this rain was special. So heavy that visibility on the motorway was very poor and we were riding into the storm. 2 hours later we arrived at the services to take stock of what we had just ridden through.

The rain test proved a few things. Lesson 8. Splash out on good boots. I debated buying my lovely SIDI gortex boots because of the price however after seeing poor Zoe squelching around in her boots I was pleased to be dry, especially if this was day 1 of a tour. Interestingly since this trip she bought new boots within 24 hours. 

Lesson 9. Just because it says on the label it’s waterproof don’t believe it! My gloves most certainly were not. Luckily I had a spare set with me so when the cold did hit I could change. Alternatively heated grips would have been useful on this occasion. 

Lesson 10. Pack all clothes/shoes and toilet rolls in a waterproof canoe bag. When I stopped and took the waterproof plastic off the pannier it was filled with water, the soft pannier itself had acted like a sponge and if I hadn’t of packed my clothes in this bag everything would have been wet, again not great on day 2 of a tour! I didn’t pack my spare shoes in it though and they did get wet. These bags are on offer for about £5 for a 15l sack in sportsdirect so pop down and get one!

All in all a good trip with many handy lessons learned along the way. I would advise anyone to try a dry run with equipment as it will definitely help you before going away.

Ride on 🙂

Packed ready for dry run

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Even though I say dry run, Zoe and I are off to Wales which isn’t known for its particularly dry weather.  Tomorrow mad rain is forcast but at least it will check if clothes and bedding stay dry. Only taken the bottom of the tank bag as it’s a little bulky and the more room I have the more stuff I’ll find to fill it! Loving it’s magnetic base 🙂

Ride on 🙂

Smile and ride on

Lesson 5. Low cut tops are ace when you stop, even better for turning you into a human sail. Do the jacket up ladies!

Hmm makes sense doesn’t it- high speed,  air displacement… However I forgot to do the jacket up. This time thinking I would fall foul prey to the insects today’s experience was erm slightly more embarrassing.

Let me set the picture for you. Lovely winding but fast country road then up the dual carriageway a couple of junctions to a nice cycle shop that has a Sunday meet. 

I forgot to redo my jacket after a phone call just as I was leaving the cafe. I didn’t realise until I was the human sail trying to force my way up the A3 with enough back force that Sir Walter Rayleigh would have been proud to explore with.

Along with the forcing backwards I became aware that I was more breezy than normal and a bit more popular with the oncoming traffic. Cruising up with sunglasses and a smile I realise why I’m getting the looks.  Yes my bra is out. With large boobs framed with a black sail. There was nowhere to stop and the ride continued. I tried to look down but of course couldn’t see anything just the chin guard of the helmet. Only one thing to do.  Smile and ride on!

“Don’t you look in your mirrors? ” I asked Zoe who was oblivious to my dilemma. 
“Was something up? I didn’t think you were as speedy as normal! ”

Through the laughter I mimed what happened, to which we both creased up and a new fashion was born.

Lesson 6. Always wear your best underwear when biking.

Summer gloves and tent

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Woop! Summer gloves and tent came today 🙂 one step closer.  Also bought a rather nice summer jacket.  I had not appreciated how much you need ventilation on a bike in summer. Windproof is great at night and in winter for obvious reasons but right now airflow is most certainly needed!

Lesson 4: Don’t ride with jacket open or you’ll end up with insects in your bra.

Nuff said.
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Manx GP

How exciting!  The ferry is booked to go to the Isle of Man. The smell of petrol and leather mmmm. I am feeling slightly stalkerish towards Guy Martin.  Next goal: Have a brew with the dude and I’m sure Zoe will partake 🙂

Bike, Bikini and BBQ tour

Just to put your minds at ease I doubt it will actually be a bikini but some other form of swimming attire but I will have it on under my leathers ready to dive into the freezing pool to escape the heat!

Yes my goal that I set after passing my test was to ride the Alps this summer and luck should have it that I have a spare 10 days before the Manx GP so woop! here is my plan.

3 Countries, 5 Lakes and the highest road in Europe.

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=204745449161590006900.0004e15787e674f6d4963&msa=0

How bloody excited am I? Maybe even slightly crazy and in desperate need of a cycling partner.  However if needs be I will ride solo and meet people en route I’m sure. What will be in order is a mechanics guide and as learnt from previous lessons not much stuff. I really don’t need that extra outfit 😉
I’ll keep you up to date as this unfolds … only got the MOT between now and then!

Lovely weather for riding… highlights of June and July

These last few weeks have had amazing weather which has in turn meant amazing albeit rather sweaty and unglamorous at times but more of that later. 

Glastonbury! the first big venture with tat. After Lesson 1. Always secure your luggage (a story many of you have already heard) I was nervous and excited I won’t lie. Trying to fit a 60l rucksack in the back in a cargo net was not going to happen, so instead the trusty well traveled pack was once again thrown on my back. Only difference is I have to wear a helmet. I hadn’t accounted for this at all. Yes another rookie mistake. I also couldn’t get on the bike with the rucksack and the stuff in the cargo net so a system was devised soon. You can imagine me driving what can only be described as ‘turtle like’ down the A303 very uncomfortably.

However there was no traffic at Pilton and the planned paid off! Woop! straight in to the compound :). The compound was secure with a guard on hard standing… all things that I have come to admire greatly. I will not be the person to park on the soft ground 😉 The only gripe about this was that it’s at the furthest possible point from where I was working. So with Boots on, jacket, rucksack, helmet and rum the long slog across the site began in what was then excruciating heat.

By some magic I stumbled across Fresh Organic en route and all the people I wanted to see were there 🙂 A can of fresh ginger and an update of the seasons festivals was enjoyed. Then who should phone but Grumpy Dave! Not being very grumpy at all he came to my rescue and offered to carry some of the tat back to the campsite and sorted my wristbands out. The first of 7 from the weekend!

Glastonbury was great! Met some amazing bands such as Blackberry Wood, Chainska Brassika, 7 Little Sisters, The Fabulous Lounge Swingers and more… Met up with some old faces, posh camped with friends, loved meeting some new ones, didn’t see enough people and failed to see a single band on a main stage. But to be honest I don’t feel ripped off at all for missing The Stones, I would have always rather seen The Who. But anyway. I did miss Alt J and that makes me a little sad inside.

Typically most of the clothes packed never got worn.

Lesson 2: You really can take a smaller bag and don’t NEED all those outfits!

After Glastonbury I started the long trip home, I thought by 7pm monday night everyone would have already gone. No how wrong was I? Got to the compound fine, bike started fine and I clambered on with the bags – one pair of shoes lighter as I had decided that the holes in them were just too big to make them worth carrying and in the hope that the top of the rucksack would now be a little lower reducing the turtle effect. Then the traffic. I filtered and panted though in the scorching sun. Then at the bottom of the hill the rows of cones started in the middle of the road. Wankers. The gaps were too tight to weave though, this was skill level ‘Demon’ stuff and I’m not there yet!! Well the inevitable happened it started getting hot and the bike cut out and wouldn’t start. With a dying phone battery, sat on the side of a country lane I stripped off the (don’t read of your squeemish or in denial about the glamour of biking – you wear all these clothes because its the only thing protecting your skin *note car drivers*) very sweaty jacket and turned it inside out. It had to dry before biking at night or I would have frozen. I managed to speak to a friend and phone the RAC who said I had a nice 3 hour wait because of traffic in the area and it all being made one way. Ha yeah I kinda knew that 😉
After thinking that I could have heat seized the engine as it wouldn’t start after the 45 minute cool down period (incidentally in which time all the traffic I had painstakingly filtered through had gone by) a redheaded RAC goddess made her way up the road with a petrol can. “Are you here for me?” in a sweet west country accent she replied “Nope someone had run out of fuel and it was easier for me to park up and run down here than to drive. Let me ave a look?” Clever lady said it was the battery and if we could push it up the hill to her van she can start it from there as long as its not seized. So she took the rucksack and I took the bike. Now you know I’m not really very fit and hill walking is not something that I would do voluntarily. Well when your pushing up a bloody motorbike it certainly ups the game! There are still rows of stationary traffic and now us tottering up, after some time (it was actually quite a long and steep hill) a guy jumps out and offers to help push! YAY! He did a great job and I thank a stranger for helping.

Lesson 3. Help a stranger, it will probably make their day!

Well I was very looked after by the RAC who sent someone out to help. We eventually found the battery hidden underneath the fairing and tank, *Not the easiest place to get to Yamaha*  and started to charge it, from there we could see if the engine had seized or partially seized (if you don’t know what that is it’s where the components have expanded with the heat and caused them to jam up in the engine. To fix it you need to strip the entire engine back down. Now you can see why I was panicking!) Phew it hadn’t! but what had happened was as the fan came on to cool the bike down the battery was too flat to cope and cut out. So after a bacon butty and an hour on conditioning charge the beast was ready to ride again. Chris had decided to come out to rescue me but as the bike was good to go we enjoyed a ride home in the dark.

Since then I have enjoyed riding with no bag on my back, it certainly makes the bike more fun to handle and generally a nicer riding position.

My next Jasper free day I went down to the seaside though some of my favourite roads (Corhampston to Bishops Waltham and Chichester to Rogate over the South Downs) and met up with Lisa and Steve with their two massive boys. I hadn’t seen Lisa for 7 or more years and it was just like yesterday. We shall be going back soon to the almost private sandy beaches if this weather keeps up!

I have come up with a couple of circuits that I like doing locally. They have everything that I want, straights, bends, cafe’s and pubs to get a cool glass of lemonade. Elderflower cordial is just a bit poncy in biker cafes still 😉

Route 1, 50 or 70 miles – depending on if you do the A32 on the way down. Found here:

http://goo.gl/maps/XHC9c
Route 2, 100 mile circuit that goes up to Newbury and down the A34 avoiding the A3

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?msid=204745449161590006900.0004e16cd09b197c2df16&msa=0

All this is good preparation for my goal of the Alps in August but that will be another post.

Bikes, Tea and Photography: An Introduction

 

I recently decided to get a new lifestyle. After living an extraordinary (I feel) life, I have gained certain life styles along the way and since starting my career as a lecturer work has become far too bigger part. I’m a single mum so I don’t have much spare time, therefore I needed a lifestyle that got me out of the house; that  was achievable; exciting and social, but also wouldn’t impact on being able to get up Monday mornings!

This was motor biking. Not just motor biking but as the title implies bikes, tea and photography.

Now let’s get this clear, I had no idea what was involved in motor bikes 6 months ago, I did ride a moped once and promptly fell off when I forgot to put my feet down when it stopped, but that was a long time ago. I had simply never ridden one with gears, been a pillion (passenger) or felt the compulsion to stare at every bike that passed on the road. But in 5 short months I listen out for the sound of an exhaust, look out for how many cylinders it has or simply make a mental note: I need to ride this road when I’m better!

In this blog I will bring to you some nice rides, hopefully some good pictures and something that my son can read if ever he wonders why I started riding.

My aim is to ride the ALPS to Vienna this summer. Any routes, nice Cafes or scenic spots let me know 🙂