Saturday, 11 December 2010

"But you've only got one head..."

    Some time ago I perplexed a non-motorcycling friend by turning up to our favourite watering-hole on three consecutive days wearing a different helmet on each occasion. "How many do helmets do you have? Every time I see you you've got a different one!" I replied that a chap has to have some variety in life, and that it's a good thing to have a different lid for different occasions. "Fair enough", he said, "But you've only got one head..."

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse dropped by for tea
Photo © Marc M./The Thruxtonian, Dec. 2010

    I was reminded of my friend's comment a couple of days ago as I tidied and cleaned my collection of riding gear (oh yes, I have several jackets, trousers, pairs of boots and gloves, too...), and began sorting and cleaning my crash helmets. I should point out that the above photograph is only part of my collection of lids. But why do I have so many?

    Well, as I said to my friend, in part it is because I like to have a helmet for each occasion. For example, the lid that is second from left, a Scorpion Exo 900, is the one that I use for long-distance touring; it's a flip-front helmet that can be turned into an open face helmet, and is equipped with a Cardo Scala G4 intercom/bluetooth unit. But others were impulse buys, such as the X-Lite X801-R in its splendid Mike Hailwood replica livery. I saw that one in the shop, thought "Oh, shiny! Must have," and parted with a ridiculously large amount of money for it. I say "ridiculously large" because it is not as ergonomically brilliant as its 500-plus Euro price tag would have one believe. I certainly won't be buying another X-Lite any time soon...

    And which one is my favourite, I hear you ask? Without a doubt I'll go for the Airborn (the open face helmet in the photo, fetchingly coiffed with a pair of T1 Aviator Goggles by Léon Jeantet), because - despite being an open-face lid - it is surprisingly quiet, and it's just as good as a Davida but for half the price. And of course it goes so well with my bike!

    Now, let's see... I really have to find a helmet to go with that Armani suit I bought the other day...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Stars in Winter

    Common wisdom dictates that when winter comes, a motorcyclist has to put his/her trusty steed into winter storage, tidy the riding gear away in the wardrobe and patiently wait for for spring. However, most motorcyclists are made of sterner stuff than that, and many of us ride all all year round.

    And the most die-hard enjoy nothing better than going to winter motorcycle rallies. Some of these are well-known, such as the Elefantentreffen in Germany, or the Pingüinos rally in northern Spain. But across Europe, there are many smaller, more confidential and "authentic" winter motorcycle rallies.

    One of these rallies is the "Estrella de Javalambre", which is held each year over the last weekend of January in the little village of Manzaneras, near Teruel, in central Spain.

    As you can see from the poster for the upcoming 2011 edition of the rally (taking place on 29th & 30th January), it really is for die-hard motorcyclists, and not for the weekend rebel types who prefer to hang around their local cafés looking cool and fashionable. The rally adopts the same structure as the Italian Stella Alpina rally: you arrive, sign up (paying a nominal fee), enjoy the evening's party, sleep the hangover off in your tent - pitched before the party, preferably -  and then ride up a steep unsealed mountain track to obtain the official commemorative medal. And that's it.

    In 20 years of motorcycling, I have yet to attend a winter rally, and as this one takes place relatively close to where I live (about four hours' ride), I might go along to see what it's all about.

Monday, 6 December 2010

500cc Norton Manx

Earlier, I mentioned that during the visit to the private collection (owned by Mr. Ramón Magrinyá - I forgot to name this very kind gentleman in my previous article, mea culpa) I was allowed to clamber aboard a 500cc Norton Manx. Here is the photographic evidence of the deed!

Photograph © Vicenç Conejos/TRINCATS/The Thruxtonian 2010

Photograph © Vicenç Conejos/TRINCATS/The Thruxtonian 2010

In the future, I would like to try to twist Mr. Magrinyá's arm and convince him to let me test-ride this magnificent motorcycle!

Suzuki RG500

This weekend I attended the Christmas Rideout & Luncheon of the "TRINCATS" a local group of motorcyclists who all ride Bonnevilles/Thruxtons/Scramblers. Before lunch, we visited a private collection of vintage cars and motorcylces. Amongst the motorcycles there was this wonderful ex Barry Sheene RG500. Sheene has always been an idol of mine, so I was chuffed to be able to get my picture taken with this outstanding machine!

Photo © Marc Michon/The Thruxtonian, 2010

I was also able to sit on a 500cc Norton Manx (alas no test-ride available - yet!), but the photographic evidence is on a friend's camera: as soon as it is in my possession, I will post it here!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


As an afterthought to this morning's piece on riding in the wet, here's a video that demonstrates that wet weather riding is largely psychological. Kiyonari has obviously told himself that it's dry out there, just as the late, great Joey Dunlop used to do.

Ultimately, all wet weather riders should aspire to this level of excellence!

Wet weather riding

Riding in the wet is something that most motorcyclists dislike doing to a lesser or greater degree. Indeed, some just don't do it at all; if there is the slightest risk of a light shower in a 200 km radius the bike doesn't come out of the shed/workshop/garage.

Personally, I've always ridden all year round, and in all kinds of weather, but I must hold my hand up and admit that for a long time was something that I cordially disliked. Mainly it was because for a long time, I didn't really have any proper rain clothing, so I'd get thoroughly soaked and miserable, which isn't conducive to enjoying a long ride. But there was also the fear factor. As soon as it started raining, roundabouts, corners, stop/give way signs, traffic lights, all became a source of potential danger, injury, and possibly even death. I would sit there on my bike, tense and rigid, handling the brakes and throttle as if they were live snakes that might bite me hard. The concept of leaning into a corner was instantly washed away by the first drops of rain, and I'd sit bolt upright on the bike and steer the machine rigidly round corners with a minimum lean angle. An overtaking manoeuvre was something I carried out with the deepest misgivings.

So, for many a long year, I lived in awe of motorcyclists who managed to ride in the wet as if it wasn't that big a deal, and wondered if one day I'd learn to be like them, laughing in the face of storm clouds, riding gleefully through standing water... and gradually the change happened. I couldn't say exactly when or how I lost my deep dislike of riding in the wet, but the case is that I now barely bat an eyelid, even when the horizon is almost black and criss-crossed by spears of lightning. So, how does one approach riding in the wet? Let's have a closer look.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

ASV brake and clutch levers

I haven't spent any time on this blog since the beginning of the year, so it's time to blow the cobwebs away!

Today I received a set of ASV levers (brake & clutch) that I promptly went to fit on my Thruxton.

© Marc Michon - 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Product Review: Soubirac Kliper 2 boots

Last weekend I went to Marseilles via the Camargue (photos will be posted this weekend). It was the ideal occasion to test out a pair of Soubirac "Kliper 2" motorcycling boots.

© Soubirac

As you can see, they look more like army boots than normal riding boots. That's not surprising, since Soubirac supply the French fire brigade, police and armed forces. So that means that they should be solid enough for motorcycling.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Shakedown run

Last week I took the bike in for its 80,000km service and also to have an electrical gremlin in the charging circuit seen to. I picked the bike up on Thursday, but I was unable to give it a shakedown run until this afternoon.

© Marc Michon - 2010

The first thing I noticed was that the indicator idiot light was flashing very rapidly when I had the left-hand indicators going. After a visual check I noticed that the front left indicator didn't work. So I took it apart, thinking that the lamp was dead. However, the lamp was still OK, so the problem must lie elsewhere.

© Marc Michon - 2010

Once on the road, everything seemed to go very well; for an engine that's racked up 80,000km in barely five years, it really goes like the proverbial shit off the equally proverbial shovel. It was nice and strong through the 'box, with no noticeable flatspots.