Monday, 24 October 2011

Marco Simoncelli 1987 - 2011

It was with shock and disbelief that I heard the news that Marco “SuperSic” Simoncelli lost his life during the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang track, in one of those freak racing accidents that shouldn’t happen, when his out-of-control bike crossed the path of Colin Edwards’ Yamaha and the Ducati ridden by his close friend Valentino Rossi. “Sic” was just 24 years of age.

I won’t go into the details of the accident: I’m sure that, like myself, you have all seen photographs and videos of the collision. They left me deeply shocked and terribly upset. Instead I’ll just say a few words about Simoncelli.

Marco Simoncelli was a flamboyant, larger-than-life character who – literally – stood head and shoulders above almost everyone else in the MotoGP paddock, instantly recognisable by his extravagant Afro-style hairdo, which quickly earned him the affectionate nickname of “Sideshow Bob” amongst fans, due to a certain resemblance to the character of that name in the Simpsons. His hairstyle was not his only anachronism; he was wont to wear Jimi Hendrix T-shirts in a world in which many young riders and fans alike might not even be able to name or recognise a single song by that revolutionary guitarist. He seemed to have a liking for the era of the Seventies.

This was also reflected in his riding style. He quickly gained notoriety and a reputation as a bad boy for his unforgiving, aggressive, no-holds-barred riding, having no hang-ups in swapping fairing stickers with rivals in risky overtakes that drew the wrath of other riders and of journalists (in both cases, mainly the Spanish contingent), culminating in a coming-together with Spaniard Dani Pedrosa at the French Grand Prix in Le Mans earlier this season, which earned him a talking to from FIM and DORNA officials and required that he be escorted at all times by armed bodyguards during the Catalunya Grand Prix (he apparently received death threats prior to the race at the track outside Barcelona).

Monday, 19 September 2011

Book Review: "Big Sid's Vincati. The story of a Father, a Son and the Motorcycle of a Lifetime"

Very few “motorcycle” books ever get published, and when they do, they often go unnoticed, gathering dust in the more obscure and out-of-the-way shelves in bookshops. “Big Sid’s Vincati. The Story of a Father, a Son and the Motorcycle of a Lifetime” is just one of those books.

The main protagonist of Vincati is “Big” Sid Biberman, an ageing mountain of a man whose claim to fame is that of having been one of the foremost North American experts on tuning Vincent motorcycles. The book, written by his son Matthew Biberman (a professor of creative writing and literature at Louisville University) opens at the side of Big Sid’s hospital bed, as he waits to undergo emergency open-heart surgery after having suffered a serious heart attack. He has apparently lost the will to live and, on the spur of the moment, his son comes up with a plan to build one of motorcycling’s rarer exotic hybrids, a Vincati.

At this juncture I should perhaps pause and explain what a Vincati is. Put simply it is a Vincent engine bolted into a – fairly modified – Ducati 750 GT frame. As such it is one of those creations that give Vincent enthusiasts and Ducati cognoscenti apoplexy attacks. You can’t buy one of these motorcycles over the counter, so they are usually the fruit of a slightly zany mechanic’s hard toil in his home workshop.

Right, back to the book. Saying that this is just a motorcycle book would be over-simplifying it altogether. True, bikes run through it on every page, but there is more to it than that. It is in fact an account of how a father and son who have grown apart come together and learn to coexist – pretty much for the first time in their lives – thanks to the creation of the mythical Vincati, which in itself leads to the father coming out of retirement and resuming his trade with help from his son.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

On this day, ten years ago...

On 11th September 2001, the world changed forever. I remember turning on the television, and briefly seeing a plane hitting a tall building and thinking "oh, must be some scene from a new action film", then suddenly realising that what I was seeing was real and happening on the other side of the world in real time... I don't remember how many of the following hours I spent glued to my television screen, but it must have been quite a few, I'm sure.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. For me, there is one image above all others that sums that terrible event up for me. I don't know who took the photo, so I cannot give credit where it is due. May the owner of the photo's rights therefore forgive me for publishing it here at this time.

I will take this time to pay my respects to all the innocent people who died in New York, in the Pentagon and on the airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania, and also to the members of the NYPD, FDNY and New York Port Authority Police who selflessly put their lives at risk to try to get as many survivors out of that inferno.

Rest in Peace...

For a few years I was an active member of an unofficial Spanish Triumph Owners' Club (Club Triumph España) until divergences with a small faction of its members prompted me to terminate my association with the club. However, in doing so I left behind a good few friends whose company I enjoyed; over the years I have kept more or less abreast of club life at a distance, as an exile, as it were.

Yesterday evening, whilst perusing Facebook, a message appeared on my wall, posted by a member of the club who I still see from time to time. The contents of the message moved me greatly.

During this year's Club Anniversary Weekend run, one of the members lost his life. It would appear that as the convoy of bikes approached an intersection, the driver of a car that was waiting to enter the flow of traffic decided that he wasn't going to wait for the entire convoy to pass before joining the road. He therefore attempted to thread his car through a slight gap between two motorcycles, forcing everybody to take evasive action. The deceased rider was unfortunately unable to avoid hitting the car head-first, and died pretty much instantly.

The fallen rider leaves behind a wife and two adult daughters. I'm an atheist, so I will not offer up a prayer (nor will I ask anybody to do so - that is up to you), but I would like to extend my condolences to his family, friends, and to the members of the Club Triumph España, particularly those who were unfortunate enough to witness this tragic event. "Motosalsa" as he was known, is now riding free on the eternal run in the sky.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Shame on you, Nissan!

Earlier today, a rather disturbing commercial for the Nissan "Juke" was brought to my attention. It revolted me to such a degree that I instantly started posting complaints on Facebook and Twitter, and posting the commercial to the various internet motorcycling fora of which I am a member.

Afte a while, the webmaster of the forum (an unofficial Triumph owners' forum that is in no way linked directly to Triumph Motorcycles Ltd.) was able to confirm that the commercial originated from Nissan Canada. I promptly fired off a complaint to their customer service. I will be monitoring their reply to my letter of complaint and reporting upon it here on The Thruxtonian. Depending upon the way in which they handle the matter, I will decide whether or not to pursue the matter further, perhaps even in a court of law.

Here is the offending (offensive, even) commercial:

If you wish to complain about the commercial, you can contact Nissan Canada HERE

Monday, 5 September 2011

Once more unto the breach...

As you know, this blog is a one-man-show that I do on my own time (and just sometimes taking a few moments off my work). As such, it is subject to the demands of my professional schedule. It is also subject to the effects of my personal life and, since my last article in March of this year, this latter aspect of my life has been in somewhat of a turmoil for various reasons that I will not enter into here. Suffice it to say that I lost interest in maintaining The Thruxtonian and preferred to direct my energy and resources towards other ends. Indeed, I had intended to let this blog wither away and disappear into the forgotten meanders and interstices of the internet.

I have however changed my mind on this point and, despite the fact that my life - in both its professional and personal aspects - has not yet got to where I would like it to be, I am pleased to announce that The Thruxtonian rides again.

For this new stage in its existence, I will endeavour to make the blog possibly bigger and certainly better. Notwithstanding, to a certain extent it will continue to be at the mercy of my professional and personal life, but although the journey may be sometimes erratic, I will attempt to ensure that you, the readers, will be informed of any temporary interruptions. And of course, I reserve the right to pull the plug at any time. Life will always be more important than a blog.

It's nice to be back...


The Thruxtonian

Friday, 25 March 2011

Coming soon to The Thruxtonian

At the moment, The Thruxtonian's offices are a hive of activity. We will shortly be bringing you our first ever road test, with a report on the Triumph Tiger 800 including an onboard video (which means getting to grips with Apple's "iMovie" editing software); we will also have product reviews of Belstaff's iconic Trialmaster jacket and GoPro's Hero HD onboard video camera.

Working overtime at The Thruxtonian...

Looking further ahead, we will be bringing you road tests of the Harley Davidson Nightster and the Ducati Diavel, amongst other things.

Of course, since all of this work is done after day jobs and other such professional obligations have been seen to, this does take quite some time. But we guarantee that everything will be well worth the wait. So don't touch that dial, as they used to say!

Friday, 18 March 2011

I couldn't say it any better myself...

This wonderful little text came to my attention yesterday. I have no idea who the author is, apart from the fact that he (or perhaps she, who knows?) is American (the spelling of some words points that way). I have therefore decided to leave the text practically untouched (see the footnote), American spelling and all. If you know who might have written these words, please tell me by leaving a comment. That way I will be able to duly credit the author. Now, over to the "unknown motorcyclist".

There is cold, and there is cold on a motorcycle. Cold on a motorcycle is like being beaten with cold hammers while being kicked with cold boots, a bone bruising cold. The wind's big hands squeeze the heat out of my body and whisk it away; caught in a cold October rain, the drops don't even feel like water. They feel like shards of bone fallen from the skies of Hell to pock my face. I expect to arrive with my cheeks and forehead streaked with blood, but that's just an illusion, just the misery of nerves not designed for highway speeds.

Despite this, it's hard to give up my motorcycle in the fall and I rush to get it on the road again in the spring; lapses of sanity like this are common among motorcyclists. When you let a motorcycle into your life you're changed forever. The letters "MC" are stamped on your driver's license right next to your sex and weight as if "motorcycle" was just another of your physical characteristics, or maybe a mental condition. But when warm weather finally does come around all those cold snaps and rainstorms are paid in full because a summer is worth any price.

A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled car; the difference between driving a car and climbing onto a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Spain slows down

Just days after the new regional government of Catalonia announced that it was scrapping the previous administration's "variable speed" measure, which effectively limited speed on motorways in a 20 km radius around Barcelona to 80 kph (but could bring it down to as low as 20 kph if deemed necessary...), at the end of last week the central Spanish government announced that it was going to impose a blanket speed limit of 110 kph on all motorways and dual carriageways as of 7th March.

This sign now belongs to the past...

The reasons given by the government are the bid to carry out large-scale fuel savings and concerns about fuel supply in view of the political and social unrest in the Arab world. On examination both reasons seem rather laughable. First of all, modern cars (and motorbikes, for that matter) don't burn that much fuel when they're cruising along at 120 kph in top gear, which means that the supposed fuel savings obtained by dropping the speed to 110 kph (68 mph) are so slight that they won't make much difference in the medium term, which is how most government plans work.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Spring is in the air

At the moment, my professional life is a whirl. Hardly did I return from my skiing holiday that I was snowed under with work, which seems to be par for the course for me. And today, although I had a substantial workload to deal with, I decided to take the old girl out for a spin and actually have a normal Sunday: i.e. not working.

I chose my destination very much at the last moment, and decided to go down to the "Mas del Plata" residential estate, which is some 40 kilometres or so inland from Tarragona. My aim wasn't to go house hunting, but instead to visit a landmark that has made this estate famous the world over for Anime fans: a 15 metre high resin and fibreglass statue of Mazinger Z (for those of you who are unfamiliar with Japanese anime series of the Seventies, read this and all will be explained: - ed.). When I set out from home, the weather didn't look very promising, but by the time I peeled off the motorway at El Vendrell, there was hardly a grey cloud in the sky, and there was a promise of a fine day.

As I took to the back roads towards my destination, I remembered that I would be passing not far away from another curious landmark: the Sanctuary of Montferri, a small chapel built just before the Spanish Civil War and aimed to celebrate two of Catalonia's great treasures: the mountain of Montserrat and the architect Antoni Gaudí. So I took to an even smaller back road and finally arrived in the car park, to find myself surrounded by coach loads of OAPs.

I had to scare the blue-rinse brigade away for this one!
Photograph: © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Triumph Thruxton "Transformer"

I have often heard that a Triumph Thruxton is only good for showing off on a sunny day in front of one's favourite bar. Rubbish! I find that it makes a pretty good bike for solo touring!

Before: Café Tourer. Pipe and slippers under the seat...
Photograph © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

After: Café Racer. Ready to Race to the Ace!
Photograph © The Thruxtonian/Marc Michon, Feb. 2011

By the way, if you want to know where the parcel rack comes from, it's a home-made (not by me, I should add) item that used to be a bar stool in a previous life - I kid you not!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Change partners!

Over the past few days, World Supersport Championship rider Chaz Davies kept many of the followers of his Facebook page in suspense with a promise of an important announcement that he would make at the weekend.

The announcement was nothing less than the fact that the Welshman, along with team-mate Luca Scassa, will be campaigning in this season's World Supersport Championship on the Yamaha YZF-R6.

Welsh rider Chaz Davies with his new ride for 2011
Photograph: © Chaz Davies/Team ParkinGO Yamaha, Jan. 2011

This comes as somewhat of a surprise so late in proceedings; the BE1 ParkinGO team had been hard at work until very recently, fettling the Triumph Daytona 675R for the beginning of the 2011 season. However, it would appear that an inability for both parties (Triumph and Team BE1 ParkinGO) to reach a satisfactory contract agreement meant that they were obliged to go their own ways, as it were; Paul Stroud (Triumph Motorcycles' Sales & Marketing Director) and Giuliano Rovelli (BE1 ParkinGO team owner) made official statements to this effect at the beginning of the week.

This move effectively means that the British motorcycle manufacturer based in Hinckley (Leicestershire) will not be officially represented this season. And while The Thruxtonian's heart is very much in the Brit bike camp, we wish to extend our best wishes to Chaz Davies and the BE1 ParkinGO team, and hope that he will be flying the flags (Cymru and the Union Flag) from the highest step of the podium throughout the year!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Have Bike, Must Travel

In my most humble opinion, there is no better motor vehicle for doing overland journeys than a motorcycle. It really makes you aware that you are racking up the miles (or kilometres if, like me, you're a continental) through an ever-changing landscape, standing your own against the elements and the various road hazards - many of which have four or more wheels...

There are different ways of travelling by bike: buying a full-dress Goldwing or Electraglide and cruising along the motorways, buying a BMW R1200GS Adventure and heading out to see the world à la Ewan & Charley (two fellows that I would truly like to meet and - if possible - ride with: contrary to what many may blurt out whilst propping up the bar, they are real motorcyclists, not a couple of Hoorays on bikes), or going from Gibraltar to the North Cape aboard a Honda C90 for charity.

© Motards en Balade, Jan.2011

For motorcyclists who like going on motorcycle holidays there are a few companies that propose organised motorcycle tours. Some include the bike in the package, whilst for others, you have to bring your own. "Motards en Balade" falls into the latter category, although some of their further-flung tours have included vehicle hire.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Long-term Test: Scorpion EXO-900 crash helmet

I had been toying with the idea of getting a "flip-front" crash helmet for quite some time, but could not find it in me to part with my hard-earned for one. You see, in my mind, flip-fronts were either for the serious pipe-smoking beardies who ride BMWs, or for motorcycle coppers; I didn't feel - and still don't - that I had much in common with both groups. Also, I am more used to wearing classic-styled open-face helmets. Not to say that I didn't see the advantage of flip-fronts: when they're closed, you're effectively riding with a full-face lid, which is much safer at high speed than an open-face with aviator goggles! Unfortunately, every time I perused the marketplace, I never found the flip-front that would convince me to take the plunge.

And then Scorpion brought out the EXO-900. It was as if they had been reading my mind; I have long since decided that the ideal helmet for me would be a full-face that I could easily turn into an open-face, and finally somebody out there had done something about it! Last October I finally reached for my wallet and in exchange for 250 Euros (the RRP here in Spain) I became the proud owner of a gloss black Scorpion EXO-900.

That plant could do with watering...
Photograph © Marc Michon/The Thruxtonian, Jan 2011

When I extricated my new possession from its packaging, I found it to be fairly good-looking for a flip-front, much more so than suggested by the photographs I had seen so far. In fact I think that it's probably one of the nicest-looking flip-fronts on the market, certainly better than a Nolan or a Schuberth. A design touch that I particularly like are the chromed surrounds on the air vents; instead of being really bright chrome, which always looks tacky in my opinion, they are slightly "smoked", which gives them a much classier aspect. Closed, it has a swoopy, dynamic line to it, and would not look out of place on a sports bike. It even looks fairly good once it's open, because unlike many flip-fronts, the "fascia" locks open in a completely vertical position.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Product Review: Muc-Off Premium Anti-Fog Treatment

First off, as this is my first article of 2011, I would like to wish you all a happy 2011!

One of the worst enemies of the common-or-garden motorcyclist is a fogged-up visor, goggles or glasses. And over the years since the invention of our jolly motorised velocipedes, various old grannies' remedies and patent quack cures and devices have been marketed as the definitive last word in curing that crippling ailment that strikes all motorcyclists, Viserus Foggius.

The latest of these to come to my attention is Muc-Off's (language, Timothy!) "Premium Anti-Fog Treatment. I had already heard of it, but was sceptical as to its efficiency. I've tried many anti-fog products over the years, and apart from the Pinlock visor, I have never really been satisfied, and have ended up being resigned to misting up every so often, particularly in winter.

"I can see clearly now the fog has gone..."
Photograph: © Marc Michon/The Thruxtonian, Jan 2011

I applied the product to my Davida WRS74  glasses, which I use with yellow lenses for when it's overcast or in low light conditions. Unfortunately, for some reason they usually just fog up as soon as I look at them, because of their foam "gasket" designed to stop air getting in behind the lenses. I applied the liquid and went off for a quick ride. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that  Muc-Off's treatment works: at a standstill, I usually have to pull the Davidas off my nose a bit to allow air to get in and de-fog them, which looks a bit silly, but there I was, able to look cool on my bike. Even when walking around with them on under my helmet, which keeps the gasket snug to my eye sockets, I could not get them to fog up noticeably.

So at last we have an anti-fog product that does what it says on the bottle. Great news for those of us who ride in winter and in the wet. You can visit Muc-Off here.