Novice Trackday At Cadwell

So, after buying the 20th Anniversary Gixxer last year to allow me to take on trackdays, I finally got round to booking onto a Novice day at Cadwell and what an awesome event!

As this was my first track experience I really didnt know what to expect, it helped that I was going with my mate Dave on his S1000RR and that he had already done a couple, even so, it was with some trepidation that I set off from Harrogate at 5am on a cold spring day to drive to Louth in Lincolnshire, keen to ensure I was there in plenty of time to check in, get through scrutineering (noise test at Cadwell is 105Db limit), attend the briefing and generally be ready to hit the track.

I was also more than a little anxious that I would somehow stack it and end up injuring myself, so it didn’t take long for the adrenaline to start flowing. This might sound strange however I very much welcomed that, its been a long time (I’m 45) since I felt that incredible rush of energy that comes from being deliberately ‘on the edge’ or exposed to real danger by choice. I get a rush when I ride my bikes on the road although for obvious reasons I always try and avoid riding close to the limit.

I have to say, MSV Trackdays (the owner of Cadwell and several other circuits) really nailed it with the delivery of my trackday, from upfront booking, through briefing emails, to on the day organisation and ensuring everyone had a good time, it was absolutely excellent, highly recommended.

Essentially, if you haven’t done one, the day is divided into roughly 7-8 ‘sessions’ with each session lasting 20 mins and starting at twenty to the hour. On our event we were sharing the track with two novice car groups so in every hour there was one bike and two car sessions. 20 mins doesn’t sound like much although believe me it is more than enough to get your arms pumped up and to tire you out by the end of the day. In general we were getting around 6-8 laps in a session.

Apart from nearly taking out one of the two on track instructors (actual instruction is an extra £25 for a session) by trying to squeeze past him in the turn before the mountain, I kept it at 90% as it was more than exciting enough without a spill. On the day I saw 2-3 people crash, as far as I could tell just bruises (including to egos) which is enough to keep you grounded. On the straight I was managing between 110-125mph terminal velocity, the hard thing was remembering to keep it pinned in gear as there is a temptation to change up long before reaching the redline. My biggest challenge was navigating the hairpin at the end of the circuit, I kept imagining the bike might topple over at slow speed as I turned it in (thankfully it doesn’t).

What was my highlight? Pulling a wheelie up and over the mountain, the famous Cadwell landmark, what a sensation, absolutely priceless.

So, would I recommend it, absolutely yes – the most fun I’ve had for £79 – period!

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Itching to do a project

I’ve been back on bikes now for about 19 months and so far so good, have ridden a vast range of entertaining machines and taken in many of the best biking roads here in the Yorkshire Dales; including an S1000RR, various Ducatis, my own Street Triple and the later 765RS as well as a BMW GS1200 Rallye and sponny new Suzuki GSX1000R on the 2017 test day at Squires.

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One itch that I still haven’t scratched though is my desire to buy and refurbish some kind of older project bike – so now I’m starting to seriously look for something interesting to work on.

Happily I’ve actually come up trumps and found somewhere terrific to work on the bike; there is a great little place in Keighley called Renaissance Motorcyle Workshop that runs like a collective organised by Roger Henderson, a former lecturer at Keighley College in motorcycle maintenance.

I popped down to meet Roger who it turns out is a great chap, very approachable and helpful; he gave me a tour and explained how everything works; it’s basically £55 a month to rent a bench which includes access to all the various tools they carry (a lot) as well as his expertise and assistance as you learn your craft. They have welding equipment, lathes and even common nuts and bolts (chargeable at cost) so you aren’t running backwards and forwards all the time looking for sundries.

If you are a local and like me interested in learning to maintain your bikes, why not pop down, you will be made very welcome.

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So, having identified a space to work, all I need now is a bike that I’d like to work on.

I say ‘all’ a little tongue in cheek as it is actually proving far harder than I’d anticipated. You realise once you start looking how little you know about bikes as well as what marks out an interesting prospect from a potential money pit. Roger had already explained that you don’t renovate motorcycles for commercial gain as you always end up with a bigger bill than the bike is worth, even so if you choose poorly some bikes can end up costing way more than you anticipate so it makes sense to take your time finding a suitable bike to work on.

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I’ve spent ages so far on eBay (a minefield) and the internet, as well as popping over to look at bikes in various shops around Yorkshire, so far without success.

Part of the issue I think is I haven’t really got a clear enough idea of what I want to work on – the heart is pining for an older classic like a Norton 750 Commando, similar to the one my dad had when I was a toddler, or a Bevel Ducati, although both of these bikes are already fully valued (short hand for f@#king expensive) amongst collectors – a scrappy Commando is about £5-6k and a 900SS is, well, don’t ask, suffice it to say it’s unlikely to be one of the bikes I cut my teeth on.

Other options include an early Fireblade (the 92-96 versions are quite interesting) or maybe an RD Yamaha, the RD400s appeal to me most. There are more of these types of bike about yet finding a base for a good project still proves challenging.

I rwcently looked at a ’95 (SC28) Fireblade being sold in a local shop on behalf of a customer and whilst it looked (and sounded) reasonably good, it had apparently been tracked and as a consequence had aftermarket downpipes which had melted the lower left fairing and it also had a non OEM brake lever which I took as suggestive of the fact it had been dropped at some point in it’s 23 years.

Not an issue in itself as long as the frame was straight although finding those downpipes, a fairing and front tyre (puncture) would have added at least £500 to the cost of buying it even before any rebuild costs began in earnest.

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And that is the nub of things really, most people want more for their bike than realistically it is worth, and not choosing a wrong ‘un is harder than I’d ever imagined, given my relative inexperience – so I’m still on the hunt right now, I figure it is better to take longer and find the right bike than buy something flaky and pay double on the renovation itself.

Well that it is for now, hope to be able to update more in due course

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Cafe Racers – Second Coming

Is it just me or are we in the middle of a renaissance for Cafe Racers?

Let me be clear up front I am a huge fan of these stripped back, racers for the road machines which found prominence in the 50’s and 60’s. My interest in them most likely arose from discussions with my dad about the way he used to amend his father’s BSA Gold Flash for tearing about on at the weekend.

Nowadays the BSA Gold Flash in standard form would most likely be considered cool by most fans of motorbikes. Back then without clip ons and with it’s stock mudguards it was considered a little how might I say ‘fusty’, something which my grandfather would use day to day to make his way to work on. Steady and reliable transport for the working man.

So on a Friday night dad would jazz it up a little ready for the weekend.

From what I have read and heard the principle aim of the movement was to take a bike which was ok if a little ordinary and turn it into something which looked and was faster. Perhaps due to their relative ubiquity at the time Norton, Triumph, Vincent and BSA are all well represented in the group of bikes given the full Cafe treatment.

Norton in particular has a very good showing. Presumably as a result of the immense success they had achieved at the Manx TT with the featherbed frame. As well as standard Manx Norton Cafe Racers the well regarded platform also spawned a broad range of derivatives which are highly sought after today including Norvins, NorBsas and Tritons.

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I digress. Cafe Racers or bikes with a similar look and feel at least as those original machines have become so incredibly popular now that they dominate the social media feeds of the current generation of motorcycling fan. In an age in which MotoGp and Superbikes remain as popular as ever I guess it is natural to want to emulate this.

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Many of these bikes are actually being built by mainstream manufacturers such as Triumph or even BMW with their popular R nine T model. As commercial businesses they will be on the front foot when it comes to spotting a resurgent trend. They also have many advantages in that they can build and promote these machines at real scale to customers.

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I like the R nine T variants, the Triumph Thruxton is an undoubtedly good bike, Ducati is perhaps cashing in somewhat shamefacedly with it’s Scrambler Cafe Racer Edition however who can blame them although I would argue it has lost the core ethic which made this motorcycling genre so popular to begin with. And what of Norton’s Dominator?

Norton more than most can legitimately lay claim to this space given it’s heritage. Albeit they are a very different company now than they were in the 50’s and 60’s. Stuart Garner their owner and CEO has made leaning on the history of the company a core strength of the recent relaunch of the famous Norton brand. Their Dominator exemplifies this.

It is a truly beautiful machine which clearly borrows much from Cafe Racers of yesteryear. Price tag to one side, this is the mainstream manufacturers bike that I would choose.

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Mainstream manufacturers clearly have an advantage in this resurgent category. They will make many of these bikes so they can achieve efficiency and reliability for customers. However it is arguably the smaller, niche bike builders today who might best be able to make what is a credible claim to be the holders of the torch in this particular category.

Bike builders such as Pepo Rosell in Madrid with his standout creations based on often quite mundane or dull looking donor bikes. This is what he calls extreming a bike although when it is considered it has much in common with the ethic and general aims of the early pioneers who developed the UK Cafe Racer movement.

There are of course many others around the world doing similar things. Imagining and then building some simply beautiful and very desirable machines. Whether each of these is trying to be or should be considered Cafe Racers is somewhat academic. Motorcycling enthusiasts from many years back would surely agree the spirit of their machines survives.

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coolbikesofharrogate now on DriveTribe

Having checked it out I love the DriveTribe concept. If you enjoy the coolbikesofharrogate site why not join the Tribe and see more.

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V Twin vs Triple – which sounds best?

With the predictably unpredictable British weather largely precluding any more hands on biking activities I’ve had to think rather more laterally for blog ideas.

Owning both a Street Triple and a rather lovely looking 848 EVO, I’m in the priveleged position of getting to compare and choose from both a V Twin and a Triple soundtrack.

I thought it would be fun to do a couple of videos so that you can share in my dilemma.

Here’s the Triumph in the environs of my garage on a slightly overcast and chilly day.

Not my best directing work (I didn’t fancy hours of editing) however you get the picture. The Triumph engine is tight sounding and revs willingly like a Japanese sportsbike. In truth it’s very easy to ride as the power curve is super linear. The more you twist your wrist the more you get and the faster it goes. Not fickle or fussy, just willing and simple to ride.

Here’s the Ducati for comparison after a short period of warming up.

I captured these on my phone rather than the GoPro however the video and sound quality is pretty good to be honest. Check out the sweet sound from the Termignoni pipes when I move the phone down to the back end. It veritably purrs like a resting tiger and then gives the occasional growl to remind you of it’s real potency. 

I’ve never heard this bike with standard pipes and ECU and I don’t plan to return it to it’s original set up however I imagine it would still sound absolutely bloody amazing.

To my mind, if it’s on aural drama alone there is simply no contest here, the Ducati V Twin sounds absolutely and totally thrilling compared with the Triumph. Even with after market cans from Arrow or similar it’s hard to imagine the little triple getting close to the thumping sound of the highly tuned Twin. 

And that’s fine too. I bought the Ducati because it creates a real sense of drama, an X Factor if you like. When you start it up in the street people look admiringly or come to chat. I bought the Triumph essentially to learn to ride and as a practical day to day proposition. Something that starts readily and delivers oodles of power effortlessly. 

Genuinely horses for courses I’d say.

Well there you go, the Triumph Triple (675) and the Ducati 848 EVO V Twin, running side by side. Which would you choose? Is there a better engine sound in a road bike than the Desmo?

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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Frustration building

Grrrr…………….and Grrrr again!

Having been a biker proper now for less than 6 months I hadn’t imagined how frustrating it would be not being able to ride a bike for extended periods during winter.

Admittedly I’m a fair weather biker and I also avoid days when it’s at or close to freezing. Having been down on my push bike in 2012 on black ice, tearing my shoulder ligament, that’s an experience I can do without again.

Checked in on both bikes yesterday and as expected the Street Triple started immediately with no fuss or messing. Perhaps more surprising albeit positive too is that the 848 EVO coughed pretty quickly to life, despite having a considerably older battery. I’d assumed this piece of Italian exotica would be considerably more ‘fragile’ in a British winter.

I ran both bikes for about 15 mins and no issues appeared which is encouraging. Had been thinking about getting some kind of trickle charge battery conditioner for them however on this evidence there’s no real urgency. Will probably still pick something up online as it seems like the prudent thing to do.

Hoping the weather improves soon although I may be a little deluded.

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Top 12 Bikes of 2016

Ok, a little poetic license maybe however I thought I’d do a post about my favourite bikes and more specifically the bikes I’ve featured on my coolbikesofharrogate Instagram feed.

To make this more interesting I’m going to try and do this in reverse order. The sharp eyed amongst you will notice a dominance of Norton and Ducati.

12. Ducati 998 Matrix Reloaded – in no way swayed by the presence of Carrie-Anne Moss clad in full skin tight black leather, honestly. Interestingly the bike in the movie is a 996 however the bike for sale which you see about from time to time is actually a 998 as the model run had finished when the movie was released. Looks very cool in dark green!

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11. BSA Rocket 3 – XTR Tribute – I only came across Pepo Rosell in the last few months. The founder of Radical Ducati and now more recently XTR Pepo is an absolute genius at building one off ‘extreme’ bikes. I absolutely love the fact that this is a tribute to Dick Mann’s 1971 Rocket 3 which won at Daytona and it’s slick clean lines are beautiful.

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10. BSA Rocket 3 (1971) – and the bike itself that XTR Pepo modelled his tribute on is potentially more beautiful still. Simply gorgeous!

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9. Interceptor BMW R100R by XTR – This is the first bike I came across by Pepo Rosell and it made me want a BMW cafe racer police bike. It’s pared back and lean.

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8. Seeley Norton – a one off project build as tribute to the Seeley Norton race bikes. The clean lines, the race exhaust, the basic fairing, the small flat tank. Staggeringly beautiful!

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7. Ducati 916 – the 916 would make my all time top 5 favourite bikes and most other peoples’ too. This bike for me broke the mould. And at the same time set the standard for Ducati for many years to come. I can still see the same basic set up in my 848 EVO although the Panigales now have a very different frame arrangement. Bellissimo!

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6. RC30 – you wait all day for a bus to come along and then two come at the same time – well ok, the RC30 and RC45 are a bit more interesting than a bus to wait for however you get my point. Saw these two in Craig’s Honda in Shipley – had to scrape my tongue of their lovely hard wood flooring 🙂

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5. Norton Dominator – makes the list for sheer presence alone! What a stunning bike. The polished aluminium tank alone looks worth the £25,000 (if you could buy one) price tag. One of these features in the background in M’s lab in Spectre and if you look closely you can make out Stuart Garner, Norton’s owner polishing it. Britishness personified.

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4. Ducati 848 EVO in white – Ok, so this is my Ducati, the Duchess so inevitably I’m biased about the bike’s inclusion. Just look at it though and tell me it wouldn’t make your Top 5 too. MCN ran a feature a while back on the most beautiful and cool paint jobs on production bikes and this made the Top 5 – understandably. Love looking at it (constantly)!

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3. Norton SG5 race bike – made even more cool by the fact that you can’t buy one of these. There are only five Stuart Garner (SG) race bikes in existence and they all still belong to the man himself at Norton. This one raced to 7th at the 2016 TT and heralded the launch of the new V4 race bike. I’d certainly buy one of these if they were for sale.

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2. Ducati 748R – always considered the baby brother to the bigger 916 bikes, I think this is a bike who’s time has come. The R is the top of the tree for 748’s I believe and this one had been restored ground up by the technician at Ducati Leeds. On the day I saw it and spoke to him he was MOTing it for sale. Some lucky punter had just bought it for £6,500 – wow!

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Wait for it, imaginary big drum roll……..

1. Manx Norton – I’ve had a love affair with Norton since I was about 2. if you’ve checked my BIO you’ll know that my dad had first a 350 Manx race bike and then a larger Commando 750. Somehow I now have an unshakeable fascination with all things Norton. If I could find a good one, or even a decent replica, I’d have one of these in a shot.

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So that’s it, watch out for more coolbikesofharrogate in 2017

Have a happy New Year!

CBOH

Highlights of the Dales (part 2)

Well what can I say? If you’ve not been already (and if your local to Yorkshire I’m sure you will have) you have to try The Wharfe View Tea Room in Burnsall Bridge for lunch or snacks when out on the bike. The ladies there are super friendly and they do a big range of cakes and snacks as well as, what shall we say, more hearty fair. I thought about an all day breakfast before plumping for the gammon. Fanbloodytastic and filling too 😀

Not fancy or la di da just good old fashioned lunch time grub, washed down with a lovely cup of milky coffee, properly hot from the pan, unlike a bloody latte from Costa or Starbucks! Burnsall Bridge is a must visit destination in summer when there are loads of families enjoying the sun by the crook on the river, however as today showed, it’s just as good in winter too, provided the rain holds off.

Having already taken in the tops at Langbar and passed through Bolton Abbey for the obligatory photo call above the Abbey and river, I decided to head back via Appletreewick and Skyreholme and it’s views towards Simon’s Seat, bypassing the 20 mph zone that is Grassington in favour of the twisty and exposed road towards Greenhow Hill and back down to the A59 for the spin into Harrogate.

All in about 2hrs 30mins on a cool yet dry day. As ever at this time of year the roads never seem fully dry especially under the tree line and in dips however provided you kept your eyes peeled for the inevitable patches of gravel and mud on the smaller roads, actually a rather fun and uplifting day’s riding was there to be had. And yes, I busted through the 800 miles limit opening up the next layer of fun from the increasingly charming Street Triple. Accelerating hard up to 8,000 rpm and snicking swiftly through the gears courtesy of the quick shifter helps to understand the true performance potential of the Triumph.

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#triumph #yorkshire #dales #boltonabbey

Highlights of the Dales (part 1)

I didn’t really have any destination in mind when I set out on the Street Triple just after lunch time; my objectives being simply to complete the next phase of running in (get past 800 miles) and to clear my head. The official running in schedule calls for <7,000 rpm between 600-800 miles and at 770 miles at the start of the day I simply needed to unlock the 8,000 rpm limit on the little Triumph charger.

Well the ride so far succeeds on both fronts taking in Norwood, Otley, Langbar, Bolton Abbey and now Burnsall Bridge where I decided to grab some scran stopping at the Wharfe View Tea Room for gammon, egg, pineapple and chips, washed down with a ‘milky coffee’. For those younger than 40, that’s what Latte was called before Starbucks except the milk is heated in a pan then added to instant coffee. 😂

I’m starting to get really comfortable now with the bike and my cornering and slow speed maneouvering has really improved so it’s fitting that I start to do a few pleasure trips in my adopted homeland of North Yorkshire.

I don’t have a vast experience of different bikes and obviously would love to try the Fireblade and R1 at some point however all in all its hard to imagine many other bikes being quite as versatile and as much fun as the little (?) 675R which simple loves to eat up the miles. (to be continued shortly)

Read Highlights of the Dales (part 2) now

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#triumph #cafe #caferacer #yorkshire

Alpinestars – great kit for biking

Well I’ve been back biking now for around 3 months and for anyone familiar with my first blog you’ll know that I went out of my way to get good kit so as to keep my dad happy.

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For me that meant Alpinestars, great reputation and fantastic styling too. I started out initially, in late summer, with a two piece set of leathers (GP Plus jacket and Missile pants), SMX6 WP (waterproof) boots and SP8 lightweight gloves with knuckle armour. More recently with winter setting in I have invested in some waterproof textiles, choosing the Andes Drystar jacket and trousers with the fluorescent shoulders for improved visibility.missile_leather_pants_anthracite_black_1

So far I haven’t been disappointed, even if one too many Almond Magnum ice lollies has meant that my two piece leather trousers are now rather more snug than at first.

Although there’s definitely a knack to getting the trousers in both the leathers and the textiles zipped to the jacket, once it’s done they are both very comfortable and as a rider you feel warm and very well protected in the unpredictable British weather. My only complaint (and it’s not about the kit really) is that you tend to get icy wind blowing in and up between your helmet and the tops of the jackets on both outfits. I’m going to invest (or rather the kids are getting me one for Xmas) in a motorcycling specific snood/scarf to keep the drafts out on cold days. The GP Plus jacket didn’t come with any back armour so I invested in one of last year’s forcefield Airo vests to go under it – I looked at both Alpinestars and Forcefield inserts however opted for the vest as it provides extra warmth in colder weather and importantly I can wear it under both outfits – at £80 it was a total bargain too – who doesn’t love a bargain really? 😉

I bought the leather outfit from J&S in Leeds and as I picked it all up at the same time managed to get 10% discount on everything, getting me up and running in the warmer weather for around £730 – I imagine I could have gotten all of them for a few pounds less if I’d shopped around online however being able to try them in the store gave me the confidence that I was getting the kit I wanted in the size that worked first time.

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The Drystar textiles were picked up in late October at Motorcycle Live from the Infinity Motorcycles stand; the jacket and trousers were on special (isn’t everything at the show?) for £250 all in, which by my reckoning was a saving of around £120 or more on RRP – thankfully they had them in my size (I’m a big unit) – happy biker!

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So, all in all I’m very chuffed with the quality and usability of the two sets of Alpinestars kit. The leathers are sleek, well fitted, feel the business, and go well with the carbon finish of my Shark Spartan. The Drystar outfit is super warm (although I’m told it works just as well in warm climates) and although I’ve not really rain tested it yet, it copes perfectly with the road spray and the bright colour really makes me stand out on the road, especially at night time.

Hardly an exhaustive review (about 1,000 miles in total) however I’ve been impressed by the quality and fit and have no concerns to speak of so far, beyond the slightly baggy fit of the armour in the textile trousers. When stood straight the armour drops below the knee, although admittedly it’s spot on when sitting on the bike. That aside everything is perfect!

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#leathers #alpinestars #review #motorcycles