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!


Betty Blue arrives in style

My daughter and I like to name our bikes using their manufacturer’s first initial. So since 2016 I’ve had two Ducati’s, the Duke and Duchess, Harry the Husqvarna, Tom the Triumph and Suki my 20th anniversary Suzuki GSXR 750. My daughter’s Oset Trials bike is affectionately known chez nous as Oliver, which by coincidence is also the name of the founder’s son for whom the bikes were first built.

As such it felt important to me, as I was whizzing back up the motorway to Harrogate, from Pidcock’s BMW in Nottingham on the S1000 Sport, to come up with a suitably punchy name for my new Bayerische beauty.

At first I was really struggling. Having decided the petite BMW was definitely a she I couldn’t think of the name of a beautiful and dangerously intoxicating woman beginning with a B.

Then in a sudden flash of inspiration I hit upon a movie from my youth

Béatrice Dalle the exotic and wild French actress in the early 90’s cult classic Betty Blue. And thus my newly collected Teutonic beauty became Bettina (Betty) Blue and all was right with the world again. Save the constant threat of rain on the M1 obviously.

I wasn’t sure I was making the right decision swapping out my final Ducati for the German Super Naked however as usual I’d done my research, so decided the BMW at a knock down price, was as a minimum a step in the right direction.

Having bought the Multistrada in Jan 2018 so I could go touring, I’d spectacularly failed to do any at all. As good an all rounder as the Duke was, in the end he was quite industrial to ride and increasingly too top heavy for a man of my advancing years.

First impressions are fantastic. Gone is the lazy torque filled burbling tractor noises of the Ducati V twin, replaced by a tight as a drum BMW 165hp 999cc four cylinder. Straight out of the box, even in rain mode I could tell Betty is how might we say ‘sprightly’. She also came with what the dealer described as ‘the naughty key’ for fine tuning ABS, Traction Control and Anti Wheelie settings. Will have a play with that shortly when I’ve got my bearings.

She also flicks left and right at the barest lean on the flat bars. What I didn’t expect was the absence of wind buffetting given the tiny screen. At speed on the M1 I swear I barely noticed the lack of a screen at all.

Betty is lean and muscular, like a voluptuous triathlete with ample appendages

So there you have her Betty Blue. I have a very good feeling about my new partner in crime and what I hope is the start of a beautiful and thrilling relationship witha lusty new German mistress.

Naturally I’ll endeavour to keep you posted.

Yes, I have been treated for prostate cancer. Sorry if I didn’t tell you.

In February it will be 3 years since I had laparascopic (robotic) surgery for prostate cancer and currently the (rather excellent) consultant is happy with progress. Some people knew, some didn’t, no rationale, just how I felt on the day I met them.

Strangely actually having cancer is more manageable psychologically than not knowing if you have it. When you have it you have to deal with it, you have no choice. Afterwards the ambiguity is tough.

Prostate cancer is an unusual, atypical disease. Firstly it grows very slowly, it can take 10 years or more to become critical and yet when it is advanced it is pretty deadly. The consultants will tell you more people die with it than from it although given it is an older persons disease, at 47 these words give limited comfort.

It’s also, unlike many cancers, less often treated by chemotherapy, rather by surgery or localised radiotherapy. If caught soon enough a ‘cure’ is technically possible. I use speech marks as urology consultants are reluctant to call it a cure. Partly due to the 10yr monitoring period and partly the difficulty knowing whether the cancer cells circulating in your blood might have developed the ability to live in other cells and be lurking somewhere undetected.

So now 3 years in I have blood tests roughly every 3 months and ‘problems’ with anxiety. I am trying to learn to live with it. It is hard.

I won’t do a long list of things I’ve learnt, it would be a cliche and you can probably guess most of them. What I would say is if you are a man in your mid forties or older, do consider having a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) check, especially if you have any of the common symptoms. It’s a simple blood test. There are continual debates amongst the medical folk about whether the test is sensible as a screening measure. All I will say is that without it I would be blissfully unaware today of the cancer.

Finally, being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer is unpleasant. From the transrectal biopsy (don’t Google if squeamish) to the catheter, temporary incontinence and uncertainty about future sex life, it sucks. Thankfully being young I navigated those last two successfully (saves you wondering about it 😉)

Rather than tell you all about it, here’s a 2 part piece by George Monbiot the journalist and prominent Climate activist. It’s graphic and accurate, I will say no more.

If we are friends and haven’t spoken in a while, I’d love to catch up.

So, I crashed!

It’s just over a month now since I came off my Ducati 848 Evo up near Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales. The bike is a write off, I am (hopefully) ‘damaged repairable’.

My injuries

After a trip to A&E and two rounds of surgery I have a titanium plate holding small bits of my clavicle (collar bone to the uninitiated) together and the 4 (from what I gleaned through the morphine) pieces of my scapula (shoulder blade) have begun bonding back into one piece thankfully, although sleeping was ‘challenging’ for the last month.


The turn that I came off on was unremarkable save for some sticky bitumen top surface.

Whilst travelling at 25-30 mph around a left hander, I lost the front and hit the tarmac hard, shoulder hitting first, then sliding headlong down the road into a car which was a sobering, if ‘over in the blink of an eye’, type experience.

I will I suspect never know if I could have avoided it, I’ve ridden the same turn (and hundreds like it) before.

I do have a slight tendency to trail brake into turns, perhaps I squeezed a little hard when I spotted the car.

Or maybe my front wheel reacted somehow to the loose bitumen, the policeman felt it may have contributed (having spoken with motorcycle colleagues when writing his incident report) although it wasn’t really definitive


No matter, the end result is the same, a partially paralysed arm and a check from my insurer for a no longer beautiful Ducati sportsbike.

So what did I learn?

1. The NHS is bloody marvellous when dealing with medical emergencies

My experience dealing with the NHS on chronic illnesses has been mixed. Sometimes great, often frustratingly bureaucratic. When you have a ‘trauma’ you really experience it at it’s best. Everything works and it is super quick. From the paramedics who literally scooped me out of the road, to the A&E staff who assessed and diagnosed my injuries, the surgeon who reassembled my shoulder over the weekend then phoned me to check I was ok, the specialist neurosurgeon treating my paralysed arm, and every single member of support staff at Airedale and Leeds General Infirmary who made a difficult experience slightly more tolerable. The speed and quality of care has been absolutely incredible.

2. There are lots of very decent people out there

I was lying in the road by Cavendish Pavillion for around an hour. The road was closed.

A number of bikers stopped to check on me including notably Earl who stayed with me, keeping me talking, providing first aid and then arrived at the hospital during the weekend with a can of Budweiser and an (empty) punnet of grapes. Superb bloke!

There were three lovely ladies (the two Sarah’s and Ali) who also stayed with me, at least one of whom was from the car my head bounced off. Literally their only concern was my health and both have stayed in touch since, asking after me, offering further assistance.

Good friends like Tony and Dave both offered to collect my bike for me when I was hospitalised which was greatly appreciated and lots of folk including Karen particularly have jumped in to take care of the kids whilst my better half has escorted me to numerous hospital follow ups. Many others have kept in touch for which I am grateful.

3. Our bodies are fragile, mobility is a precious gift

In the last month I have by necessity become an expert in the shoulder, the brachial plexus (nerve bundle controlling the arm) and the various muscle / nerve connections that allow a wonderful array of movements which we take for granted.

Think about it – how great is the human body, albeit incredibly fragile?

Right now I can’t move my bicep or lift the shoulder although my hand is pretty much working normally. Nerve surgery last Friday suggests my C5/6 nerves still connect to my brain at the neck. Apparently it is common in motorcycle accidents for the head and shoulder to be stretched, pulling the nerves out at the spine, which is irreversible.

My consultant straightened my brachial plexus and removed scar tissue in the area. She is optimistic that in time I will recover some function in my bicep and shoulder albeit I will never have normal mobility as before.

4. Good quality equipment is priceless

I was wearing Alpinestars leathers with knee, hip, elbow and shoulder protection as well as an additional Forcefield spine protector.

Aside from shoulder injuries I had only bruising and a small graze (perhaps from friction burn) on my elbow. The leathers took quite a hit and sadly my jacket, back protector and glove were cut off me at the scene. My Shark helmet took a huge hit at the left and rear (see photos).

I will never preach to others about what to wear, suffice it to say my equipment may have saved my life, and certainly most of my skin.

I personally (politely) advocate all the gear all the time so here are my kit reviews if you are interested.

My Alpinestars leathers

Shark Spartan helmet review




The answer is of course ‘yes’

I imagine that most of you are wondering if my near death experience has put me off bikes for good, or if I will go back to them if my shoulder function recovers.

The answer (right now) is of course no it hasn’t and yes I will.

Am I chastened by the experience? Yes obviously, it bloody hurt.

Could the same thing happen riding my push bike? Yes, it already has, when I hit black ice and tore my acromioclavicular ligament.

Crucially I’ve now had four weeks to research how to spend my insurance payout and have an impressive shortlist brewing. So watch this space 🙂

Hopefully see you out there!


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.


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.


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.


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 recently 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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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!


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!


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 🙂


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.


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)!


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.


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!


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.


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

Have a happy New Year!