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 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.

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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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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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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.

coolbikesofharrogate

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

2016 Street Triple R – 5 Week Review

It’s been 5 weeks now since the “Striple” was delivered in a van by the very polite gentleman from Cobb and Jagger in Shipley. Tom (that’s what the kids christened the bike, although coincidentally also the name of the polite guy from C&J from memory – no connection 😂) has certainly seen some decent action in those first few weeks. Around 650 miles so far of the required running in period and as the bike passes through the various milestones, and the permitted rev range has increased, it has really grown in stature (and fun) exponentially.

In hindsight its rather like a Xmas present to myself, only one with several troublesome layers of wrapping which its taken me several weeks to remove. As I’m now over the 600 miles point the bike is allowed to rev to 7,000 rpm, still only roughly half of the 14k redline however it’s full potential is eventually beginning to be revealed. To be honest at no stage on this journey did the bike ever feel lacking for performance; even when restricted to 5,000 rpm it was quick away from the lights and felt genuinely punchy through the gears.

In hindsight, and my wife made this point very directly to me just now, it’s been a good thing. Unlike the Ducati which came with 5,000 miles on the clock and therefore was completely ready to roll hard from day 1, the Triumph has required patience and has returned the favour in kind. As a relatively inexperienced rider I’ve never felt the bike was too much for me, in fact I’d go so far as to say the bike would make a very credible learner motorcycle for those aiming for the UK direct access test. It is lightweight, agile, has a low centre of gravity and a motor which is incredibly forgiving. It will run from 20 mph in 6th without angst or protestation and yet still has enormous power further up the rev range whenever it is needed.

I’ve found myself riding along most often in either 4th or 6th, depending on the road and cruising speed and the in gear acceleration in both is effortless. This makes overtaking slower traffic a breeze, you just kind of waft past with the manoeuvre being over almost before it has begun. This gives you the confidence to get past slower moving traffic without any prevarication. The brakes are excellent too meaning that once you’ve overtaken you can quickly scrub off any excess speed and tuck the bike into the next bend with ease.

Obviously it’s only been 5 weeks and there’s still a layer or two of wrapping paper to go, however I know I’m already sold on the incredible strengths of the Triumph. The highlight of the first month had to be retracing the route of the first stage of the Tour De France from 2014, including the beautiful pass of Buttertubs, North of Hawes. A fantastic ride on a cool yet sunny day in Yorkshire (see below).

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So, do I have any grumbles so far?

Well not really – if anything the exhaust note sounds a little flat (ok anything sounds a little flat when compared to a Ducati V-Twin with Termignoni’s) – in hindsight maybe I should have spent some of my £600 accessories allowance on the Arrow end can, however at the end of the day this is my day to day bike, not a race replica. It sounds plenty good enough under acceleration and revs all day long, putting on speed with ease. The only other minor irritation has been the paint on the cap ring over the fuel tank. It flaked / chipped within days of me taking possession requiring the decent folks at Triumph West Yorkshire to replace it at the first service under warranty, only for me to then scuff / chip that replacement today when putting petrol in by briefly allowing the petrol hose to rest on it while filling – grrrrr!

And that’s it, literally nothing else disappointing to note so far. Watch out for my next review once the gloves really do come off at 1,000 miles and I get to press the redline a little harder.

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#triumph #streettriple #motorbikes #sportbikes

 

Norton V4 Prelaunch Event

I was lucky enough last night to have the opportunity to visit Donnington Hall to see the two versions of the new Norton V4 SS limited edition race bike on the eve of the formal press launch in MCN.

After a short and stirring speech by Stuart Garner CEO in which he set out his and Simon Skinner’s (Chief Engineer for Norton) vision for the new bike and the brand, and related their at times traumatic experience from 5 years testing and competing at the TT for the prototyping of the new bike, the curtain (well union jack actually) was finally raised on the two limited edition bikes .

And two absolutely stunning machines they are

As you can see above, one is finished entirely in carbon and the other is carbon finished in a chrome effect. Both really stand out and look incredible from every angle as hopefully the photos show.

We had an opportunity to speak with Stuart and Simon and to really probe on the details of the bikes with plenty of Norton people on hand to answer our every question.

It was really cool as well to see SG 1-5 the five TT bikes that Stuart had referenced in his introduction standing menacingly around the edge of the room like a motorcycling guard of honour. You could really see the progression between these five ‘prototypes’ as well as the obvious design carry over from the TT into the road machines, both technical and cosmetic.

As well as being stunning overall the detail on the new bikes really brings a smile to the face of a long term Norton admirer.

From the upholstered leather racing seat, which would look equally at home in an Aston Martin, to the fully digital dash in the cockpit, everything looks really well thought out and contributes to the overall brand feeling.

The Norton branded grate in the log fire was a great touch too. You really got the impression that the Norton team care about and sweat the details!

All in all a really terrific evening!

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#norton #v4 #harrogate #castledonnington

My first blog post

Click this link for my very first post and some context on my introduction to motorcycling including the relevance of these two pictures. The RD Yamaha (below) and my mum and dad in the paddock at Silloth Circuut with the Manx Norton 350 race bike (above).

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#harrogate #bikes #norton #yamaha