Follow me…

So back into the madness of daily commuting. I’ve been out of action for a while so returning meant I saw things fresh and noticed a new twist on ‘filtering etiquette’.

Everyone knows that BMW riders are awful in letting faster riders through in traffic. If you see a line of bikes snaking along, some looking a bit exasperated, the chances are the bike holding everyone up is a BMW and most likely a GS. The arrogance of the BMW rider is legend – it ceases to annoy me now I know I’m not worthy…However I’ve now seen a new twist on this.

Riding down the motorway at a steady 60 mph on the Atlas I’m frequently overtaken by other bikes – fair enough they’re quicker. No big deal. However the courtesy is not reciprocated when you enter heavy traffic and the advantage of having a faster motorcycle is replaced by your ability to filter. First off I’m overtaken on the motorway by a very serious looking Pan European rider all dressed up like a policeman. He gives a suitably restrained lift of the hand to acknowledge I’ve got out of his way but when we hit traffic and his barge of a motorcycle becomes an obstruction something in his head tells him not to return the favour. I press on find a gap and I’m through – no manly wave from me I’m afraid – and soon the Pan is lost. Now I thought this might just be a character trait of sober, serious grown up types but no. A mile or so down the road on open road a couple on a GSX-R fly by only to get caught up in traffic…the Atlas tracks them down…I know he’s seen me because he’s tracking me in his mirrors but will he return the favour – nope he’s got ‘big bike delusion’.

It’s simple just because you’re faster on the straight it only counts in that situation. You don’t have the right to hold on to what happened in that situation and apply it in situations where you’re slower! If you’re slower just get out of the feckin’ way…or am I missing something?

Who knows best?


So my daughter’s Ducati needs a new set of plugs so think I’ll go get some NGK’s – I pulled some original spec’ Champion plugs out of the bike – jeez period pieces. I find myself entering a Ducati showroom – all glitz including a coffee bar complete with chrome espresso machines. Of course being November there’s not a soul to be seen as only a fool would be out on a motorcycle despite it being a nice day. Anyways I head to Parts and ask for a set of plugs for a ’94 600 Monster and give the NGK reference. This is simple the guy will just reach back to the box of plugs and we’ll be out of here. Or not!

‘We go by part numbers here – just as likely they’ll be Champion plugs as that’s what was fitted as standard’ the guy says tapping on his laptop. ‘Yes Champion is standard but I’ll take NGK’ is my reply. ‘Well let’s see what the computer says’ is the response. ‘That is why I’ll never buy a Ducati’ says I and walk away.

A couple of miles down the road I put in the same request to a small non-francise dealer and walk out with my NGK plugs.

Simple isn’t it?


Just go for a ride..


I remember Jeremy Clarkson remarking on ‘Top Gear’ that unlike motorcyclists, car drivers don’t just go for a drive these days. He’s right and not just about car drivers.

Last weekend my daughter suggested we go for a ride out. She didn’t have anywhere in mind but had a free day and so fancied just going for a ride. I thought about this and realised I hadn’t just been for a ride in years! Nowadays I’m always going somewhere – to work, to a rally or to see a friend. When I started out riding I’d just go for a ride – sometimes the intention was to do some ‘scratching’ but other times it was just to meander somewhere with no purpose in mind. The joy of riding.

Of course I couldn’t help myself and the ride ended up being a ride to the Elan Valley – not the pure let’s see where the road takes me kind of affair but loose enough not to be hidebound by pre-arranged stop off points or a time to get home. Turned out to a great day, mixed weather but great roads and a variety of watering holes; country park, flask and sandwiches by the reservoir, village pub and motorway services. The riding ranged from mile munching motorway, sightseeing down backlanes and chasing down to the finish as the rain, cold and nightfall came in. We talked about our bikes, riding techniques, gossiped, laughed and shared plans.

Need to just go for a ride more often….


I recently visited a bevel drive Ducati specialist. We talked nonsense as I admired a 750 roundcase with a value of approximately £90,000! A lot of money huh but the guy pressed on to say that modern Ducati’s such as a Panigale aren’t quality items in that they aren’t assembled by hand and are relatively cheap in comparison to the average wage…hmmm.

Apparently a roundcase cost three times the average wage in 1976 which would equate to nearly £90,000 today! A valid argument? Maybe modern production processes reduce costs? I wanted to agree then checked myself as I recognised the old game of spurious comparison to prove an irrational choice is a wise choice…memories of how I argued against ‘Jap Crap’ came flooding back when the easiest thing would’ve been to be honest and say I  want to be different!

Right Handers


Unknown rider in 2004 Trofeo Rosso

I’ve been thinking for some time about how it is that I find taking right hand bends more difficult than left handers. I follow the IAM guidance of going to the edge of the road and looking through the bend until I see the exit and then power on. At first I reasoned it was because I was at the outside edge of the road for the right hander and so was worried if I under-steered I’d fall off the road. Seemed reasonable but then again if I did the same on a left hander then I’d end up on the wrong side of the road which had a similar potential for disaster. I did feel however more able to jump to the apex on a left hander.

The other evening it came to me – I enter right handers more quickly than left handers. On a left hander if I’m unsure I’ve already feathered the throttle by going to the apex early and then slowing as I hug the inside line. On the right hander I don’t go for the apex early and strangely arrive too quickly. Now I think I understand the problem I’ve been practicing going in slower and powering out once the corner opens up. Just goes to show that even after 40 years riding it’s still possible to improve how you ride.


Got to this one evening during a Youtube meander (all episodes are there) and was surprised at how entertaining I found it.

This is the follow up to the famous ‘Long Way Round’ series. I enjoyed this more. This is where Charlie finds that there’s a whole lot of difference between two guys on holiday and competing in an extreme race with extreme racers. Credit to Charlie he doesn’t hide his fear and the resulting TV series and book are a good read (as with Long Way Round check out the book as it gives additional insight.


Is it possible to walk past a DVD which features a Munch Mammoth on the cover? I put aside the gulf in politics between me and Gerard Depardieu and had a cracking 90 minutes or so. The DVD features great shots and sounds of the Munch as Depardieu rides around France. This is worth the cost of the DVD alone but the tale is good fun, shows an alternative side of French society and a sense of humour not dissimilar to the English! Well worth a watch!

Nick 🙂

Next Generation


So my eldest daughter decides to follow in her parents footsteps.

First of all she has to pass her Compulsory Bike Training (CBT) so I’m thinking she needs to do this on a motorcycle with gears – wrong! You spend the day on an automatic moped riding round cones on an industrial park in the morning with an observed road ride in the afternoon and you’re good to go!

Her first motorcycle is the underpowered Yamaha SR125. A good bike for her to learn on due to its low seat height but what a ride home I had. This bike doesn’t seem faulty that I could see or hear but it’s struggling at 50 mph and the rear end is straight off a pogo stick! Now I get the whole piece about too much too soon in terms of power but this bears little resemblance to real motorcycling where you use the power to balance the bike and pull out of corners. This is as close to ‘driving’ a motorcycle that you can get – and let’s face it a diddy hatchback would murder this bike in any situation!

So Catherine progresses through a day on a moped, passes her test on something that can’t pull the skin off a rice pudding and can then go out and get maybe a Fireblade… How is that less stupid than allowing a 17 year to ride a 250 back in the day?



Film about the Dunlop racing dynasty – Joey, Robert, Micheal and William – excellent!

Compelling documentary on the Dunlop’s which will even appeal to non-motorcyclists. Great archive footage of Joey and Robert – especially like the two stroke shots. The modern era footage is also good and really shows up the tough world of Irish road racing – lots of fibreglass being worn away…

The supporting narrative is delivered by real experts who demonstrate the emotional impact and waste of Joey and Robert’s deaths. The accounts given by Michael and William on their father’s death is captivating. As is so often the case it’s the women who are the strongest…

Buy this DVD!

Nick 🙂


Repair or discard?

Repair or discard?

Working to re-commission the VFR has brought my thinking round to the topic of quality. It reminds me of the theme within Zen of the Art and also my post on vintage foot pumps.

The Honda has languished in the shed while I’ve been out and about on the Atlas. With the Atlas down I decided to re-visit the VFR and see if the minor problems it has can be fixed. First thing to be replaced was the rusted oil pipes to the oil cooler. I think I commented in my posts at the poor quality of the bolts so you’re forever using penetrating oil and heat guns to make progress. Anyways I move onto the weirdness of an instrument dash where the indicator idiot lights glow and then flash both sides when the indicators are used. On top of this the LCD display has gone AWOL and a couple of the illumination bulbs too. So I take of the fancy dash flip it over and there’s a plastic sheet containing a PCB running the show. The bike is 15 years old and guess what some of the printed circuits are crumbling. I read the various internet forums and apparently I have to get a craft knife, scrape off the top plastic cover, create a fresh line of circuit with a pen from Maplins and then laminate it closed. Alternatively I could give Honda £300!

As you look across the Honda you see this jewel of a V4 motor which still sounds great with 85,000 miles up, a sand cast single sided swinging arm and lightweight wheels. As you dig deeper however you find ugly subframes, poor quality bolts and fairing fasteners, sliding calipher brakes and PCB’s. As the owner of a new VFR you’d not see this – the product looks like quality but 15 years on the lack of quality and where costs were kept to minimum to deliver a lot of motorcycle for not much money come to bite you!

If you buy newish motorcycles this may be of no concern. Do you really care about the longevity of your motorcycle? Probably not. Of course this won’t be a feature limited to ‘Jap-crap’ it’ll be part of every modern motorcycle (I considered a Ducati ST4 until I read the looms electrical wire is copper plated steel and folk are starting to experience problems through corrosion). European bikes (that aren’t made from kits from China/Thailand) will cover high labour costs with these production techniques and look inside your average dealership workshop and you’ll see there’s a whole lot of fitters but not many mechanics.

There’s a lot of stuff talked about the environment and I think now car manufacturers are required to make sure high percentages of components can be recycled. It’s a start but what about requiring manufacturers to ensure that a high percentage of components can be dismantled and repaired (at a reasonable cost or without the need for specialist equipment)?

So what to do? Well for me I will be getting the pen from Maplins and sorting out the VFR and hopefully use it through the winter. By spring I will have a couple of Laverda’s going and then the VFR goes, someone else’s winter hack. If I wanted or need another hack then it will be an old Boxer but I’m planning on running Lav’s – something that can be repaired again and again…something with quality.

Nick 🙂

The Harley Experience

Arseless chaps

A few weeks back I had to nip into my local HD dealer for a battery. Now the whole Harley scene just isn’t for me. Lots of guys pretending to be ‘Angels ‘putting’ round on expensive, lumbering hogs.

So I pitch into the Abingdon branch and plonk the knackered Westco battery onto the counter announcing I know the same battery is listed for a Harley Sportster. Guy behind the counter hurries out the back and returns with a selection of Harley batteries – meanwhile his colleague offers to get me a coffee. Hmmm…

I ask about the CCA rating on the battery (never been asked this before) and whether they have one with the terminals reversed (no don’t think so). Anyways I finish my coffee and then out comes the guy with another battery with the terminals the right way round + the announcement that the CCA checks at a whooping 353! A year’s warranty (but come and talk to us if it goes wrong outside this and we’ll see what we can do) and £130 – which is only £30 up on an unbranded item with a CCA of just 220, so not complaining. Out I skip, caffeinated up and fully charged ready to go.

So it gets me thinking…Am I like a lot of old men who wander into the dealership? Oil under the nails, bit of attitude about some cranky old knacker (probably like many T120/40 riders I’d think) but not afraid to shell out on a good quality piece of kit? Maybe I am your actual typical potential Harley owner – if not now why not in the future? So I get the 4 star treatment of biker chat and coffee, bit of respect and a promise to stand by the product in the event of a problem. So now I can feel myself thinking that a Harley might not be bad – y’know a Sportster used to be a quick piece of kit and I can still remember my Jota being out-dragged by man mountain on (presumably) tuned 1340 back in the day…

Clever shit…

Nick 🙂

Old for new

PCL Elf circa 1960

PCL Elf circa 1960

Recently had to get a replacement pump. The electric jobbie I got for a fiver off a garage forecourt has lost compression so I thought let’s go back to a good old mechanical pump. First off bought a new pump from the local car parts store for £15. After I’d pumped up four car tyres the gauge had broken, frame buckled and piston rod scored – scrap. The car parts man said he’d see if it was still possible to get some new brass bodied pumps as he’d done something similar for another dissatisfied customer. No joy so I searched the net and came up with Gordon Edwards at


who supplied the refurbished pump above. Now it cost me £55 but it’ll see me out + everytime I use it I just like handling the thing – properly made and lovely patina.

Got me thinking about the superficial nature of our society – I buy this cheap shite from China and ignore quality stuff just because it’s not new – which is weird when you think of my motorcycles. I’m no eco warrior but  I’ve started a whole thing around thinking before I buy – thought about new speakers for my hi-fi and then just listened to these old boxey JVC items and thought ‘why?’

Nick 🙂

You see what you see

XT or Atlas?

XT or Atlas?

I inadvertently stumbled across an outbreak of ‘myside bias’ with the Atlas. First off I hung onto the coat tails of a spiritedly ridden GS and when I rolled up next to him at the lights the pilot leaned across and blathered on about his ‘old XT’ and what a good bike it was. Next I go to the start of the Welsh Rally and same thing happens. When I point out that the guy is looking at a Laverda the response is ‘I didn’t know they made a single’.

You can see their point but then again the Atlas tank does have the legend ‘Laverda’ splashed in BIG letters across it – but if you think you’re looking at a Yamaha I guess that’s what you see!

Sentimental – time to cut your losses

The Honda has finally reached ‘old age’ at 80,000 miles. Now when a motorcycle reaches old age can vary but the definition I’m using is when it requires attention. Things are wearing out. 80,000 miles isn’t bad is it but the VFR now needs another rear shock. The first one went at 40,000 miles and the secondhand, £35 replacement has popped it’s seal and I bounced home the other night. Can’t another bargain so it is going to be a £120 refurb this time round. I’m also thinking an £80 hugger would prevent all the shite getting on the shock which can’t be good. Just before the shock went the battery began to struggle on cold mornings (£55) and I know the chain ought to be replaced (along with the sprockets but maybe I can’t get a few more miles out of them) – shall we say another £50. Along with this both tyres are gone (£200) and the damned indicator dash lights glow when I select headlight on (printed circuit board apparently) and finally I just coughed up £85 to get the starter relay fixed…hmm that’s near on £400. Is it time to ebay the VFR and use the money (£500?) to buy another – £1500 ought to find me one?

…and this is where sentiment comes in and I suppose how you view your motorcycle. Is it just a tool or is a thing you get attached to? I’m in the latter camp. Yes I know it’s a Honda and in truth it doesn’t make my heart sing but it’s done well for me and putting out to the ebay abattoir seems wrong somehow. Last thing I need right now is another ‘project’ but I just bare to see ‘my’ VFR sat under someone else’s arse or heaven forbid being torn apart and sold for parts…

Time to reflect

Had a problem with the starter sprag. I finally got it all set up but when 
I pressed the go button the ring gear spun but didn't turn the engine over 
- strange? First thought is that the starter motor is running backwards...
you know how it is...back to the house and onto google. A happy 20 minutes 
spent reading about some guy with the same problem on a Yamaha whatever. 
You go down through the thread all the time thinking...Anyways get a call 
from Mrs A who's down at her father's and while she's telling me about 
the meal they had last night and that it's raining and that they're going 
to put some halogen bulbs in the car headlights and all the time you're 
thinking...Just after we'd got onto whether Mrs A was going to go walking 
if the weather picked up a light bulb comes on - have I put the sprag 
bearing in the wrong way (a Zane has a bearing like a car/Ducati)? So I 
make my excuses and it's back to the garage, swop the bearing round and 

Sometimes I walk away from a problem because I know if I keep at the 
problem I will reach for a large hammer and regret my actions. That comes 
with experience but this is different. Take time out to think through the 
problem and indeed whether you are trying to solve the right problem...


You know what you know…

So there I am looking at the Honda with all its body work stripped off. Four days earlier I’d been stranded at the side of the road and had to push the damned thing 4 miles home. This wasn’t the plan when I bought the Honda.

I diagnosed the problem as a failure for the fuel pump to function so the challenge was to find out why not. I googled away and ended up on various VFR forums. It was an interesting experience and made me realise how daunting it must be to any newbie on a Laverda forum. It also reminded me of the dangers of these forums. The contributors are all hard-core enthusiasts for their marque. They assume everyone else knows what they know so without a thought go into solutions that ignore obvious fault finding.

So bemused by google I returned to check over the Honda. Fuses fine so I went for the handlebar switch which on dismantling looked okay. Where next? Well where next was the local bike shop. I use this shop quite a lot for tyres, oil and odds and sods – they know I’ll never buy a new KTM from them but there is a mutual respect thing going on. Saturday afternoon and the workshop was empty so within 90 minutes and £83 later it was fixed – corroded wire to the fuel pump relay.

I got the mechanic to show me the problem – a simple fix if you know what you are looking for. The mechanic said he thought it would be one of two things the relay or the rectifier. He listened for the relay to ‘click’ and when he didn’t investigated further and immediately found the poor wiring. Nothing that I couldn’t have done.

I like to reflect. I can see that I immediately bought into the view that a Jap bike is too complex for a home mechanic to fix – I never believed I could fix it. With this mindset I ignored basic principles of power in – power out. I also failed to identify the VFR electrical components – until it was pointed out to me I didn’t know where the fuel pump relay was.

I also see that my years of Laverda experience mean I can trouble shoot quickly and confidently. I may not be able to fix the problem but I 95% of the time know what the problem is. I’ve gained this experience through hands on tinkering but also through participation in forums – I am familiar with the Laverda motorcycle.

Also the VFR ‘hiccuped’ the other day and I just shrugged because it didn’t give up. I still remember that hiccup – it stayed with me, that voice saying it needed investigation but I ignored it…

So now the VFR is fixed I know I have a potential problem in that the dashboard indicator lights glow when the lights are put on. The bike runs just fine and funnily enough the indicators work albeit with the indicator lights going haywire. So I’m not going to ignore it I’m going to get involved. Buy a manual, join a forum and fix it before it needs fixing. Could be a whole new world opening up out there for me…

Nick 🙂

Casey Stoner – Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits

Another Christmas read and at just £4.99 from The Works well worth a go. Had I paid the full cover price I’m not sure I’d have been quite as thrilled.

An easy read with some quite interesting information about the GP and Motogp years. I never realised how close he came to signing for Yamaha. For me I would have liked more detail about the Motogp bikes – everyone knows the Ducati was harder to ride than the Honda but the book doesn’t really provide any insight as to why Stoner could get more out of it than anyone before or after. Similarly how come he outrode Dani Pederosa who had more experience on the Honda.

For a guy with a reputation for being prickly I think he is being very generous in not damning the abilities of his peers – even Valentino gets off with barely a blemish. The only time Casey gets a bit ‘edgy’ is his appraisal of the CRT class and the winner of the class being allowed into the Motogp winners enclosure. Seemed a bit unnecessary.

I do believe that Stoner just walked away from Motogp because he’d had enough. I’m not sure there’s enough evidence here to support his view that riders weren’t being treated with respect especially with regard to safety (who would replace Simoncelli became the hot topic before he’d been buried – racing isn’t really sentimental). The impression I got was that having spent most of his life as a motorcycle gypsy he’d had enough. With his reputation as a Motogp rider assured a family and enough money to never have to work again he has a point.

Recommended at the right price.

Nick 🙂

Time for a change – rules

Ahhh well as you’ll see from my first post of 2014 it’s a case of deja vu as I find myself messing about with the wretched sprag clutch on the Atlas. So what to do? Well naturally we can’t throw out the baby with the bath water. The Atlas seems good to go with the exception of the sprag but, and this is the important thing, this isn’t the first time I’ve been round this loop. When I look back over the past two years (!) I’m like a hamster in a wheel – or is that a monkey with his hand in a bottle who can’t figure out that if he doesn’t release his grip he won’t get his hand back. So what to do? Time to do something different so I think I start off with some rules for the coming year:

  1. Fix something just once.
  2. Always finish each week with something positive to show.
  3. Don’t procrastinate.

These 3 rules are the start – during 2014 I intend t0 add and update as I go.

Nick                            5th January 2014

Jon Eckerold – The Privateer

Jon Ekerold The Privateer

Jon Ekerold
The Privateer

My Christmas read and what a treat!Ekerold’s story of how he won the 1980 350cc World Championship. Ekerold covers his start in motorcycle racing and the seasons leading up to the 1980 victory. A fascinating insight into the world of motorcycle racing at the time – a far cry from the current pampered environment enjoyed by Motogp. Race tracks surrounded by Armco, straw bails and catch fences. The life of the privateer racer turning out at obscure tracks in between GPs to earn a living and pay for enough diesel to get to the next round.

You get to peep behind the scenes and see some of the politics that are an inevitable ingredient of international sport – some hero’s of yesterday don’t emerge from the examination with the same ‘sheen’…

The Yamaha TZ was a truly remarkable motorcycle – Ekerold manages to extract sufficient power out of his non-works bikes to beat works Kawasaki’s and factory Yamaha’s. The descriptions of his race craft show what a talent Ekerold was.

Ekerold, clearly a determined man, was well aware of his reputation for straight talking and toughness – something for which he is unapologetic. Ekerold is though not only hard on others but perhaps even tougher on himself – the final postscript chapter is a savage appraisal of himself as his potency as a racer declines.

I got my signed hardback copy from Jon’s son. Contact him on Bernhard.ekerold@gmx.de

Highly recommended!

Nick 🙂


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