Finally I did some things I said I was going to do but kept putting off, and it’s all worked out fairly well.
The R1 is now pink. I always wanted to do it but never really had the balls. It was a lot of money and a really big change and although it’s not going to make a difference in my life I feel like the result is kind of worth the stress of scraping together £1,000 when I’d just quit a job that provided a third of my income. The bike has been wrapped, and the wheels have been sprayed black. Out of the two changes the wheels were the biggest pain in the arse. The bike barely came apart to be wrapped, it took a day and was left to rest over the weekend before being dropped off at the spray shop. I was originally undecided about the wheels, I didn’t know if the blue wheels would go with a pink body, so the body went first and then it was obvious that the blue wheels didn’t work. It just looked unfinished so they had to be changed too. I also got some crash protection fitted to the bike because I haven’t dropped a bike in two years and that’s unusual for me.
The wrap hasn’t been on the bike for long enough to give much feedback on it. The colour is perfect and it sparkles in the sun. So far nothing’s peeled off it but I’ve also been too nervous to wash it in case something does lift off.
As well as finally getting the bike wrapped, I booked a track day! I wanted to do several this year but moneys been spent elsewhere, when this particular track opened up I figured it was the perfect opportunity to do at least one day, on a track I had done before. Two years ago I took my 07 R1 to Rockingham, it wasn’t an easy track for me on that bike, but logically if I was only going to get one track day it’d be better to do one I wouldn’t have to learn all over again. Also a few of my friends from Instagram had booked on and I wanted to see them too.
Before the track day, I had a busy weekend planned. I wanted another off-road adventure with the Svartpilen. I met with some friends on their proper off-road bikes to go do some well known lanes locally. The Svartpilen managed most of the obstacles but was rescued a few times either because I was too novice to tackle something or because the bike was too low to get over something without extra help. It was a lot of fun and we didn’t break the bike. I learned a lot, there were more times than I’d like to admit where I stopped in front of something scary and had to be talked over it, but it was valuable information. Pro tip number one – don’t look down the thing you don’t want to fall down. Scary things aren’t scary if you don’t look at them. Pro tip number two – hit something quickly and it’ll probably be ok. I’m not sure if I’ll get invited out next time and I’m ok with that for a little while, we’re onto the next challenge now.
Sunday was Moto-GP at Silverstone so that was another early morning to beat the traffic and go watch Rossi not win. I’ve been to one other GP, that was 2014 in Catalunya. Silverstone is a nicer venue with better food and more stalls, probably a bit safer too considering the absolute carnage that was trying to exit Catalunya after the last race. The race was an edge-of-your-seat kind of spectacle, Rossi went down from second and Marquez and Rins lead the race getting closer and closer right up until the last lap where they overtook a few times, Rins almost lost it when a gap started to form after a bit of a wobble, but miracles happen and right on the finish line by possible a few millimetres, Alex Rins on the Suzuki won. We had the best seats right by the pits but I missed the exact finish because right as they crossed the line the entire stand exploded with screaming spectators, presumably ecstatic that Marquez didn’t win, it was an incredible moment.
My track day was the day after Silverstone. I went on my own which I kind of like, up at 4am, out of the house as quick as possible and 150 miles as quick as you can on a bike that, as soon as you’re comfortable, needs fuel again. I was having a minor confidence crisis. Despite knowing the track from last time I did remember being the slowest in novice, and I desperately wanted to do better this time, but with no way of practicing or measuring improvement in two years of only road riding, I had no idea what to expect. The garage was, same as last time, full of people with tyre warmers – I’m not sure what it is about tyre warmers but I associate them with people who know what they’re doing and now find them a bit intimidating. At least this time I had tyres that I was confident on – my Pirellis that have never let me down, they were just not as warm as everyone elses. So, confidence crisis in full swing because of all the tyre warmers, the novice group went out for our sighting laps.
It wasn’t as bad as I expected. We had our first red flag after 2 of the 3 sighting laps, the first of many to come, so the first session wasn’t a long one. I felt comfortable on my bike. It was so much easier to handle than the 07 R1, courtesy of it having 100% more electronic aids than the old one. Where I previously struggled with appropriate gear changes, I could easily flick up and down the gears without interrupting my speed using the quick shifter and autoblipper that came standard on my 2018 bike. After the first session I went and asked for help from an instructor, remembering how much this helped me last time. I learned that I need to start using more of the space instead of tucking over. I wanted to work on my body position but it’s an ongoing battle for me, one little bit at a time, this time I worked on my feet. I wasn’t getting my knee down, but I’m happy that with little improvements I’ll eventually get there.
I wasn’t the slowest in novice, so I was very happy at the end of the day! I wasn’t the fastest, people overtook me, and I overtook a people. I had more confidence overtaking people than I thought I would, as overtaking is usually a problem for me on the road. The bike is easy to stop, and so I could leave the braking a tiny bit later each time and this helped when I wanted to try and get in front of someone. It didn’t always work but on a few occasions it did and I felt super pro.
After lunch the weekend caught up with me and I feel like I started to go backwards. Speaking of red flags, someone fell off in front of me as I went round the corner, far away enough that I saw it and slowed down, but close enough that it spooked me a bit. My focus was slipping, I didn’t feel like I was progressing and then approaching a corner I got my feet mixed up and tried to downshift with my brake foot and that was a good sign that the day was over for me. I did some of the last session but was happy to finish there and mentally prepare myself for the long ride home.
The bike was insured for all of this, my road insurance brokers offer trackway insurance at a discounted rate from a separate underwriters, so for £150 I was able to insure the bikes full value for the day. It helped, as I wasn’t as worried about crashing as I would be without it.
I got home safely, sometimes I feel like the A34 will never end. 100 miles of nothingness. The pink bike gets a lot of looks. Had a well deserved pizza that evening.
It’s now September. I’ve given up hope that England will get a decent summer, we had some good hot days but nothing compared to a few years ago when summer went on until October and it didn’t rain for 3 months. I hoped we’d get that again, but Autumn is definitely in the air. The next challenge is for the Svartpilen. It’s been 4 years since I camped with a bike and I want to do it with the Svartpilen just to ease back into one of my old favourite things. Camping in the countryside to see the Autumn colours with a bike and minimum stuff sounds heavenly, I’ve got some luggage on the way and today I made sure my old tent still works and dug out some sleeping gear. The plan is to book an easy camp site in the New Forest about 40 miles from home and do a few nights and spend the day looking for wildlife and maybe horse riding. I’m stupidly excited.
Outside of the little bubble of #bikelife, the lodger has moved out of the house, and I’ve called dibs on the guest room for my home office. It feels like heaven to have my own space within the house to fill with pretty throw cushions and sit at my own desk surrounded by my own things. Keira has never been in this room and now it’s her favourite place to be, she can put her feet on the window and look out onto the gardens to spy on the neighbours. She’s also resumed her old puppy hobby of sitting under my desk and chewing my shoe laces. It’s shedding season, so she’s constantly trying to clean herself and I’m not getting a lot of sleep being woken up by her furiously licking herself. Hopefully it’ll be over soon, I’m guessing it’s pretty uncomfortable.
Hope you’re all having a nice tail-end of Summer, Halloween soon!