#14 Dragon Rally 2022

Here we go again! When I got home after the 2020 Dragon Rally I swore I’d never do something so stupid again, and, if I did do it again, I definitely wouldn’t do it on my sports bike. 2 years passed, the 2021 event was cancelled due to Covid (or ‘postponed which basically means cancelled because it’s not like they’d reschedule it for a different, nicer weekend) and by the time 2022 rolled round I’d forgotten the promise I’d made to myself. This year I went with Laine and a friend from work. Laine was with me the last time, but it was my colleagues first Dragon Rally. Both of them were on Yamaha Tracer 900s and I, despite talking about needing a more appropriate bike while doing nothing to obtain one, was on my S1000RR.

I feel like I’m getting fairly good at loading my bike up for camping trips now, and I’ve built a small collection of touring accessories for the RR. I have upgraded my luggage from bin bags to Lomo dry bags and was able to fit my tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and two nice big blankets into the dry bags and onto my back seat, supported by my soft panniers, all held together by bungee cords. I packed clothes into plastic shopping bags and put those in the panniers, and took my electronics in my Kriega dry-bag backpack. I also have a small SW Motech tank bag which held things I thought I’d need to access quickly. The handlebar muffs that I always borrow for cold trips came with me but didn’t get used because my heated grips kept my hands warm and unless I’m extremely desperate, the muffs aren’t worth the hassle of struggling to find your handlebars every time you want to take your hand out to open/close your visor. I also fitted my sheep-skin seat cover which I was extremely excited to have because it makes the bikes seat 10x more comfortable, but it does add a bit of height that I could do without, however, having a comfortable ass was a bigger priority than reaching the floor on this occasion.

Day 1 – Friday, was riding to Betws-y-coed for our first night which we spent in a hostel. Unfortunately my colleague and I weren’t able to get the entire day off from work but we were allowed to leave early, so we took the motorways 250 miles to our first night. The weather was ok, it was dry, we didn’t get stuck in too much traffic, and arrived at the hostel a few hours after dark after. The hostel was full, we shared a room with 5 hikers, and the rest of the hostel was full of people doing the same as us – getting to Wales early for the Dragon Rally. We had pizza in the hostel kitchen and stayed up until late exchanging embarrassing stories (mostly mine) with a group that were tacking the rally on overloaded Honda C90s. 

Day 2 is the busy day – Saturday. We were up in time for breakfast at 8am, not having had the best sleep in a room with 7 other people who snored the whole night. As soon as we’d finished eating we were on the road heading to the Dragon Rally check point in Conwy. The process is that you take your ticket which is sent by post a few weeks beforehand, get it stamped at the check point and get instructions to get to the camp site where you check in and get a goodie bag before camping the night. It was a 45 minute ride to the check point, which was a nice big carpark with a club house next to a castle. Once our tickets were stamped and we’d walked into the town to withdraw some cash, we set off to the campsite.

At this point I’m remembering why I didn’t want to do the Dragon Rally ever again, it had started raining, the wind had picked up, I’d heard that the camp site was down a gravel track, and my gloves had started leaking. Apparently ‘gore-tex’ doesn’t mean anything after a certain point. I remember the exact moment the water seeped through the palms of my gloves and dribbled down my wrists and into my jacket. The camp site was maybe an hour away from the check point, through Snowdonia, through some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine, but we didn’t stop, I wasn’t in front so I don’t know what Laines reason was for not stopping but if I had to guess it would be because if we tried to stop the bikes would get blown over. I feel sad that we weren’t able to stop because Snowdonia in winter is stunning, and it’s a rare opportunity to get a photo of your bike there without lots of cars and camper vans in the background. As many of you know, I’m not opposed to dropping my bike every so often, but I was very aware that with all the stuff on the back I wouldn’t be able to hop out of its way if I did drop it, and getting stuck under a fallen RR is the last thing I want to do, especially a wet RR. Finally we reached the campsite which was made obvious by the brightly clothed marshals pointing us down a hairpin turn off, down an extremely steep path, round another corner and over an obstacle course of a row of plastic boards followed by a cattle grid followed by a pothole covered path into the campsite. The campsite itself had tarmac paths and plenty of places to park, so my fears melted away once I got over the obstacles because I knew I wouldn’t need to try and drop a puck under my stand to stop the bike toppling over. I was able to park easily and leave my bike knowing it would stay upright at least for the next 12 hours.

Another friend joined my little group so in a party of four we found a suitable place to pitch up – we picked a spot along the tree line to be sheltered from the wind. The camp site was in a valley surrounded by big hills, level with a lake – very very pretty, but extremely wet and windy. Our spot was soggy but a step up from some people who left their tents for 5 minutes and returned to find them flooded. Unfortunately, due to what my brother calls ‘bad tent admin’ I got water in my tent immediately, probably due to throwing my soaking luggage into it straight away. It was a problem for later. At this point water had founds its way into my jacket, my boots had soaked through completely and I couldn’t feel my toes, so it was time to go and warm up. We didn’t have a marquee like last year, but there was a building back up the hill that was serving cuppa soups, so we wondered up there for our soup and to try and dry off a bit, we also had to check in at the reception building to collect our goodie bags. At each Dragon Rally when you present your stamped ticket at the camp site you get a goodie bag which has your badge (very special), a coaster, a sew on patch, a big sticker, a mars bar and a small bottle of some strong alcohol.

The weather calmed down for a little while just as it was starting to get dark, so in a borrowed dry jacket (thanks Nigel) I took a walk around the site to see who else was tackling the rally – this was also a good way to take my mind off how cold and wet my feet were. I love seeing the huge variety of different bikes and survival techniques that show up at the Dragon, you get a bit of everything! I am not the only sports bike rider, but we were few and far between; I saw a Ducati Panigale which was probably the most unsuitable bike there, and a few other sports bikes including another S1000RR. There were BMW GSs of course, dozens of them, lots of smaller touring bikes, modern classics including some very lovely looking Triumphs. There were rat bikes everywhere which I always find fascinating because they’re covered in trinkets and homemade gadgets and I can spend ages looking at them trying to work it all out. There were of course, lots of Honda c90s, the versatile super scooters with no limits to their capabilities. There were side cars of all shapes and sizes, another very suitable bike for this type of adventure because of their capacity for extra blankets. All these bikes with their different luggage set ups and touring accessories gave me plenty to ogle at as I squelched around the camp site. Eventually It started to rain, heavily, and it was dark by this point, so I sheltered by the burger van (there was a burger van, how lucky were we!) with my group to drink hot chocolate and watch the world go by, serenaded by a man with bagpipes. The rain continued to come down forcing out the people with higher standards of living. I’m not sure exactly how many people bailed early but there were noticeably fewer bikes as the evening went on. 

For dinner Laine had brought chilli con carne, we could have eaten from the burger van but where’s the fun in that? Being on a real camp site had a few perks and one of those perks was a kitchen area with sinks and lighting, so we found a spot in the very crowded space and set up to heat the chilli, boil the rice and eat our meal under cover. We’d all brought various cooking equipment with us so the meals were ready in about 20 minutes, and tasted very good. 

Later into the evening the music started, no band this year, and no shelter – instead we had a truck with a DJ set up in the back. We spent the evening stood outside in the dark watching people dancing aggressively to classic rock coming out of a lorry. Lots of people got quite drunk so the evening entertainment was watching people falling over and at one point I watched a man throw an entire cup of beer over his shoulder and hit his friend in the head with it, then they hugged eachother. One man parked his sidecar over a lit fire pit, I still can’t work out why and I did wonder if maybe he didn’t want that particular bike anymore.

The music stopped and it was time to go to bed. My tent as it turns out, is amazing, it was warm inside, and once I was in my pyjamas, snuggled in my sleeping bag with one of my blankets on top, I was warm, cosy, and comfortable. I didn’t even need to wear socks and my poor soggy feet finally had a chance to dry out. The man with the bag pipes serenaded us to sleep, sort of, by walking around the campsite playing…something.

Day 3! The final day of the adventure. We woke up at first light to leave as early as possible. Packing tents in the wet makes me cringe because then you’ve got a wet tent to deal with later, the weather was doing its thing and we weren’t going to sit around and see if it would get better (it didn’t). All our stuff was hastily loaded up, wet bike jackets were put on and my borrowed dry jacket was returned (thanks Nigel). I reused my bin liners for my feet, and with dry socks it didn’t feel so bad, and Laine found me some latex gloves to go in my sopping wet Gore-tex gloves. The wind was bad, the rain was bad, everything was bad, but we just had to get home. Originally the plan had been to ride through central Wales and really enjoy the scenery, but we ditched this plan and decided to head for fast A roads out of Wales. First I had to cross the obstacle course at the entrance to the site. I can’t go into much detail about this, because it was over very quickly, I did not drop the bike, I sent it fairly steadily over the cattlegrid, over the plastic boards and up the hill. We made it! No more damaged GB Racing parts this time. I am still proud of myself. 

It took us 6 hours to get home including a few short fuel stops and one Burger King stop. The ride was brutal, but knowing we would be home by the end of the day kept us going. Nothing particularly interesting happened, we just sat for hours at a time getting battered by the wind and rain, not able to see very much. The first thing I did when I got home was strip all my kit from the bike – I’m not sure if that makes much difference to the bike but I was considering its emotional wellbeing – I certainly wouldn’t appreciate being left in all my wet gear. Then I had a nice bubble bath.

The weekend was not as bad as the 2020 Dragon Rally, so with this in mind it definitely didn’t feel like as much of a challenge, and although the experience wasn’t exactly pleasant, I was happy to be there, I’m glad that I went, and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. I’ve learned a lot as I always do, which will make next year that little bit easier and hopefully in a few years the whole event will be a walk in the park. I found the limits of my gear, I knew my boots weren’t waterproof so it wouldn’t be fair to judge them as that was just my own lack of preparation, but I’m shocked and low key a little proud to have broken through what is supposed to be 100% waterproof Gore-tex textiles. My gloves didn’t last long at all, they’re 4 years old so maybe this is just the end of their natural life. The Rukka jacket is fairly new and has been flawlessly reliable up until now, once water got in up the sleeves it seemed to just spread and stay soaked, and I have no idea how but eventually the water came through onto my chest. 

The RR was flawless, I had no problems at all with the bike, it started, everything worked and at no point did I feel like it wasn’t up to the task, despite being far far away from its intended environment. It was good on fuel, comfortable to sit on for long hours on the road, and I got everything onto it. 10/10 would take adventuring again.

I hope you enjoyed this write up! I’ve also strung together the videos I took on the trip and uploaded it to YouTube – watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuPZbFiHcXo

#13 The terrible 20s 

It’s been too long since I’ve updated my little blog page, so on Halloween night I’m forcing myself to briefly summarise the last 18 months since the 2020 Dragon Rally. Buckle up.


Respectfully skipping this one.


Moving on to 2021. The R1 had two adventures this year, it managed so well with the Dragon Rally that I decided what it really needed was more touring. Boy did the R1 really not need more touring. In April my friends and I rode to the middle of Wales for a long weekend of what should have been beautiful scenic roads and cute welsh cottages. We were not blessed on this trip, with anything. It rained a lot of the time, not badly, just enough to make everything wet and cold, and the beautiful mountain passes I’d been dreaming of turned out to be single track logging roads that were mostly just being used by sheep. I sound like I’m complaining, and for the majority of the trip I was, but I enjoyed it! The R1 however, probably wasn’t loving it. It spluttered through, threatening to stall when the roads became so unusable that I couldn’t ride it fast enough to keep it happy. The first two nights we stayed in central Wales in a Hostel right out of a horror movie – no electricity, no signal, no one to hear you scream (it was fun, I’d do it again). The roads here were a mix of stunning and terrifying. Stunning views, terrifying road conditions. My friends were excited about something called the ‘Devils Staircase’ which was straight out of my nightmares. We moved up to Snowdonia for the second half of the trip, the roads were better being a little more tourist friendly with incredible views of the mountains, and we stayed in a guest house with central heating and wifi. Sadly a storm was coming in and we decided to cut the trip short and so we only stayed for one night in Snowdonia before fleeing for home.

2 weeks later a different group of friends had a trip to Wales planned with yet another storm inbound (apparently April-May is not a good time for Wales). I hadn’t even unpacked. We stayed in a cute pub on the edge of the middle of nowhere and had rides planned around Snowdonia and to Aberdaron using a SatNav that chose violence. This trip was the final straw for the R1; 3 days of riding around more questionable, flooded roads was evidently more than it could put up with. On the day we were supposed to ride home, again, it bluntly refused to start. We tried everything, and probably just made it worse. The R1 does not respond to begging. The very lovely pub landlord let me keep the bike in his garage, and helped me organise for the R1 to be driven home by one of his friends with a van. I went home on the back of one of my friends bikes which was an experience in itself. 

I’m not one for trusting total strangers with my bike, but a wonderful local delivered the R1 home the following day. A night in a dry garage and a bubble bath didn’t work any miracles and so it was off to the Yamaha garage in another van to find out what kind of attitude problem it was suffering with this time. Apparently it had spat out its fuel pump connection (probably not a good description of what happened), and a thorough service, refitting the tank and all the money I had at the time sorted it right out. 


The R1 didn’t get much chance to redeem itself following the breakdown in Wales. A pretty expensive trip to the garage had it back to normal, but I’d lost faith in it and was ready for a change. I’ve had Yamaha bikes from my CBT until this point, a YZF-R125, an R6, and two R1s (also a Ninja 300), and I had been dead set on getting a brand new R1 when the time came. When I was able to finally test ride the new R1 briefly with every intention of buying it, I felt like actually, for me, the update wasn’t worth the money I’d have to spend to swap over to it. There was one bike that was sticking out in my mind, one I hadn’t expected to enjoy as much as I did following a short test ride, and that was the new BMW S1000RR. I liked it so much that as soon as the one I wanted became available I ordered it. There are lots of reasons for the change that I made but the main reason is that the RR made me so happy on the 45 minute test ride. The RR is from Williams BMW in Manchester, sold to me by my really good friend Kate. My expectations for the new bike are that it’ll be everything I want in a super sports bike, while being more suitable for long journeys and winter riding. So far it’s lived up to my expectations.


I’ve wanted to ride to Scotland for so long, the furthest North I’ve ever been until this time was the Isle of Man, and of course to Edinburgh the weekend that I collected the RR. This journey was planned for 10 nights of camping with a loosely planned route and a ‘wing it’ approach to the majority of the trip. I was excited to get to know my RR properly, which had just had its first service at 500 miles, I had no idea what we were in for and how it would cope with any challenges, or how I’d cope with 10 days of living outside and riding every day.

The first challenge was getting all my camping stuff on the bike in the first place. I had treated myself to a set of BMW panniers specifically designed for my bike, but unfortunately the wrong set arrived. I’d left it too late to organise new alternatives, so it was time to shine for my 8 year old £50 panniers that I’d bought for my Ninja 300 many years ago. I’d never been able to make them fit on the R1, but with a lot of struggling, a tub of bungee cords and pure determination (and help) I managed to get them on the RR. Everything else piled up in a pyramid on the pillion seat and was tied down with more bungee cords. It wasn’t my favourite solution but it functioned and it was free. I was able to carry a 2 man tent, a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, an extra blanket, and enough belongings for 10 nights. For this trip I travelled with my two friends from work.

Day 1 was a half day from Southampton to South Yorkshire, camping in a fairly small busy campsite in a tiny hamlet. Not the greatest first night as we weren’t super prepared, the hamlet shop was closed, the pub wasn’t serving food and we’d not brought any of our own. Eventually we got some chips and some nuts. Lesson 1 – pack snacks.

Day 2 was through Yorkshire and into the south of Scotland in Loch Lomond. The riding from Yorkshire to the border was brilliant, we avoided motorways and ended up on some fun fast roads with very little traffic. The roads from the Scottish border to the Glasgow/Edinburgh line were less fun – they had a lot of potential but were littered with speed cameras so the second half of the day was a chore but eventually we found our second campsite. This place was bigger than the first, and quiet, there was a shop within a 10 minute ride so we were able to get ingredients to make a good first camping meal – which was one of my specialties as I was nominated chef for the trip – a nice warming curry. I saw a tiny old lady wrapped in waterproofs riding a horse past the campsite – the horse had saddlebags and blankets attached and they looked like they were off on a book worthy journey, not a notable moment from our trip but I’d like to remember seeing her. The night was clear and the sky looked amazing, but we were very aware of the temperature dropping.

Day 3, we went hunting for blankets, found a little shop and stocked up on extra layers before continuing north and looking for somewhere quiet and scenic to camp for the night. Despite going without facilities, the wild camping night was my favourite from the trip, we found a big piece of flat ground off the side of a beautiful road through some hills. I cooked a chilli con carne with lots of cheese and rice and sour cream – perfect for a cold night. The night was freezing as expected, but the extra blankets helped. The area had a lot of sheep, and as the night went on we noticed more wildlife, lots of birds, ducks, and strange long legged spiders that got absolutely everywhere. Being without facilities had its drawbacks, I have no problems going a day or two (or three at a push, but with lots of complaining) without a shower, but the toilet situation is an issue. I’d bought a ‘Sheewee’ in preparation for this, and had practiced a few times to make sure I wasn’t going to make a mess; I recommend this to any ladies thinking of doing similar trips because it stops you having to crouch down in what could be tic infested undergrowth to pee, and you won’t get any of it dribbling into your trousers. These are little things you have to think of and it’s one less thing to worry about. 

We packed up quickly the next morning, by this time I’d got the hang of loading and unloading my bike, and was fairly good at putting my tent up and repacking it. 

Day 4 we continued north to Durness. We’d decided not to bother with John O’ Groats, and that part of the country, as we’d all heard similar feedback that the roads aren’t great, and we wanted to enjoy ourselves riding instead of trying to pack in too many miles. We took a really interesting route from our wild camp site to the coast. Day 4 was the best day of riding for me, the roads were empty, we saw incredible views, and the bike got some challenges as the roads became more and more wild. I’d like to think that I’m used to these awkward grassy single track roads after my Welsh adventures earlier in the year, but on a brand new bike that I love very much, it was a bit unnerving when on a few occasions the tarmac disappeared completely. We reached the end without any problems and it was completely worth it. The roads at the top were stunning, long sweeping bends with no traffic, amazing views of the coast, tiny little villages that smelled of smoked fish, even the weather was perfect! We arrived at our campsite, found a spot, there was a pub with electrical outlets and a fish and chip shop. One of our goals for the trip was to take a dip in the sea, and as the campsite was right on the beach, after we’d eaten dinner we rolled our jeans up and went for a very, very cold splash. 

Day 5 was where things started to go south both literally and figuratively. We were going to stay on the Isle of Skye which was our only planned 2 night stop. The idea was the island would be super magical and we could spend one day off the bikes exploring on foot. It was not to be; after a beautiful day riding the NC500 road into Skye from Durness, we ran into some planning issues, and ended up riding some unknown road to an unknown campsite in the rain, in the pitch black. Scotland has a bigger sheep problem than Wales does, the smug fuckers are everywhere and they aren’t ruled by fences, we rounded a corner, and about 10 of them were having a gathering in the road. If you are a hardcore animal lover please skip to the next paragraph. One of the sheep did not make it. There was no way I’d be able to stop in time and I had nowhere to swerve to, and I hit it, apparently, in the neck, and it ricocheted into the road where it was collected by an oblivious car coming from the opposite direction. The bike and I stayed upright and on the tarmac which really surprised me. The car was removed from a ditch and went home on the back of a truck. The incident was reported and eventually we made it to our campsite.

Day 6 was a continuation of our so far un-satisfactory experience on Skye. Along with my collision, my friends tent was burned by his exhaust because his luggage slipped somehow the day before, it was completely unsalvageable. Instead of moping around the campsite all day we rode back to the town to find him a new tent and some food. The weather was terrible, the magical island was thick with damp mist, so maybe we did ride through incredible views, but I would not be able to tell you about them. I will tell you about ‘Cullen Skink’ which is a creamy fish and potato soup – amazing.

Day 7 we changed our plans completely and decided to skip the second Island and head further south, one crowded rainy island was enough for me and the weather was due to stay miserable. Despite being a bit grumpy, day 7 was good! We took coastal roads and stopped for lunch in a little fishing village, I had fish pie which I can’t believe I’ve never had before and I’m now very enthusiastic about it. The roads dried out and became fun and fast with fewer caravans. For this night we stayed in a hostel where we were able to charge our belongings and have our clothes washed and dried and be a little more comfortable for the night. The hostel had a huge dreamy kitchen and I made a salmon spaghetti. In the light of day we discovered more damage on my bike, grumpiness returned and I was eager to get home without another incident.

Day 8 I dropped the bike in a field. We stayed on Hadrians wall just below the Scottish border. Hadrians wall turned out to be too squashy for my kickstand and over we went. Thankfully no damage on this occasion, just more emotional trauma. The weather was due to get very bad, and we’d decided to make a beeline for home and miss a precious night of camping. It was sad that this was the last night of camping, I’d been really enjoying tent life and even though I wanted to get my bike home and fixed, it was a shame to cut the trip short. 

Day 9 we made it home, via boring motorways, but without incident as far as I can remember. Our original plan had been to camp in Squires Biker Cafe which was only 100 or so miles from Hadrians wall, even though we were now going straight back I wanted to stop there anyway, so we made a detour for breakfast. With raging heartburn from too much fried food we rode back to Southampton.

It’s now been over a month since the trip, I definitely feel inspired by the experience and I’m desperate to do more trips as soon as I can afford it. I learned a lot about my capabilities as an out-doors-y person. I can survive in a tent for any length of time provided I can get electricity and the odd shower from somewhere. I can cook fairly intricate and sort of healthy meals on tiny stoves. I can pee into a small plastic tube. I can fit all the belongings I need onto the back of my bike and I don’t need fancy new panniers to do so (but I would still like fancy new panniers). The RR has passed the test, it was reliable, fun and enjoyable to ride in every situation it was put in, and not too expensive to keep fuelled up. It did not survive its run in with the sheep completely unscathed, but it’s easy enough to take apart and glue back together, and its trip to the BMW garage for a once over and mini service was very reasonably priced. In hindsight, we should have stayed in the north for longer as this was easily the best part of the trip and we could have spent a lot more time enjoying the roads and the scenery. A few more days wouldn’t have hurt either.


After the Scotland trip, the RR was at 3,000 miles, and I was happy that I knew I’d be keeping it for long enough to invest in making it my favourite colour. This time round I used Monster Wraps in Hedge End, Hampshire. The bike was dropped off on a Monday and collected that Thursday – it looks amazing! Monster Wraps did a super job and you’d not be able to see that the bike is wrapped; so far lots of people assumed it’s been painted. I’ve gone for the same wrap material as I had on the R1 – it was perfect the first time round and I’ve not seen a colour that I like more.


I’ve booked a few days off work and ridden to see my Dad in the Somerset countryside. Winter is here, the mornings are becoming icy, the roads are a mess and it’s getting quite chilly. I’m looking forward to the odd days in the next few months where the roads have dried out enough to go for long rides to obscure places with hot food. Something about being desperate to ride in winter makes the crap conditions worth it. It was cold on the ride to Dad’s, I made it to Cheddar for a hot chocolate and a muffin, then tried to find my way using the tiny roads aiming directly South but ending up completely lost. We made it, the recorded route on my BMW app is a bit embarrassing, but we had a good time – even though the bike is now filthy – there’s lots of flooding, lots of mud. It’s great here.


In the time it’s taken me to put this writing together, Dragon Rally 2022 tickets have been booked. I know there were many points last time where I said I’d never do something that stupid again but here we are. I have 3ish months to come up with a plan, do I put the RR through it and hope for the best or do I beg/borrow/steal something more appropriate for the weekend. This time it’s not just Laine and I, the guys I went to Scotland with are planning to go – it should be fun and maybe there’s safety in numbers. There’s no way it’ll be as bad as the last time and I’m feeling optimistic. 

#12 Dragon Rally 2020

I never imagined this trip to be something I’d do, and it was almost what I expected it to be, just worse. Much, much worse.

My friend Laine started it. He’s done the trip several times and after a few years missing it he wanted to go again, brought it up in conversation and I said I’d totally be up for joining him. At the time I had the Husqvarna on loan, and I decided this trip would be the perfect way to get exciting experiences and content with the bike if I was able to borrow it again. Unfortunately when the time came, the bikes weren’t ready to go out on loan, and the other bike I wanted to use wasn’t available either. Rather than bail a week before the trip or use a local demo with a high excess, I decided to use the R1. It was only 300 miles away, and only two nights – how hard could it be really?

Laine was going in his sidecar, so he took my tent and sleeping mat on his bike, and we managed to get throw over panniers and my sleeping bag on the back of mine. With enough bungee cords it was sort of secure, just a bit lopsided.

How did you fit all the camping equipment on the R1? – Once you’ve put side panniers on any bike, you can pile everything else on top of the seat, try to keep it even and build a bit of a pyramid shape then use bungee cords to secure them, then a net over the top. Laine took my tent and sleeping roll, but if I had my pillion pegs on the bike we probably could have got them on mine.

I don’t own any winter riding gear, my work colleague let me borrow his Dainese winter jacket, I wore fluffy leggings under a pair of Bull-it protective leggings and my waterproof horse riding boots. My gloves are Gore-Tex, but they aren’t lined, so Laine attached some handlebar muffs to my bike which looked ridiculous but probably saved my fingers. I packed as little as possible, some spare leggings, a hoddie  and pyjamas, extra socks, some cooking utensils and some homemade chilli con carne, two battery packs, some torches, toilet roll, wet wipes. I packed my alarm and cover for my bike, and we had a jump kit with us because my bikes battery is on its last legs after two years of its useless existence.

Did you get wet feet? – Eventually I got wet feet. Waterproof products only need to stop water for 20 minutes to be marketed as waterproof, so although mine were ‘waterproof’ they eventually leaked and started to fall apart from the inside. My recommendation although I don’t have them, is to get Gore-tex products if you want good waterproofing.

Day one was Friday, we met at a petrol station for 10am. Riding the bike loaded up isn’t a challenge, it’s weird when you first do it but this isn’t my first time with luggage and I’m ok with it. If you haven’t done it before it’s only a case of knowing you’re bit wider at the back and to be careful getting on and off, but unless you’re carrying tonnes it makes no difference when you’re moving. It didn’t rain until we got into Wales, we rode about 100 miles to Gloucester on motorways, stopped in a cafe for lunch and moved onto smaller roads into Wales and up north.

How do you rate the HEL callipers? – They’ve been on the bike for a week, I’m comfortable and have total confidence in them, I’m waiting to use them on dry roads and track to see what they’re really like. 


The location of the campsite is kept a secret until Saturday morning. So we arrived at a pub where the check in tent would be in the morning, and stayed the night in the on-site hostel. There were about 30 bikers who had stopped here to do the same thing, somehow I still ended up with a 4 bed room to myself.

How many bikes in total roughly? – I’m not sure of the exact numbers but maybe 500ish?

Day two we got up at 8, had a breakfast and went to the check in tent to get the location of the campsite and our ticket stamps and bike stickers. The campsite was 20 miles away from the pub, right at the top corner of Snowdonia, on a big hill. We rode through the mountains in the damp morning, and ended up at the start of a long mud track to get into the field where the campsite was. I got halfway down the mud track on the R1 and bottled it. My confidence completely ran out and Laine got the bike the rest of the way up. I tried to move his sidecar which he abandoned to help me, but just blocked the track even more. Not a proud moment for me.

Is an R1 good for off road riding? – Laine didn’t seem to have any trouble but I’m not going to recommend anyone try.

We left my bike near the entrance to the campsite, and the wind was picking up so it was nice to know it was in a little cocoon of vans, somewhat protected. Laine rode his right up to where we put up the tents.

It’s worth noting at this point that the forecast of weather for the weekend was ’Storm Ciara’ which we of course ignored because this time of year the forecast is usually just scare tactics. It was supposed to be the biggest storm for a lot of years. The words ‘life threatening’ were being thrown around and my Mom was messaging me telling me to come home. It was a little bit blowy.

What possessed you to do it during Ciara? – The dates are set several months beforehand so we didn’t have a choice, and we didn’t believe it’d be that bad.


We got the tents up and went for a walk round to see all the bikes. At this point more people were turning up and the field was full of bikes getting stuck and people on C90s bouncing across the mud at full speed clearly on the best bikes for the job. Once we’d unpacked we went back down the mud track, me in the sidecar, to go and explore the mountains.

How many bikes tipped over? – Several, one bike in particular – another sports bike rider (new Fireblade) had left his pretty upright on the side stand yet it somehow didn’t fall over each time I checked on it, the next day a video surfaced of this bike being ridden out and falling into the mud with the rider on it. 

The mountains were beautiful, eerie, and I totally get the whole dragon thing now. There could be dragons hidden behind the hills chilling, with plenty of sheep for them to snack on. Sadly no snacks for Laine or I, despite the fact that it Saturday, nowhere was open for indoor food, we found a little outdoor tea shop in a car park then carried on. On one of our photo stops we met some people with search and rescue dogs spending the day training the dogs for an assessment; some people go and hide in the mountains and the dogs have to find them.

How dirty is the R1? – It’s covered in mud, but the rain washed some of it. Until I wash it I won’t know exactly how bad it is, or if the wrap has been damaged. I’m sure it’s fine.

I got to experience riding Laines bike for the second time – I’d done such a bad job trying to move it on the mud track that Laine decided to teach me. He got in the side, told me it doesn’t ride like a bike and to physically steer rather than lean. Get on the road, speed up a bit, should be easy. It was not easy. The bars started shaking like mad and I crashed into the pavement, bounced off, went into the middle of the road and then back again to avoid an oncoming car and skid to a sideways stop in the middle of the road. The people in the van behind me were wetting themselves and I have a new respect for sidecar riders and racers.

Did you have an accident? – Only the sidecar, it’s fine, Laine’s fine. Never again.


After refuelling and a failed attempt to find eyeliner we went back to the campsite. It had started to rain and it was windy. One of the poles in my tent had popped out and water had got into all my stuff, so I was now sharing with Laine in his giant teepee tent, we had my chilli then went to join in the fun in the marquee at the entrance.

How long did your tent last? – About 5 hours.

The organisers arrange live music for the evening, a bar, and during the day there’s tea and soup. The marquee was completely packed with damp bikers, and by the stage were people trying to mosh to the soft rock music the band were playing while repeatedly requesting ‘Ace of Spades’. We met some people, a couple who Laine helped get down the track that now wanted a sidecar, a man who was excited about the R1, some Dutch moshers flinging beer everywhere and dragging anyone within arms reach into the middle. We went back to the tents and it was really raining and the wind was making it difficult to walk. My tent was now flattened and the top layer had disappeared, Laines was looking a bit lopsided but he managed to tighten it while looking a bit concerned. Earlier that evening we pegged my bike down with three tent pegs and a tow strap through the yoke and exhaust hanger – I couldn’t pull it over so I was happy it wouldn’t budge.

How did you secure the bike against the wind? – Park it close to some cars, and tent peg it down leaning it into the side stand. I didn’t use the cover in the end because it’d just blow away.


How scared were you about the bike falling in the wind? – Once it was pegged down, not very. Most bikes were just left on their side stands and although some fell, most stayed upright. If the bike were to fall, it’d land in soft mud and be protected by my crash protection and panniers which were left on.

We kept our kit on just incase we needed to bail, and almost immediately after we put our feet in our sleeping bags the centre pole down the tent collapsed tearing a hole through the roof. Laine held it up while I put my boots on, then I held it while he did his, we found our phones and after a blind scramble to get the zip opened we threw important things out the tent into the rain before abandoning it. Everything we could salvage was stuffed into the side car and we went back to the marquee for some tea. It wasn’t long before others started moving their bedding into the marquee as more peoples tents were blown away. We took a spot leaning against the bar trying not to think about the state of the floor. My sleeping bag was soaked, but Laine had some emergency dry blankets from the bottom of his bike. The wind steadily got worse and every time the roof blew, water would shower down from the ceiling. More people came in, someone started cooking sausages. It was an unusual atmosphere, kind of ‘this is our own fault so we won’t be mad’ – forced smiles and hysterical laughter. The night lasted forever, it was like January all over again, and because I wasn’t asleep I kept needing to pee, I’m not even going to talk about the portaloos.

Did you sleep during the storm? – Not even a little bit, it was super uncomfortable, freezing, and very loud in the marquee.


After about four days it was morning – Day three, we started to hear bikes going outside, it was raining on and off and the wind was non stop. The view out the marquee was carnage. I couldn’t see our tents, they’d gone forever. It took 4 of us to roll Laines bike onto the metal sheet pathway that had been left by the entrance, I pushed behind the back wheel and got covered in mud from head to toe. Laine took his bike to the road then came back to help me with mine. Miraculously after a few tantrums the R1 started, and 3 men dragged it to the entrance and Laine rode it up the mud track for me (my confidence hadn’t returned from the day before…). I ran behind him while praying, God came through because the bike stayed upright.

How many bikes did you push out of the mud? – Everyone was helping everyone, I’m about as strong as a twig so I helped a lady with her gloves while Laine did the pushing. 

We had a plan to ride through the mountains south, and head back the way we came and jump on the motorway near Shrewsbury. Once on the roads we hit a huge diesel spill that had saturated the roads all the way to the service station, I have no idea how I kept it upright, I’m going back to my new God theory. We stopped at a service station, a grand total of 2 miles from the campsite and I had a go at wimping out of the situation by calling my recovery services. Sadly ‘I’m scared to ride on diesel’ isn’t a good enough reason for either company to come out, so I had to suck it up. I was able to change into some damp but clean underwear and leggings, wash my hands for the first time since Saturday and re-do my makeup.

Did you get any sunrise or sunset photos? – No. I tried to capture as much of the trip as possible, but I didn’t have any opportunities on Sunday to photograph things – it was raining so much, I needed both my hands, and I didn’t want my phone to be damaged by the rain. There were no pretty sunrises or sunsets – just clouds, rain and flying tents.

A few other riders had the same idea to come to the service station, and we found out that our route was closed because of a landslide, flooding AND a fallen telegraph pole. The only way out was to head north to the coastal road and keep going until we were near Manchester, then go south. The coastal road was going to be a death trap, but I had to work the next morning so there was no getting out of it – we had to get home. With our shiny diesel coloured tyres we gently hit the road, back through the diesel and onto the highway towards the coast.

Would you do it again? – Once I’m over the trauma I might think about it, but I’d need to invest in proper winter gear, a proper hiking tent, maybe some knobbly tyres, heated grips, heated clothing, a hotel…

That road was like the disaster clips you see on Youtube where peoples cars get dragged away into the sea. Waves were hitting the walls and spraying into the road, the rain was so bad I couldn’t see anything except faint tail lights, the wind was blowing me all over the place, there were tunnels and corners round rock faces that caught the wind and pushed me out towards the edge, at one point I honestly thought I’d lost the bike, I knew there was a tunnel under the sea and I thought once we were through that it’d be calmer but it wasn’t, and Laine pulled us into a service station to rethink.

How did you handle the gusty wind? – I had very little control over the bike when the gusts hit us, I made myself lower on the bike, stuck my elbows out and tried to react to the gusts quickly and lean against them, keep my eyes ahead and hope for the best.

We found a route through town the cut the coastal route in half, so we took that road which turned out to have three floods down it followed by roadworks. I haven’t ridden through floods since my 125, the first two weren’t too deep, the third I had water splashing up over my head so I couldn’t see the end, or what direction I was going in, somehow I made it through, drenched, but upright. Finally we were on a motorway heading south.

How did your bike handle in the conditions? – Honestly, aside from being blown about the bike handled fine! They tyres didn’t slide at any point aside from in the diesel, and found grip under the water on the roads. I kept it in C mode for the whole weekend, so it was manageable. The water on the roads washed the mud off so that wasn’t a concern.

Bits of motorway were flooded so there was a lot of traffic, the wind went from being terrifying to just unpleasant, and the rain kept doing its thing. We stopped for fuel and to check the rest of the route. The second 100 mile stint was easier, the rain stopped and the wind dried us off. I exceeded the limits of the borrowed jacket, it was soaked by this point so some wind without rain was welcomed. We stopped again 110 miles from my home for a final fuel up and some food. The final stint was as scary as the first. It got dark very suddenly, started raining again, and the further south we got the winder it was until I was unable to see anything except tail lights. I blindly followed Laine until we hit a traffic jam on the A34 and had to split up.

How much did it cost in fuel for the weekend? – It was about 600 miles total, my bike will do 100-ish to a tank for £15, so about £100 total for fuel.

I was desperate to get off the motorway, so when the A34 finished I took the A272 to my usual country road route home. It was a mistake, the hills were extremely windy, and there was mud and debris all over the roads. I had to slow down and look carefully at what I was riding on, there was flooding everywhere, and at one point I overtook the police dealing with a fallen tree in the road. It took longer for me to get home using this route than it did for Laine to get home after sitting in traffic. We made it though! No feeling was better than stripping off my soaked clothes and knackered boots and stepping into the shower.

Did you enjoy it? – Yes, it was the stupidest thing I’ve ever experienced, yet no one was miserable despite the conditions. Every little bit of the camping experience sucked, but we were happy and laughing the whole time along with everyone else. Even though bits of it were terrifying, we made it home in one piece and nobody gets to call me a summer rider ever again. 

Where’s your tent? – I’m not sure.

#11 Svartpilen 401

The mighty Svartpilen has been returned to Husqvarna. There is a bike shaped hole in my heart and too much space in my garage, I’m also missing out on a lot of winter fun – the R1 is great, but it definitely lacks some capabilities. 


In the recent months since my last blog post the Svartpilen 401 has done two off-road days. I say days, but what actually happened was all the lanes had been saturated by the non stop rain we’ve had since the end of August, and everything was slippery, so the ‘days’ turned into me riding until I lost my bottle then running back to dry land. To be perfectly fair to the bike, it was doing a great job! I haven’t ridden a bike successfully through soaked mud before and nobody told me how to do it so I was working out a method. Power seemed to be the way forward, my usual tactic of slamming my brakes on and stopping to look at an obstacle was causing problems, so instead we just powered through the puddles and over the tree roots, letting the tyres (Pirelli STRs come standard on the Svartpilen 401) do their thing. On one of these days, I’d just got my rhythm when we hit a brick buried in the mud followed by a particularly slippery bit of ground. I guess the tyres didn’t recover from the first slide before having to deal with the next, I was probably doing the wrong thing, and we were going too quickly for me to apply my old stop and think tactic; The bike went down, quite spectacularly I’d like to think, in a 180 degree spin off the back wheel and landed gently in some undergrowth. Agile like a cat because no one was around to witness this, I landed gracefully on my feet. The bike was picked up, examined, and started again as if nothing happened. We continued down the lane (VERY slowly this time) and found a nice dry, flat, gravel lane to try after that, then we went to get some tea. My awful riding aside, the little Husqvarna does very well off road for a road bike. It didn’t get stuck on anything it had the ground clearance for, powered over all the obstacles and mostly stopped when I needed it to (wet mud doesn’t count). What I learned from riding this off road has translated well to my road riding in time for winter, and my confidence riding in the wet and on gravel etc has massively improved. So if you’re nervous of bad riding conditions and you’re thinking about getting a Svartpilen – do it, and force yourself down some greenlanes.


Another challenge I put the bike through was, as promised, a camping trip. I’m not counting it as a proper challenge – my friend joined me and she came in her car so after establishing that I could easily pack the Svartpilen with a tent and a sleeping bag and a bunch of cooking equipment if I wanted to, we put everything in her car. The camp was a great success, riding the Svartpilen through the New Forest was a lovely experience, we didn’t get stuck in a cattle grid, neither of us got eaten by wildlife and we got some pretty almost-autumn photos. I planned many more camping trips after this one, but sadly the following weekend it started raining, didn’t stop and I’m just not on that level of out-doors-y yet.


I focus a lot on the Svartpilens off-road capabilities, we did of course ride on a lot of actual roads. A lot of the promo photos for the bike feature it zipping through cities, but I have absolutely no need (or want) to go into Portsmouth and get stuck filtering through traffic. When I first rode a 401 it was in Bristol when Bristol was mostly just road works and misery, so I can confirm that the bike is good in cities – made weaving through traffic fun even. Most of what we did on tarmac was fast country roads and tiny country lanes. We explored tiny winding hazardous back roads through woodland and deserted farmland, discovered tiny villages, farms, and creepy churches that I didn’t know existed and then had the fun challenge of getting home again. I had a few opportunities to see how good the little Svartpilen is at keeping up with strangers on bigger bikes. The report is good, we were in the middle of a BMW ride out that I joined for a bit – sure, a big muscly BMW is going to out speed me, but about 4 of them didn’t so I’m counting it. Exact quotes from some guys behind me on bigger bikes include “You were quick on that thing” and “I was thinking I could overtake but you were going to quick”. 


The Svartpilen is able to do over 100mph; it’ll be flashing at you like mad but it’ll do it, and it’ll flick round corners and in and out of traffic. It doesn’t get wobbly like some naked bikes do over 80mph, and if you need to sit on the motorway for any length of time it’ll do that, and be comfortable. I had plenty of confidence throwing the bike round corners on roads that I’d hang back on with the R1, simply because it’s just so light and easy to ride. The brakes are good and sharp, we got into some bad filtering habits because I knew it’d stop very quickly and pick up again immediately if I had to second guess or avoid something. 

As an every day bike the Svartpilen would be ideal for a wide range of people – in my opinion. I’ve struggled this year with driving cars, and I would rather get cold and wet riding a bike. I’m working on the car thing, but the Svartpilen was a super alternative. It’s cheap to fuel, about £10 of fuel would last 200ish miles and the dash has a fuel gauge so you know what’s in there without having to muck around resetting trips. Although subjective, for me, the insurance was cheap. It’s light enough that you can pick up the back end and slide it round into tight corners so if you need to keep it in your hallway – no problem, and parking it in awkward places when out and about is nice and easy – it’s been wedged into lots of tight spots. The seat is fairly tall (835mm) so even though it appears small, it feels bigger and you can see over hedges. Despite being tall, it’s light – 150kg according to MCN, so the height isn’t so much of a problem, it’s easy to stop on one foot and the light weight makes it easy to get off and push if you need to, and if you feel like it’s starting to go over, you’re probably going to be a able to catch it. The engine is nice and quiet, but even with the standard exhaust it has a good growl when you accelerate, so it sounds cool, but you won’t fall out with your neighbours or give yourself a headache.


Everywhere I went people were fascinated with the Svartpilen, not many people had seen one before and most of these people didn’t know what it was. I’d expect people to be more interested in my bright pink R1, but no, people want to talk about the Svartpilen – what it’s for, how much it costs, if it’s ‘any good’ etc; the bike is a guaranteed conversation starter and everyone wants to sit on it. 

IMG_4606 2

Svartpilen FAQs – 

Is it quick for daily riding?

Depends how quick you want to go, but for every day riding and commuting etc it’s quick, responsive and agile. You should have a lot of fun with it.

Is it suitable for long trips?

I think so, I didn’t find it underpowered on motorways and of course it’s enjoyable on small roads. Riding position is comfortable but it does lack a screen so I suppose in awful weather that might be a drawback, the standard seat is comfortable for a few hours, then maybe you might want to wedge a cushion in there, or get the upgraded seat available for the bike, and nothing on it vibrates or rattles.

Did you find it underpowered?

No, but it did take a bit of getting used to, once well acquainted we were overtaking everyone and basically business as usual. The challenge was getting the hang of its gears and knowing I couldn’t pin it in first and get the same results as the R1. 

Is it big enough for someone over 2m?

I did hear someone tall say their knees hit the uh – sticky outy bits on the tank, so I guess just look out for that. None of my tall friends had any issues sitting on it, nor did it look ‘too small’ for anyone. 

There is a lowering kit available for the bike.

How is it different from the Vitpilen 401?

It’s way cooler. The bikes have the same engine, frame and body work. The Vitpilen has clip ons and is a much lower riding position, it has a cafe racer styled seat and road tyres. The Svartpilen has upright bars, comes with a bash plate and multi terrain tyres. The Svartpilen has a tank rack for a mounted tank bag, and removable back seat which can be switched out a luggage rack. It does look like in the 2020 update they’ve put a belly pan on the Vitpilen. I’m gonna suggest that the Vitpilen is for style and the Svartpilen in for function – could be wrong but that’s my view.


#10 Exciting Stuff

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.

26-08-2019 Rockingham trackday photographs

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!


#9 Six Months Later

It’s been 6 months since my last blog post. I’m failing.

Despite a fairly uneventful year so far, it’s been busy. My 3 jobs have taken up all my time leaving no room in my schedule for riding or writing or doing much except getting home at the end of the day, cooking dinner, trying desperately to keep up with my art and then going to bed. After 10 months of this, I quit my sales job in J&S last week (tough decision), now I’m spending the week in the countryside at my Dads house to catch up with my art and relax. It’s still weird to think that I have an entire weekend to do whatever I want to do once I’m done relaxing…

I really enjoyed working at J&S, learned a lot, met loads of lovely people and hopefully helped them all in some way, tried on a lot of stuff, I spent a LOT of money in the grocery store next door, and I’m going to really miss my staff discount. The plan now is to keep my flexible job in insurance, continue drawing, and put more time and effort into building my art business, while spending more time with my friends, family and bikes.  

The R1 is doing great, we still haven’t been out much but we are slowly gelling as a couple, and every time I ride it I feel more comfortable. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about making it pink, I’m getting impatient and anticipate it being pink in time for Christmas at least. I picked out the wrap that I want and have some quotes but there’s still other options that I want to explore. 

I have two new bikes in my life. 

Husqvarna UK are lending me a Svartpilen 401. I rode this bike last year by chance, and I loved it! We went through Bristol which at the time was full of roadworks and disgustingly hot. The bike made this fun – weirdly – it managed heavy traffic, lots of stopping, starting and tight squeezes while making the whole experience enjoyable. Ever since that day I’ve been desperate to get my hands on one again. I’m grateful to Husqvarna for letting me borrow theirs for the season.

This bike does everything that the R1 can’t and, now that I’ve got my time back, I’m looking forward to lots of adventures with it. It encourages me to take roads that I’d avoid on the R1 or in the car with confidence, and I am excited to try some off roading with it and get nice and lost somewhere, the possibilities are endless. The bike gets a lot of attention, I guess a lot of people don’t recognise it and I’ve only ever seen one other Svartpilen out in the wild. Everyone wants to sit on it and ask about it and I think everyone should try one. It’s like a hipster version of the KTM 390 Duke – its overall appearance is a bit unusual, so far nobody’s hated it but a few people have had to give it a good long look before deciding they like it. It gives me a good excuse to buy new retro gear (yay me). It’s cheap to insure and doesn’t gulp fuel like the R1 does, nor does it need to be left on charge when it’s not being used…like the R1 does. I guess if you have an R1 then there’ll be a Svartpilen shaped hole in your heart. I’ll keep you updated on this…

The second bike isn’t mine but I’m going to talk about it anyway. It’s a Kawasaki ZX10R that Joes parents and I got for Joe for his 30th. The R1 is better, but it’s pretty and Joe’s had it for 5 minutes and already started taking bits off and putting bits on. Joe sold his old bike (aka – Orange Pussycat) last year as he was midway through two surgeries to correct problems he had with his legs that prevented him riding comfortably. He sold it with the promise that he’d keep the money aside for the next bike, but, life (and shiny new car parts…) gets in the way and it didn’t go to plan. The new one was a huge surprise for him and was revealed at a party (that was also a suprise, I would upload the video to YouTube but he’s begged me not to). It’s probably the nicest thing I’ve ever done for anyone and now I need to figure out how to lower the bar again because I’m still waiting for my birthday present and that was 3 months ago.

Both Simon and Keria are fine. I’ve left Keria home with Joe while I visit Dad, Simon’s here and he’s his usual chilled out self. He’s shedding and his white fur is everywhere. Keira is starting to calm down, she’s learned lots of new words and you can talk to her and she’ll pick out the words she knows and react to them. She knows what time of day it is and which meals she’s had already so if you ask her at 7pm if she wants her breakfast she’ll just look at you like you’re stupid, and if you ask her at any point in the day if she’s hungry she’ll go charging into the kitchen and wait by her bowl.

As far as my 2019 goals go, we’re halfway through the year and I haven’t ticked many yet. I did hit my drawing target already – the target was 150 and so far I’m on 160 so I’ll have smashed that by the end of 2019. The drawing business seems to be going well and the plan is to have mercy available by Christmas. I really want to produce an adult colouring book and now I have the time to do this I’m going to start making the drawings for it and get it all set up. This month someone pinched some of my cartoons and started trying to sell them on a t-shirt website promoted through Facebook and Instagram. It’s not the first time my art has been pinched but it’s the first time I’ve caught someone trying to sell it. Thankfully the website took it down pretty quickly, and after a LOT of angry feedback from my social media followers, the person removed the images from Facebook too. The whole experience has shown me that people do want T-shirts so I’ll look into that as soon as I can.

This is all I’ve got unfortunately. The end of a boring blog. To summarise – no longer working 7 days a week, can go out and have fun now, will probably write more regularly. 

#8 My Bike Journey

A blog about my bike ‘journey’ has been requested, my iPad ran out of charge so this is my window to share the little story of how R1Liz got her R1s. I’ve also got some FAQs to answer which I’ve squeezed between the paragraphs.

I remember two occasions when I was small when I decided that I liked motorbikes. The earliest one was probably cycling and thinking how convenient it would be to not have to pedal. The more prominent memory is sitting in dads car on the way home when a bike came screaming past us on the way into a roundabout; I asked why they were going so much faster than us and dad said it was because ‘they had better breaks’. 7 year old me was extremely impressed with this. I wanted to join the Tigers Motorcycle Display team, so for a few weeks I drew little stunt bikes jumping over logs until I eventually started riding horses instead. My whole family are bikers, my Mom rides and has always ridden, my dad has ridden on and off around his work, my Grand-Father was a riding instructor, my Uncles ride, and my cousin was in the White Helmets motorcycle display team. Despite this, biking wasn’t drilled into me as a child and I didn’t notice my family were so bike oriented until I already had my first bike.

FAQ – How did you pay for your first bike? – I saved all my wages from my first job until I had a decent sized pot (something like 6 months worth). My family paid half and bought me my first helmet.

When I was about 16 I had a boyfriend with a bike, and going on the back of that bike was the most exciting thing ever. My helmet was 2 sizes too big, my jacket was about as protective as a tea towel and I can’t remember if I had gloves or not, I’d sneak away to a carpark out of earshot from Moms house and we’d go for a ride somewhere. I bought a lot of bike magazines and put up posters all over my room and tried to soak up as much information as I could. Eventually I found a job, saved up as much as I could and when I turned 17 I was able to buy my first bike.  

FAQ – What was your first bike? – My first bike was a Yamaha YZF R125 and I loved it

My first bike was a 2012 Yamaha YZF-R125 in black with gold wheels, it was brand new and I rode it home from London with my boyfriend dutifully riding in front of me along the motorway at 40mph due to the running-in restrictions. I was proud as punch and thought I was too cool for school. I had no idea what I was doing with it, how to look after it or how to ride it properly, but I was on it every day to and from work and college, riding in all the conditions and slowly getting confident and comfortable with it, revving at traffic lights and carrying my helmet around everywhere like a trophy. 

FAQ – How did you choose your first bike? – It was the prettiest one I could find and in the same family as the R1s I loved to read about and look at. As far as I knew, new 125s were all pretty similar and I wanted a sports bike shaped model, so the Yamaha was just the obvious choice.

It took me 3 attempts to pass my full test. I completed it a month before the UK rules changed which meant I was one of the last people my age that could ride any sized bike. I failed Mod 1 twice on the emergency stop. I’d had a small accident on my bike not long before, and the emergency stop freaked me out a bit. After taking a break from testing and practicing relentlessly, I finally passed the test, and the following week I bought a Ninja 300. 

FAQ – How much is your bike insurance? – Not as bad as I always expect it to be, luckily I’ve always had affordable quotes from MCE and haven’t had to make any claims.

Money was ok for me back at this point, I was a full time college student with a job and some leftover inheritance money which disappeared on my tests, my insurance and my bikes. Thinking back now, I shudder at how much I spent insuring the Ninja 300, and how much I spent on servicing I didn’t necessarily need at the time. But there’s not much point dwelling on it, things might have taken a different turn if I’d bought older cheaper bikes and despite finding it a bit underwhelming (because really I wanted something bigger) the Ninja 300 had a big impact on the direction my life took.

FAQ – Most embarrassing moment on a bike? – My first time going into a multi storey car park and not understanding how the ticket system worked. I thought it was pay and display and I didn’t have any money with me and couldn’t turn around, so I left my bike at the gate with cars queueing up behind me and went up the line of cars asking for money until someone told me I was supposed to just take a ticket. I’m sure I’ve done sillier stuff since, but this one sticks out.

Up until this point, although I was enjoying riding, it wasn’t much of my identity. I didn’t have any bike friends, my boyfriend wasn’t riding much having bought a car and concentrating on his own studies. The bike got me where I needed to go but life was pretty dull and I needed some kind of adventure. Back in 2012 when you bought a new Kawasaki you were signed up to their Kawasaki Riders Club (now known as Club Kawasaki) which gives you access to their exclusive online forums, discounted entry to events, and a lanyard. Things were very busy for me at the time, applying to university and fitting in overtime, but I found 10 minutes to sort out my access to the online forum and pop a little ‘Hello’ on one of the posts. I forgot about it, but someone noticed it. The person who noticed my little ‘Hello’ was Nigel. Nigel sent me an email asking if I wanted to meet some other members of the Kawasaki Riders Club, they get together on Thursday in a little pub up the motorway, I was welcome to go.

FAQ – Were you ever put off by the laddish culture of the biking world? – No, when I first started riding I didn’t have any bike friends so I wasn’t really involved in the culture, and I was ‘exposed’ to it gradually. I wouldn’t say it was ‘laddish’ and it’s definitely not like what you see on TV (have you ever watched ‘Torque’? Don’t.). Everyone was friendly, and there were a lot more girls than you’d expect and now I often ride with more girls than men, so maybe where I’m from is not the stereotypical male dominated community that you’d expect.

It was mid winter at this time, Thursday nights were dark and cold, I selotaped directions to my glove and rode up the motorway to this strange pub to meet these strange people. They made me welcome, bought me a mug of tea, admired my bike and included me in their Thursday meetings from that point on. I was invited to ride to Dijon in France with them later in the year, and I was included in their plans to ride to Silverstone to a Kawasaki event. I started riding with this group, the group got bigger, I learned how to ride quickly and keep up with the bigger bikes as well as I could. This group became my friends and biking became real fun. My general confidence grew, I made goals for myself, I started to really enjoy riding and being part of this huge biking community. 

FAQ – Have you ever been able to get both feet flat on the floor with any bike? – My Ninja 300 I think I was able to and the schools little 125, but none of my other bikes, I’m 5’7 so I’m a good height to ride everything but I have to tip toe.

It was around this time that my relationship with my boyfriend at the time got stale, he didn’t come with me to France, he didn’t encourage my bike related goals, and he said I couldn’t get an R1. We broke up when I returned from France, and my new boyfriend who I met on the trip helped me look for an R6 because I decided it was time to trade the bike up too. 

FAQ – Did you ever worry about other people’s perceptions? – Not really. I get on with it, it’s fun to be able to do things people tell you you shouldn’t be doing and change perceptions.

The R6 was new dream bike material, upside-down forks, two front break disks, proper sports bike riding position, big back wheel, all the things I wanted in a bike. Riding it home from the shop was initially terrifying. I’d been scared into thinking that a 600 would be a monster, that I’d immediately lose control. One thing I notice is that people LOVE telling people that something’s too much for them to handle, and that had been drilled into me, I had no idea what to expect from it. Pulling away for the first time was scary but I only had to do it once to realise it wasn’t going to spit me off, and that was a turning point for me – If I could ride this, I could ride anything. 

FAQ – Any unexpected costs? – The R6 continuously surprised me with problems, I threw a lot of money at it until I was convinced it was done for. I think the bike may have had underlying issues when I bought it which weren’t helped along by the missed valve service. I don’t regret it because I abused it and still got a lot of use out of it, but it taught me a lot about making sure I look after bikes.

The bike went through a lot. It went through France and Spain, it went to the Isle of Man twice, it went on my first track day. I dropped it twice, once in ice, once in mud. And it went in and out of the garage more times than I could count because as it was my first second hand bike, I had no idea it needed a valve service until it was 10,000 miles too late. 

FAQ – Have you ever had an accident? – Not really, on my own bikes I’ve only had a few minor spills, none that have resulted in a claim or injury. I have had one accident that did result in a broken shoulder but this was on a loan bike when I tried off-roading.

After owning the R6 for two years it was in a local garage after making a particularly angry splutter when I started it up. At this point it had had its valve service and was at the stage where it was just giving me endless attitude, odd noises were a regular occurrence and we were running out of things to fix. I dropped it off at the garage with the expectation that it needed a new cam chain, and I got the call saying actually it needed half a new engine. I had it collected by the garage I use for valve servicing so they could find out what went wrong. By this point I was thinking about a new bike anyway, I knew the shop had an R1, so I went with Joe so he could ride the new ZX10 and I could take the R1 out. I’d ridden a few 1000cc bikes by this point (mainly Joe’s 2009 ZX10 while the R6 was being sassy) but it was my first R1. 

FAQ – How long have you been riding? – Since 2012, I had the 125 for about 9 months, my Ninja 300 for a year, and the R6 and R1 for 2 years each.

The R1 was special. I had a poster of an R1 that I pulled out of the middle of a magazine and it’s imprinted in my memory for being the picture I took to people and said ‘I want an R1’, I’ve wanted one since I bought that magazine back when I didn’t have a bike, it lives under my desk now. Usually if I said I wanted an R1 I’d get ‘you can’t handle it’, ‘it’s too big for you’, ‘you’d be utterly stupid if you get an R1’. Nothing makes me want something more than being told I can’t have it, and so, the R1 is special to me. I looked over this bike sat in the shop, not the age I wanted, not the colour I wanted, too many miles, too many stickers. But I took it out with Joe on the ZX10, through the city and out the other end into the countryside, and it was flawless. It felt so effortless and natural and I felt like a boss finally riding this bike that had been my ultimate goal since day one. When we got back to the shop they confirmed that the R6 was well and truly at the end of its life, and with tremendous effort and a lot of tears I managed to scrape together the money and I bought the R1. 

FAQ – What was the biggest challenge of changing bikes? – Learning where all the buttons are. I test ride a lot of bikes so riding one bike to another isn’t so difficult, but I never have to learn the buttons on the bikes I test ride. The R6 to the R1 was easy because it was the same generation and the dash was the same, the new R1 is completely baffling. 

This R1 is the bike you’d recognise from the cartoons, a 2007 R1 in pearl white with 50th anniversary red stickers. In the background of my bike journey at this time I’d finished my degree and was about to draw my first digital cartoon. Over the next two years I built my artwork business from the ground up, I made a name for myself, bought a house with Joe, and we built our life together. I had my R1 to 30,000 miles, with the right amount of servicing and maintenance it never put a toe out of line. I did my second track day on this R1, but over the period that I owned it we didn’t do any big European trips.

2 years later I decided it was new bike time, I got a third job, and after working and saving and working and saving, I was able to buy a new R1. And that’s where I am now.

Life has had its ups and downs, the bikes will always be a big part of my life and I feel extremely lucky that I’ve been able to own this bike that I couldn’t even dream of owning back when I first started to ride. 

FAQ – If you had to do it all again, what would the journey look like? – The same, but maybe I wouldn’t have put new tyres, chain and sprockets on a bike I was about to sell. There are things I wish I had done differently, but they could have lead to different overall results, and I’m happy with where I am now.


#7 New Year, New Bike

I am terrible at blog writing. One of my goals for 2019 is to be more confident and I’m starting that here because the reason I don’t write as often as I’d like is because I don’t have much confidence in my writing.

So it’s January 3rd and I have a new bike. Finally. I got to about June and decided that it was time. My R1 and I had a beautiful relationship but it wasn’t going to last forever and that R1 was never the bike I wanted. I got a 3rd job, upped my business game and drew a whole load of bikes for people. By December I was able to get a bike that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get, the 2018 R1 from The Motorbike Shop in Farnborough.

Giving the old one away was not as hard as I prepared for, I reserved the new bike over a month before I could make the exchange, and had that time to emotionally distance myself from it. I got to a point with the old one where I was totally comfortable with it, but it was getting up to 30k miles and I wanted a new bike more than I wanted to pay for the servicing that the old one needed.

I went to collect the new one in the rain. December seemed to just rain solidly and balancing 3 jobs made finding time to ride a bit awkward, so in the end I went out on a day that looked fairly dry but got rained on anyway. So the first thing I learned about the new bike is that it’s good in the wet. The old bike had no electronics, no rider aids, no abs, nothing to help me, it had good tyres which I swapped onto the new bike, but when it came to wet weather all that confidence I had one the bike just vanished. A lot of it came down to confidence in myself and not the bike, but the new R1 had so much going on that I felt safe riding normally in the rain knowing that the bike was looking after me. It has rider modes – something I’ve never had before, so I can change the power, traction control, slide control, anti wheelie etc on and off depending on the situation, and I can change the settings within the rider modes to suit me.

The new bike has a quick shifter and an auto blipper. More things I’ve never had before, although I’ve ridden bikes with a quick shifter, I’ve never bothered to learn how to use one. The auto blipper so far only comes on the 18+ models of R1 but this wasn’t a factor in buying the newer bike, however, I’ve figured out how to use it and now I’m happy I’ve got one. Both the quick shifter and the auto blipper can make riding quickly so much easier. My fear was they’d make me lazy but that’s a problem I can deal with if I ever get on a bike that doesn’t have them again (probably. I’ll let you know.), similar to my worry that driving automatic cars is going to ruin my ability to drive manual cars.

The riding position of the new bike is a bit more extreme than the old one, the old one was comfortable and I felt securely wedged into it. The new one has a higher seat and lower bars, so I feel more like I’m perched on top of it delicately than sitting on it. I’ll be ordering stomp grips to stop me sliding forwards every time I brake. So far my wrists haven’t suffered so I’m sure I’ll just get used to it.

When I bought the bike it was completely standard, it is an ex demo with very few miles on it, the last miles being mine before I bought it. I have now fitted an exhaust supplied by Performance Parts UK, it is a Yoshimura R11. I’m fussy when it comes to exhausts, and I wanted the Yoshi because I liked the way they looked on the GSXRs. I don’t like exhausts that look like baked bean tins no matter how pretty the bolts or the logo look. The Akra is nice but everyone’s got it and I like being awkward and different. I haven’t decatted the bike, and I’m not sure I will. I want to do track days without having to worry about changing the exhaust over, and the Yoshi with the cat is nice and quiet. Honestly it’s not changed much about the bikes sound except that the noise is smoother and it sounds more growl-y in higher revs. It’s tough to describe sound in writing. It sounds better, but it’s a subtle change, which is what I wanted. I’m still getting messages from strangers going ‘Hey Liz you should decat your bike it’ll make it sound better’. The bike is insanely loud without a cat and I value my good relationship with the neighbours.

I’ve got lots of R&G goodies waiting to go on the bike, and plans for some pink bits. People keep pointing out that I need a tail tidy and I have one! The standard number plate mount sticks out further than the rear wheel and I KNOW it looks awful. I haven’t decided if I want to do anything dramatic to the bikes colour. The original plan was to get the bike in black, paint the wheels pink and put some subtle pink details on the body work, but the bike was blue and I didn’t want to wait for a black one to show up. The blue is lovely and I’m a bit conflicted over if I want to change it. I’m ‘hmming’ and ‘aaahing’ about just wrapping the whole thing barbie pink. I’ve bought some pink headlight wrap because someone told me the lights are prone to damage from stones, so I’ll put some protective pink film on them, why not…

I found out the hard way that the tank is made out of stuff that magnets don’t stick to (science.), my beloved miniature tank bag had to be left behind when I took the bike home. Now I have to wear a bum bag if I want to carry more than my phone and an eyebrow pencil anywhere I go. It’s a big adjustment. I went from enough storage on my bike for two beanie hats to a bike with no beanie hat carrying capabilities. It was important, but I’ll adjust. 

So far since I’ve had the new one I’ve been out a few times but not for any serious rides. I’m looking forward to the longer evenings so I can ride after work as at the moment I don’t have many days off, and in the summer I’ll hopefully book some track days. The bike makes me laugh, if you ever spot me riding along giggling behind my visor like an idiot it’s because I’ve done something stupid and the bike’s told me off. It’s got an attitude and that’s a large factor in why I bought it. I like bikes with personality and sass and this bike has bundles of that. 

I can’t remember if, in the last blog, I mentioned that I got a new dog. Simon (the white fluffy one) went back to live with my dad, and after a few days of bursting into tears when there wasn’t a dog in the house, we got a puppy. It was a few days before my birthday so that worked out nicely. The puppy is called Keira, she’s a german shepherd, she’s now 11 months old and she’s a very good girl. She’s been in a lot of cartoons and is a nice addition to my little family. She comes to work with me and takes up the space under my desk where my feet are supposed to go. 

Anyway that’s the bike, I’m super excited to ride it as much as I can. All going well this bike will be with me for longer than the previous ones and I’m not afraid to rack up the miles on it. Here’s to a great new year :).


#6 Complaining because it’s cold

The first ride of 2018 was a test ride! Way to welcome in the new year. It wasn’t planned, I wobbled to the local Triumph dealer to meet two friends for coffee and to get a bike serviced. The roads were patchy and horrible and it had been a few weeks since I’d ridden so I was embarrassingly slow and my confidence was ebbing away with every mile.

In the Triumph store I was, as usual, complaining about something. The topic of this complaint was insurance prices for young people. My friends are both a good 5 years older than me and don’t struggle with insurance premiums. Anyone who’s policy costs less than £500 that thinks they can complain about that will get an earful from me. My insurance is so expensive I have to pay for it monthly. So I was describing my dream of how when I turn 25 my insurance will be cheap enough for me to have a new R1. A nice man pointed out how that wasn’t how insurance worked – he was older than 25 and still couldn’t insure a new litre bike, but a new 600 would be do-able. Maybe I should try a 600?

That’s how I ended up on a new 675 Daytona for an hour. I’m not going to review it or anything because it was only an hour and we just went up the A32 and back, so not long enough to really get to know it. I wouldn’t trade the R1 for it, it was great fun and gave me my confidence back on the patchy roads, it was light and easy to flick round corners which the R1 isn’t. It was physically a lot smaller than the R1 which felt extremely weird, I couldn’t just duck behind the screen, I had to shift my whole body back and squish myself up to get behind it, I could get used to that, but I like big bikes that make me look dainty. When I got back to my R1 I felt a lot better, no more wobbling. So I can thank the 675 for helping me get over my little confidence crisis.


The customer service in Destination Triumph was brilliant; I still struggle to get test rides on bikes and they were completely happy for me to take their bike out, were genuinely interested in my feedback, didn’t try to sell me anything, and were understanding of my concerns.

Following that cold day in January, the bike hasn’t been out much, I’ve been weekend riding when the weather is acceptable, not going too far and not causing problems. The R1 is due some TLC, I try to get it serviced properly twice a year with a few mini services and valets in between. I have never bothered to learn how to service my own bike, I keep telling myself I’ll do it, but my experiences maintaining my own bike have always ended badly (they are in cartoons, called ‘why I don’t DIY’). This year it needs new tyres, a new chain and sprockets, and as it’s spring it’s time for an oil and filter change and filter and brake clean and thorough once over. I’ve also got some shiny new carbon fibre bits to put on it. I have been telling myself that when I turn 25 I will get a new bike, but if I get new stuff put on it, maybe that will be delayed. Maybe I’ll end up with two bikes.

Last weekend the weather looked nice enough to break out my new gloves. I emphasise that the weather LOOKED nice. It was freezing, we’ve had the ‘beast from the east’ (who thought of that name, seriously?) this week and last weekend was like the introduction, deceivingly sunny, stupidly cold. I bought the new gloves – Knox Handroids, at the Motorcycle Live show in November but hadn’t used them properly since then. A lot of people asked me to let them know what the gloves are like so I wrote a short review.

“These are the current full length Handroids in white.
I bought them because when I first saw them I thought they were seriously cool looking, I did ask, and Knox are not going to make a pink version (☹️) but assured me that white is very pretty, so I went with that. They were very comfortable when I tried them on in the shop, I have size S, they fit beautifully. Actually riding though I find they take a while to get comfortable in, there are a lot of seams inside that press against my finger tips and rub against my wrist where the strap is, but I’m sure these will wear thin in time. Once they’re on they’re not coming off no matter how hard I pull and twist – the strap will go tight round your wrist unlike a lot of glove straps where the Velcro doesn’t go round all the way which prevents you from securing your glove when you have tiny wrists, this is a major bonus on these gloves. The locking mechanism secures the glove further up although I have had trouble with it – at one point it got loose and stopped working – it did get fixed and I assume I just did something wrong when trying to do it up. I’ve also lost the button cover on one of them but I think that’s just a badge and doesn’t effect it. The gloves are quite stiff at the moment, I can fully flex everything, and I’m sure they’ll loosen up with use. Practicality wise I think they’re excellent, there’s no excess Velcro everywhere so they don’t get stuck to things and end up scruffy, aside from the minor issue with the locking mechanism I haven’t broken them yet (and I am extremely careless as a person), and they have already been dropped, thrown, sat on and stuffed forcefully inside a helmet (they do not fit inside a helmet). An unexpected plus is that they kept my hands fairly warm; yesterday was ‘freezing’ and they kept me as warm as my budget winter gloves, which is fantastic – I can use them all year.” *


After that weekend, we had snow, as usual when it snows, England grinds to a halt. I wish I had rolled the bike out for some snow photos but I’m not risking dropping it and not being able to get it back in the garage…

That pretty much sums up my riding in January and February. Work has been busy, as usual. One day I’d love an assistant. Or just someone to kick me off the wifi so I’m forced to work.

Hope you all have a lovely spring, stay off the frozen white stuff.

*Knox glove review was self motivated and not connected to Knox.

Destination Triumph Solent http://www.destinationtriumph.co.uk

#5 Hel Brake Lines

Hel have sent me a brake line kit so that I can try them out and report back to you all.
Today I went for a fairly decent ride despite the ice so I could properly use them.
I noticed immediately after fitting Hel that my braking response was smoother, particularly under heavy braking which I have struggled with in the past. The R1 is a big chunky bike and confidence in stopping quickly is something I have to work on regularly.
Improved braking feedback has helped me to be less snatchy with my front brake. Braking is evenly distributed helping you ride smoothly. It’s also given me more trust in my rear brake – having more consistency in the brake helps me a lot, as I know that when I use it I’ll feel it working, and not accidentally use it too much and cause an accident. If you have bought a new bike or your bike is relatively standard, you will probably find that your brake lines are rubber. Obviously rubber works, but they don’t last as long; under heavy use they will expand and twist out of shape, your brakes will feel spongey and your braking won’t be consistent or as responsive. They’re also dull and boring. Of course I chose pink, they are very bright and very beautiful, but you can have pretty much any colour you want as Hel make them all. Colourful brake lines are an important visual upgrade to any bike, so even if you don’t feel like you need them for better braking, there’s still a good reason to get yourself some.
Hel’s customer service is outstanding, they are on the end of the phone to help you if you’re unsure of anything, on Facebook if you just want a bit of advice, and they will help you out with all your questions. As well as brake lines they have a range of other performance upgrades including callipers, suspension, and glittery stickers.
If you have any specific questions feel free to ask or give Hel a shout if you want to discuss anything with them.


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