Did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, doing a wheelie

I am in hell. I should have expected this but it’s still mind numbing. Sitting in a certain biker cafe listening to some spod bragging about how he ripped up some circuit on his first try, backwards on one wheel. And probably won the Grand National to boot. Go George.
His mate has just mentioned a make of bike that he likes. Our hero is not impressed. “They’re fucking shit, mun. The nanothrusters only do 10 parsecs to the kiloton. Couldn’t even do the fucking Kessel Run on one of them things” or something like that. I must admit the technical terms are beyond my butterfly brain… No seriously, I have a butterfly brain and no, it’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because I’m me and there are certain software issues.
To return to our sheep, while it’s fun to roll the eyes and tut at young men being young men, (and I’ve known some young women like that mentioning no names younger self…) this kind of macho competitiveness does worry me. This need to be better, faster, madder is almost certainly the reason a biker was killed a few weeks ago on the A470; on the wrong side of the road head on into an oncoming lorry. Such a death is unnecessary and almost certainly avoidable in most situations. I’ve no way of knowing if young Evel Kneivel is a sensible chap who does save it for the track, he may be a paragon of virtue on the road or he may be a bit bat-out-of-hell like the adorable but mad youngster who caught us up on his twist-and-go above Penderyn and claimed he’d had 80 out of it. Both these young men are clearly natural and talented riders and I sincerely wish them all the fun in the world, but lads, really do save it for the track. You’ll live longer and are less likely to face a future on 4 wheels, 2 big ones and 2 small ones, pushed by someone else.

Oh and if anyone did see a Vulcan rider apparently doing kettlebell exercises on the hard shoulder of the M4, there was a bastard spider in my helmet. I saw it crawl across the visor. I’m an arachnophobe and allergic to some spider bites. The potential carnage was unthinkable so I considered it an emergency.

[Also much thanks to the guys at M&P Swansea for adjusting the footbrake. Hopefully LTG will now be able to brake without cocking his leg like an incontinent spaniel]

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You Cataracts and Hurricanoes, Spout

My first actual meeting with the Curvy Riders whilst on a bike! Actually double booked myself but since both meets were in the same place (Owl’s Nest) I just turned up and pointedly introduced myself to people to prove I was there.

I was in two minds whether to go or not, the weather was cold, damp and damn windy. I didn’t realise just how windy until I got on the Briton Ferry bridge on the M4…  I’ve ridden in highish winds before but having to keep up a reasonable motorway speed whilst actively fighting a bike that wants to take a sideways dive into the Tawe was a new experience. Not one I’m keen to repeat soon to be honest. The Vulcan S is lower and heavier and therefore less vulnerable to wind, but then again it’s heavier and therefore a bit harder for me to wrestle when it does decide to take the scenic route. Yes I was going too fast… but then again, it’s one of those lifestyle choices. Keep up the speed and fight the wind, ease off the speed and get rear-ended by Dewi in his race-tuned Impreza. (Yes I saw you, yes you’re a knob.)

I also now have experience of what to do when your back wheel hits a patch of diesel at 70mph at the same time as a gust of wind batters your front one. Scream like a little girl, cling to the bike like a baby monkey and be thankful the bike knows what to do.

Very glad to get off the M4 and potter gently up the A40. Owls Nest not as busy as I’d expected given the Motorcycle Engagement Day on Easter Sunday, but a very impressive turnout of Blood Bikers nonetheless. Probably more of them than actual punters! A small and select gathering of Curvies, Friends and Relations, but it was fantastic to be out with other bikers, shooting the breeze and discussing the best way to restrain someone who is trying to bite your face off. (Basically, dogpile).

Couldn’t face the M4 again, given the Shakespearian weather so decided to follow M and P across the A40 to Brecon and down the A470. They stopped for petrol, I buggered off thinking they’d easily catch up with me but they didn’t and now i feel rude. Only one truly sphincter-tightening moment on the A470 when a gust of wind blew the Vulcan upright again on a 300 degree hairpin, then a 30mph crawl along the side of the mountain while my heartrate went back to normal.

A forced pitstop at Talbot Green for toffee latte and an apple pie, and finally home to a much needed whirlpool bath. I’m sore, I spent most of the day way outside my comfort zone, I bloody nearly bottled it a couple of times, but I’m here and I’ve learned some more about the bike and myself. Keep on buggering on.

The Unnatural Bikers join the club

The Vulcan Riders Association club that is. Yes, I’ve got a patch 😀 LTG hasn’t yet because he’s only an associate member, HA!

We joined up coincidentally just days before the Welsh monthly meeting in Port Talbot so were able to pop along and meet the gang quickly enough. Neither of us are very good with strangers but we were made very welcome and I’m looking forward to doing a load of Vulcan related things over the summer.

It’s amazing how one simple (yeah, dead simple…) lifestyle choice opens up such a big and complex world. We’ve plugged into the global Biker World and it’s stunning. We go out for the day and random people come and talk about bikes, rallies, dogs on bikes, just how tall is LTG anyway, (6’4″ FYI), bikes they used to own, bikes they want to own the list is endless. When I’m out alone fewer people approach me, but that may be down to wariness in approaching a lone female, but if I make the first move most bikers are quite happy to chat.

Now we just have to try and decide who to go out with each weekend, and in particular which one of 4 clubs/groups we intend to do Hoggin’ The Bridge with… Oh the drama…

Time For A Recap

So it’s been a while. Christmas was … difficult, what with illness, injury and general malaise so I’ve been avoiding blogging.

Both Long Tall Gary and I are now fully qualified and licenced bikers, LTG with slightly more panache than me, which in fact formed part of my problem. The day of my Mod 2 I was already deep in the coils of a nasty respiratory infection and asthma attack. Unable to breathe, unable to talk and with a temperature, I shouldn’t have been out of bed let alone on a bike. I really wasn’t feeling it and being the last of 3 meant hanging around the test centre for 2 hours before I got on the road. In the event I passed by the skin of my teeth, and only because I ‘fessed up to my own shortcomings and vowed to work on them for ever. This left me with a sense of unearned achievement which has taken a couple of months to subside. Still, a pass is a pass and smells as sweet as any rose by another name. Or something.

On top of that LTG was taken off the bike by a senile old fool whose only defence was “there was nothing there”, which is certainly a variation on “SMIDSY”… That “nothing” was in fact 19 stone of hairy Scouser and a bright red lump of metal, who they then left lying in the road while they went into their own house, leaving a kindly neighbour to pick him up out of the gutter. It being Xmas and New Year and New Year aftermath it took 5 weeks for the bike to come back to us (£900 worth of repairs), by which time it had run out of tax and MOT. Once that was sorted out the demonic entity known as Lucky Dave the Black Cat somehow led me to a hairline fracture tripping down the stairs, which led to another 2 weeks bikeless. Aaaand breathe…

Howsomever, as an antidote to all the doom and gloom we have been on a shopping spree. We are now the proud parents of Vanessa the Vulcan S, a symphony in matt black and subtle green trim. Here she is with little brother Mike The Bike at Verdi’s in Mumbles:

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Our first ever Biking Badgers of Bridgend Ride Out!

I was very nervous about riding the Vulcan at first, the feet-forward position, and the long-reach bars just looked too much, but I have to admit, teething troubles aside she handles like a dream. The low-ride position and low centre of gravity gives an incredible sense of stability, and she corners like silk, even at incompetent badger speeds and handling. It can be hard NOT to corner; I had to restrain myself from swooping joyfully about the M4 like a demented swallow. Running-in is frustrating, the temptation to just let ‘er rip is almost overwhelming, but patience, we are told, is a virtue. My biggest worry is when returning to little Mike the YBR125 Custom, I’ll be trying to corner like I’m on the cruiser and cruise spectacularly sideways into a hedge…

The Unnatural Biker is back on the road.

Road Rage

Most of us have experienced road rage in some form or another. If we’re totally honest most of us have felt it more than once. I myself have had one or two screaming matches in my time. I even followed a lorry driver I believed had nearly taken me off the bike, punched his cab door and shrieked at him for 5 minutes solid. I lost my voice. But I have NEVER deliberately run into someone, nor physically attacked a person, particularly not someone on a motorbike.

This unpleasant little story popped up on my Facebook feed just now. Basically, (male) biker tells off (female) car driver for texting and driving. She chases after him and knocks him off at the next lights, slaps him and chucks his helmet into the road. He gets his bike and helmet written off, she gets a 12 week suspended prison sentence, and pays £1,290 in fines and compo. Nowhere near the value of the bike and gear, I’m guessing…

Her solicitor claimed she had previously experienced domestic violence, and that the (male) biker “must have said something significant for her to respond in this way”. Sound familiar? Maybe he was Asking For It? Maybe he Shouldn’t Have Been There?…

I am a feminist, I believe it’s a necessary thing to be even now, but more importantly I am an Equalist. Had the genders been reversed, and a male car driver deliberately ran a female biker off the road I imagine the response would have been much harsher, particularly after the additional physical assault, and such a response would be entirely justified. It’s the softly softly response that is unjustified here.

I have experienced relationship violence, both mental and physical, I also have well-documented mental health issues. If I ever lose control of my mental state to the point of physically attacking strangers and attempting to kill them just for criticising me then I will need serious psychiatric help. It may be a reason for my behaviour but I do not see it as an excuse. If this woman really has such deep-rooted problems then she too needs to get some help. If he’d physically threatened her it might be different but it seems that wasn’t the case. This kind of argument actually weakens us all – it feeds into existing prejudices and hardens attitudes without offering any real solution.

TL:DR Don’t try to kill each other on the road, there’s no excuse for it no matter what gender (or none) you are.

The Adventure Continues…

We’ve done a few Mod 2 rides but last Friday was the first official post-Mod 1 session. Naturally we picked the day on which Hurricane Abigail was giving way to Hurricane Kate in order to get the very best of the wind and rain.

J suggested we might like to only do 2 hours instead of the projected 3 but we are hardcore and decided to stick with it. The day started well with me unable to turn the bike into the wind whilst warming up on the track and just got better from there, really.

I think I mentioned before that not all Gladiuses are created equal and yes, I ended up on the one I struggle to control. It’s been lowered again which is good, I can at least see the floor now, but it’s very twitchy on the throttle and the back brake resembles a snapping crocodile. Still, good practice for my clutch control.

Dear old K is a total speed freak and seemed blithely unaware of my squawks of distress as the Black Widowmaker and I squirrelled along the exposed A48 with him bellowing, Clarkson-like “MORE POWER!”. Still, we made it into Bridgend unscathed and proceeded to explore the environs, both salubrious and otherwise. Safe to say I have reached the parts of Bridgend other people don’t reach. I can’t tell you where they are because i think we actually completed a Mobius strip at one point and entered another dimension. A cold, wet, windy dimension.

Two and a half hours later we emerged again, only to encounter my worst nightmare. Exposed roads, gale force winds and mud all over the fecking road. Elegant riding blew away on the breeze as we concentrated mainly on staying on the road and vertical while riding through something that looked like Glastonbury on Day 3.

After ripping us to shreds and remarking once again on our unnaturalness, K was uncharacteristcally kind and admitted that if we could ride like that one a day like that, then we should get through Mod 2 with minimum fuss.

That said, if next Friday shows similar weather I might postpone training in favour of a duvet and Netflix…

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This blog was supposed to be just about “fun stuff” y’know? Biking, baking, braiding and beading like it says on the front end. It wasn’t going to be political, or religious or sexual.

But then Paris happened. And Beirut. And Baghdad. And I felt I had to get some thoughts out there. Remember these are thoughts, they are my thoughts, I don’t expect them to be your thoughts. They may well be quite confused thoughts too…

I should start by saying I am not a Christian, or a Muslim, or Jewish, or indeed any of the major world religions. I was brought up in a strongly Christian household, thankfully by parents who taught us how to think and make our decisions. If you really want a label then I’m an Eclectic Humano-Pagan Atheo-Agnostic Witch. I believe we live and learn by living, learning and listening, to each other and to the world around us. I don’t follow any Book or Dogma (not strictly true – see end of this post to see my favourite Words*) I don’t know whether I do Right or do Wrong, but I try to do what I have to do to fill my place in the World.

I’ve met good Christians and bad ones and I’m extrapolating from that that there are good Muslims and bad ones, good Jews and bad ones, good Sikhs and bad ones etc. because we are all human we are good and bad together.

However as an EHPAAW I differ from all of these religionists in one big way. Whatever I do, and whatever consequences occur, it is all on me. My choice, my responsibility, I have to live with it. There is no God telling me to kill in His name, no God telling me who to hate, not even a Devil “telling me to do it”. What a luxury to be able to hide behind such impressive beings? One can live as a child behind its mother’s skirts, never feeling the consequences of one’s actions, because of course, they are not truly one’s actions.

All the Holy Books contain much that is good, but they also contain much that is confusing, ambiguous and occasionally downright wicked. The Faithful are told to show mercy, be kind, be joyful, they are also told to kill, to destroy, be vengeful, particularly to unbelievers – sometimes in the same verse… We have free will to interpret these verses as we will but it’s a sad thing that “cherry-picking” so often leads to humans choosing to use only the vengeful words rather than the merciful words. All the Holy Books can be used to justify anything humans can contemplate, from St. Francis of Assisi to Fred Phelps, from the gentlest Sufi to Jihadi John, and indeed they are, every day.

And it always struck me as divinely coincidental how often God’s Will chimes so perfectly with what people want to do. How often do you find someone choosing to follow Matthew ch.19 v.21: “ Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me”. I mean, that would just be silly, you’re taking it out of context and you have to remember this was written in a very different time when values were different and what Jesus really meant was…

What I’m working my way round to saying is that people should stop hiding behind ancient Words that may or may not have been inspired by a Deity, because either those words have been so hopelessly lost in translation that they have no bearing on humanity, or the Deities involved were psychotically insane and deserve to be shunned. If you must cherry-pick the verses, choose to cherry-pick the humane, kind, joyful, inspirational ones.

You are the light of the world, shine brightly, do not allow anyone, God or Mankind, to dim your flame.

It is better to light a candle than to scream in the darkness

It is better to light a candle than to scream in the darkness

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927