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]

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:

2bikes

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.

What the…

We’ve only been and gone and done it! One minor each for myself and Long Tall Gary but otherwise straightforward Mod 1 passes!

Success

It’s taken me a few days to post because I’m still slightly in shock. Living as I do with near permanent anxiety, the added stress of testing did something odd to my brain. Ever since the theory test back in May I’ve had Mod 1 hanging over me like a big crashable cloud. Failing the first attempt didn’t help the nerves even though it didn’t really upset me all that much.

Unlike the first attempt we didn’t have to ride the test bikes all the way to Newport (in the rain), so we went in pretty much cold, just 4 quick slalom and figure of 8s in the car park then off to the test centre. I don’t remember what I’d said but the lovely J who books the tests had very kindly put me in first “by special request” so I didn’t have to wait around panicking . In spite of that by the time we were sitting in the test centre I was on the point of vomiting with nerves, hyperventilating and shking. Is this normal? Probably not but for me it is and I hate it it. No amount of deep breathing, visualising, pain distraction or wood touching makes any difference. As soon as I stop doing those things I can almost feel my adrenal glands squirting their little guts out, squeaking delightedly as they do. Little bastards…

I’m not so good at recognising my own achievements but I am trying hard with this one because it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in a very long time, certainly the hardest thing I’ve ever done voluntarily. Bearing in mind I am “not a natural biker”, let us count the ways:

  1. Going into the test pretty much cold, 10 minutes prep immediately before the test. Usually it takes me longer than that to settle onto the bike
  2. The bikes used in training are supposedly identical, but in fact they’re not. I’m sure a more natural biker would barely register the differences and just adapt but I’m still clunky enough for it to make a difference. The bike we ended up using for the test wasn’t the “best” bike… The throttle is less smooth, and it needs slightly more revs to stay upright, the handlebars are fractionally further forward and the rear brake ABS kicks in more forcefully
  3. The weather was foul…

But i coped. We both did. That we did so in spite of difficulties speak volumes for the amount of work we’ve put in, and the fantastic training we’ve had from Vale Moto.

We start our official Mod 2 training on Friday, will the L-plates come off before Xmas? Watch this space xx

Riding along On My Automobike…

Today we have mostly been, pottering. You know those days when you know you want to go out on the bike but you don’t know where and nowhere seems to fit? So you just set off and potter.

I had a couple of errands to run, delivering a birthday present to my BFF (massive brownie points) and a trip to the post office, but apart from that there was no idea of being anywhere in particular. Initial thoughts of going to Cowbridge to look at crystals and unaffordable tie-dye blew away on finding that particular emporium closed several weeks ago (what is a hippie biker to do?!?) so we found ourselves in Llantwit Major.

That where things got interesting. I tried to find the back way out of Llantwit and missed. I found myself on the road to St. Donats and Marcross, a wonderland of autumnal tree tunnels, winding lanes and spectacular little Welsh hamlets nestled in grey stone under the trees. I’ve driven those roads before, I’m sure but biking gets you into the heart of the landscape in a way a car never can.

Most people associate Wales, particularly South Wales with heavy industry – coal, iron, copper, steel and The Valleys. It’s easy to forget living here just how little of Wales is industrialised, or indeed populated. The part of Shropshire I grew up in is formed by the last convulsion of the Cambrian Mountains as they slide gently into the plains of Mercia. It’s also a part of England/Wales that veered between the two countries for generations, depending  on which king was ascendant, something which has left its mark on the accent and outlook. This outlook coupled with the relative proximity of North and Mid Wales beaches for weekends and even day trips led to a feeling of familiarity and comfort associated with North Wales that I must admit I haven’t felt as much here in the South. Riding up to Brecon, or even to Carmarthen brings something of a “coming home” feeling as the scenery changes to something more indefinably Northern – I hadn’t even noticed this until starting to ride rather than drive.

However, today’s little jaunt threw a couple of little Welsh gems past my visor, a reminder that there was and is a South Wales outside the industrialisation and urbanisation. You just have to get out there and find them, preferably on a motorbike 😉