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…

Advertisements

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 😉

Lost In Neath

My ability to get lost in the simplest of places astonishes even myself… I have successfully navigated round Denmark, round parts of France, most of the UK including the Swindon Magic Roundabout (on the second attempt), but put me in an industrial estate and I have no more directional ability than a drunken gnat.

It was such a nice little idea. Pop down a side road to have a quick water-stop and look at Neath Abbey and the Tennant canal, then back to the A4230 and M&P Swansea. Somebody in Neath Council is a sadistic one-way enthusiast, and this is a TRAP! You can get in but you can never get out. Many heed the siren call of the ruins, but few return to the lands above…Admittedly the signage could have been better but still. There is no excuse for today’s joyful excursion which saw Mike the Bike and I crawl over increasingly potholed tracks until we ended up facing the wrong way in a quarry somewhere near Skewen. At this point we faced a choice of either trying to turn round and go back over the railway lines which stood about 3 inches proud of the surrounding gravel, or push on sideways down a bank of hardcore scree. We chose the sideways option, slithering down on the clutch, both feet and tyres skidding, wishing I’d paid more attention 30 years ago when I went pillion on a dirt-bike.

Shaken, stirred and with slightly looser teeth and bolts we finally made it out of Pothole Hell and straight onto the A465. Which was nice.

Sacking off the whole idea of M&P (and yet another industrial estate) we made for home the long way round, ending with a blast over the heath on full throttle. All 55 mph of it.

On The Road

2 hours yesterday on the road with K for some Mod 2 training. Since we’ve got such a long gap before going up for Mod 1 again we might as well get some road training in 😉

My biggest problem is as always, the bloody nerves! As soon as I get my leg over (no sniggering at the back there) I’m fine, but for 72 hours beforehand I’m a gibbering wreck. My brain is actively trying to kill me. It’s not like I don’t ride most days anyway – why should the rather gentlemanly Suzuki SVF650 (Gladius) be exponentially more scary than Little Mike the Bike? It’s more stable, more responsive, the clutch works, even I can manage the ABS…

Still, as I said, once astride the massive 650 (unrestricted!) I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and by the end of the 2 hour stint was actually getting some real flow going. Well until some oblivious bint simply stopped in the road and reversed at us round a blind bend. I do hope she could hear what K was shouting at her, I missed most of it as the language actually melted my earpiece at that point.

Speaking of which, are those things designed for human ears? Being as I am, completely lopsided, I can only fit it on my right ear, which is of course the ear that doesn’t work so well. Rides with K are a confusing olla podrida of instructions, observations and animadversions upon the parentage of certain other road users interspersed with crackles, bangs, hurricanes and the strange whistling noises he makes when particularly contented. This last noise is always welcome as a sign of his satisfaction in our riding but is a bit like having a large, bald bearded parrot sitting on one’s shoulder.