Summer: What Was All That About, Part 2

Having a full quota of serotonin in my head for the first time in about 25 years, now means I can view my obsession with motorcycles as tantamount to a drug addiction with similar negative consequences for the external circumstances of one’s life.

I don’t wish to be melodramatic: I’m not on about criminality or anything that extreme.

Watch this video of the great Italian sprinter Mario Cipollini on the Ghent-Wevelgem in 2003, throwing water bottles (bidons) at a commissaire on a motorbike who commits a bit of a no-no:



I saw this last night and thought yes, this is a metaphor for the Damascene conversion I’m undergoing. Especially the bit later on where one of the outriders decks it and the cyclists zoom past imperiously and contemptuously.

Bullseye…

Summer: What Was All That About?

So I restarted this thing, redesigned it to reflect a certain semi-pro status, put a few new posts up, and then shortly after that I got involved in a big freelance project which took up all summer and that hasn’t seen the light of day yet so I can’t talk about it. Not yet.

Thing is, it isn’t even about motorcycles.

I haven’t even thought about motorcycles all summer, which is why the ‘gram feed dried up temporarily just like a dry wadi in the desert. Add some other life-related factors to the mix and a certain clarity developed over this summer just gone which has caused me to want to diversify and do some new stuff.

It’s a change that’s overdue to be quite honest.

So don’t be surprised if you start seeing stuff on here that is nothing to do with motorcycles. Is that heretical? Am I questioning the faith?

Yes.

Am I going to get all New-Agey on your arse?

Bloody hell no.

I thought about deleting the entire contents of this blog and starting from scratch, but I’ve put a lot of effort into this thing over the last five years, and it is basically a bit of a CV so to delete it would be churlish and self-defeating.

So this is still going to be a bike blog. The clue is down there in the right-hand column.

6tag-1499130131-1255261213357641906_1499130131

Barry Sheene – Suzuki RGV500

Only Barry Sheene would get away with blagging a quick go on Kevin Schwantz’s Suzuki RGV500 despite the inconvenience of not having any suitable leathers with him at the time. Only Barry Sheene would have still considered the possibility.

What a legend.

Location: unknown. Time: circa 1988. [pic: Instagram/@petrocamp]

6tag-1499130131-1255261213357641906_1499130131

 

 

DSC01211

From Our Cuba Correspondent…

Moto-travel-writer and unofficial Royal Enfield Ambassador Jacqui Furneaux contacted me last week. I got to know Jacqui through my former tenure as editor of The Rider’s Digest. She sent me some pictures of some bikes she’d seen during a recent three-week trip to Cuba, which was ostensibly for a friend’s wedding, but was also about fitting in the obligatory cultural investigation with the now-mandatory theme of ‘Cuba Immediately Before Its Rehabilitation’ [1]; and by chance attending the free Rolling Stones gig that also happened in April.

Now let’s talk about the bikes.

Everybody is familiar with a certain well-documented aspect of Cuban transport infrastructure, namely the incredibly imaginative methods of vehicle maintenance that were employed during the country’s trade-embargoed Soviet client-state period which saw, among many other examples, ancient American cars dating from the Batista era being re-engined with Lada powerplants; shampoo being used as brake fluid etc.. etc..

Jacqui found the motorcycle equivalent:

DSC01200

This is a bike of unknown provenance (either Russian/Eastern Bloc or possibly even homebrew?) fitted with a Lombardini lawn mower engine!!!

DSC01202

 

DSC01204
Lombardini is an Italian manufacturer of industrial engines, not bikes, so this is deffo off a lawn mower. The engine appears to have been mounted vertically by tilting it through 90 degrees, so its belt drive is now connected to a gearbox of some kind instead of a lawn mower blade. That’s where my knowledge ends, so if anybody can deduce what else is going on here then shout out.

You won’t ever see anything like this in our part of the world, because our disposable society negates the necessity and because nannying governments wouldn’t permit it. The only way this could exist in the West is in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

This is a Mad Max bike.

Thanks to Jacqui for sending me the pics. Check out her website here.

[Sidebar: extra kudos to Jacqui for spotting the Cuban equivalent of the biker’s burger van in the background of the first image above (the blue caravan)]

* * *

Footnote:

[1] Everyone is expecting Maccy D to appear in the centre of Havana any minute as a result of Cuba’s recent and undeniably historic re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the USA. Let’s maintain some perspective: the trade embargo still exists and ‘is unlikely to end soon’. On the other hand, if a Maccy D can appear next to the infamous Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin as the ultimate expression of capitalism’s ‘victory’ in the Cold War, then anything can happen…]

WP_20160130_16_47_41_Pro

A Bike’s Place Is In The Kitchen

Last month, in the run up to a massive curry + beer session at Mark’s place, he made a sudden and unprompted announcement:

“Let’s go and see my mate Dave who’s got three Ducatis in his kitchen!”

#WTF??

Sure enough, half-an-hour later, we were in the Derbyshire wilderness and stood in Dave’s kitchen looking at this:

WP_20160130_16_46_00_Pro

WP_20160130_16_46_55_Pro

WP_20160130_16_46_41_Pro

and this:

WP_20160130_16_44_21_Pro

and then this:

WP_20160130_17_04_41_Pro

I know nothing about old Ducatis, but I know it makes perfect sense to keep bikes inside the house because it just does and you just can’t argue with it, no matter what women say…

P1080827

2015 British F2 Sidecar Championship @ Anglesey Circuit – 25/7/15

Last summer Mark and I took a road trip to the End Of The World a.k.a. the island of Anglesey off the North Wales coast. This virtually treeless windswept island is home to a nuclear power station, the shortest ferry to Ireland, an RAF base, and one of the best circuits in the country in the form of Anglesey Circuit. This circuit has easily the best scenic backdrop of all the circuits in this country and is regarded as the Northern Hemisphere’s Phillip Island because it has a similar view of the sea (estate agents would call it a ‘maritime aspect’).

The racing community also raves about Anglesey Circuit even though it is not very long, and also despite international-status events like the British Superbike Championship being prevented from coming here because the circuit has only one entrance and exit (public safety regulations, fire, ambulance etc.).

The reason we made the trip was for a fact-finding mission on what might have become Project Sidecar if the stars had aligned properly over the winter, which they didn’t [/fail]. It was still a great trip because there was Asahi, a tent, a track-walk at 01:00 (with a torch) after a lot of that Asahi; a righteous and hangover-curing fry-up in the circuit’s cafe in the morning and another one at lunchtime; and a lot of serious chairs action in the form of the British F2 Sidecar Championship (the subject of the fact-finding mission). What was so awesome about this was the presence of so many quality riders in the entry list including TT winners John Holden and Conrad Harrison, World Sidecar Champion Ashley Hawes and chassis-builder Tony Baker on his own eponymous Baker outfit, all of whom were polite enough to tolerate us fanboyz hassling them in the pit garage 10 minutes before their own race when they would have been within their rights to tell us to fuck off…

This is club racing at its absolute peak. How many other circuits in the world have an ambient setting like this, supplemented by weird quasi-medieval Methodist architecture and ex-WWII pillboxes?

IMG_3979

The Gixxer Build: Part 5 – Finale

Below is the culmination and end-result of a project that began in 2011, specifically Marky Mark’s Suzuki GSX-R600 build that started out as a kit of parts strewn around his flat-dweller-mandated lock-up garage in Bramhall (the former ‘Area 51’) and finished up as a complete bike on display at what is now his country estate in Hyde.

It was quite the journey.

The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place when Mark, Gino and I were at the Motorcycle Live show at the NEC. I saw a set of gold-coloured OZ alloy wheels on sale that drew me in like sirens of speed. Re: gold wheels – anybody with even half a sense of style knows they look good on any bike that is either black (think John Player Special), dark blue, red, Italian, German, or has a large engine (Ducati 1098, Kawasaki ZZR-1400, BMW K12/13 etc.).

Gold wheels, for lack of a better word, are good. Gold wheels are right; gold wheels work; gold wheels clarify, cut through, and capture the essence of motorcycle style.**

So when I saw these circular temptresses at the show, I decided there and then that if I couldn’t have them, then Mark was damn well going to get them for the Gixxer, as it would not be a finished bike until it was so. The obscene cost was irrelevant. There are far more important things in life than money.

Now, it’s finally done. The universe is in balance:

IMG_4082

I’d always read that one of the best value-for-money upgrades you can do to any bike is putting magnesium alloy hoops on it, because it offers such a massive instant hit of handling and steering improvement through weight reduction. Also, with the amount of other bits on this thing, retaining the standard steel Fred Flintstone wheels would be an insult.

Of course like all performance upgrades and improvements, fixing one thing unlocks the door to a new set of issues that were previously masked by the shroud of crapness. In this case, vastly reducing the Gixxer’s unsprung weight caused the whole suspension to require readjusting.

For a full explanation on that, it’s over to Mark:

Ok, the Gixxer:

I took the beast out to Mallory Park following a full-on weight loss programme over last summer. If truth be told, it was a weird experience. The morning was basically a full wet session and I was a  touch rusty from not doing any track riding for a stretch. I did notice a very small reduction of weight when accelerating and braking but noting to write home about. It is still significantly lighter than the 169kg as standard but when I put the new OZ wheels in once the track had dried it became a totally different riding experience altogether.

IMG_3981

It really was a totally different bike, I had to change the gearing, change the suspension (front and rear), adjust my riding position, my braking points were fucked up and where I turned in was often far short of where I was turning in earlier. What was really startling was how much I could make up just under braking. It turned in so much faster and before I knew it I was running over the inside kerb. How I exited a corner was also affected and once I got used to the new wheels the bike was revving-out faster. This made the quickshifter’s time-lag too long between gearchanges so this will need sorting on a rolling road.

IMG_3982

I think having titanium rotor bolts and titanium parts in the unsprung areas of the suspension and the new wheels means the suspension doesn’t have to work as hard either. I had to stiffen up all the suspension and alter the Ohlins steering damper a couple of clicks. The experience was amusing and although this bike is no longer eligible to race due to it not meeting homologation rules, it is an awesome experience. Formula 600 rules exclude wheels like these and yet modern stuff has 20bhp+ more?! It would make a bit more sense allowing this modification when racing new machinery (as long as they don’t follow suit!) and in my opinion would make it more of a level playing field…

IMG_3980

* * *

For the full story on this build and all the previous entries on it, click here for the full index.

[**after Gordon Gekko’s famous quote in Wall Street, but you knew that didn’t you..?]