Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Pillion Passenger

One of the other main reasons for buying a bike as big as the Honda Varadero was that it not only had to munch the miles and be reliable, but it also had to be able to carry a full set of luggage and a pillion passenger.

Not many lower cc bikes would be able to accomplish this so easily.

But first I had to get used to riding the bike myself!

I was a little nervous, not but half as nervous as Kiera on her first outing.

Before Kiera went out on the bike we made sure that she had all the protective gear, to keep her as safe as possible.

She is particularly fond of her brand new W2 boots!

So one Sunday we got all kitted up with the aim of going for a trip around the New Forest.

But first a few practice goes of getting on and off. With the centre stand up I got Kiera used to just climbing on and off. Then I sat on and she got on.

We found it easier if I lent right over the tank as due to a skiing and then a trampolining accident, she suffers when twisting of her knee.

Then I dropped it onto it's side stand and she got on. We found that as long as she does everything slowly we are fine, just don't sit down hard with a thump as it really does upset the balance of the bike!

We eventually set off and I took it nice and slow, taking it steady as I wasn't too sure what to expect myself.

Mind you, the bike itself almost felt as if it enjoyed having the extra weight, it seemed to handle better. With my limited experience I found this rather strange!

We had an hour out and about and through the forest, and on returning it was evident that Kiera was really enjoying the experience.

This was just as well, as a couple of days before we had booked the ferry tickets from Portsmouth to Le Harve as we are planning a trip to Florence Italy for our honeymoon on the motorbike!!!!!!!!

Pre  W2 boots!

We have since been out again, and the smile is still there!

An early Christmas present for Kiera

The Journey Continues...........

Honda Varadero 1000cc 2001

Well, what can I say! A Honda Varadero 1000cc motorbike, I've gone from my little C90 with 8hp and that's on a good day, to the Varadero with a massive 94hp.

It's like chalk and cheese, as you would expect. Do I like it, Oh yes, the raw power and acceleration is unbelievable and truly mind blowing.

It is so smooth, effortless to ride, and I can sit on her for several hours at a time without a problem.

However, she is bloody heavy! Not only that but damn tall as well!

I have now got use to how heavy she is. The very first time I dropped her I had just collected her from the dealers, ridden back to see Kiera at her work, pulled up and over we went!

I have dropped her 4 times now, but none recently. I think I have got used to the weight!

Mind you once was stupid, as I thought I had put the side stand down and hadn't! That was a good one! Not!

I have had it lowered with a special lowering kit. This turned out to be a little bit more expensive than I thought but it worked out for the best in the end.

I bought the lowering kit which is basically a triangular piece of metal which replaces the original one fitted between the monoshock, frame and swingarm. As it is a slightly different shape it lowers the bike by approx 35mm.

This means I can put the balls of both my feet on the ground instead of just tip toes, and with a heavy bike this is needed I can tell you!

The dealer I bought the bike from said they were happy to fit the lowering kit for me, so when the kit arrived I took the bike back and they took it apart.

All fitted, off the ramp and it looked as if it was a bad boy hot rod that had been slammed into the deck! No way was it safe to ride!

At first we thought it was the wrong lowering kit, but on closer examination we discovered that that the monoshock was badly worn and required replacing.

As I had only had the bike a couple of weeks, the dealer said it would replace the shock with a good 2nd hand one, I wasn't entirely happy with this, but let it go. As it was they could not find one and we agreed to go halves on a brand new Ohlin shocker, which I was more than happy with.

I now have the peace of mind that a new part is fitted and with the lowering kit in place I reckon it has dropped around 25mm, not loads, but enough for me to be more confident and comfortable each time I stop!

(Above) New lowering kit fitted.

You can see the difference between the new and the old part.

When it was in the first time I also had the dealer wire in a usb and 12v charger. This is mounted on the handle bars and also wrap around heated grips.

I have only used the heated grips a couple of times, as it has just not been cold enough, but they work brilliantly. It all ready has hand guards fitted which stops the wind and rain hitting straight on, but when switched on they work well. There are two settings, hot and burn your hand hot! I switched onto the 2nd setting and I thought my gloves were melting! So roasty fingers for me even in freezing temperatures!

I also decided to upgrade the Givi panniers. The bike came with two 26l panniers, which to be honest are perfect for commuting back and forwards to work. But I wanted something bigger for when I was off on my travels.

So a call to Rod at Bikers Yard in Christchurch had him ordering a pair of 46l Givi Trekkers which would fit straight onto the rack all ready fitted. Not only that but they would match my top box.

When they arrived I was surprised at how big they were. Absolutely bloody massive!!!!

The bike now has some presence on the road. You cannot fail to see me from behind, I take the whole road up!

In fact they are that big that the first thing I did was buy some red and amber reflectors to fit on them.

I am well chuffed, I did think I would revert to the smaller panniers for day to day riding, but the Trekkers make the bike look so good I decided to keep them on!

I also bought an Oxford magnetic tank bag, as if I didn't have enough storage!

So that completes the luggage set up so far!

I use the bike every day to get me to and from work, appox 16 mile round trip, and I feel I am gaining confidence each time I go out on her. 

It's still a learning process riding a big bike such as the Varadero, and it will be for some considerable time I'm sure. But, I am enjoying it, no matter what the weather.

The Journey Continues.............

Buying A Motorbike - Making My Mind Up

Ebay can get you into all sorts of trouble!

For a few weeks I spent nearly all available spare time researching 2nd hand bikes.

I had decided that I would not be having a sports bike, I'm too old and not of the right build to have my arse up in the air, plus my belly would be resting on the tank too much!

Cruisers are just not my thing, too much chrome. The bike I get would be a work horse, I will not be overly fussed if it gets dirty.
I did think about a Royal Enfield, I love the simplicity and the look, but I also wanted reliability. Sadly this is lacking. If it was just a weekend bike then it may of been a contender, but this bike had to earn it's keep and get me to work every day.

So I had it narrowed down to two types, a tourer or an adventure style bike.

The Honda Pan European was at the top of the list. Honda reliability and a big engine to eat those miles.

But on the adventure style bike it was down to three, Triumph Tiger, Yamaha Tenere or a Honda Varadero.

I had all ready ruled out the BMW GS, not because of the snobbish owners I had come across, but more to do with the cost of them 2nd hand. You are certainly paying for the badge.

I like the look of the Tiger and being British helped the thought process but being rather short in the leg - I'm 5ft 8in ruled out the Tiger. Even with it being lowered it was just too tall.

This left just two bikes. The Tenere and the Varadero. Both would do the job, but in the end there could only be one winner.

I came across a motorbike dealer in Bournemouth who had both in stock and were both within my budget of £3000.

So I arranged to go a look at them both. I still wasn't sure which one was best, I had spent hours researching them both.

On the day however, it was clear which was the better bike. I tried them both, and to be honest there was not a great deal of difference.

However, the Varadero came with a full set of engine crash bars and Givvi pannier racks and a pair of 26l side panniers and a whopping 52l top box.

It also came with a scott oiler with a reservoir pack bolted behind the number plate, a rear hugger and fender extender.

It has done just 31000 miles with full dealer stamped history. So all in all it seemed like a great bike.

So I stayed loyal to the Honda brand and bought it!

The journey continues............

Summer 2015 Direct Access Motorcycle Course

Well a lot has happened over the summer, with very little of it involving Motorbikes I'm sorry to say!

I had 5 weeks off work due to stress, which was not a good place to be I can assure you. But it did give me time to think about where I was heading work wise. Which is where the stress evolves from. So time for a change.

It all seems to be taking a long time, but I will get there eventually. Step by step I will make things happen.

Now, I prefer to call it therapy, but riding a motorcycle is just that for me. Exhilarating, with your senses on overtime, reacting to every twist and turn, the surface of the road trying to catch you out, all makes me very happy.

I have often thought what it would be like to ride a big and powerful bike, "Lucille" is blessed with just 8 h.p. and she has to work had to shift me and my gear around.

With just a provisional licence enabling me to ride up to 125cc and my CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) fast running out. I was undecided what to do.

Do I resit my CBT again, or do I go for it and take a Direct Access course.

Kiera suggested I go for it, and after a bit of thinking about it decided to book a Direct Access course.

I booked with Maverick Motorcycles - Mike Nelson is ex military, so I knew that we would get along fine, I later found out that we both served at Sennelager at exactly the same time, and both new the same people! Small world.

With just a couple of days before I was due to start my course, I managed to do my back in. This meant that riding a bike was near on impossible and very uncomfortable.

But with pain killers inside me, I carried on.

I was very nervous on the first day, not only had I never ridden a bike with a clutch and gears but I was going straight on a 600cc Yamaha!

The first day was spent on a disused airfield going around cones, and generally getting a feel for the bike and how to control this thing that wanted to get away from me at every opportunity!

The next day, we spent the morning at the airfield practising the manoeuvres then we went for a ride out on the open road!

To say I was nervous was an understatement. I struggled with throttle and clutch control, and half the time I had no idea what gear I was in.

I kept going, and it got better.

Now, my back was beginning to ease, and so I was now off my seriously strong pain killers. However, one of the side affects of these is that they bung you up. Now that I had stopped taking them it is a known fact that what goes in at some point must come out!

With my Part 1 Module the next day all was looking decidedly dodgy!

The test is split into two parts, Mod 1 and Mod 2.

Mod 1 consists of various manoeuvres, one of which is a slalom round some cones which has to be done in excess of 30 mph. Easy you say, but not when you are thinking you are about to shit yourself any second.

Thankfully I managed not to fill my trousers and passed, not sure how, as it was all a bit wobbly.

Next day, was my test. To be honest I was not in the right frame of mind, I had to stop twice on the way up and dash to a loo. 

So it was no surprise that I failed my Mod 2 which consists of driving out on the open road.

Failing to make sufficient progress was my biggest fault, and one which as an ex driving instructor I should of been more aware of.

But, these things happen, as disappointed as I was, I put it down to experience. On a positive note, once more I had managed not to shit myself!

My next Mod 2 test was a few weeks later, and I felt a whole lot better about the whole experience.

Thankfully, this time I passed. Again, there were a few iffy moments, but with the correct life saver checks I managed to keep myself out of trouble, which at the end of the day is the aim of the test.

So there I was with a Direct Access pass enabling me now to ride any size bike I like.

If only I had one!

It did feel good to loose the "L" plates off of "Lucille".

We decided that with a wedding looming that we would put off buying a motorcycle as that was the sensible and grown up thing to do.

The journey continues...........