Aug 27 2013

Brmm Part III

Category: UncategorizedMarcus @ 11:52 pm

A couple of weeks ago I did half a day’s post-CBT bike training on a small 125cc bike. At the end they recommended seeing if I could trade in the scooter and get a geared bike of my own. I had some spare cash that I was planning on spending on an old banger of a bike after I’d passed my test so I thought I’d investigate. I went back to the dealer I got the scooter from and got a pretty good trade-in on another Chinese bike. 2 weeks after the training, last weekend, I swapped this:

On The Scooter

for this:

New Bike

Same power as the scooter but physically a lot bigger. Definitely a lot more my style as well:

On the bike

So what’s it like to ride? Getting it home was a bit of a baptism of fire because I’d arranged to have a lift back. However that didn’t happen and I had to ride back instead. Through central Leeds on a Saturday afternoon during match day. Fun. The day after I did a few circuits round some quiet streets to get a bit of practice. Gear changing was a bit fiddly and I stalled a couple of times, as well as making the engine scream when I accidentally changed down gear instead of up. On the Monday I practiced a few hill starts and on the Tuesday was my first longish ride (c. 11 miles each way) from Horsforth over to the MAG meeting at a pub in Morley, including the 70 mph Stanningley bypass. After a few more practice rides I rode over to CCL Computers on Saturday (dying hard disk to replace; that was fun). I’ve definitely still got a lot of room for improvement, especially knowing when and how to change down gears, but I’m certainly getting there. There’s an art to sorting out the gears with your left hand and foot while simultaneously dealing with the brakes and throttle with the right, which it feels like I’m getting the hang of. Even though it’s the same power and engine capacity as the scooter, having gears gives more control. It also feels good to be getting the hang of slow clutch control and knowing that you won’t stall when you pull out at lights or a junction. I’m afraid to say I’ve also bought a one piece leather bike suit that I’ve even worn in public, but no one batted an eyelid when I walked round the supermarket with it on.

For Bank Holiday Monday I was going to pop over to Seacroft Tesco to see how busy it was after the Leeds Festival, but ended up continuing over to Squires Cafe Bar via the scenic route of missing a turning and turning right instead of left. A bikers’ cafe on a sunny bank holiday was as busy as it sounds, with almost every possible type of bike there, including a couple of trikes, but only about 4 cars. I also wasn’t the only person there with L plates. I know there’s a bike subculture with things like the motorcycle clubs (MCC style rather than the outlaw MC groups like the Hells Angels or the Outlaws) and which I can see myself getting involved in. I joined the Motorcycle Action Group about a month ago because I wanted to get to know other people into bikes and I can imagine joining one of the local MCCs once I’ve got to know people a bit better.

Next steps will probably be booking another half day’s training to iron out a few things on my 125 cc bike, and then preparing for module 1 on a 600 cc+ one. The test classes changed in January, so now there’s no automatic moving up to a bigger bike class after 2 years like there used to be, and if you want to ride a 600 cc+ bike, you have to take your test on one.

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Jul 01 2013

Brrrmm Part II

Category: UncategorizedMarcus @ 11:04 pm

Last week I did my motorbike CBT renewal. Good to have it out of the way. Before I did it I was a bit nervous of some of the slow speed manoeuvres, specifically the figure 8 and U-turn, so I practised them on the scooter on the flattish bit of road just by where I live. On the day itself I started off on a Honda CG 125:Honda CG 125

Surprisingly I didn’t get on too badly compared to my first CBT 2 years ago. I didn’t quite have the hang of the clutch but I managed to get through the morning’s training OK, including those manoeuvres. Then came the afternoon, with 2 one-hour sessions of on-road training. Unfortunately the first hour didn’t quite go as smoothly: I had a tendency to let the clutch go a bit too quickly and kept stalling. It also got a bit confusing trying to make head or tail of bus lanes and partly hidden turn-offs on Dewsbury Rd in Hunslet. We agreed that it would be better if I spent the 2nd hour on my own scooter so I could get signed off and then decide what to do about further training. Apart from a couple of bits, which I blame on being tired at the end of a very long day, that went a lot better.

Afterwards I had a chat with the chief instructor about what to do next. What I want to do is a week or so of intense training which ends with me taking the full A class bike test on a 600+ cc bike. However, as he suggested, I need to spend a day or so getting the hang of a less powerful bike so I don’t end up in a hedge when I first get on it. Around Hunslet where the bike school is can be pretty busy so I might also see about doing the training at a school in a quieter part of town. Looking around there’s even a bike school based at an airstrip near York, so that might be worth considering. First step though is passing the bike theory test which is booked for a week on Friday.

Something else I noticed is that the combat boots I wore for the CBT were a bit too chunky to feel what I was doing. They weren’t steel toe-capped but I still had to work hard to feel when I was changing gears. Of course I needed some proper motorbike boots, so I ended up getting these understated things:

Motorbike Boots

I also decided to get a leather jacket that matches my leather trousers, so all this is getting pretty serious. I must get a photo of me in the full kit.

After all that it was quite entertaining travelling back home. There’s a lot of roadworks in South Leeds at the moment while Northern Gas Networks installs a new pipe under one of the busiest non-motorway roads in town, which means all kinds of strange diversions. At one junction I had to pull out into two lanes of traffic. Unfortunately there was a broken down car with a police car next to it (presumably shielding it from oncoming traffic) roughly where the red box is:

Blocked junction

As Google Streetview shows, visibility there isn’t brilliant at the best of times so I had to be extra careful. Plus it was rush hour. Meanwhile White Van Man is beeping away behind me because I’ve been sat there for more than 10 seconds. Unfortunately for him, the second time he beeped, the traffic cop noticed and walked over to have A Word. By then the traffic had cleared so I pulled out, trying not to fall off the scooter for laughing. Result!

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May 04 2013


Category: UncategorizedMarcus @ 11:39 pm

In September last year I bought a scooter. I had some spare cash and I’d decided I’d had enough of relying on public transport so it was time to get my own wheels. Only two, but the minimum training requirements are a lot lower than that needed for a car. I like exploring and there’s a limit to what you can do on a mountain bike, especially as hilly as somewhere as Leeds. A couple of weeks ago I rode over to Manchester, out over New Hey Road and back along the A62.By the route I took (and the inadvertent detour via Victoria Rd and the university) it was about 100 miles. Today I rode out to Sheffield and Meadowhall along the A61. I’m on a provisional licence so I’m not allowed on motorways, otherwise it would be a lot faster, both because they have a higher average speed and also because of a lack of traffic lights, speed humps and such like. Part of me is interested in the historical network of roads that were there before the motorways were built. The A62 is the old route from Leeds to Manchester before the M62 was built, and the A61 from Leeds to Sheffield never gets very far from the M1.

One thing about using the non-trunk roads is that you get to see how good (or not) various local authorities are at maintaining them. Greater Manchester, West and South Yorkshire ceased to have county councils in 1986 so they are maintained by smaller metropolitan borough councils. Different places have different approaches to traffic calming and road safety. Wakefield seems to be on another planet when it comes to road markings, with some areas having faded “new” markings next to burnt off “old” ones so it’s difficult to see which is current, and another section having a fairly recently resurfaced road with no markings at all. The road signs are still there (including “get in lane”) so it’s confusing trying to work out what you’re supposed be doing. South Yorkshire also has a lot of “Biker Beware” signs that don’t explain whether bikers should beware of something, or other people should beware of bikers. Helpful. And don’t get me started on utility companies digging trenches along the road, putting pipes in, and then filling them not quite level with the rest of the road so there’s a groove you need to avoid, or face wobbling at up to 50 mph. Being unenclosed and on two wheels really makes you appreciate how the quality of the road surface matters.

Apart from the ride out, I found Meadowhall seems to be mostly women’s clothing shops these days. I went there for a school trip in the early 90s when it had just opened and I don’t remember a lot of how it was back then, but these days it feels pretty tired. Most shopping centres and large town centres are generally just the same shops in a slightly different order. It would make things more interesting if commercial districts were a bit more mixed. Independent shops are OK up to a point, but it would be good to have something else as well. How about shops on the lower floors and offices on the upper floors? Not just the kind of “servicing office worker” type places like sandwich shops, but big high street stores. Maybe have the odd art gallery or live music venue in the middle of the main shopping street as well. If you want to put a real spanner in the works, how about Amazon opening a range of high street shops where you can order and collect, and where they have the most popular items in stock to buy there and then?

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