Monthly Archives: April 2008

What A Week! But Chuffing As Well As Hog

Just in case you think that life and these ramblings have become 100% bike, I’m going to buck the trend this time. However, I do have some bike-related bits to start with.

If you know our fair city of Nottingham, you’ll also know that it sometimes isn’t the most car-friendly place in the world.  However, you can always find somewhere to park a bike, which is one very good reason for having the Yamaha YBR125.

Going back to last Monday, my manager at work, who I’ll call Lynn (mainly because that’s her name), was due to attend the same work meeting as me across the city. Lynn said that she’d bring her car in so that we could go there together. I suggested that we could go on the Heritage Softail, and Lynn jumped at the chance, provided that Sue, my wife, didn’t object to her pillion seat being occupied by another. I duly checked and was given the go-ahead.

Monday dawned and I remembered the spare lid, gloves and neck tube. I arrived at work at the appointed hour to meet Lynn, who phoned in from home, not to bottle out, but to beg a lift from home to the meeting – a rather longer ride. I picked her up from her front door, gave her the usual new pillion briefing; things like don’t lean, let the bike do it; keep you feet up until we get there… Lynn climbed aboard to admiring glances from her teenage son and we set off. By the second street I remembered that Lynn rides horses and uses her knees to hang on – and has she got some grip! A Softail pillion seat is a bit higher than the rider’s seat and her knees and my kidneys were occupying the same bit of space.  At our destination, no more than five miles or across the city, Lynn climbed off and wobbled. She had been gripping me so tightly that she could hardly stand up.

With a slightly revised version of the pillion briefing, the ride back to work after the meeting was a bit more comfortable for both of us.

Let’s fast forward to the weekend.  Saturday was the warmest day of the year so far with warm sunshine all day. It started with a Sherwood Chapter committee meeting at Robin Hood Harley Davidson, followed by a chapter ride-out to the Cat & Fiddle pub at the top of a spectacular peak district pass. Although the ride was very well patronised by Chapter members, Sue and I headed off on our own to another part of Derbyshire; Rowsley South Station of Peak Rail.

We blew out the chapter ride for the outstandingly good reason that we had arranged to meet with Martin Cowling, an Australian trainer and consultant in volunteer management, at the railway. When I met Martin at a volunteering conference last year, we somehow started talking about trains and discovered a mutual interest. I invited him to come to Peak Rail as soon as he could make it, and this was the day.

With the chapter committee meeting having rambled on for a bit longer than I expected it to, we arrived at the railway a little later than we should have to be greeted by a chrus of railway volunteers saying, “There’s been someone asking for you.” For a few dreadful minutes, I thought that we had missed Martin and co, but just as the needs of the inner man took over and my pie and chips from the buffet arrived, our guests were spotted walking down the yard across from the station platform. Once they had arrived on the platform, introductions were made when Sue and and I were delighted to meet Martin along with Rob Jackson, (who is another figure from the world of Volunteering) along with his wife and two young sons. They had already had a trip on the train and a guided tour of the LMS Carriage Association‘s restoration shed and workshop.

While we were talking on the platform the train arrived at Rowsley station where Jackie Statham, the railway’s Joint Managing Director and ultimate volunteer, invited us all into the restaurant car, known at Peak Rail as The Palatine. We were treated to tea and cakes during a ride down the line to Matlock with some special chocoalte cakes for the children. All of our group, very much including Sue and I, enjoyed the experience immensely, but for Martin, it got better still when we arrived at Matlock Riverside station. Jackie asked him if he would like to ride back to Rowsley on the footplate of the steam locomotive.  At first, Martin didn’t seem too keen, but once he realised that this was genuine offer, he was delighted and went off to join the loco crew for the trip back, while the rest of us drank more tea.

On arrival back at Rowsley South, we took a walk down the yard towards the almost-completed engine shed and the Class 37 diesels, where we reminisced for a while about the old Inter City “Swallow” livery. By then, time was marching on and we went our separate ways; Martin flying out to the USA to work, as well as riding on an American railway or two.

I was back at the railway today (Sunday) as guard on the train, but that’s a fairly regular occurence and a fuller story can wait for another day.

Ride Safe
Dave

Men Of Harley Cream Tea Ride

This could have been be the most unlikely title for a series of Sherwood Chapter HOG ride-outs unless you had some understanding of the history. It’s really all the fault of those Ladies Of Harley.

For the past couple of years at least, the LoH have organised and led a series of rides to various venues where the riders and pillions, both female and male, have tucked into that most English of meals, a cream tea.

Ignoring the fact that the only one of these rides that we managed to join last summer, to Tissington in Derbyshire, arrived at the tea room minutes after they had stopped serving food, these rides have always had a great reputation within the chapter. So when the Ladies announced that they would not be organising these rides in 2008, our chapter Safety Officer, Neil Rose, said that he would take them on. So after a quick re-branding exercise, the first Men Of Harley Cream Tea Ride ride took place on a dry, but seriously chilly Sunday in April.

It was quite a good group of bikes that met at Robin Hood Harley-Davidson and left the city of Nottingham heading generally south – east, but took a looping route that ended at Rufford Abbey Country Park, via Newark and Ollerton. Neil seriously considered leading us through a ford at Wellow, but took the sensible decision to avoid the river that was, by all accounts, higher than usual due to the recent rain.

When we arrived at Rufford Park we were welcomed by a sign announcing that car drivers had to pay a fee, yet motorcycles were admitted free. Neil later admitted that he had breathed a sigh of relief as he approached the pay station. After parking up, we made a bee-line for the cafe, not for the refined gentility of a scone with cream and jam, but a large plate of pie and chips and couple of big mugs of tea. Although the weather had stayed dry, it was too cold to sit outside.

The ride home was rather shorter than the outward trip, a mere twenty minutes southwards on the A614 brought us back into Nottingham and the end of an enjoyable afternoon out. Now if we can only get the right weather for the next one, it could be perfect.

Ride safe
Dave

Hoggin’ The Brewery

A great ride is a very difficult thing to quantify, although I am sure that almost all of my my own great rides have all been aboard one of our Harleys. Having said that, my first ever great ride was during my Direct Access course, before I had even passed my bike test!, But that’s another post for another day. There are also some tales waiting to be told of great rides on the Sportster.

However, this ride report report relates to our current bike and will, I hope, appear in the next edition of Sherwood Chapter‘s magazine, Quill and Quiver. Here’s that report…

Hoggin’ The Brewery – Ride Report

Although our Easter Monday rideout has avoided the East Coast for a couple of years, Sherwood Chapter still feels the call of the mountains of East Lincolnshire. People with new bikes, like Sam’s fabulous blue lightning machine and our new Heritage (new to us at least) probably felt that call most keenly.
On the Sunday after we collected our bike from Robin Hood, we joined the assembled throng at the Friendly Farmer at Newark. After an obligatory coffee, Road Captain Sam York led the way down the A17 as we set off in glorious sunshine. This stayed with us for most of the day, defying the weather forecast of sleet or snow showers.

Andy and Vince Fellows joined us at Sleaford, bringing our numbers up to 8 bikes and 13 bodies. We had a great ride down through Boston and out towards the coast, with a left turn in the middle of Wainfleet into the Bateman’s Brewery Visitor Centre. If you’ve been to the Bass Museum (or Coors Visitor Centre) in Burton, Bateman’s is at the opposite end of the brewing spectrum. It is a small, family owned, independent brewery that makes only real ales. The staff were very friendly and welcoming, the brewery tour was excellent, the sample half-pint of XB was really good, the carvery-style lunch was outstanding and the whole visit was most enjoyable.

To cap it all, Sue and I were greeted by some former neighbours from Nottingham who now live in Wainfleet and had gone to the brewery for their own Sunday lunch.

On some rideouts, the ride back home can be a bit of an anti-climax, but Vince’s local knowledge came to the fore as we rode back to Sleaford via some winding country lanes.

Sue and I both thought that it was a great rideout; partly because it was our first chapter trip on our Heritage, but also because the routes, the destination and the company of chapter members worked together to make me want to do this ride again.

Ride Safe
Dave

Our Bikes – Part 4 – Yamaha YBR 125

With the tale of the current commuter bike, this mini-series reaches the end of the road (for now). 

The Yamaha is the replacement for the ill-fated scooter. It has also brought me a little closer to biker credibility than riding a scooter could ever do.

This machine was bought, brand new, from CMC in Daybrook, Nottingham and I have just realised that this was the only bike that we actually set out to buy; all the rest were rather more impulsive decisions.  I do remember saying that I’d like to go for a bike this time rather than a scooter and we agreed that it should be a bike that Sue could learn to ride on. So we pitched up at CMC in March 2006 and wandered around the shop for a while before settling on this red 125 cc machine.

There is very little to say about it really, it does exactly what it supposed to do. It gets me to and from work in all weathers, takes me around Nottingham – and occasionally a bit beyond when work demands it and it has never, in its first year, ever failed to start or let me down in any way. It’s a great little bike.

This bike almost became Sue’s weekend ride, but this hasn’t quite happened yet.

She went on a Ladies Of Harley Try-Out day at a bike school and had a great time. So she decided to go back and complete her CBT (Compulsory Basic Training).  This was, unfortunately, not a great experience for her as she came off the bike while she was still riding around in the riding school’s yard. The front wheel of the bike slipped in a puddle and she landed on the ground with the bike on top of her, bashing her knee and shoulder and taking a big knock to her confidence.

But Sue is no quitter. She went to another bike school, Shires. This was the same school that I did my own CBT and Direct Access course with. Although it took her a couple of sessions to complete the CBT, she got though it late in the 2006 season.

That was when she discovered that our insurance company wanted an arm and a leg to add her to the insurance for the Yamaha. As winter was approaching, we decided not to put her onto the insurance right away, but to review the situation in the spring (if it ever comes!). Meanwhile, Sue has said, several times, that she’s happy to be on the back of the Harley-Davidson for the time being.

I will add a picture of the Yamaha here soon – once I’ve had time to give it a quick clean!

Ride Safe,
Dave

Our Bikes – Part 3 – Piaggio Typhoon

I am probably setting myself up to be the butt of some cruel jokes at the hands of the entire biker community, but I have to confess to liking this little 50cc scooter. It was our response to the increasing cost of bus fares to work and the antidote to the increasing frequency with which I collected parking tickets in Nottingham.

We live about 4 miles from where I work, the other side of four hills, so I put my foot down when it was suggested that I could have a pushbike. We worked out that I could ride a scooter on my car driving licence, so we set out on one of Sue’s fact-finding missions to Midland Scooter Centre in Stapleford where we looked at one or two machines that seemed to be styled for getting granny down to the local shop. There was no way I would ride one of those, thank you.

So I ended up as the proud owner of a red 50cc scooter that I am sure the marketing department at the Italian manufacturer saw as an entry-level machine for teenage lads. I suppose I should have been embarrassed, but I wasn’t. Jo-Jo, as the scooter became known (registration FN 52 JJO), was the perfect machine for that short commute to and from work. In it’s whole life it did very little else than trundle at a maximum of 30 miles per hour between home and work.

I would probably still be riding it now had it not been for one of those SMIDSY accidents that plague far too many riders. Except that the driver of the red Renault Clio who turned right straight in front of me back in February 2006 didn’t actually say “Sorry”. Although the scooter was very badly damaged, I came out of it comparatively unscathed, although the half-dozen sessions with a very attractive young physiotherapist made my bashed knee worthwhile.  I also took some satisfaction from the fact that my helmet shattered her windscreen when I bounced onto the bonnet.

It took the insurance company about a year to pay out, by which time my knee was as OK as it is going to be, the scooter was a memory and it’s replacement had done nearly a thousand miles, mostly on that commute.

I regret that the only photos I have of this loyal and uncomplaining workhorse were taken by Sue on the back of the truck that took it away after the insurance company had decided that it was a write-off.

In Part 4, I’ll introduce the current commuter machine which, you may be relieved to learn, is a proper bike.

Ride safe
Dave

Our Bikes – Part 2 – Heritage Softail

This brings the Harley Davidson part of our story right up to date because, as I write this, we have only had the Heritage for two weekends, although we actually bought it the weekend before, on Saturday 29th March 2008. Sue and I are both members of the committee of Sherwood Chapter and we had been at a committee meeting that morning at the Harley dealers. It had been publicised that there would be a ride out after the meeting which would have seen us aboard the Sportster. However, the British weather ensured that we stayed around to wait for a break in the rain that never really came.

As we wandered around the store, chatting to other chapter members and staff from the dealership, I was repeatedly drawn back to one particular bike. We talked to Nick (the boss) who suggested that we should look at a Road King that had just arrived at the store. Despite the drizzle, we jumped at the chance of a test ride and my first ride on a touring bike was two-up around the streets of Beeston, Nottingham.

We loved this bike at first sight, but Nick had other ideas.

There was a blue Road Glide in the store and that was wheeled out for our second test ride of the afternoon. I liked this machine as well, but Sue wasn’t too keen on the metal bar just in front of the hard panniers on each of these bikes.

That left the brand new Heritage Softail from the stores demonstrator fleet as our third test ride. As soon as I sat on this bike everything just felt right. The ride was little more than around the block, but the grin inside my helmet couldn’t have been any bigger. OK, we were on the fuel-injected six-geared 2008 model, but we had no illusions, a new machine was simply out of our price range. But that ride clinched the deal.  Sue felt as comfortable on the pillion as I did on the front We plumped for the very same machine that I had been drawn to earlier in the day, that 2002 model Heritage in Blue and Silver.

The Heritage Softail

We picked the bike up the following Saturday and rode it into Derbyshire for lunch and a visit to Peak Rail and we joined the chapter ride out the following day, but that’s going to be a separate ride report on another day soon.

Ride Safe
Dave

Our Bikes – Part 1 – The Sportster

It was August 2005 when we decided to get a motorbike. I’d been riding on two wheels (whisper it) on a Piaggio Scooter for a while. But that story will have to wait for another day.

If I remember it correctly, it was almost one of those spur-of-the moment decisions. Sue and I had been into North Wales where we had stayed with some friends and celebrated my birthday. The day after, August 25th 2005, Sue was driving and came into Nottingham via a circuitous route that took us via Beeston. I think I had been making muttering noises for a little while about wanting a Harley-Davidson, but I was still very surprised when she pulled up outside the Robin Hood Harley Davidson store.

We agreed that we would go in and have a look round. At this point, I still didn’t believe that we could afford to actually buy one, but after we had walked round the display of gleaming machines several times, admired the displays of tee-shirts, leather jackets and assorted other essential paraphernalia, Sue pointed at a Green Sportster and said something like, “How about this one, then?”.

The Green Sportster

We had two and a half years of great riding aboard this bike, including the not very wise (with hindsight) decision to ride her (for she was definitely female) through two salt-encrusted british winters. We were never the most enthusiastic bike cleaners, either, so by the early spring of 2008, she was showing some signs of our neglect with signs like a little rust around some of the bolts.

In a future post, I must recount the tale of the Sportster seat, but in Part 2, I’ll introduce the Heritage Softail that replaced our introduction to the world of Harley-Davidson.

Ride Safe
Dave