Bristol Bike Theft Awareness Ride – Sunday 16/9/18

The Bristol Bike Theft Awareness Group organised a ride last year to raise awareness of the crime problem in and around Bristol. That run, with over 700 bikes, was a huge success.
Interestingly one local lad who may or may not be connected with bike thefts ‘attempted to disrupt’ that run and was arrested on the day.

From the Bristol Bike Theft Awareness group’s Facebook page;
Last year was the first ride and a real game changer.
•The Police saw the numbers that turned out in support.
•The local non biking community saw a cause and got behind it.
•Within hours of the ride 4 people had been arrested followed by several others over the following weeks.
•Police, Crime Commissioner and councillors committed to addressing the issue of bike theft making it a policing priority.

This year’s ride (Sunday 16/9/18) took place partly at the request of Avon and Somerset Police (there’s a shocker!) who have been working with the bike community. Unfortunately Bristol City Council seems to have been less keen.

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees had resolutely ignored the issue and all contact from anti theft groups. This stony silence was so loud that a letter writing campaign was organised encouraging people to contact Bristol Council and the Mayor (wording copied below) to request dialogue.

Dear Mayor Marvin Rees,

It has come to our attention that a close friend and campaigner for bikers rights and community safety has been trying to contact you for quite a while, you have shown him not one shred of respect to even bother to reply to him let alone agree to talk about this issue that is happening in your city.

We the biking community and public of Bristol have a massive problem, one that you as Mayor of this great city should be taking a lot more seriously, you are allowing a city to turn into a lawless place and I as well as the whole of the community do not want to see it end up like London and fail to protect the very citizens that keep this city running.

We are not asking for much we merely want to be able to express our concerns to you and discuss how you can help us volunteers to tackle this massive theft problem, hopefully together we can prevent the violent attacks that are happening on what seems to be a daily basis in other cities across the U.K.

If you are willing to take note of what is happening around you and willing to talk to us even if it’s a telephone call it would mean a great deal to us and most likely the community that put you where you are today, please get in contact with one of us and lets work together and make this city a safe place again for all of us.

Many thanks

The original plan for this year’s run had been to meet at the Park and Ride carpark outside Bristol. But Bristol City Council insisted that a fee of £20,000 be paid for the use of it. You might think the city would be interested in showing off their lovely park and ride scheme to a group of people who have such an interest in transport but no. They wanted twenty thousand fucking quid.
It’s almost as though they don’t want us around.

2018-09-16 10.01.58

A couple of private enterprises stepped in to make up for Bristol City Council’s obstructive attitude and this year’s run attracted another large group of riders to Asda’s Patchway carpark.
Bikes gathered, the media was there to interview the organisers, police representatives and people who have had their bikes nicked.

After a quick intro and safety talk from the organiser the group set off on a secret route through Bristol.
It was great to see so much variety. Mopeds, Vespas, Supersports, adventure bikes, Harleys, enduros and hard core commuters all riding together.

I’ve never seen a ride so well organised! The pace was slow, no one was in danger of getting left behind. Marshalls moved ahead of the group and sat on every junction to make sure no one got lost and followed up at the rear to look after any potential breakdowns.

Riding en masse through Bristol was a great vibe. The locals looked enthusiastically puzzled and took photos, children waved and cars beeped, surprisingly, in support.
The group clogged the city centre for some minutes but no great inconvenience was caused to anyone. As a public awareness event it was very successful.
Heading out of Bristol the ride pulled over to regroup and for what turned out to be a vape-and-selfie break. How very modern.

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The route had been kept secret for a couple of reasons and a motorcycle mystery tour turns out to be a rather enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Maybe it should happen more often.

Here’s a funky little vid

The group headed off through some of Bristol’s outer fringes and then back in to the final destination, Ashton Gate football ground’s car park for an excellent but expensive hot dog.

It’s the little things that stick in your mind. The organiser (who’s name I still don’t know) shook hands with every single rider on the way into the car park before grabbing the mic to thank everyone for coming.
He mentioned that again this year another gentleman had been detained for trying to interfere with the run.

The Finish Line

There was one last development on the day. In the evening it was announced that an email had been received from Mayor Marvin inviting some discussion of the city’s bike theft problems. Either the letter writing campaign had worked or maybe Marv had got stuck in traffic surrounded by motorbikes.

It was a great event with a good atmosphere. Big thanks from me to the organisers and marshalls for doing such a great job and to Asda and Aston Gate for stepping in where Bristol City Council feared to tread.

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Thanks Yamaha!

I got a postcard from Yamaha a couple of years ago. It invited me to one of their free events at Castle Combe racetrack. Basically a big sales display for various manufacturers including Ducati and Yamaha. Test rides and attractions were promised but one thing caught my eye, the wheelie machine!
I’ve never had the balance, physical coordination or confidence to be able to pull a proper wheelie but always wanted to. And I’ve always been too scared of trashing my bike so this was ideal for me.
I grabbed my mate Tarquin on the day and went up to the track. There were lots of visitors’ bikes to ogle, displays stands from accessory manufacturers. A highly entertaining stunt display rider was burning rubber and thrashing the living daylights out of an MT-07, MT-09 and quadbike. We watched that and I joined the queue for the wheelie machine.
If you haven’t seen this it’s dead simple, there’s a bike on a stand, the rear axle has been extended and anchored into metal brackets. There’s a metal cylinder under the rear wheel, the wheel rotates driving the cylinder round. The bike’s rigidly held captive so it can’t fall over or go anywhere but the front end’s free to go up and down. A tether stops it from falling over backward.
Sounds great, jump on and rip the throttle open and wheelie in place right? Well no, the physics of it don’t work quite like that. Out on the road the gentle art of wheelieing is the result of sudden forward acceleration, lift and control from the rider. Once the bike’s up there the rider needs to control the throttle very precisely to hold the bike upright. Tiny adjustments to speed using the throttle keep the bike at its balance point.
On Yamaha’s rig if you open her up then the cylinder under the rear wheel just goes round faster and the bike just sits there. So how does it work? Dead simple. There are handles on the front axle and the boys and girls running the attraction physically lift the bike up. Once vertical it’s up to the rider to control the throttle to try and balance the bike.

Long story short, I got on the bike, in this case an orange MT-09, put the headset on and took instruction from the lad in charge. They hoisted me up in the air and I was absolutely shit at it. I couldn’t get the balance or control right and it was genuinely scary sitting on a bike that’s vertical and feeling like I was going to fall off backwards. Maybe if I practised 18 hours a day for a couple of decades I might get the hang  of it.

That wasn’t my most vivid memory of the day.
The wheelie machine isn’t a fairground ride. There are forms to fill in before you’re allowed on it. When the queue moved on and it was my turn a lovely young lady gave me the papers and pen. There was a tiny folding camping table to rest the forms on, it was about a foot high. I didn’t have my reading glasses on so I was down on one knee peering closely at the paper. I was chatting to the girl as I was ticking the boxes. She was wearing a rather low cut black tee shirt and a pair of padded black gloves.
‘Why the gloves?’ I asked as I was writing.
‘They’re so I don’t get burned on the bike’s exhaust.’
‘Ahh you do the lifting as well?’
‘Yeah. And to protect these’ She said.
I was still stooped over writing  as two gloves landed next to the paperwork followed by two dainty hands laid flat on the table one each side of the form, fingers spread out to show me her beautifully decorated fingernails. She’d had to bend down to put her hands on the table.
This took me by surprise and I suddenly looked up to find a massive creamy white cleavage a quarter of an inch from my nose.
In a quavering voice all I could manage to say was ‘Uhhhmmm they’re lovely’

Goddammit I mean the nails.

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Mini Adventures

I don’t often get time to go on proper trips and life’s too unstable to make concrete plans. I get out whenever I can and just lose myself for an afternoon. Even in November it’s worth it. There’s always something to see.

Mud mainly2017-11-26 14.14.22

The weather might not be great but the views are still good.2017-11-26 14.22.21

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No sign of the driver but the radio was still on.2017-11-26 14.39.09

Cheddar Gorge, this isn’t out of the ordinary.2017-11-26 14.37.31

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I Stand Triumphant

I came back to motorbikes in 2012 after a long absence by buying a fifth hand SV650. Naturally I had to go and buy some stuff to go with it. New helmet, jacket, waterproofs, chain lube the usual shopping list. That meant going to a bike shop which of course meant looking at other bikes. The first time I sat on a Triumph Tiger 800 it felt like slipping on a pair of tailor made gloves. It was the first time I’d sat on a bike that actually fitted my physique. I didn’t want to get off I just wanted to beckon a salesdude and say ‘Bring me the paperwork, I’m not getting off this till I get it home.’
Alas I didn’t have the funds but I decided that I needed a Tiger. It’s a pretty sensible, versatile, go anywhere, do anything long range kind of bike and I really wanted to travel a bit.
I started saving with the idea that I would eventually waltz into the dealer and order a new Tiger with all the trimmings and I’d never need to buy another bike again for a very long time and live happily ever after.
But life doesn’t work out like that and I got made redundant. Twice.
When the work situation picked up again in 2014 the SV was on its last legs and I needed reliable transport in a hurry. I couldn’t afford a Tiger so I bought my beloved MT-07 from new, partly because of the cost and reported economy but also because it’s so amazing. The MT surpassed all my expectations of performance and low running costs and I still love it to this day.
Fast forward to January 2017 I’d caught up and paid off all my debts, collected about 5% of the redundancy money I was owed and saved up a bit. 

I’d had the MT for two and a half years, all of which had been fantastic fun. But I’d proved to myself that it isn’t a tourer by covering 550 miles over three days and pretty much killing my arse. I still wanted to travel further by bike and was looking around for something that would take me a lot further. The Tiger was still on my mind but it was still pretty damn expensive for me. In the intervening years a couple of other interesting bikes had come out and I was in a quandary.
I wanted, and still want an MT-09 but decided against it because it’s like the 07 only more. It might be even more fun if that were possible but it would be tough going long distances. I was looking at luggage and thinking of long trips across Europe.
There was the Tracer 900 (It’s not 900 at all it’s 850. What are you playing at Yamaha?) which gets rave reviews as being the perfect all rounder. I’ve had a long hard look at them and There’s something I can’t put my finger on that I don’t like about the riding position, and I’m not that keen on the looks. T9Somehow it just doesn’t give me an erection. Add to that the hard angular seat that I couldn’t keep my arse on even for a minute in a dealer’s showroom and it was a definite NO on the T900.
The Tracer 700 is a different kettle of fish altogether. Based on the MT-07, it’s just as light, manouvreable and frugal but has a higher seat and handlebars, slightly longer swingarm and that well designed fairing. It’s a vastly better looking machine than the 900 from my point of view. I know it’s not that much different but to me it just works much better. T7The seat seems tolerable and the riding position is more upright than the MT-07. There’s a hell of a lot going for the Tracer 700 and I already knew what to expect. But I didn’t want to buy the same bike again, it wouldn’t feel like progress and I know I’d get frustrated later on. I still want a Tracer 700, it seems to be the best commuter, light tourer you could want. But not for me just now.

I had a plan to keep the MT-07 for my day to day transport and have the new bike for longer range expeditions.

So I was spending more time in bike shops and every time I walked past the Triumphs there was this black Tiger 800. It was a ‘manager’s special’ reduced price which is short for ‘It’s winter! We need the floorspace! Have some money off!’ And I sat on it repeatedly. And then some signs went up in the shop informing potential buyers that selected new models would come with free aluminium panniers.

I took a long hard look at my finances. A Tracer 900 would need a touring seat, a rack and luggage which would put the price up to near what the Tiger would cost, plus I wasn’t in love with it no matter how good a bike it is. If you come out in the morning, look at your bike and don’t say ‘Fuck yeah!’ Then you’ve bought the wrong bike.
I booked a test ride on the shop’s Demo Tiger which went well enough for me to slap a deposit down on the manager’s special and then it was just a case of waiting for the panniers to be fitted and the bike registered.
So after five years and lots of uncertainty I’d gone back to Plan A and finally achieved my ambition by getting my Tiger. vug1

It”s a crippling financial commitment and seems extravagant to run two nice bikes but in my defence I do 80 miles a day just going to work and back. I need reliable transport.

So what’s it like? Well it’s tall. Very very tall. It’s obviously heavier than the MT-07 but that weight disappears when I get moving. It’s very manoeuvrable and comfortable. I often pull up at the lights and stop perfectly balanced for a moment before putting a foot down.
There’s a metric shit ton of electronics which is a new experience for me. There’s traction control that stops the back wheel spinning. Yeah. I’d lose that if I could. There’s ABS, rider modes which I haven’t bothered playing with, cruise control which I’m surprised to find I do actually use.
The engine management system is pretty intelligent. The sales guy was telling me it knows how high the bike is above sea level, the temperature, air pressure and everything. What I find useful is that it gives me a countdown of how many miles I have left before I run out of guzzlene. That’s real progress!

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The little fly screen does a surprising amount of good work and I find I can sit upright at three digit speeds. That combined with the handguards and enveloping tank give a surprising amount of protection against the rain.
For a bike that looks like a big enduro it doesn’t lose out much as a road bike. The tyres are great and I’ve been occasionally surprised when my toes have touched the tarmac on the odd roundabout.
The engine’s smooth and civilised, as is the whole bike actually, but it doesn’t have quite the instant low down torque the MT has. The Tiger’s the better bet for long distance higher speed travel, it really can eat the miles, but the MT is slightly better for the city by being a little fucking hooligan.
Unsurprisingly the Tiger loses out on fuel economy. Not by a huge amount, it’s a bigger heavier bike after all. But I’m not made of money. I get 58-60 mpg out of the Tiger and an amazing 73 mpg from the MT.  
The Triumph is tall, comfortable and pretty much every component is a slightly higher spec than the MT. By comparison the MT feels tiny and the seat and suspension feel harsh. The Tiger feels civilised and competent. That’s no criticism of the Yam either, it’s built to be simple and lively.
I’ve taken the Tiger over some bumpy bits of grass and can confirm that it does have some actual off road capability. The MT isn’t suitable for anything other than tarmac. The suspension’s too hard for that kind of thing.

The bonus free luggage from Triumph is lockable, large, well made and quickly clicks on and off the rear rack. Hard to see how it could be better really. It does make the bike wide though, in fact the cases stick out slightly further than the handlebar ends. As I spend half an hour every day filtering between lanes on the motorway this makes me nervous so I leave them off unless I’m going away somewhere.

A lot of Tigers come equipped with Triumph’s heated hand grips and LED fog lights. Mine didn’t, it was on special offer, what do you expect. I had played with the heated grips on the demo bike and I never want to be without them again. So I’ll bite the bullet and get those fitted at the first 6000 mile service. I want to get a topbox as well for the kind of crap that I carry around most of the time. But that can wait.

The Tiger lives up to its rep of being a go anywhere, do anything machine. It looks quite something. People often stop to ask about it when I’m parked up. An unexpected bonus of the high set frowny stare of the headlights is that cars get out of my way when they notice me coming up behind them.
I’ve got used to the bike’s height but it still scares me when I stop somewhere and my foot slips sideways on loose grit or something. It’s a lot of bike and I really don’t want to drop it.

The few friends that I’ve got left have all said the same thing when they’ve seen it. It’s very tall, it’s very you and where are you going to mount the guns?
I fucking wish!    

Bliss You came to the wrong neighbourhood 2017-07-16 11.21.19




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What Happens When A Welder Gets Hold Of A Scooter


3 1 Sorry I meant crazy welder



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Customising On A Small Scale


2You don’t have to have a huge bike to customize. Yes that’s an oil cooler






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