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Showing posts from January, 2015

What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

What I can afford this month: MZ TS250/1

I mentioned last month that I am slowly, slowly, slowly building up savings toward buying a new bike. So far, there's not much there; the Honda VFR1200F or Indian Chief Classic I'm pining for remain faraway propositions. But in the interim, as I wait for funds to accumulate, I like to entertain myself by searching through online classified ads to see what I could afford right now.
Actually, I presently have just enough cash to buy a brand new 50cc Chinese scooter, but I have to imagine that's a purchase I'd soon regret. According to the aforementioned scooter's spec sheet, it has a maximum speed of 30 mph. Meanwhile, I am able to hit 27 mph on my bicycle when pedalling on a flat. On the hill that is a part of my daily commute, I once managed 40 mph.
Related to that, I've taken to ruling out the multitudinous 125cc motorcycles of dubious Chinese origin that are to be found for roughly the same price as a bicycle. The bicycle would be a better investment, I feel…

More Victory stuff

Good grief, I am such a ridiculous Victory fan boy. But I can't help myself. And the fact that they don't seem to publicise any of this stuff themselves always leaves me with a slight sense of responsibility (a).
Perhaps "responsibility" isn't quite the right word to use. I'm not sure what the right word is.
Have you ever seen It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown? The way Linus has such indefatigable allegiance to the idea of the Great Pumpkin, the way he goes around, knocking on people's doors, to evangelise this idea that everyone else dismisses: that's sort of how I feel about Victory Motorcycles. Linus, of course, is from Minnesota, so I'm sure he could relate.
Last weekend, I was in Swindon, visiting the Victory/Indian dealership there -- roughly 80 miles away, it is the closest Victory/Indian dealership to Cardiff -- and that sort of got me excited for the bikes all over again. It helps that the sales manager, Paul, is a genuine Victor…

Chris Cope's great motorcycle manifesto

I've found myself reading a handful of law/safety-related stories recently (here, here, here and here) and it's gotten me thinking about the Right Way To Do Things. Obviously, the Right Way To Do Things is my way, because I'm brilliant and I have all the answers. One day people will recognise this and I will ascend to my rightful place as Emperor of the United States.
When that day finally comes, here's what things will look like for people on two wheels:
Helmets
Helmets are mandatory for riders and passengers on roads where the speed limit is greater than 45 mph. They are strongly encouraged in all other riding situations, and money raised from non-compliance fines helps fund campaigns to educate the public on the merits of riding with a helmet.
Riders and passengers under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet at all times. Additionally, a helmet is required when a rider of any age is filtering/lane-splitting through traffic, regardless of posted speed limit. 
T…

What I Want: Honda VFR1200F

"I think we get so caught up in the marketing hype that we forget that most of the time the only person enjoying the bike is you, and the wildlife doesn't give a shit how cool you look."           –– Jeremy, from Australia
I pulled the above quote from an email I received last week from someone who got in touch to say he's a fan of the blog (a). It's a sage bit of advice, without doubt, and when I first read it I immediately found myself thinking about the Honda VFR1200F.

I'll admit I'm not terribly enamoured with the bike's odd Tomorrowland front end. And when equipped with the panniers that I'd almost certainly want to add, it looks even less cool. I can't imagine ladies swooning as I roll by. This is not the sort of bike my wife would excitedly tell others about.

But, oh my gosh, is it a fantastic machine. From everything I've read, from seeing it in person, and from getting a chance to sit on the thing, I've sort of fallen in love…

Victory's European line is better than I thought

I was checking out Victory's UK website earlier this week and spotted something I had previously managed to overlook: Victory is offering ABS on more than just one cruiser.
If you've read more than two posts on this blog you'll likely have picked up that I am aggressively dogmatic about the importance of anti-lock brakes. It's my quirk. Anyway, Victory has made ABS available on its baggers and tourers for a few years now, but had until this year left its cruiser riders out in the cold. That fact had annoyed me for quite some time.
Then, at the Intermot Show back in October, Victory announced that the forthcoming Gunner (which had not yet reached European shores) would be ABS-equipped when it arrives in March of this year. It turns out, though, the Gunner will not be alone. Also receiving the ABS treatment in 2015 will be the Judge, the Boardwalk, and the Vegas Highball. The Vegas 8-Ball, the Hammer 8-Ball and the Hammer S will apparently, for now, keep their standard …

Runs in the family

"What other bikes did you ride," I ask my father-in-law. "Before the 550?"
I am again trying to find a gentle way of getting him to do something with the old Honda CB550 that sits in the back of a garage in Devon. Give it to me. Drag it out and restore it. Something. Don't just let it sit there.
Jenn can remember riding on the back of it as a girl. For quite a long time, motorcycles were her father's only means of transport; well into Jenn's early teens, he didn't even have a car driving license (a). He only gave in after having to Jenn's mother to the emergency room one evening after she cut her hand. She had to ride on the back of the bike, through undulating Devon country lanes, holding on with just one hand –– the other elevated in the air and spurting blood. After this incident, Paul was informed in no uncertain terms that he would finally be getting his car license or suffer in all sorts of terrible ways.
Not too long afterward, he attemp…

Andiamo in Italia

I don't know if you've ever noticed the little sidebar box on the right-hand side of this blog that says "Lifetime miles." It's not totally accurate. It doesn't account for any of the miles I've done on test rides, nor the miles I covered during the arduous and expensive European training process, nor even the roughly 130 miles I racked up when the lovely people at Michelin gave me a bike to play on for a day. But I figure it's close enough. 
Considering that I only earned my European license about 18 months ago, I suppose it's a decent number. Elspeth Beard clocked up roughly 10,000 miles in her first two years of motorcycle ownership and I'm on track to keep pace with her (a), but still I find the number sometimes taunts me. It's not large enough; I haven't been nearly enough places; I haven't seen nearly enough things.
The Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure is, in part, an attempt to rectify that, but it looks as if this summer I&…

Je suis Charlie

What I want: the new supercharged Honda NC750

I had a moment of excitement and glee this week when I spotted the following blurb on page 7 of the February 2015 (a) issue of Bike magazine:
"Kawasaki's supercharged H2 has caused proper rumpus, so now Honda plan their own blown bike. They've filed patents showing a supercharger on... yes, the humble NC750."
Wait. What?! 
I'll admit we're treading deep into the waters of Things Chris Doesn't Really Understand here, but from what I know of superchargers they are magical bits of machinery that when added to a motorcycle leave you wondering: why didn't they do that in the first place?
I mean, the Victory Hammer that set a land speed record at Bonneville, for example. Simply slapping a supercharger on that thing saw it delivering 200hp at the rear wheel. Compare those numbers with the roughly 83hp you'll get from a stock Hammer S and the stock bike seems like a bad investment.
I'm simplifying this so it makes sense to my tiny brain, but basicall…

GWTTA: Kidwelly (Cydweli)

Before I came to Kidwelly the only thing I knew about it was that it's the home town of Ray Gravell. The fact this is not mentioned on Kidwelly's Wikipedia page is a travesty.
It's quite possible you've never heard of Ray Gravell, but suffice to say he was one of the Welshiest Welshman that ever Welshed. A hard-hitting rugby player who was part of the Llanelli RFC side that beat New Zealand on the Day the Pubs Ran Dry(a) –– 31 October 1972 –– he was also a nationalistic Welsh speaker who served as sword bearer for the Gorsedd y Beirdd.
Oh hell yeah, we're going down the rabbit hole on this trip, y'all.
In Wales, there is a pseudo-religious group of Welsh-language sycophants known as the Gorsedd y Beirdd. There's not a particularly good translation for the word "gorsedd" so let's just use "posse." Meanwhile, "beirdd" is equally difficult to translate –– especially in this context. But basically it is the plural of "bar…