Sorry for the lack of posting over the last few days. I’ve been off working on some other things and so haven’t really been messing around with motorcycles as much as I should have. Still I have to pay for the motorbike habit somehow. 

In the meantime here are some more photos of the Bonnie I had for a few days. I took it up to a local Iron Age fort to photograph in slightly more interesting surroundings. Fallen leaves are jolly pretty but extremely hairy to ride on so I think I’ll be avoiding Iron Age forts in the future, especially leafy ones in the Autumn.

Classic British Iron, at an Iron Age fort

Classic British Iron, at an Iron Age fort

The engine is rather lovely too, and I was impressed by how many times the word Triumph appears on the T100.

How many Triumph logos can you spot?

How many Triumph logos can you spot?

 

I’ve been loaned a Triumph Bonneville T100 for a few days so I could write about it for a feature. Since I had the motorcycle I thought I would post a review of it online as well where I can make it a bit longer with out having to worry about word count.

As is traditional for first getting on a bike with a dealer or instructor watching you my ride away was a bit more wobbly than I would have liked. Which isn’t to say that the T100 is a hard motorcycle to ride, it was just different, if anything it’s a bit disarmingly easy to control but more on that later.

With the initial wobbles out of the way, and out of sight of everyone else I started to learn what the Bonnie was all about. It’s a retro bike designed to evoke simpler times when nylon was futuristic and computers filled rooms. What this means is it’s a motorcycle that looks like a proper motorcycle, but made as easy as a modern bike to ride and look after. This means people who don’t ride bikes think it is cool, even my little brother thought it was excellent and his favourite bike is a Ninja so I was surprised that he took to it so much.

Even cats think it's cool

Even cats think it's cool

On the motorway the bike is fine, it’s stable and will quickly get up to 70mph with out any bother. There is more power there if you want to throw away your license but it does tend to get a bit windy due to the lack of protection. I found this rather charming as it actually felt like you were going fast and it means you are more likely to stay with in the speed limits.

For the next part of the test I took the Bonnie on some wiggly back roads. A few of which were a bit more run-down than I remembered them, including one or two that had grass in the middle but that just added to the fun. The bike seemed happy with all of this and didn’t mind just ambling along and people that I passed smiled and waved. I think they were slightly surprised to see a bike. To give you an idea of how remote these roads are, I rode for thirty minutes without seeing another vehicle.

After this I headed out onto some wider roads, with lovely sweeping corners and up some hills. This was when the Bonnie really started to come together, it was excellent fun riding it around these flowing roads and at around 60mph it really made sense. I was overtaking lorries and tractors and enjoying the beautiful countryside as I sped on by. This was what the bike was for, or at least I thought so until I took it into some towns to see what it was like.

The simple, clear dials showing you everything you need to know.

The simple, clear dials showing you everything you need to know.

It was in a city that the Bonnie really blew my socks off. The smooth engine and light clutch were perfect in traffic and the bike was surprisingly nimble. Even more brilliantly the bike will happlysit at 30mph and stay there so you can just set it at that speed and concentrate on other things like people pulling out when they shouldn’t. This doesn’t happen very often as it’s a nice big bike with road presence so people see you and notice you and this is why I think the Bonnie would make such a great first big bike for any urban rider.

It feels like a big bike, and acts like one but it’s tame and well behaved so after only a few minutes on it you are a far more confident rider. If I was going to be commuting in and out of London, and it wouldn’t involve motorways this would be my bike of choice by a long way. I’ve been on scooters that were harder to manage than this motorcycle, the Bonnie doesn’t have any weird strange habits or anything like that it just gets on with things leaving you to enjoy riding around.

In short if I wasn’t already obsessed with another bike in the Triumph range I’d be seriously considering getting a Bonnie of my own, and I’ve already been recommending them to friends who are thinking of getting into biking. I’m going to stop writing now because, well I want to take the bike out for another spin before I have to hand it back.

I was getting slightly concerned by the lack of knowledge I had about the motorcycles I’ve got now. There aren’t any manuals available for them, and apart from the basics I don’t really know enough about how motorbikes work. I needed some knowledge, I couldn’t keep phoning up people to ask for help every time the motorbike did something I didn’t expect or there was a lever that did something I didn’t understand.

Luckily while sorting through the boxes that came with the bikes I found all my dad’s old motorbike books. It’s an absolute wealth of knowledge, some modern some from the time when motorcycle was two separate words. Imagine that Motor Cycle, there was even a magazine called The Motor Cyclist. The mind boggles.

Look at all those lovely books.

Look at all those lovely books.

The terminology from the books is excellent. You don’t tune-up a motorbike for more power. You ‘cut it’ to get more ‘steam’. I’m going to start using that. You know, it’s probably enough to start a library, or at least a shelf. Perhaps if I cleaned out a different shed I could use it to store all the motorbikes, motorbike gear and motorbike books. Sort of like a private motorbike museum. Now that is an idea.

In other news I’m going to be road testing a Triumph Bonneville T100 for a couple of days so expect a review of that to pop-up soon. I can’t wait.

I’ve been thinking a lot about off-road riding. It seems natural to me to ride off road, I think because until recently all my motorcycle experiences have been off-road. I had a couple of motorbikes in my youth which I used to ride around the farm, and typically crash. One into a wall (although, I have to admit that was on purpose, but that’s story for another time) and one into a tree while jumping. Although now that I think about it, I didn’t crash that one.
Evel sporting a rather dapper jumpsuit

Evel sporting a rather dapper jumpsuit

My Godfather Pete crashed that motorbike. Pete was and, still is a very cool Godfather, mostly because he was a biker. I remember him turning up at my Primary school when I was about six or seven on a motorbike and he had a denim jacket on with a teddy bear on the back. In a small (my class had about six other kids in) rural village that was about as rock and roll as it gets. That appearance made me cool by association until about the age of eleven.

I had a black moped for a while and I used to ride it around the farm jumping it off things while humming the theme from Star wars; I’m not sure why. I think because it was black I had decided it was a Darth Vader motorbike. There was a line of thick fur trees on the edge of the gardens and since one of the trees was smaller than the others you could jump a bike through that gap. This was an amazing stunt as it seemed impossible and yet you could burst through the ‘solid’ trees to the other side with no side effects other than a pine fresh aroma. I had managed this lots of times, although admittedly I practiced on my bicycle before I tried it on a motorcycle, and was fine.

Pete had a go at the jump and hit a tree. The bike was a write-off and Pete did something awful to his ankle and couldn’t ride for a few days. He had to hobble around using a broom handle just like a pirate which made him seem even cooler. I think there is a lesson in that we could all learn.

The bike relaxing while I open a gate

The bike relaxing while I open a gate

I’ve spent most of today playing with the new motorcycles. After a quick oil change the large of the two was fired up and I gave it a good blat around the fields. It’s not really designed for riding sitting down, as the pegs are so far backwards so you really have to stand. The gearing is very low and rather annoyingly the farm is rather flat so it’s not really in it’s element at the moment. I need to take it to somewhere really muddy and preferably, vertical and then it will come alive. It was interesting to think about how different it was to the F 800 GS I rode a few weeks ago. The 800 GS is a serious off road bike but this motorbike is something else, it’s just so specialised.

Some parts of the bike are still a bit of a mystery to me, I can remember being told the sequence of things you had to do to start it but the reasons behind them were slightly lost to me. Thankfully the lovely chaps at the Classic Bike Forum were able to work out what was going on.

The clutch is fairly easy to spot, but what are the other two things?

The clutch is fairly easy to spot, but what are the other two things?

As you may notice this end of the handbar has slightly more levers on it than normal. The one on the top of the handles is the advance/retard for the ignition, it changes the rate at which the engine ticks over. The one below is a bit more mysterious. If you squeeze it when the engine is running the bike stops (which is handy because the bike doesn’t have any other off switches) and it is also used when kick starting. After I explained what happened to the chaps on the forum they said it might be a valve lifter, so I took some photos to investigate

There is where the cable goes, so valve lifter it is then.

There is where the cable goes, so valve lifter it is then.

And so you can see on the right where the cable connects to the top of the engine. Another mystery solved. I also got my Dad’s old helmets when the bikes were delivered. One of which is lovely old school lid, perfect for riding retro bikes around.

It just needs some goggles.

It just needs some goggles.

I dug it out this morning to wear while riding the bike around the farm but when I picked it up I noticed it still had my dad’s white hairs on the inside. It was as if he had only taken it off five minutes ago and so I decided I think I’ll leave it for now, I’ll buy a new helmet for me and leave that one for him.

Well the motorbikes have arrived and been unloaded the one based around the Villiers engine (I really should get around to naming these motorcycles) is looking a little bit worse for wear but that’s only because it hasn’t been used in ages and has been stored in a shed.
It is a lovely little bike, it just needs some love.

It is a lovely little bike, it just needs some love.

I used to ride this bike in classic trials with my dad on the other one, it’s really light and was even made road-legal briefly. Large parts of this bike were made by hand so it served as a prototype for the next more powerful motorbike. The engine is a 250cc two-stroke affair and the gearbox was a bit of a nightmare or at least that is how I remember it.

Even more exciting than the Villiers was this bike, as you may have noticed I have given it a quick wash. When it arrived it still had the mud on it from when I was on it last.

The motorcycle, after being given a quick wash

The motorcycle, after being given a quick wash

Cameron (who had picked it up for me) had noticed that it’s got a bit of an oil leak which is a real pain. It seems to be in the sump, but since this is a hand built bike there isn’t a manual I can get hold of – it was designed on the back of cigarette packets and the corners of newspapers.

Even though it was really naughty I couldn’t resist firing it up, mostly to see if I could remember the sequence you have to go through to start it. It fired up almost instantly and rolled over beautifully, the exhaust note is deep and powerful like Thor laughing and it brought back a flood of memories. Today feels like Christmas.

I’m going to have to sort out the leak fast as it’s a real struggle to resist riding it about and I’m also going to have to work out what sort of oil I should put in it. Anyone got any ideas?
Oh and if you’d like to read a bit more about the second bike and it’s construction have a look here

Today is a very important day, my classic motorbikes are being delivered.

I’m so excited I feel a little bit sick. I’ve waited just over a year to sort out getting these motorcycles picked up and now they are on their way. The company doing the delivery are the aptly named – Motorcycle Delivery – who were recommended by a load of people on the Classic Bike forum and I’m really impressed with the service so far. I had tried to arrange to pick the bikes up myself but since I don’t have a suitable car let alone, a two bike trailer I was really stumped.

Well I am stumped no more as the motorbikes are on their way.

One of the bikes, rating the day I am having out of ten

One of the bikes, rating the day I am having out of ten

I’ll have to do a longer post later when they have arrived but for now have a read about one of the bikes being delivered – Classic trials bike

I was thinking about the new Daytona today, it’s going to be launched at the NEC motorbike and scooter show at the end of November and so no one is allowed to ride it until then. A few photos have come out and revealed that it’s not going to be an exactly radical change to the motorcycle just a few tweaks.

On the practical side of things the bike is going to lose a bit of weight and gain a bit of power but that’s about it really, apart from a few minor cosmetic changes. Weirdly no one seems to have thought of putting photos of the two models next to each other so we can compare them directly so I’m going to just that. I’ve even managed to get photos of the two bikes in the same colour to make it just that little bit easier.

You’ll notice that the lights are different on the ’09 Daytona, but also the brakes have been updated and the wing mirrors are a slightly different shape. The engine on both models is painted black for a bit more rust protection, but early Daytona’s didn’t have that.

The 08, old shape Daytona

The 08, old shape Daytona

The 09 Daytona

The 09 Daytona

We could even play spot the difference, so can anyone else see any other changes to the bike?

A few years ago I went on a rally across Europe. It wasn’t the sort of rally where you have high-performance sports cars and swan around in posh hotels instead we weren’t allowed to spend more than £100 on our car and we were raising money for charity. My chum Henry had invited me and some other chaps along as he was going to write about it for a website he worked on.
Our car, customised to look like a Pirate Ship

Our car.

We got hold of a Volvo 740 and customised it to look like a pirate ship, or at least a Volvo owned by pirates. Everyone else on the rally had customised their cars too which made the event feel like an episode of Wacky Racers.

Note the custom pirate dash board

Note the custom pirate dashboard

The first half of the rally was very jolly. We had a Sat Nav but no charger so we could only turn it on in emergencies. So instead we managed to navigate across Europe using the map in the front of a copy of Asterix and Roman agent. As you can imagine we got lost quite a lot but it was all part of the fun. Even the bit where we sort of drove through someone’s front garden was good. On the second day we awoke in Switzerland. We had driven in the night before so we hadn’t seen much of the view so went we woke up it was a lovely surprise. Switzerland is extremely pretty, and it has some of the most wiggly roads I’ve ever seen.

Look at how bendy that road is

Just look at how bendy that road is

Even though we were supposed to be doing a challenge on that day (Every day we had a different task to complete and there were prizes for the best teams at the end) we decided to abandon any pretence of gaining points and just spend a day driving on really wiggly roads. It was absolutely fantastic fun, I’ve never enjoyed driving a car so much and yet we were constantly passing motorcycles and their owners taking a rest with huge grins on their faces. It looked like they were having even more fun than we were, more on that later.

After a day of brilliant riding we decided that the only sensible thing to do would be to leave Switzerland via the infamous Stelvio pass. Henry was driving and so at the bottom of the pass we stopped the car, checked stop watches and set off. At the first corner the breaks failed and we went up on to two wheels. Henry managed to slow the car down by driving it onto a bank and we came to a stop. One of the other chaps in the car went into shock at this point.

The corner we nearly fell off

The corner we nearly fell off

Even though we had enough computers with us to send a spaceship to the moon we didn’t have any tools. Yup, not a single tool. It turned out that our day of thrilling driving had boiled off the brake fluid. The RAC refused to come out and help us because we weren’t going to bring the car back from Europe and so we were rather stuffed. The sensible thing to do at this point would be to slowly work our way down the hill and wait out the next day.

Instead another team said we could ram them if we needed to slow down and so we attempted the Stelvio pass without any brakes. Let me find a good picture of the pass so you can get an idea of the sort of undertaking this was. 

Yes, that is a road

Yes, that is a road

The next two hours were life-changingly scary – absolutely terrifying. At every corner we could have died and we knew it. We even started doing video messages to our loved ones if we didn’t survive but that was so depressing that we stopped.

Tsk, look at the car in front showing off with his brakes

Tsk, look at the car in front showing off with his brakes

We made it, and the first pint we had when we stopped was the best tasting pint I’d ever had. Nothing like a bit of death to make drink taste better. Anyway the rest of the trip was marvellous and it was the best holiday I’ve ever been on. Even my dad was impressed and talking about the rally was the moment when we started to bond again for the first time in years.

Anyway, since returning I’ve often thought about those motorcyclists having the time of their lives and so Henry and I are going to try the Stelvio again but this time on motorbikes. Just thinking about it makes my legs go a bit wobbly so I think I’ll get a bit of practice and possibly some specialised training before I decide to hit the pass. Oh and this time it would be nice to have some brakes.

I’m sure we have all heard the urban myth about the squaddies wearing night vision goggles while driving a sports car with the lights off to avoid detection. The story goes that a lone policeman is watching the road with a radar gun and the gun goes off and reads some silly speed but the policeman can’t see a car. It happens a few times until they finally catch the person and find out that they are using night vision equipment (if you still aren’t sure what I’m rambling on about read this).

Well I’ve been thinking about this myth a bit and I think it might be possible to do on a motorbike, so in the name of science and quality investigative journalism I’m going to give it a go. Of course I’m not going to ride about on public roads with the lights out. That would be illegal and wrong but luckily I’m on a farm which means I’ve got a bit of land to scream around on where I won’t endanger members of the public.

The next problem would be getting hold of some night vision goggles to wear. Not so, I picked some up on Ebay a couple of years ago for more than I care to mention (lets just say that the Daytona fund would be looking a bit more healthy if I hadn’t) and so I have some military-grade night vision goggles.

The Night vision goggles and a cup of tea, what could possibly go wrong?

The Night vision goggles and a cup of tea, what could possibly go wrong?

I’ll need to wear a helmet when riding the bike and I’ve got an old one knocking about that was my dad’s and has seen better days. It will provide the mounting for the goggles, or at least will be modified a bit so the goggles fit properly.

A slightly knackered old helmet

A slightly knackered old helmet

So there you have it, everything is in place for some real scientific testing.

The goggles give you slight tunnel vision so I think that is something to overcome, but I don’t think it will be too hard once I have them focused. I should point out that I will be practicing first on a bicycle before I go anywhere near a motorbike and even then it will be low speeds only

Oh and don’t try this at home.

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