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“Riding motorcycles only really becomes dangerous when you ride beyond your ability.” My riding instructor used to say “Well that and when some berk doesn’t see you, but you can’t do much about that.”

Since this was drilled into me and because I’ve got at least a vague sense of self-preservation (on motorbikes, anything else is fair game) I don’t tend to get talked into doing something I’m not comfortable with, well mostly. As part of Honda’s organised event at Silverstone there was the chance to do some laps on the bikes. The selection of bikes was, well it was a selection of different coloured Fireblades.

A Fireblade, in silver

A Fireblade, in silver

Now the Fireblade has a bit of a reputation, it’s almost given as the definition of a bike you shouldn’t get until you’ve got a few miles under your belt. So as I threw my leg over it I said a little prayer to Thor and Ogri and set off.

At first it wasn’t so bad, it had be beautiful purr of an engine that isn’t even trying and yet you are already going stupidly fast and like the CBR 600 RR it felt nimble and light the moment it started moving. The first corner wasn’t too bad either, we weren’t going that fast and while it was a bit cold it wasn’t awful. With the first few corners out of the way and a lovely straight ahead I thought I’d give the bike a bit of a twist to see what it could do.

My throat hurt, this motorcycle accelerated so fast that it made my throat hurt. It didn’t just feel like it was about to take off, or that I could barely hold on it was something else. It was brilliant, and way beyond what I could handle and then it started snowing.

Yes snow, I’d been around Donington in the rain and so Silverstone had to go one better and snow. I dread to think what Brands hatch will do.

The rest of the track session was spent in well, blind terror. Not because the Fireblade is so unmanageable, it’s not, for something so powerful it’s very well behaved. It’s just that not only was the track cold, now the weather had decided to combined a gusty crosswind with some light snow and a bit of rain. I would have made a mess in my trousers if I hadn’t been worried that it would have affected the delicate balance of the bike and thrown me off.

A few, not exactly brisk laps (but still rather faster than I would have liked) later I got off the bike and felt simultaneously more and less of a man. I’d had the absolutely limits of my riding tested and I’d spent a lot of the time rediscovering god – it’s hard to be an atheist when the rear-wheel is hopping around as you approach a corner a little bit too fast. At least I wasn’t dead, and more importantly I hadn’t dropped the beautiful motorcycle.

I’m not sure I’d want a Fireblade, or at least, perhaps not as a winter ride but perhaps now I’ve had a snow-bound track day on one everything else will seem rather sedate and sensible. They do look rather good in red.

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Thanks to a strange mixture of events that I don’t really understand I was invited to go to Silverstone by the lovely people at Honda. I think it’s because I wrote about going to the Ron Haslem racing school a few months ago and Honda saw it and approved but I’m not sure.
Either way, on a rather chilly Friday morning I rode up the motorway on the F 800 GS (there will be more on this later) towards Silverstone.  Honda had arranged a few days at the track so slightly over-excited journalists could turn up and try out, well almost everything Honda make. The entire product range was there, and I mean the entire range.
Everything was there to test.

Everything was there to test.

Sadly the sporty little number on the right wasn’t available to take out on the track but a selection of Honda’s cars were. Cars are okay, they have too many wheels if you ask me and so I consider them a bit dull but my first few laps in an S2000 soon showed me that cars can have their charms. It was a bit chilly so the track didn’t offer much in the way of grip and so having foor wheels planted on the ground was reassuring.

Once we’d had a few laps in the S2000 we took a Civic type-R out around Silverstone which was jolly entertaining (the cockpit is hillarious and like something out of Star Wars) and allowed me to learn the circuit a bit from the comfort of a chair before I took a bike around it. Honda had said that in the afternoon just before the day ended the circuit would be opened up to bikes, this was what pretty much everyone was looking forward too.  

 The honda range, of bikes

After the car stuff was out of the way I set about taking a few different bikes from the Honda range out for a ride. The first was their 125 which was being launched, it’s wasn’t the minature race-rep CBR 125 RR but the new CBF 125. A chap from the Telegraph had just brought it back and was singing it’s praises so I hopped on and took a slightly wobbly ride out of the gate and down some country roads.
 
CBF1 25 Review
 
It’s a great bike. It’s light, extremely nimble and while it’s not exactly got thumping amounts of power it’s more than happy to get up to 60mph and cruise around on country roads. If that isn’t enough to sell you on it feels like a proper big bike, but a very lightweight one. The fuel economy is mind-boggling – The chap from the Telegraph thinks it will do 100 miles per gallon plus perhaps a little more but he had to do a few more caculations – After 50 miles of riding the gauge had only gone down to the top of ‘full’ so it hadn’t drunk much.
 
It would be a great bike for beginners – I’m going to recommend it to my little brother. It would also be a great bike for anyone who isn’t too sure of themselves and wants something nimble to commute about in but doesn’t want a scooter. Everything is put together to Honda’s usual high standards and it is a real gem, the rest of the journalists who had taken it out agreed that Honda had got it right,  this was going to be a future classic and a first bike to a whole new generation of riders.
 
This is good but Honda’s range don’t always cause people to agree so much, like the DN 01.
 
DN01
 
One I’d taken the CBF 125 out I wanted to try something different something weird like the DN 01. If you’ve not seen it before he is a picture.
DN 01

DN 01

The DN is weird, I had been warned it was strange by well just about every bike magazine who had been pretty damning about it. Before I got on it the chap who had taken it out was going on about how pointless it was and how he hated it. It’s not gone down very well with the press to say the least.
 
It is a very different bike for a few reasons, it’s got a feet-forward riding style which was entirely alien to me, but would seem natural to anyone who has a Harley. It’s an automatic using a very clever fluid based gearbox so it’s a twist and go but it can pretend to have gears if you like that sort of thing. The tank is quite small, and it’s got almost no storage or anywhere to mount bags. The dashboard is set under a visor so if you are really tall and don’t adjust the seat you will struggle to see how fast you are going and it’s costs as much as a Fireblade.
 
So with the facts out of the way let’s talk about how the bike feels, it feels cool. Maybe it’s because I saw Akira when I was younger or because I’m from the computer games generation or perhaps because at that point I’d had rather too much coffee but I liked this bike, quite a lot.
 
Yes it’s futuristic and weird. Yes it’s not really a commuter bike, or a crusier, or a racer or well anything really but when did bikes become entirely about having a purpose in life? Most race-rep bikes will never get properly raced, how many 1200 GS will get taken around the world, or even off road? When was the last time you saw a KTM covered in mud? Actually that last one does happen fairly often but that’s not the point.
 
Most people ride bikes because they are fun, and the DN 01 is fun. in fact it’s really good fun. Not ‘oh my god I’m going so fast my head is about to fall off’ fun but a different sort of enjoyment that makes you chuckle into your helmet.
 
The twist and go gearbox is really impressive so if gears aren’t you thing that won’t hold you back and the sitting position requires a bit of mental adjustment, and trouser adjustment but after that it’s really entertaining. If I lived somewhere hot and I had a cool silver jacket with like lasers on it then I’d consider getting a DN 01, if you want a relaxed riding style and you don’t want a chopper or a bit of vintage iron then it’s something to think about.
 
I’ll write about what happened when I took a Fireblade around Silverstone next.

kanedas20bike

Motorcycles aren’t always the most practical forms of transport. They are brilliant at some things like city commuting or any sort of road that is at least mildly wiggly but for some things that are a bit lame. Moving house for example. No matter how well your Honda Goldwing or Harley Davidson Streetglide handles the miles it’s carrying capacity is never going to match a van. Of course not being able to help people move house is sometimes an excellent idea.

Motorbikes aren’t always about practicality, sometimes they are just about fun. Which is why people occasionally choose to ride things that aren’t terribly sensible. Riding motorbikes is almost always enjoyable, but you can do things that make it even more fun like buying some Halcyon motorcycle goggles.

Check out these bad boys
Check out these bad boys

Just looking at the goggles makes me smile and it has the same effect on other people. I think it might be because you look faintly silly, or perhaps because it reminds people of the sort of goggles fighter pilots wore in World War 2. Either way the reaction while wearing them is positive, it’s the exact opposite of wearing a tinted visor.

They are fairly practical too, in a silly way. They keep the water out of your eyes and while they aren’t exactly idea for winter weather you forgive them that because they are so much fun. On a lovely warm day, when you aren’t in a hurry they are just perfect. 
The only drawback I can think of is that putting them on makes me want to attempt some sort of land speed record on a bike powered by steam, or rebuild Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang as a motorbike.
In short, these goggles are excellent and you should by a pair right now because it will make the world a better place. They come in a range of colours and you can even get tinted lenses if you want to look like some sort of evil time traveller.

100mph, it’s just a figure but it seems like more. It’s supposed to be one of those milestones, a rite of passage that riders go through. Of course these days it’s a bit easier to get up to that mystical figure than it used to be, modern bikes are now so powerful that they breeze up to it and then move on.

I think I’ve had my first tonne, but I’m not sure. A few months ago I was lucky enough to go to the Ron Haslam racing school at Donington for a work thing. It was a bit wet, or at least for the first few circuits but after that it dried out and the fun really began. Thanks to the excellent training (you even get an assessment of your riding at the end of the day too) we got to really go for it on the lovely bikes we had been given for the day – A CBR600RR. They also run a training day for FireBlades but it’s a more advanced course and you have to take part in the CBR600RR day before they let you out on them.

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I can remember going as fast as I dared on the straights, which felt pretty brisk to say the least. But the bikes don’t have speedometers so I have no idea if I really was going fast or if it just felt like it on the frighteningly nimble CBR600RR. Still, I suppose that is an excellent excuse to go back, to make sure I’ve done it. Not that I really need an excuse to go back, Donington is a brilliant race track and there is nothing like watching a race on the telly and being able to say – ‘Tsk Rossi, when I go around that corner, I try and go a bit wider to set up for the next one.’

The only downside on the day was having to give the bikes back. They have a pretty good gift shop so you can get mementos from your time there but I think Honda are really missing a trick by not having a dealership there. I know that if I could have brought a CBR600RR while I was there I would have.

Oh and yes, you may notice that I have rather long hair in that photo, I was going for the Spinal Tap look.

I started on the workshop today, I didn’t mean to but it just sort of happened. I think because I was trying to write something tricky and shovelling bolts around seemed like an easier way of passing the time. It took a bit of work to even get into the workshop, we (my little brother and I) had to cut down a vast forest of stinging nettles and then dig out some tree stumps before we could even get to the door.

We decided to attack through the double doors which opened on to one of the fields, if we could get that open then we would be able to chuck things out and have a clear run to the bonfire. It was slow going as there was very little that could be definitely be chucked out but we did manage to clear a tiny section and brush the floor.

It was weird coming across little mementos from my father as we cleaned (he passed away last year) but I suppose that is going to happen a lot as we sort things out. One of the shelf units still has his handwriting on in chalk which made me smile so I took a photo of it.

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