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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.

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

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