I popped along to Ace’s Cafe for the first time last night. Famously frequented by the cafe racers who bombed it around the North Circular. Opening in 1938, it is still a veritable hot bed of motorbike enthusiasts and great place to meet up with fellow bikers and have a good cuppa’.
The occasion last night was Newbie Night for the London Bikers forum, which occurs on the first Monday of the month. I initially met up with a handful of bikers in the centre, then we all set off to Ace’s together and had a good chin wag. It was a great night, lots of comradery and good to hear from other newbie’s and their experiences learning. And discovering I’m not alone in dropping the bike in daft manners! It was a chilly ride home, I was glad of my new heated gloves.
Not a good day today. Whilst on the way into central London, I felt a bump and heard a slight clatter from the front wheel. It cleared quickly , so I carried on. Big mistake. When I did finally stop I noticed this big screw protruding from my tyre, and air hissing out slowly I had only ridden several miles down the busy A13, with my wife pillion on the back – eeek! Damned lucky not to have had a blow out.
Being stuck in Mile End, I rang up nearby Pole Position, who sent one of their chaps round to repair the puncture. They showed me poke the ‘strings’ of the rubber puncture kit into the tyre and seal the hole, enabling me to get to their workshop and replace the tyre. It only had a 3-6 months of tread left in it, so replacement seemed best option. On went a nice new Metzeler Roadtec Z6 front tyre, which seems to get good reviews and will hopefully put me in good stead for the coming winter.
Lessen learnt: If you feel something dodgy whilst riding, stop sooner rather than later to check it out.
I went two up on the bike for the first time today. That’s pillion, passenger on the back for those not in the know. With the kids farmed off to friends, my wife and I took off on a ride out into the rural Essex for a slap up pub lunch (sans alcohol of course).
I had been taught about carrying a pillion passenger as part of my DAS training, but the examiner had merely asked a knowledge question on the subject. My instructor had sat on the back of the bike, to give us a feel of the extra weight and highlight how passengers should not mount the bike (step onto one foot peg with all their weight), but today was my first time on the road with a pillion.
So with foot pegs down and feet firmly planted on the floor, my wife hopped on, albeit with a slight struggle due to her lack of statue. The extra weight changed the bikes handling dramatically, I was very wobbly initially, as every learn was exaggerated by the extra weight. My stopping distances were much longer, meaning I had to read the road further ahead and plan more. But after a few miles, I became accustomed to the change in handling and smoothed out my riding.
Key pillion points:
- Passengers must be able to reach foot pegs.
- Passengers should only get on and off when directed to.
- Passengers should hold on to rider or grab bar and not wave to distract rider or other vehicles
- Front braking and steering will be lighter.
- Expect over-steer when leaning, due to extra weight.
We took many country roads and an indirect route to Blackmore in Essex, where there are a couple of great pubs, serving some top grub. Fully sated, we had a good ride around with no set route, before finally stopping over at High Beach in Epping, at the big biker tea hut meet. The tea was stewed, but the weather was good, and there were loads of other bikes to check out. Overall, a good ride out with plenty learnt.
Had my first off this morning. Feel so stupid, was such a novice error. The roads were a bit wet, I was just 5 minutes from home, coming up to a mini roundabout. All of a sudden a car suddenly indicated to come round the mini roundabout, I panicked and hit the brakes hard, too hard. Locked the front wheel and skidded down. Didn’t hit any other vehicles thankfully, or have any injuries, but I had the weight of the bike on top of me, scratched it badly and dented my confidence somewhat. Had to hit the emergency off and pissed petrol everywhere.
Put a nasty scuff in the fairing, bent a crash bobbin in turn cracking the belly pan and popped the can off. Not too serious, but the bikes’ perfect cosmetics are no more. Everyone says, as a learner you’ll inevitable drop your first bike, but it’s still bloody annoying.
Lessons learnt: be smoother on the brakes, weight the back brake more in the wet and I can actually lift the bike! Oh and put it back in neutral, before wasting ages trying to work out why you can’t push the bike to the side of road….