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….
This evening I picked up a second hand lowed seat for my Fazer (from a chap on the Fazer’s Owner Club). My wife used to be a keen biker and wanted to take my Fazer out from time to time, however she is only 5’1″ tall and found the Fazer too high to manage. This replacement seat is essentially a standard seat that has had the leather cover peeled back and much of the foam padding cut away, then restitched up again. It brings the seat height down an inch or so and is very quick to swap on and off.
My wife is still struggling a bit with the Fazer, but can at least get her toes on the ground now. Hopefully with a bit of practice, she’ll get the confidence and balance to manage it.
Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of a garage or shed to store my motorbike, I have to park the bike on our driveway, open to the elements. There’s no two ways about it, a bike will never last as well stored on the drive like this. But a decent rain cover can mitigate this somewhat.
But which cover? It seems you spend anything from a tenner to nigh on a monkey for a top notch cover. But what is really worth it?
I was looking for something durable, water proof (duh!), not going to melt on the exhaust and easy to put on and take off. Going through the reviews, the general verdict was an Oxford Stormtex or R&G Racing Superbike cover, which come in at £40 and £60 respectively. The Oxford cover has the edge in the heat proof stakes, but costs more. However R&G have an outlet store on ebay, where I managed to pick this cover for a measly £25! No contest.
Edit: The cover is a little tight fitting, particularly so since adding the Givi top box rack, which juts out a bit at the back. As to heat from exhaust, I’ve never had a problem, by the time I’ve chained up the bike and removed top box, the can is plenty cool to pop cover over the top.
When it comes to protective clothing on the bike, leather is still one of the best choices. Maybe not as waterproof as Goretex, or hard wearing as Kevlar, but on balance, it tends to be best overall value for the money. The other advantage, is there is loads of leather gear available second hand, often it very good nick. A fine example of which was these Alpinestars Bat Leather trousers.
I picked these up from a chap off the London Bikers forum, for the princely sum of £50. I already had some Hein Gericke leather trousers, I had picked up new in their recent closing down sale. However they were a loose cut style and a tiny bit big in the waist. Pulling the tabs in on the waist causes the leather to ruck up and becomes uncomfortable after a while. Moral of the story: buy what fits, not what’s a good price.
Anyway, back to the Alpinestars Bat Pants; they are quite low down in their range, but still normally retail for about £200. Protection wise, they just feature some layered leather knee pads – no knee-down sliding in these. They are a slim fit, with stretch panels and zips in the calf sections. They’re snug to get on and need a bit of wiggling to pull them up, but once in, they fitted me very well and were very comfortable, even after long periods of time.
Only a couple of down sides: Firstly, the single pocket on the right thigh, fine for a phone, but too tight for a wallet. So, once I take my jacket off, I’m stuck for pockets to keep my keys and wallet safe. Secondly the knee protection has a habit of folding over when putting your feet in, so needs flattening before zipping up the calves. This can be a bit awkward and annoying, however it may be down to the age of the leather and having lost some of its original rigidity.
Overall, I very happy with the trousers, much prefer the tight cut style. They’re very comfortable and I’ve not worn my old Hein Gericke trousers since.
Bike security is essential in London. It’s a sad state of affairs, but bike crime is rife and only a fool would skimp on security. A good solid chain is one of the best measures you can take, but it is only as good as what you chain the bike to.
Your chain should have at least 16mm thick links, anything less is a waste of time. As many would be thieves favour 42″ bolt cutters, which generally have a mouth that can only accommodate ~14mm chains. Even better, opt for a 19mm chain. The best brands out there are Almax and Pragmasis. Price wise there is little difference, however I opted with Pragmasis as their ground anchor appeared to have the edge slightly. The downside of these big chains is weight. Since I would be carrying the chain to work everyday, I opted for the 16mm chain, which at 2m and with lock, weighs in at about 15Kg! Continue reading “Security, Pragmasis Chain & Torc Ground Anchor” »
And there she is. Damned she’s nice. I only hope I can keep her looking this sweet.
Found this on Gumtree, it was a little more than I initially wanted to spend, but it’s great condition. Owned from new by a fair weather ride, who has kept it in a shed and only put 13K on the clock. I took a good friend along, whose been riding bikes for decades, to give it a once over and confirm there’s nothing dodgy about it. He told me to buy it quick, otherwise he would!
Now I’ve passed my test, I can’t stop itching to get back on a bike. Every day I take the bus/tube to work, I longingly look at bikes going by wishing I had my own.
But what bike do I get? I’m very tempted by the Honda CBF500, it’s what I learnt on, what I know. It’s a good bike, that seems to be universally well regarded. A city full of couriers on them can’t be wrong. I like the idea of ABS, as an extra precaution and help me while I continue to build up my experience. I will inevitably make mistakes, maybe the ABS could prevent some.
The CBF’s are still quite new ish though, so not the cheapest second hand. Unless its ex-courier and has done intergalactic miles. The older CB500’s are more reasonable, definitely fit a budget of about a £1000. But older and no ABS.
A good friend has recommended a Yamaha Fazer FZS600. Slightly bigger, more powerful and similar in price second hand. Insurance costs are about the same as the CBF500 too. Bit more edge, probably last me longer, I’ll less likely to out grow it so soon. But no ABS.
The bikini fairing on the Fazer should afford a little more protection from elements on the motorway. But it’s also a worry, as I will inevitable drop my first bike and probably crack or scuff it.
I passed my DAS. Bit nerve racking, but passed. I can now ride any motorbike I like!
It was a bit tight on time, as my test was late morning, only giving me half a day to practice. The guys at 1 Stop Instruction have all been great, taught me well and quite obviously have a great system for getting newbie’s on two wheels.
We did a lot of riding around Enfield covering all the main routes of the test. Checking out many traps and common gotcha’s that others often fail on. Then it was off to the test centre. I just had to stay calm, remember every life saver, position myself correctly at every junction and cancel them bloody indicators! The 1 Stop bikes all have buzzers attached to the indicators as an aid memoir, simple but very effective.
The test mostly went very smoothly, though a brief hail storm made things interesting. Especially as this occurred when I ran into a long tail back behind some vehicles on tow. Do I filter past or hold back? Can I get by before the island in the road? Should I be safe and stay back due to weather conditions?
Near the very end of the test we ran straight into a jam waiting for a railway crossing. Odd I thought, the 1 Stop guys had shown me a common trap just round the corner: a junction at the end of a road with no central markings, but painted parking bays either side. The trick is not to assume its a one way street and position yourself to the right of an imaginary left hand lane, ignoring parking bays. So why did he let me go into the jam and not take me here? After the test, in the debrief the examiner quizzed me if I had heard him say turn left back there… Thinking back, I can’t work out if it was an intercom failure, or just me too deep in concentration elsewhere… Oh well, I passed.
Overall I felt relaxed and confident throughout, the examiner took me on roads I had ridden many times over the previous 2-3 days. Advice for your test: know the roads, avoid surprises. And jams are your friend, less time you’re riding, the less time you could be failing.
Trials and tribulations of a motorcycle newbie in London