Twinsane’s Weblog

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lots of updates, motorbike section

Posted by --- on Tuesday 7 October, 2008

Yes, you read it right; motorbike section. So where did this come from? Well for me it started just before Christmas after I was 16 some 20+ years ago. I wanted transport. I wanted independence. I wanted a bike! I went to the local shop and set my heart on a Honda H100. I talked to mom and dad and they agreed to be guarantors and pay the deposit as a Christmas present.  In those days it was simple. You got a licence with a motorcycle entitlement and as long as the bike was under a 125cc, was taxed, MOT’d and insured you could get on it and ride it. Christmas morning was cold and the recent snow had turned to semi-frozen, grey and brown slush. Unhappy as my parents were with me riding it, my dad taught me about the gears in the driveway at the back of our house and later that day I was off! I came back cold, wet and happy. I rode my bike for several months in all weathers until some gits stole it in the summer, raced it around and dumped it in a local lake. The police found it, dragged it out and gave it back to me. It was dented, parts were broken or pulled off,  it was scratched, muddy, covered in weeds and the engine, and brakes etc had seized. I kept it on the back yard at the flat I now lived in and did the only thing I could; it was scrapped. I had a minimal pay out from the insurance (as I’d actually still got my bike it was minimal too!) and continued to pay for it for three years.  Up until about 2 weeks ago, I hadn’t sat on a bike since.

Then about three months (might be more, I’m terrible at guessing time) ago, DFS came home with this…

I can’t say I was happy. He hadn’t passed his test, we were supposed to be cutting down and he’d spent all of the money we’d had on fishing gear. Then he goes and gets finance on this! Ok, so it’s a lovely looking machine, it sounds awesome but I’m convinced he has got the wrong personality for a bike. He is too aggressive and impatient. He knows I am really really unhappy about it (its a long story), he thinks it will be great and we’ll be off “cruising”. What about the kids and the dog I think? Plus there is no way I’m getting on the back with him in control. Then there’s my size (and his!), I’m way to big to be a pillion passenger – between us we just about manage to be under the limit to be on it.  I don’t fancy it much. It’s also been expensive so far;  CBT £100, lessons £400, helmet £150, jacket £100, retest £80, retest £80, retest bike hire/instructor time fee £60, one week off work £600 (? hard to say, self-employed). So it hasn’t been cheap. He still needs more clothes (boots etc), the bike was a couple of grand, then the insurance, mot, tax etc and its a summer hobby (in the UK? Summer?!). Then there’s my gear and then the kids too! While all this is happening my brother also gets a bike and passes his test.  DFS and my brother want me to pass my bike test and join them. I have no confidence but to make the effort, I booked my motorbike theory test which I passed last Wednesday (01/10/08) and DFS suggested I book my CBT which I did.

My friend and neighbour bought a bike and passed her CBT on a scooter last year but unfortunately came off it and lost all confidence. To help her I dug DSL’s scooter out of the garage. Now remember I haven’t rode for 20 odd years so I took the bull by the horns (or bike by the handlebars) and took it up the road and back on my own. It was scary. Our reasonable lenght street suddenly became too short to manoeuvre and stop in. I felt I was surely going way too fast to be able to control this machine so tearing my eyes away from the road ahead for the briefest nanosecond, I glance at the speedo – not even 15 mph! And I thought I was speeding! I also felt terrified if a car came close – as in, the same road; I feel exposed on a pushbike! This had an engine too and you have to sit in the middle of the road! So I go up and down a few times and when my neighbour comes out she assumes I’m ready. As she is so scared, I could hardly tell her I’m a wreck too can I? We go out and the next night I follow her around the estate. She is nervous and lacks some road sense but to be honest, I felt she was more confident than I was and I was supposed to be helping her! At least she’d had some tuition on a bike. I just had my dad show me gears in the slush and I taught myself the rest. There were a few things I needed to learn (like how to stop at junctions etc! nothing major of course…!) and she needs practice and confidence. DFS repairs the scooter (replace mudguard (£80), it flies it’s mot, we tax and insure it. The insurance stipulate that I pass my CBT.

Then DFS surprises me with a bike too! I am now the owner of a 1997 Suzuki GN 125. It has sat for around 2 years and is desperate for some tlc. For starters it wouldn’t run. DFS spent a day or two cleaning bits, taking bits off and putting them back on, charging the battery etc until it did start but it was running terribly.  We stripped the back end for me to treat and hammerite the rusty parts. The rear carrier, suspension etc was brown so thats been rubbed with wire wool. The battery was dead so it’s had a new one (£23), it needed a new mirror and tacho cable which I bought from wemoto whom I’d recommend. It needed a bulb in the rev counter which only cost a couple of pounds and we’re waiting for the new front tyre to come back from the garage (£68). We think that’s all it needs for it’s MOT but it won’t idle evenly at all. In fact after getting it started we found that it often wouldn’t fire so a  neighbour suggested a new spark plug (£4.78) which worked a treat. The old one looked fine but we’ve been told that the ceramic can crack inside and cause arcing. We’ve drained the old fuel and put clean new fuel in, and also taken the air filter out, cleaned that in petrol and re-oiled it. It’s still running rough and it’s very difficult to regulate the revs. Sometimes they’re so low it’s stalling and at others it revs to 4 or 5 thousand on it’s own. We’ve bought a manual but neither of us are confident stripping the carb as we don’t have a replacement so it’s going to a bike mechanic this Friday.

While we’ve been doing this I went and did my CBT on Saturday with Bikewise. I’d recommend them highly as the instructors (especially ours though I may be biased) are patient, understanding and very good teachers. It was a long (9 hours training!) cold day. Every so often it would rain. I was crap! To be honest I was expecting to be better than I was and was really embarrassed at my lack of skills. I could not control the bike. I couldn’t get the hang of the bite at all and stalled almost every time I pulled off as I kept my foot on the brake too long. When trying to stop in a controlled manner (ahem!) I was repeating front brake, back brake, clutch, stop in my head and then not applying enough pressure to the brakes and then putting my feet down in a desperate attempt to stop the bike! Forget gears; I can’t think that fast! How the hell do I get about in my car?! After this fun part came the crazy figure 8’s and U turns. No matter how often I did it I couldn’t get the hang of opening the throttle up loads, getting the bite and controlling the speed with the back brake whilst doing a figure 8. In all fairness I would not be able to do it in a straight line! If I felt like I was losing the bike, I let go of the throttle. I was trying to control the speed of the bike by the throttle and my instructor, bless him with his endless patience, would explain it all again. He’d tell me that the throttle did not relate to speed which was controlled by the clutch and rear brake. I did tell him that I understood what he was telling me to do (he is a good teacher) but try as I might, my hands and feet wouldn’t do it! He (i’m sure to give me confidence) said that he’d been watching me and on occasion I had done it and only needed practice – I told you he was a star. I wasn’t controlled enough for the figure 8’s either and couldn’t get the hang of watching the cone not my hands. I kept almost crashing. We had little time to get through everything so once we knew what we were supposed to do, we had to move on.  I had every sympathy for our instructor as he had 3 pupils to teach for the day. One seemed to me to be doing brilliant but obviously lacked confidence as was proven by his refusal to go out on the road at the end of the day. The other spent most of the time convinced she couldn’t do any of it and on the verge of giving up and me who was willing to give any of it a go but was failing miserably! The poor guy, as I said, had tons of patience and said he would stay as long as we wanted until we could do it or wanted to go home but light would soon be against us and we’d barely covered the CBT criteria.  At the end of the day, knowing it would be dark soon, he gave us the option of going on the road. Scared as I was, I asked if he thought we were capable and he assured me that he wouldn’t suggest it if he didn’t think so.  Although I wanted to avoid it, I knew it would either be a postponement or a waste of his and my time if I didn’t. I agreed. It was a long couple of hours. As I said, one of us dropped out and the other poor student was nervous of any speed. We weren’t really doing high speeds but it does feel quicker on a bike doesn’t it. The problem was the danger of doing less than 20mph on a 50mph road. Anyway, at the end he gave me my certificate to tell me I’d passed. I feel more nervous than ever about being on the road now I know how I should be riding – how many lifesaver looks?! – I’m surprised I had as few encounters as I did all those years ago.  I have been out again (last night) on the scooter as my neighbour was itching to go out but I didn’t really like it. I was thrown all over the place with every bump, I can’t seem to steer properly and over or under steer all the time. I still don’t brake properly and I don’t feel safe at all! Thank goodness it’s an automatic. Considering I normally drive a Disco the same as the one on the right, which is like driving a tank (not that I’d know) it’s not surprising I feel a little exposed! I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of this throttle, feather clutch, rear brake malarchy and dread going out on the 125. I will though but don’t worry, you’re all safe. I will be taking it to the industrial estate when everyone has gone home and will practice on there.

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