rt

On Show

I love a bike show, but the NEC's a long way to travel, usually in bad weather, and getting there by train's an expensive luxury. This year the London bike show's moved from the Ally Pally – theoretically nice, but inaccessible and impractical – to Excel, the purpose-built Docklands exhibition centre implausibly named after a spreadsheet. Yesterday I took a day off work and went along with huskyteer and our friend Howard.

Leaving home at 8:45, it was dull and grey and the local rush hour congestion was miserable. (I'm still working on a rant about the realignment of Canford Bottom Roundabout.) Half an hour later I was on the M3 in bright sunshine, and when I stopped for a coffee at Winchester services, the Mondeo driver in the next parking space expressed his jealousy of my vehicle. "No roof", I pshawed, "no heater". But he said it was a lovely day to be out on a bike, and I couldn't disagree.

The M25 was back to damp greyness, and while taking on more coffee at Clacket Lane I was moved to clean the headlamp as well as my visor. It was sunny again on the A2. Emerging from the Blackwall Tunnel, I quickly located Excel, parked for free (cars £3/hour) and entered the show on the dot of my noon ETA.

The absence of the big four Japanese, and the one and only British manufacturer, was a disappointment for many, not least the organisers, and probably accounted for the pleasantly uncrowded show. But it let the Europeans shine. Best looking bike in the show was the Ducati 1098. Having lost their way with the previous model range, Ducatis are once again looking like Italian bikes should – sex on wheels. I especially admired the space-age brakes. It's not exactly a commuter though, and six-foot-four Howard (who's in the target market) complained that as well as being uncomfortable on it, he couldn't see the clocks.

I had a sit on a KTM Adventure – comfortable, great view, and on days when Mountbatten Way was excessively congested I could off-road it along the central reservation. But the bike that really took my fancy was the BMW R1200RT. After nearly a year on my 1150RT I seem to have been assimilated. It fitted me like a glove, and ticks all the boxes. It's gained a few 'osses, benefited from BMW's weight reduction programme so that it's actually lighter than my previous FJR, and has a new smooth gearbox and balancer shafts to cut vibration. Seemed like a lot of bike for the money, if you can get past the idea that a bike can cost five figures, although the display model with radio, CD player, cruise control, electronic suspension adjustment and colour-matched luggage was well into that bracket. Have requested a test ride. A year from now will be soon enough.

I made sure to visit the Gerbing's stand to thank them for the swift replacement of my failed glove last week. They have a new electric neck-warmer – mmm. First time exhibitors were our friends John and Jen from Bike Normandy, doing well, fully booked already for June and July. Perhaps I'll visit them again soon, but not for their Dangerous Tour, thanks.

The route back to huskyteer's place took in the Woolwich Ferry, which was pleasant, and a load of South London congestion, which was less so, apart from making me glad to live in Dorset. More traffic hell on the M25, of course. Back home I was glad to take my boots off, after 250 miles and plenty of walking in them, but well pleased with the day out.
  • Current Mood
    bike cleaning
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default

Bye Bye Johnny

I've just had mail from my router, advising that some 1337 h4xx0r had been trying to login, and it had banned them at the firewall within less than 30 seconds. Plonk!

One can't really be too careful. They might have set the video to record Richard and Judy or something.
  • Current Music
    Little Richard - Brown Sugar
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default

Midweek bullets

  • The shop was unable to repair my puncture without sending the tyre away to HQ, which would have defeated the object. But they supplied and fitted a new pair in only just over 24 hours from ordering. So once again I'm now shiny, round and black, and riding with confidence, or will be once I've scrubbed-off the wax. Although the nail held out fairly well, for a nail, covering at least 250 miles with minimal loss of pressure.

  • The new tyres are called Battlax, the old ones were Road Attack. I'd prefer them less aggressive, really. They are supposed to be sport-touring, not race tyres.

  • Media watch: speaking of Alex Harvey, as sloopjonb and I recently were, Radio 2 commemorates his tragically short life in a Music Club documentary on Saturday. Trailers abound but I had to dig hard to find this on their Web site.

  • On the buses: seminal 1962 Cliff Richard musical Summer Holiday featuring one of London Transport's AEC Regents as well as the delicious Una Stubbs, gets an airing on BBC4 a week on Sunday (11 Feb) at 23:00. Yes, I've set the video.

  • Adrian Belew, a 1977 Mother (producing an outstanding Dylan impression on Flakes as well as important stunt-guitar in the film Baby Snakes), before joining King Crimson, touring with Bowie, sessions on Graceland etc etc, has a blog, syndicated here as elephantblog. Pictures of guitars! Which he's selling on eBay!
  • Current Music
    tappity-tap
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rt

Riding on Air

Fancied giving the new gloves a road test today, but spotted whilst doing my weekly checks yesterday that the bike had a puncture in the rear tyre. Pressure was down to 15psi instead of 42, but not knowing when it had happened, I couldn't tell how severe this was. I left the nail in the tread, rather than make things worse by removing it. This morning I found it had lost about 8psi overnight. I decided to test it under load, and with gauge, pump, and kneeling mat in the top-box, and RAC Recovery as a long-stop, headed off.

Stopped at Avon Forest, after eight miles, and found the pressure was now 2.5psi higher than when I left home, because the tyre had warmed up. Whether it should really have been higher still, I didn't know, but at least it had gone up, not down. Thus encouraged I joined other club members on a ride to Sparkford via Salisbury and Shaftesbury. It was lovely to be out and about on uncrowded roads, plenty of overtakes to be had, fingers nice and toasty.

75 miles later, after a cuppa at the Haynes Motor Museum, the tyre pressure was a mere 2.5psi below normal. I decided this was OK, re-pumped it up, and headed for home via Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, and Blandford.

The puncture's in the centre of the tread and looks as though it might be repairable. On the other hand, the tyre was due for replacement within the next 1,000 miles or so anyway – was planning to get it done at the next service. Glad to know it'll probably get me to work tomorrow. I'll see whether the shop will repair it but contact the mobile tyre replacement people as well.

ETA Nice pic by Roger - thanks!
  • Current Music
    FZ - Brown Moses
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rt

Say goodbye to frigid digits

Hooray, it's time to praise a supplier for customer service beyond the call. Riding to work in Thursday morning's bitter cold, my sensors quickly detected that all was not well in the cosiness department. My left hand was freezing. It seemed as though my £100 investment in a pair of Gerbing's heated gloves, two years ago, had come 50 percent unstuck.

Heated grips just don't do the same job. Perhaps it's my poor circulation, but boiling palms and freezing knuckles and fingertips, ouch. I had to stop half-way for a warm. And continually changing hand position to try and optimise heat transfer does nothing for safety or concentration.

Got out the multimeter in the evening and, sure enough, the left glove was open-circuit. Perhaps not too surprising – flexible heating elements are notoriously hard to achieve, and all that clutch work - but still disappointing.

So yesterday – fortunately not quite so cold - I phoned Gerbing's UK distributor to report my plight. Imagine my surprise at being told the gloves would be replaced immediately, and for no charge. This morning I was even more surprised to be asked to sign for a parcel containing a brand new pair. Well done, Gerbing's! (And well done, the Post Office.) The words "lifetime guarantee" mean just what they say, and make the gloves excellent value. Chilly mortals like me need look no further.
  • Current Music
    RT - Meet on the Ledge
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sofa

Selling punk like some new kind of English disease

The BBC4 documentary The Old Grey Whistle Test Story was well worth catching, reeling in the years when we were young and music really mattered. It reminded me of some of my own favourite Whistle Test moments:
  • Sha Na Na being interviewed after their awesome performance of high-speed doo-wop, in character as New York hoodlums. I really thought Whispering Bob was going to get knifed (I may have been stoned at the time)

  • Roxy Music. They blew me away, and the very next day I made the effort to find out where they were playing and get tickets. This turned out to be the Rainbow, supporting an act I wasn't too keen on, but went along anyway. And that, kids, is how we got to see David Bowie débuting Ziggy

  • Anne Nightingale interviewing FZ in about 1980, accusing him of not being punk. I like to think she inspired the quote about people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read
None of this was included in the show, apart from about ten seconds of Roxy Music, and all the music clips were way too short. No worries though: upcoming are five 40-minute programmes of musical excerpts, one of which is part of Four's California-themed thread, and Beefheart's in tomorrow evening's. If that doesn't provide musical satisfaction then I'm a Dutchman (possibly Jan Akkerman of Focus).
  • Current Music
    Captain Beefheart - Upon The Me-Oh-My
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road

Where the Cider Apples grow

"Brace yourselves", advised Met man John Hammond last night, "for a wet and windy weekend." But it looked as though today might provide a bit of a window. After a very stormy night this morning was bright and sunny, though with lots of surface water on the way to the Bere Regis rendezvous. Fields were under water and stretches of the A31 were flooded. No complaints, for light traffic allowed plenty of overtakes before entering the 40mph limit at the World's End.

I was miles too early, but spent time fuelling bike and self, and attending to other bodily needs including vanity. The bike would shortly become a great deal less shiny. huskyteer and our two companions arrived, and we set off for a mystery destination in Somerset, starting with a minor road to Milborne St Andrew and cleverly by-passing Dorchester via Piddlehinton and Charminster.

The A356, passing close to quaintly named Toller Porcorum and alongside the government VT Communications World Service transmitter at Rampisham Down, is a pleasant upland route with countryside views and plenty of bends. Many of these were under water, mandating circumspect progress, especially for the small of wheel among us. Crewkerne was enjoying Saturday morning shopping in the sunshine: we pressed on to Stoke-sub-Hamdon nestled at the foot of Ham Hill. But the pub was shut, and so our coffee stop was the mundane Cartgate Roundabout lorry park near Yeovil. Here it started to look as though we'd seen the last of the sunshine.

Hestercombe Gardens, the other side of Taunton, was selected as the lunch stop. As we headed off there via the A303 and A358, it started to rain, and we reached Taunton in a steady downpour. It's a much larger town than I'd thought, and navigational difficulties increased our exposure. Upon arrival we were in no mood to appreciate the Lutyens design or Jekyll planting, but a plate of lasagne went down well while my gloves dried on a radiator. Well done to Hestercombe for its hospitality and for being the Somerset Fire Brigade HQ as well.

Perhaps after lunch the rain would have stopped. No such luck, but there was enough blue to make skimpy hipsters for a lightly built matelot, and as we re-re-navigated Taunton the sun reappeared. Just like the morning, but now with even more surface water, we rode through charming Somerset villages: Thornfalcon, Hatch Beauchamp, Curry Mallet, Fivehead. At Curry Rivel we were admiring a rainbow straight ahead, when a navigational glitch required a 180 and heading back into the sun's glare instead.

But we soon arrived at our destination, well chosen to suit huskyteer's tastes: the Somerset Distillery at Kingsbury Episcopi. Below the farmyard, orchards stretched away, the source of the Stoke Red and Kingston Black apples among the 40 varieties grown there. In the shop surrounded by barrels, vats and presses, samples of cider and apple brandy were on offer, tempting had I not been on wheels. As well as these and sparkling cider (méthode champenoise) they provide apple juice – cox, russet, or bramley – and fortified wines blended from juice and brandy. It's more than 30 years since Coates stopped coming up from Somerset, but a fine tradition lives on.

After a very windy ride home I stuck my nose in a glass of Five Year Old and agreed: autumn leaves, ripe fruit, wild flowers. It's less fiery than Calvados, with a spicy aftertaste, smooth and satisfying. A storm's raging outside and the bike's going to need a good clean tomorrow, but for now ... mmm, sippers.
  • Current Music
    Hollywood Argyles - Alley Oop
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sofa

An old man said to me "won't see another one"

Having earlier enjoyed Some Like It Hot I'm now seated on the Cyber Sofa with a small libation and some great sounds, specifically what should be the Nation's Favourite Xmas Song (D. Tel). Time to wish a happy, peaceful and stress-free Christmas to everyone who reads this, including but not limited to you and yours, and me and mine.
  • Current Music
    Kirsty and the Pogues
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dylan

How Radio Works, by Bob Dylan

When Albert Einstein was asked how radio works, he said: "You see, wire telegraph is a kind of very very long cat. You pull its tail in New York, and its head is meowing in an alley in Los Angeles. The radio operates in exactly the same way. The only difference is that there's no cat."

More next week!
  • Current Music
    Dylan trailer on Radio 2