Aldi offering new range of motorcycle gear

Discount retailer Aldi are going to stock a new range of budget motorcycle gear in their special buy section from 8th March. While it may not have some of the features of higher end gear, I’m sure the emergency services would rather see someone on a bike/scooter spill wearing these than something from Paul’s Boutique (as I saw this morning)

With more people buying bikes and scooters, a range of budget gear will go down well.

The full range is now available on the Aldi site

EDIT:  Biking site Visor Down had an item on the range including pricing.

Had a clear out

Have to admit I forgot I had this page, so as we’re on the first day of Spring I thought a clear out was in order. A lot of the old stuff both from here and the now closed Great NRAS Rail Race page has been consigned to the bin. I’ll add some of the old more interesting posts from both sites here again in due course.

Opening World Superbike round from Philip Island

The start of the bike sport season kicked off down under, with the World Superbikes getting things underway. As sleep often evades me due to the RA, being awake in the wee small hours for the live coverage came as no problem.

What developed over the next few hours was simply fantastic racing, both Superbike races were edge of the seat stuff, and the Supersport didn’t disappoint either.

All credit to the riders for playing out such a spectacular opening round of proper racing (unlike what is often seen in Snoremula 1)

As I posted to twitter at the time, its been many a year since I’ve had that much excitement at 1 and 4am on a Sunday morning! ;)

With things looking close in MotoGP after the Sepang testing and a packed BSB grid this year, its going to be one hell of a year for bike racing fans.

Sons of Anarchy

Having had a number of marathon sessions watching all the available seasons on Netflix following my bionic shoulder upgrade, I wondered what sort of patch would fit in with my style of biking.

After chatting to my wonderfully talented friend Sara it is now a reality. :)


Sponge N Mug O’Tea My kind of biking :) Great Motorcycle ergonomics tool

After my day with The Bike Experience, and spending time on the Aprilia Mana it highlighted the style of bikes I should be looking at to return to riding.

I came across the Cycle-Ergo site linked from somewhere, but can’t remember where. Its a great site for seeing what your riding position would be like on various bikes, I entered my rider info (height and inseam) and used the Mana as my starting point, noting the angle of lean, knee and hip angles. From this I was able to build up a list of bikes with similar riding positions.

It has really come in handy, and might be useful for those who might require lower seat heights or like me need a certain riding position due to disability or injury  etc. While it won’t be as good as a proper sit on or test ride it might help narrow your choice of bike down. Hope its as useful for others as it has been for me.

Give it a look!

My day with The Bike Experience

This is the longer version of the article I submitted for the NRAS magazine (it contains a bit more bike related info)

There are some things you wouldn’t initially associate with having RA, abseiling and riding a motorcycle for example. Both are things I loved doing and 21 years after my RA diagnosis and 14 years of not riding, thinking it was lost to me forever, October 9th 2013 became the day I got back on motorcycle.

I originally got a bike when they decided that Birmingham didn’t need a night service bus any longer, so with the silly shift starting times I had with my job, it meant getting to work was going to be more difficult.  So I got myself a 125cc bike (a second hand red Honda CB125TDC SuperDream) to get to work for those 02.50am starts and that is when it all started.

The bike that started it all

The bike that started it all 1987

There’s a motorcycling documentary called “Why we ride” and one of the people who are interviewed beautifully sums biking up with the following “some people have it inside, its a seed and if you ever put the water on it and feel the sensation, the seed is sprouted and it doesn’t die till day you take your last breath” So what started out as just a cheap way to get to work meant that seed sprouted, and grew and enriched my life,  the joy, freedom and the wonderful people made it something special.

I passed my test and moved up to a 350cc machine, a white Honda CB350SG a really reliable workhorse which was soon replaced by a 600, the first one I had, a red Honda Revere (NTV600), which felt more lethargic than my previous 350cc machine, but the shaft drive was great especially in the inclement winter weather. so I traded it in, and having a job that paid well if you put the hours in I got my first sports style bike a second hand Honda CBR600 in the Benetton colours (the one with the bright pink tank, which would lead to an interesting tale when attending the Weston Beach Races one year) from the wonderful Charlie at Sherwood Motorcycles a dealer who would help fuel my love of biking.

Three years later and I bought my first brand new bike another Honda CBR600 which friends nicknamed the ice cream van due to the red white and purple colour scheme. A few years later and another new bike this time the highly revered Honda VFR750 in Caribbean blue which to me was simply the best bike I ever had, even more amazing was that that 2 other work colleagues turned up on identical new bikes on the same morning! The VFR was just so enjoyable, the sound of the V4 engine, the comfort, tearing up the miles effortlessly taking me to remote parts of the country to see amazing places and experience wonderful emotions. It even had a clock on the dials! :)

Beloved VFR, thanks to Jase for the pic

Beloved VFR, thanks to Jase for the pic

Not long after I was diagnosed with RA, I was struggling to get on the bike, and was having incredible difficulty at work as my RA was really aggressive at the start, to the point where Prof Emery (my then rheumatologist) told me I was either mad or had really high pain threshold to be still working. We agreed that it might be a combination of the two. I traded in the VFR for a new CBR600 as I thought it might be easier to manage.

As the RA continued to cause problems I was forced to give up the job I loved, the company doctor retiring me on ill health grounds, in 1999 my biking days came to an end shortly after, wanting the best for my family  and having a hip replacement at the age of 29 I was forced to sell my bike, getting a fraction of its true value watching it disappear into the back of a van was heartbreaking, taking a part of me with it that has been missing ever since. I’ve never strayed far from bikes, as I wrote earlier, once biking is in your blood, it stays there, so it was always so close, but seemed out of reach due to the RA.

My last bike, Honda CBR600

My last bike, Honda CBR600

Also being a bit of a geek, I also get my bike fix via various websites and social media and it was on Twitter that I learnt of a charity called The Bike Experience (also on Facebook and Twitter) . I looked them up and was amazed at what I saw, they were getting people with all sorts of disabilities back onto a bike and for free! Watch the video on their site, even if you’re not a fan of motorcycles you can’t help but appreciate what this charity are doing, it’s also quite moving and they certainly deserve support.

I got in touch with them explaining my circumstances and they got back saying they could help, but both of the last two events of 2013 were full. Pleased that I had something to look forward to in 2014 I added The Bike Experience as a charity I was supporting in my abseil at Walsall Art Gallery on 5th October. A few days after booking my abseil I got a message from one of the founders saying a place had come available for the last event of the year on 9th October at Silverstone. I signed up to attend despite my abseil a few days before (as I usually need a few days to recover).

A good friend took me down to Silverstone the afternoon before my day with the Bike Experience, and I stayed in the Snoozebox, which is located right inside the circuit. A track day was taking place when we arrived and it was great to watch and listen to the bikes whizzing past. The snoozebox, was compact, but very clean and comfortable, I’d certainly use them again if I’m ever at Silverstone.


The social hub at Snoozebox Silverstone with upstairs viewing balcony overlooking the track


Box number 04


Compact, but very clean and comfortable


En Suite has a shower too

The morning of the 9th arrived and after a breakfast at the hub I headed over to the training area at Silverstone, and was greeted by a wonderfully friendly group of volunteers and three other disabled riders, after being helped into some leathers, helmet and gloves by Jo. we went through the safety procedures, and shown how wheelchair users get on the bike with the help of the crew.  Watching the two guys who were in wheelchairs climb aboard, and being held front and rear until the clutch bit and they headed off to the other end of the straight where two catchers helped them stop and stay upright was amazing.

My turn came, with a bit of help from the team I got on the bike, a Suzuki SV650, got it in gear via the handlebar mounted gear changer, felt the bite of the clutch, got the revs up and headed down towards the catchers, it was wonderful, all those memories and the great feeling you get from biking came rushing back. With the help of the catchers, they turned me round and I headed back to the other end.  I came to a stop and got some great encouragement from the team at that end, it all became a bit much, and I started crying, as I never thought I’d feel this again the TBE volunteers were really supportive and saying it’s something they often see.

I spent the rest of the day improving my skills, on an Aprilia 850 Mana , they soon came back. I was worried about problems with my joints while riding, especially my shoulders as they’re shot and there’s not a great deal they can do for them due to the ruptured tendons. But with around 3.5 hours on the bike, no problems at all with hips, knees or shoulders, it was if the bike had been made for me. At the end of the day we all had smiles across our faces, mine is still with me almost two weeks later, I’m hoping  to go back to TBE in the new year, and am considering volunteering for them myself, even if it’s only making the tea, it’s such an amazing charity, with such wonderful people.


Aboard The Bike Experience’s Aprilia Mana

Having any long term condition or disability can seem to stop your life in its tracks, you can’t do the things you love because of the pain, the stiffness the way of having to fight the effects on a daily basis and the negative effect that it can have on your emotions I certainly know it did in my case, but in time you shift and become able to help others, and decide that RA is just a part of you, it doesn’t define you as a person. You might have to do things slightly different or get help to do things, but don’t let that stop you.

Bono sang that he still hadn’t found what he was looking for, but with advances in treatments, support from the rheumatology team, orthopaedic surgeons, family, friends and the wonderful work of some fantastic charities.

I have and you can too!

Rail Race 2011 day 2/3

Day 2 Capitals – Belfast & Edinburgh Another early start, I set the alarm for 4.30, but got up at 4.50 after dozing a little longer, bed was really comfortable, the mattress much better than the one I have at home, made my way into the lovely en suite shower, set nice and warm for a few minutes to loosen the joints a little. I ensured the phone was fully recharged, for the tweeting/gps today via the laptop as none of the services I used yesterday had any power sockets. Breakfast isn’t served until 7am, so I’m going to take a stroll just after 6 get a few pics of early morning Dublin if I can, I have to pop into Dublin Connolly station too to get a priv ticket for my journey to Belfast as the booking office was closed by the time I got here last night (8pm) I really must come over to Ireland again sometime soon. It’s changed so much, and now that I know how quick, easy (and cheap) it is to get here I’ll have to plan a trip.


Ripley Court Hotel Dublin

I headed out of the hotel about 6.15, the night porter gave me a hearty good morning with a big grin on his face, a lovely clear blue sky overhead welcomed me as I got outside as the city wakes up. I didn’t head too far as my train to Belfast is at 07.35 and I’m hoping to get some breakfast at the hotel before checking out. Heading towards Connolly station, a few pics of the old building and the new area underneath where the trams terminate.


Dublin Connolly Station


Dublin Connolly Station

A short distance away I came across a sculpture with a flame inside, commissioned by Amnesty International in 1995 Universal Links on Human Rights‘ is by Tony O’Malley was located on a busy traffic island near The Custom House. I Headed back towards Connolly station and bought my ticket to Belfast.


Dublin Custom House


Universal Links on Human Rights

A short walk back to the hotel and the lobby was full of American tourists, getting ready for their journey home, a really nice atmosphere at this hotel from the staff and guests. I head back to my room and get my rucksack packed and head down to breakfast. I found a long queue for breakfast, and looking at the time I was worried I might have to skip it before checking out and getting over for my train. But the staff serving were really on the ball, toast, sausage, scrambled egg and tomato (I could have had more but was worried I wouldn’t have time to eat it all) , a choice of cereals was also available, but with a long day ahead the protein will keep me full for longer (well that’s my excuse) Breakfast eaten, it was around 7.20, I went and checked out and again wonderfully friendly service, I headed to Connolly station which only takes 2-3 minutes (depending on how lucky you are with the lights on the crossing, if you just miss them, you’re waiting a while) and found the Belfast service on platform 2. The Enterprise service has a fleet of new trains, but my service was a loco hauled. A quick picture and I got onto the train. I sat at a table seat, at the seat in front were some American and Canadian tourists who were doing a tour with a guide from Railtours Ireland.  They were heading up to Belfast and then going on to the Giants Causeway.


Enterprise service to Belfast

After leaving the Dublin suburbs we headed out into the beautiful countryside, the refreshments trolley came through and the cheerful Michelle served me with a nice hot cup of tea. The guide on the tour was giving lots of information on route, certainly a good way to explore Ireland.  We headed over the River Boyneand continued north. A few pics from the train window en route and before long we were heading into Belfast.


Are we there yet?


View from the train

A lovely blue sky greeted me here in Belfast too, and I now had a walk from the station to Belfast City Hall, where I had to catch a bus service to the port.  The Google Navigation app on my phone certainly came in handy at this point. As I got closer I found that City Hall is a wonderful building, I didn’t really have enough time to spend long, but I had to take a few quick pictures while I was here.


Belfast City Hall


Part of City Hall Belfast

Hopped onto the bus, and again a wonderfully cheerful driver greeted me.  The journey to the port didn’t take too long, The Stena Line service is also a HSS, and after checking in I waited in the lounge with the other foot passengers, there was also some hells angels grabbing some refreshments.


Onboard the Stena Line HSS

Once onboard the ship had a variety of coffee bars, and food outlets, there was an arcade area with a few machines.  Again the trip would only take 2 hours, and the journey flew by before long the Scottish coastline came into view and a quick look on the smartphone the GPS told me were were passing the Corsewall Lighthouse. Into Loch Ryan and then the ship was turned ready to dock in Stranraer. After getting off the ship it was good to find the rail station was right outside the ferry terminal. The 2 car 156 unit was shut down as the numerous passengers climbed aboard.  The engines roared into life a few minutes before departure and we left on time along the single line, with the train stopping at various signal boxes en route for the tokens for the next section. Again some wonderful scenery as we threaded our way to Ayr, where I had a change of trains.

The service to Glasgow was on one of the fleet of new class 380 electric trains(with plug sockets!) similar to class 350 desiros we have in the West Midlands, but the corridor connections seem to have a jaunty angle when not in use.  We headed towards Glasgow and I noticed they were laying new track in parts where it had been ripped out years before, after a quick Google when I got home I found the work is part of the £170m Paisley Corridor Improvements (PCI) project will upgrade the track and signalling on the busy rail corridor between Shields junction in Glasgow and Paisley Gilmour St station. I arrived in Glasgow Central, and walked over to Queen Street for my journey to Edinburgh as I was a little creaky I mssed my intended 17.30 service, but fortunately the next one was only 15 minutes later. My arrival in Edinburgh Waverley was greeted with lovely blue skies again. So I grabbed a bite to eat before taking a few pics in close proximity to the station. I had a few hours in Edinburgh, but didn’t really feel up to venturing far, fatigue and creaky joints played a part.









I had to head back to Glasgow, as the Edinburgh portion of the Caledonian Sleeper service was full, so I had to add an extra leg to my trip back to Glasgow Central and board the portion from there. The 21.14 Cross Country service arrived on time and It was nice to see one of the refurbished Inter City 125’s many folks might not see why older trains were better, but for me, there was a place for luggage in each coach, they had a guards van for a multitude of cycles or large amounts of luggage etc. The new trains while very nice inside, if you have more than a few people with anything larger than a rucksack end up blocking isles, or having to put their luggage on the seats.

The train was fairly empty as we heading out of Haymarket, the sun starting to set on the horizon, it was a lovely sight, as the skies overhead took on a orange and purple glow. A guy opposite said it was moments like this that made central Scotland look stunning. We called at Motherwell and then headed into Glasgow. On arrival at Glasgow I headed for the Caledonian Sleeper and after chatting with the attendant headed off to my berth in coach N I was shattered at this point, and after freshening up I got into my PJ’s and got into bed.

Charlie has Déjà vu

Charlie has Déjà vu

I remember us leaving Glasgow on time, then woke when they joined the portion from Edinburgh at Carstairs but soon fell asleep again. I awoke next as the train trundled to a stop, a quick look out of the window blind revealed It was 06.02 and we were at Watford Junction.

Day 3 Capital – London

I got up and got dressed, shortly after the attendant came along with my cup of English breakfast tea and my continental breakfast.  The train picked up speed on the section to Euston and we arrived 15 minutes ahead of the advertised time at 06.30. My journey was complete, I had been to all the capitals of the UK in Ireland under my 48hr target and covered over 1100 miles (yes I’ve been anorak enough to work it out) ;) . I really didn’t fancy heading anywhere in London during the rush hour, so was lucky to get the 06.43 Virgin Service back to Brum.

So my Rail Race was complete, I feel a lot worse than I did after the one two years ago, but I’ve covered a lot more miles this time. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me with a donation to NRAS, the staff at the Ripley Court hotel in Dublin for their wonderful service and donation and to all the service providers for the great service I encountered from staff en route.