Oliver’s Mount here I come..

Despite loving my bikes and bike sport I’ve never managed to get to any road races, various things have conspired against me over the years and after the cancellation of something planned at the end of February yesterday I decided to change that.

So I’ll be heading up to Scarborough next month for the Spring Cup, now a 2 day event at the famous Oliver’s Mount road circuit. I managed to get a great deal on my hotel stay thanks to LateRooms which I’ve booked from Friday to Monday, so I don’t have to travel home by train on a Sunday (always a nightmare)  also noticed that advance ticket holders also get access to the paddock area, which will be a great experience and might allow me to get some pics. Really looking forward to my weekend there, and hoping the sunshine that we’ve got here today makes an appearance that weekend too.

Now wonder if I’ll still fit in some of my biking T-shirts..

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. :)

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Sponge N Mug O’Tea My kind of biking :)

Cycle-ergo.com 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.

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

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Box number 04

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Compact, but very clean and comfortable

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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.

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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!