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May 2013 Entries
EICMA 2012–The Show

I’ve posted the story of how I chose to go to the EICMA show last year, and having got through the turnstiles the plan was to get to the BMW stand as soon as possible to see the new R1200GS. The show is huge and was quite different to our regular fare at the Scottish Bike Show.

As soon as we got in there were folks handing out fisherman’s friends. Yes you read right, and I still can’t quite believe it. If you don’t know these are menthol cough sweets made in Feetwood, Lancashire. And they were handing them out in Milan, Italy…

It was a long long walk to the BMW Motorrad stand through about three halls and by the time we got there the goody bags had run out, but the scale had to be seen to be appreciated. The stand was very large and there were several hundred people there.

The new GS looked excellent (in the ugly GS way) and my favourite would be the one with the satnav integration, the off-road pegs and the rallye seat to give a bit more height. Unfortunately I didn’t have the scoop on seeing the bike as my pal Joe had seen it at the international dealer launch in Cologne a few weeks earlier, but I was to get a slight scoop in that there was one of the few running GSs at the show – in the car part being thrashed by Chris Pfeiffer. Personally it wasn’t until April 2013 that I would get a ride on the new GS, and that would be on knobbly tyres and mainly off road. I’ve since had a brief ride on road and in Dynamic mode the new bike is quite a step up from the previous model – really likes to rev.

I’ve not been to the Birmingham show so I can’t compare scale but EICMA was huge and very busy, MrsL took a rest at one stage and I wandered around a few of the stands and it was great to see the size of the main manufacturers. They were strategically apart in different halls and this meant that I missed Yamaha completely, managing to see BMW (of course), Honda and others like KTM and Triumph. Of course Ducati was well represented, as were the scooter manufacturers. Wandering around I found the World Superbike stand with two guys called Tom Sykes and Carl Fogarty being interviewed – this was quite hilarious with them being interviewed in Italian – think banal on banal interview questions. The crowd loved it.

All the accessory dealers were there, and Touratech had a big stand – I now have their catalogue in Italian!

Huge and busy is how I would sum it up. Out the back was a show by Chris Pfeiffer which was an unexpected result – he was demonstrating on his usual F800R and a new R1200GS, and there was also a supercross stage which was well impressive. All in all there was too much to see in a day – an excellent result.

Like I mentioned before it is a proper trade show, so you will not find anything to buy – it is open to the public but there is a lot of trade networking going on with new model launches and nothing being sold on the stands. If you like to go to Motorcycle shows to see stuff (but perhaps not buy) then I would go.

posted @ Thursday, May 30, 2013 7:06 PM | Feedback (0)
EICMA 2012 from Edinburgh

Further to my previous post here is a shorter summary post on our Itinerary.

How we got there

We flew EasyJet from Edinburgh Airport to Milan Malpensa with one item of hold luggage. The Winter schedule is quite light midweek so watch for this adjustment. In hindsight we would travel with proper full size hand luggage and use that instead to be quicker and save the extra cost.

I bought return tickets for the Malpensa Shuttle from Malpensa to Central Rail Station. You can buy tickets on the EasyJet flight for the same amount of money as online. Almost everyone from the flight caught the shuttle so it is very easy to find if you follow the crowd.

To get to the show from Milan we used the Metro Red Line and used the Porta Venezia station direct to the RHO Fieramilano. There is a special zone ticket for 5 Euro Return. The  ticket machines in the station are multilingual and take notes, so simply switch the display to English (or your language of choice). The journey is fairly long but it was great to see the train fill up with people going to a Motorcycle show, fantastic. Again at the RHO Fieramilano follow the crowd; there is a huge underground passageway that takes you from the platform to the entrance to the show.

At the show

The show was very busy when we got there, fortunately I had my ticket already. MrsL was handed a ticket as soon as we found the queue, and streamed to a turnstile specifically for the visiting “Ladies”. This was a bit hard to see in the scrum at the entrance but look for it if it applies. I joined the rest of the males in the big crown going through, as it was busy I sent MrsL through and she had a chat with another visitor from France who had also left her husband to queue up too.

The show is very very big and we literally stumbled on events and parts of the exhibition, we popped out for some fresh air and found Chris Pfeiffer doing a show. We completely missed Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha stand. It is a tough call to cover in a day but worth the research. It is a proper trade show so as far as I could see you can’t buy the stuff you see, and in a way it was similar to work trade shows in terms the variety of large and small companies.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Ibis Milano Centro and I bought the cultural package online to get breakfast. Breakfast was a continental buffet arrangement and it was interesting to try and guess who else was going to the show. The event is that big and there were at least three groups that I reckon were at the show based on their branded clothing. The front desk staff were great in accommodating me by speaking English and very helpful. Unlike British hotels you don’t get tea & coffee making facilities.

In terms of the locale, the bits we used were:

  • We used the Porta Venezia metro station on the red line. This got us both to the show and to the metro nearest to the start of the City Sightseeing Tour.
  • The Ice Cream shop we visited was Grom on Corso Buenos Aires. There are a few of these shops around Milan. They have several chocolate flavours.
  • There is a Supermercato Punto around the corner in Via Lazzaretto which opens late and is great for grabbing supplies.

Where we eat

This was a short stay and on the cheap so don’t expect posh:

  • The local McDonalds right beside Porta Venezia had the usual expected fare plus a few local twists, and they have an espresso bar which had fantastic tiramisu.
  • We eat breakfast at the hotel, this was a continental buffet with cold meats, cheeses, croissants and other pastries, fruit juice machines and coffee machines to help yourself to.
  • We had lunch at brek San Babila which is a middling walk from the Duomo but slightly tricky to find – it is behind the main street and seems to sit in the middle of a parking area. From the Piazza del Duomo follow Corso Vittorio Emanuele II then slight right across to Via Borgogna and it is on the left through a passageway. There are all sorts of different dish types on offer which you pick up then pay for. It can be busy (good sign) but is reasonably priced and there is a big seating area down the stairs.
posted @ Wednesday, May 29, 2013 9:15 PM | Feedback (0)
Motorbike Show ? Try Italy

I’ve been to a few Motorcycle shows over the years. Our local show is the Scottish Motorcycle Show at Ingliston, about 20 minutes drive from the house and tends to be the first weekend in March. Then a few years ago there was a one off show at the SECC in Glasgow, on a smaller scale. Then I’ve also been to a couple of events that the Police have run, the family and I went to a couple of the Cumbria Police events at Carlisle Race Course – they always seemed to do well with their live bands which went down well with MrsL. I struggle to remember the proper name for the event – RoadSafe rings a bell as it was supposed to be a general road safety event, not just bikes. It was a great venue and speaking to a Lancashire Bike Cop who was also an observer for Morecambe IAM got me on to the IAM instead of Rospa. I’ve also been to Durham BikeWise a few times and will be going this year, MrsL likes the atmosphere and the historical centre of Durham has its own charm.

In terms of proper Motorcycle Events since I got a bike and some kit the only reason for going to the Scottish Motorcycle Show was to see a supplier of earplugs to get moulds taken. The ticket price for MrsL and I of £24 in advance (+ fees) or £31 on the door seemed a bit steep to me, and I’d rather put the money to the bike to keep it on the road or put it towards a meal for me and MrsL. There was also an element of the same old for each visit.

I considered the national show at Birmingham, but again costs of travel and accommodation plus admission fees put me off. And for some reason Birmingham didn’t quite appeal to MrsL as a destination.

Then I read a two page spread in BiKE magazine suggesting things to do – one of these was to attend the EICMA show in Italy. They claimed Milan was well served by Budget Airlines. So I checked, and indeed EasyJet had a direct flight from Edinburgh Airport (next door to Ingliston) to Milan Malpensa. Total flight cost for the trip would be around £133 for MrsL and I, and for some reason Milan was more appealing as a destination for MrsL. It was beginning to shape up, especially as the cost of flights was about the same or less as Birmingham or London would be. And being the great people that they are, the Italian show organisers have what they call a “Ladies Day” on a Friday – women get in free! And the ticket price was 12 Euro – less than the Scottish Scottish show and for one of the biggest shows in Europe. And there was a rumour going that a new BMW boxer GS was about to come out, and EICMA is traditionally a launch show for the big manufacturers.

As I kicked in to planning mode I started looking for Accommodation and connecting transport. The EICMA show is held at Fiera Milana Rho which has a few hotels in the vicinity but as I began to realise is miles out from the centre. Malpensa Airport is a fair distance out from the city too, meaning about 30 minutes by train or 45 minutes by coach. The popular coach service (they sell tickets on the EasyJet Flight) stops off at Fiera Milano Rho so that may have been an option. My favourite, a city metro service, is a strong feature in Milan and looking at the website it strongly featured a ticket to the Fair – Five Euro for a return ticket.

Then I discovered something called a winter schedule which is an adjustment to flights that airlines make in the winter for weather and passenger volumes. In the case of Edinburgh to Milan, it meant a single flight out every other day and similar back. So it would mean an extra day there – we would fly out Wednesday and come back Saturday to be there on a Friday. So that gave us a day for sightseeing, which would be an open top bus tour for as much as we could stand.

So it all shaped up. In the end I chose the Ibis Milano Centro to stay in, having stayed with Ibis or Accor hotels in Reading and Berlin. The price for the room was excellent and they had a package that included breakfast (and tickets to the roof of the Duomo). This hotel was also near to one of the routes of the bus tour, and included a shopping area which again was another feature to sell the idea to MrsL. It was also mid way between two metro stations, one of which was the direct line to the Fiera.

The trip was excellent, although my lack of Italian and experience of travel made it a bit of a stressful experience but the show was massive and a lot better than the UK has to offer. We liked the hotel which was nice and clean and at an excellent price, and I was really glad that I had gone for the “Culture” package that included breakfast. The metro was excellent, though like Berlin they confusingly have their Urban railway network under the ground too. The unitary ticket system doesn’t help either – the ticket we had for the metro got us on to the platform for the railway. The clue was the double decker trains though, the metro is single decker.

A latter discovery exactly round the corner from the Ibis was a small supermarket – which we discovered on the last evening and I’d wished we had noticed sooner as the hotel vending machines were typically on the pricey side at least in comparison. MrsL also told me that the local wine was excellent, as usual the local stuff was cheaper and of better quality than the export stuff we get.

We also had a good run on the city sightseeing tour, after an initial bit of confusion with the online booking I had made – you just use it on the bus –we went round both routes once, and then again and got off at the Duomo.

Other highlights were the ice cream shop we found round the corner on the first night, and it was a bonus that the chap who served us had excellent English. The double plain chocolate ice cream / fondant was amazing. Even on a chilly November evening. And the view of the Alps on the way in to Malpensa was a delightful if obvious surprise.

I’ll follow up with another two posts, a shorter summary of travel and accommodation, and a post about the show itself.

posted @ Wednesday, May 29, 2013 7:34 PM | Feedback (0)
Replacing old Virtual PC / Server additions with ORCA

Over the last six months or so I’ve been assisting on a project to migrate some old software between data centres. The new data centres have Windows 2008 Server R2 and all the matching versions of SQL Server and SharePoint – not the latest versions but up to date when it comes to corporate land.

Part of my consulting support has involved regression checks of both source and running software in test environments. With the apps being almost 8 years old the support and test machines are thankfully virtual but date back to Virtual Server time. It’s great having the ready built machines available but Hyper-v has a few issues when working with the machines.

One of these is the additions – not the Hyper-V additions but the original Virtual Server additions which will not remove due to an issue in the original setup. And you can’t add the new ones until the old are removed.

So over to a post by Arvind Shyamsunder over on MSDN (Virtual PC / Virtual Server 2005 to Hyper-V Additions) which describes a solution – it’s a hack but it works. It involves modifying the installed installer for Virtual Server additions to remove a check so that it will de-install. Then you have a clean machine which you can install the hyper-v additions on.

ORCA is a tool for working with msi files which is in the Platform SDK – full details in the referenced article.

posted @ Friday, May 24, 2013 6:31 AM | Feedback (0)
Kirkcaldy Sand Racing 2013

A video I shot on my phone at last weekend’s sand racing at Kirkcaldy in Fife, Scotland. The weather was atrocious across the country but it was an excellent event.

Number 50 having a hoot.
posted @ Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:15 PM | Feedback (0)
i2i motorcycle academy facebook

You will know from previous posts that I have used i2i Motorcycle Academy in the past (and hopefully will in the future) to acquire machine control training. i2i have had a website at http://www.i2imca.com/ for a few years now and have also been represented on social media for a couple of years. The i2i motorcycle academy Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/96903591330/

posted @ Thursday, May 23, 2013 7:30 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Conclusions

The quality of instruction and course content of Level One at Off Road Skills are excellent and I thoroughly recommend it. I would also recommend the R1200GS as the bike of choice but I might be biased because of my size. My hope is finances permitting (I did go and buy a new R1200 GS Adventure this year) that I will be able to do Level One again next year. It is longer than helpful from a learning perspective but we all have to live within the limitations we have.

Things I took away:

  • The R1200GS is the easiest bike for me to ride (ok well I haven’t tried the F800GS to properly support that statement).
  • Shifting body weight on the pegs is essential for turning off road.
  • Keeping my legs straight most of the time cuts down fatigue (and later quad muscle pain).

Things I would like to achieve by going again (and again):

  • Not slipping the clutch – just dipping it when needed.
  • Being comfortable with counterweighting and the slow speed techniques.
  • Relax Relax Relax.
  • Better machine control so I can do a complete run of momentum.

I would also thoroughly recommend the package arranged by Motorrad Central  - it is a new idea from them to support the opportunity for their customers to attend the ORS events without the considerable effort to bring ORS to Scotland. The travel and accommodation costs are a given, so being able to share these with others makes great economic sense and also brings the support of a group for the learning experience. I paid £649 which compares favourably to the base cost of Level One with ORS of £479. Big thanks goes in particular to David Brown who both looked after the group on and off road and did all the driving.

posted @ Wednesday, May 22, 2013 6:06 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 2 (Monday) Trails and more hills

Most rider training courses I have looked at are one day, so I used to think the cost of the ORS school was a bit steep. What hadn’t really clicked is that the course has always been two days and in that light makes a bit more sense, even if it is the other end of the country. One thing that reinforced the point that I had chosen well was the multinational mix of attendees, I’m not sure but I think that there were attendees from mainland Europe on the course.

On Monday morning Nicky did a fantastic job of sorting us out for breakfast with a full house of folk (full English breakfast for me again) and got our stuff on and headed to the van. Ross was really proud of his new GS boots which he had got at a cracking price at ORS (they sell end of line surplus BMW off road kit at great prices) and Graeme extolled the virtues of the thinner off road gloves that he had got hold of.

Then it was a quicker process at the venue, sign on, get keys, kit up and off on the bikes. We grouped up just beyond the entrance at the Arena and went straight in to trail riding. For whatever reason the confidence I had at the end of Day 1 had gone, and it was obvious to the others – David and Jonathan could see I was gripping too hard, dropping my shoulders (and view) – all the classic survival / panic stuff. To be honest I don’t know whether it was just plain tiredness or mental fatigue but once the nerves set I struggled to force myself to relax. I think I am still too early in the process of learning this stuff to know a quick technique to settle myself. Given enough time though I will get it.

At some stage on day 2 I managed to fall off – I think I will classify it as a proper “brain fart” when I saw a small ditch to cross and decided that some throttle would be a good idea to shift the weight back on the bike giving the front suspension more travel. That was my train of thought. What happened was I shot forward and fell off. What Simon reported seeing was me getting air and rapidly heading towards a bank, falling off and the GS coming back towards me. I think I must have effectively bunny hopped an R1200GS over a bank. Oops. I went down on my left side and at some stage bashed my knee which later was quite sore and stiff, but otherwise it was just my confidence (and ego) that got bashed.

But before that we did the follow-up to yesterday which was hill recovery. The idea behind this (as demonstrated by Kevin) was to learn the technique of what to do if you get stuck on a hill. Most if not all of the slopes we were riding up were too steep to approach from a standstill, so on this exercise we would ride up the hill, stall the bike, then turn the bike to face downhill so that we could go through the hill start process. As before there is a step by step approach to it that means the bike is kept under control (even when you are at times sliding down in the mud). I got on reasonably well with this – my height and reach making it ok to do.

We later did a straightforward ascent of the hill, well I say straightforward but like most of the hills I’m sure it got steeper and rockier farther up. The process was to get the bike up into second and let the traction control do the rest – quite freaky when changing gear standing up is an experience, I only had a short distance and it was another 90 degree turn at the bottom of the hill. I found myself gripping things a bit too tightly, Kevin suggested getting further forward and relaxing which did the business though surprisingly hard to do when the bike is bouncing around. This was one of the exercises where the result was no problem but the experience from memory still equates with more of a roller coaster ride than riding a motorcycle – this was an illustration of how impressive the machine is and all of my work is to not get in the way of it doing its job of steering and putting the power down.

We then did the loop in reverse, coming down that same hill. By this time I was also beginning to target fixate and was looking at a nice ditch at the other side of the trail at the bottom of the hill. My two first runs ended up in me grabbing some brake and the abs kicking in at the bottom of the hill – plenty of room but not quite the turn right that was planned. Kevin (at the top of the descent) noticed this and suggested looking where I wanted to go. This worked, the bike didn’t fall over, explode or fly – we just turned the corner no problem…

Finally we had the momentum, which was described as the opener for Level Two and a test of machine control (Uh-oh). I had a bit of Deja Vu as there had been a mini version at Knockhill with a little hill followed by a tight turn immediately after. As you may have picked up I was having general issues and just thought oh dear! I looked at it from two perspectives, rational brain thought – what an excellent test of slow speed manoeuvring, throttle control and balance. My panic response was – OMG I have to ride up and stop on a hillock that is higher than my head after turning round a boulder in a tight space and then loop back and forth.

Rather than the skilled control of say a trials rider, I just flashed to panic and thoughts of roller coasters. I had a couple of goes but didn’t have the control to do it. I want to though, and immediately filed the ambition to “Crack Momentum”.

There was also a part with riding through water which I baled from – I was giving up then, I wasn’t as bothered about it as I was with momentum but I want to do that bit again too.

We then headed back to gather together with the other groups to try other bikes. I was completely away by then and retreating in to my brain – as far as dropping my view and completely missed Jenny directing me to put the R1200 beside the other 1200 bikes – organising bikes in to groups. I waved an apology and moved the bike. I stood out as I reckoned the F800 was too twitchy, the R1200GS was the best bike and I had ridden the G650 at Knockhill.

Then things wound up, we gathered back near the entrance with the enduro guys and got our photos taken with Kevin and the bikes and even managed to get Simon Pavey in the photo too! Pictures on the Motorrad Central Facebook page.

Then back to the Industrial Estate to get our Certificates and back in the Van to get showered at the Old Tredegar  and pile in to the van for the journey back to Scotland. David did a great job of driving us home, and dropping Simon off when we discovered that Dumfries and Galloway doesn’t do taxis after Midnight on a Monday.

And then it was back to Dalkeith around 2/3 in the morning to get the bike. I did contemplate getting a taxi home from Dalkeith but David had my bike out and ready for me and I rode the Adventure home in the dark for the first time ever!

posted @ Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:06 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 1 (Sunday) Stuff on trails

So having pottered about on the flat area we headed off in to the forest for some riding on trails and getting used to standing up. The position to adopt was described as “standing at a bar” which we all seemed to understand. The trails involved a number of different surfaces, though with the rain mud was a common feature. We went from graded roads of a mixture of gravel and mud, to quite muddy trails up to gravel roads. Understanding peg weighting made a big difference and to this day I’ve still to reconcile that with the California Superbike "no body steering” thing.

But another point came up – being 6’5” tall and standing on the pegs means I have to (as Kevin directed) pivot at the waist. This is fine to reach but makes it very hard not to lean heavily on the bars and thus cause an issue with off road riding. This happens on-road to an extent, but off road the steering on a bike is continually correcting itself for the terrain and odd slips that happen. For this reason I understand the idea is to anchor yourself to the bike with your feet and lower legs – as explained to me that is why the insides of motocross boots (and sometimes trousers) have grippy material. The only thing is that with my inside leg of 38” the top of seat of the new R1200GS in low position came to about the top of my boot, and it felt like I had little purchase on the bike. Certainly it didn’t feel like I could pivot at the waist without leaning on the bars. I use the word feel deliberately – later in the day it wasn’t a problem and I just got on with enjoying the riding and even spinning up the rear a little. The next day was a different story – I went backwards a bit in confidence.

One of the exercises I think we did on this day was descents. I had a rough idea of what we might hear but when you are there on a muddy and flinty hill at the gradient we practiced on it is something else! The idea (and I believe four wheel drive cars are similar) is to let the machine do the work, and not to use the brakes or accelerator. The hill we were on was just at the limit of what you could walk up and down, and yet as expected the machines had no problems.

Then on the same hill a few twists were added. These included starting the machine on a slope – back in the day when I did my road test we had a hill start which was a a little real world test of all the things we had learned in coordination of hands and feet with the machine, with a nice dose of gravity thrown in. We would move on to momentum work later (more on that in a latter blog) and part of this is that you don’t (can’t) start upwards on the slopes that these machines will cope with. So it was a downhill start for this, but it still had a sequence to it – which of course I’ve forgotten already but it was logical. That said as with the previous descents it seemed to involve plummeting down a hill without any brakes on and a 90 degree turn at the bottom. Again it was just a feeling but I felt like I was hanging over the back wheel to stay upright. The turn at the bottom was a great illustration of looking where you want to go – I forgot this temporarily the next day.

Then to twist it up Kevin suggested trying second gear and some braking effort – brakes sounded fine to me (gently) but I’m not sure about second gear.

I think the other stuff we did was the next day. We rode around a few more trails – up high to where the wind turbines lived (they sound quite strange close up) and down. Some of the wider trails were third gear – all good stuff and I was happy with how I was getting on on the GS.

So we headed back to regroup near the entrance, which was a nice descent through the forest and gave an idea of how hilly the area was – we seemed to be descending all the way down for a few miles. Then a road section back to the industrial estate and we piled in to the van to get a shower back at the B&B. I’d had a good time, learned stuff, and not fallen off! Back at the B&B we got our wet and muddy stuff off in the drying room – the Old Tredegar conversion to a B&B showing a bit of thought.

Part of the course is an evening meal at the Abercrave Inn, when Simon Pavey and the other instructors join the participants. All well documented in various articles I’ve read over the years in magazines and we had a good time talking to one of the other instructors called Glynn Barraclough. He had looked after David & the rest of the Motorrad Central group the previous October and tried to get us to sign up to the ORS Portugal trip.

Then it was back to the Old Tredegar for more chat into the wee small hours – that said I baled out early on them to try and get some rest for the next day.

posted @ Monday, May 20, 2013 6:06 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 1 (Sunday) Stuff

This is where it gets tricky – as things progressed there was more and more learning and as such the timing blurred and there is going to be stuff I forgot, and will no doubt mention in the wrong order. As far as groups are organised all of the folks from the Motorrad Central group were put together rather than streaming on experience, and we got Kevin Hammond as our instructor. As David was along from Motorrad and had already shown himself as a confident off road rider – he was to be the tail end. As far as I could see the other groups had two instructors.

As with any good training course it is progressive. What I mean by progressive is that it builds on what you have just learned, and when presented with something you have not done yet you have the tools to deal with what might happen.

The first few (or it might have just been a couple) of hours were spent on a large flat area on top of a hill. When I say flat I mean you could see for several hundred yards and it was flatter than the rest of the places we went. But it had puddles and ruts and lots of mud from the extensive rain that had fallen for the previous days and continued to fall on the day.

So with an off road motorcycling course we started with how to pick a bike up. Kevin illustrated by lowering his Adventure on to its side and showing the technique. There are a few different ways (YouTube is your friend) but as far as I can tell all rely on using your legs as the main lifting muscle. The great thing about the boxers is that they end up resting on the cylinder head – poor Ross on the F800 had further to pick his bike up but at least his was lighter. This is where I’m not 100% confident whether I am remembering correctly that I had a shot with Kevin’s bike but he claimed it had a full fuel tank and the technique using the bars as the lever was straightforward.

Then we looked at how the bike feels balanced on its wheels and keeping it upright while moving around the bike, walking (well shuffling) round it in both directions to get the confidence that it wouldn’t leap to the floor at the first opportunity.

Then we got to ride the things again – unlike my off-road riding in Yorkshire with i2i we spent all of our time standing on the pegs – no sitting down and sticking a leg out which must be a motocross or supermoto thing. Another directive which I’ve still to get the hang of was no clutch slipping – off road is all about preserving the machinery. I didn’t get the hang of this (and later on I could see others slipping their clutches) but will put this on my list of “I would like to be able to and will try until I can”.

Then there were riding exercises with the usual slaloms and circles etc. – stuff I hate but know how great it is when it works. I say that, but it has been years since I did full lock U-turns on the R1100RS without hyperventilating and my arms going to jelly. Early on in the process it was evident how much peg weighting makes a difference, but also counterbalancing. It’s an area I need to work on but made progress – steering had been harder than it needed to be. I must admit I ran through the exercises but need lots of work and practice in the area. As usual stuff was rushing through my head (stories in i2i parlance) and these were around being able to steer tightly when the surface was rough and muddy and trying to find something to balance on during the process.

Then we had some more fun stuff – deliberate skids. This was the only time we were told to turn off the traction control and abs, something you have to do every time the GS is switched on. Thankfully I’d done this before but it still takes a bit to be told to get up to a decent speed and then deliberately lock the front wheel. It was that that stuck in my mind, we may have done rear lock up too but that tends to be pretty uneventful.

Then it was off to the trails to try stuff.

posted @ Sunday, May 19, 2013 6:05 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–Day 1 (Sunday) Intro

So if you’ve read my previous post you will know that we are staying at the Old Tredegar, there is a group of 8 of us, and we are all travelling around in a VW Transporter Shuttle in Silver (did I mention the colour?).

Nicky did a sterling job of looking after us all for breakfast on Sunday morning and then we all headed back to our rooms to kit up for the journey to the industrial estate where ORS are based. Longest bit for me (as expected and in order of duration) was 1. Removing the visor from the Enduro (was going to use goggles) 2. Putting in the contact lenses. 3. Putting on the Tech 3s.

Actually the Alpinestars Tech 3s are quite easy to put on but the long part is getting the adjustment of the closures correct. There is a large Velcro flap which folds over and can get a little crossed up if you do it wrong. The buckles have some rotational movement but it is better to get everything straight so that the buckles go in. The buckles close reasonably easily apart from the inevitable one or two which don’t play ball – experience over the weekend led me to believe that the buckles have to be flat to click in properly. If they are slightly indented then they don’t line up properly and won’t click shut.

Then a double check to make sure I had everything I would need – gloves and helmet kit wise, driving license for signing in. And then stomped off on the nice new and clean carpet to get in the van. The route to the industrial estate is reasonably short but twisty – Ystradgynlais is pretty flat in the middle but go a mile in any direction and it basically follows a series of steep river valleys with inevitable changes in elevation and twist and turns. In fact at the back door of the Old Tredegar is a river, not something you appreciate properly on Google Street View.

As we turned the sweeping corner in the Industrial estate all the bikes where there waiting. In a long row out on to the road, grouped according to type and all nice and clean after the wash they had had the previous day. And nearest to their unit was the row of R1200GS bikes – the brand new model, so new in fact that it had been the previous model that David had had a shot on on the first Level One Motorrad group the previous October. One of those was going to be my ride for the next two days.

First stage was signing on – usual disclaimer forms etc., it was good to see some familiar faces from Knockhill – Simon Pavey was kicking around, as was Kevin Hammond who was helping check forms etc. Linley Pavey was also around – my wife got to know Linley a little at Knockhill as she sat with the ORS team while I was down a muddy hill falling off a few times.

I got handed a key to one of the new R1200GS bikes – this was to be the first time I would ride the new bike ever, and it would be on semi-knobblies and mainly off road. Some introduction! I hunted around for my bike but couldn’t find it. All of the bikes are numbered at ORS with the numbers in big letters on their screens but there were a couple of R1200 bikes missing screens – so David rightly did the sensible thing –try the key in the bike to see if it switches on. Right enough, I was on the screen less bike.

So we were gathered together got a wee speech and a quick explanation that filming was not allowed due to the site owners rules (and concerns) – follow to the petrol station and then form and fill up. And then up to the famous Walters Arena – ok famous to someone who scours magazines, YouTube and watched Long Way Round a few times. So it was goggles on, and ride along on the bike with the low seat. As usual I had no feel for the gear change in my motocross boots, but the space was decent on the big GS and I could hook my foot under the lever – rather than sweeping the side like I have had to do on smaller bikes like the G650 or the KTMs I had ridden a few years previously. As the roads were damp we took it pretty easy – on the way at least.

It was an interesting experience already – there must have been about 10 of each type of bike, so with R1200GS, F800GS, G650GS (or was it F700 ?) and enduro Husqvarna bikes, plus instructors on their R1200GS Adventures there was a lot of bikes at the petrol station. All good stuff. Then it was a fair ride up and out of town to get to the entrance we would use to the Arena. A bit of Google map work after the visit shows how big the area is and how many entrances lead in, thankfully with a big group I didn’t need to wait on the big gate getting opened.

Then it was on to an old road with potholes – and already some of the other participants were up on the pegs. It had been a couple of years since I had ridden off road and on an unfamiliar bike I stuck to sitting down – this would change quite quickly, all of the riding we would end up doing would be standing up.

posted @ Saturday, May 18, 2013 5:03 PM | Feedback (0)
Off Road Skills Level One–April 14th and 15th 2013–the trip to Wales

I recently had a great time with a group from Motorrad Central at the BMW Off Road Skills School in Wales. We spent two days riding new BMW motorcycles round trails and up and down hills etc.

As you will know from reading my blog over the years I like motorcycle training – so I am “better” at the thing, so I can do anything possible to improve my survivability but also because it tends to be fun. The Off Road Skills school in Wales has a national reputation, no doubt established through their many years of existence, the relatively high profile of their main instructor Simon Pavey and the regular coverage in the bike press that this brings for both him and his school.

But being based in Scotland, even East Central Scotland means a reasonable travel distance to their base in Wales. That allied with a reasonable cost meant it has been an aspiration for many years but no more than that.

I got back in to biking about 8 years ago when I saved up a bit of money, sold some shares and got some money from my gran. I went and bought a 10 year old (at the time) BMW R1100RS. Then I immediately started looking in to training. At the time BMW only offered their off road school in Wales. Having spent only £1,995 on my bike I wasn’t about to fork out a quarter of my bikes value on a course when I had a reasonably mature bike to keep on the road.

Focussing on off road riding I attended MC2 with i2imca which was rather good although it illustrated my total lack of fitness and the complications of wearing armour that was too small – I sat out mid way through the afternoon because I was too tired, the helmet was too small as were the boots. When I later attended MC4 I did this with my own boots (size 14) and helmet (64 / XXXL) which was a lot more comfortable.

A few years later Motorrad Central arranged a big bash at Knockhill, one part of which was Simon Pavey and team coming up to run a mini off road skills school aka “GS Challenge”. Although I had volunteered to help out with marshalling road rides, this was an opportunity not to miss. But having learned a bit from my last off roading experience I made a concerted effort to lose some weight. I did not bad, 5 stone off. A slight bit of overconfidence had me book to the intermediate group but I sorted that and went out with the beginners on Saturday morning. Got really muddy, benefitted greatly from the brief instruction from ORS guy Kevin Hammond (and Jon Pearson – JP) and convinced myself that I would one day do the whole thing in Wales.

Wind forward to this year and in the process of paying money out having bought a new bike I paid out a little more and booked on to the trip that Motorrad Central were planning to one of the off road skills level one courses. It wasn’t a difficult persuade as I had figured that the package of the course, transport and accommodation was the best way to attend.

Since Knockhill I had acquired a BMW Enduro helmet at a great price meaning my “off road kit” consisted of a pair of Alpinestars Tech 3 ATs (size 50), a pair of Fox Bomber Gloves (3xl) and my “old” Bullson (Hein Gericke budget) jacket and trousers. I gathered the textile kit, base layers and a couple of pairs of BMW long socks and chucked these in a duffle bag and took them with the boots and helmet to Motorrad Central. These were dumped behind David Brown’s desk – he being slightly disturbed at the size of my Alpinestars boots.

We travelled down to Wales on the Saturday so I put a change of clothes in three Tesco reusable bags (Textile stuff – great recommendation from Rennie Ritchie) which fit well in to the aluminium panniers of the GS Adventure and went for a haircut. Well I couldn’t miss my four weekly appointment at the barbers. Then I headed to Dalkeith with a slightly itchy system 6.

Having unpacked the GS Adventure I changed out of my road gear and strategically stashed these on and around the accountant’s seat at Motorrad Central. We planned to be back in the early hours of Tuesday so I would hopefully get away with it.

And then I chucked my stuff in to the quickly filling back of the Volkswagen Transporter Shuttle which had been hired for our trip to Wales and would be our ferry between venues. Most of us met at Dalkeith – Callum and David from Motorrad Central, and from a customer perspective we had Me, Ross, Jonathan, Graeme and Brian. We would be picking up Simon later in Lockerbie – on the way to Wales.

The trip to Wales was typical fare, a trundle across country to pick up the Motorway South, a brief detour to pick up Simon and then a run down the various motorways to Wales. Weather was typical varied fare in the UK in April, but as we got farther South the rain got more consistent and the cloud came down. Wales was just wet – though despite this we spotted a couple of Welsh Hell’s Angels out on their bikes.

David did a sterling job of driving duties and got us to Ystradgynlais in good time, in fact we had to go and have a look at the industrial estate where we would be starting the next day. Managing to avoid the charms of Touratech (just) across the road, we piled out of the van to stretch our legs and have a look at the 30 odd bikes getting washed at Off Road Skills. Simon Pavey said hi once he realised the van full of Scottish folks was friendly, and apologised for not being able to join us that evening at his B&B as he and the other instructors were planning to wet the head of JP’s latest arrival.

Then it was to the Old Tredegar, recently refurbished and reopened by Simon Pavey as a B&B – we all got our room allocation and got our stuff out of the van. Next stop was a chinwag in the lounge (and the first raid of the fridge – by the other guys I might add) and photos by Simon’s Rally Bikes (there are two at the side of the lounge) before heading off to the George up the road.

The George has a deserved reputation, although I had checked the menu online beforehand when it came to the day and on David and Simon’s recommendation (they had been before) I went for the Ribs. To say it was a struggle is an understatement – next time I’ll not even order Ribs +, you get enough on their own. Joining the group for the meal was Clive Rumbold – another customer of Motorrad but staying elsewhere as the Old Tredegar was full and he was also doing the Enduro course rather than level one. Over food Clive explained a little about his new business – after a long period of negotiation he had managed to get access to some trails in Scotland and was setting up an off road school in Scotland.

Then as we finished the food and it got late we scampered back down the road to the Old Tredegar for another chinwag in the lounge and a final raid of the fridge.

posted @ Friday, May 17, 2013 4:02 PM | Feedback (0)