Year 1 with my R1250 GS Adventure

With overnight temperatures dropping in Scotland and salt being laid to mitigate icing, my motorbike is now tucked up for the winter and I’ve had a little time to reflect on the few months I’ve had of ownership.

With the finance concluding on my R1200GS Adventure earlier in the year I did the deal and went for the subdued choice of the Exclusive in Kalamata Olive. The Rallye was a little too bright for me and in the absence of a triple black was my natural choice.

In summary the styling has really come on with the latest generation of the adventure and the tank and bars are more integrated with the visual centre of mass having shifted down and forward to make the bike look smaller.

The engine and suspension are simply amazing – I didn’t have the adaptive suspension on my 1200 so it is impressive, the engine is better again (and I didn’t really explore the best of the 1200) and the various gadgets are a bit of fun.

My only criticism is the same as ever – the ergonomics are more mainstream meaning I miss the colossal seat to peg height of the older adventure, and I still miss the funny indicators of the old bmws.

A brilliant machine and I’m really looking forward to getting back out on it.

Motorcycle Maintenance Evening Classes – Edinburgh

I missed a comment from May from David mentioning motorcycle maintenance evening classes and asking about the Edinburgh area.

It would seem that evening classes mirror the school and college semesters so it is a good idea to keep an eye out for schedules as the summer holidays draw to a close and autumn starts coming in.

Edinburgh Council ran a Motorcycle maintenance evening class in Autumn 2014 from Boroughmuir High School and the new schedule may include similar when posted from 12th August 2015

West Lothian College in Livingston have a basic Motorcycle braking, steering and suspension course starting on 2nd September 2015 and on 3rd February 2016 their course on Motorcycle Electrics take place http://www.west-lothian.ac.uk/courses/basic-motorcycle-Electrical-trasmission

I don’t see anything listed in the Borders College prospectus for August 2015.

Looking farther away, North East College in Aberdeen have a motorcycle maintenance course starting 26th April 2016

These are all evening class “adult education” i.e. more recreational than career oriented. There are other day-release and full time courses that are better set up for a career in motorcycle maintenance but you never know!

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.