No-one expects…

So, things have all gone a little strange with the world!

When lockdown started, I was still running in the Guzzi. As I work with disabled and other vulnerable people, I still had to go to work. Just before lockdown, my wife and I had both sold our cars. I wasn’t planning on getting another myself, but was going back to having just a bike. In some ways, I was lucky in that I still had a reason to ride, 15 miles each way. As it was the only riding I got to do, I started to vary my route – same sort of distance, but along a variety of smaller roads. I could keep up a good pace on the bumpier roads. The Guzzi suspension is great.

I was able get the first service done at my friendly local dealer, although by the time I could get it in, it was a few hundred miles overdue. Also had some crash bars fitted while it was there.

My son, meanwhile, was going stir crazy and hadn’t left the house for weeks. So come the Wednesday when we were allowed to ride again, I had a day off and we had a ride together, along with my wife (who had a day off from working at home), and my brother. We rode out to Coldrum Longbarrow, which was fortunately very quiet.

On the following Saturday, my son and I rode down to Rye and on via Udimore and past the Route 1066 cafe. I’m not a cafe hopper, but do occasionally stop for cake and Coke. It’s more the toilets that I miss being open!

On Sunday, we did a quick loop via Swingfield (great road), Barham and Wingham, when I tried out a cheap action cam I bought a while back. Not bad for the money. It films in 15 minute chunks, which may be down to the formatting of the SD card, I think, but it’s not an issue. I will probably have it set up ready to take still photos more often than I use it for video. I’m always thinking I should stop for a photo at scenic spots, but I don’t really like stopping!

On Monday, with my wife on the back and my brother on his Suzuki, we headed down to Birling Gap. It’s beautiful around Beachy Head.

Today, with my wife and son, we travelled to Ashdown Forest. A beautiful ride through the wooded areas on the last twenty miles of the journey.

The Guzzi is proving to be capable and comfortable two up. It’s fast enough, even then. The acceleration isn’t mighty, but it’s sufficient and it just feels great. The handling is superb. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as confident in the twisties. Of course, most of my bikes until now have been old, with knackered suspension. Fuel consumption is excellent, although the trip computer is about 10% optimistic. It’s currently showing over 70mpg after today’s ride.

We should have been on a family holiday to Scotland this week, with my mum, but at least we’ve been able to ride a lot in the time off work.

Determined to make the most of the bike, I have two breaks booked – Wales at the end of June, with my son and brother, and the Lake District in July with my wife and son. Neither will probably happen now, but I’m still holding out hope. For the Wales one, we actually have a cottage booked just inside England, so if Wales is still shut, maybe we can still go and ride around the Peak District instead. But chances are, it won’t be possible. We’ll see.

Riding in the Storm

Torrential rain, gale force winds – not an ideal time to get a new motorcycle. It came by van from Wales and arrived during a brief dry spell. I pushed it into the garage and the rain started once more.

I was itching to get out on it, but I’d never had a brand new bike before, never spent anything like this amount on a vehicle, and was a little nervous of the conditions. Of course, the tyres and brakes were brand new and would need scrubbing in before they worked properly. And this bike was, frankly, a little tall for me, which doesn’t inspire confidence in poor conditions.

A few hours later, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was only likely to be a brief respite, but what the hell, let’s go!

Tentatively, I pushed it out of the garage and set off. The roads were heavy with standing (and sometimes flowing) water, my visor was covered with spray which, together with the low winter sun, made visibility a little sketchy! I rode carefully out of town on an A road, tiptoed round a roundabout onto a short stretch of dual carriageway, round another roundabout and then headed back the same way. Without the sun in my eyes, the return journey was more enjoyable, but I was still somewhat worried about throwing the motorcycle down the road.

I was also struggling with something that had never been an issue on any other bike – putting my feet down! The bike is a little tall for me, I knew that when I bought it, and had got the slightly lower seat option. However, putting my feet down naturally put them in front of the footpegs, with the pegs against my calves, and I wasn’t getting any benefit from the ‘lower’ seat. I had to think about where my feet usually went when I put them down on other bikes, but really couldn’t remember as I’d never had to consider it before. I tried putting my feet out to the side of the pegs, but that was a bit of a stretch, and putting them behind the pegs didn’t really work either. Until I recalled someone in a Facebook group saying that the seat was lower at the back. Most bike seats are lower at the front, so that’s where those of us with little arms and legs sit, but this actually worked much better if you sat back a bit, and over the next few days I got used to it and grew in confidence.

Day 2

The next day, the weather was better, but most of the day was spent at the London Motorcycle Show with my son, travelling by car so he could buy loads of kit.

Late in the afternoon, we got back and I headed off on the Guzzi to show it to my brother. He took a couple of photos and nagged me about cleaning it.

The journey back coincided with school traffic and a major bypass being closed. I discovered the bike was very agile and good at filtering.

Day 3

The weather still wasn’t really cooperating, but I wanted to get my wife out on the back, so, in the company of my son on his KTM Super Duke 1290GT, we headed off for a 50 mile blast on some mixed roads, including plenty of country lanes. I found myself nervous about the height of the bike again, with the (slight!) extra weight. I was very tentative at really slow speeds, pulling away, but all was good once we got going.

Sunday was grim and I hid in the house all day. Monday dawned a little brighter and I rode to work, where the bike got many admiring glances.

On Tuesday, I wasn’t working til the night. My son’s bike was going in for a suspension software update at a shop in Ashford, so, once done, we carried on down some favourite roads to Tenterden and Appledore, along the Royal Military Canal Road to Rye. We turned off along the Camber Road along the coast and I pulled into a lay-by so Callum could have a go on my bike. He’s even shorter than me and pulled away looking a little nervous and towards some big potholes at the end of the lay-by. I was so concerned watching him, thinking he might drop it, that I rode into a massive hole filled with water myself, just as I was pulling back onto the road. Callum’s bike is very powerful, revs up quickly, and is nothing like my Guzzi at all. And he had kindly left it in Sport mode! The rear span, the wheels got crossed up, I thought, “bugger, I’m going to drop this,” then the bike pulled itself out of the hole, straightened itself up (with no real skill or even input from me!), and carried on down the road. We normally use intercoms, but mine had broken, so Callum was blissfully unaware that anything had so very nearly gone wrong until we stopped at Dungeness.

Today was the day I fell in love with my bike. The suspension is excellent, it handles with precision and agility, and it’s beautiful to look at. It’s also very comfortable, which is as important as anything else.