Friday, 6 May 2011

A week of motorcycling or Honda get it right

Well, quite an eventful week for me and the bikes this week!

It started on Monday, with the annual May Day Run to Hastings - me and 29,999 other bikes!

This run has been happening since just after WWII, when a small bike club decided to take a run from Locks Bottom to Hastings on the May Bank Holiday. It's happened every year since, and, like Topsy, it's growed and growed

Weather this year was dry and sunny, but a little windy. Well, OK, a lot windy.

There were more trade stands in the town centre this year, and I managed to buy myself a new summer jacket for around 1/2 price. This is it

Unfortunately, I had to ride Paul, my CBF1000, as the Insect has been suffering with a mysterious electrical problem. Just what you need a few days before you're due to go touring on it. Not that it would be any hardship taking the 1000 on holiday, but I do love to disappear for a week on the Insect. Although it's a drag on the motorways getting to wherever I'm going, when I get there, it's fun fun fun all the way!

Anyway, back to Hastings. The day went well. We met up with our usual friends and spent an enjoyable time wandering around, looking at the bikes, and generally enjoying life.

Everything went well until it was time to leave. For those of you not familiar with Hastings, there is a huge car park called Pelham Place, which stretches almost the entire length of the seafront. On the Sunday evening prior to the May Day, it is closed to all users, and then opened on the Monday for motorcycles only. And believe me, it fills up with bikes very quickly. In fact, every available place where you can park a bike in town, has a bike or two parked in it.

At one end of the seafront, as you come out of Pelham Place, there's a large roundabout with a fountain in the middle of it. When we left, I got 2/3 of the way round the roundabout and had to stop because of the congestion. Imagine 30,000 bikes all trying to leave a small seaside town - it's murder.

For some reason, I put my right foot down instead of my left, and it was just as well. Two large gentlemen (for want of a better description) decided to cross the road whilst the traffic was at a standstill. Problem was, they were so busy looking at the bikes, and talking to each other, one of them walked straight into me. Yes - slap bang right into the side of my bike! Lucky I had my foot down firmly, or he would have knocked me off. I swore (involuntarily of course), and the expression on his face made me laugh. It was such a picture of embarrassment at what he'd done, combined with surprise at my language. Oops! Still no real harm done, except a bent mirror, which soon got straightened out.

As usual after this event, we returned home via the Woolpack Inn. This little Shepherd Neame pub, over 600 years old, stands down a narrow lane, in the middle of Romney Marsh, which goes nowhere in particular (actually to a place called Midley, which is a ruined chapel and not a lot else), and does the most excellent food. We've been going there for years. You can't pre-book, but they guarantee to fit you in, if you don't mind waiting a bit. They were so busy, we actually sat at a large wooden table set inside the equally large inglenook fireplace!
Looking up, you could see straight up the chimney to the blue sky outside. Made us wonder what would happen if it rained, or if a bird perched up there........

Anyway, rolling on the week a bit...........
Last week, I had a problem with the rear right indicator on the Insect. It decided it didn't want to work. The bike was booked in anyway for its MoT and annual service, so I asked Clive to have a look at it at the same time. He couldn't get it working,couldn't trace the fault, so he changed the indicators, and they worked.

That is, until I got home - when the same indicator packed up again. I took the Insect back on Thursday for them to do some further investigation. Usual thing with Kent Motorcycles is, I leave my bike there, and they give me a loan bike for the day.
This week, they were a bit short of loan bikes, so they asked me if I'd mind just having a little CBR250 for the day.

I was a bit disappointed, but given the choice between that and hanging around the shop for what might be a very long job, I took the little 250.
Now, I have a problem with sportsbikes, because of my wrists being fused and not bending, but this little thing wasn't too radical, so I reckoned I could probably cope with it for a couple of short journeys.

At first, I thought what a strange little bike. It's a single-cylinder 4-stroke, but it rides like a 2-stroke. There's virtually no engine braking, and you have to wind up the elastic band very tightly to get it through the short first gear. Once into second, it flies like a very sweet little bird.

Apart from the fact that, like most singles and, to a lesser extent, vertical twins, when it reaches a steep incline, it loses a little speed, cruising all day at 80-85mph is not a problem at all

Handling is sweet. The bike feels taut, precise, and oh so very stable. In fact, I can honestly say, I don't think I've ever ridden a lightweight bike that feels so stable and confidence-inspiring. To a novice biker, this bike is going to be so forgiving and easy to live with.

As to the rest, the seat is a little lacking in padding, but it's the kind of hard that doesn't get any harder with distance - if you know what I mean. As to appearance, well, judge for yourself -

Now is that pretty, or is that pretty? This is the version I rode, a sort of mini CBR600. They also do a version that looks more like a mini VFR1200.

I do think Honda are getting their range right these days. For a lad or lass learning to ride, who hankers after a sportsbike, they can start on a CBR125, progress to a CBR250, then either a CBR600F or CBR600RR, and thence to a FireBlade.
If they want to go the other route, as I said, there's a version of the CBR250 that will lead them on nicely to sports tourers.

Maybe (now here's a thought) Honda should introduce a scheme whereby if you purchase a CBR125, you get extra allowance on the trade-in if you buy a CBR250, and so on up the range...................

However, Clive traced the fault on the Insect's indicators, so me and it are off to the High Peak area of Derbyshire next week for a bit of fun. So watch out for more pictures on my other blog when I get back