Where to begin, I ask myself, while staring at a blank blog template! I'm used to writing academic pieces for uni, so writing something reflective and informal is a new challenge! I've decided to talk about my biking history, from my first bike at age 16 to now...Buckle up kids!
When I was younger, I lived in a tiny village so could only get to the next village by riding my bicycle or walking. I remember one time when I was walking along in the pissing rain thinking *fuck this* and subsequently begging my parents for a moped! Well lucky for me, I got a moped for my 16th birthday :-)
Now before we move on, I feel that I must point out from the very start that I name all of my vehicles. I know some people have a stick up their arse about this, and if this is you, you may want to look away now...
The moped, a Red Yamaha Jog RR, which I named Kexy (due to the numberplate) was the greatest thing to happen to me since Nutella if I'm honest. Not the greatest thing for my parents though, as with my new found freedom came missing person reports to the Police and all sorts...oops.
Six months later, in 2005, I was hit by a car at a junction. The lady made me stand up to get out of the road and my ankle just went crunch! I had to have surgery, so now have metal in that one. The bike was a write off and I was put off bikes for a few years.
After a few years, in 2011 I think, I decided I needed something more exciting than a car, but less likely to break my bones, so settled for a quad bike! Boy was I wrong with that decision! It was an 110cc road legal chinese quad, which I used to ride too fast and roll around corners!!! I didn't name this one as I didn't have it long enough - Unfortunately it was stolen, but it meant that I upgraded to something two wheeled and safer ;-)
My next bike was my brother's CCM 125, affectionately named Pogo because of his numberplate. My brother didn't look after it, so I was always having to repair it! I had it 6 months before I decided I needed more power!!!
So I did my big girl's bike test! I remember everyone thinking I was mental at the time, and to this day I still don't understand why! It was the best decision of my life!
I passed with 1 minor on my MOD 1 (going too slow through the speed trap) and 1 minor on my MOD 2 (being hesitant at a roundabout) ...very important information, remembered by every biker I know!
I immediately went out and bought a bike. This was 2012. I decided it was going to be a Triumph. I loved Triumph bikes, until I test rode some...and came out of the showroom with a Suzuki Intruder VL800 which had been traded in!! I was in LOVE!!
I named him AJ (again because of his numberplate) and bought all of the accessories...as anyone who owns a cruiser does...including leather luggage, a sheep skin and heated grips. People used to mock me, but my butt and hands were warm, and they always wanted me to carry things for them!
We went on numerous road trips in the UK and abroad including:
- France where we took the Euro Tunnel from Dover to Calais (sleeping underneath the bike, to the steward's annoyance) then rode to Brittany.
- A 2000 mile UK road trip including Scotland, the Yorkshire Dales, the York Moors, Weymouth...I can't remember where else but it was legit 4 corners of England lol
- And literally every bike show I know about!
There were two bad things about AJ:
1. Footplates used to scrape on every. single. corner.
I'm notoriously bad at cleaning my bikes, but I used to have to clean the chrome on AJ or people would moan at me. I also couldn't go anywhere without scraping the footplates, which shit my pillions up quite often!!
But then, one day, in August 2013, I decided to film myself on my bike for the first time using a GoPro. This is where it all went wrong! I actually filmed myself having my first slide on gravel :-(
I was coming up to a junction so wasn't going too fast, I think I was engine braking at the time, and as you can see it was sunny. I have a hard time admitting that this accident was my fault, but as there were no other vehicles involved, it was my fault. Regardless of the conditions, I should have been more aware of the road surface and it was at this moment, I learned a lesson.
People are bastards. That's the lesson.
I had crashed by a busy junction, but no fucker stopped to help me. A lone 5ft4 female, with a huge bike on its side. Nope.
I actually filmed myself picking the bike up on my own as I had no choice. You don't know your own strength until you have adrenaline coursing through your veins!
I sat for a minute, contemplating whether I would get in trouble for throwing stones at cars, then rode the bike home.
I was meant to be going to Bruntingthorpe proving ground for a charity track day so I tried to clean the bike up a bit and removed some parts (streamlining...duh!) but my leg kept aching.
I drove myself to hospital about 5 hours later, thinking that I must have damaged a ligament. It turns out I broke my leg and had been walking on it ever since...
I refused a cast from my hip to my toe, so was stuck with a splint. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't go to work and everything was a complete nightmare! I had split with my long-term partner just before my crash and all in all, I was quite low at the time.
I decided after my leg healed that I needed something to occupy my time, and I needed to learn how to look after my bike on my own, so I bought myself a project bike. Pedro, a Kawasaki KE100, was a field bike, a proper little barn find!
I knew NOTHING about bikes back then (around the beginning of 2014) so bought a Haynes Manual, watched YouTube videos and phoned up everyone I know...constantly...to ask stupid questions!
I can remember being told to stick my tongue in the HT lead and kick the bike over, to test if it was working lol luckily I had a little sense and stuck my finger in it instead - Kids - do not try that at home!!! I have some wonderful friends.
I completely rebuilt the bike, made a wiring loom, BBQ painted everything that would get hot, gave it a hammerite frame job and resprayed it pink with a glitter top coat!!
I then caught the bug!
I went on to buy a Suzuki DRZ400 (the import version, with plastic fuel tank and the unrestricted carb) which hadn't been used in 10 years or so!
New fuel and a jump start and he started!! It was lowered by 5cm in the pics below but I'm short...!! I had loads of fun off-roading on Flubber!
He was called Flubber as he had it written in dirt on the front fairing...fuck knows why...but kind of like the dirt, it stuck.
Being the best sister ever, I pretty much gave the bike to my brother to use and just borrowed it whenever I found a new lane I wanted to ride.
I also bought a Honda CB 125 (wet dream!), which was a rolling frame and a couple of boxes!
The shock had been chopped to make it into some sort of bobber.
It was an absolute piece of shit, but being a typical Honda, a bit of easy start and she was running too! I can't remember what I called this one...
I also bought a Honda CBR 600F (Hattie) which just needed some cosmetic loving, and a few panels! Loved the pink seat!!!
I bought it from Newmarket and the guy told me it had an MOT...turns out it didn't and I rode it all the way home without one...the prick!
Anyway, turns out, she came from DBC Motorcycles in Dunstable not far from me, so it was quite cool to bring her back to the 'shire.
Then at the end of 2014 I had a bit of a shit time. My best friend, Olly, who I spent every hour with, died in a bike accident in October.
I then went abroad for Christmas and all of my bikes were stolen! (Apart from the DRZ as it was at Olly's house). But little did I know, things were lining up nicely.
I could only claim for the most expensive bike (AJ), or I would have had to list 4 claims on every insurance policy.
It came back just in time for me to be able to buy Olly's Honda Varadero 1000 from his family (yes, the one in the pic above!) The greatest gift of all. They even gave me this keyring, so that I had my guardian angel with me. It still makes me cry sometimes.
We had travelled together on numerous road trips, I went with him on AJ to collect the Varadero from Blackpool and it meant a lot to both of us. I promised his family that I would go on all of the adventures we had planned and to ride the bike like he did. I think I'm fulfilling that promise!
This is me on the back of the Varadero when we went to Weymouth to visit one of Olly's sisters.
This was at the campsite in Weymouth that we stayed at. I was always so lucky with the cheap ass campsites and hotels I booked us. This was the photo on his funeral book too...I took it on my phone.
Anyway, the bike's name is Alice, Olly named her. I still have her...and will never sell her.
Olly would legit have a shit fit if he saw her today!! I have lowered her by 5cm as I am a short shit. I have also added pink vinyl...Sorry Olly.
I've taken Alice on two Euro road trips so far, one that we had planned (trying to hit 10 countries) where I ended up in Italy and another where I stayed slightly more local (around Holland / Germany etc).
I've been on the Nurburgring twice, neither of those worked out so well for me. The first time was torrential rain, the second time I was hit by a car! Luckily, although the Nurburgring was closed, I wasn't badly hurt as I had just invested in some new TCX boots and engine bars! The silly Renault that hit me, did not fair so well...fucking shame eh.
The photos below show the kerfuffle...and my amazeballs repair on my footpeg which was completely broken off! I rode like that for about 2000 miles.
So fast forward to 2016 and I get that itch for another bike project. I've had projects inbetween (a drag mobility scooter, a transit campervan etc) which I'll write about in other posts, but now I need a bike to do up.
I've been riding Alice at Santa Pod and out with my mates who all have sports bikes and I need a sports bike. So I find my TL.
She is Tilly (the TL1000S), a French registered bike, which had been sat for years, needs a good service, new tyres, a new clutch...etc etc.
I applied to Suzuki to work out her age, she is the 97 widowmaker, but not registered in France until 2001 (hence my 51 numberplate, argh!), I then apply to the DVLA to make her a British bike. That was a ballache, but 3 months later, it was done!
This bike was savage. It's a tank slapping, cult status bike that everyone in their 50's wished they had when they were younger!! (Trust me, they tell me all the time!) If you don't know about the Widowmaker, here's a quick summary...
The bikes were pretty unreliable. Suzuki were trying to make a 'Ducati-killer', but maybe tried a bit too hard. Riders in the late 90s were also not used to the raw power of the TL. A combination of these factors resulted in some rider deaths.
Here are some of the problems associated with a widowmaker:
The engine would spit oil into the air filter when you rode them too hard.
The back torque-limiting clutch which was meant to reduce rear wheel lock would malfunction.
The engine could suffer from a poor throttle response.
All of the 97's had to be recalled to fit a steering damper due to instability!!
The rotary damper which made the bike's short wheel base possible, was mounted just behind the engine / exhaust pipe. As it was too close to the engine / exhaust pipe, it resulted in overheating of the damper when the bike was ridden hard.
After a few rider fatalities Suzuki were forced to recall the bike and retro-fit a rather ugly steering damper.
The throttle response is basically fucking on, or fucking off, good luck trying to find anything inbetween!!
Back in the 90s, the books claimed the 97 had 125bhp (realistically 110bhp at the rear)...and I was so happy to find that mine had 106bhp at the rear when I had it dyno'd at DWR Motorcycles! The bhp was reduced in all further models.
The suspension was set to my weight, yet it still insisted on playing up when it got hot and liked to catapult my arse out of the seat when it saw a bump in the road about a mile away! It also chewed up rear tyres like it thought I was a millionaire. It's the hardest bike I've ever ridden. But it's also the most fun! I'm glad I've had the privilege of owning and riding a TLs, but now I am ready for my next challenge...
I didn't know exactly what I'd get. But I wanted something for drag racing and track and adventures! And I wanted it to be pink...so I bought a GSXR 1000 K2!
I'm still getting to know it, it's an animal! The power is so raw and it keeps me on my toes, but I'm taking my time :-) I had a blast at the Isle of Man but I was sure it was going to chuck me off the side of the mountain!!
Now to convince my brother (who works in a vinyl shop) to wrap it pink...he's not keen!
Oh and talking of pink bikes...I've bought another Pedro and he's currently in 1000 bits, with his shitty hammerite frame paint job, soon to be bright pink and glittery...just like Pedro the First! You better believe I'll be riding a 100cc bike around like a loon lol here I am wondering if I could get my knee down on it...