Insomnia

Status

I can’t sleep. It’s horrible o’clock in the morning. Everything that can ache is having a pretty good go at doing so. My mind is still racing. I can’t decide whether the most strenuous thing I did today was watch the MotoGP or whisk custard. I didn’t ride. And given that it’s morning, today was yesterday.

I’m not at home. The red-haired Virago is snoring contentedly, occasionally she stirs just enough to smile. I am insanely jealous of her ability to be asleep whenever the opportunity presents itself.

I am not that fortunate.

I have already scoured the usual sources if internet entertainment for novelty, poured over ebay for potential bargains on the spares list, devoured the last third of the book I have been reading for months, contemplated all the things I would do if I had just a little more energy, and resigned myself to the fact that there is likely to be a flurry of creativity until the headache I’m nursing gets in the way, followed by long hours of staring blankly into space or the back of my eyelids, able to do very little, before sleep finally takes me. I will most likely wake up about 6 hours later, feeling little better, but hungry.

When I do wake up feeling non-achey enough to do something, that something will likely be pull my kit on, and ride somewhere. Probably home, via the supermarket, and then sleep some more. Or fail to sleep some more.

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IXS Tromso Trousers

I bought a pair of these last October from my local J&S. It was the first major purchase I’d made from there, having started riding in hand-me-downs and some pricey Hein Gerike kit as money had become available, partly due to HG being the nearest store to me, and partly due to their reputation for decent kit. HG’s uk stores had gone bust over the summer.

My choice of waterproof trousers consisted of some beat up Bikers Gear trousers that had been thrown down the road and were up for replacement and some Frank Thomas hand me downs. I didn’t want another pair of Biker’s Gear trousers, they were cheap and did their job when I crashed, but the fit was poor, I slid around all over the seat in them, the waterproofing wasn’t perfect but good enough for a short trip, and I’d already sent one pair back as they fell apart in six weeks of riding. The Frank Thomas pair I have were probably top of their range when they were made, with waterproof zips and titanium knee armour (over the knee cap as extra abrasion resistance rather than any kind of knee-down type slider) and they were more than a bit big, they felt ok if I had a pair of jeans on underneath, but even with the thermal lining removed they were a winter only option. Again I slid about in the seat a lot in them, and all the extra padding and insulation meant I could not grip the bike with my knees well enough to feel confident in recreational riding. I think they might work better with a sportsbike where the shape of the tank helps to hold you in place, previous owner was an R6 rider, or on some kind of rolling sofa where staying in the seat isn’t an issue.

On a good day I’ll ride the wheels off my 535 so trousers that keep me in the seat are a bonus.

I still had my second GZ when I rolled into J&S looking for some new trousers, I think the rest of the kit I was wearing would have cost more than the bike was worth had i paid full price for it. Functional, safe mid-price kit. The sales assistant knew her stuff, she didn’t mess around showing me the budget stuff, sporty/adventure stuff, or eye-wateringly expensive but fantastic kit like Rukka‘s offerings. I tried a few different pairs on, and started asking about hip armour. I eventually chose the IXS Tromso trousers as the fit was really snug, there were internal pockets for hip armour, and the height of the knee armour could be adjusted. They look really plain, a few discreet logos, no random titainium bling or hints of power ranger, they’re just black trousers.

ixstromsoI bought the trousers and some forcefield hip armour, a few days later I rode out to Scunthorpe in the pouring rain. It’s a long ride on a 125. My feet were really cold and my fingers took some warming up when I got to my destination, but the rest of me was warm and dry. So that was the Mod 1 that I passed. I might tell that story another time.

Winter was coming in fast, I replaced the boots, serviced the bike, and enjoyed the fact that I was staying thereabouts warm enough. I note that the ankle-zip design of the lining made the trousers fiddly with high boots, and I had to be careful to avoid snagging the lining zip on the top of my very high boots. These definitely wouldn’t fit over tall adventure style boots, and are much better suited to wearing over conventional mid-height sports and touring boots.

I took a trip to York to find the DSA centre there. I don’t think my hands have ever been as cold as they were on the way back. The rest of me was fine, few days later my mod 2 is called off due to frozen roads, and I reschedule for the 19th of December. I’d put some ugly cheap hand guards on the GZ to keep the wind off my hands so I was ok cruising up and down the A19. Did my mod 2, no faults, think I was was warmer than the examiner, who seemed as impressed with how seriously I took my kit as he was my riding.

The next day I was to collect the 535, it rained like crazy. Here my kit came unstuck a little as I hit flood-water a little too fast on the 125, and some of the water splashed up and under my jacket and soaked into my trousers. More water drained down into my gloves. The lining did not hold onto the water, but my cotton underwear and t-shirt did, and my gloves were horrible. I put my t-shirt and undergloves in my backpack and insantly felt much dryer. Wet cotton is horrible. Riding the 535 on the way back was an experience and a half. The rain had slowed a bit but the roads were still soaked, loads of spray, my hands were very cold, and even restricted to 33 horses, the 535 required much more careful handling. It had better brakes, more engine braking, and bucket-loads more torque than the old 125, and being wrapped around the big air-cooled lump of an engine in the rain I felt toasty warm. Apart from my hands as there was not room to fit the hand guards on the narrow flat bars, this was quickly sorted with R&G heated grips.

Since getting the 535, the IXS Tromso trousers have been brilliantly warm with the linings in and the vents closed, to the point where I have not considered anything else.

The festive season saw more rain and I stayed dry when I rode. The image at the top of this blog shows the state of the roads when rode from my mother’s house to friends in leeds and arrived with a massive grin. A significant proportion of January was sabotaged by snowfall, and I didn’t ride on the snow covered roads. Then it thawed and I coaxed the 535 into life, pushed her up the slushy path to the road and set off to Leeds via Selby. It was an uneventful trip apart from trying to get the bike over an icy pavement into a partially cleared garden. By the time I was inside I was regretting the decision to wear army surplus thermal underwear as I was sweating. The next day I had an electrical fault and it was nearly dark by the time I set out home. It wasn’t frosting up or I wouldn’t have ridden, but the electrical fault meant the heated grips wouldn’t stay turned on, and my hands and upper body were beginning to get cold. Legs stayed toasty warm.

Roll on summer for comparison, and in reasonable weather I rode with the linings out, opening the vent zips when it was very hot, thinking they did nothing until evening came and suddenly there were cold patches. Still not the most comfortable thing to wear on a hot day, I’m considering my options for next summer.

I got to a week ago, not problems detected with the trousers, then I rode across town in very heavy rain, discovering a feeling like I had wet myself. It appears that the seam taping on the waterproof layer had failed at the crotch. I took them back to J&S on the Monday, and they were replaced under warranty by the Wednesday. I didn’t have to throw a strop, it was sorted effortlessly, so full marks for that J&S.

On the occasions I have ridden in the Frank Thomas trousers (when I’ve needed other trousers on underneath and during the warranty return period) it has become very apparent just how good the IXS trousers feel. They have a rubbery high-friction patch between me and the seat, and I feel very connected to the bike.

It’s a lot more tiring riding in other trousers, and anything that makes riding less tiring is an epic bonus.

When I wear out this pair, I will likely have another, they are better than anything else I have tried.

Roadworks

It seems inevitable that the competent and honest overlords governing this metropolis would carefully plan their road upgrades. That our metropolitan borough lacks a city is the least of these flawed assumptions. The final stages of improvements on things that might happen if one described a roundabout to a child that had never seen a car are ongoing and as a result there are a combination of road closures, lane closures and traffic queues. Travel the short way between my three favourite locations wasn’t going to happen.

It did not help that I was getting over some kind of cold. The kind of evil man-flu that leaves the healthiest of our species immobilised for days on television and hobby leave. I did as little as possible for about 4 days and tried to avoid day/night nurse. I felt ok when I finally emerged mid afternoon on Tuesday, probably didn’t need the day nurse which gave me some extra bounce and took away the sneezing-in-helmet paranoia.

Determined to ride, I set off eastbound, found the location of my monday appointment, and turned north across the flat marshland, hoping to extract some fun out of the back roads. I found that many sections of these had been drowned in gravel as an attempt at surface dressing. Inevitably the first bit of good road I find myself stuck behind a volvo driver that does not want to be overtaken. Approaching the next village NSL becomes 40 and I stick to it, the inevitable Golf GTi owner is suddenly filling my mirrors before attempting an overtake into a blind bend forcing me to break, and the pass on the volvo in front looked like vehicular russian roulette. I push past the volvo at the level crossing, wait forever for a train to pass, and it is not seen again.

Late August early September dressings are best avoided if possible. – Invaluable advice on surface dressing

Coffee at the bike shop and buy some more long socks, decent long socks are great, baggy ones suck. Run some errands and hit Morrissons for petrol and shopping.  I take a different route back, this time waiting for 6 trains at a level crossing. Front of queue is L-Plate city, so I wait my turn, engine off side-stand down, for what seems like forever. I wonder how much it costs to sit in a driving instructors car for that long at a level crossing? I stretched my legs and made the odd mock dance move to the insanely loud music coming from a few cars in front. Barriers finally up and learners dispersing I anticipate a quick blast to my next destination. More of the dreaded road surface dressing. Fresh. It’s not to bad but I can’t help but think of the state of the north road, dressed a year ago and already a mess in the braking zones before speed cameras. Bumpy and treacherous. I arrive at my next destination and stop for a rest.

By the time I leave it is dark, I try a route across town avoiding the known roadworks and the fun to the north. Take a wrong turning at a roundabout and have the next few minutes of find a suitable stopping/thinking/u-turn spot being tailgated by a transit van far to close for comfort and filling my mirrors with badly adjusted lights. Apparently the driver was just desperate to get to McDonalds as opposed to following my random sequence of turns that got me eventually back on the right track. I chose to ride round the lake as it has streetlighting and I wouldn’t be caught out by unknown surface dressing on the south side of town. A valid plan, but one made of many roundabouts, and spoiled by more of the damned surface dressing, this time forming furrows along the roads like a ploughed field. The 535 copes well and is immensely stable. The lack of road markings, missing signs and roundabouts that have have crazy filter lanes and are designed to be approached in whatever lane the highway code suggests is a bad idea causes a few more wrong turns and the occasional multiple orbit of the roundabout. I had a Focus following me closely at one point. Only worked out it was a police car when I shook it off doing a multiple orbit of a roundabout. I think they worked out I was lost and not enjoying the gravel sea. The new road between Morissons and Tesco offers brief respite, despite the speed humps it is black and grippy. The other side of it is a mess though, the roundabout looks like someone threw cat-litter all over it, and the dual carriageway has yet more fresh surface dressing, massivley thick forming mounds and speed-humplike ridges, I try to keep my speed down approaching the last roundabout, I need to turn right, cars seem to have other ideas. Oh look, there’s even bigger piles of gravel in the braking area and thrown onto the roundabout and the numbskull shoppers go skidding about all over the place. One of them is getting out of his car to survey the damage, I give him a sarcastic wave as I leave the roundabout. More joy on the last few roads home as I realise the drains have been blocked up so more gravel can go down tomorrow.

It rains. I hear this is bad for fresh surface dressing. I have to cross town and manage to pick a roadwork-free route. It’s very wet, some of the roads are one big puddle, I’d hate to thing what the newly dressed ones look like. My fender extention keeps my coils dry, but my trousers seem to have not keps me quite so dry.