Countersteering, tailgating and roadrage.

Been riding a lot in the evening rush hour lately. I hate it. For a start it’s more of a mad 240 minute scramble. But when there are things to be done things get done. I’ve noticed a pattern of behaviour I don’t like . It starts with someone following too close. It’s always a Ford Focus, driven very aggressively and following very closely, particularly through sections where the traffic ahead of me is behaving unpredictably and eroding my braking distance. At some point I will need to turn off and will check behind me (as if i can see anything beyond ), indicate, change my position in the road, flash my brake light, then break and change gear ready to make the turn, perhaps being ready to stop or indeed stopping if it’s a right turn across oncoming traffic. Shoulder check in the direction of turn, and start turning, a nice tight precise turn to put me in the command position in the road I’m turning into, without cutting into lanes I shouldn’t be in. Then the tailgater passes me beating up their horn. I had assumed this was mere rage at being slowed down. Then I saw this:

Yes it’s yet more of a bike riding towards the camera along a white line. What I hadn’t noticed is how far the bike moves away from the direction of turn as countersteering takes place. And so I have a new theory: Expert tailgater has forced car into a space with no clearance and is then spooked as the bike appears to move back into the space that was vacated. I’m not sure whether to someone who doesn’t get bikes the act of turning looks like a rider might be changing their mind at the last minute, or whether there was a serious collision risk. So how to minimise the latter? I guess i could refuse to give up command of the road, that is staying in or near the centre of my lane, until I am committed to turn so that the tailgater cannot squeeze into a space that is too small. Or I push right into the gutter or onto the centre-line of the road and slow down more to allow more room. It’s not an issue that’s in any of my books. I’m for the former, choosing not to allow following vehicles past.

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Pirates vs Hipsters

In a land of offensive stereotypes about power rangers and hipsters, I thought I would do my own little anti-type.

Bike: Japanese Retro, shaft drive a bonus, low seat and lightweight. Old and well used. Currently a scruffy 1992 XV535.

Custom Work: Luggage rack, topbox with extra reflective tape. Heated Grips, wider mirrors, fender extensions.

Helmet: White HJC Ben Spies race rep, because animal skulls and damask patterns are cool. And it’s light, cheap, and exhibits Sharp stars.

Eyewear: Black plastic glasses, ironic that they came from specsavers bottom shelf and have a real proscription. Pinlock and Yamaha race rep sunstrip on clear or smoke tint visor.

Facial Expression: Hidden behind chinbar and foggy mask.

Facial Hair: Apathy beard, shaving is time I could be fixing bike or drinking coffee.

Clothing: Black, mostly gore-tex or equivalent, mix of textiles and leather. Occasional stick-on retro-reflective star. Tough and utilitarian touring kit.

Footwear: Retro high-leg motorcycle boots, from Altberg so fully armoured and CE certified

Accessories: flame pattern buff, spare visor

Tattoos: None, due to chronic indecisiveness.

Bitch: Filthy redhead, has battlecry of ATGATT, missing some kit…

Average ride: Twenty miles down back lanes because through town is being dug up / full of traffic / infested with imbeciles, inevitably a social call or to the supermarket.

Therapy

Status

Sometimes the best therapy is pottering about sorting out a minor issue, or getting several layers of road grime removed. Particularly when it hurts too much to ride and  I need to keep stopping every few minutes. I replaced some of the fuel lines yesterday with new parts, hopefully they will stand up better to the alcohol in modern fuel, and might sort out the cause of the little black granules I keep finding in the float bowls, which might be part of the fuel hoses. Of course they could be part of carb o-rings, floats or gaskets, but replacing the cheap and easy things first as she seems to be running right.

Jorge Lorenzo’s collarbone.

Last Thursday at Assen, Jorge Lorenzo had an epic 148mph crash, revieving a displaced fracture of his left collarbone. Ouch. See the inconveniently unembeddable video. On the Friday he was flown to Barcelona, had the bone bodged together with some titanium, and flew back to Assen in time to take part in the warm up on the Saturday morning, and was medically cleared to race.

He started 12th and eventually finished 5th, looking uncomfortable throughout the race, and once he passed the chequered flag is was apparent from his body language that he was hurting badly.

She who is mine was not impressed at all was most vocal about this, particularly when the commentators were discussing how full of painkillers he might be. I’m fairly sure most of the really good painkillers suggest avoiding the operation of heavy machinery. Granted a MotoGP bike is pretty light, but it’s still enough to kill someone if it hits them. I share a similar disapproval of operating motor vehicles in a chemically altered state.

So why did Jorge ride? Because he could. Cal Crutchlow resorted to lying to medical staff in order to ride at Silverstone. Becasue he thought he could ride, and ride he did. I’m not going to link to anything about Bradley Smith’s finger, because it’s really gross. But this is what athletes at the peak of their career do. Because not riding is the hard thing to to do.

I can only imagine the physical effort required to ride a race bike like you mean it. My 535 is quite a soft ride, it only made 46 horses when it was new, and currently has a bit of paper from Fi International telling me it makes less than 33bhp and has shit fuel economy and will continue to do so until December 2014. A Yamaha YZR-M1 makes more than 200 more horses. Still a 60 mile trip through the twisties, averaging no more than 40mph for me is enough to be agony when I get off. An hour of dual carriageway or motorway speed? Plan on not getting out of bed the next day. Longer than that, well for a start that’s time to get petrol (535 tank is ten litres before reserve, reserve switch is unreliable) and take break. I’ve simply not done a trip where I’ve used more than a tank of fuel yet. Occasionally I will refuel leaving and arriving as that is where the petrol stations happen to be, but this is usually on shorter trips where I want a full tank and no messing about the next day.

But the days I can, I’m riding. What else would I do?

Are you biker Stig?

/me folds arms and stares through tinted visor

Yes I was asked that, by a child, in the Recycling Centre (i.e. dump) of all places, as I neatly parked the bike, opened the top box and set about disposing of the various bits of small electronics goods that the WEEE Directive says I can’t throw in the bin.

I think it illustrates perfectly the way that doing everything by bike or not at all seems to perplex those who see bikes as toys for rich people or outlaws. Don’t have a car, a permit is required for pedestrian access to the recycling centre a hundred yards from my house, and some days I can’t walk that far. Certainly not comfortably carry the amassed collection of broken tech and dead batteries that far.

All that remains is navigating the vicious speed humps that seem designed to cause an accident or otherwise deter anyone owning a vehicle with low ground clearance from recycling. Because range rovers are really environmentally friendly. But then if it was actually about saving the environment, perhaps it would be easier for those who can walk to take their refuse there rather than leaving it festering in piles nearby.