Mince Pies and The Smoke

A small delay between posts as in truth I didn’t manage to get much riding in over the Christmas period with having family and friends around for the festivities and in the process consuming too many mince pies and red wine.

However on my first week back to work I did manage to get a ride in as I used the Tiger to commute into a meeting I had in the Docklands.
Being a fairly easy part of London to reach from Kent, provided you go out of rush hour, I thought I’d put the bike to good use and also avoid a trip on the train.

I was still a little nervous about the trip though, as having driven it several times in the car to the general area at least, I know what carnage can be had on the M2, A2 and through the Blackwall tunnel. Added to the fact that I didn’t know where I was going having never visited that office before I did have a little trepidation about the trip but I put my sat nav to good use for the first time and it worked well with the Nolan NCom receiver I have in my helmet.

It was my first real motorway blast since the day I brought the bike home and whilst the speed is a bit of a thrill I’ve decided that motorway miles are boring! I did have a bit of a moment too which didn’t help in the fact that I got hit by a huge gust of wind around three quarters of the way in which came as a bit of a shock to the system and certainly made sure I was concentrating.

As I approached the Blackwall Tunnel up the A2 the average speed cameras that they’ve now got in place meant that the fun police were out in force but I still reached my meeting with an hour to spare, far quicker than I’d have been on public transport.

I was glad of the large side cases and top box on the bike as I looked for places to store my gear whilst I went to my meeting and just about managed it but it was a bit of a puzzle worthy of the Krypton Factor trying to fit my size 11 boots in. I did manage it in the end though.

On the way home I decided to get clear of London then get off the motorway when I could taking a combination of A and B roads to end up on the Lower Rainham Road. This way back was a far more smile inducing route and despite being slower I still got home before it got dark and the evening rush hour got into full swing.

Despite it being a chilly day my clothing did a really good job of keeping me warm. I’ve an Oxford Montreal 3.0 jacket and trousers which I’ve found really warm so far, they’ve not really been tested in a downpour yet though, a pair of J&S Accessories own brand touring boots and a pair of Oxford gloves. My fingers were a little chilly, I need to get some heated grips fitted asap.
Hopefully I’ll have some more interesting riding to tell you about in the coming few weeks.

The Journey Begins

It all started after a big argument with my wife. I’m 49 years old, have a lovely wife and two boys one of which is away at university and the other one is just finishing his A levels. I live in a nice house in Minster on the coast of Kent and work for myself as an IT contractor. Our argument made me realise that the once happy go lucky, do anything for a laugh, get up and out person I was in my youth and twenties had disappeared. That person had been replaced by a crushing bore who’s only purpose in life was to work, pay bills, do work around the house and ferry the boys to and fro.

However, the boys are now both driving. As mentioned previously the eldest is away at uni so we don’t see him much as he’s loving life down in Sussex. The youngest is now driving too so I’ve been made redundant from part of my perceived role in life.

A few days later my wife sent me a photo of the four of us at a Saracens rugby game (I love rugby, probably more of that later) where the three of them had big cheesy grins on their faces and I looked decidedly down in the dumps.

Our argument made me realise that I’d lost my smile.

Then came the epiphany.

I had to do something. I had to get off my backside. I had to get out and find my smile again. But what to do? In my youth I played a reasonable level of football and coached my eldests sons team up until he was 15. When I moved south I played rugby for the club down the road from our house and absolutely loved that, I enjoyed it far more than the football as the social side is much better and there’s nothing like putting in a decent tackle to releive the weeks work stresses. But I’m 49 years old. I’m too old for contact sports. I was playing semi regularly up until around three years ago but too many injuries started taking too long to heal so not a good idea to make a comeback.

For the eighteen years we’ve lived in Minster I’ve wanted to buy myself a motorbike. I used to own bikes when I lived up north but not owned one for the 25 years I’ve been down south. There were several reasons why I’ve never done anything about this in those 18 years. Amongst them the wife’s dislike of motorbikes, my need to give all spare cash to the family and a lack of time are all contribute to the fact that I haven’t done anything about scratching that particular itch. Until now that is.

I’ve been “window shopping” for quite some time on the likes of Autotrader and MCN but that’s as far as it went. The realisation that I was stuck in a rut and had lost my smile finally gave me that kick up the backside. For once in my life I was going to be extremely selfish and just go and do it. You only live once after all.

So what to buy? My previous bike history started back in the 1980’s with a DT125. Back then just about everyone seemed to learn on the little Yamaha trailie. After a good while of hooning around on that (it only had two speed, full throttle and stop) I managed to blow up the engine. I then moved onto a RD125 before getting a Honda CBR600. Again the ubiqutous choice at the time. I was at the time working for a company formally owned by Robert Maxwell in Derby. It was taken over after he went for an unplanned swim in the middle of the night but things didn’t go to plan and I was made redundant. That lead me to move south and start working for myself. I moved to central London and used the tube as my form of transport so that was the end of my biking days, no way was I riding a bike through the crazy streets of the capital. I then met the wife had some good times, moved first to Bexley and then down to Minster. The kids arived and you know the rest.

I decided that I wanted a bit of a do it all bike. I’m far too old for a tupperware rocket. I don’t think I’d be able to move for days after being hunched over the petrol tank. I wanted something that would work for a Sunday blast, commute to the station on, something I could potentially do some serious miles on, just to get out and go somewhere for a weekend or longer, so the ability to carry luggage, decent range and a comfortable riding position were big considerations.

I loved the idea of getting a Triumph, just for the brand. And for a long time I was hankering after a Sprint GT. But the fact that it’s a litre bike put me off a little after so long away from riding and the fact that they’ve stopped making them now made me concerned about the availability of parts and accessories should I feel a need for them.

Sticking to the idea of Triumph I got chatting to a guy who owned a Tiger 800. He was so evangelical about it that I decided that I should take a look. I found one for sale in a Honda dealership in Southend, which Autotrader said was the closest one available to me being only 7 miles away. What Autotrader doesn’t realise is that there’s rather a large expanse of the Thames Estuary getting in the way and rather than a few minutes Southend is a good hour and a half away from home.

However the bike looked perfect, 2 years old, 6 thousand miles on the clock. Full Triumph luggage and even a Sat Nav thrown in. After a conversation with the dealership I managed to get a £500 discount off their price which paid for my clothing and helmet. Happy days, I was now the owner of a lovely shiny blue Tiger.

Through this blog I plan to share my search for my smile. My motorcycling adventures and hopefully a bit of fun along the way. Be nice to have you along for the ride.

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