Riders Ride (November 2018)

Continuing our Rider’s Rides! Each month we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Jono Wiles and his Bonneville.

Well this looks familiar; but which specific flavour of bike are we looking at here?

It’s a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120 Black edition.

And how long has this example been lurking in the shadows of your garage?

I bought it back in November last year.

Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to your fleet?

Whilst I would love a garage full of bikes it’s my only ride! It replaced an older version of the Bonneville, an air-cooled T100 SE.

There’s a lot of choice in the retro/classics segment at the moment; did you go straight for an upgrade or consider anything else (e.g. Moto-Guzzi V7)?

As I had already ridden a Bonnie I didn’t look too closely at other options. As before, I wanted a classic-looking bike with modern performance, and personally think that Triumph have done a great job in creating a fantastic range of old-school-looking bikes. I do like the look of the Moto-Guzzi, and I also considered the BMW R-nineT, but I still feel Triumph pip them both on style, quality and reliability.

The older Bonneville’s were fairly basic bikes, tech-wise. Was there anything in particular you were hoping to get from this upgrade?

I loved my old Bonnie but it was missing some key features: ABS, traction control, heated grips etc. The new one is a comprehensive ground-up redesign with twin front brakes, electronic ride-by-wire system, riding modes, torque assist clutch, LED lights and, in the T120, a much more powerful 1200cc water-cooled engine. Combined, these make my new T120 a much more responsive, safe and powerful bike. The clutch is a dream and really light, which is great when riding for extended distances. The engine delivers 50% more torque and 20% more power than my old bike and sounds great with the pea-shooter style exhausts. Contrary to expectations, it also handles well on both twisties and the open road.

Sounds like you’re a big fan! I’m guessing you collected this one from an equally enthusiastic dealer?

Yep – I bought it from Laguna in Maidstone; at the time these models were hard to find second hand, and I didn’t want to buy new and take the hit on the initial depreciation.

How did that work out?

They were okay to start with, but after I got the bike home I noticed the hazard lights weren’t working. Laguna picked the bike up again, fixed the problem and got it back to me within three days but it was a bit annoying, to say the least. I have to question if they really performed the promised checks that were claimed to have been carried out, and one of the key reasons I wanted to buy from a dealer.

I normally stick to Jack Lilley Triumph in Ashford; they maintain my bikes as they are local and are a great bunch who I would thoroughly recommend. For example: when I took the T120 in for a recent service, I mentioned the front brakes squeaked a bit when used at low speed. Apparently this was a common problem for the early T120’s and Triumph issued a fix, but my bike was just a few months out of warranty by this point and so wouldn’t normally be covered.

But the guys at Jack Lilley called Triumph and persuaded them to sort it out at no cost, which they really didn’t have to do. Considering the fix included a new front wheel, discs and pads, which would have cost me £1,200 + fitting, I was understandably delighted. It shows that they really care about their customers. In fact, this was another thing Laguna should really have resolved before selling it to me five months earlier!

I’m no expert, but that bike looks a little different than the examples I’ve seen. Have you made some changes?

The Bonnie came with some modifications already fitted, such as a tail-tidy, different indicators, suspension and an upgraded Vance & Hines exhaust. I have since added a Dart fly-screen which makes a huge difference to wind buffering for such a small bit of plastic, and finally panniers to make it more suitable for touring.

So not just a Sunday cruiser then!

I only started riding two years ago when my best mate (who had ridden for years) arranged a biking trip to the US for his 50th. So I thought: why not? I passed my test and three months later I was riding an Indian Roadmaster 2,500 miles from Colorado, to California, passing through Ohio, Arizona and Nevada on our way to LA and San Francisco.

It was a fantastic experience on an absolute beast of a bike and a real baptism of fire. As a novice rider I learnt a lot very quickly, but it got me hooked and I have not looked back since. Since then I have been to Holland, France and Spain, and plan to go on at least one or two trips away each year from now on. The TT and Balkans are already in the diary for 2019!

The T120 is quite a bit more powerful than your old T100; has your riding changed at all as a result?

The T120 has allowed me to progress my riding – especially the cornering side – but I still see myself as a beginner, which is why I joined TVAM. Being a member gives me the opportunity to improve my capability as well as socialise and ride with a bunch of like-minded people. It’s been fantastic! Only a few weeks ago I went away on the ‘Let’s go to France’ trip for a long weekend. Expertly organised by John Rodda it was truly excellent. There were six of us altogether, everything was planned well, from the route to hotels and the daytime activities. Everyone looked out for each other and John was a brilliant tour leader.

Sorry I missed it! Did the trip highlight anything lacking that you missed from your old bike?

I certainly don’t miss the manual choke or woolly front brakes! But then this new bike had been customised by a company called 8 Ball who are commissioned by Triumph to fettle some of their bikes, so it looked mean and sounded great.

On the flip side, even with the indicators fixed they were still not great quality and rather small. Equally, whilst the rear light looked good and fit the aesthetic, it too was quite small, and I received some feedback during TVAM rides on how ineffective they both were. As such I have just swapped the tail tidy for an R&G racing set-up which was a bit pricey, but after doing some research it came back as the best option. It also allowed me to reinstall the rear grab-rail, which is handy for pillions or attaching extra luggage when touring. I then fitted some Triumph short-stem indicators which are both much brighter, making me far more visible to motorists.

Finally, the only other issue, common to all naked bikes, is that you can’t help but be somewhat envious of the fairings on big touring bikes while blasting down the motorway! But I suppose those are the choices we make and I wouldn’t swap my bike for anything.

So it sounds like you’re pretty pleased with your purchase then!

Yes – it’s perfect for me and the type of riding I want to do. So, whilst it wouldn’t suit everyone, I absolutely love this bike!!

Nick Tasker was talking to Jono Wiles earlier this summer.

First published in Slipstream November 2018

Rider’s Rides (October 2018)

Continuing our Rider’s Rides! Each month we feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have John Rodda and his mighty BMW Tourer.

And which flavour of Bavarian boxer do we have here then?

This is my BMW R1200RTLE.

Did it replace an existing bike, or is this an addition to your garage?

The RT replaces my previous bike, a BMW R1200GS Adventure Triple Black. I prefer the weather protection, ride comfort and seating position of the RT. I’ve had a fair number of these models in the past, so I knew what to expect.

My Uncle has a similar love affair with the boxer. Did you consider anything else, say a K1600?

I looked at BMW’s S1000XR – but only briefly. I’ve owned a K1600 and an R1200GS in the past. Both are excellent machines, but the RT seems to suit my purposes particularly well.

How so?

Great comfort, load capacity, fuel range and amazing handling for a machine of this size and weight. The RT also has great presence on the road, and therefore is a little more likely to be seen than smaller sports bikes.

Which dealer delivered this one to you?

BMW Bahnstormer in Maidenhead.

And would you recommend them to other TVAM members?

Yes, plenty of TVAM customers use Bahnstormer already, and are offered a discount on clothing and accessories.

Good to know! The bike looks stock, but have you got any modifications I missed?

I’ve installed a Roadhawk bullet camera tucked almost out of sight on the front fairing, which records witness footage on a continuous loop whenever the bike ignition is turned on.

Sneaky! What sort of riding do you do/plan on doing with this bike?

Anything and everything, from observed rides with my associate to an upcoming tour of France and adjacent countries, as well as motorcycle marshalling on cycle races and other events with the National Escort Group.

Is this different from the sort of riding/trips you used your previous bikes for?

Not really. My motorcycles are part of daily life – not just as transport, but for coaching, tour leading and leisure too.

Anything amiss with your new bike so far?

Nothing much. My previous RT suffered with condensation in the instrument panel, but my current machine is fine so far. Previous experiences with the dealer have always been positive whenever I’ve had a problem, so if anything crops up I know I’ll be looked after.

Overall then, no regrets?

I’m absolutely delighted to be back on an RT. It seems to be the bike that suits me best out of all I’ve ridden, and as an added bonus this version is so far returning more than 60mpg!


Nick Tasker was talking to John Rodda earlier this summer.

First published in Slipstream October 2018

How to Survive your First Trackday

During the very first NEC motorcycle show I attended after bringing home my shiny new Triumph Street Triple R, my brother and I bought our very first sets of leathers. That may seem bizarre to those of you for whom that has always been your standard biking attire, but for many of us whose biking role models were Ewan McGregor rather than Kevin Schwanz, textiles are the default. The plan was to do our first trackday that following summer, but it’s amazing how easily something like that is put off, again and again.

Fast-forward to 2018 and Pat Coneley persuaded me to give his Road Skills Day at Thruxton a go, which aside from a single session at Brand’s Hatch and a terrifying lap of the Nürburgring, was my first real on-track experience. But as you’ll know if you’ve attended one of these yourselves, that was not a trackday. Riding a V-Strom and wearing textiles, we were limited to 100mph with artificial chicanes and had braking and turn-in markers laid out for us to aim for. Remember: Road Skills Day!

I learnt a lot from my instructor, and the experience as a whole, not least of which that it is possible to ride around a racetrack all day without crashing. What’s more, if I could do it on Michelin Pilot Road 5’s on skinny adventure-bike wheels, then it should be even easier on my Triumph. With my girlfriend itching to drag me along to a ‘proper’ trackday, I had run out of excuses, and so signed up for the No Limits Novice group, and prepared to depart for Mallory Park.

I packed a water bottle, tyre pressure gauge and compressor, along with a handful of cereal bars and sandwiches before setting the alarm for 5am. With sign-on at 7:30 and a planned petrol stop just before reaching the track I needed to leave plenty of time to arrive fueled-up and ready for the safety briefing.

As it happened, I needn’t have worried – traffic is understandably light that early in the morning, and unlike almost everyone else who had arrived in the paddock, I had no van to unload, no tyre-warmers to attach and no maintenance to perform. I had even printed and filled out the requested paperwork in advance, something I soon discovered made me practically unique amongst my fellow riders!

After dropping off the forms and collecting the appropriately coloured wristband, I had some time to kill, and began chatting to the other riders I was sharing the garage with. All were trackday veterans, despite several having placed themselves in the same Novice Group as I. Given that I was expecting to be sharing my sessions with nervous riders wobbling around on a variety of inappropriate machinery, this was certainly something of a surprise.

Looking around the crowd at the safety briefing was also enlightening – the vast majority of riders were men in their 40’s, with a few younger riders and two women. Despite this depressing gender imbalance, the sexist banter I was expecting failed to materialise, with my girlfriend experiencing nothing but friendly helpfulness all day. Aside from a few people mistakenly assuming that it was I, not her, riding the tricked-out Fireblade, there was no trace of the prejudice or stereotyping that often follows female riders wherever they go.

Noise testing (another item I had concerns about) proved another non-issue. My Street Triple on it’s after-market Scorpion exhaust had been measured at 105db by the over-zealous tester at Brand’s Hatch, leading me to suspect I’d never pass the 103db maximum allowed at Mallory Park. Assurances from my mechanic proved true however, with the baffled exhaust measuring just 97db when tested according to ACU regulations. If you’ve got a trackday of your own planned, I recommend getting your bike tested ahead of time, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear some fairly noisy bikes fly through under the limit.

When the tannoy called out for Novice riders to come to the pits, I was certainly nervous. How would I know when to brake and when to turn in? Without the usual roadside furniture of trees and streetlights, and the ever-present road-markings, how would I know how fast I was going? My major recollection from the single session at Brand’s Hatch was that the tarmac seemed to go on forever in every direction and that corners came at you out of nowhere. I was worried that I would low-side in the very first bend. I needn’t have worried.

The fact is, the track was very easy to read. Coloured rumble strips on the apexes of all the corners made the edges of the track easy to spot, and after a couple of sighting laps I was already winding the engine up to the limiter and leaning more, all while looking for overtaking opportunities past slower riders. Everything I’d learned at Thruxton came back to me, with braking and turn-in points easy to figure out after a few corners. The trick, just as then, was to start slow and build speed gently over time.

At the end of my first twenty-minute session, I was surprised to discover how warm I was, despite the cool morning air and uninsulated leathers. Remembering the advice on the Road Skills Day I’d brought along – and proceeded to drink – plenty of water, and topped up my energy with a cereal bar or two between sessions. With each of the three groups running back-to-back, I only had limited time to cool off and admire the shrinking chicken strips on my rear tyre before the call to the pit lane rang out once more.

After my second trip out I was already lapping some riders in my group, and out-braking most others in some of the tighter turns. The forward planning and smooth riding we learn from our Observers is just as important on track, and there were quite a few riders on track that day who could benefit from some advanced training. The long, fast corners were giving me difficulty, however, so it was time to seek expert advice specific to track riding.

Noise testing (another item I had concerns about) proved another non-issue. My Street Triple on it’s after-market Scorpion exhaust had been measured at 105db by the over-zealous tester at Brand’s Hatch, leading me to suspect I’d never pass the 103db maximum allowed at Mallory Park. Assurances from my mechanic proved true however, with the baffled exhaust measuring just 97db when tested according to ACU regulations. If you’ve got a trackday of your own planned, I recommend getting your bike tested ahead of time, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear some fairly noisy bikes fly through under the limit.

When the tannoy called out for Novice riders to come to the pits, I was certainly nervous. How would I know when to brake and when to turn in? Without the usual roadside furniture of trees and streetlights, and the ever-present road-markings, how would I know how fast I was going? My major recollection from the single session at Brand’s Hatch was that the tarmac seemed to go on forever in every direction and that corners came at you out of nowhere. I was worried that I would low-side in the very first bend. I needn’t have worried.

The fact is, the track was very easy to read. Coloured rumble strips on the apexes of all the corners made the edges of the track easy to spot, and after a couple of sighting laps I was already winding the engine up to the limiter and leaning more, all while looking for overtaking opportunities past slower riders. Everything I’d learned at Thruxton came back to me, with braking and turn-in points easy to figure out after a few corners. The trick, just as then, was to start slow and build speed gently over time.

I tracked down one of the instructors on offer at the end of the second session, and requested some pointers. When I lined up for the third time he told me to follow him for the first three laps, after which he would beckon me to overtake and then follow for the rest of the session. His lines through the corners weren’t drastically different to mine, but there was definitely room for fine-tuning.

I caught up with the instructor afterwards and he advised me that I wasn’t hanging off the bike enough, wasn’t taking the faster corners tight enough, and wasn’t using the whole of the track on corner exit, demonstrating that there was far more speed to be had there. I was also losing time by braking too late at the end of the long straight, and therefore making a mess of the corner entry and putting myself on too-wide a line for Gerard’s. While I was already faster than most of my group through the corners, the vast majority of riders were on faster, more powerful bikes and I had my work cut out trying to overtake on the straights.

My instructor pointed out that overtaking on corners was fine as long as I was giving the bikes in front enough room. With a wide track and no oncoming traffic to worry about, I was able to start picking bikes off in the bends, even passing a couple on the inside who took overly wide lines through the hairpin. It turns out all that Alpine practice had paid off!

While timing equipment was officially banned, I’d sneakily left my smartphone running a data recorder throughout the day, so that I could confirm that I was indeed improving session by session. Sure enough, laptimes were slowly dropping as lean angles increased, and only started to climb again when I began pushing myself to go fast, rather than focusing on riding smoothly in some of the later sessions. Thanks to this telemetry I was able to check myself and return to working on my technique. Go smooth to go fast!

As the final sessions approached, I began to notice worrying behaviour from some of my fellow riders. While I myself wasn’t particularly fatigued, due to many years of conditioning from 400-mile touring days, other riders were exhibiting symptoms of overconfidence or reduced concentration. Twice I had people try to outbrake me into the S-bends and then aim for the escape route instead. After having seen what can happen when two riders collided earlier in the day, I decided to pass on the very last session. Unlike many of these race-fairing equipped hotshots, I needed my bike to get home…

The final question was this. After a day of 100mph+ speeds and 45-degree lean angles, would I find returning to public roads and the constraints of the highway code irritating, or even impossible? Many of those I spoke to at the track no longer rode motorcycles on the roads, and some of the younger ones didn’t even have bike licenses. I’d heard about people finding traffic and other hazards too much to deal with after the relative calm and safety of the racetrack. I’m please to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my ride home, and found the speed limits no more onerous than usual.

In truth, while I learned more about myself and my bike from the TVAM Road Skills Day, riding around Mallory Park was tremendous fun and an education to boot. I’ve still got plenty more to work on (I never did get my knee down!) and I’ve confirmed once and for all that the limit isn’t my bike, it’s very definitely still me.

Would I do it again? You bet I would. I’m already booked in at Donnington Park…

Nick Tasker

First published in Slipstream October 2018

Café Review: Annie’s at Canal Yard (Oct17)

We have had no coffee and food stops for a while – so must be time to consult TVAM’s coffee stop list. I have 4 tearoom recommendations that I hope you will enjoy for their location, quality of food and biker friendly welcome. The first is Annie’s at Canal Yard (anniestearoom.co.uk) at Thrupp, near Kidlington OX5 1JZ, reached after crossing the lifting bridge over the South Oxford canal. Although the café has limited seating inside, there are many picnic tables outside overlooking the canal basin. A reserved area of scraped earth and scalpings provides additional parking.

The second is TT Linnet at 41 High Street, Highworth, SN6 7BG. This is a newish mother/daughter owned and run establishment, with a choice of rooms that overlooks the market place car park.

Finally, Lechlade has two worth a visit, the Lynwood and Co Café, Market Square, GL7 3AD

…and the very traditional Tea Chest, Park End Wharf, GL7 3AQ which has its own riverside hard-tarmac parking.

Riders Ride (September 2018)

Each month we’re going to feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it.

Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Cliff Lester and his box-fresh FireBlade:

Welcome, Cliff! What exactly are we looking at here today?

This is my newish Honda Fireblade, specifically the SP1 model.

And how long has this been gracing your garage?

A couple of months.

Did this replace another bike, or is it an addition to the garage?

It’s a replacement for my previous bike, a BMW S1000RR. I’d only had it for two years, but I really fancied the new ‘Blade.

Sportsbike enthusiasts are spoilt for choice at the moment – what else did you look at when shopping?

I considered the Yamaha R1M, as well as the new Ducati Panigale V4S and Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

Honda beat out some very trick hardware then! No interest in the new Suzuki GSXR-1000, Kawasaki ZX-10R, or perhaps another BMW?

Not really; I’ve experienced the BMW already, and owned three ZX10’s in the past! Plus I’m not really a lover of the GSXR…

Anything in particular you were evaluating the bikes on when you were conducting your test-rides?

Rideabilty, as well as quality of the suspension and brakes. Also ease of electronics – the BMW has the tech, but it’s not always easy to use.

Which dealer did you purchase your new Fireblade from? Would you recommend them to other TVAM members?

Fowlers of Bristol. As for recommending them, I would, and I wouldn’t. I had good service when buying the bike but paid for both a tail tidy and radiator guard to be fitted as part of the deal. When I came to collect it they’d fitted the tail tidy but said they didn’t have time for the radiator guard! I wasn’t very impressed.

That is rather disappointing. Have you made any further modifications or installed any accessories since then?

I’ve fitted a World SuperBike Akrapovic slip-on exhaust, as well as a double-bubble screen, but that’s it for now.

What sort of riding do you do/plan on doing with this bike?

There’s a group of us that go on regular A road runs, so more of that for sure. We’ve also been on our annual Le Mans MotoGP trip together; I found the ‘Blade to be amazing on the twisty French roads. I’ve also enjoyed a few track days and A runs with TVAM group – it’s perfect for all that stuff.

Has purchasing this bike changed the sort of riding you do, or how you ride?

No, I’ve always had sports bikes, so I’ve always ridden like this. The Honda has improved my cornering confidence slightly, as this bike is so easy to ride – it feels like it’s on rails!

Is there anything you miss from your S1000RR?

The heated grips and cruise control – they should really be standard at this price. But other than that I do feel that it’s a better bike.

Can you elaborate on that? What about the Honda makes it so special?

The ease of the ride, up & down quick-shifter is so smooth and never misses a beat. The dashboard is beautifully done – so easy to read and adjusting any of your setups is a piece of cake. The Öhlins suspension is incredible (as usual) and the brakes are fantastic. It’s an all-round amazing bike.

What’s the one thing about your bike you would change if you could?

I’ve changed the things that needed changing – the usual things I always do on a bike. But nothing else, it looks lovely and goes well.

Any problems or technical issues with all that electronic wizardry?

Well I’ve only put 1,500 miles on it so far and everything is good for the moment. No problems at all!

So it sounds like you’re pretty pleased with your purchase?

Extremely pleased. It’s the first Fireblade I’ve ever owned and I love it.

Nick Tasker was talking to Cliff Lester in June this year.

First published in Slipstream September 2018

Breakdown Insurance – Are You Covered?

Many of us have breakdown cover to deal with those situations when things don’t go quite as planned. Most of us who ride bikes also know it’s important to ensure your cover includes recovery in case of an accident as, let’s face it, bikes tend to ‘fall over’ more often than cars do.

But imagine riding off to Wales with a mate when, almost exactly halfway through the journey, something unexpected happens. He gets off the bike with severe stomach cramps. Might it be the bacon butty eaten in Oxford before we set out? After a couple of hours it’s getting worse so maybe it’s something a bit more serious than trapped wind. Unable to mount the bike – let alone ride it – the only option is to call an ambulance so he can be assessed by the professionals.

Just 15 minutes after dialling 999 the Ambo turns up with a crew of three (maybe because they heard we were bikers) and, following an assessment of the patient, treatment in hospital is recommended. So, just 30 minutes later, off they go leaving me at the side of the road with two bikes, luggage, and a mate’s RAC recovery card in my hand which is when the ‘fun’ starts.

Having explained the situation to the RAC operator, it turns out they will not attend as the bike hasn’t been in an accident or broken down. Well, they would if we could get a letter or fax from the hospital confirming that the rider has been admitted. Hmm, bit difficult to imagine the NHS having time to produce such a document on a Friday afternoon, and besides, who would you call to get such a document anyway? Helpfully though, the RAC do offer to recover the bike – if we pay them. The cost? £88 plus £2 per mile, and that’s non-refundable even if we do eventually get a letter from the NHS.

So how would other breakdown companies react in this situation? I decided to make a few calls.

The AA

They have something called ‘Compassionate Recovery’ where, in these circumstances, they will attend and recover your bike. Depending on the level of cover you have they will even take it to your home or to an address anywhere in the UK that you request.

I asked if, as an AA member, they would have attended in the situation above as they cover the member, not the vehicle. So if you’re travelling in a mate’s car and it breaks down they will attend. Yes, it was confirmed they would have recovered my mate’s bike as I was there as the member and in need of help.

Green Flag

Having chatted online with one of their service agents they confirmed that they would recover your bike if taken ill by the roadside. You’d have to declare yourself ‘medically unfit’ which they would check when they arrived. However being carted off in an ambulance would satisfy them …..

BMW Emergency Service

Every new and approved pre-owned BMW gets the manufacturer’s breakdown cover as part of the warranty. In talking to them they confirmed that their breakdown service does not generally cover where the rider becomes incapacitated. They do though have discretion and in the situation I found myself in they would have attended to recover my bike if I was incapacitated, as it’s a BMW, but not my mate’s Honda! As the lady said, ‘We wouldn’t leave a BMW by the side of the road’. However if you drink too much in the pub at lunchtime I think you’re on your own to get home!

So are you covered?

If you became incapacitated by the side of the road, rather than your bike, how would your recovery company react? Would they attend and move your bike to secure storage or even take it home for you? It’s maybe worth phoning them and asking before that next trip, or before you renew.

I certainly won’t be joining the RAC anytime soon.

So what happened to Simon’s bike? Well, a very kind biker stopped in his car having seen the ambulance when they’d gone past earlier. They knew a local garage so went off to see if they would store it for us. Yes they would, so I rode it the mile to the garage whilst his good lady wife stayed on the side of the road with my bike and luggage and then he gave me a lift back.

So the biker community stood together whereas the RAC had failed its member. And you never know, perhaps it’s worth stopping, you may be able to help an unknown biker in distress.

As for Simon? As I write he’s currently sitting up in his hospital bed recovering from his operation. But that’s his story to tell….

Andy Slater


Lois Pryce and her Revolutionary Ride

Lois came to speak to TVAM on Wednesday 12th April in her usual ebullient manner and gave us a very entertaining and informative evening about her time in Iran, with the overriding emphasis on the wonderful hospitality of its people. A good turnout from the club, with a few partners and offspring attending. In fact, I brought my cousin who isn’t a biker but was fascinated to hear her stories and totally admired her spirit of adventure and bravado. For those who missed it, you can still get a taste by buying her new book Revolutionary Ride (which many of us did) and experience second-hand the country of Iran from the perspective of a westerner, a female and a motorcyclist. www.loisontheloose.com

Riders Ride (April 17)

This month we have Oliver King, one of our RideUp candidates, and his shiny red Yamaha.

So Oliver, what make and model of bike are we looking at here?

A Yamaha MT07.

And how long have you had this bike?

Since September 2016, so about 5000 miles.

Was this purchased new then?

Yes, brand new. I bought it through Yamaha finance, over three years, my first bike

And what made you choose that particular bike?

For a start, the size was quite a big thing. I’ve sat on larger bikes and always hated the weight of them, and so I chose that one because of weight and size. And secondly because it was less expensive than a lot of other bikes, like your Street Triple for example, which I did look at. I also looked at a KTM 390 but I went with Yamaha for reliability as well, it’s a good name. And it looked awesome!

Why did you decide to go new rather than used?

Mainly because of the finance. I couldn’t put six grand up front in one big bulk payment, and it would’ve taken me about two years to build up that amount of cash to put down on a first bike. I know I’m going to have it for a long time, so I thought if I’m going to be the first owner, all the mods I put on it will be mine.

So you weren’t tempted to look at something like a ten-year-old SV650, for example? Because you could probably get one of those for £2k…

No, I wasn’t tempted. I did look at second-hand bikes, but I thought, it’s my first bike, and I love the cool bikes that are coming out at the moment, and I didn’t want some knackered old thing. I’d probably buy a second-hand car, but a bike is my own, this one’s always been mine, all the things I’ve put on it are for me. No one else has done anything, they’re all my miles.

So which dealer did you pick this Yamaha up from?

There’s one in Ipswich called Orwell Motorcycles, they’re a Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha dealership. They do loads of bikes, but there is a dealer in Bury St Edmunds, which is actually where I live, who also sell Yamahas, but the customer service was awful. I was immediately put off and drove to Ipswich and bought a bike from Orwell instead. It’s the same bike, same offer, it’s just they were much friendlier, so I bought from them.

That’s a strong incentive to prioritise the customer service if there ever was one!

Yes, exactly!

You talked about making modifications to your bike, what have you done so far?

The first thing I did was add the LED indicators, to be brighter. I put them on the finance with the bike, and the dealer stuck them on before I got it. I changed the coloured side panels on the front mudguard, they used to be red, I changed those to be black so it’s just the tank that is red. Then I added the Akropovic exhaust, which completely changes it. I went straight home and pulled the baffle out and started it up. I immediately regretted the decision but couldn’t figure out how to put the baffle back in, so I just carried on! I’m glad I kept it out in the end, but going from a stock exhaust to an Akropovic with the baffle out was quite a big jump, so…

You may want to dig that one out for when MOT time comes!


Have you got any further modifications planned for the future?

A radiator guard, I’d quite like to get one to protect the radiator.

How come, why do you feel it needs protecting?

There’s a lot of grit in it, it’s a pain to clean it. Also talking to the guys here, lots of them say a radiator guard is a good idea, because it can get damaged quite easily. And then, a windscreen.

I take it you’re planning on doing some longer distance trips on it then?

Yeah, heading to Belgium with an Austrian friend who’s got a KTM, a 690 Supermoto. So I need to kit it out with touring bits rather than street stuff.  A windscreen is probably what I need for sixty-plus miles an hour.

Is there anything in particular you don’t like about your new bike?

I don’t like the pipes that run from the water pump to the radiator, because they corrode really quickly. It’s not even a year old and they’re really quite damaged. It comes with the price really but I know it’s a problem that Yamaha will fix for free under warranty. The dealer told me about it and recommended things like ACF50. I was riding it all through winter, even through the snow, and that’s probably why it’s started corroding. But that’s probably the only thing that’s bugged me.

And you say your dealer’s already agreed to replace those pipes under warranty?

Yes. They say it’s a known problem with the MT-07, and those pipes in particular. Often they’ll paint them for you, just part of the dealership service rather than direct from Yamaha. They said otherwise you’ll just keep coming back wanting them replaced.

But other than that you’re pleased with your choice so far?

Absolutely. It’s a first bike. I’ve ridden two other bikes; a 50cc supermoto which was awful, and the bike I learned on for my test, so I don’t have much to compare it to.

No plans to change it any time soon then?

No, absolutely not.

Nick Tasker was interviewing Oliver King

Nick Tasker was interviewing Oliver King.

April 2019

Riders Ride (March 2017)

Welcome to Rider’s Rides! Each month we’ll feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it. Want to see your bike featured? Get in touch at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have our Chief Observer Pat Coneley and his KTM:

So what bike are we looking at here?

A KTM Superduke GT.

And what does the GT stand for?

Well, it’s the kind of touring version of the Superduke. The original Superduke was a naked bike – same engine, same frame, slightly lighter. With the GT they’ve engineered some integral panniers, giving it some touring capability. They’re styled with the bike, and as panniers go, they look pretty good. They’re not huge like those on a GS, but they’re big enough. Fortunately they only have to cater for one as Amanda has her own bikes. She carries her stuff, I carry mine.

How long have you had the bike?

I bought it last May, so around ten months  – 13,000 miles.

Did it replace another bike or is this an addition to the garage?

Replacement. I already had a KTM, an 1190 Adventure, for three years. I think I put 36,000 miles on it. I don’t really have any off-road aspirations, so other than a few rocky tracks abroad on holiday it was only ever a tarmac bike. I figured why not try something a little bit more road focused with a smaller front wheel? I don’t particularly like bigger front wheels, find them a bit vague. KTM launched the GT, I tried it, and that was it, I fell in love.

What in particular is it that draws you to KTMs?

Well, if you cut me in half I don’t exactly bleed orange. I’ve had Honda’s, Suzuki’s, quite a range of bikes, but I like V-Twins, I like the power delivery, that punch, and I like the fact that they’re very slim-waisted, which my older ZX-9R was not. I like that slimness, both from a handling point of view, and from a filtering point of view. I like lighter bikes, and while the GT looks pretty big and heavy, it isn’t. It’s not that much more than 200kg dry, so 230kg fully fuelled, and it’s quite a big tank.

And 170 horsepower…


Do you agree that the safety nets on modern high-end bikes are a reflection of a rider demographic that no longer has the strength or skill to handle these increasingly powerful machines?

I do think it’s a factor. Manufacturers are being encouraged to produce bikes of such power that the only way that we can make them rideable for inexperienced riders is to inhibit them electronically, to which you could argue, well why do we bother? I know I’m riding one, but why do we need a 170bhp bike if it needs electronics to reign it in? I made reference to my ZX-9R, that was an old-style full-fat sportsbike; it didn’t even know which gear you were in! If you were daft enough to ask for it, it would give you 140bhp in first gear, which would loop it. The traction control was just my right hand and brain, and there’s something nice about that.

Many bike magazines praise traction control and ABS as a great way to enable us to ride faster than ever on roads, while others dislike them for encouraging people to rely upon the computer too much. What’s your view?

I think anything that makes bikes safer is a good thing. My view is that we ought to develop the skill to not need these things, but developing that skill safely could be quite a hazardous process. Within TVAM we encourage people to develop the skills stage by stage in a supportive learning environment with courses like Look Lean Roll and Advanced Braking. But to put an article in a magazine and then suggest to people they then go out and try all, that is probably not a good thing, and not very responsible.

So they may be good training wheels then?

Yes. And by the same token, if the planning does go wrong, if there suddenly is something in front of you, a truck coming the other way, and instinct tells you just to grab a handful…ABS can be a real lifesaver.

So which dealer got your business in this case?

Premier Bikes in Didcot. I’ve known them for quite a long time, and they’ve been brilliant. And what I liked about them is that they’re very straight. When KTM introduced the 1190 Adventure it was a new bike to them, and what really impressed me was that they were completely honest if they didn’t know the answers to my questions. That gave me a lot of faith in their workshop, which I still have. They’ve been brilliant.

Have you had any technical problems or anything with this Superduke or previous Adventure that needed it to go back to the dealer?

I’ve had a number of recalls as with a lot of bikes, but nothing that stopped me on the road. A couple of punctures, but I don’t blame KTM for that! Some niggling things, like the horn – KTM horns seem famous for not working when they’re hot. They’ve had the pin on the side stand, the bit you hook your foot on – they’ve had a number of those fall out. In fact, mine as well, but that’s not a particularly big deal, they sent me a new one and I screwed it in.

Have you installed any additional accessories or made any modifications to the bike since you bought it?

I put the Satnav mount on it, I put wiring in for heated gear, and that’s about it. There’s the Givi tankbag, but I quite like keeping bikes standard. I’m not a great fan of loud cans, I find them tiring. They sound fantastic when you hear one go by, but if you’re riding it for 300 miles it can get a bit wearing! And the standard exhaust on the GT, it’s got quite a nice sound.

This is obviously more of a road bike than your 1190 Adventure was. Have you found that riding the Superduke GT has changed your riding style in any way?

Yes, slightly. The weight distribution is probably the same as most bikes, but I’ve found it’s shorter, so if I’m snugged up to the tank I’m quite close to the front end. I find it easier to go deep into a bend, counter steer it hard and gas it out, and it encourages that kind of riding. On the Adventure I was a bit more planned about things; I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s an awful lot of fun!

And the handling is phenomenal; a very easy bike to turn, which translates into some benefits. I can get the bike leaned quicker, so I’ll often find I don’t need to lean it as much, and corners are about average lean rather than maximum lean. You see riders who tend to turn the bike very slowly because they lean their body, so they bring the lean on quite slowly, which means you’ve often got to lean it over quite a long way to get around a corner.

Is there anything you miss from the Adventure?

I can’t do 250 miles between fill-ups, but I don’t have a 250 mile bladder range, so…

What are the least favourite aspects of your GT?

Cleaning it? Like most naked bikes it’s a sod to clean! But you can get in to most of it, it just takes a while. And it’s better than the 1190 – the Adventure had spoked wheels, I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bike with spoked wheels?

Yeah, I avoid them like the plague for that exact reason.

The Superduke has got cast wheels, and they’re quite a nice rounded shape so it’s easier to keep clean than the Adventure was. And the ignition key’s a fiddle to get at with the tank bag on. Unlike most bikes where it’s in the steering head, here it’s set further back in an infill panel in the tank. It’s only a tiny thing but it is a fiddle.

So far you’re pleased with the bike then?

Yeah, it still makes me smile, still makes me laugh after ten months.

Nick Tasker was interviewing Pat Coneley

First published in Slipstream March 2017

London Motorcycle Show (March 17)

The London Motorcycle Show is the one I almost never think I’ll attend. Coming just a couple of short months after the trinity of Intermot, EICMA and Motorcycle Live, it’s always going to suffer a little bit from show-fatigue. Whereas the big European events give you the chance to see the latest machinery just days after the press, and Motorcycle Live is the one everyone goes to because it doesn’t require international travel, the London show doesn’t usually offer anything you haven’t seen before.

And yet, after spending the coldest, darkest, and these days, wettest months, either fighting the weather on the way to work or wistfully dreaming of drier days to come, it’s easy to see why so many of us jump at the chance to nip into town and spend another whole day fantasising about what two-wheeled wonder we’ll certainly save up for next.


This year I had an additional motive for attending. Two female friends of Rosa and myself, one prepping for her CBT and the other considering a return to biking after many years away, would be joining us. Bringing two newcomers to a modern motorcycle show must be like taking a pair of children to Disneyland for the first time. They want to look at everything, sit on everything, and ask questions about everything. And the excitement is infectious.


Some of us have been riding so long that we can take the basics for granted, but to these two, Suzuki’s new GSX-S125 was the most exciting thing they’d seen in years. Do any of you remember shopping for your first helmet or gloves? Turns out it’s pretty damn exciting.


It was also interesting attending a motorcycle show with three short women, particularly after Louise Dickinson’s seminar at the Observer Training Day on the challenges finding small, light bikes for those significantly shorter than six feet tall. I led the procession through the various manufacturer stands, pointing out the bikes I thought they might find interesting, or at least useable.


And you know, it’s funny – if you spend a day ignoring the high-powered exotica and focus on the smaller stuff you realise that the 200-500cc class has really exploded in recent years, both in choice and quality. I remember ignoring bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 250 when I was learning to ride. It was cheap and nasty, both aesthetically and in workmanship.


But the new Ninja and Z300s are as premium as you like, with quality paint, fittings and parts. Ignore the obvious power deficit and the KTM Duke 390 gives up precious little on its bigger brothers, and Yamaha’s new R3 and MT-03 twins are clearly designed to instill as much pride of ownership as any R1 or MT-10. What’s more, weights are down and power is way up compared to the older generation of post-test tedium. These machines are pushing 44 horsepower at the top end, while barely weighing twice that of the average rider. You tell me that doesn’t sound like fun!


Even better, if you’ve spent the last few years coming to the conclusion that £10,000 is the new normal for large-capacity all-rounders, discovering that you could buy two 300cc bikes with change to spare is a revelation, and a real threat to one’s impulse control. PCP payments on bikes that cheap are barely more than the average phone bill…


This is really great news for Rosa and her friends. None of them are scared of speed or power, but it isn’t anywhere near as attractive to them as low weight, seat height and price. The fact that there’s more choice than ever for shorter riders can only be good news for all of us. I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of biking than seeing how surprised and excited these women were at discovering that motorcycling wasn’t just for tall, rich men.

And then MCN almost went and ruined the whole thing by showing up with a bunch of stick-thin models in skin-tight lycra, posing for photographs around their booth. Not a great way to make my female friends feel like they were welcome at the two-wheeled party. It was almost enough to make them want to cross the hall to the bicycle and fitness show instead, where women are treated as customers rather than eye candy.

But all in all, it was a great day out, for us and our friends. One has her new helmet, the other has fallen in love with Triumph’s new T100, and I’m trying to figure out if I could squeeze a Kawasaki Z300 in the garage. It is Rosa’s birthday soon…

Nick Tasker

Is this Spring?

The sun was (nearly) shining on Sunday for the February St. Crispin’s meeting but the warmer weather brought members out, with 240 bikes in the car park and 8 first timers welcomed by the Meet & Greet team.

Spring could be a few weeks off yet but the popular Green Team social ride set off to Goodwood for coffee with a stop at Loomies on the way back.

As the National Observer programme continues we had three new NOs joining the test passes and a new Local Observer on stage to collect their new badges.

Next month is the AGM where snacks will be provided before the start.

Riders Ride (February 2017)

Introducing a new feature here in Slipstream: Rider’s Rides! Each month we’re going to feature a TVAM member and their bike, talk about why they chose that model, what they use it for, as well as what they like and dislike about it.

Want to see your bike featured?         Get in touch with Nick Tasker at pressofficer@slipstream.org

This month we have Kathy Drogemuller and her new Harley-Davidson Sportster Iron 883:

So Kathy, how long have you had this particular bike?

2 weeks and 90 miles!

So its new then! Why replace your previous Sportster?

My bike was beginning to look a bit tired. It was at 20,000 miles and was due a service. Both mudguards were beginning to rust and needed to be fixed and I’d had a small ‘off’ in the summer which left a few scrapes and scratches (on me and the bike!). Coming home from the last 7Ws, Dawn Armstrong was travelling behind me and had to stop to pick up the heat shield from my exhaust, which had fallen off. But probably the biggest reason was that I’d been riding the SERV bikes and found the FJR an absolute dream to handle – you only have to think about going around a corner and before you know it you’re gliding round smoothly. I was beginning to realise that perhaps my riding was limited by my bike.

I dont think Id be able to keep up with you on an FJR, but I see you went with HD again

I am still a dedicated HD fan – I love the rumble and there is a kind of kinship (for better or worse) between HD riders, maybe because we have to put up with so much teasing from other bikers. For me there’s also an emotional connection to the brand after I lost a friend who was a Harley rider (not in an accident I should add).

Its true; nothing looks or sounds quite like a Harley! But presumably there were some specific features you were looking for this time around?

I wanted a tank size that would allow me to travel more than 70 miles in one go – that effectively discounted the forty-eight range – and more ground clearance. Often, on cornering, my pegs would scrape the road surface. Whilst a good indicator of whether I still had room to lean over, it tended to be a bit of a distraction.

I’d agree that most Harleys arent suited to more progressive riding! Which lucky dealership got your business this time then?

I visited the Reading dealer one sunny Saturday to do some test riding. Budget was a bit of a consideration as anything over £10k would probably lead to my husband filing for divorce (although I would argue that divorce is much more costly than a mere £10,000) so that discounted a number of models. I also wasn’t too sure at that stage how much I would be offered as part-exchange for my current bike.

Did you try anything else or go straight for the Iron?

I took out the 1200T, but found it rode as low as my Sportster, plus it was equipped with windscreen and panniers which added to the cost but didn’t really add to the style. I also tried the forty-eight, but the peanut-size tank just wasn’t going to be up to the job. Next I tried the Iron. It definitely has higher ground clearance than the Sportster and I felt quite comfortable sat astride it. I took one out for a ride and an hour later returned to the shop with a big grin on my face. I felt like Steve McQueen on this raw machine. Not the dream handling of the FJR but far easier than my Sportster.

Were you at all tempted by the extra power of the 1200 Sportsters?

There was a used one on the shop floor which had stage 4 upgrades fitted. The salesman seemed was very reluctant to let me take it out. Perhaps he thought I wasn’t serious? Eventually I was allowed a brief spin around the block and – to be honest – that was all I needed. I cautiously pulled out of the dealer car park and it was just as well I did as even then the front wheel was trying to lift. It was certainly peppy! It turned out to be too much really and felt as if I were riding a wild pony on caffeine.

Were they any more cooperative when you fished out your credit card?

I’d been given a trade-in price of £2700 for my Sportster and told that there was probably room to move on the ticket price of a new Iron, but I would need to come in and sit with the salesman and big bad John, his boss. They were expecting a shipment at the end of November but there was only one black ordered for the whole of the south and it was likely to go pretty fast – the sales talk was beginning to creep in but I wasn’t in a rush. A few emails and phone calls passed between the salesman and I as he encouraged me to come in to meet with John. But still there was no definitive price cut.

Then one afternoon I decided to see what else might be on offer and called the Harley dealer in Guildford. The salesman there said he had a 2016 demo Iron with just under 600 miles on the clock in charcoal. Was I interested? Within 20 minutes I had secured £800 off the full list price, been offered an additional £300 trade-in on my Sportster and the first 1000 mile service included in the exchange. £500 deposit and the bike was sold! I later mused over the fact that I had just bought a bike I hadn’t even seen – but then so had the dealer.

Sounds like a heck of a deal! But the salesman surely didnt let you get away without selling you some accessories?

No. I added a smokey-grey windscreen and a black luggage rack to the order. Before the exchange, and with the kind assistance of the guys at Mel’s Motors, removed some of the extras I’d added over the last 3 years of Harley ownership. The weather was beginning to turn cooler so I was very keen to keep possession of the heated glove connection, in particular.

It has certainly been very cold and wet. Did you brave the elements yourself or get it delivered?

When told that the parts were in and fitted, I took my old bike for one last ride to Guildford to seal the deal. Paperwork completed and road tax paid for online, I was heading home with just as big a grin as I had experienced the first time I rode the Iron.

Sounds like youre enjoying it!  Whats your favourite aspect of the new bike?

The digital control display, which shows revs and which gear you have selected. I also like the position and design of the handlebars which are not as chopper-like as my previous bike. Also the higher ground clearance!

Any future modifications, accessories or upgrades planned?

I might opt for the stage one upgrade (although not necessarily with the pipes) as I’m told that might give me slightly better performance.

What sort of riding do you plan to do?

TVAM trips at home and abroad.

And so far, are you pleased with your purchase?

Yes, thrilled!


Nick Tasker was interviewing Kathy Drogemuller

First published in Slipstream February 2017


Last November I sat down with my Associate for a run debrief over a cup of tea in the Fox and Hounds. We got talking about his day/night job as a Police Sergeant stationed at Bracknell. I mentioned to him that one of my ambitions in life was to ride in a police car with lights and sirens going in a high-speed chase. I didn’t think much of it until Peter said, “No worries, I’ll sort the paperwork out and be in touch”. Well, true to his word, a few weeks later I heard from Thames Valley Police asking which dates I’d like to go and that they would run background checks to make sure I wasn’t some kind of unsavoury character!

One of the dates given was New Year’s Eve. In my younger days I was more likely to be in the back rather than the front of a police car on that date, but these days with a young son, I’m more likely to be on the sofa with Jools Holland and a beer. I turned up eager as a beaver for 4.30pm at Bracknell Police Station to be greeted by my Associate. I came prepared with a large tin of biscuits which went down well with the other 12 officers. We started with a team brief video linked with Loddon Valley station, as between them they cover parts of Reading, Wokingham, Bracknell and the outskirts. After a rundown of all the bad people to look out for and 999 calls they’ve logged, we were out doing the P.O.W.D.E.R checks on the car.

I was paired up with my Associate. His Sergeant role is to lead and support his officers in Bracknell. We started the evening patrolling the streets of Bracknell in our trusty Astra (with a bit of a shuddery reverse gear) listening to the radio for various calls coming in about dodgy BMW driving and 125’s without lights.

My ambition was finally fulfilled at 8pm when we put on the blue flashing lights and sped out of Bracknell and down the A329M on the look-out for a Mini that had nearly hit a police van and then failed to stop. Tucking into a layby near St Crispin’s School we lay in wait but sadly it evaded us this time. Fortunately, a few hours later, one of the team in an unmarked car found the Mini driving around erratically and the chase ensued. Other traffic units from Reading got involved and we excitedly parked up on J11 motorway bridge waiting for the car to come past us and be pulled. Travelling at a dangerously slow 40mph on the motorway the Mini finally pulled into Reading Services for fuel and was apprehended. So no stingers or high-speed stopping manoeuvres this time, but still really interesting to listen in on how everyone pulls together.

You may be thinking what has all this got to do with our bike club? Well, other than an extremely interesting night for myself, I wanted to write a small piece on what an excellent job the police do in protecting our lives. If you ever have to call them I’ve seen first-hand how quickly they react and with such professionalism. I’ve also attended Bike Safe courses as I’m sure many of you have, and they always recommend joining TVAM. The Observer core are trained by ex or serving Police riders and the National Observers are examined by ex-police riders. All in all, the Police are involved with us, and I for one feel safer because of it.

If you are interested in becoming a Civilian Observer and wearing a rather fetching fluorescent jacket for the night, this is something that the Police offer to the general public. Go to their website to find out more. Just don’t ring 999 for information, or quick as a flash, you could end up with 3 police cars outside your house!

Andy Boudier

After a few more jobs called ‘immediates’, which involve charging round the roads on blues and twos getting to the destination as fast as is safe to do so, it was really clear to see the similarities between advanced bike riding and police response driving. Obviously, we, the general public aren’t permitted to go over the speed limit or pass through red lights gaining a clear vision line which is absolute key to making progress. It was also amazing how many drivers didn’t know what to do when a siren approached them and just stopped in stupid places.

The night got even more exciting when we were called out to a dodgy estate at 3am where a man known to the police had been reported trying to run over a woman. When we arrived there was an abandoned car which had hit a bollard and had blood over the steering wheel. The police where doing a great job managing the scene, talking to witnesses who also claimed this guy had threatened to burn down a house. An operation to apprehend the suspect was put in place but unfortunately for me this was a job for the next shift. I returned back to the station for a debrief and an interesting insight into the police crime database.

Zero DSR Review

It seems that the world is changing faster than we think. With technology in electric vehicles constantly getting better, owning an electric vehicle is becoming more viable by the day. On my daily commute, I see more and more fully electric cars. I first became aware of Zero motorcycles while I was in the Netherlands. I saw the advertisement at a local motorcycle dealer and thought “that’s cool” but like most people we still believe that electric vehicles “are just not that useful”. How wrong I was!

Going on the Zero motorcycles website, I found that they had a few authorised dealers in the UK so I thought I would give it a go. I chose to go for the Zero DSR (Duel Sport Rider), the biggest of the range.


The Zero DSR has a 775-amp Z-force motor that utilises powerful magnets producing 67bhp and a whopping 146mn of net torque over the speed range. For comparison, a BMW R1200GS produces around 124nm of torque at 6000rpm. Compared to previous motorcycles from Zero the DSR delivers 43% more torque and 17% more power.


Ride Quality:

The Zero DSR is just so easy to ride. It takes a little bit of getting used to the power delivery and not having a clutch lever or gear lever, but it’s light and agile, and all the weight is low down with the motor and battery, but no big heavy fuel tank on the top with fuel sloshing about. It feels absolutely solid and planted in the corners. The Showa suspension really eats up the pot holes and, being a dual sport bike, would be more than capable of going down some dirt tracks. The braking is a little soft, using its large 320mm disk, and not as progressive as I like but, with Bosch ABS as standard, is perfectly adequate.  The huge torque from the motor is very noticeable making overtakes a breeze and getting to national speed easy.



Build Quality:

The bike feels solid and secure and built to last. There is quite a bit of plastic but it all feels of good quality, the bike felt well thought out. There is a nice black powder-coated aluminium frame and the handlebars have a very familiar feel of Renthal bars. On the fake tank where you would have the fuel cap there is a bin with a hard neoprene box that you could store your charging cable, however it’s only held in by Velcro and really seems like they did not put much effort into this part of the bike.




The bike comes with Bosch anti-lock brakes and Pirelli tyres as standard but you can also have an additional power tank fitted which will add an extra 3.3kWh to the standard 13kWh. The dash is functional and easy to read even in direct sunlight, and gives you all the information you require including what riding program you are in – Sport, Eco or Custom. You can also connect to your motorcycle using your phone giving you a more in-depth insight into the motorcycle, such as the state of charge, time to a full charge, and you can even edit the motorcycle’s custom riding mode.




The Zero DSR is the future that will soon be knocking on our doors, but right now the battery technology still needs to improve – the DSR has a range of about 150 miles with charge time of about 8 hours using a standard household plug. So, for a daily commute it is perfect, but for a day out around the twisties you might run out of puff before lunch. You can use extra chargers from Zero that will bring your charge time down to around 2 hours but still the technology is not there for touring. The on-the-road price is £14,000, which is quite expensive for a second motorcycle. The DSR and electric motorcycles are a taste of the future here and now, but for the average rider, it’s not quite there yet.



Kurt Henney

Photos © zero motorcycles

First published in Slipstream February 2017

A Steamy Evening with the IAM

On Wednesday evening, over 70 Associates, Full Members, TOb’s, Observers and even a prospective member, crammed into a small meeting room at the Coppid Beech Hotel in Bracknell to hear Shaun Cronin talk about the latest developments occurring at the IAM – now of course ‘IAM RoadSmart’.

Shaun covered the rebranding and why this was necessary, the development of standards, and also new schemes being introduced in the coming months. One of these may mean that Associates could gain full membership via a modular style of learning rather than a single test ride at the end of their training. Groups such as TVAM could elect to administer such a scheme which sparked some discussion on standards, impartiality, etc. This will be discussed further at the Observer Day next month.

There was also a discussion on the Masters and how this sets a highest civilian riding standard against which any Full Member could test themselves – Observer or not.



Published: 27 November 2016 in MCN

By Alison Silcox

Office manager and centre of the MCN universe

What a cracking way to round off my year of riding the Harley-Davidson Street 750, I’ve just passed my IAM Advanced riding test and I’m pretty chuffed.

I took ownership of the Street 750 in March and decided I wanted to spend the year improving my riding skills and thought that studying for the IAM Advanced riding test would be an ideal way to do this. I’d met observer, Alie Ball, at a track day in 2015 and we’d hit it off, so, rather than join my local group I joined the Thames Vale Advanced Motorcyclist group. It wasn’t quite as convenient as riding locally but did mean that when Alie and I met for our monthly rides we spent a full day of riding.

At £149 it’s quite an investment but one I was happy to make. The fee covered membership to the IAM and all the observed rides I needed to prepare for my test plus the test.

I’m a competent rider but thought taking this course would enhance my skills further. Reading through the IAM Advanced Motorcycling Guide book, one of the first sections covers the ‘system.’ Sounds a bit dull but once riding with Alie I started to put into practice the systematic approach to riding. It soon became clear that riding in this manner gives more time to react to hazards and it became second nature as the weeks passed. Combining this with other riding skills including overtaking, filtering and slow speed work, it was a very comprehensive course.

On test day it was great to be riding the Street 750, with 8,000 miles under my belt this year I’m really comfortable and confident on the bike. My tester for the day, Andy McManus, commented with the slightly feet forward riding position, how easy it was to watch my feet for gear changes and use of the rear brake. He also commended me on my steering, even though the Street 750 is the smallest Harley in the range it’s still cumbersome when steering and on tighter bends can be quite difficult. I was really pleased to round off my year of riding with, to quote Andy, a “good solid pass”.


MCN Success in December with TVAM


Alison Silcox claims to be the centre of the MCN universe as she’s the office manager and also a regular contributor to the weekly publication. Back in March when she decided to was time to improving her riding skills she turned to TVAM and Alie Ball, one of our National Observers, took her under her wing. Despite the distance from home Alison made it to a number of St Crispin’s over the summer and was taken out by other Observers, who contributed to the process. Alison successfully developed new skills during the course including how to build a rolling riding plan, giving her more time to react to hazards and spot opportunities to make progress, and also covering filtering, overtaking and slow speed manoeuvring.

Alison passed her test last month and so received her test certificate and green badge at the December St Crispin’s meeting. You can read her MCN article about her TVAM experience here

Congratulations Ali and well done Alie!

Yamaha MT10 Review

In 2009, Yamaha broke from accepted form by equipping their range-topping litre bike with a cross-plane crank, delivering the sound and power delivery of a V4 in an inline four package. For bikers bored with more than a decade of howling exhaust notes it was a breath of fresh air, adding much-needed aural variety. Since then, more road-oriented riders have been praying for Yamaha to slot the engine into something more upright. Someone in Japan finally listened.

At first glance, you’ll notice that this is no sensible, upright 1000cc Fazer. In fact, at first glance you might lose your lunch, so challenging are the aesthetics. While Japanese naked bikes have become increasingly insect-like in their appearance, many assumed Yamaha would use the more restrained styling evident in the rest of the MT range.

Instead, the MT-10 looks like an R1 was attacked with both an axe and a can of neon spray paint, creating a jagged, sharp-edged, luridly-coloured caricature. This is probably what Michael Bay thinks all motorcycles look like.

Does that mean I hate how it looks? I’m not sure. It does look better in person, and the all-black version looks better again than the grey/neon yellow example I rode. Those headlights are hard work, though. But as I was quickly reminded, you can’t see it while you’re riding it. And the MT-10 really needs to be ridden.

“The MT-10 is a great bike. It’s an incredible machine.”

I’m going to work my way backwards with this one, because it’s a schizophrenic bike. Yes, it looks like it’s just waiting for an opportunity to attack, to throw you into the bushes at the first corner and eat you. But pulling away, the MT-10 is very smooth, very light, and very controllable. It rides beautifully, the quality suspension apparent right away as it takes the edge off potholes and manhole covers while still conveying detailed feedback about grip from the tyres.

In fact, despite its appearance suggesting that the new Yamaha enjoys lurking in dark alleyways to ambush passers-by, you can equip it with a taller screen, hard luggage, hand-guards and heated grips, and go touring. It may not look like it, but this is the promised sensible Fazer replacement, allowing you to cruise to the Isle of Man in relative comfort and practicality before dumping the bags and setting a flying lap around the mountain.

Three different engine modes allow you to choose varying levels of snatchiness, but it won’t present a real problem to anyone acclimatised to a powerful modern fuel-injected engine. Still, the presence of a ride-by-wire throttle suggests this should’ve been taken care of by the software team, and the modes themselves serve little purpose. At least the computer systems mean cruise control and traction control are fitted as standard, and while the former works well, I understandably chose not to try and provoke the latter.

The handling is excellent. It feels quite wide between your knees compared to something like a Street Triple, and it isn’t quite as razor-sharp on turn-in, but it’s not far off. You can exploit the chassis through your favourite bends with minimal effort, but you won’t want to do this for long on the stock seat, which is about as pliable as plywood.

The brakes are, quite frankly, appalling, with zero initial bite and very little power, which comes as a surprise when you see that these are the same radial callipers that can bring the fully-faired R1 to a dead stop with barely a touch. The reason, I’m told, is that Yamaha decided to fit very soft pads to the naked version, and that the problem can be resolved instantly by replacing them with the more aggressive compound found on the sports bike.

This is an odd oversight, given the terrifying amount of speed the 160bhp power plant is capable of inflicting upon you. Let’s be clear for a second – there are most certainly more powerful bikes on the market right now. Yamaha’s Supersport R1, for example, makes 200bhp with the same engine, but the torque is moved much higher up the rev range. I’ve ridden big tourers and adventure bikes with similar power outputs, but the MT-10 weighs just 210kg, giving it a power to weight ratio of 760bhp/tonne. Most supercars barely manage half that.

At 9,000rpm the crank is capable of spitting out 111Nm of torque, but to access that you have to be at full throttle, and that means you’re either already parked in a tree or are hurtling down a long, and crucially straight piece of tarmac, hanging on for dear life as the blurred scenery comes at you all at once. The wide, flat bars and upright seating position mean that merely attempting to exploit the prodigious power available will have the front wheel in the air in the first few gears.

Honestly, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with that engine. Most bikes I’ve ridden get to a point where the wind resistance and gearing effect combine to give a sort of rubber band effect, where opening the throttle no longer causes a linear increase in velocity. Usually this means you’re going too fast, or you’re in the wrong gear. On the MT-10, this simply never happens. If you double the amount of throttle, you will almost instantly double the speed you are travelling.

At anything below the national speed limit, I could reach any speed I chose at any time by barely cracking the throttle a fraction of an inch. This makes fine-grained slow-speed control difficult, and gives the impression of a monstrous attack dog held on a very short leash. I’m sure that cross plane crank sounds amazing once it comes on cam, but there’s just no way to find out; you’ll never rev it that high on public roads. My tester came fitted with a secondary Akropovic silencer, and it was completely wasted.

For years I’ve been confused by motorcyclists who claim they need 150bhp to get the job done. If you or your pillion are starting to bulk up, or if we’re talking about an over-sized touring rig then hauling that extra mass up to cruising speed will certainly require a bit more motive force. But every time I read or hear a motorcyclist comment about sticking a bike in 4th gear and leaving it there all day, I realise that bikers have actually become rather spoilt and lazy.

If a large capacity engine can make enough torque pull stumps at peak, then it’ll make as much power as a small-capacity engine several thousand RPM lower down the rev range. This in turn means that instead of having to use the gearbox to get an engine into the power band, you can just twist the throttle like a scooter and get instant power just off idle. Funny how the demographic that lauds this ability in modern big-bore bikes is the same that raves about the glory days of peaky two-strokes.

The MT-10 is a great bike. It’s an incredible machine. Modern engineering means a large-capacity naked like this can mimic the scalpel-like handling of race bikes from just a few years ago, all with perfect reliability and surprising practicality. But I’m afraid anyone that tells you they can exploit all that power on the road is either lying, or is riding through all their corners in 6th gear.

If you want enough low-down torque that you can leave it in one gear and haul yourself around, Harley-Davidson makes some great bikes that cater to this style of riding. Personally, I’d rather get something smaller, lighter, cheaper to buy and insure, something that can manage better than 39mpg in conservative use, and learn to use the other two thirds of the rev range.
In the first world we’ve become accustomed to being able to comfortably afford far more power than we can possibly use.

The thing to remember is that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

First published in Slipstream, October 2016