Category: Life

Pics or it didn’t happen.

There were only two good pictures of me from the Outlaw.

On the bike and on a mission:

and just about to cross the finish line:

Every other picture looked like a sad, beaten, old duffer who was half dead . Which, to be fair, is 50% better than I was feeling.

The other good picture is one I took today. It’s not easy trying to do a selfie with your bike. I’m quite made up with this this then:


The ‘Blade is as much art as function. Someone spent a lot of time and effort making it look that good.

I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of that exhaust endcan. It’s titanium so very light, but huge and too quiet. Apparently their are all sorts of sensors built in to the exhaust system though,  so you really mess with the fuelling and such if just swap the silencer for a more raucous one. Which means buying a full exhaust system (£££££££) and a power commander to sort out the fuelling (£300) and the garage to fit it, probably.

It’s like Wendy rightly said after I spent all that money converting my W650 into a cafe racer, “buy the bike you want.”

I wanted this because it was an unmolested, original bike. It will far exceed my ability as it is in standard form, I’m not going to spend a grand or so just to make it sound a bit fruitier.

One thing about it I will be changing is the seat. It’s rock hard.There’s no rush for that though, I doubt I’ll be doing many more miles this year ‘(it’s not seeing salt). But maybe next year, comfy seat, road trip? A quip nip to Germany?

I noticed the forks were set slightly differently so I looked it up today and reset them back to standard, then one turn extra to stiffen them up. Also tightened the chain.


The other thing I’m doing now is starting training for a sub 3 hour marathon.  I spent ages yesterday working out the amount of weeks until the race, the end distance, then working back in a steady and sustainable fashion to my starting point. I drew up a chart of date, distance, weeks to go.

If I can stick to the chart I can do it.

I went for my first run since the tri today. It was hard and humid. My target time is 6.45m/m. I started off slow to avoid tendon injury, 8.46, 8.27, then tried a fast mile. 7.42. Total disaster. I thought I’d lost my fast mojo.  I did another few slow miles then tried again. As soon as my watch beeped for the mile I charged off. It was beastly hard but I kept going. Finished that mile in 6.42! Yay! It’s back on! Then slogged home for 2 miles.

It nearly killed me, but that’s the first step on the plan done. Then I looked at the plan “Week 1, run ½ mile”


I’ll have to see how it goes. I may have to have a slack year (no tri-s) and focus on getting sub 3.

And so, said Zebedee, to bed.



The forks set up wasn’t a step forward. Over bumps it was trying to buck me out of the saddle. I’ve looked up a complete set up guide for this exact model (there are 6 different things to adjust) and set it to that. Trial and error. If that’s not right there are set-up experts who will fine tune it to your exact weight.

Another thing I’ve learned today, never, ever do a long run after a fast one. I ground out 18 slow, painful miles, but it was hellish and dispiriting. The only good to be taken from it is I wanted to quit after the first mile but kept it going. So a good exercise in mental discipline.

Jumping for joy?

Quick update.

First off, my dream job at the Co-Op.

It turned into a nightmare.

The hours are great, the money was great, they treated you great, but all the stores were on the very edge of what is physically possible. Previously my satnav would say “turn left” and I’d look into a tiny back street, lined with cars, and think “jog on” and find the proper way into my drop. At the Co-Op that is the proper way. I had to go down a street stopping and folding car wing mirrors in all the way down as it was the only way I could fit. I was a nervous wreck. It got too much and I quit. *sigh*

That was on a Saturday, I signed up with an agency for a postal driver job on the Monday. They looked at my history, Stobarts, would you work there again? Absolutely not. Next? Meh. Bookers?


I joined 3 agencies earlier in the year trying to get back in there. Not a sniff. That is the best job I’ve had, but I’d kind of given up on it, as I thought they must have stopped using agency. Here it was, serendipitously being offered! I said I’d love to go back. Said I was available from Wednesday. They ‘phoned me that night, saying they had a shift at Bookers Tuesday, did I want it? For Bookers, yes. That was that. 5 days for the last 3 weeks. They also do Herpes, so I’m thinking I may have dropped in perfect here. If there are days when Bookers don’t need me I can do a shift at Herpes. This means I can afford to wait it out until they finally give in and take me on. Then it’s megabucks. £40+K.  For a piss easy job, no pressure, no deadlines, great attitude towards driver error. My first or second shift back there they sent me to Birkenhead. It’s tight as buggery. You have to drive into the yard, right up to the wall, spin it around on full lock (which kicks the back end out and a few drivers have taken out the fence it’s so tight) then go back out and blindside in around a corner. After the Co-Op it was a walk in the park. But in screwing it tight around one of the leads from the truck to the trailer must have snagged and it ripped out. I ‘phoned it in. They called me a dick, had a replacement sent out, not a word said when I got back. No forms to fill in, no investigation. Shit happens, don’t do it again. Now I take my lines off before I go into the yard. Sorted. The only thing with this job, as with every other driving job (not Co-Op) is you don’t know your start or finish times day to day.


I’m still battling with the bike. I rebuilt the engine (nearly bust my back humping the damned thing back in the frame) and refitted everything.  A job made a lot worse by my prevaricating over starting it because I was scared of the job. I got it all back together, reinstalled all the electrics and turned it over. It turned fine but didn’t start. I checked for fuel, (yes) sparks, (yes) right spark plug lead to right spark plug (for timing, yes) bugger. Had to be the timing was out. I took the cylinder head back off (all in-frame from now on, YAY!) and turned it over. Valves not moving. It was that thrice damned bevel drive. I was scared of that before I started, never having dealt with one before. After a bit of examination it turns out the shaft that drives the bevel (that operates the cam shaft) had fallen down. This is down to a circlip. While refitting I tried to put it on a wider part than that for which it was intended and prized it open too far. I was already aware of this and ordered the part as soon as I buggered it. I’ve been waiting for it to be sent from Germany, who, it transpires, had to order it from Japan. As soon as that arrives I strip the top of the engine, fit it in the right place, with the timing set again, and job should be a good ‘un.

I hope so, because whilst window shopping for a cheap winter bike (told a guy at work about my woes trying to tart up the engine after winter corrosion and he asked what I was doing riding a nice bike in winter, why didn’t I get a £500 winter bike?) I’ve stumbled across a Chinese website. They are selling clone motorbikes. They get a popular model of bike. tear it down to it’s nuts and bolts and slavishly copy every last detail. Then they set up a production line of Chinese made, *very* cheap clone bikes.

They are doing Harley clones. The Heritage Softail Classic is £16+K from Harley. The clone is £2,480, brand new, in a crate, shipped all the way from China.


I want it so bad I can taste it. This could be perfect for me. Even the fakeness could be a positive. It looks like too much of a lump to get down between the houses to our garden and a real Harley would be stolen before I’d got my leathers off if I left it on the front. I’m going to get a laminated sign saying “This is a fake, Chinese copy, £2,480 brand new off (website) so don’t bother nicking it, it’s not worth shit” , or words to that effect.

My plan was to add it to my my collection but Wendy, perhaps not unreasonably (bloody unreasonably!) says as I can only ride one bike at a time, and we are still in debt, I have to sell my bike to buy it.


This means I have to finish this rebuild, polish it all up and flog it. Double quick time.


The other big news is I’ve finally got my parachute course done.

I finished work stupid o’clock Saturday morning, had 4 hours kip, then up and drove to the Lake District (right next to Morecombe bay). I was there from 08.30 until about 16.30 doing the course and finding out all the interesting ways I could die. The main thing we learned on the course was that it’s a waiting game. For students the wind speed has to be 15mph or lower with ground visibility (no clouds below 3,500 feet) and such. In short, we weren’t going to jump yesterday. So I had to do another 160 mile round trip today. I was sat there waiting from 09.15 until about 14.00 then they called us  out. We went up, I was last man out. They got the first 3 out then more cloud came in so they aborted. Landed. Gutted.

About 16.00 we had another go. I was quietly confident that I could do it. I’ve faced death quite a bit and don’t let it deter me. Then it got to my turn. You’re sat on the floor, facing a roller door which the instructor pulls open when the plane is in position. You look out and it suddenly gets very real. Then the instructor says “FEET OUT!” and you slide into the doorway, a hand on the door frame behind you, one on the lip of the opening upon which you are sat, one buttock hanging over the edge.. Which is really frightening because you think you are just going to keep going and fall off. Then he says “GO!” and taps your shoulder and you have to push yourself off, into the void.

As I say, I’ve faced death quite a bit. Riding through two overtaking lorries at 120mph, sitting listening to bullets going off in the fire in front of me, crashing every bike I’ve had, going to war, etc etc. I’m not trying to say I’m heroic, “stupid” would work equally well, I’m just saying fear and possible death don’t stop me from doing things. With that in mind, sliding up to the aircraft edge and pushing myself out, I was fucking terrified.

I surprised myself with the level of fear. I was wondering, as I sat waiting for him to open the door for my turn, whether I could do it. I was so scared I thought I was going to bottle it.

I didn’t. But all my drills went to shit. Leap out, star shape, head back, count “ONE THOUSAND, TWO THOUSAND, THREE THOUSAND, ONE THOUSAND, TWO THOUSAND, THREE THOUSAND, CHECK CANOPY!”

I pushed off, then next thing I was being snatched back by the static line to my ‘chute and then my ‘chute opening. When shit started making sense again I was back on the ball. Checked my chute, did the drills, steered it in nicely. But for that 1 or 2 seconds I totally lost it.

Absolutely terrifying experience.

If the weather is nice I’ll have another go next Sunday, see if I can get it right!

You are not allowed to take a cam up with you so no pics, but it was a hell of an experience.

Right, bed. I’m bollocksed. 20 mile run tomorrow.



Ups and downs.

I’ve properly started my new job now. I had 7 days of training first. I had a 2 hours driving assessment to start with. Then I started the training 7 days. I was supposed to do a day’s classroom, a day out with a driver (just watching) a day’s classroom then a whole day out actually doing the job with an assessor watching me. That was the big stress day. Then a day out with another driver watching me, then two days out with another new starter, to watch each other.

I was in an artic the whole time, and I’m quickly getting used to the manual gearbox so it wasn’t too bad. I was worried on my assessment day but I passed. The next day, when I thought I could relax there mustn’t have been any spare drivers ‘cos they sent me out with another assessor! D’oh!

I got through that, did my two days (one driving, one observing) with the other new driver and started my shifts on Thursday. I had an easy start, an artic with an auto gearbox, full size trailer and one drop. Bread and butter to me. Dropped it off, back with 2½ hours to spare, sat in the canteen until home time!

The second day was when it got a bit worse. They gave me a rigid. Only a dinky little 18 tonner but buggered if I could remember how to drive one. Any fool can drive one forwards, but I’ve completely forgotten what room you need to turn one around, and I was bollocksed as soon as I had to reverse. I’ve five years of experience with artics. For that you pull over near to where you want to reverse into, then screw the cab around which pivots the trailer over the back wheels, get it pointing in the right direction then straighten up. I was lining the truck up in the wrong place to start, expecting it to turn when it wouldn’t, and turning the wheel the wrong way be reflex. It was a nightmare.

On Sunday they sent me out in a 26 tonne rigid. These are bastards for two reasons; the rear wheels are a good 6-8 feet in from the end of the box, so they have a vicious swing, and they have a semi-auto clutch. You rev it and let the clutch out and it cuts your revs and slowly lets the clutch engage. I stalled it the first time. It’s a nightmare, especially on hill starts as you can’t over rev to put some power into it.

Anyway, I was coping with the overswing and I was getting on top of the fecking stupid clutch, but the reverse was still a nightmare. The main trouble with this job, is Co-Op shops are little convenience stores, parked in the middle of housing estates and such. So virtually every drop is an absolute nightmare to get to.

Here’s one in Manchester:


As you can see there is enough room for the car. But trucks are wider, and that’s travelling in a straight line. If you want to turn you need swing. I couldn’t get back out of that one, I had to follow it into the housing estate to find a place to get back to the main road. I had to keep stopping and tucking car wing mirrors in as it was that tight.

Back to Sunday, 26 tonner, took me to this poxy little shop in a poxy little village, I had to drive through a sign saying “Unsuitable for HGV’s” to get there. The shop was in the middle of the main, tiny, street running through the village. This meant I had to pull across both lanes and force everyone to stop and wait for me to reverse it into the side street by the shop. So, lots of impatient drivers queuing both ways, tiny road, lots of foot traffic. No pressure then. I set it up all wrong, if it had been an artic it was perfect and I’d have been in in seconds. Shunting back and forth, arse end going all the wrong way, I ended up mounting the pavement (not a prob, just gave me more room to swing) but I was having to concentrate on not hitting pedestrians. *bang!* What?

There was an overhead sign hanging out over the pavement. I was staring at the pedestrians didn’t even see it. *Was* hanging overhead. Not any more.

Fourth solo shift and I’d had a crash. I assumed they’d sack me off. My first week of a 12 week probation. I got back to the office, they went through the RTA forms. I was honest and said I was struggling like a bastard with rigids. They said they’d put this down to a training issue. Either get me some mentoring or put me on small rigids until I got back up to speed. I’m hoping for the former. I have no confidence at the minute. I am driving miles whenever I need to turn around because I have no idea what space a rigid needs. Surprisingly an artic with a 45 foot trailer is nimble as buggery in the turning department. They can turn in their own length, so a wide two lane road is often enough to spin them round. Rigids have the turning circle of an oil tanker ship. It’s all about 3 point turns and such. Easy when you know how, I don’t even think of it in the car, but when you have no idea what size you need or how it’s going to turn, it’s nerve wracking. I’m constantly scared witless I’m going to get stuck and won’t be able to get out.

My one consolation is, if you zoom into that image above, there’s a bin lorry down the end. That is their day job, driving down those streets, amidst those cars, day in, day out. It’s do-able, it’s just I don’t know how. 

To summarise, the job is as good as all the good bits suggested. You have a fixed start time, you can stick to your home time, if they try and give you a second job that takes you 5 minutes over your 10 hours you just refuse, nothing said. Today is my first of three off, which I *know* for damned sure are my days off, no last minute ‘phone calls telling me to get in. There is no pressure on the job, you are given your jobs for the day, your keys, and basically left to it. No-one calling you up and screaming at you for not being at your next drop, and there is an hour’s, paid, dinner break.

The downside is: rigids, poxy little, hard to get to, drops, a bit of a faff wrestling cages around. And having to tail lift all the stock down, and empties back up is *so* slow.

Oh, also they are Safe System Of Work mad. Not that that is a problem, I quite like that they have a system whereby no cages can fall off the tail lift, or roll free when you are off the truck, but it is slow. This is part of the adjustment process though. You are not going home for 10 hours, no matter how quickly you get the job done, so just plod on safely.

If they are as good as their word, and I’m not sacked and get some help, this could be a decent job. 90% of what I don’t like about it is simply that I can’t drive rigids. If I can get over that, this job could be brilliant. I passed my class 2 (rigid) test, so I must have been OK with the bastards once.

At the moment I’m taking it as it comes. If they help me out and I get comfortable and confident with rigids this could be an excellent job, if they reconsider and sack me I’ll get an artic job and never look back.

Bastard rigids.

Right, off to Halfords to get some paint. The next two days I want to get my bike back together.