Category: Uncategorized

Widow-Maker

I know, right? Immediate interest.

I have had a moment of epiphany. All my life I’ve judged bikes by their aesthetics. How they look and sound. Over the last month or so I’ve completely changed my criteria. What about a bike that does bike things? Goes like stink, brakes, leans right over in corners?

I was looking at the Suzuki SV650. It’s not pretty.

suzuki_sv650

It’s a 650cc V twin, so it has lots of torque and grunt. It’s water cooled and fuel injected so no messing about. And the best thing about the ugliness is, it’s occurred to me that while you are doing the death-or-glory business, you’ll never know what it looks like!

Also, being a V twin, just by changing over the exhaust you get a glorious sound.

https://youtu.be/x75_q8qjvmo

I was all set on getting rid of my bikes and buying one of these. They are quite old now, and were budget to start with, so you can get a good one for £1,800.

Then I stumbled across a review saying the standard dismissal of them as scaled down TL1000S’ wasn’t entirely true.

Really? What’s a Tl1000S?

This:

TL1000S

OK, it’s got a bikini (half) fairing. And it remains ugly. But with added plastic ugliness.

But what does it do?

Here is someone opening one up. Don’t worry it wont take up many seconds of your life.

https://youtu.be/5183T5TX1po

That’s actually the TL1000R, the sanitised and sanity-ised version of the TL1000S.

But you get the picture.

I was reading up on the original, TL1000S, beast, Suzuki’s snub of the Ducati V Twin sports bikes, on Motorcycle News:

“The Suzuki TL1000S is a motorcycle which has become the Freddie Kreuger of biking.”

“will always retain the ability to scare the pants off you occasionally.”

“The rear end starts moving, plus the front end of the TL1000S is liable to flap about as the sheer grunt lifts the front wheel. Result; one scared rider, and possible excursions into the scenery.”

“barnstorming motor, even today, with 125bhp ready to kick your arse within two seconds of opening the throttle fully.”

 

Obviously this all sounds like a hoot. But I discounted it as they said the insurance was group 16 out of 17. Just so I could say “You’ll never believe what they wanted for insurance!” I did a mock quote.

£155 p/a, fully comp, parked on the road.

WHAT?

The bikes are only £200 dearer than the SV650, the insurance is £20 more, and they are ridiculously scary fun. It’s a no-brainer.

Apparently when they first came out they immediately gained a reputation for tankslapper crashes and one person died.Supposedly they sorted that out with steering dampers and better mapping of the fuel injection But they are still referred to as Widow Makers. In fact, you can google “V twin widow maker” if you forget the bike’s name. The bright side being, they are cheap as chips to buy! And possibly not as lethal as reputed. Possibly. More on that story later. Maybe.

So now I just have to sort my pretty bike and my winter hack out. The W650 was running fine when I put it away for the Winter, come to polish, MOT and sell it and the bugger is only running on one cylinder. Well, 1½, maybe. Bastard. Changed the plugs, pulled the carb jets and cleaned them, checked the floats, changed the petrol… buggered if I know.

Which is another factor in my complete about face. I want a bike to just get on and thrash. I’m through with dicking about with them. It was a bad habit I was forced into when I was too poor to have an option. Screw that.

Anywho, that’s my latest obsession.

 

In other news the saxing is really coming on now I’ve got a decent one to practise on. And I have a blow most days at work.

Also my fitness is slowly getting back up to scratch. I did a fair fast (by current standards) 10 mile run, then backed off a bit for fear of injury, yesterday did a half marathon (13.1 miles) at a slow pace. It wasn’t easy, but I’m not broke today, and that’s about all that counts.

Right, best get to bed. I’m getting 5 days/ 6 days every week, but the start times mean I’m getting up at 04.00- 06.00, by the time I get in and sit down I just want to sleep. I was so tired yesterday I was actually considering giving up running altogether. I sucked it up and did a half instead, but it was a genuine choice. Rest (from running) today, small one tomorrow. If I could focus my chi enough to do small runs most days I’d soon be fighting fit. Ho hum.

Later,

Buck.

Mixed Messages.

Work is being weird. I got my contract, a few days later Tesco’s bought us out, so we were scared of being replaced by Eddie Stobarts drivers. Then last week, less than 3 months into my 3 days a week, 6 month temp-to-perm contract, they asked would I be interested in a full time contract.

Hell yes!

Even if it all goes tits up when the merger finally shakes out, at least I’ll have a year (say) of full time and a better contract when the axe falls. 

To clarify, I’ve not been offered a full time job, just asked would I be interested as there as some coming up. Even if I’m at the front of the queue for one of the jobs I might not want it,it could be nights or something. I want a full time contract but not that badly. I can get 5/6 day weeks on days as it is.

 

We (I say ‘we’, I mean me) had a spending spree which we are now paying off. I painted the bedrooms and made a right mess of the carpets. They were the cheapest we could find when we moved in which was 11 years ago so I wasn’t that arsed. Until I priced the replacement. £180 for underlay, £750 for carpet, then a Dyson as our generic hoover was crap, £220 for the car MOT and repairs, a few other outlays, suddenly shitloads of debt. All of that seemed to happen at once, but I wasn’t bothered as I’d landed my super job, then Tesco’s, now it’s a flat out race to pay it all off, just in case.

One bit of debt I’ve added was totally the right thing to do.  I was obsessing about the soprano sax as it’s small and portable, then I got the smaller alto case and it made the alto a better proposition. But that cheapo, own brand sax I had was inconsistent. It kept squawking on the A note. I could play A, move up and down a few notes, come back to A and it wouldn’t play. I tried a stiffer reed, a different ligature, (the device that holds the reed to the mouthpiece)  loads of different embouchure positions, still patchy.  Bad workman and all that, but it wasn’t happening on the tenor. I read some more about Gear4Music and the reviews were not kind. “box shifters, not a music store” in other words they just ordered it in from China and shipped it out to the customer. No checks, set up, etc. Pig in a poke.

I started looking around and found a 10 month plan on a new Yamaha alto. It’s a learner model but the reviews say it’s so good they are wondering why people would spend twice as much for the intermediate. The thing was, I was getting frustrated with my cheapo and not playing it. If I got the Yamaha I knew the problem was all me being crap. Wendy encouraged me, so I got it.

I was selling the cheapo on ebay but I wanted to hang on to it to try a side by side comparison, to see it it really was worth the extra.

The Yamaha arrived and blew perfect straight out of the box. The sound is, well, incomparable. I didn’t even bother to blow my cheapo, it wasn’t even a question. The sound is so good I’m thinking of getting a Yamaha tenor, when everything else is paid off, to compare it to my beloved Bauhaus (then sell the inferior one.)

Which is not to say I’ve suddenly stopped being crap. It’s just I’m crap on a way better instrument now.

 

The weather is warming up so I’m going to strip the paint off my replacement W650 engine (dropping the back-breakingly heavy bastard out of the frame. Again.) and repaint it. Clean everything up, polish it to with in an inch of it’s life then get it sold. That will put us firmly back in credit again.

Talking of motorcycles, you know I pointed out the Triumph Speed Triple as an example of a godawful ugly, watercooled, lump of an engine? Guess what? I’m thinking of getting one. They are the original class of “hooligan bike”, naked, powerful, purposeful. They go like stink, mostly on one wheel, handle and stop. If you change your criteria from how it looks to how much fun it is, it’s a shoe-in. And, as they’ve been out for ages, you can pick and choose a good one for a quarter of the price of the Triumph Thruxton.

Anyway just a quick catch up as it’s my day off. Getting another 6 day week in.

Later,

Buck.

PS, editing the day after, just remembered Storm Bastard Doris. It hit the North West today. I was riding in to work, lashing down rain, blowing a gale, 80, banked over into the wind, when I hit a puddle/ lake the whole width of the lane. I’d been riding through the rain all the way in so I didn’t worry, then the front end started juddering and skipping! On a bike you can handle any amount of rear end locking up and sliding out, not a problem, if the front goes the first thing you know about it being in shitloads of pain. It probably only lasted a second or two but that is an eternity when you are in the fast lane, 6 foot from the crash barriers. Crash barriers are posts to hold up a car level metal barrier. Or, for a sliding biker, lethal posts planted every few feet.

Needles to say, I shit bricks. Sod all I could do about it, just cling on and wait. Somehow I stayed upright. So that was me wide awake by the time I got to work. As they say, what doesn’t kill you just delays the inevitable.

The gods mock me.

Well, it was all going so well.

I’d got over my bollock dropping of a few weeks ago. In point of fact, technically, I may not have missed a rota-ed shift. They got my shifts mixed up so thought I was working Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, so the Sunday was officially, mistakenly, my rest day.

That’s by the by, not a word said about it, move on.

So last week I got it sussed. 6 shifts, 65 hours, 2 weekend days (+20%), 11 hours 45 sixth shift (time and three quarters!) laughing all the way to the bank!

Happy, happy Bucky.

Then, on my sixth shift the news came through the company had been bought out. By a company that uses Stobarts for their logistics. Not just because they initially thought to have a third party logistics provider, but because they actually sacked off their unionised, well paid, driving division and brought in Stobarts.

Fucking super.

Things like triple time for bank holidays, time and three quarters for sixth shift, overtime at +20%, working past 18.00 20%, midnight- 06.00 +25%, everything that raises our wages from ok, to bloody great, all gone if we get Stobarts.

To say nothing of being treated well, never pushed, stressed, and never being treated like shit.

Nothing any of us can do. We just have to wait to see what happens.

I’m not optimistic. They only have to look at Stobarts driver, 29k max, then us, 44K possible, and rub their hands.

Ho hum. I thought I’d landed my job for life.

Shit.

So there goes the 50k retirement pad in Spain (even if Theresa the Appeaser doesn’t totally bollocks it up with Europe) and the 10K Triumph Thruxton. Not to mention the Morgan 4-4 I wanted for Wendy when she passes her test.

I mean, look at it:

Morgan

If you’re popping to Sainsbury’s for a loaf of bread, that’s the general utility vehicle within which you want to travel.

Practical, unassuming, modest, cheap.

Absolutely none of those things.

The one pictured might have issues as it’s *only* £18k, usually at least £10k dearer.

Talking of which, no sign of a rush to buy that, the doctors still haven’t even filled in her medical form from the DVLA. Bastards.

 

The Spanish lessons went tits up as well. Introduction to holiday Spanish, I was thinking, “Hello my name is Buck. One beer, please. Do you have the number of the British Embassy? Please don’t press charges.”

That sort of thing. The first lesson was just that. Well, the “hello, my name is” bit. The second lesson he gave us a list of Spanish sentences we’d never seen before two lists of words and wanted us to fill in the blanks. It wasn’t until the next morning I worked out the first list of words were pronouns and the second list were conjugations of the verb. (“Is”, I think.)

It wasn’t just me being thick, Wendy was baffled. Other people were saying “Sorry, I don’t understand any of this. Can you start again?”

It was godawful. I think it’s his first attempt at teaching Spanish. He’s a Spanish historian by day. He’s Spanish, he teaches history. I don’t know who’s.

Anyway, the home work was translating lists of food words and organising them into a menu. It was dry, pointless shite. I wanted conversational Spanish.

 

On the subject of learning, my sax is picking up. I get in at least half an hour most days. I’ve got past the embarrassment of playing it in the yard. I park as far away as I can from the other trucks, then sod ‘em.  The alto is still a hefty lump in my bag. I’ve got a 65 litre rucksack, (from my arse to my head) and it fills that. The sax, my satnav and a flat A4 folder are all that fit in the main compartment. I’ve got to squeeze waterproofs, painkillers, glasses, sunglasses, tools, electrical leads, etc into the side pockets. Less than ideal.

I was looking at a soprano sax after I saw a video on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vBl5S6CvOs

I had a cheapo Chinese soprano before but it was dog-whistle high and squeaky. Lots of obsessive reading later, I’ve found out sopranos are dear for a reason. They are absolute buggers to get right. Everything has to be perfect or the sound is hideous. Apparently you can get away with minor imperfections on alto and tenor.

The Bauhaus bronze soprano is considered bargain basement and borderline of what is acceptable.

At £650!

That’s the same bronze as my Bauhaus tenor. Which I love dearly. They say it gives it a more rounded, less shrill sound.

Lots more obsessive reading and window shopping later I came across another thing saying the embouchure (how you hold your gob around the reed and mouthpiece) is specialised to the soprano and you shouldn’t get one unless it’s going to be your main instrument.

I was in a quandary. I wanted small and fairly decent sounding, but it seems weird spending more on the workaday, means-to-an-end sax than on my main instrument.

Wendy had the good idea of renting. See if it’s workable.

After many fruitless searches I gave up on renting a Bauhaus, you either buy it or don’t play it. The only site I could find offering a halfway decent soprano was UKsaxhire.co.uk.

I started a conversation by email with Richard, the guy who runs it.

Me: I want a curved (small and portable) soprano sax.

Richard: “I am happy to rent you [curved soprano] sax but with the exception of [3k sax] they all sound horrible. If it’s just the size/ weight I have shaped alto cases for £25”  

Me: Your sales pitch needs polish.

After much too-ing and fro-ing, I went with his original suggestion and got the shaped alto case. The thing is, a straight alto is almost the same size box as my alto, and I way prefer the alto’s sound.  The case arrived today and it has made a difference to size. I was sceptical, but it has. And the ‘cheapo’, ex rental, case is *loads* better than mine! I had to stuff a dishcloth into the top of the bell to stop it from rattling around in mine, this one fits like a glove. Obviously if it’s rattling it could be damaging the keys.

I’ll give it a go but if it’s still too much I’ve told him to brace himself for me renting a curved soprano.

One tune I’ve learned the first bit of is Madness, One Step Beyond. I thought it sounded really good. Turns out he was a sax newbie himself so it’s really easy. Bonus. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-uyWAe0NhQ

I really want to aspire to playing this, but there is no sheet music, nobody has been brave enough to transcribe it, and I’ll never, ever, be good enough.  First for “cant-help-but-rock-out” exuberance, second for perfect, sublime, excellence.

https://youtu.be/R990oiRxy6U

https://youtu.be/bMwKtMUNtAE

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, Wendy pointed out that the drummer (especially on the first one) is some sort of genius as well.

 

Final thing is the pain and clicking in my fingers in the cold. The very thing that had set my mind to Spanish retirement. Wendy said, and I confirmed online that some arthritis conditions can be lessened or the deterioration slowed, if caught early enough. In a classic example of hope in the face of experience I went to the doctors. I’ve not been for about 10 years (except for compulsory driving medicals and the medical form for the parachute jump) because there’s no point. They never do anything for me. Tell a lie, I went for a sick note so I could carry on wearing my wide fitting safety boots.

Anyway, I went. The doctor looked at me and said it’s probably wear and tear now I’m old. Super. If it’s arthritis he could prescribe some painkillers.

I’m not in that much pain, the idea is that I want to avoid being in that much pain.

To be fair, they ruled out some things. They sent me for an Xray, all fine, then did a full blood analysis, not rheumatism.

The doctor today said “The results are all fine. Well done.”

I replied “Go me.”

So, seems I’m actually fine. I wish someone would tell my fingers that.

Whaddayagonnado?

Enough rambling,

Later,

Buck.