2014/15 Round Up

Late 2014 and 2015 was quite a period of change and development.

The RR and I move in late 2014.  To London, whilst I’m still from Norfolk, my life moved here for work.  Fortunately, my girlfriend has moved here too and and were settling into the London life – but I seem to be miles from good roads.

Earlier in 2014 joined the s1000rrforum.co.uk forum 4 days after collecting the bike.  Through the club I’ve attended some trackdays and met some good folks.  3x a year a chap named Bins, runs a BMW Road Bike Only Track day.  Twice at my home track of Snetterton, once at Cadwell.  These days are friendly and good natured.  Numbers are kept in check and as they are road-bikes generally everyone’s egos are in check too.

It was on the trip to Cadwell in 2015 I met up with a chap called Andy.  It can be a funny old world trying to find people that are reliable and good company when off the bikes.  But that he has been.  Most of the plans around biking trips and track days are run past each other.  Just a shame we’re at opposite ends of the country!

Getting to grips with Cadwell’s “Mountain” was such a different experience to Snetterton’s airfield flatness but damn I love the 3D of the crests and dips.  So with Cadwell done, twice, it was on to Brands Hatch GP and my first taste of this famous track, which Formula 1 used to tear up in the 80’s.  It was good fun, but, very very busy. 4 sessions and I appeared to be in the group where everyone was desperate to go home in a van.  So many stoppages.  Fortunately I didn’t cause any!  It’s a good fun, flowing track but I struggled to ‘get’ Surtees and Clark Curve.

The last track day of note was Donington, a road bike only day.  Like with the Cadwell trips, met up with Andy the night before who had a couple of other bikers in tow.  Beers and Curry, too much of both was probably a bad way to roll into the next day’s riding but that’s what we did.  The morning was damp and drizzly, like the end of August should be in the UK…sigh.  Going out for the sighting laps, I just kept it calm. With no overtaking on sighting laps you just start to scratch the surface of lines to take, potential speed at different points and finding braking markers.  With the track damp this was a god send, as I was to find out on the next tentative session. Coming down the Craner Curves, I felt the rear slip and grip on the greasy surface.  I wasn’t doing much to provoke it so I made a mental note and carried on, building tyre temp and finding a rhythm. It’s a great track and once the sun was out it was a great day. Can’t wait to go back and the road bike days are a firm favourite, less crazies throwing it up the road.

That was the last real action for the year. In October I made a small mistake trying to fit some LED side lights…that would spell the start of an off-road period that would last 5 months and lead to a host of changes.

 

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Where it began…

My biking past is relatively short. I took my test in 2009 at the age of 30. I came from a background littered with turbo-charged Japanese cars…well four of them, each one I’d tried to make ‘better’. On the last one I worked out leaving the engine alone was ‘better’! RWD cars are fun, but to have fun in such capable machinery you have to go well beyond speed limits and onto tracks to really *feel* anything. Maybe a Caterham or something of that would have given me legal thrills…but I’d always been drawn to bikes and with a change in personal circumstances I took the opportunity to begin my journey.

The VTR1000 SP2…that was the bike. Whilst others wanted the 916/998 Ducati, the SP2 had my heart. And with that Honda were my make of choice. I’d like to think I’m not too daft, I was sure the SP2 was the wrong bike to get at first…something more benign and manageable would be the ticket. You hear a lot from bikers when you’re learning, about not getting a bike with too many CC’s at first cause for some reason CC’s death. You soon realise though, that they are talking utter twaddle. A bike goes as fast as you make it go, just like a car. Be the master of the controls and you can ride anything but don’t go crazy, ok? So during the lessons we stop at the Honda dealership…and whilst the ‘blade is sitting there looking fearsome (to a newb), across from it sat it’s detuned and naked brethren. The CB1000R was to be my weapon of choice. It was the perfect first bike for a rider with limited experience, but good road sense. We covered lots of ground, we attended additional training like ERS, Bike Safe, i2i MC1/3/5. And then we took on Trackdays.

My CB1R was awesome on track but it started to be a limitation and after that I found limits which cost me confidence. Something was going to have to change. I had two main goals, trackdays and getting to them. Going further afield from my Norfolk home (as was) to other tracks would see me crave a faired bike. Hitting the pegs and belly pan on the deck with alarming frequency whilst leant over meant that a sportier bike was required. A ‘blade! But hang on, no electronics, no safety net, I do love a good safety net. The ‘blades engine was awesome, it spun like a turbine with its fat midrange and perfect fueling, but on it I felt cramped. Hmmm, SP-2? No, too archaic, times had changed and they say to never meet your idols. Ninja? Yuk! No, what I needed was cutting edge and cast from form over function (I’m in IT after all)…something that was different…something that was winning every test in every magazine…something like an S1000RR.

After back to back tests my head won, my heart wanted the ‘blade and to stay loyal to the brand, but the S1000RR was just something else. My black 2012 spec bike was collected in April 2014…and with it my interest in modifying it, like I had my cars, began…