Friday, 19 October 2012

Day 13 No time for clotted cream tea’s!

Thursday 18th October  Day13                           Daily Mileage 860 – Total  4445

Looking down at the clock’s I made a mental note, 3.36am & 13 miles to my first Gold Post Box, “Great that’s all I need!”

Day 13 and 13 miles to my first “iffy at best” location. “Suspicious, who me? no not one bit, yea right in your dreams” Damn right I am. A fatalist I do believe the correct term is (saw that on TV once so it must be right).

The ride almost never even got out of garage I was not in the best of “mental” places to be. I’d woken up 10 minutes after the alarm should have gone off, stomach churning due to rather dodgy curry Jeannie & I had eaten at our “ex-favorite” curry house in town. The rain was bouncing nicely off of the bedroom window as I ran through my farewell ritual in double quick whispers as I rushed downstairs to the loo, just in time! Kit on and just as I was about to put my jacket on, nature chose a different course, not good! Is this too much information- or what!

Nailsworth – Sat outside the Tesco Express on Tanglewood Road in Bussage I realised that I had got the location totally wrong! Unfortunately the  information that had been given to me on Twitter by another Gold Post Box visitor was right it was the fact that I had  totally misunderstood their instructions. “Thank the Lord for Google” is all I can say. After 10 minutes of searching and reading at 3.50am in the middle of nowhere I discovered that Pete Reeds parents had been shocked to discover that the Royal Mail where only planning on painting the small post box near their home (the one I was now trying to track down) . After a brief discussion the twin post boxes in the town center where then painted Gold to honor their sons achievements, the ones I’d visited earlier totally oblivious to this one’s existence.

I was 5.7 miles away from the Gold Post Box which was just half a mile from the other two in town but finding it proved to be very interesting as all I knew was the name of the  area, Watledge. I rode down an amazing couple of switchbacks called “The Ladder”. Searching for Gold Post Boxes on the dead of the night on country roads & lanes dotted with houses is becoming a regular pass time of mine, it just never gets any easier. Still after one wrong ride into a dead end I spotted my target at the side of some very grand driveway gates. I took a couple of pictures because I could not see a thing in the view finder as it was so dark, mind the flash did a cracking job.

Old Market Nailsworth
Pete Reed  - Gold medal Men's Four Rowing

Larkhill -  So after a somewhat rough start to the trip I realised it had stopped raining and Larkhill was just 50 miles away. The thing that made me think was how long it was going to take me, 1 hour 15 minutes, “Why?” I was already running an hour late due to my wake up wows. Still there was only one thing to do in this situation, “ just get on with it Raymondo”.

Pulling up outside Larkhill Post Office I took two more pictures as it was still pitch black and pull off down the road to plumb in my next location. As I rode away I realised I’d been here before, and riding down the road I spotted a place I would rather have never seen again. It’s the aircraft hangar where I had called my first marriage to an end! It’s a long story and this isn't really the place to be explaining but I was there watching my ex-brother-in-law pass out as an Royal Army Air Corp pilot. “Hey, ho so long ago”

Larkhill Garrison  
Heather Stanning - Gold Medal Women’s Pairs Rowing

Portland – 62 miles away on this small attached island lay my next Gold Post Box. Yet another that I should have visited on a previous trip when running out of fuel put an end to that idea. Still the day was starting to awaken sadly every worker in the southern hemisphere was too! I went from empty roads all to myself to typical rush hour traffic in just 30 miles. This was one of the reasons I’d planned to be at Weston at 6.00am not battling through the rush hour works traffic at 6.45am. That will teach me to download nice looking aps onto my iPhone and use them before testing them on an important occasion.

“No, no, no, f-ing no” the post box outside the post office was red. I knew I should have called this Day 12+1!
“Excuse me mate, do you know where the Gold Post Box is that they painted for Helena Lucas”
“The what?” came the reply I was dreading
“The Gold Post Box, you know for the Olympics”
“Naaaa, sorry I’ve not got a clue”
“OK thanks any way” came out my mouth, I cannot write what was being said in my head!

wouldn't mind but they were waiting for the school bus! Do kids have no pride anymore?
Luckily for me the delivery guy at the petrol station gave me brilliant instructions and I’d only been 100 meters away from the Gold Post Box on the next street.

Pound Piece Portland
Helena Lucas - Gold medal Sailing: Single-Person Keelboat (2.4mR)

St Stephen – Asking the two helpful ladies in the post office where I could possibly find the Gold Post Box in town, dripping from every south facing part of my kit. I could not stop myself from grinning like a demented kid. By the time we had ascertained that a) I was in the wrong town & b) there are no machines in a post office that can give you a post code to an address of another post office I walked back to Mr T a little drier than when I’d left him. I left a puddle on the carpet which looked like I’d just wet myself. Don’t you just love riding in torrential rain!

Mmmmm, just a bit of rain in Cornwall!

I was in bloody St Austell  for a start but after a frantic look on Google and a quick Tweet I had the correct address. Cheers Wikipedia for yet another “wild goose chase”. Still St Austell is a beautiful place, full of very friendly and helpful folks including the two taxi drivers I’d asked earlier as I rode through the middle of town  the wrong way up the one way system (“do you see a pattern forming here?”)

Luckily for me St Stephen is exactly 5 miles away (another patter me thinks!) so within 15 minutes I’d waited for the old lady who just walked straight in front of me to post the most important letter in the world. Well it must be the filthy look she gave me! Or is it just going to sit in the post box for the next day or so?

Fore Street St Stephen
Jonathan Fox - Gold Medal Swimming: Men’s 100m Backstroke S7

Pandora Inn – Now I cannot give the place any other name as it’s literally in the middle of now where other than in an idyllic location on the south coast. Stunning does not even come close and the next time I’m down that way I will definitely stay for some lunch but as I was running 1 hour behind schedule  putting “Snuggle Buggles” with Lilie Rose in grave danger of not happening I made a quick exit after taking a couple of nice photos of both the pub and the estuary. (Please bear in mind the Walton Household runs to a very strict, regimental and practiced routine. Snuggle Buggle are IMPORTANT!)

Pandora Inn Restronguet
Ben Ainslie - Gold medal Men's Finn Sailing

The Pandora Inn, Beautiful.

What an amazing view.... 

Penzance – At least it stopped raining or had it stopped a while back and I’d been so wet I’d not noticed? The ride along the whole South west coast had been stunning and to find my penultimate Gold Post Box outside a lovely public house I was so tempted to call in and see if they had a bed for the night. (Not really Jeannie it’s only just popped into my head as I’m writing this but it would have been nice if I’d not got you. Right, creep over).

Riding back to KFC where I’d stopped for lunch a few time I felt that strange comfortable feeling descend. I parked in exactly the same spot I’d parked in in 2009 when I’d ridden the End to End Gold with Ron. Having bought my lunch and settle outside in the sunshine, shock horror, the sun was out. I called Jeannie and caught up on the fun of the day back home. There was so much to catch up that I ended up eating and talking at the same time, not a good look but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Quay Street Penzanc
Helen Glover - Gold medal Women's Pairs Rowing

No time for clotted cream tea’s!  

Trull - Plumbing Home into the Garmin 660 with the final Gold Post box of the day in at Trull I discovered I had a 375 mile ride home in front of me. 11 & half hours in the saddle and now there was just a matter of 375 miles & 6 hours to go.

So why 2 hours later did I find myself riding on a  single dirt track through the field at the side of the M4? The Garmin had said 4.3 miles to my destination as I’d left the M4 & showed a lovely bit of twisty for me to get stuck into. What it hadn’t pointed out that the twisty road was little more than a farm track. Running head long into the front of a white van at 20 miles an hour was not high on my things to do at this late stage of the game. How I missed him I have no idea, it may be down to the fact I was travelling at little more than walking speed, not something he could have said by the length of the four skid marks at the back of his van.
Pulling up on the opposite side of the road to Trull Post Office to wait for a couple and their 3 year old daughter have her photo taken by mum on her mobile. I was surprised to be scowled at by said mum, just for waiting!  I’d even turned Mr T off so as not to cause any disturbance.

I got a thanks’ from dad, a smile form little girl and another scowl from mum as they walked passed me. Just home it turns out to be a nice picture for the old “scowler”! I was just about to pull in and get a picture when I car cut across the front of me and pulled into the parking bay. Struggling to get Mr T at the side of the box I ended up waiting for the guy with the car to come back and drive away without even a sidewise glance.
At least it gave me time to speak to the car lift repair man who had called me 2 hours earlier and not turned up for an appointment to fix the car lift. All because I’d not answered the mobile. I text Jeannie to say he would be in after tea some time as he’d not been able to contact me!

Trull Post Office Church Road Trull
Deborah Criddle - Gold medal Equestrian: Mixed Individual Freestyle Test - Grade III

Heading back onto the M4 through the center of Taunton was interesting! Back on the M4 it started to rain & rain & rain & you guessed it rain. All the way to Rochdale where for the last 15 minutes it stopped.

All in all 869 miles in 18 & half hours with 8 Gold Post Box locations visited the 7 actual Gold Post Boxes photographed I ‘m glad to say that was a long day. However Daddy was home in time to give Lilie Rose her bed time  “Snuggle Buggles” so all’s well that ends well.

Day Thirteen - 7 Gold Post Boxes

Reviewing the day’s events whilst bringing Mr T back up to his normal level of cleanliness I realised It had been a tough ride yesterday, I’d met some great people and some not so great. But what stands out the most is, the people of Great Britain are still having a fantastic time remembering and respecting our Olympic Gold Winning Hero’s and I for one am proud to be doing just that in my own, possibly demented little way.
 Here’s a short walk round of Mr T, dirty! Shock horror, yes he does get dirty from time to time.

He does get dirty, some times you know!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Day 12 Goes to the Norfolk Broads

Thursday 11th October - Day 12            Daily Mileage 485 – Total  3585

“Hola, ?como estas Jeannie?”

“Are you mad? Its half past bloody three in the morning!”

“Muy bien, gracias”

Well that’s what was going on in my head when I woke up, in reality I just sat up, switched off my mobile phones alarm, looked at the clock which read 3.31am and snuck into the bathroom.

Missing my toothbrush and getting toothpaste all over the sink wasn’t in the plan.

“See you later, love you” I whispered in Jeannie’s ear very quietly, then I gave her a kiss.

“Take it steady and ride carefully, love you too” came the  sleepy response.

“I will, bye”


 I walked round the bed and out into the hall.

“Love you Ben, love you Lilie Rose, see you later” I whispered through both of their open bedroom doors as I walked past.

The hardest part of any ride was over, saying good bye to the people I love most in the world.

Downstairs I started to kit up, LD pants & vest which Phil had kindly brought back from the IBA Conference in America for me. The kit is great, really well designed and brilliant for going to the loo in due to a small square pocket on the front of the pants (may be too much information that but it works amazingly well so I thought I’d mention it).

On with the free Furygan long sleeve stretch T-shirt that came with my leather jacket from Rochdale All Bikes. Next on, my short sleeve Horizons Unlimited “They told me to get lost – so I did” T-shirt. Oxford thermal socks followed by ex-Army black Gortex socks which is a brilliant combination being both warm and 100% dry without being too bulky.

Then it’s on with the Gerbing heated jacket, Dianese Gortex trousers, heated  jacket always tucked into the trousers as it warms my lower back very nicely thank you. On with the Hein Gerick high touring boots, Yamaha neck tube, Dainese Gortex Jacket, ear plugs, Multi-Tech helmet and finally Seal Skinz cycling gloves. That’s me ready for the off! 

First stop ASDA for fuel at the “pay at the pump” so I don’t have to get off  Mr T. £1.35.9p a litre. (I never get the .01p change mind! Strange that don’t you think?). 

Lincoln – The reason for the early start was the thought of riding into the centre of Lincoln to get the photo of the Gold Post Box right near the Cathedral filled me with dread. I’ve ridden through Lincoln during the day before and it can be an absolute nightmare due to the narrow twisty streets with hundreds of parked cars, not to mention the millions of tourist.

Still riding over the M62 all I could think of was “Hola, ?como estas?, Muy bien, ?y tu?, Estupendo” “bloody Spanish lessons who needs them?”

The M62 was its usual average speed limit monitored 50 mph boring self. “When will they ever finish those damned road works?” There must be more gantries, fixed speed cameras, average speed cameras and now “normal” video surveillance speed cameras along the M62 than on any other stretch of road in the country. That includes the roads I rode on in London last week too. All I can say is George Orwell was right, even if he got his dates a little out! “Big Brother” is watching us.

Thank the Lord for the serenity of the A1, my favourite strip of black stuff in the whole of the UK. Purely because I know it like the back of my hand. I even know when the red, white and amber strips that light my way are going to come to an abrupt end just before the 50mph “Accident Calming Zone” kicks in at Elkesley. Now when is someone going to repair that  bloody “damaged barrier” and shift the 500 meter stretch of 50mph restriction signs that have been there for nearly two years? The other question I have regarding the A1 is, “Why does it have so many bloody names?” The A1, the A1(M), the Doncaster Bye-Pass and my favourite the Great North Road, come on how many names does a road need? “Por favour” “Disculpe, no le etendi” no me neither! 

Riding past all the parked cars in the central side streets of Lincoln at 5.35am I knew I’d made the right decision to leave at 4.00am

Pulling into the cobbled square Mr T’s new rear shock absorber had its work cut out but did a mighty fine job of keeping me safe. I spotted the Gold Post Box straight away and parked up at the side ready for the photo. Behind me the arches leading to the Cathedral where well lit but below them lay an eerie mist. As I got my camera out I saw a movement behind me in Mr T’s mirror. Through the mist I could just see a hooded figure coming towards me. 6.00am in a morning in the centre of Lincoln on dark misty morning in October, I was about to be murdered  by a hooded assailant with no face…………………

The hooded figure came closer and closer, black jeans, torn dirty trainers, grey hoody with hands tucked firmly in the hoody pocket.,no doubt concealing the murder weapon.

The only thing that flashed through my head was ……

“Hola, Buenas dias. Como te llamas?” Bloody Spanish………… aaaahhhhgggg!

And obviously “I wonder if he’ll take me photo with the Gold Post Box?”.

Sadly he pulled down his hood some 50 meters away and sparked up shattering the illusion but hey it was fun while it lasted. Hood back up he passed me buy without  even a sideways glance. Still I’m alive to tell the tale so “all’s well that ends well” as they say.

1 Exchequergate Lincoln - Sophie Wells
Gold medal Equestrian: Mixed Individual Championship Test - Grade IV

Belton with Browston – “Great Yarmouth to you and me!” Pictures taken, murder averted,  I was on my way through some of the most stunning countryside England has to offer. It’s a bit flat and boring in places but that’s made up for by the twists and turns  that lead over to the East coast through the Norfolk Broads. It’s 127 miles from Lincoln to Great Yarmouth and takes about two and a half hours. Riding down the A17 towards Kings Lynn was nice and steady due to the build-up of morning works traffic but once I was passed Kings Lynn and onto the A47 the roads cleared and the fun began. Heading towards Norfolk I decided to stop off at one of the many roundabout services that line the  route. After a quick text to Jeannie to confirm I was Ok and just 50 miles short of Gold Post Box number two, I tucked into my “Double Bacon & Egg Burger” yuk,  but the coffee was nice!
Being told to “Turn left then navigate off road” got me all exited but it was very short lived as the Gold Post Box was there at the side of the village hall. 9.20am and with two Gold Post Boxes done I had just one more left to photograph before heading home for a late lunch.

Station Road South Belton - Jessica-Jane Applegate
Gold Medal Swimming: Women’s 200m Freestyle, S14

Doddington – What a brilliant name for a village, Doddington. Reminded me of Ken Dodd-ington. “Simple thing’s” I know. The ride over from Belton with Browston to Doddington is stunning. The roads clear, twisting and turning and lined with some of the most amazing roads signs I’ve ever seen.  I don’t know if you’ve ever realised but I just love weird and wonderful road signs. From the two motorcyclist nearly running into the back of a truck in Spain to the wild boar crossing the road sign in Croatia they make me laugh. Lincoln can boast some of the very best.

Cars with the front ends hanging over the canal sides, “Think don’t sink” signs and my favourite. This

Love it! 

Now that’s just plain cheating! Still the three police motorcyclists that rode past me on the other side all nodded as they passed. Must have been down to the fact that I was about the only other biker on the roads that morning and they were all in a good mood riding together.

Having watched the temperature gauge drop from 17 degrees as I pulled out of the garage, plummet down to 9 degrees then dive even further to 5 degrees as I headed over towards King Lynn it wasn't surprising there weren't any other bikers out.  I was so pleased to be turning my heated jacket off as the temperature rose to a very comfortable 15 degrees in Doddington.

What a beautiful little place Doddington is. The streets are lined in places with ornate trees and one house in particular caught my eye as I rode past. So much so that I stopped and took a picture The Round House is a small thatched property and looks picture box perfect.

How perfect is this house? 

New Street Doddington - Johnnie Peacock
Gold medal Athletics: Mens 100m

So with all three photos taken there was just the small matter of the 163 mile ride home. However me being me and it still only being 11.30am I thought I’d head due north into the true Norfolk Broads and enjoy some of their banked and bouncy back roads pushing the return trip up to 184 miles in the process. “Who’s counting?”.
Arriving home at 2.35pm I can truly say that yesterday’s ride  has  to be one of the most enjoyable day out I’ve had so far on my #GoldBoxJourney. Purely down to the fact that I took my time, stopped when I wanted to. Enjoyed some fantastic views and more importantly rode on some of the most technically challenging roads that I’ve ridden on in some.

Day Twelve - 3 Gold Post Boxes

With 78 Gold Post Boxes now visited I have a further 30 to visit in the remaining 10 days of my 22 day allocation, “Bring on the good times”. Next stop………. Penzance!

Can you see the potential "Murderer"?
"He's behind You"!!!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z Ohlins YA 013 Rear Shock Absorber Review

Well after 1,000 miles of riding Mr T with the new Ohlins YA013 Rear Shock Absorber fitted and receiving a few enquiries from close friends like Jaxon who wrote:-

Hello my friend...

Jaxon here... When you have time I would like to know your thoughts on the new rear shock... How do you like it ? The major differences you feel ? Etc............. Any info I can read up on I would appreciate..

Thanks bud ! ~ Jaxon

I thought it would be appropriate to review just what differences have been achieved by  investing in the .......

It’s not the first time I have uprated the suspension on a Yamaha. My trust FJR1300 was treated to a new rear shock absorber at the 18,000 mile service which was done by Ernie at the FJ OwnersClub Workshop  in Wooton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire. I remember being astounded at the time by what a vast improvement the Nitron  rear shock absorber made, changing the handling characteristics so dramatically that the improvement was felt immediately.

Yamaha FJR1300 fitted with
Nitron Rear Shock Absorber

To be honest I’d forgotten all about that experience being well over 2 years ago but stumbling across a listing on eBay for the Ohlins YA013 Rear Shock Absorber unit made me think, “What if this has the same effect on the Super Tenere as the Nitron  had on the FJR1300?”.

The cost was a major factor  as £950 is a hell of a lot of money to be investing in something that is in essence “wasn’t broken”.  One of my many sayings includes the well-used phrase “If it isn’t broken don’t fix it” but this sentiment has one major floor. I would have moved on and not given the Ohlins listing another thought had it not been for when Mr T fell over in Reims with Ben sat on the back causing us to abort our ride to Monaco. I remember Blogging the incident at the time “Monaco or Bust”…… Bust it is then! After which Ben has always been very sceptical of remaining seated on Mr T when I fill up with fuel or leave him sat on Mr T whilst taking a photo. Now both Ben & Jeannie slide forward onto my seat to ensure a similar incident does not re-occur.

So having seen this amazingly beautiful piece of craftsmanship staring at me on eBay my mind sprang into action.

“I’m not happy about paying £950 & then having to get it fitted!” I thought to myself, I know my limitations and although I could have fitted it I’d still have want it checking by a professional.

“Right Raymondo, who springs to mind when the word Ohlins is mentioned?”

The answer is always the same, Kais in Atherton. These guys in my mind are without doubt fantastic when it comes to anything vaguely suspension orientated. When I needed to get Trinity’s Ohlins rear shock absorber refurbished Kais did an amazing job, not to mention the total strip, repair and rebuild of the front forks. As luck would have it I just happen to have their number firmly stored in my mobile.

"Trinity" Ben's Kawasaki ZXR750 L1
 fitted with Ohlins Rear Shock Absorber

“Hi, it’s Ray here, not sure if you remember me, you sorted Trinity out for me last year”

“Ay up Ray, how are you? Long-time no speak, of cause I remember Trinity, how’s she running”

“still parked in the garage, I’ll have to bring her over one day to get her set up………”

After a few minutes catching up it was down to the nitty gritty of the call……….

“George, I’m looking at a full Ohlins Rear Shock Absorber set up on eBay & wondered if a) you have them in stock, b) if not can you get hold of one for me & c) how much including fitting and set up is it going to cost me”?

“What make and model is your bike again Ray”

“Yamaha Super Tenere XT1200Z 2011”

“Right, leave it with me I’ll come straight back to you, give me 10 minutes” and with that he was gone.

True to his word George called me back 10 minutes later.

“Right Ray are you sat down, these are mega bucks mate!”

“I know I’ve seen the listing on eBay, hence the call”

“They are coming in at £949.95 including VAT!”

“Ouch! Same as price as this one then”

“Tell you what, hold the line a minute, ……. as you’ve had some work done with us before how does £900 sound fitted and set up?”


The rest is history, well Blogged actually .. “Mr T just got a whole lot more “Super”.

After fitting the Ohlins YA013 Rear Shock Absorber George showed me Mr T in the workshop, pressing down firmly on the seat, Mr T just rose straight back to his normal ride height and sat there totally undisturbed. No bounce, rebound nothing just a smooth levelling off of the seat.

Once outside, I refitted the panniers & mounted Mr T. I could feel how reassuringly firm but not in a hard sort of way, the rear of the bike felt. Riding away from Kais one thing struck me straight away, the overall height! First of all I thought George had put the seat back on at the higher setting but he hadn’t.  My feet were no longer sat flat on the ground, I was back on tip toes both sides.

Pulling away from the workshop over the rutted track that leads to the main road, not the main entrance but the short cut, I hasten to add, I could feel how planted Mr T felt straight away. There was no bouncing as before when I hit a deep rut, Mr T just sat there absorbing all the jolts, it was instantly noticeable how planted and reassuringly stable the whole bike felt.

As I pulled onto the road, I initially thought the bike was tipped forward a little, maybe this was just in my head but one thing is for certain, I almost over cooked the first right-hander due to the speed at which Mr T turned in. Wow! The whole bike felt different. It was if I was riding an R1 again, the steering was precise to the point of thinking, “is this really an XT1200Z?”.

Heading through Atherton towards the M6 I purposefully rode through every patch of rough surface I could find. Nothing, not even a twitch, “this is bloody amazing” I screamed at myself, “It’s fantastic”.

Pulling onto the M6 I opened Mr T up and just sat at a steady 70. Panniers fitted, one up, the whole bike just soaked everything up, I was astounded at what a difference this single piece of kit has made to my bike. Happy does not come close to how I felt then and more so now. 

Since fitting the Ohlins I have been to Wales, London, Derbyshire & around Manchester both with and without panniers, the difference in handling is immense. Cornering with & without the panniers, but especially without is just un-believable. Also my feet are back on the ground now the suspension has settled in. I have not touched any of the numerous adjustments which is a testament to the great work George did in setting the Ohlins up in the first place.

I have one very favourite bend which is the M6 – M62 intersection. Both Ben & I love this corner as it just begs to be ridden hard.

We pull off the M6 left, passing under the M62 so as you can imagine it is a full 360 degree turn. The road is two lanes that up until recently joined at the top just before it merges into the M62. Now however you can ride the whole curve and exit onto the M62 at the top in lane two.  The final 180 degrees is a gradual climb to bring you up to the height of the M62 that you have just ridden under. There is a 50 mph speed limit around the curve with most car drivers normally hold 40 mph and trucks considerably less.

My first run round through the bend came on my return from Wales, no panniers but with top-box full. I just banked over and held the 50 all the way through with my knee just cm from the roads surface.  Not a twitch from the front end, no wiggle as I’ve had in the past just a smooth curve. It was brilliant! I could quite as easily been riding at 70mph. The control was inspiring and I remember thinking “I wish I had an R1 motor in Mr T right now”. 

Sunday saw Jeannie & I heading to the National Arboretum Memorial from the annual Ride to the Wall,  RTTW 2012. This was the first time Jeannie has been on Mr T since the Ohlins was installed.

Mr T was fully loaded with panniers and top-box. The first thing I noticed straight away when Jeannie got on first and slid back onto the pillion seat was, no movement. The rear didn’t sink as it did normally causing me to hold the handlebars just in case it decides to go over again.

Riding through Rochdale Jeannie commented on just how smooth the ride was, as the road through Rochdale could do with some TLC that was proof enough the Ohlins was doing a great job. On the return leg some 200 miles later we approached my favourite M6 – M62 bend.

Tipping in I remember thinking just how safe and secure the Ohlins made me feel, this was followed by a rather long silence in my helmet. I’d been toying with a car for about 2 miles heading towards the junction and at the last minute the car driver had decided to go down the outside lane in order to get two cars in front of me. As we slid effortlessly around the bend in the outside lane at a fair pace I looked at the car drivers face some 60cm from my head. He shoot his eyes and shook his head as we rode past at a very impressive angle. (How come I never have my Go-Pro camera on at times like this?). The silence in my helmet told me everything, but the grin on my face was immense! Job Done!

So who needs an R1 when you can have a Super Tenere XT1200Z kitted out with an Ohlins YA013 Rear Shock Absorber and have twice as much fun. Mind I’d still love a “Pocket Rocket” if the truth be known.

If you’re thinking about upgrading the suspension on your XT1200Z my advice, for what it’s worth is, seriously consider the Ohlins YA013 Rear Shock Absorber. It’s changed my bike into something close to perfection. It’s money well spent in my eye’s plus if it means Ben & Jeannie are safer on the back then I’m happy .

Looking good Mr T
Handeling even better!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

RTTW 2012

With my head bowed, all I could hear was the chinking of the cable against the flag pole.

15,000 Bikers present and you could have heard a pin drop. Now if that is not a sign of respect for our Armed Forces, then I have no idea what is.

RTTW 5th Anniversary 2012 

2012 RTTW - Ride to the Wall our 4th and the RTTW’s 5th anniversary was simply amazing.

So many bikers in just one small area showing their support for our Armed Forces and their respect for those no longer with us. Nothing I can say will portray the immense pride I and the other 14,999 bikers have in our Armed Forces but still we all have one thing in common, the Ride to the Wall, held the first weekend in October every year. The first ride was the idea of just one man Martin Dickinson.
Read about the History of Ride to the Wall on the RTTW website. From humble beginnings in 2007 to the first ever RTTW in 2008 the event has grown into what can only be described as the "Biggest Event" in the biking communities calender.

RTTW Mission Statement
That bikers may gather together and ride as a group to a place of remembrance to pay their respects to our serving and fallen servicemen and women and in doing so raise funds solely for the purpose of perpetuating their memory.

Getting up at 6.30am on a Saturday is never great but once a year Jeannie& I do just that. The reason being, we are both ex-forces, both having served in the British Army. Jeannie as an Officer in the Queen Alexander Royal Army Nursing Corp (QA’s) as a Captain & me as a Corporal in the Army Catering Corp, re-badging on Spilt docks in Bosnia to Royal Logistics Corp.

Meeting the guys from the MancRiders just off junction 19 of the M6 was nice. There were a few faces we knew and what was better still a few faces we didn’t. As with all clubs we, the MancRiders that is, are starting to draw in like minded members. Mature, local, dedicated bikers with nothing to prove who just want to enjoy riding and having a laugh. Of all the forums I partake in the MancRiders has to be the most open minded and at times, ruthless bunch of people I have had the pleasure of chatting to and meeting. No bull, no quarter given or expected. If you want a straight forward “what you see is what you get” bunch of true mates then look no further than the MancRiders.

MancRiders Motley Crew 2012

The ride down the M6 was kept interesting by a couple of "eager beavers" and frustrated as ever by the impatient drivers pulling in and generally not giving a dam about what we were a part of. Once we were off the M6 at the toll road the crowds appeared, waving, and cheering us on. This is when you just know you are part of something special, really special. The crowds got bigger the closer we got to the National Memorial Arboretum , why it is not called the Royal Arboretum I have absolutely no idea, still there’s always time.

So many bikers, all heading to the RTTW

Pulling into the “over-flow” car park to find thousands of bikes there already is both reassuring and humbling. So many bikers, so much respect.

15,000 Bikers with one thing on their minds

The National Memorial Arboretum is full to overflowing , our 4th visit and even more bikers than ever before, filling the place with so much respect. It is without doubt the busiest day of the year and I am so proud to be a part of the whole event.

Listening to the pipers fills me with pride, the video of thanks from our troops in Afghanistan makes me want to cry. They are thanking us, the biking community for attending, I am holding back the tears as I write just thinking about how sincere their words of thanks were. In my world it is “Us” who should be thanking them for doing what they are doing, keeping us safe and happy. Allowing us to live our lives in relative peace and calm. I know what it is like to see sadness and destruction first hand. It’s a place I visit in my mind quite often, not as often as years gone by but it is still there waiting to remind me when I’m at my lowest ebb.

The fly over was brilliant 

The sound of the bugler sounding the reveille brings us all back to the here and now with what can only be called relief. It’s then I realise that what happened in Bosnia is for the most part forgotten, except for today.

As long as I have a breath in my body and a bike in the garage I will always attend the RTTW – Ride to the Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum .

After the joke came the painful reminder
of the Falkland's Conflict 

After what feels like minutes the event is over, the thoughts are stowed away, the  prayers are said and everyone who attends shares one common bond, that of respect for those no longer with us.

In the visitors centre stands a poignant reminder of our forces losses. One which strikes a cord with so many visitors, “Empty Chairs” it is called by the artist Mike Yorke. It is a display of small model “Empty Chairs” each representing a member of the Armed Forces who as lost their lives in Afghanistan. When he started the project there were 140 “Empty Chairs” as of 7th October 2012 there are 438. This display hit Jeanie & I like a ton of bricks as we always set an extra place at the table each year for special occasion’s like birthdays and Christmas in memory of our family members who are no longer with us. Our very own “Empty Chair”.

"Empty Chair's" by Mike Yorke

Riding away from the National Arboretum Memorial a feeling of calm descends over me and I can hold my head up high knowing that once again the biking community has held fast and proved we are 100% behind our Armed Forces.


“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them”.

“We Will Remember Them”