Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Wandering Waltons 2014 Annual Review

It is with heavy heart that I write this, my last Wandering Walton’s Blog of 2014. You see this year has been, not to put too finer point on it, shocking.

Things got off to there usual well oiled start, as they have done for the past five years. Visiting my Mum’s grave in January followed by the IBA RTE at John and Sonia’s with Ben on the Fireblade. Which turned out to be his one and only ride on the Blade which incidentally, was one more than Jeannie managed. Next up it was the MancRiders RTE at the Moorcock Inn and in a flash that was January gone.

Dad's 'N' Lad's

Love and miss you Mum x x x 

IBA UK 4th January RTE

MancRiders 4th January RTE

The only serious bit of riding I undertook all year was the MancRiders Speedway Challenge Ride which kept me busy for 5 days through March and into April. It was  a great challenge to ride around 40 Speedway Circuits throughout England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of White but was over far too soon. I take my cap off to Bez for all the hard work that went into putting the challenge book together. Your a star Bez, well done that man.

I love a Challenge Ride!

Why on earth I decided to book a course at the Ron Haslam Race School for May  baffles me. At least it got me riding around Donington Race Track on a Honda CBR600. After which I rode home through Derbyshire wishing I’d bought a Honda Goldwing instead of the Fireblade. So the question I was asked later still stand’s “What do you mean you’ve done race training?” Still at least I can say I gave it a go.

Sometimes things just don't fit!

After the mad dash around the Speedway Circuits the only other ride of interest had to be a ‘No-Limits Track Day’ at Oulton Park with Lefty and Lee. Hand on heart I have to say “I had a ball”. After feeling somewhat intimidated at the start of the day by the arrival of all those track bikes, I can look back now and understand why folks buy a track bike. It’s bloody good fun when all said and done. When I wrote “Yee Ha, I’ve found my MoJo” I genuinely felt elated. Being able to finally tick off one of the items on my list of ‘Things to do on a motorbike before I'm too old to enjoy them’ felt great. 

Track Day - DONE!
Thanks for a brilliant day Lefty & Lee

Sadly June is where my riding for the year came to an abrupt halt due to almost losing my daughter to a very unexpected illness. ‘What the hell happened to the summer of 2014?’ documents the start of what is still an ongoing health issue. I don't want to bore anyone with the ins and out but having a fit and health daughter one minute suddenly become ‘nil by mouth’ is soul destroying.

There was however a brief intermission when I decided to take a ride out to look at an alternative bike to get the Walton’s Wandering once again back in August.

Initially returning home on a BMW K1600 GTL to a somewhat frosty reception told me all I needed to know. Being offered what amounted to an insult for my beloved Fireblade was the final nail in that short lived idea.

Nice but just not nice enough!

Continuing on through the back streets of Manchester in an unbelievable deluge I found myself stood soaked to the skin, dripping gallons of water all over Hunts of Manchester Honda dealers floor like a deranged idiot. The fact they allowed me to take the Goldwing out in such a storm for a test ride is testament to their professionalism. John was an absolute gentleman and after a brief call to secure a little extra funding from my dear wife (thank you Jeannie x x x ) a deal was struck. 

One word - Perfect!
(The Wing that is, not me)

As we were heading away for a family holiday the following week I was rather cheeky and asked if I could take the Wing home there and then. “No problem” came the reply which was music to my ears.

Pulling up onto the drive just as Lilie Rose and Ben arrived home was perfect timing. Mind I have to admit Jeannie was a little confused having just loaned me a considerable amount of cash for a BMW which she was non to impressed with after sitting on the back of it. However, the huge smile that the Wing received just made that particularly soggy day, perfect.

Needless to say Jeannie and I headed out and about at every opportunity, which amounted to far too few but at least we got a few rides in. Ben loves the Wing and just as we were about to plan a decent trip after our return from Spain our world fell apart.

This just isn't fair!

Within the space of a week, Lilie Rose was rushed back into hospital, my father-in-law passed away and some scumbag broke into our villa. Lilie Rose underwent a further two operations and is nowhere near full health even now. Sadly this has resulted in Lilie Rose being ‘nil by mouth’ and suffering choking fits throughout the night.

Riding the Wing will just have to wait until family life returns to some sort of normality which unfortunately may well involve further hospitalisation.

So folk’s what can I say. 2014 has been our worst year of married life to date but on a positive note we are all still here under one roof. There’s a flicker of light on the horizon and when we reach it a wonderful Wing awaits to whisk us away.

Finally I would like to thank each and every one of you who took the time to contact Jeannie and I and offer your support, kind words and moral boosting friendship. You know who you are and rest assured we do too. 

Here’s looking forward to a bright, peaceful, healthy and happy 2015 for us all.

Happy New Year from the Wandering Walton’s to all our family and friends.

R.I.P. Sean Brian Cushen - This one’s for you Dad.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

What the hell happened to the Summer of 2014?

Well, where do I start?

These last few months have been absolutely unbelievable! 

The track day at Oulton Park was quickly followed by the HUBB UK meeting at Donnington Farm. Then out of nowhere Pobsey became very, very ill resulting in a 6 week hospital stay and finally I made the command decision to say farewell to the Blade after riding just 5000 miles in the 10 months of ownership. 

So in an attempt to bring the Wandering Walton’s Blog bang up to date, please read on, it makes  for interesting reading, if I do say so myself.

After attending the brilliant track day at Oulton Park with Lefty and Lee back at the start of June life in the Walton household went a little mad to say the least.

On the 21st of June I rode down to Donnington on the Blade to attend the HUBB UK 2014 Overlanders Meeting with just my Boblbee Rucksack on my back. To say I got one or two strange looks on arrival was an understatement. Well when you consider last years arrival was on a full blown Super Tenere XT1200Z with every conceivable extra thrown at it plus a drive in tent, what should I expect? I couldn't believe it when I pulled onto the campsite to find the exact same camping spot that I used last year had just been vacated and so I parked up and set up camp. 

Great people, great weather, great time's

Keep it simple, keep it safe

Now that's what I call packed!

I was soon welcomed into the fold by the people Ben and I had camped with last year who were also amazingly in exactly the same places as last year too. How mad is that?

This year I could only attend on the Saturday and Sunday but what a fantastic time I had renewing old acquaintances and make new ones. I wrote a short article for the Devitt Insurance Blog called “The only borders are in your mind’ the title being taken from the back of the t-shirt I bought at the meeting, which strangely got changed. Sadly it feels so long ago now I’ve just had to look at the family diary to check the dates as so much as happened since then. Next year I promise I will write a full account of the HUBB 2015 meeting.

Now I don't write about family matters here because as you know this is a blog about all things bike! However as this summer was spent in Manchester Children's Hospital at Pobsey bedside I just have to say that when your severely disabled daughter is suddenly unable to eat and her stomach distends to the size of a rugby ball, you know you're in trouble. Luckily after two operations and 4 weeks on a life saving intravenous drip Pobsey pulled through. After a further 2 weeks of Pobsey putting on weight we were able to bring her home. That was July Gone! 6 weeks of 24 hour alternate shifts at your child's bedside shared with my dear wife Jeannie, really took its toll. Jeannie was right ‘not’ to tell me that 1 in 3 children don't survive what Pobsey had  just gone through until almost a month later over a quiet pint in our local pub’s beer garden.

One very poorly Pobsey

5 weeks later & Pobseys back!

As ever whilst Pobsey was otherwise engaged, life was running away with itself as building work on Casa de LilieRosa was in full swing and the removals men came and went. Being harassed for final payment by the removals firm whilst driving to the hospital 3 days into our ordeal has to be emotionally the lowest I have ever felt in my life. Driving home with Pobsey, Ben and Jeannie 5 and half weeks later, the highest! Talk about a roller coaster of a summer!

With Casa de LilieRosa finally finished Jeannie was determined to salvage something from the children's school holiday and so I booked us onto the Portsmouth to Santander ferry, due to sail a week later for 10 days in the sun.

The Wandering Walton's back together at last

Not to let the grass grow under my feet I headed out on the 8th of August to have a ‘look’ at a couple of bikes that I'd been researching whilst at the hospital, and for some time previously (if the truth be known). 

You see as great as I’d found riding the CBR1000RR Fireblade, there was always something missing, my pillion! Jeannie never sat on the Blade and Ben had been on the back just once, way back in January when we attended the IBA UK January RTE (ride to eat). To cut straight to the point, I've missed having my pillions with me. So I made the command decision, the Blade had to go. I wanted something a little more ‘Wandering Walton’ friendly and as most of you who know me already know there was only ever one true contender!

Meet our new stead the incredible 2012 Honda Goldwing GL1800 which is as close to ‘Wandering Nervana' as physically possible, in my opinion that is! 

Come rain or shine, she looks 'Stunning'

Thursday, 12 June 2014

"Yee Ha, I've Found my Mojo"

"Have It!"

Pulling back into the pit lane my heart was pounding, my right hand buzzing, due to over tightening my glove  as much as the adrenalin pumping through my veins like a tidal wave of excitement.

Lifting my visor I found Lefty on my right, Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ was 6 places ahead. 

“Did you see the bike on the grass” Lefty asked

“Ye, what an odd place to bin it, just after the chicane at Brittens”

“No idea but do you realise it was the Ducati that was in front of you at noise testing”

“Really, the exhaust that felt like it was punching me in the face when he started his bike up”

“Yes that’ll be the one”

“He’d actually cheered me up as well because I knew if his exhaust passed the noise check, then I’d have no problems!” 

“Right lad’s we will be doing one more Sighting Lap when we go back out then away you go” we were informed by one of the smartly attired No-Limits Staff in his full leathers with the bright green No-Limits insignia blazoned across his back, as he walked between the two rows of riders. All eagerly awaiting the return to the track.

Well it can’t be every novice group that gets Red then Black Flagged (slow down followed by return to pit lane) on their third and almost final ‘Sighting Lap’ now can it?

Big Grin's are Us!

Looking round I counted about 30 riders parked side by side in pairs waiting to head back out. Seeing the car with the box trailer finally return to the pit lane after what felt like, the longest three minutes ever, everyone started there engines. The Oulton Park Marshals in their bright orange cover-alls started waving everyone forward allowing just  six riders out at a time. As soon as those six rounded the first pit lane right-hander passing the green light they then allowed the next six out. All in rapid but safe and controlled succession, two by two they set off in first gear.

Eventually we were at the front, Lefty led the way with me tucked in behind. Rounding the pit lane right-hander we headed straight out onto the track and off across ‘The Avenue’ moving over to the left hand side of the track in a huge snake formation, passing ‘Denton’s’ turn 2, a slight right hand curve over the crest of the first hill. Then it’s off down hill into my favourite turn ‘Cascades’ turn 3 a sweeping left-handed. I tucked in and slid round as smooth as you like using all the track on the exit.

Lefty leads the way

Giving the Blade a good fist full of  gas, we were off up ‘Lakeside’ a very nice straight leading into my second favourite turn ‘Island Bend’ turn 4. Another superb left-hander which I took at a fair pace using all my concentration to not to head over too far to the left heading down into ‘Shell Oil’s Corner’ turn 5 a massive U turn that takes you back up hill and through turn 6 a slight right, then into ‘Britten’s’ turns 7,8 & 9 a left, right, left chicane.

It’s up and over ‘Hilltop’ then back down hill and full on the anchors for turn 10 a sharp right into ‘Hislops’ turn 11 sharp left chicane which flows so smoothly into ‘Knickerbrook’ turn 12 a great right-hander which has you climbing back up ‘Clay Hill’ turn 13 a blind left hand curve under the bridge. Using the full width of the track its into ‘Water Tower’ turn 14 a long left hander leading into ‘Druids Corner’ turn 15 a huge right hand turn on to ‘Warwick Bridge’ straight.

Finally you’re into ‘Lodge Corner’ turn 16 a cheeky right hand turn that drops away on exit into a deep dip and climb up and over and through ‘Deer Leap’ turn 17 a nice left hand curve that takes you under a bridge and back onto the start finish straight and past the pit lane on your right all the way down to ‘Old Hall Corner’ turn 1 a great right hander , if you can judge the entry just right.

Once the No-Limits Staff rolled on, the gloves were off and the speed increased. I’ve never felt so alive as I did at that very second. 

Full chat in third I realised I’d just hit the rev limiter heading up Lakeside after rounding Cascades with my knee millimetres from the tarmac! "In my mind".

 “One of these days Raymondo, one of these days”
Thanks to PE Photography

Back in garage one, Lefty and Lee where just de-bagging as I rolled back and parked up at the side of them. The grin on everyones faces told a thousand stories. 

“So, what do you think Raymondo?” Lefty eagerly enquired

“I f****ing Love it!” came my no holds barred response! 

“I told you, you would”, and he was right. 

After building up my last outing at Donnington Park in my mind I’d totally and utterly lost sight of what I was after and that was having some serious ‘FUN’ on my bike. 

Here we were at 10.00 hours in the morning having just finished our first of 4, 20 minute morning sessions and I was already buzzing. The intermediates had already headed out as soon as all the Novices had been checked back into the pit lane and the Fast Group were already getting their gear back on.

20 minutes flies by when you riding around this amazing circuit called Oulton Park. The fact I’d woken up in pure shock at 04.30 hours due to dreaming some one had banged on the window was long forgotten, as was the steady ride down to Oulton from Rochdale setting off at 06.00. I was absolutely buzzing with excitement and could not wait to get back out there.

Discussions of what we’d seen on the first couple of Sighting Laps, the first one of the the day being in such a strange place the speed at which some of the ‘Novices” were flying around the circuit left a little to be desired but at no point did I ever feel threatened or uncomfortable. It was simply brilliant.

Lad's Day Out
Lee 'The Racing Snake', Lefty & Yours Truly

The briefing in the restaurant had been clear, precise and very informative. Having attend the Ron Haslam Race School and given me a good understanding of the flag system so hearing it again was a nice refresher. The way the ‘Novice’ groups stayed behind and were given further instruction/guidance, I felt was brilliant.

The bacon, sausage and egg butty with a nice black coffee just finished the introduction off perfectly. Sharing the experience with my good friend Lefty and my Twitter mate of a while now, Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ just made the whole experience outstanding.

Initial Briefing, restaurant rammed!

"Novice briefing, some what depleted! 

A quick mooch around the pit lane just flagged up how many people absolutely adore track-day riding. There were around 50 riders in both the Inter’s and Fast groups with I would guess 85 to 90% of all attending being on race prepped track-day bikes.

Before long we were seeing the Inter’s coming back in and hearing the roar of the Fast group heading back out, not saying the Inter’s were any slower than the fast lads but watching them all going at it was awesome. 

The second session I followed Lefty again with Lee pretty much doing his own thing. I vaguely remember following them both then there was a bit of traffic on a few of the chicanes and we all did our own thing. One thing I was determined not to do is get sucked into a ‘race me, race me’ situation which sadly I failed to do just twice in all four sessions. 

Lee ‘The Racing Snake’ had apparently been struggling to get past me but managed it as we came up and over ‘The Avenue’ and in my eagerness to regain the lead I almost slid out the back end going through Cascades. It was exhilarating and nerve racking at the same time. Knowing that this is my bike and that I would be riding it home after the session really does keep the mind focused.

Lefty had his revenge after a few sessions, and again managed to take me just where I can’t remember, but both kindly commented on the fact that although they could catch me in the corners there was not a cat in hell’s chance of the passing me out of the bends and off up the straights as the Blade just flew away. Nothing to  do with my riding skill obviously (he says grinning from ear to ear as he types this, as I know I’ve got none!). 

Lefty in full flow
Thanks to PE Photography

The main part I struggled with in the first two sessions was Shell Oils Corner and so me being me asking one of the No-Limits Staff if he’d take me round and point me in the right direction. Mike was a great guy and true to his word, spent the third session first off leading me and showing me the lines he would take. I was amazed at how many riders we passed going into and around Shell Oils Corner taking the middle line, so I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.

After 2 laps following Mike he waved me past and followed me swapping twice more resulting in me being in front for the last lap. Pulling into the pit lane I pulled up and Mike came along side. His critique was spot on and went something like this (not word perfect as I my mind was still pulsing with adrenaline)

“Well Raymondo you doing great, I was impressed with you riding no end. I can tell you do a lot of road riding as your not using all of the track but that said you cornering is spot on. Quite a few novice riders tend to 50 pence one or two of the corners at the back of the circuit but there was none of that with you. I can tell you riding well within you capabilities and not pushing it too much. There’s loads more to come from you once you’ve settled into the track a bit more. No, all in all your doing OK for some one who’s never been around the track before. Well done!”

We then went on to discuss what sort of riding I normally do and and had a good friendly chat. Mike if your reading this can I say, thank you for taking the time to point me in the right direction and for the massive boost in confidence your critique gave me. It was very much appreciated and welcomed.

The fourth session came around so quickly it was frightening. One thing I did notice as we lined up was I was starting to feel it. My forearms were throbbing, my fingers were buzzing and I knew I needed to steady it off a little. Don’t get me wrong I didn't slow down that much but I just found myself winding off in places that I’d been keeping the throttle open for longer, Lakeside into Island Bend felt  smooth. Hitting the breaks for Hislop I felt the back end lock up a couple of times. Then just winding off over Clay Hill and not wheeling so much. Oh, I forgot to mention that, I’ve never wheelied a bike purposefully in my life but found the front end coming up on more than one occasion every lap and I was absolutely ecstatic! 

Come on Grandad

It's this way, I think!

Lunch came and went with a great lasagne and salad with black coffee which was delicious. Lefty, Lee and I all sat outside in the glorious sunshine as we had been fortunate enough to have had all morning. 

Returning to the pits we called in the on site shop and I bought an Oulton Park Baseball Cap for my collection before nipping over to refuel something Lefty had had to do at the end of session number 3! One of the other riders came over and complimented my Blade and advised me to get a Brembo Master Cylinder on the front brake which I appreciated, sadly I can’t remember the numbers he mentioned so if your reading this please feel free to leave a comment at the end. 

Sexy Blade, very nice indeed!

Back in the garages it all of a sudden changed. The clouds came over, thunder and lightning struck and within half an hour the place was tipping it down. We pondered long and hard about what to do but I was the first to say “we’ve had a brilliant morning but there's no point in getting soaked to the bone, especially as I’ve an hours ride back to Rochdale’

Lee was a little more reticent being “The Racing Snake” that he is. OK explanation time! It turns out over lunch that Lee the ‘novice’ has done a few track-days here there and everywhere and so ‘The Racing Snake’ was born, with Lee’s approval of course. 

Lee 'The Racing Snake' In full flow
Thanks to PE Photography

So with soggy leathers and happy heart I de-taped my Blade, screwed the number plate back on and said my farewell’s to Lefty & Lee ‘The Racing Snake’. I arrived back in Rochdale just in time to attend Lilie Roses’s ‘Parents Evening” as the worst dressed attendee ever, which should make for interesting conversations and the next ‘Full Governors’ Meeting on Monday!

So there you have it, one of the best experiences I have ever had on a motorcycle in 34 years bar non. Am I sad that I left it so long? No not really it just makes me feel a whole lot younger every day.

'Happy Days"

Just remember folk’s “Ride well & stay safe, It’s a jungle out there”

I would like to pass on my thanks to Pete of PE Photography for taking the day off to come over to Oulton Park and take some stunning photo's of Lefty, Lee & myself. Cheers Pete we really appreciated you being there mate. 

A final thank you goes to the professional photographer Peter Wileman Photography for the amazing photos he took which I have purchased today.  

Friday, 23 May 2014

“What do you mean, you’ve done race training?”

Come in number 12 your time is up!

“Like I said, I did race training at the Ron Haslam Race School

“Why the hell would you want to go and do that? Do you want to be Valentino Rossi?”

“No. Marc Marquez if you don’t mind” I replied laughing at Chris from Hopp Rider Training

“So did you enjoy it?” he replied quizzically 

“No I was shocking, I left feeling absolutely useless and wishing I’d bought a Goldwing instead of the Blade!”

Pulling out of the pit lane, the instructor stood up on the pegs and had a good look back up Wheatcroft Straight to check all was clear before the four of us, two students sandwiched between the two instructors, pulled out keeping well to the left of the track.

We steadily rode around the outside of Redgate right hander, picking up a bit of speed we  drifted across the track onto the “race line” ready to take Holllywood, a nice steady right hand curve.

Picking up a little more pace I tucked in and followed the lead instructor down through Craner Curves into Old Hairpin a right hander heading down into Starkeys Bridge, left curve before climbing up through Schwantze Curve left towards McLeans sharp right-hander. I was buzzing, full on the gas and right behind the instructor along the straight towards Coppice a twin apexed right hander. I tucked in and followed the instructor as close as I dare and as he wound her on I gave the Honda 600 a fist full heading down the straight in 3rd with the engine singing sweetly at the top of it’s voice. 

Then it was quickly full on the anchors into Fogarty Esses a quick left right chicane, I loved it sliding first one side then the other, it felt amazing. A quick slight left curve followed straight into Melbourne Hairpin a first gear right-hand hairpin that climbed up past the pit lane entrance on the left.

Rounding Goddards left hander It was full on the gas and straight down Wheatcroft Straight passing the pit lane on your left and into Redgate right-hander. Then your off around again.

The 15 minute first session flew by with myself and the other student changing lead just once half way through. What a morning this was turning out to be, even if I had had to get up at 0500 hours to ride the 2 hours down to Donnington. If this is what it was gong to be like I was going to be a very happy man indeed by the time I rode home after lunch.

Sadly that was the high point of my day, after that I had what can only be described as 

‘a major brain to limb movement malfunction of epic proportions!’ 

The rest of the morning just fell apart for me.

All the gear & no idea, Selfie!

The Eagle has landed

On arrival at 0800 hours there must have been in excess of 50 people already there. The booking in and collection of bike gear, if required that is, was running like a well oiled machine. Donnington Park is an awesome place and I was blown away with the professionalism of everyone involved. 

From the ladies on the check in desk, booking in the groups at exactly the specified time, my time slot was 0835 hours on the dot, to the ladies issuing full leathers, gloves, boots & helmets. If you use your own kit everything is checked with particular attention being given to ensure your helmet is of race standard carrying the Gold Kit Stamp, if it’s not you need to borrow one of the schools. You can even leave your belongings in the yellow plastic box for safe keeping. I chose to hang on to my mobile so I could snap a few photo’s in the pit lane but handed in my rucksack.

Reception working like a well oiled machine

Waiting area with kit store in the background

Shortly after signing in, time being allowed for the folks borrowing kit to get changed, our group of 12 was called forward. We were the second group of the day on the Premier (insert beginners or first timers here). There was a group of ‘Elite Riders’ to our right as we went through to the briefing room, one of which I’d been chatting to earlier. “You’ll love it mate, this is my 5th time on the Elite course and I learn something new every time I come” he’d enthused earlier in the waiting area.

The briefing was well presented and clear. All safety issues were discussed thoroughly and the break down of two students to one instructor. As it happened we had two instructs with myself and my ridding buddy. You get 3 x 15 minute riding sessions with a de-brief after each session. After about 15 minutes we were lead through to the pit lane to meet both our instructors and our Honda CBR600’s which the school provides in the fee of £295. (£245 if you book well in advance which I had done back in December of last year).

"There are many like it...

... but this one is mine, ish!"

Meet the guy's
Lead instructor on the right

The first session over we were taken into the garage area where another CBR600 on rear paddock stand is sat and the instructor then critiques your ride. The bike you had just been riding doesn’t just sit there waiting for your return its off out with the next group, instantly! I was amazed how slick the change overs were.

Sadly for me this is where I realised my 34 years of road riding were to have a devastating effect on what was to come next.

My first session critique was very positive, great on the acceleration and breaking, good lines but I needed to sit back further and not change gear so much and let the engine work more. All great advice which I totally understood but never having ‘rung a bikes neck’ that I have owned it all felt very alien.

Then the bomb shell was dropped which totally blew me apart.

“Right Raymondo sit on the bike. Now lean as if your going around a corner. WRONG!”


“Slide to the back of the seat, bend your arms, and slide you bum off the seat and stick your knee out at a right angle to the bike. Align your head with the break or clutch lever depending on which way your turning. How does that feel?”

“Odd!” came my somewhat confused reply

Having sent the last 34 years learning to hang onto some amazingly quick bikes like my CBR1000 back in the 80’s, ZXR750 in the 90’s my 675 in 09 and now my glorious CBR1000RR I was being asked to “Hang-Off” the seat. Now I understand the idea that it allows you to corner at much greater speeds and keep far more rubber on the track but my brain just would not ‘re-boot’ at all.

Knee out, arm bent, bum.... not moving an inch....

Heading out onto the second 15 minute session I was thinking about what I’d just been very clearly instructed to do. This is what was going on in my head…..

“Right Raymondo, you can do this you old fart”

“Think, right hander, knee out, body over or was that bum over, no, no body over”

“Left, turn left, slide back left knee out, body back, slide over so body in line with clutch, shit forgot to stick my arse out”

“Come on you dozy old git! Right-hander coming up, what’s it called again? Who gives a shit what its called concentrate, right knee out, bum out, body over the brake lever, bend elbows, now we’re …. Oh Bloody hell!!!!”

“Shit what happened there, bloody hell I forgot to break and nearly rammed the instructor up the back end going into Old Hairpin, this is not good, not good at all!”

“Your not having a good time Raymondo, this is not what I expected to happen at all. Well you wanted to ride around a bloody race track you gormless old fart, hey less of the old, gormless maybe!”

“CONCENTRATE, right, you can do this, like hell I can, no you can here we go, wind it on up the left hander with left knee out and body back bum off the seat, thats it now where should my body be, oh bollocks”

Pulling into the pit lane I was shattered both physically but more mentally. Sweating profusely and so confused I could not believe how much over thinking I was doing! 

“How did that feel Raymondo”

“Shocking!” (I may have swore but I think I managed to refrain).

The whole session had passed in a frenzy of mixed up thoughts and manoeuvres that I was just glad to be dismounting.

We we’re all lead back into a pit lain briefing room and given the option of a bottle of water or an  energy drink. I opted for water because if I’d have had anymore adrenaline buzzing through my body my heart would have given me a nudge and said “Your 52, do you want to see 53 lad?”.

More yet boy, more yet!

The briefing was about 10 - 15 minutes long in which time the instructors also had a meeting about us! 

I was so hacked off at this point that I cannot remember a single thing that was said in the briefing.

Returning to the track side the instructor informed me that the student I’d been riding with would have the last session with another instructor. He was apparently training to race in some 250cc tournament and was getting some one on one. What my dysfunctional brain told me was……

“Raymondo you’re shit and the poor sod is fed up of watching you ride like a prat!”

The last session was taken back to basics for the first lap then the second was mainly spent off the racing line allowing the “Elite” class to fly past on the 1000RR’s I began to hate every inch of the track.

What made it worse was my lack of mind to limb control!

In a vain attempt to sort out my massively malfunctioning brain to limb disorder the instructed had come up with a plan prior to heading out on the last session.

“When we go around a corner I’ll be watching your body and if your not in the right position I’ll tap the rear of my bike for you to put your knee out and my shoulder to put your body over the clutch or brake. Do you get it?”

“Yes” I replied with the interest of a Mc Donald's drive through assistant 

“Right come on this is the last session lets make it count” he replied trying to bring my disinterested soul back to life.

“Riding around following an instructor doing what I can only describe as a deranged version of the ‘Birdy Dance’ just added insult to injury’

“Raymondo you need to sort your shit out lad OK!, YES here we go, left-hander slide back, knee out, elbows bent, body over clutch, whys my bum sliding back onto the seat every time he pats his seat?”

“Tap seat, slide bum out, right no left no right OH Shit!”  At which point I just cracked up laughing and rode the last lap in hysterics. 

“Shoulder, body over why does he keep tapping his seat my bums off the seat or is it no its back on the seat again, OH just take me to the pit lane NOW!”

And to my relief thats exactly what happen and my “Birdy Dancing” instructor happily told me I’d done alright which again my brain translated to,

“Thank the Lord that is over my bloody arms and shoulders are killing me from all that dancing’ please don’t book again for a while Raymondo!”

We were then instructed to return to the original briefing room for a final de-brief and to receive our certificate of attendance. To be honest at that moment I could have just rode home but thought better of it.

The de-brief was interesting and we all receive said certificate with a separate sheet with our feedback on it. Mine was a little hard to read but I put that down to the aching arms after all the ‘Birdy Dancing’ my instructor had just been doing. 

75% was not great but far better than I’d expected to be honest. Braking and accelerating were top makes with corner exit coming a close second! That was probably down to the fact that I’d naffed the entry up so often I just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible!

I rode back through my beloved Derbyshire in a thunder storm thinking about buying a Honda Goldwing. Feeling so dejected and depressed its taken me 3 weeks to put pen to paper, or fingers to keypad to be exact. Only recently enjoying what can best be described as a ‘spirited ride home’ which without even thinking about it had me “hanging off like a pro” ‘In my mind’ that is.

So what happens now, well I’ve signed up for more training of a different kind at Cadwell Park next month with Hopp Rider Training which I’m really looking forward to. Oh and to ensure I don’t get rusty I’m doing a NoLimits Track Day at Oulton Park on the 10th of June with my good mate Lefty! 

Bloody NoLimits Track Day, I can’t wait!

Best shot of the day thanks to 
Ron Haslam Race School Photographs

Just remember folk’s “Ride well & stay safe, It’s a jungle out there” 

Monday, 21 April 2014

MancRiders Speedway Challenge 2014 - Part 2 The Southern Loop

Now those of you who know me will know the one thing that annoys me the most and that is 'unfinished business'.

Having taken a leisurely three days to complete the Northern Loop which I had actually allocated a single day for sort of threw my planning out the window. Making the conscious decision not to visit the Speedway Circuits at night was supposed to ensure I did not turn the challenge into an Iron Butt style challenge.

Unfortunately for me my mind is hard wired into Iron Butt style riding and if I admit it, it always has been. With this fact deeply embedded inside my head, as soon as I looked at the two southern loops on BaseCamp I saw the error of my ways. Why take two days to head down the South East coast. Then follow it up with a further two day ride covering another 600 miles down the South East side of the UK when I could simply join the two routes together! So that is exactly what I did. 

That 'lightbulb moment' just made perfect sense, well to me at least it did. One ride taking two full days, with an over night stop on the Isle of Wight, which coincidently is within 25 miles of being the half way point, and that was my route, sorted!  As with every ride I then set to work fine tuning both the route, petrol stops, ferry crossing times on and off the island and finally, an over night stay on the island.

My route was almost complete, petrol stops are not an issue at all and nor was sorting a ferry as i knew there is a sailing every hour on the hour. However finding suitable accommodation was quite another story. Trying to find a B&B or reasonably priced hotel (insert cheap here) with secure parking for the Blade, proved to be a nightmare. I just could not find anything on line. So when in doubt, ask your mates, a quick tweet returned nothing. Luckily a single line question on the Iron Butt UK Forum sorted everything. Bob came to the rescue with the offer of the use of his couch which I readily accepted. All that was need now was to set the date. Jeannie agreed to look after Lilie Rose's needs on Friday and that was all I needed the date was set. The plan was to set off at 0400 hours on the 4th 4th 2014, I love it when dates align!

I would ride down through the centre of England, cut West at Coventry, taking in Birmingham and Wolverhampton before riding due South and onwards to the Isle of Wight. Once on the isle I would meet up with Bob and stay the evening with him. This would be followed by a ride across the south coast to Eastbourne before heading north up and around London before heading over Ipswich followed by the final 260 mile northwards and home.

2 Days, 1280 Miles, 1 Overnight Stop, Perfect!

As with all great plans there was one great big glitch with the start time. Setting off at 0400 would put me slap bang in the middle of the Birmingham in the rush hour traffic. My thoughts on that where simple. No thank you! So I decided to head out at 0200 hours putting me at my first stop, Leicester Speedway Circuit at the magic 0400 hours, perfect.

You see it's not just a case of jumping on my bike and hoping everything works out, I just love the planning and preparation. Sat in the pub at 1030 with my 4th Slimline Tonic of the evening was not what I'd planned but we were not going to miss the Globe Quiz night just for a 1280 mile ride, no way! 

"Shit is that the alarm" it felt like I'd only been asleep for an hour and half! Damn I had, why do I do this to myself? Flew through the back of my mind as a donned my clobber. Full textiles this time as a) it was foggy as hell, b) it was far too cold for summer gear and c) I just feel a whole lot more comfortable in my Gortex Dainese Gear.

One for Twitter

Opening the garage door revealed the true extent of the foul weather I was just about to head out into, rain, fog and the pitch black of the night, just the way I like it. "What is he on about" I can feel you asking, Well the reasoning is quite simple. "Who else would be daft enough to be out in this atrocious weather" and I was right, no one was! 

I didn't see another vehicle until I rode onto the M62 Eastbound, then south onto the 50mph M1. As with all my rides the first 2 hours are always spent planning what I have to do to stay focused on the job in hand. Riding from point to point always works best for me. Short 150-200 mile stints are perfect. Filling up the day before ensured good progress was made. Riding point to point prevents having to watch the sat nav tediously count down from 660 miles to 0 . Here's a tip LBK, just plot the Circuits into your sat nav, carry a list of the circuits in the order you plan to visit them written down clearly. All you need to do is just select the next location from your favourites, simples! I also work out and right down the distances and travel time to each location on the same piece of paper. Sadly the distances are always about 10% shorter than they actually are thanks to BaseCamp giving straight line distances, for some unexplainable reason.

Outward & homeward routes, Done!

So with all the planning done and dusted I was on my way. Wrapped up well against the rain and cold, passing through so much fog it was a constant battle to keep the outside of my visor clear. I was loving it. Well what's the point if your not enjoying it, non what so ever. Plus the reason I was doing the ride, it was all about Elliot and raising awareness of the Haemophiliac Society. Which I fully intend to do all the way round by Tweeting each and every stop and adding it to my Honda #MyJourney page.

Before I knew it I was parked in front of a very wet Leicester Speedway circuit. A short jaunt later it was Coventry then Birmingham and Wolverhampton, done. 

Leicester Speedway Circuit

Coventry Speedway Circuit

Birmingham Speedway Circuit

Wolverhampton Speedway Circuit

Then It was time to head off down to Swindon before popping into Wales for Newport Speedway Circuit which is now an HGV trailer storage park then round to Cardiff Millennium Stadium. I even past my good old mate the Gold Post Box (keep an eye out for it lads, opposite the castle gates on the other side of the road).

Swindon Speedway Circuit

Newport Speedway Circuit

Cardiff Millennium Stadium

Somerset is a lovely ride once your away from the motorways. As it happened the whole ride turned out to be an 80/20 split of A&B road to motorways which was great. I've spent far too many years riding up and down motorways, plus the Blade craves bends of every shape and description.

Somerset Speedway Circuit

Before leaving Somerset I dropped Nobby a text giving him my ETA for the Plymouth Speedway Circuit. Now I have to explain, I had no idea who on earth Nobby was other than some one who had recently followed me on Twitter. A Tweeted conversational a few days earlier had been our only contact. We had arranged to meet, I'd jokingly said, "as long as there was a bacon butty and a coffee to be had".  Little did I know at the time Nobby was going to turn out to be an absolute gentleman. 

Pulling under the bridge into a sharp right then left, there he was with mighty Bussa parked up. A big welcoming hello was swiftly followed by a flask of coffee, milk one sugar just the way I liked it and whilst I was drinking and nattering away, out came the bacon butty from his rucksack. Nobby can I just say your a bloody gentleman and it was a pleasure to have met you. One thing’s for sure, I’ll will make sure we stay in touch mate. Anyone who goes to the trouble of PM'ing my wife to find out how I take my coffee is  spot on in my books. All I could do was give him a memento which turned out to be a MancRider Sticker and made him an honorary member of the MancRiders, which I know the lads will be chuffed about. Nobby anytime your up this way just let me know and our home is your home. Oh and I hope your better half makes a speedy recovery and is back on the Bussa in no time. 

Plymouth Speedway Circuit, Buzzing!
Thank's for taking the photo Nobby 

So with Plymouth and my new mate in the wing mirrors, it was time to head over to the Isle of Wight (spelt correctly now Bob, cheers). As I'd started 2 hours earlier than planned I had a brilliant ride over to Lymington along the coast road, arriving at 1645 hours. Perfect timing to catch the 1700 hours ferry. No sooner had I bought a coffee and recharged my mobile the klaxon rang to say return to your vehicles. What a waste of £2.20 I thought to myself as I threw the cup full of coffee in the bin. 

Pulling off the ferry I pulled over to plumb Bob’s post code into the Garmin 350LM. A few minutes later I was pulling onto Bob’s drive to find him fully clobbered up and ready to lead me around the back lanes to the Isle of Wight Speedway Circuit, after saying hello to his good wife Vicky who was off out buying Fish and Chips for our dinner. Can I just take this opportunity to say thank you to Bob and Vicky for your kind offer and generosity in putting me up for the evening. If ever your in the Rochdale area please let me know so I can return the favour.

Isle of Wight Speedway Circuit

As I was getting up at 0500 hours to catch the 0600 hour ferry, Bob graciously headed off to bed shortly after 2100 hours leaving me to get a great nights sleep. All too soon however the dreaded buzz of my iPhones alarm dragged me from my slumbers. I thanked Bob once more as I headed out into the cold but clear morning towards the Fishbourne Harbour bound for Portsmouth. 

A clear crisp morning start, Love it.

I had a wonderful ride along the A27 to Eastbourne Speedway Circuit just up the A27 then off into the back and beyond called Arlngton Stadium.

Eastbourne Speedway Circuit

My plan to arrive at Wessons Cafe for 0900 hours went a little wrong as it was only 0750 hours so I took my photo, Tweeted Wessons and headed onwards.

I would have loved a Bacon Butty too

Next stop Kent Speedway Circuit flowed very quickly by Lakeside Speedway Circuit at Grays and just 10 minutes from my best friends house. After taking a couple of photo’s of the speedway circuit  I texted Ron who came over to meet me and we headed off for a coffee and bacon butty at, wait for it, a Harley Davidson dealership near Thurrock. Thank’s Ron for the butty and brew, it was great to catch up and I’ll see you on Friday for your ‘Stag Do’. You see Ron is getting married in two weeks time (May 4th) to his dear fiancĂ©e Jo and guess who’s ‘Best Man’? 

Kent Speedway Circuit

Ron admiring the Blade!
Got to agree 'She sure is Sexy'

Riding away I could feel the pangs of depression staring to take a hold. Its always a downer leaving Ron as we have such a laugh but I’d a job to do and snapped myself out of it. A short jaunt around the M25 had me on the outskirts of Harlow at Rye House Speedway Circuit in no time then it was straight over to Ipswich Speedway Circuit. Sadly I became very low just 30 miles of Ipswich as it was physiologically the furthest point from home that day. As Tweets of encouragement came flying at me from Lefty and the guys my mood broke just long enough to sort my head out.

Rye House Speedway Circuit

Ipswich Speedway Circuit

Riding through some great country roads I was soon in the middle of nowhere at Mildenhall Speedway Circuit the quietest place I have ever visited! Next up was Kings Lynn Speedway Circuit at Norfolk Stadium where I was supposed to meet Ashley from BikeSure. Sadly due to lack of phone coverage we missed each other. Sorry about that Ashley.

Mildenhall Speedway Circuit

Kings Lynn Speedway Circuit

Peterborough Speedway Circuit was quickly followed by Skegness Speedway Circuit the penultimate Circuit. I Tweeted my picture of Skegness Speedway Circuit and dedicated it to the guy who had taken the time to put tis fantastic MancRiders Speedway Challenge Ride together, our very own BadBoyBez or Phil in the real world. Bez your a star mate and I’m proud to list you amongst my good friends, well done mate, its been an honour to take part and raise awareness of the Haemophilia Society in the process. None of which I could get into a single Tweet mate sorry! 

Peterborough Speedway Circuit

I was back on full form leaving Peterborough through Skegness and on to Scunthorpe Speedway Circuit at Eddie Wright Raceways. Not just because I was on the home leg but because I knew the roads around the Lincolnshire like the back of my hand having had my parents live in Mablethorpe during my ‘Mad Biking Years’ aboard my trusty Kawasaki Z650. Happy days indeed if not a little scary at times.

Skegness Speedway Circuit

Scunthorpe Speedway Circuit

Tweeting my final stop from the Eddie Wright Raceway I dedicated it to our very own Mini MancRider Elliot, his Wonderful Mum Toni and a extremely  proud Grandad, Lefty. Here’s to a bright and wonderful future because I know you will make it so. Love to you all from the Walton Family.

I give you the Mini MancRider