Bike training continued…..

I met the training team Run x Fun owned and run by Luca Viola, himself a former racer as well as a passionate off roader and visitor to Africa. The team includes Paolo Castrichini, Max Zeraftis, Alex Vaghi, Michele Marchetti and others (see www.runxfun.it) as well as some amazing racers such as Fabio Massei (shown above), Alex and Alessia Polita and GianLuca Nanelli.

These guys are an amazing team and I have become 100 times better as a rider through them. They taught me theory as well as riding and I have never enjoyed myself so much in my life with my clothes on!! We have held courses at Vallelunga and Misano but 90% of our time is spent at the wonderful Magione circuit near to Perugia in Umbria which has become a home from home for the team.

Luca purchased an amazing TIR several years ago and that became our home for the night or 2 at the track. Mingling with some of the brilliant bike racers that we work with was a great experience for me and to ride with them was truly amazing (when they went slowly so I could keep up of course)!!!.

We taught everything from how to start riding a bike round bollards in the car park right up to good racers who wanted to improve their lap times. But as Luca repeated we sought to explain HOW to ride and not just follow a fast guy so you go faster, as otherwise when the instructor was not there then the student would not know how he went faster. So our course were always structured into theory and then riding (no more than 6 students with an instructor) to try to ensure that the theory could be shown to the student and then reinforced.

To be continued….

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The basics, the ABC of surviving on a motorbike

We all (well, many of us) enjoy a motorbike and we almost all teach ourselves how to ride. We may get some tips from a mate or two or from the guy in the shop that sells us the bike but in general we all think that we know how to ride a bike. We have all watched Valentino and we convince ourselves that we can do the same.

Many do not survive long enough to learn that riding a motorcycle on the road is a very dangerous activity. I lost a school friend at 17 so I began to understand that there is more to this than meets the eye, so to speak.

So from my ripe old age I have a few top tips for you all, as follows: (and the bike shown above is my Yamaha MT10 which has a detuned R1 engine and FLIES!!)

  1. ALWAYS ride defensively. Cars hurt, so a basic starting point is to assume that all cars are badly driven (many are) and so always stay well away and allow them to get it wrong. Many drivers will take all of the road on a corner so never use all of your lane, stay near to your side of the road. Many car drivers hold their smartphone in one hand so they do not pay much attention to driving and the use of indicators seems to be a thing of the past.
  2. ALWAYS ride within your limits. Sports bikes today are not far removed from race bikes in terms of power, performance and brakes. A modern 1000cc bike has almost 200 horse power!! It is almost impossible for a normal rider to find the limits of a modern bike even on a race track. Instead, it is very easy to find our own limits and we must learn to know them and to stay well within them.
  3. NEVER ride a bike when you are not feeling up to it. Take a bus or tram or car but not the bike because a bike requires 100% of our concentration. 80% is simply not enough.
  4. TAKE A RIDING COURSE. There are several excellent riding schools such as the California Superbike School in the UK, Ron Haslam’s school at Donnington Park and Run x Fun in Italy and all of these are excellent places to learn about riding a motorbike. All are circuit-based for safety reasons and not to teach you to ride at high speeds!!
  5. LOOK AFTER YOUR BIKE. We have only 2 tyres and the tyre condition and pressure are vital, so always check over the bike before and after every ride.
  6. NEVER insult another driver (with hand signals, for instance). It is not worth it. Sadly “Road Rage” exists and you can see many many examples on YouTube so always try to simply stay away from bad drivers, cos bikes are always the easy victims.

I have worked with RunxFun for several years and lessons are really the best way to survive and to enjoy yourself too.

All questions answered!!

Simon

More on motorcycle riding and survival

So when I started to ride a motorbike (but it could have been a scooter or a moped, the principles are the same) I started to live a fantasy as from a very early age I had been dreaming of this day. I was 14 when I bought my first bike which was an old, tatty and broken Honda 50 for a princely 15 pounds. I had to get the chassis welded back together by the local smithie (it was snapped in half where the rear suspension connected to the rusty metal frame) and then I also had to strip, recondition and rebuild the engine and gearbox to fit new piston rings. This bike was not street legal and nor was I so it became my field bike, I soon learned all about trying to stay on in a wet field and how to walk home with a broken collar bone without crying (much).

Then I progressed to a BSA Bantam and then at 18 I finally bought my first road bike, a Suzuki GT185. Wow was I one proud fellow! The GT185 was a twin cylinder two stroke and mine was in a really sorry state, the previous owner had disconnected the oil pump and mixed oil into the petrol tank, I never understood why, so my first task was to bleed the oil pump and two feed pipes which fortunately then worked fine. Of course I never confessed this to my Dad. The GT185 was a rocketship compared to my previous bikes and its 21 horsepower were a dream. The two stroke engine was something else, the bike was light and flickable and stunningly fast for me. Lovely. How I survived I will never know but I guess that cowardice helped me plus the fact that the bike represented my life savings.

I then bought a new Yamaha RD400 two stroke rocketship, sold that for an almost new Honda CB750K6 and then an almost new Honda CBR1000. Bikes had become my passion and I loved to see motorcycle racing so with mates we always visited the Transatlantics over the Easter weekend and then the GP whenever possible in the days of Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene and Mick Grant, and we even rode over to France for the French GP (Le Mans) and the Bol D’Or 24 hour race in the south of France became an annual jaunt.

When I moved to Italy in 1990 I travelled down with my trusty CBR1000 and this trip really started my love for long rides. I crossed France from North to south and then headed down through Italy to Roma, I had a paper map which I lost on the way but I knew that all roads lead to Roma so I was not worried. I stopped overnight in Aosta and then cruised down to Roma, this was June so rest assured that by the time I arrived I was melting inside my UK spec one piece leathers!

LUCKILY after I decided to swap my trusty old CBR1000 for a lovely Yamaha R6, I made a good decision: I decided that I needed to get some rider training if I wanted to survive. My bikes until now had all been fairly fast but the R6 was really something else. This was basically a race bike with lights, it was very light but with an amazingly powerful engine so really took off. I therefore booked a full day training session at Vallelunga and this was a day that changed my life, for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The real importance of rider training

Unfortunately we have daily reminders of the danger of riding a two wheeler be it motorcycle or scooter or moped. When we make a mistake driving our car, we may bend some metal but we usually get away with it especially now that a modern car has loads of driving aids, whereas the same mistake on two wheels can bring injuries or worse.

Given that the dynamics of a two wheeler is complex and totally different to a car it would surely be a good idea if all riders took some basic rider-training to make them better equipped to survive? I have worked part-time for about 12 years with a wonderful motor bike school called Run x Fun and these guys really know their stuff. The owner is an ex-racer Luca Viola and the staff are all racers or ex racers and some famous racers such as Gianluca Nanelli and Fabio Massei, both work with us as well as the amazing brother and sister team Alex and Alessia Polita. Less famous but equally brilliant riders such as Paolo Castrichini also work with Luca and we work mainly at the wonderful Magione track, near Perugia about 2 hours north from Roma.

I honestly think that such a training course should be compulsory. A bike is NOT easy and is not a bicycle. Over the years we have seen many many folks improve and understand the right techniques to control a motorbike and leave the one day Base Course a different rider if not person. We use the race circuit NOT for speed but for safety and we always apply very strict safety rules and of course if all goes wrong then the grass awaits you!! Magione is a short circuit so is not built for speed but is ideal for teaching as it has almost every kind of corner available.

We also run off-road training courses starting from our base near Orte, and the fee includes the use of our bike and the safety equipment. Just turn up!! We also run road courses and personal training as required.

The top places to visit in Amalfi

Bar Masaniello Simply the best bar in Amalfi if not the world (ok ok I am biased). Indoor and outdoor seating, free wifi and the best selection of beer in the area (including Leffe) without any doubt. Service is great and very friendly and the food is also really good, no rip offs here. Good music always to listen too and sometimes live music in the evenings

Boat Museum Situated right next to Masaniello, this place is quietly amazing. Few visitors will know the history, Amalfi was one of the four Italian maritime States. The compass was (perhaps) invented here and the boat museum is located where they used to manufacture the boats! Well worth a 30 minute wander

Hotel Aurora gardens You don’t need to be staying in the hotel to go and admire the wonderful terrace gardens and sit down for a happy hour or so looking out over the harbour. Good selection of beer and wine plus cocktails and tasty sandwiches. WHAT a view

Hotel Luna Convent Cloister. This hotel building dates from the 1200s (in parts) and has been managed by the Barbaro family for more than 200 years. The amazing cloister dates from the 1200s too and is well worth a visit and a cup of tea. Living history

Paper Museum Amalfi still makes paper and this lovely Museum gives you a taste of the old times, methods and traditions. Lovely place

Panza pasticceria The Panza family owns several activities in Amalfi and the most famous is this lovely old bar. You can sit outside right next to the cathedral steps and enjoy excellent coffee  and home-made cakes in the sun

La Tonnarella If you wanna eat in this town then there are several excellent restaurants. But if you want a unique eating experience then try this place. You need to book (your hotel can do that for you) and the food price includes the water taxi to and from the beach eating place which is about a 15 minute ride from Amalfi centre. Stunning place and food and experience

Paper shop This shop sells all sorts of articles and is specialised in hand made paper, great for gifts to take home

Lacoste and Colmar shop Wonderful shop in the main street with a good selection of branded clothes including these 2 great marques

Visit the wonderful Amalfi coast with a guide or just some practical guidelines

We all know that the Amalfi coast is stunning and well worth a visit. Nothing new there. But the best way to get there? The best way to get around? What to avoid and why? All of these important points and more are not always obvious as the coast is very long, winding and varied and each town along the coast has its own quirks and characteristics.

Here follow a few insider tips and guidelines for you to consider before you visit and/or I am happy to offer more precise guidelines for specific visits:

  1. Avoid August. Period. Unless you love sweltering heat, massive overcrowding and traffic queues then it is better to leave well alone. July is also very hot and slightly less crowded. August swells the 3,000 Amalfi population to 30,000 per day.
  2. Do not bring a car unless you have to. The coast road is very beautiful but also very crowded and narrow. Driving in the area is not easy even out of season, and from May through to October is really slow and hard work. Or get a local to drive you.
  3. The wonderful ferry service works from April thro’ to October and covers the entire coast from Salerno to Sorrento. It is not expensive and hops along the coast, the ferry is probably faster than any road transport and you also get to view the coast from the sea as well as enjoy the sea breeze.
  4. Book early, as last minute is very complex and expensive and generally you will find only out of the way places. Folks still book the same room for next year when they leave their favourite hotel, like in the old days!
  5. Be very cautious of the giants like Booking, TripAdvisor and the rest cos they are not reliable on the coast. Simply put these giants cannot get the percentages they want here as the hotels and restaurants are generally full anyway, so often they seem to publish rubbish. Use the direct web sites for better information.
  6. Avoid taxis as they generally charge you a fortune, I guess because there are so few of them. If you have to then ask then to know the fee before you go and you can negotiate. Ask the hotel to book for you for some protection and always ask the fee in advance.

Any other information you require, just ask.

Multi service point on the Amalfi coast

Ok so here is the latest idea. We will soon have our first property in the Amalfi area, in Tramonti which is about 12 km from Amalfi and about 6km inland from Maiori. We should hopefully take possession by June given that there is no purchase chain and we can settle quickly. We have several ideas for this property (which is actually two properties, one tiny “house” and one very large garage):

Storage. The city of Amalfi is tiny and has NO spare space. Property in Amalfi is wildly expensive and limited, every square metre is used for hotels, restaurants, housing and shops given also the physical layout of the town which is confined by the sea in front and the mountain behind which rises up to almost 1,000 metres above sea level.

There are no storage facilities to rent in a radius of 20 or so kilometers from the town. For instance mopeds and motorbikes are used by all of the locals during the good season and then need to be stored over the damp winter months. Car parking is very very expensive, the 2 public car parks cost 2 Euro per hour or 30 Euro per day all year round.

Every activity in the area needs more space to store all sorts of things they need in the season including spares, for instance essential parts or equipment that may be needed during the very busy summer season. An aircon unit will generally fail in August when it is mighty difficult to get a replacement, hence the need to purchase and store one or two reserve units nearby. In August a van will take even 2 hours to arrive from Salerno.

Even routine maintenance for cars or bikes means that you must travel to Salerno or Castellammare, each of which take 40 minutes by car if the traffic is good or 3 times that in the peak season when Amalfi town swells from the 3,000 residents up to 30,000 visitors daily!!

So we have many ideas and options for our new premises, watch this space!

European trips for you….I have the superb Vito 3.0L van plus an excellent 2-axle car trailer

You need a car or a motorbike delivered from the UK to France or Italy?? You wanna bike holiday in the south of France but do not fancy the 1000km down from London?? No problem. I can come to you, collect the car or motorbike or bicycles plus your panniers or luggage or whatever and take it for you, you pay the fuel plus motorway plus a charge but I aim to keep the costs as low as possible cos I can sleep in the van!!! Perhaps you wanna buy a bike from France or Italy but dont wanna ride it home???

Ask me for a price and dates!!!! I can be fairly flexible and I have winter tyres on the van for the cold and wet months so I can run most of the year round.

Another UK trip

Given that my bikes are all UK registered, I travel quite frequently between Italy and the UK. Sometimes by bike (if the travel is in the spring or summer months so the weather is ok) and sometimes by my trusty van with a bike or two onboard. I love both travelling and France, so the trips are something I really look forward to either alone or in company. The van has a 3.0 TDI V6 engine with 200+ horses and fitted with a great stereo, cruise control, aircon and whatever.

This March I needed to return my Super Tenere 1200 which I traded in for an almost brand new Yamaha FJR1300. The FJR is a lovely bike which the shop had registered as a demonstrator in September 2017, as required by Yamaha UK given that Alf England is a Premier Dealer, and I just looked at the clocks to see that the total kilometers covered so far are the grand total of 63!!! That could be one or at most two demo rides I guess. Wonderful.

OK back to the trip, as you can read about the bike elsewhere. I was not sure how easy it would be to load the Super Ten into my Vito van given that 3 years ago we used an excellent ramp at the shop which I do not have of course. My van is a low roof model (as I like to travel and the Vito drives almost like a car) so interior height can be a problem. So I removed the mirrors and the screen from the bike and thought that I would run here up my aluminium ramp to see how much more I would need to remove, luckily she went straight in with a few millimetres to spare, so all was good. I then loaded up all of the other bits I wanted to return to the shop like the original exhaust, then strapped the bike down, checked the van’s oil, water and tyres and I was ready to go, this was Wednesday morning.

Well I left Roma at about 11am happy to have gained half a day, and headed north on the motorway. The weather was very cold so I had my winter tyres on the van and very valuable they would prove. Winter tyres are great not just for snow but anytime the ambient temperature is below 10ish degrees C as they are softer and grip even in the cold, and they also expel water much better. The temperature was only a few degrees above freezing and as I got nearer to Florence I had to make a decision and I chose to head west towards the coast instead of north because the motorway would climb to cross the Pennines to Bologna and I did not want to risk the snow. In Italy if any motorway gets blocked it is always that one.

So I headed west to Livorno and then north to Genoa and then to the French border so past Monte Carlo and I decided to stop for the night in Nice, where I know a lovely little hotel which is easy to find and has a petrol station next door, ideal for an early start! I found the Esatitude Hotel, parked the van in their excellent underground car park, got some food and headed to bed. About 700km covered today.

The next morning I left the hotel early and hit the road with a full tank as today was going to be a long one. I left at about 4am and the navigator indicated about 1230km for Calais for the P and O ferry to Dover. So I knew that the day would be a very long one but I had booked an open ticket with a 5 day return so I had no real deadline, essential for a fairly relaxed long trip. I covered about 400km before I stopped for a wonderful breakfast on the motorway and then I carried on, the fantastic (and very expensive) French motorways let me make great progress north, I stopped for a snack and fuel refill somewhere near Dijon. The weather for the first 600km was fine and dry, still cold, whereas the second half was rain and snow with loads of snow covering the fields next to the motorway, so only a few degrees above freezing.

Well I then headed non stop for the ferry and I got to Calais by about 4pm and after a short wait and a coffee we were loaded on board and I went upstairs to the lounge, which is included in the open ticket, so for some good coffees plus a snack and a read of the newspaper. We docked after 90 minutes so I drove up to Dover and headed north, Martin had booked my 2 nights at the lovely Royal Arms Hotel in Sutton Cheney and I arrived in time for great beer and a snack before bed, a great day!!!!

The trip back was easier as the weather was a little bit warmer, and I drove the quicker route, stopped for the night in Chamonix Hotel Mercure and then through the Monte Blanc Tunnel. 4600 km total was the round trip.

A new bike, a suprisingly good Yamaha FJR1300AE

I recently traded in my lovely Yamaha blue Super Tenere 1200 for this stunning almost new FJR1300. NEWS FLASH the Super Ten was sold within 2 days! My mate Martin had offered me their demo FJR that he had registered in September 2017 (he is obliged to have six new bikes as demos all year round, which is a bit mad given the severity and duration of the British winter), so it had a grand total of 63 kilometres so perhaps 2 test rides on the clock!

I owned an FJR 1300 a few years ago but I had made the mistake of buying the version with the automatic clutch, which I never really got on with. Setting off from a standing start was always nerve-wracking. This new one instead has the new 6-speed gearbox with conventional clutch, this is the AE version with full LED lighting and electronic everything from suspension to ABS to traction control and cruise control and and and. Amazing. Perhaps it even makes the tea??

I went to collect the bike with my trusty Vito van (a 4600 km round trip), as Brian and I had tried for a meeting in Germany for a weekend to swop the bikes but the weather was cold and terrible. Luckily both the Super Ten and then the FJR just fitted into the van by a whisker, only removing the windscreens (plus mirrors in the case of the Super Ten which is a bit taller). I unloaded the FJR from my van in Roma and refitted the screen, and then this weekend the weather was finally suitable so I rode her down to Amalfi.

Wow. This bike is really like nothing I have ridden or owned before. It feels very very powerful (150 horses) but her muscles are very well hidden. Of course the bike is very heavy so not easy to push around, but as soon as she gets moving she feels like a small bike, as the weight is very low down and well balanced with plenty of aluminium (the frame, for instance). The gearbox is sweet, the clutch is very light, the engine is the smoothest I have ever tried and the overall feel is really amazing. And the suspension really gives you the feeling that the bike glides over the bumps and deals with everything you can throw at it with ease.

The ride was wonderful and the new 6th gear means that on the motorway the revs are low so the fuel consumption is really good for a big bike (more than 15km per litre, 43mpg) even at really high speeds. At one point I took her up to 225 kph just to try and she still wanted to accelerate, even at that speed she ran as straight as a die. What a lovely feeling, what an amazing bike.

I love this one! Wow.

 

Service no limits

I am Simon, I am English and I live between Roma and Amalfi in Italy. I have lived in Italy since 1990 and I speak reasonable Italian and French, plus some English!!

I love travelling and exploring, I have worked in Export Sales for more than 30 years which has taken me all over the world, and I like nothing better than travelling around Italy and Europe by car, van or motorbike alone or with friends.

I know Italy fairly well and I love to help others to discover the beauty of Italy and to avoid the many pitfalls. Many visitors love Italy but do not really know how to avoid the difficult bits, as the language and the mentality is very different from the American and North European “norms”.

I also have a small fleet of vehicles that I can rent out to the right people or can use to transport you around. You fly into Roma and wanna get to the Amalfi Coast?? I can take you. You need to transport you and/or your luggage around between hotels? Call me. You wanna try a motorcycle experience?? I can supply a touring bike with a satnav in English all ready to go. You wanna visit the Ducati or Ferrari factory?? No problem. You need a route for a 3 day visit to Sicily or Sardinia? I can supply it.

Here follow some blogs to give you a taste of the Italian experience. Thanks!!