Two new electric-assisted bicycles for Hotel Aurora

We just supplied two lovely bicycles to the Hotel Aurora Amalfi, for use by their staff and clients. The bikes are made by Torpado, an Italian manufacturer, and they are very robust and well made. These E bikes have a large lithium ion battery on the rear carrier which give the bikes an autonomy of about 60 kilometers between charges, in normal or average use.

The hotel staff and management seem very pleased indeed with these bikes and they attract alot of looks and attention and questions, an added bonus. The idea is really to give an extra service to the hotel guests and we have not yet decided whether we will lend or rent the bikes to our clients. We are waiting for insurance cover and then we must write a disclaimer which the client will be asked to sign before using the bike.

What do you think??

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New idea: import some used bikes from Alf England in the UK

From my many years of motorbike ownership and experience in the UK and in Italy, I know that the two countries use and treat their bikes very differently.

In the UK the weather is not good for motorbikes so the season is very short and the annual mileages are often very low indeed. Bikes are really bought for passion and are generally treated really well and cleaned almost more than they are ridden. The average annual mileage can be as little as 2 to 3,000 kms and also the British owners will always follow the suggested service intervals so even an almost unused bike will have all of its service stamps in the book!! And virtually all UK bikes are kept in standard trim.

In Italy we have the opposite situation where the bike or scooter can be used almost all year round and servicing is not so strictly followed. Bikes cover many more kiloteres and see the service dealers as little as possible, so often the second-hand bikes are very well used and abused. Servicing is often not a priority and it is also unusual to see a bike of any kind in standard trim, scooters in particular are almost always modified by their owners. Here there is a huge aftermarket for the TMax parts for making the bike your own.

Result?? If I purchase a bike in the UK and bring it to Roma, folks here cannot believe the lovely condition and very low kilometers as well as the service history, so used bikes can sell very well here. For instance, I recently purchased 2 Yamaha TMax 530s from Alf England in the UK and took them to Roma, I sold the first one without trying, which gave me the idea (as I can fit 2 bikes into my trusty Vito!)

Look at these photos:

 

 

 

DSC_9149

The Honda VFR800 is a 10 year old bike and just look at the condition! The grey Yamaha TMax 530 is a 2014 model with some miles on the clock but again, she looks almost new. And the white TMax is 2015 with only 10k kms and almost better than new, she was sold as soon as my mate saw me take her out of the van.

Stop Press: Another white TMax 530 soon on the way, identical to the white one above. I must go to collect her soon!!

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! We have held courses at Vallelunga and Misano but 90% of our training 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 becomes our home for the night or 2 at the track. Mingling with some of the brilliant bike racers that we work with has been 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 courses are 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….

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 on TV 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 tips for you all, as follows: (and the bike shown above is my Yamaha MT10 which has a detuned R1 engine with 160 horses 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 stay away from bad drivers, 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

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.

Look at this one from last week:https://www.ilvescovado.it/it/sezioni-25/cronaca-1/incidente-tra-moto-e-scooter-a-castiglione-coinvo-71958

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 from ABS to ESP, whereas the same mistake on two wheels can bring injuries or worse.

Given that the dynamics of a two wheeler is very 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 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 lovely 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, off road riding and personal training as required.

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

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. From Roma you can take a fast train from Termini station to Salerno station and this takes two hours or a bit less. Then from Salerno station a walk of only about 300 metres takes you to the ferry port.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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 deliveries for you….I have the superb Vito 3.0L van plus a twin-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 or the UK 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 travel most of the year round.

Another UK trip

Given that all of my bikes are UK registered I travel 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 trusty Vito 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 is 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 grey 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 is a 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 her 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 standing water much better. The temperature was only a few degrees above freezing and as I got nearer to Florence I had to take 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. 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 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.

I then headed non-stop for the ferry and I got to Calais by 4pm and after a short wait and a coffee we were loaded on board the ship and I went upstairs to the lounge, which is included in the open ticket, 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 me 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 total round trip.

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!!