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….

Advertisements

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

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.

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.

 

New property comes closer

We have found and made an offer on a new property, as threatened!! This small property is fantastic and is perfect for what we need, a small working base in the Amalfi area. The property is a WONDERFUL double garage and is very recent indeed, it looks virtually new, and has all of the permissions and stuff in order too which is very unusual, so it can be used for storage, as a garage, for working or whatever. It has a small bathroom too plus water and electricity.

The location is almost ideal too as it is only 12km (about 15 minutes) from the centre of Amalfi and is in a small residential area with houses on each side. Photos and stuff to follow if our offer is accepted!!!!

Stop press: We have revisited the property today and it would appear that all is in order and we can go ahead. We aim to conclude at about the end of March. Watch this space.

Used spare parts for cars and scooters

Given that cars (and bikes) become ever more expensive and complex, and the spares follow, we see a fiendish idea to start a potentially-interesting business with used and regenerated spare parts. We therefore intend to purchase some cars and some scooters and strip them for spares, indeed we have already acquired a Honda SH125, the best selling scooter in Italy. The market for used spares is an interesting one and traditionally mainly in the hands of not totally honest suppiers. We want to start an honest business with spares and repairs, we already have a Roma base and we are now seeking another in the Amalfi region so that we can operate in both areas.

Photos to follow of our SH125 and then the cars too, as we start operations so watch this space.

 

New enterprise!! Another arrow to our bow (or something)

Services enters one (or even two) new activities. We have purchased a lightly damaged VW van and we have started work on the strip down and on the repairs. We intend to document this work with a series of photos which will follow. This work will be carried out by a specialist who does this for a living and the idea is of course to return some profit when we sell the van, but along the way I hope to learn alot as this is a totally new field for me and very interesting indeed.

The second idea is also to start an interesting sub-business with spare parts. We intend to purchase some (VW) cars and some (Honda) scooters and strip them for spares, indeed we have already acquired a Honda SH125, the best selling scooter in Italy. The market for spares is an interesting one and possibly mainly in the hands of er not totally honest sellers. We want to start an (honest) business with spares and repairs, we already have a Roma base and we are now seeking another in the Amalfi region so that we can operate in both areas.

Watch this space!! More to come soon.

A week takeover of the lovely Aurora Hotel, Amalfi. October 20-27th 2018

Ok so here is the master plan for the hotel so far:

  1. I have asked her indoors if I can book the whole hotel PLUS the 3 apartments for the whole week, and (so far so good) she said yes. Poor woman. This event is by personal invitation only and is NOT open to the general public BUT we do plan to run similar events in the future.
  2. I therefore have 15 rooms in the hotel to host my “guests”, plus the 3 apartments if required.
  3. My idea is to offer the lucky chosen few an “all-in package price” for the week to include almost everything, B&B plus some happy hours and even some meals too.
  4. I am looking to organise a wide range of activities, events and visits for the week and everyone will be able to select say 3 activities. Additional events (if we can arrange them) will be charged but more or less at cost.
  5. I will rent a minibus for the week so that we can provide all local transport free. I suggest that you try to come either by motorbike (free safe parking under the hotel) or by public transport, cos a car will cost you about 30 Euro per dayfor parking!!! From Roma the best way is train to Salerno (2 hours door to door) and then either bus, ferry or minibus to Amalfi centre. The hotel is then only a 10 minute stroll.
  6. I need to plan carefully so I need your yes or no asap please and I will then ask you for a non-refundable deposit for every room, to ensure that you will really come.
  7. We will organise trips to Pompei, Caserta, Thermal Baths and Underground Naples for sure. Other activities will be organised depending on the weather we have that week, for instance a boat trip and motorcycle testing. My Raptor 700 Quad and TMax 530 will be available.

More to follow very soon, watch this space………

What an amazing long distance scooter er bike…..

I know and love the Yamaha TMax, I owned an old 500 briefly a few years ago and really enjoyed the experience, except the fuel consumption!. When I recently found an almost-new one for sale with very low mileage in the UK I could not resist her so then I needed to bring her down to Roma. I flew to the UK with Ryan Air and the excellent crew at Alf England serviced the bike and fitted a charger lead for me. I then set off from Coventry down to Cambridge where my sister lives, about 140km south.

This so-called scooter is really a true motor bike and indeed if you remove the plastic a full motor bike frame and engine is revealed, which explains why it goes and handles like a “proper” bike. The engine is a really strong twin and pulls like a train in this new 530 version, just the continuous transmission reveals the scooter conversion but this means no clutch and gear lever.

The ride to Cambridge was slow and uneventful due to the usual heavy traffic and constant road works, I noted that the screen gives great wind protection even at motorway speeds and the bike always feels stable and pinned to the road. The long wheelbase means that the bike always goes straight and the brakes are fantastic, two large discs at the front and one at the rear.

Then the next day in the constant drizzle I set off to ride back down to Roma. I had not really planned my route (cos I hate planning) and I have already made the trip several times by bike, car and van so I knew more or less the route the way I wanted to take. So first stop in the constant rain was the Channel Tunnel terminal near to Folkestone where I was sent to the front of the queue for a 15 minute wait for the next Chunnel train. The bike was fantastic over these 200km in the rain and only my helmet and my hands got wet, the bike’s bodywork kept me almost dry. I also discovered that bikes do not pay for the London Dartford Crossing, good news!

Fourty minutes later I rode off the train in downtown Calais and quickly hit the motorway, still raining but now less heavily, and headed south towards Reims. Reims is a lovely city and I know a good Ibis hotel quite near to the motorway. I covered the 270km quickly as I was quite hungry and I filled the bike with fuel so that I could make a fast getaway early the next morning. The TMax was averaging almost 60mpg and never missed a beat despite the rain. So I parked and locked her in the hotel car park and went to eat.

The next morning I left after an early breakfast heading south, my aim was Lyon and then Chamonix and the Mont Blanc tunnel. The rain had finally stopped and the sky started to brighten and the temperature increased with every kilometre towards the south. I covered about 640km that day stopping only for coffee and fuel, the bike performed faultlessly and required fuel only every couple of hours, so progress was quite fast. The ideal cruising speed for the 530 is about 140kph (indicated) which is just below 6,000rpm on the TMax, as over 6,000rpm the engine changes sound and starts to drink more fuel. Every engine has its sweet spot. At about 4pm I was really hungry and tired so as I approached Chamonix I spotted a Mercure Hotel just next to the road and so I turned off the motorway, found the hotel, took a room and rested before dinner and then bed. Lovely food and great place!

At 4.30 the next morning I checked out and left the hotel heading south again, firstly through the Mont Blanc tunnel and then onto the Italian motorways where I could use my Telepass, so I did not need to take tickets or pay the motorways tolls. I made good time and stopping only for fuel plus drinks and snacks I headed past Aosta and then picked up the west coast motorway towards Genova. Past Genova I headed south to Livorno and then turned east to Firenze, and then from Firenze it was only 300 kms to Roma. I got to Roma at about 1330 and the bike had covered 2,000 kms from Cambridge without missing a beat. Indeed I still felt good so after a 2 hour stop at home I headed south again and I got to Amalfi for dinner and a very well-earned rest. That was a 1,000 km day!!.

The Yamaha TMax 530 really suprised me. I never thought that a “scooter” could be such a great travelling companion for a longish trip. It proved totally comfortable and reliable, easy to ride and with excellent fuel range between fill ups. WHAT a bike!! This is really a revalation as the TMax is generally used in the city to go fast between traffic lights whereas she is really a superb touring bike. Amazing. And of course this Yamaha engine consumed zero oil in the 2k kms,