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 by definition very limited indeed. Bikes are really passion and are generally treated really well and cleaned almost more than ridden. Indeed, the average annual mileage can be as little as 2 to 3,000 kms and also the Brit 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 can be used almost all year round and servicing is not so strictly followed. Bikes cover many more miles 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 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 personal.

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!!

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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.

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.

A new bike, a suprisingly good Yamaha FJR1300AE

I recently traded in my lovely blue Yamaha Super Tenere 1200 for a 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 used to. Setting off from a standing start was always nerve-wracking. This new one instead has the new 6-speed manual 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 planned a meeting in Germany for a weekend to swop the bikes but the weather was cold, snowy  and impossible. Luckily both the Super Ten going and then the FJR returning both 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 the 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 (and I have owned perhaps 20 bikes). It feels very powerful (150 horses) but her muscles are very well hidden. Of course the bike is heavy so not easy to push around the garage, 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 of the bike is amazing. And the electronic suspension 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 and even at that speed she ran as straight as a die. What a lovely feeling, what an amazing bike.

I love this one! Wow.