New Year, Fresh Start.

Somehow or other I got caught up in motorbikes again. I wasn’t getting much work due to the strikes and I wanted to be prepared to travel to a new job. Or at least that’s how I rationalised it. Possibly (probably) it was just my obsessing and blatant bike desire.

I had resisted and turned my nose up at some really great VFR750s recently. I kept telling myself I didn’t need a bike, and if I got one it would be a modern one with fuel injection to combat the problems of the new ethanol additive fuel (rotting seals in carbs, gumming up carb jets, rusting tank if unused). I regret not getting some of them quite a bit, in retrospect.

I saw one at the bottom end of London (of course. No bike is ever local. It’s the law). It was at the lower end of the price bracket for a VFR, it’s only done 30,000 miles, supposedly full service history (faked, I think, the first few have been loosely stamped then smeared to illegibility) with a near perfect MOT history. The thing is I’m not fond of the colour. A sort of purpley blue with gold wheel rims. I decided I wasn’t going to be the guy who turned down a brilliant condition, low mileage, example for something as petty as the colour.

After I’d decided I wanted it, I had to wait two weeks to get a train. First the roads were a mess with a week of frozen snow and ice, then the trains were on strike. I managed to get a ticket on New Year’s day, the only one for the fortnight preceding and following. 4 trains. They had to do a cross country diversion to avoid one striking company.

Anyway the bike was a good ‘un (good job, really) and I got it. Because it’s a 25 year old bike certain things get soggy. The hydraulic brake lines stretch so you lose pressure to the brakes, and the rear shock absorber gets old and saggy. This bike had had the brake lines upgraded to new braided lines and the rear shock recently reconditioned. Sorted. Also it has heated handlebar grips, which are a huge plus for winter riding.

Then the bank kept me sweating for an hour before sending an “instant payment” to the seller. I thought I was going to have to get a hotel room and pick it up the next day. It finally cleared then it was just the matter of riding home 197 miles in the cold, dark and rain. And it turns out my super-duper, big, thick, padded overtrousers I got about 15 years ago had lost all their waterproofing so I was soaked within the first 10 minutes. Joy.

Anyway. Bike!

I thought the throttle was stiff at a certain point, on the ride home, but it seems fine now. I tried to recreate the problem by slamming the throttle open, but all that happened was my back end span up and slid sideways. Which prompted me to check the date on the tyres. Because motorbikes are generally summertime toys they don’t do many miles, so tyres can still have loads of tread but the rubber has become old and lost it’s grip. The internet said the life of a tyre is 5 years. The back was about a week or 2 over 5 years, I’ll replace it when I get round to it. The front was 8 years old. Oops.

So that was my first job.

Obviously since I’ve got it it’s been pouring down or cold. So now real fun yet, but after the ride home I’m fairly confident it’s as good as I thought.

I’ve been making an effort this time and riding into work every day on it. Otherwise I just never use it. I have wheels now. If a job comes up I can commute. I’ve got an app on my ‘phone and I check several times a day, but there are no jobs even nearly comparable to what I’m doing yet.

It’s a month later and I’ve still not finished this blog so I can update a few things.

I had a bit of a to-do over the bike. I really wasn’t happy with the colour. It’s really petty, but I started upgrading a few things. I got a hugger (a tight fitting mudguard for the back wheel to stop it spraying mud all over the bike), a fender extender (front mudguard extension to stop it spraying salty road muck all over the engine) and a hi-level exhaust exhaust link pipe. That does nothing practical, but improves the look of the bike.

Before, dull, mundane, meh.

After, lovely, single sided swing arm revealed, chicks digging me.

On the first picture you can see the hugger over the back wheel.

But then, once I’d started improving the bike I started obsessing. If I was to take the engine cover off and have it powder coated (like spray painting, but tougher) that would improve the looks a lot. And the powder coat the wheels to a better colour. And the fork legs. And get the plastics and tank resprayed in a racing red. (Red ones are faster. Basic science.) Then I was pricing it all up, thinking of the fun I could have getting everything done. Then I started thinking maybe it would be better to get a spares/ repair second bike in red, and swap the bits. Or sell this one and get an immaculate one in red. As usual it all spiraled out of control and I was losing sleep over the obsessing and stressing over options.

I recently read a passage in a (fiction) book in which the protagonist was talking to a Buddhist monk. The monk told the guy how they catch monkeys; put a long necked vase out, with food in the bottom. The monkey reaches in, grabs the food, then can’t get his fist out. He said it’s a zen lesson. If you want to be free, let go. It might all be made up and neither the monkey trap or the zen lesson are real, but you can still take a truth from it.

I was at the point where in the past I acted, bought a bike or whatever, just to stop the torture of the obsessing. Instead I let go.

This bike does everything a fancy red one does (though slower. Science.) none of the stuff I was going nuts over would have made an iota of difference to how the bike ran or handled. Just be happy with the bike you’ve got.

It was such a relief. I need to remember and apply that often.

I had a bad headache and woke up at 03.15, took some pills, then was awake until 06.00. As it was too early to get up I had nothing else to do but think. I had some ideas.

I’m going to invest in ADR (hazardous loads -anything from supermarket bleach to petrol-) training, then try and work my way up to petrol tanker driver. That’s about the only job that pays better than what I’m on. There was one advertised at Ellsmere Port at £25 -£35 p/h. It’s £600 to do the training, then the real trick is getting a job to give you experience, then after a year, scoring the prime job. It might not happen, but it opens more doors for me. I had the exact same catch 22 (can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job) when I first got my lorry licences. At least this time I can show I’m already a lorry driver. I have the bike to commute to Ellsmere Port (Google maps says 33 minutes, so say an extra hour and a half on my day, to be on the safe side). Then it just depends on how long the shifts are. If it’s 10 -12 hours it’s do-able, if they want 15 out of you, I couldn’t do that for long. That’s all wildly hypothetical first thing first, do a week’s training. The good thing is I have to pay for 5 classroom days every 5 years to maintain my (Drivers) Certificate of Professional Competence, my 5 years is up next year, and this course counts as 4 of the days. So that’s 4 boring days (and £160) I was going to have to spend anyway. At least this way I might get something out of it.

I’ve booked the course. On the bright side they do the 4 classroom days over Zoom, so I only have to physically attend the exams on the Friday. I might not get a petrol tanker job out if it, but if I don’t get the qualification I can’t even try.

The running took a hit at the end of last year, into the new year. I was still doing it, but I lost my mojo after I failed so spectacularly to get a sub 3 hour marathon. In retrospect, much to my surprise, everyone else was right and I was wrong. The wisdom is all about “slow means slow”. Do 80% of your running at a really easy, joy-suckingly boring, trudge. That way you can push really hard on the other 20%, make big gains, then give your body time to recover and adapt to the stresses. In my first 3 months of training I went from 3 months off running, to taking 15 minutes off my marathon PB, and enjoyed working really hard. I thought I could beat the system, so carried on like that. 6 months of killing myself on every run, then on my target marathon I was less than 2 minutes faster.

I had a bit of a sulk and lost my consistency. I’m really struggling to get back to it.

I was looking at the Leiden marathon in the Netherlands. I might do it next year. It’s in May, it’s 562 miles away. It would be a bit of an adventure on the bike. And it’s nice easy navigation. Darn Sarf, stop when you hit the water, France, turn left, keep going. How hard can it be?

I think that’s about it.