Born to Run

I am frequently fascinated by many blogger’s who post their “definitive” list of best biking/driving/road songs…and then ask for others to contribute their suggestions, often that’s when things start to get interesting!

There’s an old saying, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison!”

Therein lies the crux of the matter.

Music, like just about everything else in this world is all a matter of personal taste. Indeed, on the music front I can switch around like a leaf blowing in the wind, (no pun intended!) it all depends on my mood. “Definitive” is not a word I use in such matters.

Which leads me to motorbikes…

Here again it’s all about choice and how the mood takes you. If you need any convincing of the wide variety of tastes that exist in the world of motorcycles then you only have to go on-line or pop into a dealership and see the plethora of different styles of bikes available for the eager to purchase!

The vast majority of us generally settle on one type of machine, one that either is spot-on for our needs, or more likely, a reasonable compromise for what we might want to do on two wheels. Take my mate Vifferman as an example; Viff settled on the Honda VFR800 as his “do most” machine, generally used for commuting but with the ability to give some serious “Grin-Moments” as well as limited touring use.

Some folk are fortunate that they are able to acquire more than one bike to indulge their different interests; maybe a sports bike for high-speed fun, alongside a trials bike for a spot of mud plugging!

Nephew Chris on his way to winning another trophy off the road and in the mud!

The great thing about motorbikes is that you can usually find something to suit any pocket too.

Now as regular Bloggonaughts will remember, there are two machines in the Dookes fleet and whilst they are both Harleys, they do actually tick different boxes. They are both firmly “road-bikes” and not really intended for off-road activities; though I have ridden my Softail “Harls” off tarmac in the Bardenas Reales semi-desert in Spain as you can see by clicking here.

“Harls” by model is a Softail, a “Cruiser” that does most things adequately, but excels at putting a smile on my face!

“Baby” is an Ultra Limited, a heavyweight “Tourer” ideal for comfortable mile-munching and in some ways not much else! Yes, I know that there are incredible videos of people throwing big Harleys around like BMX pedal bikes, but generally they don’t own them…or the repair bill to mend shattered fairings when they drop the things, as inevitably happens when you are practicing! I know my limits.

Generally though, the Dookes view on Off-Road riding is that if God had intended motorbikes to be ridden in the mud, he/she would never have given us asphalt!

Talking of mud, there was I recall in the 1970’s a rock group of that name who had quite a bit of success in the UK…which sort of brings me back to music!

Last Christmas Mrs Dookes kindly gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run,” which is named after his real breakthrough album of 1975. I’ve been a fan of Bruce since that album was first released all those years ago and my vinyl copy was over the years played to death!

I’m often hesitant when it comes to books by musicians, there’s frequently too much padding or simply boring stuff, a bit like a sandwich with too much bread! Stand out for that transgression I found was Keith Richard’s tome, though considering the amount of drugs and alcohol that he consumed over the years I suppose some latitude should be allowed and I should be grateful that he could remember anything!

Anyway, back to Bruce.
He began slowly writing his book after performing at the 2009 Super Bowl and took seven years to finish it. I found his frankness about the mental issues that afflicted his father, plus his own brushes with depression to be quite moving; possibly because of my own father’s battle with dementia.

For me, this really is a book with broad appeal, all you need is a love of rock and roll or a mind open enough to find out what it is all about. Springsteen’s book writing style is an echo of his song writing and that itself a reflection of his roots.

If anyone is in doubt about the writers credentials and background then they should study this book. It is clear that Springsteen is the living embodiment of the “American Dream,” a descendant of immigrants who grew from nothing to Demi-Rock-God multimillionaire through talent and hard work. If anyone has a right to write about the things that his songs explore, it is this man; Bruce wasn’t gifted a shed-full of dollars to start out, unlike the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue….and maybe that’s why it’s clear that Mr Springsteen’s feet are still firmly planted on the pavements of Thunder Road!

“Born to Run” the book, is probably as detailed an insight into the life of one of rocks most iconic figures as we, the general public, are likely to get. By Springsteen’s own admission, there are certain details that he has omitted, either for personal reasons or to protect others, but in general his life is laid bare across the pages and certainly kept my attention throughout.

An added pleasure from reading “Born to Run” has been the subtle kick up the backside to go listen to Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue and revisit some old musical friends from many years gone by. Like I said earlier, music is a mood thing for me and just lately the mood has taken me back to Bruce…but tomorrow it may be Mozart, John Lee Hooker, or Kraftwerk . . . let’s just see where the day, or motorbike, takes me!

“Come on with me, tramps like us
Baby we were born to run.”

Catch you soon

Dookes

Happy Saint David’s Day 2017

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru. Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales. Best wishes to you all!

I can hardly believe that a year has passed since last St David’s Day…so much has happened, some good, some bad.

Anyway, a year ago I put up this post, click here

Twelve months on, not much has changed…it’s raining again, but there are daffodils in the house and I’m cooking lamb again for supper. I’m nothing if not a creature of habit!IMG_0069

I’m writing this in the Plymouth Harley Davidson dealership whilst Baby Blue is being serviced. 15000 miles in two years, not bad I suppose.

Later I’m off to see G in hospital. I spoke to him earlier and he sounds a bit uncomfortable after yesterday’s surgery.

Hopefully the Welsh cakes that I cooked for him, plus the daffodils and Welsh flag will cheer him up a bit!

Anyway,
Hwyl fawr for now!

Dookes

The Cloak of Invisibility

“Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You.”

That’s a phrase that most motorcyclists hear from time to time!

It’s usually uttered by an apologetic car or truck driver just after they have pulled some mindless manoeuvre right in front of your moving motorbike. If you are lucky it’s a case of ‘no harm done,’ but often the consequences can be a whole lot more serious for the bike rider and result in an unexpected hospital visit…or worse.

As part of the advanced motorcycle training that I am known to bang on about we teach riders to create a ‘Safety Bubble’ around themselves. By that we mean to create a zone on all sides of your machine where you can manage the risks that may present themselves the road as you travel along. So if you are following another vehicle, don’t get too close; if something moves towards you from either side then move the other way and if something comes up from behind be aware of it and maybe accelerate or simply get out-of-the-way.

Of course another point to bear in mind is, “Can other road users see me.”

Some of this visibility, call it attention grabbing if you like, is again all about where you position the bike on the road. As riders, there are other things that we can do to help; things like riding with our headlights on and wearing clothing that draws attention to ourselves. It’s a strange thing though and I frequently muse through personal experience that all this gear must form some sort of “Cloak of Invisibility.” I’ve truly lost count of the number of times that people have bumped into me in supermarkets when I’m wearing my riding gear!

W.T.F.? You really can't see me?!?!?!

W.T.F.? You really can’t see me?!?!?!

Most modern bikes don’t give the rider any option with the headlights as they illuminate as soon as the ignition is turned on. It’s not just bikes that can be hard to see in poor visibility, I remember having a major argument with my mother on one occasion when she drove her silver car at twilight in falling rain….without any headlights on! Her excuse was that she could see where she was going, the trouble was no-one else could see her as the car blended into the road colour and general murky atmosphere!

The riding gear that we bikers buy is often black and that’s not necessarily the best to be spotted in, however durable it is for hiding road dirt. I frequently wear a hi-visibility tabard, with reflective strips, over my leathers. A colourful or white crash helmet is another good way of drawing attention to yourself; I used to ride in a very striking Simon Crafar race-replica, one of the best helmets I ever used, if a tad high on the posing front! – I’ve still got that old helmet, it’s way past its ‘use by’ date and now retired, but it still looks great on display in the workshop.fullsizeoutput_fd

I started writing this post a week last Friday, then on the Saturday got news that my old mate G, him of the leukaemia battle, had been victim of a moments carelessness by a car driver who pulled across in front of him with no prior indication! G slammed into the side of a Peugeot and flew 25 feet through the air, before crashing to the tarmac. The pictures of the scene are grim and I won’t be showing them on-line.

G had been riding his Yamaha on the edge of Bodmin Moor and minding his own business at a legal 60mph.

Two totally smashed wrists, one broken vertebrae and one smashed knee later, he got a totally unplanned helicopter evacuation to hospital thrown in for free! Thank goodness for the Cornwall Air Ambulance and also testimony to the excellent gear that G was wearing.

On the Monday G had six hours of surgery to reconstruct his broken body and have numerous bits of metal inserted to hold him together. I visited him in hospital twice last week, it’s not good to see one of your best mates in that state.

It’s of no comfort at all that the car driver has admitted responsibility….

Today G has been in the operating theatre again, this time for further work on his wrists; if he is lucky he will get most of the use back in his left hand and about 20% in his right. Next week he will have further surgery on his knee.

There’s a long difficult road ahead, but he’s Welsh and a true Celt so I have every faith that he won’t accept the surgeon’s prognosis and will work to beat the odds.

I took the Big Blue Ultra Limited out for a ride this afternoon.

Aside from the squally weather, it felt very weird and maybe a bit scary…I really can’t put my finger on it… Then just a few miles into it a bunch of “Slippery Road” signs, light rain and the strong smell of diesel fuel got me concentrating on the job in hand pretty quickly! Yes it’s good to ride, but even better to be alive.

Get well soon G.

“The road is long
With many a winding turn…”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Farkles

Within the greater motorcycle community there are many sub-cultures; trail-riders, sports bikers, trialers, tourers, rat bikers and 1%ers, to mention just a few. It can all be pretty confusing from within the world of two wheels, let alone for those who live outside it!

Alongside these various groups there is also a veritable dictionary of words and phrases used to describe bikes, bike activities, parts and accessories. From baggers to bobbers, cruisers to custom, semi-apes to shotguns and then there are farkles….

Today, let’s have a look at “Farkles.”

When a motorbike owner fits accessories onto their machine, in essence to customise it, the newly fitted parts are often referred to as “farkles.” The word is generally accepted to mean a combination of function and sparkle, hence, farkles.

These added parts can cover a plethora of accessories from Sat Nav devices, heated grips, touring luggage, alternative exhaust pipes; the list is frankly only limited by the imagination and wallet size of the owner!

At this point I have to admit that old Hogrider Dookes is not immune to adding the odd “farkle” on his bikes.

The big blue Ultra Limited is very well equipped as standard and really doesn’t need much in the way of enhancement, however there is one thing that has been on my “to do” list almost since I bought the bike and that’s the windscreen.

As supplied, the screen on these bikes is best described as ornamental, rather than functional; which is a shame as the fairing to which they are fitted does an excellent job in keeping wind and weather off the rider and pillion. image

My friends at Harley Davidson are very cute when it comes to selling accessories for their motorbikes. They advertise that your bike can be customised and altered to your personal taste and fit….of course at a price!

Anyway, back to the screen.

Basically the as delivered screen was to small for my liking. I noticed that at certain speeds the slipstream was catching the top of my crash helmet and giving my head a bit of a rattle! Harley Davidson make a range of alternative screens that they call “Windsplitters,” which they claim can cure the problem. I popped into my local dealership earlier in the year and borrowed a couple of different sizes to try out. Yes winter riding again!

As I tried out the different options I got pretty good at the fiddly process removing and refitting the screens too!

In the end I found one that suited me and as so often happens in my local Harley dealership… cash changed hands…. it’s always from me to them though!

In due course my new screen arrived and it’s been on Baby Blue for a few weeks now, long enough for me to assess it’s performance. p1080249

Was it worth getting?

Yes I think it was. It’s wider than the original which offers greater wind protection to my hands and arms. It’s top edge has a clever little profile change that pushes the air up higher over my head and cuts out the wind buffeting, which is exactly what I wanted.

Excuse the background!

Excuse the background!


I must admit I am a tad disappointed with the thickness of plexiglass that the new screen is made of, it’s nearly 2mm thinner than the original, which meant that I had to make a neoprene gasket to ensure that it was firmly gripped when mounted in the slot on the top of the fairing, minor, but very annoying!

So there you are…

F.A.R.K.L.E. — Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

p1080250

Greasy Leather

One great thing about living in Cornwall is the weather…Yes I did really write that!

Someone once said that the UK doesn’t have a climate, we just have weather and that is divided into ten months winter and two months bad weather!

Personally, I tend to take the view that there is no such thing as bad weather, just a bad choice of coat!

Now a confession…I like wearing leather…

…when riding motorbikes!

Sure I have a variety of riding gear and modern synthetic alternatives are extremely good, certainly some of the stuff with Kevlar woven panels perform impressively, however my apparel of choice is good old-fashioned traditional cow skin. Riding clothing has to perform a multitude of tasks, prime of which is protecting the wearer in the event of a tumble, but it also is the first line of defence in keeping you warm, dry and comfortable.

That last one is a prerequisite for me, I have a set of Harley Davidson FXRG leathers that are so comfy to wear and that I’ve had for years.

Like many other things associated with motorbikes, there is a degree of maintenance required to keep your leathers not only looking good, but also to ensure that they don’t let you down when you need them. Leather being a natural material needs “feeding” to keep oils in it’s pores and therefore retain its water-resistant properties.

Last Saturday I took a ride up to Bideford on the beautiful North Devon coast, it’s just over 50 miles from Dookes H.Q. and my mission was to drop in and see my oldest pal “Vifferman.”

“Viff” and I go back a long way, well over half a century, in fact the only living person that I have known longer than him is my Mother…wow that’s scary! “Viff” had recently lost a good friend, in fact he had read the eulogy at his mates funeral only earlier in the week, I had to go see him.

Riding along the wonderful A39, the Atlantic Highway, in the morning was simply fantastic. Traffic was light, weather nice and clear, road dry, what was there not to like!

After spending some time with “Viff,” inspecting his son George’s model railway and enjoying a Devon pasty for lunch it was time to head home…and ride into darkening skies!

The trouble with coastal living is that the weather changes just like in the mountains, at the flip of a coin. We were heading straight into black towering Cumulonimbus storm clouds and true to fashion after ten miles we rode into it, one second it was dry, next, bam, rain!

I settled into a tedious further 40 miles of standing water, driving rain, gusting wind and spray. Lovely, not!

Once back at Dookes H.Q. and after putting Baby away in the workshop I got out of my riding gear and discovered I had…a slightly wet crotch!

OK, I know it I’m getting older, but I’ve not yet lost control of things down there just yet…well I’m pretty sure I haven’t anyway!

Sure enough, close examination revealed that my leather trousers had evidence of a bit of water ingress and this got me thinking; when was the last time I had treated my leathers to some waterproof dressing?

Guiltily, I concluded that it was at least two years ago. Whoops! As the FXRG leathers aren’t made any more, they’ve been replaced by hybrid leather/synthetic, I’d better look after these a bit better!

So yesterday there I was in the workshop with the radio on and leather gear spread out on the workbench. Using a pair of disposable gloves I spent a happy couple of hours thoroughly rubbing leather dressing into the leather. imageBy not using a cloth the warmth of my hands helped the greasy dressing penetrate deep into the leather and after a good going over the jacket and trousers looked a lot better for it as well.
image
I must admit that not wasn’t an unpleasant thing to do, certainly more enjoyable than the wet crotch anyway! I’m just kicking myself that I’d left it so long, but hey at least I wasn’t in the middle of a big trip when I found the leak.

I’ve just thought, there’s another pair of trousers that need doing…better dash and sort those now!

“Hell bent, hell bent for leather.”

Catch you later.

Dookes

Night Rider

Last Saturday at my local Harley Davidson dealership it was “Dealership Day,” the monthly event when Harley Owners Group members gather to chew the fat and generally spend money!

It’s fair to say that the morning was decidedly murky, ok it was fairly wet and miserable, but although there were quite a few people in the showroom, mine was the only bike outside, everyone else had come by car! My big Ultra Limited looked every inch a working motorbike, covered in a layer of honest dirt, courtesy of the farmers of Cornwall who can’t keep their soil in their fields and the morning’s precipitation that had washed the muck everywhere, but at least we had ridden there!

I got talking to a couple of guys who were discussing their hatred of riding after dark or in low light conditions. One of these hardened bikers even confessed to once calling his wife out so that he could ride behind her car to get home when darkness fell! I must admit to having a disbelieving smile on my face to start, but it soon became painfully apparent that these two fellow riders had a real issue about riding at night!

My mind went back to an evening when I was riding my Ultra Limited, “Baby,” along the A39 Atlantic Highway near Hartland in beautiful North Devon. The sun was just starting to sink into the sea on the western horizon and the air was taking on that golden glow as a prelude to night.
IMG_0879
In recent months I have certainly been doing my fair share of after-dark riding, but the conversation with these two chaps got me thinking.

I don’t have a problem with night riding, in fact I quite like it. I suppose that it is a function of some of the long distance riding that I do from time to time, you just have to deal with the conditions that present themselves to you out on the road.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love riding in warm sunshine as much as the next person; summer evenings being a particular favourite. I am not, however, one of those riders who get to the end of October, or even September, and declare that “the riding season” is over until the Spring! I ride all year round and as a result, I am by default, likely to spend some of the shorter days riding after dark.

So what’s the big deal?

Well, apart from being able to admire the scenery passing by, riding in daylight enables you “read the road” better; hedges, lamp posts, trees and buildings all point the way for you. Hazards are also easier to spot and in addition, you can see what the surface of the road ahead is like, avoiding pot-holes, drains and man-hole covers. There’s a lot to be said for riding in daylight!

After dark things get more difficult, your ability to see the road ahead declines, edges become indistinct as colour and contrast falls.

Darkness is falling on wet country roads.

Darkness is falling on wet country roads.

So how do we go about riding after the sun goes down?

Well, the first thing to do is slow down and just get used to the conditions. Keeping the bike more upright than you would do on dry daylight roads is a prerequisite and just basic common-sense.
Things are definitely different.

Unlike most other road users us motorbike riders only have one headlamp, not one on each front corner of our vehicle! I’m lucky with my big Ultra Limited, it’s fitted with Harley Davidson “Daymaker” l.e.d. head and auxiliary lights which are very good indeed, but still not as good as two, like on a car or truck.fullsizeoutput_6f On my beloved Harls I can only liken the experience as looking down a drain pipe!

As in daylight, you should always be able to stop within the area that you can see to be clear; at night this is only as far as your headlight can illuminate, unless you are riding in an area with full streetlights. Where I live, night-time means black darkness as there are no streetlights at all, but bright moonlight can come in very handy especially when it shines on standing water.

There’s an old horse riding saying, “Sit deep, sit firm, sit relaxed,” that I find really helps when the unexpected little things happen; little things like when the rear wheel slips sideways for a micro-second going through a corner. It’s bad enough when that happens in daylight, but in the dark you swear afterwards that you slid sideways for yards and yards!

At night it’s important to keep your helmet visor or goggles as clean as possible, you need as much clear vision as you can get, so keep the air circulating to prevent misting up as well and if like me you wear spectacles don’t forget to give them a wipe too!

Glare is your worse enemy. A useful feature on my big Harley is the Satnav system night-time setting that reduces the display intensity and hence cuts light shining in the face of the rider, very thoughtful of those folks in Milwaukee! Approaching headlights can often dazzle the night-time rider, particularly when carelessly un-dipped or badly adjusted. Peripheral vision is important in this case and auxiliary lamps can greatly assist you here, I find them invaluable. You need to read all the available information about the upcoming road layout, white lines, reflective road studs (cats-eyes in the UK) and what other road users are doing, are all useful inputs.

Riding at night is tiring, it puts extra strain on your eyes and other senses, it’s hard work dealing with all those different inputs, in addition your body doesn’t function best after dark, nature is saying “go to sleep!” 

If you are a motorcyclist, riding after dark is different, but not impossibly difficult. Go practice on roads that you know well in and in good weather conditions to start with, then spread your wings and ride.

If you don’t ride motorbikes, but come across a rider out there on the road after dark please remember it ain’t as easy as you’ve got it in your car!

Lecture over!

“Keep it all out of sight, undercover of the night.”

Catch you all soon.

Dookes