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.
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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.
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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

Better Days

The Great Weather Clerk must have been reading my post last week; minor grumbles about the damp, grey misty days were answered with bright blue skies, sunshine and crisp dry air. Oh yes, I almost forgot, freezing temperatures as well.

…and that suits me just fine.

You see I had a few “errands to run,” as my dear late Grandmother was want to say and what better spirit lifting way to do it than on two wheels of course!

First up I needed to take my laptop into the Apple Store for a memory upgrade. I really love my Mac computer, but one thing that bugs me about Apple is the way they bombard users with operating system upgrades. Yeah I know that this includes security improvements, allegedly, but each upgrade inevitably makes the computer run a little bit slower until, eventually, the thing becomes a dithering, if somewhat expensive desk lamp! There are two Apple stores near Dookes H.Q., one in Plymouth, 25 miles, and one in Truro, 45 miles away. Better go to Truro then and take the longer route too!

Truro is the County town of Cornwall, actually it’s a city, though quite small as cities go, with a population of only 18,750 people. It’s also the only city in Cornwall. Until politicians started handing out “city” status to all comers, a City in the UK could only lay claim to the title if it had a Cathedral and Truro has a gem.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or just Truro Cathedral to most people, was built between 1880 and 1910 in the Gothic Revival style. It’s also one of only two Cathedrals in England to possess three spires; the other being Litchfield in Staffordshire. Nestling amongst a rabbit warren of narrow streets it’s quite difficult to get a decent photograph of this delightful building, but the West facade shows itself nicely! image Annoyingly the Christmas lights were being taken down so hence the “cherry picker,” but I don’t think that it spoils the view too much.

Just around the corner from the Cathedral is Coinage Hall Street, still covered in wonderful granite setts, which are a bit tricky on a motorbike especially in the wet, but look lovely!image The Coinage Hall at the end of the square was built as the Cornish Bank in 1848 on the site of the old Coinage Hall where twice yearly tin was brought to be assayed and taxed.

I really like Truro and one day I’ll do a proper post about the city when the sun is a bit higher in the sky, but for now I hope that this little taster will whet your appetite.

As is usual when I have time on my hands I took the even longer way home, after all better days like this are to be savoured and enjoyed. Once back at Dookes H.Q. I even had time to walk the dogs and take in some more of the lovely county in which we live.

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

“These are better days
Better days are shining through”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Blue Monday

Hello everyone!

First up, please accept my apologies for being a tad tardy in making posts over the last few weeks. Mostly my excuse is that I haven’t had much to say, so rather than blithering complete nonsense, as opposed to mostly nonsense I thought it best to shut up!

Life in Dookes World is pretty OK, I’ve been out and about on the bikes quite a bit though only relatively local trips. I am, however, getting totally fed up with the constant need to wash the bikes after each ride… go out on a blue Harley and return on a brown one, such is the level of c**p on our local roads at the moment! – No, don’t worry I’m not publishing a photo of a dirty motorbike!

Which leads me to the title of this post.

Apparently, the third Monday of January, (that’s today!), has been given the name “Blue Monday” and has been identified as the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere! There are even statistical equations that purport to back up the claim, though as two completely different versions of the equation exist I doubt that my old Mathematics Professor would be very impressed!

Now quite what this pseudoscience nonsense is all based on I’m not sure…though I’m inclined to suspect that travel companies eager to make bookings in the post-Christmas period have a lot to do with it!

Looking out of the window here at Dookes H.Q. today it’s dark, misty, damp and dreary, the forecast says its going to be this way for about a week… so maybe there is something in it after all!

All is not lost though.

We have been experiencing a very mild winter so far with temperatures around ten degrees celsius above average, it’s certainly saving on heating costs!

Best of all, a wander around the grounds here at H.Q. reveals that Spring is racing its way towards us. There are shoots of all my favourite Spring flowers pushing up from the ground through the last fallen leaves of Autumn. Stars of the show so far are a couple of delightful Primroses that certainly have arrived first!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris.
Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Now with that little glimpse of Spring I’m of to plan some road trips!

Blue Monday? Nah, not really!

“Monday morning you look so fine,
Friday I got travellin’ on my mind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

La better kind of blue!

My kind of blue!

Rick Parfitt – R.I.P.

A small part of my world disappeared today with the sad news that Rick Parfitt of the rock band Status Quo had died.
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Quo were one of the sound tracks of a young Dookes’ youth. Their simple twelve bar blues rhythm rock songs demanded nothing other than you just got up and banged your head to the beat. It was all a teenage lad needed, especially when the girls were in short supply!
Rick, thank you for the music and the memories…rock on my denim clad friend. I’ll miss you.

Christmas won’t be quite as rockin’ without you.image

“When I’m thinking of you sleeping
I’m at home alone and weeping.”

Catch you soon.
Dookes.