Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Challenge: There's a Wocket in my Pocket

I've always assumed I carry a crazy amount of junk in my pockets when out on the bike, I certainly feel weighed down, and thanks to Trobairitz I can have a nosy peek at the contents of other bikers pockets !! Am I a squirrel also......?

OK, so huge North Face wallet (I'm a bit of a North Face queen, can't help myself, it appeals to the outdoors geek in me). Camera, for the odd occasion when a ride coincides with blue skies. The black cloth is a glasses cleaner - it's bad enough having smears on your visor, it's no fun adding to that with messy specs! Stand-thingy for the times when I park up on gravel and don't want to watch my bike pitch over into the undergrowth. Bike keys, wheel lock, lock and house keys. Then the phone and ipod. I only ever wear one earphone though, I don't want to be completely shut off from the sound of traffic. So there you go, not too bad, not too squirrel like!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Barcelona and bikes

Last week I escaped the office and joined a couple of friends in Barcelona. The trip was about getting time with two wonderful people who live in California and, as a result, I only see them every year or two.  And what a great meeting place ! They were 3 beautifully warm and sunny days, 24 degrees from dawn till dusk. I got sunburnt (not great health wise I know but it served as a reminder that great weather exists somewhere) The hotels were great, the food amazing, the beer hit the spot and the laughter came thick and fast. I explored the work of Gaudi and wandered the streets of the old city. I was also surrounded by 2 wheels !

There was such a chilled out attitude to travelling by bike. ATGATT (all the gear all the time) goes only as far as helmets ! Its regular jeans and t-shirts, or suits as they head to the office. I recall seeing one  proper bike jacket the whole trip. After a while it becomes normal and I could imagine myself just leaping on a bike in my regular clothes.

Two young women were on a scooter, the pillion texting as they shot through the traffic, I wish I’d got a photo! Although the majority were scooters, there was also a huge array motorbikes; every shape, size, make. Triumph Rockets nestled in amongst battered scooters, men in suits commuted on Harleys and left them next to battered 125s. or enormous 1200 GSs. If there wasn’t room to park on the road they parked on the pavement. If they had to ride down the pavement to reach a spot , that was fine! No pedestrians kicked off!

There was an interesting campaign about motorcycle injuries - 21 a day in Barcelona. To be honest I think this is pretty good going (not that any accidents are acceptable) bearing in mind the lack of protection, and that they ride like lunatics! I'm surprised the figure isn't much higher. I really like this campaign though, the free standing 'bikes' were dotted about around the city, in amongst other bikes so they weren't immediately obvious - which actually made them more powerful in an odd way.

I have no idea what the attitude of other road users is to bikers – excluding the cold facts of the safety campaign (probably as bad as every where else) but as a bystander, stood in 24 degrees, it certainly looked like a great city (& region) to explore on a bike.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Helmet or Heels: I'm comfortable in either!

Those who know me will have a hard time imagining that heels rank anywhere near helmets for me (except when 'power dressing' for work and then it's just a costume). But the title of this post isn't about my fashion preferences, it's about a fab website that profiles women riders. I had a devil of a job finding female role models on the web when I was learning to ride so Helmet or Heels is a welcome addition. Recently yours truly was profiled (see my profile here). Check the site out, and if you're a female biker get in touch with Pam who runs the site, we want to read about your journey into biking.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Giggle bike

The fab chaps at Jack Lilley let me run off with their bikes from time to time, occasionally with a genuine need, sometimes for fun. This time the Tiger was in for it's first service so I was given the keys to a Street Triple. I've ridden one before so I happily threw my leg over, turned the key and ......giggled! It was so small compared to my Tiger it was like getting on a toy bike. I couldn't help but grin and giggle! That's not a criticism by the way, I love it. Fun, nippy, light, not too tall. As I rode it to work it hit me, it would be a great first bike. It looks great, you'd look great on it, ladies short of leg would probably be fine, easy to handle. The only risk is that you could cause some trouble on this thing :-) . So if you're thinking about your first bike, check it out, you'll have a grin and a giggle if you do!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A brief interlude ...

I made it into a national bike mag commenting on womens bike kit and the challenges we face.
A sample of the article can be found at  RIDE magazine  but I'm quoted beyond the first page so you'll need to buy a copy to see the full article. My full answers are below although a fair bit didn't make it into the article.

1)What do you wear when you¹re riding - be as precise as you can about
manufacturer/product? (If you wear different stuff in good/bad weather,
please include everything and indicate what kit is for what conditions)
2) Is this gear designed specifically for women, or is it
3)How do you rate it?

Helmet: Arai Axces (unisex as far as I know)
fantastic, had a great fitting (see #5) and it's really comfortable.

Gloves:Alpinestars Stella Tyla  (ladies)
Fantastic, perfect and fit like a second skin! Have been unable to find
winter gloves that don't feel like oversized flippers so have continued
to wear these on cold days but layered with thermal inner gloves and
they've worked a treat. I will wear them until they fall to pieces !

Boots: Alpinestars S-MX5 (mens)
For some reason the guy in the shop seemed to be trying to steer me
away from trying these on but I stood my ground ! I've found them to
tick all the boxes. I won't sing their praises but they do the job.

Jacket: Held Samina Ladies (textile) and a Ladies Triumph Alexandra
leather jacket
Held Jacket, comfortable, plenty of useful pockets, designed as a
summer jacket I believe but with plenty of layers underneath it's seen
me through the last few months quite comfortably. Leather Triumph Jacket
was about image rather than anything if I'm honest, and I wanted a bit
of a retro look which it certainly delivers on. There is less protection
on it than I would like and, as often occurs, the designer was  of the
opinion that as it's a jacket for women it has to have pink on it
somewhere ! The stitching detail is pink so it doesn't scream 'girl
rider' but it still annoys me and I have to turn a blind eye to that
every time I put it on.

Jeans: Route One highway Kevlar Jeans (mens)
I struggled to find ladies jeans that were long enough in the leg
(although I'm only 5'7") and roomy enough to be comfortable sitting on
the bike for long periods so I ended up with mens jeans. They are not
very flattering around the hip/waist area as they are very high cut, but
generally comfortable and if I hide the waist line under a fleece they
look pretty good and I'm happy enough with them. They were intended as
summer jeans but again I layer with thermals and have been fine, I've
only been caught in the rain once so haven't suffered.

Fabric trousers: Triumph Acton pants (mens)
the store I bought these from didn't have much in stock but they
ordered them in for me. I returned one pair to get a bigger size and
hurriedly tried them on in the shop. Once home I realised they are a
pretty bad fit (short in leg and when on the bike they didn't work great
with the sitting position on a cruiser) but I was too embarrassed to
have them sent back for a 3rd time so they'll end up  being gifted to
someone in the future ! This is one of the problems I've found, shops
are usually happy to order items in for you but you often need to try on
multiple sizes or styles and compare so ordering one or two in can be a
bit pointless, there needs to be more choice in store.

4) What are the main issues (if any) that you have in getting decent
riding kit?
A real lack of choice in store. if you search online there is plenty
around but you really need to try on and compare items, this is almost
impossible to do. Overall there is just considerably less choice for
women (even if you take the online factor into account) I understand
that there are less female riders but its just another thing that makes
it hard for us to feel valued. We are also just as varied in size and
shape as men so we need as much variety even if we are lower in
As mentioned above, I also don't need pink bits or 'feminine' swirls !
The best looking kit is often mens, but it doesn't fit well!

5)Is there a shop or website that you would recommend as a good place
for female motorcyclists to get their gear?
Sadly, not really. Having said that I would recommend Andy at
Metropolis for service - he sold me my gloves and helmet and they are
the best bits of kit I own. However he is all I will recommend about
Metropolis and I have had really bad service from other staff there, so
ask for him! 

6) Have you found a good source of advice for female bike gear (a
person, a website, a shop?
 Michelle Vaiders, one of the owners at Valley Bike School in Lancashire where I learnt to ride (amazing by the way ,and all very supportive of
female bikers) was really helpful and supportive, she gave me various
tips and bits of advice when I was with them and happily replies to my
e-mails still.
The staff at Jack Lilley's in Ashford have been very supportive about
biking in general, but for women-specific advice I still struggle.

7)Do you think women are well served by  motorcycle clothing
Not at all, for all the reasons in number 4. Add to that there is
little advertising for women's kit, we are poorly represented in images
and magazines (you know my views on this!). I have found myself
'settling' for kit rather than finding things I love. There is also a
lack of high standard customer service, with a couple of exceptions few
staff are prepared to go the extra mile and really try and find a
solution for you. I'll usually get directed toward the women's clothing
and then abandoned.

8)What do you currently ride?Triumph Speedmaster, purchased last year. My first bike and it's a great ride. I'm fairly long in the leg but equally it would ideal for
female riders much shorter than me. Very comfortable on long rides,
pretty light to handle on the move (takes a bit of work to manoeuvre
when parking etc) and has the added bonus of turning heads as its quite
a looker! I bought it from Jack Lilleys in Ashford and they were really
helpful, never talked down to me, made me feel really welcome and
continue to do so every time I drop in. I would highly recommend them.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The first journey of many ... Part 3

My list of small scale adventures for the year ahead was growing. Many of them involved strapping a tent to the back of the bike and going to locations where I could pull on my hiking boots and enjoy some mountains; Snowdonia, the Lake District and Peak District were my main targets. Hooking up with friends in Spain and Italy was also being discussed and 2012 was beginning to look pretty full. However my attention kept gravitating towards magazine articles on trips made on adventure bikes, not quite as pretty as mine these bikes were real workhorses, taking their riders round the world with luggage piled high. The bikes were dusty and muddy, they looked like they had been to amazing places and had their own stories to tell. I started to formulate a plan to celebrate my 40th year by riding across Canada, I was inspired by the likes of Boorman and MacGregor and getting excited when I discovered sites like ADVGRRLS. I started to realise that my small scale trips in the year ahead were likely to involve muddy campsites and slogging north in the rain. My own 'bike personality' was starting to creep out, my confidence was growing and ideas that previously had only been dreams could very quickly become a reality and happen within months, not years. Every now and again a question would pop into my head "did I buy the wrong bike?". Eventually that question turned into "oh shit, I bought the wrong bike". To be honest, I didn't mind too much, I had bought the right bike at the right time and I needed the Speedmaster to help teach me where I really wanted to go. It was the perfect first bike for me, I just happened to outgrow it over night, I'd had a bit of a growth spurt! Geoff at Jack Lilley is a Tiger owner and we started emailing, the adventures he had on his bike were exactly what I was looking for and he understood my interests and ambitions. He was as pleased as punch that I was taking an interest in the Tiger but equally wanted me to make sure I got it right this time, so there was no hard sell in his emails. He suggested I take a Tiger 800 for a whole weekend and I bit his hand off!........