Sunday, 19 May 2013

EMERGENCY BITTER: "CiderFootballPunkRock"

Ok, we're going on a bit of a departure with this one - as alluded to HERE, I love my music (as do most bikers), so, putting bikes aside for a moment, I thought I'd have a go at my first ever album review.

A few years ago, some friends of mine, joined together by a love of cider, football and punk rock (you can see where this is going!), decided to put together a band - and that band has just released their first album. And to my eternal surprise, it's actually bloody good!

Emergency Bitter are a group of ordinary blokes from South West London - Alb, Ferret, Joe & Phil - who exist to have a good time. This band isn't about fame, making money or achieving world domination - if they can have a few beers, play a few gigs, have a laugh and knock out the odd passable tune, then they're happy. All very honest and admirable. Anyway, let's stick the headphones on and see what "CiderFootballPunkRock" has to offer....

First of all, don't be put off by the punk rock thing - this is a rock n roll album. The CD opens with "Wake Up" - a rousing little ditty which bowls along at a good pace and sets the theme for the other 15 songs, with it's catchy hooks and choruses. Humour is the other recurring theme on this record and this is amply demonstrated by the second song "Daytime Drinking". How can you not love lyrics like "I'm going daytime drinking, in the pub with the other wasters/I'm going daytime drinking, pints of cider and Jager chasers"?! Great stuff!

"Sold my Soul" laments our shared affliction in supporting Fulham, "Doris", "My Life", "Square Peg" follow - all pleasing, catchy tunes - while "Fuck the BNP", "Gang of One", and my personal favourite "Silver Spoon" stick two fingers up at some of the things that go on in society. But there's nothing overtly political here - they're just having their say. However, it's the boys' love of drinking and having a good time that really comes through on this album, and this is nicely summed up in the clever, funny and (again) very catchy "One More For The Road", which brings things to a close before the cover version encore of Christine Aguilera's "Beautiful" (yes, you read that right!).

This is an honest, highly enjoyable, accomplished and FUN record. It has a good pace throughout, great melodies and I guarantee you'll find yourself humming away to the tunes long after the record has finished. I've bought cds by the likes of Tracer, Airbourne and Stone Sour recently - all great bands - yet it's"CiderFootballPunkRock" that I play the most. That's some accolade.

At the end of the day, this is a band with good chemistry and one that is at ease with itself. I'm proud to call the guys friends and I love the album. Hopefully you will too.

PS. Should you wish to give it a go, it's just FIVE of your English pounds - available HERE

Friday, 29 March 2013

Not Dead Yet

I stumbled upon something rather terrific the other day. A chance posting on my bike club's general forum by fellow member "RegVarney" (I assume he drives a bus for a living!) opened up a whole weekend's viewing pleasure for your humble scribe. If you've ever watched "Long Way Round" with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, you will love this.

A genial chap from Dublin named Oisin Hughes has put together a video blog telling the story of his retracing of Ewan and Charley's trip round the world - but importantly, this is without the large BMW sponsorship and backup crew that was always available to them to help them get out of any trouble. In turn, Oisin has uploaded all of this onto YouTube. Entitled "Not Dead Yet", there are currently 21 segments available to watch - each of which lasts for about 20 minutes or so. Although his trip took place last year, it seems he's still working and editing it as there's more to come next week with episode 22 due on 2 April. We watched all 21 (so far) last weekend - it was that good.

A very basic resumé would be that he's riding a bike (well, a BMW - but don't hold that against him) from Dublin, right across Europe and Asia to Yakutsk and then Magadan on the far-eastern seaboard of Russia. The reason I include Yakutsk and Magadan specifically is that these remote towns are connected by the now infamous "Road of Bones", which is fast becoming the Holy Grail for overlander bikers. It defeated Ewan and Charley.

Dating from the 1930s, the road was constructed by inmates of the gulag camps. Many of these inmates perished in this cold, desolate place (where the average winter temperature drops to -46°C!) and the road is treated as a memorial, because the bones of the people who died while constructing it were laid beneath or around the road. 

It now lies in a high state of disrepair (all but impassable in places) and remains one of the great challenges for adventure motorcyclists. The Road of Bones is the subject of episode 22, due next week. 

"Not Dead Yet" is a great yarn and very very entertaining. It starts well with our hero missing the boat from Dublin to Holyhead, and you start wondering what he will do when faced with anything more complicated than a passenger ferry! Is he safe to be let out alone we ask?! Well, yes he is and his trip turns into a great story. Personally, I loved his commentary round the Nurburgring: "Get out of the fockin' way ya cont....jaysus!!!!". Wonderful stuff....

Part 1 is HERE:

The rest can be found HERE:


Friday, 22 March 2013

Looking forward....

Next week the clocks go forward as we head into Spring - at bloody last! This winter has felt interminably long. But for once we won't dwell on the weather here - this is a time to look plan the biking year....

The first trip of 2013 comes in just a couple of months time. For this, we (me and biking pal Scouse Steve) will head south - to France and Spain. So I thought I'd use this piece to outline what we plan on getting up to (if nothing else it will make me feel better!).

We are calling the trip "Sea to Sea", because it is just that. From the trip over the Channel to Calais we will head south, down through France to the Mediterranean. Once there, we turn right, head through the Pyrenees, and eventually up to Santander on the Bay of Biscay for the boat home. Actually, that's "Sea to Sea"....! Regular readers may remember me waxing lyrical on past trips about French "D" roads, and one in particular - the D940. The D940 is a truly fantastic route and one of my favourite roads ever. And given that it stretches down through France, it is this that we will use as the centrepoint of the French leg. So let's have a look at the trip in a bit more detail....

Day 1: On arrival in Calais, we pick up the D940 and do the first part of it, perhaps down along the coast to Boulogne or Le Touquet. After that, we take a dual carriageway which will drop us down past Rouen. After that we have some free flowing country roads, with the first days' destination being Blois - some 6 ½ hours (280 miles or so) riding time from Calais. With the journey down to Folkestone and then the Tunnel crossing, this will constitute a pretty full first day.  

Day 2: The next morning it will take us a couple of hours to ride to Le Chatre, where we pick up the D940 again. After a quick pit stop, we will then set off for Rodez, which is 177 miles of the glorious D940 due south. A total ride of 7 ½  hours and 307 miles.

Day 3: After leaving Rodez the next morning, we track south west over the mountains towards Millau where we will see or go over the famous viaduct. It looks pretty special....

Millau Viaduct
After Millau we continue south towards the Mediterranean Sea - some 150 miles (3 hours) away - where we will stop for lunch. Mais Oiu!

After lunch we set off to go up and over the first half of the Pyrenees, which will be another 3 hours (120 miles or so) arriving in La Seu D’Urgell - which looks like a rather smashing little mountain town in Northern Spain.

La Seu D’Urgell
Day 4: The next day we track along some fantastic roads to Pamplona, which is 250 miles away - basically following the mountains parallel to the border. The route is showing as 6 hours so plenty of opportunity for pit stops en route. Then overnight in Pamplona.

Day 5: The next morning we have a refreshing 150 mile blat to the boat at Santander, through the wonderful Picos de Europa mountain range.
Picos de Europa

Day 6: Relaxing on the 24-hour crossing back to Portsmouth. I think we'll need it!

This trip is a lot of riding in a short space of time. It's going to be pretty full on - but with limited leave available from our respective workplaces and not wishing to stretch too far the permissions of those left behind at home, we've crammed as much as we can into the time we have available. With a week on a beach in the Canaries before that, suddenly the prospects for 2013 are looking up.

It's going to be a great trip - I'm getting a semi just thinking about It!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Justice for David Bartholomew?

The latest in a long line of apparant miscarriages of justice against bikers is the case of David Bartholomew. You can read various accounts of what happened in the links below:

Bournemouth Echo
Daily Mail
Motorcycle News

I'm not going to comment on the specifics of this case, except to say that this does not appear to be some youngster taking liberties on a bike too big for him - this was an experienced, middle-aged motorcyclist, riding within the law on what I would describe as a fairly sensible bike (sorry to any CBF1000 owners!).

What I will say is this: motorcycles are a perfectly legal form of transport but those of us on two wheels are amongst the most vulnerable of road users. That being the case, I do think that there should be some kind of an accepted legal principle demanding higher levels of expectation on those driving 4-wheeled vehicles. We all know that any idiot can drive a car, but when it comes to riding a motorbike, WE have to devote our full attention. It also requires a complete acceptance of responsibility for your own safety (which of course is utterly wrong but it's the way things are).

So has justice been served here? That's for others to decide but a campaign has been started in David's name. The ‘Justice for David Bartholomew’ Facebook page has been created to allow people to voice their opinions on the issue and collect funds for a possible private prosecution. To date more than 4000 people have shown their support.

If you feel strongly about this case, you can add your support here:

Justice for David Bartholomew

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Time for a change?

So, here we are at the back end of February and although the weather remains cold and (largely) miserable, it is at this time of year that Spring starts to come into view on the horizon, with its lighter evenings and gradually warmer weather. It is also at this time of year that thoughts start to turn to the possibility of a new bike (and by that I mean new to me - not sure I'd ever actually buy new from a showroom because when you wheel it out, you immediately lose 25% of its value, which seems a strange economy to me, but that's by the by....).

This is year 3 of owning the Z1000 and I have to say that I've enjoyed every minute of it (apart from being blown all over the place on Belgian motorways, due to lack of wind protection). But overall, it is a fantastic bike with power, character and presence and it does everything I ask of it. And I still look at it and think "pfwooooorrrrr"! So why thoughts of change? Well, it's what we do as bikers isn't it? There's always something newer, faster, shinier, comfier and it's nice to get the full experience isn't it?

Look at this monstrosity!
What I can say at the outset is that any "new" bike WON'T be a BMW, nor will it be one of those "adventure" bikes that seem so popular these days. Not only are they pig ugly, they are often ridden by people called Malcolm who kid themselves they're a cross between Ewan McGregor and Dr. David Livingstone, eating miles and traversing continents when in actual fact they live in a 3-bed semi in Surbiton and use the bike to pop to the shops! I exaggerate of course....(but not by much!).

So what is on the Chairman Chegwin wish list these days? I had a bit of a thing for a long time about the Ducati Diavel, but although undoubtedly a very good bike, it left me a bit uninspired (especially at the price). When thoughts of a new steed do start to take hold, Triumph's excellent Speed Triple is never far away from consideration. The bike mags all love it and it sells very well - and yet, despite admiring from afar, I've never been *that* moved to go and get myself one. These days the styling puts me off a bit and it seems to get smaller with each passing year, which is no good to those of us with, shall we say, a more "robust" frame. Call me old fashioned but I like a bike with over 1000ccs to actually feel like a bike that's got 1000ccs.

So what else? Well, this is definitely one from the leftfield but I have to admit to a bit (ok, a lot) of a man crush on the gorgeous Kawasaki W800. It sounds barmy but I absolutely love the looks and, while I haven't (yet) ridden one, sitting astride it, it fits like a glove. It is soooo comfortable and just felt so.....right! Ultimately, it would be a more sedate option than the rather more manic Z1000 I have now, but I think it would be SERIOUS fun. A second bike perhaps? Hmmm....

However, my new object of desire (and it is only an object, since I haven't actually seen one in the flesh as yet) is the MV Agusta Brutale 1090R - there's a sportier "RR" version too. I mean, just look at's absolutely....brutal! The naked superbike class is definitely where I'm positioned as a biker and a buyer these days and this would certainly be a natural progression from the almost-as-brutal Z1000. But there's always a downside isn't there? Yes, it's Italian! Which means that as sure as night follows day, it will be unreliable and bits will fall off at regular intervals. And, naturally, it's expensive....with a list price of £12,500. Is it worth it? I have absolutely no idea. But the question I ask myself is: is it £7,500 better than what I paid for my Z1000? On a straight comparison, they're actually fairly similar bikes - and this is where reality starts to bite because I'm not about to plunge a lot of money on what is effectively a punt. Bike dealers must hate people like me.

So, what happens now? Well....precisely nothing! I still love the Z1000 and I haven't seen many other bikes that do it for me as much as my current bike does. It's only coming up to 17k miles, runs like a dream, looks fantastic and is in many ways the perfect bike.

So why get rid? This love affair has a while to run yet methinks.... 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Weather and public transport RANT!!!

So here we are, in mid-late January. The last five days in London (and much of the country) have been characterised by varying degrees of snow, ice and plunging temperatures. Kids love it - I don't. While all the main roads in our locality are well gritted and usable, sadly the same cannot be said of the side roads where we live, where pavements remain covered in snow and the side roads themselves are like sheet ice. Sheet ice = dropped bike, so this has meant that my beloved steed stays put and I have to resort to the horror that is public transport to get to and from work. So far, I've had three days of it and I have to say, an end to this weather cannot come quickly enough.

My journey to work consists of a 2-mile bus ride to the end of the tube line. From there it's a straight run up into Central London. With changes, it takes an average of 90 minutes to do. So that's about three hours a day - for a journey of 14 miles each way! On the bike, it takes a third of the time.

I topped up my Oyster travelcard yesterday (Monday) with £30.00. If this weather continues, that'll be gone by Thursday. But cost aside, I just find public transport in the London rush hour a thoroughly dispiriting experience. This morning the queue for the bus was 13 deep. The first bus that came along was packed to the rafters, so didn't stop. Wait for the next one then....

The tube trains have also been rammed each day. Fortunately, being at the end of the line, I do manage to get a seat. Others further up the line are not so fortunate - if they manage to get on at all. People are rude, they push and shove, they cough all over you, batter you with their rucksacks, the trains are dirty and full of stale air and germs and people just look so bloody miserable all the time - as well they might, it's a horrible horrible experience.

                                 THIS ISN'T LIVING!!!!!!!

                            WHY DO PEOPLE DO IT????
                                 I HATE IT, I HATE IT!!!!
PS. On arriving home tonight I find that it's 'effin snowing....AGAIN!! 

Monday, 14 January 2013

Box Hill or Bust recommends....

Bikes and biking is a bit of a niche subject in terms of creative and lifestyle writing and it can be difficult to come up with interesting pieces that are not simply a variation on the same theme. I'm strictly an amateur at this and write from a purely personal perspective on the bike-related things I get up to but I do find it interesting that, when looking around the web, it appears that the number of similar active (amateur) bloggers writing regularly and solely about our favoured pastime is actually quite small (or at least I've not been able to find vast numbers doing it).

So, while Box Hill or Bust is obviously the most interesting, most informative and best written blog in the "blogosphere" [quiet at the back there!], what else is out there for our delectation? A handful can be found on the "Blog Roll" further down this page on the right hand side and for the purpose of this piece, I thought I'd highlight four in particular that I enjoy reading. And if this helps increase their audience in any way, then all well and good.

First up, "A Bedford Biker".

Written by Lizzie Lane, a young blogger and biker from (I know you won't believe this...) Bedford, this is written from the perspective of someone growing up with a love of bikes but who has only recently passed her test - so her's is a different and interesting take on all things biking (and in stark contrast to old gits like me who have been riding for years). This is an entertaining and well written blog and I really like her youthful positivity. She'll learn.....!

Next up, "Braais, beers and bikes".

This one is much closer to home for me - written by Andrew Wood (aka "The Rider"), a gnarled old rocker, drinker and biker who is based in the Western Cape in South Africa. Andrew comes across as a really good guy and this one does exactly what it says on the tin - it's all about braais (barbeques), beers and bikes and basically having a good time (all the bloody time, it seems!). It's a very entertaining blog, packed full of photos and I have to say that I'm somewhat envious of Andrew's lifestyle!  

Next we have "Confessions of an Ageing Motorcyclist".

This one is different again. Written by Geoff James, a British ex-pat nowadays living on North Island, New Zealand, who describes himself as a "Grumpy old curmudgeon on some occasions, mental age of 5 on others". Hmmm...that's quite close to home too! Geoff has been riding a long time and has definitely "seen it and done it", so to speak. He is also a longstanding IAM member so this blog tends to be a bit more in-depth, informative and sensible than the tripe I write.      

Last (but certainly not least), we have "Find Me On The Road".

This one is a relatively new discovery for me, written by "SoniaM", who is based on the West Coast of Canada. Sonia seems to be fairly prolific, having written 138, 137 and 111 pieces respectively in each of the last three years (where does she find the time I ask?!). I'm still catching up with all this content but again, this is a well written and an interesting account of biking from yet another part of the world.   

So there you have it. Four very different blogs and four very different people, each offering a different experience and perspective on the life that we love. Now I suppose I'll have to get to work and make Box Hill or Bust a bit better!

Happy reading.....