The Vango alpha 400 proved its value, there were four of us inside overnight, Silvia and Ricardo, my brother and I. We all had enough space to sleep comfortably, except for my brother because of a bad sleeping bag. The tent exceeded my expectations, it’s spacious and has a front porch area big enough to store everyone’s luggage, inside there’s enough space to fit a double and one single inflatable mattresses. When packed it is quite compact , the ideal size when traveling by motorbike I would say. It is waterproof and easy to pitch. The only downside goes for the pegs that, as usual, depending of the terrain you might need to get some extra pegs.
All in all the Vango provided great night of sleep for some and a nightmare for others as some of us (including myself) snore a little. This was something we were joking about the entire trip, even recorded true harmonic orchestras. Bruno and Sofia had their own little two person tent, and as they didn’t allow us to pitch another tent (Ricardo’s) for three nights my tent was the shelter for the homeless people in the group.
After we emerged from the tents and slowly got ready, we decided to go to Wadebridge (the local town) to have breakfast, a reinforced one. After that my brother would get back home to Clevedon as he had other commitments. The plan was to go all the way up to Bude by the A39 (also known as the “Atlantic Highway”) and then to enjoy a coastal ride passing through some picturesque villages such as Boscastle and Tintagel.
We arrived in Bude later than I wanted, but it was a nice and warm afternoon so we went for a walk around, the place was a bit crowded despite Coronavirus, so we went for a walk and an Ice cream.
It was nice and there’s still lots to see and do in Bude including a castle in the area we were. Again due to Covid19 no visits were allowed at this time. I had planned a very nice coastal route passing by Boscastle, Tintagel and Port Isaac which unfortunately none of us took any pictures as we just passed by (You have to be patient for the video where I’ll show these places). The road isn’t for the heart fainted in some places, incredibly steep and curvy with that odd hairpin here and there. however, the views and the little villages we passed by are something else.
If it is in your plans to visit Cornwall, I do really recommend a visit to Tintagel and Boscastle villages. Tintagel is quite famous because of the castle ruins that according to the legend it’s the place where King Arthur was conceived, just not to mention that it is one of the most amazing places in Cornwall. Unfortunately we could not visit it due to Covid19 restrictions. Boscastle village is equally interesting, very picturesque and small with a great footpath that leads to the harbour. The following two pictures are the castle hotel in Tintagel and the scenery next to it.
I planned a dinner in Port Isaac, but a local guy we met in Tintagel suggested and even guided us to a very picturesque restaurant in Port Quinn. He works for “Bossiney” a tea room in Tintagel. Apparently we missed a bikers breakfast they do every week in there, and we were invited in for breakfast the following morning. Very chatty and friendly, however I forgot his name, like most I came across. The road to Port Quinn was curvy, narrow and steep like most country lanes around that area, but we arrived in time to eat, as restaurants are tricky these days due to the pandemic, also we were contemplated with a very nice sunset on the sea.
Can’t remember anymore what we ate, but, it was good. It was a nice day and it was over, the sunset was gone and the night came to us. It was time to get back on the A39 to our tents… our second day was over. The last day in Wadebridge was reserved for a few hours on the beach and water activities, but we had to get up earlier than today, something that became a bit of a challenge.
Shhhhh, it is snoring time for most of us when all the sudden… “Marineide” invaded my tent!!!
It’s been a long time since I pitched the tent. This year’s pandemic put down my plan to ride the Alps again, but the bug needed feeding. I had a few friends asking me to plan a trip, and as last year I left North Devon and Cornwall wanting to get back, it was easy to find a destination. This year with another four mates, south west, here we go!
North Devon & Cornwall 2020
Due to Covid19 it wasn’t easy to find a campsite or hotel, most were fully booked or closed for safety reasons, but after an extensive research from Bruno and Sofia we managed to book three camping sites in advance. (The only option available, to book ahead which goes against my style). We would stay three nights in Wadebrige, three nights in Penzance and two nights in Watermouth.
As usual, before any road trip it is extremely important to service the machine in order to reduce the risk of being stranded on the road. My luggage gear isn’t in new condition anymore, so before setting up the luggage I had to inspect that bags, bungee straps, cargo nets and hooks are still in good condition. I also replaced my older tent the Vango Alpha 300 for three people for the new Vango Alpha 400, with an announced four people capacity.
Tic tac tic tac the clock was ticking… I was anxious to be on the road again!!!
Summer is here (kind of) and It´s been a while since I last pitched the tent or did a road trip. I had two weeks off work ahead and the idea of doing a road trip around Europe would not get out of my mind. At the same time I realized that U.K. still has loads of places unknown to me. I always heard that the Southwestern side of the U.K. is beautiful and it is the British home for surfers (not that I am one, although I like the ocean), so it could be a potential great destination for my holidays.
Decision is taken!!! I´d ride west this time! Devon and Cornwall here I go!!!
Tent… Check! Sleeping bag, mattress… Check!!! Tools… Check!!! Clothes… Check!!! All bungee strapped, full tank and ready to go on a journey!!!
The road, the scenery, the bike and I…
I did not plan or did my usual research about which routes to take or thought about where I would be staying. One stop in Clevedon (Bristol) to visit my brother for a couple days, then I would ride west without a particular route or destination. While visiting my brother, I simply bought a map and marked scenic routes on it before going. I was lucky, the weather was on my side, and hopefully I would find what I was after. Roads and scenery able to put a grin in my face, beach, picturesque towns and great people!!!
I just had one task to do before leaving Clevedon, “Sophia” (my bike´s name) was due for an oil change. So after that was done and with the luggage on the bike I was time to depart!!
Riding the West!!!The Journey begins!!!
P.S. There´s more to come within the next couple weeks but now you have to be patient! Work in progress!!!
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If you are not confident, or you don´t feel safe on the road we can help you to build a better biker in you with a FREE 1-2-1 course in conjunction with Transport For London (TFL) in order to get you safer on the road. In other words, it means practicing on the road for free with an instructor.
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(Footage about a CBT done last year and recorded by a Vlogger “The Don in London”)
Note: For a better display of this post use a laptop or desktop instead of a phone. Thanks!!!
Lisbon, beautiful Lisbon
Tagus river (Rio Tejo) and bridge , the Christ statue (Cristo Rei) and “Sophia”.
Time to write about Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, my hometown.
Lisbon is located next to the “Rio Tejo” (Tagus River) with the sun almost always shining in a blue sky. Lisbon attracts millions of tourists from all over the world every year. The native language is Portuguese however in the capital everyone has a strong gasp of the English language.
The 25th of April bridge, or Salazar bridge as it was once named over the Tagus River.
View from the same place at night.
Lisbon is a very rich city in monuments together with old traditional picturesque neighborhoods such as,Mouraria and Baixa (Downtown), or the pretty riverside area of Terreiro do Paço together with parks and attractions all around, make Lisbon is a city of a unique beauty where the old styles mix with the contemporary days.
Lisbon is also known as the city of light and offers a great night life with plenty of options for the most varied tastes. It is common to find Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre packed with people from all ages, drinking and having fun until early morning on a regular basis, especially during the summer time.
Lisbon is an unforgettable destination for all who want to have a unique experience of hospitality, gastronomy, tradition, history, modernity, culture and leisure.
A little tour in…
Belém is on the western side of Lisbon by the riverside and it is one of Lisbon boroughs. In Belém you can find parks and gardens, monuments and museums and an attractive riverside environment with cafes and a public walk. It is one of the most touristic areas of Portugal.
Torre de Belém
A caravel on the “Tejo” and Belém Tower
At night illuminated and surrounded by the “Tejo” waters
Belém Tower by night under the moon. Picturesque!
The Torre de Belém is located in the borough of Belém , on the right bank of the “Tejo River” (Tagus River). It was built between 1514 and 1520 and it was originally surrounded by water around its perimeter. Its main purpose was to defend the Tagus river from any potential attack by sea and was part of a composition with other two fortresses and towers strategically built on the Tagus basin.
Over time, the tower was losing its defense function of the Tagus and, the old warehouses gave way to dungeons. In the four floors of the tower, remain the governor room, the Hall of Kings , the courtroom and finally, the Chapel.
The Torre de Belém is classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO and was elected as one of the seven wonders of Portugal in 2007.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Discoveries Monument- In honor to Infant D. Henrique, the Navigator and to all the Portuguese who discovered the seas.
Discoveries Monument- Infant D. Henrique, the Navigator 500 years anniversary.
Discoveries monument front view
Discoveries Monument- A beautiful place worth to visit in Belém, as usual, this area attracts thousands of tourists every day.
The Discoveries Monument ( Padrão dos Descobrimentos) is located just a couple hundred meters from the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém) on the North side of “Rio Tejo” (Tagus river). It is another Lisbon icon. The Discoveries Monument was officially inaugurated in 1960 as a tribute of the 5th centenary of the death of Infant D. Henrique ( the most important figure from the beginning of the era of discoveries, popularly known as Infant of Sagres or The Navigator).
Discoveries Monument- On both sides there are sculptures of important personalities in the discoveries history.
Aligned from the top to the bottom there are 16 figures of the Portuguese history, being Infant D. Henrique placed on the top holding a caravel in his hands, followed by other navigators and explorers including D. Luiz Vaz de Camões (Poet/author of “Os Lusiadas”). Note the shape of the monument as a caravel.
Discoveries monument- Left side of the monument and another 16 figures from the Portuguese discoveries history.
32 figures in total are sculptured in Padrão dos Descobrimentos. Infant D. Henrique is on the top again, together with other worldwide known navigators such as Vasco da Gama (Discoverer of the sea way to India), Pedro Alvares Cabral ( Discoverer of Brazil) and Fernao de Magalhaes (the first navigator to sail around the globe) just to name a few figures.
There are other attractions along the river´s massive walking path such as the Electricity museum, the fighter´s museum (which I visited inside and is very well presented), a couple marinas. There are also plenty of coffee shops and restaurants around in case you want to have a drink or a snack. If you feel like exercising whilst exploring there are a couple bicycle and scooter rental tents. The area is quite green as well as there is a big park where you can relax and some playground areas for children. If you don´t drive it is very easy to get there, as Belém train station is less than a mile away (The train line goes from Cais do Sodre to Cascais always along the river and coast line, it is a quite pretty and picturesque route and well recommended). Over all it is a very pleasant place, busy with tourists all over the place, but not overcrowded. I took a couple more pictures but as usual, they don´t make justice about this spot.
Next to the Belém Tower, there is the Fighter´s museum. Always with the park going along the river.
A mini Torre de Belém and the surroundings.
People sailing on the Tejo river.
One of Belém Marina´s.
Outdoors exposition at the fighter´s museum.
A BMW in exposition from the 90´s at the service of the Military Police ( from the unit where I served in the army actually).
The colossal Jerónimos Monastery, a Portuguese icon.
Jeronimos monastery is one of the most iconic symbols of Portugal and considered a national symbol from its early days. It was built in the 16th Century using a Manueline style mixed with Gothic and Renaissance architectural elements. It is one of the most visited monuments in Portugal attracting over one million tourists per year. Jeronimos Monastery is recognized as a world heritage monument by UNESCO and also one of the 7 wonders of Portugal along the Torre de Belem. ( A must see if you happen to visit Lisbon)
Belém would not be the same without Jerónimos.
Jerónimos Monastery from a different angle.
Jeronimos Monastery and park in Belém.
The great Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.
Vasco da Gama tomb in Jeronimos Monastery. One of the few tombs.
Jeronimos Monastery church
As I was wandering around, and as it is the Christmas season I came across a motorbike meeting in front of Jerónimos. Happens that it was an event gathering over 100 bikers where most were dressed as Santa Klaus in a mission to deliver Christmas presents to the poor, as I was told by one of the bikers. I was lucky enough to record them shooting off.
In Belém you can´t forget to pass by the original “Pasteis de Belém” café (coffee shop) where the original and the traditional specialty delicatessen of Portugal is made for over a century. In Belém you must have a “pastel de Nata“… or 10!!! Although you can find the these egg pastries in every Portuguese “café” (and even in some coffee shops in the U.K.), only the Pasteis de Belémcafé have the exclusive secret recipe, where they serve them still hot, and with a choice of cinnamon or sugar on top.
The Pasteis de Belém café is the most popular café in Lisbon and maybe in whole Portugal.
Good luck trying to get a “Nata”. Everyone wants to eat a “Nata”, The original “Nata”!!
I introduce you, the original PASTEL DE NATA!
Inside Pasteis de Belém café
There are plenty of space and rooms and space, so pick at table and sit down.
Here are a few more pictures of Belém and other interesting places and museums. This post is getting long so I had to resume it a little bit with a few more pictures and a video of me riding around Belém instead of detailing it all, however I covered the main touristic areas of Belém.
If you like planets and star constellations you can visit the Planetarium which is next to the monastery.
You can also visit the Portuguese Navy Museum in Belém.
An area with some Restaurants, snack bars where you can have the most varied Portuguese traditional food. One of the many places.
“Quentes e boas”- “Hot and tasty”; typical slogan from who sells roasted chestnuts.
President´s palace although I am not sure the Portuguese President lives there.
President´s palace residence guard!!
Detail of the president´s palace. I found it pretty.
Garden in Belém in front of the President´s palace.
Panorama of a Park in Belém… one of many around.
HO HO HO Just because it´s the Xmas season… Merry Xmas to all!!! P.S It´s not me on the bike.
I woke up late, slightly hangover, dry and with a headache, silly me!!!!… Thinking I had a 350 mile journey ahead almost turned that headache into a migraine. After a shower and a good reinforced breakfast at the hotel I was ready to get back on the road. Today I would arrive in Lisbon!!!
I left Ibis around 11 am, as usual, the weather was good in South Europe despite the season of the year… nice, warm and sunny. I did not ride much as I wanted to see a bit of Salamanca before leaving. I parked the bike and walked for a while to the historic side of the city. Sunday morning, the streets where crowded with people, coffee shops were busy and there was even some street animations going on. Salamanca is a lively city day and night for sure.
The New Cathedral is together with the Old Cathedral of Salamanca one of the two in the city. It was constructed between the 16th and 18th centuries in a Gothic and and baroque styles.
Ornamental sculptures are carved along the facades of the Cathedral. In particular the figure of a modern astronaut and a gargoyle eating an ice cream on the facade of the north entrance of the Cathedral, unlike any other, attract dozens of tourists to the door just to photograph these unusual carvings.
How could anyone have carved such a clear picture of a modern astronaut in a cathedral built hundreds of years ago and long before such a character existed?
Apparently this would have happened, in fact, very recently, when, in 1992, the cathedral was restored. The fact would have obeyed an old tradition, in which the restorers usually include some modern element.
Of course this is just a hypothesis, and many claim that the figure has been there since the original construction of the cathedral.
There is a lot more to see but I had to start making my way to Lisbon. It was getting late and I had to make a move. I was only 50 miles away from the Portuguese border and could have entered Portugal via Vilar Formoso (North Portugal), however you have to pay tolls on motorways and they are quite expensive together with high petrol prices. It was better to head South and enter Portugal in Badajoz (Spain)/ Elvas (Portugal) meaning that I would be still riding in Spain for another 200 miles or so, and then another 200 miles until I arrive in Lisbon.
The Spanish autovia A66 (E803) was quite pleasant to ride, nearly empty, in very good condition, and the best of it all, no tolls to pay. I stopped after Bejar to have a quick snack and to refill the petrol tank. Quite curvy and scenic this section and a great sigh seeing of the Autovia I was in. Had to stop for a couple pictures.
I passed Plasencia, then Caceres and then Badajoz. By 6pm I was about to enter Portugal, so I stopped again to refill my tank right before crossing the border as prices are insanely high.
I entered Portugal on the A6 in Elvas towards Pegoes and then the A2 motorway to Lisbon, in 200 miles I would be at my Portuguese home in family. I did not take any other pictures as I wanted to get home. By 8 Pm I was safe and sound in Lisbon, although I did not feel safe at all on the Portuguese roads.
Here is a warning:If you are planning to ride a motorbike in Portugal, I advise you to do so only if you are an experienced biker, otherwise chances are that you might end up having a serious accident. Portuguese drivers are mad and bad, speed limits are there but nobody respects them at all, most drive dangerously, unconsciously and very aggressively. Also tolls are very expensive, I paid 16.60 Eur for some miserable 120 miles on the motorway, please be aware of these facts.
My F4 all ready and loaded about to depart to the Ferry in Portsmouth!
24 Hours with Brittany Ferries. What a great experience!!!
I was due to sail on the 30 st of November by 5 pm from Portsmouth port, however there was a delay of an hour and a half due to someone passing away during the previous trip, unknown to my person the facts of how it happened.
After the check in, 2 hour waiting time before boarding
While waiting, I went for a snack, and coffee indoors, nothing especial there.
Not a busy time at the Port judging for the number of cars waiting. By the way, there is a brand new Harley behind mine. Was chatting with the owner for ages.
Finally around 6.15 pm I was directed to the boarding area. It was a slow process, first the lorries and trailers were allocated in the ferry garages, then cars and motorbikes (only 3 counting with mine) and at the end, caravans and vans. I parked the bike in the designated area and the staff secured it with straps so it would not fall during the trip. Then I was sent to the 7th floor to find my cabin. It was a 4 person berth but the ferry was quite empty so I ended up having it all only for myself, lucky me!!
On the 7th Floor looking for my 4 berth cabin
Cabin 7220 on deck 7 (7th floor) access card
My 4 berth cabin, luckily I had it just for myself. private bathroom as well.
The “Cap Finistere” is a 10 year old ferry cruise ship serving on “Brittany Ferries” sailing from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao in Spain and vice-versa with a capacity for 700 cars and 1600 passengers. It features 2 bars, 2 restaurants, a spa, a mini market, cinema, a swimming pool and a heliport on the top deck in between other facilities. The decoration is good and modern, and there´s Wi-Fi available for free as well (although it´s not the fastest) . Quite impressive once I was inside I must say!
Indoor Atrium. One of many.
Floor 7, staircase and lifts.
Simple, modern and warm decoration all round.
The top deck (10th floor) snack bar sells pizzas, burgers, ice creams, drinks. In front of the swimming pool. Above this only the Heliport.
Not a good shot but the best one I could get of the swimming pool (which was closed to the public because of the low season)
It was a pleasant trip, as we were leaving Portsmouth I decided to present myself with a nice dinner and a bottle of wine in order to celebrate my solo journey, followed by a visit to the main bar where there was live music. I wanted to start writing this post but ended up talking with other passengers and crew as everyone was friendly and warm, great atmosphere. After a couple pints the ferry was wobbling badly and I was afraid to feel seasick, I supposed we were on high seas already. Around 1 am there was no one around so I went to my cabin and tried to get some sleep. It was a good feeling to be out of the U.K.
Time to eat (Rather expensive but I decided to present myself with a nice meal)
Crab cream with something I dont remember, quite tasty entry.
The main course, Duck two ways and a French Bordeaux wine. The stomach was happy.
The camera is not the best but gives the idea. 7th deck at the back.
View from the 8th Deck where the cinema is. Live music on the first night animated the passengers.
I found out the next morning that the crossing was delayed by two hours as someone had an heart attack and an helicopter had to come to pick up the patient. It was a tough landing as the ocean was quite rough. Unfortunately I did not record that event as I was sleeping while it happened. I ended up meeting L. (a very nice lady who told me all about it). She was traveling to Santander to do a car road trip to the Pyrenees and then across France. We exchanged a couple smiles the previous day, ended up meeting and talking a lot. L. was my companion for most of the day as she was a lovely, fun and chatty person. At a point we were told to stay inside due to weather conditions, and stabilizers had to be deployed as the ocean was quite rough, slowing us down a bit more and balancing the ferry hard.
View from the 6th Deck, Saturday morning around 7.30 am
Later on, same day, being caught in bad weather.
Caught in bad weather!
We docked in Santander by 7.30pm on the 1 st of December, two hours later than predicted (26 hours in total), it was time to wish L. safe travels and to part ways. Unfortunately it was dark already and I could not see much beside the road, I headed straight towards Torrelavega on the A67 motorway, going up the Cantabrian mountain. I stopped at a service area next to Reinosa to fill up my tank, also to have dinner as it was nearly 9 pm and I was getting hungry. I was around 1500 meters above the sea level and I could feel the cold, so it was time to swap my summer gloves for my winter ones. From there it was non stop until Salamanca where I booked a night at an Ibis hotel. The Spanish motorway was quite nice, empty and in good condition. I passed the cities of Palencia, Valadolid and finally arrived in Salamanca by midnight, 250 miles later and 4 hours after I left Santander Port. It was time to park the bike and call it a day.
Instead of going to sleep as I should I decided to go for a beer. I ended up staying out until late night. I found out that people from Salamanca are true party animals, I went from bar to bar, from beer to beer trying to find a spot where I could sit down, enjoy some music and a drink but it was nearly impossible, it was crowded everywhere and the streets packed with locals enjoying themselves. The Spanish are loud and talkative, so I met a few people along the way sharing a few laughs.
I went back to the hotel around 4.30 am, tipsy, exhausted and nearly forgetting I had 350 miles waiting for me next day…
This road trip came up quite unplanned and unexpected… Personal reasons led me to embrace on this adventure. I was supposed to fly home and get back in early January, however my traveling bug on two wheels was stronger. After a brief chat with a friend I decided to book a ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in Spain and from there ride to Lisbon in Portugal.
This is a solo trip, time for myself, the road, the bike and I. My plan is to ride straight from Santander to Lisbon depending of weather conditions, or maybe I will book a night at an hotel half way so I can enjoy the scenery (which I am not expecting to be that amazing). The way back will be by the 10th of January 2019 via Bilbao to Portsmouth.
I will sail for the first time on the 30st of November from Portsmouth at 5pm being the arrival time in Spain next day around 5.30pm. It is going to be a tough and a lone trip, but I will try to update with pictures and posts in real time as I progress instead of writing it down later like the previous trips.
As usual, I did my usual research and prepared all the essentials in order to avoid surprises whilst on the road. While routing the trip I didn´t look at any scenic routes as I usually do, this time I will be mainly doing the boring motorway until I arrive at my Portuguese home.
I might end up taking you on a discovery trip about Portugal and its beauty on my future posts. It will also be my first time in Portugal by motorbike since I left to the U.K making this trip more exciting.
Honda CBR600 F4 2001, A.K.A. “Sophia”
Stage 1: From Portsmouth, 30 of November 2018 at 5pm. 24 hours by Ferry to Santander. ETA 1st of December 2018 by 5.30pm
Stage 2:Santander to Lisbon, 1st of December 2018 being the ETA in Lisbon unknown… I guess I will play it by ear.
Nobody is born with mechanical knowledge. I remember when I purchased my first bike, I had no clue about motorcycles at all. It was a friend who had a bike already who came to my house and got my bike to start as I kept on flooding it. He removed the spark plug, cleaned it, dried up the piston head and started up my little two stroke 50cc. That was all new and unknown to me, since then I have learnt a lot and I am still learning.
Motorbikes do ‘speak’ to us and it’s vital that we listen!!!
Noises, vibrations, grinding, rattling, rubbing, whistling, odd smells, exhaust smokes, sudden loss of power, is the language of the motorcycle telling you to pull over, get off and take a look before it is too late. It is imperative to constantly check for faults and to understand what the bike is asking us.
Reading the owners manual (if you have it) will help developing the ability to identify components, possible faults and to know when to do a routine service. Or if you don´t have the owners manual the internet is a powerful tool to find out more about your motorbike. You won´t only be safer as you will reduce costs greatly and it will prevent you from being stranded on the road.
Brake pads are like a soap bar. They get used every time you apply the brakes and eventually will wear out. You have to replace them periodically in order to be safer on the road and to avoid unwanted extra cost.
From time to time inspect the front and rear brake pads. If they show to be close to the end or if they are gone you will listen a squealing noise meaning that the pad is nearly to the end of their life (probably it´s the wear indicator rubbing against the disk). A grinding noise on braking is usually caused by a lack of brake pad material; the pads and disk brakes are now metal to metal, with no braking material left and damaging your disc.
Also check that brake calipers, disc brakes and brake lines are all in good working order and brake fluid is at the level (see note at the end).
Check if all lights are working properly (indicators, headlight, back and brake lights, number plate light, horn and dashboard lights). If something isn´t working, check the bulbs, the connections, fuses or if the switch has some bad contact. In case the battery is low maybe it is better to replace it; if it is discharging quickly maybe you should check if it is charging properly ( A faulty rectifier is a common issue on bikes). In addition if you are just the occasional biker and your bike is not ridden regularly it is always a good idea to buy a battery optimizer and put the battery on charge the night before you ride.
Inspect the fork seals or dust seals from time to time as you have oil inside the fork. Also check if the inner forks have any dents or chips as they can also increase the chance of premature leaks and fork seal early damage.
That oil residue or a dirty greasy ring around the fork is a sign that you have a problem. Oil is getting past the fork seals and attracting dirt. You should replace the fork seals sooner rather than later as once they start, things will quickly get worse and oil will flow down to your brakes or font tyre. You really don’t want to let that happen or you will be exposed to unnecessary risks.
In modern bikes you should be able to adjust settings such as the pre-load, compression and rebound damping but if you are unknown to these don´t worry, normally motorbikes are sold already optimized for the road with a standard set up so let´s leave that discussion for a different day!
Condition:have a daily visual check on your tyres and side walls. Look out for nails, bulges, cracks and cuts. If you have a nail stuck in it, don´t remove it and take your bike to the nearest garage to repair it. As an alternative you can buy a puncture repair kit and repair it yourself in case you know how to, otherwise leave the job for a professional. Bulges, cracks or deep cuts should can indicate internal damage and should be checked immediately by a specialist.
Tread:The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on your motorbike tyres is 1mm across 3/4 of the tread. The tread is designed to give a good grip on the wet and to prevent aquaplaning by dissipating water out of the tyre. You can either measure the tread by buying a little gauge specific for tyres or by looking at the tyre. Normally there are some bumps in the grooves indicating the wear. If your rubber starts to be close to these marks, it´s time to get a new tyre or your safety is seriously compromised, just not to mention that if you get pulled over with a bald tyre you will get a heavy fine and possibly points on your license.
Tyre pressure:Once a week check and re adjust your tyre air pressure when the tyres are still cold as riding under or over the ideal pressure not only affects handling drastically as it will damage and wear out your tyres, and may increase fuel consumption. Go to a petrol station or buy an air pump with a gauge to check this. The air pressure units can be measured in P.S.I or BAR. Be aware that air pressure varies according to your bike type, if you ride with a passenger or heavy luggage . Check your owners manual for an accurate ideal pressure for your bike or check on your bike. (Ignore the pressure indicated on the tyre wall as that valor is the max pressure for heavy loads on the bike.)
Note:When you fit brand new tyres they will need a running-in period around 100/150 miles. Pay extra care on bends, avoid excessive acceleration or abusive braking during this early stage. This should be done in order to scuff in the tyre surface and remove the superficial gum as it is extremely slippery. After that period you can start riding your bike normally.
The first sign that your chain might not be in its best state is that your gearshifts start to feel a lot less fluid than they once did. You should look at the tension of the chain. A new chain will need a slight adjustment between 300 to 600 miles as it needs to adjust to the new sprockets and after that you should check it and adjust it every 500 to 700 miles depending of how you ride. A loose chain wears out the sprockets and reduces its lifetime, or if it is too tight it can damage the sprockets teeth or the rear wheel bearings. More severe consequences include the chain breaking up increasing the risk of injury or fall. Your chain should have around half inch to one inch of slack for optimal adjustment.
Every time you adjust the chain you have also to align the rear wheel. Normally there are marks on the swing arm for a fine alignment and a nut to align, stretch or lose the chain tension as you need. If you are adjusting the chain too often perhaps your chain needs replacement or you just bought a bad one.
The chain should also be always lubricated. Inspect it and if it shows that it is dry, it should be re-greased, especially after an extended journey in the rain. Over time, oil, dust and worn materials clog together and form a kind of a paste.These will shorten the service life of the entire chain kit through increased wear.A dry and clean chain is more desirable for quality effectiveness of the chain spray. You can clean it using a brush (non metal one), a chain cleaner and a cloth. Spin the wheel while spraying the chain with the cleaner and let it actuate for a couple mins, then wipe it out with a cloth. Once this is done you can now apply the lube on the chain and lubricate it again. Don´t ride immediately and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes so the lube will penetrate in the chain components.
If you just need to lubricate the chain, apply the chain lube after riding as the chain will be hot and the lube will adhere better and leave the bike to rest. Ideally you can do this at the end of the day when you get home.
Note:The chain and sprockets (Can be a belt or shaft but that´s different) are the final drive of a motorbike and should be checked periodically. There´s no economy at all when you buy a cheap chain as they will wear out 3 or 4 times quicker than a good one. My piece of advice is, buy a decent chain and always replace it together with the sprockets to avoid these to damage the new chain. A good chain and sprockets should last around 20/25 thousand miles easily and without much hassle depending of how you ride. Of course, maintenance is mandatory in order to get it to last.
Maybe one of the most significant motorbike maintenance points. Engine oil!!!! The oil is the lifeblood of the motorbike. It lubricates the engine protecting moving parts from wear and tear caused by friction and thereby prolongs the engine´s life. Oil also helps to cool down the engine, collects debris and prevents oxidation inside the engine internal components.
An engine running with a very low oil level will have a poor lubrication and therefore will generate more heat risking wear and tear rapidly or even a massive breakdown by seizing the engine it if runs dry. An engine with excessive oil level may affect the bike performance, it might burn together with fuel and give a sluggish feeling just not to mention that it will blow up the gaskets and consequently oil leaks will come due to too much pressure in the engine.
Due to all these reasons it is extremely important to check regularly the oil level. Some motorbikes have a glass window in the engine others have a deep stick so we can check the oil level. You should do it when the engine is cold so the oil is all in the engine pan and the bike on a flat surface or you won´t have a accurate reading.
Oil changes and the oil type are vital in order to prolong your engine´s life, keeping it running smoothly and without faults. There are different types of oils, so you need to check your bike manual in order to find which one is appropriate ( there are mineral oils, semi-synthetic oils and fully synthetic oils. Four stroke oils and two stroke oils). A good quality oil also helps prolonging the engine life.
Your motorbike manual will indicate the oil change intervals and I do really recommend any biker to stick to that. Or, if you want some peace of mind, change your oil a bit earlier, keeping it always fresh in the engine. Every bike from the little 125cc to the big 1400cc has a specific time to change the oil, again, check your owner´s manual. For example, for my bike I should change the oil every 5000 miles, however I do it every 3000/3500 miles. A broken down oil has little lubrication properties, creates more friction in the engine components which generates more heat, increases risk of damage, reduces performance and potentially the life time of the engine. ( One of my bikes has 95000 miles. The engine runs smoothly thanks to oil changes before the recommended).
Note: Worth to mention that you should change your air filter and oil filter every second oil change to keep your engine always at an optimal performance and to extend durability. If you have an aftermarket air filter element then you don´t need to replace it, perhaps just to clean it.
Apart from the oil you should check other fluids such as the coolant level and the radiator water level ( don´t do this last one after riding or you risk burning yourself.)
This is more for those who don´t ride daily and only take the bike out once in a blue moon. Nothing wrong about old petrol in a bike tank, however be aware that if you leave it for a long period of time it might deteriorate and leave some residue. That residue can go to the fuel filter so, maybe better replace the petrol filter (if the bike isn´t ridden for years). Also don´t ride with your bike near the reserve constantly as normally tanks may have some particles of dirt, rust that can go to your fuel system. If you are the occasional rider, make sure you leave enough petrol in your tank at least to ride to the nearest petrol station to then fill up with fresh petrol.
The steering has a major effect on handling and requires regular maintenance. The steering has head bearing and connects the front wheel to the rest of the motorcycle. On big bikes the brutal acceleration and slow down pressure, sometimes up to 1G forces have a direct impact on the steering bearings. If you feel and hear a knock coming from the steering or you feel weird vibrations as you ride perhaps the steering bearings need adjustment. ( It is an easy job but I do recommend a professional to do so). Now if the steering is stiff as you move it from side to side that could mean two things. The steering bearings are now gone and need replacement, or, maybe there´s a cable, wire or pipe obstructing your steering preventing its natural course.
Bolts and nuts, check mainly the joint points of the bike, fairing bolts and wheel nuts as you don’t want your wheel to come off or to lose fairing panels as you ride. Check cablessuch as the clutch cable as sometimes they tend to snap. Check if the throttle is working freely and optimally. Look for any visual damagesuch as cracks, dents, or scratches on the motorbike´s body, mirrors etc. Don´t forget to wash your motorbikefrom time to time, especially during the winter time (in countries like the U.K) as roads might be gritted to help de-icing. Grit is very acidic and penetrates in everything that is metal corroding it, so a regular wash will slow down that process.
On a non regular basis, every two years and for optimal performance you should replace the brake fluid and the suspension oil as both are mineral oils and therefore they deteriorate. A brake caliper rebuild is also advisable as the washers will eventually wear out, especially if you live in a country where the winters are severe. Keep an eye on the cam chain, if you listen a rattle coming from the engine could be the cam chain tensioner or the cam chain at the end of its life. If that the case replace cam chain, cam guides and the tensioner.
Note:I only mentioned aspects about basic maintenance of a motorbike, for more detailed information check your owners manual or seek advice with a professional in case you have some kind of anomaly. However, if you regularly check these points I mentioned, your motorbike should not give you much hassle!!!
Commuting to work every day on two wheels may greatly cut costs and time at an expense that we are more vulnerable to the weather and more exposed to injury, so here’s a few tips to ensure that you stay safe:
With more traffic on the road than out in the country side, not forgetting pedestrians and cyclists all over the place, it is imperative that we get better seen by other road users. Therefore make sure you have reflective clothing on, such as a hi-vis vest or reflective stripes on your jacket/trousers and rucksack (if you carry one) to ensure you are seen. Also clothing with elbow, shoulders, back and knee pads are well recommended just to offer that extra protection in a fall event. Make sure you wear gloves to protect you from abrasion and weather elements. Boots should be comfortable and able to protect your ankles and feet in general ( avoid steel toe cap boots as they may collapse. If a vehicle goes over your foot it can chop off your toes like butter). Adjust your clothing to the weather conditions as it is very important to feel comfortable and to be warm while riding, especially during winter time where temperatures are very low (you can always put some layers on to keep you warm). Remember that the wrong gear during a heat spell may affect your concentration levels on the road as well, getting you more exposed to unnecessary risks.
Often when riding in a city centre you won’t have the choice to go fast because heavy traffic will prevent it. Overtaking a car in heavy traffic won’t save you more than 10/15 seconds along your journey. When a small gap appears, there is the temptation to go through it quickly; chances are that if you have seen it, maybe other bikers or cyclists spotted it too… Slow down, take your time, watch your surroundings and make sure it is a safe move. By doing everything slower you will have more time to think about your (and other people’s) decisions, which also increases your hazard perception and the amount of time you have to react to them. ( As an example, think of that pedestrian or cyclist who is completely unaware of your presence or approach and jumps into your path coming from in between parked up cars)
When you ride in heavy traffic ( especially during the rush hours) you will find impatient drivers who will behave in an unsafely manner in an attempt to beat traffic. Consequentely they are more subject to be angry and distracted with gadgets such as mobile phones (unfortunately), talking to other occupants and might not see you as you approach, pass by or respect you as a road user; at the end you already have the advantage towards them as we rarely get stuck in traffic, meaning that their impatience and imprudence has to be your patience and prudence in order for you to do a safe journey. Again, when in heavy traffic in the city, RIDE DEFENSIVELY AND SLOW DOWN!!!
One of the major advantages of being on a motorcycle in the city is that you can filter in-between traffic queues and it is legal to do so, however this should be done cautiously:
people tend to cross roads in between queueing cars and don’t expect bikes or bycicles to appear in between. You may want to consider doing a slow speed not exceding more than 10 mph to the traffic around, constantly looking ahead and trying to have a visual for pedestrians or bycicles that can potentially emerge in front of you coming from the front of queueing cars. If ahead there´s a van or a lorry and you can´t have a good visual of what´s ahead of it, take extra care and slow down just to be prepared that you may have to come to a sudden stop as you approach its front.
Always scan for them and be prepared for the unexpected
Watch out for cars changing lanes suddenly without indicating;
Car doors opening and car mirrors;
If you are going too fast you you will have a problem here.
Be aware that a driver may do an unexpected U-turn without signaling as he might not be considering a motorbike filtering;
Be careful of hidden cars turning right or cars coming from a left road when you are flitering;
Avoid filtering in between two long large vehicles;
Careful when filtering on the opposite lane and there is a road coming from a left road;
You should ride normally in the middle of your lane in the front line of vision of the driver behind you, not in their peripheral vision such as too close to the kerb or too close to the opposite lane as it may be not very safe. ( Of course, sometimes we have to sacrifice that mid lane positioning, for example if there are parked up cars on the side of the road, if there´s an obstruction or if it is a secondary narrow road, bend etc).
Also you want to consider your lane positioning when you are turning to the left or to the right at junctions. It is always a good idea to be the closest you can to the pavement if you are turning left at a junction or close to the right end of your lane if turning right. By doing so, you are claiming your position and preventing any other road users to put you in a compromising situation. Also by doing that you are not blocking traffic from going to other directions. Here are a few examples:
Often people fail to use their turn signals, or even fail to check their blind spots, so keep alert and out of the blind spots of other vehicles. Place yourself so that if the driver unexpectedly moves into your lane, he will do so without hitting you. Be ready to use the horn or rev the engine to alert others of your presence. Plan ahead; look for obstructions like traffic islands, bollards, side roads where vehicles might emerge or turn across your path and be always prepared to take an action if necessary.
In the U.K. parking can be a bit tricky, specially in the big cities where traffic wardens are always looking to fine that badly parked motorbike. Avoid parking on single yellow lines or double yellow lines for too long during daytime, never on single and double red lines. Different councils have different rules as well, so the best would be to find a motorbike parking bay or a motorbike designated area. If you actually commute to London or other major city, motorbike theft may be quite on high levels, so consider chaining your motorbike into a rail or to use at least a good disc lock to discourage thieves from stealing your mule. Some motorcycle bays are constantly packed with bikes, so a bike cover would help to prevent scratches on your bike done by someone not being careful enough and to protect from weather elements.
A bike will always lose in a collision with a car. You may have had the right of way, but do you really want to be dead? Making yourself more visible to other drivers, and most of all remaining aware of what is around you and in your line of travel will make you safer on the road. you must always consider these three questions;
What can I see?
What can´t I see?
What may happen?
Ride defensively; Expect the unexpected; Be prepared; Plan ahead and anticipate at all times by constantly scanning for hazards.
In the U.K we teach riders to always do the“Lifesaver”or“shoulder check”.
Its something as simple as to turn the chin to the shoulder to the left, right or both sides and look in order to cover the spot that the mirrors can´t. (also known as BLIND SPOTS)
When do we do it?
Before you change lanes;
positioning in lane to turn left or right;
before avoiding an obstruction;
before moving off from traffic lights or stationary traffic;
Basically before any maneuvre (such as a U-turn or an overtaking maneuvre in between others)
You’d be surprised how many times you’ll find a car or another motorbike riding along or even a bycicle stopped on a red light just next to you in your blind spots. Also when riding in the city get used to give a glance at your mirrors often ( Ideally with an interval of 7-10 seconds).
I could develop this post into way more detail and cover other points, but you will have to wait until the next post.