Shiny Side Up – The Book

andrew Shiny side up book Leave a Comment

It’s been a long time in coming, but I am delighted to report that Shiny Side Up – From First Ride to Fast Rider is now available in printed and kindle format on amazon, and on kindle unlimited for free.

A great many people want to learn to ride, but for whatever reason they never learn. This is a terrible state of affairs. Riding a motorbike is magical, but it’s not magic. The rules of physics apply, and as bikes are getting safer, the risks of coming to an early end are getting slimmer.

Learn about every element of motorcycling, from bikes to maintenance to riding skills. Most of all learn about how to keep your head in the right place that you don’t get yourself into trouble. Your one stop guide to everything biking, essential reading for all two wheelers, from newbie to pro.

As an introductory offer, the kindle edition will be free to download between 8pm Saturday 20th of July to 8pm Wednesday 24th July.

How 2: Change your Fork Oil

andrew Maintenance, Video Leave a Comment

How often do you bother changing your fork oil? Is it more frequently than every 5 years or 20,000 miles?

While not strictly a scheduled maintenance item, keeping your fork oil fresh keeps your bike suspension in tip-top condition. I like to aim for every 2 years or 10,000 miles.

Time for a rebuild?

At 42k miles, I had my front forks worked on by Maxton Engineering. Having multiple TT wins under their belt, Maxton know a thing or two about creating a fast road bike.

When I initially enquires about their offering for the VFR, they had this to say about the stock forks on the 98-02 VFR800:


“The forks work reasonably well for general road use but if you ride the bike hard or carry a pillion they need to be modified. The forks are under damped and under sprung , we revalve and respring them fitting harder springs to suit your rider weight and also to suit what the bike is being used for, this gives the bike a lot more feel in the corner and also alot more stability under heavy braking.”

And this about the rear shock:


“The rear unit is a Showa unit and is a unit which we can service but cannot buy any parts for. The spring on the unit is approximately about the right rate for the average weight of rider, the biggest problem with the unit is there’s not enough travel in it, it only has 3″ of wheel travel built into the shock absorber, all bikes should have 5″ approximately. As there is not enough travel the shock will bottom out on the bump stop causing the bike to launch you out of the seat. You will make the problem worse if you load the bike up with a pillion or luggage.”

To increase the travel of the forks, Maxton remove the bump stops. The re-valved and resprung forks call for a much thinner oil (5W). The spring is 0.925kg/mm. I weigh 80kg and wanted a fast road setup for solo riding.

These forks make the VFR a truly confidence inspiring ride, and while they were costly, I believe they were well worth the money.

Anyway, enough of the Maxton advertorial and onto the fork oil change.

Maxton recommend specifically Putoline 5W Fork Oil for their revalved forks.

Here’s the procedure:

Top 10 Motoring Apps

Alex Cars 1 Comment

Innovations such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have brought major improvements to in car tech connectivity. Unfortunately, if your car is over a couple of years old, you won’t be able to take advantage of most of these info-tainment advancements. There is another option for those of us who don’t have access to integrated car technology — motoring mobile applications. Although motoring apps are not as integrated as systems like CarPlay, they are often better designed, and just as useful in practice! In this article, we will be discussing the best motoring apps that can make driving easier and a lot more fun.

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The Only Motorcycle Gloves You’ll Ever Need

andrew Gear Review Leave a Comment

*unless you ride in winter

When taking to the roads in the UK, with an abundance of lush green vegetation on display and frequent downpours to keep things looking that way, the sensible choice is a pair of waterproof gloves. But when the sun gets up, the temperature can rise significantly, leaving hands sweaty and uncomfortable. When things warm up, we want the closest touch to the controls, not diminished feel through thick waterproof gloves.Read More

Chris Evans and the New Top Gear Team are Finding their Feet

andrew Comment Leave a Comment

I’ve just finished watching episode 3 of Top Gear, and I’m pleased to report that the new top gear team are pulling it together. I found the show really fun. It seems to me that the comments and criticism aimed at Chris Evans and the crew seem quite harsh.

Sure the new team are not as up to speed as the old one, but being asked to seamlessly take over a format hand crafted by Jeremy Clarkson over a decade was never going to be a seamless transition. It’s a bit like asking someone new to a business role to be as good as the outgoing person. Its going to take at least six months to come up to speed. But give them time and they will make the roles their own, tailoring them to their own strengths and individual personalities.

Chris Evans is not only a really good presenter, but he has more experience of chat show hosting than all of the previous lot put together. Let’s not forget he practically invented the fun, informal chat show format in TFI Friday, and so is right at home presenting the ‘couch segment’, easily the most natural and fun part of show number 3, plus the star in the rallycross car (which is a fun addition to the format).

As for the rest of the team, Sabine is an amazing driver but she’s no presenter, being German doesn’t help in this regard. I’ve not yet seen Eddie Jordan in action but I expect he’ll come across well on camera, being used to TV appearances in F1.

Matt Leblanc is great on his VT edits, but still a bit wooden in front of a live audience setting, and struggles to find words above the few offered to him by the autocue. But do you know what, he is funny, and his presenting skills will improve, so I’m not concerned about Matt’s future on the show. After all, everybody loves Joey Tribiani.

Chris Evans does come across a bit like he’s doing a Jeremy Clarkson impression, but then again he is doing a Jeremy Clarkson impression, so that’s hardly surprising.

The scripts, the VT’s that are put together by the Top Gear production team, the audience setting, are all identical. Evans is required to deliver these same elements as the lead presenter. Once he finds his way in it all, he’ll be just fine and will sound more like Chris Evans and less like a poor rendition of Jeremy Clarkson.

If you thought you were critical of Chris Evans’ performance on Top Gear, I would imagine you’re not as harsh a critic as he himself will be. I’m sure he’ll make the show his own, with his own new ideas, changing things around gradually to the way He wants them to be, really make the show his own. It’s also worth saying that Matt Leblanc cannot carry TG on his own, he needs a steady pair of hands in Chris Evans to carry the show.

As for the others, I’m delighted that Chris Harris has finally found recognition. I’ve been a big flag waver of Chris since I discovered his YouTube videos, and I knew it was just a matter of time before someone picked him up and gave him the audience numbers his talent deserves.

The modern media has moved away from writing words into presenting videos, a move that Harris embraced fully and in which he has excelled. He is a rare individual; eloquent, gifted at pitching his delivery, with the right balance of geekery and normalcy, and at the same time he is an accomplished racing driver. He’s not just a rich guy with lots of cars, like most of those yanks on drive, he actually knows what he’s talking about.

Arguably Clarkson is less qualified than Harris is when it comes to the ‘car stuff’. Having woken up to the requirement for video output, established auto journalists are spending more time making videos of their own car tests. It’s pretty dull viewing though, watching two cars racing round a closed track. Also, while most car hacks are good drivers, they come across on video with all the charisma of a Ukrainian Cosmonaut

Chris was always going to get his big break, it was just a matter of time. In terms of his live presentation in the studio, there are clearly nerves there, you can hear it in his voice, but let’s not forget this is Top Gear were talking about, the biggest show on the BBC, it’s a big deal so it’s hardly surprising if the new crew have butterflies. Clarkson is a tough act to follow.

Chris’s VT segments are as good as ever, smooth and effortless. It’s odd, but in ep03 he came across as the most accomplished presenter of the lot, despite being a relative unknown to most, because he’s so practiced at what he’s doing. I wonder if Neil Carey came along as part of the deal? I’d be surprised if Chris left him behind.

Rory Reid is a fun guy. I’ve not come across him before, I think he’s been on Sky, but he’s a good anchor too, having a good deal of natural swagger, and he has a fun, friendly, cheeky character. I suspect he and Chris will offset each other well.

The bulk of the show, the video segments, are as polished and fun as they ever were, and this is what makes great viewing; quality output. Not just three middle aged twerps pretending to be stupider than they really are.

Clarkson, Hammond and May (CH&M sounds like a consulting firm), even before they played ‘follow the leader’, behaved in cringe-worthy ways on a weekly basis, we just got used to their errant buffoonery. “Oh, it’s those wallies on Top Gear, they’re so silly!”. We don’t cut Evans that much slack because we’re not used to it. Hopefully it will stay that way.

And those awkward conversations following a video transmission where two hosts discuss what they like about a particular car when standing next to them, are as dull and forced as ever, and even CH&M struggled to make those look effortless. ‘So you like the Focus RS then?’ “Yeah, I really like it”. Yawn!

So, on the balance I give the new TG team full marks for effort. TG is a cracking format, and it is bigger than Clarkson, Hammond and May. Once they find their way, Evans and the team will really shine, they just need about six months.

Disappointing motorbike? Start Riding it Properly

andrew Motorcycles Leave a Comment

Things come into being by means of ideas and concepts. Few thoughts or ideas are completely brand new. Motorcycles, like music, clothes, buildings, even iPhones, are created on the basis of what went before. Standing on the shoulders of giants, designers create new concoctions and life evolves. The importance of the intentionality that springs into a specific new creation should not be overlooked.

In the world of motorcycles, such intentionality is evident in motorcycle design – steering rake and trail, wheelbase, engine power output, weight, the state of wind protection, seating arrangements and control point positions – each is tailored to achieve a certain final result. If you find yourself frustrated at the controls of your bike, before you find any deficiency in the tool between your legs, ask yourself if you’re using it as it was designed.

Clearly jumping on a Goldwing or Victory and attempting to hustle it down a B road at extreme lean angles might not be quite what the designers had in mind, and so your willing ride might struggle to comply with your request. Large touring bikes are all about relaxed, effortless cruising, not racing around at maximum lean angles. They are about a soft, somewhat distanced relationship with the road. Comfort takes priority over weight saving. The stereo takes precedent over reducing weight and a comfortable foot peg position takes precedent over maximum clearance for lean angles when cornering. Expecting a Goldwing to perform well on a track day will only bring disappointment. It might be a laugh, but it’s not going to be that satisfying. That was obvious, and if you’re a sportsbike nut, you’ll know what I mean. But there are other ways of looking at this ’mismatch’ situation which grate just as easily, but not for the reasons you might think.


Let’s take the polar opposite of the Goldwing, something like a RSV4 or Yamaha R1; bikes which are designed to go as fast as possible on Tarmac. Bikes which are hard, uncompromising and illicitly quick. These bikes give you the rider the maximum feel so you know what is going on beneath the front and rear tyres. Control points are communicative, the seat thin, the riding position is extreme pushing weight over the front wheel, and throttle, brakes and steering are as sharp as a tack. These bikes were designed for the racetrack, and work best at the high levels of commitment, focus and commitment expected there. But take a track biased bike and put it on the public road, for a long period of time and you may find yourself feeling equally frustrated, not being able to ride the bike the way it wants to be ridden. You may also find the shouty feedback a bit overwhelming after a few hours, like being surrounded by s load of screaming kids when you want to lie back and chill out. Perhaps this is why extreme machines fall out of favour as people age….

Anyway, if a bike is designed for 200mph top speeds, the chances are it won’t feel that involving when pushing the national speed limit. Your choices then for riding satisfaction are threefold;

  1. You can ride the bike at the speeds it was designed for on the road,
  2. You can ride the bike predominantly on track, or
  3. You can ride around obeying the law and feeling frustrated.

So if you find yourself trying to turn your sports tourer into a track weapon and feel disappointed that it won’t perform, ratchet your aspirations back a couple of clicks and you’ll find your ride much more enjoyable. Equally, if you feel frustration riding your 200bhp monster on the public roads; if you feel like you’re riding a caged tiger, book yourself on a track day and let your hair down properly.

And so we come to the importance of what is termed a ‘flexible’ bike. Most of us want to ride our bikes on the road at least some of the time. That means restraint, or it means a bike which allows us to ride mostly within the law and still feel a sense of satisfaction. It feels nice to push the envelope, but when the envelope only starts getting pushed at 140mph, perhaps it’s time to get something which starts falling apart at slightly lower speeds?

In the car world, such a sentiment has been imbued into the Subaru BRZ / Toyota GT86. Rather than seeking to increase power & grip the car was designed around finding limits of traction, or pushing envelopes at completely road legal speeds. The car was deliberately fitted with low grip tyres for this purpose. It’s clever when you think about it. We get our kicks at speeds which mean the police don’t get theirs.


So what is the magic formula for ‘engagement’ on the road? Well, I still think a sportsbike is hard to beat. The communication, the willingness, the precision, the engines. What we do want to see are traits which make the bike fun, manageable at ‘normal’ speeds i.e. torque at low revs (flexible engine), comfortable ergonomics, comfy seat, everyday usability, adaptive suspension for comfortable pottering. It’s not hard to see why the BMW S1000RR sport is selling so well.