How much progress is too much?

Now this was originally going to be part of my earlier post but, over the course of writing it, it kinda devolved into basically a rant/rally. I also acknowledge that I am under the average age of motorcyclists, but that it hasn’t stopped me being a miserable old bugger.

I’m painfully aware that motorcycling does need to go with the times (to a point) in order to attract younger riders, not just those Deliveroo loonies on mopeds either, REAL riders. Without this it risks becoming a fringe old man’s club to argue about the specifics of ‘Sticky toffee pudding’ and biscuits. Eventually even electric Motorcycles will be part of that, just maybe not until they sort the range issues out.

For every jump forward in technology and lifestyle though, there has to be some sticking points to push back against.

Yup and this has to be it, helmets with augmented reality. Surely this is absolutely anathema to any essence of motorcycling, regardless of if you are one of the purists or already drive a large bike with most modern comforts, yes I’m looking at you heated seat/cruise control/massive fairings.

Now a useful turn by turn satnav is a hill I will die upon, we can’t all fit a massive AA roadmap in a pannier (I need that room for cheese!) and still requires some interaction. I won’t however, take away the sense of adventure, the engines tone, the wind against skin, picking your way across the countryside to the most remote chippy you could find.

With a heads up display, augmented reality, inbuilt personal assistants trapping off in your ear, rear cameras, not to mention your partner being able to ring and ask that killer question: “Which chippy are you going to?”

I’m clearly missing something here, why would you ultimately wish to ditch all the vital parts of motorcycling? You may as well sit at home and play some VR motorcycle game on the computer……

How is it Indian motorcycle companies are just so good at capturing the sheer essence of it?

I’m not sure I can use the phrase ‘Pure motorcycling’, as I am pretty sure than Royal Enfield have put their mark on that. More specifically though, I don’t want this to be just about RE, and more about the general approach of so many Indian motorcycle companies.

Without pillaging the twitter accounts of various bike companies, you can take it from me that a very quick flick through them will provide you with some very wholesome biker & travelling content. Mountains, deserts, forests, tundra with 300-450cc bikes it’s all there!

We’ve got pics of proud riders in various gorgeous natural backdrops, vistas of the gracious hills of Ladakh and none of the usual trappings associated with much of the European motorcycling content. We could point out the lack of large touring bikes and the ubiquitous metal panniers, but it’s fairly inconsequential to the point I’m trying to make. Somehow the brands are doing such a good job encapsulating the essence of what it is to just ride.

Chicken or egg?

So have they played up to an already popular theme, or did they create it? They after all are not the only manufacturers with popular low CC bikes in the sub-continent: Benelli, Bajaj, Keeway, to name but a few. Yet, despite that fact it seems to be the home brands who have cornered this area without much effort.

Benelli Imperiale 400c

Take the Benelli 400, roughly the same engine as the Mahindra & Royal Enfield offerings, a similar appearance and the same analogue controls so popular with it’s competition. The lacking brand appeal though seems to have truncated its sales and has prevented what should be it’s rightful place in the mountain passes with it’s competitors.

So did they?

In my humble opinion no, the brands just gave everyone what they really wanted. An affordable, no frills adventure on a great looking retro-classic motorcycle without any of distractions, just you and journey ahead. The appeal of certain brand and an undeniable heritage in some cases has essentially just stacked the numbers, in a different equal market I could quite easily see a more even mix of brands lining up to conquer the mountains.

How fast is your bike really?

So I made the mistake the other week of watching motorcycle content from across the pond. Against my better judgement that is, I find European and Asian motorcycle journalism to be much more objective. Indian motorcycle in particular is genuinely on the ball vastly more than UK based, they seem to keep an eye on international releases as well as its own domestic releases….Anywho….

A particular group of of reviewers from North America were meant to be reviewing the Royal Enfield GT 650, not exactly my favourite RE (although you know I love an Enfield!), I thought I would give it a watch. A few minutes in and one reviewer described it as “slow”, ok I’m pausing from what my usual rant would be about the complete lack of objectivity in describing a Cafe racer styled bike as “slow”. Ignoring the fact that’s about as helpful as calling a BMW GS “heavy” for review purposes, it highlights a strong and very prominent point when it comes to reviewing bikes: Actually how fast is your bike?

Neither fast or furious.

Bull by the horns here, do you do track days? Yes/no here folks it’s a really simple question. I follow some very fast and highly talented people on twitter who do, apart from being absolutely nuts, I’ve no doubt they are getting the absolute best from their bikes and can push several hundred miles an hour on a corner.

For the rest of us the answer is 70, just 70. If you’re on a 125, you might just make it.

Let’s be fair, unless you’re in one of those rich European countries, the last time the council filled in the pot holes, there was a guy in a white suit with his foot up against a window.

Sorry folks, we spent the road budget on buying a golf club. (This actually happened)

So you’ve got your replica race bike (CBR9001RRRR-RRRR or equivalent) and while giving it a good ‘Brarp’ down the high street, somehow dodging a surface that looks like it recently featured in the destruction of a Russian tank detachment and you get to the open road. Miles upon miles of tarmacked dual carriageway heaven just waiting for you to open the throttle….. But wait….

The wild speed camera in it’s natural environment.

Worse still, some of these are theit average speed cousins so you can’t even cruise past and then ‘Brarp’ all the way to the next one and pretend you were doing 70 the whole time. Then the envelope of suffering hits the doormat and the fines spill out.

Bastard” – Sean Bean.

That’s not even counting other road users, I legitimately saw the most Norfolk thing last week. A tractor overtaking another tractor on the dual carriageway, neither backing down and blocking both lanes for a good few miles. I’m not even mentioning the local old Doris who drives everywhere at 45mph. Motorway, D/C, single lane national, 30mph zone etc. etc.

So realistically speed is as useful as a Tesla in a power cut, as relevent as CC’s in an EFI market, as pointless as a ‘weight-watchers’ meal after 15 pints of lager…..

Ride what you want, but unless you’re on the track, your top speed is 70.

The Hunter 350cc launch, thoughts but no prayers.

Well after waiting for the late starting livestream and watching it’s entirety, what did I actually learn? I’ll be honest here, frankly nothing apart from colours.

We seem to have 3 basic subtypes as with the prior 350cc releases which in this case are: Retro, Metro & Metro Rebel. The Metro Rebel is the ever shown in publications blue/white combo. Imho a bloody great scheme but what will be released in the UK remains to be confirmed.

Setting the scene.

Now anyone who’s ever interacted with me practically ever or even momentarily glanced at my blog will know I’m a fan of Royal Enfield motorcycles. Not just because I spend part of my waking life tracking obscure rumours and leaks across the internet, because I believe when it comes to the spirit of pure motorcycling, RE have absolutely nailed it. I don’t like all their bikes, but I can certainly appreciate them.

This doesn’t mean for a moment though, I won’t issue criticism when appropriate (like my crappy cat box!!!!), I’m just some loudmouth who loves bikes after all.

So why the long face.

I’d been following the news, testing and development of the Hunter since October so this wasn’t jumping out on me unlike many, the last few weeks of YouTube shorts and mini videos had certainly kept my attention thus far. Considering the highly professional release videos for the Classic and SCRAM (particularly the Classic) with clear mission statements and well organised sequences, this was an unwelcome and disjointed effort.

The launch for the SCRAM had a clear message throughout the video and the information was fluid and clear. The footage showed the bike in both the urban & off road environments. Yup, it’s a stripped down Himalayan and much better at the urban environment, something I know a lot of owners had mentioned it wasn’t. Good job marketing department, pat on the back there.

The Classic, released before that had a very different approach but all importantly a professional intro video with the models history well introduced, all the variants laid out and explained. As above, great work.

The Hunter had a confusing video with some random folk doing things and then jumping on their bikes. It seemed rather disjointed as a lot of the time it seemed the emphasis was on them (mainly taking pictures of each other) and not the bikes they were riding. The footage of the bikes was patchy, we didn’t really get a gauge of their capabilities, is it just an urban scrambler or can we blitz it across a nearby green lane? These questions weren’t really answered so I’m left with a confused impression of the launch and it’s capability. If I have to give a guess on it’s purpose I would assume it’s the Meteor’s urban scrambler version.

Will I try one when they come out? Probably. Considering the new Bullet comes out in November, I hope the marketing is somewhat clearer this time. Val, out.

Travels for Cheese – Episode 4: Bandit country.

This month’s trip took my south of the immediate borders of Norfolk and into territory the locals here seem to regard with some same trepidation as akin to an East Anglian DMZ. Not sharing in their personal beliefs, and with a strong desire for cheese I headed off…

Destination!
Lock, stock and a helmet full of cheese! (Ok and Skyr)

Do I have a treat for you this time folks, 3 produced at the on site dairy and a guest cheese! Now, we love a guest cheese so when there was a deal going down for some ‘Baron Bigod’ and ‘Nettlebed’ for £5.60, I was all over it like a rash.

The haul!

The St.Helena

Yeah I proper broke out the sourdough.

This is brine washed cheese, don’t confuse this with continental varieties that normally rock up around Christmas. This has a hard mould covered outer texture and a much firmer one within. You can’t smear this remotely and it feels supple with a nutty aftertaste which begins slowly after the initial notes and the uniqueness the mould seems to provide.

The St.Jude

Cheesy goodness!

This is one of the most unusual cheese I have tasted so far. It has a soft, moist and slightly pasty texture, that builds after the initial bite. Not only can you taste that raw milk with grassy tones, but a slight floral aftertaste shortly materialises. Unlike the St.Helena above you can smear this should you decide to, it won’t ruin texture one bit.

Witheridge in hay.

The purely accidental guest cheese in this lineup, not locally produced like the others but an import from the South. I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to try this out, especially as it didn’t involve a ride to Oxfordshire to grab a slice.

This is a mature, farmhouse style cheese which punches its weight in any arena. It’s nowhere near as crumbly as you expect from this style of cheese and with the definite after notes of hay. A very impressive cheese in itself with an equally impressive firmness, this should displace all but the beat cheddar on any table.

Another cheese?

Well yes, there was an additional cheese. But, as we already reviewed it on my first trip I won’t waste your eating time.

As I’m slowly gaining skill on the bike it’s allowing me to reach further out of the area in search of great riding roads and tasty cheese. Next month I’m hoping to don some shades and head even further afield. Stay tuned for that one.

Today’s expedition.

Right, I’m really splitting today up for a good reason. Putting on my Bono voice for just a second: “With and without cheese.” Yeah, anyway after briefly moonlighting as the lead from U2 I jumped on the Meteor and got going.

Today’s loop.

After humming all the way into Norwich and doing a morning of work (allegedly), It was bike on the bike to Bandit country…. Suffolk. The usual passport jokes were washed off when coworkers remembered I was here on my ‘Provisional Northerner Visa’ anyway. I tapped the address into Tripper and it was on the way to cheesy goodness. I’m gonna deal with that separately.

How was Tripper this time?

Short answer, not great. Ok I might be slightly harsh on this but I will explain. Norwich to the outskirts of Bungay absolutely no issues at all, in fairness from Bungay all the way home was also absolutely flawless despite coming back through Wymondham. In the middle though I had losses of connectivity, despite updating every 50 metres this was a minus in local villages where several turns would appear within 50M and I’ll be honest, I got lost…… Many times, probably for a total of 20 minutes. I’m hoping not to have these issues next month as we go further afield.

Now how much of this is down to loss of mobile coverage I wonder? I can’t exactly pull over and check every single time the spinning compass starts again. I do wish Royal Enfield would update the app for UK users though. While the Trippers software is in the version 7’s currently, the app is still lounging at version 1.5 unlike my good friends in central Asia and the subcontinent.

Oooh look, a slight incline!
Another slight incline.
My eventual destination, sadly the coffee machine was broken.

South Norfolk roads Vs North Suffolk.

Honestly these couldn’t be anymore different if they had tried, quite a few times heading south I could easily have done national but the limit was strangely between 40 and 50mph. On top of that the vision is pretty good and the surface seems a lot newer and undamaged Vs other areas of East Anglia.

“Sure, you could easily go 60…but why? Just enjoy the ride.” – Suffolk road to Bungay.

South Norfolk just seemed like the limits were set-up by someone who had shares in a local funeral directors. I’ll be honest there was a few squeaky bum corners and after taking one at 40mph, I genuinely thought if I’d been 5-10mph faster I would have binned it.

“Go 60! I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker!!” – South Norfolk road.

One thing I do have to mention though is that maneuvering a small bike through tiny villages is a lot easier than driving, there’s some one way systems from hell about and I actually pitied some of the car drivers.

Anyway, enough of me for a bit… Time to eat cheese and drink coffee!