This blog will be about the life and experiences of an active motorcycle courier in the UK who rides all over the UK and into western Europe.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Unleaded Price Shock

I was returning back from a job to central London about 8PM last evening and decided to stop at my favourite hot dog wagon for a bite and a cuppa, it's located at South Mimms services and offers what I think is the best road side food at the best prices.

Now in complete contrast, the BP garage about 100 meters away caught my eye with their fuel prices, I was astounded - £1.28-9 per liter. That's £5.86-49 per gallon ouch!

(apologies for the quality of the photo)

Is this the highest priced unleaded in the UK or have you seen it higher, at this rate prices here will soon be comparable to those in Europe?

Let everyone know here of you have seen it higher.



Saturday, 10 April 2010

Repairs, New Boots and a Rant!

Well as you may have read recently I have been looking for a new collector box and down pipes for my ST1100 as it had been starting to sound a bit louder than normal, not unpleasant but the noise was indication of problems.

I had checked many web sites for a set of replacements and found prices ranging from about £400 to £209, also add to these prices the cost of fitting and it adds up. Because I rely on my bike for my work I always get major work done by the guys at A1 Honda in Stamford, maybe that’s why I have never experienced a breakdown.

However on this occasion I decided to have a closer inspection of the problem before I took the plunge and ordered the new items. I started the bike and then got underneath it to feel where the blowing was coming from by using my fingers to fee the exhaust gasses, once the blowing was located I gave the collector box a good clean off with a wire brush and found one small hole and a small spilt, about 2cm long, both in the same area near a weld. The rest of the collector box was sound although covered in a layer of rust.

Back to the interweb again to do some searching for a way to repair these holes and I came across this product:

Quiksteel Thermosteel Exhaust Repair kit

Which can be ordered here?

I chose this because it stands very high temperatures and is sold for manifold repairs, it also comes with a small piece of fibreglass matting which is ideal for covering the split I had found. Fitting this repair was easy and once I was happy with it out came the hot air blower (Shalini’s hair dryer) to help the repair to start to set. Then I left it for a couple of hours and then went and started the bike because this stuff hardens with heat. I was happy to discover I had a very quiet bike again.

This repair will get a good test this weekend as I have some 720 miles to cover between Sunday and Monday.

I have decided to get some very high temperature paint from Halfords next week and then I will give the whole collector box a good clean off with the wire brush and then give it a couple of coats of paint, will also use this on the silencers as well after cleaning off the winter corrosion. As I always say” prevention is better than cure” and it also can save you a lot of money!

On a different subject, after 9 years a heaven knows how many miles in everything the British weather can throw at a motorcyclist my Frank Thomas boots finally gave up and started leaking, not nice when you are in Calais and still have 170 miles to go to get home. So off I went to Hein Gericke in Peterborough, I knew what I wanted, they had to be Gortex to allow for all year round use and I was pleasantly surprised to find a great pair, right size and all the features I was looking for, on offer at £99.00, reduced from £159.00, how lucky was that! Of course I snapped them up.

Finally I have new back tyre going on next week as it's almost worn out, will be fitting a Bridgestone BT021 again, brilliant all weather tyre which has given me just over 10,000 miles. So it will be of to A1 Honda to have this fitted by the guys, mustn't forget the doughnuts!

Now I am going to get on my soap box and I am not going to apologise for it, with the better weather arriving again a lot of bikes are coming out of hibernation as the fair weather riders hit the streets again. Now I have no problem with this at all, if you choose only to ride in good weather that’s fine, it’s your right. What I do have a problem with is the idiot’s who choose to use the roads in the built up areas as drag strips, I hear them screaming up and down Edinburgh road here in Stamford, why god only knows as they are only about a mile away from the A1. If you are one of these “screamers” reading this, tell me one thing:

If you are travelling at 50mph plus and a child, OAP, dog, cat or whatever decides to step out in front of you what are you going to do – most likely injure them or even kill them, the speed limit is 30mph for a reason, stay below it and save your speed for either a track or major road!

Nuff said

Ride safe


Friday, 2 April 2010

Taking Your Bike to Europe on Eurotunnel

I though it might be useful to pass on a few tips that I have learnt over the last few years when taking the bike across to Europe on the Eurotunnel.

Well why choose Eurotunnel over the many ferry services available, for me speed of crossing is paramount so there is just no comparison with the other services. Another problem you have if go by sea is that your bike could be damaged as a result of rough sea, not good. You don’t get this problem on a train going under the sea, the only movement you will feel is when the train gets about half way and crosses over a junction in the tracks – no bother!

With a crossing time of approximately 35 minutes, there is just enough time to reset your watch, clock on the bike, have a sandwich and stroll round and have a stretch and then you are on your way again.

I always book on line as it’s quick and easy and your confirmation arrives in minutes by e-mail. However, make sure you take the card you used to make the online booking with you when you go to the Eurotunnel.

If you are approaching along the M20, I would advise you turn off at the Ashford turn and follow the signs for the Superstore and fill up your tank there, fuel over here is a hell of a lot cheaper here than on mainland Europe.

When you leave the Superstore, get yourself back on the M20 and you only have about 10 miles to go before you turn off for the Eurotunnel.

Unless you have booked a Flexi pass head for one of the check in terminals with a green cross above it, all you need now is the card you used to make your reservation with, the automatic check in procedure is pretty painless, just follow the on screen prompts, insert your car and put it back in your wallet when its spat back out.

If you have arrived earlier than your reserved crossing, nine times out of ten you will be offered an earlier crossing at no charge, the same goes if you arrive late, in my experience there is a two hour window in operation, so you can either be up to 2 hours early or 2 hours late. I do not say this is standard Eurotunnel practice and should not be taken as gospel.

At the end of the check in process the machine will spit a Hanger (ticket) out for you, it will have a latter on it, remember this letter you will need it later, and then stuff the hanger in your pocket.

Your next stop will be the UK Border control, have your passport handy, makes life easier, once through there you will hit the French Border control, passport time again and then you are on your way. Keep an eye on the overhead signs and follow the motorcycle symbol. Eventually you will arrive at another checkpoint and they will ask you for your hanger letter, if you have remembered it so much the better as you won’t have to through your pockets to find it. You will then be told which lane to go and park in until called forward.

Now if it’s sunny, sit back on the grass and enjoy it, if it’s raining sit back and suffer it, you will soon be in the warm and dry of the train.

If you notice cars staring to move off from other lanes don’t worry, bikes are always loaded last.

Once you get called forward just follow the directions and green arrows and you won’t get lost, you will find yourself going down a steep ramp to the train, at this point you may be asked to wait to one side while they continue to load more cars, then you eventually you will be called forward.

If it’s wet take it easy as you ride onto the train, you are riding onto a metal ramp and it is slippery sometimes. You may also be asked to ride on either the left or right side of the train by the operative, head what he/she tells you.

While riding through the train keep your feet up as there are metal fixings sticking up that make your toes hurt of you smack into one, I know I did it on first trip – ouch!

When you get to your allotted space, usually the last one in a carriage you will either be asked to park at 45 degrees across the carriage with your front wheel against the kerb and in 1st gear, or you will be brought so you are parallel with the kerb and then asked to turn the wheel into the kerb and 1st gear again, personally I prefer the first method, leaves more room for your side stand and seems more secure when the train goes over the junction half way through the crossing.

If it’s been wet I put my helmet over the blowers at the side, you can see it in the picture and it helps to dry out those parts that have got wet.

Now you have some time to do whatever you want, there are toilets on the train in every third carriage. As I said earlier I use this time to have a bite to eat and a drink, change my clocks and GPS data card over.

When you get the other end get your gear back on and be ready because they don’t take their time when unloading, and don’t forget to engage NEUTRAL!! And very important, ride on the wrong side of the road, when overtaking check your left mirror! I find that drivers over there are very good at pulling back in after overtaking on the motorways, you won’t see a lot of outside lane hogging over there.

Coming back is a reverse of the process, but I have found of late the French Border Controls are paying particular attention to bikes for some reason, out of the last 3 trips I have been pulled over and searched twice.

Waiting to board on the French side, yes it had been raining!

Once you arrive back in the UK there is a petrol station on your right as you come down the ramp towards the M20.

So there you go it’s easy and quick and really is a good gateway to Europe.

Couple of other things: always carry your licence, insurance and log book with you and have a wadge of Euro’s in case you meet those nice police men.

Just came across this video of bikes goning on and off the Eurotunnel on Youtube posted by Advancedbiker back in 2008 - enjoy

Ride safe