Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Deauville replacement

After week of trying and being thwarted by mother nature and the weather, yesterday I finally got to test ride a motorcycle I'd found through a classified advert on eBay put there by a local motorbike dealer. CMC have a big outlet at Clay Cross in Derbyshire which is well known, but this bike was on sale at their Nottingham showroom at Daybrook.

Sue and I had popped over to view the bike and spend time checking out a few other options on Saturday afternoon, but with snow on the ground and freezing temperatures causing black ice there was no way I wanted to be out on a demo ride and nor would they let me. So with all the snow gone and a break in the weather I made a call and zipped over there after work yesterday. As arranged my good mate Steve met me there (he lives about a mile away) to give practical and moral support - I always like to have another pair of eyes with me to avoid those "rose tinted glasses" situations where you end up with a right dog when others can see it for what it is and you can't.

Well no trouble in this instance, it looks good, goes well and I can (just about) get my feet on the deck when at a standstill. Considering it has only 5 bhp more than my old 650 Deauville it goes a lot sharper so I have to put that down to the newer technology Honda have built into it. What is it? It is a Honda XL700VA Transalp with full luggage, heated grips and crash protection bars. Collection is arranged for Saturday, if they can source and fit a centre stand by then, otherwise I'll have to wait a bit longer.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Volvo S40

As I said in Stuff posted back on 13th December, I am now a Volvoist, a Volvo owner and it's time for some comment on the subject. First, I never thought I'd ever be a Volvo owner / driver - that's for the elderly and / or safety obsessed, not me, I'm not one of them, am I?

So I am surprised that this little car which was bought simply because it is came over as an honest little car is actually a pleasure to live with. Like most cars it has bings and boings to remind the forgetful that seat belts have to be worn, that doors have to be shut, and all the stuff that stupid people forget / ignore. But these are much more friendly than their German equivalents. These start off nice and quiet, the volume building as you go, not shouty-shouty like those in the Mercedes and VW I have owned. The rear parking sensor is usable and even picks up kerbs, in fact everything is pretty well sorted and refined for such a small family car. The central console has a menu that controls the computer controlled functions of the car which I find really easy to use. The windscreen has a quick clear function which works well and the driving position is so comfortable. The sound system is really good too, easy to set up, program and adjust to suit for personal preferences.

So it is easier to list the things I don't like. The nearside mirror has a very poor field of view so it is just as well it is electrically adjustable (and that is easy to use). The rear screen could do with a wiper to speed up clearing it. The boot could be a bit bigger (actually, quite a lot bigger, it is small) and there is very little storage space in the cabin. The Pirelli tyres are quite noisy so I will soon be replacing them.

After the 2 bigger and much more powerful diesels this 1.8 petrol has taken a little getting used to (and I think I'd like a diesel version even better). The fuel tank is half the size, and consumption is roughly 10 mpg less than the bigger cars which means I am filling it up on a more regular basis - but at least each fill costs so much less at roughly half of the 2 diesels. We have done a couple of long trips in it and they were both trouble and pain free, so rather unexpectedly I am enjoying being a Volvoist. Suzie is happy to drive it (she would not drive the Passat which she hated with a vengeance) and Andy has given it his seal of approval (first time he's done that since I sold the Honda Accord) saying it is better than both the German cars I've owned. They were good examples of their marques but I agree with him, it is, I am surprised!

Aprilia Shiver 750 GT

Saturday 5th January saw me pile all my riding gear into the boot of the car and drive over to Staffordshire Triumph for a test ride on this pretty little 2009 Aprilia Shiver 750 GT with just 6,400 miles under its wheels. I had been watching the bike on eBay, BikeTrader and MCN classifieds ever since selling my Deauville (i.e. all over Christmas and New Year) and was set on buying it if it was as good as the pictures and rode as well as it looked.

Tiko spotted me the moment I arrived - it is so nice to be met by a friendly and cheerful grin when you are looking to spend a load of dosh on a major purchase such as this. We chatted as I sat on the bike in the showroom, there was no rush, no pushy sales pitch, and eventually I got my gear on, signed my life away on an insurance waiver form and Tiko brought the bike out of the showroom, got it gassed up and tyres checked.

It has been more than 7 years since I test rode a bike and so I was full of trepidation, plus, I don't know my way around that part of the country that well. So tentative best describes my setting off. No need for fear, this was a well prepared machine that rode as well as it looked and the sound from those under-seat exhausts was glorious. I felt I was sitting a bit high, on rather than in the bike but boy, I was grinning insanely as I rode through urban streets heading out towards the A500 where I was looking forward to a blast. And it was a blast, but not the sort I was expecting. Acceleration was fabulous, far better than anything a Deauville could deliver, but as I went past 60mph I started to feel the full blast - on my chest. The aerodynamics of the fairing was directing all the wind straight onto my chest to the point where I felt I would probably be happier on a naked version of the Shiver. Two junctions down the A500 I came off, round the roundabout and blasted back off up the way and back to the showroom. This just confirmed the earlier impression - great bike, fabulous engine and accompanying sound track but the aerodynamics are all wrong.

Sitting down with Tiko we did some sums as I had a think... but at the end of the day I wasn't convinced. The fly-by-wire throttle was new to me and I'd probably get used to it. It isn't practical and options for luggage are limited and costly. I'd need heated grips, hand guards and a chain oiler for practical reasons. This was all starting to add up to more than I wanted to shell out.

So I walked away. I'm still thinking about it as I write this up 4 days later. I just love it's looks and the one I rode had been spoilt and had obviously lead a sheltered life. It had braided brake lines, rear hugger, belly pan and fender extender. It is immaculate in the true sense of the word and I still want it. But it doesn't fit into the role I have for it. For a blast around some Alpine roads it would be superb, but the ride there and back would be sheer hell.

A life lived

Wednesday 2nd January - the only thoughts we had were for the cremation service for my father at 1 o'clock that afternoon. With mother we had done our best to arrange a celebration of dad's life. Suzie and Angie were in charge of getting the food prepared for the wake. I'd been with mother to the undertakers to make sure she got the service she wanted for dad, and had been with her when the reverend Bates had called on his fact finding visit so that he could say a few words. The music, hymns and prayers were all chosen, family contacted and along with a few friends invited to the ceremony. Directions had been issued as few of those coming know their way across Derby to the Markeaton Crematorium where the service was to be held in the small chapel.

Angie and John had been first to arrive, not surprising as Angie was helping Suzie, and John soon got a call to go and be support to our sister Chris who was staying at the bungalow with mother for her few days in from the USA. Most folks were going direct to the crematorium, so we set off in good time to make sure we were there when the hearse arrived.

And everything went smoothly. We all ended up in the right place at the right time. It was a simple service but fittingly for father it was a brass tacks, no fuss celebration of his achievements, his life and our memories of him. When it was done we all convoyed back round the ring road to our place for the wake. It was good to have a family gathering, just a shame it was for another death in the family (the last one had been my mother's mum nearly 6 years earlier).

Since then we have had a few phone calls from those who attended - all positive about how well we had balanced the event and the day, a fitting tribute to a man struck down by Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating affliction that robbed him of his retirement and condemned mother to spend her retirement years as his full time carer. As mother so candidly put it - he's had nearly 30 years of hell, he has been to hell and back, hopefully now he is in a better place.

RIP Dad.