Saturday, April 26, 2008

Catch up

I've again fallen behind on Blogging, despite my best intentions and aims. Oh well. Maybe time for a catch up post then.

I've now had two Wednesdays of being talked to by an IAM senior observer about how to go about observing another motorcyclist and offering them advice on how to improve their riding skills towards passing the IAM advanced test. Then I've had one week where, accompanied by a senior observer, I was let loose with an associate who had no idea it was my first time (and I think I got away with it!).

Initially a bit worried about whether I would be able to spot things to talk about and verbalise what I saw in such a way that it would be constructive, I managed to cover all the pre ride points: introducing myself; checking out the condition of the bike and suitability of the rider's clothing; finding out what experience the rider had both in terms of overall riding and specifically how often he'd been to IAM evenings; ascertaining what things he felt he needed to work on; looking at his progress sheet to see how previous observers had seen him; explaining where we were going, the route we were going to take, and the practicalities of how I was going to follow him; and the very important disclaimer that is a version of

"at all times when we are on the road you are responsible for the control of your own motorcycle and responsible for your own conduct, and you should ride at all times safely and in accordance with the law. If by interpreting my words, actions or signals you believe that I'm asking you to do anything with which you're not happy, then don't do it."

In other words, if it all goes horribly wrong, it isn't the responsibility of the IAM or more importantly of me personally!

So having looked at his bike, a nice looking Honda CBR600 sports bike which I believe does about 160mph (about 40mph more than my comfy big BMW R1100RT Tourer) and gets from 0-60mph in about 3.8 seconds (the BMW does it in about 4.5 seconds) and briefly wondered to myself if I was about to embarrass myself by being left trailing behind him, unable to keep up on the twisty country roads (while of course both sticking to the speed limit), we chatted and identified what the things were that he himself felt he had to work on, which was borne out by the markings on his progress sheet by the previous two observers, this being only the rider's third time out with the IAM.

As an aside, the photo was taken at the recent Easter Egg run and shows my hefty BMW coincidentally parked next to a svelte CBR600 in the car park at the SECC as we were gathering for the run.

So we set off, with the rider leading and mostly taking the correct road position, which is towards the right hand side of the lane, and, other traffic permitting, fairly near the centre white line (on a single carriageway road), and me behind him basically riding in the gutter! Yes, the best position for an observer following a rider is over to the nearside of the road, as this gives the best view of what the rider is doing, and doesn't obstruct the rider's rear view, allowing him to ride as he would normally do. It felt a bit strange at first, but not too bad, and I got used to it quickly. The senior observer followed me, watching what I was doing as I watched what the associate was doing.

As a general rule I have no intention of Blogging in any great detail about IAM associates and their riding (whether good or bad) while being observed by me, because I think that would be creeping towards being overly intrusive into their privacy, so I won't detail anything about the ride that followed, apart from mentioning one instance going round a left hand bend on a country road within the national speed limit (60mph) when the rider correctly stayed out to the right hand side of his lane, near the centre white line, giving the best view as far round the corner as possible so as to see hazards early, but he didn't move to the left, to a safer position, when he saw a transit van coming towards us, and I swear there must have been only a few inches between him and the van's mirror as they passed each other at a combined speed of probably 100mph (we were doing about 50mph and so was the van I'd guess). I took a very big sharp intake of breath as I saw the van approach and pass, although due to the tightness of the bend and the hedges on either side obstructing the view it appeared and disappeared again very quickly and it was all over in a flash. The senior observer, who was riding behind me, summed it up later when he simply said "I shit myself when I saw that". The rider himself knew that this had been a narrow escape, and I suspect and hope it was a valuable lesson on the learning curve! Sacrifice positioning for safety every time!

Twisty road wise I needn't have worried about trying to keep up with the sports bike. The BMW is a big heavy tourer designed for long trips in comfort down relatively straight motorways and autobahns, and sports bikes are light and designed to be flicked round corners easily, with massive acceleration. But when you factor in the 60mph speed limit, and the ability of an advanced rider to ride smoothly round bends without having to use the brakes very often, then the playing field was levelled somewhat and I had no problems keeping up and being in more or less the right viewing position for most of the time.

All in all an enjoyable evening, and I didn't have any problems thinking of things to say and suggest.

That was two Wednesdays ago, and the following Saturday, last Saturday in fact, the bike went to a mechanic for its 6000 mile service. Suffice to say that it was never going to go smoothly, and the £80 I was expecting to pay for the oil change etc has become over £400 due to the wee oil leak which I had noticed over the past few months happening very occasionally and usually only first thing on cold mornings and only a few drips lasting a minute before stopping. This is the fault of the oil cooler, apparently. The BMW is an oil cooled machine, and the little radiator type thing in the front is where the oil from the engine goes to be cooled as it circulates.

The recommendation by the mechanic was not to ride the bike until it was fixed, since he has seen the results when the cooler gives out completely (as it could do at any time apparently), dropping all the oil from the bike in one go over the front wheel onto the road just in time for the back wheel to go over it. If that happens at any sort of speed, leaving aside the fact that the engine is likely to seize causing cripplingly expensive damage, then the combination of tyres, road and oil doesn't exactly enhance grip, and you would be likely to fall off very painfully, perhaps even terminally! So I took his advice and the bike has been lying with him for a week.

So a new one of them costs £167, and there are two hoses connecting it to the system, one of which needs replaced, but to be honest what's the point of only replacing one hose when the other might go soon too, it being the same age. About £35 each hose. And the extra labour involved in removing all of the fairing (or Tupperware as I believe it's sometimes jokingly called) and replacing it again. An extra £100 of labour in fact.

I sourced the parts for the bike from Motorworks, although I couldn't find the oil cooler on their excellent website so had to telephone them and Yvonne in sales proved to be very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, directing me to another website which they use to identify parts because it contains exploded diagrams of bikes. So having ordered the bits on Monday the box arrived at work on Wednesday, and I duly delivered it to the mechanic who will be putting the bike back together again today, I hope! I'm currently waiting on a phone call from him to say it's ready, and then I'll try to arrange a lift the 25 miles to where he has been working on it.

Singing wise, Glasgow Chamber Choir are about to travel to the south of France, to Marseilles, to perform a couple of concerts, one secular and one sacred.

The concerts are on Saturday and Sunday, but a crowd of us are taking full advantage by travelling out on Thursday and staying until Tuesday. Should be fun, and doubtless will generate one or two posts here in due course! The cats are booked into their regular holiday home from home.

Having taken an extended time out of the choir of St Mary's Cathedral (remember, the reason for this Blog's name!) which has lasted about a year so far, I recently sang there again to help out since they were very short of tenors for an Evensong. I enjoyed it greatly, and although I am not in a position to rejoin full time since they rehearse on the same evening as Glasgow Chamber Choir, I will be happy to help out as an occasional singer which seems to suit all round just now.

It seemed strange putting on a cassock after such a long time away, but it now seems inevitable that it was going to happen at some point, although I can now reveal that for almost all of the past year I have had no intentions of ever returning to St Mary's or to church generally, for reasons I won't go into. I also know that there is someone who, if they knew I was again at St Mary's, would be deeply hurt, and I'm truly sorry about that and genuinely hope that person is doing OK and getting on well with life. I'm sorry I don't know for certain that they are doing well, but I tried to keep in touch but was rebuffed, or my calls were ignored anyway. We all have to make decisions in our lives about what to do, and sometimes the right course of action for one person is absolutely the wrong one for another, and sometimes decisions we make for ourselves hurt other people's feelings. I don't mean to hurt anyone, it's not in my nature, but I need to do what's right for me, and not live my life worried about what others may think. Sorry.

Anyway, moving on.

I've been using Facebook for a while now, and although I'm clearly not in their target age range (!) I'm enjoying it and I think it's a good way of keeping in touch with current friends, and making contact with old friends. I've already added two secondary school contemporaries of mine as friends, and it's great to see how people are doing. I don't use my real name on here, and don't tend to use other people's real names either, instead sticking to their initials, but in the unlikely event that you read this Blog and want to become my Facebook friend (and God help you if you do, there must be something missing in your life!) then if you send me your email address and name I'll go searching for you on Facebook with a view to adding you as a friend. I think I can find you as long as I search for the email address you have registered with them.

I've been looking at Blogger and there doesn't seem to be any way to contact me privately via this Blog (although I do receive an email whenever a comment is posted), and I'm not going to publish my email address and neither do I expect anyone to publish their email address and name on a comment for all to see, so the best I can come up with to avoid nasty people obtaining private data, is that if you go to my Website, and to the My Choirs page, there's a link there at the top right hand side to contact me regarding choirs. It goes to a Webmaster email address which I monitor. That is a bit of a roundabout way of doing it, but it's the only way I can think of that avoids publishing email addresses for every bastard spammer in the world to see!

And in case you're wondering, this "be my friend on Facebook" thing is neither a sad plea for friends nor an attempt to harvest email addresses for nefarious purposes, it's just a wee extension of the Blog, sort of, and is aimed at any regular readers. I will not use your email address for anything other than searching for you on Facebook with a view to adding you as a friend. Promise.

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