25 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

To anyone reading this blog, many thanks and have a Merry Christmas and happy biking New Year.

23 December 2010

Arai Helmet pod removal

With the inclement weather I took the opportunity to give my Arai helmet a good cleaning. As I wanted to give the helmet a mini service I needed to get the side pods off of the helmet. For those who don't have Arai helmets the side pods cover the workings of the visor. It isn't immediately obvious how to get them off. So a quick search on the Internet came up with a corker of a YouTube clip:

This makes it really clear on how to remove them and re-install them. Why take them off? On one side when I had mine off there was a small collections of bugs (eww).

Another clip (from the same guys) shows what to do if when you put the pods back on and they don't go exactly right.

Overall a great guide if you want to get the pods off for a complete clean. It also helped me understand how the visor actually works, now I am much better at putting the visor back on because of it. That said when I come to replace the helmet I will be going for another brand. The visor system is a complete pain in the backside, not to mention I feel that the pods actually increase the amount of wind noise, although that is only my opinion.

21 December 2010

Free tickets for 2011 NEC?

According to MCN the organisers of the 2010 NEC Motorbike show have offered all those who were not able to attend the show this year free tickets for next years show. When I say free tickets, it means that this years tickets will be valid for next year.

There is no official line on this as far as I can see and I have contacted the organisers to find out if this is true. Once I know I will get up on here. If it is, then great as I wouldn't have wasted my tickets from this year. It is also a nice gesture as they really don't have to do it, they aren't responsible for the weather after all; though I would say it would be better to move it to a warmer time of year then and of Autumn!

19 December 2010

Top speed run - ZX10R

Well, although not available in Europe yet, one lucky American has taken his new ZX10R and gone to see how fast he can go. Firstly not the most legal thing to do and secondly may not be the best way to run your brand new engine in! That said there are rumours that the recall of the bike by Kawasaki is due to "accelerated engine wear", so doing this probably is best left until you know the engine won't die quickly on you. Still, amazing to watch!

Source: MCN

18 December 2010

Mobile Template

New feature to Blogger is a template for mobile devices. Having had a look on my Android phone the format is much easier to read. The videos and maps I have don't reformat so there is a small amount of side scrolling for some posts. However it should make reading any Blogger based blog (assuming the owner has opted to activate the template) much easier.

11 December 2010

Kawaksaki Z1000SX Review

Just how good or bad is the Z1000SX? Apparently quite good according to MCN. They also have a full review in this weeks paper too. So if, like me, you like the idea of a supersports but want a more upright riding position then this could be the bike for you.

06 December 2010

British Superbikes - Map and Dates

The new calendar for 2011's BSB racing is now online. As I wasn't able to get out to the NEC as the weather conspired against me, I am looking to going to some of the more local BSB races. I have made a Google Maps layer for the locations and the dates. If you spot an error let me know in the comments.

02 December 2010


Well the snow here has stopped play on the bike for a while. I know I am an all year rider buy even I have limits! The only concern I have at the moment is if the weather improves for going to Motorcycle Live this weekend. Really hoping so, come hell or high water I am going, just how hard will it be to get there!

28 November 2010

Kawasaki Riders Club

So it seems that Kawasaki have launched a new club for Kwaker riders and fans. The cost is £20 a year and with that you get a number of offers for going to BSB and WSB. Also you can undisclosed discounts on official Kawasaki merchandise. Oh, and if you join before the end of the Motorcycle Live! you will be entered to win a track day in Spain. Lastly you get a magazine (called GO) twice a year.

Is it worth the £20 a year. Given the list of benefits maybe, especially if you like to go to the BSB rounds and want to go to the WSB at Silverstone. Still undecided if I want to join up though, have to ask some questions when I go to Motorcycle Live later this week.

13 November 2010

Autocom Power

Not much happening on the bike front for me at the moment (other then riding it!). Today, however, I have been able to install the battery lead for my Autocom unit. This means I don't have to worry about recharging the batteries within the unit as the bike now powers it.

However this does lead to a few issues. Firstly to get any music out of the unit I have to lift up my seat and turn on the player. Not a problem, that is if Kawasaki had actually designed a latching system for the seat that just slips on and off. No, they have gone for one that you have to wiggle and push the seat around to get it to locate and secure. The same is true of the radios. I have the Midland G7 and the cable from Autocom is a mere 6 inches long (150mm for the metricated), which means there may not be enough room under the seat for both (haven't tried yet it was getting quite dark by the time I finished). I can make some small extension leads for it and that is the route I will take if I have too.

As someone who is interested in electronics I am hoping to find/create a MP3 system that will operate something like a car stereo and have a continue feature as power is applied. This would be great as it would mean, at least for music, I wouldn't have to pull up the seat to start it.

Well, thats it for the moment. Next major thing for me will be the NEC motorbike show later in the month. Looking forward to it and getting to see the new GSXR600, CBR600 and ZX10R. Till then!

11 October 2010

New Kawasaki Bikes for 2011

 Okay, I am a bit of a Kawasaki fan boy at the moment. They have presented their 2011 bike offerings and there are a couple that I am interested in.
The main one has to be the new ZX10R. From the initial artist concept drawings to the race version to the road, I have loved the look of it. Now to be fair, I doubt I will every ride one, let alone own one (however I wouldn't mind a test ride Kawasaki!). It gets close to 200bhp with a weight of around 200kg (depending on ABS). The most powerful bike I have ridden is my ER-6F, a mere tiddler compared to this behemoth. I now wait to see it in the metal at the NEC show later this year, assuming I will be able to get to it through the crowds it is sure to draw in. I also hope that the race version will help Kawasaki on the track.

The other new bike that I am more interested in is the Z1000SX, which is a Sports Tourer. Unlike the ZX10R it has a much more upright riding position which, in turn, provides a better long distance riding ability. With an adjustable windscreen and larger fuel tank there has obviously been thought into its touring capability (listening Honda?). Not too sure on the exhausts though, or some of the styling. Maybe it'll look better with my own eyes and not through a camera.

Either way I like both bikes. If I were in the position I would look at getting one of them to go alongside my ER-6F. The ER for my commute and the other for my weekend/summer blats. Following are a couple of videos I found for both.

24 September 2010

Trip around Lake District

View Larger Map

Earlier this year I went on a trip with some friends to Lands End. I have been looking for my next adventure and have my sights set on the Lake District. Although not confirmed, I have devised a route that would go around most of the lakes. It is a total mixture of roads from Dual Carriageway to back B roads. Hopefully it would have some breathtaking scenery! Now I just need to find out if my mates want to come along as well!

03 September 2010

Mack's Pillow Soft Ear Plugs

Bikes produce noise.Something most (all?) bikers know about. When you are sitting at motorway speeds your ears can be receiving around 100dB of engine/wind noise. That is 5-10dB over the limit that can cause hearing loss (according to this chart). I protected my hearing with normal foam earplugs. However they have a few issues for me. Firstly they are often too long and get pulled out of my ears when I put my helmet on. Secondly, my ears don't seem to get a solid seal around them which will then allow some noise in. Thirdly, I find them uncomfortable if I have to wear them for more then an hour or so.

There are a couple of solutions. The expensive (initially anyway) way is to have some custom made plugs at around £40-50 per set. Expensive yes, however these should last much longer then most foam earplugs. Along the same lines, although cheaper and the route I have chosen, are silicon mouldable earplugs.Unlike foam earplugs, these are not inserted into the ear canal. They only cover the opening of the ear, moulding to the shape of your ear for grip. Having used them now, I can say that they fit very well and remove a large amount of noise. Possibly less then the foam plugs do, but certainly well below the safe noise levels. Extended use; they are very comfortable and I can see that my trip to Cornwall earlier in the year would have been very different for my ears!

They aren't perfect though. They have a limited life, supposedly 5 uses, although I plan to see how many you can get away with! While you put them into position they don't allow the air to escape from your ear, that can cause pressure on the drum which is uncomfortable. Lifting the plug out slightly allows the air to escape and then can be put back in.

  • 'Custom' fit to your ear,
  • Really comfortable.
  • Potentially short life, could be expensive in the longer run,
  • Discomfort while putting in-place.

27 August 2010

Hein Gericke Streetline GPS Bag

Satellite Navigation is a great tool to help you get to a place you haven't been to before. Unfortunately the selection of sat-navs for bikes is rather limited and expensive. It is somewhat annoying given that you can pick up car versions for around £99 (although quality at that price can be suspect!).

Enter the Streetline GPS bag from Hein Gericke. This is a waterproof bag that can attach to the central section of your handle bars with Velcro ties. Of course if you have clip on bars then this won't be of much use, although it will attach to HG's line of compatible tank bags. Lets get down to the essentials. It is waterproof, has a small port to allow power/audio connections, easily removable and cheap. Taking that last point first, the bag retails at £14.99. An amazingly low price that offsets some of the lesser points. As said, it attaches to the handle bars via a pair of Velcro strips. On my ER-6F they just about reach around the connector and provide a sturdy support. It is a little tight and does take some fiddling to get it right. A problem is that it slightly obscures the key switch and makes it awkward to get the key in a turn. Previously mentioned that it will not fit onto clip-on bars as standard, so not a universal attachment.

To get your device into the bag you undo the zip, with its weather proof seal, and insert your GPS between the window and two crossed over elastic strips. The strips help to keep the sat-nav in place and against the clear plastic.

In use the clear window can be a little too reflective and it is sometimes hard to see the screen underneath. However it does allow a resistive type touch screen to be used without problem, although my HTC Desire's capacitive screen will respond even with my gloved hand.

GPS normally takes a lot of power, generally because the screen is always on. There is an opening to allow power and audio leads into the bag without compromising the weather seal. Obviously the assumes you have some way to connect to your bikes battery and that the GPS has a headphone output. If it does have the latter, then you will need some way to pump that into your ears. In-ear headphones are a start but something like an Autocom is ideal, allowing you to listen to music at the same time.

  • Very, very cheap,
  • Easy to fit,
  • Provides access for power/audio.
  • Not suitable for clip on bars,
  • Window a little too reflective.

26 August 2010

TomTom Urban Rider & Rider Pro

It seems that TomTom have finially updated their line of motorbike GPS units, the Urban Rider and Rider Pro. Along the same lines as their "One" car units, the new Riders have a simplified menu system of two buttons - 'Navigate to' and 'Browse map'. IQ Routes and Lane Guidance are also included. Obviously there is a touchscreen that can respond to gloved hands (for the geeky like me, I imagine a resistive screen) and the unit is waterproof.

All the units have bluetooth capability so that you can hear instructions, however only the Pro actually comes with a headset. For me that wouldn't be an issue as I have the Autocom already. A RAM mount comes with it, apparently it fits 'nearly all bikes'. Looking at the list it is unclear if they come with any bike power option as standard. I would assume not as only a home charging kit is listed in the box. Listed in the accessories is a charging bike mount but that will set you back another £45. That said the battery is listed as having an 8 hour life, so shouldn't be a problem for most people.

TomTom are listing 3 versions, the Urban Rider Regional, Urban Rider Europe and Rider Pro Europe. As far as I can tell the differences between the units are the Regional has only one regions map (depending on where you buy it). Europe models have most of Europe covered, although Eastern Europe is a little less. The Pro comes with the bluetooth headset, otherwise is identical to the Urban Europe.

Prices seem to have been lowered too, £249.99 for the Urban Regional, £299.99 for the Urban Europe and £399.99 for the Pro.

Will this prompt me to buy one now? Maybe given that Garmins only solution is £539.99. However having just brought the cover for my 'normal' TomTom 510 I will see how that goes before I spend on a new dedicated unit. These new units are attractively priced and TomTom's GPS software is easy to use (based on my 510) and they have a proper mount while being fully waterproof. Time will tell how good they are.

20 August 2010

Carole Nash Motorcycle Show

Well the show is on again this November, just over a week from Saturday 27th to Sunday 5th December. Still have to ask myself why is it they can't have it during the summer months, or at any time when it would be warmer as I would really like to ride up to it. Don't mind riding in the cold, just not for that long if I really don't need to!

Still there it is meant to have been changed for this year, after they took on the comments from people about the last show. Hopefully it should at least be interesting!

15 August 2010

Red Bull X-Fighters

Well that was a disappointment. Not only was the competition cancelled and changed to a 'show', but the London X-Fighters was not even watchable on Dave. Why? "Sorry everyone but the weather has beaten us". Wow, the weather has suddenly manifested itself and but on boxing gloves?

I understand that things happen outside of your control, had it happen in the past to myself. However I was honest with the reasons why I had to cancel something. As someone on Dave's Facebook page said, that is like British Rail when it had the "leaves on the line" excuse for not running trains.

Okay Dave, you had a problem. Most people understand that stuff happens. Don't treat us like 5 year-olds, if the generator blew up or someone forgot to bring the correct extension lead, let us know. Most of the ill feeling has been because of the lame excuse that we Brits won't swallow anymore.

13 August 2010

Icelandic Bike Tour

 Ever since getting on a bike I have fancied the idea of going on a bike adventure. However I am not the sort of person who takes well to the more exotic places in the world. To be fair, France is an adventure for me! Still a number of years ago I had the fortune to go to Iceland; the country not the shop (for those outside the UK Iceland is a retail chain specialising in frozen foods). It is an amazing place. A few years later TopGear done a piece where they drove 3 cars around the beaches there.

Coming forward, reading the latest Bike magazine I saw an article for a company called Bike Tours UK. They seem to do bike related adventure trips, with Iceland being a destination. They are cheaper too then most of the other biking holidays I have seen. The Iceland trip this year costs a little over an estimated £1000. Many of the other companies are two to ten times that much. I was curious, why are they so cheap. Well you have gotta like camping for one thing, there are no hotels here. You also have to buy your own fuel and food, but then you would on a riding/driving holiday anyway. What you do get is your guide, a 4x4 support vehicle, bike hire, accommodation (camping) and flights. You also get to experience some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen.

I do hope to be able to go next year!

06 August 2010

ER6F Long Term Review

Having now owned my Kawasaki ER-6F for a year now I feel it is time to give a bit of a review having used it over the longer term. So what is my overall view? Excellent, but with room for improvement.


The little parallel twin gives out plenty of poke, especially low down. Having done much riding around town this is of great benefit, making it easy to filter and pull away from the lights without having to rev the engine. When you want to be a bit more spirited you can be, although you do need to keep it revving a little higher. Once above 9000rpm you start to lose it and really should change gear. The biggest problem with the bike being a parallel twin is the amount of vibration. On this 2009 model not much of it comes through to the rider, but some does and on longer motorway trips I have found my left hand getting partly numbed by it. Perhaps the worst aspect of the vibration is that the mirrors tend to show mainly blur. Shame that they haven't been isolated as the pegs and handle bars have been.

Fuel economy on this bike can be great, I have had nearly 60mpg on one run, although averaging around 50. However it drops when you are just doing short trips around town and even more when you want to use the poke of the engine. 38mpg was my worst. Still it is a cheap bike to run fuel wise.


Beauty is in the eye of... well you know. Anyhow I think the bike looks great, certainly compared to the pre-09 model. Sharp angles and lines make it look much more like its Ninja sibling, but without the sporty riding position. Ahh the riding position; I haven't ridden a supersports bike so I can't comment too much, but while the more upright sitting position is great for around town and cruising, it isn't much cop when you want to ride that little more aggressively. I found that I can improve that by moving my feet up on the pegs and that in-turn moves my body forward, putting that little more weight over the front and makes me more confident in faster corners. However I am unsure if that is the right thing to do!

Another thing with the body of the bike are the mirrors. Considering it seems to be aimed at newer riders and commuters, you can't see directly behind you. People will know if an ER rider is looking behind as they have to move their arm in to get past their elbow (or elbow out). Annoying when you do a manoeuvre; either you look like you are doing a chicken impression or have to physically look over your shoulder. One day I may look at getting the mirror extensions and see if they 'fix' the problem. However this shouldn't be a problem to be fixed it should be right out of the box. That is, however, a minor thing really and takes nothing away from the rideability of the bike.

There are some very nice touches to the bike, the side mounted rear shock being one. It gives the bike some distinctive character without looking like it is trying. As I understand it is there to even up weight and allows the battery to be moved to a better location. Along with the rear hugger, stops it being caked by the back wheel throwing up road dirt. Oh yes, it also has a rear hugger. Again this is something I am led to believe is not what you would expect to see on a budget bike.


Basic is the work of the day, budget may be another. This is a budget bike and as such all you get is pre-loading on the rear side mounted shock otherwise nadda. Not that I would expect to see much more, this isn't the sort of bike that would have all the adjustments, at least not at what it was sold at. Possibly do to its low cost there are times the bike feels a little on edge, especially on bumpy B-roads. The rear end feels as if it isn't always in good contact with the road. Maybe more expensive suspension would improve that, but at the moment I have little idea of how to adjust it for the best setup.

I love this bike, it has enough poke to get you going to the wrong side of motorway speeds, feels confident pootling around town, but is also a lot of fun around the B-roads. Having taken it on a trip to Land's End it was commented at how well it pulled out of corners, this was by someone who used to race bikes. I have no doubt that his GSXR750 would run circles around me most of the time though!

If you are looking for a first 'big bike' or something to run around town on with the occasional weekend blast, you can't go too wrong with an ER6F. Yes it has its faults, the mirrors are vibey and not long enough and the rear suspension can sometimes feel a little hard. However this is overshadowed by just how fun it is to ride, and how cheap too. It is in the group 10 for insurance, costs £70 in road tax (I am sure that will go up), and does around 8.7p/mile on fuel (again that will go up if only as fuel goes up!).

30 July 2010


My first bike, Suzuki GS500
There is an old saying "time flies when you are having fun". It don't seem that it has been 3 years since I learnt to ride. I have owned two bikes in that time, still do in fact. What an eventful time it has been. Owning my first bike, the little Suzuki GS500. I still don't see why it gets berated so much. It is a great first bike and an ideal commuter. Having said that when I first had it it never seemed to run right and then there was the first winter where it wouldn't start at all and was left in the garage until the spring. The little GS is now waiting patiently to be sold at my parents house.

ER6F - Great bike!
Then I went on to my brand new Kawasaki ER6F. That had a turbulent first few months too. Got it in September and then ran it in for the first 500 miles. Never had to do that before even in a car. Being stuck at 55mph (4000rpm) made for some interesting trips. I tried my hardest to avoid motorways and dual carriageways, and I almost succeeded. Once ending up on a dual carriageway and being overtaken by a lorry, that wasn't fun at all. Running in for me is a time to get to know your bike. You can try out the handling without the worry of extra speed and it is surprising what fun you can have a low speed on a few country lanes! Then December came. It was a wet day and I pulled into my local Morrison's to get some milk for work. Just as I pulled into the car park a car pulled across the parking area straight into my line to travel. Nothing I could do but dump the bike. There was a sickening crunching sound, thankfully not from me but the bike as the fairing trashed itself (not that I walked away unscathed either). Fortunately it was all low speed so the damage to me was only to my knee and shoulder.

Land's End Carpark
It ended up taking close to 2 or so months before I had the bike back but when I did I was so glad to have it back. Thankfully I was given a Suzuki Bandit 600 while mine was convalescing. Didn't really like it, much to heavy for a naked plus none of the protection that I get from my ER's fairing.

After two summers that were rained out, finally got to go on a biking trip. Five of use down to Land's End over the Easter break. It was an absolute hoot and the weather was very kind to us. Compared to the congested south I live in, the wide open roads down there are wonderful to ride round. I envy the people who have it as their 'backyard' so to speak.

I have been to the NEC and ExCeL shows which are both great fun to go too. Just waiting now to see what the new styled NEC show will be like this year. I attended the Westminster M25 parking charge protest, amazing to see the M25 clear of traffic just before hundreds of bikes go past.

27 July 2010

ER-6F Recall

Apparently there is a problem with some 2009-on bikes where the riders boot can foul on the rear brake lever. Have to wait and see if I get a letter, although may call the dealer just to be sure. Once I know more I will put it up here.

Thanks to "Canary Wundaboy" on GB Bikers for letting owners aware of this (not even on Kawasaki's website). More details can be found on AutoTraders website.

23 July 2010

12 volt Pressure Washer

Love it or loath it cleaning a bike is the one thing that needs to be done if you want to keep it looking good. Even more so in the winter months with all the salt on the roads, it helps to prevent any rust buildup. There seem to be many ways to clean a bike, pressure washers, hoses, buckets. With the layout of my house I am unable to get any mains water out to the bike. This leaves me with the only other option, the bucket. Not any more!

I have never really liked using pressure washers, it is too easy to get that little too close and take off the paint etc. However I discovered a non-mains 12v pressure washer. This has three benefits over a mains version. Firstly it runs off of 12v, so you can use it to wash your bike anywhere (within reason it is a bit bulky!). Secondly it stores its own water supply so no need for hose pipes. Thirdly, as it is only 12v it can't get anywhere near the pressures of a mains version. This one can get up to 130psi, compare that to over 1000psi for mains. However for washing a vehicle it is more then enough. You can also set the nozzle to go from a jet to a wide, almost misting, spray. The latter giving good volume of water to wash off the soap.

It is able to store 17ltrs of water and consumes about 60watts of power when in use. Given most bikes batteries are around 10Ah that would give you a run time of 2 hours continuous use. It gets through its water in about 6 minutes and most bikes can be rinsed twice (once before washing, once after) on about a tank and a half, assuming it isn't heavily soiled.

Of the few complaints I have the most annoying is the power lead. It is just that little bit too short. True the way I power it isn't the way most would think (see below) but even coming from the bike it makes it a little hard to move it fully out of the way. And that is the other aspect, it only comes with a cigarette/cigar light type power plug. I would have liked to have seen the option of alligator clips to connect directly to the battery, does make it a little tricky to connect to a bike.

Having used it now for a couple of times I can honestly say it is so much better then using the 'throw a bucket of water' method. It is simpler and uses much less water. Plus we have a 12v solar system that I can run it off of so don't even have to worry about using the bikes battery or the power costing me anything.

  • Low pressure means unlikely to damage paintwork etc.
  • Good flow rate.
  • Holds own water supply.
  • Able to run it wherever there is a source of 12v.
  • Good way to get around a hosepipe ban ;)
  • Although technically portable, not something you can carry on a bike easily.
  • Could do with a longer 12v lead.

21 July 2010

Kawasaki Seminars

Well it seems the weather consipred against me. I wasn't going to risk having to come back in the rain. Not that I mind riding in the rain, but only when I have too. Not to mention I didn't know what the setup for the evening was. No schedule had been given out. Sorry Kawasaki!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

19 July 2010

Kawasaki Seminars

Kawasaki are holding a seminar tomorrow evening and I have an invite. Hoping that I will be able to attend, although if the weather turns as bad as they say it will I may not be going! Not actually sure what it is all about so my curiosity is piqued. Fingers crossed I will find out.

18 July 2010

3 Day Trip to Land's End

In Dartmoor
Finally! After 2 years of trying I was going on a biking holiday. Okay it was only for three days but still, it would be longest I have been on a bike. The last couple of years I had been trying to have a biking holiday but the weather always conspired against me. This year the weather was perfect. So the weekend after Easter myself and four mates set off for a trip to Land's End.
Starting from Basingstoke we headed down for the A30. Although there wasn't really a set route, we did have a general idea and our first target was Yeovil to pick up the 5th rider. I have been in group formation before but in a car. One thing I always hated was being at the front, leading. I never liked having to try and keep an eye on all of the members, making sure you didn't loose any. Still there were two of us who had Autocom systems with radios which made it easier. Also one of our riders was in a reflective jacket. He stayed at the back mainly which have me an easy target to know if we were all there.

Have to say that it was a great experience to be riding with other guys who have been at it a lot longer then myself. I was able to pick up tons of confidence in being told how to filter etc. When ever we would stop for a drink or rest it was great being able to chat about what had gone on. A bit like when we went through Dartmoor. That was stunning. The road has just been laid on the rolling hills and with some nice open sweeping bends it is just perfect. You can see right through a corner and line yourself up perfectly.

Bikes at Land's End
Of course there has to be a 'funny' which happened to happen to me. The road we wanted to go down was closed, apparently it had been a major crash. So good ol' TomTom toke us down another route. Unfortunately this did have to be a single track lane. Not a problem until a huge camper-van came the other way. Was able to pull right over to let it past, but then my foot slipped on the verge (I think that is what happened!) with the bike falling over onto me. Fortunately the verge had quite a slope to it so the bike was only really leaning a few more degrees then it does when on its side stand. However I was pinned underneath it. No damage to be or the bike, but definitely another experience to chalk up.

If you have never had a ride out like that then it is definitely worth a go. Even more so if you aren't too confident and are going with more experienced riders. It makes for an interesting take on having that solo riding experience with the chance to chat (brag?) about it after. Next time we are looking at the South of France, should be fun!

07 March 2010

Archos 1 Vision

For the last couple of years I have been using a cheapo MP3 player. It had numerous problems, but it was cheap and done the job, just. However it recently died on me so I had to look for a replacement. I had a couple of items it had to be, firstly good value (not cheap but worth the money) and it had to have some form of navigation for the music. The previous one wasn't able to navigate the music other then to go back and forth. There was no sorting by artist or album etc. For the most part it was never a problem, it was just set to random for all the music. It would be nice to sometimes select one album to listen too rather then all the music on the device.

I had looked at an iPod, to which I used to have a 2GB 1st Gen Nano. Apple really have worked well on the interface of the iPods. It works well and seems to do all that you need in a simple responsive way. The problem with them is the cost. I refuse to get the Shuffle as I want a screen and hate that whole one button rubbish. The Nano is just too expensive for the use I want from it, this is only for use on the bike. Some investigation later I found a promotion for an Archos 1 Vision. MyMemory were selling it with £5 discount bringing it down to £20.99 inc p&p.

With 4GB of flash it has more then enough space to store the music I want to listen too. Trying to find reviews of it though, that is a different story. There were none that I could find online, only some saying its specification and a little about it. I bit the bullet and brought one. A few days latter I get to answer the door to the postman, Saturday morning and I was still in my dressing gown, not a pretty sight! Still I pulled the Archos out of its box and the first thing that struck me was how really light it is. It actually is a little too light, even though it is very well constructed. Like most gadgets you are suppose to charge before use, however like most things there is enough juice in the battery to get it going to play. To get you going Archos have included a few music files, pictures and a video. Yes, video. It is something that isn't advertised anywhere, even a 'review' said it wouldn't play video. On the front of picture and video, it works well, but I can't imagine watching a full film on such a small screen. Anyway back to the box. Included is a USB lead (charging and transfer), pair of headphones and a CD with software to convert video files. There is no software for managing or transferring music. A reason for the being so cheap I imagine. Not that it is a problem, Windows Media Player 11 picks it up and you can simply drag the music from your library. As it is a mass storage device you can drag and drop directly to it or use any software that allows syncing to mass storage (Winamp spring to mind).

So in use the system works okay. It certainly isn't up there with the iPod in terms of slickness but it is functional. There are a few weird buttons on it to get used to but you soon do. The screen, although small and LCD, is very clear and readable although looses a little in direct sunlight. Would have been better to have been OLED. Sound wise, the included headphones work in a pinch but don't really do justice to the machine. Upgrading them shows off the sound quality which is impressive given the units size and cost. If you dig into the menus there is even an equalizer which includes a 3d setting, which I felt is the best setting to have it on. You can even define your own. The buttons have a positive click on them so moving around the menus is easy. Speaking of menus, there is a noticeable flicker as the screen refreshes as it scrolls down (see video clip below).

One of the biggest annoyances on it, which shows its reduced cost, is the hiss you can hear while it isn't playing. It is only quiet and you certainly do not notice it once the music is playing. It also changes note depending on what the screen is doing. Should you wish to use it for video, the included software does the job, but it sat saying 1% complete even though it had actually finished the encoding. Looking at the output file it seems to be a 128x128 pixel image at about 380Kbps and MPEG audio at 128Kbps so using your own encoder is possible. There is also a voice recorder should the need take you. You can also view text files on it, not sure why you would though. While music is playing it shows off a graphic equaliser. It is so slow as to be pointless, I would rather seen more track information or cover art, a more productive use of the screen. Despite it being advertised, as far as my speed tests go, this isn't a full USB 2.0 device. When transferring files I get a top speed of only around 1.3MB/s. That is USB 1.1 territory not USB 2.0 as such transfers can take hours if you do a bulk transfer.

For the use I plan for it none of the issues above will prove a problem, even the hiss, which the wind noise drowns out anyway. If you are looking for a cheap and capable MP3 play with a few features this is a great unit. It is in need of a few tweeks. There needs to be a little more weight to give it that solid feeling it is missing and deserves. The processor needs to be faster in order to scroll through menus without flicker, or the firmware needs updating to reduce its effect. The graphic equaliser needs to be removed and replaced with a user selectable option of cover art or just track information. Lastly there it really needs to loose the hiss, although they may increase the cost. There is the main thing to remember, this is a very cheap MP3 player.


  • Bright and clear screen.

  • Cheap.

  • Excellent sound quality (once the headphones are changed!).

  • Feature rich: music, photo, video, voice recorder and text reader.

  • Easy syncing with WMP11 or Winamp.

  • Numerous equaliser settings.

  • Positive action on buttons.

  • Really light...


  • maybe too light?

  • Video and photos screen too small to be something to use regularly.

  • Reflective front a fingerprint magnet.

  • That hiss when not playing.

  • Apparently not USB 2.0 speeds.

After writing this I have run into problems with the little Archos. The system won't list out the full number of tracks I have put onto it. Now it reports that I have over 2000 songs on it (only put on around 600!) and the music directory, according to Windows, is 75Gb! Have spoken to MyMemory I am going to get a replacement. Will update when I have more information.

Recived the replacment unit and this one works much better. The transfer speeds are what I would expect from USB2.0 and transfering large amounts took about 30mins (approx 3GB). The hiss seems to be less on this unit, although still noticeable if you are in a really quite area and nothing is playing. Another function I have found on it is the ability to read LRC lyric files, but when it is playing them you have to remember to deselect the auto backlight off function. Overall a good little machine for what I need.

04 March 2010

Insurance is through!

Had two letters through this week. One was from my solicitor and the other from the insurers. Both of which saying that the insurance has gone through, with the insurers including a cheque to cover my excess. So quite happy and relieved now. Only a few more things to sort and it should all be over.

24 February 2010

Weekend Trip

Bikes are better then cars! Period, even in rubbish weather. This was meant to be a simple one day trip to a relatives 18th party, but turned into a far more enjoyable weekend away.

This seems to be the year for me to do bigger distances on the bike! The trip itself was about 100 miles each way. The forecast for Saturday was to be dry but cold. I was fine until the last half an hour when the snow started to fall (albeit for only about 5 minutes!) and the temperature dropped with it. There was the point where I started to loose feeling in my fingers. I wouldn't have minded but I had my cold stopper liners on as well. Sure I should have a go about the name, because yes they prolonged the time before my digits went cold, they didn't stop it happening. Still I know nothing is perfect and even my 5 layers of clothing started to fail me after being in such wind chill for that time. Its not a nice feeling, that insidious cold sensation when the heat is slowly sucked out of you. Still got to my destination (after visiting some friends first and getting a bite to eat) and had a good time!

Before leaving my friends to go to the party it was offered that if it got too cold and/or icy that it was possibly to crash at their place. Rather then take the 100 mile trip home in possibly bad to dangerous conditions. After leaving there and taking the 15 minute ride for food it was soon decided to take them up on that offer! Another 10 minute ride to the party soon made sure that that was the best thing to do. Party happened and was good fun. The time drew near to leave. As the father of the 18yo was an ex-biker it was suggested that we leave the bikes at their place and he would drop us off at our friends. I should say that the party was held in a village hall and the roads were a little, er, off the beaten track. At about 11.30 the temperature was certainly below zero and again that offer was taken, rather then risk the joys of B-road black ice.

So at this point I should have been on my way home, but instead ended up crashing at a friends house. It actually was really kind and I totally enjoyed hospitality and the conversation. It was a nice thing as well, normally I would only see them once a year at another party, so it was great to be able to chat and catch up. We were graciously given a lift to where our bikes were, where the invite for lunch was extended. Again this was something that wouldn't have happened if the sensible thing had been done and the car had been used. As it had been years since I had seen any of this side of the family it was fun to sit down with them for lunch. Again I have to thank them for all their hospitality! The trip home was actually slightly warmer then the trip there. Clouds and rain tend to have that effect. Two hours or so getting home and the only good part was as I got closer to home the rain slowly let off, until the M3 where it had largely stopped altogether.

At the end of it all, had we gone by car we would have been warmer and home much sooner. However being on the bikes led to a lot of happy circumstances. Staying overnight at friends and having the chance to get to know members of the family I may never have really spoken too that much. Yes the car was the sensible choice, but the bikes turned it into a far more interesting weekend.

16 February 2010

Autocom update

Have finished getting the parts to complete my Autocom unit. Purchased the Midland G7 off of eBay. Most places seem to be selling the radio for about £50 per unit. Going onto eBay, got two units with base station for £48. Bargain! So having got the radios I had to get the lead for the Autocom to connect it. Ordered from BikeBitz in Yatley online. Really quick service, ordered 3pm Monday, received Tuesday morning, very impressed. Opened up the parcel and noted that the lead I ordered for the radio was the wrong one. A quick phone call later and I had organised to pop into their store (was passing that way) and get a replacement. Wednesday afternoon went into the store and got the replacement. Really quick and really professional 10/10 for those guys.
Using the radio requires a change in the way that you speak. As anyone who has used PMR radios before know they are 'half-duplex' or can only receive or transmit. Where as a mobile phone is 'full-duplex' so you can speak at the same time as the caller. There is also a delay in the time between speaking, the transmitter sending and the receiver picking up. Autocom's manual suggests that you have a key-word that you start what you want to say with. So for example if you said "Turn left at the roundabout" the receiver would get "left at the roundabout". The suggestion is to start with "OK", thus you would say "OK... Turn left at the roundabout". With the use of radios there is a certain etiquette and when you finish a sentence to end with "over". Although the G7 radios have a tone they play once transmission has finished.

The range of the G7's is reasonably normal for PMR, however don't expect them to work over longer distances if you are in a concrete canyon. I would say, in a builtup area out of line-of-sight, about 200-300 meters is it.

For thier intended use as communication between riders though it works very well, with the speech through the Autocom being very clear. As long as you don't get too far away when entering a built up area they are great to be able to give instructions; or just chat on those longer trips.

07 February 2010

MCN ExCeL Show

I was up early and rode to the event. Actually following some other bikers from the A13 as my TomTom went nuts and tried to navigate me in circles. My thanks to those guys! The event itself: it was tiny! I know there is a temptation to compare it to the NEC show and that is a little unfair, however it did feel much smaller then the last time I went, two years ago. Given that ExCeL is a massive place, it looked like there were only two of its halls being used. For the ticket cost I feel that I have been a little hard done by when it is compared to NEC, sorry MCN but value wise the NEC is leaps and bounds over you. Even comparing some of the stands. The George White stand, at the NEC, was like walking into a mini shop. The racking went up high and there was tons for sale. At MCN, the stand felt more like a car-boot sale, lacking what made it impressive at NEC. That, I think, is what made the event feel smaller, the stands seemed less grandiose. Even the manufacturers stands didn't have the same buzz that was at the NEC.

But for those looking for a bargain there did seem to be a few bits on offer, there was a 2-piece leather suit that I notice was half price. Okay, it is last years, still a decent enough saving.

On a more personal note I wasn't able to buy anything that I went for. Seems that either everyone is my small size or companies just don't accommodate for the smaller guy! I never realised the a 40-inch chest is XS, that makes me feel even smaller... Neither were there any helmets that really took my fancy. So for me it was largely a wasted trip. Yet that is being a little harsh. I always enjoy going to these sorts of shows and it was fun to look at everything that is on offer in one place. Even getting the chance to actually sit on the Triumph Daytona, which I couldn't do at the NEC with the number of people around it. And I got a free goodie bag from MCN as one of their subscribers.

Overall I enjoyed my time there, yes it is small and not really as good value as the 'other' big show, but they also had Honda and Harley Davidson. Will I go again? Maybe, if I need to go shopping at this time of year. Is it a 'day outs' worth? No, unfortunately. You can get lost in NEC for hours, going round and round and still finding new things to look at. If you want to make a day of it at ExCeL I would suggest thinking about where you could once you have spent the hour or two there. There is Thurock nearby for the shopaholics or maybe go off into London proper.

In all honesty I think it is almost as fun to wait for places like George White to have its open days. They tend to be when it is warmer and they have their full range available. Not a full days out worth in itself, but at least you can go with mates and just make it a stop on a ride-out, and best of all, it is free to go to.

MCN ExCeL needs to become much larger and maybe moved later in the year as it is just too close to the NEC which, fairly or not, is what it will always be compared too. Moving to somewhere May to June time may decrease the comparison. It would be warmer too.

05 February 2010

Off to MCN tomorrow

Going to go to the MCN show at ExCeL London tomorrow. Hoping to get a few pics and some stuff from there, maybe a new helmet to replace the one damaged in the accident.

29 January 2010

Have it back!

Been down and picked up the bike this eve. Have to say that it is looking really good to. Felt like I did when l first went to pick the bike up, getting all excited. Aside from having the repairs done, I have also had a couple of crash bobbins installed. They aren't cheap but hopefully will reduce the extent of damage should I be the victim of another RTI.

On the way home I decided to take the A33. Turned out that was a big mistake as the road was closed just after Hartley Whitley, I assume from an accident given the amount of Police presence.

So, thought to myself, I remember a back route home on an old B road, I'll take that home. Bad idea. Forgot which side turning I wanted and ended up at the wrong end of the A30. What should have been a 20 minute trip home now was going to take at least twice that. In the end it was about 45 minutes to get home. I suppose that it did mean I could get reacquainted with my bike again!

More good news

Just had a phone call that my bike is now repaired and hopefully will be dropped off today. So looking forward to seeing it again!

AutoCom L1 Logic

For Christmas I was brought an AutoCom L1 Logic system. I have finally installed it into my helmet. The unit comes with the main unit, headset and two connection leads; one for music and the other for mobile phones.

Once I figured out how to remove the padding from my helmet I was able to get the mic and speakers installed with little fuss. The instructions provided give a comprehensive overview of the install process, and it is a good idea to read it a couple of times before attempting. Depending on the design of the helmet you may well be able to easily remove one or both of the cheek pads for easy installation. Most of the wiring can be fitted behind the pad, with the speaker wires running around the helmet. Fortunately the wiring for the right speaker is longer allowing it to be run around the back of the helmet and to the right side. Supplied is a length of Velcro hoops which can be used to stick the cabling to the helmet shell.

Once that is all in place the helmet can be put on to check final position of the mic and speakers. My last set of speakers had a cover on them which made them very soft and comfortable. These are a plastic shell and when I put on the helmet there was a noticeable pressure on my ears from them. There may be some playing around to get them to fit comfortably.

Although I have yet to use them in anger, the test I have done shows them to work quite well. I had music playing on one input and when I spoke, after adjusting the VOX level, the music faded down and my voice came clearly over the speakers. I then connected my mobile. Using it to call a friend, we had a quick chat and the system worked faultlessly, with the exception of a couple of times where I didn't quite speak loudly enough for the VOX to kick in.

Aside from the comfort of the speakers, the only other issue comes from size. Although the main unit isn't that big, it is what you need to carry with it. Just with my test rig above I had an MP3 player, mobile, the AutoCom and all the leads to connect them. This isn't a small rig. Add onto that a bike-to-bike radio and satnav, this is going to be something that isn't going to be able to fit into a pocket. AutoCom do sell a small magnetic tank-pack which can be used to house it all or you may be able to get a 'bum-bag' to help contain it all.

On the note of a mobile. All that is supplied with the kit is a 2.5mm to 3.5mm lead. While there are some mobiles that have a 2.5mm jack on them, mine doesn't. HTC use the magic of a EXTusb connection. That means the need to buy an adaptor to convert it with. Unfortunately the only one I could find is a bit of a brick and again takes up more valuable space.

Once I have had a go with this on the road I will update the review of it all.

Good Points
  • Very clear audio
  • Easy to connect
  • VOX works well, once setup
Bad Points
  • Speakers a little uncomfortable, may just need adjusting better
  • Rig can get very big very quickly

26 January 2010

Good News!

Two things today; firstly I had a call from the Insurance and it seems the repairers have all the parts now and I should be able to get my bike back by next week, just in time to go to the MCN show at ExCeL! Secondly a small achievment for my blog, this is the 100th post! Out of the countless blogs I have started this has to be the longest I have been going for.

24 January 2010

Insurance claim

Having spoken to my solicitor earlier in the week, it seems as if the 3rd party insurers have admitted liability. Still waiting for confirmation from my insurers but this is great news. Hopefully I will be able to get my bike back (still waiting on parts) and kit replaced then get on with my life.

18 January 2010


Security is one of those things that people often know they should do, but - ah I'm only popping into the shop... There are a few types of security for a motorbike, disc locks, chains & padlocks and alarms. Now there is another one; a Grip-Lock. The operation is similar to a disc lock, in that it prevents someone wheeling your bike off, except that this actually applies the front brake. This has a couple of additional benefits over a conventional disklock. Firstly it also acts like a handbrake so that your bike physically can't run away down the hill you have been forced to park on. Secondly you can't miss it once it is on, so no embarrassment of riding off and promptly falling off (been there done that!). It is absolutely massive, which brings on the one issue with it, storage when not in use. This isn't something you can just slip into your pocket. It will need to be stored either under the seat or in a bag.

Unlike a disclock you need to set it up a little before you can use it proper. This entails setting the adjustable slider to hold the brake lever to apply the brakes while the lock is on and changing one of the rubber pads to fit your grip. It is a simple process and something that is done once, assuming you don't have to change bikes.

All in all it is a device that will act as a very visible deterrent for the opportunist and for those that tend to forget that they have left a disklock on.

Good Points
  • Easy to fit
  • Very visible
  • No risk of riding off with it on
  • Acts like a parking brake

Bad Points

  • Its HUGE!!

15 January 2010

On back order

Bike is being repaired but the parts are now on back order, so currently no idea when I will get the bike back. I am hopeful that I will have it in a few weeks. Looking on the bright side, I haven't had to use the bike over winter, so no salt problems! Still, desperately want it back!

06 January 2010

ER-6F Long Term Review (MCN)

Here is a review from MCN reporter Laura Kennerley on her experience with the ER-6F. For the most part I agree with everything said, especially the part with the mirrors.

03 January 2010

Getting Repaired

Contacted the repairer for my bike and it seems the insurers have approved the damage, parts have been ordered to get the bike back on its wheels. I really am hoping to have the bike back before the end of January.