Broken in ready to be opened up

Saturday morning I creeped towards 500 miles on route back to Laguna Maidstone for the first service. Leaving early in the morning I took the extremely scenic route through Lewis, Chailey, Edenbridge and then across to Maidstone finishing up in the carpark at 497 miles. Not bad at all.

Once again I can’t fault the guys at Laguna at all, really nice people throughout. I dropped off my keys and was offered a cup of tea. The parts guys were great, I wanted to get replacement hooks for my Oxford rear paddock stand to replace the cups I got with it that were fine for the swing arm on the CBR600FABS but not very useful for the gixxer. They found the right bits and were cheaper than online! That never happens. Mark, who I did my purchase with spotted me across the showroom and came over for a chat and ask how I was getting on and I sat in a comfy chair, reading my book (finally finished Snuff by Terry Pratchett) until I was texted to say it was all ready.

With the sun out, I was able to dry off a little bit. My secondary objective for the day was to find a new helmet. I’ve had mine for a bit over three years and I’ve been really happy with it only I’ve now come to realise it’s actually too big.

Now the daft thing is, I should have worked out this fact from the sadly missed Simonchelli. When I first started riding I had longer, and in turn bigger hair. It was by no means comparible to the insane lions mane of Simonchelli, but it had some weight. Last year I decided it was time to do something different with my mop and started getting it cut quite a lot shorter than it used to be. I started to find that if I didn’t have a snood or balaclava on, my helmet had a bit more play with it. In the last few months I’ve also noticed that my ear plugs are playing up, only nothing with them has changed. It’s actually been because there is more play in the helmet and so the stalks are getting tapped on by the sidewalls.

So, I had two options, one being a schlep to Helmet City. Being in Maidstone I decided to head over to J&S who now live in the former home of Hein Gerrick. A young chap spotted me putting on a few lids and came over to help. What I am really looking for is an AGV Corsa to try, I’d already been in 4 shops and not seen one the shelf. Turns out, nobody really stocks them because they’re “high end”. I tried on an RPHA-10+ and it is a really nice fit. I think I’m sold on it. A small is 56 (my size) which seems crazy but it is proper snug and also quite light.

They had one with old Ben Spies livery down to £299. that’s pretty damn cheap, looking online haven’t seen it much cheaper. May be another trip to Maidstone in order.

Opened up

After a stop off at Parker HQ to see the folks, I heading back to Brighton with an engine run in and daring me to give it a poke. Turns out, and after seeing the fastest laps from the Tyco team these week at the Isle of Man TT it rips away without any trouble. As with the CBRrr, and no doubt the Ninja 636, these in-line four 600s are designed to be ridden at the high end of the rev range and once you do that, they feel amazing. Problem is, it isn’t particular fuel efficient and by the end of Sunday I’d caned a full tank on a trip to Wessons, a great little biker cafe, then over to Battle and back.

The gixxer is agony in town. 3rd gear wallows and you can feel the chain starting to tug at 30mph. It’s made worse in a town like Brighton where the council have now reduced in-town speed to 20mph, it’s 2nd gear for most town riding which of course is then guzzling petrol. Get out on the nationals however and it is sharp. Acceleration is immediate and I still haven’t pinned the throttle all the way open. In the right gear it’s easy to change direction in the corners and it sounds magical.

Getting my knee down

Still in the process of running in the new Suzuki GSX-R600, and with the sun beaming this weekend I arranged for a long trip to get some miles down with Parker Snr. It ended with me getting my knee down.

Not so shiny anymore, first scuffs on the RST Tractect Evo Pants knee slider this year.

Only trouble was it wasn’t the knee down experience I was expecting. We were maybe 40 minutes out of Brighton, and had been held up by a handful of back markers on our way to Loomies, a popular bike and car enthusiast stop point in the back roads of Hampshire and just about to get into a good session when things took a different turn.

Taking a casual sweeping left somewhere between Horsham and Cornwall I heard a strange sound. It was like a mallard with its neck trapped inside a six-pack plastic ring. Checking the mirrors I briefly admired my elbows (darn those Alpine elbow pads look good), before pinching my body in to make the Gixxer rear viewing devices remotely usable to see clear road trailing behind me.

OK, maybe I missed the turn, but I am sure I didn’t see an indicator on my last rear check. Didn’t I?

Parker Snr's Triumph XE makes an impromptu front-end blowout.

Turns out my observations were spot on! Sadly, the inner tube on the front wheel of Mr P Snr’s Triumph Explorer was not as it blew out at I reckon about 40mph.

The great thing about travelling around with a touring rider is that they’re laden up with all kinds of gadgets, gizmos and spares. Ironically, a front inner tube was not one of those, just one for the rear. He masterfully was able to bring it to a half at a junction just a few yards before the bend I’d lost sight of him on and this is where we stayed… for some time.

But all was not lost. We had tools, we had a puncture repair kit and cans of compressed air. It was time for some roadside repairs.

With the front wheel out we begun hunting for nails, thorns, broken glass shards, something to have caused the puncture. Nothing.

And here’s where the knee sliders saw the tarmac. Knelt on the roadside, with tyre irons in hand and some strange blue grippy thingys, we got the tyre out the way to find that the inner tube just didn’t look right. Half was sitting on the wheel rim, the other was lost up in the echelons of the tyre wall.As we pulled it out we discovered it was twisted.

The only explanation to this is that it had been fitted incorrectly by the last person to do anything on the tyre. It was basically a ticking time bomb, it would have happened at some point in time and we’re just lucky it happened at a relatively low speed with no traffic around. Front end blow-outs are the hardest thing to recover from, all your control is completely gone, no idea how he did it but the guy is as skilled as any experienced distance rider.

Come on, let's get all the tools out. Tyre irons at the ready.

Where the twist was in the inner tube the seam had split. As anyone with a push bike will know, these can be a real bugger to fix. We glued it up and slapped a patch on it and left it to dry gassing about nothing in the mid-day sun. With some brute force and creative thinking we got the inner tube back in the wheel and popped the tyre back into the rim. I had the idea of using the wheel seal can to give us a bit of double protection. That way if there was any stress with the split, we could cover and seal it from the opposite side of the puncture band aid. Something didn’t look right as we pumped foam into the tyre but it didn’t inflate at the same time. The idea of these cans is that they give you enough LB’s of pressure to be able to ride to the nearest garage at low speed and get some air in.

With the can completely expelled, Parker Snr, connected up one of his canisters of compressed air. These little bullets are so handy I may have to investigate them myself. Only it wasn’t our friend today and with one push on the nozzle the valve in the inner tube went bang with quite a racket.

It was game over.

Almost 3 hours before a recovery truck could get to us, I’m just glad that it wasn’t shitty weather otherwise it would have been a totally different story. Instead, I learnt how to get a front wheel out, how to fix a flat front – although I don’t have tubes, all my bikes to date have been tubeless which makes life far easier, and we got to have a good old natter about sweet FA in sunshine with plenty of bikes blasting past, and a couple were good enough to swing back around and check we were OK.

A trip to Loomies will have to wait a few weeks, next weekend is going to be very interesting indeed. Watch this space.

Suzuki GSX-R600 2014 Review

The 2014 Suzuki GSXR600 courtesy of Laguna Motorcycles

Today was another dream day. Back in the late 90s Suzuki released a ground breaking machine. The GSX-R600 had a revolutionary look. The bike which was given the nickname the SRAD (from its innovative Suzuki Ram Air Direct system) was a huge success with it’s radical styling and aggressive nature.It was my dream machine.

Thanks to Mark and the team at Laguna Motorcylces in Maidstone, Kent I got to test ride the latest 2014 model.

I’ve been on the look for my next ride for a few months now. Last month I took a day out to give the latest incarnation of the Triumph Daytona 675 a run and left the saddle somewhat bemused. The Daytona is an interesting bike. It’s got a jet engine inside it, plenty of torque but it’s just not for me. It’s really stiff all over, the rear-sets are severely high and the ergonomics are curious. The Triumph Daytona 675 has been designed for the track pure and simple. The fact they’ve created the R version just to upgrade the shock sets is completely pointless.

In contrast, the Suzuki GSX-R600 is a bike that has been designed and redesigned over and over to the point of what I am going to risk saying, perfection. Suzuki have acknowledged that people buy bikes for the road. The ratio of road to race circuits throughout the world is heavily swayed in the favour of roads – that’s what a bike needs to be good on.

Where I found the seating position on the Daytona to be a battle, the GSX-R600 instantly felt comfortable. Riding position meant that it felt as if the usual pressure you expect from a superbike – on the wrists – was instead being channelled through my hips, I don’t know how it just was and that meant flexible elbows, and no pressure being put through the bars.

After a casual run from Maidstone to Tonbridge I made the wise decision to go meet up with my old man and get him to put me, and the GSX-R600 through its paces on some more technical and, knowing my dad, goat-tracks.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to put a microphone into my backpack as such the video doesn’t include a good commentary or engine notes, but it’s still worth a look to see how smooth the ride is.

What Suzuki have done with the latest incarnation of the GSX-R600 is re-imagine that stylish superbike of the 90s. The back that everyone loved has long been forgotten and yes, perhaps that rounded dolphin nose was looking a little untidy but that can all be forgiven.

The Gixxer ass looks killer with the indicators now brought up into a single rear unit under the seat like a flared cobra. Even with the European law on rear hangers it doesn’t look bent out of shape, in-fact I probably wouldn’t bother with a tail tidy.

The front also has some smartening up with the indicators built into the mirrors and a subtle amendment to the nose cone that continues to move it further away from the mantis face of the YZF-R6.

The ride was very comfortable. After an hour of mixed country lane and street riding with a smidgen of dual carriageway I didn’t feel tired, uncomfortable or like my wrists were about to be torn off.

Nothing on the ride got out of hand, power is readily available everywhere and stopping power appeared responsive – despite the fact that the GSXR still doesn’t have ABS on any model.