Lawrence Photographic

   

 

Back to Motorbike Articles Page
 

   It's a Lifestyle Thing!

 

Last Updated 18th May 2017



It is hard to explain the exhilaration, the anticipation and the excitement I feel when I get on my Suzuki GSX-1250FA sports motorcycle. From the moment I press the starter button and that 1255cc engine fires into life, I experience such a rush and whether I am touring and enjoying the freedom of the open road and the beautiful countryside or opening up the throttle in sports mode on the twisty roads, the interaction with the motorcycle is just awesome.

This is a diary of sorts (started August 2014) on my learning to ride a motor cycle with Saltire Motorcycles in Edinburgh, Scotland and achieving a full licence. It includes my ongoing experiences with my motorbikes, my photography as well as my choice of clothing, accessories and my biking aspirations.

Photography is an excellent hobby and although there are many disappointments there are also many highs when the images come through. I am still enjoying my Fujifilm X100s compact camera and although it is not small enough to fit the average pocket and it has a fixed lens, the manual handling and the image quality are fantastic. Sure there are limitations with the 35mm 'field of view' but for landscapes and street photography, even general photography, it serves me very well. I maintain that the handling of a camera is very important to my enjoyment of photography and in that respect the X100s delivers a great buzz and it is more than just a mere tool.

It's the same kind of enjoyment that I get from cleaning a vinyl record, placing it on my record deck, gently placing the stylus on the first track and relaxing to some smooth music with a glass of wine - it is a lifestyle thing.

As much as I enjoyed my photography, it was not enough, I have been retired for nigh on 10 years and I was in a rut, I required a new goal. I missed the adrenalin rush, the challenge of pushing myself to the limits and above all else a renewed sense of danger that had been so much part of my earlier lifestyle.

It was getting late in the day and I had to do something about it - so I set up a project, not a photographic one but one that would really test my nerve and my resolve. Yep, I would become a biker and not a laid back Harley type but a sports biker. I wanted a sports/tourer rather than a cruiser, a bike that I could lean hard into the corners and yet was comfortable on longer journeys. Therein lay the real challenge because I did not have a motorcycle licence but I started the project in May 2014 and by the 1st August 2014, I had completed it and was riding my own motorbike.


I had a car licence and mine by default also included a provisional motorcycle licence so I purchased the
Highway Code/Traffic Signs Booklets and Theory Test/Hazard Perception DVDs for the Motorcycle Theory Test. I studied for a few weeks using the DVDs on a computer and then sat the theory test at the government test centre in Edinburgh. Basically it was a computer driven multiple choice exam and the hazard perception part included videos of travelling on the road and clicking a mouse when I recognised a potential hazard (e.g. like a horse on the roadway).

After I passed the theory test, I had to complete a compulsory CBT which included road training on a 125cc motorcycle with L plates using an approved local training centre. Note: If you simply want to ride up to a 125cc size motorcycle with L plates with a motorcycle provisional licence, you only require to sit your CBT which lasts for 2 years before you have to sit another one - the motorcycle theory test is not required.

With any new challenge you require incentive, a driving force that ensures you cannot renege on it, so I purchased a Suzuki 1250cc FA motorcycle, some motorcycle protective clothing and enrolled at the local training centre in Edinburgh for a Direct Access Scheme Riding Course spread over 3 months. All of this including the Highway Code/Traffic Signs Booklets and the Theory Test/Hazard Perception DVDs were supplied by Saltire Motorcyles in Edinburgh who also supplied the compulsory CBT training. Saltire initially sold me a second hand 125cc motorcycle to practice on whilst my Suzuki 1250FA was on order and I handed the 125cc back at the end of all the courses (undamaged) for the same money that I paid for it. They also gave me a great discount on my motorcycle clothing.

Saltire Motorcycles - Edinburgh - Scotland

The Satire Motorcycles Training
The CBT is basically a cut down version of the Module 1 and 2 DAS course and I found it relatively simple to ride a 125cc motorcycle. The bike is lightweight, easy to control and the training is geared to making sure that you are safe on the road and that you can control the bike. It is up to the instructor to decide if you are capable and there is no formal examination test.

The Module 1 and 2 DAS training experience with Saltire Motorcycles was a real blast and the 650cc bike they provided was very powerful and delivered a very nice rumbling noise which was very pleasing to the ears. I managed to drop it once during the off-road Module 1 training and fell on my side but I eventually got the hang of it.
Once you get going on the public roads, the training comes into it's own and brings great enjoyment, especially on those country roads and sweeping bends. Everyone has weaknesses which have to be ironed out and mine were the figure of eight and the U turn in Module 1 and roundabout road positioning in Module 2.

I have driven a car for nearly 50 years BUT riding a motorcycle is a whole new ball game and riding in today's city traffic requires a whole new set of balls which fortunately, I possess. The whole challenge was mentally and physically demanding and I often reached home totally shattered from the training experience. I was fortunate, I lost weight, became physically and mentally fitter and I passed all the government examinations first time - the Theory/Hazard Perception Test, the CBT (only one where the training instructor decides), 650cc Module 1 Off-Road Test and the 650cc Module 2 Practical Test on the road, albeit with a few faults in Module 2.

Saltire Dealer Support
I regard dealer support as paramount and I believe in supporting the dealer. It is great to get all the service at the one place and I like the atmosphere and the ability to relax when visiting the premises and enjoy a cup of coffee whilst perusing the merchandise. I purchased everything from Saltire Motorcycles - training, bike, Oxford Boss padlock, Shoei helmet, Kriega R35 backpack and GIVI XS307 tank bag, Rev' It, Furygan and Bull-it clothes and if they did not have my size in stock, they ordered it in for me to try on. I found the pricing excellent and more than a match for the internet on-line alternatives.

The Suzuki 1250FA Sports/Tourer Motorcycle
From the start I decided that I would purchase a white painted Suzuki 1250FA motorcycle (see images below) so that I would be easily seen on the road, it delivers optimum torque at 3,700rpm, a 0-60mph of around 3 seconds and is ideal for relatively quiet cruising at 70mph. The 1250FA has a four in line cylinder engine so you are not going to get that rumble like the Saltire Suzuki Gladius training bikes which sport a 650cc V twin cylinder engine and the 1250FA does not snarl when you open up the throttle. However, it has serious power and the acceleration is just phenomenal for such a large bike.

Fortunately, I am limited to a running in period for the engine so for the first 600 miles I will be keeping the revs down to below 4,500rpm and gaining more handling experience. Apparently a new bike with brand new tyres (or new replacement tyres on an old bike) requires careful riding up to 100 miles until the tyres shed their smooth coating and bed it, so I will be careful on the corners. Now that the tyres have travelled over 100 miles I am finding that the sports handling is exceptional and 2.5 hours straight touring is the average before I have to remove my backside from the seat and take a rest which is not a bad thing in any case. More on the bike in my Suzuki GSX-1250FA Review.

Images of my new bike using the Fujifilm X100s camera -

 

 

 



Lifestyle

I am very fortunate that I have worked hard all my life and now in retirement, I have enough money to indulge in my passions.

There is no doubt that riding a motorbike can develop into a full blown lifestyle which commences with the style of protective clothes you wear, the type of motorcycle you ride and the company you keep when you are out on your bike. There is no doubt that it can become addictive and you find that the motorcycle is more fun than the car - you just feel more alive as you interact with a motorcycle on the road.

The motorcycle is the perfect excuse to get away from it all especially as I will not take the responsibility of carrying a pillion passenger. I am not a member of Facebook or Twitter and my mobile phone is very basic so there are no emails or smart phone distractions. Nope, it is all about the enjoyment of riding a motorcycle and I find myself visiting biker cafes and dealerships for coffee whilst perusing the motorbikes and the merchandise. Discussions with other bikers centre around the latest motorbikes and the latest motorbike races but conversations relative to politics, religion and political correctness are avoided at all costs. Knockhill Race Circuit is a must during the race season and you head along to soak up the atmosphere with other bikers.

It's not every day that you head down the road on a touring trip, perhaps to the Lake District or Yorkshire or up north into the Scottish Highlands or even further afield but when you do plan that trip and take to the road, it is a great feeling. Touring is relaxing as you cruise along and take in the countryside and the views from the saddle. The roads are usually unfamiliar so there is not the same desire to open up the throttle and lay it down on the bends. You can pre-plan your hotel stops or just add some excitement to the trip by taking your chances at a bed and breakfast stop over and if all else fails in the countryside there are plenty B+Bs near the main motorways. I dislike luggage racks and boxes on my Suzuki GSX-1250FA motorcycle and prefer instead to use a backpack with clothing and soft stuff and a smaller bag for my shoes and harder gear secured to my pillion seat with quick release clips.

Local trips nearer to home offer just as much freedom of the road and terrific fun when you open up the throttle (a bit) on those twisty country roads.
One of my favourite 'lunch' trips is travelling from Edinburgh on the A702 city bypass then the A701 to Moffat for a meal at one of the many cafes. The road back to Edinburgh would be via the A708, up and over the hills to St Mary's Loch where you could visit the Glen Cafe Bistro (an alternative lunch spot) which is frequented by hoards of bikers before swinging left on the B709 to Innerleithen and then the A72 to Peebles and the A703 back to the A701 at Leadburn for Edinburgh.

At the start of each year you bring your diary up to date with all the venues for British Superbikes, World Superbikes, MotoGP and of course the Isle of Man TT.

Motorcycling does not consume my entire lifestyle but like many bikers from different backgrounds it is now a large part of it. So much so that on a fine weather day, I will be firing up my Suzuki GSX-1250FA and leaving the car in the garage.
Clothing and armour protection are all important (check out my link to my clothing above) as is the style in relation to the motorcycle you ride. I have been lucky in that I did spend a great deal of time on the Internet and at my local dealership before I purchased my gear. In the end, I still added more clothing and accessories (check out my link to my accessories above) and built up my collection as required. I also put together an article on the subject of Motorcycle Protective Clothing.

 

_____________________________________________


A Second Motorcycle
Early in 2015, I got it into my head that I required a 2nd motorcycle for travelling around the city, so I tried out a Yamaha MT-07 which I thought would make the ideal 'urban' bike.  In the end, I purchased a Yamaha XV950R ABS
'Bobber' but it ended up gathering dust in the garage.

Truth be known, riding the Yamaha XV950R did not really agree with my lower back and I could only commit to short trips on the bike. I much preferred to ride my Suzuki GSX-1250FA sports/tourer and the adrenalin rush of riding the Suzuki around the country bends proved too addictive, so I sold the Yamaha in 2016.

 

_____________________________________________



2016
Now that summer (2016) has finally arrived, I am out and about a lot on my Suzuki GSX-1250FA Motorcycle which is 'freaking awesome' on the country roads. A daily dose of adrenalin is just the ticket and I follow in the steps of one of my heroes', T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) on his Brough Superior SS Motorcycle. Incidentally Lawrence was killed on his bike, avoiding 2 kids and their bicycles.

Nearly 2 years on and the handling seems to get better and better and when I started riding the bike I had strong upper body strength but I found that my leg hamstrings had contracted over the years and thanks to my 68 year old worn vertebrae my lower back muscles left a lot to be desired. However, these weaknesses never proved a problem when riding the Suzuki because of it's upright (half sports) riding position and the 805mm low seat BUT I did take out a few sports bikes for test rides and only then did I realise that I should address those weaknesses.  

I decided to commit to body building exercises each morning to strengthen my lower back and upper leg muscles as well as stretching the leg hamstrings. I also undertook a regime of push ups to strengthen my wrists and
triceps muscles.


My Suzuki GSX-1250FA is a very hard motorcycle to replace thanks to it's massive 108Nm torque, it's comfortable upright riding position and for all it's 257Kg in weight, I am still able to lay it down on the corners and when I drop down the gears, the acceleration is phenomenal.

 

_____________________________________________



2017
It
was the 5th of May when I got my hands on a 2017 BMW S1000RR Sport motorcycle for a test ride and it was awesome. My wrists and the base of my spine held up well and so did everything else but it was a different story when I rode it for a prolonged period, especially in a stop/start urban environment.

The base of my neck developed an unbearable pain and despite the superb handling, the ferocity of the performance and the sheer fun, I reluctantly had to admit that my old age and worn neck vertebrae did in fact have limitations. All my exercises had paid off to strengthen my wrists, lower back, my forearms and shoulders but my neck was wrecked.

Fortunately, I have a fall back position to my dream sports 'roadster' motorcycle which has a more upright riding position and I have already tested the 2016 variant of the BMW S1000R Sport which is the dogs bollocks without any pain. The 2017 model now includes a rip roaring
Akrapovič exhaust as standard.

 



The BMW S1000R Sport is not the most inexpensive option for a 'roadster' motorcycle but it is laden with the latest technology and the extra dosh is well worth it. The 'off the shelf' black bike with the optional dash of red paint and a BMW alarm system comes in at 12,700.00 vat inclusive in the UK.

HOWEVER

This has to be the best roadster for 2017.

The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory -


Check out the Specifications -
Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory

 

 

If you have enjoyed this article - please donate to my Charity of Choice   -   The Sick Kids

 

Richard Lawrence
Scotland
United Kingdom

 

Back to Motorbike Articles Page