EDSBK is a blog about a small group of sports bike riders, the places we go in search of our ultimate road and the motorbikes we ride..

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A4069 Black Mountains


 With the hottest day of 2017 so far forecast for a Sunday, Col and I decided on an early start and a trip down to the Black Mountains in Wales, we were looking for the Top Gear / 5th Gear favourite the  A4069.
 We left home at 6:45am and the skies were blue and it had already began to heat up, the plan was to incorporated some other of our favourite roads along the way and after a couple of hours riding we had arrived at the start of the road in the village of Llangadog.

 The A4069 for about 5 miles passes fields of sheep and sleepy villages before it gently starts to climb the hill, some road works gave us a short rest and Col shouted across to me,
"this is where its supposed to get good!"

  We both gave the throttle a sharp twist making the engine revs climb to the middle of the rev range as we followed the road. It went around a sharp right hand corner and climbed quite steeply and then there it was.......the spoiler........ a 40mph speed limit sign.
  We followed the road along while it continued to climb and twist up to a sharp left bend, and then it climbs further up passing a few parking areas and over the 493mtr peak.

The road then twists along the landscape for  a few miles and came to a village called Upper Brynamman, so we stopped and looked at Google maps on the phone.
"So... thats it?" I said looking at Col who just shrugged.

We rode back in the direction we came from, this time less focused on the road and took in the scenery which was very nice, then stopped in a pull in to take a few photos.

  We were expecting the A4069 to be a contender for our ultimate roads list but left feeling disappointed, the good bit is only 5.1 miles long and its had a 40mph speed limit added, even if you ignore the speed limit and ride it how you want to its still nothing more than an OK road with some nice scenery.
 The day we were there was hot, 27 degrees and while we were there we only saw 20 or so other vehicles so couldn't understand why it would warrant a 40mph limit.

 In our opinion if you have never been, go take a look, but the road itself is not as much fun as some of the roads we used to get there.

 BUT there is a saving grace for the bikers who do go there, we came across the Owls Nest cafe, that place is worth a visit.

2016 Year review

    I sit here looking out on a grey and miserable day and Spring seems along time away so thought I would have a look at the photos and videos we took of the bike rides out in 2016.
  This year its mostly been only Col, Phill and Rich on Sunday mornings.
 Jon didn't get his bike out of the garage this year, we expect him to tell us he is going to part with it as his riding interests are nil at the moment.
  Matt unfortunately had a nasty road traffic incident when out on a loaner bike while his BMW was in for a service. A car pulled out of a side road and Matt went over the front of the car and landed on his back which caused injury and shook him up enough to part with his bike. He says he may return to riding bikes in the future, but has nothing planned as yet.
 Rich is getting used to his new to him Fireblade that he bought at the end of 2015. He joined us on most Sunday mornings. (Pictured at Doms cafe in Leominster). Col and I have pinched a few ideas from his bike, adding the clear lenses to the indicators and I have Polished the foot guards. On one ride out his handle bar came loose, the bike was rideable but needed a dealer to stop the clutch from swinging down under the hand grip.
 Since then Rich as bought a set of heated grips and is pleased with
having the option of warm hands!
  Col has bought a chain and sprocket set...coughs... its still in the box after 12 months of owning it, one day it will be fitted I am sure. After an accident with the 2 bikes in the back of the van when we went on our 2016 road trip, he has also had to get the side panel repaired and painted, it looks as good as new now.
 Phill well I had to replace the indicators as I was told the aftermarket ones that came on the bike would fail the MOT because over half of the LEDs had stopped working, I found a guy selling a set of the originals with clear lenses on EBay which are now on the bike. I have a few little jobs I want to do in 2017, mostly to do with paint. The heated grips are brilliant, I too have the option of warm hands.

Our favourite road the A483 from Newtown to LLanrindod Wells is now getting changed due to a
 new by-pass around Newtown. Unfortunately some of my favourite part is now a 30mph section and some corners look like they will be getting straightened, this could be for the new wind farm and access to it is from the twisty end of the A483. I understand why the local people need this by-pass having been a truck driver in that area its just such a shame that it had to affect that road.
We paid 2 visits there this year, down on the usual amount.

    Col and I went to East France/Switzerland for the road trip. We planned to ride in the Alps and Jura Mountains where the LHC or Large Headron Collider is burried. The day we travelled there it was 37 Degrees, the 3 days we were there it rained everytime we used the bikes, sorta reminded us of Scotland, hilly and wet. But we did get to ride some great roads even if we had rode them before.
 Unfortunately the bikes took some damage in the back of the van when a strap came loose. We have learned from that and have a new strapping system for next time.

 In August Col and I went on a run over to the Bala lake and Horseshoe pass. We stumbled over a great piece of tarmac, the A525 Llysfasi - A542 Horseshoe pass.
 My camera ran out of battery part of the way up so we HAVE to go there again!
 We did a Bike Safe day with the West Midlands Police, this was broke in to 3 sections.
A ride out followed by a Police rider, who tells you he wont arrest you if your safe, but wasnt to concerned about speeds when your on the national speed limit roads. I was told I did very good and the route we went on would make a decent Sunday ride once out of Birmingham, Col on the otherhand said the route he went on was all built up apart from 1 section of motorway so was not so impressed. The next thing they showed us was bike control through a course on the carpark, both Col and I completed this without putting a foot down. The last part of the day was in the classroom, we were shown how to lower the risk of accidents when out on the bikes.
 Overall the day was very good, and we picked up some useful skills which we put into practice.

 With the start of 2017 we are planning our trips and hope to find some new roads to add to our Ultimate Roads list.

Trip 2016

The Jura Mountains.

   In January we put a few ideas forward for the 2016 road trip and only Col and I were going to be able to go. So we decided as in 2015 the temperature had been so hot in Geneva so we decided to go back and hope the freakishly hot summer of 2015 was going to be more to our liking this year.

 We planned to use the same hotel as last year as we knew it was good and had underground parking for the van and the bikes.
 We set off in the VW van at 4am headed to the Euro tunnel to find we have the wrong sized van. The lady in the Kiosk was helpful and told us to go to the help desk.  At the desk another lady told us we had to pay an extra £70 which was fine, but she said, i am struggling to find you a space on the train, however 30 minutes later we were in the tunnel and Calais bound. 
 Its a blooming long way to Geneva, we watched the temperature climb to 37 degrees as we crossed France and were thankful that this van had air-con. 
 We arrived at the Hotel at 18:10 to the sound of a crash on the back of the van as we went around the last 2 roundabouts. We checked what had happened and the strap holding the bikes inplace had come undone sending my bike into Cols as we cornered causing a crack in the fairing and a broken indicator on Cols bike and scratches to mine, we both were gutted as we had checked the bikes were ok at every stop we made for the last 14 hours. We ate our Pizza thinking of better ways to secure the bikes for the return journey.

 The next day, we got the bikes off the van and assessed the damage, it didn't look quite so bad and we managed to do minor repairs where needed, then headed to the nearest fuel station.
 The plan was to ride the Jura mountains and go to St Claudes as this road was our favourite of the 2015 trip and well worth a 2nd visit. That is until we discovered the main road had 3 sets of roadworks spoiling the flow, and the clouds were gathered at the half way height which let go as we arrived, so we had our first soaking of the trip.
After the 1st down pour
The botttom of the hill down to St Claudes
 The afternoon dried up nicely and we found the good roads from last year and had a good time in the afternoon sunshine. We stopped at the top of the road from Gex for an drink and Ice-cream and noticed a leaflet for the Jura park and Jeux Chateau so decided that was tomorrows destination.

Stopped by the lake
 The next day we awoke to the sound of heavy rain. The mountains behind the hotel could not be seen so after a late breakfast we waited at the hotel for a while and chatted to some English people who were going home after touring for 3 weeks on their bike. They were telling us how many people wanted to talk to them about Brexit but not in a positive way.
   The rain stopped so we headed to the Joux Lakes crossing into Switzerland for a few feet, and then made a run for it back to the hotel only stopping to put on the waterproofs under a bridge as heavy rain, well i say heavy rain but actually it was very heavy waterproof penetrating rain which came and spoiled the rest of the ride.
  Back at the hotel the sum came out so we went to talk to the Bike Shuttle crew that had come to take the other bikes that were parked in the underground car park.

 The last day we thought we would give the Joux chateau another chance, but the rain was so heavy on the mountain we decided to go to Annecy in the opposite direction. As we got within 2Km of Annecy the rain started and lightning streaked over the black sky ahead so we changed our course and rode around some of the lesser know areas of the French Alps and Jura mountains until we found a sign for somewhere we had heard of.
The darkest of dark clouds was hiding out of shot to the left

 All in all we didnt find any new roads worth a mention, but at least we did ride some good ones again that we rode last year.

The sun arrived as we waited to get on the train back to the UK
 At Calais we were held up for 2 hours which caused us to hit Londons M25 at rush hour, what joy. The journey home was 15 hrs.

Heated Grips

 Back in the Autumn of 2015, I had a ride of Matts BMW S1000rr which had heated grips as standard. The day wasn't particularly cold but the heaters on the low setting felt most welcome so I decided that I should look into a pair of these.

  Whilst at the Motorbike Live show at the NEC a month later Col and I came across the Oxford stand and spoke with the salesman who told us all about them. A few stands away was a company selling them at a discount, so we bought 2 sets, saving £20 each. These were the new Oxford Hot Grips for sports bikes. 

Fitting them

 The following weekend I went to Cols and we started to remove the old handle grips and bar ends. Well I did. Col couldn't undo the bolt  to get his bar end off on the throttle side and gave up after 20 minutes of muttering and throwing of spanners.
 So I continued to fit mine. In all it took less than an hour, the hardest part was removing the old rubber grips.
The Oxford Hot Grips come with a neat looking, rain proof control unit that mounts to the handle bar, the grips and all the electrical bits you need to connect it up.
It draws less than 4amps so is not a huge draw on the battery. The control unilt has a battery guard system, it detects if you forget to switch them off and automatically does it for you after a few minutes if the engine is not running.

Riding with them

  The first thing you notice is the bars feel a fraction thicker to hold and the rubber is harder.
The buttons used to set the temperature are easy to see and get at giving you the choice of 5 heat settings. The lowest is 30%, 40%, 50%, 75% and full power at 100%. I have never used more than 50% as that is quite hot with my favourite summer gloves on even on cold slightly frosty days. The grip gets noticeably warmer after just a couple of minutes. 
 When your hands are warm the rest of you seems to also be warm, it seems that the warmed blood in your hands must carry some of the heat round your body with it as I do feel warmer than when its switched off but that could be my imagination!
  There is no negative that i have found over the last 6 months using them, but if i had to offer something it would be that the control unit was slightly narrower, such as if you look at the picture above it was only half as wide as it is.

 The fact is though that when Col stops and grips his exhaust pipe to warm his hands when the mornings are in single figures, my hands are toastie..!


Bike Safe

  In December while at the NEC Motorbike show we came across the Bike Safe stand. We sat and listened to a short talk on cornering and decided we would like to attend a full day.
 On Sunday 17th April a cold and frosty but clear morning Col and I set off to the Police Training centre called Tally Ho in Birmingham. We arrived and met with some of the guys who were at the bike show, Richard,  Paul, Stuart, Glyn, John and the others.

   After a brief introduction we were split into groups and ours was first out on the roads. A Police rider named John was stood by me and said "right your with me". He told me which way to head and I set off with my own Police escort. The first time you look in the mirror and see a marked Police bike close behind you is a little strange, but then you remember that for this ride this guy is your friend. For 2 hours we rode around Birmingham, Redditch and surrounding areas, on all types of roads, around town and twisty country lanes. Most car drivers see the Police bike and just quickly got out of our way, as we passed everything we wanted too where the road permitted.
 We stopped for a chat for 10 minutes and John told me he thought I was doing good, but offered some useful feedback about positioning when passing side roads, looking further away to give myself more time and to use the throttle to pull through the corners.
 Next was the course on the carpark through the cones with Stuart and Glyn. For this we were to use only clutch and rear brake. Apart from a couple of engine stalls when turning right, we both managed to do a clear round, even though Police rider Stuart made me laugh when he told us we missed a cone out....yeah right superbikes steering locks aren't that tight! 
But we were filmed doing it and put on the Police twitter feed,  (below).


 Finally we attended a 2 hour class room session, with Richard and Paul (or Marcus) who went over hazard perception, cornering, Junctions, Overtaking, Filtering and Group riding. They us about the method that Police riders use which was very interesting and informative.
  We paid £35 each as we bought it from the bike show but full price is only £50 and its definitely worth it. The guys really know their stuff, they do this to help inform riders of the hazards out on the road that come in many shapes, they show you how to control your bike at slow speed and assess your riding. Personally I think however good you think your riding is, there is always some advice or something you can learn from attending this type of workshop.

Thanks to all involved with Bike Safe.

Money well spent!

Head to Bike Safe for more information and to book yourself on a Bike Safe Workshop.

Thats Me and Col in the middle in black.
Video and photo from Police twitter feed.