Day 2, seafront meet-up
So, revved from the excitement of Day 1, the weekend arrived and it's up and out as soon as possible. Slight delays due to attempts at navigating the LCD options again (note to self : leave the blue button alone) then it's back out on the open road again. A nervous start around the station area and a few dead ends where of course walking is fine but it's no through road for motor vehicles, but once the one-way system is behind me I'm back on the Brighton-Worthing seafront route again. Mush easier this time now I know the way and no surprises through Lancing and out the other side. Even the big Worthing roundabouts are negotiated with ease and before I know it I'm trundling back to the Yamaha dealer to meet up with the other half of the 125 Biker Gang. MrB is waiting for me and the sight of me wobbling into view is obviously quite comical cos he's chucklin' away to himself.
A tour round the bike accessories shops and then on to some more road practice. We're following much of my CBT route so some of the roads are familiar, especially the sweeping bend near the station, the site of my first proper lean it over and power round exercise. On to the seafront and we're back to my old cycling territory, just 3 times quicker now ! Some interesting T-junction and minor bends to negotiate and now we're riding in to the sun too. Visor down and try and concentrate on where I want to go, as the advice says, the bike goes where you're looking. Coffee stop at the seafront cafe, sitting there in our armoured jackets with crash helmets on the spare seats, no-one can tell that we've pulled up on a couple of 125 ponies although the unprotected jeans give us away somewhat.
Another trip down the seafront and I'm heading home with the sun setting behind me but there's an orange light on the dash too. Ah, I was wondering how much petrol I'd been gifted by the dealer, not much as it turns out. A quick stop at the next filling station as it doesn't take long to fill the tank. It doesn't take much cash either, £6.72 to fill it up, that's just madness.
Up and over Hove this time, avoiding the Landsdowne narrows and back up to the parking spot. I'm a bit sad to leave it but then again my legs are freezing, my head and hands sweating and a long hot shower is the most attractive idea imaginable. Can't wait for Day 3 though.
Day 3, practice makes...
Still no proper bike trousers bought so today's trip is going to be a bit shorter I thought. Yeah, right, that's before I'm out on the road and just don't want to go home, this is far too much fun. First stop, the practice ground. I've had my researchers out looking for the ideal combination of quiet seclusion, easy access and level ground and they turned up the perfect pitch. The far end of a trading / light industrial estate with a disused unit owning 20 or so parking spaces, perfectly distanced to allow for optimum U-turn and slow speed manoeuvres. And don't I need it. The slow turns and sharp stops on my CBT were abominable "What the fuck was that" was my instructor's actual phrasing. So, start from the beginning again. Safety position, standing start, back brake pressure, plenty of revs, slip the clutch. Good, smoothly away with the engine fighting the brakes and keeping me upright. Now it's time to commit to the U-turn. I'm really trying to move my head in the direction I want to go but the bike's leaning too much and I'm going too slowly. My panic right foot comes off the brake and my left hand pulls in the clutch resulting in the bike running forward and lots of unhelpful revving. Right, try again. And so it goes on until I finally find the right balance of revs, clutch, brake and speed to make the turn successfully. What a great feeling having the bike go exactly where I want it in a calm and smooth manner. Let's do it again. Yes, much better. I do at least another 4 or 5 tries before stopping for a clutch hand rest. The builders of this little patch of Hove retail park have conveniently placed 2 drain covers just the right distance apart for some figure of 8 practice, surely the hardest part of CBT. With the new confidence though it's not so bad. Going from right turns straight into lefts is tricky at first and I have lots of foot down moments but a bit of concentration and back to that perfect crawling throttle/brake/clutch balance and after a few failures I've almost got it. A few more tries and I'm nailing it every time. Brilliant, I celebrate with eight 8's and a couple of U-turns, totally relieved that I've overcome this first hurdle. Right, school's over, fun time now. No real plan just drift through the back streets of hove, back to the relative civilisation of Brighton and find myself at the end of my own street. Hmm, go home ? I don't think so. Onward it is. Down into the valley and up the other side, climbing Elm Grove at a perfectly respectable pace now, not even getting bothered by the traffic. Well to be fair, the only other traffic is buses and they keep having to stop. Right up and over the top but now we're in open country on a high ridge with nothing between me and the February sea. The wind is a monster, each gust crashes into my right side trying to take me off the straight and narrow. I persist and keep more or less to where I want to be on the road but it's a fight every turn of the wheel.. Relief when I get over the hill and down into the shelter of the Woodingdean shops. Rolling freely down the road now and recalling the discussion about the mystery road between here and Ovingdean. Look out for the right turn and there it is, can't believe I've never noticed it before. Take the turn and I'm into the hidden valley, round the twisty bits, oh so carefully, past the 11th century church and back out towards the unforgiving sea. Now I'm on the 3 lanes of full on speeding traffic with even more massive air pressure on my left, This time it's not remotely funny, that wind is having a good try at pushing me into the next lane which is owned by overtaking tin-box people. Time to get off this ride, I take the next exit and I'm back on to the relative safety of the Rodean road. Up and down to the edge of the Bristol and back up through Whitehawk to take me up to the top of Elm Grove again. A Sunday enthusiast on his beautifully restored old Triumph passes me nervously. He's spent years perfecting his pride and joy and he doesn't want to scratch it now. He's all Aron sweater and big old biker boots, the outfit carefully matching the era of the bike. Nice.
I'm focused on the home straight now, carefully does it down the hill, try not to stall at all the lights between here an home, gentle manoeuvring into the North Laine and a bit of parking practice to finish off a pretty satisfactory day. Next time, over the hills and far away...