Sunday, 25 November 2012

Brushing up on the classics

I dislike the term “Classic Car” because it is vague and ill-defined.  I also suspect that it represents misuse of the English language.  Despite that I always seem to enjoy the big classic car show held every November at the National Exhibition Centre.

The most interesting thing (from a personal point of view) about the show is noticing what captures my attention.  Fancy stuff from the famous names seldom does it and my favourite cars get barely a cursory glance; it is the odd stuff, the things you don’t see every day (or in every other magazine). 

Passing time transforms the mundane into the interesting.  How else to account for my pleasure at seeing a well-preserved, low mileage Fiat 132?  It might not be the most inspiring car in the world but you could say the same of the Morris Marina, a car with a strong – if occasionally inexplicable – following.

From a certain point of view the appeal of Citroen’s 2CV is equally difficult to fathom.  It isn’t fast or pretty or luxurious.  Some cars have interiors that are like the inside of a gentlemen’s club; the 2CV is more like an old potting shed.  For all that, it was a very comfortable place to sit.  The simple, hammock seats somehow manage to provide all the comfort and support you need as you contemplate the seemingly random collection of instruments and switches on the dashboard.  Where else would you find a choke control labelled with an “S”?  In French “strangulateur” means choke – but don’t quote me on the spelling.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Swinging my leg over a powerful motorcycle did not result in my immediate demise, you will be pleased to hear.  It was not for want of trying on the part of Jupiter Pluvius, various truck drivers and car drivers.  At times visibility was minimal and it must rank as one of the least pleasant journeys I have ever made.  Thinking back, however, the bike behaved superbly; not only running faultlessly but also refusing to be swayed by wind or rain.

Closer to home, on roads more interesting, familiar and considerably dryer than the motorway, I put the CBR through some bends.  The bike inspired such confidence that I found myself taking corners at higher speed than I would on my old 125.  Between the bends it was possible to start exploring the overtaking potential of a 600cc bike with 90-or so horsepower.  At the moment, it is fair to say, there is far more acceleration available than I have confidence to exploit.

It begs the question, what must a 1,000cc bike be like?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


There is a certain amount of fear in the air, in addition to considerable quantities of moisture.  A typical September morning in the suburbs of Manchester and perfect conditions to embark on a two-hour ride on an unfamiliar and very powerful motorcycle.

O.K. Maybe not that powerful compared to some modern bikes but a 1997 Honda CBR600 can still put over 90bhp through its back tyre.  I think I did the sums once and calculated that the CBR had the same power to weight ratio as an Audi R8 V10.  I have driven an R8 V10, it was lovely but did at times feel too powerful and now (at a fraction of the cost of an R8) I can enjoy the same sort of performance with half the number of tyres, a quarter of the number of driven wheels and none of the crash protection.

It doesn't help that I have to ride home so that I can swap bike for car to travel down to Exeter and go on holiday.  I don't want to miss the holiday and in between I need to take the bike for a (pre-booked) MOT.  Just have to make sure I leave in plenty of time and take it easy on the ride down.  As long as I'm sensible it will be fine.  After all, as long as I'm sensible with the throttle the CBR need be no more fearsome than the Suzuki GS500E on which I passed my test; or even the CBR125 that I ride almost every day.  And I'm glad I have ridden a 'junior' CBR, it means that the bigger bike does at least feel instantly familiar.  The riding position is similar, the controls are where I expect them to be and everything will be fine.

On the off-chance that it isn't and these are my last words I'd just like to say, "Thank you, it has been fun and I love you all".

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Take a break

Everyone needs a holiday from time to time, even Fourwheelsteer is starting to think that a few days away would prove beneficial.  Of course in my mind a break in routine should also mean a new car to drive or a different bike to ride.  So I have been looking at classic car and bike hire as well as rectifying a glaring omission in my life - that I have never visited Cornwall. 

The perfect break would include a self-catering cottage somewhere in Devon or Cornwall along with a few days hire of a Jaguar E-type from a local company.  It remains to be seen whether such a venture is compatible with the budget I can raise...

Monday, 30 January 2012

Four wheels good, two wheels better

Three times last week I ran into heavy traffic, the sort of thing that makes your heart sink when you’re in a car. Luckily I was on my motorcycle; it is great when you can find a third lane to slice through traffic that’s going nowhere. Even though I’m still travelling more slowly than I would on a clear road it is much better to be moving on a bike than not moving in a car.