I’m forty-eight and married with two younger teenage children and live in the Furzedown area of Tooting. I work as Technical and Quality Director for Photobox and use a bike to commute to our offices in Wembley and in Farringdon. I ride a KTM 990 SMT and a BMW G650 Xmoto, which is quite rare. I’m also in the process of restoring / modifying my '82 Suzuki Katana GSX1100 that I've owned for 20+ years.
I’ve been riding for a good while, having bought my first bike with my university student loan. I first used it just to get around on, but practicality quickly became a passion. I did a BikeSafe day around ten years ago and I’ve become increasingly aware of bad habits I’d built up as a London commuter, including a too aggressive style and not leaving enough of a bubble. Over the years, I’ve had a few scrapes caused by drivers jumping red lights and pulling ‘U’ turns. I think it’s reassuring for my family for me to have advanced riding training and it’s great to have a positive ‘excuse’ to get out on the bike.
I’ve had eight or more OR's and was pretty much test-ready before lockdown but obviously that’s been on hold. I’d like to solidify and polish my standard of riding and hopefully aim for a F1rst! I need to start booking OR's and to aim for a test this summer.
I always enjoyed the group meetings and tried to get there for the pre-ride sessions and also took advantage of the bacon butties and general chat.
I hadn’t done much riding in groups, so I’ve also benefited from the AOR's and have used some of the principles when riding with friends.
The Katana is my dream bike and a true design icon. I plan to upgrade the wheels, suspension and brakes this year to get it to ride a little more like a modern bike. I’ve had a real range of bikes including a Ural, 7 different BMWs and a Gilera Nordwest amongst the 25 or so bikes I've owned and restored. More recently, I’ve found the Supermoto style was best suited to my needs. I like a combination of exoticism and practicality in my bikes.
I'm lucky enough to have a garage just for my bikes and have always enjoyed working on them myself, including full engine rebuilds. I’ll tackle most maintenance and repair jobs, apart from complex electronics and tyre changes. I once had a bike come back to me from the tyre fitter with the front wheel on the wrong way round, so I’ll always double check the work after anyone else gets their hands on my bikes.
I find that doing my own maintenance leads to greater pride in my bike and hence confidence on the road. It also means that I understand the principles behind a POWDERS check.
I’m a type 1 diabetic, so I try to eat before I go out to keep my blood sugar level up. I test also test my levels regularly. I keep a Mars bar and glucose tablets with me in case my level drops too much.
My mum was nervous when I started but it was helpful that one of my brothers also rode. My wife used to ride pillion and she’s supportive. It’s always an issue to balance family time with ‘me’ time but the family understands the pleasure that I get from riding, or rather, how grumpy I can get if I'm not allowed to ride!
I certainly feel that Dr Dave’s or a basic mechanics workshop should be compulsory. Perhaps there could be more engagement with London-based and commuting focussed riders. I’d also be interested in being able to link up more spontaneously for a ride – perhaps through What’s App as a way for riders who live in an area to meet for a ride.
Thanks James and good luck with your test.
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