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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake


Notes from a Newbie

March 5th, 2006 by sunflowers

At the Alexander Place Bike Show I signed up for the IAM advanced motorcycle training. The training is organised through bike clubs around the UK so I joined the closest club to me that provided the IAM training – ELAM (East London Advanced Motorcyclists) www.elam.org.uk I am starting my advanced training on Sunday April 23rd which will run for six consecutive fortnights and then I will (fingers crossed) be able to sit my advanced riding test. ELAM is also a social club and they organise social runs twice a month. This Saturday was the first run of the year and they said open to all abilities so seeing as how I am finding it extremely difficult to find anyone to go for a ride with particularly with the weather being at some 100 year low I decide to join in.

On Friday I looked at www.multimap.com in order to figure out where the bike ride was going to start in relation to where I live and almost decided not to go when I realised it was going to take me an hour to get there and I still needed to check my oil before I left in the morning.

When I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning it was a beautiful sunny winter day. It took me almost two hours to get ready including checking the oil getting my bike (or any bike) onto its centre stand by myself for the first time. I set off from central London at 9am and made it to Junction 7 on the M11 by 10:15am not only, not getting lost in the spaghetti of roundabouts etc but doing at least 10 miles at 70miles an hour on the M11 (I still find the speed thing a bit nerve wracking and need to seriously consider getting a proper fairing as I feel like I am going to be blown off my bike at times).

When I got to the McDonalds there was a group of 20 or so people in bike gear with helmets so I knew that I had come to the right place. I introduced myself to Helen (this ride’s leader) and explained that I hadn’t done a lot of biking before so she kindly asked one of the club’s observers to keep an eye on me and we set off.

I wouldn’t have guessed how exhilarating it is to set off in a group of twenty bike riders. This didn’t last for long as I was quickly over taken by most of the group. Not wanting to upset anyone by being so slow I was finding the bendy and narrow back country roads that the ride’s leader Helen had found for us difficult.

Note here for those not from the UK. Most UK roads appear to have no shoulders and are extremely narrow with a speed limit of 60 miles/hr (100km/hr). Only on the most extreme bends do they post a suggested speed limit. Having done most of my driving in NZ and Australia I must admit that the few times I have hired a car in this country I have found these roads daunting. But after talking to a few of my fellow bikers at lunch apparently bendy country roads are the way to go and compared to the congested motorways here that even at two in the morning are full of cars doing 90+ miles an hour with less than the 2 second rule between them I would have to agree.

Our tea break was at this huge country building made up of a warren of furniture, antiques and jewellery shops. I know this as I got lost amongst them trying to find the tea shop on the third floor.

 Just Heading Off

For the first hour of the ride I had been really coconscious about being a lot slower than the rest of the group but at the tea break John the observer who had kindly stayed close by (as well as explaining that it was normal for my bike to stall a lot in the mornings due to it being a single cylinder four stroke – bonus bit of info there as I had been worried it was just not working right) said that the ride was for all abilities and they emphasise that you are to ride at your own pace which is why the run uses this cool convoy system where the second rider after the leader stops to mark the direction when the ride makes a turn and it is no big deal whether the maker person has to wait a few minutes or in my case a few more.

So I set off after the tea break feeling much better about keeping my own pace as I had been struggling a bit on those bendy turns not being used to knowing what my bike and myself could take them at. It was also easier as John had spent some time showing me that rather than keeping my dominant middle of the lane position I had been taught at my DAS course that it was better to take the corner’s wide to increase my visibility and the projection of my ride around the curve. This is apparently one of the many useful things I am going to learn on the course that I am now very much looking forward to.

Another Note to those that haven’t done this advanced training course. I talked to one of the other bikers who had been riding for twenty years and he said that the course was brilliant and he had learnt a lot as well as having to un-learn some of his bad habits.

Unfortunately this new found feeling of ability didn’t last as I managed to miss two of the turning markers after the tea break. Turning is still a bit of an operation for me as I manually have to talk myself through the mirror checks, slowing down through the gears while also showing enough of my breaks to indicate to those behind me what I am doing, stretching my hand enough off the handle/clutch to use my indicator button, judging how fast I should be doing the turn as well as most importantly looking out for other traffic. Also I was usually so far behind the rest of the group that I couldn’t see the other biker’s indicators so if the marker person wasn’t gesturing wildly I missed whether it was a turn or not. So in the end, the tail end Charlie (nominated last person of the ride) had to come and get me twice. To which I am gratefully thankful to her, otherwise I might still be riding around the countryside (c;

Lunch was divine and I spent the hour and half lunch break chatting to my fellow bikers about makes, models and the best route to take to Bristol and Cornwell. After lunch we made a group decision to take the short way home.

We used more of the motorways back and in no time, with no getting lost I was back on the M11 and exiting onto the North Circular, heading back to my place of residence. Like I mentioned the road networks around London can be a confusion of six lane roundabouts with many major roads crossing each other in over and under passes. I somehow managed to get off and on the North Circular twice having successfully got off at my exit(s) but managing to miss my road at the roundabout (not sure how I did it the second time as there was no roundabout involved). So when I spotted the exit for Wood Green I thought ‘I have bicycled home from Wood Green’. Major mistake! Wood Green is miles of nose to end buses in a huge strip of shopping which made my filtering particularly exciting as no one wants be held responsible for hitting the women who stepped out in front of you without looking holding her baby.

But I arrived home safe and sound having almost doubled the number of miles I have ridden since getting my bike and licence. Also having mastered my centre stand, done my first oil top up, my first petrol fill on my own (I know it sounds pathetic), feeling better about those bendy country lanes (which almost made me fail my DAS) and having ridden on the motorway faster than the big trucks in the slow lane.

I am very much looking forward to my next social ride. Unfortuantely I won’t be at the next one as I am in Slovenia for work or the next one, looking at the elam calendar, as I am in Korea for my sister’s wedding, but the one scheduled for the end of April is already in my diary.

6th Ride
Saturday morning had ridden 210 miles and by Saturday evening added another 155 miles to hit 365 miles.

Ps. I chickened out of riding to Bristol last weekend as it was suppose to rain on the Sunday so I took the train instead. But next weekend, weather permitting, I am going to ride there.

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Wonderful walking to work

February 22nd, 2006 by sunflowers

Even though most days I bicycle to work at least once a week I try to walk to work. This week for the last three days I have walked to (not back as well) work as my bike has been locked up and I had left my house and bike lock keys for my sister to use while she was visiting from Korea.

My sister gave me a step counter and the statistics for my walk to work are:-
– 7.562 miles
– 13,767 steps
– 2 hours

But more important than how many steps I have taken my walk to work is my time to sort out all the thoughts running around in my head and then think about cool things like my future.

Today I was thinking about about my career after this trip. What I want to be when I grow up? It has changed over time but when I first started working someone told me it was better to have goals even if you are unsure about them than none at all.

Short term
1. Move into contract project management so that I have more time for other parts of my life.
2. Find part time work or set up something involving the environment. I would have loved to come up with the idea of climatecare.org that does carbon offsetting.

Medium term
1. Become a history teacher

Long term
1. Have a B&B in the UK and a backpackers in NZ spending the summer six months of the year in each country.

Walking to work through Kensington Gardens

That is if I survive my trip motor biking to Bristol this weekend. Tomorrow I am going to do all the motorbike checks that I have been a bit lapse doing as it has been dark or raining when I have had time.

I would like to make a special thanks to Charlie for all the information he has sent me on how to survive riding the motorway. Between this and reading my advanced motorcycle guide I was sent when I joined IAM I reckon I will live to blog again…

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Smoke without fire

February 12th, 2006 by sunflowers

5th day riding, another 20 miles from North to South London in the rain. Turns out that you can have smoke without fire if it is crud and cleaning products smouldering off your radiator – ok and maybe a little bit of steam due to the constant rain.

Today’s was a short but eventful trip. I ran out of petrol just after the Highbury Islington corner but pulled up at the curb and switched to my reserve and continued on in the rain hoping to pass a petrol station. But by the time I got to New Cross I was wondering why there was a lot of smoke coming out in front of my petrol tank. Thinking I had burnt something out in the engine when I ran out of petrol I decided better safe than sorry and asked Pete to come and get me just in case there was actually something wrong with my bike. Slightly embarrassing when he explained it was just the heat burning stuff off the radiator so it was back to his for a cup of tea where an executive decision was made to not go on a ride in the rain. So it was back to North London via the petrol station and home for a kip and a Sunday night tidy up.

Hey, good thing I don’t ride every day or this might get long and boring …

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Lois (www.loisontheloose.com) and Austin (Mondo Enduro)

February 11th, 2006 by sunflowers

4th day riding since my five day direct access course in November and I made it out on the M4 all the way to Uxbridge and back by myself! I have clocked 180 miles now since getting my bike.

As I mentioned on my posting ‘Beginning of December 2005 – What am I doing!’ I found the website of www.loisontheloose.com who biked from Alaska to Argentina by herself. In order to reassure my mother I told her that I would contact Lois and ask her for advice before I went. I emailed Lois on the 28th Nov 2005 and we have exchanged several emails since then. I hadn’t really wanted to meet up until I was more confident on my bike (which I am not yet) but Lois kindly invited me over for a chat so I took my life in my hands once again (I only say this because I think my inexperience is so obvious the drivers around me in London notice that I am jerking my way down the road) and biked out to visit her on her barge out near Uxbridge.

Lois and her husband could not have been more welcoming. I spent a lovely afternoon in their barge yatting about her trip and associated book deal as well as a bit of girly chat. Lois had mentioned on the phone that her husband had done a couple of round the world (RTW) trips but it wasn’t until I mentioned that Iain had lent me a dvd to watch called Mondo Enduro that Lois said that it was her husband Austin Vince who had done the video.

It was amazing – like meeting heroes that you didn’t know that you had. Especially when they are some of the friendliest, coolest people I have met. They helped me attach my ‘bought at the bike show Klan Heating Socks’ (highly rated) to my bike battery and saw me off (after Lois had signed her write up in the Adventure Motorcycling Handbook).

So tonight I have been sitting at home watching Mondo Enduro (44000 miles in 440 days). It is an excellent watch (well edited and interesting commentary) but I think that it has made me more nervous than ever about the upcoming trip. I am going between totally scared and then trying to reassure myself by thinking, I have travelling by myself since I was 17, lived in six cities in three countries without knowing people when I arrived and manage million pound projects through-out Europe. So surely once I know how to ride and maintain my bike I will be fine (c;

Another quick note is that the band and I have agreed that I should step down from managing them so that they can get someone who can dedicate more time to them and I can concentrate on planning for my trip. They have asked me to stay involved as they have become good friends but I must admit that my enthusiasm has declined knowing that I will be heading off for 11 months in 7.5 months time. So I am looking for an agent for them and they will look for another manager. Btw you are all welcome to the last gig that will have been organised by me at The Marquee on Thursday, 2nd March.

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Do something that you fear everyday!

February 6th, 2006 by sunflowers

Do something that you fear everyday! Is the recommended advice in Susan Jeffers ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’. I was chatting to a mate and we were trying to figure out what you could do every day that you were fearful about and I have now found it. Motorcycling around London.

I managed to get out there on Saturday and bike from Holloway to Ealing to Earls Court and back to Holloway. But a part of me will always have a healthy fear of being on a motorbike in London.

On Sunday I made it up to the Ally Pally Bike Show and bought a jacket, boots, heated over socks, back pack, helmet bag, water proof London and UK maps and two fingers together gloves. So now I will no longer look like a barrel with legs (as my mate put it) with my two thermal tops, body amour, two polar fleeces and my hiking jacket. Or at least not like a big barrel anymore (c;

I also signed up to the Advanced Motorcycling Programme iam.org.uk which should be good.

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Totally Petrified

February 4th, 2006 by sunflowers

It has almost been two weeks since I have been on the bike and today is the day that I promised myself I would spend biking around London.

The problem is that I don’t think that I have ever been more scared of anything in my life. I keep on trying to tell myself lots of people learn to ride so I must be able to. I am not sure why I am so terrified as I was eager to learn how to drive a car and started learning at thirteen. But there is a big difference between driving up and down your grandparents half a mile drive way and getting on two hundred kilos of metal you have to keep up-right in almost zero degree weather and riding around London.

I had almost managed to talk myself out of biking today but after getting home last night and reading a bit of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and I am going to make myself ride to Ealing and back. When I was learning, I hired a 125, on the coldest night in November and without any protection except a helmet I rode between Holloway and Ealing so I should be able to do it fully kitted on my own bike.

I really want to phone my mother and get her to reassure me that I will be all right but I think if I tell her I am scared she will tell me to do my trip in a car. I do really want to learn how to become a safe, confident driver and be able to get myself around the UK without relying on public transport.

On a different topic – I attended Rebecca’s (the girl I mentored last year) graduation ceremony. I had been really excited about seeing her again but it was also quite sad as it is the last time we will be able to make contact as one of Chance UK’s rules is that there is no contact between the mentee and mentor after the year is finished. But I do hope that she will be able to follow my trip on the website as it is dedicated to her. I also can’t back out of the trip now as they announced it at the graduation ceremony!

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Ramblings

February 1st, 2006 by sunflowers

Not very much to do with my trip preparation but while I am waiting for weather to warm up so that I can get out and ride my bike I have been keeping busy. Having only recently moved to a digital camera in the last year I have decided to scan in all my old negatives that I have here in London. Plus I will get my parents to bring over all my really old negatives when we meet up in Korea for my sister’s wedding in April. So I am going scan all the negatives in now and when I have my oodles of time on the trip I will work through them fixing up the images (getting rid of the dust marks – this ICE thing doesn’t appear to be working too well) and labelling them. Then you will have my entire photo album on the web – lucky you. These are the only pictures I have on the web at the moment www.annettepearson.com/Iran

I have started attending meditation, mind, body and spirit workshops. Meditation is something that I have wanted to learn to do properly for a while. I figure between these and my motorbike maintenance course I am signed up for, that I won’t have to read Zen and the Art of Motorbike Maintenance! I found out last night that my main spirit guides is arch angel Ariel (not the little mermaid!). I always thought that I had some kind of guardian angel looking after me. After all, I have been hitching and travelling around by myself since I was fourteen and somehow have managed to keep fairly safe. Either that or I have a higher luck factor than most (c;

I also started back at Kieser Training (www.kieser-training.co.uk) a strength training gym I used belong to. Mostly, I believe that strength training is really important to avoid the horrendous back problems that a lot of people seem to get. But I am also hoping that it will help with the bike. I must admit that I was quite surprised that after thirteen months of not attending that I had only lost a few kilos lifting ability in each muscle group.

I have also been reading quite a bit about Central and South America. A lot of the travelling books talk about how shocked first time visitors are by the poverty. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the parts of Asia and Africa I have been to. For me I dislike it more to see in London where the juxtaposition between the wealthy and the poor is so big. Last week I cycled by a lady of the night finishing off her shift on Sussex Gardens just after passing a Lotus parked by the side of the road. Very Pretty Women – but this lady looked nothing like Julia Roberts. Then this week I cycled by a white van full of blokes I reckon had been picked up to do illegal packing work and their faces looked so worn. Then a couple of minutes later cycled past a bloke who looked like a rich banker out for an early morning jog in Marylebone High Street. I don’t think that the poverty will upset me too much but I am going to look into doing some kind of charity work as I go. I am somewhat of a pragmatist and believe that you just have to do what you can when you can and get on with living your own life.

I also found a website to find people to bike with. I was looking for a club and came across a biker dating site where you can advertise for riding buddies – so I have signed up and received two ride offers within the first few hours of joining – brill!

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She’s Arrived

January 23rd, 2006 by sunflowers

I finally picked up my bike on Saturday. I was really lucky that Pete who has been my mainstay of advice came along with me to pick it up and accompany me on my first few hours of motorbike freedom. Which turned out to be an extremely good thing as the bike was a lot bigger and heavier than the one that I used on my course.

The BikeWhen we got to the shop Pete noticed that the suspension adjuster was stuck and the oil hose was quite badly cracked so the guys at motoden fixed it then and there, which was sweet of them so I didn’t have to come in during the week to get it sorted. Other than that Pete said I had done pretty well picking out my first bike.

After leaving the shop we had a pretty slow exit from London as I was a bit nervous about filtering. Still I got lots of practice starting and stopping. We made it out to the motorbike café near Brands Hatch when I discovered that I had left the motorbike shop with my fuel tank on reserve so got my first lesson in filling up my own bike.

Sunday I didn’t fair so well. I managed to get about fifteen miles from home before trying to manoeuvre the bike, with the engine off out, of a driveway when it went off balance and I dropped it. It was particularly galling as Pete had said the day before to watch out when trying to get it over rough ground. Still I made it home in one piece and I figure that if I get proper bike boots I will be fine (that and thinking a bit more about where I pull up to park!).

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Change of Direction

January 18th, 2006 by sunflowers

Last week was a bit of a turning point. I have decided to postpone my trip until October and instead ride from Argentina to Alaska. The timing works out a lot better for the actual trip, it will give me a chance to do the motorbike maintenance course I want to do (I didn’t get in on the waitlist for the one for January), enjoy the UK summer riding my bike and save more money before I go. I have put all my reasons on my old url www.alaska2argentina.co.uk and moved everything over to www.alaska2argentina.co.uk.

I have also purchased a bright shiny red ’94 BMW F650 and had it fitted with crash bars and heated grips. I will be picking it up on Saturday – very exciting!

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Buying a Bike

January 8th, 2006 by sunflowers

After a lovely Christmas break I am finally excited about getting a bike. All my research, the help and countless questions about bikes that Pete has answered – has paid off and I feel ready to purchase a bike and start getting comfortable riding it.

I am monitoring a couple of entries on ebay.co.uk, gumtree.com and visiting bike dealerships to find the bike that I can learn on and will possibly do the trip. I have decided to get a fairly cheap bike (my research also made me realise the cost of all the additional stuff you need for a trip like this) but also not worry too much about whether it can go the distance as I am also looking into buying a bike in Canada. Which would save on the expense of shipping it. Knowing that this isn’t the be all and end all bike makes the purchasing of the bike a lot easier.

I have also enrolled on a one day training with the police for March and enquired about a motorbike maintenance course which is luckily near work but unluckily full so I am first on the waitlist.

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