It's been the kind of Easter weekend that makes you mistrust the weatherman. I checked the forecast midweek and assumed the meteorologists must be on crack: 6°C, 15°C, 5°C; overcast, sunshine, snow... What? Pick a season, chaps – don't just bounce around from autumn to summer to winter. I have bike trips to plan.
Except, clever buggers, they got it right. My first big trip of the weekend was a run back to Lincolnshire. I've been desperately missing my kids, as I haven't seen them since well before the last lockdown knocked Christmas off the agenda. With the stay-at-home edict lifted, it was just in time for me to dash over and deliver not only Easter eggs but also Christmas presents.
God it was cold. I took the trusty Kawasaki Z1000SX with a large Bags Connection bag (like this one) on the back. It was ideal for this job because the fixing points secure it without any straps crossing and potentially crushing the contents. I had my heated gear but also a dodgy connection – but when it didn't heat up within a few miles I twirled the connector and a degree of comfort returned.
I have to admit, I felt rusty. I have been riding regularly all winter, but rarely more than 30 miles at a time – and the route from my house to my support bubble isn't exactly testing, as it's mostly dual carriageway. A decent 80-mile-each-way run on A-roads, with two lanes only when getting around King's Lynn, really showed up the effect a little laziness can have.
I try to be quiet self-critical when riding and I found several areas I need to work on. My use of mirrors was definitely not what it should be, I was turning in a bit early on right-handers and my acceleration sense is shot to hell – I used to be able to tell what speed I was doing really accurately, always within 2-3mph when checking on the speedo. Now I'm okay at 30 but after that it's a lottery... not helpful when I found a Bank Holiday speed camera and realised my speed had crept up a bit (not outrageously... but not 60). Fingers crossed...
Plenty to work on when Ali and I went out for a ride on Easter Sunday, while her kids were with their father for an egg hunt. We set off for the Suffolk coast, flowing out along the good roads from Newmarket to Lavenham that became the staple ride-out routes last year, but then out across the quieter, prettier bits of Suffolk.
"I thought I was going mad. I was hearing voices"
As I've moved the Garmin onto the Crosstourer, I was using the Scenic2 phone app – just in my pocket, so I couldn't see the screen, but it was relaying directions to my bluetooth headset. Then, halfway through the ride, I thought I was going mad. I was hearing voices. I thought it was some kind of interference, but then as I slowed for a 30 limit, I realised... If you repeatedly press the home button on the phone, it works as a silent alarm and dials the police. Somehow, my pocket had done this. I had to apologise to the operator and explain that it was an accidental call and I was on a Bluetooth headset, while something in my pocket must have joggled the button enough to trigger panic mode. When he hung up, I stopped and moved the phone to a safer pocket...
With that drama out of the way, we carried on to the coast. This was fantastic, flowing riding – ideal for pillion riding with a steady stream of not-so-gentle-ish corners to really give a sense that you're having a proper ride, without them being so tight the passenger starts to get seasick. I can't help wondering how many people would be better off heading here for the summer rather than joining the stampede to the North Coast 500. When you know where to look there are some brilliant roads around here.
From my point of view, it couldn't have been better, especially at the slightly steadier pace you inevitably use when two-up. My all-round observation and use of mirrors was better, I was holding cleaner lines through right-handers and I was beginning to get a better handle on speed. There's always work to be done, but now lockdown is easing I'll begin putting in the miles to get up to scratch again.
I was knackered by the end of the day, though. Clearly I'm not as bike-fit as I used to be (those textiles were a bit snug, too). I don't think an excess of chocolate's going to help. What did help was the new ComfortAir seat pads (details here). I'll do a separate entry with a proper review once we've done a full day, rather than a half-day, in the saddle – but the inital verdict is that this is, if not a life-saver, certainly a bum-saver and massively improves comfort on the firm-seated Kawasaki.