Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Resolution for 2010

The resolution for 2010 is to buy a motorbike here in Chicago, as soon as the weather gets a bit better. This is a decision that has no sound rational basis, for a lot of reasons (financial, but not only: have you ever seen the HUGE potholes on the Illinois roads?). But then again, since when riding a bike is only about being rational?

I will probably go for a second-hand bike. I would like to go American (HD, or Indian), but they cost an arm and a leg, and I really do not have that kind of money to lay on a bike. So I might go to the old Japanese ladies...

I am thinking of a cruiser. If not, an old all-terrain bike, like the V-strom I still have in Italy.

Do you have any suggestions?

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Five months without riding

I have been living in the States now for almost 6 months...and I haven't riden since I moved here. For financial reasons, I decided agaisnt buying a motorbike here, but, God, I miss riding!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A new motorbike?

I am looking at this one. What do you think?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Mana no more

I shuold let you know that I have sold my Mana. I was tired of all the problems that it had, and, frankly, I was extremely disappointed. 

The bike was in repar for more than 45 days. One morning it just stopped working. And this was after I had had to already change the dashboard due to water infiltrations. Enough is enough. 

It got to the point where I would not take my Mana because I was afraid it woulde let me down somewhere. 

This was my first Aprilia. It will be my last one. I had only had Japanese bikes so far, for more than 20 years, and never had a problem. I better stick to those. 

Too bad though. The idea of the Mana was very good. Execution was messy. And I am fed up of being used as a beta tester by companies which regard customers only as stupid fuckers with money. 

Goodbye Aprilia. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

How does the Mana handle with the top case Shad SH50?

After having sent me some great shots of his Mana with the top case Shad SH50 installed, JB also sent me the following comments about how the bike feels and handles with the topc case.

Thank you JB!


Hi all,

Here are some first comments about the setup Mana and SH 50 top case.

The Aprilia rack is just a piece of cake to mount is just five minutes. The existing passenger handle has to be removed but the rack has two lateral ones which are finally more comfortable for the passenger. (We are talking about comfort when many other bikes would just be lucky to feature something to hook up the back meat).The SH50 mounting is pretty easy but requires some new holes to fit into the existing ones of the Aprilia rack. The choice for this top case was based on size, price and aestheticism as the color really match the bike's. The case is also available in red, blue, black, etc. Check http://www.shad.es/ for more information. Personally this is the best and most beautiful case I have found on the market even if Givi has great products too.

Again Shad say they would make a baggage rack available for the case but “ a couple of month” is too long anyway for me as I need to use the bike to go to work when I am at the office which happens two or three times a week. The case has then to accommodate my soft business bag including a laptop, all being worth about 8 kilos.

The first time I ride the bike with the case, I thought it was too much disturbing. But a strong wind was blowing this day and finally the most sensitive effect was with lateral wind. The overweight is not a problem and it is the same as if you would have a very light passenger on the back seat. The same day I went for a famous ride around the hills. The road goes from 300m to 800 m of altitude over 10 km. Its is a pretty fast one with long curves that you take between 120 and 140 km/h. The case was empty this time. I did not pay attention to it as it had absolutely no effect on the bike. What was concerning me was the tuning of the rear shock absorber that I think could be harder to accommodate fast curve speeds. It was great fun anyway !

All in all the only thing I have noticed with this setup is some noise coming from vibrations at null speed. This problem can easily be solved with one additional screw at the top rear of the case and the plate. My son and my daughter have volunteered to test the bike as passengers and they both said it's just like in our sofa !

Have great rides.


Thank you JB. I think what is particularly interesting is the increased comfort of the passenger, who now has two handles for increased stability and a place to rest his back...

I am not surprised about the wind effect, as this would occur with every bike with a top case...

I might have to buy one myself in the end...we'll see!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Mana with Shad SH50 top case

JB, a commentator of Mototourism, sent me some very good photos of his grey Mana (great colour, by the way) with a Shad SH50 top case. You can see them below.

I must admit the bike looks a lot better that I thought it would: it must also be the fact that the Shad is the same colour as the bike. It actually looks very neat.

JB kindly promised to send me a few words on the Mana's behaviour with this top case. I am really curious to hear how it handles, as this case is really big, and I am sure that the different weight distrubution will affect the bike. Depending on what he says, I will decide myself on whether to buy the Givi V-46 or not. I would like to avoid it, but I think it will be necessary during the winter, when I will have to store the winter gear...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Room is never enough

The V-strom 650 is my long-range motorbike, which I use for longer trips, especially during the Summer. This is the main reason why I fitted it with the Givi Top Case V46 (which can store two full face helmet), and the two side-cases Givi E41, each of them of 41 liters.

Very heavy traveling...the blue thing beow the side bag is a sun umbrella

Whereas I live the top case always installed on the bike, I put on the side bags only when I go for a long journey. The problem is that if the top case is enough if I am on my own, during the winter time, when I wear my motorbike jacket even when I gett off the bike, it is definitevely not enough during the summer, especially if I am traveling with my partner and we do not want to walk around with our gear on.

The main problem is where to leave our protective jackets, pants and shoes. In fact, I refuse to let my girlfriend ride on the bike in shorts and a t-shirt, even if it is only to go to the beach: we both wear our protective jackets and trousers and shoes. Obviously, as soon we get to the beach, we take off all this stuff, and we do not want to carry it with us.

Last year I bought for 75 Euros an anti-theft bag called "Stuffsafe", by Pacsafe. It is an 80lt foldable bag, which takes only a very limited space when folded. Unfolded, it can contain our trousers, our harmored jackets, our shoes, and whatever else you want...the textile is water repellent, and is protected by an exterior iron mesh which protects it from people who might try to cut the textile to steal your stuff. You can anchor the bag to your bike or to any other fixed installations, if you do not want to carry your stuff with you.

So far, it has proven invaluable: I fix it to the bike with the provided lock, and just head off to the beach...with peace of mind.

Monday, 16 June 2008

MEP ride on 25 June in Brussels

Since 1996, the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA), organises every year a "MEP Motorcycle Ride".

The objective of the event is to bring together motorcycling citizens from all over Europe and the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) for an informal event, so as to give MEPs the opportunity to experience the pleasure of motorcycling, but especially to help them understand the issues motorcyclists are facing every day. Normally around 150 people attend the event (MEPs, their assistants, lobbying organizations, or simple motorcyclists).

This year, the 12th MEP Ride will take place on 25 June. The even will start at 3.30pm, with various activities (test rides, classes), with the actual ride departing at 6.30 from the AutoWorld Museum in the Center of Brussels.

A dinner and a concert will follow. I myself will go just for the ride, which should last around one hour and a half...if any of you readers are passing by, let me know and I will treat you to a nice Belgian beer (but only after the ride, don't worry...).

For more information, please visit this website, where the organizers should also put on the itinerary of the ride.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Losing weight sometimes has a downside

Back in January I hit my highest record weight: 94 kilos. Belgian food can kill you, let me tell you. I decided I had to do something about it, I needed to get back in shape. I needed to start going to the gym, rather than simply paying the gym's fee...

And so I did. At the moment I am 83 kilos and counting (hopefully). I was able to build back muscles and lose a lot of fat. I still need to lose around 5-7 kilos, but I feel great.

But if you are a biker with a lot of protective (and expensive) gear, losing weight has a phenomenal downside: all your gear is far too big. I had bought a leather protective jacket (my first motorbike leather jaket!!!) back in November, and I was waiting for April-May to start using it. Well, now it is far too big. It still has the label on it, I never never used it once. It is useless. 350 Euros thrown down the toilet.

Same thing for my summer mesh Clover Air Tek trousers, which I bought last year...and for the Dainese winter jacket. But at least I used those for one season...

The problem is that this gear now fits so loose that the protections at the elbows, the knees and the shoulders move around, and do not provide any guarantee of protection in case of a crash. The only item which I can safely wear is a Spidi Spring-Summer jacket which I bought back in March, when I had started already my diet and my exercise. I had bought it two sizes too small...as an incentive for me to get thiner...it worked, so now it is the only thing which I can use.

Now I am facing a dilemma. I am one of those bikers that use protective gear all the time, even in very hot weathers. I always wear a back protector and an harmoured jacket at the very minimum. Depending on the lenght of the journey I add harmored trousers and boots.

But what shall I do now? Should I buy new stuff? Should I contact the manufacturers of the products I own (some of them really only one year old) and see whether these products can be adjusted? Or should I just sit and wait until I am sure I can keep my weight? And what should I do in the meantime?

Don't get me wrong. I am extremely happy of my new shape. I think a man decides in his mid-thirties how fit he will be for the rest of his life. So it was important for me to go back to practicing sports and eating healthy as I had done before coming to Belgium.

But on the other hand, what a waste of money!!!! Even the boots are now too large!!!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Riding behaviours

I have always wondered to what extent the bike you are riding influences the way you ride. I have always been riding enduro-style bike, and I have always considered myself a very cautious rider.

I never lost sleep over how to cut the perfect corner…I am more interested in the comfort the bike has to offer for long journeys or for commuting, or in elements of the design rather than in the top speed or absolute power.

However, I found myself riding in a much more aggressive way with the Mana than I have ever done in the past.

The Mana is much more powerful than anything I have ridden before, and it is the first naked I have. And I am starting to appreciate why so many riders talk about the importance of cutting the corner in a certain way…when I enter the tunnel which takes me home, with a steep turn, I am smiling at my ever more daring attempts to find the limit of the bike, pushing down with my knee…

I have started to use a lot more my weight to incline the bike, and I am in general riding faster than I used to. Faster than I probably should. I discovered myself losing grip over my rear tyre exiting from a turn. Opening the throttle to the full with the Mana is not a good idea, I realized…nothing happened with the V-strom (even if it is a decently powerful bike), but a lot can go wrong with the Mana when you do it…

A few years back, I was driving a sports car, an Alfa GTV…and I was definitively driving faster and more aggressively than I am now that I have a different type of car.

Big deal, you might think. Well, for me it is. I always thought that I could control myself on any bike, that deep inside I was a cautious rider. I am realizing that maybe I was so cautious because I was always riding easy going bikes, and not powerful naked.

Again, nothing major, I am not racing on the streets. But I wonder whether a Harley 1200 Nightster or a Triumph Scrambler or Bonneville would have been closer to my traditional riding styles…

And I am definitively increasingly determined to take riding classes. Yes, I have been riding for 20 years now. But I feel I could benefit so much from riding classes. I will find out what are the options here in Belgium…

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Mototourism on All Top

I am very happy to announce that since last Sunday, Mototourism has been added to the motorcycles page of All Top.

All Top is a news aggregator which publishes news from a wide variety of sources on a long list of topics: from food to travel, from autos to politics, from fashion to food. Have a look at their main site, and I am sure you will find something you will be interested in…

Recently, All Top launched also a motorcycles page. At the moment it aggregates more than 20 blogs, and I am very happy to say that Mototourism is now one of them!!!

I had to choose the button to put on my website, and I went for a politically incorrect one…down on the right side of the blog. I hope you like it!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Revolution on your head

Are you a Communist? Are you one of those who believe that Che Guevara is a real hero? Do you own a t-shirt with his face? Do you have his image tattooed on your forearm? Well, why not buying this helmet then, and showing to the whole world that Revolution is what's on your mind (actually, on your head, properly speaking)...

When I saw it I couldn't believe it. But the helmet is for real. I took the photos myself a couple of days ago in a Brussels shop. It is manufactured by the Belgian helmet maker Lazer, which until a few months ago owned the brand AGV (Valentino Rossi's helmets - AGV now is owned by Dainese).

The designer must have thought that Che Guevara was not enough, so he also threw in the CCCP letters...I am not sure why anyone would like to have an helmet gloryfying one of the most violent regimes ever, like the Soviet Union was (I am not sure either why they put on the same helmet the USSR acronym and Che Guevara...), but hey, if they were to sell it in Italy it would be sold out in a minute...every time I go back there I am amazed by the number of people sporting a Che Guevara t-shirt...

Friday, 6 June 2008

Riding in the Brussels weather - the Perma18

The weather in Brussels is pretty much disgusting throughout the year. So riding in this country is really not fun. But when it really becomes unbearable is during Spring and the Summer time, when you have the permanent weather conditions that I call Perma18.

The Perma18 is the typical Belgian climate which kicks in May and accompanies us until the end of September-beginning of October. As the name suggests, the main feature of the Perma18 is the constant temperature of around 18 degree Celsius (around 64 Degrees F). It can be 19 C, it can 17C, but the max values will not go very far away from there. You can get grey sky, if you are lucky, and grey sky AND rain if you are not lucky.

Today I wasn’t lucky, as you can see.
I have been living in this country for ten years, and I cannot be proven wrong: after around ten days of very hot temperature and brilliant sunshine at the end of April/beginning of May, the Perma18 kicks in, and you are set for the Summer.

Riding in these conditions is obviously a pain. Because you have the impression of riding in the rain 12 months a year. And this is why I try and go to Italy at least every two weeks during the Summer, to keep my melatonin levels right. But on the plus side, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money in buying light and Summer protective gear, as you can use your winter gear all the time.

Fun, isn’t it?

Grey sky at the Brussels Atomium

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Pimp my Mana

It took FAR longer than I thought it would...but in the end I managed to put on the red reflective tape on the wheels of the Mana. I am not too sure about the colour...when I bought the red tape I thought that I would replace it with a different colour if I didn't like it...but given the time it took me to put it on I have no intention whatsoever to take it off and try on a different colour...

Unfortunately the job was not as easy as I thought it would be. I had bought a tape with a plastic thing which is supposed to help you put it on the wheel. It took me a while to figure out how it worked, and even so the tape kept breaking off in various points.

The result is not as messy as with the yellow tape I had put on the V-strom (for which I did not have the plastic ruler), but it is far from perfect anyhow. It looks like if a drunkman did it.

Anyway, what do people think? Do you like it?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Olive Oil Route of the Pisa Mountains

As promised, this is a post with lots of photos...Sunday I was in Tuscany and had the time for a brief one-hour tour with my Suzuki V-Strom. The weather was not very warm, and the sky was not very blue, but I couldn’t resist…also because I wanted to have the opportunity to ride again the V-strom after riding the Mana for two weeks, so that I could compare the two bikes.

Given the limited time, I went for a route very close to where my family lives, which is one of my favourite routes on Earth. It is called the “Olive Oil Route of the Pisa Mountains”, and it flanks the mountains that separate Pisa from other Tuscany city, such as Lucca. You can take it from where my parents live, and get to the seaside, if you want: 30 kms of beautiful countryside landscape, lots of turns, lots of small villages with beautiful churches, the ruins of an ancient Roman water system…when I say that it is one of the nicest routes I have ever driven in my life you need to believe me. I hope the photos can show it.

As for the Strom, it was funny to ride it again after two weeks of the Mana. On the bad side, it felt underpowered…it felt as it didn’t have enough power, and it is the first time I feel this way about the Strom. But on the plus side, it felt extremely protective. If it wasn’t for the turbulences that kill my head (and I do need to fix this problem, as it is making every ride above 80km/h a pain), it would be perfect. The protection of my torso is fantastic. I was wearing a mesh summer jacket, with only 22 degrees, and still I was not cold.

Many details of the V-Strom show that the Japanese in charge of the project were really on a mission to make the life of the rider easier. The space under the saddle is huge for a classic motorbike. And you can fix your helmets to iron strings under the saddle, which make it for a nice touch. And you have a fuel indicator, the hazard lights…all stuff that you do not get on the Mana, even if the design of the dashboard is a bit outdated.

Getting on the Mana after the Strom gives me the impression as if the Mana was not a finalized project. The Mana needs many practical things to make it like the perfect bike. As for the Strom, instead, if I ever was to solve the turbolences problem, it could really be THE bike, at least if you are looking for a trustworthy companion to take you on longer tours.

Ancient Roman ruins.

Typical landscape in Tuscany, not too far from the coast.

A typical Tuscany traditional house.

Let's finish the day with a nice Negroni and a few snacks...an aperitivo true Italian style.