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Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Losing my virginity!

A provocative title for the post but nonetheless accurate in terms of leaving it until I was 68 years old before doing my first ever track day at the weekend. Well, that's excluding a crazy lap of the Isle of Man TT circuit at dawn in 1969 with a mate before they closed the road for the racing that day! That doesn't really count though as it was on public roads and I was young, stupid and bulletproof. Only one of those 3 criteria applies now *blush*.

A handful of our Institute of Advanced Motorists local group are trackday enthusiasts and a wider invitation was sent out for other members to have a go. Being used to riding fairly fast on the road is one thing but on a track is another thing entirely, especially at Hampton Downs. It's an international standard track, highly technical with 11 metres of elevation changes and a couple of blind entry corners - eek! On their website, there is the statement that the fastest speed ever recorded on track is 287 km/hr by Kiwi Andrew Stroud on his Suzuki superbike. I really wish I hadn't read that before going there! However, you sometimes just have to step outside the comfort zone to prove that you're still alive and kicking so I thought that documenting my impressions of that first occasion would be good fun.

Hampton Downs, North Island NZ

The track is a couple of hours ride from home which meant an 0500 alarm clock. Nerves weren't helped due to listening to wind and heavy rain on the roof at various stages throughout the night. The forecast said "improving" but riding down the twisty coast road from Coromandel in the dark, in the rain with no-one about was not a pleasant start to the day. Traction control was set to "wet weather mode" and fortunately, there were no anxious moments. With dawn breaking, the rain stopped and temperatures climbed as I headed south-west. Yippee - one less reason for sliding along the track on my arse!

Nerves were building on arriving at the track but impressions were favourable - fantastic facilities and the IAM team had booked a pit garage which was a godsend for a bit of shade in temperatures which were climbing to the high 20's.

Pit lane early morning - almost deserted

Team IAM starting to roll in
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

More Team IAM

IAM members getting organised

Getting signed in, having my "novice class" pink bracelet attached and subsequent briefings by Playday on Track (links with the California Superbike School) was a great experience for a first-timer. Quietly efficient and professional, good-humoured and genuinely nice, approachable people. It was explained that if anyone binned their bike, they would have to wait for the recovery trailer which had "The Trailer of Shame" emblazoned on the side. No-one wanted to do the best part of a lap on that with their mates looking on! The expected behaviours by riders was delivered with a light touch but the message wasn't lost on anyone - very reassuring. All manner of IAM bikes took part, ranging from a BMW HP4 superbike, Suzuki V-Strom 650 adventure bike, various sized GSX-R's and everything in between. Any bike is fine for a track day - just get out and have fun.

Pretty in Pink - suits you sir!

An instructor from the California Superbike School briefed the novices that he would lead us during our first session at a moderate pace for a couple of "sighting" laps to help with our judgement - very reassuring! He recommended us to drop our tyre pressures to around 30 psi to allow for temperature and pressure rises - more on that later. The most worrying thing was the instruction to either remove our mirrors or tape them up so as not to get distracted and wander off line. For someone who uses his mirrors every 10 seconds or so on the road, it was a big ask to change that mindset! We were also told to return for a debrief after the first track session to discuss our experiences. Each session on the track would last around 15 minutes and with the different skill level sessions, this meant roughly an hour between rides. In print, this seems like quite a wait but boy, in reality the downtime vanished in an instant by the time you'd exchanged banter with your mates, checked the bike, rehydrated and got rid of it again with a nervous pee!

JK taping up headlights and mirrors on his FZ1

Earnest discussion about tyre pressures - Geoff, Harald and Ian
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

A quick trip to the toilet block for a nervous one and it was time to suit up and prepare to join the queue in pit lane for the novice class track session.

The first anxious wait to enter pit lane - no time for another nervous pee! Geoff and JK
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

In no time at all, we were rolling down the slip road onto the track in Indian-file behind the instructor. Bloody hell, ingrained muscle memory of good road riding practice takes over and a quick glance over the shoulder when joining the track, then trying to see through the taped-up mirrors when braking for the first corner. What a complete Muppet I am but at least the sighting laps help to get rid of those habits before upping the pace! The next 3 or 4 laps go in a blur, trying to remember lines for each corner, and trying not to leave braking too late. All I can say is thank heaven for ABS in those early laps to disguise one or two panic brakes to scrub off excessive speed! So how did the first session go?  Well in all honesty, there were so many things to think about, I honestly can't remember any highlights as I was working so hard trying not to stuff up.  However, I stayed out of trouble and was happy that the bike went so well, so was looking forward to our next turn with a lot less trepidation than the first session.

Concentrate, concentrate!
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

Rolling down pit lane after the session
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

The novice debrief immediately after the session identified a pretty common fault of turning in too early, resulting in running wide and losing both position and exit speed. His mantra of "In deep, out early/fast" drew the usual range of smutty responses from the riders!

"In deep, out early" - say it again (and yet again) guys!

Banter between sessions - Geoff, Ian, Terry and JK
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

Tessa and Terry in deep conversation after a track session

Each track session was a huge learning experience, not only pushing a bit harder but trying to get lines right and identifying individual rider characteristics that allowed me to do an overtake without cutting things fine and making a fool of myself. In the photo below, I'm setting up to overtake a Gixxer rider on the exit from the downhill hairpin. I'd noticed that he was turning in early which was keeping his speed down through the bend. It was simply a matter of going in deeper , turning in and getting on the gas early (and making a complete stuff-up the next lap!) In a similar vein on the approach to the downhill hairpin, it involved going over a blind crest at pace before the hairpin. Some riders didn't like approaching what they couldn't see at a rate of knots and it was a great opportunity to gas it in second gear up to around 11,000 rpm and get some passing done on that short approach sprint. Wow - so much looking, thinking and learning! 

Looking at the apex and watching the rider in front in case he drifts wide
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

Hard(ish) on the gas on the way out
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

I guess everyone finds one aspect of a track day harder than others and my challenge was the long uphill sweeper towards the pit straight.  Pretty hard on the gas whilst leaned over was ok until some fairly serious speeds were being reached then the airflow on a naked bike whilst moving around on it started to make the front end shimmy slightly.  Having the nerve to keep the bike rolled on when that happened was work in progress!

Fastest part of the track down pit straight
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

Rapidly scrubbing off speed at the end of pit straight at the 100 metre mark!
(photo courtesy of Barry Holland)

As mentioned earlier, cold tyre pressures were set at 30psi because of the temperatures generated on track increasing the pressure.  Out of curiosity after one of the later sessions, I checked the rear tyre pressure about 5 minutes after the session and it was 40psi.  It would have been higher than that immediately after getting in.

Having recently replaced the OEM D214 sport tyres for a set of PR4 sport/touring tyres for all-weather riding with IAM, it was gratifying that they coped really well with the track.  The higher crowns also made turn-in much quicker than the D214's which to be honest were pretty disappointing.

Melting the rubber off my new PR4 rear tyre!

Inspecting the front tyre for the first time, I got a horrible feeling for a moment that it was starting to delaminate but looking more closely, it was picking up rubber deposited on the track by other bikes due to the high temperatures.  Looking around the garage at other Team IAM bikes, we all seemed to be experiencing the same thing.

Picking up tyre rubber from the track

I saw something on TV recently about a rider, Paul Garrett, who had become a paraplegic through an accident.  He had resolved not to let his disability get in the way of leading a full and active life and with the support of family and friends, continues to race with the aid of velcro and other aids holding him onto his bike.  What an inspiration to us all for grabbing life by the scruff of the neck in the face of adversity - truly humbling.  He was stationed outside our garage and it was an utter privilege to see him in person.

Paul Garrett on his Triumph Triple - an absolute inspiration

Some thoughts about the day
They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks but what an incredible experience!!!!  It's easy to see that trackdays could become really addictive.  I'll be forever grateful to IAM Treasurer Tessa for floating the idea in the first place and moving me out of my comfort zone.  Also to both Tessa and Terry for organising a pit garage which helped to make the day so enjoyable.  Special thanks  to Barry Holland from all of us who took part as he selflessly took over 1000 photos of us during the day whilst he stayed off  his own 2 wheels - pure gold!

Has it helped my road riding?  Probably not but why does it have to?  It's seriously good fun in its own right.  Indirectly, it has shown me just how good the Suzuki is in terms of handling when "pressing on a bit" - something one rarely experiences in normal road riding.  I was surprisingly fresh at the end of a long, hot day and this was probably largely due to continuous re-hydrating.

Thinking a bit deeper about the whole experience, it was a bit like the early days of joining IAM.  The amount of information you need to take in and process to make fast, safe progress round the track is initially overwhelming.  In later sessions, you begin to realise how much more info you're processing to make good decisions.  That's just the same as every IAM member experiences on the road when making the IPSGA process second nature en route to sitting the Advanced Roadcraft test.

As a final aside, fellow rider Terry who is an experienced trackday rider said "Watch your speed on the way home".  He was right on the money as riding at the legal open road speed limit felt awfully slow!!

A wonderful day in great company which I'll remember for a long time!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tyre time and other stuff!

If anyone remembers my original ramblings about tyre selection, tyre life and the review of the Michelin PR3 and PR4 tyres (HERE), one of the things I commented on was the difference between sport and sport-touring tyres.

The OEM tyres fitted to the GSX-S 1000 are Dunlop D214's - 120/70 x 17 up front and a 190/50 x 17 rear. They're a pure sport tyre and never was there a more graphic example of a soft compound tyre in that I've completely stuffed them in 3700 km! Given that this was road riding with no track days and that I cover at least 15,000 km annually, the bike would be forever in the tyre shop and Jennie would be less than pleased at the expenditure! Hate to think what the life would be like if I had the traction control turned off.

Front tyre almost down to the depth indicator

Back tyre almost destroyed

That's only part of the story though.  Whilst the D214's gripped well in hot, dry conditions, they were unpredictable in the wet when it was harder to get heat into them.  Even with the traction control set in wet weather mode, I always had the feeling that the bike was just waiting to dump me on my arse with one false move in wet conditions.

So it's back to my favourite all-weather tyre, the Michelin PR4.  I never ran out of grip on the Street Triple even in the most horrendous wet conditions.  In the dry, I ran out of talent before they looked like letting go and if they give me somewhere in the region of 8000-10000km on the GSX-S, that will be absolutely fine.

A ride up to Auckland in perfect conditions to have the PR4's fitted and here they are:

Rear and front Michelin PR4's

The OEM Dunlops were a bit sluggish on the turn-in when changing direction rapidly, at least compared to my Street Triple.  After some internet searching and a discussion with a Hayabusa owner (thanks Rob!), it was thought that the steering could be made a little quicker by replacing the 50 profile Dunlop with a 55 profile Michelin which has a steeper crown.  The photo below shows where the differences are.  The cardboard template was made by me when the D214's were almost new. (Yep, I really AM that anal)!  It can be seen that the PR4 is is less full (or pointier if you prefer!).  Riding home, the direction change was far better, requiring less countersteering to get the same result.  Of course, new tyres always feel better than old ones but the change in profile would have also contributed significantly.  The other interesting difference which may help with turn-in is tyre width - the PR4 is approximately 7 mm narrower than the D214 although they are both 190's.

Rear Dunlop D214  (cardboard template) and Michelin PR4 profile comparison

On reaching home, the other job was to check front/rear wheel alignment with the home-built laser rig which has been used on all my bikes since 2003 (see HERE).  Haven't done it since owning the Suzuki so had to adapt the laser holder for the Street Triple.  Here it is:

Laser emitter set up for beam to just touch maximum width of rear tyre

Measuring the offset on both sides of the front tyre front and rear at maximum width

Sure enough, the front and rear wheels were out of alignment by rather more than I was happy with.  There are many reasons for misalignment which would fill a post by itself but having accurately measured the misalignment, I was then able to quickly reduce it to about a 4 mm offset with both wheels parallel.  That's probably quite satisfactory in the scheme of things.

Finally on things automotive but not bikes, it's the end of another era.  Jennie has owned her Special Edition MX5 since late 2007 when we imported it directly from Japan.  Only 3000 Special Editions in that colour were available worldwide and we were lucky to get one in mint condition.  It's been kept in that condition and has only racked up 47000 km.  Fellow moto-blogger Sonja got to drive it when she was visiting NZ. However, Jennie has found the driving position less comfortable in recent times so the decision was reluctantly made to part with it.

We advertised it on the NZ equivalent of eBay and were blown away with the interest - inundated with phone calls and emails for several days from all round the country!  The first person to see it bought it and we were delighted for the young man who drove for 3 hours and made it to our place first. He'd done his homework and was clearly an enthusiast.

2000 Special Edition MX5

For the replacement, the two main criteria were that it had to have a comfortable driving position and have decent performance.  Or as Jennie said to our daughter "DEFINITELY NOT A GRANNY CAR"!  After much perusing of specifications and a 2 hour test drive, she fell totally in love with this:

The Honda Jazz Rally Sport

Couldn't keep the grin off her face. She's ordered one in a similar colour to the MX-5 and it will be here in a few days. Not only has it got a surprising amount of grunt, it corners like it's on rails thanks to traction control and a whole load of additional electronic aids.  Must say that I was impressed too.  Thanks to the clever folding seat arrangement, it's got more useable carrying capacity than my RAV4.  Guess the same conditions will apply as per the MX-5.  If I want to drive it, then I have to keep it clean and polished!  Wonder if it's a good time to ask for new leathers?

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Look what Santa brought ........

Since buying the Suzuki in October, using the paddock stand which was purchased for the Street Triple has been a perilous activity.  The swingarm lifting bobbins on the Suzuki are significantly lower than on the Triple.  What this means in practical terms is that you need muscles like the Incredible Hulk to rotate the paddock stand over centre and get the rear wheel off the deck.  Because the bike only has a side stand, it means that you have to hold the bike vertically with one hand to engage the bobbins whilst pushing down on the stand with the other.  A recipe for disaster if ever there was one and the one heart-stopping moment was one too many!

A casual conversation with fellow IAM member Rob Van Proemeren (cheers mate!) revealed that he had bought a UK-made ABBA Superbike stand for his Hayabusa and was well-satisfied with how easy it was to use, plus the excellent stability it gave the bike.  What's more, there was an ABBA agent based in Nelson, NZ - Christmas present from Jennie solved!

Today was the first opportunity I've had to try it out and what a dream it is to use!  The system doesn't use swingarm bobbins but instead, locates on the swingarm pivot shaft to lift from - a totally secure method. Referring to the photo below, the stand consists of two main parts which clamp together.  When ordering, you state the make and model of the bike and they send the correct attachments to lock onto the swingarm pivot.

ABBA Superbike stand components

Assembling it is a piece of cake.  The left hand part of the stand is engaged onto the pivot whilst the bike is on its side stand and the handle extended for good leverage.

Left hand component put into place

Same procedure for the right hand component, sliding it over the left hand one and tightening the thumbscrew.  Any slack is taken out by turning the large screw until it's a snug fit.

Right hand component locked in place

The next step is to hold the bike vertically with one hand on the handlebars.  It can't fall as it's supported by the stand.  Simply pull forward on the extended lever and up it pops with minimal effort!

Raised rear and rock solid!

Rear view

Forward view

The stand provides a perfectly stable platform for cleaning, chain lubing and adjustment or whatever.  I'm anal about wheel alignment so it also provides support for my home-built laser alignment rig ( SEE HERE ). There is an additional attachment which allows both wheels to be lifted clear of the ground at the same time and that is shown in the photos below.  As well as being able to remove the front wheel without a front paddock stand or some other form of jury-rigging, it will be perfect for taking accurate suspension extension measurements.  At present, the standard suspension settings are far too harsh for my weight and general NZ road conditions.  Taking front and rear suspension extension measurements is the first step in properly setting up the suspension for my specific needs.  As well as better handling and a more comfortable ride, correctly set up suspension can also significantly increase tyre life.  All these benefits from buying a decent stand - who'd have thought it!!!

Finally, a plug for the NZ agent  who was a pleasure to deal with.  Rapid service and a great product - this is their website: ABBA Stands NZ

Both wheels clear of the deck with easy to use attachment

Front view with both wheels clear

Monday, 7 December 2015

A Run in the Sun

Due to commitments as an IAM Observer, I haven't done a lot of social riding recently so yesterday was an opportunity not to be missed.  The IAM Auckland and Central North Island region organised a social run out to Raglan, a coastal village famous for its surfing and fish and chips on the wharf.

400 km of heaven!

The sun shining, minimal traffic - what could be better?  Arriving half an hour early at the meeting point in the village of Te Kauwhata, at least half the team were there already, keen to make the most of a lovely day.  The route had been organised by Lloyd, one of my trainees as he knows the area well.  It contains some of the best back-roads for bikes that you'll find anywhere.  Hardly any straight roads and varying from fast sweepers to highly technical tight stuff with sudden elevation changes; not to mention stunning views if you could take your eyes off the road for a second or two!

 Some of the bikes meeting at Te Kauwhata

There was a great mix of bikes on the run - sport bikes, sport tourers, adventure and a big cruiser (more on that later!).  The common factor was that all the riders are trained to the Police Roadcraft system.  This means that you know how each rider is going to react and position themselves for any given set of circumstances which makes for an enjoyable and stress-free ride.  Lloyd was to lead the ride and the system of the second rider stopping at every turn until the last rider had gone past ensured that no-one got lost on the tricky back roads!

A fast, smooth pace was set by Lloyd up front and the roads were so twisty that I don't think I got past 4th gear on the GSX-S on the run down to Raglan and much of it was in 2nd and 3rd!  No dramas whatsoever, even with the odd sheep and pheasant out on the road and we all arrived at Raglan with big smiles inside our helmets.

Geoff's GSX-S and Terry's Beemer GS at Raglan.  
(photo courtesy of Tessa)

Geoff, Steve and Lloyd - fish and chips on Raglan wharf.  Doesn't come any fresher!
(photo courtesy of Tessa)

Nice vista for lunch

With clouds gathering, it was time to get back on the road and start heading north.

Getting ready to hit the road
(photo courtesy of Tessa)

Steve, motorcycle cop extraordinaire waiting for the off on his V-Strom 1000
(photo courtesy of Tessa)

Up front, Lloyd set a great pace again and had chosen another outstanding route back to Te Kauwhata.  The back roads north west of Huntly were my personal favourites - all second gear stuff and very little time spent upright!  Don't think there's more than another 1000 km left in the rear tyre though so it will be worn out in under 4000 km.

Terry, Steve W, Steve B-J and Lloyd looking at rear tyres!

One of the Riders, Lee, who owns several bikes; brought his Victory cruiser on the ride and I'm sure there were quite a few who were a little more than interested in how it would cope in the twisties. The answer was impressively well, flicking from side to side with little apparent effort from Lee and no wallowing over rough surfaces.  I'm sure his butt was in better condition than mine at the end of the day too!  However, he did cop a bit of gentle teasing about the large mirror situated in the lid of his top-box!  

Lee's 106 cu. in (1737cc) Victory

Even has a mirror in the top-box lid to help combat helmet hair!

The Suzuki performed extremely well.  Despite a lot of the ride being done in the lower gears, it still returned not far short of 300 km per tankful.  I guess trying to be smooth on and off the throttle had some bearing on this. However, the twisty sections with rough surfaces made for plenty of rider input in terms of countersteering and hanging on when it was jumping about.  At present, the suspension is set far too hard for NZ's back roads so there's a bit of work to be done setting sag, compression and rebound damping in the next week or two. 

What a fantastic day!  A superb ride set and lead by Lloyd, 400 km of twisties with skilled riders who all have a great sense of humour - what could be better than that?  I slept well last night! 

Friday, 20 November 2015

The Suzuki GSX-S 1000A - after 2000 km

Well, I've been able to cut loose for the last few hundred km after diligently completing the running in and what a brute it is!  If the Street Triple was a rapier, the Gixxer is closer to a broadsword or battleaxe!  As mentioned in the previous two posts, both the demo ride and delivery trip home were anticlimactic in that it was similar to riding my 2009 Street Triple in terms of ergonomics and nimble handling.  That’s not denigrating the Suzuki but a massive compliment to just how good the Street Triple is as a great all-round bike. In fact, the power to weight ratio of both bikes are not hugely apart and in real world road conditions, we’re only talking fractions of a second differences in performance up to the legal road limit.  The additional 27 kg of the Suzuki isn’t at all noticeable because it’s carried so low.  Mass centralisation was clearly a major feature of the design brief, including a single low, stubby Moto-GP style exhaust system.

I've had the silver and black leathers for years honestly - not a Power Ranger!

Having already said that it’s quite nimble, it’s a bit more flighty and less controllable on bumpy roads than the Street Triple, bouncing around a fair bit.  That's almost certainly because it needs setting up from scratch for my weight and that will happen when everything settles in.  The Triple had lots of attention in that respect and care in setting sag and damping really paid off.  Nonetheless, it’s very good indeed for a sport bike with taut suspension and feels more like a 600 than a 1000.   As mentioned in previous posts, it was noticed that on the most sensitive traction control setting that it actually activates on tight corners when “pressing on” in dry conditions.  You can’t feel it, but the TC warning light flickers on and off showing that it is changing power delivery characteristics.  Rider comfort, at least for a person of my height is surprisingly good and even with stuffed knees; the footpeg height is relatively comfortable.

Forget the claimed top speed of around 250 km/hr on most of the world's public highways, it's the brutal acceleration which is the really impressive feature.  Sport Rider magazine ran it through the standing start 1/4 mile in 10.6 seconds with a terminal speed of 214 km/hr.  With grunt like this, traction control is clearly a real advantage in reducing unfortunate consequences from a ham-fisted approach to throttle control!  It raises the question of how much power is sufficient for everyday road use.  In this instance, to borrow the phrase used by Rolls Royce about their cars; it’s “adequate”!

To slow the bike down after the brutal acceleration, the Suzy is equipped with radial 4-pot Brembos up front and a single pot Nissin out back, with ABS to make the whole thing civilised.  As yet, I haven't had to use the brakes in anger so can't make any objective comments.  On the delivery trip home, they were quite wooden, but the dealer warned me that they would take time to bed in.  I've done one deliberate hard straight line stop, simply to test the ABS as I've never ridden an ABS bike before.  The feeling left me a bit underwhelmed as there was no savage, wedding tackle squashed into the back of the tank-type deceleration. Perhaps that's the point of it - no dramas during heavy braking.

The OEM tyres are Dunlop D214 sport soft compound.  Excellent dry grip but like most pure sport tyres, require heat to deliver maximum adhesion.  That is likely to be problematic for IAM mentoring work in all weathers, particularly wet winters.  However, given that the life of these tyres is likely to be somewhat short, they will be replaced with the outstanding all-weather Michelin PR4’s fairly soon.

Fuel range came as a pleasant surprise.  Range is important to someone who lives a fair distance from the main centres and besides, I hate stopping for gas when on the move!  With a sympathetic right hand, it’s quite possible to get around 300 km or thereabouts.  An excellent feature of the instrument panel is a “range until empty” readout, giving the rider real-time information.  Allied with this are instant and cumulative fuel consumption readings in several different output measurement formats.

Any downsides?
Well, it is a sport bike so a pillion rider is unlikely thank you for the minimalist seat and high rear pegs on anything but a short(ish) run.  If you don’t plan to take a pillion or go very far with one, then they might still walk normally afterwards!

On the GSX-S website forum, quite a few riders have complained that the engine is snatchy off a trailing throttle. Coming from a Street Triple which had a similar reputation, I would have said it's a touch sensitive at low openings but not something which can't be lived with.  On a constant throttle at slow speeds, it is a little lumpy but it’s not particularly annoying.  However, if it’s used for regular commuting in heavy traffic, it might become irritating but in fairness, riding a sport bike in those conditions is not exactly “fit for purpose”!

Another thing which may or may not become irritating is a combination of the exhaust and induction noise.  It's noticeable when rolling off from fairly high revs in the lower gears, there appears to be a harmonic which can be quite intrusive (read loud!) I personally like it up to now but acknowledge that it might not be to everyone’s taste. 

The marketing hype which went along with the bike’s release played quite heavily on the “hooligan” element of the bike’s nature so it’s entirely possible that the induction howl is quite deliberate. Maybe the lumpiness too but more likely to be the consequences of emission controls.

Accessories, plus odds ‘n sods
I’m not big on bling to turn it into a tart's handbag and extras have been limited to strictly practical use.  With its pure sport bias, the GSX-S is not set up to be a sports tourer but a range of aftermarket racks are available to take luggage.  I’ve simply opted for throw-over Oxford bags which have sat unused in a cupboard for several years. The bags have been on for one run of several hundred km, didn't move and didn't affect the handling of the bike.  They don't look too out of place either.  I also have a 10 litre yachting dry bag which can be bungeed to the top of the bags to give additional storage for a few days away.

Oxford expandable bags for touring

For paint protection, 3M matte finish anti-scratch clear film has been applied to the fuel tank and rear cowl.  Absolutely delighted with the workmanship of the guy who applied it.  So good that it's virtually invisible.

Arrows showing edge of matte 3M clear anti-scratch paint protection

A Pyramid self- adhesive front guard extension has been fitted to stop road crap from being fired into the radiator from the front tyre.  R&G crash mushrooms have been fitted to protect the bike in the event of a drop (shudder).

R&G aero-style crash protectors

A handlebar mount for the GPS has been installed and the standard halogen headlamp bulb has been replaced with an identical wattage but higher output Xenon bulb of the type I used on the Street Triple.  This has benefits in terms of visibility in both daytime and night riding.  A small flyscreen is to be added, as much for looks as protection and that’s about it.  Not even sure whether I'll bother fitting the Escort radar detector/screamer setup which I had on the Triple.

OEM 60/55W Halogen (L), Ring Automotive 60/55 Xenon +130 (R)
(Both on dipped beam)

In summary
It’s a beast of a bike and a lot of fun to get to grips with.  As mentioned earlier, very much like a big Street Triple with added steroids.  In some respects, it’s the sort of bike that encourages immoderate behaviour - a sort of “Who you lookin’ at” teenager with acne bike rather than a mature adult that says “I don’t have to prove anything”!  Having said that, it’s also pretty sophisticated in terms of electronics and is a good example of just how far bikes have developed an the last few years.  Value for money?  Heck yes!!   Fun?  In spades!!

Arty-farty photo on our street