30 October, 2009

Stockholm rumble

I may have mentioned how much I love Sweden, Stockholm is cool as hell and the Swedes manage to pull off the most startling trick ever... they are smart, beautiful rednecks. Seriously. I think that they must spend so much of their time working on being sophisticated and stylish in elegant scandinavian offices that they cut loose on the weekend in rockabilly style. I've never seen so much Detroit muscle in a European capital. Imagine all the petrolhead obsession of the south without worrying that you may be required to squeal like a pig. Två öl, tack!

Getaway in Stockholm Test: Pontiac LeMans

27 October, 2009

Bullet time

Having scanned a few pics from India I thought I'd better capture these few observations before beer finishes off all my synapses. It's sobering to realise these pics are fifteen years old.

Arriving alone in Goa I hired a Yamaha 125 for a month to see how I got on riding a motorcycle, something I'd never done before except perhaps for a quick go round a car park on my older brothers 50cc moped. I was smitten, within far less than a month I knew I needed to get onto an Enfield Bullet.

My first hired ride, a brand new 350cc Export. The natty chrome and paint finish, longer exhaust silencer and brakes, up from 7 to a whopping 9 inch drum on the front mark out this Bullet as an Export model.

Front protection bars are a popular addition in India and this bike also had a Sari Guard on the back. Ladies ride pillion side-saddle with their Saris gathered up in one hand, but the additional protection is reassuring hopefully preventing some combination of Isadora Duncan and a spinning top. Opinions differ on the value of these front bars - they'll probably save your paint in a low speed drop but Bruce reckoned they were just as likely to trap or smash your leg in an accident. The single bar on the front of Paul's Bullet was fixed with a pipe clamp, I reckon any impact is just going to spin it right at the rider's knee!

Paul's standard 350

Random Bullet in Varanasi

Bruce's 500 Export. Bruce spec'd the shorter standard muffler when he bought it new in Madras. He strongly recommended bringing a tube of thread-lock and going over every nut and bolt with it after two weeks ownership.

Bruce fording a river on our road-trip into Kerrala

The Bullet gearshift was traditionally British, right foot, 1 up 3 down. Nowadays Bullets feature left foot shifts and electric starters but in Anjuna Beach in 1994 part of the Enfield's notorious reputation came from the difficulty of starting the bugger. In reality it's no trouble at all, just so long as your ride's in tune and you understand the drill; fuel on, turn the key, thumb the decompression valve and gently turn the engine over until the ammeter show's you're about to come onto the firing stroke… kicking over a single on the exhaust stroke ain't getting you far. But at a bar or party out in the jungle you'd see more than a few guys thrashing wildly at the kickstart on an out of tune bike cursing it and sometimes getting a stinging kickback for their troubles. Maybe they were used to kicking over strokers or perhaps that last chillum didn't help but its a real fast way to get angry and exhausted.

Next year I bought my first ever motorbike, a 500 Export - it was a nice colour combination and the hand-painted '500' on the toolbox cover was a popular option letting everybody know this is the daddy, but I knew what needed to happen - strip off everything that doesn't contribute to making it go and paint it racing green... little did I know back then that I was bobbing it.

Or rather Demoto was. Operating from a backstreet in Calangute he'd work his magic, taking the rear mudguard, cutting away the end portion and fashioning a lowered saddle with a postage stamp sized pillion pad (well when you're giving a ride to a young bikini clad hippy-chick a ride to a party you need to encourage her to squeeze up tight, it's a safety thing)

This is the widest standard fit rear, pitiful eh? Demoto's mates were doing some dubious things to try and achieve a distinctly Indian custom chopper look for their own rides with the limited resources at their disposal. I wish I had some photos of them, they were proper ugly, but a glorious testament to enthusiastic guys trying to achieve a 'look'.

At that time a 500 Bullet was pretty much the fastest vehicle on the road in India, and I'm not being flippant when I say that I regarded that as a vital safety feature. Indian roads were spectacularly dangerous (and I can't imagine they've changed much) and I subscribed to Oddball's dictum "We like to think we can get out of trouble faster than we got in". The call of nostalgia tugs strongly at me to get one again here in the UK but I fear it would be a very different feeling being swamped by Micras and Corsas. The good news is that there are gifted nutters out there building V-twins out of a pair of Bullet engines (more on that soon) so who knows..?

26 October, 2009

Luke I have felt your presents

There are some distinct advantages in coming from a small family, one of which is that it's merely a pain in the ass buying presents rather than a full on nightmare. The downside to having no young male relatives is seeing a product that every boy would want and having no-one to buy it for.

How much would the 10 year old me have wanted a Turbospoke? Just a lot! (how much would the adult me like to fit a Turbospoke to my BMX? A little bit :-)

The Turbospoke seems to take the age old classic playing-card and washing peg and attaches a rather natty acoustic amplifier that looks just like a motorbike silencer. Cool and the gang! Go to the site for video of it in action.

And now I discover the Haynes Internal Combustion Engine model too! featuring realistic ignition sound, illuminating spark plugs and belt-driven fan no less. It looks ace.

Screw it, I'll get them for my cousin, and when her parents tell me that she prefers Hannah Montana and High School Musical I'll make up something about gender stereotypes being a bad thing. Result.

20 October, 2009

Exploded drawings

I've been doing a little decorating in the old batcave lately... a couple of posters have come down and the glass table that's waaaayyy too big for my modest flat has been removed (read: stashed behind the shed) liberal amounts of paint have been sloshed about.

The aim was to make the place look slightly more like an adult lives there. Don't worry the BMX and the toolchest still live in the lounge, I've not lost it completely... but what could be more grown up than to put up a fine-art graphic print of a classic image?

Printers Surface View have secured the rights to produce large scale prints from Haynes Manual illustrations. How awesome would that look?

Whaddayamean even more like a teenager lives there?

18 October, 2009

Patch notes

Need to apply some weight whilst the contact adhesive goes off, that guitar amp looks good.

Still breaking in this new jacket I picked up in Canada. There are some upsides to having your country under snow for 5 months... genuine end of season bargains, I saved CAN $463! The Sideburn patch rounds it off.

15 October, 2009

Pack rat

The bicycle commute into work has taken a distinctly chilly turn this week, Wednesday saw me attempting to ride with frozen hands in my pockets, so it was away with the fingerless cycling gloves and out with a spare pare of motorbiking gloves. I also dug out a slightly more robust pack for the extra clothing. Then it occurred to me just what amazing value my Karrimor Trail rucksack has been.

Bought as my school bag aged 13 I'd obviously set my face against the playground fashion for a HEAD tennis bag. If you're aged 35 or thereabouts you might remember their shoolyard ubiquity in the eighties. I can't remember if it was a birthday present, but I have a clear recollection of wheedling to my parents that it was a sound investment given the superior build quality - and time seems to have proved me right (my quality tool fetishism starts here?) christ knows filling a bag with textbooks is a pretty tough test that saw those HEAD items lucky to survive a couple of terms.

When I sling it on it fits me like a glove, but perhaps seeing as I spent puberty lugging it back and forth it might not be too fanciful to say I grew into it - moulded into its shape as time passed, its certainly the most comfortable I've ever worn. Time and the accumulated dirt of three continents has calmed down the eighties neon colours and worn away the embroidered logos and though it shows wear there's plenty of life in the bugger yet. I love it.

These days on a motorbike I might wear it a wee bit lower on my back, but catching your helmet wasn't an issue on the road in India back then - I was seen as something of a safety nut for wearing jeans and a stout boot rather than the obligatory shorts and flip-flops.

Buy cheap buy twice, as true as it ever was. Cheers Mum and Dad.

Gentlemen, start your engines...

Walking past this the exhaust pulses would have parted my hair if I had any - punchy.

13 October, 2009


What needs to be said about Chris Carr?
Winner of the AMA Grand National Dirt Track (Flat Track) championships in 1992, 1999, 2001-2005. Formula USA Dirt Track Championship and seven times winner (1988-1993, and 1995) of the AMA 600cc Dirt Track championship. Oh yeah, and the fastest man on two wheels (367.382 mph).

Chris and Pete Boast, the driving force behind UK Short Track.

Sideburn's Gary Inman #13 mixing it with Chris #4 in practice.

The Dash for the Cash.

11 October, 2009

Short Track on Rye, hold the mayo

Had a great time at the final round of the UK Short Track championship at Rye House Speedway track. Snagged the latest Sideburn hot off the presses and got to see the legendary Chris Carr - fastest man on two wheels - plenty of pics to come.

08 October, 2009


I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Bentleys, the old cliché used to go that Rolls Royce owners were driven, whilst Bentley owners drove themselves. Bentleys still possess a vestige of those Bentley Boys and their glorious wins at La Sarthe in the twenties - a Roller was more of a plutocrats ride, or more likely a scrap magnate or pornographer these days. Seeing the Bentley team win at Le Mans in 2003 was a real treat.

So you can imagine how heavy my heart was when I saw this...

...Man City footballer Stephen Ireland has bought a Bentley Continental GTC for his girlfriend's 24th birthday. Fair enough, he earns a fortune, why not spend it on cars? Clapton knows I would. Unfortunately he then spent an extra £260,000 doing this to it:

Bonne Lass

06 October, 2009


My girlfriend rides a Husky with style and aplomb, it makes a nice noise and has bags of character. It's something she picked up when she lived in Sweden, I love the colour too click here to see a pic of it.

02 October, 2009

How a Sewing Machine works