David Williams, national motor journalist and road safety award-winner
I love driving but like most motorcyclists I love riding – with my dash cam – even more. It’s the sense of movement, fine control, the feeling of freedom; an adventure each time you throw a leg over the saddle.
I’ve been road-testing Honda’s superb new Crossrunner VFR800X which, for those who aren’t especially into motorcycles, looks much like an ‘adventure bike’ – the sort that Ewen Mcgregor and Charley Boorman tackled the ‘Long Way Round’.
This one though has a smooth 105 bhp 800cc V4 liquid-cooled engine that is super-fast especially when revved over 6,000 rpm, pin-sharp handling and something called a ‘quickshifter’ than means that at speed – for instance when accelerating onto a motorway – you can dispense with clutch lever and to some extent throttle (controlled by your right hand) and electronics do it all for you, nice and smooth.
Even more so than when driving a car, motorcycling is a constant learning curve; you can go on improving cornering, steering and braking techniques for ever. That goes for touring, too. Highlights of my 20s used to be shooting off with friends on bikes to France or Spain for long tours; since then I’ve ridden in Italy, America, the Isle of Man and Wales.
Recently on the Honda I tackled two great tours; one to see the Atlantic Wall in Ostend, Belgium by catching a ferry from Dover to Calais, a 300-miles round-trip over two days with two biking pals. Then I rode from South London to the North Norfolk coast while researching a travel article for the Sunday Telegraph, for their Great British Drives series (http://bit.ly/1e3jGOa). Fantastic 500-mile trip.
What I’ve missed previously is an easy way of capturing the amazing scenery I’ve experienced whilst on such tours. Having to stop in a safe place sometimes means the landscape I wanted to take a shot of, is half a mile down the road. I’ve got the new RIDE motorcycle dash cam from Nextbase and it’s great. Of course, the practical advantages of having this means that I can record the road ahead just in case a motorist pulls out in front of me, or the worst happens and I’m involved in an incident and need some evidence.
Thankfully, the latter hasn’t happened but simply by having a dash cam on my bike gives me some kind of peace of mind. The video footage taken by the HD dash cam is simply stunning and actually works better than a still in some cases. I’m now capturing the best bits of my journeys too.
What each trip reminded me is how much there is to learn – and remember. Which jacket’s best for mixed weather? Is it best to wear tough skid-resistant biking jeans and prepared to slip waterproofs over in case of rain or wear ‘proper’ reinforced, armour-equipped motorcycle ‘pants’? Pack two pairs of light gloves in summer – or one pair of waterproof ones that get sweaty?
How best to pack your bike? Should you keep your top box empty for your helmet so you don’t have to carry it when walking around tourist sites? Where best to stash your camera (for quick access), what type of helmet’s best for touring (and if you have Bluetooth) tuning in to your sat-nav? What type of tank bag is best for holding a map, ‘sticking’ to your tank, and removing when you want to top up on petrol? How do you keep clothes dry in old panniers?
How should you tackle that deep gravel on the driveway to your hotel (park out the front on the hard-standing or plough on regardless in your heavily-laden bike, waiting for the front wheel to catch and tip you off outside Reception?). How best to clean the bugs off your visor (they gather fast in summer) and when your bike’s fully laden, how best to park it if you’re on a slope?
To be honest I have to re-learn the secrets every year but I’m hoping other riders will share their hard-won experience here too, in the comment section below, and get some fresh ideas going. Do you have a favourite tip – or even some great footage from your motorcycle dash cam to share?
To get things rolling I’m sharing three favourite tips. First my discovery of the year; Oxford Products’ great £12.99 LidLock, a lightweight combination-lock carabiner than locks your helmet, and jacket, and tank bag to the bike when you go walkies. Don’t know how I managed without it.
Second; always stash a sidestand ‘puck’ so if you have to park on sand/mud/hot tarmac you can spread the load and ensure your bike remains upright. They’re only a couple of quid online. Thirdly always carry a cargo luggage net (such as Oxford’s costing £7.50). It’s amazing what you can fasten safely to your bike (extra leggings, purchases en route etc.) in a well-secured plastic bag. What are your favourite tips?