A lesson in locations

I love my job. It doesn’t pay well, I work my ass off for little return and I get ignored a lot, but I absolutely love it. One thing I really love about it is the locations I get to scout, find or get shown. That is, until the location is one street and the subject is 5 drastically different motorcycles. 

This was the case when Joanna Benz approached me with a 1 days shoot covering a range of Ducatis. The problem being it had to be done that week, it had to be done in a day, and we were stuck for time to travel with each bike.

Thankfully, W M Snell Ducati in Alton has a pretty cool workshop, more specifically the doorway to it and thankfully it is a good size for bike number 1, the Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer. Once the exposure was set and outfit chosen(I should really get paid more for being a stylist too) Jo did her thing.

Once we had finished there, I wheeled the bike away, but caught eye of it in front of a basic corrugated warehouse wall. A quick placement and we had a second location and only one bike in.

Bike number 2 was the Scrambler Desert Sled. Out of all the bikes, this was possibly my favourite, if not a close second. The first thought was to try for something that matched the off-road nature of this, the problem being we were limited to Station road, home of Ducati Alton, Waitrose, a few warehouses and a train station. The Ducati bikes it was. Put amongst a variety of other bikes, we used them to create a depth to the image and brand it heavily with the Ducati logo. I did have an issue with the stand-out gold front wheel of the Cafe Racer distracting from the rest of the shot, but moving it our of frame sorted that quickly

I was fairly happy with this, so we moved off to look at a possibility of using a side road for the next bike, when both Joanna and myself noticed a huge blue ISO container outside of a plaster holding company. Off I went to collect the bike and off Jo skipped to work her charm, but when she came out she looked way too excited about an ISO container. I would later learn what ‘You have to see inside, its amazing!’ meant.

Next up was the problem bike. The Hypermotard. Both Joanna and myself loved this bike, though Jo wasn’t keen on the height of it. The problem being, we were running out of options. Something about the front of Waitrose struck Jo, so another outfit change and off we strolled to try and find something. We tried several different angles, focal lengths and styles of shot, but nothing grabbed me. Nothing was capturing my attention, so we put a lid on it and went to try the next bike.

This was the one. This was the location and bike that had Jo very excited. The Ducati Monster 1200r and a plaster holding warehouse. Walking the bike through the open double doors, I though Jo had finally lost the plot. Large industrial benches, huge racking and a forklift, but Jo kept walking right past all that to this. A large, moodily but well lit room with olds and casts hanging from the walls. one wall was all frosted glass giving some amazing defused light. Amongst all of this, the bright red Ducati stood out so well. 

With the mood at an all time high for the day, we decided to move on to the next bike, the one we aren’t sure about, the SuperSport. An odd mix, visually, of the Panigale and….well something a lot more tame. The location, Waitrose multi-story car park. It was raining by this point, but we managed to make pretty good use of the top of the ramp, though it did mean that whenever a car came Jo had to do a very steady lap around the carpark to come back into place. the key to this one was to keep things simple, where as the previous location was a part of the picture, it added to the whole thing, this could very easily detract from it. Very much like adding a bin or port-a-loo to, well, any picture.

All bikes done…almost. The problem child. The Hyper. Neither of us were happy with what we had gotten, so we decided to give it another go. Leaving the bike at the shop, we walked around the area, looking at every possible bit from every angle, until Jo suggested this opening in a hedge. Dark background against the bright red Hyper…it could work. I then did my usual and climbed over the railing, into the bushes and found a second angle in the same area. Both came out well and both are pretty clean.

Shooting in Wales on the EVO triangle, or south of France is easy, so is the Urban streets of London, but where a good photographer earns his money is being able to work within confines, and still able to shine.

A mean Mk2 Escort

Now don’t get me wrong, 2 wheels is where my heart lies, but there is just something about a clean purposeful classic, and Peter Wells Mk2 Escort is just that.

‘Bought it at 16 for when I passed my test’ but it was a 1300L back then, on its first of 3 engines under Peters ownership. ‘I went to Wales with all the lads and promptly blew up the engine on an 800 mile trip’ 

This set about his hunt for a new engine, which again was a 1.3l until he managed to source the 1.6 you see today. Now bored out to 1700cc with a 5 speed Sierra gearbox from the old 4 speed. It has a Piper fast road cam, Lightened flywheel, forged Acrelite pistons, twin choke down Webber carbs and it has a ported and flowed head by Mass Race engines. Samco hoses help keep it all cool.

‘Its 130bhp at the crank right now, but twin 40 webber carbs will be going on, so I should see 165-170’…..not bad for a 36 year old car. A 3j LSD puts that power to the tarmac and 2.5 inches lower at all four corners keeps it planted, well enough to spin up the rear. It’s not all go though with ported stainless piston callipers able to slow down an already light car pretty quickly.

Inside is pretty basic with a head unit only recently been fitted, though the full Piper stainless system comes pretty close to music. The centre console is all custom made with enough switches to make you feel like you’re in an actual rally car. The simple steering wheel and original clocks help with the vibe.

‘My aims have been to just get it as low and light as possible, and make a decent amount of power out of an engine designed in the late 60’s’ I think you have managed that pretty well.

2017 Bike Shed London@Tobacco Dock

Another year passes and yet again, the bar was raised. If you ignore the bikes for a second, there was more space all together, more space around the bikes, the outside was strewn with deckchairs and plenty of artisan crafters. 

 

This year though was a step up by all the builders. With 200+ bikes covering the too-many-to-count halls it was difficult to know where to look.

 

BMW defiantly had a lions share of talent this year, and thats not even counting their understated yet highly impressive stand. 

Being an avid user of various social media platforms, I was looking forward to seeing Chris Eades (BaronVonGrumble) Smoking Customs built R100. Inspired from his sports bike background with Ducati Panigale-esque rear shock mount and exhausts, complete with honeycomb tips, it looks great, and could easily pass as a lightly modified bike, despite a lot of work going into it, with everything looking as OE as possible.

One hall in particular was a winner for me. A name that is huge in this scene, BikeEXIF showed a handful of spectacular builds, my favourite of which was the Ducati MH900 built by Devon based RedMax Speed Shop. Adorned with Titanium, including the frame built by Strada Fab. Gareth of Oil in the Blood has got himself a good one here... 

For me though, the stand out bikes of the show were the offerings from Racefit. Classic Endurance monsters. 100%function, 0%form, and that to me makes them oh so beautiful.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, so if you want to check out my full gallery, you can see them on my Facebook page HERE

Paul and Helens Wedlock

A fantastic day spent photographing the wedding of Paul and Helen, made even better that my lovely Hannah was a bridesmaid! 

I am still getting comfortable in these sorts of situations, namely just wearing a suit, but I am progressing very quickly, I think you will agree.

Last minute trips are the best trips

Recently, and very last minuite, myself and Hannah decided to head about 250 miles south to see a friend in Exeter.

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This was coincided with a course in Bristol for me, and plans were made. Long hours on the bike, the seaside, lots of hills, stunning roads and better views, an amazing Air B&B find and it all went together to make a fantastic few days away, that felt like much more.

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ZSL Whipsnade

When I first started out doing this whole photography thing, I would visit zoos very very often. They are an easy way of practicing. Lots of people, animals, slow moving or static, fast moving with the monkeys...a pretty good place to start. I always enjoy it when I go back there, so here are some of my shots from Whipsnade.

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Goodbye Autumn....

So now that the fantastic reds, oranges and yellows have given way to dark greens and browns, I though it would be a good time to look back at the images and places that have made up my favourite season.

One of my favourite places locally is Rowney Warren in Bedfordshire. Loads of hills (enough to have a mountain bike park..), tall trees, ferns and some awesome lighting with a low sun, plus super fun to run in when it gets muddy.

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Another not-too-far-away place is Hatfield Forest. Again, plenty of woods, but with cars able to drive through the grounds to get to one of the car parks, not the best place to take dogs that like to explore.

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Now being a teacher, sometimes Hannah has to do pre-visit visits (or reccy) if she plans on taking her class somewhere. On this occasion, she had the insane idea to take 31 5 year olds to Windsor Castle.....so off we went on a reccy!

Refusing to pay more than the minimum of £4 for an hour of parking meant we had an hour to get inside, walk around looking for all the places a 5 year old can get lost, and get back to the car. We did it with 5 minutes to spare, of which I sat there refusing to move. I like getting my monies worth!

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All too often people spend so much time trying to get away from where they live for breaks and trips, when there is usually some pretty nice places on their door step.

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My nephew Timmy loves the outdoors...like really loves it. If he thinks he is going out, but then something stops it, thats the end of your peaceful day. Thankfully we managed to get out this time, and took a 2-3km waltz around a woody hillside near Barton-le-Clay, Hertfordshire.

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The New Forest has become one of mine and Hannahs favourite places to go if we are south, but not quite south enough for Devon. When a meeting with a wedding client calls for you to be half an hour away from it, it would be rude not to at least pop in...

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Bloody Epping Forest. Lovely place, and keeping its colour much later than a lot of other woodlands, but when you try and find it the first time, relying solely on a satnav and leaving any common sense at home, ending up in a random drive way...I think it deserves the occasional 'bloody' thrown about. 

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Another recent favourite of ours is Padley Gorge. A good walk through, as you know that however far in and down you go, it is all uphill on the way back. More than once I have ended up with a wet foot or two, but I think it is worth it.

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And it wouldn't be a Wil Collins blog without a few vehicle shots thrown in...

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My SGP 2016

For the last 4-5 years, Myself, along with an ever evolving crew of people have been spending 4 days in what has become a truly special place to us. This year, it was a little different. Up until a week before the festival, I had no plans to go to any festival this year, then the amazing people at The Secret Garden Party gave me 2 tickets for a photography contest they ran earlier this year. Sadly through other commitments, I could only make one day, but with the girlfriend in hand, for her first ever festival as well, we had a great time.

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This is the Garden through my eyes and a somewhat restricted capabilities as I was carrying just a 50mm lens, but what an amazing place.

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Thankyou again Gardeners, and dont forget to check out the official gallery by Danny North, Andrew Whitton and their absolutly amazing team at Fanatic photography via the main site here

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Motorcycle Live 2016

Here we are, deep in the New-Bike-Release-and-Press-Launch season, and Motorcycle Live falls upon up in Birmingham's N.E.C. Now, I am not normally one for bike shows. In my head, it is a bunch of new motorcycles that everyone gets excited about that is a tiny bit better than the last one, neither of which I will get to ride. Mix in over priced meat for a vegetarian, and you can say I am a tad sceptical of them, but then my mind changed. Well, 2 free tickets courtesy of the wonderful Herald motor Co. helped...

Up bright and early (thanks Red Bull) myself and Hannah navigated the M1/M6 and eventually arrived at Motorcycle Live 2016. The first thing I noticed was £12 for parking. Shortly after, that ComicCon was also on (it was a strange mix of Rossi jumpers, plaid shirts and Spiderman). Thirdly, just how massive the N.E.C actually is!

Once in, we were greeted by one of the few bikes and manufacturers I was actually excited about seeing...Norton. Their new V4 racer is every bit as lovely in the flesh as it is on my Mac's screen.

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Hannah and I tend to make quick work of zoos, walks, museums, and this show was no real exception. Ducati, Peugeot, Kriega (I didn't buy anything...be proud of me!) were all passed fairly quickly, though Hannah did basically leap onto the scooters, 'If you get on the back I'll get one!!'.

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Next up was the very popular stand of KTM. I waited several minutes on several occasions to get shots that I wanted, often to just be met with an increasing wall of people. 

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So I gave up...and I am so glad I did, because around the corner was the offering from Herald, including 9 foot canvas prints of my work, although I have written an entire blog about just that which you can check out further down! I will say though, their new Euro4 complaints 400cc Cafe Racer massively got my attention. A proper engine, looks like that and only £4,000...where do I sign.

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Once again, quickly passing by Husqvarna (I have spelt it 4 different ways writing this), Honda, the incredibly hip Harley Davidson, until we found ourselves deep in the stalls selling every conceivable piece of motorcycle kit you could want.

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Before we hit the next large congregation of brands, I took particular interest in the electric offerings from Energica, before once again being engulfed by the massive BMW stand. Some very nice custom RNineT's were on display, although they we so popular, I couldn't get a clear shot, with an almost seamless conveyor belt of people on top and in front of them. Shame.

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Last, but by no means least were Kawasaki and triumph. Now, taking the B1H ZXR636 off this table, the offerings from Kawasaki have never really don't it for me, but Triumph on the other hand, hell, I own a Speed Triple! Loads of customs, loads of off the shelf bikes, and loads of in between. Good showing Triumph...well done.

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All in, for someone who will happily voice how much he doesn't like these shows, we had a pretty good time, though seeing my work up for the rest of the world to see may have helped.

Will I be marking next years on my calendar? Lets just make that decision when we come to it....

 

If you want to check out the full gallery of images, jump on over to my Facebook page HERE

Prints&Bows

Earlier in the year I was asked to shoot some promotional material for a small personalised jewellery company from Knebworth, Hertfordshire. 

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Prints&Bows is the brain child of Carrie-Anne Ambrose and Jennie Banks, who take fingerprints, handprints, even paw prints, and turn them into bespoke necklaces, charms and cufflinks. 

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Now I had never even attempted shooting jewellery, or really any product photography for that matter, but I am taking on every challenge with open arms so dove head first into it.

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After a quick mood board chat, a plan and style was made and I got to work.

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Fairy lights, slate table mats, small vases and even a trip to a local woodland to try and capture the simplistic feel for the jewellery, plus get some autumn colours in. I am happy to say it was a huge success. Carrie and Jen are happy with the images, and I have yet another feather to add to my hat... 

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A massive thank you to Carrie and Jennie for being brilliant clients and for all the biscuits, and to Hannah for doing pretty well as a first time assistant.

If you want to check out their stuff, ask any questions, or make a booking, check out their page HERE

Also, check out a larger gallery HERE

Working with Herald Motor Co.

Some time earlier in the year I was introduced by the great guys at BirotarUK to some of the team from Herald. After a few talks, and a few visits to their HQ(which is about 15 mins from mine) I shot a few of their bikes ready for the Bike Shed show at Tobacco Dock.

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Fast forward to a month or so ago, after a handful of talks back and forth, I got the opportunity to shoot a lifestyle session for their new line of t-shirts. An awesome day at a local (ish) wood block called Rowney Warren(also known as Chicksands for the 2 wheeled amongst you). 

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While on that shoot, another of their new workshop was discussed and plans made to shoot that as well.

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Fast forward to today, when Hannah and myself popped up the M1 to the N.E.C in Birmingham for the 2016 Motorcycle Live show(which will be a separate blog by itself) and we turn the corner just past KTM to see this...

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Thats right. My work, in huge print, brochures, leaflets.....wow.

Up until this point my work has been almost exclusively in a digital format, that is on Instagram, Facebook, Website etc. I have always maintained that work isn't truly finished until it is printed, which sadly these days isn't that often, but here it is. Taller than me and seen by several 10's of thousands of people over a week...words cannot begin to express how awesome this is. 

 

If ever I needed motivation, this is sure as hell it.

A huge thank you to Anni for being my point of contact on pretty much everything, Benn for being an average diva model, Jemma for being an absolute trooper on a freezing day. Tess for having the march admin on lockdown too.

Malle Mile 2016

Last year saw the first 'Mile' event put on by Malle, an artisan wax motorcycle luggage company based out of London. It was an awesome event, so this year had a lot to live up to, and didn't disappoint. 

Along with the grass track drag race, this year saw an up hill slalom event, as well as a minibike obstacle course. Lots of custom bikes, lots of competition and lots of facial hair.

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Both myself and Hannah had a great time, and got to ride down this year too, which was a much better experience than the Fiat 500 of last year.

Already looking forward to next years event...how many jean turn-ups is correct again.....

 

Check out the full gallery Here

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An early Spring weekend away

Earlier this year, I joined my girlfriend Hannahs family for a few days away in the Norfolk seaside town of Caister. 

I definitely had my reservations. Firstly as I had never spent more than a day with any of them apart from Hannah. Secondly, I was not really one for family holidays, but I have to say, I had a pretty good time....apart from the children show. That, I can safely say, I will never experience again. 

Morning runs along the beach and getting up for the sunrises made it all worth it. I even got one of the images blown up and is now hanging above my bed....

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Triumph Speed Triple

I have been riding for not far off 15 years now, and there have only really been a handful of bikes that I have continuously wanted to ride. The Honda SP-1 was one, which I owned. The Ducati 888 that sat on my wall as a kid is another. Then, there is the Triumph Speed triple 1050. 

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My sport bike riding days are over through various body related reasons, but I still love the handling, the speed and the aggressive nature, so the obvious choice...a big sporty naked. Now while there are the offerings from BMW, Aprillia and KTM chasing the high numbers, they also fetch the high price tags, where as the very capable Speed Triple stays a little more reasonable.

So...whats it like to ride. 

Comfy. Very very comfy. The 2011 model I rode had the seat shaved a bit at the rear of the riders seat which, while making it easier for the midget who did it to mount the bike, it also makes almost a shelf in which to stop my ample arse from sliding up to the pillion seat, and with the way this bike delivers power, its needed. That lovely whine from the triple has a frankly awesome delivery of torque which manages to make the, compared to the big boys, minute 130something bhp seem like a decent amount more. 

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Anywhere between 20-120mph is where this bike lives, and even better when pulling out of a corner. Stick on some sticky rubber, like the Continental ContiAttack Endurance(mouthful, I know), and you will be bothering sports bikes in no time whatsoever, although any decent straight and expect to see them come screaming back past you.

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This, however, is where the real party piece comes in. Lumped onto the front end are some of the best brakes I have ever used. Radially mounted, 4-piston, 4-pad Brembos will defiantly see you diving back past that S1000RR into Agostinis. In fact, they seriously took me by surprise when I first tried them. Having not ridden a bike since September last year, and that being a mountain of a Harley Davidson, it is safe to say that I was out of practice. Even with that in mind, it took me a while before I got to grips with just how much stopping force is attached to your right hand.

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The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed I didn't mention the rear brake....thats because it is basically not there. Worse than bad, only good for keeping you steady at a traffic light, and even then a mild radiant may see you rolling back. Even with braided lines all round, and sintered pads, it still falls way below par, though I am told its just how it is.

Motorway miles are very easy as well, with the position being comfortable enough to see out the 160miles to a tank fairly easily. Nice wide bars, but not intimidating when it comes to splitting lanes, and the bar end mirrors surprisingly work quite well. This model had been fitted with a small but useful fly screen that sees a comfortable cruising speed of about 90mph(on a closed course mind you).

All in, I am glad I got to ride this one. All too often, meeting your idol can turn out very badly, and although this isn't my number one bike of all time, it stays firmly in the top 3, and defiantly makes a convincing argument for the top spot as far as road bikes go.

Oh, and did I mention, this particular bike is mine.......

Bike Shed London show 2016

What a weekend. My Dad over from Florida, and not one, but two trips down to Tobacco dock for the Bike Shed show, 2016

So this was my second year showing my nose at this show with last year being my introduction to this side of motorcycles. Before then, I was all about sports bikes. I had a VTR SP-1, I loved a fairing shod speed machine, but the guys at Bike Shed set about changing that all under one roof, and this year just strengthened that love.

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I had decided to fork out the £10 extra and get a Press night ticket this year. In my head, it was the obvious choice. Clearer shots of the bikes, all the builders chatting and having a beer and the 'celeb' contingent would most likely attend that night......and thankfully I was 100% correct. 

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As soon as I got in, straight for the bar and grab a beer, and immediately the Down&Out CB750 caught my eye. Building one myself(kind of) I loved the lines of the seat, the huge front end, and that stunning paint. Almost as fast as I saw the CB, the DeBolex 749 caught my attention.

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I had seen this bike as a stock, albeit totally naked, bike at the Malle Mile last year and loved it there, but what Callum and the boys did is nothing short of stunning. Even now, almost a week on, I keep noticing things in my images, small details of changes that look as though they had been there forever.

So many bikes, so little time. A great showing from Herald with a awesome, and cheap, tracker. The huge and nicely laid out Triumph area, watching dapper guys get dapper cuts from Thy Barbers and just being surrounded by awesome people, including the super friendly official BSMC photographer, Mihail Jershov, who took some stunners(check them out here)

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Friday was for me, for my shots etc, but I had also sorted tickets for Hannah and my Dad, and after a slight mishap with flights(just a costume rehearsal right Dad) we decided to go on Sunday.

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Up early and on the longest train to London I have ever been on, though not entirely boring with one genius trying to burn the carriage down with her straighteners, we were on our way to meet my Dad. I must add, he landed from Florida to Gatwick, drove to the translation and met us at the show. Thats hardcore...

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A great day of wandering, showing Hannah all the shiny bikes and Dad the differenced in UK custom culture vs American(Central Florida) custom culture, and I even managed to see a few new bikes and new things on bikes, like the oversized tank, 2-wheel drive KTM.

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Massive thank you to Dutch, Ross and everyone else involved in the planning and organisation of both this and the Paris show. Consistently amaze everyone with the strengths you guys all reach. A big shout out to all the builders that displayed and made me very sad and envious that I don't have a working bike, to all the vendors, food stalls, barbers, tattooists and everyone else that made it a great show.

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Now I just need to find the money to get my project off the line....anyone want to build a bike for photography lessons?

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If you want to see the full gallery, you can check it out Here.....

Just a good weekend...

I'm a big advocate for getting out, exploring, and climbing mountains, but sometimes a quiet walk or 2 is just what is needed.

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Next to no sleep and a body clock that insists wake-up time is 0630 leaves me very very tired. Something not even coffee can save, but this does give me a reason to get out early. With no idea of what to do, Hannah and myself decide to head for a awesome little spot called Padley Gorge in Derbyshire.

Now, the problem with that, is we were both very tired, and when I finally admitted I didn't know where I was going and we used the SatNav, it was still 1hr40min away. We had been driving for 35minutes already....time to think of something else. 

'We just passed Rutland...I used to be based right off the water!'....

'Whats there?'

'.....Water.......' . Rutland it was.

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A very cloudy and windy day gave some very good conditions for windsurfers and the boat club, but not for anyone walking. As soon as we got to the Dam side of the reservoir, we were in direct line of fire of any and all spray, though it did mean dark moody skies as it was all picked up to be dumped on someone a little further north. If there is one thing I learnt from living in that area for 2+ years, it's that the lake has a weather system of its own, and that's usually rain.

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A short and paced 5-6km walk and I took Hannah on a grand tour of the area before heading back down south, with a stop in at Godqmanchester for another quick walk. The thing I love about this time of year is that pretty much everything looks really good...like really, really good. 

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After all that on Saturday, Sunday was a much more chilled affair with a lazy morning, a quick walk of the dogs, then to Hannahs sisters for dinner. 40 minutes spent making a single paper aeroplane and catching a keyring on a wooden hand later, I head off to be greeted with an absolute beauty of a sunset. 

I can help but feel that the Mondeo doesn't really do the scene justice, but I suppose you work with what you have!

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Honda VTR1000 SP-Y

The bike that Honda built to beat Ducati at their own game.....and succeeded. Thats pretty much all you need to know, but I'll tell you a bit more. I'll tell you what its like to live with for 4 years.

The highs and the lows, touring, modifying and repairing. The only thing I didn't do was track it, but I rode like an idiot on the roads, so that will have to be good enough.

I have had a thing for this bike for a very long time, even drawing up and measuring my VFR400 NC30 to take a SP-1 seat. Fate eventually knocked on my door in the form of writing off my 2002 R6 and this bike being for sale less than 5 miles from my Mothers house. Some quick convincing to myself that I had been a good boy, and I owned my second dream bike, the first being the Ducati 888 that hung on my wall as a kid.

Firstly, the looks. I love it. Race bike, with road parts being an afterthought. The rear lights are ugly as sin and just stuck on, and the indicators make the bike noticeably wider, but it all adds to the effect. Soon as you turn the bike on, and the digital dash sweeps up and down, you know you're in for fun. 

I have always had a thing for endurance racing, and the bikes in particular. Full on race bikes, but with lights. A few minor modifications and they can be road legal. Everything is there for a purpose, and thats where the front fender/mudguard came in. Found online from a guy in America, it is a cut down, pre-preg carbon endurance mudguard, so is wider and stubby to allow the front wheel to just roll out. I love it, and added to the carbon clutch cover and exhaust hangers, and a Tyga SP-2 hugger, it adds just enough of the black stuff to set it off. Add a Fabbri high screen and my noticeable mass could get well into the bubble.

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Next up was the exhaust. Very muffled and huge stock cans gave way to a cheap can and link pipe combo from, at the time, small Italian firm GPR. Different again to the normal, but I loves the look of the Titanium with 'carbon' look tip.

Sadly, the quality didn't last. 2 years into ownership, and the black ceramic covering on the leading edge started to flake and just looked tatty. The noise though.....amazing. A friend actually described it as sounding angry when following through a tunnel, and it may have set off a few car alarms on a quiet Cambridge back street.

The fairings can be a pain, as lovely as they are to look at. The seat unit will almost defiantly crack if you remove it too often thanks to the positioning of various electrical components, and the lower part of the front is an absolute pain to remove/install. Every time I did either, I thought I was going to snap it the connecting bolts down the middle. A race fairing is almost a definite for me, splitting the huge 1 piece lower into a mid and race belly pan, easing stress when removing and saving the original, of which its hard to find a complete one these days, for any resale or pictures.

Performance wise, this is where it shows its age. When I first got the bike, it was my first 1000cc, and first twin, so the torque just astounded me. How can something munch through the gears so quick and keep pulling the entire time? Add the exhaust on acceleration and the pops on over-run, it was addictive to just rev.

The chassis needs attention. Being a 16 year old bike at the time of writing this, it defiantly started to feel tired. Now don't get me wrong, given a decent stretch of tarmac, it felt fantastic, and I have no doubt that on track it would be a great, if a little slow, bike. But the state of our roads it was way too hard and focused. The riding position is very wrist focused, and for someone with a less than fixed back, it just becomes painful after a very short time, which makes me grateful for the 85-100 mile tank range.

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Suspension wise, new oil and a refreshed rear shock helped, but I think a whole new unit on the back and rebuilt forks would really help the feel and handling, as well as the comfort of the bike. I managed to dial in good enough settings with the use of the helpful people of the VTR forums, but it still wasn't completely right.

I ended up swapping out the stock clip-ons for some Harris QR ones after the bike rattled one of its bar-ends loose in the middle of Germany. £100 seemed like too good a price to pass up and gave me a chance to reposition them to a slightly more comfortable place. I tend to ride with my bars quite wide, so as odd as it may have looked, it worked for me!

The brakes are brilliant, after a rebuild. 'HRC' rear reservoir(its a green tube) and braided lines all round add to feel, but its not aggressive. It just bites and stops you, which has gotten me out of a few iffy situations where a newer bike might have locked up and spat me off.

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I had a few issues with fueling, anything below 15mph in first the throttle is basically a switch. On or off. The first set of tyres I had flat out sucked on this. Bridgestone of some variety, but as soon as I got the Continental ContiAttack Race Endurance on, it transformed the grip. One of the best tyres I have been on, period. A few small electrical gremlins from where the previous owner had done some frankly worrying stuff with the loom, and that was it. Plenty of trouble free riding.

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Looking back at these images, I do miss the bike, but I think I remember the good much more than the bad. The noise, especially through any tight town roads or tunnel. Touring with mates through France, when the rain finally stopped and the bike choice finally made sense (apart from the tank range). Even the little things like sitting down 'Sunny Hunny' on a Sunday and watching people stop at my bike and chat about how they have always wanted one, or regret selling theirs, and the looks I got when children shat themselves as it started with an almighty bark.

Do I miss it despite the faults? Yes. Would I have another one? Probably not. For me, its just too focused. My body can't handle certain positions anymore through years of abuse, and even with new clip-ons and rear sets, the SP-Y is one of those positions. 

It is, though, still one of the best looking bikes I have ever gotten the opportunity to see and photograph. Disagree? Just check out the image below, and I'll accept your apologies in the comments below.

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Vikram Trek Ascent Review

'What the hell are those?!?' and 'Are they comfortable?' are the two most asked questions I get when anyone notices my usual running/trail walking/hiking footwear. That, and 'Why?...', and yes, I was in socks while shooting for this and my feet got very very wet...

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So the history of me and Vibram FiveFingers shoes goes way back to one of my tours of Afghanistan, where I has seen some of the americans wearing them on a trip through Camp Bastion, and decided to get a pair on my R&R. 

Instant love. Wore them everywhere, but sadly the British Army isn't very accommodating to this type of foot wear, and so regular trainers it was. That was until earlier this year.

Vibrams popped up in my Discover part of Instagram, so I followed them, and noticed they had a solid, laced, aggressively soled trail shoe at the same time that my Merrel trail gloves had seen their final run.

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To current date, I have run 116km in my Vibrams, with about 60% on trails, 40% on tarmac or roads. The first run I did was a short one, about 3k, just to get used to them. The ground was super boggy and muddy, but the MegaGRIP sole just, well, gripped. I was very sceptical, but its absolutely sold me on the cheesy name. 

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Dry hard packed trails. Wet, even flooded, trails. Sand/beach runs, wet and dry rocks, it doesn't matter. These just grip, to the point where you stop even thinking about it and just run. 

Now road miles are a little different. While it is decent, with the soft sole adding a bit of cushioning, I do start to get hot spots after about 5km. Thankfully these have never turned into blisters, but it does get a little uncomfortable. I have, however, noticed a decent amount of wear from the road miles, so have tried to curb my running, even so much as sticking to the small grass sections on the road or path side. I am over 100kg though, so naturally harder on shoes than your typical runner.

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All in, an awesome shoe. I must say though, while they can be worn barefoot, and I have walked barefoot in them, I haven't run without Injinji toe socks yet, so wouldn't be able to say what it is like, but walking without socks in them is very comfortable. 

If you are looking to get a pair, or even a more minimalist type shoe, take it easy. While I no longer get knee pain of ANY sort, my calfs hurt like hell for the first 1-2 months, and I still have a few little achilles pains, though thats through poor flexibility and just not stretching before/after enough.

 

A huge thank you to Vibrams for making an awesome product in both the upper and the soles. There is a reason any good manufacturer uses Vibram soles. 

Another big thank you to Feetus for the great customer service and for promoting minimalist and barefoot running in the UK.

MCN Festival of Motorcycles

That time of the year again! The sun is shining, the peaceful countryside hum is filled with screaming sport bikes and thudding cruisers. Oil changes done, Optimate disconnected and Europe's largest outdoor show kicks off. 

I used to go to this show years and years back, when it was run by the British Motorcycle Federation(BMF) but over the years it turned into an old mans club, a giant auto-jumble for people to sell their used rusty bike parts. Not exactly something for the masses.

Thankfully, MCN took over, and if last year was any sign of this year, it would be sun filled and awesome. New bikes and club stands aside, who doesn't love a bit of Brit on Yank Dirt Track competition, especially when they had Chris 'Stalker' Walker and former Moto-GP/WSB legend Colin Edwards!

So a last minute decision saw me and the girlfriend wandering up the A1 to Peterborough. Ques avoided by some on the spot web ordering, and we are in. Ducati, Suzuki, BMW, even smaller manufacturers like the very local Herald set up camp, though the Kawasaki stand was a little bit token effort...

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Star of the show as far as the new kit was concerned was a split decision for me. Either, and this one is a bit obvious, the Triumph Thruxton R...

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...Or, and this one is a little left field, the KTM Superduke GT. This one, I have fallen for. Comfy, can obviously tour with ease, but can hang with the best of them on a track day, and that engine.....just...wow.....

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All in, was a good day, despite the showering with dirt we got when the dirt track noobs stood too close to the track at the wrong spot. Kind of a 'This is an awesome spot, why is it empty?', though in my defence, the shots turned out...though the other half wasn't as pleased in her dirt shower..

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