HAVE your friends, family and colleagues suddenly gone booze free, renounced bacon and started going to a somewhere called ‘the gym’?
They’re wasting their time. What they should be doing is what you’re doing: thinking about the awesome year of motorcycling that lies in front of you.
Right now it’s colder than a polar bear’s ball bag but decent riding weather is on the way and now is a great time to put together a plan of action to make 2017 your best year ever on a bike.
So, if you often find yourself slipping to a routine of weekend blasts and bike meets, but want to spend more time doing more bike related things this year, here’s some inspiration to get your juices going.
Get on track
Think that track days are the preserve of sports bike riders? You’re wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a sports bike, a tourer, an all-rounder, a bike with a small engine or even something in classic territory – get on track with your bike and you’re guaranteed to have fun.
Having a rewarding track experience isn’t just about outright speed (although that’s good too) but learning about what you and your bike can do in a safe environment. No oncoming vehicles, speed cameras, wayward cyclists or inattentive pedestrians means the risk is low compared to the road, so you can get on with the business of enjoying riding – of savouring and working on corner entry and exit, of becoming smoother/faster or hooking together a series of bends with such precision that you feel like a hero.
Track days will help you better understand your bike and your riding and in turn you’ll become a more confident rider. OK, you might not be using the whole road the next time you go for a Sunday blast but knowing how hard you can brake, how quickly you can turn or how much you can lean will all help your road riding and confidence.
Watch some racing
Never been next to the track as a spectator? Make 2017 the year to change that. The sound of screaming engines, the din of the circuit announcer, the bustle of the fans and paddock activity plus the warm hug of a few pints and some chips under a sun-drenched grandstand makes most circuits evocative places to be once race weekend rolls in to town.
Our top tip for a weekend watching BSB, WSBK or MotoGP is not to worry about catching every single race. Just catch what you want to see and make sure you go for a mooch to soak up the atmosphere and speak to other riders and race fans.
Go for a ride on the continent
Get your bike, get your mates, and get on a boat. Riding nirvana is only a ferry ride away, and we’re not talking about the Isle of Wight - Europe is a phenomenal place to ride a motorbike.
That’s because countries including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switerland and Austria are home to some of the most incredible twisting, snaking, sublimely surfaced and traffic-light roads you’ve ever seen.
The south of France is riddled with superb places to ride, plus the wine’s great and it’s beautiful. And Spain? It’s not exactly short of sun-soaked carriageways that’ll leave you wondering whether you should pack up and leave the UK.
Getting to places like the south of France and Spain is easy –hop across the channel before heading south, or take the boat to Santander or Bilbao and ride from there.
Honesty, if you go riding with your mates or other half in Europe for a few days, you’re certain to take in some ace roads, have a bit of an adventure and a damn good time. Check out our guide on five roads worth riding to Europe for if you want a bit of inspiration.
Get a project bike
There’s are loads of obvious benefits to having a project – having something to work on could teach you new skills and it can be a great way to increase your understanding of bikes.
At worst, a project bike provides the perfect opportunity to disappear into the garage for some peace and quiet. If you work on the bike, great. If you spend that time drinking beer and looking at it, that’s also great.
It doesn’t have to be something obscure or old. It doesn’t even have to be something that’s going to get turned into a café racer, it could just be a tatty old R6 in need of some attention to turn it into a cheap and effective track bike. Regardless of what you get, remember that a really interesting project will be the thing you buy off eBay, unseen, when you’re drunk.
I used to have an old Honda VFR400 NC30 which ended up becoming a project because it needed so much attention. Through constantly tinkering with it, consulting the Haynes manual, constantly nearly braking it and asking for help from much more skilled and knowledgeable people, I learnt how to strip its carbs, repair the clutch, troubleshoot electrical gremlins, and remove/refit the suspension which I’d never have done otherwise.
And when your project bike is finished, you’ll have a motorcycle that you’ve worked on, know intimately and can be proud of.
Learn somthing new
But we’re not talking about one to pay the bills. You could buy a welder and teach yourself to weld (it’ll help with that project bike), or sign up for a course in motorcycle mechanics / maintenance.
If you don’t fancy spending all that time in the garage, then you could always add some additional strings to your riding bow. There are plenty of skills schools around, so if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to hoik a proper wheelie, do a stoppie or get your knee down, finding a stunt/skills school and signing up for a day-long course shouldn’t take too long or cost an arm and a leg. Regardless of whether you come away as a stunt king, you’ll have a great day.
Or why not hone your riding by going to the Ron Haslam Race School (here's a review)or California Superbike School (here's a review)? Or if you’re more inclined to off-roading, then Ade Smith’s Off-Road School (here's a review), the Simon Pavey’s Off-Road Skills School or the Honda Adventure Centre should have you well covered. Oh, and you can always sharpen your road riding skills with an IAM course?