As life goes by you realise that with each change a part of your youth is lost forever. The innocence of childhood is lost when Father Christmas's true identity is revealed. Teenage years disappear when a part time job to earn drink vouchers develops into a full-time occupation, and youth finally flies the nest when a mortgage comes home to roost. This year I feel I may have lost my biking youth.
Working for this magazine I'm in the privileged position of virtually having my pick of bikes for long-term testing. It's a hell of a perk of the job. So, faced with new GSX-R1000s, R1s, ZX-6Rs, Z1000s, CBR600RRs, what did I choose? Triumph's Tiger 1050. Why? I have finally had my fill (for the time being at least) of 'owning' sports bikes.
Reality hit home: my commute is through London traffic; I need to take a pillion every now and then; despite my best intentions I only managed one track day last year on my GSX-R600. All that, and the
constant threat of theft, has all combined to put a very damp cloth over the flames of my sportsbike fire. I've come to accept that I need a more practical bike.
But this doesn't necessarily mean I have to break out the pipe and slippers. Practical can be fun, which is why I picked the Tiger.
Having ridden Triumph's not big trailie/not supermoto thingy a few times already I know it can be a great laugh, has a lovely motor, decent chassis and ticks all the important practical boxes. In fact I'm really excited about the prospect of a year with the Tiger.
Yes, I will use it every day to commute, but should the opportunity arise it will make a track debut, will certainly assist me in some touring and I'm looking forward to unleashing it on some back roads. I hear 10bhp can be gained just by junking the stock exhaust, which should assist its sporty alter ego just a bit.
So how is the reality? Well, as I write this I've only had the Tiger for a few days so all is still new and
exciting. So far I'm loving the 200-mile tank range, fuel countdown display and comfortable seat. Perfect for commuting. I'm enjoying less the horribly notchy and stiff gearbox, although I'm fairly confident this will ease up with a bit of use. But the front brake is worrying me. Again I'm hoping that this is due to the bike being brand new, but I can hardly reach the front brake lever. I only have small hands but even on the closest of the lever's span adjustment I can only get the tips of my fingers on the lever. Not exactly ideal for controlled or smooth braking.
Am I missing not having a sports bike in my garage? Having just got back from Almeria in Spain where I was riding Ducati's stunning 1098, I have to say I've had my sports bike fill for the moment. But will my appetite return come summer?
I reckon I've made the right choice with the Triumph, but only time will tell whether the embers of sports bike ownership are still glowing.
Usually the sight of a bloke dressed as Thor the God of Thunder waving two red signal flares while standing on top of a portaloo would have caused me to raise an eyebrow, but this was Glastonbury and sitting on a plastic bin bag in the pissing rain at about 3:30am this particular sight didn't seem too out of the ordinary.
You've seen the pictures in the press, but these can only convey half the story of the utter carnage that is the Glastonbury festival. Having been to most of them since I was 18 years old I'm a bit of an experienced hand, but nothing can prepare you for when it gets wet. This year it got very wet.
For those who don't know much about the festival let me explain the problem. The site spreads over 100 acres, which sounds big. In farming terms you are meant to keep one horse per acre, but during the festival 170,000 people eat, sleep, shit, piss, drink, dance, indulge in various hedonistic pursuits and generally go nuts in this area. Which is why it turns into a quagmire in approximately 10 seconds.
Arriving on Thursday, a day before the event starts, I was privileged enough to see some grass. This didn't last long. Friday announced its arrival with a torrential downpour and then the hoards arrived and 340,000 feet turned into mobile rotivators.
Overnight the entire site turned from green fields into sticky mud with occasional sloppy mud lakes that were usually located near the toilets. Oh yes, toilets are particularly special at Glastonbury. By the end of Friday night you have the choice of a portaloo brimming over the bowl with shit or the infamous 'long drop' crapper, which is basically an open cesspit. The sight of people gagging as they leave is as common as it is hilarious.
During the day most people try to chill out. You can wander around the market stalls, eat, sleep or, like me, sit and drink the vicious 7% pear cider from the beer busses at the Jazz stage. Well, until the organisers banned them from selling it in litre bottles. Apparently it wasn't promoting 'responsible' drinking. This is Glastonbury, nothing is responsible here.
Daylight hours see the usual weird concoction of Glastonbury 'characters.' Girls in wedding dresses with wellies, ballerinas, superheroes, there is no dress code when you are in the middle of a field. Anything goes and usually does.
Once the bands start playing people trudge through the mud to stand and watch. This year there was an abundance of those plastic fold-up camping chairs. The Glastonbury crowd has changed over the years, got older and less inclined to sit on a muddy field. Once the bands finish, at around midnight, the area become littered with chairs whose owners couldn't be arsed to carry them anymore.
Some choose this time to head back to their tent, but this is when Glastonbury comes alive. Heading away from the main stages you can wander the site all night searching for weird things to see and do.
Drugs and Glastonbury go hand in hand, it's just a fact of the event. At night people head up to the Stone Circle, which is a kind of mini-Stonehenge. Here deals are fairly openly done. It's not pushy, if you want it its there, if not just sit and enjoy the bongo playing and fire jugglers before trudging back to your tent.
It's a strange event, you will either love it or despise it. Some people are completely put off by the idea of camping for so long, the crowds and the potentially bad weather. Yes, the mud made it hard work and the rain took some of the fun out of it but who cares? Returning to find my Tiger up to the axles in mud I crabbed sideways out of the carpark, assisted by some hippy chick, who I coated with mud. Glasto is a weekend like no other, whatever the weather.
WE LIKE: mud-proof build quality
WE DON'T LIKE: Panniers that won't even fit a full face lid in. Pathetic. And rain. And long drop bogs
Having already lent my bike to one member of the TWO staff and subsequently had it submerged, you would have thought I'd have learn my lesson. Oh no. The phone message came in at about 11:30pm. "Hello, it's John, I'm just leaving Guildford A&E, your bike's a bit bent." Bastard.
'A bit bent' as it transpired actually meant "I've hurled it down the road at 80mph," but having ridden himself to and then from the hospital on the 'bit bent' Tiger I figured it wasn't that badly hurt.
Considering the speed of the crash the Tiger escaped relatively well. If it was a sportsbike it would undoubtably have been written off, but the pannier mounts took the brunt of the impact, saving the tail unit, and while the fork leg got a battering, as did the side panel and both pegs, the rest of the bike was fine. Although I'm still reckoning on a £1,500 bill.
Riding the bike (minus a front brake lever) to Triumph dealer Carl Rosner to be fixed I couldn't help but notice the bars appeared to be pointing in a totally different direction to the way I was travelling. Arse!
WE LIKE: Keeping the bike in my garage
WE DON'T LIKE: The rest of the TWO staff