What’s the best commuter bike?

July 24th, 2014

So, discussion this morning turned to commuter bikes and led to a bit of an (almost heated) debate about which bike would make the best choice for getting to and from work every day.

As a rough and dirty checklist, hastily scribbled down on the back of a fuel receipt we reckon that ideally we’d be looking for a bike that:

  • Offers decent MPG – being late for work because you had to stop for fuel gets old very quickly
  • Has at least ”some’ weather protection, making it a reasonable choice for when it’s tipping it down
  • Is a bit of fun to ride – it’s meant to be a viable alternative to just jumping in the car after all
  • Has somewhere secure chuck & leave a laptop bag and/or helmet when you’re away from the bike
  • And lastly, it has to do all of the above at a reasonably low cost (both up-front and on an ongoing basis)

Here’s a list what we’ve come up with so far:


CG125 / YBR125, or even a trusty old bomb-proof C90.

Honda C90

These have the advantage of being brilliantly efficient on fuel, cheap as chips to buy, live with and run, but are perhaps a little too painful on anything much longer than a nip into town or short scoot along the back roads.  One of our guys travels 45 miles each way (on fast A roads) every day to get to MotoGoLoco HQ, so 125′s have kinda been ruled out.

Which is a pity, because the KTM 125 Duke is a very, VERY nice looking little bike and we ‘re all in agreement that it looks like an absolute hoot.

KTM 125 Duke

Modern Middleweights

The sensible choices, i.e. Honda’s NC700 or the G650GS from BMW are often thrown into discussions like this.

Honda NC700

Certainly they tick a LOT of boxes; nippy enough (both are in the 50bhp range), dead economical and both have the capacity to take boxes and luggage for files/laptops and whatever other crap we need to lug around with us on the day.

These are a really sensible, almost obvious choice, but, I don’t know – something just doesn’t excite me about them. Maybe (as Boss-man Dave tells me) that’s because I’m an idiot for missing the point of a ‘commuter bike’ completely and expecting Fireblade performance and thrills every time I sling a leg over something.

I think the biggest hurdle for me with these kind bikes is that for just a little bit more cash, you can wander firmly into TransAlp / F800GS / Tiger 800 territory, all of which DO start to get a lot more interesting.

Triumph Tiger 800

Of course, nothing’s ever simple in the world of motorcycling (or at least MY world of motorcycling), so they all have their own pitfalls to consider; Much lower MPG, higher up-front costs and a dangerously tempting ‘extras’ list to prise a few more quid out of my wallet for starters.

Old(er) Middleweights

The likes of eBay, Gumtree and MCN are all awash with used (and only in very seldom cases abused) middleweights, such as CBR600F’s, SV650′s, Hornets, Fazers and Bandits – pretty much all of which would be really well suited to the daily grind up to the office and back.

Suzuki SV650S

You’ve got the usual risks attached with buying a used bike (and in some cases, somebody else’s problems), but in reality – all of those mentioned above come with a solid, ‘bullet-proof’ reputation for reliability.  Wear and tear bits such as tyres, brakes and suspension are all potential money-pits, and none of them are all that economical on juice either, really if we we’re being completely honest with ourselves.

There are plenty of solid and sensible choices in this category however, and it’s definitely not infeasible that it’s where my next bike will come from.

Electric Bikes

A bit of a curve-ball and an option that I’ll admit to never really taking very seriously; until now.

Zero Electric Motorcycle

Recent advances in technology have put these right up there as genuine contenders for a daily runner.  Certainly, flicking through the marketing bumph paints a pretty rosy picture for bikes of this ilk, especially when their main (and almost sole) purpose is going to be covering the same journey day in, day out.  The limitations of distance-per-charge don’t really come into play, as I’d be able to squeeze 2 round trips in and have power to spare – if the claimed 130+ mile limit is to be believed.

The bike could happily sit on charge during the day while I’m at work, ready to be jumped on and ridden home when the end of day hooter sounds.  Costs wise, after the (admittedly somewhat eye-wateringly) high initial outlay (circa £8,000 – £10,000), your running costs are down to the bare minimum – figures of £0.01 per mile are commonly claimed, a fraction of the £0.10 – £0.25 p/mile I’d get on an average sports-bike or tourer.

Hefty up-front outlay aside, (which admittedly is somewhat of a stumbling block to most of us), the only other real downside to owning an electric motorbike is the question of unknown reliability and sparse dealer networks.  Logic suggests that a bike with fewer moving parts will actually have a positive influence on it’s reliability, but time will tell.

So, what about you?

What do you sling your leg over of a morning and trust to get you to work and back every day?  Would you recommend it and what – if anything – would you change about it?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments box below – we’d love to hear from you.

Mirror, mirror

July 23rd, 2014

Friend just called – can I pick him up from A&E. He’d had a minor spill – after hitting the mirror of a truck with his head when he was filtering. Apparently he’s okay, just bruises and a mild concussion, but the bike’s trashed.

Now, in case you missed it, let me repeat why I have to pick him up. He hit a mirror. With his head. While filtering. Then fell off.

Really? I’m not sure whether to be sympathetic or sarcastic. Actually, no. I’m going with sarcasm. Definitely sarcasm. Sorry – does that make me a bad person?


RANT – Dipped Beams Please

July 23rd, 2014

This week I’ve been acting as the family’s, “one man and an estate car”, delivering one daughter and a % of her stuff to her new flat in London, collecting another and all her stuff from Newcastle, and then up to Edinburgh to scout for accommodation for our youngest – I’m knackered!

Car full of stuff

These journeys have required the full capacity of the car, and in one instance, the trailer had to be called into service. So, no motorbike, merely rather tedious slogs up and down the M1, A1, A68, A7, A701, M6, & A65. Being confined to four wheels for these journeys and approaching the verge of losing the will to live, (how do long distance commuters cope with such tedium, dangerous tedium, day after day?), I reverted to playing mind stretching games in order to remain alert. For example, could I identify an approaching bike by the pattern of its headlights/spot lights, (GS Adventures are all too easy!), before other clues presented themselves?

And, in the process of playing this particular game, I realised that a significant number of motorcyclists ride with their full beams activated, day or night. I’m aware that there is some research around a perceived increase in, “SMIDSY”, RTIs as a result of drivers failing to accurately assess an on coming motorcycle’s distance and approach speed due to being dazzled by a bike’s main beam, day and night.

My experience would lead me to recommend that we utilise dipped beams during daylight hours, and main beam at night when no approaching traffic is visible.


Because despite actively seeking out motorcycles I was sometimes unable either to identify the bike, or assess its approach speed accurately, because its main beam was too bright – obscuring the bike’s outline and thereby making a judgement of how close it was and how fast it was travelling problematic.

Motorcycle main beam

If a fellow biker actively looking for you is experiencing difficulty in accurately judging what you are, where you are, and how fast you are travelling, then what hope is there for your average, “Reginald Molehusband*”?

And, as for the daughters and their chattels – they are all where they should be, all have enough stuff to be getting on with and I can revert to two wheels again – bliss!

All the best, Jim.


July 22nd, 2014

I lost my scrotum. No, not in a medical sense. What do you call the little bag that your waterproof overtrousers pack down into? I call it a scrotum…

The last time I had to stop and put them on, then set off again I must have left the scrotum lying around somewhere. So now I’ve nowhere to pack my waterproofs (much as I’m hopeful they won’t be needed any time soon).



“5*” Kev’s review of SilverHowe B&B Pitlochry

July 22nd, 2014

Wow, beautiful Bed and Breakfast with two of the most accommodating hosts I’ve ever encountered at a Bed and Breakfast and we use a lot as we travel around the country following the British Superbikes, Speedway, MotoGP and WSBK.

Following winning a MotoGoLoco competition back in December 2013 I discovered I had won a night at Silverhowe Bed and Breakfast in Scotland, immediately my wife Anna and I decided to tie this in with our first ever trip up to Knockhill race circuit to watch the British Superbikes.

Kevin Skeith and family at Silverhowe

We stayed for the Friday and Saturday night at Silverhowe, choosing to travel up on the Friday and see a bit of Pitlochry on the Friday afternoon and evening, find some local attractions to visit on the Saturday and then travel to Knockhill on the Sunday to watch the BSB before travelling home on the Sunday after the racing.

Hayden and I watching the motorbikes at Knockhill

We contacted the Hosts Trudi and David to see if they had availability for our chosen weekend and also to ask a few questions, we have a 14 month old baby and as such our requirements would be a little bit more than just a bed for the night and some food in the morning (also seeing as he is unable to reach the pillion pegs on my bike we’d be travelling up in our car, not quite in the true spirit of a MotoGoLoco break but needs must).

Straight away Judi put our minds at ease, saying that they were able to put us in a room with room for a cot bed, (which they provided) and that the request for our son to stay was no problem what so ever, David informed us of the local attractions, how far it was to Knockhill, the time we’d need to allow to reach them, explained that other things we might need for a baby would all be made available to us, and that having a toddler stay would be no problem what so ever.

Our first impressions of Silverhowe were of a well-kept quaint bungalow in a beautiful surrounding, the parking area is wide and well-kept the gardens are beautifully manicure and frequented by wild rabbits, which great you every morning when you open the curtains. The rooms are very well kept, clean and spacious with their own shower room, towels and essentials. the beds are comfortable and warm, the only thing I would mention is that there is a train line that runs behind the B&B however the trains do not run late or too early and the noise from the line is minimal, do not let it put you off.

The day room/breakfast room is well equipped with television and books, DVD and everything you might want in an evening. Whilst there David showed me the secure bike parking area, which is well equipped with all the essentials a biker will need, there is also a well-equipped drying room for those occasions when the weather choose to be truly Scottish. Trudi and David even had some toys out for our toddler to play with, which was a really nice touch, showing how hospitable they really are.

The breakfast is brilliant, home cooked by Trudi with David on waiting duties, there is a good selection of cereal, fruit, juices and yoghurts, and the full ‘Scottish breakfast’ was delicious and more than sets you up for the day, the breakfast area is open and friendly giving guests chances to openly share conversation and join in discussions of where to go and what to do and David’s knowledge of local roads and tourist things to do is endless… If you are a biker you’ll not need a map, just listen to David he knows all the best roads.

Should you (like we did) choose to have a takeaway meal in the evening, Trudi and David are more than willing to allow you to use the dishes knifes forks etc. too.

Pitlochry is a very beautiful little town with plenty to see, and do, lots of places to eat, drink and occupy you.  We recommend a walk along the river to the hydro dam and the fish ladder and if you have children a quick walk back over the wobbly foot bridge towards the town takes you through a park with swings etc.


Eats wise we can recommend BIBA, the restaurant in the town and also the Indian take away too. A walk around the Bells distillery is a must for whisky lovers and its only 100m from the B&B’s front door too.

Overall we’d recommend this B&B to any of our friends and family and recommend it to our fellow bikers too, although we went in our car, we can see the attraction of the local tarmac for bikers.

Thank you massively to MotoGoLoco and Trudi and David at Silverhowe for the prize, we all had a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing stay, and we look forward to returning to Silverhowe in the future, hopefully when Hayden is older and can finally reach those pillion pegs…

Mike’s Review of the Belted Will Inn, Brampton

July 21st, 2014

When we got to the Belted Will they were just opening up for that evening’s service.

Mike's GS at the Belted WIll Inn

We were welcomed in by Alyson and the GS was given a nice secure parking space. We were shown to our room, which was pretty big with an extra bed where we dumped out stuff. We chilled out for a bit, got showered then wandered down to the bar. The bar and restaurant is quite olde worldy looking with the exposed beams in the roof, its a nice place to sit and relax. We were having a couple of beers, playing pool and speaking to the staff. Stephen, the owner used to ride bikes and we chatted away before he had to get to the kitchen.

My phone was hooked onto the free WiFi and I was getting messages from Stelios, a Greek guy I knew through a GS forum who was on a big tour of Europe. He was heading up north and wanted to meet up to discuss routes. When I told him we weren’t in Scotland and we were at the Belted Will he decided to join us. Stelios arrived just as we were trying to decide what to have from their tasty looking menu.

Mike, HG & Stelios at the Belted WIll Inn

I had a huge t-bone steak, HB had a ribeye and Stelios had chicken. The food was tasty and the portions were huge. We had though about having a pudding but we were stuffed. We spent the rest of the evening discussing bike trips and looking at Stelios’s map of Scotland.

Route Planning

The next morning we headed down for breakfast. This is where the Belted Will really stood out. their breakfast was awesome. We both had a full English breakfast with one of the best sausages I’ve ever tasted.

Bellies full, we chucked our stuff in the bike said our goodbyes to Stelios and the Belted Will family and headed off.

We’d recommend the Belted Will to anyone, nice beers in the bar, friendly staff and that incredible breakfast!!

Mike Taylor (aka YodaGoat)

More details

The Belted Will Inn

Biker owned and friendly traditional English Inn, ideally located for exploring Hadrian’s Wall and the beautiful surrounding countryside.

View listing

Phone: 01697 746236
Email: stephenbeltedwill@yahoo.co.uk


Mike’s Review of Fernhill Hotel, Portpatrick

July 21st, 2014

Riding into Portpatrick we found the Fernhill Hotel easily, we parked the bike up in the car park and walked into the reception.

Mike Taylor GS at Fernhill Hotel



Fernhill Hotel Portpatrick View

The view overlooking the town from the huge window in reception blows you away. We were welcomed by a member of staff who gave us a complimentary sherry then showed us to our room, which also had an incredible view over the town, a big bathroom and a massive bed. We got the bike unpacked, arranged a time for our dinner then headed down to have a look around Portpatrick. It was still quite early so we got lunch from a chippy van at the harbour, looked round the shops and had a beer in a few of the seafront pubs.

At around half six we headed back up to the Fernhill for dinner. The restaurant is in the conservatory of the hotel. Everything about it was really impressive. Fergus, our waiter, was friendly, chatting about mountain biking with us. We treated our selves to a bottle of Sancerre to accompany the stunning food. It really was seriously enjoyable sitting in the conservatory. HB ordered a fish dish and I had chicken, which was perfectly cooked.
After our meal we headed back down into the town to watch a band in one of the pubs. After a great sleep in the gigantic bed we tucked into a great breakfast before loading the bike up and heading off.

We both really enjoyed the Fernhill Hotel, it gets a full five chainsaws.

– Mike Taylor (aka YodaGoat)

More details

Fernhill Hotel
Heugh Road
Dumfries and Galloway

> View listing

Phone: 01776 810 220
Email: info@fernhillhotel.co.uk


The Great North Road

July 21st, 2014

I have to go to Edinburgh in a few days. Nowadays the nature of my work means it’s probably easier to fly or take a train, but I still like to ride. In fact, I love it.



Not that everyone thinks the A1 is a great road. And to be fair, it’s not. But I love the idea of the A1 – of the Great North Road. One highway linking London and Edinburgh, uniting the two countries (sorry Alex Salmond).

The thing is, as you ride along it you realize the UK isn’t just one country – or two, or four. Even England is a collection of distinct and unique little countries. The Midlands are so different to the Home Counties. Yorkshire could be on another planet to Cambridgeshire – and no matter what southern softies like me usually think, it’s actually pretty different to the real north, of County Durham and Northumbria.



Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

Angel of the North

Angel of the North

Of course, you don’t see all of this if you actually ride up the A1… But who’d want to sit on the dual carriageway all day, after all? I normally treat myself to two days for the journey, winding my way north parallel to the A1 but taking more interesting byways.

It’s a fantastic way to see the country. That’s why I still love the Great North Road – even when I’m following it more loosely than the cartographers intended.


Okay, there are some cheap bikes

July 18th, 2014

Well, not cheap. But not madly priced ones. Number One Son picked me up on this. He’s been looking at getting Honda CB500F for commuting – that’s five grand.

Honda CBF500

He was also considering the Kawasaki ER-6n which is £5400 and the new Yamaha MT07, which is £5200. You might be looking at big money for a big tourer, but there are some better-priced bikes out there.


Kawasaki ER-6n

Of course, if he’s as tight-fisted as his father, Number One Son will flirt with the idea of a brand-new bike for a while before buying a second-hand Hornet….


Awesome Russian Off-Road Bike

July 17th, 2014

Who needs a GS Adventure, when you can have one of these?

It’s lightweight, agile, floats, climbs and packs down into something you can fit in your car boot.  The AK-47 of the motorcycling world?  Maybe, but what a hoot this looks!

Now… where do I go to buy one?!


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