Tuesday, 11 November 2014

DragonMoto's "Dual Tour"


Back in March 2014 at the Scottish Bike show a discussion took place between two Kawasaki Experience Partners, DragonMotoTours and The Mick Extance Kawasaki Experience.  The thinking of both parties was along the same lines and that was to put together a tour which would include excellent motorcycling roads through Mid and North Wales together with a day off-road riding in the heart of the Tanat Valley in Mid Wales.  Within a short time of having the initial discussion in Edinburgh DragonMotoTours met with Mick together with Anthony Rosser the Director of an award winning 4* country hotel – The Lake Vyrnwy which overlooks the lake of the same name – and the tour was put together.

We had 18 clients with us over the course of the three day tour, the majority joining us at Shrewsbury on the Sunday morning for the ride through Mid Wales, but we did have one lady drive  to the hotel venue to make the most of the Spa treatments on offer!  And one who flew to the hotel in her Gazelle helicopter from Lincoln – talk about arriving in style, we did say to Jim, her husband, that he needed a sticker for his bike “My other bike is a …………”!!! 

Morning coffee on Day 1 was something of a step back in time where we visited the Bird on the Rock cafĂ© on the Welsh Border and some very happy riders sat down to tea and cake before riding into Mid Wales on open flowing roads under blue skies 

 and onto our lunch venue at the Clywedog Reservoir 


We continued our ride taking in stunning views on our way to Machynlleth, known as “the ancient capital of Wales”.  We had a wide variety of road bikes for this tour but the rider with the biggest smile was Mark, a KRC member and proud owner of a new Z1000 SX – this was his first time on a tour and everytime he took his helmet off he was smiling 

The sun shone for the entire day and we arrived at our hotel before 5pm giving everyone ample time to unpack, unwind and take in the stunning views of the sun setting over the lake that evening before Mick Extance joined us for dinner in the Tavern restaurant.

Day 2 was upon us and 14 of our tour group had signed up to take part in the day off-road riding with Mick and his team.  Mark was having too much fun making the most of his Z1000 SX and had opted not to go off-roading, instead  Geraint took him “one-to-one” touring through Wales and onto the Welsh coastline.  Three ladies stayed back at the hotel to chill out in the Spa and Jan spent the time with Mick taking photos of the day in the Welsh hills. 

Mick and his team provided an excellent day for all concerned.  The mix of abilities was diverse from people with no experience of off-roading to those who had done some before and others who last sat on an off-road bike over 30 years ago……. But as Shaun said – “it really is like riding a bike” and it all came back to them within a very short time.  Mick gave everyone a comprehensive safety brief, showing how to sit, stand and position on the bike, together with the correct way to pick up the bike (a skill required by several of the group during the course of the day…. Not least Tony who decided to take his Kawasaki scuba diving, not once but twice and in a very muddy puddle at that!!! 

Having said that, it certainly did not “dampen” his spirits and he was raring to go after a mid morning brew stop.

Mick’s team were very encouraging throughout the day and in particular to Beckie who has a great deal of experience on road bikes together with several track days under her belt, however, her nemesis is gravel….. or should that now read “was”.  For sessions one and two of the day Beckie had one-to-one training with Graham, one of the instructors, and she quickly mastered both the bike and the terrain

 before riding out with the main group for the afternoon sessions.   Mick’s stable of bikes range from 125cc to 250cc to 450cc and as such catered for not only all skill levels but also gave people a chance to try out different ones.  What was obvious from the brew and lunch stops was how much everyone was enjoying the day, lots of banter and laughter could be heard and not only did everyone comment on how much fun they were having but also on how much they had learned during the day.

Geraint and Mark met up with everyone at Mick’s base and we all rode back to the hotel where some of the participants from the off-road day took advantage of the sauna and steam rooms in the hotel whilst others had a soothing massage before we all sat down to a wonderful evening meal overlooking the lake followed by a presentation firstly by Gary Hartshorne of Bridgestone Tyres who works with Mick and secondly by Mick himself on his Dakar Rally Experiences.  Everyone was enthralled by the presentation and a great evening was had by all. 

For the final morning of the tour we were greeted with blue skies and good temperatures for riding.  The hotel provided us with another hearty cooked breakfast with our large group table overlooking the lake and surrounding welsh hill sides.  We had a group photo taken before we left The Lake Vyrnwy hotel.

Our route took us over the Berwyn Mountains 

before descending towards Llyn Tegid and Llyn Celyn and into the heart of the Snowdonia National Park for morning coffee at a very welcoming 17th Century pub who had even baked cakes for us to enjoy with our cuppa.  Weather conditions were so good that as we climbed the Aberglaslyn pass we were provided with stunning views of the top of Snowdon before we continued our ride on some of the best riding roads in the area to lunch at Brenig Reservoir on the Denbigh Moors.  The tour concluded in the Welsh/English border town of Oswestry, the location chosen due to it’s ease of access to routes east, south and north for the onward journeys of our tour group.

As this was the first tour of its kind for DragonMotoTours it was extremely pleasing to receive the thanks we did from all our clients.  The weather certainly played its part, The Lake Vyrnwy Hotel provided us with an outstanding base with great food and friendly staff.  As for Wales,  the roads were made for riding and the scenery is just spectacular, add to this the opportunity to have some fun in the woods and mud with The Mick Extance Kawasaki Experience on off-road bikes and the result is a perfect way to keep everyone grinning from start to finish.  We are looking forward to running similar tours in the future.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Kawasaki staff "Blog to Work" as part of National Ride to Work Week

Monday 16 June marked the start of the annual Motorcycle Industry Association celebration of the many benefits of powered two wheelers, National Ride to Work Week. Kawasaki Motors UK asked staff to write a blog entry about their Monday morning commute; this is what they said.

Dean Clewley – Kawasaki Regional Business Manager - Do not be alarmed! Before I embarked on my early morning ride along the A3 bound for London City, I was alerted to my error of machinery and soon mounted the mind blowing bundle of technology which is my ZX-10R. The choice to use 2 wheels rather than 4 is one of logic that cannot be questioned! I leave my home later, I'll return home sooner, my drain fuel stocks is less as even the power house ZX-10R performs at 40+ MPG. Also those extortionate parking charges need not apply to me as this morning, I am a commuting VIP! But I have not earned these special treatments, oh no, these are simply standard issue to all those who choose to ride to work.

Dean has a choice of Two-Wheelers

Lawrence Griffin – Kawasaki Branch Support - The feeling of freedom you get on a bike is one I feel everyone must experience at some point in life. I rode from Farnborough for the first time today. 36 miles in the car takes me 1 hour 45 minutes to make it to work on time.. On the bike, a grand total of 40 minutes.  For some reason you also seem to get a very smug feeling when you see the faces of all the car drivers queuing while you breeze past the miles of stationary traffic.

Lawrence and his beloved Ninja

Steve Haswell – Kawasaki Technical Trainer - 

Commuting daily from Watford can be a joy or a chore.
Stuck in traffic is definitely a bore.
When I take the bike I'm stationary no more.

Steve - the Urban Poet

Colin Macdonald – Regional Business Manager - As a Regional Manager for Kawasaki, I cover a lot of miles.  From my home in Cheshire, getting onto the M6 in the morning can be time consuming because of several miles of single-file queuing traffic.  City centre congestion can also make arriving on time for business appointments challenging.  To get round this I take my bike whenever I can.   My Z1000SX cuts through the traffic and carries my Tablet and folio for that day’s business meetings.  Less time in traffic also means that I have more time to take the long way home at the end of the day!

Colin's bike saves him time

Andrew Squires – Kawasaki Europe Engine Department – I live in Aylesbury which might look close to Kawasaki in Bourne End but the traffic is quite often horrendous. Riding  to work and back cutting through the traffic is a perfect way to start and finish your day.

Andrew's Ayelsbury commute time is shaved with a bike

Ross Symons – Section Head – Technical& Customer Service - I commute on a daily basis from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire to Kawasaki Motors UK in Bourne End. This journey is a 50 mile round trip taking approximately 40 minutes each way by bike. I do occasionally travel by car but try to avoid this as must as possible. I say this because when commuting by car I have the “joy” of queuing in traffic which can easily add 20 minutes or more onto my journey.  I enjoy my ride to work and it is good to know that my arrival time at work is always give or take a couple of minutes, whereas when in a car this can vary greatly.  I commute every day by bike as it far more interesting and exciting compared to being sat in a car going nowhere fast. 

Ross doesn't waste time in stationary traffic

Howard Dale – General Manager, Kawasaki Motors UK - It’s time for work – today is different I’m leaving the car at home and going to work on my Versys 1000, I bike I love but don’t get enough time to ride. The sun’s out as I roll through the countryside of Surrey Heath on towards Ascot and then Maidenhead where the jams begin for car drivers. But today IS different instead of a 30 minute crawl through the town, I’m though and out along the side of the Thames and into work at KMUK in just under 40 minutes compared to the hour plus my journey often takes – and – I’m smiling when I arrive!  

Howard has a passion for two wheels

Matthew Callaway – Technical Service Advisor - My journey consists of a 180 mile round trip into KMUK from the sunny seaside town of Bournemouth.  The majority of the route is motorway, which includes the dreaded M4 which seems to be the biggest ‘car park’ and the bug bear of my journey. Without the use of a motorcycle I would be considerably late for work every single day unless I leave at stupid o’clock in the morning.  When I’m filtering through all the stationary cars on the M4 with the majority of them just containing one increasingly frustrated and late to work driver it is clear what the best form of transport is, a MOTORCYCLE……..  

Matt does not have to leave home at "stupid o'clock"

Alan Lunn – Technical Service Advisor - Either a 25 minute ride from Reading to work or a 50 minute ride from Wimbledon. This is in comparison to a 35 minute or 80 minute car journey respectively. The main differences are obvious in the journey time and economy, but maybe the biggest difference is that I can leave a lot later and not be concerned with the ‘golden window’ of traffic opportunity. The time when everyone rolls out of their houses to join the ever increasing queue of cars that form our congestion ridden world. It is really nice to turn up for work bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Alan has the "choice" of two commutes

Richard Worth - My ride in starts at Yeading, Middlesex and heads out to Bourne End, Bucks. The commute is 19 miles each way and takes on average around 25 minutes on the bike. Traffic black spots tend to be all the small roads and roundabouts till I reach the M40 and then getting past the M25. Doing this trip in a car has taken 1.5 hours so the bike is the most sensible option and also the most fun regardless of the weather.

Richard's commute involves two grid-locked motorways

Ahsan Nabi – Sales & Market Analyst - I often am asked, "Why don't you ride your bike to work every day, it must save you so much time'. In truth I do not because I sometimes have to use the car for varying reasons, however when I do use the bike I can certainly notice the difference in journey times, fuel cost and my general mood for the day. I travel from West London to South Buckinghamshire utilising some main roads such as the A312 and A40 and the M40 motorway. The journey that would normally take me an hour by car is almost halved when using the bike. Also, on two wheels, I am able to filter through the traffic hot-spots that I would normally encounter on these roads meaning I have a stress free journey. Best of all is the cost saving; to travel to and from work each day by car for a week would costs me £85 in fuel whereas on the bike it only cost £25 a week.

Ahsan chooses a bike to save on fuel and time

Martin Lambert – PR & Communications Manager - Commuting – a word that conjures up images of traffic jams, people having to stand up for their whole train journey, crowded smelly buses and bad tempers; and that’s before work even starts ! For me the journey to and from Kawasaki’s offices is always more enjoyable on a motorcycle… but riding is only half the joy. Being able to leave for work later and still get in on time, to predict when you will arrive almost to the minute and enjoy the thrill that motorcycles deliver is what makes such a contrast to the drudgery that others endure each and every working day. 

For Martin enjoying the commute is essential

Richard Metcalfe - Technical Service Manager - Getting in to work early means I can miss the traffic when I'm driving but being in a car means I'm still sat in traffic on the way home after the office closes. On a bike I know both journeys will take the same time and the journey to and from work is a lot more fun as well.

Richard can predict his journey time
Ross Burridge - Racing Coordinator - "I live in Ascot, Berkshire, approximately 16 miles away from the office, and to be honest, being able to use a motorcycle to commute to work is a god send. There are so many points along my route that get congested in the morning rush hour, and my journey time is typically halved as I slice through the traffic on two wheels. Add to that the fuel costs that are saved on the bike versus my car makes commuting in this way so much more preferable."

Ross takes 50% off his journey time with a bike

All on bikes - All on time @ Kawasaki Motors UK 
Ride to Work web site

Monday, 5 May 2014

Pedal Power - Gorrick Kawasaki 100 Enduro Challenge

People with long(ish) memories may just recall that, in the UK, Kawasaki once sold a range of mountain bikes. These were not £99 specials with questionable brakes and clunky gears. These were high quality bikes for the enthusiast who knew their Shimano from their Campagnolo.

The link between Kawasaki and mountain bikes has been reinvigorated in the past few years as KMUK sponsors the Gorrick 100 mountain bike endure each Spring. And with the General Manager of Kawasaki in the UK entered among the hopefuls, the chance to take to two wheels powered by muscle alone was embraced by a full field of entrants.

The Kawasaki display at the Gorrick 100

With riders having a choice of 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 or just1 lap of a classic 10 mile enduro course, the terrain was fun, but challenging as it wound its way through Windmill Hill and the surrounding land, with single track sections aplenty.

Every rider who completed their challenge could look forward to a finisher’s medal and, for the more driven, a range of trophies and prizes including some special items donated by Kawasaki.


Whatever distance entrants chose to ride the Kawasaki Enduro is always a challenge. It can be just as tough for the one lap newcomers as for the crazy seven lappers completing 70 miles off road.

Either way, to finish is very rewarding after one or many 10 mile laps of glorious fun trails into the Windmill and Porridgepot Hills near Deepcut in Surrey.

Howard Dale completed his two laps

For the spectators there was more to see and do besides watching the competitors with a display of Kawasaki motorcycles and representation from off-roader supreme, Mick Extance along with bikes from his Kawasaki supported off-road motorcycle experience.

For some very lucky riders, Kawasaki was proud to present British Super Bike Tickets and a day at the Mick Extance Experience.
Amanda Brooks - a seven lap hero

Two such winners were Tim Dunford riding for Team Mountain Trax Vauxhall Motors who blitzed the seven laps in just 5hrs 17m, and Amanda Brooks (Freeborn Cycles / Hansgrohe) completing in 6hrs 31m.
Tim Dunford rode 70 miles off road

As for Kawasaki’s Howard Dale, he opted for the two lapper completing 20 miles off-road in 2hrs 20m. Speaking afterwards he praised the organisers and hoped that the profile of the Gorrick club had been further enhanced.

"So many people who ride motorcycles either competitively or for leisure also ride mountain bikes as a hobby. With so much state of the art technology now in bicycles the attraction is clear. We hope everyone enjoyed the Gorrick event and seeing our road and off-road motorcycles on display. We hope that Tim and Amanda enjoy their prizes”.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Kawasaki plays host to Tom Sykes in Japan

For the first time since securing the 2013 World Superbike title, Kawasaki Racing Team rider, Tom Sykes, has visited the Kawasaki factory in Akashi, Japan.

Site of a huge Kawasaki motorcycle production facility, the enormous Akashi works complex is additionally home of the company’s racing research and development department who were keen to congratulate the Ninja rider who won nine of the 27 races in the 2013 WSBK Championship series.

Eager to thank all those who played a part in his success, Sykes also wanted to meet as many Kawasaki employees as possible during his brief stay in Japan. With the privilege of a factory tour – along with the Kawasaki Motors Europe Race Planning Manager (Steve Guttridge) and the Manager of the Kawasaki Racing Team (Guim Roda) and crew chief (Marcel Duinker) – Tom saw a variety of machines being built.

L>R Marcel, Tom, Steve and Guim 

For many production line and quality assurance staff, the chance to meet the person humorously referred to as “Mr Kawasaki” was a rare treat. Many were ready with personal items for the World Champion to sign and to have the opportunity of being photographed with the 28 year old rider from Huddersfield in Yorkshire.

“I have an engineering background myself”, commented Tom. “To see bikes being made and witness the skill of the workers plus their amazing attention to detail was really fascinating. There were plenty of Ninja ZX-10R’s being made for markets across the world and the production line workers took the chance to have a group photo taken which was really a really nice moment"   
On the production line
                                                                                                                                                                From the factory floor, Tom and his entourage were also allowed another rarely granted privilege, a chance to visit part of the Kawasaki motorcycle collection housed within the buildings at the entrance to vast manufacturing complex that also produces industrial robots and gas turbines as well as aviation and aerospace components.

“I got a chance to see one of our former Superbikes, a lovely ZX-7RR ridden to a memorable double WSBK victory by Hitoyasu Izutsu at Sugo, Japan in 2000, the same year he won the Japanese Superbike Championship. To be honest, if you left me with the display of historic bikes for a whole day I would not have minded. That said, there was a tight schedule to stick to and some important people to meet”.

Racing legends

Among those keen to shake Tom’s hand was Mr Shigehiko Kiyama, President of Kawasaki Heavy Industries Motorcycle & Engine Company. Taking time from his busy schedule, Mr Kiyama discussed Tom’s racing season and numerous victories with both Tom and his Crew Chief, Marcel Duinker.

Meeting Mr Kiyama

At the end of the meeting, Mr Kiyama congratulated Tom once more and presented him with an ornate and highly prized Samurai helmet, a gesture of thanks from the entire Kawasaki family. Speaking after the presentation Mr Kiyama said.

Samurai helmet gift from KHI

"KHI was delighted to play host to World Superbike Champion, Tom Sykes in Japan. All Kawasaki family members would like to congratulate Tom and the Kawasaki Racing Team on their outstanding achievement".

Friday, 30 August 2013

Shakey and Stalker in the KRC Spotlight

Recently Kawasaki Riders Club members were given a chance to ask their Superbike heroes some questions. From the hundreds of brilliant, funny – and sometimes left field – questions five lucky winners were selected and their questions put to a brace of the most popular, long-serving and successful Superbike riders to have ever swung a leg over a Ninja, Shane “Shakey” Byrne and Chris “The Stalker” Walker. Here is what they said:

Adrian Knight asked:

“What are the happiest memories of your career so far, and also which memories would you most like to forget!?  Also, who would you say is the toughest rider you have raced against?”

Shane Byrne Answered:

“Well, that’s three questions in one LOL, I’d love to say my happiest memories of my career are yet to come!! Winning my 1st race, my Brands Hatch WSB double and last year’s final round are pretty high up there though!!

Double Brands Win

In terms of lows (not Lowes – ha ha), 2000 was a pretty bad year, I got hurt bad a lot that year, a broken back and a split liver in two separate crashes!!!

Toughest rider, not too sure to be honest, I think if you’re a clean rider you get ridden cleanly against. I remember Ruben Xaus trying to stripe me a couple of times, a BIG block pass put paid to that, what goes around comes around!!!

Xaus comes off second

Chris Walker’s response:

Happiest memory? Easily the World Superbike Win at Assen. Pouring rain and went off just after the start. It was a fairy tale race. I literally rode from last to first having just got engaged to Rachel the week before!

Victory at Assen

Time to forget? My time on the Shell Advance Honda in 500GP's – too many maybe’s and too many disappointments to make up for the excitement of being in GP’s.

A time to forget

Toughest rider? So many people think they are tough but it’s a tough business anyway so it takes something special to stand out as being exceptional. For my money, the “never give up” attitude of Troy Bayliss stands out. Whatever he rode, he rode it to win… and who can forget him coming out of retirement and winning a MotoGP race – now that’s tough!
Bayliss is super tough

Simon Lee was keen to find out what advice the pair of Kawasaki veterans had for those just starting out saying: If someone was starting out in competitive racing what would be the best advice you could give them from your own wealth of experience?'

Chris Walker is typically enigmatic saying: “I now work with young up & coming racers at the Chris Walker Race School. The advice I always give them is you have to be prepared to lose to win. It’s a learning curve, I am still learning…. If I don’t qualify well, or do as well in the race as I expected to, I don’t just turn my back, I analyse it and learn from it.

Shakey is more succinct commenting:

“I guess you have to have a dream and follow it. Listen to only those you know and trust because all paddocks are full of know it all’s that are full of sh*t!!

A welcome question from David Cook who wanted to know: Of all the great motorcycle riders, which one would you like to have raced against?'

Considering his light the blue touch paper style – no surprise that Shakey nominates all action hero and recent Suzuka 8 Hour returnee, Kevin Schwantz.
Schwantz never gave up

For Chris Walker the chance to reflect on one of the highlights of his brief 500cc GP career: “Rossi...& I have! He is a legend!

Stalker has raced the greats

Still on the subject of past glories Alan Pucknell asked 'If there is one race in your career that you could go back and race in again, for whatever reason, good or bad, which one would it be?'

With his own memories of GP’s (after a stint in the early MotoGP paddock) Shane Byrne nominated a memorable Italian round saying:

“Mugello Moto GP 2004. I got up to 4th place right behind some Italian guy called Valentino. I tried too hard and made a big mistake at the final turn and dropped to 10th at the finish, still in the points but not where I should have ended up:
Byrne had a year in MotoGP

If anyone thinks Chris Walker would give an answer other than this then they might as well pack up and go home:

Donington British Superbikes 2000 - last round, last race... All I needed was a valve spring retainer to last another five laps & I would have been British Superbike Champion. What would I change? Simple: I'd make sure the modified updated ones that Suzuki sent us the week after were already fitted!
But for a broken spring eh...
The final question for our racing legends Patrick Mead asked about the ever-present issue of rider safety:

 'While we all accept racing can be dangerous and no one likes to see riders get hurt, if there was one thing you could change to help protect riders what would it be?'

Pragmatically, Shane Byrne reflected on the modern pressures of racing saying:

“I'd take away the pressure riders get put under to return too quickly whilst still injured, it's a cut throat business racing bikes, the second your off your bike someone else will be back handily trying to get on it”

And, for Chris Walker, the amusing yet wholly understandable plea for riders to have:

“Free BUPA private health care”

With thanks to:

Simon Lee, Patrick Meads, David Cook ,Alan Pucknell and Adrian Knight. Plus, of course, Shane “Shakey” Byrne and Chris “Stalker” Walker

Kawasaki Riders Club