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Combining Motorbike Touring with Training

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Driving after a stroke – pot noodle engineering!

Last year, I presented a programme on Swindon 105.5 titled “Driving after a stroke” and my guest was Eddie Ruskin.  Eddie suffered a double stroke at the age of 46, yet he has since made an incredible comeback, though not perfect. He became a Gold standard Advanced Driver within a year of his strokes; went onto becoming a Tutor (his first tutee obtained a Gold pass in her test); and also a top notch observer/instructor with the IAM group! I met Eddie at the Wiltshire RoADAR group where we have since become good friends.

As a follow up, I thought it would be a great idea to go and see Eddie at work.

Thursday morning I thought would be a good day to pop along and see Eddie at his business unit just outside Chipping Sodbury. I had to get to Chipping Sodbury and home again via a decent route which means avoiding the motorway at all costs. See even visiting a mate I need to find an interesting route.

Eddie’s company, Dynamic Mouldings Ltd (their logo is on these blog and web pages) has gone from strength to strength making fibre glass mouldings that are challenging to say the least. When others can’t, Eddie can. And he only has the use of one side of his body – an after effect of the strokes.

The team in action!

Housed in a small industrial unit off the A432 near Frampton Cotterell, Eddie is joined by his business partner, Robin Jenkins. Eddie showed me a photo of a motorbike project that they are currently working on for the Discovery channel – I’ve seen the design and it looks fantastic, but I won’t show it here! The motorbike as a work in progress piece is to the right of the picture above and will be complete in the next 10 days or so – hard to believe that’s for sure!  Everything is crafted by hand to incredible detail and accuracy. Old fashioned engineering and true craftsman ship at its finest.

Robin applying his skill to the fibreglass mould

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to say coming from an electronics manufacturing background, I am more used to seeing a tidier workplace! But, working in fibreglass is a dusty old business and yes, it gets messy. The team do have plenty of projects on the go and when one is being painted at another unit down the road, they get on with the next project. Some projects, like the one below, take several years to complete.

Not an E-type like I thought it was!

Some projects, such as a dashboard only Eddie and Robin can get right. It took three attempts to achieve this mould which has been used several times to provide the client with new dashboards.

Eddie with a difficult mould

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, so where does the pot noodle engineering come into it? Rather than paying for expensive tins and bottles, the team uses old plastic containers. Could be yoghurt cartons, or pot noodle pots – anything to hold the fibre glass resin. The pot will be thrown away anyway so why not use something that has already been used. That’s good recycling sense!

Dynamic is a good word to use for Eddie. Dynamic by name (business) and dynamic by nature. I was certainly overwhelmed with the enthusiasm both Eddie and Robin have for what they do. My visit was a whirlwind of discovery looking at the variety of projects Dynamic Mouldings are working on – from ambulance ramps, birthing pools, wind mills, lorry panels, old cars to modern futuristic motorbikes. Made my workday look rather dull!

If there was ever a moral to noted this has to be the pick of one of the best. No matter what life throws at you, a double stroke in this case,  just get back up and do what you enjoy doing. If you can’t do that, then find something else to enjoy. Just don’t let life get you down!

As an end note, it was a nice ride through via some of my favourite roads. Coming back via Castle Combe was different though so a new bit of the country explored too!

Total mileage around 78. Plenty of places to stop en-route for tea/coffee/cake.

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The Long Good Easter Monday – Top Gear perhaps!

What a cracking day! Sunny! Warm! Dry! Great roads and some great mates too.

With new Gentlemen Biker Chris, we headed to Bath via Tetbury and Junction 18 of the M4. Rather than heading down the A46 to Bath, I took the team up past Lansdown Road which is much more scenic, dropping into Bath and parking in Milsom Street. The chosen route was picked for its variety of bends and long straight stretches which are always a joy to do. There are some limits in place of 40mph and 30mph through villages but these don’t detract from the ride in any way whatsoever!

Bath is of course one of the most famous cities in the UK. With its Roman Baths, Royal Crescent, Circus and a bloody awful one-way system, it is a popular tourist destination. You do need to pick the time of your visit carefully as it is normally very busy with tourists and day-trippers. Coming in off the A46 and onto London Road, you can expect to queue all the way. Parking is notoriously expensive – my suggestion is to pick one of the Park & Ride areas as the buses leave every 15 minutes and drop you off very centrally. Bath also has a lot of good eating places so take your pick from Chinese, Thai, Italian and Jamie’s. There are plenty of alleyways to wander aimlessly down too.

We headed to a coffee shop, Cafe Nero, of course, and then walked down to the Abbey. Normally, Bath is absolutely heaving with tourists. But not so today. Must have heard us coming – well, certainly Chris on his Harley!

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Three Gentlemen Bikers Chris Webb, Richard, and yours truly! – perhaps we could start a campaign and get that Top Gear gig that’s been freed up?

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Richard Williams and Jason discussing bikes!

Once we negotiated the notorious one-way system that Bath has to offer, we followed the A4 towards Chippenham, onto Calne, Avebury, Wootoon Bassett, and then back to Cricklade. This road is also a good road to take home; if we wanted to, we could have stopped off for more coffee on the way, but given our average ages, best we didn’t!

Great ride with some great friends. Looking forward to the next one which will be tough to beat!

Total trip around 90 miles. Including a couple of stops, it took 3 hours all told. View the route on RAC route planner here: http://www.rac.co.uk/route-planner/l/jvqT

Next ride to be organised; dates pending family commitments!

Honey Knob Hill – you gotta believe it!

Back in the UK and back on KES. Now trying to find alternatives to using the M4 to get to and from Bath.

This morning, headed up to Junction 18 via Tetbury which is a nice run and one I’ve done before. Lots of long sweeping bends with some great scenery too. Yesterday I did use the B4040 to get to Junction 17 but this is getting tedious now. The good news of the day is that KES is running at around 52mpg which ain’t at all bad for a 26 year old 1000cc motorcycle!

Going home can be challenging though as getting out of Bath is often a nightmare. Following routes to Chippenham is a good bet but having to go via Lansdown Road or London Road. What a choice! Though once out of Bath, the roads do get faster.

If we can avoid Chippenham bypass by taking smaller back roads, we will do. Let’s see what happens this evening!

Took the A420 to Chippenham in the end, turning left immediately past the Foley Farmhouse towards Allington. Followed our noses all the way out onto the A350 which got us back to J17 of the M4.

Very pleasant burble through some country lanes – I noticed a sign for a village called Tiddleywink – who’d of thought it! On the map, I’m now curious as to what Honey Knob Hill is all about! Whoever thought of these names – what a great game that must have been one Sunday afternoon in the pub!

Ok, so avoided the M4, but got caught in an incident south of Corston; the queue was backed up to beneath the railway bridge so turned around and came home via Hullavington and Foxely which brought me back into Malmesbury. Just hope no-one was seriously hurt.

Then it was a pleasant journey home along the B4040.

To Bath via Tetbury, and home via Chippenham – just KES and me

Great morning for a ride – just KES and me this time; slightly misty, dry, and cool. Early start at around 6.15am to get petrol and head on out to Bath before rush hour really gets going.

Anyway, up the A419 to Cirencester; KES was a bit lively around the 70mph mark so had to fight hard to keep the speed legal. Off towards Tesco for petrol. Then headed out on the A429 to Tetbury making sure not to turn left at the A429 to Malmesbury junction (it is sign posted left and straight on to M4 and Bristol); keep straight ahead to Tetbury on the A435. There are some great swooping bends along this stretch road, but watch out for the numerous farm and side turnings as they can come up on you quite unexpectedly.

Once in Tetbury, KES burbled through at a nice steady pace following signs for the M4 which is easily and obviously marked. This road heads out to Westonbirt Arboretum which is a great for looking at trees, and the occasional concert – we saw Scouting For Girls there a couple of years ago where I found out that “Posh girls go like the clappers”!

Tetbury is a quaint Cotswold market town; full of the typical types of shops to be found at such a country town. Many of the buildings are made from traditional Cotswold stone and I think it will be a place to visit for a cuppa tea one Sunday afternoon, especially in Summer when it is warmer.

Leaving Tetbury, on the A433 (which is also the Bath Road by strange coincidence) you will eventually come to a ‘T’ junction. Taking a left turn, and watching the dip for hidden vehicles, follow the signs to the M4.

At the M4 roundabout I sat in the left lane as I was going straight over to Bath. On the other side is a dual carriageway so be wary of other vehicles turning off with you.

Onto the A46, this is the last 10 miles into Bath. No sense in rushing, sit behind the car in front and zip along at a steady 50mph or so. Down the hill, stick to the left lane (be aware of the speed camera as you drop down this hill – sometimes there is also a Police speed check here too), and at the roundabout I turned left along London Road to the centre of Bath.

Now, this road at weekends and rush hours can be congested. So, do it early. Or come in via Lansdown road, which back on the A46, make a right turn at the only roundabout between the M4 and Bath; then turn left and follow your nose.

Meanwhile, back in Bath, I headed for the city centre, bus station and railway station. There are plenty of spaces in the city centre to park your bike (or car if you are in one, but it is expensive).

Bath is a great place to visit and look around; there is a lot of history here what with the Roman Baths and the Abbey to spend some time at. There is also a fine selection of eateries for all budgets. Bath can be busy with tourists at most times of the year so be patient and make sure you speak slowly and loudly to them!

Heading home, I followed the signs to Chippenham which took me along the A4 through Box.

At Chippenham it is a matter of following signs now for the M4 and Cirencester; then for me, once on the outskirts of Malmesbury, I take the B4040 back to Cricklade.

The first part of the ride I enjoyed most; getting round Chippenham I don’t find that inspiring but it is a still a reasonable journey home which also has the added advantage of avoiding the M4. Bath was easy to get round, but as with Cheltenham, the one way system can catch you out – but never mind, if you go wrong you do get to see more of this rather ancient and pleasant city!

For the route planner – I entered, Cirencester, Tetbury, Bath, Chippenham, Malmesbury, Cricklade. Total journey of approx 82 miles. Time to do – as long as you like!

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