Monday, 15 October 2018

Life with Myasthenia

OK so if you've read my last post, can I just point out that contracting Myasthenia Gravis (MG) was not one of my 60 by 60!

This blog started as a way of promoting my efforts at XC Motorcycle Rally Racing but has obviously changed with last month's news. And if you haven't read it already you can do so here: 

So it's now morphed into my life with MG and how if at all possible I can keep biking, let alone racing!

But first what news on the MG front?

Well dear readers you will recall that I had just been admitted to MK Hospital for treatment, this was in line with the recommendations of the British Association of Neurologists for those with acute bulbar symptoms (the bulbar muscles include the mouth, throat, voice box, tongue and neck) and due to the risk when medication first starts of going into complete respiratory failure (basically the MG affects the chest muscles, making it impossible to breath without mechanical ventilation) yeah heavy stuff!

Just to bring home the point, I was transferred that first night to the chest ward, where I learnt there was another patient with MG who had just spent six days in the ITU due to just such a myasthenic crisis (as it's known). Strange to think that for such a rare condition we both ended up there together at the same time.

The good news was that I didn't have any such problems and reacted well to the medications. Although I still have the acute fatigue, the eye has been fine and my speech and swallowing have returned to near normal on most days. I got my neuro appointment that had originally been scheduled for October 29th on my first full day in hospital and they in turn referred me to the John Radcliffe Hospital at Oxford, a National Centre of Excellence for MG, so all good. Even better news was that after my CT Scan I was allowed home after only five days of incarceration.

After a couple more days at home I was able to return to work, again relying on a colleague for lifts, although this had the disadvantage of having to work a full day despite being signed off for a phased return to work over the month.

Well that all changed the next day when I was offered a cancellation at Oxford for the day after that, only one week after leaving hospital!

So as I write I've had an EMG test where electrical pulses are sent through your muscles to look for typical signs of MG (there were). Later that day I got to see Dr Leite the consultant neurologist, first step was my blood tests, which can (but not always) be the definitive diagnosis of MG. She explained to me that an antibody count of more than five is considered a positive result.... My count was five hundred and forty, I'd say that's definitive!!!

So that's it, Myasthenia Gravis it most certainly is! Funnily enough this was quite a relief as at least you know exactly where you stand. Worst case scenario I guess would have been a negative test (this happens in about 15% of cases) and there still being doubt.

So following that appointment my meds have been revised slightly, although still taking 19 or 20 separate pills each day and still on a high dose of steroids (70mg of Prednisalone). I'm being referred to the surgical team at Oxford for consideration to have my Thymus gland removed (which can improve the condition in some cases) and have been asked to participate in a research study into MG. 

But the best news was being told I can drive again on the basis that I have never had double vision (a common symptom of MG) and the ptosis (drooping) of my eyelid seems almost completely controlled by the meds. So as long as I manage my fatigue, basically by keeping my driving to short stints with frequent rests I'm good to go. I have now submitted my notification to the DVLA and i'm optimistic as they will rely on Dr Leite's report and she was insistent it be recorded clearly in my notes that she considers me fit to drive.

Since then living with the myasthenia is definitely a mixed bag. I could describe a typical day but to be honest there is no such thing. A good day is when I wake up feeling normal and then start to gradually fatigue through the day, this relates very much to the particular medication I take to improve neuromuscular function, Mestinon (Pyridostigmine), it last about four hours and I can definitely feel it wearing off. Equally It starts to act again in as little as 20 minutes, a clearly noticeable effect.

At first after starting the meds in hospital, all of my ocular and bulbar symptoms disappeared, generalised fatigue being all that remained. This gave me hope that I could completely control these symptoms with medication but this is not quite the case. Since then I have learnt there are days when any or all of the above can return without warning. The ptosis of my eyelid has only come back fully once but I often get a "flickering" sensation in my left eyelid that can be a bit disconcerting, sometimes my close vision becomes blurred so working at the computer is a strain but this is quite infrequent so far.

The bulbar muscles that control speech, swallowing etc are also occasionally affected and on one day in particular I had the "full set" (see below). More often I'll experience just one or two, often a tightening of the throat or tingling/numbness of the lips. On other occasions it will be a difficulty in chewing and swallowing or choking (which is quite scary) and regurgitating food up my nose (which is especially nasty) and other times a particularly intense weakness of the neck muscles. Thankfully i've only had slight speech difficulties on one occasion.

As a result of my ongoing fatigue I have yet to return to motorcycling full time but small steps as they say and recently I had good reason to try pushing my boundaries...

Obviously a fair few of my 60 by 60 list are based around motorbikes and so may need some revision but the most pressing was the fact I had booked to go on the Ride To The Wall (RTTW), the annual act of remembrance for bikers with eleven separate ride-ins to the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum near Burton on Trent. So given my good news on the Wednesday I had to consider if I could make the ride on the Saturday. I decided compromise was the order of the day and Grainne lent me "Bertie" her BMW G310R on the basis it was much lighter, smaller and therefore easier to manage than my KTM 1090 Adventure R.

A good job too as the weather turned out to be abysmal. First task was getting to my allotted start point at Northampton Services on the M1. Only 30 minutes from home, I duly set off into the monsoon and had a decent rest stop at the village of Roade on the A508 as I stopped after 20 minutes for fuel and lunch supplies, as well as the near compulsory pee stop, an effect I understand of taking the high dose of steroids.

Another short and truly dreadful hop, one junction up the M1 from J15 to J15A in truly appalling spray followed before taking shelter with the wall to wall bikers in the services. A coffee and pee later and we set off.

Once again the rain and spray was really bad and maintaining position in the convoy was tricky at times. I got as far as Corley Services on the M6 before my bladder called a halt so had to peel off of the group for a stop. After a suitable rest I exited the services and by now my group had long gone so I continued onwards trying desperately to remember the way to the NMA! I knew I had to use the M6 Toll (free to bikes on the way to the Wall) and luckily as I rode up it another ride joined the motorway from my left, so I just tucked in about a dozen bikes from the front. Appropriately I seemed to have found a slot in among a group from  the  BMW Club.

I continued through the driving rain to the Arboretum and we were marshaled round to our parking spot. It was just after 10.30 as we were obviously among the first to arrive. Strangely I then spotted my original group from Northampton arriving after us, so not sure how I managed that? The service of remembrance takes place at 2:15 so I had plenty of time to look round, seeking out memorials with a personal connection and bumping into several fellow blood bikers. It seems that wearing your blood bike jacket is a done thing, something I was unaware of.

The service was incredibly moving and a very humbling experience. And as an added bonus the rain had stopped.

The Ride to the Wall is the major contributor to the upkeep of the NMA with £780,000 having been donated over the previous ten years. It was an added bonus to know I had made a contribution to this amazing place, the donation for this year will be handed over a next year's Armed Forces Day on 29th June 2019.

My first visit over but I suspect not my last, I took a long careful ride back via back roads to Tamworth, then home on the A5. A much drier affair than the ride up although I was very grateful for my Keiss heated jacket. I was conscious that I should incorporate some rests stops but was also keen to get back before dark and before it got too cold. So I went for slow and steady all the way back.

So how did the myasthenia affect me? I did have a bit of trouble with swallowing and choking during the day and had to take frequent rests but thankfully the NMA has plenty of memorial benches that I was able to take advantage of.

As a result of my effort Sunday was spent largely in bed with no really bad after effects other that my fatigue levels were somewhat elevated. 

Monday was a different matter entirely, it was a surprise to have all my original symptoms return;  ptosis of the eyelid, swallowing and speaking difficulties, the first time since starting medication. Again a day in bed was required and work was impossible although by Tuesday I was back to my (new) normal self.

So that's two off the list. You'll see that the list is now colour coded; red for those still to be done and/or arranged, amber for those booked, paid for or scheduled and green for those completed.

And if you can't see the list, it's because you're viewing the mobile version of the blog; scroll to the bottom, click on "view web version" and the list will miraculously appear to the right.
And I had thought of another one: 

No 48: Create my own Gin at a Gin Workshop.

Grainne and I have had this idea for a while, so only proper it goes on the list and that way we'll actually get round to doing it (hopefully).

Then on Friday another perfect opportunity for the list presented itself, Grainne saw a facebook post from friend offering two tickets to see Michael McIntyre at the O2 Arena "tomorrow". All well and good.... until later that day she spotted it had been posted on the Thursday so the gig was that night!

Definitely not the thing to do with myasthenia, rush home from work, quick change and jump in a cab to the station. Grainne suggested we drive but I'd heard on the radio the M1 was blocked by an accident at Hemel Hempstead so not an option. We got on a train (thankfully a direct, fast train) with only a couple of minutes to spare and after Euston had the delight of the tube on Friday evening's rush hour.

Then join the hordes at the O2, meet up with Heidi and her son Lewis grab some extortionately priced food and extortionately priced drinks then settle down for a truly hilarious evening

Then it was repeat the journey home, this time with the added buggeration of a stopping train all the way to Milton Keynes not getting home until 01:30 none of which helped by the fact I had my last Mestinon around 6.00pm and forgot to take more with me. Luckily I seemed to get through the evening OK and after a decent lie in on the Saturday seemed to have survived!

So No. 49 See Michael McIntyre live at the O2 duly added and immediately ticked off the list.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Myasthenia Gravis

I’m betting you’ve never heard of it? Which is not surprising as it is officially a “rare disease”, affecting only 15 people in 100,000 in the UK every year.

Funnily enough I first heard about it back in the 1980s even though I didn’t know much about it but not so funny is the fact that I contracted it myself a few weeks ago.

Yes shit happens!

Myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune condition. The antibodies your body produces that normally fight infections end up attacking the communications system between your brain and your muscle movements. This results in muscle weakness, muscle fatigue and generally making you feel weak. 

It predominantly affects the face and neck causing issues with the eyes, chewing and swallowing and speech, causing slurring and making it difficult to understand the sufferer, all of which I currently have. There is no cure although it can be largely controlled with medication in most people and there are a number of different treatments available.

So why I am going public? Well it’s not for sympathy or because I’m feeling sorry for myself but certainly in the short term if you bump into me or call me you may well wonder if I’ve just knocked back a couple of bottles of Gin! Yes, my speech can get that bad, even Grainne struggles to understand me at times and she’s used to my inane ramblings.

And to be honest I have nothing to hide, I’ll end up telling most of you in person at some time and this saves me a whole lot of (potentially slurred) explanation 

Often the first signs of myasthenia are with the eyes, these include droopy eyelids (known as ptosis) which was the first sign in me although it has only affected one eye. I have problems eating and as mentioned with my speech. I’m also suffering weakness of the neck muscles and general fatigue. I start off OK in the morning but progressively tire throughout the day as the other symptoms worsen too.

Having noticed the first symptoms just over three weeks ago, I went to my GP who first checked I wasn’t having a stroke, which of course I wasn’t but was then unable to explain my symptoms and put it down to a viral infection. 

Four days later I was feeling so unwell I went to the Urgent Care Centre at Milton Keynes Hospital. After doing the usual checks for a stroke again, the GP I saw there was equally mystified and called in a colleague. She also had no idea so a call was made to the main hospital. The first Doctor spoke to a ITU consultant who told them to send me straight over to him where he was currently working at the AECU (Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit).

A load of tests followed, including an ECG and loads of blood being taken and the Consultant then tried a test by putting ice on my eye, which in 15 minutes had reversed the ptosis (sadly only temporarily) so he pronounced that he thought it was Myasthenia (cue getting the phone out and googling it)! 

I then got sent for a Chest X Ray as there is an even rarer form of Myasthenia, Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome that can be caused by Lung Cancer but thankfully my X Ray came up clear.

I was told in no uncertain terms I could not drive and sent home to await an appointment with the Neurology Consultant. The ITU Consultant spoke with him the next day and he too was “99% certain it was Myasthenia Gravis”. The blood test will hopefully give a definitive diagnosis but so far it seemed pretty certain.

A CT scan of the Thymus Gland in my chest was also booked as this is suspected to be the possible source of the antibodies and can become enlarged or have benign tumours in Myasthenia and may have to be removed.

So what followed was two weeks of buggeration, trying to get to work in Northampton, relying on Grainne and a colleague for lifts and working at home. I also got my neurology appointment but not until the 29th October…. Another six weeks without being able to drive or ride my bikes!!! 

Unfortunately, this also coincided with a daily worsening of my symptoms.

So yesterday we emailed the ITU Consultant I first saw to ask if the blood test results were back and express my concerns about my symptoms. He phoned us almost immediately and told me to get back to the hospital and pack an overnight bag…. Oh heck!

So upshot is I got to see the Neuro Consultant yesterday, although the blood tests are still not back (this is normal it seems) he diagnosed Myasthenia Gravis on the basis of my “text book symptoms”. So I have started my drug regime already but this means having to stay in hospital for seven days to be monitored as they adjust the dosage to find the right one for me. This is due to the risk of my symptoms suddenly worsening before getting better.

So here I am in Milton Keynes Hospital, not actually feeling ill, as Myasthenia symptoms do improve with rest and I’m getting plenty of that and already bored (the Neuro Consultant did warn me), which has trigged my decision to put pen to paper (OK, I know it’s really just rearranging some electrons or something). 

So in summary the bad news: 

As I’ve said there is no cure and although some people do recover fully or go into remission this is very rare.

In the worst cases it can affect the chest muscles and impact on breathing causing respiratory crisis and requiring hospitalisation and going on a ventilator (yikes)! Thankfully that is also extremely rare.

The drugs do of course have side effects, immunosuppressants do increase your risk getting other infections for instance. That’s without the stomach cramps, muscle twitching, diarrhoea, feeling sick, weight gain and mood swings that can potentially result.

It’s a notifiable condition to the DVLA so potentially you may have to surrender your driving licence. Definitely not good news to a petrol head like me! Hopefully this won’t be the case as my eyes have not been greatly affected, I haven’t had double vision for instance which is a common symptom.

The good news:

As I’ve said it is controllable with drugs and this is true for 90% of people with MG

I get Free prescriptions! (I am learning to accept any silver lining however small)

I may even qualify for a blue parking badge (as long as I can drive)!

Well you’ve got to look on the bright side!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Sixty by Sixty part 2

NB: If you're reading this on your phone or tablet and therefore using the mobile version, you won't be able to see my Sixty by Sixty list. Just scroll down and click on "View Web Version" and the list will magically appear on the right hand side

OK it's started!

Grainne suggested that I should add spending a day at a spa with her to the list. Just us, no kids, no animals a bit of "us time". I wasn't sure at first as it seemed a bit ordinary but on the basis that we'd never done it before I agreed it should go on the list.

Which was a good thing as she had already booked it! So to celebrate the 4th anniversary of our first date we went off to the Y Spa at Wyboston Lakes, a superior suite booked in the Waterfront Hotel, lunch, dinner and breakfast included, four hours in the spa with thermal pool, sauna, steam room, salty steam room (our favourite) and a 50 minute hot stones massage as well! All very relaxing. Shame that dinner service that evening was abysmally slow and food so over cooked that Grainne's starter had to be sent back and eventually refused as the supposedly grilled asparagus had clearly been boiled and for far too 

Y Spa

I've also added a few others items since starting, so the list is now up to 47 items, glass blowing has been added after a suggestion (thanks Jane), although I did reject Andy's idea of juggling whilst riding a unicycle to the North Pole!

Going to the Opera in Verona was another long held ambition that I forgot when first compiling the list. Although we have been to Tuscany this year and last, so were within driving distance of Verona, both times we were there in May and the Opera doesn't start until June.

I also decided that as Learning to Snowboard was on the list, I really ought to actually go snowboarding. So a snowboarding holiday was added to the list and booked for Bormio in the Italian Alps next March.

This is likely to be my snowboarding technique!

I've always wanted to go up the Shard since it was built but again completely forgot that fact when compiling the list, I was reminded when I got an email offer from "Bookatable by Michelin" for a fixed price lunch at Aqua on the 31st Floor, so another idea was added to the list.

The Shard

I've also added 'ride the UK leg of the Trans Euro Trail' which is a little bit of a cheat as I have ridden many of the individual non-tarmac sections over the years. I'm still deciding whether to ride it all in the right order, which at 2923 km (1816 miles) potentially takes 14 days (Although that could be broken down into stages) or just to pick off all the non-tarmac bits still remaining. Either way it's on the list.

Still looking for ideas!

Thursday, 23 August 2018

First Impressions

Having picked up my new KTM 1090 Advernture on the 10th of April I have steadily been clocking up the miles, including a nice little trip to the Peak District last Saturday.

So first impressions, now that I’ve actually got my hands on one of my own? The bike is every bit as good as I remember from my two demos although typically with actual ownership you always start to see the odd niggles.

So what’s not to like? The ignition switch for a start, it’s a bit buried into the fairing mount and very close to the top yoke and control cables, so much so that the key fob and my extra key for the disc lock often get trapped by the cables. Fairly petty I know but a niggle all the same.

The indicator switch has an annoyingly short throw (only a couple of millimetres) so you are never quite sure if they have switched on, so a glance down to see the indicator light on the dash is always necessary. However the self cancelling function is pretty neat, if a little too short when exiting motorways, you have to remember not to indicate until just past the 200 yard sign otherwise you have to turn the indicator on a second time as it cancels after 200m. Of course this is not unique to KTM as my old BMW GSs were just the same

As I started to use it on my daily commute it became clear that buffeting from the front screen that I had only really noticed on the non R version (with a taller screen) was also evident on the R. To be honest I shouldn’t be surprised as all the “adventure style” bikes I have owned have suffered from this. The BMW R1200GS, Triumph Tiger 1050, BMW F800GS. KTM 990 Adventure and to a lesser degree my Honda CB500X all had this annoying trait. My 690 Enduro also had this problem due to the small screen on the Lynx fairing, I solved this my removing it altogether as the fairing looked OK without it. Yes you get more wind but the airflow is smooth so causes little buffeting as a result.

A bit of research seemed to indicate that it wasn’t just the screen but the standard mirrors were also contributors in this. So I swapped them out for a pair of the Vicma folding mirrors that I had used on my 690, instant improvement! Still not perfect but a lot better. I also discovered the buffeting was worse wearing my BMW GS Carbon Helmet than when wearing my Schuberth E1. The mirrors still give a lovely clear view and have the advantage of folding out of the way when trail riding (although to be honest I rarely bother).

I have heard complaints about the seat but on my trip to the Peaks, it was a good hour and a half in the saddle before I felt any discomfort, so not too bad. I spent ten hours on the bike over the course of the day and it never got too bad, not something I could say about my old 690 when I did a similar trip earlier this year!

Storage space under the seat is sadly lacking due in part to the emission canister placed awkwardly in the logical space, although I can just about squeeze my disc lock in there. It does seem strange that they supply you with a toolkit but there’s nowhere to put it?

On the subject of luggage capacity, this will be sorted shortly with the arrival of Touratech pannier frames, these will mount the Touratech Zega Pro panniers I got with my 690 and was able to keep when I part exchanged it. The standard set up is a 45 litre pannier on the left and a 31 litre on the right to accommodate the large, high level silencer. I however have a pair of equal sized 38 litre panniers. 

A bit of research and measuring and I discovered that my 38 litre panniers are 40mm wider than a 31 litre but 40mm narrower than the 45 litre. So this will make the bike the same width as the standard set up, just offset 40mm to the right. No great handicap as the alternative of buying the “correct” size panniers would cost an extra £550.

I have also decided to get the matching Touratech top box, I did consider getting the appropriate rack to fit my metal mule top box but after offering it up to the bike, it just doesn’t look right. It was too tall and the anodised dark grey colour looked at odds with the plain aluminium of the panniers. 
Although KTM do play a bit of a fast one, as well as the price of the top box itself and the corresponding tubular rack, you also have to change the standard rack for one with holes in the right place to bolt the tubular rack too, for a whopping £107! That’s a lot of money for four holes! And no I can’t just get the drill out as the rack is very slightly larger to accommodate this.

This will all coincide with the first service, which was due at 600 miles but I was told by the dealer they’d rather see the bike with an extra 200 miles on the clock than bring it in with 200 miles less. So by my calculation it’ll be bang on 800 miles when it goes in on Saturday!

But what else about the bike? Well all my impressions from my two extended demo riides are holding firm, it’s nicely balanced, smooth, powerful (even when limited to 7000 revs). Off tarmac it handles with a lightness that a bike this size really shouldn’t possess but does anyway. The suspension is probably the best I’ve tried on a KTM so far and compared to my old 990 it is streets ahead.

Another advantage is the fuel consumption, now I wasn’t expecting much as it is after all a 1050cc V Twin with 125 bhp. My old 990 (999cc and 116bhp) would barely manage 40 mpg resulting in a maximum fuel range from it’s 20 litre tank of 150 miles. The 1090 on the other hand is averaging over 50mpg and with a 22 litre tank can easily go to 230 miles… result!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Sixty by Sixty

A while back my Sister, Gina on her blog Fan my Flame decided to do Sixty things by Sixty, not a bucket list as such (because I guess she had no intention of kicking the bucket at sixty)! But a list of different things she wanted to do, places she wanted to visit and general experiences that she had always wanted to do. The idea being to complete them before the end of her sixtieth year.

So with my 58th Birthday approaching in October, I thought why not do the same. But what to include in my own sixty by sixty? A few Ideas came from Gina’s list and there were a number of things I already had in mind to do but how to come up with a full sixty (and possibly a few in reserve in case some became impossible to achieve, either through cost, unavailability or zombie apocalypse… it pays to plan for all eventualities).

A search through the numerous online bucket lists made me realise that the general public must be an unimaginative lot if they hadn’t done most of the things already:

Most of the UK ones seem to be about visiting places and the same places crop up again and again:

Visit the Lake District… yep been there, done that (dozens of times in fact)

Visit Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, The changing of the Guard, Tower Bridge etc. Yep done all them!

And of course “Visit the Tower of London”. Sorry but I can beat that, I have actually been locked in overnight after a serious drinking session in the Yeoman Warders Bar and spent the night in the Curator of the Crown Jewels apartment on the top floor of the White Tower… OK it did help that my friend just happened to be the Curators  son!

Out of the Visit England’s list of the 101 places to visit and do before you go abroad I had done well over half e.g.

  • Eat a Cornish Pasty in Cornwall (Several times including this year)
  • Eat a full English Breakfast (Are there really people in Britain who have never done this)?
  • Drink Gin in a Gin Distillery (Bombay Sapphire on the way to the last Cornish Pasty session)
  • Taste Grasmere Gingerbread (Yes, in Grasmere of course)
  • Punt on the Cam (only last month, although I had first done it 30 years ago and yes I’ve done Oxford too).
  • Visit Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, Lincoln Cathedral, Bletchley Park, York Minster; sorry but  all ticked off already!

OK there were a couple of things I saw that I did want to include such as ride the Settle – Carlisle line on a Steam Train, something I’ve fancied doing for years and visit St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, another place I’ve never managed to get to.

And of course many of the Adventurous/Extreme/Crazy stuff, I’d already done:
Bungy Jump
Rock Climbing
Abseil off something really big (Malham Cove in my case, 300 feet)
Go Caving
Stand on top of Snowdon/Ben Nevis/Scafell Pike
Ride a Motorbike (really?)

So some careful research is required and suggestions will be gratefully received….

The list so far is on the right… watch this space.

Friday, 13 July 2018

What? Another product review!

So having decided the 690 is great fun, frugal and for a single amazingly quick, it unfortunately doesn’t tick several other boxes: As a commuter it’s a bit frenetic as it doesn’t really like sitting at a constant throttle setting being happiest when accelerating or braking but not in between, this makes it quite stressful to ride in heavy traffic being much better suited to the open road or trails. The seat is not the comfiest around but this is not surprising for an off road oriented bike and despite the fact it is supplied from new with pillion foot pegs, it simply doesn’t have the room to carry a passenger.

So after nine months of ownership I have decided I needed to look for something a bit more suitable, I did inquire as to the prices of a BMW R1200GS Adventure but after discovering the model that would most suit my needs, An Adventure Rally TE, even after a hefty discount would still set me back over £17,500!!!

So it was suggested that a KTM 1090 Adventure might be a suitable candidate and as KTM currently have an offer on that reduces the retail price by £2000 to a much more reasonable £9,999 (or £10,899 for the Adventure R) so a chat with the KTM Centre at Hemel Hempstead was in order.

It just so happened that I was running another Rallymoto Road Book Caper from the KTM Centre on the 23rd June, so a deal was done and I had a 1090 Adventure R for the day. We had eight riders turn up for the event and whilst sorting them out we also fitted the 1090 with a “Give it a Go” Manual road book holder. I then rode the event as the sweeper, ensuring everyone got back safe and sound (they did)!

Well where do I start? The 1090 is leaps and bounds ahead of the old 990 I used to own despite being a similar configuration; although similar in concept the execution is so much better. My 990 always felt a bit raw, more like a genuine race machine (albeit a damn big one) After all it did share a large number of parts with the 950 Rally campaigned by KTM in the Dakar Rally. 

Unfortunately this also meant it was a bit fragile and needed frequent, expensive servicing. The 1090 on the other hand feels refined and very smooth, yet can still deliver that visceral feeling when you twist the throttle open. The way it builds speed is fantastic and it handles on the road almost like a sports bike despite the 21”/18” wheel combo (something it does share with the 990) however the WP Suspension feels far more sophisticated and soaks up bumps with aplomb. 

I spent most of the time in “Street” mode on the traction control and this was my favourite although “Sport” mode was fun if a little too much at times. The bike is shod with Continental TKC80 tyres, to be honest not my favourite on the road but they seem to suit the 1090 really well, so no problems there.

So what’s it like on the dirt? Composed, capable and totally in control I was pleased to discover. The riding position seems spot on and in the bone dry conditions the tyres had no issues at all.  

The 990 always felt like it needed to go fast to handle well off tarmac and that had the potential to go horribly wrong. The 1090 on the other hand can be trickled along easily at walking pace, the gearing feeling much more suitable. It is only 2kg lighter than the old bike but feels much lighter, it carries its weight very well, never feeling too top heavy. I did try the “Off Road” mode on the traction control that reduces power from 125 bhp to 100 bhp but actually spent most of the time in Street which didn’t seem to be an issue at all.

Brakes are a different thing altogether, where the 990s twin sliding callipers were at best adequate, the 1090s radially mounted Brembos are superb, hauling the bike down from speed with no dramas and yet having loads of feel and precise control on the dirt, although like most twin disc set ups on an “off road” bike you need to treat them with respect.

So the downsides? The bike does produce a considerable amount of heat, concentrated through the seat due to the position of the rear cylinder, so no different to the 990 in that respect. On the 990 the catalytic converters were positioned in the silencers under the seat, where they also contributed to the “heated seat effect” but at least they were easily removed when fitting aftermarket pipes (I had Akrapovics on mine). But on the 1090 the cat is positioned within the header pipe adjacent to your right foot and that chucks out considerable heat too. However it is less easily dealt with as a full exhaust system without a cat' (for race use only of course) will set you back over £800. However it should be noted I was riding on one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures nudging 30 degrees, certainly not typical of a UK Summer. the warm bum effect will be welcome in the Winter!

So all in all I was very impressed with the 1090 Adventure R but as this would be my “Road Bike” should I not consider the 1090 Adventure (No R). The difference? The “standard” model has 19”/17” cast alloy wheels with road tyres as opposed to the Rs 21”/18” wire spoked wheels with trail tyres, the suspension is non-adjustable and it has a taller windscreen and that’s about it. It also comes in a black/orange colour scheme as opposed to the Rs mainly white bodywork.

So there was only one thing to do….

A week and a half later I was back at the KTM Centre for back to back test rides of the two variants. I took the plain Adventure out first and to be honest it felt a bit lacklustre, the suspension certainly wasn’t as sharp and it felt a bit imprecise by comparison despite the smaller, wider wheels shod with Continental Trail Attack tyres (despite the name essentially a road tyre). The slightly lower front end also put more weight on my wrists that I found uncomfortable. My bum and right foot got just as hot (it was another scorching day) and I couldn’t find a position of the adjustable tall screen that didn’t cause (admittedly mild) buffeting of my helmet.

My route took in Motorways, dual carriageways, sweeping A roads and twisty back roads, I also threw in a mild unsurfaced trail to see how it performed; it was OK but certainly not as confidence inspiring as the R.

So to be certain I took it back, swapped it for the R and repeated the route. Absolutely no contest! So after another fun day the deal was done and a brand new 1090 Adventure R is currently sitting in the KTM Centre with my name on it!

Friday, 22 June 2018

Back to Hemel Hempstead

Since the Wales 500 I’ve been busy with the preparation for another of the Rallymoto Clubs “Road Book Capers” our social training events that we try to run every month.

For June we are returning to the KTM Centre in Hemel Hempstead, the scene of the first Caper I organised in November last year. That was a great success despite not all riders being able to complete the route and being very cold! However a lot of lessons were learnt and incorporated into future events.

Unlike the November caper that was a large single loop, I now plan my road book routes in a cloverleaf pattern, with three loops returning back to the start each time. This makes keeping tabs on the riders much easier although does require a bit of thinking over the route planning.

Last Saturday I rode the whole route and had to make only a few changes so all looking good for tomorrow.

One big issue is that it is impossible to get to the KTM Centre without using the Plough Roundabout, or as it’s better known the “Magic Roundabout”. This presents a real challenge to the road book author, not to mention a navigational challenge for the riders! Whilst it is possible to leave the KTM Centre by two different routes that avoid the roundabout, as these use one way streets or turn out onto a dual carriageway with no access from the opposite lane, they can’t be used as a route in. So my problem was to try and make the rider’s passage of the Magic Roundabout as painless as possible, whether I have succeeded remains to be seen.

The KTM Centre are also lending me a KTM 1090 Adventure R demonstrator to ride on Saturday, so it’ll be a good test of the bike.

Watch this space for an update on how the event went.

A new development following the Wales 500 is a spin off from the Rallymoto Club: the “Adventure Cannonball Club” geared towards larger adventure bikes and promoting navigational events on the lines of the Wales 500. This also includes Road Book Caper events for Adventure Bikes.  Burt from Rallymoto has produced a short video to promote the Club.

The first event is in the Cotswolds on the 1st July. Unfortunately I won’t be able to join in the fun as I’ll be attending my Nephew’s wedding on the beach on the Greek Island of Elafonisos… it’s a hard life but someone has to do it!