Apologies for the commercial, but I am going to use this blog to promote a favourite web site and forum: UKBike and UKBike forum. I have added links to both into the sidebar.
UK Bike was, as I understand it, a small back-bedroom operation for a number of years until it was bought out by a media company for whom I used to work. The guy who was put in charge of it went by the name of Road Hoover (for reasons which are too long to explain here), who was a great guy, bike-mad and with a lot of experience of the bike business. He was also a great writer of the language; think of a cross between Mark Williams and Dan Walsh without the weary cynicism. He sent a message out to all staff in the company, asking for reviews, stories, write-ups, pictures - anything to add content to a site which had a lot of potential but was very under-developed. I had not owned a bike for over ten years at the time (given it up due to illness, another long story), but I had plenty to say for myself and so I wrote a few things and sent them off to him.
This got me thinking, and soon I was itching to be back on two wheels. They say that someone who quits smoking is never a non-smoker, only an ex-smoker, and the same is true of bikes. The urge is always there, and ready to resurface as soon as the conditions are right. So one day I just happened to walk into my local dealership, and came out with a Yamaha XT660R, which got me back on the road to two-wheeled heaven.
That got me back into the swing of things, and I started posting more to the site and joined in with the forum. In those days, there was a core of about 15 regular posters and possibly double that of irregulars. Not a lot to keep a forum lively and entertaining, but enough to be interesting and useful.
Unfortunately (and I am guessing a bit here), the site didn't make the profits the company were hoping for, and Road Hoover moved on to other things. The site was looked after for a while by someone calling himself Tom, who posted requests for material into every topic on the forum, which is a bit like the party bore barging into everyone's conversation uninvited, and got a bit of stick from the regulars. He wasn't heard of again. Then the site was given to a girl called Binny, who made all the right noises ("I don't know much about bikes, but I'm here to learn from you guys") but seemed to do very little development of the site and was basically invisible.
The number of regular posters had fallen to two or three. I was one, and I used to log in every day, only to find that there were no new posts to read. So it became every few days, then every week. Adding to the problem of lack of postings was the site's essentially clunky nature - slow and buggy, with a design that seemed to have been done by Stevie Wonder while he was asleep. I decided to leave it for good, and posted one last message entitled "Is that it, then?", saying basically that this was my last post, and unless anyone replied within a couple of days I would not be returning. This brought quite a few people out of the woodwork, and we all agreed that it would be a shame if the forum just died without ceremony. So we all started posting again, a bit feverishly, like whistling in the dark, hoping that everyone else would get the message and the forum would be resurrected.
Recently, the site has been given to yet another person, Rob, who has, it seems, been tasked with bringing the site and the forum back to life. He admits he is not a biker, but he has a good background in IT, so at least he is in a position to fix some of the more annoying 'features' of the site's design. He has shown a willingness to listen to the site's longstanding users, and I wish him well, although putting yet another non-motorcyclist in charge of an enthusiasts' website seems a little short-sighted of the company. You wouldn't give 'UK Dogs.com' to someone who'd never kept pets, would you?
However, I am optimistic about the future of the site and the forum, and if anyone reading this has an interest in bikes (not necessarily from the UK, but that is the site's focus), then I would urge you to visit and have a look. The site contains lots of news and reviews, and there are many adverts for bikes and kit. The forum is a nice place to be, with a mixed membership, from old stagers (cough) to youngsters starting out, male and female, all colours of the rainbow, and all with the standard GSOH. We rarely stick on topic, but some of the posts are good value. None of us are mechanical wizards, but there is usually some sensible advice available on technical issues, based on a collective length of experience. Unlike some bike discussion groups, there is no flaming of newbies - in fact, we are pretty polite and welcoming, and our interests cover everything from passing the bike test, through racing and touring, to everyday things like clothing and equipment, and even a bit of thoughtful biking philosophy. All bikes are represented, from scooters and learner bikes through to race reps and tourers. There is currently nothing from the custom scene, but that would be welcome too. If that's your thing, why not be the first?
Have a look, check out the ads, read the reviews, and put a message on the forum. Registration is free, there is no spam, and you might find a community of like-minded people. See you there - I post as Black Dog. Another long story ...