Friday, 31 August 2012

Cagiva Raptor 650 - machines and their souls

If you read this blog regularly (are there such people?!) you'll maybe remember that this year I started commuting to work in London by motorbike.

Well, after passing my full test (with full marks, I'm proud to say), I decided to get a bike more capable of longer journeys. After enjoying (unexpectedly) my Cagiva Planet so much, I decided to stick with the much undervalued Cagiva bikes.

The Cagiva Raptor 650 is an Italian frame combined with a reliable Suzuki engine.

It's a great bike. Extremely quick (even in comparison to my rather overpowered Planet), and capable of flying off down the road with a gentle tug of the throttle. It's smooth, comfortable and fairly compact and able to navigate heavy traffic (though not as well as the extremely small, agile Planet).

It's great. But it's also really, really boring. Until I rode my two-stroke 125 motorbike I probably wouldn't have believed that a machine can genuinely have character, but two-stroke motorbikes do have character. They have personality in how the rider interacts with the engine: watch a veteran motorcyclist get on a little two-stroke bike and chances are they'll struggle to get to grips with the difference in the engine. But once used to it, there's a guarantee of a smile at the end.

My two-stroke's throaty growl would turn a lot of heads, too, as opposed to the soulless whirring of the 650 v-twin engine. The two-stroke sounded like some kind of animal; the v-twin is a ceiling fan on steroids.

In addition, the Cagiva Planet also has wonderfully classic looks to match its classic engine. The Raptor looks pretty generic in comparison.

On the other hand, high performance two-stroke engines are noisy, smelly, and generally require far more maintenance. I'm hoping the new bike will, ultimately, be cheaper and easier to run.

It doesn't make me miss the grumble of my two-stroke any less. And if you'd asked me back in March whether I could be attached to an internal combustion engine, I'd have said emphatically "no".

Just goes to show.

Anyway, enough waffle, here are some photos of the dull-but-practical new (used - a bargain) bike:

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Alhambra (2)

The Alhambra (1)

The Alhambra in Granada is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It was certainly busy when I visited.

It is impressive. However, it probably would be better to experience the place with little to no people; it was too busy.

Also, I know this is deeply hypocritical of me to say, but I wish people would take fewer photographs. Yes, I took a lot of photographs. However, that is because taking photographs is actually quite an important part of my life, and one of the main reasons I enjoy seeing new places: I like to think (hubristically?) that maybe I can capture a shot of a place that isn't ordinarily seen. However, most people seem to just follow their camera from one shot to the next, pointing it at anything and everything with their eyes rarely wandering away from their camera's screen.

How about, actually looking at the place you've come to visit?

If I had had more time (and it had been possible), I would probably have liked to go around some places twice: once for the camera, and once just for me.

When the photographs you take are no different to those taken by every single other tourist, why not try just putting the camera away and using your eyes?

Anyway, the Alhambra was beautiful.

The town of Granada.

The town hall.

Entrance to the Alhambra.