Saturday, 23 February 2008

Coming soon! Animals on the Loose – A guide to painting animals

Our first book will soon be available. Animals on the Loose (ISBN 978-0955808807) is a step-by-step guide to painting animals in a loose, impressionistic style. Easy to follow projects, illustrated with dynamic images, guide and inspire the reader to creating their own vivid and exciting works of art.

Marilyn Allis, a professional artist working in mixed media, is the author of a previous book on painting people, and has produced a training DVD. Her work can be viewed at her studio at Mill Lane Gallery, Wimborne, and also at galleries throughout Dorset, Wiltshire and Surrey. She has had a number of articles published in Paint magazine, and was also published in the International Artists UK section.

See some of Marilyn's work on her website:

You can view sample pages and purchase Animals on the Loose from our website ( via Paypal. The book is also available from Amazon and all good bookshops.

We've already got a number of other titles in the pipeline, but are keen to hear from artists/authors interesting in getting their work published.



Thursday, 7 February 2008

Triumph Bonneville – 3 months in ...


So, I've been planing to do a report on the Triumph for a little while. First off, I have to say that I still love the bike. I ride it nearly every day, and have done all through the winter (in rain, sleet, high winds, the lot – though not in snow). Mostly I just commute to and from work on it (about 10 mile round trip, more if I take the longer route – which I usually do). At the weekend, weather and time permitting, I take off for a longer ride, and I have done a long motorway trip (nearly 500 miles over a weekend). All in, I've done over 2000 miles in just over 3 months.

So, what's it like? Well, in no particular order:

Owning one of these (a black 2005 Bonneville SE) is brilliant just for the attention it gets. I've had lots of people coming up to me saying, "I've see your bike around from time to time, and I just wanted to say 'nice bike mate'". Sometimes, when waiting at traffic lights, people lean out of their car windows to say something complimentary, and I've also had a couple of people ask how old it is, thinking that it's a restored Meriden model! Basically, people are always checking it out, and everyone thinks it looks fab.

So, day to day? Well, It starts on the button every day, despite how cold it's been in the night, though it always needs full choke to get going. There's no adjustment on it, it's all or nothing. This does mean that the bike's revving pretty fast on cold startup! Once you're moving, though, and after about a half a mile, it's ok to knock off the choke. Regular basic maintenance is fairly straightforward, though a centre stand would make lubing and adjusting the chain less of a hassle. I use a car jack under the frame, on the right side to just lift the rear wheel enough for it to turn freely. Cleaning is a bit of a pain, there's just so much chrome and so many nooks an crannies to keep clean. I tend to take it to the local power wash and give it a bit of a light hose down, especially as the roads here are usually very wet and muddy and salty, and covered in crap!

I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed with the tank range. This becomes especially annoying on a long trip. Usually, I get in the region of 120 miles before going onto reserve. On a long, motorway, 70mph plus run, this drops to 110 to reserve, so you have to plan your petrol (gas) station stops. To fill from empty takes about £12 (about 12 litres), so fuel economy isn't too bad.

Handling has stayed pretty good, as long as you keep an eye on tyre pressures. I seem to be losing about 2-3psi over the course of a fortnight, and you really notice the deterioration in handling that brings with it. I don't know why the tyre pressures drop like that, and no-one else has given me a good explanation, but there you go. I bought a digital pressure meter, and a foot pump and check the tyres every weekend. The front tyre was ok when I bought the bike, and it's getting close to needing replacement now, probably in a couple of months when its 8000 mile service is due. The rear tyre was new at time of purchase, and it's still absolutely fine now. Can't remember what the tyres are (standard Triumph recommendations as per the manual).

I haven't had to adjust the chain yet, but I have lubed it regularly (every hundred miles or so).

I do plan to change the oil soon, even though it's not due yet. I feel that because of the fairly short mileages I do daily, then it wouldn''t hurt to change more frequently than recommended in the manual. The oil filter cost £10, which is reasonable, but the oil was a bit of a shock: 4 litres of fully synthetic - £40! Anyway, the oil should last 5-6000 miles between replacements, but I think I'll try to do it every 2-3000.

I haven't had much trouble with the parts on the bike. One night, though, all the indicators failed, along with the brake light. Changing the fuse when I got home didn't fix the problem, so I checked the indicators looking for spent bulbs. I found that the plastic bulb holder in the rear right indicator had completely disintegrated! The bulb was fine, but all the reflective plastic bits fell out when I took the lens off! £32 for a fiddly, tricky replacement! On the subject of plastic bits, the indicator stalks are really cheap and nasty, it has to be said. I think I'll try to get some replacements.

I did have to replace the front right indicator too, as I dropped the bike one evening. Doing about 5 miles an hour, I just touched the brakes and the bike went over on the right. The only damage was a bent handlebar, scratched brake lever, and broken indicator stalk. I still don't know what happened – it might have been oil or diesel on the road, or a patch of ice, don't know. I haven't replaced the handlebar yet, as it's only slightly bent, and I've got used to it now.

As well as the indicator stalks being pretty nasty cheap plastic, as is the brake light shell, I think Triumph cut some corners on the quality of the chrome work. There are a few rust spots on the wheel rims, on the headlamp shell, on the oil pipe in front of and between the cylinders is pretty rusty now, and the mudguard stays, engine mounting bolts ... Basically, if you're going to get one of these, you have to keep it clean and polished, and ideally in a dry garage. Mine stays outside all the time, unfortunately, as I don't have a garage, and I just can't keep on top of the (necessary) cleaning regime. Bear it in mind – if you don't look after it, it'll start to look tatty fairly soon.

Although the bike is fantastic solo, adding a pillion – even a light one - does have an impact on the performance. Whereas it's normally pretty bright and nippy, with a pillion it does get a little sluggish. Handling isn't affected, though, and it's pretty comfortable for the pillion (I hear), but you will need a grab rail as pillions tend to slide about on the back.

What else ... Oh, I did have to get a new speedo cable (£20 fitted).

So, what's on the wish list? Well, I do plan to get a grab rail (Renntech, not Triumph - have you seen the price of genuine Triumph accessories!?). I would like to get a new set of indicators. Apart for a service in a couple of thousand miles, and a new front tyre, that's it, I think. I have thought that I'd like the noisier pipes too, though that's not really on the wish list. It would be nice if the Bonnie sounded a bit more like the originals. The price is a little (quite a lot, actually) off putting.

Anyway, that's all I can think of for the moment. Drop me a line if you've got any questions/points to make.

All the best,