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Every time I drive this car I keep wanting to sing: 'Postman Pat' the vehicle is red and looks so similar to the popular children's cartoon character red post office van. This version of the Amica is actually called the Atoz, using the same engine and is simply a stretched (upwardly stretched that is) version of the Amica. This is the Atoz plus so it has air conditioning and a few simple extras fitted. The car is a 5 door hatchback and was originally bought for my elderly mother. Now my 21 year old daughter drives it and it has proved pretty reliable, to date, mainly just the normal consumable items have gone on this 'T' registration vehicle. The exception being the alternator had to be replaced. Generally as this is the Atoz version from Hyundai, it is higher off the ground than most cars and you almost do get a van like feel when driving the car. The label for this car has to be 'old' persons car and you can see why as its easy to get yourself in and out plus its easy to steer into tight parking spaces. Plus the boot though small will take all your shopping. At higher speeds this car will struggle after all its just under 1,000cc but it does return a good mpg so important if you're on a budget and the overall package is a bright cheery and reliable one. Don't buy one if you are image conscious though; its not a 'cool' car to be seen in - but it does all thats expected of such a vehicle - it gets you from A to Z quite nicely. Off I go then and singing: 'Early in the morning just as day is dawning Postman Pat, Postman Pat etc etc.....'
A tale of two halves one quite positive and the other sheer frustrating - Here is a modern, airy and attractive 5 door hatchback. I bought it from a Citroen franchised dealer with less than 20,000 miles. A March 2005 Desire model with air con. So far so good its been reliable, economical and cheap to tax. Where it lets itself down is the trim quality. The plastic roof trim on the roof (for the roof rails if fitted) is raising up on both sides, a plastic trim closure underneath the steering wheel can't shut properly and there is a really annoying wind noise on the driver window side when the car is going over 40 mph (probably a badly fitted rubber beading seal). That said it is overall a well designed car and can seat 4 adults in comfort with a fifth at a squeeze. My take on the car is it is a modern version of the ubiquitous Morris 1000; which was a real practical classic of its day. The boot area is small but with the rear seats down it will take a surprisingly large amount as I found out when I had to clear my late mothers possessions. When being driven it is relatively high up so the handling is not 'sports car' low nevertheless is quite grippy and as a male I would describe this vehicle as an ideal 'womans car' indeed it was my wife who chose it and liked the driving position and fascia layout. I don't say this to be condescending; the car looks good and as we've only owned it since late July 2007 for me the jury is still out on longer term reliability. I want to praise this car but something doesn't let me, I have the 'r' word nagging in the back of my mind - reliability - is it going to be reliable and my suspicion is that with a Japanese car of the same mileage and year I wouldn't be feeling so apprehensive. Time will tell. However, it is like a family member; sort of cute and a bit cheeky and really quite endearing in a Gallic sort of a way; just off to buy some Bordeaux and Brie. Au revoir.
Here is the Kawasaki Versys a relatively new offering from those Kawaski people. Its a 650cc water cooled twin cylinder which can be slotted into the 'all rounder' bike category. It uses the ER6 engine in a larger trailie stlyled frame so if you are under 5'7" tall be careful. It has long travel suspension and the engine is tuned to mid range in the useful 40 to 75 mph range. I will do up to 115 mph where the law allows you to do so, but this is no sports bike. The tank will see you do 200 miles between refills and in these days of inflationary petrol costs thats no bad thing. Styling is something you'll love or hate - I love it - it sort of grows on you and I like the ruffty tuffty trailie image anyway. But this is no dirt bike, rather it uses the trailie components (frame and suspension) to make a superb all round tool. It will commute and tour, in fact it will do most things pretty well. A nice bike and worth considering.
Not being an IT person by nature and training I needed some serious protection on my PC that does the business of keeping it safe from viruses of all kinds. It really is a jungle out there and if like me you don't know a trojan virus from a worm virus, you need help especially if you use the Internet a fair bit. The AVG free version is excellent, it really does find and isolate viruses of every kind. It is simple to install even by my non technical standards. Just go to www.grisoft.com and find 'Products' then see the free security tab and download the free version on to your PC, it really is that simple. This free version is allowed for private and non commercial users. I have heard a rumour that Grisoft are to start charging but at the moment you can still use the free version, which is very good. In using this software for about 18 months I can honestly say I have cut down unwanted attacks by 90%. The only things that get through are spam e mails but this is a major problem worldwide and I can see and delete spam quite easily. They say the best things in life are free and this is not always true but in this case Grisoft are being very generous with their free version; long may it continue!
I should have known when the old chap, selling the bike, told me the reason for selling was that he couldnt get the large German up his inclined driveway. Yes, this was a big motorcycle all right. It was a BMW K series, with its great big sail of a fairing and touring panniers, the BMW K75 RT to be exact. This was BMWs first romance with in line engines, back in the mid 80s and resulted in a 750cc in line 3 cylinder (as well as a 4 cylinder 1,000cc). It was a large beast and lets name him Fritz. My life with Fritz was one of love and hate. I loved the turbine like quality of that 750cc engine it was a case of Deutchland Uber Alles; it had real road presence and style. I was a serious motorcyclist and this Teutonic motorcycle was the Uber Papa of them all. The bike when I purchased it had a ridiculously low mileage for a 1992 tourer (something like 7,000 miles and it really had done such a low mileage as its first owner stored it in his barn for most of its life), but the ABS had packed up (make sure you check its working if the bike has ABS fitted) and the BMW service charges were prohibitive. A standard main service was about £400 and I was not convinced that Fritz was worth this much. The nearest BMW motorcycle dealer was at least 60 miles away, this meant I couldnt spoil Fritz in a real BMW workshop and he had to make do with a local motorcycle workshop. The ride was indeed solid allied to its shaft drive (no messy chain). It did manage to make light of the bad weather too, with the large fairing taking most of the rain and wind away from the rider. Even taller riders than me (Im 5 8) would have found low speed filtering difficult on an RT though; this was a top heavy bike and with the car like rear view mirrors, the width of Fritz was such that he must have existed on a diet of bratwurst and beer in prodigious quantities for most of his life. This bike had a very large waistline. You didnt chuck Fritz around corners; you gently went round them and respected his majesty and poise. I only racked up a few thousand miles, but it never missed a beat and I would expect these engines should achieve high trouble free mileages. There was a real BMW biker brother hood out there too; BMW riders were mature and sensible types by and large. You were also very unlikely to get pulled by the Old Bill on Fritz, in fact until recently the K series was a widely used Police motorcycle (the K750 production line ceased in about 1996 or 97). When the time came to put Fritz away in my own garage, I found that even with a fairly moderate incline this was a hefty German lad. I met my Waterloo at a petrol station, I was being a little disrespectful to big Fritz by riding slowly after filling up, one hand on my throttle grip and the other trying to flip down my lid visor, well the embarrassment, was total as Fritz toppled over with me at 2 mph in the middle of the forecourt. Little damage was done as the panniers seemed to take most of the impact and apart from my pride, all was intact. I even managed to pick Fritz up and ride away. So it was love and hate really. If I had been a few inches taller Fritz and I would have got on much better. But he was a big German farmer type and I was a short British bloke, who needed to find something a little more manageable. But I couldnt fault Fritz. He did what he was supposed to do and although Fritz had been well restored from his down time in the barn (hed even been professionally re sprayed), we just didnt hit it off, due to his size and my shortness of leg. Despite this I would give Fritz a good report, he was sensible, did what he was supposed to do, without any fuss. But at the end of the day he drank lots of beer and ate German sausage in massive quantities. We were just chalk and cheese him and me but I liked my big Teutonic pal and we parted best of friends; indeed so popular are these 750cc machines I sold Fritz for what I paid for him nine months previously. This bike was a good solid lad - top marks and auf weidersehn Fritz.
I pulled my anorak on over my Belstaff and set off to do some serious train spotting. I was 44 years old, single and still lived at home (this bits not really true just a bit of drama to spice up the message) and Mum shouted from the front drive: 'Don't forget your spam sandwiches Rodney and you must put on your day glow jacket'. That was the 'Divvie'for you, a sensible sort of bike for very sensible people who wanted reliability over style. The people who ride this bike know train timetables backwards; they memorise rain fall patterns and statistics.They like I.T. and know all about computers. But whoever said it was wrong to be an 'anorak' then? Boring maybe, owners may not be the life and soul of the party either and you definitely won't see gorgeous young women draping themselves over a Divvie; its definitely no 'babe magnet'. In fact, its the ideal 'secret agent' bike, you blend into the background - big time; it a chameleon of a bike, but it gets you to your assignment on time and in relative comfort. So if you want every day reliability, reasonable performance and decent fuel frugality this hunk of metal is for you. I would argue this was the first all round 'retro' bike of its day. It pre-dated the Bandit and almost out lived it, only being chopped due to stringent EU emission directives. The 4 cylinder 600cc 'Divvie' (as its fondly called by owners) carried me 35,000 uneventful miles. No breakdowns. No drama. No tears. It did its job and ought to have come with a sensible owners anorak. Mine was a W reg 2000 model in a racing green colour with the twin front calipers, so the stoppers were good, the more recent ones had this addition as well as an oil cooler fitted. The Bridgestone tyres I had turned in 12,000 miles before needing replacement. Mr Frugal was well pleased, most of its life was spent taking yours truly back and forward to work - and this is what its good at. The small OE standard fairing was able to keep the worst of the British weather at bay and as other bikers (aren't we bikers so ridiculously brand conscious?) raised their noses in collective disgust,as the poor Divvie and I rode by, I was laughing all the way to my listening 24/7 online bank. Nothing ever wore out apart from one chain/sprocket set and a pair of tyres. The nearest thing to excitement was a 2 day ride there and back to Cornwall (uneventful)and a day with a horde of other Divvie riders riding sensibly around the New Forest (Yes there IS a community of Divvie riders who are keen afficianados of all things Divvie, they are also suprisingly normal too). Eventually its sheer boring nature got to me; its as dull as Mum's proverbial dishwater and I sold it on e bay to a chap who saw a good thing when it was advertised - bought it just from my description and photographs (never viewed it in the flesh), sent a man and a van to pick the Divvie up and he gave me good feedback on e bay; what a sensible gent he was. A sensible gent with a sensible bike in a sensible world. Welcome to Divvie land....'Rodney get up to bed and wash your hands' shouted me Mum, 'Its way past your bed time, its already 9.30, Ovaltine is by your bed and there a nice hot water bottle.' Memories were made of this, its Divvie time all over again.
This bike has a retro look and feel that goes perfectly with the massive 650cc single cylinder, four-stroke engine that comes courtesy of Suzuki. But while the styling is retro, the handling is impressive thanks to Swiss frame guru Fritz Egli (who made his name slotting Vincent Black Shadow engines into his own chassis). The Sachs 650 is marketed as an every day motorcycle, a workhorse that you can use to get to work on and enjoy at weekends too. The bike is not currently imported into the UK now, but parts and second hand ones can be had relatively easily. My one is a 2003 model in electric blue with only 8,000 miles on the clock. I managed to get one second hand with a new MOT for £1,000. A similar aged Bandit would cost me over double that. This one was sat in a dealers and he wanted to shift it before Christmas, so I was well pleased with the deal. Top speed is about 105mph with a maximum torque of 41.3 ft-lb at 6200rpm. The engine pumps out 50bhp at 6750rpm. This is a single cylinder walloper - thumper of a bike. My bike has the optional extras of a centre stand, crash bars and fly screen fitted. The German bike is equipped with excellent Italian Grimeca disc brakes, with a 320mm front brake disc and a 220mm at the rear. Wheels are classic spoked alloy rims. The gearbox is a five-speeder, which is all you need with a big thumper like the 650 Roadster - especially as it only weighs 154kg dry, a substantial 54kg down on something like the Suzuki Bandit. Light weight, decent chassis, flexible motor and good brakes all add up to a bike that does just what it is supposed to do. It isn't going to win races, but thats not what it was made for, it is a sound solid all round performer. Seat height is 740mm fine for average height riders. Other optional extras include colour co-ordinated hard luggage and crash bars. You will find other riders do a double take as most have never seen one before, as it thunders up to the lights. Its a value for money package which is seriously good fun as the Lanfranconi exhaust roars; creating a nice but not too noisy engine note. Its a good bike to ride too but you need to keep the revs up and make sure it is in the right gear as the twin carbs and then the twin spark plugs make sure you rattle along swiftly - but you can take in the views on this bike, its no plastic sports bike and the Suzuki engine is the same one as used on the current Suzuki DR 650 trailie. 100% value for money.
I purchased my Tiny PC package new in 2002 and in all fairness it has delivered a reasonable degree of reliability. Recently I have just had a new hard drive installed (£37) and it had had multiple virus invasions until I got the hang of virus check software which has solved the problem (not the PCs fault I must point out). The attached printer (A HP 3325 has been fine) and the memory quite decent to cope with games and all the other aspects of home computing (Word is used a lot). This has been a family computer so has been used by 3 teenagers and 2 parents regularly. One of its main uses is to get on to the world wide web abd it has performed well in this area; I now have a wi - fi fitted which works well. Its sad that the Tiny (and Time ) Company has now gone bust, as the help line was reasonably helpful. I would purchase one, especially if there was a good spec second hand one on the market. Components seem reasonable and reliability fine generally. Overall a fair system for the family user. Not one for the high end gamer or high demand user.
I bought the 5 door hatchback 1.8 LS car back in 2001 and now in late 2006 wish I never should have bothered. Currently the front electric windows are coming off their rollers and not shutting properly. However, it has clocked up nearly 90,000 miles and I have done 50,000 of them since 2001. However, that is the upside. I would strongly recommend never to buy one. 12 months ago it disintegrated when the water pump, cam belt and other components died. This cost a small fortune in repair bills although the most annoying fault has been a consistent braking problem where the rear brakes would regularly seize. The basic concept is great but the reliability has been seriously compromised. On balance it has, when working OK, been a fair car, but if you don't have endless patience, money or own a garage steer well clear. If I had my money over I would purchase another marque altogether. A pity as the basic package is quite a reasonable one. I think I must have got a Friday afternoon special. It is quite comfortable and had the engineers thought about reliability the car may have been a Mondeo beater. They hadn't and it doesn't beat a Mondeo or any similar type of family sized vehicle. Probably the last Vauxhall I will purchase.
Optimate 111 was a must for my Christmas list and Christmas came early for me ans the in laws got it sent via the Internet. I have 2 motorcycles and in the November to March period they don't always get used regularly. So when i heard about an intelligent charger for motorcycle batteries that was reliable and tough i was hooked. The first job it did for me was to check my scooter battery which it did in about an hour. It tested it, charged it a bit and then the little green light came on to show all was well. The scooter does get fairly regular use and I knew the battery was in fairly good condition as it was only a few months old. What I did like was the connection to be able to semi permanently connect it to your battery for long term maintenance, plug it in after connecting it and forget it. No more flat batteries. The price is good and by shopping around on the Internet you can pick them up for just over £30. There are other intelligent chargers out there but this one seems to get the A1 thumbs up and so far its the business: easy to use, permanent connection or crocodile clips to keep you battery in peak performance, robust design, quality parts used. This looks like it will be a permanent feature in my garage.
This was my first decent digital camera and I have now been the proud owner for nearly 12 months. I am from the first a happy snapper, a keen amateur who knows very little about the complicated world of cameras. But I did want an easy to use camera that produced a good result. This performs well on all accounts. it has a nice metal case with a good lens and a nice auto mode that will do everything for you. The close up mode is good as is the zoom on the lens, adequate for general photography. The nice element is the downloaded software that makes photo download a breeze. The integrated flash can be turned off or just used on auto as needed. The case is small but I like the ability to put a camera in your pocket; this fits inside any small pocket. A good visual screen on the back, although i prefer to use the eye sight view finder. This is an all rounf good quality camera which is definatley good for the happy snapper but I would imagine the more expert snapper would enjoy using too. I don't see me purchasing another soon. I have also purchased a nice large photo card which takes loads of photos. This is a great package, new out in January 2006 so there should be good bargains out there.
Sach is a small German bike manufacturer, that has created a range of budget machines powered by Suzuki engines. The firm has four Roadsters a V-twin 125, single-cylinder 650, shaft-drive V-twin 800 and a special edition V-twin b-805. None of these bikes is loaded with the technical wizardry found on similarly styled, but pricier, offerings from Japan or Italy. Nevertheless, you can roar along on the 650 version. One reason its a gas was just enjoying the rarity of a Sachs bike out on the road. Other riders would do a quick double-take at the unfamiliar logo on the tank as this noisy, single-cylinder machine thumped alongside at the lights. In town, the wide handlebars, comfortable, upright riding position and low weight made low-speed manoeuvrability very easy. Take the Sachs out on to the open road and it barks and pops in a wicked cacophony that would have you believe you are flying along 20mph faster than your actual speed. But this machine has no sporting pretensions. In a straight line the Sachs felt stable and composed, but through the turns it tended to want to run wide and needed an extra push on the bars to keep a tighter line. The Suzuki mill pumps out a modest 50bhp and top speed is just a whisker over 100mph. That is just as well because the single disc front stoppers are adequate at best. But there are a few around at real discount prices and second hand ones are excellent value; it does not look or feel like a low-budget machine. The 650 Roadster would be an ideal first big bike or one for the mature who don't want 160 mph plastic rockets, with the added attraction of riding something that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Finding and servicing a Sachs should not be a problem, parts are plentiful. The Sachs company is now finacially secure and althought the roadster isn't a current model it will be around a while yet. Great value.
Update: December 2007 - The Majesty is a real workhorse; I have now done 8,000 miles on it. Basically the carb had to be cleaned and the water pump needed re-building, overall it has run in a very reliable fashion. A big plus is that it gets about 80 to 85 mpg and this is on a 30 mile daily commuting journey which is not slow, using major dual carriageways. If you are considering a commuter look no further. Mine is a 1996 model but Yamaha still make this model and it has been extensively upgraded. The Majesty is a scooter that is logically and well put together. My model is a 1996 one which is still in lovely condition now (in 2006). This goes some way to justifying the hefty new price tag (£3,800 in 1996). It is the first of the 'super scooters'. Basically, it does all it is supposed to do. It has useful storage areas (three altogether), one of these is a place to store your full face helmet. In these days of rip off petrol prices 70 to 75 mpg sounds good to me. The ride is steady and measured. The belt drive allows effortless riding, but for those used to a conventional geared (motorcycle) it can seem strange at first when it de-accelarates. The 250cc water cooled single is nippy; it will see off most cars (up to 30 - 40 mph) and will quickly reach 30, 50 or 60 mph depending on the roads. Its happy to pootle along at 30mph easily, yet it will reach 70 mph on the bigger roads when you wind the throttle up. My one has 12,500 miles on it and it has had only routine servicing. Insurance for me (a 40 something) is very cheap and I managed to get it put on my exisiting bike insurance, as an extra bike, for just another £49 per year. One major plus point is the weather protection, your hands are the only thing not given protection, but this only matters in winter. In our wet UK climate I bought my Majesty to be my daily commuting hack, so my other bike (a Triumph Bonneville) only sees sunny days. When it rains you get good protection and emerge quite dry relatively. The Yamaha is a top ride and I would recommend it for all of its undoubted qualities. Comfortable, utilitarian and economical plus of course no parking charges and no traffic jams as it easily filters through bottle necked lines of cars and lorries. You can find scooters like this which have been lovingly looked after (like mine) for ridiculously low prices if you search around. Make sure it has a full service history too. Oh yes one more thing its fun! It is a cheeky little thing, which I immediately liked, its aerodynamic body is a super design and has not really dated in 10 years. A 10 out of 10 from me!
This is a revised review on the Triumph Scrambler; it uses the basic 890cc Bonneville engine and additions include trail tyres, upswept exhaust and the look of a 1960s 'street scrambler'. This bike is all about style rather than outright performance. It makes 55 bhp which is very sedate and the aim is not to go rip roaring around the countryside or urban streets (although it will do this) but rather to enjoy the experience of biking. The finish on the bike is good and there is plenty of chrome to keep clean. I have a scooter as my bad weather / commuter steed so I realised quite soon that this machine would need plenty of tlc to keep it in fine fettle. But boy does it get attention, especially if like mine it has the Triumph off road pipes fitted; they make a lovely roar without being TOO anti social. The look of the bike is highly attractive and if you park it up on sunny day be prepared to talk bikes with all and sundry. This is not a poseurs toy, it will keep up and exceed the 70 mph limit with ease. The upright riding position is comfortable but it is no long distance tourer. I wouldn't want to travel more than 100 miles in one go. Overall a great looking and reasonably practical machine based on modern Triumph technology. A 'must have' bike for all you 40/50/60 somethings...