All posts by karen

Helmet Shopping at Demon Tweeks

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Did we really drive 180 miles to buy a helmet? Yes. Was it worth it? Most definitely! My head is important to me and I need it (I use it everyday!) It makes sense to put a little bit of effort in to make sure I look after my massive head and get a helmet that fits properly.

Demon Tweeks superstore in Wrexham is amazing… soooo much stuff! I donÂ’t think there is anywhere else in the UK that stocks such a wide range of helmets, race wear and hard parts. In the helmet department theyÂ’ve got everything from Arai, Bell and OMP to Sparco, Simpson and Stilo. And, prices to suit everyone too. Hooray!

I had a few criteria I needed to meet: the helmet had to be Snell 2010, it had to be full face, and it needed to fit comfortably. The good thing about Demon Tweeks is pretty much everyone there takes part in, or has a strong interest in, Motorsports. I was lucky to get fitting advice from Gareth Evans, heÂ’s the Sales Manager there, but also a karting expert, having run his own team and now working in places like Dubai with other teams.

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The first helmet I tried on was the Race Safety Pro (£179 ex / £214.80 inc VAT). I found it very similar to the Hedtec that I’d tried before, it just didn’t fit right. The Race Safety Pro had a nicer pad on the top of the head, but I found the back of the helmet too shallow, and even when it was done-up I could shift it up and down far too much. If you’ve got a short head (is that possible?) then you might find the Hedtec fits, it was certainly cheap at around £150 all in, but I am learning that price isn’t everything!

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Since I was about 10 years old IÂ’ve felt the ultimate helmet was the Simpson Bandit. A cross between something from Mad Max and The Predator, I couldnÂ’t wait to get my hands on one.

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What an incredible bit of terrifying design! I was convinced that this is what I needed, until I got it on and thought about how much I could see. After my wonky bog eyes affected my clay shooting ability (marvellous excuse!) I realised that I didn’t need anything else to stop me from focusing. Im easily distracted. Can you imagine the shame of crashing your car because you accidentally started looking at your helmet? Well, that’s something that isn’t going to happen to me! The Simpson Bandit (£403.08 ex / £483.70) is beautiful. Awesomeness, but, not for me.

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Gareth was a great help, he had a huge amount of knowledge and he really guided me well. He asked me questions which encouraged me to think sensibly and make the best decision to suit me. He didnÂ’t try to up-sell or get me to buy something that I didnÂ’t need, he was just really helpful, interested and informative. Top bloke!

The Bell KF3 Sport SV (£362.50 ex / £435) looked pretty cool in matt black. The little ‘duck bill’ lip around the bottom added to the styling, but more importantly adds a practical aspect for drivers of open top cars where the aerodynamics of the helmet help keep it held down (and on the head!)

Although I tried the largest size on for my big head, it just didnÂ’t fit right. I found it very tight on my face and after saying this out loud I found that I couldnÂ’t actually close my mouth – it was being squeezed from the sides and was stuck open! (I felt a bit like Barbara in Beetle Juice!)

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The Bell Sport 5 (£299 ex / £358.80) is a good entry level helmet. Well made and well padded inside. It fitted smoothly and comfortably. I had really good visibility and it didn’t feel awkward. This was the one for me!

Gareth suggested I add a balaclava, and although I was reluctant to put it on, it actually made helmet wearing far more comfortable. Even if I looked like a egg whilst wearing it… I totally did!

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I’m really pleased with my new helmet! I was so convinced that I would die of joy when I saw the Simpson, and I did behave like a bizarre child when I put it on, saying, “Look! I can see it on my face!” But after the initial excitement I realised that visibility is actually more important than looking menacing!

I canÂ’t stress enough how important it is to get a helmet that fits you, and if you are not sure then get help with fitting. If your helmet is at all loose, just imagine where it could go in an accident. If youÂ’re getting bashed about then really itÂ’d be better if your helmet stays on your head, rather than whizzing off!

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If youÂ’re looking for racewear (or possibly the best rain coat in existence!) and need advice itÂ’s well worth giving the team a call and having a chat. They can get stuff out to you for the next day if you need it. IÂ’d recommend a visit to the showroom in Wrexham though if you are after a few things or just want to get up close to lots of great kit.

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Thank you to Gareth, Dee and Matt from Demon Tweeks for all your help and niceness. (I took some Dee some eggs from Sandra and Cheryl – is that weird? I hope not!)

Find Demon Tweeks online here, or visit the super duper superstore at 75 Ash Rd South, Wrexham, North Wales.

Czecheap Challenge – The VW Polo of Your Dreams

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… or nightmares. Depending on how positive/negative youÂ’re feeling. When my friend Liz said she was selling her (t)rusty old car because she needed the money to have a donkey gelded (boy bits removed), it seemed totally appropriate to buy it. She thinks its going on a magical journey, and she’s right!

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Although it was winter and we didnÂ’t need out Czecheap Chariot until May, I thought IÂ’d just knock about in it while the roads were icy and I needed to lug random junk from place to place.

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ItÂ’s been great, apart from the knocking, the mis-firing, the engine bay being pretty much varnished with Damp Start, the broken HT leads, the mis-matched spark plugs, the broken central locking, the non-functioning handbrake, the wheels being totally out of balance and the steering wheel being on sideways, the broken gear knob, the bald tyres, the bent wheels, and the seats, the uncomfortable seats. It actually needs adult sized seats I think! They seem really short, like people in the mid-nineties were really short! Adam says its an old ladies car and they are smaller.

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Adam took the car to the £10 carwash (and vacuum). The first thing the chap there said was, “Where did you find this car?!” followed by, “Have you been keeping chickens in there?” and then, “I’m going to have to charge you £15!”

They did an excellent job of removing the grit and gravel, moss, mould and hair.

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The best thing about the Polo is that you can park it anywhere. You know those tiny spaces at the end of the car park, next to the big lumpy wall, that nobody ever parks in? Yeah! I can park in them.

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The worst thing though, is that although I can lock the doors from the drivers side by pushing the button down, I canÂ’t open it from that side. ItÂ’s not really a problem, until you park in one of those spaces at the end of the car park, next to the big lumpy wall, that nobody ever parks in. Then you find you canÂ’t even walk along the passenger side of your car, so you have to launch yourself in the right direction, key in hand and arm outstretched, and then just kind of lie there, sideways, halfway up the car, wedged between it and a lumpy wall, trying to work out how you are going to get back on your feet.

ItÂ’s okay. I donÂ’t think anyone saw me.

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Last year I got too attached to Lisa the Tigra (it was so comfy, like being on a bed!) so this year I need to hate the car! ItÂ’s happening., although for the first week we had it I felt a lot of glee whilst driving it!


WeÂ’re doing the Czecheap Challenge to raise money for the Stroke Association, IÂ’ve written more about it here, and if you are feeling kind/generous/sympathetic then weÂ’d be really grateful if youÂ’d pop over here and sponsor us, thank you!

Shooting Clay at EJ Churchill Shooting Ground

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It was Easter Saturday, the sun was shining and we had car snacks, so we headed off to the award winning EJ Churchill Shooting Ground on the West Wycombe Estate in Buckinghamshire.

Upon arrival we were impressed by the automated grass cutter that was on display outside… then we saw the gun room! The EJ Churchill Gunmakers have been synonymous with fine hand made English shotguns for over 120 years, remaining the largest gunmaker in British hands and renowned as one of the world’s finest.

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Our instructor, Adam Davies, sized us up for guns, kitted us out with safety gear and showed us how to position ourselves, before taking us out into the grounds.

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At the first layout the clay came across from right to left and we learnt to follow it, whilst maintaining our stance and keeping control of the gun. After a few shots everyone seemed to get the hang of it, apart from me. We thought Neil was a proper pigeon hustler when he hit the first two clays, but after that we managed to jinx him for a while. I managed to hit one clay, everyone was cheering me and I had to ask, ‘Did I hit it?’ because I had my eyes closed at the time!

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Isi, who turned out to be the shooting star of the day, (a bit concerning for a vegetarian!) pointed out a Red Kite, I’ve never seen one before, it was amazing and really ginger. It’s okay, she didn’t shoot it.

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On the second layout the clays were fired up and over our heads. Everyone did a lot better on this round, and I even managed to hit a couple here.

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At the third layout the clays were launched up into the air towards us, and then they dropped down in front of us. I told Adam, our instructor, that I was having a bit of trouble following them, and blamed my wonky bog eyes. He got me to close my left eye, and… Kabam! That made everything so much easier. I hit a few, I was overjoyed. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but my ability level went up a few notches when I became a cyclops!

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Basically, Adam told me, my right eye is my dominant eye, but when things get to a certain closer distance it swaps to my left eye. Which explains why I was struggling and getting confused (a partial explanation anyway!)

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I honestly didn’t think I would hit anything, I’ve never been much cop as this kind of thing and I struggle to catch a ball (I now understand why!) I went along for the fun of the day, knowing this, so imagine how surprised and delighted I was to hit a couple of clays in concession! Hats off to an awesome instructor.

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I can’t wait to have another go now. I just need to get an eye patch. In fact, there are many sports I would like to partake in now… whilst wearing an eye patch!

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The team at EJ Churchill were really helpful and lovely, so lovely that they even made us cups of tea when we got there. They suggested always phoning ahead if interested in making a booking so that they can help you get the best and most suitable outcome.

Two hours instruction at EJ ChurchillÂ’s is £198, plus £20 per hour per extra person and we paid £77 for clays and cartridges (this would be dependent on how many you use – they are both 28p each). There were four people in our party and the overall price would have been £397.00

Czecheap Challenge – It’s Banger Time!

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In May, Adam and I are going to be joining a group of total loons, in very crap cars, and driving to Prague. Czecheap Challenge is a banger rally organised by the Rally Events team. The idea is that you spend less than £400 on a car and drive over 1000 miles. We’ve spent £150 on our car. You know the saying? You get what you pay for!

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We’ll be driving from Bruges, across Belgium to Frankfurt (via the Nürburgring!), down to Innsbruck, then across to Prague via Salzburg. But first we are going to get the overnight ferry from Hull. Euuurrgghhhhh! I’m not so sure that’s going to be the nicest experience, I’ve seen the pictures of the cabins, look at those beds, they don’t even look like beds.


Last year we joined the team on the Barcelona Bangers rally and had the most amazing time. We drove our awesome £205.80 Vauxhall Tigra (Lisa!) through France, through Andorra, over the Pyrenees and into Spain. That last day was just epic, it has to have been one of the best days of my life.


We made some great friends and felt total freedom. Everything was so new and fun. We travelled a total of 2088 miles, raised over £1700 for EACH, and I had to break my way out of a public toilet in a Steven Seagal stylee.

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This year we are driving around 1100 miles in our VW Polo (Liz!) and fundraising for the Stroke Association in honour of Adam’s brilliant aunt, Ciocia Mary, who died last year. Mary lived an amazing life and was an incredibly strong, intelligent and caring woman.

The work the Stroke Association does is very important. Most of us will know, or have known, someone who has been affected by a stroke, and you’ll understand how important it is to help the Stroke Association not only deliver research, but also support those who need help to rebuild their lives.

Ciocia Mary’s stroke took us all by surprise, and even though she was a proper tough cookie, the stroke was just too severe. We were very lucky to have a couple of days with her in hospital where we could talk to her and know that she understood how much she was loved and valued. A very sad time.

Please help us celebrate Mary’s life, and help other people who are affected by stroke, by sponsoring us. We’d be grateful for any amount that you can spare, and if we reach our total you’ll be able to vote on whether we get the Spandex outÂ… or burn it!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Snetterton (Round 2)

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Sunday was Round 2 of the Lotus Cup UK Speed Championships. My second event ever… at Snetterton, with commentators, TV crews and some rain. No pressure! I packed the essentials.

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First practice was pretty wet, I locked up on the first hairpin, at first I thought, ‘Uh oh! I’m going in a straight line!’ then I thought, ‘Oooo! I’m going round the corner!’ and everything was okay. I felt a bit rubbish that I’d made such a silly mistake, but apparently a lot of people spun on the first corner, so I’d actually done okay, and was sitting at 17 out of 24, and 7th in my class, which to me is very respectable. 

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It all went downhill from there really! My second practice was slow, it was much drier and everyone else had picked up speed, but I was still really confused about where the second part of the track went! We’d walked to track the day before with a lovely driver called Emma, but we’d taken a short cut and missed half of the track – I won’t do that again.

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We had two timed runs in the afternoon, and luckily Stuart from LOTRDC found a map of the course for me and gave me some help with remembering where I needed to go. I think that after that lap I was 21 out of 24. That’s not really good enough is it?

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My second (and final) timed lap needed to be much better. I looked at my map, made some squealing wheel noises with my mouth, and set off. I felt good, I was hammering it, I got all the way round to Oggies and went through there so well, ‘I’m driving like a demon!’ I said out loud, and then, ‘I’m driving too fast!’ as the back end went out on the last corner (Williams) I tried to correct it but it just went, one full spin and it snapped back. ‘Ouch!’ I banged my head on the window. I was surprised that I didn’t get disoriented, or cry! I tried to restart the car, but the bloody immobiliser had come on. ‘Argh!’ press the little button in the key, press, press, ‘Argh!’ The button is missing its rubber cover, so my gloved finger wouldn’t fit the hole to press the smaller button inside. I whipped off my glove, got the button pressed, started the car and floored it. By now the yellow flag and the red flag had been out. I’d been faffing around for ages. Soooo frustrating. I ended up 12 seconds slower than my previous lap. Since then I have spent my time trying to work out how long I spent spinning, trying to start the car, messing around with my glove, and then getting back up to speed again. I reckon I might have been going okay, definitely faster than my previous time, but really, I spun off and that’s an error on my part, so I can’t dwell on all the ‘what if’s.

I ended up being 23rd out of 24. I feel bad for number 24.

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Xavier Brooke took first place, he drives like a demon and his car broke on his second lap, so he just had the one timed lap to go on, and win with. So, you know, I shouldn’t whinge.

I’m having an amazing time driving, and I have met some of the nicest people. Everyone has been so friendly and supportive and I can’t wait to get to Hethel for the next one. And I got a free biscuit!

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Whilst I am feeling disappointed with myself for not being able to drive like a pro, I have to keep reminding myself that I am a novice. What do I expect after one track day in 2012 (where I did about 4 laps) and having never driven any of these courses? I’m driving a road standard car with 118bhp and comparing myself to seasoned drivers, with more skill and experience, and some with as much as 190bhp! I mean, on Sunday I was in the same race as a couple of Elise Trophy drivers and Jack Goff who is a BTCC driver! Ha ha! I’m writing this and thinking ‘Karen, you’re a right pillock!’

I’m not a professional, for example, I got interviewed by Kiri Bloore for Motors TV and when she asked me how my first lap had gone, I whipped out my map and started waving it around! I guess it was written that I’d have to do something embarrassing whilst I was there. I mean, as if it wasn’t bad enough that the programme included the group picture from North Weald. They’d cropped the image to make it fit their page layout.

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They should have kept ex F1 driver Martin Donnelly in the frame and omitted Moonwalking Elvis.