Wheel alignment

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

New tyres - again!

I bought the KTM in March last year, a replacement for the Suzuki GSX-S 1000 which I'd owned for the previous 3 years.  Regular readers may remember that the last tyres I had on the Suzuki were Michelin Road 5's. I loved their wet and dry weather performance and "feel".  What I didn't love was getting 3 punctures in 4 months, including one rear tyre which was beyond repair.  I live a long way from tyre dealers and it's a good job that I carry enough repair options to not get stranded.  The whole saga was listed in THIS POST .   Naturally, I became a bit gun-shy of the Road 5, not knowing whether they were susceptible to punctures in the conditions I normally ride in or whether it was sheer bad luck.

The problem sort of solved itself with the sale of the Gixxer and the purchase of the KTM.  The birds sang in the trees, the sun shone and all was well with the world - until winter came.  The KTM came equipped with Maxxis pure sport tyres.  They gripped well in the warmer weather but as soon as the cold and wet arrived, they became unpredictable, even with the benefit of lean-sensitive traction control.  I guess the problem was exacerbated by the roads in our area.  Some of the best technical twisty roads for bikes anywhere but challenging when it's cold and wet.  Simply couldn't get enough heat into the tyres in those conditions and on one occasion, I lost the front end in a fairly big way but managed to stay on.  It wasn't as if  I was "pressing on" excessively either.  I didn't trust the bloody things after that and within a few days and only 3500 km from new, they were ditched and a set of Bridgestone T31 sport touring tyres had been fitted.

Recovering from eye surgery and Covid-19 lockdown excepted, I cover a fair bit of ground annually and in all weathers so fitting sport touring tyres made sense.  On the bikes I've owned over the last few years, a life of a bit better than 10,000 km was achieved from any of the main brands and this sort of life was acceptable.  I chose the T31 based on a series of positive reviews in the motorcycling press and a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists friend had recently fitted them to his Hayabusa and was impressed with them in all conditions.  My experience was the same as his.  Nice, progressive turn-in to corners although not quite as fast as the Road 5's.  Grip in both wet and dry was excellent and on our North Island "Green Badge" tour in late Feb/early March, they were great.

The only downside was that at 6000 km, the front hoop had started developing a slight wedge shape in section, i.e, flats on the soft compound out towards the edge of the tyre.  The rear tyre was still in good shape.  This wasn't anything particularly new as my previous 3 bikes had all shown similar traits.  The twisty roads that I mainly inhabit coupled with fairly aggressive countersteering to maintain progress are the main contributors.  Where the T31 differed however was that by 8500 km, the front tyre had reached the wear bars on the right hand side (the effect of road camber, driving on the left) and the left hand side wasn't far behind.  The handling had become noticeably heavier on the turn-in too.

Front T31 @8500 km


Arrow showing the extent of "flattening" @ 8500 km

The same characteristics also manifested themselves on my mate's Hayabusa, junking it at 7000 km and at 6000 km, another friend with a Yamaha MT10 SP is showing the beginnings of the same problem.  Time for a replacement set!

Apart from the punctures on the GSX-S 1000, the Road 5's were the best all-round tyres I've had for the type of riding I do so the decision was to go for them on the KTM and put the past experience with punctures down to sheer bad luck.

A quick trip to Drury in South Auckland yesterday and a new set were fitted in 3/4 hour.  Service from Aida and Des is outstanding.

Des from the Drury Motorcycle Performance Centre fitting the Rear Road 5

New front Road 5 away being balanced

New tyres always feel "flighty" compared with worn ones and leaving Drury, only a light touch on the bars was required for directional changes compared with the worn T31's.  Most of the 130 km trip home was at a cautious pace and angle of lean, not wanting to skate along on my arse due to new tyres. No anxious moments at all and the handling of the bike has been totally transformed.  With the higher crown profile on the Road 5's, turn-in is really quick too and requires much less countersteering.  Really looking forward to seeing how they go compared to the T31's in terms of performance and life.

Rear Road 5 profile

Front Road 5 profile

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Out of lockdown!

NZ has moved to level 2 and although there are still many restrictions, going for a ride isn't one of them any more!  The 11000 km service for my Duke 790 was originally scheduled for 2 days after lockdown started so that didn't happen.  Now, on the first day of level 2, I could get it done.  The dealer is a round trip of 350 km away so it was a good opportunity to bring my riding up to scratch again.

Awoke to wet roads and gusty winds which wasn't exactly ideal after a layoff but a good opportunity to take it super-easy.  The first 50 km of the journey is comprised of tight twisties along the coast and I felt surprisingly out of sorts.  The KTM 790 isn't nicknamed "The Scalpel" for nothing and my reactions seemed to lag behind its rapid response to steering inputs and throttle control.  I thought about this later and reckon that my situational awareness wasn't as sharp as it should be and as a consequence, my inputs to the bike were a bit slow and clumsy.  A quick stop in Thames to top up the tank actually paid dividends.  In the past when I haven't been riding particularly well, a short break to do a mental reset has paid dividends. I think that the gas stop was one of those occasions as the rest of the journey was a delight.  Drying roads helped too!

  Front of house at Boyds - now Yamaha agents too

Parked the bike outside service reception and for Covid-19 contact tracing purposes, all visitors were required sign in by log book or QR Code.  Strict 2 metre distancing was in play with sanitiser everywhere you looked. Really impressed that they were on their game, albeit low key.

790 waiting to be whisked away, along with an 1190 Adventure R

The team at Boyds know that it takes me a tad over 2 hours to get to their place from home so they started work on the bike within a few minutes of me arriving whilst I wandered around their showroom, keeping an appropriate distance of course.  Even had to do another contact trace in their separate parts, accessories and clothing department when I picked up another can of chain wax.  Thought I'd take the opportunity to share a few photos I took whilst wandering about.....

The  photo below is the dealer's beautifully restored Yamaha TT 500 .  A real classic manufactured from 1976 to 1981 and good ones fetch serious bucks.  I'd happily have one in the shed.

 Elegantly simple and bloody gorgeous!

Boyds picked up the Yamaha franchise late last year.  I was just wandering about looking at the various models and happened to notice the plumbing on the MT-09.  Thought it looked quite arty!

Sexy pipework

This is the first time I'd seen the adventure version of my 790 in the flesh.  Undoubtely a really competent machine but with all the plastic, it looked too bulky and unwieldy for my taste.  I'd sooner have the smaller 390. 

The 790 Adventure

Now the bike below is a beast of a machine - the 1290 SuperDuke.  Doesn't really need 2 wheels on the move as pointing at the sky on the back one in any gear is its normal modus operandi.  A seriously frightening machine.  If the 790 Duke is the Scalpel, this must be the Sledgehammer! Love it.

A real beast of a bike

I guess everyone on the planet must know how popular Royal Enfields have become through the world with both singles and twins being really popular in NZ.  The 650 below offers good performance at a very modest price.  Can't go wrong really.

Uncomplicated, attractive and well-priced

The last bike that attracted my attention was tucked away in the area which used to be for customers to chill and enjoy a coffee.  It's a Sur Ron electric bike powered by a 6 kw electric motor.  I reckon it would be huge fun in the gnarly back country.  In fact, anywhere near us, come to think if it.....

The Sur Ron electric motorcycle

Coming back to the KTM, the 11000 km service cost NZ$314 (US$189, AU$293, GBP 154).  Not only did it include all the items listed in the handbook for that distance, it also had a computer software update and new frame bolts replaced under warranty!  I have no idea what the latter replacement was all about as under the circumstances,  it wasn't possible to chat with the technician at any length.

And finally, yet more expenditure coming up.  My front Bridgestone T31 tyre is toast at 8500 km which is a lot less than sport touring tyres on other bikes I've owned.  I have some theories about this but will do a proper review of the T31 in due course.  Wear on the right hand side of the tyre is particularly noticeable as can be seen in the photo below.  There's a reasonable amount of life left in the rear T31 and could just replace the front but being ever inquisitive, there are a couple of other brands I'd like to experiment with so need to replace both hoops.  More on this in due course.

A well-knackered Bridgestone T31 front tyre (big flats on the outer faces)



Monday, 4 May 2020

Time for a bit of nostalgia

This post has been kicked into gear by a bit of household tidying.  Although NZ has eased to lockdown level 3, we're still not straying far from home being over 70.  A trip to the village supermarket constitutes an exciting trip out!  Anyway, back to the tidying.

Our efforts to bring some semblance of order to our cupboards prompted a discussion with respect to the boxes of slides, photos and negatives we have stashed around the place.  We've decided to finish digitising the photos we want to keep as the really early ones are beginning to discolour.  We'll also buy a specialist scanner for 35mm slides and the zillion strips of photo negatives that we have but that needs a bit more research, not to mention the international postal service to start operating properly again.

However, I made a start today with scanning a few photos and thought I'd share a few which I can accompany with a bit of a narrative.  Hope that this post isn't too terminally boring!

The first photo was taken in 1967 of my 1955 Tiger 100 engine.  I'd had new cylinder liners fitted as both originals had small cracks propagating from the conrod cutouts.  For obscure reasons, both new liners over a period of several months had rotated slightly in the block, causing the edge of the cutouts to rub against the conrods.  If you look where the conrods emerge from the crankcase, you can see the semicircular scoop out of the nearest rod.  This filled the oil galleries with fine aluminium powder, with the inevitable result.  You can see the damage to the farside piston crown and rings.  The engine wasn't worth rebuilding but fortunately, I managed to buy an engine from a wrecked bike for 10 quid!  That ran reliably for the rest of the time I owned it.

 Thoroughly knackered Tiger 100 motor

This photo was taken in 1972 at Hildenborough in Kent, UK.  Signing the register in church after our wedding.  As well as being the start of a very happy 48 years together this year, the photo brought back a couple of other memories!  I might be smiling but I spent the wedding eve until dawn talking down the big white telephone (chucking up in the toilet).  Not due to alcohol, but a bug that Jennie's sister's family had contracted.  No-one in the entire congregation was spared over the next few days.  The other memory is of the vicar.  He subsequently ran off with a parishioner's wife, thereby demonstrating his flexible interpretation of christianity; at least the coveting bit!

Young and carefree

This photo was taken in 1977, becoming a Dad for the first time.  Lyndon was born the previous year at the time when long(ish) hair and moustaches were considered the height of fashion .  Cotton shirt without a collar and flared sleeves, hippy-style.

Fashion trendsetter and first time dad

Moving onto 1984 (or thereabouts), hair was shorter and I was pretty fit on account of sailing at a national level, competing in a Paper Tiger catamaran (a bit like Hobie cats, only with centreboards).  Those were the days when wearing short shorts was socially acceptable!  Pictured here with daughter Victoria.  In what seems like the blink of an eye, she's now a Senior Psychologist for the Justice Dept in Melbourne, Australia.  Where did the time go????

Down at a local lake

For a number of reasons, not the least because of rediscovering motorcycling, I stopped sailing at a national level in 1987, bought myself a Laser and just competed at club level.  After winning the club champs in three successive seasons, I finally stopped sailing in 1990, when this photo was taken.

The international Laser dinghy

In 1991, Jennie and Victoria flew back to the UK to attend a family wedding - Victoria was a bridesmaid.  Just love this photo with the silk dress and floral hoop.  We still have the hoop although admittedly, the flowers are rather moth-eaten!

Gets her looks and intelligence from her mother

In 1995 or thereabouts, I wanted to teach our eldest son to ride and acquired an unregistered Suzuki TS 100 as is, where is for $50.  This bike's claim to fame was that for a drunken bet, it had been ridden off the wharf at full tilt into Ohiwa Harbour, Evel Knievel style.  It had then been unceremoniously dumped in the corner of the owner's shed for a year.  It was in remarkably good condition considering and after a superficial strip and clean, ran perfectly.  The photo was taken on its first outing along a firebreak of our company forest.  I actually enjoyed riding it more than the Yamaha IT 175 which I bought to accompany him on.

Yours truly on the Suzuki TS 100

Moving on to 1996, Lyndon owned a 1980-something Suzuki X7 road bike so that he could get his full licence.  I bought it off a mate at work and it was an absolute joy to ride.  Another workmate subsequently bought it and although it hasn't been ridden for well over 10 years, I still know where it is.  It would be fun to restore it but time and enthusiasm are the problems.

Lyndon and his Suzuki X7

In 1997 (I think!), Lyndon became the first of our 3 kids to graduate.  Here he is outside the registry building at Otago University with his proud parents the day after the capping ceremony.  He spent his first 2 years at Knox College, which had dining and other traditions similar to Oxford or Cambridge (or Hogwarts, if you prefer!). He then completed his second degree in Auckland and along with his siblings, keeping his parents perennially poor.

Proud parents with Lyndon

The late 90's also saw a visit to NZ by my godmother and her 2 daughters Linda and June.  It was so much fun showing them about and one of my highlights was taking both Linda and June out on my BMW K100 RS and doing "The Ton" (100 mph) as it was something neither had ever done.  Motto?  Never grow up! 

Linda on the K100RS

In 2001, the last of our kids started university.  With no more ferrying of kids to sporting events etc at weekends, Jennie celebrated by buying her first MX5.  British Racing Green of course with unbelievably light Panasport competition mag wheels.  We spent a month touring the south island in it that year and the weather was so good that we only had the soft top raised on 2 half-days!  The trip was also memorable because in a remote camping ground on the west coast, we bumped into one of my old UK school school masters who I last saw in 1964.  Small world!

Hot chick with new toy

The last of the current crop of scans was taken in 2002/3.  Our younger son Kerryn had just graduated from Massey University with honours, Bachelor of Technology.  This was one of the expensive official photos.  Jennie always looks a million dollars but I thought I scrubbed up ok for the occasion too!

Another proud parent photo

Roll on normality!


Friday, 10 April 2020

The anatomy of a personal lockdown

The whole world has faced the unknown with respect to Covid-19 and whilst the approach of each country varies, we've all faced restrictions which we've not experienced before.  NZ went into a hard lockdown really quickly and this has paid dividends.  As of today, a total of 1283 cases and sadly 2 fatalities involving the elderly.  That early action has not only stopped the total from being much, much higher but it will enable some degree of normality to resume that much quicker.

I've never voted for the Labour Party as I've disliked the "nanny state" politically-correct approach of some past Labour governments but I must say that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has handled major crises during her tenancy with more compassion and decisiveness than I would have imagined.  The sign of good leadership.  I was surprised to see her attracting major overseas interest like this piece from CNN a couple of days ago.


Getting back to how it's affected Jennie and I personally at this stage, it hasn't been too bad at all.  Following her rapid return from the UK, we both self-isolated on our property for 14 days.  I did the cooking and cleaning for the first 10 days and then it was back to sharing.  To be honest, we were both expecting the odd argument being in constant close proximity but we've been able to have a lot of fun and laughter.  A certain amount of novelty in the situation I suppose. 

I've been staying fit by having my mountain bike in a resistance frame.  It's ironic that on the last day of our isolation, I overdid the pedalling and hurt a leg muscle.  Consequently, my first trip post-isolation was to the pharmacist to get some Voltaren rub!  One trip to the local supermarket to get some odds and ends went off without a hitch, as did a visit to the doctor to get our influenza shots.  That was pretty slick.  Rolled up in the car to the service lane behind the surgery and a nurse in full PPE administered the jabs through the open car windows.  All done in a couple of minutes.

Fortunately, the autumn weather in our region has been fine so far with temperatures in the low-mid 20's C.  This has let us go for walks on the beach behind our place and do some long overdue gardening.  We did get some welcome rain a couple of evenings ago but it only lasted for half an hour.  Nice double rainbow over the harbour though.

So far, haven't found the pot of gold

Whilst nowhere as good as riding, just being outside in good weather to do some gardening has been great mentally.  Thought I'd share some shots of a few plants in our garden that I've been tidying up.

We have a lot of bromeliads and whilst they don't take much looking after, a good thinning out was needed and a good start has been made on that job.

A colourful bromeliad patch

The bees are having a field day with our Dwarf Bottlebrush plants.  It would be interesting to see what the honey tastes like!

Dwarf Bottlebrush

Last year, we had very few Monarch butterflies in the garden .  We think that it was due to large numbers of paper wasps attacking the Monarch caterpillars but this year there's a lot of them with very few wasps.  The Swan plant below which the caterpillars feed on is about 2.5 metres high and will provide a great food source.

Swan plant with seed pods

The Vegepod we bought at the end of last winter has been wildly successful.  Produce grows much faster than in the garden and we've had a constant supply of lettuce varieties, rocket, spinach and so on.  The basil has been outstanding with heaps turned into pesto, leaves frozen for future use and so on.  Also very handy with it being just a few strides from our kitchen.

Australian-made Vegepod.  A real winner

I guess that being busy is helping our lockdown to pass with relatively little frustration but the background knowledge that the majority of Kiwis are helping to drive it in the right direction also helps enormously.  The only frustration is not being able to get out on the bike.  It's been polished to within an inch of its life with nowhere to go!  Maybe soon......

I'm also retiring as chairperson of our region of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.  After nearly 5 years in the position, we have some great people who deserve to make their mark on it.  I'll still be around as a mentor and examiner so no plans to give up riding yet!

Finally, whilst looking for something else in a storage box, I came across a Tamiya plastic bike kit of a Honda Blackbird that I built around 2004.  It had got broken forks but fixed it ok thanks to superglue.  I remember that it sent me almost blind painting all the tiny parts and matching the bodywork to my real one.  Still looks pretty cool!

Tamiya Honda Blackbird

Kia kaha everyone - be strong.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

First official day of lockdown

We've actually been in lockdown at home since I collected Jennie at the airport on Monday but this is the first official day nationwide and boy, it's quiet!  So far, everything is working out really well, we're keeping a reasonable distance from each other, separate bathrooms and Jennie isn't allowed in the kitchen at present.  This means I'm doing all the cooking but on the positive side, it keeps her away from sharp knives if I get under her skin!  She's busy catching up with her passion of genealogy (family history) and I've been doing motorcycle maintenance with gardening and other domestic stuff yet to come.  We had hoped to take the boat out fishing but apparently, that will be frowned on despite the isolation that comes with fishing.  I'm a member of the Coastguard should I ever need their services, but received an email from them this morning.  Roughly translated, it said "Don't expect to be rescued for at least 4 weeks so don't go on the water".  It's a beautiful day too, flat water, warm and sunny - sigh......

View from our front deck today

Once our immediate 14 day quarantine is up, we are allowed to go for a walk, keeping the regulatory 2 metres from others and visit essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and so on.  No need for that at present.  As it happens, new brake pads for the KTM arrived yesterday so today was always going to be earmarked for fitting them.

EBC HH pads - serious stopping power

I love EBC HH pads.  I fitted them to my Blackbird, Street Triple and GSX-S1000.  Far superior to the OEM pads on all those bikes in terms of stopping power.  They're not snatchy and they're kind to disc rotors - what's not to like and why aren't pads this good fitted as standard?  I found a UK supplier on eBay advertising a full front and rear set for GBP84 (NZ$172) including delivery.  A sight cheaper than NZ so it was a no-brainer.

This is where my ABBA  bike stand comes in really handy as both wheels can be lifted off the deck at the same time by using the attachments.

Both wheels off the deck

Getting both wheels off the deck is particularly handy because as well as swapping the pads, it allows me to easily de-glaze the disc rotors to maximise stopping power and bedding-in.

Essentials - pads, brake cleaner, wet and dry paper

First job was to remove the old front pads which were in "as new" condition.  As opposed to some other bikes I've owned, access to the KTM pads is a piece of cake.  Pop off a circlip  at the end of each pin, unscrew and withdraw the 2 pins and spring strip - the pads just lift out.

Removing the tensioning spring and old pads - piece of cake

Next job was to break the glaze on both faces of each rotor.  Sanding block, 400 wet and dry paper used wet.  About 5 minutes per face.

Wet de-glazing with a sanding block and 400 wet and dry paper

Glaze removed, disc thoroughly washed, calipers cleaned with brake cleaner

New pads inserted followed by tensioner, pins and circlips

A quick pump of the brake lever to reposition the pistons and job done.  The rear single caliper and disc was done in the same manner.  Only a single pin so really quick.  Next job is to go out and bed the pads in with a series of high speed, elevated temperature stops.  When that happens is in the lap of the gods at present.  Nothing else needs doing to the bike so tomorrow is a whole new day!

Monday, 23 March 2020

What a difference a few days make....

Jennie has been in the UK to see her sister.  For obvious reasons, things turned to custard pretty rapidly and an announcement by NZ's Foreign Affairs government department for Kiwis to get back to NZ asap was the spur to get her home pronto.  Easier said than done and without going into detail, there were several sleepless nights trying to get it sorted.  Some pretty serious price-gouging by some airlines or their agents which was morally unacceptable, if legal.

Bless our travel agent, he burned the midnight oil for a couple of days and got her a flight home with Qatar Air.  London-Doha is a little over 8 hours and Doha-Auckland is about 16 1/2 hours.  Cattle class is not good on the body when you're in your 70's, not to mention close proximity to others.  He managed to get Jennie what's known as a business-class Q Suite, where you can actually close a door and isolate yourself.  A picture is worth 1000 words ..... We've been told that it was the last but one flight by Qatar to NZ and is now virtually impossible to get back to NZ by any means.  The reverse is also true - there are still a lot of tourists here who look to be stuck.

Qatar Q Suite business class (Qatar photo)

Anyway, her flight arrived in NZ this morning at 0500.  All the airport buildings had been closed to everyone but passengers so I met her in the big car park outside the terminals.  It was pitch black, hardly anyone about and seeing her in the headlights sitting on a suitcase waiting for me to turn up was surprisingly emotional.  Must be getting soft.

A 2 1/2 hour drive home and we're both in isolation for 14 days.  We can go for a walk and I think taking the boat out fishing is fine but no other close contact.  Today, it was announced by our Prime Minister that total lockdown of NZ is imminent, apart from essential services.  This is going to be tough on a lot of people but it needs to be done.  I'm just hoping that I don't irritate Jennie to the extent that I get stabbed or pushed overboard.   If the blog goes quiet for a substantial period, please contact the authorities and state your suspicions!

Onto bike stuff, I can't get my KTM officially serviced as part of its guarantee because of the closures but that's of no consequence as I won't be riding it far.  Whilst Jennie was in the UK,  I set to and did a wheel alignment on the KTM with an adaptation of the laser rig I built for the Blackbird in 2003.  This isn't a tutorial but the basic principles can be found HERE .  I've simplified it a little since then but the basics still apply.  

Laser light just kissing maximum rear tyre width

Measuring the offset at 2 points on the front tyre (and on both sides)

Cutting to the chase, the differential offset of 8mm was more than I was happy with and with a bit of judicious adjustment, I pulled it back to 3mm.  Trouble is, I don't really know what constitutes an acceptable dimension for road riding of the sort I do.  I know that top race teams normally spend a bit of time on this aspect though.  I suppose it's the anal engineer in me coming out, sigh.......  reliable data has been central to my whole working life.  I will add a comment though.  If you can't measure something, then there's no basis for objective discussion.  I do know from past experience that tyre dealers or bike shops can be pretty tough and ready.  I prefer to know for sure.  Interestingly, I took some measurements at the adjusters on the swingarm before re-adjustment and superficially, they "looked" ok.  However, with the tolerances between each component compounding the error, you can't tell without actually measuring at the tyres themselves.  Trust me on this.

Finally, some comments on my Bridgestone T31 sport/touring tyres.  These replaced the OEM pure sport tyres which I was unhappy with in cold, wet conditions.  I've now covered 8500km on the set  and both wet and dry weather performance is excellent in terms of grip.  Ummm...excepting the walking pace drop outlined in the previous post.  No tyre would have prevented that.  Speed of turn-in is probably not as good as the OEM tyres but it's still acceptable.  In terms of wear, the rear tyre still has an excellent profile and lots of tread.  End of life will be around 10000- 12000 km which I'll be perfectly happy about.

Bridgestone T31 rear tyre at 8500 km - good profile, plenty of tread

The front tyre also has a decent amount of tread in general.  However, it has badly lost shape with substantial flats on the side extending to within a few mm of the tyre edge.  Less than perfect front suspension is one contributor.  However, I've experienced the same thing on all my front tyres irrespective of brand, including bikes with high end suspension.  The most likely cause is where I live in terms of ultra-twisty biker paradise roads which require aggressive countersteering at a reasonable pace.  Something I'm going to have to live with unless I do a 2 front for 1 rear replacement strategy.  I like the T31's very much but haven't decided to replace the front yet as I might look at the Continental Road Attack 3's, just out of curiosity.

To inject a note of reality into the tyre discussion, most tyres from major manufactures have a performance envelope that exceeds the abilities of most of us riders provided we've identified and chosen the type properly in the first place (pure sport, sport touring, adventure etc).  It comes down to personal preference and "feel" after that.

Bridgestone T31 front tyre at 8500 km - big flats towards the side

Finally, every good wish to anyone reading this blog.  There are going to be challenging times ahead and keep safe. Equally importantly, keep a sense of humour and be kind to each other!


Friday, 6 March 2020

The Green Badge Tour, pt3

Napier has a nice cafe scene in the Ahuriri area and it was up early and eat a good breakfast to avoid a lengthy meal stop later in the day with about 450 km to cover before our next stop at Waihau Bay near East Cape. The timing of gas stops were also factored in as they are few and far between on the route we wanted to take.  A quick fill near Bay View turned into a slightly longer fill when a ummm... "mature" woman rocked up on a nice-looking new Royal Enfield 650 twin.  Well, it would be rude not to engage a fellow rider in conversation wouldn't it, despite Tony's cynical spin on the reasons for the conversation!

The lack of traffic continued, apart from a handful of logging trucks coming the other way and a few classic cars from the Napier Art Deco weekend en route to somewhere else.  Another fuel stop at Wairoa ready to depart the coast road and head for Gisborne via another superb riding route - Tiniroto Road.  T Road is about 85 km of continuous bends in the middle of nowhere with beautiful scenery.  I'd previously done it a couple of times in daylight as had Lloyd and once around midnight on a 1600 km in under 24 hours organised endurance ride.  Doing it at night with no mobile phone reception and no traffic was a scary experience and not to be repeated.  Daylight was a different matter entirely.......... or so we thought!

At about the halfway point, I was up front and we were getting along rather briskly.  Coming out of one bend,  I saw something in the road and rapidly came to a stop.  There was a slip across the road, not very deep and maybe 10 metres or so wide.  The weather front which we experienced the previous day had brought some mudstone and other debris down from the nearby cliff.  It didn't look too bad and as turning round would have added a massive distance to our journey, we decided to ride through.  Things were due to turn rapidly to custard..........

At walking pace or less, I rode through the slip, followed by Lloyd. Pretty straightforward actually until we got to the other side.  What was not obvious was that there was several metres of a very thin layer of slurry which had a friction coefficient akin to a sheet of ice.  The slight road camber caused the wheels to track at right angles to the direction of travel and down I went!  "Bless me", I said.  Actually, they weren't exactly the chosen words, but you get the drift.  Lloyd was right behind me and suffered the same fate.  Tony hadn't started his run and wisely chose to stay where he was.

No real damage except to our dignity.  Getting the bikes upright again was a real issue as it was so slippery that we could hardly stand.  Eventually, we got them upright and pushed them to a relatively crap-free spot but not before Lloyd had tweaked a leg muscle.  Fortunately, this was quickly fixed with an anti-inflammatory.  Much use of roadside twigs and grass to clean out the tyre grooves.

In the meantime, a road gang had turned up and helped Tony push his bike through long grass and ruts on the side of the road to avoid the worst of the slip - more difficult than it looked.

Tony pushing the MT 10, me cleaning out the rain grooves (photo: Lloyd)

Whilst we were still cleaning up the tyres, an Australian motorcycle tour group showed up.  One of them decided to ride through and despite being on dual purpose tyres, he suffered the same fate as us.  That prompted the rest of them to push the bikes through the slip with the help of the road maintenance crew.  Even so, there were a few anxious moments.  Also, an 18 wheeler truck slid off into the verge and was waiting a tow out which shows just how treacherous it was.

Anxious moments for the Aussies (photo: Lloyd)

The remaining Aussies waiting to cross the slip.  Looks like one is having a nervous pee on the verge!

Tony managed to video the aftermath of the carnage.  Fortunately, he missed me hitting the deck but did catch one of the unfortunate Australians doing the same trick.  In the following video, I'm in the hi-viz jacket at the far end of the slip, busy cleaning my tyres.  It all starts about 50 seconds from the beginning of the video.

Courtesy: Tony

The shenanigans cost us over an hour by the time we were ready to roll but we were thankful as it could have been so much worse.  None of us had ever experienced such a loss of grip, even on black ice.  The first few km were spent at a very low pace, gradually increasing our angles of lean to ensure that our tyres were completely free of the vile stuff.  Stopping at the first gas station in Gisborne, we spent half an hour or so scrubbing our bikes and selves to get rid of every last trace of crap.

 Just about clean at last (photo: Tony)

Despite the odd light shower, the run from Gisborne up to East Cape (Te Araroa) was a fast one with virtually no traffic - motorcycling at its very finest. Bringing up the rear for a spell and watching Tony and Lloyd peel into bends at exactly the same spot and ditto for getting on the gas exiting them was a privilege to watch and testimony to their level of skill.  Although the pace was brisk, it wasn't the speed but the way they made it look so effortless that was so appealing.  The mark of seriously good riders.

A quick stop for Tony to take on fuel at Te Araroa and then the remaining 56 km to our accommodation at Waihau Bay for the evening which turned out to be a real highlight.  Waihau Bay is a tiny community in a breathtaking location.  The lodge we were staying in is only metres from the water and our accommodation on the upper floor had its own verandah and views to die for.  Beautifully restored, 3 bedrooms, 8 beds and a massive lounge at an unbelievably reasonable price.

Waihau Bay Lodge - Tony and Lloyd in foreground

Panoramic from the verandah (photo: Lloyd)

Lloyd and Tony on our verandah - doing it tough!


Our spacious lounge

The place was buzzing as there was a fishing contest on and we enjoyed chatting with the boaties about how their day had gone.  Food in the restaurant was very reasonably priced, plenty of it and great quality.  Just what was needed after the adventures of the day.  

Tony with his fresh fish and chips (photo: Lloyd)

My wee T bone

Once again the friendliness of Kiwis showed through with perfect strangers enjoying a yarn with each other and efficient, friendly service from the lodge staff.  As the sun started to set, a partial rainbow appeared, adding a nice touch to the end of the day. 

Just before sundown

The fishermen were up before dawn and getting on the water for the contest and a few photos were taken from the verandah leading to sunrise.

A new day dawns (photo: Tony)

Here comes the sun, la la

We were also up, anticipating an early breakfast and getting on the road for the last day and home some 430 km away. We found out that the dining room didn't open until 0830 so it was off to Opotiki, just over 100 km away for brunch.  The stretch of road to Opotiki is simply magic.  No other traffic, warm and with the sun mainly behind us, we all had grins a mile wide.

Clear road and blue skies...... (photo: Tony)

A quick photo opportunity at Raukokore Church, built in 1894.  It's right by the ocean in an isolated setting, absolutely breathtaking.  It's hard to see but on the horizon between Tony and Lloyd, there's a hint of white.  This is the offshore volcano White Island, which erupted recently claiming many lives.  It was a lot more visible further along the coast and still looked pretty active.  There wasn't a lot of chatter over the comms and I think we were in our own worlds, soaking up the sheer joy of riding.

Tony and Lloyd at Raukokore Church

Yours truly and Lloyd (photo: Tony)

From Opotiki onwards, we were on what was effectively home ground with a higher number of towns and increased traffic but we weren't exactly stuck in queues.  Not long after crossing the Kaimai mountain range, it was time to say goodbye to Lloyd as he headed off to Hamilton whilst Tony and I rode north.  We said our goodbyes at Paeroa and I rode the remaining 90 km to home in Coromandel.

What a tour!  Great mates who you trust implicitly and have a lot of fun with.  Mixing with the IAM team from round the country and kudos to the Wellington team for putting on a wonderful conference and social activities.  Finally to New Zealand for being such a wonderful place to ride bikes.  Rides like that are truly good for the soul.  Wonder what's next?