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Sunday, 1 December 2019

Fun and frustration

Summer (meteorologically speaking) starts in NZ today and in our neck of the woods, the weather has been glorious for the last couple of weeks with temperatures in the mid-20's C or a bit above.  Perfect for motorcycling.  Truth be told, we could do with a spot of the wet stuff as cracks are appearing in the garden.

A week last Sunday, I took part in a social ride with members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists from our region.  We all converged on the tourist town of Rotorua, known for its bubbling mud pools and geysers.  However, it wasn't to see the natural wonders.  A Rotorua resident called Sue runs a sideline business called Plugz 4 Lugz making custom moulded ear plugs.  One of our members had arranged for her to run a production line for our members.

About 4 years ago, Sue had made some plugs for me because off the shelf plugs always seemed to work loose and weren't particularly effective - must have weird ear canals.  The plugs which Sue made were just fabulous but were getting a bit ratty with use so it was time for new ones.  The plain ones actually improve the quality of bike-to-bike comms by reducing wind noise.  She also makes them with in-built speakers.  The round trip for me was a little over 400 km but we all know, it's about the journey, not the destination.

Bikes lined up in Sue's driveway

It was really well-organised with Sue working round everyone and injecting coloured silicone of their choice into ears and leaving them for a few minutes to set.  Once that was completed, we all headed for lunch at a local cafe whilst Sue trimmed the plugs and sealed them with a clear coat.  A thoroughly enjoyable ride and great to catch up with members from various parts of our region which covers some 40,000 sq km.

Sue, with Rex waiting for his plugs to harden

Nice, pristine ear plugs

That was one of the fun bits, now for a frustration.....

Doing a job at home (hanging out the washing actually!) and I noticed some odd-looking "floaters" in one eye which had just appeared.  To cut the story short, we ended up making a 350 km round trip to an eye specialist who diagnosed a small retinal tear which bled into the eye and it was fixed with laser treatment which took all of 10-15 minutes after a thorough examination.  Only pain was to the wallet.  There was one lighter moment though.  In the hope of helping with the diagnosis, I sketched what the floaters looked like and also took a graph of my blood pressure over the last year in case it had any relevance (it's pretty good for my age by the way).  When I handed them over, the specialist put her head in her hands and said, "Are you an engineer?"  I asked her how she knew.  She replied that her husband was an engineer too and he once took along a spreadsheet when he visited his doctor.  I replied that it seemed  like a perfectly normal thing to do which caused much laughter and eye-rolling between Jennie and her, sigh.....

Having got that out of the way, the next job was to take an IAM member for his Advanced Police Roadcraft Test.  It involved sitting a theory paper, then taking a practical ride of nearly 2 hours covering city and expressway work, followed by a spell on rather challenging country roads.  It also involved him giving commentary of what potential hazards he was observing and how that was impacting on his actions.  I'm happy to say that it was immensely pleasurable for both of us as he absolutely aced the test - a considerable compliment too to his mentor.  To see the massive improvement in riding skill and personal safety since him joining IAM last year is more than ample reward for doing what I do.

Bruce at the end of his Advanced Test

An interesting observation which won't come as a surprise to adventure bike riders......

Bruce rides a Triumph 1200 Explorer.  One country road on the test was exceptionally twisty with limited sight lines and the sealed surface was pretty rough.  The torque of the 3 cylinder motor coupled with compliant suspension meant that he could safely maintain great progress in those conditions.  On the Duke 790 with sport-oriented suspension and less torque, I was having to work a lot harder than Bruce.  I rarely use my quickshifter for up-shifts but was certainly doing so on that part of the ride to get constant drive out of corners.  Clear proof that a well-ridden adventure bike is quite a weapon, especially on less than optimal road surfaces.

The final frustration was that on the way home from the test, my eye started bleed internally again.  Negotiating the twisty coast road with effectively one eye called for a fair bit of care through losing my depth perception.  Yet another 350 km round trip the following day to the specialist with Jennie driving.  So much crap in the eye that the specialist couldn't make a diagnosis.  A further trip is scheduled in a few days when things have hopefully settled down.  Not a smart idea to be driving or riding in the meantime but Jennie has a few menial tasks lined up to keep me out of mischief.  Let's hope that I can continue my motorcycling career for a while yet!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Summer has come early!

Thanks to our Australian cousins pushing some of their second-hand weather to us across the Ditch, we've had a week of hot dry weather ranging from the high 20's C to mid 30's in some parts.  A great opportunity for getting out and doing stuff before it turns to custard this weekend.

It started with a bit of gardening, then as Jennie and I happened to have a clear calendar at the same time, a spot of fishing one afternoon.  Didn't start off well though.  We launch at a ramp at the end of our street.  Whilst getting the boat ready, I neglected to lock the trailer jockey wheel (shown in the photo below) in the "up" position.  This had the wheel bouncing up and down onto the road and as it only had a plastic hub, it had destroyed itself and disappeared before we got to the ramp, also yanking out the trailer electrical plug,  That dragged on the road and was a sorry sight - bugger!

Intact jockey wheel before setting off

The wheel is only used for positioning the boat in the garden so not a big deal other than coughing up $50 for a new wheel and an electrical plug.  Jennie didn't even call me a complete plonker so the ego didn't take too much of a battering.

Fishing was a bit slow but we didn't worry too much as the weather was so stunning.  As usual, Madame caught more than me.  I'm sure it must be due to the amount of time I spend cutting up bait for her out on the water, sigh.....

A beautiful day offshore

The cats woke me up early this morning demanding a feed so it was a good opportunity to have a quick breakfast, jump on the bike and test my new Revit Tornado 2 mesh jacket (see previous post) with the liner removed.  Setting off in 19 degrees C, it was a little cool on the arms as I only had a T shirt underneath, but certainly not unpleasant.  As the temperature climbed into the mid-20's it was absolutely superb - a great buy.

As I got to Whitianga, I noticed an old DC3 flying low over the water.  As they're few and far between, I guessed that it was a scenic flight from the home base at Ardmore, just south of Auckland where the Warbirds are based.  A quick diversion to the grass strip at Whitianga and it had just landed, disgorging its passengers.  What a great sight.  (This is the link to the DC3 website: Fly Back In Time .

Passengers disembarking for a look round Whitianga

Security is just a gate with a "Restricted" notice on it!

After that excellent interlude, it was on to Cooks Beach, a really scenic location on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, not far from the famous Hot Water Beach.  In the background of the photo below, sea fog was present although it burned off pretty quickly.

Just spectacular - Cooks Beach and Mercury Bay

Mercury Bay was so-named after English explorer and master mariner Captain James Cook landed on the shores here to observe the transit of Mercury in November 1769.  The observation point was apparently pretty close to where the bike was parked in the photo!

Sea fog burning off - eastern end of Cooks Beach

Whitianga waterfront on the way home

Time to head home for lunch, a very pleasant round trip of about 170 km.  On arriving home,  I noticed that my front T31 tyre was a bit chewed towards the edges.  The shoulder is a softer compound and clearly, the high road temperatures combined with the twisty route and coarse chip (not to mention enthusiastic countersteering!) had taken its toll.  Apart from this, they are proving to be pretty durable.  4000 km so far on this set with little wear and they grip well in all conditions.  They were fitted in early winter when the OEM pure sport tyres were found wanting.  It will be interesting to see how they wear with the higher summer road temperatures.

Front T31 - a bit rough around the shoulders

Finally, a shot of Sam and Annie this afternoon vying for a comfortable spot on our bed.  Annie has pretty much accepted Sam now (see Sam's arrival a few months ago HERE).  She's half his size but still bosses him about from time to time to keep him in his place!  Sam's about a year old and Annie is 8.

Sam and Annie vying for a comfortable spot

All in all, a pretty good week and roll on summer!

Monday, 21 October 2019

Maintenance time, a new jacket and other stuff

Ready for another adventure 

I've had the KTM for around 7 months and have covered about 7000 km.  A lower monthly tally than usual but an overseas trip, crap winter weather and other distractions have all conspired against a bigger distance.  However, with spring having arrived, some decent distances beckon.

KTM's have a reputation for "edgy" performance and a few reliability issues.  I was well aware of this when making the choice but the emotional and fun appeal, not to mention blistering performance; over-rode these considerations.

I'm happy to report that although a few issues have been reported on the KTM 790 forum, I haven't experienced any significant problems and I love it to bits.  The ultimate accolade is that it gets patted when I walk past it in the shed.  That didn't happen with the GSX-S 1000. The Gixxer was a very competent bike but it just didn't light my fire.

As reported a few posts ago, the OEM pure sport tyres were fine before winter set in but were lethal in colder, wetter conditions. Just couldn't get them hot enough to work properly. They were ditched with 3500 km on the clock.  The Bridgestone T31 sport/touring replacements have been excellent in all conditions and should have a useful life.

Another minor issue was not the fault of KTM.  I purchased a French-made Acerbis flyscreen, principally for looks.  It works surprisingly well aerodynamically but has one serious downside.  The way it's mounted allows light from the headlight assembly to be reflected up the inside of the screen.  It's not really noticeable in daylight but riding at night, the reflected light is a serious and dangerous distraction.  Presumably, the French designers never ride in the dark!  I solved this by spraying the inner face of the screen matte black and also added some tape to the top of the headlight assembly which is covered by the bottom of the screen.

Matte is the new black

Another non-serious but irritating issue has arisen in the last few weeks which may partially be due to the way I ride and partially due to the materials which KTM uses.  I began to notice that when slowing towards a stop from slow speeds, e.g approaching a stop sign in town, the front brakes were slightly "juddery" when constant light pressure was applied.  It was as if they were braking and then releasing fractionally for every part rotation of the wheel.  The first thing I checked was for rotor runout or warping and there was none.  Closer inspection showed that the disc surfaces had a partially glazed uneven appearance, something I hadn't experienced on previous bikes.  This can just about be seen on the next photo - darker uneven strips.

Disc glazing - darker strips in places

I tend to be very light on the brakes during normal road riding, using a combination of throttle and gear selection to moderate my speed in combination with reading the vanishing point in corners.  I wondered whether the light use of brakes had a polishing effect but as mentioned earlier, it wasn't something I'd previously experienced.

I mentioned it on the international Duke 790 forum and bless his heart, another Kiwi from Taranaki mentioned that he had experienced similar problems on the Ducati Multistrada which he once owned.  His take on the issue was that it could be cheaper materials (or perhaps mismatched disk and brake pad materials) and the componentry needed some sustained heat in them right from the start to avoid the problem.  He solved the matter by breaking the glaze with 400 wet and dry paper on both the disc faces and the pads, then getting some sustained heat into the assembly.

I did exactly the same, wet-sanding the disc faces with 400 paper on a block and dry sanding the pad faces in a figure of 8 pattern on a flat surface.  All surfaces were then thoroughly cleaned with brake cleaner.  Total time to complete the job was a shade over 2 hours.

De-glazed discs before riding 

I then went out to a largely deserted straight bit of road near home and did a series of high speed stops to get the brakes really hot.  I then rode home and tried some low speed gentle stops - yippee, no more symptoms!  The following photo shows a nice, even discolouration across the disc face - quite different from the previous markings. 

Nice even discolouration

There's always something new to learn and the internet is especially good for great ideas and great people when there's a problem.  If it ever happens again, I know how to tackle it!  In a wee while, I'll be replacing the OEM pads with my favourite EBC HH type.  It will be interesting to see how these work.  I've had them on my last 3 bikes and they've been far superior to the OEM ones in terms of stopping power and feel.

I've also just celebrated my 72nd birthday - pretty pleased to still be indulging in the lifelong passion of riding a motorcycle.  All the upskilling over the past 8 or 9 years appears to have paid off - still feel safe riding at a reasonable clip.

Hot chick taking me out for a birthday dinner!

Two summers ago on a particularly hot day whilst dressed in full leathers,  I suffered a bout of heat exhaustion.  It was an extremely unpleasant and debilitating experience.  By the time I got home, I had a blinding headache and was feeling extremely nauseous.

I have no wish for a repeat and when Jennie asked me what I wanted for my birthday, a mesh jacket to allow better cooling sprang to mind.  Many brands offers jackets without a liner.  Fine for guaranteed hot days but less so for changeable conditions or early morning starts and late evening finishes. Some with liners are just windproof and others waterproof.  The other thing to consider is the grade of armour that jackets come equipped with.

After much poring over specifications I decided on the black Rev’it Tornado 2. Tough construction (1000 and 750D shell), CE level 2 armour (shoulders and elbows) and a detachable thermal liner and membrane.  Back armour is not supplied as standard on the jacket to allow for choice and I went for a CE level 2 Seesoft protector. The jacket will also take a Rev’it cooler vest.

Revit Tornado 2 mesh jacket

The Hydratex thermal liner and membrane is fine for those cooler spring mornings.  I haven’t tried it in the rain but assume it’s “showerproof” as opposed to continuous heavy rain.  Not critical as I have a lightweight Spidi nylon jacket to slip over the top in adverse conditions. 

A further selling point for me is that the detachable liner is styled to wear as a casual “bomber” jacket.  Perfect for end of day wear when on tour and travelling light.

Tornado 2 liner 

The Tornado 2 will set you back around NZ$500 depending on supplier, plus another NZ$70-odd for Seesoft level 2 back armour.  Maybe some matching pants for Christmas……..

Yesterday saw some of the members from our region of the Institute of Advanced Motorists get together for a social ride.  Our region covers close to 40,000 sq km so we tend to hold our social runs in different parts of the region to give everyone the opportunity to socialise.  Yesterday, I was responsible for leading the ride on the southern part of the Coromandel Peninsula (my own backyard, near enough), so only covered about 400 km door to door.  Actually, I hate group rides with people I don't know as there are invariably some clowns who disrupt the ride and put everyone on edge. However, when everyone is trained to the same standard, it's a rather different proposition.

The weather was perfect at around 20 degrees C and traffic was light, being the weekend before a public holiday long weekend when it will turn to custard.  Rides like this are genuinely good for one's mental state, or soul if you prefer.

Assembling in the town of Paeroa

Stopping in Whitianga to pick up lunch - a nice mix of bikes

Not a bad spot to eat lunch - Whitianga Harbour

Finally, nothing to do with motorcycling. A couple of decades ago, I used to sail at national championship level and have retained an interest in sailing.  Interestingly enough, motorcycling, sailing and flying all require much the same skill set.  Anyway, New Zealand are the current holders of the Americas Cup, the world's oldest sporting trophy.  They last won it in foiling catamarans which were an outrageous design and could sail at over 40 knots.  For the next Cup in 2021, NZ have specified a 75 ft monohull, but one which foils and will supposedly reach 50 knots - even more outrageous!

The USA, Britain, Italy and NZ have all recently launched their prototypes and have begun testing them.  The NZ yacht Te Aihe (The Dolphin in translation from Maori) has been testing on Auckland harbour and looks absolutely spectacular, if not somewhat bizarre.  My favourite photo below.

Te Aihe in full flight

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Back to school

Nearly a year ago, I made a post about an NZ training initiative to reduce motorcycle injuries called Ride Forever which has been pretty successful to date.  That post is HERE .  Since then, a further incentive has been introduced whereby attending two of these courses allows the rider to claim $200 against the cost of registering their motorcycle.  Given that an 8 hour Gold-level course is only $50 and sometimes free, what's not to like?  That's what you call proactive!

The courses use the principles of the UK Police Roadcraft system, although to a less intensive level than the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).  Yesterday, a Gold level course was being held on the Coromandel Peninsula where I live and because there's no such thing as too much training, I enrolled a few weeks ago.  It also helped that the course supervisor was one of my friends from IAM and it was nice to go along and support him.

I was talking about the course with one of my neighbours who rides.  He's an experienced motorcyclist but had never attended any formal training.  He had little idea of what his riding was really like so decided to enrol too.  He also pressured some local mates of his who were in the same boat to come along too!

So yesterday, the local contingent met early at the village fire station ready for the 50 km trek to Thames where the course was due to start from.

An early morning gathering

There was a good mix of bikes.  A Honda PC800, two Suzuki V-Strom 650's, a Triumph Tiger 800,  a KTM Duke 790, a KTM 1290 GT and a Yamaha FJR1300 belonging to Rob.

Meeting instructor Rob at a cafe in Thames, the first hour was spent doing introductions, discussing the days' programme and fitting comms to everyone's helmets before setting off.  The day was to be spent on a mixture of town work, open highways and tight technical country roads.  

Getting ready to depart Thames

Everyone took turns up front with Rob just behind doing some coaching over the comms link, occasionally going up front do demonstrate a particular point.  Every so often, the group would pull off the road for discussions.

To be fair, I didn't expect to learn much from this part of the course because of my higher qualifications but it was both instructive and pleasing to see the rate of improvement by the guys who had not previously attended any training.  Using just one example, taking the correct line into corners, using a combination of throttle control and gear selection instead of brakes took a bit of getting used to but by the end of the day, it was starting to become instinctive.  After initial and understandable reserve, you could tell how much fun everyone was having by the banter over the comms.  A lot of this was down to Rob's training style.  Ego-free (as opposed to the drill instructor approach), quietly spoken, endlessly patient and always encouraging. 

The Ride Forever Gold team (courtesy Rob Van Proemeren)

Whilst I didn't learn a lot on on the earlier part of the ride, it was still hugely enjoyable as a refresher and simply riding in nice weather with not much traffic.  However, the later part of the day was where I got a lot out of it.  Having only bought the KTM in March and what with travelling overseas and local crap winter weather, I hadn't got round to fully exploring its performance envelope.  Slow speed riding was one of these characteristics.  The KTM is the first bike I've owned in about 20 years that hasn't had a limited turning lock so my low speed U turns on narrow roads were a bit rusty.  The KTM is also a little snatchy at low speeds so some practice with onlookers was a good incentive to get it right.  No pressure then!  All went very well and I pushed the KTM harder than I would have done on my own - brilliant!

The second thing I hadn't tried on the KTM was emergency stopping from the open road speed limit (100 km/hour).  This is something I enjoyed trying on my previous bikes.  We found a deserted side road with a nice straight to practice on.  On the first run,  I gave it about 70% of full braking and there were no dramas whatsoever.  It just squatted down beautifully with nothing getting out of shape.  The next run was close to a full bore stop and again, no dramas at all.  After that, the gains were incremental and I'll keep the practice up because one day, it might make the difference between escaping injury or serious harm. 

Following that, it was back to Coromandel Town for a final debrief and the handing out of certificates and badges. 

The final debrief

Certificate and lapel badge

Any day on a bike is a good day but it's especially good when you're in excellent, fun company who have fantastic attitudes towards improving rider safety.  Oh and there's that matter about a decent discount off my next bike registration costs.....  what's not to like?

Addendum:  Following comments below from my Aussie mates expressing disappointment that a similar scheme isn't available over there, there MIGHT be light on the horizon.  I'm given to understand that the NZ Govt dept responsible for the R4E programme are in discussions with Vic Roads regarding the introduction of a similar programme in that state.  Fingers crossed guys!

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

With safety in mind

Got an email last week from a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists member asking whether more information could be added to our plastic membership cards.  The reason for this was that he has a clear plastic pocket on his riding jacket and carries ICE (In Case of Emergency) information in it.  He thought that ICE info on a membership card would provide a useful backup.  There are also commercial adhesive pockets for helmets which display relevant info.

I'm embarrassed to confess that although I take my personal riding standard seriously and carry a medical kit at all times, I haven't really thought about prominently displaying ICE information.  Consequently, I was really interested in what a discussion among members would reveal.

Some debate followed among experienced members about the best way to display ICE info and the question was also posed to members of the emergency services.  General consensus was that information on clothing or a helmet whilst better than nothing, wasn't the favoured option.  This was because clothing can be damaged or cut off in an emergency and vital information missed.  The preference was for a dog tag, wristband or something similar.  Here are a couple of examples.

The dog tag is made in embossed aluminium with a plastic surround.  A good range of colour choices available for both the metal and surround. There is also a choice of chain lengths.  Price NZ$19 delivered for two.  I took delivery of mine today!

The flexible rubber wristband comes in a range of colours and fastenings and depending on source, cost is between NZ$20-40 delivered.  The ICE data in most cases seems to be on an adhesive label or Dymotape.  Still thinking about getting one of these.

Today, another IAM Facebook member (thanks Mike Sutton) mentioned a feature that's available on an Android phone which I didn't know existed!  To quote Mike:

"Android phones have a built-in SOS function. It's simple, quick and very effective. Press the on/off button three times and it texts whoever you select with your GPS co-ordinates, front camera pictures and/or a audio recording. Go to Settings>Advanced features>Send SOS messages and set up from there. Of course you need data, but texts only need a sniff of reception and they send."

You can select multiple recipients and the function is now set up on my Samsung S8.  I don't know whether this feature is available on an iPhone.

I mentioned that I carry a small medical kit and it's worth re-mentioning something I posted about 18 months or so ago.  I attended a motorcycle accident talk and demo by an ex-military advanced paramedic who was a keen rider. He talked about a product called Celox which is hemostatic, i.e. stops bleeding fast. Extensively used by the military in conflict situations, granules can be poured into an open wound or there's a range of dressings and pads which have been impregnated with the special granules and can stop bleeding from an open wound.

The medikit has been supplemented with Celox gauze pads which are easy to use and very effective.  It's the sort of item you hope never to use but in a situation where there is significant blood loss, it might just save someone's life.  Got it in the car too.  Here's the item we bought and Celox products are available pretty much everywhere in the world:

A lot of us ride in areas where there isn't much traffic, both on sealed roads and off them.  We also ride solo on many occasions.  I'm really pleased that conversations over the last week has prompted some positive action on my part to take further safety precautions.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Road to Zero - oh really?

The NZ Ministry of Transport has recently released a working document for reducing the national road toll.  This is the publicity video:

Admirable sentiments, but let's dig a little deeper.  In the name of consultation, questionnaires are available on line for the public to make submissions.  Here's one such "tick the box" questionaire:

You'll note that at the top of the list is "Unsafe speeds", whatever they may be.  Seeing this is hardly surprising as every road safety campaign in recent memory is based on the "Speed Kills" mantra.  Sure it does, but it's only one part of the total picture. No-one would argue that enforcement of speed limits is an important tool in any safety campaign but punitive measures are "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff" and taken in isolation, they don't address the root cause.  As a respected Kiwi police officer involved with road safety said a few years ago, "Speed doesn't kill, stupidity kills".  Presumably, that didn't go down well with his political masters.

I'm trying not to be negative about the latest initiative as it does try to take a holistic approach with one notable (and critical) exception.  Regular readers might remember that I was involved with two government departments looking at motorcycle safety on a well-known motorcycling route called the Coromandel Loop.  That post is here: HERE .  You can read it for yourself but in summary, the government departments were a joy to work with and recommendations for roading improvements, signage, sightlines etc were accepted and swiftly implemented.  Since then, there has been a significant reduction in serious harm incidents involving motorcyclists.  There's a significant distinction here between effective public servants and politicians.

An integrated approach to raising motorcycle skills has also been implemented.  It's now much tougher to get a motorcycle licence and applicants have to go through a higher level of training and competence tests before they are granted a full licence.  Post-licence training hasn't been forgotten either with the introduction of the Ride Forever programme.  As you might expect, returning riders pose a particular risk and Ride Forever has achieved a 23% reduction in accidents compared with riders who haven't undertaken post-licence training.  I posted a summary of the programme HERE .  Above that, there's IAM training based on police roadcraft plus numerous commercial programmes.

A dodgy bunch of NZ Central North Island IAM Observers and Examiners

Going back to Road to Zero, can you see an apparent omission in the questionnaire (and detailed material on official websites)?  There is no specific mention of driver or rider upskilling, despite the undeniable success of the initiatives mentioned above.  Why might that be?

Call me cynical but I reckon that any genuine moves covering all road users (as opposed to targeted good initiatives by public service departments - examples above) would be seen as political suicide by whatever government was in power.  Imagine the public outcry if testing standards were raised, or retesting was reintroduced every 5 or 10 years for example.  Perhaps if you accrue a certain number of demerit points for driving offences, you have to attend some form of retraining at your cost?  Hardly likely to win a government votes but until raising skills becomes a visible priority across the board, accident levels (and all the knock-on effects) are unlikely to have a significant dent made in them.

I try not to get too frustrated by trying to ride to the best of my ability and giving time to help others who want to learn through the IAM programme but seeing a lot of public money largely wasted through sheer politics grinds my gears.  I'd imagine that it's even worse for the public servants like those mentioned above who do have a good record with effective initiatives.

Rant over - summer's coming and I'll be out riding rather than hammering out my frustrations on the keyboard!

Monday, 22 July 2019

A couple of midwinter runs

I've been a good boy for the past week, finally organising the purchase and installation of a new pyrolitic wall oven which Jennie's been waiting nearly 12 months for me to measure up and get my a into g .  The argument that good things are worth waiting for didn't seem to carry much weight in this particular instance.  Nonetheless, it attracted a few brownie points and allowed me to go for a couple of rides without the domestic task list being pointed at.   I'm exaggerating slightly of course, but not about Mrs J being of especially charitable disposition at present.

The oven no doubt played a part, but I suspect the real reason for her joy is the acquisition of a new furry friend to replace her beloved Thomas, who passed away aged 17 earlier this year. We drove to the cat rescue centre down the coast about 30 km from us a week ago and she fell in love with an 8 month old kitty called Sam.  Sam and his brother were rescued from a farmer's field when they were tiny and amazingly, his brother now resides further down our road!  This is the exceptionally handsome Sam, a silver and grey tabby with gold eyes and a tail like a lemur.  And man, can he talk!  Usually at around 2 am when he's running amok whilst the rest of us are trying to get some shuteye.

Presenting the handsome Sam

We're keeping him indoors at present until he fully settles down.  Annie cat is relatively indifferent to his presence at the moment unless he sits in her favourite place, namely my lap.  Anyway, all this is a prelude to a couple of days motorcycling, even when there are jobs still waiting to be done!

My good mate Tony, who is also a key member of our regional IAM observing team has just taken delivery of a Yamaha MT 10 SP.  He flew to the city of  New Plymouth to pick it up last Thursday and rode it round to a renowned suspension guru in the same city to have it set up from the get-go.  A combination of new tyres, damp roads and an unfamiliar bike of course, meant that the 300+ km delivery trip home was naturally a fairly cautious affair.  When he rang to suggest a Sunday ride on the Coromandel Peninsula and what with the perfect weather forecast, it would be rude to say, "Sorry mate, got a few domestic jobs on".  Like that was ever going to happen......

The MT10 SP is Yamaha's flagship naked sports bike based on the crossplane-engined R1.  With electronics controlling everything you can think of and a heap of stuff you've never heard of, plus Ohlins suspension front and rear, it's a real weapon that handles like it's on rails.  The paint job looks fantastic in the sun too.

Bike porn -  part of Tony's semi-active Ohlins suspension system

On Coromandel wharf

Tony and his new beast at Whitianga 
Does his headlight assembly look like it's got an open mouth ready to bite?

Following him as he fired it out of tight corners, the note from that crossplane 4 cylinder motor sounds amazing - quite unlike any other 4.  As the school holidays have just finished and it being mid-winter, there aren't too many visitors on the peninsula so it's perfect for a brisk(ish) ride on the bikes.

Two mature, respectable citizens at the Kuaotonu boat ramp

Kuaotonu again - no shortage of scenery to gawp at on the Peninsula

Lunchtime saw us at the Coroglen Tavern for their delicious scallop burgers and curly chips, washed down with ginger beer and lemon, lime and bitters - yummm!  Incredibly, we were the only bikes there as in the warmer weather, it would be packed.  We started the ride in sub-10 C temperatures but by lunchtime, it was a balmy 16 C.  I guess that the early morning heavy fog in the Waikato and Auckland provinces would have put a lot of people off but fog is a rarity on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Two lonely bikes at the Coroglen Tavern

A starving Tony

After lunch, it was time to part company with Tony heading south to home and me in the opposite direction.  What could be better than great company, good food, empty roads and two wheels?  As Tony remarked, "My bike is not a toy, it's a lifestyle investment of the highest quality and efficacy".  Sounds like a speech that he might give to his wife for justification, but who would argue that they're genuinely good for the soul?

Today saw me retrace yesterday's route, then travel further to the small town of Whangamata and back.

Today's wee run, but in rather less time than Mr Google suggests!

Although one doesn't need an excuse to go riding, it was a great opportunity to go and collect a watch which I've just had serviced.  Sure, it could have been couriered back at a fraction of the cost but where would the fun be in that?  

I've had a TAG dive watch for over 2 decades.  About 6 years ago, it needed a full service including seals.  I foolishly sent it to the main importer and they duly charged me close to NZ$600 for the privilege - bloody hell!  I guess it's a bit like taking your Merc or BMW to a main agent for your service - they screw you because they assume you can afford it.  Anyway, it recently came to my attention that there was a genuine old-time clock and watchmaker living in Whangamata.  It was time for a replacement battery and service so a call was made and yes, he was happy to do the job and no, it would not cost an arm, leg and first-born.  

Another lovely day, albeit low single digit C temperatures early in the morning but nothing that heated gloves couldn't handle so off we went.

Tairua with Paku extinct volcano in the background

Although Paku is classified as extinct, one can never be sure as NZ sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has several active volcanoes.  I admire the confidence of the residents who have built houses on the side of it as shown in the photo below.

 Paku, adorned with houses.  If the volcano doesn't get you, a tsunami will!

The watchmaker was a delightful chap and clearly knew his stuff.  The cost of the full service including fixing a partly working day/date function with a new part? A princely NZ$90!  Wonderful service and value but it makes me rather annoyed at the main service agent/importer who thinks they can rob people blind.  

Just time for a decent coffee, a trip to the local marina to see the floating gin palaces and then re-trace my steps back home in minimal traffic.  All in all, a soul-lifting couple of days and not a bad week all round!

The Duke at Whangamata marina