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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Night and Day, tra la....

Day and night, night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffics boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you

(With a respectful nod to Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra - could have been about riding a motorcycle!)

If you're wondering what illegal substances I've been sniffing, worry not - the lyrics just seemed totally appropriate having done solo night and day runs a couple of days apart as final practice for the 1000-miler a week next Saturday.

It's been hard to organise a group night run with my riding partners for the big event as we live up to 200 km apart so I decide to bite the bullet and go solo on the Coromandel Loop. I haven't ridden in the dark properly since last autumn so it's well overdue.  Twisty roads, as black as the Ace of Spades between the sparse communities - a real test at night and particularly so when you're on your own.  Night riding has a fair bit of psychology (errr...fear factor) thrown into the mix when travelling alone and it's a good opportunity to see if I still measure up.

Big, scary eyes!

Leaving Coromandel at dusk to gradually dial in, all is well for the first 10 minutes or so, then a problem arises.  All the bugs on the Peninsula have come out to play and seem keen to splatter themselves onto my visor to the extent that vision is significantly impaired.  Oh sh*t, sudden realisation that the dampened microfibre cloth I normally carry is still sitting on the garage bench at home.  Never mind, Whitianga isn't far away and I can wash the visor at a gas station forecourt.

 Waiting impatiently for the rider - lights are whiter than they look

With vision restored and the bugs having largely disappeared as absolute blackness sets in, time to press on and settle into a steady pace; talking myself into relaxing and stop gripping the bars so tightly.  The upgraded lighting works well and although the long-distance range isn't as good as my old Blackbird with its 100W Xenon bulbs, the round headlights give a far superior illumination of the verges and hedgerows closer to the bike - perfect for getting good positioning through tight bends.

In daylight, I pretty much know all the bend sequences on the peninsula by heart but in pitch blackness, my knowledge of what comes next becomes completely confused, so find it easier to drop pace a little and take each successive bend on its own merits - probably a wise thing to do anyway.  As the ride continues, I find all the night riding techniques slowly returning (see night riding post HERE) and travelling in a little cocoon of light becomes a pleasant experience.  The open road is virtually empty of traffic and even possums and other assorted livestock seem content to stay off the road for once, so the rest of the journey is completed without incident - nice to know that in fine weather at least, I can still handle night riding ok (I think).

Lit-up radar detector and GPS for company

The day ride is one which was canned a few weeks ago when appalling weather hit but this time, the forecast is for warm, sunny and without a breath of wind - yippee!  The plan is to head up to Clevedon, south east of Auckland via a road never previously ridden through the Hunua Range of hills just in case the devious organisers of the Grand Challenge have it as part of their route.  The return run will be in more familiar surroundings down the coast road with lunch at the Kaiaua fish and chip shop - a real biker favourite at weekends but what about weekdays?

A nice 300km morning ride in virtually no traffic

How come it's so easy to get out of bed when the prospect of a great ride is on offer? Instantly awake at 0600, no staggering about with brain at half-mast, instant focus on the ride whilst shaving and showering - delicious anticipation with a few flutters in the stomach.  Cup of tea in bed for Jennie, bolt down some breakfast and kit up.  Is there any better ritual than getting kitted up?  All part of getting mentally ride-ready I suppose.

It's a spectacular day and the water of the Firth of Thames is like a mirror.  Perfect day for fishing and the number of boats being towed to various launch ramps on the coast road causes extra vigilance as some of them seem to cut corners whether anything is coming toward them or not.  Leaving the coast road and entering the twisties near Miranda, I remind myself that this ride is supposed to be practice for riding smoothly and relaxing, not a Grand Prix (do other people have conversations with themselves as much as I seem to???).  Easing back a touch allows for better situational awareness and remembering some of the trickier parts of the new road.  To the west, farmland and to the east, the Hunua range of hills.  From photos I've seen, there are spectacular views of a waterfall and a water supply reservoir clad by bush down a side road but no time for them today.  It's an excellent, winding road but despite the GPS, I manage to miss a couple of turns and lose a minute or two re-tracing the route.  No worries - all part of riding.  In the 50-odd kilometres between Mangatangi and Clevedon, only 4 other vehicles are seen and they're all travelling in the opposite direction - heaven!

The village of Clevedon appears without warning and I'm back on familiar territory, heading east, then south to a date with a fish and chip lunch at the coastal settlement of Kaiaua.  Arriving at 1130, I'm the second person there, put in an order and sit outside in the sun.  Not long after though, an immaculate GSX 1400 pulls in, piloted by someone much the same age as me.  The wonderful thing about the riding community the world over is that there is an instant rapport and we spend a most enjoyable time chatting about this and that over fish and chips.  He's from Howick in Auckland, has worked long hours for 20 days straight and has taken 2 days off to go riding.  Non-riders would probably spend the time in bed!  He's a member of the Ulysses Motorcycle Club, an Australasian organisation for the over-50's with the motto of "Grow Old Disgracefully" - how cool is that!


Time to jump on the Triple and head home.  It's only 35 km as the crow flies from Kaiaua but skirting round the Firth of Thames by road, it's exactly 100 km - plenty of time for more riding in perfect conditions.  A lot of my riding tends to be on the pacey side with friends rather than cruising but today, the deliberate intention to just concentrate on being smooth and taking in the sights and smells was the best outcome imaginable.  We motorcyclists are truly blessed!

P.S There should have been more photos on the day ride and I apologise; it was one of those days when I simply didn't want to stop riding!




16 comments:

  1. Great post Geoff. I'm not a fan of bugs either...(Here's a photo of one of my worst bug filled rides home from work - http://bit.ly/bTAxRI )

    Your daylight ride sounds fantastic!!
    An empty road with lots of fantastic corners, a feed of fish and chips and then more riding to get back home....Is there anything better?

    Have a great day,

    Cheers,

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  2. Wow!!! That's a serious case of bug infestation! It's normally the first bug that hits right on the eye line that's worst eh? Huge temptation to flick it off and you always end up smearing it and making it a thousand times worse!

    Yes indeed. Discovering a new great road is a real pleasure - a feeling of true contentment at the end of a day.

    You too my friend!

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  3. Once again you have captured the spirit of motorcycling! The other night caming back from the cost I also encounterd a swarm of bugs, must be the season or something. Nice to read you enjoyed the ride and focused on some sights and smells. I have also been guilty of concentrating on the next corner and being oblivious to what is around me. Taking it all in is just as rewarding. I would think the 675 would be easier to ride slow and still enjoy than the bird would of been?

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  4. Thanks Roger! I think the little blighters swarm at dusk for a bit of frantic breeding, lucky them ;-).

    Yes, the Triple is easy to ride more slowly than the 'bird and I'd imagine that you suffer a similar affliction with the Sprint; especially with the Hunuas and Kaiaua coast run being right on your doorstep!

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  5. The Sprint is a lot easier to ride slow than the Daytonnas I had!

    Have fun next week, I expect to read the full novel no later than 24 hours after the event!

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  6. I couldn't imagine riding my old Honda (78 cb550) around at night. Holy cow. The headlight is only good to let oncoming traffic know they're about tho run someone over. That's my main ride, and when I get stuck out at night it's like navigating the forest by candlelight.

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  7. Brady:
    A friend I did one of the 1000-milers with many moons ago on his old Suzuki GS 1000 had a headlight like that!

    If you want better lights without loading up your generator, try Osram Nightbreaker bulbs or Philips Xtreme vison. They'll make a huge difference.

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  8. I have done the road along the Firth of Thames only once but it is still stuck in my mind as one of the most beautiful trips I have done on the Northern Island. Nice write-up, I was just right with you there, and I also understand the not-stopping for pics. Sometimes you just gotta ride... I wish you good weather, endurance and good luck for your brass butt run or however you call it down there ;-) And please keep the rubber-side down!!!

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  9. Hi Sonja, it's a pretty route all right but we have some other stunning roads to show you :-).

    Yes, simply didn't want to get off the bike and break the rhythm this time - it was that good! I saw some flame trees in full flower on the coast but even they failed to make me stop!

    Thanks for the good wishes. If you can pray to the weather gods, fellow blogger Bandit rider (Andrew)and I will be forever in your debt. It's the Grand Challenge, run by the Rusty Nuts motorcycle club, but brass butt sounds appropriate too :-)

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  10. Heh, heh - 2 weeks to go Geoff!

    Haven't had a night practice yet (not sure if it's gonna happen) but I have got fresh +80's fitted - they are the cat's whiskers! On the Connie they pick up fluro road signs at 800-1,000m easy & when you get close they're blinding!

    Funnily enough my old man went for a night ride on Monday night with a mate of his. This mate is doing the GC and wanted to ride all night - they ended up doing 1,200km through fog & rain etc. Dad was also trying his Osram +90's that I got him. He may be tagging along on the GC, although he has not entered...

    The weather this weekend looks like crap so next weekend will be awesome!

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  11. Got anticipatory butterflies yet Andrew? I have!

    Yep, those yellow flouro signs are much worse than the old blue ones - can't see a darned thing with glare if you look straight at them close up.

    I'm heading to Turangi Friday afternoon with an Auckland mate and the rest are coming down on Saturday morning as they live in the Waikato. When are you turning up?

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  12. No butterflies, starting to get pretty pumped for it. Connie needs a bath and I may even do the oil filter and diff oil.

    Friday afternoon. Get the bike checked over then off to my motel. Tea at the Truck stop with the Rusty's then to the camp to pick up the route instructions and back to motel to program GPS....

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  13. I have really enjoyed reading your posts about preparing for your 1000 mile ride and especially this one.

    I am glad I am not the only one who talks to myself when riding!

    I am sure spending this time on getting ready for the big ride will pay dividends. Good luck with your 1000 miler and try to take a few photos when you are doing it – I would love to see before the start, you and fellow riders at some of the stops and of course photos from the end!

    Good luck!

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  14. Thank you Gary - talking to self, singing to self, asking self questions... sufficient to get us sectioned eh?

    If I used the phrase "Anal Engineer" about preparation, it would only be in half-jest. However, the reason this time for a more systematic preparation is 7 years since the last one and a body which is showing signs of wear and tear! The outcome is still far from assured though, which is why it's aptly called the Grand Challenge. No concessions for weather or anything else.

    I will gladly blaze off lots of photos for you at regular intervals!

    Cheers...

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  15. I can identify with not wanting to stop for photos Geoff. I like your description of the preparation for the ride and the anticipation.

    I haven't ridden with a group yet but I would imagine that the pace can get brisk at times.

    Indeed, we motorcyclists are truly blessed! Ride safe!

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  16. Hello Mike - have been eagerly waiting for a long-overdue post from you!

    I'm happy to ride fast with people I trust implicitly, but not with big group rides of unknowns because there's always someone who puts others at risk. There's half a dozen of my close friends who have done advanced riding courses over the years and you'd swear that we had connected brains out on the road! They're an absolute privilege to ride with in all conditions.

    Thanks for dropping by and great to "see" you!

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