Wheel alignment

Thursday, 2 June 2011

How to spend the 1st day of Winter!

Crikey - it's only 3 weeks to the shortest day of the year - where did the time go??

I meant to go for a long ride the previous day but just as I was getting the kit out, the heavens opened so gave up and stuck some new plants in the garden - at least they'll be well-watered in!  Yesterday, the first day of winter; was an entirely different proposition with sun and warm temperatures so it was out of the door straight after a late breakfast. The plan was to head to South Auckland via the back roads to put into practice all the recent learnings for my advanced riding qualification with Institute of Advanced Motorists.  Got another official check ride shortly so badly need the practice!

A 315 km loop made in heaven

The last 2 rides to hammer in the advanced techniques didn't start well possibly because I was trying too hard but this time was completely different - relaxed right from the start.  Job to say why -  more confident definitely, beautiful day helping the attitude most certainly.  Also, a recent quotation by fellow blogger Dan Bateman was swirling around in my head.  He said "Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can't get it wrong".  Dan, you have no idea what a resonance that's had.  I'm trying very hard to fall into the latter category - I owe you big time!  Anyway, all the things combined to give the right head space which goes to show just how important the correct mental approach is.

With some rides, you just want to keep riding and not take any photos.  Today was the opposite.  Any nice sights encountered, it was no effort to pull over and whip out the camera.  Absolutely no idea why it works out one way or the other!  A quick stop on the Coromandel-Thames coast road at the highest lookout to take photos of Manaia Harbour and down a valley to a farm right on the edge of the Firth of Thames.  Lucky buggers - they even have their own private boat launching ramp!

Manaia Harbour as a backdrop

Moved the bike all of 10 metres to take this next shot down to the farm from the lookout:

 Farm by the Firth of Thames

One of the great things about riding on a weekday in our area outside the summer months is the virtual absence of traffic - simply wonderful.  In the 50-odd kilometres between Coromandel and Thames, I would have passed less than 10 vehicles.  The 15 minute ride along the southern edge of the Firth of Thames is the only straight(ish) bit of road in the whole journey, which is nothing in the scheme of things.  Turning up the western side of the Firth, I wished I had some swimming shorts with me as the ride took me past the Miranda Hot Pools.

  Entrance to the Miranda Hot Pools

New Zealand sits on the convergence of two tectonic plates, hence the active volcanoes and sadly, occasional earthquakes, although the recent Christchurch tragedy was both an extreme and rare example.  One rather more pleasant side-effect is hot springs which come up in all sorts of places. An unwelcome one a few years back was the one which unexpectedly came up in a senior citizen's house in a Rotorua retirement village, but I digress!  The Miranda hot springs consist of an open air  football field-sized pool of nice hot water with truck inner tubes and similar items which you can use as sort of floating arm chairs whilst you gently cook in the water - real decadence.  Any time is a good time to do this but it's especially wonderful on a starlit night. 

About 20 km further on from Miranda, the old twisty state highway 2 has been bypassed with a new dual carriageway and the old highway has been left for  local residents to use, plus all the motorcyclists who know about it - more magic riding in non-existent traffic conditions.  The only sad thing is that a small community (Mangatawhiri) was bypassed in the process and the gas station and handful of shops have closed.  Pity about the Mangatawhiri cafe (affectionately known as the Castle) as they did huge, inexpensive ice creams.

Abandoned cafe - vehicles now a rarity on this road

Turning north towards the Hunua ranges and Auckland, I spotted 2 bikes in the distance heading in the same direction.  Slowly closing on them, they turned out to be a woman (I'm pretty sure anyway) on a green Street Triple and a guy in front on a black Speed Triple.  There was a time when I'd have been busting to get past and clear off but it was a real pleasure to just hook on the back and watch them attack the bends - really nice skills.  Alarming signs of maturity showing up in my riding, especially on the hooligan Street Triple!!!

On reaching Papakura, one of the southern suburbs of Auckland; a bit of time was spent cruising in fairly busy town traffic, simply to practice good habits as there isn't much serious traffic where I live.  Even got to practice riding on really rough sections of dirt and rocks as it seemed like half the roads in the area had been dug up to lay new drainage systems.  Had visions of going down in an embarrassing heap in front the cars following me but all was well.............just!

Lunch was at the cafe at Ardmore airfield which I've mentioned in a previous post.  It's home to several flying schools, various light aircraft maintenance facilities and the NZ Warbirds - always something interesting going on.  The cafe has a verandah where you can sit out in the sun and watch all the comings and goings.  It seems quite bizarre, but light aircraft can taxi right up to the front of the cafe, jump out for a snack and then continue on with whatever they were doing!  Have a look at this photo:

Pilot in the cafe having lunch!

Sitting in the sun enjoying a mushroom quiche and a cup of coffee, I was entertained by a trainee (presumably) helicopter pilot getting in some manoeuvring practice less than 1 metre off the deck following the edges of the taxiways.  It did occur to me that if he got it wrong, it could well be somersaulting in my direction through parked aircraft spraying avgas everywhere so was quite prepared to make a rapid exit if required. However, he flew with great precision and the tight turns were really impressive.

Lunchtime entertainment

After lunch, it was time to kit up and ride down to the Warbirds hangars to see what was going on.  Noticed an immaculate Ferrari parked at the flying school right next door and as I rode past, saw that the numberplate said AV8TOR.  There's obviously a dollar or two to be made in flying!

At the only open Warbirds hangar, I noticed a P 51 Mustang undergoing maintenance, with a Cessna Bird Dog and a T28 Trojan flanking it.  I was going to be cheeky and ask if I could photograph the Triple alongside the Mustang but my nerve failed me.  Maybe next time as the Warbird people are normally very accommodating.

P51 undergoing maintenance

After a thoroughly enjoyable mooch around, it was time to head home via the coastal route.  Had to exercise a bit of care in the twisties just south of Clevedon as the road doesn't get much sun due to overhanging foliage and the road surface had a distinctly green tinge in places.  Gravel rash on both me and the Triumph would not be a good look on a ride to practice new skills!

At the coastal village of Kawakawa Bay, a quick stop by the launching ramp was made.  The sign in the photo below (click to enlarge) shows the daily number and size of fish and shellfish which a person is allowed to take in our region. 20 Scallops a day per person or 100 oysters make for a great meal.  So do 3 Kingfish a day when the minimum allowable catch size is 3/4 of a metre!!

Idyllic Kawakawa Bay

Heading down the coast, the many flame trees were all out in flower making a spectacular sight.  Lovely to have flowering trees in winter.

Gorgeous flame tree

Flame tree flowers

Because it had been such a fantastic day in all respects - the practice had gone well, the weather fabulous, great things to see and do en route, a small indulgence was called for.  In my case, it was to let rip for the rest of the way home at ummmm.... significantly above the posted open road speed for the remaining 80 km to Coromandel. Maturity suspended for just a wee while perhaps.

All in all, one of those magic days with great outcomes which happened without really trying.  Still scratching my head as to why other days when you're equally keen to enjoy the ride turn to custard and nothing goes right.  At least this outing wasn't one of them!

You don't stop riding because you get old - you get old because you stop riding


  1. Fantastic post today Geoff....sounds like a great day out. I have to say that you have some incredible scenery over there. And what a great excuse for "riding practice"!

    I would love to have witnessed the last 80km too...sounds like it was a lot of fun!

    cheers mate, and have a great weekend.

  2. Beautiful scenery even on the first day of winter. I like the shot of the sign on the beach. NZ has always been one of those places on my "list".

    As to the Ferarri, I think that it is more likely that it takes a dollar or two to be involved with flying especially a P51...


  3. Looks like an awesome ride Geoff, and all in my back yeard. I have not been to armore for ages, so must stick Nathan on the back as he would love the plans. Apparantly Ardmore is NZ's busiest airport.

    When you are out practising do you try to stick strictly to the speed limit? (Except for the moments of indulgence) What are you working on exactly, and what areas do you think you need to work on? Whenyou start winding it up, do you find the stuff you have practiced comes naturally in to your riding?

    Okay to many questions, but i am eager to know how it is going.
    Great post Geoff

  4. Geoff

    An airfield cafe is always a great place to ride to and linger at!

    Thanks for sharing this with us mere mortals of the Northern Hemisphere, N

  5. Thanks Anthony!
    The scenery is nice enough but it's the roads which are heaven for bikes; the south island in particular.

    Yep, the run home was indeed great fun and the edges of my rear tyre had little balls of rubber hanging off them. Always have the radar detector on the bike so the chances of getting nailed by the Highway Patrol or a mufti camera van are quite low. No substitute for using your eyes as well though.

    You have a super weekend too!

    In the upper part of the north island where Raftnn and I live, we only get the odd frost in winter so it's winter in name only.

    I think you're right on the money with respect to aviation expenses. There's a 2 seat Mustang in the south island and a passenger flight is around NZ$2000/hr. Mind you, flying in one amongst the majesty of the Southern Alps is something I'd gladly pay big money for if I could afford it.

    If you ever do make it down this way, there's enough Kiwi bloggers and bike enthusiasts around to make sure that you're well looked after!

    I mainly made this post because you recently said it was about time I posted a ride report (pull finger by implication!). Consider finger duly pulled!

    Yeah, you sure do have a fantastic back yard :-)

    I'll send you a decent email response to the questions you ask but in answer to one, yes, the stuff I've learned so far helps enormously when riding at pace because my situational awareness has come on by leaps and bounds. Far less likely to get caught out by nasty surprises.

  6. Gidday Nikos!
    They sure are, especially with the apparent lack of security/needless authority at Ardmore. Long may visitors respect the freedom.

    Dunno about the mere mortals bit.... you have some breathtaking places to ride up north and places like Duxford, Hendon and the Shuttleworth collection to name but 3!

  7. Geoff how can you call that a winter ride out it looks absolutely stunning. Do I take it that the rear carrier is stuffed to the gunnels with NZ waterproofs? I do get the sneaking feeling that there is a secret trainee pilot in there but for a sensible girl at home!
    That quotation by Dan Bateman is outstanding.

  8. Great ride. Love the Flame tree photos. Well here in the USA we are hitting the hot time of year. Here in Texas we are in the mid 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The days are getting longer. Come up here and you can ride with us.

  9. Geoff:

    Excellent day. If I had reached the Hot Springs that would have been the end of the ride for me, shorts or no shorts.

    what are the odds of finding a couple of other Triumph riders, out riding.

    I thought you had made a mistake about June 21st. Here it is the longest day, but then I forgot that you were upside down

    Riding the Wet Coast

  10. What a wonderful ride.

    It is nice that you were able to have entertainment with your lunch. I like that you can watch the planes coming and going and that they can taxi right up to the cafe, stop for a nibble and then carry on.

    That flame tree is gorgeous. I don't think we have anything like it on this side of the pond.

    What a great day for you.

  11. Dylan:
    Yep, had a plastic jacket in the pack, but only because it always lives there! Also an electric tyre inflator and repair kit and the ever-present bottle of water as it's still easy to dehydrate, even in winter.

    Flying, sailing and riding a bike use the same skill sets. I've done 2 of the 3 and that's probably enough for the sake of the wallet!

    Not sure what IAM would have thought of the last 80 km home, but the learned skills were put to good use!

    Mid 90's - can only dream at present! Even in our mid-summer, it normally doesn't get much past the early 90's. Too hot for ATGATT anyway!

    Exceedingly tempting, it's a lovely spot and only really busy for a couple of weeks in summer.

    Yep, I was surprised to see other bikes out on a weekday, let alone Triumphs. Seeing a couple of tractors and a farm bike is par for the course.

    Absolutely - everything is reversed in Upside Down Land!

    Thanks! Yes, plenty to fill the senses on a day like that, not only riding. Yeah, the planes pulling in for lunch is a bit bisarre really.

    I don't think the flame trees are native to NZ - maybe Africa. In summer, one of our native tree species which line the coast are in flower so there are good sights for a fair bit of the year.

  12. Good post Geoff, an interesting read with great pictures. I particularly remember that view down to the farm by the Firth of Thames, stopped there on my way out of Coromandel heading back to Auckland - good memories.

  13. I'm jealous, our first day of winter never looks so lovely. Finally after 8 long months we will be getting some summer like weather this weekend - yay!

    I agree on the photography vs riding. I never know which I'm going to do. I'll plan to stop for photos and sure enough that will be the day I decide I just want to ride instead. The age old excuse, I'll stop next time. The flame tree is beautiful - well worth the stop.

  14. I'm pretty sure I've eaten at "the Castle" but I've never ridden that little piece through Hunua - must put it on the list for when I next go past...

    Looks like you got in a decent ride before the bad weather - it must be a long weekend :(

  15. Andrew:
    Thanks! Yep, that lookout is a popular spot for everyone up and down the coast. On Sundays, it's filled with riders!

    Thank you - I hope your summer is kind to you! Isn't it funny that we put ourselves through all the angst of whether to stop or not! Best do just what we think is right at the time. I remember this time last year not stopping for the flame trees so feel that the balance has been addressed. BTW, if it makes you feel any better, the forecast for the next 3 days is rain and gales!

    Kiwi Andrew:
    Yeah, it used to be a favourite stopping point when you're heading south down SH2/27. We always stopped there for a Goody Goody Gum Drops double scoop of ice cream if we'd been to Auckland!

  16. Brilliant blog, Geoff. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Stay upright. :-)

  17. Thanks very much Gerry. Desperately trying to stay uprightt.... don't bounce too well at my age!