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Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Deus Ex Machina

Latin for: God from the Machines.  Come on now.... you didn't think that you were going to escape without learning something, did you?  Apart from the micro Latin lesson, what am I blathering on about?

Today, I've done a 350 km round trip to and from Auckland to meet with Philip McDaid, Chief Examiner of the Institute of Advanced Motorcycling NZ.  No, not another riding test; just helping with some admin.  Philip suggested that we meet at Deus Ex Machina cafe, which is where the monthly IAM Sunday rides depart from.  Apart from vaguely knowing the cafe had something to do with motorcycles, I had no idea of what to expect.  That (under)statement is a bit like saying that Mike Hailwood was a mildly talented motorcycle racer.......  crikey - what a place!!  More on that in a moment.

I set off from Coromandel early on a stunning winter's morning - brilliant sunny skies, virtually no wind.  Life was so perfect that I decided to take a partial back-road route to Auckland.  Bad move - ran into fog along the twistiest, narrowest part of the route which lasted until reaching the Auckland Southern Motorway. One of those horrible, soaking fogs and the temperature dropped to not far above freezing.  No big deal in the scheme of things apart from a lot of stupid cagers travelling at a fair lick without lights on.  The run up the motorway was in sunny, warm conditions and the moderately heavy traffic was perfect practice for a country boy like me where 2 cars in a row constitutes a traffic jam. Felt quite comfortable in traffic riding assertively with no stupid behaviour by either yours truly or the rest of the motoring public.

Deus Ex Machina is in a converted warehouse complex and an easy walk from the centre of Auckland, although there's ample parking right outside. I met Philip outside as we'd arrived at the same time.  Walking through the unremarkable industrial sliding doors, I must have looked just like one of Dr Who's assistants on seeing the inside of the Tardis for the first time - stopped dead in my tracks with jaw wide open which amused Philip no end!!!  The place is seriously BIG with the cafe at the front, clothing and motorcycle merchandise in the middle and at the back through a glass wall, the large workshop where the most wonderful custom motorcycles are created.  Hard to describe them (patience.....you'll see some in a minute) but if pressed, they look like someone who is heavily into Steam Punk might have had a hand in their design.  If you don't know what Steam Punk is, look it up on Google Images. Being a blinkered old rural fart, I'd never heard of the term until our adult daughter went to a Steam Punk party a few weeks ago. Perhaps their specials have a bit of Mad Max thrown in too. But wait, that's not all!   There aren't conventional tables in the cafe area, there are raised areas with stools round them and classic motorcycles in the middle - sure beats a vase of flowers hands-down, doesn't it?

Thank you for your patience - you will now be rewarded with some pictures.  Hope you think they were worth waiting for (click to enlarge)!

The first two "common" bits of machinery inside the door! Sigh.....

Merchandising area

Racks of seats and polished alloy bits - bike porn par excellence

The workshop

More workshop

I'd kill for any one of these....

A gorgeous Honda 50cc twin - sublime engineering

Not the World's Fastest Indian but....

How rare would this MV and Ducati be?

Vincent 1000 - got deep pockets?

BSA Gold Star - wet dream on 2 wheels

Deus Ex Machina specials

Another Deus Ex Machina special

The next few photos show part of the dining area with the bike centrepieces......

Ducati centrepiece

Harley single cylinder centrepiece

50cc (yes, 50cc!) MV replica, my helmet

Stunning Norton Commandos

A couple of Deus Ex Machina customer bikes outside

To show all the photos I took would take pages but you get the drift with respect to what an amazing place it is.  NZ has a population of around 4 million.  Where on earth do all these bikes come from as there are collections a bit like this of rare machinery dotted all round the country and quite often, they're just sitting in people's sheds - utterly mind-blowing.

Having concluded the business with Philip, who should walk in and introduce himself but Ross Mackay, esteemed Editor of Kiwi Rider Magazine.  He was out testing the new Victory bike shown below.  Another Kiwi with a boring working life! Heck of a nice guy too with a brilliant sense of humour.

Ross' boring life!

Arse end of Ross' boring life!

Well, that was one heck of a winter outing and one that I won't forget for a long, long time.  Special thanks to Philip and Ross for helping to make it so memorable.  The trip home was also wonderful in warm, sunny conditions and getting home at 4pm with a huge grin and still fizzing a few hours later!

 Wilson Bay, Coromandel on the way home - solitary fisherman

That's my last post for a while as we'll be away celebrating our 39th wedding anniversary at the end of the week.  As I've mentioned previously, Jennie and I take turns organising a secret destination - normally only revealed at the airport check-in counter or similar.  It can cause some complications, I'll tell you, but great fun!  It's Jennie's turn to be Secret Squirrel this time.  See ya!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A mid-winter ride on 7 cylinders

The weather in much of NZ has been appalling for the last 2 weeks - gales and lots of the wet stuff dropping on us!  The most common disease among riders has been the dreaded cabin fever, not to mention huge task lists given to us by our significant others seeing as we've been stuck indoors.  However, the forecast for today was no rain and no wind, so it was time to get out for a ride with fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists trainee Bob Benton from Thames and fellow blogger Roger Fleming from Auckland who is also joining the IAM. None of us had ridden together before so it was going to be especially enjoyable.

I was due to meet with Bob in Thames and then meet Roger on the western side of the Firth of Thames at the Kaiaua fish and chip shop, a well known biker eatery.  Roger had asked me to pick up some smoked fish in Coromandel as their products are simply outstanding, so first stop was to buy some smoked kawahai with a herb coating and trevally, smoked with lime and pepper - yummm!

The exquisite Coromandel Smoking Company

The ride down the twisty coast road to Thames required a bit of care, partly because the weeks of no riding had made me a bit rusty and secondly because some shaded corners were a bit greasy due to the incessant rain.  The temperature was in the low single figures when riding down the coast but pleased to report that the newly-fitted Acerbis handlebar guards really did the business.   The low temperatures also caused another phenomenon where the cold air met with the warmer waters of the Firth of Thames - fog!  It was really weird as the fog only started about 400 metres from the shoreline and the ride to Thames was in clear blue skies!
After meeting Bob on his DR650 trail bike, the fog rolled onto the land just south of Thames, limiting safe speed to the legal maximum of 100 km/hr!  Condensation on the visor wasn't much of an issue as a pre-ride application of Rain-X caused it to bead off as soon as it settled.  Although Roger set off from Auckland in beautiful conditions, he would encounter similar conditions as soon he hit the coast from the north.
Kaiaua was reached without incident and a great feed of fish and chips in traditional newspaper was consumed at the tables on the edge of the car park.  The water's edge is basically just across the road but the fog was so thick that we couldn't see the water at all!

Roger, Bob and me enjoying fish 'n chips

Bob's DR650, Roger's Sprint and my Striple
As is the way with riders everywhere, good conversations are easily struck up and we were joined by an Aucklander called John.  He's the silver-haired chap on the left of the picture above.  John epitomises getting the most out of life.  70 years old with an almost new Triumph Tiger to add to his stable of several bikes.  He's also off to Patagonia in November, riding a rented BMW 800 trail bike through the country.  What an inspiration and we concluded (probably wrongly, but certainly enviously!) that he was single to be allowed all those indulgences, hehe!

After finishing lunch, Bob and I decided to accompany Roger part way back to Auckland via the gloriously twisty road that runs along the edge of the Hunua range of hills.  The hope was that once we got away from the water, the fog would lift.  Twisty, narrow back roads with fog is not a good combination as we'd already noticed on our way to Kaiaua that about 75%  of the car drivers encountered were driving without  lights - morons.....

Leaving foggy Kaiaua - picturesque, but not all that pleasant for riding

I took the lead and sure enough, blue skies and sun were the order of the day after a couple of kilometres or so.  With us all having read all the IAM classic advanced riding handbooks, we were all conscious of not wanting to stuff up in front of the others and have to endure the mickey-taking which would inevitably follow.  Perhaps there was just a hint of wanting one of the others to stuff up so that some good-natured leg-pulling could follow!  Karma always has a way of intervening in these situations and it was yours truly who made the stuff-up.  Coming up to a countryside intersection with a STOP sign,  I came to a momentary balanced halt but for some inexplicable reason, didn't put my foot down - oh noooo!  Pulling away, I felt 2 pairs of eyes boring into me and imagined the sniggering inside their helmets - a Gotcha moment if ever there was one.  At the turn-round point a few minutes later, I got in first and confessed.  The smug retort was "We know".  Sod it!

After saying goodbye to Roger, Bob and I had a largely fog-free run back to Thames for a cuppa at his place and then I headed back home to Coromandel.  This was the worst part of the trip with the low sun reflecting off the water and causing massive sun-strike for the remaining 50 km.  Really hard going, with a lot of concentration required.  So there we are..... a 260 km mid-winter ride which despite the fog, was just the thing to combat cabin fever and doing it with such good company and competent riders was an additional bonus.

Finally, and nothing to do with bikes, let me introduce the latest member of the James family, albeit of a likely temporary nature.  This is "Little One".  The females reading this may now say "Awww...."

Little One

Little One turned up at our place just before dinner on Friday night.  Poor little chap was clearly starving by the way he devoured a bowl of cat food.  He can't be more than about 8 weeks old and has a gorgeous nature.  Our two cats weren't enamoured to see him but allowed him indoors where he recognised a couple of soft touches in Jennie and me and promptly made himself at home.  We put him out last thing at night on our covered deck in the hope he'd find his way home -  no such luck.  In the morning with little nose pressed against the window, there he was.  We've had no success whatsoever in tracking down his real owners (sorry....servants) so we're in a bit of a quandary.  Do we turn him over to the local SPCA/cat rescue before he totally captures our hearts or what???  Yet to be resolved....



Thursday, 14 July 2011

Another (practical) farkle

Oh dear, I must be turning into a wuss, getting old or any other insult you care to toss in my direction!  After decades on faired bikes and  a mere 20 months on a naked Street Triple, it's a delightful change of scene which I'm loving. However, at the risk of attracting snorts of derision from my fellow bloggers from the n-w of the USA and Canada; I find getting cold hands in the winter a bit of a trial.

Ok, I hear you say, what temperatures are we talking about here?  Shuffles feet in embarrassment....  we almost never get frosts where I live, let alone snow .  BUT in mitigation, the provinces south of us do have early morning frosts.  Ok, only down to about -4 C on the coldest of mornings if you want to quibble, but even that gets a mite chilly on the paws when you're on the bike for a few hours at a stretch.  At this stage,  Troubadour and Stacy  will be shaking their heads after their outstanding cold weather rides.  I've not bothered with heated grips or gloves on the Triple because that would be really wussy given our generally benevolent climate.  Besides, I don't really want to load up the electrical system of the bike any more than with my radar detector and GPS.  But what to do for winter riding??

I recently saw a photo of a Street Triple equipped with Acerbis Dual Road hand guards which matched the colour of the bike. They were elegantly designed whilst still functional as opposed to the larger trail bike guards.  The penny dropped - a set of guards for the winter to reduce wind chill on the hands and I should be fine! 

Trawling the 'net for prices showed a fair bit of variation but with the current exchange rate between the US$ and NZ$, a pair were finally ordered from Motostrano in California and they arrived today - superb service and thoroughly recommended!


 The universal mounting kit which comes with it has just about every combination known to mankind.  However, I was struggling to get the OEM internals out of the bars so made a small modification to one of supplied components and voilĂ  - fitted in a few minutes!

Triple before mounting guards

Triple after mounting the guards

View from rear

The colour blends in beautifully, as does their shape and they don't detract from the bike at all - it still looks brutish.  They'll get removed in the warmer weather though as they'll be too hot. As I write, it's absolutely tipping down, which is what it's mostly been doing for the last 2 weeks so I'm not about to go out and try them this instant.  However, the forecast is actually good for the weekend so looking forward to an early trial.

Oh, and one final thing.... in the second photo up, you can see the brand name Acerbis written in small print along the centre of the guard.  You can actually unscrew that section and replace it with a strip of LED's.  You can be assured, dear reader, no way is that going to happen.  Apart from having a loathing of over-dressed Goldwings and other cruisers with coloured strip lights and other ghastly accessories,  I dread to think what my riding partners would say.  Actually, I do know what they'd say and my street cred, such as it is; would be in the gutter.  A bridge way too far!