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Monday, 29 October 2012

A great day on two wheels

The last Sunday of the month signals the Auckland province IAM advanced training run.  For the previous few days, the forecast had been showing wet conditions which was a bit disappointing.  I don't mind riding in the rain but when you have to ride 180 km to the venue, do the assessment ride for a couple of hours and then ride home again, wet conditions do get a bit tedious!  As it happened, a high pressure weather system hung on for a bit longer than expected, allowing us to ride in warm, sunny conditions.  Even got to wear my silver and black "chick magnet" (I jest, of course!) leathers instead of the bulky cordura winter stuff.

Special thanks to Ken and Mark for some of the photos.......

Some of the assembled bikes - a great mix


Arty-farty shot of some of the hardware.  The wicked 750 Kawasaki in the foreground is owned by Catherine, one of several recently-joined women members

It's a mark of the enthusiasm of IAM members that people start assembling at least an hour before the ride to grab a coffee, socialise and start zoning in.  The other noticeable feature of these gatherings is that although there's a lot of leg-pulling and laughter at each other's expense, there is never any unwarranted bravado.  People who join IAM know that the expected standards are so high that you have to be on your game 100% of the time and the level of support for each other to achieve that is outstanding.  The photo below is of Morne, an extremely experienced Observer who is supremely talented in giving great feedback to Associates and trainee Observers alike.  He typifies the spirit and generosity of the voluntary organisation.  There are sometimes jokes about the IAM being an organisation for "Old Farts" but that couldn't be further from the truth - look what Morne rides!

Morne and his GSX-R 750


Pre-ride socialising over coffee - Mark, the writer and Kim.  We look far too serious!

 IAM Associate Brett to Roger, "Ewww....has something died in your boot mate?"

As Roger noted in his BLOG , there was an even split between Observers and Associates on this occasion so we could put in some real quality 1:1 ride time.  Chief Examiner Philip allocates the pairing, based on the particular individual skill requirements to be assessed.  I'm paired with Ian, an experienced rider who has recently sold his Honda VFR 1200 and bought a Triumph Tiger 800 adventure bike.  The ride is also for my on-going training, to meet the practical competence component of following and assessing a "quick" rider!  A major requirement of the advanced roadcraft training is what is euphemistically described as "the ability to make progress", whilst obeying normal road rules and I was really looking forward to a spirited ride!   

A route was chosen with a mix of open road sweepers, tight narrow stuff and some urban work to test Ian and his handling of the new bike.  Delighted to report that it was an "A" standard ride and that Ian's pre-full membership check ride shouldn't be too far away.  It was great to ride at real pace in perfect safety on surprisingly empty roads given the great weather.  The Tiger 800 was hugely impressive.  Even on dual purpose tyres, the handling was outstanding in the tight stuff and would give a sport-orientated bike a run for its money with someone like Ian on board.  The look on his face was priceless when I told him he was within a whisker of decking his pegs through the tight stuff - he simply hadn't realised how far he was leaned over!

A wonderful day where not only do people get to have a fun ride in great company, but everyone adds something to their riding.  In my case, a well-spent 420 km.  Simply can't lose, can you?



Thursday, 25 October 2012

A frenzy of farkles.....

The last couple of days have been pretty good in terms of farkles, albeit quite diverse in function.  The first item arrived in the post yesterday....

A fellow Street Triple owner in Perth, Australia (cheers Allan!) alerted me to some very nice swing arm crash bobbins on EBay.  I don't plan on crashing anytime soon (fingers and everything else crossed) but their design has another nice feature.  As the Triple only has a side stand, lubricating the chain and doing laser wheel alignment requires the use of a paddock stand.  With the previous home made locators for the stand arms, there was always a risk of scratching the paint. The new crash bobbins double as locators for my paddock stand and the shape of them keeps the arms clear of the swing arm too.  Relatively unobtrusive as well.  A great result all round!


The new swing arm bobbins/paddock stand locator

The next farkles arrived by courier today......

With the exception of the Damascus Steel carving knife we commissioned  a few years back (story and photos HERE ), our kitchen knives purchased over the past 4 decades have been cheap and utter crap (a technical term) and simply won't hold an edge.  In fact, a carpentry saw might give a better result. I suppose I'm the last of the moto-bloggers to cotton on to the value of really good kitchen knives!!!

Finally losing patience, we recently investigated what might be described as high end kitchen knives.  The first reaction was "Bloody heck" (another technical term), mainly as a result of the eye-watering price.  I reckon that NZ kitchen accessory shops could teach the Mafia a lesson or two in terms of extortion.  Fortunately, the Internet is a wondrous thing and we found a supplier in the US who specialises in internet sales to keep overheads to a minimum.  Not only would they ship to NZ at a saner price but he gave some excellent impartial advice to help us navigate through the bewildering minefield of specifications.  Their advice was that you didn't need many knives at all, but quality was everything.  We ended up with these 4 knives:

Tojiro ITK 270mm blade bread knife (also great for melons and the like)

It has a thin, hard core to keep a lethal edge, sheathed with a surgical grade stainless steel and like all the knives we bought, the general "feel" and balance is light years ahead of our other knives.

These are the rest:

Wusthof Ikon 4 1/2" utility knife, Wusthof Classic 6" serrated utility knife, Tojiro 15cm utility knife

Haven't had time to use them properly yet but have seen an impressive demo of the bread knife on YouTube and at lunchtime, I cut a soft tomato with the serrated utility knife - it's like it's cutting through air!!!  Incidentally, the Wusthof Ikon 4 1/2" utility knife was the most expensive of the lot at just under US$100 - go figure that one! At least Jennie can't grizzle about the outrageous price of bike accessories any more!

As a final comment, I'm inclined to think that internet shopping has made suppliers world-wide really lift their game in terms of quality of service.  Whether it be motorcycle parts or anything else, I'm  struggling to think of an example of having been on the receiving end of poor service in the last couple of years. If only the same could be said of our local councils and some notorious banks where poor service is the norm, rather than the exception!

Addendum:
A nice sharpening jig arrived today.  You can set the sharpening angle and it comes with 4 stones between 400 and 1800 grit.  Tried it on one of our crappy old knives and it works perfectly.  I'm useless with a steel and this delivers a professional finish even when operated by a complete idiot like me!

 Idiot-proof sharpening jig




Saturday, 20 October 2012

What's in a number?

The number is 65 and the answer is there is absolutely nothing bad about this number!

 Me in Dad's helmet, aged 5

I was going to keep quiet but it would seem that quite a number of people somehow know (thanks for the good wishes guys - you know who you are) that I hit the milestone of 65 last Thursday.  Best to get in first and admit it before someone else writes a pack of lies in their blog!  In a lot of countries, this officially signifies OLD FART status as it's traditionally (not by law) the time to retire and receive national superannuation courtesy of the government.

Maybe there might have been a bit of introspection had I not deliberately retired at 60, thanks to a very good company superannuation scheme and some investments but at present,  I feel quite enthusiastic about frittering the government's forthcoming contribution on wine, women and song! Well, wine anyway..... I can't sing and pursuing hot chicks would see me sucking my meals through a straw in a hospital casualty ward at the very least!

Almost respectable, aged 20 or thereabouts

In all seriousness, I reckon birthday milestones shouldn't really influence how you organise your life.  Let me explain.....

Back in 1987 when I was 40, my best friend Alan and I were rising through the management ranks in one of NZ's biggest manufacturing companies.  Long hours, good pay, fulfilling careers with the downside being that perhaps we didn't spend as much time with our young families as we should - the classic dilemma.  Then everything changed.

Early one evening, we got a phone call from the police.  Alan had lost his life in a car accident and would I please go with them straight away to break the news to his family.  Putting it simply, having to do something like that once in your lifetime is once too many. I won't dwell on the incident but the impact was profound and from then on, the focus dramatically changed to never putting anything off in life so that we never had to say the dreaded words, "If only..........".   Since then, Jennie and I (and our kids) have gone out of our way to do all sorts of stuff and experience different things from pursing personal and shared interests, through to a bit of community voluntary work.  We've kept ourselves pretty busy but that doesn't matter at all when what you do is fulfilling and enriching.  And importantly, we've had fun and laughed a lot - particularly at ourselves!

In my late 50's - bottom of the South Island on the
Southern Cross round NZ in 5 days endurance ride

Back on a motorcycling theme, regular readers will be aware that last year, I joined the Institute of Advanced Motorists which arguably sets the highest advanced riding standards anywhere, based on UK police rider training.  Passing their full membership test and now hopefully not far off becoming an Observer has in all honesty been the highlight of my riding career (spanning 50 years next year) and I'm unbelievably proud to have met those goals .  More importantly, it's made me a much better rider which will hopefully extend my riding career.  It's also allowed me to put something back into a lifelong passion. It's challenges like this with more than a dash of irreverence and humour thrown in which will continue to make the number of years lived so far just a number, nothing more!  And definitely no "If onlys....".

Out on the town celebrating last Thursday
- both of us have the giggles!




Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Walk on the Wild Side - Auckland's west coast

We have just got back from a few days away and it's been quite an occasion!  Most of our IAM training rides take place on the roads to the west of Auckland and the topography in that area is mainly dense bush and twisty, technical roads with wild surf beaches.  Jennie has never been out that way and I've only had a fleeting visit to one of the beaches themselves so it was a good opportunity  to spend a couple of days exploring together out that way.

The forecast was for stormy weather which was the perfect conditions for seeing surf beaches.  The Street Triple stayed safely tucked up at home and we headed off in Jennie's MX 5 to stay at our Auckland-based son's house to get an early start the next day.  The first surprise was when our daughter arrived unexpectedly (also Auckland-based) to take me out to a show as an an advance birthday present for later in the month.  And what a show it was!!!  The famous UK comedian and classically-trained musician Bill Bailey was giving a one-man performance and I'd have to say that it was one of the most memorable I'd ever been to.  Laughed until I hurt all over and his musical talent with all manner of instruments was unbelievable.  Clearly a lot of collusion among the family to get me there and something deeply appreciated.   For those who have never seen Bill Bailey at work, the short following clip is an example of both his deadpan humour and musical talent.  His hour-long YouTube Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra is outstanding.


The next morning, we set off for Muriwai, the northernmost of the surf beaches and the GPS decided to try and send us 576 km south to an unknown Muriwai Road which was clearly not our intended destination!  There are times to trust your intuition and we found the proper destination pretty much by dead reckoning.  From then on, the GPS behaved impeccably!  The stay wasn't a long one despite the really impressive surf as the wind was picking up huge amounts of sand and with no shelter, the car was getting a real hiding, not to mention black sand getting in our mouth, hair and eyes, the moment we stepped outside!

Next stop Bethells Beach, some 30 km away by road.  The roads in this area are narrow and winding through native bush but during spring, the bush is dotted with flowering trees and the spectacular native clematis shown in the next photo.

NZ native Clematis

Bethells beach was magnificent.  Huge surf driven by the high winds but we were sheltered by a large hill at one end of the beach for much of our walk.  There was no-one about and the black clouds, black sand and white surf made for a great contrast.  The surf lifesaving season has yet to start and the empty small lifeguard tower added to the lonely atmosphere of the place.  Not a place to go on your own and get into trouble.

Bethell's Beach - the perfect weather to visit


White shell and black sand contrast

Wind erosion on the dunes

At the far end of the beach, there was a warning about quicksand.........

How's your insurance, honey????


Time to visit the next beach south for a late lunch.  Piha is the most frequented of the west coast surf beaches and is featured in an annual surf lifesaving TV series, mainly featuring young, bulletproof foreign tourists who deliberately ignore instructions to swim between the flags and make headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

 Piha from the lookout

There's a good mix of permanent and holiday homes in the hills at Piha. The smaller holiday homes are known as baches, apparently a contraction of the old phrase "bachelor pads" from long ago when mining and logging operations etc provided basic accommodation for single men.

Typical NZ coastal baches

A few hardy surfers, despite the cold conditions

Our accommodation that evening was nestled in native bush in the hills overlooking Karekare beach.  NZ IAM member Keith (HD Sportster) and his wife Ann own a beautiful home with separate high quality visitor accomodation.  Keith was at work in the city when we arrived but Ann welcomed us with fresh chocolate cake and settled us in.  It's a beautiful location full of native birds and views to die for.  There's also an outdoor heated spa pool in the bush for a romantic evening...... or any time come to that ;-).

View from the front garden

Our accommodation

The guest lounge

View from the bedroom

Keith and Ann are the most wonderful hosts and next morning, we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast of fresh fruits, cereals and toast.  We would loved to have stayed longer but alas, we had friends to meet south of Auckland so bid our reluctant goodbyes.  Very happy to recommend Lone Kauri Lodge as it's an oasis of tranquillity with great walking tracks and beaches nearby.  IAM members even get a good discount!!!

All in all, a wonderful trip exploring Auckland's wild west coast and hope you've enjoyed the journey.....