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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

Monday, 8 July 2019

T time!

Life with Bad Girl Lola, the 790 Duke has been pretty darned good.  It makes me grin every time I ride it, quietly whispering in my ear to misbehave.  I can ignore those whisperings..... mostly.  Goes like heck, sounds fantastic and handles like a dream..... but now winter's here, something needs my urgent attention.

The OEM tyres are Maxxis brand pure sport, designed especially for the Duke.  They've done about 3500 km and probably have another 1500 km in them before replacement.  Up to now, they've gripped pretty well, even in the wet on warm days.  However, pure sport tyres need heat to maximise grip and that's hard to achieve once the mercury starts to dip into low single figures Celsius.

Winter in NZ - equipped with the OEM Maxxis pure sport tyres

I was going to replace them with a longer-lasting sport touring tyre anyway when they were closer to being worn out but an IAM coaching ride last weekend suggested that I'd better do something pronto.  Towards the southern end of our peninsula, some stretches of the twisty main road get little or no sun for a few weeks.  Things can get a little slimy on the surface and on a really cold day, maybe even a touch of frost.

A bit of prudence is required at those spots and with low single digit C air temperatures, I was riding accordingly.  Rounding one corner, the front end started washing out, then gripped.  It wasn't a trouser-soiling moment but it certainly got my attention!  For anyone who had lost the front end on a bike, it's not a pleasant sensation.  Easing back even more, I stuck the bike in rain mode to get maximum traction.  No more incidents thank goodness but even on dry roads, wasn't game to really push because the steering felt slightly vague on corners when I upped the pace.  It was only when temperatures climbed to around 10 degrees or thereabouts that I felt comfortable.  With more winter rides coming up, it was time to do something.

With my IAM responsibilities, I don't always get to choose the conditions I ride in, so a sport touring tyre makes a lot of sense.  Sport touring tyres warm up quickly, disperse rain well and give excellent grip in marginal conditions.  They last a sight longer than pure sport tyres too.  First thought was to fit Michelin Road 5's like I had on the GSX-S1000.  A fantastic tyre in all respects with one slight worry hanging over them.  On the Suzuki, I had 3 punctures in 4 months last summer on the Road 5's and in one case, the rear tyre was a write-off.  It may have been sheer bad luck, a susceptibility due to the conditions and road surfaces I normally ride on, or a combination of both.  Living a long way from a source of new tyres or professional permanent repairs, getting stranded somewhere is a real concern, even with a decent repair kit on board.

Whatever the reason for the punctures, it's left me slightly gun-shy of Road 5's so started looking at alternatives.  Without going through all the options I looked at, the one which stood out on all the road tests was the Bridgestone T31.  I've never used the Bridgestone brand before but the T31's stood out, both when fanging it and in adverse conditions.  A mate had also tried them on his Hayabusa and was glowing in his praise.  The rain groove pattern isn't as radical as the Road 5's but any innovative work on the carcass or compound is well out of sight anyway.

Bridgestone T31 sport touring tyres

Arriving at the Drury Performance Centre in south Auckland, the bike was put straight on the hoist for the changeover.

No mucking about - 2 minutes after I arrived

Rear fitted with new rubber

The front away being balanced

Less than an hour after arriving, I was on my way again, having also been given freshly-made coffee, a new neck warmer and a polishing cloth - excellent service.  I use two dealers for tyres, both about the same distance from home.  Both of them give terrific service so I tend to use them alternately. 

Took it fairly steady for most of the trip home as it wouldn't be a good look to bin a bike with new tyres.  The roads were also damp and distinctly green in places where the sun doesn't reach.  Even so, the T31's felt really good, with a nice, progressive roll-in into corners.  A proper evaluation will have to wait until later, but no anxious moments at all.

Something else happened on the low temperature ride last week which triggered the thoughts of getting new tyres pronto.  Leaving home early in the morning, the air temperature according to the instrumentation was 9 degrees Celsius.  Heading south, it progressively dropped and looking down at the instrument at one stage, it had gone completely white with a large snowflake icon!  The words "Ice Warning" were clearly displayed.  The digital speedo km/hr readout was the only other data showing at that stage and even that was displayed in much smaller font.  

It was all a bit of a surprise and as the lack of other data irritated me, I started prodding various buttons until the normal display returned. Even then, it had a small lit warning triangle displayed until temperatures climbed somewhat.  Went through the 790 manual on my return and it's not a listed feature.  However, I went on line to do a bit of research and it's listed in the PDF manual for the 790 adventure model.

I'm not really one for adding stuff to the bike for aesthetics alone but I broke that rule the other day.  The original KTM brake and clutch levers are pretty basic-looking and finished in matte black.  On eBay, I saw some levers with a titanium and black finish which are fully adjustable in terms of both hand span and length.  They looked good, weren't hideously expensive so decided to take a punt.  They arrived a couple of days ago and are beautifully made.  Took less than 30 minutes to fit the pair.

Cool-looking levers

I also fitted a non-reflective film to the instrument face as it's hard to see when the sun is reflecting off it.  Have yet to test how effective it is.  The only other modification on the cards is to spray the rear face of my mini-screen matte black.  The LED headlight reflects some light onto the inside of the screen.  It's absolutely fine in daylight but when riding at night, it can be a bit distracting.  A matte finish should take care of that.

To end on a non-motorcycling note, winter is the time when various birds come into the garden looking for a bit of supplemental food.  The succulent shown in the top photo weeps nectar and attracts Tui, a songbird a little larger than a blackbird.  In sunlight, their plumage is a spectacular dark metallic green-blue.  Here's a photo I took a few days ago.

The Tui (also known as a Parson Bird because of the white ruff)

The most spectacular bird in the garden is the NZ native pigeon.  About twice the size of a European pigeon, the plumage is stunning.  Pigeons come into the garden to feast on Kowhai tree leaves and in a few weeks, on the Kowhai flowers. They don't show much fear of humans and allowed me to get pretty close for the following photo.  Gorgeous, isn't it?

NZ native pigeon