Wheel alignment

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Fun and frustration

Summer (meteorologically speaking) starts in NZ today and in our neck of the woods, the weather has been glorious for the last couple of weeks with temperatures in the mid-20's C or a bit above.  Perfect for motorcycling.  Truth be told, we could do with a spot of the wet stuff as cracks are appearing in the garden.

A week last Sunday, I took part in a social ride with members of the Institute of Advanced Motorists from our region.  We all converged on the tourist town of Rotorua, known for its bubbling mud pools and geysers.  However, it wasn't to see the natural wonders.  A Rotorua resident called Sue runs a sideline business called Plugz 4 Lugz making custom moulded ear plugs.  One of our members had arranged for her to run a production line for our members.

About 4 years ago, Sue had made some plugs for me because off the shelf plugs always seemed to work loose and weren't particularly effective - must have weird ear canals.  The plugs which Sue made were just fabulous but were getting a bit ratty with use so it was time for new ones.  The plain ones actually improve the quality of bike-to-bike comms by reducing wind noise.  She also makes them with in-built speakers.  The round trip for me was a little over 400 km but we all know, it's about the journey, not the destination.

Bikes lined up in Sue's driveway

It was really well-organised with Sue working round everyone and injecting coloured silicone of their choice into ears and leaving them for a few minutes to set.  Once that was completed, we all headed for lunch at a local cafe whilst Sue trimmed the plugs and sealed them with a clear coat.  A thoroughly enjoyable ride and great to catch up with members from various parts of our region which covers some 40,000 sq km.

Sue, with Rex waiting for his plugs to harden

Nice, pristine ear plugs

That was one of the fun bits, now for a frustration.....

Doing a job at home (hanging out the washing actually!) and I noticed some odd-looking "floaters" in one eye which had just appeared.  To cut the story short, we ended up making a 350 km round trip to an eye specialist who diagnosed a small retinal tear which bled into the eye and it was fixed with laser treatment which took all of 10-15 minutes after a thorough examination.  Only pain was to the wallet.  There was one lighter moment though.  In the hope of helping with the diagnosis, I sketched what the floaters looked like and also took a graph of my blood pressure over the last year in case it had any relevance (it's pretty good for my age by the way).  When I handed them over, the specialist put her head in her hands and said, "Are you an engineer?"  I asked her how she knew.  She replied that her husband was an engineer too and he once took along a spreadsheet when he visited his doctor.  I replied that it seemed  like a perfectly normal thing to do which caused much laughter and eye-rolling between Jennie and her, sigh.....

Having got that out of the way, the next job was to take an IAM member for his Advanced Police Roadcraft Test.  It involved sitting a theory paper, then taking a practical ride of nearly 2 hours covering city and expressway work, followed by a spell on rather challenging country roads.  It also involved him giving commentary of what potential hazards he was observing and how that was impacting on his actions.  I'm happy to say that it was immensely pleasurable for both of us as he absolutely aced the test - a considerable compliment too to his mentor.  To see the massive improvement in riding skill and personal safety since him joining IAM last year is more than ample reward for doing what I do.

Bruce at the end of his Advanced Test

An interesting observation which won't come as a surprise to adventure bike riders......

Bruce rides a Triumph 1200 Explorer.  One country road on the test was exceptionally twisty with limited sight lines and the sealed surface was pretty rough.  The torque of the 3 cylinder motor coupled with compliant suspension meant that he could safely maintain great progress in those conditions.  On the Duke 790 with sport-oriented suspension and less torque, I was having to work a lot harder than Bruce.  I rarely use my quickshifter for up-shifts but was certainly doing so on that part of the ride to get constant drive out of corners.  Clear proof that a well-ridden adventure bike is quite a weapon, especially on less than optimal road surfaces.

The final frustration was that on the way home from the test, my eye started bleed internally again.  Negotiating the twisty coast road with effectively one eye called for a fair bit of care through losing my depth perception.  Yet another 350 km round trip the following day to the specialist with Jennie driving.  So much crap in the eye that the specialist couldn't make a diagnosis.  A further trip is scheduled in a few days when things have hopefully settled down.  Not a smart idea to be driving or riding in the meantime but Jennie has a few menial tasks lined up to keep me out of mischief.  Let's hope that I can continue my motorcycling career for a while yet!


  1. I’ve had a pair of the custom silicone ear plugs for years and I’m amazed at how well they work. For me, it blocks the sound from the intercom too well so it’s always a choice between intercom and wind noise or peace and quiet.

    I hope the eye issue gets worked out to the good.

  2. Hi Richard,
    Interesting that you plugs mute the sound of comms! The speakers on my comms set (SENA) are particularly good, as is volume control.

    Thanks for the good wishes and fingers crossed!

  3. Custom plugs FTW!

    Hope you get those peepers sorted before that new Adv bike turns up too!

  4. That's for real Andrew, wouldn't be without them.

    Thanks mate,it's bloody frustrating. If I was allowed a second bike, a KTM 390 adventure would be great for the dirt up on the Peninsula

  5. You have quite the drive to the eye doctor, and here I sit and complain that mine is 25 km and 20 mins train ride away. I had the recent joy of suffering from posterior vitreous detachment in one eye which causes flashes and floaters. So far it is just irritating...

    Issues with your eyesight sucks, I hope it will sort itself out soon.

    1. Hi Sonja,
      That's how mine started out about 4 years ago and settled down completely again. I wish you well! Won't know the next steps until my next visit tomorrow. With the distance, it takes up most of the day 😐

  6. Hey Geoff, I really hope your eye is ok. Could it have been the bouncing around on the bumpy road? A mate (Bushpig) keeps warning Steve that he will end up with a detached retina on that 2015 R1!
    Keep up the good work (mentoring and house boy). ;)

    1. Hi Dave,
      Sorry about the delay - just found your comment in spam! I suppose riding on rough roads could have an effect but growing old is most likely :-( .

      This is what awaits me on Monday: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5XP01tVFBU . Not too thrilled about the prospect!

  7. Hi Geoff - It's a shame to hear about the eye troubles. I hope it all gets sorted soon. I too have a pair of the custom made ear plugs. I've found that they often don't sit 100% inside the ear canal which means that I end up using the disposable ones instead. Perhaps I need to get back to Sue and get her to make another set.

    Reference the comment about Adventure bikes - I took my IAM test on my 650 VStrom for precisely this reason. They just make riding easier and they are perfectly capable of giving you a good time on the more interesting roads too.

    1. Thanks Lee,
      I hope that it's just a temporary inconvenience because it's hellishly frustrating having no depth perception. Probably not the best thing to do but I lick my plugs to get them to slide in place easily. Have had no problems at all.

      Yep, as well as being to handle less than optimal surfaces well, they are also more comfortable for longer distances. My 790 is great ergonomically, but the suspension is a tad firm for really bumpy roads.

  8. Hi Geoff
    Nice to hear those ears plugs are effective in cutting down the noise with out the irritation that goes along with plugs.
    Sorry about your eye problem, hope it's resolved soon so you can be back on the road again.
    With our dodgy NSW roads, I've seen adventure bikes pull away from my R1 as I fight to stay in control as I'm bouncing off the bumps whilst they soak them up with plush suspension and drift away into the distance 😢

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yep, really comfy and I take them on long flights as well 'cos I'm too tight to buy noise cancelling headphones :-) .

      Thanks for the good wishes - hope it's sooner rather than later!

      When I had the Blackbird, I remember a BMW 1100 GS giving me a right royal pasting up the Thames-Coromandel coast road. His bike looked like it was on rails!

  9. You are welcome to some of our rain, last couple months had very few dry days.
    Speedy recovery Geoff.

    1. Hi Warren,
      We're actually due for rain tomorrow but it won't be much. Ironic as the lower south island has had flooding.

      Thanks, I think it will be a slow process.