Bless our travel agent, he burned the midnight oil for a couple of days and got her a flight home with Qatar Air. London-Doha is a little over 8 hours and Doha-Auckland is about 16 1/2 hours. Cattle class is not good on the body when you're in your 70's, not to mention close proximity to others. He managed to get Jennie what's known as a business-class Q Suite, where you can actually close a door and isolate yourself. A picture is worth 1000 words ..... We've been told that it was the last but one flight by Qatar to NZ and is now virtually impossible to get back to NZ by any means. The reverse is also true - there are still a lot of tourists here who look to be stuck.
Qatar Q Suite business class (Qatar photo)
Anyway, her flight arrived in NZ this morning at 0500. All the airport buildings had been closed to everyone but passengers so I met her in the big car park outside the terminals. It was pitch black, hardly anyone about and seeing her in the headlights sitting on a suitcase waiting for me to turn up was surprisingly emotional. Must be getting soft.
A 2 1/2 hour drive home and we're both in isolation for 14 days. We can go for a walk and I think taking the boat out fishing is fine but no other close contact. Today, it was announced by our Prime Minister that total lockdown of NZ is imminent, apart from essential services. This is going to be tough on a lot of people but it needs to be done. I'm just hoping that I don't irritate Jennie to the extent that I get stabbed or pushed overboard. If the blog goes quiet for a substantial period, please contact the authorities and state your suspicions!
Onto bike stuff, I can't get my KTM officially serviced as part of its guarantee because of the closures but that's of no consequence as I won't be riding it far. Whilst Jennie was in the UK, I set to and did a wheel alignment on the KTM with an adaptation of the laser rig I built for the Blackbird in 2003. This isn't a tutorial but the basic principles can be found HERE . I've simplified it a little since then but the basics still apply.
Laser light just kissing maximum rear tyre width
Measuring the offset at 2 points on the front tyre (and on both sides)
Cutting to the chase, the differential offset of 8mm was more than I was happy with and with a bit of judicious adjustment, I pulled it back to 3mm. Trouble is, I don't really know what constitutes an acceptable dimension for road riding of the sort I do. I know that top race teams normally spend a bit of time on this aspect though. I suppose it's the anal engineer in me coming out, sigh....... reliable data has been central to my whole working life. I will add a comment though. If you can't measure something, then there's no basis for objective discussion. I do know from past experience that tyre dealers or bike shops can be pretty rough and ready. I prefer to know for sure. Interestingly, I took some measurements at the adjusters on the swingarm before re-adjustment and superficially, they "looked" ok. However, with the tolerances between each component compounding the error, you can't tell without actually measuring at the tyres themselves. Trust me on this.
Finally, some comments on my Bridgestone T31 sport/touring tyres. These replaced the OEM pure sport tyres which I was unhappy with in cold, wet conditions. I've now covered 8500km on the set and both wet and dry weather performance is excellent in terms of grip. Ummm...excepting the walking pace drop outlined in the previous post. No tyre would have prevented that. Speed of turn-in is probably not as good as the OEM tyres but it's still acceptable. In terms of wear, the rear tyre still has an excellent profile and lots of tread. End of life will be around 10000- 12000 km which I'll be perfectly happy about.
Bridgestone T31 rear tyre at 8500 km - good profile, plenty of tread
The front tyre also has a decent amount of tread in general. However, it has badly lost shape with substantial flats on the side extending to within a few mm of the tyre edge. Less than perfect front suspension is one contributor. However, I've experienced the same thing on all my front tyres irrespective of brand, including bikes with high end suspension. The most likely cause is where I live in terms of ultra-twisty biker paradise roads which require aggressive countersteering at a reasonable pace. Something I'm going to have to live with unless I do a 2 front for 1 rear replacement strategy. I like the T31's very much but haven't decided to replace the front yet as I might look at the Continental Road Attack 3's, just out of curiosity.
To inject a note of reality into the tyre discussion, most tyres from major manufactures have a performance envelope that exceeds the abilities of most of us riders provided we've identified and chosen the type properly in the first place (pure sport, sport touring, adventure etc). It comes down to personal preference and "feel" after that.
Bridgestone T31 front tyre at 8500 km - big flats towards the side
Finally, every good wish to anyone reading this blog. There are going to be challenging times ahead and keep safe. Equally importantly, keep a sense of humour and be kind to each other!