On with the Gore-Tex and merino under layers plus heated gloves and away we went. I put the Duke 790 traction control in rain mode and didn't have a single worrying moment in the dark. The Michelin Road 5's behaved impeccably and I'm glad that I gave them a second chance after the string of punctures on my GSX-S 1000. I'm now convinced that it was pure bad luck as opposed any tyre design weakness. The soft compound out towards the edges of the tyre really work and even in the wet, a good pace and decent angles of lean could be safely maintained. The photo below clearly shows the soft compound bands.
Darker soft compound on Road 5
I've had heated gloves for about 4 winters now and they really have added another dimension to my winter riding. Heated grips on previous unfaired bikes still left me with cold fingers which were a distraction and the whole hand warmth from heated gloves leads to much better control and confidence in cold conditions.
A few hardy souls met at a cafe in Hamilton and as is the normal way of things, a lot of the more local members elected to stay in bed! Prize for biggest distance travelled to take part in the ride was Bruce on his Triumph Explorer 1200. He left the family holiday home at 0600 and travelled over 3 hours to join everyone - that's dedication! Can't really blame anyone for skipping the ride though but getting out in a mix of heavy showers, patches of sunshine and variable road conditions was good for keeping the skills tidy.
A nice mix of bikes
As only one trainee turned up, we turned it into a social outing with a mix of city, open highway and twisty country road riding to knock off any rust from lockdown and had a most enjoyable time.
The biggest surprise was yet to come. I retired as Chair of the Central North Island branch of IAM in February to help long-term continuity and let me concentrate on my other role as an Examiner. The team presented me with a lovely KTM Race Team fleece and a snow dome with a photo of me and the KTM inside it. It was an overwhelming moment but we've all built up strong friendships over the last few years and I've mentored most of them or taken them for their advanced riding and Observer (instructor) tests. A wonderful conclusion to the ride and thanks a million guys, it says an awful lot about the bond we all have .
Seriously nice (and warm) KTM Race Team fleece
Trapped inside a snow dome!
Onto other stuff, I'm still working my way through digitizing all our old slides, negatives and photos. I came across a negative which I had no memory of but exceedingly pleased as it's the only photo I have of my Yamaha IT 175 Enduro bike taken in the early 1990's. Our eldest son Lyndon wanted to learn to ride bikes and we thought the safest way was for him to initially learn on dirt away from traffic. The company I worked for owned huge plantation forests near home and riding in the forests and fire breaks was perfect.
We bought him a Suzuki TS100 from a friend, the bike having a rather colourful history! For a drunken bet, it had been ridden Evel Knievel-style by the previous owner at full tilt off a jetty into a harbour on the coast, then unceremoniously dumped in his shed. I bought it for $50 with no great expectations but it only required a relatively small amount of tender loving care. It was a lovely bike to ride with a surprisingly wide power band for a 2 stroke. Perfect for riding in the forest or climbing steep banks etc.
The IT175 on the other hand was a complete bastard (a technical term) and tried to kill me on numerous occasions. A motorcycle version of Stephen King's Christine! I bought it from a company apprentice and its real environment is where the throttle is pinned to the stop - a whole world away from pootling along in a forest environment. With its narrow powerband, it would highside me if I was too ham-fisted with the throttle. Lot's of eye-rolling from the CEO when I'd arrive home covered in crap and walking like an old man. Nonetheless, it was also a lot of fun and I had it for about 3 years before deciding that middle-aged bodies didn't bounce too well.
The early 90's: off-roading with a Suzuki TS100 and a Yamaha IT175 Enduro
The final piece is really a shout-out to fellow blogger Warren Mallett of Motorcycle Paradise fame. In a reply to a past post on scanning photos etc, Warren mentioned a piece of software called Gigapixel AI which he uses. Essentially, it's used to enlarge photos without the normal blurring or pixellation you get from conventional optical enlarging. There are a couple of algorithms in the program which allow you to choose whether to enhance the human form/nature or man-made objects with straight lines or predictable curves. I like to crop irrelevant material from photos and enlarge the main subject matter so thought that Gigapixel might be of help. Delighted to find that the website offered a 30 day free trial which was perfect to try it out on a few photos. I was so impressed that I ended up buying it. Thanks so much for the heads-up Warren!
The photo below is a screen shot of Gigapixel with the left hand photo being an optical enlargement of the original. In real terms, it represents an area of about 3.5 cm square on the original photo. On the right is the same area after it has been processed. Look how much sharper the engine detail is, meaning it can be enlarged or printed even bigger.
Fantastic clarity on the right hand photo
It also does a remarkable job on the human form. I used it to enlarge one of those school photos where all the students are photographed at the same time and every head is about 5mm square. I was able to enlarge it to the point where everyone was instantly recognisable without any effort at all - tremendous. Obviously, the better quality of photo, the better the result but the face recognition algorithm does a pretty good job. Some black and white photos from the late 1800's belonging to the local mining museum came up a treat. For anyone who is interested, this is the link to the vendor's website: https://topazlabs.com/gigapixel-ai/ . There are lots of examples on the site and it is exceedingly easy to use.