Wheel alignment

Sunday, 22 May 2022

Spit and polish

For as long as I can remember, carnauba wax has been my go-to for our cars and my road bikes.  Gives a good shine and is relatively long-lasting.  Having recently run out and wanting to give a bit of pre-winter protection to our fleet, I popped into our local Repco store to get some more.  However, perusing the shelves, I came across this:

Meguiars Hybrid Ceramic Wax

Pure ceramic coatings have been around for quite a while but they require a high degree of surface preparation. The instructions on the this hybrid looked pretty straightforward so thought I'd give it a go. The instructions said that for the first time up, wash your vehicle in the normal way and straight after you've applied clean water, squirt on some ceramic wax, then spread with a soft cloth and buff with a microfibre towel until dry.  I followed the procedure and here's the result:  

A real mirror finish

The finish is superb and it gives a really slippery feel.  Really easy to apply too.  That slippery feel translates to less dust sticking than a pure wax finish.  It's too early to comment on how easy it is to clean off accumulated road dirt.  However, water is still beading then running off even gentle slopes on the car after 3 weeks of use as shown below.  It pretty much runs straight off vertical panels.

Good beading and run-off after 3 weeks of use

The photo below shows beading on our 4x4 roof straight after a shower.  The coating is 3 weeks old and the vehicle lives outside.  So far so good although it's too early to predict longevity.

Beading after 3 weeks of the 4x4 sitting outside

The Meguiars instructions say that to build up layers on subsequent cleans, simply squirt on the product after washing, then use a strong jet from a hose or pressure cleaner to spread it on the panels, then buff dry.  In my opinion, this is both wasteful and somewhat hit and miss.  A few videos I've subsequently watched on YouTube also hint at this.  What I did by way of experiment was after washing and drying, to wipe a dry, clean panel of the car with a wet microfibre cloth, immediately apply a light squirt of ceramic wax then buff it dry. I then repeated this on the rest of the car panels and it worked perfectly with only a small amount of product used. 

So what's the initial verdict?  In terms of finish, it does exactly what it claims and is easy and quick to apply now I've got a better technique sorted out. Because it's a relatively new product, it attracts a premium price.  It costs a bit under NZ$60 for a 768 ml bottle (US36, AUD51, GBP29) which is similar to a good carnauba wax.  The price may fall over time but in any event, a bottle should last up to a couple of years if the finish is reasonably durable.  Very happy to have an alternative to conventional waxes.

In other news, international supply chain delays are really pissing me off.  The Giant brand e-mountain bike which I ordered in early March still hasn't arrived in the country and may not show up until late June.  Conversely, the accessories ordered from China and Australia only take 2-3 weeks to arrive.  I'm picking that the accessories are relatively quick thanks to air freight whereas larger items such as bikes are almost exclusively shipped by sea.  Sigh.....

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

A question of time with a dash of serendipity

Well, it's been nearly 2 months since I retired from riding and haven't missed it (yet) because of the fallback interests I mentioned in previous blog posts.  The last sea fishing expedition was highly successful, if you discount the lack of mercy from Jennie due to her catching substantially more than me.  Gracious?  Not on your life!

Launching near our house

A stunning day fishing amongst the offshore commercial mussel beds

That's dinner taken care of!

Whilst not exactly a fallback interest, the tale below has consumed a bit of time recently and has been an interesting learning experience.

The saying that every day is a school day is bang on and a recent foray into the world of vintage watches is no exception.  Let's start by going back more decades than I care to remember........

Back in the 1960's and in my early 20's, I owned an Omega Caliber 601 wristwatch.  Being an engineer, I've always loved nice clocks and watches because of the engineering complexity and the standard of finish which verges on pure art.  The downside is that like expensive cars, servicing can cost an arm, leg and probably your firstborn too.  Being young with a limited budget and more pressing commitments on the horizon, servicing was ignored with a predictable result a few years down the track.  There was a bit more to the story but essentially, it got shoved in a drawer and forgotten.  

Since the mid 90's, I've owned a TAG Heuer and got absolutely hammered by the NZ TAG-approved service agent for its first service.  Fortune smiled when we moved to the Coromandel Peninsula in the shape of  finding an elderly "old school" watchmaker who completed a second service at a very reasonable rate and it runs beautifully.  Just recently, the Omega was rediscovered in a bit of a sorry state (missing glass, missing second hand, no strap, to name the most obvious faults) so I dropped it off at the watchmaker to see whether it could have a second chance at life and was worth passing on to one of our adult kids as a legacy item.  

As an afterthought, I also took along my grandfather's pocket watch and chain.  He'd given it to me when I was in my 20's.  It too was missing a second hand but from memory, still worked at that stage.  Remarkable given that it was probably made in the early 1900's.

My maternal grandfather, W.H.W Odell - 1913

The watchmaker got back in touch and said that the Omega was indeed worth repairing as it would be quite valuable when restored.  What he said next floored both Jennie and I.  The case on Granddad's watch was actually gold and had a value similar to the Omega.  That was surprising enough as value was never considered but then he added that the watch chain was solid high purity gold and worth nearly 3 times as much as the watch.  Bloody hell!!!!  Closer inspection shows that both the watch and chain components are hallmarked so I must investigate further.

With the Omega wristwatch now being considered "vintage", new parts are no longer available.  The watchmaker said that he wasn't internet-savvy and asked for my assistance in tracking down a used sweep second hand and matching drive pinion.  Having zero knowledge, I joined an international watch forum and threw myself on their mercy.  Crikey, if you think that computer and automotive forums are full of nerds with incomprehensible technical language, try vintage watches!!   It was a steep learning curve but I must admit that the members were incredibly helpful. With their suggestions, I was able to track down a set of hands in Poland and with my new-found knowledge, a matching gear pinion in Sweden.  Clearly, these parts are as rare as hen's teeth judging by the prices they command - ouch!  The original watch face has corrosion marks on it due to leaks decades ago and my negligence in getting it serviced at the time.  Tracking one down in pristine condition would be a major mission and the suggestion was made to leave the original patina "as is" as part of its story. That's what happens with the repair of vintage porcelain in Japan. It made perfect sense to me. 

Two or three weeks later, two small packages duly turned up.  At first glance, I thought that the plastic container containing the gear pinion was empty.  You can see why in the photo below. The pinion just below the number 600 in the left hand container is just 5.19 mm long!  Duly dispatched to the watchmaker for final assembly.  Incredible skill to be working on that minute scale.

Expensive used Omega parts sourced from around the world

We got the call that the watches were ready and collected them yesterday.  The restoration of both was flawless and having them back in working order, particularly as legacy items for our adult kids is a surprisingly emotional experience.  It was great to learn new stuff and the only thing left to do is to get them itemized on our household insurance!

The restored items

My other interest in the shape of an e-mountain bike is still several weeks away due to international supply chain difficulties so using my 30+ year old Diamondback MTB in the meantime is building up a bit of fitness and allowing time to grab a few accessories.  Never a moment's rest in retirement!

Saturday, 16 April 2022

New life for a classic race bike

Colin Seeley was a highly successful British sidecar racer back in the 60's who subsequently gained international fame for building frames for race bikes which were light but produced better handling than virtually anything else available at the time.  He was also associated with Brabham race cars in the 1980's because of his reputation.

He built an ultra lightweight and physically tiny 500cc Matchless G50-engined race bike for well-known UK racer Dave Croxford to campaign for the 1971 season.  As an aside, I was living in the UK at that time and regularly went to the various races so must have seen it, although I have no specific memory of the bike.  Although the competitiveness of British singles was on strictly borrowed time against Japanese and Italian bikes, Dave Croxford and the Seeley had some epic battles and wins against them on the short circuits.  A good example of power to weight ratio and sublime handling.

Jumping forward to late 2020 to continue the story, UK auctioneers Bonhams; were auctioning a parcel of rare and classic bikes.  My mate and fellow Coromandel resident Paul successfully races a Norton 850 and he saw a Laverda Jota among the auction offerings as well as the Seeley.  The auction was in the middle of the night NZ time but Paul sat up and joined the on-line bidding.  The Jota went for far more than Paul was prepared to pay but for some unknown reason, he was the only bidder for the Seeley and got it at an excellent price.

Unfortunately and no thanks to Covid, there was a substantial delay in getting it shipped to NZ.  When it eventually arrived, Paul had it sent to the company which prepares his Norton racebike for a ground-up rebuild. The engine was pretty tired and needed TLC.  By way of example, those big singles used to vibrate and the frequencies caused cooling fins to fail.  The photo below shows broken fins and evidence of past repairs.

Single cylinder vibrator
 

No mucking about, a new cylinder head was fitted and plastic wedges between the fins to dampen the vibrations.  Note the gold painted camchain cover.  It protects the lightweight magnesium alloy from corrosion.  The gearbox is also painted for the same reason.

Vibration dampeners between the fins

After the extensive rebuild and a repaint, Paul has only just received it - well worth waiting for as the photos below show - it's now flawless!  Yesterday, Jennie and I dropped in to see it and what a beauty it is.  It's absolutely tiny, presumably to reduce frontal area as well as to improve power to weight ratio.  The bottom half of the fairing has been removed in these photos, just for access to the engine.

Paul and the 51 year old Seeley G50, together with our 50 year old MGB GT 

Yours truly.  Even at 5'7" (170cm), my knees are well bent - it's tiny!

Here's a short clip of Paul starting it on the rollers.  It's a sight noisier than the video shows!


It's almost a case of serendipity as Paul met Colin Seeley when he came to a NZ classic race meeting in 2012 as a guest of honour.  He will keep racing his Norton and just demo the Seeley at classic meetings.  Isn't it just great that there are people like Paul who keep history alive and kicking?  For the nerdy amongst us, the info below was taken from the Bonham's auction site.

THE EX-WORKS, DAVE CROXFORD

1971 SEELEY 499CC G50 MARK 4 RACING MOTORCYCLE
FRAME NO. MK4 CS EXP 152
• Prototype Seeley Mark 4
• Raced by Dave Croxford during the 1971 season
• Present ownership since circa 2009
• Fully restored 2009-2011
• Offered from an important private collection


Many-times British sidecar champion Colin Seeley bought Associated Motor Cycles' racing department when the company went into receivership in 1966. The previous year he had constructed the first Seeley racing frame to house a Matchless G50 engine, and the AMC purchase enabled him to produce complete Seeley G50 and 7R machines. With their improved frames, the ageing four-stroke singles enjoyed renewed competitiveness, Dave Croxford winning the British 500 Championship on a Seeley G50 in 1968 and '69.

"Our association with him over two years had been just brilliant," recalled Colin in the first volume of his autobiography Colin Seeley Racer ...and the rest. "Dave was a real trouper and an entertainment on and off track. He had achieved so much in two seasons, winning races, circuit titles and two British 500cc championships on his Seeleys. Croxford's contribution to the Seeley Racing Company was considerable."

The Seeley frame progressed from the duplex cradle original to the similar but lighter Mark 2 before the down-tubes were abandoned with the Mark 3, the headstock and swinging arm pivot of which were linked solely by tubes running diagonally above the engine. Introduced in May 1971, the Mark 4 featured a revised tubing layout and continued in production until 1973.

Having enjoyed what by his standards was a rather disappointing season riding Yamahas, Croxford returned to the Seeley team in time for the 1970 August Bank Holiday meeting at Oulton Park to ride the prototype Seeley-QUB and was back in the Colin Seeley Racing Developments team full time for 1971. His first race was at the Transatlantic Trophy meeting at Brands Hatch riding the prototype Mark 4, the machine offered here. Colin recalled: "For the 500 race Dave Croxford came to the line with my new Mk4 Seeley G50, painted in a striking colour scheme of red, orange and black." Croxford scored a sensational debut win on the new Mark 4, pipping Gus Kuhn's Charlie Sanby on another Seeley. However, by this time over-bored Yamahas were beginning to assert themselves in the 500 class and wins would be ever harder to come by. When Seeley and MRD (parent company of the Brabham Formula 1 team) agreed to merge at the end of 1971, the Seeley motorcycle racing team was stood down and Croxford was left unemployed, though he swiftly found another job as Peter Williams' team-mate at John Player Norton.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Gone, gone, movin' on......

Well, I advertised the KTM 790 on NZ's premier buy and sell website and the enquiries came thick and fast!  Less than a day after advertising it, there had been nearly 1000 views and 150 bookmarks.  I'd priced it to sell and others clearly thought so too.  First call was from the owner of the dealership who has serviced my bikes for the last 25 years or so.  Due to the international supply chain difficulties at present, they're having problems getting good bikes to sell.  Greg was happy to pay the price I was asking so that sealed it but the calls and texts kept coming, despite marking it as provisionally sold on the website.

Two days later, I was delivering it to the Hamilton-based dealer, 160 km from home, with Jennie following in the car to pick me up.

Bye, bye Bad Girl Lola!

The last ride was perhaps surprisingly unsentimental.  I guess that ownership had been so much fun and the past 58-odd years likewise that it didn't feel momentous at all.  It might have been nicer in some respects if I'd sold it at the attractive price to an individual rather than Greg on-selling it with a markup to someone else.  However Greg and his team have really looked after me over the decades with great service including discounts on the gear I've purchased so it was a fair arrangement.

Straight into part of the next phase of life,  we headed off this week in the MGB GT with neighbours who are also MG owners, a 1955 TF and a 90's MGF.  A most enjoyable run on twisty roads, ending up at a beachside cafe about 100 km away, then a photo op for the MG car club.

Cook's Landing, Coromandel Peninsula

Jennie pretending to be interested in the club magazine!

I've endured a bit of good-natured mickey-taking about buying a classic car by some of my riding partners which has been fun.  A recent exchange on Facebook with fellow rider and motoblogger LEE went like this: 

Lee: Next it'll be the tartan rug, Thermos and a little sign with the car's history on it for displaying purposes when you're at MG OC Ralies.

Geoff: Eff off 
🤣. We already have a tartan rug and wicker picnic hamper. It's decades old and sits in a very dark part of the house. Sigh.....

Lee:  So - Just the history summary to go then 
😉 Go on - You know it makes sense!

Smartarse!

Just before leaving the topic of classic cars, another friend sent the following ditty, which has a large element of truth in it:

Fairly close to the mark, I'd say!

The next step of getting hold of an e-mountain bike which was both road and off-road capable hasn't gone so well.  After poring over specifications I thought that the Giant Talon E+1 would be the ideal entry into the world of e-bikes for me and that's where it started to come unstuck.  

Giant Talon E+1

Fellow moto and cycle blogger Dave had already mentioned that bike supplies in Australia were a bit sketchy.  As it turns out, deliveries to NZ are similarly affected and it looks like they won't be available until May or June - bugger!  Never mind, it's now on order and plenty else to do until then, including riding my ratty 3 decades old Diamondback MTB.  Oh, and I can assure you that you'll never see me in Lycra.  The family would never let me live it down.  Besides, mountain bikers are supposed to be a scruffy lot, aren't they?


No more Mr Cool!

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

A new chapter beckons

It's been as near as dammit to 58 years since I got my first motorcycle.  I clearly remember cycling as a UK schoolboy to the nearby coffee bar to watch riders on their British twins sticking a record on the jukebox and trying to complete a lap of the town centre before the record finished!  The freedom to do exciting stuff and explore new horizons had a massive impact on a hormonal teen.  It wasn't just me who was smitten long term with bikes.  My close friend Rick whom I grew up with is still riding at the same age (74) and was also a classic car owner long before me.

Regular readers of the blog will know that back in 2011 aged 63, I joined IAM RoadSmart NZ to learn Police Roadcraft advanced riding techniques.  This was principally to safely extend my riding as I aged, following some lively correspondence with US motorcycle safety guru David Hough.  In simple terms, he challenged me to actually do something formal to lift my game rather than just talk about it.  The 11 years that followed were the most rewarding of my riding career.  For the first time, I had tools to measure my own skills (or lack of) and once formal qualifications had been acquired, was able to pay it forward by helping other riders to upskill.  I've made some wonderful friends as a result and so many people to thank for helping me along the way that it's not possible to name everyone.  However, one person who I can never thank enough is Philip McDaid.  At that time, Philip was IAM Chief Motorcycle Examiner and also my principal mentor.  It goes without saying that Philip's riding skills are sublime but his teaching ability and complete lack of ego makes him very special indeed.  That humility and a passion for excellence is something which every IAM mentor in our region has personally adopted and built into the culture of the organisation.

 

Mentor, rider extraordinaire and friend, Philip McDaid

The on-going correspondence with David Hough before joining IAM morphed into discussions about "the ageing motorcyclist" and when it's time to stop riding.  Those discussions are HERE and HERE .  We also strongly agreed that when someone has had a lifelong passion which is coming to a close, motorcycling or otherwise; a fallback interest is necessary to stay mentally and physically healthy.  So to cut to the chase, that time has now arrived.

It would be very easy and enjoyable to continue to ride and the decision to stop is always going to be a personal one in terms of reasons.  I think that it would be good for me to document those reasons and perhaps it might trigger some thinking among "other riders of a certain age".

My riding career has been lengthy, varied and massively enjoyable.  To be forced to give it up at some indeterminate time because of future health issues or a decline in the standards which I set for myself would seem to be a completely inappropriate and sad way of ending a lifelong passion.  Surely it would be better to celebrate on my own terms with no regrets whilst still somewhere near the top of my game?  Having fallback interests to keep mentally and physically exercised was also a big contributor in the decision-making, otherwise it would have been far more difficult.  Come to think of it, I pretty much used the same approach when stopping competitive sailing in the 80's!

Interestingly, I hadn't been out on the KTM since mid-December due to competing priorities but had an early morning ride the other day in perfect conditions.  It took a few km to dial in but the grin factor was still there throughout the ride. However, despite the huge enjoyment; there was no second-guessing as to whether the decision to stop riding was the correct one.  That sort of sealed it.

Early morning ride on the Coromandel Peninsula

So what now?  Well, the bike is shortly coming up for its first fitness warrant after 3 years from new.  We'll get that out of the way and then put it up for sale.  Whether it sells quickly or takes a while doesn't really matter as there is no immediate urgency.  Those discussions with David Hough back in 2011 have enabled a pretty seamless transition away from motorcycling with no regrets and a lot of fond memories.  Here's to you David and enjoy your retirement from motorcycling too!

It's probably a sensible time to stop the blog too with classic cars, sea fishing and hopefully travel appearing on the horizon again but you never know. A decent e-bike is also on the shortlist as there's very little flat land where we live! The one thing I'll cherish is the interaction with other bloggers and people who left comments and actually meeting several of them in person.  It's been a wonderful window into other's lives from around the world.

Just to finish off,  I've had a sort through all my motorcycling photos and have selected a few of them to represent some of the milestones in a long motorcycling career.

This photo is me on the right aged 5 or 6, wearing Dad's helmet and goggles.  Clearly influenced at an early age.

Motorcyclist in training, circa 1952/53

Taken at the Isle of Man TT in 1969.  Just dressed in my "civvies" for cruising about in the town of Douglas on a non-race day.  I was riding my Tiger 100 and the Trophy belongs to my great mate Rick.  The young lady was on holiday from Scotland!

Quarter Bridge, Isle of Man TT 1969

Drag racing my supercharged short stroke Triumph at Santa Pod Raceway, UK. Details are in an early blog post.  It was in the top 3 of its class nationally for the quarter mile and world standard over the only standing start mile that I took part in.

Icarus at Santa Pod Raceway, 1969 (courtesy: Pete Miller)

Getting married then moving to New Zealand in 1975, starting a family and taking up competitive sailing put a stop to riding for a while but I started again in 1987.  I was in Auckland to buy a new sail but also ended up putting a deposit on a new bike from the motorcycle shop next door to the sailmaker.  Jennie wasn't best pleased and bought a piano at twice the price of the bike!

The Honda GB 400TT

Although I'd already bought the GB400, I found that my UK bike licence had expired and had to sit the NZ test.  The only small capacity bike I could borrow was a step-through Yamaha 50 belonging to a mate's wife.  I'm sure that the tester smelt a rat with me turning up in full riding gear and a full face helmet but he didn't say anything!

Heading off for my test - oh the shame!!

In the 90's, our eldest son was keen to ride a bike, much to his mother's disapproval so we bought an old Yamaha TS100 trail bike to ride on the local forest roads and fire breaks.  Naturally, I had to get one too, a second hand Yamaha IT 175 Enduro.  It had an exceedingly narrow power band and used to regularly spit me off on slow, tricky stuff in the forest. I was regularly covered in bruises but it was good fun for a few years until our son went to university.

Off-roading fun in the 90's

1996 saw the start of taking part in the Grand Challenge 1000 miles (1600 km) in under 24 hours organised endurance rides by the Rusty Nuts motorcycle club.  The first of 5 was with a bunch of workmates in what turned out to be appalling weather.  We made it with nearly an hour to spare but were physically wrecked at the end of it!  The bikes I did the events on were a BMW K100RS, a Honda Blackbird and a Triumph Street Triple.  The Triple was the most comfortable of the lot when doing my last 1000 miler in 2010!

1996 - middle of the night and about 500 miles to the finish!

I owned the Blackbird for about 8 years.  Unbelievably fast and in 2005, I completed the Southern Cross round NZ endurance challenge on it, covering around 4000 km in 5 days.  In 2007, 4 of us on Blackbirds toured the south island and had a ball over all the mountain passes.  Jennie was also a regular pillion on the 'bird and we had some real fun trips on it.  However, I do remember a rather public dressing-down when out for a ride with some friends and their wives with respect to us going a little quicker than the pillions were happy with.  That invoked applause and cheers from the onlookers where we stopped for a drink.  It would have been fatal to smile so we just looked at our feet and shuffled about a bit. 

Blackbirds galore

Retirement aged 60 in 2008 and a move to the twisty roads of Coromandel saw a lighter bike purchased in 2009 - a 675 Triumph Street Triple.  It was huge fun and proof that you didn't need a large capacity bike to make good progress.   The Triple saw me through all my IAM training and the photo below represents one of my proudest motorcycling moments - passing my Observer (mentor) Test.  This was something that I thought was completely out of my reach when first joining IAM but 3 years later, I was appointed as an Examiner.  Shows what's possible with a bit of determination and a fantastic mentor.  I might add that the 2 1/2 hour each way trips to Auckland, plus the training itself was "character forming", especially in the winter!

Philip McDaid and yours truly at the conclusion of the Observer Test

After having owned the Street Triple for a few years,  I made an uncharacteristic impulse purchase of a Suzuki GSX-S 1000 in 2015.  Amazing performance but I never connected with it.  It just goes to show how important an emotional connection is when buying a bike, not just the specifications or looks.  Having said that, I really enjoyed trackdays on the Suzuki where it was in its element.

Hampton Downs international race track, 2016 (courtesy: Barry Holland)

2019 saw me looking for a replacement bike.  I thought that it would be the 765 Street Triple but a test ride on a demo KTM 790 saw me laughing out loud inside the helmet.  Emotional connection well and truly established!  Three years later and I still laugh every time I ride it,  It can be ridden sensibly but it's one of those bikes that wants to misbehave.  Barring the Suzuki which didn't do much for me (how do you call a bike like that bland?), all the bikes I've owned have been enjoyable but the KTM has been so much fun.  An excellent way to end up.

Bad girl Lola - the KTM 790

So there we are, decision made, 5+ decades of fun and a lot to be thankful for.  A new chapter opens with more sea fishing, a classic car, an e-bike before too long and hopefully a bit of travel thrown in too!

Ready for another fishing expedition

With the 1972 MGB GT out in banjo country


Saturday, 1 January 2022

Giving the finger to 2021

In comparison with a lot of countries, NZ has so far escaped the ravages of Covid fairly lightly with occasional lockdowns and other restrictions in various regions for varying periods.  Whilst there were no outbreaks where we live, travel was difficult on occasions which curtailed going all that far.  It was hellish tough on some sectors of the community and small businesses in particular really struggled.  Our hearts went out to friends in that position.  It's been an uncomfortable feeling that being retired helped us to lead a relatively normal but restricted lifestyle.   Motorcycling and other leisure activities such as sea fishing took a hit but we still had plenty to keep us productively occupied.  Looking back on the year, there was plenty going on and I've attached a bunch of photos which haven't been posted before.  I suppose that it's a good means of raising the middle finger to the effects of Covid by celebrating some of the nice memories.

January

This was dawn from our deck on Jan 1st 2021.  NZ was pretty much Covid-free at that stage and the summer weather held a lot of promise.

 Coromandel dawn, January 2021

In a past life, I used to sail competitively.  Even for people with little interest in sailing, NZ were defending the Americas Cup in Auckland in a new class of foiling yacht and the design captured the public imagination.  They are capable of a little over 50 knots and very difficult to sail. Three months of racing and NZ went on to retain the Cup in March.  The video below shows the NZ yacht Te Rehutai sailing from their base out to the race area. The buildings and traffic in the background serve to show how awesomely impressive these beasts are.


February

Out conducting potential new member assessments with the Institute of Advanced Motorists.  It's always a real pleasure meeting riders who are keen to lift their game but every so often, you get to meet someone a bit special.  In this instance, it was Barbara on her Yamaha MT-09.  Barbara's partner David had been riding for many years so when Barbara decided to ride, it was a full-on commitment to excellence.  Her early training to get a full license was with a riding school run by a former Chief Examiner of IAM.  She then worked her way through the NZ-wide Ride Forever  coaching programme and the California Superbike School track programme.  Not satisfied with that, she has embarked on  advanced police roadcraft training with IAM.  Now that's dedication for you and boy, does it show in the standard of her riding!

Some old geezer and Barbara

My Shoei GT Air helmet has an internal smoked visor which is quite effective in most sunny environments. Where it falls short is on the coast road home where the reflection off the sea is horrendous and made even worse by diving into shaded areas of road thanks to overhanging waterside trees. From past experience, iridium-coated visors work pretty well, the downside being price.   A genuine Shoei is about NZ$200, an expensive mistake if my memory was rose-tinted.  Contrast this with an iridium visor ex-AliExpress for about NZ$60, shipping included so the risk was worth taking. Expectations weren't particularly high with respect to quality but what a bargain it turned out to be!  Already set up for a Pinlock anti-fog insert, it was a perfect fit and 12 months later, the iridium coating is still in superb condition.  Best of all, its reflective qualities work an absolute treat and it works better in low light than a solid tint.  The gold coating looks pretty cool too.


Looks cool and works a treat

March
Nothing particularly noteworthy in March, some enjoyable local riding and a bit of sea fishing with Jennie.  However, a chance photo taken from our garden turned out to be a particularly pleasing one. It was a hot day and storm clouds were boiling up over the nearby Coromandel Range.  The noise of a piston engine from the sky attracted attention and there was an old Tiger Moth biplane flying towards the storm clouds.  The pilot must have had second thoughts soon afterwards and changed course but the photo was quite dramatic.

Not where I'd choose to be!

April
The Coromandel Peninsula (The so-called Coro Loop road) is considered to be one of the great motorcycling roads in NZ.  It's also a tourist mecca and at peak times, traffic volumes and poor driving standards seriously detract from the enjoyment of riding on two wheels.  Weekdays are somewhat different and one of my IAM riding partners, Tony; had taken the day off to celebrate his birthday with a ride round the Loop on his Yamaha MT10 SP.  It would be rude not to join him and we had an absolute ball.  It was one of those effortless rides where everything clicked and it was like we were on rails.  Not going particularly fast but maintaining good corner speeds with an almost complete absence of traffic - motorcycling heaven!

Birthday Boy Tony and me at Whitianga Harbour

We also spent a few days in the Rotorua area doing a few touristy things.  With the absence of overseas tourists, the lack of crowds was really pleasant.  My personal favourite activity was walking on the suspended walkways in the redwood forest.  We did it during daylight hours and at night.  The lighting and special effects at night were absolutely world class.

Part of the suspended tree walk, Rotorua

May
Plenty of rain in our district but it allowed me to take an arty photo of raindrops beading on a yucca plant in our garden.

A wet yucca "Sapphire Skies"

June
The start of winter, such as it is.  The deciduous trees in the garden look a picture but will soon turn into a soggy mess.  Unusually mild which why leaf fall is only just starting.

Early winter colours in the garden

A great day out delivering the first part of practical training for new IAM mentors, including two police officers.  It started off in dry, overcast conditions and ended in heavy rain for the 160 km journey home.  At least we got a variety of weather to practice our skills!

Some of the IAM team getting ready

July
We celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary at an upmarket lodge and out of the blue, Jennie suggested that we buy a classic car so that we could explore NZ's back roads and scenic spots in some style.  Finding something we both liked was a major stumbling block until we found a 49 year old MGB GT in stunningly restored condition.  However, taking ownership took 3 months thanks to the monumental incompetence of a government department which deals with transport matters.  A complaint was jointly lodged by the vendor and ourselves which finally led to a formal written apology from the department.  It's doubtful whether their processes will have changed as a result though.

Puka Park luxury cabins among the trees - bliss!

NZ native songbird, the Tui drinking nectar from our winter flowering cherry tree

August
The Covid Delta variant appeared in NZ for the first time and all sorts of restrictions were imposed as a result.  Fortunately, our area wasn't affected and we were still able to travel to some extent.  The lack of people from other regions made motorcycling a real pleasure and on one ride round the Coromandel Loop, we passed just 4 other vehicles over a distance of 200 km!  I was also able to observe and test one of our IAM Trainee Observers (mentors) who conducted a coaching ride for one of our trainees.  Delighted to say that he passed with flying colours.  It was also my last official duty within IAM before retiring in December.

Trainee Josh (KTM 390) and a relieved but proud Chris (GSX-S 1000) on passing his Observer Test

September
Sometimes, unplanned events turn out to be the most memorable of occasions.  I was browsing through an online NZ buy and sell website and happened to see a rocking chair for sale.  It was made from a beautiful native timber called rimu in the 1980's by a craftsman in Northland for a couple who were downsizing and were reluctantly selling it.  Showed it to Jennie and as we both loved the craftsmanship, we put in a bid and won it for the ridiculously low price of NZ$175!  It was in flawless condition and clearly cherished.  We met the vendors at a halfway point between where we all lived and took them to lunch - really enjoyed their company.  It now graces our upstairs living area as an art object although it's supremely comfortable as well.  Our daughter thought it was hilarious that "the oldies" had bought a rocking chair.  Sigh....

Rimu custom rocking chair

October
All the bureaucratic bungling regarding the MGB was addressed (almost) and we finally took ownership - it was worth waiting for!  It was also my 74th birthday and my present from Jennie was a robust trolley jack for doing routine maintenance on the car.  Hardly romantic but just what I wanted!  A fair bit of time since then has been spent on setting up a routine maintenance regime which is now almost complete (we hope). One little postscript about the bungling.  When the new ownership papers arrived, the car had been mis-identified as an MGB Roadster, not an MGB GT.  Keeping my temper, it took several protracted phone calls to the authorities to get the correct papers issued and they only arrived in the last week of December.  Lord protect us from pen-pushers!

The MGB GT at the Firth of Thames, Coromandel Peninsula

November
With neighbouring regions locked down, it was a great time for social riding in our area with virtually no weekend traffic and perfect weather.  Getting together with some of the IAM team from our region and riding on uncluttered roads was an absolute dream.

Meeting up with the team in the town of Paeroa

December

Whenever I'm in the nearby town of Whitianga, a quick trip to the grass airfield is often worthwhile as a range of unusual aircraft can often be seen there.  A recent example is the De Havilland Chipmunk.  Designed in Canada in the 40's and entering RAF service in 1950, it was a popular flight trainer.  It was delightful to see the flight instructor swinging the prop to start it, then hopping in and taking off in no time at all.  Wonderful to still see old aircraft in regular use.

Going through the starting routine

....and away we go

As of today, I've retired as an IAM Examiner and mentor after 10 years of lifting my riding to a level that I'm quite proud of, having never dreamed of getting this far.  Also proud to have coached many others to attain their advanced roadcraft qualification and continue on to become mentors themselves.  That's what you call a win-win.  Just social riding from now on but also spending more time with Jennie sea fishing and enjoying the MGB GT.  As mentioned in the previous post about keeping occupied during retirement, I've got plenty of fallback interests so boredom is unlikely to be an issue.

Who knows what 2022 and future years will bring but at least we can make the best possible use of our time whatever things outside of our control bring us.  Every good wish for the future!