Wheel alignment

Tuesday 12 October 2010

The time is now...

 Receiving tender loving care

Had a 320 km round trip today to Hamilton to give the Street Triple its 10000 km service (also it's 1st birthday within a day or so).  I'm always impressed with the superb service at the Hamilton Motorcycle Centre where you are always made to feel a valued customer by literally everyone working there.  The service was about 3 hours long, so plenty of time to look round the superb showroom packed with Triumphs, BMW's, Ducatis and Kawasakis.  More on the showroom in a minute.    One of my riding partners for the Grand Challenge also dropped in unexpectedly so it was great to have coffee and a yak on comfortable settees, surrounded by exotic hardware.  Also bumped into a prominent member of Kiwi Rider magazine, Todd Sutherland.  I worked with him at a manufacturing company before he turned a shared passion into a living - we hadn't seen each other for probably 20 years so that was good Karma too.

Anyway, back to the bikes in the showroom.......

I love bikes.  Don't care where they're made or what badge is on the tank, I love 'em.  Back in the 60's, it was the European makes that were looking tired and outdated, with the Japanese being innovative and producing bikes with great performance, stunning looks and superb reliability.  It's only a personal view, but I reckon that the pendulum is swinging the other way.  The Kawasaki range in the showroom, all of them good bikes; looked "same old, same old" - simply an incremental development of previous models.  Of course, this Kaizen approach (small incremental improvements) has been the cornerstone of Japanese prosperity but I can't help thinking that innovation is getting increasingly buried as a consequence.  The European bikes in the showroom all seemed to have flair, whether it be in overall design, an item of detail or paint finish.  Have a look at these photos (click to enlarge and drool):

Thruxton Bonneville
The Thruxton Bonnie retains the Triumph purity of line starting some 4 decades or more ago, but there's nothing old about any of the detail.  A pearl white metallic tank and seat cowl with a red frame makes it a stunning bike.  It takes clever people to create elegant simplicity.

Triumph Daytona 675 SE

Most people know what a huge world-wide success the faired and naked 675's have been and continue to be so enough said on that subject.  I'd seen photos of the blue and white SE and my initial impression was that it was a tart's handbag. How wrong I was!  The pearl white finish combined with an unusual but "just right" shade of blue frame and suspension is absolutely beautiful.  And look at the shot of it's muffler below.  Even an old guy in his 60's can feel certain stirrings when looking at that!

Oh my, my.....  I've come over all faint!

Moving on to BMW's, they had an HP2 Sport in the shop.  Arguably the ultimate development of BMW's flat twin with 4 valve head, fuel injection, Telelever front suspension and Paralever rear suspension with an Ohlins hydraulic unit, it simply drips with class.  Ok, the performance isn't on par with a Japanese sport bike but neither does it pretend to compete.  It's also very expensive but its quality has strong appeal to a section of the market, just as something like a Morgan Plus Eight has to a certain section of the car market.

 The componentry drips class

BMW HP2 rear wheel - tell me that this isn't pure art

I ADORE the BMW HP2.  If ever some unknown rich relative leaves me a legacy, this is where the money is going.  And the bike is going in the lounge, alongside Jennie's art objects! (Subject to executive permission of course).

Ducati - not much else to say when the name is mentioned, is there?  The race-bred styling is legendary, but it was the angular lines of the Hypermotard which caught my eye.  Simple, elegant lines which exude purpose.

 Bad to the bone!

It's fortunate that Hamilton Motorcycles are just over 2 hours away from home or I'd be spending every second day in there drooling on the bikes and their beautiful wooden floor.  However, it's a rare treat and a real pleasure to drop in and see what's on the showroom floor.  I rest my case about European bikes.....

Before finally departing from the showroom, I thought you might enjoy the photo below.  In one corner of the showroom, there's a huge photo of a BMW GS  which I thought was a superb composition.  In front of it, an old 350cc BSA B40 (I think?) prepared for off-road competition.  I reckon the two go perfectly together and would grace the corner of any guy's den!

Old meets new

With the Grand Challenge on Saturday, it's all starting to hit home and I've busied myself for the last couple of days gathering items to take, hopefully avoiding any last-minute panics.  One lounge is strewn with "guy stuff" ready for packing, discarding and re-packing maybe half of it.  Included in this is my staple sustenance for the ride to avoid the energy "crash and burn" cycle of sugar-based junk food from gas stations.  This is a mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruits known as scroggin in NZ, Trail Mix (I think) in the Americas and God knows what else in other parts of the world.  Tastes great, easy to digest, more or less linear energy release and minimises embarrassing unscheduled stops at the roadside to meet the needs of nature.

 Scroggin - yummm!!

 Because it's 7 years since completing the last 1000-miler, I've been getting a wee bit introspective and wondering exactly why I entered as it's never easy and at my age, it's certainly going to hurt.  Going for a decent ride with treasured mates a sufficient reason?  That's part of it for certain, especially as three of my friends are doing the Grand Challenge for the first time and sharing the momentous occasion with them is going to be very special.

It's more than that though.  Without wanting to sound too philosophical or any way "new age", most of us have fairly comfortable routine lives which can border on mundane if we're inclined to let it be that way.  Occasionally stretching one's self and stepping outside the comfort zone is a means of reminding us all that life is to be lived and unless the Buddhists are right, we only get one crack at life on this earth.  That's exactly my reason for doing it and becomes more important the older I get.  Back in the late 80's, I lost my best friend and work colleague in a motoring accident.  He was an innocent victim, leaving behind a wonderful wife and 3 lovely young kids.  Jennie and I were contacted by the police to help break the news to them and with only 10 minutes' warning,  that's something you don't want to do more than once in a lifetime.  That tragedy completely changed the lives of Jennie and me.  It drove home the importance of not sitting back and putting things off as you can never predict what's round the corner.  Stretching one's self in all sorts of ways but enjoying it at the same time all is part of  avoiding those dreaded words "if only I....".  Riding a motorcycle on a physically and mentally demanding long haul is just one step along the path of worthwhile activity and enjoyment at the same time.  (Errrr... if you can call a lot of pain and anxiety enjoyable!)

Phew, that was all a bit deep and I'm not sure that I've done a particularly good job of explaining myself.  However, I'm sure that if anyone is going to understand the sentiments behind it, it's going to be people who ride motorcycles!

Anxiously scanning the weather forecast on a daily basis.  So far, it looks less horrific than some of the past Grand Challenges. Currently, there's a band of rain scheduled to hit the north island around daybreak on Sunday.  Most people won't mind this as it's usually in the middle of the night on some god-forsaken unlit goat track in the back of beyond that conditions are at their worst .  The start and finish is at the southernmost tip of Lake Taupo, right in the middle of the north island.  As to where the bit in between will take us, it's anyone's guess until all is revealed the night before the ride. If any of you have a connection to the Weather Gods, we'd all appreciate some positive vibes please!

Errr... not looking too bad by normal standards

Hope to catch you all next week with a post about a successful outcome.  In the meantime, ride safely everyone.

Saturday, 16th October.  3.03 pm start time.  Showtime.....


  1. Excellent photos of some absolutely beautiful machines Geoff!!

    That Daytona SE is definitely one of the sexiest looking bikes ever made! And the BMW HP2 is something amazing too! And the Ducati???? Like anything else Italian - it is simply stunning! (I just want one of everything in every possible colour!)

    And regarding the philosophical part of your post - I totally understand what you are trying to say....and on a lighter note, only a motorcyclist can understand why a dog sticks its head out a car window!!

    Enjoy the rest of your week and must say that I envy you and the others getting the chance to get out there and hammer along those roads on the weekend!

    Have a fantastic (and safe) journey!

    Cheers mate!

  2. Joining the drool fest. I also find that European models are catching up in design, although Triumph and Ducati always had a special vibe.
    Scroggin would be translated into Studentenfutter in German, meaning student's provender.
    Good luck with the weather, and safe riding next weekend!

  3. Anthony:
    Hahahaha! I hadn't thought about the dog analogy before - that's great! I'd re-think your "every possible colour" statement if I were you. We were looking through some colour charts for a Ducati Monster yesterday and there's a lilac option. Imagine explaining that away when you rock up to the pub on a Sunday lunchtime!

    Thanks for the good wishes - excitement tinged with apprehension at present!

    Thanks so much for Studentenfutter - will use it at every chance. I'd imagine it's off every student's menu now. With its health food connotations, the price has of course been cranked well up!

    Thanks so much, safety will be the utmost consideration.

  4. I too like the bike photos and as you would expect I'm partial to BMW, not only for the styling but the engineering. Although, I like Triumphs and Ducatis as well and that Daytona is sweet!

    Your philosophical part makes sense to me. We do only get one shot at this life and riding gives opportunities for comtemplating that whole picture.

    I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip Geoff. Have a great time with your buddies. I hear (and see in your photos) that NZ is beautiful and seeing it on two wheels would be pretty wonderful. I'll keep you in my prayers my friend!

  5. Mike:

    I sincerely appreciate your thoughts, thank you.

    With 11 hours or so of riding in the dark this weekend, there will be less opportunities to appreciate the scenery than normal. However, at sunup, the world will be a beautiful place again; even through the hurt!

  6. First of all Geoff, Have fun on the weekend, I shall be thinking of you Sunday morning when my kids bring me my salmon and cream cheese bagal, with coffee........In reality I would rather be doing what you are doing!

    Loved the photos, and agree with you whole heartdly about european bikes. I still think that the 675 Daytonna is the sexiest bike around, the designer from Triumph must of been on crack when he came up with that, I think it took the motorcyling world by storm, and certainly made the japenses guys take notice.

    Wise move on the 'scrogging" slow release energy and nutrious.

    Lastly, your "sentimental" comments are a freindly reminded that we should "seize the day ", for who knows what tomorrow will bring.

    Take care.

  7. Thanks Roger, I'd like a Sunday breakfast like that!

    A friend over-indulged on KFC on our first GC and watching him tearing off riding gear as he ran to the bathroom at a gas station was really funny for spectators - a very close call. Hopefully, a diet of scroggin will help avoid those mortifying moments!

  8. Great looking bikes. I have never ridden a Triumph but I sure would like to. They look as though they can only go fast.

  9. Thanks Motoroz! The 675 Daytona is a wicked-looking bike - so tiny. Sadly though, the seat height is too tall for me - that's why I have the Street Triple. You can go as slow or fast as you like on that as it has huge torque for its weight.

  10. Mustn't have been any Connie's in the shop then Geoff - otherwise you'd have fallen in love and ridden off on one!

    One more day of work, then the packing and the trip up to Turangi. Getting psyched now!

  11. Good luck with the ride Geoff! I too think I got your philosophical bit and couldn't agree more. There can be nothing worse than thinking "If only I had...."

  12. No 1400's of any shape or form Andrew! All Kwakka sports bikes and off-roaders.

    I've got to take my wife to Auck Airport tomorow arvo. Meeting the lads for lunch at Tirau on Friday, then straight down to the motel. Taupo bypass is open so will check it out on the way down.

  13. Cheers SB - very sorry to hear about Pete's decision to flag riding for a while.

  14. Geoff, hope to see you on the GC ride. Your scroggin is a good idea, but also I have learnt the importance of keeping hydrated. I use a camelback. I take a sip everytime I slow down for a town. I also make sandwiches in the Rusty Nuts kitchen to take with me.
    I'm from New Plymouth but I'm riding down from the Mount on friday afternoon. I plan to check out that new Taupo road too.
    Check out this webpage for some tips. http://www.ironbutt.com/tech/aowprintout.cfm


  15. It will be good to meet you Anonymous Andrew! Camelback is a great idea an I've seen some people use them on previous GC's. Yep, hydration is something I'm fussy about too. I tend to shy away from caffeine-based drinks on the GC too, unless I have just one at dawn.

  16. Great post. That Triumph Daytona is one sweet looking bike. I don't think we have that color combination on this side of the pond.

    Good luck on your upcoming adventure. I'm looking forward to reading about it. Happy trails and safe journey.

  17. Cheers Tobairitz!

    It's a beauty all right. The 830 mm seat height is too much for me though unless I got the hacksaw out.

    Many thanks - somewhat apprehensive, which is a better way to be than over-confident.

  18. Hi Geoff. Reading your post has got me to take a look at myself and maybe re-think my hasty decision. I have just re-read all the posts on my blog and quite a few on yours, and maybe I just need to get out with John (Scoth Broth) a bit more.
    As for Euro vs Jap machinery, yeah I think it's been going that way for a while now, all the Italian stuff seems pretty reliable these days and BMW are knocking out some cracking bikes lately, also I agree, the HP2 sport is a stunning bike, it's a nice side step away from the norm without being too silly.
    Great blog as always
    Many thanks

  19. Pete:
    Excellent news from my perspective and I hope it will be from yours. You might find carrying on riding but changing the format easier than flagging it all.

    Did you read this post? http://geoffjames.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-do-we-ride.html. If you still identify with it, then you're not ready to give up yet!

    Best wishes whatever you decide....

  20. Seeing a mate from 20 years ago must have been great fun. I liked the tarts handbag comment – I haven’t heard that for sometime, but unlike you I didn’t come over all faint at the exhaust on the 675 – I like to see the muffler, not have it buried and hidden away. I do however agree with you about the HP2 rear wheel – why not just buy one of them and hang it on the wall next to Jennie’s stuff?

    I have to 100% agree with you about doing unusual things and stepping outside life’s comfort zone. My current ride in the US is really about just that. The accident you talked of was no doubt a really sad event at the time, but I am sure you and Jenny look back at it and give thanks to the new outlook on life it gave to you. If it spurred you on to doing more things and leading a more fulfilling life, then that is a good thing that came out of a tragedy. Good for you! By the way, you did an excellent job in describing your thoughts.

    Have a great time on the challenge, don’t let it get to your back, keep talking to yourself and remember a lot of your readers are all wishing you well as you ride along all of those miles. Good luck!

  21. Hi Gary!
    Trouble is, if the wheel went on the wall, I'd be pining for the rest in short order. All or nothing!

    Yep, your fantastic ride is most certainly about that and I still think a book would be in order as it would not only be entertaining in its own right, it would be of huge benefit for people planning similar undertakings.

    Yes, I'm still sad about that event when I think about it in bluer moments but it was most certainly life-changing for us. The other great thing was that his children turned out brilliantly and all have successful careers, and their Mum re-married some years afterwards to the most wonderful guy.

    Thanks mate - much appreciated. I'll be doing plenty of talking although a lot of it probably won't bear repeating!!

  22. Good luck Geoff - Go for it! You are doing this on behalf of ageing motorcyclists everywhere and I am really looking forward to reading about it, as I said before I haven't done one of those yet so your preparations and experiences will be a guide for me.

  23. Well, how did you get on? A lot of people are wanting to know!


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