Wheel alignment

Saturday 1 January 2011

Discovering slow riding

Salutations from the first country to reach 2011!  Time travel at its best.

I've always liked to "press on a bit" and it was getting to the stage with the Blackbird where true involvement was at speeds which sooner or later were going to cost serious money if I got caught, not to mention the inevitable Disturbance in the Force at home which would follow - I know which would be worse!  I'm going to kick off this post by mentioning  a ride some 18 months ago which will hopefully provide a bit of background to the main point.  Ummm... if there really is a point, that is; other than wanting to scratch a mental itch which has been present for a while!

Going back in time, my attention was caught by a thread on an NZ motorcycle forum by a couple of young Kiwis.  Their plan was to undertake an epic ride, flying to the south island, laying their hands on a couple of small, old 2 strokes and riding them about 2200 km home to Auckland in the north island via a circuitous route, scrounging accommodation along the way.  Who said young people today lack a sense of adventure?  Errr...  I probably did - on numerous occasions!

Anyway, their ride should merit a story here in its own right, with the Suzuki A80 expiring before leaving the south island and the two strapping lads completing the rest of the journey 2-up on an 80's Honda H100S 100cc 2 stroke, complete with a lightly-silenced expansion chamber!  That story can wait though.  When they got near to the Coromandel Peninsula, I met them and rode "shotgun", escorting them home, putting them up overnight; then seeing them safely off the peninsula the next day en route to their Auckland homes.  The following 2 photos show the lads and their wonderful Honda which survived such a prolonged caning whilst grossly overloaded.  Whilst following, the frame flex was so obvious that you could see the wheels moving in and out of alignment!

Overloaded Honda H100 - being ridden with verve and imagination

The trusty 1980's Honda 100

Waiting patiently for the little Honda to climb a steep hill!

Moving ever closer towards the point of this post, whilst I was riding with these 2 lads; they rarely passed 90km/hr, even on a downhill grade with the wind behind them.  This speed was significantly less than my normal rate of open road passage and I was genuinely surprised how much more of the surrounding local countryside I took in and appreciated, as opposed to just the normal mandatory scanning for potential hazards and threats on any ride.

I penned a piece for an NZ bike magazine on "Why we ride" which received some good reviews, so reproduced it in the blog just over 12 months ago: Why do we ride motorcycles? .  Most of the reasons listed still seem perfectly valid but reckon I missed a few.  There probably isn't much argument that we're more aware of our surroundings on a bike than in a cage but does that relate more to risk assessment than simply appreciating our surroundings?  From a personal viewpoint whilst riding bigger capacity, faster sports-oriented bikes, riding challenging roads at pace with precision constituted most of the pleasure; enjoying the scenery was an altogether more rare experience.  Bikes like the Blackbird are capable of being ridden slowly but they can get uncomfortable quite quickly in this mode and to be perfectly frank, they're boring unless being operated in what might be termed their design performance envelope. (A technical euphemism for coming to the attention of the Highway Patrol in a big way).

Starship Blackbird, the Warp Speed Express

Whilst a good, fast fang is still excellent, especially with trusted friends; a naked bike such as the Street Triple with superb ergonomics has undoubtedly broadened my riding pleasures.  Being able to drift along at slower speeds sitting more or less vertically with minimal load on the wrists or neck has opened up a whole new dimension on the world.... and actually stopping for longer than rapid refuelling and a quick gas station pie is suddenly ok!!!!  Ok, so those of you who don't currently own sports-oriented bikes will quite rightly say, "Took your bloody time to figure that out, didn't you?"  Maybe it has nothing at all to do with age or maturity, and everything to do with the versatility of the Street Triple.  The point is though, there must be a whole world of riders like me who simply haven't really experienced how enjoyable riding at both ends of the performance spectrum is.

Having ridden for over 40 years and taken all this time to gradually cotton on to slow riding on isn't something I feel awkward about; it's actually rather exhilarating to realise that you never stop learning about new ways to enjoy your passion! (Like the previously reported riding of a scooter for the first time ever in 2009!)

  Stopping to contemplate and enjoy the scenery is ok!!!

Happy and safe riding in 2011 !


  1. Kudos to those blokes and their H100. I am deeply impressed.
    I have always been one to go slow and smell the roses, but I also need a strong motorcycle when I have to go the fast lane. Your Striple is certainly the exact bike to serve both purposes as well.
    Let me take the opportunity to be one of the first wishing you and Jennie a happy and healthy New Year. Hope to be able to meet you sometime this year. Cheers from Germany, with another 4 hours to go.

  2. Hi Sonja: Prosit Neujahr!

    Yes indeed, their thread on the Kiwi biker website ran to 33 pages and what an adventure!

    I think that ummm...excessive speed might have certain connections with testosterone :-(. However, in my defence, let me say that my phrase "riding at pace with precision" was quite deliberate because I do care deeply about riding well. The Striple is indeed perfect for pootling about or low flying.

    Thanks for the good wishes and the same back to you guys. Hope you're enjoying your time with family and friends. Take care of your brain cells too!

  3. I need to look for that story. It sounds like a real adventure. I think I got the fast riding out of my system on human powered two wheelers. I've never even had an urge to ride the motorbike fast.

    Happy New Year! (we're really behind and still have 10 more hours to wait)

  4. Wanna buy a Firestorm?

    Probably replacing it with something slower soon...

  5. Hi Richard:
    Email sent for link. I think I must have had a case of arrested development ;-). Also, my spell of competitive riding on the dragstrip probably hasn't helped!

    Have fun at the party. At least in Fairbanks, you don't need a refrigerator to chill the beer - warm it up more like!

    Greetings Andrew and Happy New Year!
    I like Firestorms but not their range! What are you thinking of getting?

  6. Geoff,
    Good subject matter! I think as testosterone dwindles it allows for common sense to seep in. I guess that's the scientific equation for common sense. And common sense is a good thing to have on a motorcycle.

    I just clicked on your post after reading Allen Madding's post on slowing down to enjoy life > http://allenmadding.blogspot.com/2010/12/last-day-of-year.html.

    You both have excellent advice as we start the new year. Happy New Year to you and Jennie!

  7. Hello Mike and best wishes to you and your family as 2011 approaches in your part of the world.

    You're right of course and I hope to continue to enjoy both ends of the riding spectrum, albeit with better judgement from the loss of testosterone. (I ought to feel mildly insulted, but can't quite work out why, haha).

    Have just read Allen Madding's post thank you. It is indeed excellent - must write a comment.

  8. Geoff:

    I also mastered slow riding, since I stop a lot for photos it didn't make sense to pass everyone then have to stop for a photo and have to pass them again. Also I was wearing out my brakes having to stop from a faster speed. I let everyone pass so I am at the end of the line, it is easier this way.

    Before I purchased the V-strom DL650, I was looking at litre bikes, then decided that I didn't need the speed. I get the added bonus of better fuel mileage

    I notice you made it through to the New Year. Can't wait for the food photos

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  9. Greetings Bob and Happy New Year in advance!

    I'm a little puzzled and suspect you may have your tongue firmly planted in your cheek; well, just a little perhaps.

    You talk about fuel economy and there being no need for speed. Yet you have a Corvette and Yvonne has a WRX Impreza. I'm willing to bet that in the advertising blurb for these vehicles, the words "economy" and "modest performance" are carefully absent! Perhaps I misunderstand your criteria for buying these vehicles ;-).

    We made it through new year with not so much as even a mild hangover. Tonight, I'll be cooking a marinated, boned and butterflied leg of lamb on the BBQ; accompanied by hasselback roast potatoes and a salad with olives and chillies. You probably won't get photos though as I prefer to leave that to a certain Canadian gourmet and master photographer.

  10. Wow, its nice to know that I am catching on to slowing down and enjoying life a little ahead of the curve :)

    I am probably blessed that I started riding later in life and after racing stock cars for 10 years. I am now quite familiar with how stoved up I get from a faceplant and relish in the idea of coming home without rashed up leathers.

    That leg of lamb sounds delicious, I made a pot of chili to keep me warm as the good temps are leaving us this weekend.

    Seems I have a lot to read on your blog.


  11. Slow riding is pretty cool. And hard to manage after being on a big bike.

    I've been riding a 50cc Honda Ruckus for the past couple days so my hat's off to anyone who adventures in the slow lane.

    Happy New Year to you and ride safe during the coming year.

    Steve Williams
    Scooter in the Sticks

  12. Allen:

    It's probably that I'm a slow learner coupled with the realisation that I don't bounce too well these days!

    I LOVE chilli. I'll correct that... I LOVE food!

    Best wishes and thanks for dropping by!

  13. Happy New Year Geoff. Brilliant post once again.....I love the last photo of you and the Striple - It brought a smile to my face because despite the theme of the post being about "slowing down" it seems like the bike is sitting there wondering why you are contemplating the scenery for so long. I can imagine it sitting there like an impatient child....... "come on Geoff......lets get going!!! I think there's a corner over there!!!......come on!!!!"

    Have an amazing 2011.

  14. First off, best wishes for a wondrous New Year.

    I seem to have missed out on the speed gene. I didn't come to two-wheels until my fifty-ninth year, but the cars I've chose to drive in the past almost always did have "economy" in the advertisements and "modest performance" was such a given as not need to be stated. As proof, I drove a Suzuki Samurai near 200,000mi., a Geo Metro 3-cyclinder for over 200,000mi., and my present car is Toyota Yaris. I suspect with this background my riding a 101cc motorcycle doesn't come as a large surprise.

    This said, I've followed your Blog closely enough to know your phrase, "riding at pace with precision" was without a doubt deliberate. It is clear to me that you care deeply about riding well.

    It seems a good resolution to ride well whether "at pace" or at a somewhat slower observational pace.

    I look forward to enjoying your Blog in the upcoming year.


  15. Hi Anthony and best wishes to you and the family - hope you got some long-awaited farkles! Thanks for the nice comments - when I started writing the post, I wasn't actually sure whether it would get as far as publucation. The main reason was to clarify in my own mind what I was actually thinking... cheap therapy, huh? ;-).

    You won't find too many photos of the Striple waiting patiently - more than happy to indulge its hooligan inclinations. "It made me do it Officer, honest!"

    Sincere good wishes to you too for 2011.

    I think a spell campaigning a drag bike and spending a week at that Mecca of fast bikes, the Isle of Man TT sealed my fate from an early age! Interestingly, I'm quite content to plod along in a car, even in my wife's tricked-up sports car.

    Yes, I'm happy to be called anal when it comes to riding and driving standards as you'll have gathered if you've seen my specific posts on the subject. Speed doesn't kill, stupidity kills.

    All the very best and safe riding!

  16. Hi Steve!

    I think that enjoyable slow riding was originally kindled in 2009 when I rode a scooter for the very first time in over 4 decades of riding. It was on the Pacific island of Rarotonga which had a 50 km/hr speed restriction so it was kind of forced on me, but it was perfect for the breathtaking views anyway.

    Riding slow on a scooter was certainly hard - those wobbly little wheels scared me to death for the first day!

    And all the very best to you for 2011 too!

  17. Hi Geoff, good post and that's why I ride an RT now, have done with the fast riding and peg scraping and now like to cruise. I would love to know how that marinated, boned and butterflied leg of lamb turned out?! Happy New Year to you and yours my brother.

  18. I enjoy reading your blog Geoff. I see some common thoughts here and there. Living in the southern interior of British Columbia, riding is only on my mind, so getting my dose over the internet will have to do until May.
    Happy new year...

  19. Andrew:
    I haven't done with the fast riding but when I'm on my own, I seem to be increasingly taking time to appreciate the countryside.

    The leg of lamb was spectactular thanks. The marinade was a wipe-over with a manuka tree oil-based BBQ sauce which our younger son developed (he's head of R&D for a food manufacturer), mixed with mint. Seared for 5 minutes on either side to seal it, then gently cooked for half an hour with the lid of the BBQ closed. Probably the most tender lamb I've ever eaten! Safe riding mate!

    Hi GripIt and thanks for dropping by!
    I was actually going to stop writing the blog as I'd said all I wanted to say but the odd thing pops up so will continue for a little longer. Don't want to do it just for it's own sake.

    Yes, I can see the dilemma with interior BC as a location. I just hope that the absence of riding combined with lots of maintenance and polishing makes for delicious anticipation!

    Happy New Year back and best wishes....

  20. Happy New Year Geoff!

    Great post couldnt agree more, Feel exactly the same way. I still like a fang, but i think I just as much enjoy seeing what I am 'fanging" past.

  21. You too Roger - hope that the holiday in the Sounds was spectacular. Look forward to seeing the photos!

  22. After spending a few years hanging off the back of Troubadour's Sprint ST while he was chasing his sport bike buddies, I can agree that it is nice to slow down and see the scenery as it is going by.

    Loved the last photo, you look very contemplative like you are trying to decide, into the water or back on the bike?

    Happy New Year to you and your family and here's to a healthy happy 2011 with lots of riding.

  23. Trobairitz:
    I once received a very public dressing-down from
    Jennie outside a biker-hang out after a rather spirited ride. She even got applause from those bikers listening in which was a bit uncalled-for! That was the last fast ride with precious cargo on the back!

    That photo was taken at a beach close to home. I love going there as there's a Godwit colony. They fly the 11000-odd km between NZ and Alaska non-stop at migration time - simply incredible.

    And very best wishes to you and Troubador too. May you be delighted with whatever new bike you choose!

  24. Greetings from Southern California.

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to :-)

    God Bless You, ~Ron


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