Wheel alignment

Sunday 17 July 2011

A mid-winter ride on 7 cylinders

The weather in much of NZ has been appalling for the last 2 weeks - gales and lots of the wet stuff dropping on us!  The most common disease among riders has been the dreaded cabin fever, not to mention huge task lists given to us by our significant others seeing as we've been stuck indoors.  However, the forecast for today was no rain and no wind, so it was time to get out for a ride with fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists trainee Bob Benton from Thames and fellow blogger Roger Fleming from Auckland who is also joining the IAM. None of us had ridden together before so it was going to be especially enjoyable.

I was due to meet with Bob in Thames and then meet Roger on the western side of the Firth of Thames at the Kaiaua fish and chip shop, a well known biker eatery.  Roger had asked me to pick up some smoked fish in Coromandel as their products are simply outstanding, so first stop was to buy some smoked kawahai with a herb coating and trevally, smoked with lime and pepper - yummm!

The exquisite Coromandel Smoking Company

The ride down the twisty coast road to Thames required a bit of care, partly because the weeks of no riding had made me a bit rusty and secondly because some shaded corners were a bit greasy due to the incessant rain.  The temperature was in the low single figures when riding down the coast but pleased to report that the newly-fitted Acerbis handlebar guards really did the business.   The low temperatures also caused another phenomenon where the cold air met with the warmer waters of the Firth of Thames - fog!  It was really weird as the fog only started about 400 metres from the shoreline and the ride to Thames was in clear blue skies!
After meeting Bob on his DR650 trail bike, the fog rolled onto the land just south of Thames, limiting safe speed to the legal maximum of 100 km/hr!  Condensation on the visor wasn't much of an issue as a pre-ride application of Rain-X caused it to bead off as soon as it settled.  Although Roger set off from Auckland in beautiful conditions, he would encounter similar conditions as soon he hit the coast from the north.
Kaiaua was reached without incident and a great feed of fish and chips in traditional newspaper was consumed at the tables on the edge of the car park.  The water's edge is basically just across the road but the fog was so thick that we couldn't see the water at all!

Roger, Bob and me enjoying fish 'n chips

Bob's DR650, Roger's Sprint and my Striple
As is the way with riders everywhere, good conversations are easily struck up and we were joined by an Aucklander called John.  He's the silver-haired chap on the left of the picture above.  John epitomises getting the most out of life.  70 years old with an almost new Triumph Tiger to add to his stable of several bikes.  He's also off to Patagonia in November, riding a rented BMW 800 trail bike through the country.  What an inspiration and we concluded (probably wrongly, but certainly enviously!) that he was single to be allowed all those indulgences, hehe!

After finishing lunch, Bob and I decided to accompany Roger part way back to Auckland via the gloriously twisty road that runs along the edge of the Hunua range of hills.  The hope was that once we got away from the water, the fog would lift.  Twisty, narrow back roads with fog is not a good combination as we'd already noticed on our way to Kaiaua that about 75%  of the car drivers encountered were driving without  lights - morons.....

Leaving foggy Kaiaua - picturesque, but not all that pleasant for riding

I took the lead and sure enough, blue skies and sun were the order of the day after a couple of kilometres or so.  With us all having read all the IAM classic advanced riding handbooks, we were all conscious of not wanting to stuff up in front of the others and have to endure the mickey-taking which would inevitably follow.  Perhaps there was just a hint of wanting one of the others to stuff up so that some good-natured leg-pulling could follow!  Karma always has a way of intervening in these situations and it was yours truly who made the stuff-up.  Coming up to a countryside intersection with a STOP sign,  I came to a momentary balanced halt but for some inexplicable reason, didn't put my foot down - oh noooo!  Pulling away, I felt 2 pairs of eyes boring into me and imagined the sniggering inside their helmets - a Gotcha moment if ever there was one.  At the turn-round point a few minutes later, I got in first and confessed.  The smug retort was "We know".  Sod it!

After saying goodbye to Roger, Bob and I had a largely fog-free run back to Thames for a cuppa at his place and then I headed back home to Coromandel.  This was the worst part of the trip with the low sun reflecting off the water and causing massive sun-strike for the remaining 50 km.  Really hard going, with a lot of concentration required.  So there we are..... a 260 km mid-winter ride which despite the fog, was just the thing to combat cabin fever and doing it with such good company and competent riders was an additional bonus.

Finally, and nothing to do with bikes, let me introduce the latest member of the James family, albeit of a likely temporary nature.  This is "Little One".  The females reading this may now say "Awww...."

Little One

Little One turned up at our place just before dinner on Friday night.  Poor little chap was clearly starving by the way he devoured a bowl of cat food.  He can't be more than about 8 weeks old and has a gorgeous nature.  Our two cats weren't enamoured to see him but allowed him indoors where he recognised a couple of soft touches in Jennie and me and promptly made himself at home.  We put him out last thing at night on our covered deck in the hope he'd find his way home -  no such luck.  In the morning with little nose pressed against the window, there he was.  We've had no success whatsoever in tracking down his real owners (sorry....servants) so we're in a bit of a quandary.  Do we turn him over to the local SPCA/cat rescue before he totally captures our hearts or what???  Yet to be resolved....


  1. Little One looks like the little one that we acquired on our trip to France. That makes 3 in Germany and 1 in England!

    It's been pissing down here all weekend and I don't want to go out for a ride in it!


  2. Yes, partial tongue in check being checky about no friends to ride with due to an analyzing eye you are acquiring. However...given all three of your desires to not "stuff up", but hoping another will to mercilessly tease...the only way I am riding with you guys is IF I AM FOLLOWING! ;) Someone will have to keep me on the wrong side of the road after all.


  3. We've had a fair bit of rain here in Scotland, and supposed to be summer! Still, its pretty warm and there's usually lots of sun between the showers. Do you guys get much snow in winter? They put salt down on the roads over here to try and stop them freezing so many folk take their bikes off the road as the salt eats bikes.

  4. Kudos to you getting out in the winter. I know the feeling of cabin fever very well myself. As much as fog seems to be a winter phenomenon to you, we seem to get it all year. As I sit here at 6.30AM the inlet is covered by it, nestled in the surrounding mountains with blue skies above. I like fog (as long as I don't have to ride in it). And there you have it: Awww. If you can, keep it please, it has already adopted you as its can openers and future providers of shelter.

  5. Nikos:
    Good Lord, so cats run your life too? Sorry to hear about your weather, at least summer here is predictably warm and dry for the most part!

    Never a truer word spoken in jest! Nah, we'd never be so rude as to say anything to strangers unless they were a real menace but it's fair game with friends as we all give as good as we get, so great fun!

    The UK weather was one reason we emigrated in '75! We don't get any snow and and almost no frosts where I live. They do get snow occasionally blocking roads in the mountainous high country and the off bit of snow and ice in the south island but it's not very often compared with the UK. No salt on the roads, thank goodness.

    Thanks for dropping by!

    I agree with you regarding fog! I have to go to Auckland tomorrow and have yet to make up my mind whether to take the bike or car!

    Hahaha - it's a dilemma all right, compounded by the fact that we're off on holiday in a weeks' time. We don't really want to give it the run of the house yet with the neighbours just popping in to feed the cats. We'll see!

  6. Soften it with a glass of wine in the evening and I am in. :)


  7. Lori:
    You're on! Jennie had cooked a lovely Italian meal when I got home and we washed it down with a decent glass of Shiraz!

  8. Fog....Cold....sounds like a normal day to me! Thankfully the sun is out today so it wasn't too bad for the ride to the office.

    The fog was so thick about a fortnight ago that I missed the line-up for the Ferry...I was cruising along though the fog at about 40-50kmh and suddenly noticed a line of cars on the side of the road and realised I should have stopped behind them..!!

    Always enjoy hearing about your ride tales Geoff, (and I must admit that I have neglected my own blog for quite a while now.....I must fix that)

    have a great week

  9. Hi Anthony!
    Don't get any fog to speak of up our way but the Waikato province just south of us where we used to live was diabolical. Crikey mate, that certainly was thick fog you encountered! We all have our crosses to bear!

    Yeah, I was wondering when you were going to post - c'mon, pull finger :-)

  10. Hi Geoff, enjoyed the day immensley. The good humour banter is always fun. Must doit again soon........next time though can you bring the tomato sauce!

  11. Good, wasn't it? I'll bring the tomato sauce if you bring the grated cheese for the chips. Mayo is good too!

  12. You cannot beat fish and chips served in newspaper, especially after a ride on a chilly day with your mates! Perfect! Riding in fog means taking extra precautions, but I like it – the eerie feeling you get, combined with the splendour of the sun poking through to suddenly light up areas is very appealing. Does the IAM require that you put your foot down, even if you don’t need to by that momentary balance?

  13. Absolutely Gary, bugger the stupid health regs in some countries!

    I'm pretty sure that the law requires you to put your foot down at a stop sign in both the UK and NZ as proof of actually having come to rest - might be wrong. The IAM requires it so that you have time to have a proper look!

  14. Geoff I ride off to work early morning single figures and fog and it's summer here! Jo would simply say "keep Little one till I get there"!
    I took a trials rider on a check ride and he did the exact 'no foot down halt' but foot down it is, the car drivers even have to come to a stop and engage the hand brake to confirm it. That fish sounds amazing.........

  15. Geoff, I enjoyed the write up. We had a good run to escape the 'cabin fever' on Saturday as well.

    Does IAM require you guys to wear the day-glo vests or is it just a personal choice thing?

    I've noticed on the UK websites that wearing reflective vests is quite common - quite a contrast to the USA where they are still arguing about whether to wear helmets or not!

    Cheers Jules.

  16. Dylan:
    Yep, I kicked myself for doing it, especially in front of mates who were waiting for the tiniest error!!! Of course, they wouldn't tell you that I was inch-perfect for the rest of the time:-)

    Cat is still here, sigh.. Jennie will be making certain plans whilst I'm in Auclkand today.

    Good on you Jules! Pretty liberating, isn't it?
    No, I don't think there's any compulsion on dayglo and I don't always wear it. However, cars definitely see me earlier - maybe they momentarily think I'm a cop. Fine by me!

  17. You have been away too long! In the UK, stop signs are very rare. Most junctions have "Give Way" signs meaning you must let other traffic pass first who are on the main road, but you don't actually need to stop. If there is no other traffic on the main road, bikers rarely stop, but just ride up to the junction slowly and the accelerate away if the road is clear. Needing to touch your foot down is reserved I think for countries with STOP signs. On my trip across the USA I got quite good at maintaining balance while almost stopping and touching a foot down just as a pretence that I had actually stopped, which of course, I hadn't. Silly really! What is the point in stopping if you don’t need to, especially at wide junctions where you can see for miles? It seems that driving / riding HABITS are sometimes more important than the law in the USA. For example, almost everybody respects the stop signs at junctions, but almost everybody seems to break the law and “undertakes” on freeways. Whatever the law is, making sure it is consistently applied seems important. I am guessing in NZ, there are mainly stop signs at junctions?

  18. Hi Geoff, finger has been removed, post is finally up!

  19. Gary:
    That's true! Due to the rural nature of a lot of NZ roads, intersections often have obscured vision, hence the full stop requirement. There are lots of Give Ways too. In this particular instance, the country road intersected with what had once been a major highway until it was bypassed by well... a bypass. Guess the Stop sign was never amended accordingly.

    About bl**dy time! Will go and have a look :-)

  20. Jennie was very kind. :) Rewarding you with a lovely dinner for taking off for the day and leaving her some peace. Was the Shiraz local?? Yum...


  21. Lori:
    How come all wives enjoy peace and quiet from their loved ones???? Yep, a Shiraz from our east coast. Australia makes superior rich reds like Cab Sav whereas NZ makes great Pinot Noirs and superb whites.

  22. Hi Geoff
    Ya cannot beat the Old Fish n Chips with some mates while out riding.....

    Tony T

  23. Hi Tony - thanks for dropping in!

    Yeah, F&C have got something which quiche and salad lack :-)


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