Wheel alignment

Sunday 27 November 2011

A bit of this, a bit of that

Several things connected with motorcycling have reared their heads this week.

As TV the world over is 95% crap, I read a fair bit in the evenings.  Our public library is superb, particularly for a village of 1500 and I'm always finding absolute gems.  One of the librarians knows I ride and thrust the book below into my hands.  Not to be confused with the Terry Pratchett Discworld novel of the same name, this one is very much grounded on Earth and real!

The front cover, funnily enough!

Nathan Millward is a 20-something English guy who has been working in Australia.  Unfortunately, he's overlooked that his visa is expiring in 20 days!  He can either fly home or, in a sudden flash of genius; ride Dorothy,  his well-used Honda CT110 Postie bike .  The CT110 is an institution in Australia and NZ.  Used by  Posties to deliver urban mail, it's also used by the public at large to undertake any insane feat imaginable because of its robust nature.  Including a 30,000 km overland trip half way round the world!

The Ubiquitous Honda CT110 (file photo)

As you might expect, 20 days doesn't leave much time for planning so Nathan takes off with little or no safety clothing, minimal tools, minimal maps and other severe deficiencies which would make the average motorcyclist shudder!  I'm not going to spoil things, but it's the most wonderful example of an unquenchable desire to succeed,  not to mention astounding naivety overcoming some pretty severe challenges.  His honesty in assessing his own feelings is completely disarming.  Very early on in his ride, he's thinking of pulling out and ponders whether pulling out or continuing with the journey will take the greatest courage.  For some reason, this struck a real chord.

His journey takes in such places as Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal and Kazakhstan along the way.  He experiences humanity at its very worst and when all seems lost, he discovers people with virtually nothing save the shirts on their backs who go out of their way to help him.  I couldn't help wondering what I'd do in some of the circumstances he found himself in.

I loved this inspiring book, particularly the clear message that if you want something badly enough, there's normally a way to make it happen.

ABC Books Australia, ISBN 978-0-7333-2806-0.  Available through the Internet and as a Kindle download through Amazon.

The second motorcycling-related item this week was on Thursday afternoon  when I was catching up on some emails and heard a motorcycle chugging up our steep drive.  It was clearly a single cylinder and offhand, I couldn't think of anyone who owned one, save for a friend that I knew was travelling in the south island.  When it hove into view, I immediately recognised Paul and Julie, friends of ours in Coromandel.  They'd just bought themselves a restored 1951 Norton ES2 500 and boy, what a beauty!  See what you think....

An adjustable spanner, pliers and a screwdriver is all you need!

Paul and Julie are real Norton enthusiasts.  Paul still has a Fastback Commando which he bought new when he was 19 or 20 and it's in flawless condition.  He also has an 850cc very special racing Commando for classic racing events.  Some of the parts are eye-wateringly expensive and he clearly has a wife in a million (or hides purchases in the "household miscellaneous" part of their budget)!

Pauls's racing Commando on the starter rollers

Today is the last Sunday of the month when upper north island IAM members get together for a ride in the Auckland area.  Up at 0530 for the trip to Auckland and joined by my mates Roger and Andy at the meeting venue, we weren't sure what the day would hold.

 Th' Dudes - Roger and Andy.  Matt on right

 A number of other riders turned up including Matt who was due for his first assessment ride - exactly where I started 8 months ago (feels like 5 minutes)!  Matt rides a Yamaha MT-01, a real torque monster and the first I've seen in the flesh.  1670cc with 150 Nm of torque at 3700 revs - it'd plough a field!  It's one of those larger than life brutal bikes where you can't but help stare. The detail on it is first class.

Philip, IAM Chief Examiner checking the huge Yamaha

Philip allocates most of the group to another Observer for a semi-social ride and asks me to join him and Matt for the first part of my Observer training.  Initially, Matt goes out front with Philip behind him and me at the rear, checking Matt's riding against the police rider's checklist which is used by IAM.  It's a curious feeling observing someone else. Matt does well with just refinements required rather than serious errors and he's well pleased.

Mid-ride debrief for Matt

After the debrief, Philip asks me to take the lead to demonstrate  to Matt extreme lane positioning for cornering.  Taken completely by surprise but get through it with no stuff-ups!  I then follow Matt and he picks it up without much difficulty.  The trick is to practice until he gets it right 100% of the time.  Lunch at Kumeu, a full debrief for Matt with a task list of a few things to work on before the first check ride with an assigned Observer to mentor him.  He's got off to a great start and is really enthusiastic to commit to the hard work over the coming months - well done Matt and we'll catch you after Xmas.  Really looking forward to watching someone new taking the IAM training path. 

An excellent trip home in light Sunday traffic and sunny skies, arriving at 1500 having covered 460 km.  It doesn't get much better than that!


  1. Cool!! I didn't know he had put everything in book form! I started reading his adventures on ADVRider. You are correct, absolutely incredible. I was in awe with his photography.

    The Norton is gorgeous!

    And sounds like a great day out on the bike. Though am terribly disappointed there aren't any "observations" of Roger. ;)

  2. Your first step as an Observer and one that sounds all too familiar. Giving a demonstration ride on your first lesson! now that,s high praise off your trainers who can obviously sit back and admire the sucess of their efforts. Imagine what the new Associate was thinking......god will I ever be able to remember all that.....Sounds like an excellent day out...welcome to the club....

  3. Great to see your smiling face this morning Geoff. Loving the Norton, Just gorgeous. Another book to down load onto my IPAd for xmas.

    Great admiration for you coming from coro for todays ride. great stuff. Ans yes....cleaned the bike just couldnt stand it any longer, looks like new again.

  4. A-ha! I reckon there's definitely going to be a postie-bike at the GC soon...

    Must see if I can get some pics of a couple of extremely exotic Nortons here in Palmy for you...

  5. Geoff

    Where is a bit of the other?

    Disappointed from north of Tunbridge Wells, N

    PS The Norton will do!!

  6. I have put that book on my X-mas list. Sounds like a wonderful little adventure. I guess you only do these kind of things when you are young...
    The Norton is beautiful. What a gem. Nothing beats British bikes when it comes to classic elegant design.

  7. Lori:
    Nathan mentions ADVRider with affection on several occasions. Contact and advice from that forum was what kept him sane!

    I do apologise with respect to a lack of observations on Roger. The truth of the matter is that he's a very good rider indeed. Still we won't let the truth get in the way of a good story so I'll try and make something up to blacken his name :-).

    Hi Dylan:
    Haha - there was momentary panic when Philip asked for the demo but it meant the world when he said "This isn't the Mr James I know from 8 months ago"!!! Funny how a sentence like that lifts you up and drives you on!

  8. Rog:
    Likewise mate. No effort to come up and do long days when you're with great people and learning so much. Don't clean that Beemer too much mate or you'll be getting called a poser.... by me for starters :-)

    Am I that transparent???? There will have to be some negotiations with the CEO.

    I met a couple of guys from Palmy who had classic Nortons at the January classic race weekend in Auckland. I understand that the Norton owners annual rally is just south of you in January.

  9. Nikos:
    Sorry mate but we live in hope :-). Jennie comes from near Tunbridge Wells but the disappointment is all mine, haha!

    Your Xmas stocking will be bulging! Yep, sometimes the innocence of youth will take you much further that maturity! Yes, the Norton is a classic in every sense and will no doubt be here in another 60+ years too!

  10. I've spoke to Nathan (the postie bike guy) online a few times and followed his journey on ADVrider. A truly awesome story, he had some amazing pictures too.

  11. Hi Mike:
    Wow - that's really cool!! I've occasionally dropped in on ADVrider site and everyone seems so talented in terms of their photographic ability. A pretty tight-knit site too in terms of mutual support.

    Don't be surprised if you see me on one to do my 6th 1000 miles in 24 hours ride - the book has inspired me (subject to expenditure permission from my Chief Financial Officer of course)!!!!

  12. Another book for the list. Too bad that it isn't available as an audiobook.

    I like the Norton and your abbreviated list of tools. No code reader or other such nonsense in the list. There is at least one that I know of still running around town but I'm not sure of the model. So is it now summer?


  13. Hi Richard,
    Yes, it is a pity. Bikes of that era were a dream to maintain. I did fairly major surgery on my old Triumph on the roadside coming back from university once!

    I think summer officially starts this Thursday but it's a bit academic where we live in NZ. Unlike Fairbanks, it's a cold winter if we get a dusting of frost on the roof of the car on a couple of occasions!

  14. I think I will be downloading that book on my kindle. I can h wait for my adventures next summer, I am sure they won't be as epic, but pretty great nonetheless.

    I love the old Nortons & Triumphs. One day I may get one, but right now my '84 CM Honda 450 is enough for me to handle ad she burns up the highway (within the speed limit of course)

    Sounds like you and Roger had a good trip. So does it feel different being the observer/demonstrator versus being the student?

  15. Hi Dar:
    It's adventures like Nathan's which inspire us to have our own adventures, whatever they may be. I like adventures which stretch me a wee bit!

    Those CM 450's will carry a lot of luggage - I've seen them with solid top boxes and side panniers and they look absolutely fine.

    Yes it does! I certainly felt more relaxed but the challenge now is to accurately remember the specifics of how well and in detail the student performs against the police rider checklist, giving both praise and constructive feedback at the debrief.

  16. Geoff, the converging pushrods are the trademark of the ES2, and yes, I've ridden one of these that my mate Steve owned when we were teenagers.

    What is with the Norton folk? Steve still rides a Commando and another mate Andy has just done up his 'canoe' Commando with some great mods that he's very pleased with - see the post on my blog for details.

  17. Geoff - Thanks for the book reference; it's now on my must read list.

    As for the Norton - drool.....

  18. Canajun - no worries!

    The Norton wasn't a bad purchase price actually and certainly wouldn't be an expensive upkeep. A good choice of classic if you don't want to break the bank.

  19. Geoff, another good book is "These Are The Days That Must Happen To You" by Dan Walsh. A grand read.

  20. Mike:
    Thanks for that - will check it out. Always happy to have recommendations for good books.

  21. Jules:
    I think Norton owners are even more fanatical than Triumph owners, and that's saying something! The Commando is just gorgeous and thanks so much for the links - I'll forward your email to Paul.

    I'm also going to have to investigate what's going on as notifications of updates to your blog aren't coming through.

  22. Thanks for the book reference Geoff. All the tales of adventure just make me want to tour more, but the job gets in the way.

    Matt's big Yamaha is pretty neat. They don't import them to the USA, so I'd never seen one.

    That Norton is beautiful. Very nice.

  23. Hi Trobairitz!
    Terrible when work gets in the way of fun eh?

    That's the first MT-01 I've seen in the flesh. Guess the looks are an acquired taste because it's so different but it really grows on you. The metallic blue/purple paint finish was as good as I've ever seen. You can get some serious tuning extras for them too. Range is a bit limited. Matt says he goes onto reserve supply at around 180 km.

  24. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/nottingham/hi/people_and_places/newsid_9365000/9365201.stm

    Must read next....just finishing the third Paul Carter.....magic!

  25. Not to start anything, just curious. Did Phil say anything to Matt about riding in what look like regular jeans? I noticed that the rest of you had other garments.

  26. Dylan:
    Well, well! Nathan certainly deserves every accolade.

    Paul Carter is a wonderful writer, isn't he??? I'll email you about another author you'll love too!

  27. Dan:
    Hahahaha!!! Very observant of you! Phil didn't need to say anything. Matt took one look round the car park and said that it would be ATGATT from now on! The power of a different mindset...

  28. Geoff:

    I think it's great to be able to ride with friends. I have no friends that I can call, as no one else rides, thus I look forward to social activities where I can mesh for a while at destinations. I wished we lived somewhere like Coromanel with great weather all year long, and great roads. Wanna Trade ?

    Riding the Wet Coast

  29. Howdy Bob!
    I'm equally comfortable riding on my own or with my great mates, but they're different sorts of riding. Nonetheless, riding with mates you'd trust your life with is something I wouldn't miss for the world.

    I'll pass thanks! Canada is a stunning country which we should be visiting soon, but I'd really miss year-round riding!

  30. Great! Another good read to add to my book list. Love these kinds of stories. Real adventures by real people.

    I don't think I've seen anything like that big Yamaha. Awesome looking bike. Sounds like it was a good day of riding!

  31. Hi Kari!
    I think you're spot on - books about people like Nathan are far better than "Long Way Round" and the like, however photogenic the DVD's may be.

    That Yam was seriously impressive in the flesh and the noise was most un-Harley like. Probably closer to a Ducati. The only drawback seemed to be range. I think that Matt said he had to switch onto reserve at about 180 km.


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