Wheel alignment

Sunday 24 June 2012

Who reads our blogs, anyway?

I don't know whether other moto-bloggers have ever checked what their top 10 most-viewed individual posts are but I was simply curious about what interested visitors the most.  Using the numbers alongside each post in Draft Blogger, the 10 posts most-viewed were noted.  The results may not be all that surprising given that many of the topics listed have potential appeal among the broader motorcycling community, particularly when searching the internet.  The No 1 post however, has over 4 times the number of views than the next highest.  Now that is surprising!

184 individual posts since December 2009

10th place, 1228 views.  Classic racebikes and other stuff

No real idea why this short post about racebikes in NZ should have attracted so much interest.  One possibility is that internet searches for Burt Munro of "World's Fastest Indian" fame threw up some of his bikes (pictured) that still reside in a hardware shop in the southern NZ town of Invercargill.  More on Burt Munro later.

9th place, 1262 views.  Street Triple paddock stand and wheel alignment

The post covered an NZ-made Ducati/Aprilia paddock stand I'd bought for the Striple and how the laser wheel alignment rig which had been knocked together for my Blackbird was adapted to suit the Triumph.  Probably boosted by internet searches on wheel alignment methods.

8th place, 1426 views  Airhawk seat cushions

One of the major topics on any bike forum (and internet searches) is seat comfort (or more accurately, seat discomfort) of standard seats.  At least aftermarket suppliers make a living from fixing discomfort, whether it be from custom seats or the cheaper and equally effective Airhawk pneumatic cell pad range which was reviewed in this post.

7th place, 1707 views  Wheel alignment, improve your handling

The original post on how to build a cheap laser wheel alignment rig.  The post has been linked on numerous bike forums world-wide as an inexpensive means of improving your handling.  Feedback on various forums suggests that many people didn't realise that their wheels were out of line!  You shouldn't nececessarily rely on manufacturer's markings and you certainly shouldn't rely on tyre fitters to do a good job!

6th place, 1732 views Motorcycle tyre performance in the real world

There is more bullshit spoken about tyres and lubricants on bike forums than virtually any other topic (apart from riders whining about cage drivers whilst conveniently avoiding doing anything about raising their own roadcraft skills)!

This post attempts to dispassionately review what's important for road tyres with a bit of personal experience chucked in too.  The later tyre-specific evaluation posts scored well too.

5th place, 2190 views Burt Munro, Kiwi Legend 

Burt Munro has always been an icon in this part of the world but his popularity soared with the release of  "The World's Fastest Indian" movie.  It's been interesting to watch the number and location of blog hits over the last 6 months or so which from a bit of research, have a direct correlation with what countries the movie has been shown on TV at those times!  This book was an incredibly generous gift from fellow Kiwi blogger Roger Fleming  and is THE definitive book about Burt.

4th place, 2842 views  1000 miles in 21 1/4 hours on a Street Triple

The 3 international Triumph forums carry links plus a few other sites on the Internet.  Guess some people wanted answers to the question "WHY??".  In reality, there seem to be a lot of internet searches on whether the Triple is suitable for long distance riding, whether against the clock or touring.  In reality, most bikes would probably be fine - it's more likely the rider's mental horizons which lead to a successful and enjoyable long ride.

3rd place, 2879 views  Street Triple vs. Blackbird
A comparison between two quite different bikes after 8 years of Blackbird ownership and just 2000 km on the Street Triple.  People were perhaps just plain curious with respect to just how a modern "iconic" medium capacity unfaired lightweight bike would stack up against what once used to be the World's fastest road bike.  Maybe they were also curious as to why would an owner would change from a bigger "hyperbike" to a smaller, unfaired one?  The article was written principally for the author to sort out his own feelings!

2nd place, 3914 views  Motorcycle accidents, half-truths and lies

Motorcycle accidents are another favourite internet search.  This particular post highlighted the work of a prominent academic in allegedly exposing manipulation of accident statistics by the authorities in New Zealand.  Incompetence at best or at worst, clouding the real issues for political convenience?  Presumably, there is a similar potential for manipulation world-wide by various authorities.  Irrespective of the alleged implications, action taken to date does not address the root causes of accidents.

And in 1st place with a staggering 13,618 views........

Street Triple Review Revisited
It stands head and shoulders in terms of viewing above every other post.  That's probably not surprising as the Triple is a bike which is currently in production and has won a lot of international "bike of the year" awards.  It's inevitable that potential buyers and owners alike will conduct an internet search... just like I did in fact as the first step to buying a Street Triple!

Now here's something to ponder......................

NONE of the 10 posts listed above have anywhere near the biggest number of comments at the bottom of each post!  The biggest number of comments posted are where there is either a human interest or scenic/travel aspect as opposed to what might be called "technical" motorcycle posts.  It seems that what people do or where they go evokes the greatest responses.  The biggest number of comments on this blog came after 8 months of posts detailing the often stressful journey of continuously trying to raise my riding skills sufficiently to pass the Institute of Advanced Motorists full membership exam, culminating in: Pain and Extreme Pride .  I guess that people could empathise with both the stress and elation of passing a 4 hour, 220 km practical test whilst being observed by a police rider/IAM examiner who was among the best of the best!

I guess there's a place for both technical and human interest posts on a blog but despite the technical articles being tops in terms of number of views, it's human interest and travel which I enjoy writing most, perhaps because humour and irreverence can be liberally used!

Have any other moto-bloggers pondered about their blogs?  Would be really interested to hear as I personally enjoy the blogging aspect of learning about other's lives and where they go.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Motorcycle Marketing - what's changed in 50 years?

A couple of previous posts have mentioned my mate and fellow Coromandel village resident Paul, who is a complete Norton enthusiast, owning a Commando race bike, a pristine Commando road bike which he bought new in the early 70's and a classic 1950's ES2 single.  He's currently in England with his wife visiting family and presumably filling suitcases with bike bits when his infinitely better half isn't watching him like a hawk.

Paul has just visited The Sammy Miller Museum which is a truly world class motorcycle museum.  I suppose that he could have bought me one of the exhibits as an act of true friendship but simply getting a postcard from him was still a lovely gesture.  Rather surprised that it didn't feature a Norton just to rub it in but he was clearly feeling generous as it featured a Triumph!  Here 'tis....

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be!  1955 Tiger 110

The photo on the postcard is the front cover of Motor Cycle magazine from March 1955.  Note the idyllic setting although ummmm...blue skies in the UK might be pushing the boundaries of honest advertising! The Triumph marketing strategy at face value seems fairly blunt.  "Triumph - the best motorcycle in the World".  No facts quoted to back that up but since when have facts had any bearing on advertising right up to the present time?  They're hardly going to say "Best bike in the world and as an added useful feature, it pees so much oil everywhere that your boots will never leak and everything aft of the engine will never go rusty", are they?

But here's where the Triumph marketing department sneaks in a bit of almost subliminal marketing.  Note the implied message, "Buy a Triumph and you'll instantly be turned into a serious chick magnet".  The woman in the foreground simply can't keep her paws off the rider.  Even the pillion passenger in the background can't keep her hands to herself but it could be argued that since the rider seems to be riding on a bumpy grass verge rather than the road, she may be hanging on for dear life. 

The lack of appropriate protective clothing in the advert merely serves to heighten the fact that the rider is a rebel like Dean and Brando, instantly shoving him much higher up the attractiveness quotient scale.  Although the following photo has been posted previously, it does serve to reinforce the implied assertion that Triumph riders with inappropriate riding gear (even those with an appalling fashion sense) are hugely attractive to the opposite sex.  The photo was taken in 1969 at the Isle of Man TT and the bike is a 1955 Tiger 100 (a good year obviously, for Triumph marketers). Fear of further ridicule prevents the identity of the rider from being disclosed.  The pillion was a lovely Scottish lass holidaying in the I.O.M who may have left her spectacles back in Scotland.

Destined never to be chosen as best-dressed man of the year, sigh......

Finally, just to prove to female readers that they too will become magnets to the opposite sex following the purchase of a Triumph, absolute proof is in the photo below.

Paramount Pictures publicity photo

Ann-Margaret was an unknown, unattractive actress before this photo was released.  Stick her on a Triumph in conservatively styled OSH-approved riding gear and bingo, hormones all over the world start sloshing about and Triumph sales skyrocket - I rest my case.

If you should think that this post conjours up the phrase "tongue in cheek", just go and talk to Triumph riders of either sex to get to the truth of the matter.  Better still, buy a Triumph and find out for yourself!

Saturday 16 June 2012

Challenge: Your ride

Martha, from the Living Among Tourists  scooter blog has challenged other moto-bloggers to post their "path most travelled" ride.  As I live on a peninsula in NZ, most of my rides take the same 55 km route down the coast to get off the peninsula.  You might think the same trip is boring, but it's anything but with a technical, twisty road right by the sea - made for 2 wheeled transport!.   We'll start with a map:

55km of coast road from Coromandel to Thames

Leaving home on Coromandel Harbour

About 15 km south of Coromandel looking north over Manaia Harbour

Same spot, looking south over the Firth of Thames

About 25 km south of Coromandel - summer shot with Pohutukawa tree in flower

Te Mata beach holiday homes, about 30 km south of Coromandel

Thames Wharf, 55 km south of Coromandel - fishing boat right outside chip shop!

Thames historic township, originally based on gold mining

Sunday 10 June 2012

Another bike enthusiast in the family

World Superbike Championships, today as it happened:

Settled down to enjoy the event in peace but someone else in the shape of Annie had other ideas:

I think we'll keep her interest a secret in this household or she'll be getting short rations from another family member :-)

Saturday 9 June 2012

Confession time (and other stuff)!

I have a confession which sits nicely with the "Confessions" title of the blog!

When I passed my Institute of Advanced Motorists full membership test last year, that wise and hugely experienced U.S-based instructor Dan Bateman offered these words:

"....also remember that you will forever be known differently now. It is a tremendous responsibility to always reflect the proper ideals ".

It is indeed a tremendous responsibility and the confession is that I failed to live up to the ideals on a recent ride, which was bloody unprofessional.  It involved a certain amount of enthusiastic riding on my part.  I'm going to be a bit circumspect about the occasion for obvious reasons but it wasn't the actual speeding which still rankles because I always choose the time and place with care if there's going to be a bit of spirited riding involved - that's what sports-oriented bikes are for.  What is particularly upsetting is that my situational awareness wasn't up to scratch, something I normally take considerable pride in.

It was dark, the road was deserted and I was enjoying a bit of smooth riding at a reasonable pace out in the countryside.  Night suddenly turned into day and with a sick feeling, I realised that I'd tripped a radar camera vehicle parked on a grass verge just off the road and the flash was me being caught on film.  It wasn't actually being nabbed which was upsetting.  Although I was admittedly a little over the speed limit, it was a straight and unoccupied bit of road.  The upsetting bit was that I'd totally failed to recognise the potential threat and even more so, I'd had a warning a few moments beforehand!

NZ Police unmarked camera van (file photo)

Let me explain....

Camera vans in NZ have traditionally operated on Ka microwave radar band, although some newer ones operate on K band.  A lot of radar detector owners in NZ have K band turned off because the majority of K band alerts are false from things like security systems, automatic door openers etc.  Mine isn't turned off but when the detector screamer went off and I saw it was K band, the warning was ignored as it was assumed to be a false alert from something innocuous well down the road.  How wrong can you be?

I should also add that being photographed doesn't attract demerit points on your license like being microwaved by the Highway Patrol and at my estimated speed, the fine would be at the low end of the scale anyway.  It was simply that there was a failure on my part to pay adequate attention to the surroundings, despite an early warning.  What if it had been a large animal by the roadside ready to bolt into my path for example?

As it happens, bikes have no front plate and unless the operator had eagle eyes, the chances of a brown envelope coming through the mail are probably slim.  If one does come, I hope it's whilst Jennie is still overseas to avoid a biblical-scale bollocking being administered (and dredged up at inopportune times for the next decade).  It's fair to say however that a lesson has been learned and the ideals of IAM, Dan Bateman and good riding practice in general will be very much to the forefront.  Also, a timely reminder that radar detectors require the good judgement of the user.  Sometimes, a bit of a scare isn't a bad means of reinforcement!

Onto happier things, early winter in NZ can present some beautiful sights.  We live in a frost and snow-free area and the deciduous trees in our garden are only just shedding their leaves. The succulents are also in full flower and attract the native birds for their nectar.  I took these photos a couple of hours ago.

The reds and greens are a nice contrast to the grey day

Soon, they'll be a soggy mess, but for now, the leaves are gorgeous!

With respect to the tree in the photo immediately above, I've just bought a solar-charged lighting system with 200 red and blue LED's to wind round the branches when the leaves have finally fallen.  Should look quite cool at night.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Auckland to help with a few jobs at the new house which our younger son and family have just bought.  Weather will dictate whether it's by 4 wheels or two.  Quite happy riding in rain but I've just spent hours thoroughly cleaning the bike!  I'm also taking up a rather nice house-warming gift.  Towards the bottom of  THIS post by fellow blogger Sonja, we visited a friend whilst she was in NZ who is a master potter (and has a toilet with world-class views as you'll see from her photos!!).  Mike Cogswell is a potter's potter, always experimenting with new techniques.  I was particularly taken with his matt finish pots with gold highlighting.  One of his latest pieces is blue with a subtle rippled background to represent the sea right by our village, with the offshore islands picked out in gold, and also a gold stylised fern leaf (like the tree ferns in our garden).  A perfect reminder of our area as the kids love coming down here.  Hope they like it!

Mike Cogswell's magnificent work

Monday 4 June 2012

Anglo-American Match Racing, 1971

Call it Karma if you like but the last few weeks have seen a few quite independent events become inter-twined.

I made a recent post about blog piracy and the swift action taken by Google to remove the material from the offending person's website.  The outcome could have been a whole lot more positive for that person had some simple courtesies been extended to the people he stole material from.  Meanwhile, at the complete opposite end of the scale.... a short while ago, I received an email from a British couple, Julie and Brad Jones, who currently live in France.  Julie explained that they had seen a couple of photos on the internet which I'd taken in the early 1970's of factory supported BSA/Triumph racing triples.  They were classic BSA fans and in particular the BSA/Triumph factory racing triples. They were intending to publish a booklet on a particular period and series of events involving these bikes and would I please give permission for my photos to be included? As as the respondents in the post about piracy said, most bike enthusiasts are more than happy to help when it's fellow enthusiasts asking, and making the normal acknowledgement offers.  Julie and Brad's request ticked all the boxes and I was delighted to supply a few additional photos as well.

Their request held particular significance as in my early 20's, my mates and I used to go to UK race meetings specifically to watch those racing triples so they were very much part of my formative years as far as bikes went.  Small wonder that I currently ride a Street Triple!   Apart from their looks and amazing performance, it was the engine note which literally gave me goosebumps.   They had a 3 into 1 exhaust system, running into a long, shallow taper unrestricted megaphone.  When those bikes were warming up in the pits with their unique howl, I reckon most spectators literally felt the hairs on the back of necks go up.  And at full throttle, well.... aural sex!! (No, not oral sex, sigh....)

 Dave Aldana's BSA triple - ohhhhh....the noise!

The period in question which Julie and Brad wanted to cover was the 1971 Anglo-American Match Race Series.  It involved a team of household names from the USA (Mann, Castro, Emde, Rice, Aldana and a non-riding team captain Gary Nixon) pitted against the UK's finest in the shape of Smart, Tait, Cooper, Jefferies and Pickrell, all on BSA/Triumph triples.  I was fortunate to be at 2 of those race meetings and the spectacle (and noise!) is still with me to this day. Incredibly close racing with no quarter given.

To complete the reminiscences, the finished booklet arrived a few days ago with Julie and Brad's compliments and what a cracker it is!  As well as the detailed background story to the racing series and results, it's packed with memorable photos: the riders, the bikes and some wonderful promotional material for the event, including the one immediately below.  Monty Python fans might recognise the attractive woman as Carol Cleveland who set a lot of youthful, hormonal hearts racing, including mine; whenever she appeared in that classic TV show!

Carol Cleveland doing her patriotic duty with little flags
(courtesy Julie and Brad Jones)

Paul Smart at speed on the Triumph Triple - Mallory Park

John Cooper, UK team member. Looks like Phil Read in the background
(In the same year, JC beat Giacomo Agostini on the works MV  Augusta in one of the best races ever seen in the U.K and I had the privilege of being there!)

Ray Pickrell on the Rocket 3

If there are any other racing BSA/Triumph racing triple enthusiasts out there and Anglo-American Match race fans in particular, the booklet is commercially available at a very modest price.  Details including shipping costs can be obtained from the Jones' HERE .  They also have a number of other booklets covering BSA's and Triumphs from  around that period so it would pay to ask if you're going to place an order.

So there we are, a courtesy request for photos leads to a win for Julie and Brad, a win for me in the shape of a great booklet (thanks again guys!) and a whole load of great memories. Karma?  I'd like to think so!  

Somewhere in the house, I have an additional box or two of 35 mm slides taken at the '71 match races, both in the pits and out on the circuit.  Ditto for multiple boxes of slides taken at the 1969 Isle of Man TT.  I really ought to have a concerted look for them as there's real history in those boxes!