Wheel alignment

Saturday 12 October 2013

All good things....

This blog won't be having any further updates - too many competing priorities!  I'd intended to delete it without any fuss but a number of people have asked to leave it open for a while and no problems with that.

It's been fun, especially contact with all the fabulous people out there, both in person and in the blog-o-sphere.

Best wishes to everyone with a passion for bikes - next week sees the 50th anniversary of owning my first bike - a Suzuki 50 and it seems like yesterday!


Thursday 8 August 2013

Badass biking in the Cook Islands!

Jennie and I haven't been to Rarotonga in the tropical Cook Island group for 6 years but it's a nice warm destination for a short break, the people are lovely and the food is great. Flying time from Auckland is under 4 hours.  In fact, a great place to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary and escape from reality!

Whilst waiting for our flight at Auckland airport, we noticed a NASA 747 parked outside the terminal.  Turns out that it's an airborne observatory which was using the clear air over NZ to study the Milky Way - cool!

 NASA SOFIA Airborne observatory (big door in front of the fin)

Accommodation in Rarotonga ranges from the basic to pretty opulent and we had a beachfront apartment at Muri Lagoon.  Certainly weren't disappointed!

Tough, but someone has to do it!

Slumming it!

View from the apartment over the lagoon

Arriving late afternoon, there was just time to unpack, indulge in happy hour cocktails and enjoy local seafood.

Happy (very) hour cocktails

Local Mahi-mahi (dorado) seafood

Chocolate and hazel nut dessert

First priority next morning was to organise some transport.  Rarotonga has a maximum speed limit of 50 km/hr.  If you ride a motorcycle without a helmet (which seem to be practically non-existent), you're restricted to a (choosing the word carefully) theoretical top speed of 40 km/hr.  With these restrictions, hiring a scooter is just fine.  So is the hire price of just over NZ $15 per day!!   

Rarotonga has a laid-back approach to getting your Cook Islands licence, which is more of an income generator than a demonstration of competence.  We hired our scooter at the apartment, but then had to ride to the police station some 20 minutes away to get a temporary licence.  No worries if you're familiar with riding on 2 wheels but guess it could be a bit dodgy if you haven't ridden before.  Suppose that if you make it to the police station in 1 piece, it proves that you're not totally incompetent! 

Our steed was a Yamaha 125 scooter with auto transmission and surprisingly peppy, even 2 up!  Harsh words and the occasional clout from the speed controller on the rear seat prevented maximum top speed from being explored.  The Star-Trek gaudy layout of the instrument cluster had us calling it the Enterprise, even if I wasn't permitted to engage warp drive!

The bridge of the Enterprise

Ticket to ride?
(Hi-tech safety gear is a baseball cap turned backwards)

Poking the Devil with a stick and running away.....

Parliament - they can hardly be accused of unnecessary opulence (or security)!

We'd done all the touristy things on our previous visit so this time, it was a case of exploring the island on the scooter, kayaking in the lagoon and just chilling.  One of the hallmarks of the Cook Islands is the wonderful fresh food, particularly seafood and a wide variety of fruits which we had for breakfast each morning.  Fruiting trees are literally everywhere.

Pawpaw plantation

Stopping by the roadside and picking up fresh coconuts

The nearest McDonalds is 2851 km away - long may it be so!

Even though it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere, the tropics still have plants flowering and busy growing everywhere - here are some examples:

Gorgeous leaves on shrub

Bougainvillea hedgerow

Although Rarotonga is a popular destination for Kiwis and Aussies looking for a mid-winter break, it's by no means overcrowded and there are lots of unspoiled beaches with no-one on them.  By sheer coincidence though, one of my riding buddies, Martin, was in Rarotonga at the same time with his partner Cindy to attend a wedding and it was great to get together for a meal and a few beers!

Two people, one scooter and that's the lot!

We had a short-lived tropical storm pass over the island.  When it first hit during darkness, we were about 20 km away from the apartment watching a live rugby match on a big screen in a village hall with the locals. It was still hosing down when we headed away and my protective gear of a shirt and shorts weren't a heck of a lot of use - soaked through in seconds although Jennie was hardly damp hunkering down behind me! At least it was warm.  It stopped raining in the early hours but it was still blowing hard in the morning and the kite surfers were having a ball on the lagoon.

These guys were REALLY motoring!

The Saturday market on the island is a big event, as much social as being there to buy all the local products on sale.  There was a bewildering choice of foods, clothing, plants and local crafts available and the Cook Islands drummers always raise the hairs on my neck - fantastic!

Hand-printed sarongs

Exquisitely carved shell pendant

Locally made electric Ukuleles

Cook Island drummers

All too soon, it was time to head back to the airport and return to reality, but it was a wonderful break.  Hope you've enjoyed the introduction to a little corner of the South Pacific which is largely unspoiled with wonderful, unaffected local people!

The airport on Rarotonga

Tuesday 16 July 2013

A slight case of nervousness!

Not wanting Rogey to have a complete monopoly of carbon fibre farkles for his K1200S (see HERE) , it was time to modestly splash out on something potentially useful.  Modern sport bike front guards are minimalist to say the least.  Without a radiator guard, the radiator is constantly peppered with stones of various size.  A guard was an early prudent purchase, so ok there.

However, when it's wet, there's a constant spray of dirt hitting the centre of the radiator core.  Normally, not a big deal but if you're riding on wet dirt roads like we did when traversing the dirt section of the FORGOTTEN HIGHWAY, engine temperatures are inclined to rise, especially as the Triple runs on the warm side anyway.  Must have flushed about a kilo of mud out of the radiator when hosing it down at the Whangamomona pub!  Engine temperature aside, it's a bugger of a job (a technical term) to clean the front of the Triple engine with all it's spaghetti-like plumbing and nooks and crannies.  Here's a view of the short mudguard and the front end of the motor....

Enough sharp edges to warrant a blood transfusion after cleaning

Anyway, perusing eBay revealed a chap in the UK making a genuine carbon fibre guard extender for under 20 pounds.  That would slip nicely under the Chief Financial Officer's radar without a lengthy interrogation (as opposed to the recent service cost of my TAG watch which triggered a passable version of the Spanish Inquisition), so a purchase was made.

The guard arrived today and it's beautifully made and light as a feather....

Carbon fibre - Viagra to an engineer :-)

The guard comes with some high strength adhesive tape so that you can put in place and align it etc before bolting it up with the supplied diminutive stainless Allen screws and nylock nuts.  Fitted perfectly on the guard and being black, blends in beautifully.

Seriously nice....

Now onto the title of the post!  Not only are most sports guards a bit on the skimpy side, they're also pretty close to the tyre.  Bolting everything together, there really isn't a lot of clearance although probably no worse than the original set-up.  Short of buying some plasticine or manufacturing some playdough to make a clearance impression (which is even going a bit far for this anal engineer), going for a careful local ride with regular check stops is probably the best option.  (Visions of the tyre growing in diameter like a dragster doing a burn-out).  Sure it'll be ok but if not, it'll be quietly removed without the Chief Financial Officer finding out to eliminate the risk of withering sarcasm :-).

Looks good, but is the clearance enough???

A cautious ride following installation was carried out, starting nice and slow with a couple of inspection stops.  No sign of rubbing so a quick run to highly illegal speeds was undertaken to see if tyre growth under increased centrifugal force had any effect.  Still no rubbing but I still wasn't happy about the small clearances so the extender is now off the bike.  I might look at re-fitting it at some time in the future, but no hurry to do so!

Saturday 1 June 2013

IAM - not just for the seriously fast bikes

The Institute of Advanced Motorists in NZ coaches both riders and drivers employing the criteria broadly used for UK police training.  In other words, a truly measurable, advanced standard.  Many people think that that they have to own big capacity, fast bikes to benefit from joining IAM but t'aint so!  Provided a person has a bike which is capable of sustaining the open road speed limit and that they have a full licence combined with reasonable post-learner experience, they'll benefit hugely from membership.

NZ IAM has a complete mix from scooters through to pure sports bikes and cruisers.  There's no egos (egos vanish after the first assessment ride, haha!) and everyone is there to encourage each other to attain Advanced Test standard and beyond - a fantastic atmosphere and organisation to be part of.  Here are a few of the machines at last weekend's Auckland regional ride.

Piaggio MP3 and BMW1200GS

A real mix, including single cylinder trail bikes and the latest Repsol Fireblade

Fellow blogger Roger's beautiful (pretty?) new K1200 S
(showing unusual generosity by letting Bruce sit on it!)

Andy's brutal  new K1300 R
(This is the bike Darth Vader would own!)

Actually, it was a very special day for Andy.  A few days beforehand, he'd passed the hugely demanding written and practical Observer (Advanced Instructor) tests and received his accolades in front of the assembled riders - very well done indeed mate!

Receiving the Observer certificate and IAM hi-viz vest

...and a bottle of special reserve NZ Pinot Noir!

Advanced cake-eating demonstration from Richard
(an essential part of the IAM curriculum)

As always, a wonderful day with a great bunch of women and guys.  It takes a lot of time to be an Observer with IAM (which is a major reason why Rogey and I don't post much these days) but the satisfaction and gain in skills is literally priceless.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Not dead, just busy :-)

A few weeks ago, I was surprised and rather touched to get an email from fellow moto-blogger Jules asking if I was ok as I hadn't posted for a while.  Since then, there have been 3 similar emails so thought I'd better set the record straight!
  •  Being an old fart doesn't mean that I've croaked it, in the process of croaking it or losing any more marbles than I've already lost but thank you for your concern, haha.  In perfectly good health apart from some minor bug I've currently picked up from one of the grandkids which is an occupational hazard for us grandparents! Still loving life though.
  • Being retired also doesn't mean sitting around waiting for a harp and fluffy cloud or most likely the warmer alternative in my case.  Just as busy as when I was working, the difference being that you largely get to choose what you want to do and when to do it. Tomorrow, I'm 180km away from home taking an IAM Associate for an observed ride.  An almost identical situation the day after in another location.  The day after that, it's another 500 km day with the IAM end of month group ride in Auckland.  Then there's the admin side of IAM.....  loving it all though!
  • Also important to keep the family happy so need to spend quality time with Jennie... in the boat going fishing and all the other stuff we do together, plus visits to our kids as unpaid carpenter, entertainer of grandchildren etc.
  • As a consequence, blogging is right at the bottom of the pile.  No current plans for any more but can't say that won't change.  However, will still enjoy reading the other great blogs when the opportunity arises!
Have recently purchased a silver iridium visor with Pinlock insert for my Shoei helmet to replace the stone-chipped blue one.  I've become quite a fan of iridium-coated visors as much of their effectiveness is through reflecting bright light as opposed to blocking it.  This means that that they still let a reasonable amount of ambient light through which is handy if you get caught out in low light conditions. Not so good in those conditions with traditional tinted visors!  Oh and they're also good for disguising Old Farts behaving badly! ("Look at that young idiot overtaking all those cars, Ethel").

The previous iridium visor was a non-OEM one bought from eBay at a hugely lower price than a Shoei original.  It fitted perfectly and performed well until it became the target for a rock flicked up on the recent Old Firm Tour so its replacement is a non-OEM one again which saved about NZ$80 compared with an original.  A good example of price-gouging by Shoei?

Mirror, mirror on the wall.......

Going along with the "Confessions" title of the blog, I have a confession......  got done for speeding!

Before the "irresponsible old biker" taunts start, let me explain.....

Must have been Karma considering all the times I ummm...slightly exceed the national open road limit on the bike to actually get pulled over in our boat!!  Jennie and I were coming back into Coromandel Harbour from a fishing trip.  The Harbourmaster was lurking just inside the harbour mouth pinging everyone who was exceeding the 5 knot speed limit, which was every boat that came through.  No excuses though as I was probably doing 10 knots or so.  The fine was a bit steep at $200 and it was certainly a lesson learned.  At least it doesn't carry demerit points on your licence though like a land-based speeding fine!  I should add that there was no bollocking from the person in the passenger seat which was a real bonus.

Hey ho!!

Monday 25 March 2013

Not about bikes, but way cool - Ford Model A's

Just got back from drooling in our village centre.  The Model A Ford Club of NZ are holding their annual rally on the Coromandel Peninsula where I live and today, they all descended on Coromandel Town (pop 1600!) for a photo shoot.  It's one of those events where you can't keep the smile off your face as not only did the participants dress up in period clothing, many of the locals did too!  Coromandel town came to prominence in the 1800's gold boom and has retained a lot of its character so the venue was particularly fitting.

Here are some photos hot off the press!

The rally plate

Swap your MX5 honey?

Great atmosphere!

Our local butcher Shane entering into the spirit of things
- he's a keen motorcyclist too!

Bakery truck

 A morning snack off the back of the pickup!

No, this isn't Coromandel's main fire truck!!!

A modern pop-top caravan mounted on the deck

Period gear and refreshments - wonderful!

The only non-pristine A and it looks fantastic

Here 'tis again

A very small percentage of the total!

They're just everywhere


That's craftmanship!

Beautiful woody

The iconic Star and Garter with Moonshine truck

Star and Garter pickup of slightly later vintage
The owners are keen motorcyclists too

I'm constantly amazed at the sheer number of vintage cars, bikes and planes in NZ considering that there are only 4 million of us.  Must try and uphold the tradition with a bit of expenditure on something vintage (subject to Executive Permission of course)!

Hope that you've enjoyed this unplanned post....