Wheel alignment

Friday 21 April 2017

An interesting couple of weeks

Riding on two wheels has been a bit patchy over the last two weeks.  Firstly, it was tropical cyclone Debbie which hit NZ after causing extensive flooding and damage along the eastern seaboard of Australia.  Our village escaped the worst of it but we were cut off for a couple of days due to landslips on both exit roads from the Coromandel Peninsula.  Places a few hundred k's south east really copped it.  Being stuck caused the cancellation of some IAM training in Auckland but delighted Jennie because I got leaned on to attack the backlog of jobs around the house!

With the weather clearing, I arranged to take the Suzuki GSX-S1000 for its 24,000 km service and an updated ECM/ECU to be fitted (That's the brains of the bike's engine management system).  More on this later.  Then unbelievably, the weather forecasters announced that Cyclone Cook was coming out of the South Pacific to hammer us, Coromandel was square in its sights and things were looking grim.  Hurried tying down of deck furniture and securing garden art, followed by an anxious wait.  Fortunately for us, it tracked further east at the last moment and all we got was some heavy rain for a few hours and moderate winds, but the south-east of the north island bore the brunt of it.  Unfortunately for us, the cliffs which run down the western coast road of the Peninsula were still soaked from Cyclone Debbie and another drenching brought down dozens of slips, cutting us off for another week.  One of the few penalties of living in a remote, unspoiled area!

One of the massive slips on the Coromandel coast road
(source: Thames-Coromandel District Council)

These delays were knocking my IAM coaching schedule around and although the western coast road was still closed, the eastern one had opened, the weather was good and so it was off to Auckland to resume coaching.  The only downside is that the eastern route adds 100 km each way to the journey. Shouldn't really complain about extra distance on two wheels but 600+km days including an intense coaching ride do tend to get a bit tiring so I stayed with our Auckland-based daughter overnight.  Well worth the effort as Lloyd, my trainee Observer (Instructor) did a magnificent job of introducing a new IAM member to the first stage of Police Roadcraft advanced riding.

Lloyd (R) debriefing new member Chris (L) mid-point through the ride

Having a bit more time in Auckland was quite handy as I organised to have some custom silicone earplugs made.  I normally use foam plugs but must have weird-shaped ear canals or something because they always seem to work loose. Had 2 pairs made which took about 40 minutes overall.  What a difference!  They work incredibly well, are supremely comfortable and would be great if you're a light sleeper.

Custom ear plugs - seriously effective

The other thing I did whilst in Auckland was get my hands on a little gift for Jennie for upcoming Mother's Day next month (A guy being organised in advance??? Amazing!).  A fellow IAM member is a trained cabinetmaker who has just started his own business.  Jennie and I both love items made in wood and on his website, I saw some fully-functioning wooden padlocks he'd made in different designs.  The one I chose is shown below.  The craftsmanship is superb using two different woods on both the key and the lock.  Instead of a business card, he uses a curved wooden leaf with his details on - clever and ultra cool!  Jennie doesn't read my blog so we're safe!  Also, Graham makes the most exquisite all-wood skeleton clocks.  Take a look HERE .  The world is a better place for having craftsmen like Graham in it.

Gorgeous functioning wooden lock - smells wonderful too!

Right, back to bikes......

About 3 weeks ago, I spoke with Simon Meade, G.M Marketing of Suzuki NZ.  Regular readers of this blog may remember that I've described the Suzuki as a good bike, but not a great bike.  It does its job well, but doesn't make me feel passionate about it.  One of the niggles is that it's pretty snatchy and hunts at low throttle openings, or off a trailing throttle.  If I was using the bike for city commuting or similar, it would have been sold by now.  However, as much of my riding is on open roads, it's only really irritating in traffic and in greasy conditions at low speed.  I'm given to understand that the root cause of the fuelling problem is to meet emission compliance testing in the European Union.

Talking to Simon, he said that a new ECM was now available and I could have one fitted at no charge. All that was required was having the ignition key and its spare reprogrammed.  Just like that, no fuss, no arguments, just "we'll send one to your dealer" from Simon.  That's what you call service!

With the coast road now open, albeit covered in clay in a few places, it was time to re-schedule the Suzuki service so I headed off at the crack of dawn yesterday to my favourite dealer in Hamilton, about 160 km away.  On picking up the bike a few hours later, the ride through Hamilton traffic to get to open country was a revelation!  All the snatchiness had gone, just leaving a slight lumpiness which wasn't intrusive, just a reminder of the sporting heritage of the powerplant.  It's transformed a good bike into a great bike and who knows, maybe I'll develop an emotional attachment to it like I had with the Street Triple!

One final amazing thing.....

Whilst I was talking with Simon, he asked me what I thought of the Suzuki performance and I mentioned the track day I did on it last year.  He doesn't know me from Adam but floored me by offering a ride on their race-prepped version which they sometimes take along to track days!!!!  This is the bike which U.S - based journo Don Canet from Cycle World successfully raced at NZ's premier street race in Paeroa last year! (Cycle World article HERE ) . The excitement was quickly tempered with a bit of sanity and I politely declined.  The combination of slicks and racing brake pads which need to be hot to work effectively could well be a recipe for this old fella to go skating along on his bum in front of lots of track day enthusiasts - not a good look.  Incredibly generous and unexpected offer by Simon though.  Nice to know that Suzuki NZ have great people at the top.

As I said at the start, an interesting couple of weeks!

Don Canet on the Suzuki NZ race-prepped GSX-S 1000
(photo: Cycle World/ Andy McGeehan)


  1. Those molded plugs are great Geoff. I've been using audio versions for some years and they work well with the Sena, providing clear music at a normal listening level along with the intercom, phone and GPS connections. I got them because I found I was getting tinnatus from the 12-20+ hr distance rides.

  2. Hi John!
    Thanks for the heads up. I found that even with normal foam plugs, you could hear the Sena more clearly as they cancelled out a lot of wind noise frequency. Looking forward to trying mine over longer distances.

  3. I had some Plugs for Lugz a while ago but replaced them with a pair from Kiwi Plugs. My preference was the Kiwi Plugs as they have a softer material which fits beautifully and the plugs are comfortable for long hours and for sleeping. Have the other chaps changed their material at all? Will not ride the open road without them - and yes, mine are great with my Sena too.

    Nice service from Suzuki too. I have heard that Simon is a decent chap and passionate about the brand. As a past Suzuki rider I'd have no concerns buying another one but unlike you, not as ready to tackle a cranky Triumph ;)

  4. Hi Andrew,
    They actually mentioned that they'd changed the material but I've no knowledge of Kiwi Plugs so can't compare. However, so far so good!

    This is my first contact with Simon but it's left a very good impression. Err..... I've had no probs with my Triumph. Maybe Bushpig's Tiger simply didn't like him :-)

  5. I am glad you guys aren't cut off anymore and they are clearing the landslides. I'd been reading about them online and thinking of you and Jennie.

    That lock is something else. I always tip my hat at anyone that can creative something from wood, or any craft really. To have that kind of talent needs to be appreciated. I am sure she'll love it.

    I am glad the snatchiness of the throttle on the Suzuki is fixed. It was always annoying as heck with the Gladius at low speeds and in town. I won't miss that part of the bike. (Max goes to his new home in a few hours, the buyer is coming to pick him up this afternoon)

  6. Hi Brandy,
    Wow - we made the news! Thanks, it's been the worst period of landslides since we bought the house in 2003. Hope it isn't a trend with global warming!

    Yes, it's a genuine treat to see someone working with natural materials. Really important to keep those traditions alive. Our daughter makes jewellery and other stuff from recycled native timber as a sideline and I love her work too - look up Multiverse Designs NZ on the web!

    So Max was snatchy too! Maybe a lot of bikes have fuelling issues to meet emissions regulations. Fantastic that you've sold Max - congratulations. I guess you'll miss him but there's the new one to enjoy and love!

  7. Geoff, geoff, geoff, geoff. Mate what are we going to do with you huh. Seriously buying mothers day presents a long time before the 'day' before. You are making all the rest of us look bad. Come on mate.

    But seriously wow those road slips are massive. I was wondering how you guys were getting on after the cyclones and now I know. We probably rode on that bit of road.

    Nice of Suzuki to offer the ride on the Race bike, I would have jumped at that chance.
    I know exactly what you mean about getting the ECU sorted. My R1 was unridable in Mode A until I had the ECu flashed now its a lot better, the snatchy throttle is gone.

    1. * Hangs head and blushes* . Sorry mate, just a case of killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. No harm done as long as your wife doesn't see the blog :-) . Yep, you rode on the road all right. It was just before you started climbing the hills south of Coromandel from Thames.

      You have a lot more track experience than me. I'd be terrified with everyone looking on!

      Yeah, a snatchy throttle in town or in the wet is a real pain. Who cares if it doesn't comply with EU regs any more?

  8. What you call interesting... I'd find it quite alarming if a landslide had blocked me from "the rest of the world".
    A very thoughtful gift, Geoff. Great craftsmanship.

  9. Hi Sonja!
    Haha, I'd have a different view if we were cut off for a few days but we had plenty of food and the boat to catch fish if we had to! Glad you like the lock, I'm sure Jennie will!

  10. BeemerGirl

    Impressive slides. I'm sure those do take some time to clean up given the location. I'm sure you will like the earplugs. They really help on interstate rides. Not just with wind noise, but tiredness. Hard to believe how much energy that takes out of you. Love mine, and forgot them for a long interstate trip I recently took. Wished I had them. Great news about the Suzuki update. Always nice to connect with your bike.

  11. Hi Lori,
    They sure were and haven't been totally cleaned up yet - bike got covered in clay again today and it's only 2 days since it got washed!

    Thanks for the heads-up on the ear plugs. I've only used them locally so far and they're so much better than my old foam ones.

    Yep, I like riding it a whole lot more now, especially in traffic.

    Hope you and Oilburner are well and that the job stresses have eased. I was very happy to retire and walk away from an organisation which had lost its ability to connect with people due to new ownership.

  12. Hi Geoff

    An interesting read as always. How are the earplugs coming on? I'd be interested in getting a pair.

    good to hear the Suzi is better now too. good customer service there.

  13. Hi Anon!
    The earplugs themselves are great - comfortable and I sleep really well at night. For riding, very effective but I have a slight problem. My ancient Shoei doesn't have very big ear cutouts and the speakers for my Sena comms press slightly against the ear plugs. Not a show-stopper, but aware of a slight discomfort. As the helmet is (blush) 8 or 9 years old, it's way past replacement date. In the coming months, I'll get a new helmet with decent cutouts and all will be well! Maybe a Shoei GT Air.

    Very pleased with the Suzuki outcome. Will hang onto it a bit longer now which is just as well as there may be a trip to Africa in the wind for our 45th anniversary and raising the subject of a new bike might cause a Disturbance in the Force :-)


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