Wheel alignment

Sunday 23 December 2018

2018 in pictures

2018 was a crazily busy year, even by our standards and went in the blink of an eye.  The following photos represent various happenings in each month with a few comments and thoughts to go with them.

This is peak summer holiday season in NZ.  Living in a region which everyone  wants to visit in the vacations, we tend to hang around at home as the roads are busy with feral drivers who leave their brains wherever they come from.  The garden is a riot of colour at this time of year so that's what the photos are of.

 Bee on a dwarf bottlebrush plant, using the camera macro function

Tree loaded with colourful Luisa plums

The Institute of Advanced Motorists annual conference and get-together was held over a weekend at the scenic Taupo township.  For those who arrived on the Friday, there was the opportunity to take part in a trackday at the Bruce McLaren international circuit.  What a fantastic experience in great company.  Pulling 230 km/hr down the back straight then hard on the brakes, hoping I would make the tight left-hander at the end of the straight!

The first photo was taken just after dawn on the way to the circuit.  IAM Chief Motorcycle Examiner Philip on his Fireblade,  Lee on his MV Augusta 675 and my GSX-S 1000.  The second photo was taken by the track photographer of me flying round the left-hander at the end of the back straight.

The three musketeers at dawn en route to the track

Some old geezer trying to recapture his youth

A long weekend in NZ's capital to visit old friends also saw me mountain biking on the cycleway on the Kapiti Coast.  As part of the new motorway development, the government department responsible for building a new section of motorway also built adjacent wetlands to attract birds and other creatures plus the scenic cycleway.  Excellent work!

Trying to regain lost youth!

We also purchased a new boat for sea fishing.  Jennie's hip problem meant that the old boat was no longer comfortable.  Delighted to say that the new one does the business.

So-fish-ticated (named by our daughter)

An "arty" shot using the macro function of a plant in our garden after a rainstorm.  Showing off, it's called Dasylirion Wheeleri - a vicious but attractive spiky ball over a metre across which is good for drawing blood from the unwary, especially grandchildren!

Dasylirion Wheeleri from Mexico

The vicious plant in question

Word has also got around the local bird population that I'm a soft touch when it comes to giving them a feed.  If they see me working at the computer and I haven't put food out, they'll tap on the window if the ranchslider is closed or if it's open, they'll come inside and remonstrate with me!  In this case, it's some representatives from the local flock of Californian Quail.

C'mon human, pull finger and get out here pronto!

I was hugely proud to be appointed as an IAM Examiner.  Many Examiners are serving police officers with specialist riding and driving roles within the force and it was a genuine honour and humbling to be in their company and the massively competent civilian Examiners.  The photo below is the first rider I took for his Advanced Roadcraft Test and delighted to say that he passed the stringent theory and practical examination.

Chris and his GSX-S1000

We also took our grandchildren out fishing among the commercial mussel beds outside Coromandel Harbour and their parents also came out on their kayak.  Everyone caught fish and a great day was had by all.

Family fun

It's not only riders with sporty bikes who join IAM - everyone can benefit.  In the photo below, Trainee Observer (mentor) Tony is coaching cruiser rider Henry. I was mentoring Tony in observing skills and a couple of months later, he passed his Observer Test with flying colours.

Tony and Henry acting the goat

The Coromandel Peninsula is a haven for artisans of all sorts - potters, weavers, painters..... you name it and they're here.  We needed a new bookcase for a guest bedroom and commissioned a local furniture craftsman to make a rustic one for us in solid macrocarpa.  He's also made furniture for our deck and a large bookcase for our lounge and we have a great relationship.  We drop him off fish that we've caught and he gives us organic vegetables from his garden!

Picking up the bookcase from Greg - smells divine

Well into winter, although not that cold.  A great social run with fellow IAM members in the Central North Island.  Along twisty, largely empty back roads with freshly made wood-fired pizza for lunch.  Takes a lot of beating!  Also gathering near us for club runs were the local Ford Mustang and Mazda MX5 Miata car clubs.  Everyone mixed in waiting for their respective start times, creating a great atmosphere.

Assembling in the town of Te Aroha

Various plants flower all the year round in our garden and all though this succulent has been planted for a few years, it's the first time that it's flowered.  The conical flower spike is about 30 cm long and lasted for about 3 months.  Hope it does it again next year.

Flowering succulent, or maybe a Triffid!

It was also our 46th wedding anniversary, clearly demonstrating how tolerant Jennie is in putting up with me!  Didn't take any photos so it's appropriate to post one from our honeymoon in Croatia and Venice in 1972.

Sigh..... when we were young....

Regular readers will remember the 17th August blog post of collecting a Porsche Carerra 4S Turbo and delivering it to Auckland.  That is.... remembering that I made a complete fool of myself adjusting the seat, trying to start it, looking for the parking brake and a whole load of other embarrassing incidents.  Apart from the humiliation, it was a surprisingly underwhelming experience.  The electronics package meant that it didn't require much driver input at sane highway speeds combined with poor rearward visibility.  Over $200,000 in NZ plus an equally frightening operating cost.   Has totally put me off supercars  - give me a 70's muscle car every time, or even something like a Lotus 7.

Not exactly an understated colour scheme

Two more central north island Trainee Observers passed their Full Observer theory and practical tests in the past few weeks.  Chris, the middle of the three below had just passed.  Neil on the left ran the test.  Pete, on the right, is the new IAM member who Chris was putting through his paces as part of the test.  Now here's a surprise..... Pete is actually in charge of the Highway Patrol road policing team for our province!  Mainly driving cars in his day job but also a keen motorcyclist, he saw joining IAM as a means of regularly maintaining his skills to a high level.  Great guy and a real pleasure to have in our region.

Neil, Chris and Pete

One evening, Jennie and I were heading into our village to take part in a charity fundraising quiz bang on sunset.  I took the following photo by sheer good fortune on my mobile phone a few hundred metres from home which is on the ridge at the rear of the image.  Often, the best photos come about by blind chance!

Sunset over Coromandel Harbour

A busy month.  Turned 71, fitted a new Nitron custom shock to the bike (Jennie's birthday present to me!) and had a brisk social ride with some of the fellow IAM Observers from our region.  The first photo was taken in a town called Paeroa.  The Lemon and Paeroa (L&P) bottle signifies NZ's nearest equivalent to Coke.  Originally made in Paeroa in 1907 from local carbonated spring water and lemons.  Now made in Auckland and almost certainly bears no relationship to the original product!

From left: Lloyd, Rob, Neil and me

October also saw the second of 3 punctures in 4 months, one of which necessitated the replacement of my Michelin Road 5 rear tyre.  All of them happened in out of the way places and I'm glad that I always carry an electric pump and 3 different options for repairing a puncture.  Overkill?  Not when you live out in the boondocks!  The next picture shows me fixing a puncture with "dog turds" during a training ride.  Hopefully, the run of bad luck has finished.

The smile is more relief than amusement!

Long-term readers might remember that an adorable, tiny stray kitten just a few weeks old turned up at our place in 2011 and never left.  We called her Annie (as in Little Orphan Annie).  A few weeks after she turned up, my old cat passed on and since then, Annie made it her business to supervise everything I do.  She's rarely far from my side when I'm at home.  Here she is making sure that my computer work is up to scratch and it looks like I've been found wanting by her expression! 

Must try harder, human!

Jennie's birthday and took her completely by surprise with a wooden skeleton clock which I'd commissioned a friend to make for her.  All sorts of tricks were pulled and white lies told to throw her off the scent.  The details are mentioned in a recent post but to say that she loves it is an understatement.  Had to laugh when she told me that she'd been monitoring our joint account to see what I'd spent in the run-up to her birthday.  Thought she might so had a crafty way to get round that!

One happy lady....

Whilst in Auckland helping to run a motorcycle course, I stayed with our daughter Victoria and son in law Luke.  Luke is a landscape architect and his design for public seating was chosen as part of the Auckland waterfront upgrade in time for the America's Cup defence in 2021.   The first one has just been installed.  Consisting of computer-cut slats with internal lighting for nighttime, it looks spectacular.  Very proud of what Luke is achieving so early in his career.

Cool public seating at the Viaduct Basin, Auckland

December sees millions of pohutukawa trees in full bloom in NZ.  The photo below was taken from our son's house on Christmas Eve.  The crimson blooms have formed a carpet of red "needles" in the road.  A whole lot better than snow!

Colour me red.....

Looking forward to what 2019 might hold.  The "knowns" are a hip replacement for Jennie which will see her out of pain at last, a visit from old friends from the UK, a trip to China and replacing my Suzuki (Official Permission, no less!) .  I'm sure that there will be many more surprises along the way!

Here's wishing all fellow bloggers and readers a fabulous and safe 2019!

Monday 3 December 2018

A piece of art and a connection to bikes

I'd like to introduce Graham Christmas.  Graham is a fellow Institute of Advanced Motorists member, Aprilia Tuono V4 and GSX-R owner, keen on trackdays and also enjoys mountain biking.

Graham - trackday on the Tuono

Graham and wife Tessa at the trackday briefing

Apart from our motorcycle connection, Graham is a qualified cabinetmaker and a master craftsman.  Both Jennie and I love all forms of art that uses traditional skills, irrespective of the medium used - painting, pottery, metal or wood etc.  It would a tragedy if these skills die out and we have a few original one-off pieces of art in several types of media.  My pride and joy is the Damascus Steel carving knife shown HERE .

Jennie's birthday is at the beginning of December and back in August, I asked her what she wanted as a present.  "Dunno" she says, "But as I'm buying new bike suspension for your birthday, mine better be good".  The onus was clearly on me with that shot across the bows!

All sorts of things were briefly considered and rejected for various reasons but one stuck.  Graham is multi-talented and makes anything which requires high level cabinetmaking skills.  Ages ago, Jennie had seen the photo of a wooden skeleton free-standing clock which Graham made and fell in love with it.  Why not talk to Graham and see if he would make her a skeleton mantle clock to go on our dining room sideboard which is made from solid rimu timber?

A quick email to Graham and the answer was a very positive "yes"!  Then came the drama of figuring out a design which would please Jennie without raising suspicions.  Fortunately, we've been together long enough to know that she loves clean, simple art, very much in the Japanese taste.  More emails and sketches followed and a basic design was settled on.  The frame was to be made in walnut, the gears from beech and the clock dial from NZ heart rimu.  Graham then got stuck into the detailed design calculations.

Early design sketches (source: Graham)

One problem was that Jennie and I have joint accounts and I didn't want to face a grilling on expenditure so Graham graciously offered to let me make full and final payment on her birthday.  However, I sneakily withdrew small amounts of cash and sent them to him to cover material costs.  Jennie admitted later that she did indeed monitor our accounts to see if she could get an inkling as to what was going on but she failed to spot anything!  Haha - 1-0 to me!

As Graham was building the clock, he kept photos of the construction so that he could put the story of the construction together as an electronic presentation to Jennie as part of its history over the years to come. I also made a booklet of the emails between Graham and me so she could see all the discussions, not to mention deviousness which went into getting the final result!

Cutting the beech gears (source: Graham)

Spokeshave work on the frame (source: Graham)

Ready for assembly, polishing and calibration (source: Graham)

A couple of weeks ago, got a call from Graham that the clock was ready and as he was going to be just a couple of hours from where we lived doing a trackday and some downhill mountain biking, would I like to meet him and pick up the clock?  Going on the bike posed a problem in transporting the clock.  Going in the car needed a story to stop Jennie coming along for a ride!  Not exactly telling lies but being economical with the truth, so to speak!  

Me: "Honey, I'm off in the car to meet an IAM mate (true) to talk about the upcoming training course (untrue)".  Jennie: "Why aren't you taking the bike?"   Me:  "Don't want to risk another puncture on a quick trip and besides, I have all these training course notes to carry" (brandishing a heap of IAM documents lifted from my cupboard in anticipation of difficult questions). Haha, 2-0 to me!

The sneaky handover from Graham

The stunning finished article

A very happy Jennie

Massive thanks to master craftsman Graham for making such a magnificent clock - a genuine piece of original art.  I can't thank him enough for helping deliver the complete birthday surprise for my soulmate.  You can judge the standard of his work from the photos on his website.  His clocks are HERE and his other superb items are HERE

I've already got permission to replace the bike next year so I was simply happy to help make Jennie's day a memorable one as opposed to using up brownie points with a heap of grovelling!

Saturday 3 November 2018

2015 Suzuki GSX-S 1000 - long term review

The first full day of ownership - arty shot along our street.... October 2015

Rather atypically for me, the GSX-S was something of an impulse purchase.  My much-loved 675 Street Triple had racked up 70,000 trouble-free km.  I needed a reliable bike for my work with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and almost subconsciously, I guess that my thoughts were turning to replacing it before too long.  The replacement was a no-brainer - the long-awaited 765 Street Triple.  Trouble was, despite lots of advanced publicity, the replacement for the 675 still hadn't been released on the market.

I happened to be in Auckland one day and called into a dealer who sells both Triumph and Suzuki brands. There was a demo GSX-S outside and the salesman offered me the chance to take it for a ride.  Be rude not to accept, wouldn't it?  The 1 hour ride through town and up the motorway was not unlike riding the Street Triple in those environments.  The new price was attractive so a deal was done.

A distance of over 45,000 km has now been covered and a tad over 3 years later, I still have it and there have been numerous posts about it on this blog.  At fairly regular intervals, I've been asked the question "Do you like it?" or "What do you think of it?"  That's a question which needs qualifying and I suspect that most riders have the same view about the bikes they've owned.  The answer isn't a simple one so this post is a sum of my experiences and thoughts during ownership.

Broadly, there were two factors involved with its purchase.  The first was "fitness for purpose".  What constitutes a good bike is a highly personal one based on individual needs.  In my late 60's at the time of purchase, 172 cm (5' 8") tall and weighing 74 kg , I wanted a bike which was relatively lightweight and had a modest seat height.  It also needed good performance and handling for my IAM coaching and a range of at least 250 km on a tankful of gas as a nod towards the relatively remote location where we live.  Didn't want to be gassing up en route to the nearest major population centres.  I didn't need to worry about a pillion as my soulmate prefers comfort with a roof over her head these days!  The GSX-S specifications pretty much ticked all the boxes.

The second factor is emotional appeal.  That's a pretty subjective topic and very hard to quantify.  The best example I can give is when I bought the Street Triple in 2009.  On paper, the Thruxton Bonneville, Ducati Monster 696, Speed Triple and Street Triple were my choices in that order.  They were then all ridden. However, literally within minutes of getting on the  Street Triple, it was a case of "I want it, and I want it NOW".  Handling, ergonomics, performance, induction roar and God knows what else all added up to something irresistible.  Totally smitten!  With the Suzuki, I was in too much of a hurry to get a new bike and largely overlooked how powerful emotional appeal is.  Immediately liked the Suzy but didn't love it.  A telling feature is that I used to pat the Triple when walking past it in the shed.  Have rarely done that with the Suzuki.  

Multi-function instrumentation - just 197 km on the odometer

I'm not big on adding farkles to my bike unless there's a genuine reason.  Don't like obtrusive, noisy exhausts so no aftermarket muffler.  Bought a small Suzuki screen for marginally better protection at higher speeds but mainly because it tidied the front of the bike and I was offered a great price at the time.  Had matte 3M clearfilm applied to the paintwork where there was a risk of stone chips or rubbing.  Crash protectors because they made sense.  Carbon front fender extender to reduce crap and stones from coming into contact with the radiator and front of the engine.  Replace crap headlight bulb with Ring Automotive +130 Xenon bulb, based on my past experience on 1600 km in under 24 hour (Iron Butt equivalent) rides on various bikes.  I also chucked on a set of Oxford expandable throwover bags to carry miscellaneous gear.  I won these in a raffle several years previously but had been unable to use them on the Street Triple because of the high level mufflers.  No heated grips as I use heated gloves on really cold days.  They keep the whole hand warm.

The break-in period generally doesn't reveal the total character of the bike but a couple of things stood out. The OEM Dunlop D214 Sportmax pure sport tyres were totally unsuitable for NZ conditions. Black mark for Suzuki.  In warm and dry conditions, grip was acceptable, even though the traction control light flickered on and off in rain mode. In the dry???  It was also easy to run right off the edge of the tyre in tight bends. Why oh why fit a 50 profile rear?  In cooler, wet conditions, the grip was so bad that it bordered on lethal.  Simply couldn't get enough heat into them.  To use a heartfelt profanity.... fucking awful things. The rear tyre had virtually no tread left by 3700 km.  You'd end up bankrupt constantly replacing them. Good riddance to them and the replacement was a 55 profile Pilot Road 4 which dramatically improved the handling.

The destroyed D214 - 3700 km from new

Compounding the grip issue was a severe snatch on a trailing throttle when cracked open. It made negotiating wet intersections and roundabouts an interesting experience on occasions!  The demo bike didn't seem to have that problem but maybe it was due to the shortish ride in that particular environment.  However, with the break-in period coming to an end, it was becoming a major distraction and from the GSX-S owners forum, it was clear that others were experiencing the same issue with a range of solutions being tried. The snatch was so distracting that consideration was given to getting rid of it but a polite and constructive email was sent to Suzuki NZ, expressing disappointment and asking for their comments.  Suzuki NZ had race-prepped one for US journalist/racer Don Canet when he was visiting NZ so I knew they had a good knowledge of the bike.

The following day, there was a reply email apologising for my experience and that if I arranged a time with my dealer they would fit a different ECM at their cost.  This was duly done and the bike was transformed.  Whether anything else was done at the same time I don't know but it was now an absolute pleasure to ride - kudos to Suzuki NZ for their proactive stance.  I might also mention that they also said that if I wanted to come along to a Suzuki track day, I could take out Don Canet's race-prepped bike!  Incredibly generous offer but having never done a track day at that stage, coupled with a bike on slicks, race pads and a footpeg height unsuitable for my ageing body, it was graciously declined.  Kudos to Suzuki NZ for their fantastic customer response though.  Why isn't everyone like that?


Loaded up for a few days away from home

Ergonomically, the bike is extremely comfortable.  The standard Renthal bars are perfectly positioned for me and the standard seat is good for 700 km days without too much discomfort.  However, I have knee damage from sports injuries sustained in younger days and the footpeg position caused severe knee ache towards the end of a full tank of gas.  This was completely solved by fitting some modified Buell pegs which drop the height by about 20 mm.  Brake lever position and brake light switch required repositioning but it only took a couple of hours at most to do the whole installation.  Beautifully modified by Joe Satterwhite from the US Hayabusa forum and made the world of difference.  Left the "hero blobs" off and even on a couple of subsequent trackdays, nothing touched down.  

Lowered footpegs - modified Buell

At 209 kg with a slightly less aggressive geometry than the 179 kg Street Triple, it's not as quick handling in the tight stuff but it's still good.  Turn-in has been immeasurably improved by fitting a 55 profile rear tyre as opposed to the OEM 50 profile D214.  The suspension out of the crate was too harsh front and rear for my 74 kg weight (in my socks, that is!).  That adversely affected the handling on bumpy roads.  Rear shock preload was ok but compression and rebound damping needed easing off.  Ditto for the front forks including backing off preload a touch.  I was fortunate enough to attend a suspension course early this year with international guru Dave Moss.  It included a 150 km ride, stopping periodically to make adjustments whilst the suspension was up to operating temperature.  He backed off the stock settings even more than I had originally done and it made a BIG difference.

Dave Moss tweaking the front end of my bike

However, Dave made the valid point that there's only so much you can do with suspension that's been built to a budget price.  By 35,000 km, rear rebound and compression damping had noticeably declined.  Having fitted top quality shocks to my last two bikes, I was well aware how good the handling improvement was on those so fitted a Nitron shock, built to my specs. Didn't bother with remote adjustment as my riding loads don't vary by much.  Cost was ~ NZ$1200 delivered (US$790).  The difference was immediately noticeable.  The rear end stayed in perfect contact over some notorious local ripples caused by logging trucks.  A major safety consideration as well as a performance one.  Rear tyre life should appreciably improve too.  My Blackbird rear tyre averaged another 2000-odd km after the Penske shock had been fitted.  Standard front suspension is adequate but depending on how long I keep the bike, I might fit Nitron internals.

One final comment about handling.  In the middle of winter a couple of months ago, I had an incident which whilst alarming at the time, was quite reassuring in retrospect.   I was riding on a wet, twisty road which gets minimal sun in winter, with the traction control in rain mode.  Exiting a bend with only light acceleration, the rear of the bike suddenly snapped about 30 degrees sideways.  I countersteered and the bike snapped just as quickly back in line with absolutely no drama.  Suzuki have clearly worked on mass centralisation and that, combined with traction control seems to have made the bike very stable and predictable, even in a significantly adverse situation.

Nitron NTR R1 rear shock - seriously nice engineering

Ok, but nothing remarkable.  Have never had a close shave due to any inadequacy on their part but on my first ever trackday, I wasn't game to rely on them in late braking from speed down the long straight at Hampton Downs!  They seemed to lack real bite once hot.  The ABS works just fine though. On my Blackbird and Street Triple, I used EBC HH pads and was really impressed with them.  Put them on the Suzuki this year and noticed an immediate improvement, especially at the February trackday at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport track  at Taupo.  Extremely happy camper now!

Old geezer does a Moto TT track day

There isn't really much to say.  One litre capacity, around 140 horses at the rear wheel, 74lb-ft (100 N-M) of torque, true top speed of around 235 km/hr (145 mph).  Academic really and more than adequate in most countries where high speeds are frowned upon by the law and likely to land a rider in serious grief.  I've had it up to an indicated 230 km/ hr on the track and it got there pretty quickly.  A whole lot less on public roads and performance is more than adequate for my needs.

A rapid road ride with some of the IAM coaching team

In real world road riding, it's the torque /acceleration which is the most useful trait to make good progress and the engine which is based on the original 2005-8 GSX-R 1000 "torque monster" engine certainly delivers that.  Maximum torque is delivered at over 9000 rpm but it's still pretty useful below that.  I loved the Street Triple torque because it delivered about 90% of maximum torque at 4000 rpm.  In essence, a virtually flat torque profile and a great power to weight ratio which made snap overtakes easy, without having to dance on the gear lever. The GSX-S doesn't quite have the same profile but certainly nothing to complain about!

In terms of fuel consumption, between 260-300 km per tankful is achievable on everyday riding but of course, it depends on your right wrist.  You don't buy one for economy. The instrumentation shows around 5.5 lt/100km for much of the mixed environment riding I do.  I noticed at the last trackday I did that it was nudging 9lt/100 km!

Probably the most debated topic on any bike forum.  Everyone has an opinion and a favourite brand.  The truth is that most riders run out of talent before a modern tyre from any of the major manufacturers reaches the edge of its performance envelope.  The trick is in choosing a tyre which suits the riding of the individual concerned.  As an IAM mentor/Examiner, I don't often get to choose what weather I ride in so a sport/touring tyre covers all conditions.  The OEM D214 pure sport tyres mentioned earlier in the review were manifestly unsuitable as an all-round tyre.  For a number of years on several bikes, I've been impressed with the Michelin Pilot Road series, particularly for their wet weather grip.  I've had 2 sets of Metzler Roadtec 01's on the Suzuki and whilst they pretty much matched the Pilot Road 4 in the wet, dry weather performance subjectively felt a little more planted.  The Road 4's and 01 rear tyres lasted for around 11,000 km before being replaced.  That's fine by me and a whole lot different to the 3700 km life of the D214!  Currently on 55 profile Road 5's and performance-wise so far, they're a step up on anything else I've tried.  The high crown gives a rapid turn-in.  Wet weather grip has been sensational and I run out of talent before anything lets go in the dry.  They've made the Suzuki a really nice bike to ride in all conditions. 

Brand new Road 5 - soft compound outer edge layer clearly visible

At present, there's only one question mark hovering over a ringing endorsement of the Road 5.  The first rear copped a puncture at ~2000 km which was not repairable.  Its replacement punctured at ~4000 km which was repairable.  In the last few days, I got yet another puncture (slow leak from a small nail).  So that's 3 punctures in a bit over 3 months.  I'd like to think that it's sheer random chance as previously, I went for over 3 years without a puncture.  Hopefully, it's not a shortcoming in the tyre design for the conditions I ride in.

Standard of finish
I chose the matte grey metallic finish just because it was different from other bikes I'd owned.  After 3 years, the grey looks pretty much like the day it came out of the showroom, as does most of the bike.  Being a matte finish, it only gets "wash and waxed", no polish used.  Some paint is flaking off the bottom of the radiator end caps, exposing bare metal.  Not a big amount and easily fixed if I could be bothered.  A spot of rust on the mirror stalks but again, not a big amount and easily fixed.  Degreaser is used on the engine in the summer to get rid of molten road tar and the whole bike is occasionally sprayed with Muc-Off to bring it back to pristine condition - love that product.  Gearchange and brake levers have a few light rust spots due to the original thin paint wearing through but nothing serious.  Suzuki's have a reputation for having thin paint but I'm more than satisfied with its appearance after 3 years from new.

Chain and sprockets
At 45,000 km, the original chain and sprockets are still in excellent condition.  It's been lubed at about 500 km intervals or thereabouts with Tirox teflon-based wax and it's clearly effective.  I use a home made laser rig for front and rear wheel alignment.  Whether this has a significant impact on chain and sprocket life, I wouldn't know.

Crash resistance
More accurately, drop resistance!  Why is it that most of our accidents occur not long after ownership?  Rhetorical question - most likely because we're not totally used to their characteristics.  Only had one "moment".  Had owned it for a couple of weeks and exiting a gravel parking area, got caught out by the tall first gear and not wanting to gas it too much with all the loose gravel.  I was already leaning it over to join the main road and stalled the motor.  Short legs and down I went!  The R&G crash protectors did their job and the only damage was a slight paint scratch on the muffler end-piece.  Err......  it wasn't the only damage.  Ego damage was massive as I was doing some instructing when it happened.  The trainee had the good grace not to laugh at the bad language over the comms.

Apart from the initial problem with low throttle fuelling, no problem whatsoever.  Put in gas, change the oil and filter every 6000 km and have it serviced at the appropriate intervals.  Nothing vibrates, rattles or works loose.  Engine is turbine smooth.  End of story.  For cleaning and routine maintenance, I have an ABBA stand which allows both wheels to be lifted at the same time.  Handy for doing baseline suspension setup measurements too!

ABBA stand - easy to use and rock steady

Do I think that the GSX-S 1000 is a good bike?  Yes, it certainly is but it very much depends on what you want from a bike.  Is it good value for money?  Again yes.  For around NZ$17,000 (US$11,200, 8,700 UK pounds), you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Do I love the bike?  No, I like it a lot but I don't love it.  That's where the emotional appeal I mentioned earlier comes in.  In retrospect, I'd have been better off waiting until the 765 Street Triple came out and buying one.  Having said that, I certainly don't regret owning the Suzuki; it's been fun and still is.  Having ridden Triumphs in my formative years and successfully drag raced one, I'll admit to having an emotional connection to the brand, despite having owned several other makes in 55 years of riding.

What of the future?  Can't be absolutely certain but at 71 years of age, my time riding as an Examiner with the Institute of Advanced Motorists must be limited.  The amount of time spent on that activity is substantial.  It eats into time spent with the extended family as well as going out sea fishing on the boat with my wife.  We also travel and would like to do even more.  It's increasingly important to get a better life balance.  The Suzuki probably isn't the best bike for simply pootling about on and a lower seat height and/or lighter weight would be nice.  2019 should trigger a delicious search for a new bike with a new "fitness for purpose".  T120 Bonneville?  Maybe.  765 Street Triple, low seat version?  Possibly.  KTM 790?  There's a thought!  Something not yet on the market?  What to do?  Real first world problem, isn't it?

For anyone considering owning a GSX-S (naked or faired), the dedicated website forum HERE provides a wealth of information and the members are a great bunch who go out of their way to help.  In addition, one of the members, Phuket Paul; has built a magnificent website with just about everything you need to know about the model.  It's HERE .

Awesome day to go for a ride!

Addendum - March 2019.  Well the Suzuki has just been traded in after 3 1/2 years of ownership and 48,000 km.  The reasons why and what I've bought as a replacement can be found HERE .

Also, a review of all the bikes I've owned can be found HERE.

Monday 15 October 2018

In Praise of Dog Turds!

I've had a few punctures during my motorcycling career but in all that time, most of them have been slow(ish) leaks where I've been able ride to a safe point to properly address the problem.  Just 4 months ago I made a post about a puncture I got less than an hour from home.  Even though the leak was quite serious, carrying an electric pump got me home with multiple stops.  I've never actually had to use any of the repair kits I've carried over the years........ UNTIL NOW!

On Sunday, I was out on an IAM coaching ride with my colleague Drew in the central north island, some 170 km from home.  He was riding a Honda ST1300 and I wanted to see how he handled tight, narrow country roads with lots of elevation changes and blind bends.  East of the town of Cambridge and a long way from anywhere is a really challenging bit of road called French Pass.  We were both making good progress but when I followed him round one bend, the handling felt slightly spongy.  Wondered if it was my imagination but the next corner was worse, so called over the comms for Drew to pull over in a safe spot whilst I checked what was happening.  He stopped in a farm gateway and almost as soon as we stopped, the owner of the property came out to see if he could help.  As well as the farm, Chris ran a local mechanical maintenance business and offered his workshop so that we could do a proper inspection.

Sure enough, something long and sharp had entered the tyre but there was no sign of it.  My screw-in and snap-off Gryyp plugs weren't going to be big enough so it was time to try the euphemistically-called dog turds.  I can see where the name comes from, even though they are Chihuahua - sized!  For the uninitiated, this is the dog turd kit:

Chiuhuahua-sized dog turds!

The turds are comprised of a fibre rope impregnated with a sticky substance.  The rope gets doubled over and pushed through the puncture with an awl and the sticking out ends trimmed off.  My kit didn't have adhesive with it, just relying on stickiness and friction.

Using Chris's industrial compressor rather than my portable one, the tyre was inflated and after thanking Chris and his wife profusely, we set off again - RESULT!  Unfortunately, my optimism was short-lived as half an hour later, coming into the small town where we were due to finish the training ride, down went the tyre again!  The looped plug had clearly come out.  The turds were at least 10 years old and I suspect the principal reason was that they had lost a fair bit of stickiness.  Fortunately for a Sunday, a local auto accessories place was open and Drew rode round and got me some new super-sticky ones.

You can just see the two ends sticking out of the tyre

Chopping off the ends, a bit of spit was applied to see if there was any leak from the puncture - there wasn't!

Spit and not-polish

Soon after, Drew went on his way home to the Bay of Plenty and I headed north towards home in Coromandel.  Unfortunately, about 20 km up the road, the same thing happened again.  A closer inspection indicated that one dog turd probably wasn't adequate so I rammed 2 in and added one of the Gryyp plastic snap-off screws to lock everything in place.  I was lucky to inflate it to the proper pressure as my ancient inflator failed just as I reached the right pressure.  I did have a short bicycle pump in the bag but using it would have been moving into heart attack territory.  Given my previous lack of repair success and the fact that it was getting late in the afternoon, I didn't want to be stranded miles from anywhere on the Coromandel Peninsula (aka Deliverance/banjo country).  A couple of quick phone calls and I arranged to leave the bike at an IAM friend's place just short of the Peninsula and Jennie would pick me up from there.  As it happened, this repair worked perfectly and I arrived at my mate's place with no loss of pressure.  Still wouldn't have risked it to get me all the way home though.

Quickly pulled the rear wheel to take it somewhere where it could either be repaired or replaced.  Hell, it's only 4000 km old and the one before that was only 2000 km old.  At this rate, I'll never be able to do an end-of-life evaluation of the Michelin Road 5!  I'd prefer to think it was sheer bad luck on my part than a design weakness in the tyre.  A parting shot by my mate Tony before I headed home with Jennie was him threatening to sell the bike on the NZ equivalent of eBay before I got back!  

Tony, with his best "Have I got a deal for you" salesman's look!

I could probably have found a repair place a bit closer to where I live but this morning, headed on a 280 km round trip to south Auckland to one of my favourite tyre dealers as I knew that they had a new Road 5 tyre in stock if the belting was badly damaged.  Fortunately, I only needed a mushroom plug, not a new tyre which was a bright spot of good news with all the time-wasting.  Also took the opportunity to have a right-angled valve fitted to make life easier and bought some more Muc-Off bike cleaner (brilliant stuff), some Motul oil and a new filter so it turned out not to be a bad day.

Nice right-angled alloy valve stem

Tomorrow will see me returning to Tony's to re-fit the wheel and bring the bike home.  Oh, and a nice lunch on the way home as thanks to the long-suffering Jennie for ferrying me about!

There is an upside to this story though.  Getting practical experience of using dog turds was invaluable in case I ever need to use them in the future when help isn't readily at hand.  So many riders don't carry repair kits and it can be a bit more than inconvenient in some circumstances, especially a long way from anywhere with no cell coverage and no-one about.