Wheel alignment

Thursday 26 March 2020

First official day of lockdown

We've actually been in lockdown at home since I collected Jennie at the airport on Monday but this is the first official day nationwide and boy, it's quiet!  So far, everything is working out really well, we're keeping a reasonable distance from each other, separate bathrooms and Jennie isn't allowed in the kitchen at present.  This means I'm doing all the cooking but on the positive side, it keeps her away from sharp knives if I get under her skin!  She's busy catching up with her passion of genealogy (family history) and I've been doing motorcycle maintenance with gardening and other domestic stuff yet to come.  We had hoped to take the boat out fishing but apparently, that will be frowned on despite the isolation that comes with fishing.  I'm a member of the Coastguard should I ever need their services, but received an email from them this morning.  Roughly translated, it said "Don't expect to be rescued for at least 4 weeks so don't go on the water".  It's a beautiful day too, flat water, warm and sunny - sigh......

View from our front deck today

Once our immediate 14 day quarantine is up, we are allowed to go for a walk, keeping the regulatory 2 metres from others and visit essential services such as supermarkets, pharmacies and so on.  No need for that at present.  As it happens, new brake pads for the KTM arrived yesterday so today was always going to be earmarked for fitting them.

EBC HH pads - serious stopping power

I love EBC HH pads.  I fitted them to my Blackbird, Street Triple and GSX-S1000.  Far superior to the OEM pads on all those bikes in terms of stopping power.  They're not snatchy and they're kind to disc rotors - what's not to like and why aren't pads this good fitted as standard?  I found a UK supplier on eBay advertising a full front and rear set for GBP84 (NZ$172) including delivery.  A sight cheaper than NZ so it was a no-brainer.

This is where my ABBA  bike stand comes in really handy as both wheels can be lifted off the deck at the same time by using the attachments.

Both wheels off the deck

Getting both wheels off the deck is particularly handy because as well as swapping the pads, it allows me to easily de-glaze the disc rotors to maximise stopping power and bedding-in.

Essentials - pads, brake cleaner, wet and dry paper

First job was to remove the old front pads which were in "as new" condition.  As opposed to some other bikes I've owned, access to the KTM pads is a piece of cake.  Pop off a circlip  at the end of each pin, unscrew and withdraw the 2 pins and spring strip - the pads just lift out.

Removing the tensioning spring and old pads - piece of cake

Next job was to break the glaze on both faces of each rotor.  Sanding block, 400 wet and dry paper used wet.  About 5 minutes per face.

Wet de-glazing with a sanding block and 400 wet and dry paper

Glaze removed, disc thoroughly washed, calipers cleaned with brake cleaner

New pads inserted followed by tensioner, pins and circlips

A quick pump of the brake lever to reposition the pistons and job done.  The rear single caliper and disc was done in the same manner.  Only a single pin so really quick.  Next job is to go out and bed the pads in with a series of high speed, elevated temperature stops.  When that happens is in the lap of the gods at present.  Nothing else needs doing to the bike so tomorrow is a whole new day!

Monday 23 March 2020

What a difference a few days make....

Jennie has been in the UK to see her sister.  For obvious reasons, things turned to custard pretty rapidly and an announcement by NZ's Foreign Affairs government department for Kiwis to get back to NZ asap was the spur to get her home pronto.  Easier said than done and without going into detail, there were several sleepless nights trying to get it sorted.  Some pretty serious price-gouging by some airlines or their agents which was morally unacceptable, if legal.

Bless our travel agent, he burned the midnight oil for a couple of days and got her a flight home with Qatar Air.  London-Doha is a little over 8 hours and Doha-Auckland is about 16 1/2 hours.  Cattle class is not good on the body when you're in your 70's, not to mention close proximity to others.  He managed to get Jennie what's known as a business-class Q Suite, where you can actually close a door and isolate yourself.  A picture is worth 1000 words ..... We've been told that it was the last but one flight by Qatar to NZ and is now virtually impossible to get back to NZ by any means.  The reverse is also true - there are still a lot of tourists here who look to be stuck.

Qatar Q Suite business class (Qatar photo)

Anyway, her flight arrived in NZ this morning at 0500.  All the airport buildings had been closed to everyone but passengers so I met her in the big car park outside the terminals.  It was pitch black, hardly anyone about and seeing her in the headlights sitting on a suitcase waiting for me to turn up was surprisingly emotional.  Must be getting soft.

A 2 1/2 hour drive home and we're both in isolation for 14 days.  We can go for a walk and I think taking the boat out fishing is fine but no other close contact.  Today, it was announced by our Prime Minister that total lockdown of NZ is imminent, apart from essential services.  This is going to be tough on a lot of people but it needs to be done.  I'm just hoping that I don't irritate Jennie to the extent that I get stabbed or pushed overboard.   If the blog goes quiet for a substantial period, please contact the authorities and state your suspicions!

Onto bike stuff, I can't get my KTM officially serviced as part of its guarantee because of the closures but that's of no consequence as I won't be riding it far.  Whilst Jennie was in the UK,  I set to and did a wheel alignment on the KTM with an adaptation of the laser rig I built for the Blackbird in 2003.  This isn't a tutorial but the basic principles can be found HERE .  I've simplified it a little since then but the basics still apply.  

Laser light just kissing maximum rear tyre width

Measuring the offset at 2 points on the front tyre (and on both sides)

Cutting to the chase, the differential offset of 8mm was more than I was happy with and with a bit of judicious adjustment, I pulled it back to 3mm.  Trouble is, I don't really know what constitutes an acceptable dimension for road riding of the sort I do.  I know that top race teams normally spend a bit of time on this aspect though.  I suppose it's the anal engineer in me coming out, sigh.......  reliable data has been central to my whole working life.  I will add a comment though.  If you can't measure something, then there's no basis for objective discussion.  I do know from past experience that tyre dealers or bike shops can be pretty rough and ready.  I prefer to know for sure.  Interestingly, I took some measurements at the adjusters on the swingarm before re-adjustment and superficially, they "looked" ok.  However, with the tolerances between each component compounding the error, you can't tell without actually measuring at the tyres themselves.  Trust me on this.

Finally, some comments on my Bridgestone T31 sport/touring tyres.  These replaced the OEM pure sport tyres which I was unhappy with in cold, wet conditions.  I've now covered 8500km on the set  and both wet and dry weather performance is excellent in terms of grip.  Ummm...excepting the walking pace drop outlined in the previous post.  No tyre would have prevented that.  Speed of turn-in is probably not as good as the OEM tyres but it's still acceptable.  In terms of wear, the rear tyre still has an excellent profile and lots of tread.  End of life will be around 10000- 12000 km which I'll be perfectly happy about.

Bridgestone T31 rear tyre at 8500 km - good profile, plenty of tread

The front tyre also has a decent amount of tread in general.  However, it has badly lost shape with substantial flats on the side extending to within a few mm of the tyre edge.  Less than perfect front suspension is one contributor.  However, I've experienced the same thing on all my front tyres irrespective of brand, including bikes with high end suspension.  The most likely cause is where I live in terms of ultra-twisty biker paradise roads which require aggressive countersteering at a reasonable pace.  Something I'm going to have to live with unless I do a 2 front for 1 rear replacement strategy.  I like the T31's very much but haven't decided to replace the front yet as I might look at the Continental Road Attack 3's, just out of curiosity.

To inject a note of reality into the tyre discussion, most tyres from major manufactures have a performance envelope that exceeds the abilities of most of us riders provided we've identified and chosen the type properly in the first place (pure sport, sport touring, adventure etc).  It comes down to personal preference and "feel" after that.

Bridgestone T31 front tyre at 8500 km - big flats towards the side

Finally, every good wish to anyone reading this blog.  There are going to be challenging times ahead and keep safe. Equally importantly, keep a sense of humour and be kind to each other!

Friday 6 March 2020

The Green Badge Tour, pt3

Napier has a nice cafe scene in the Ahuriri area and it was up early and eat a good breakfast to avoid a lengthy meal stop later in the day with about 450 km to cover before our next stop at Waihau Bay near East Cape. The timing of gas stops were also factored in as they are few and far between on the route we wanted to take.  A quick fill near Bay View turned into a slightly longer fill when a ummm... "mature" woman rocked up on a nice-looking new Royal Enfield 650 twin.  Well, it would be rude not to engage a fellow rider in conversation wouldn't it, despite Tony's cynical spin on the reasons for the conversation!

The lack of traffic continued, apart from a handful of logging trucks coming the other way and a few classic cars from the Napier Art Deco weekend en route to somewhere else.  Another fuel stop at Wairoa ready to depart the coast road and head for Gisborne via another superb riding route - Tiniroto Road.  T Road is about 85 km of continuous bends in the middle of nowhere with beautiful scenery.  I'd previously done it a couple of times in daylight as had Lloyd and once around midnight on a 1600 km in under 24 hours organised endurance ride.  Doing it at night with no mobile phone reception and no traffic was a scary experience and not to be repeated.  Daylight was a different matter entirely.......... or so we thought!

At about the halfway point, I was up front and we were getting along rather briskly.  Coming out of one bend,  I saw something in the road and rapidly came to a stop.  There was a slip across the road, not very deep and maybe 10 metres or so wide.  The weather front which we experienced the previous day had brought some mudstone and other debris down from the nearby cliff.  It didn't look too bad and as turning round would have added a massive distance to our journey, we decided to ride through.  Things were due to turn rapidly to custard..........

At walking pace or less, I rode through the slip, followed by Lloyd. Pretty straightforward actually until we got to the other side.  What was not obvious was that there was several metres of a very thin layer of slurry which had a friction coefficient akin to a sheet of ice.  The slight road camber caused the wheels to track at right angles to the direction of travel and down I went!  "Bless me", I said.  Actually, they weren't exactly the chosen words, but you get the drift.  Lloyd was right behind me and suffered the same fate.  Tony hadn't started his run and wisely chose to stay where he was.

No real damage except to our dignity.  Getting the bikes upright again was a real issue as it was so slippery that we could hardly stand.  Eventually, we got them upright and pushed them to a relatively crap-free spot but not before Lloyd had tweaked a leg muscle.  Fortunately, this was quickly fixed with an anti-inflammatory.  Much use of roadside twigs and grass to clean out the tyre grooves.

In the meantime, a road gang had turned up and helped Tony push his bike through long grass and ruts on the side of the road to avoid the worst of the slip - more difficult than it looked.

Tony pushing the MT 10, me cleaning out the rain grooves (photo: Lloyd)

Whilst we were still cleaning up the tyres, an Australian motorcycle tour group showed up.  One of them decided to ride through and despite being on dual purpose tyres, he suffered the same fate as us.  That prompted the rest of them to push the bikes through the slip with the help of the road maintenance crew.  Even so, there were a few anxious moments.  Also, an 18 wheeler truck slid off into the verge and was waiting a tow out which shows just how treacherous it was.

Anxious moments for the Aussies (photo: Lloyd)

The remaining Aussies waiting to cross the slip.  Looks like one is having a nervous pee on the verge!

Tony managed to video the aftermath of the carnage.  Fortunately, he missed me hitting the deck but did catch one of the unfortunate Australians doing the same trick.  In the following video, I'm in the hi-viz jacket at the far end of the slip, busy cleaning my tyres.  It all starts about 50 seconds from the beginning of the video.

Courtesy: Tony

The shenanigans cost us over an hour by the time we were ready to roll but we were thankful as it could have been so much worse.  None of us had ever experienced such a loss of grip, even on black ice.  The first few km were spent at a very low pace, gradually increasing our angles of lean to ensure that our tyres were completely free of the vile stuff.  Stopping at the first gas station in Gisborne, we spent half an hour or so scrubbing our bikes and selves to get rid of every last trace of crap.

 Just about clean at last (photo: Tony)

Despite the odd light shower, the run from Gisborne up to East Cape (Te Araroa) was a fast one with virtually no traffic - motorcycling at its very finest. Bringing up the rear for a spell and watching Tony and Lloyd peel into bends at exactly the same spot and ditto for getting on the gas exiting them was a privilege to watch and testimony to their level of skill.  Although the pace was brisk, it wasn't the speed but the way they made it look so effortless that was so appealing.  The mark of seriously good riders.

A quick stop for Tony to take on fuel at Te Araroa and then the remaining 56 km to our accommodation at Waihau Bay for the evening which turned out to be a real highlight.  Waihau Bay is a tiny community in a breathtaking location.  The lodge we were staying in is only metres from the water and our accommodation on the upper floor had its own verandah and views to die for.  Beautifully restored, 3 bedrooms, 8 beds and a massive lounge at an unbelievably reasonable price.

Waihau Bay Lodge - Tony and Lloyd in foreground

Panoramic from the verandah (photo: Lloyd)

Lloyd and Tony on our verandah - doing it tough!

Our spacious lounge

The place was buzzing as there was a fishing contest on and we enjoyed chatting with the boaties about how their day had gone.  Food in the restaurant was very reasonably priced, plenty of it and great quality.  Just what was needed after the adventures of the day.  

Tony with his fresh fish and chips (photo: Lloyd)

My wee T bone

Once again the friendliness of Kiwis showed through with perfect strangers enjoying a yarn with each other and efficient, friendly service from the lodge staff.  As the sun started to set, a partial rainbow appeared, adding a nice touch to the end of the day. 

Just before sundown

The fishermen were up before dawn and getting on the water for the contest and a few photos were taken from the verandah leading to sunrise.

A new day dawns (photo: Tony)

Here comes the sun, la la

We were also up, anticipating an early breakfast and getting on the road for the last day and home some 430 km away. We found out that the dining room didn't open until 0830 so it was off to Opotiki, just over 100 km away for brunch.  The stretch of road to Opotiki is simply magic.  No other traffic, warm and with the sun mainly behind us, we all had grins a mile wide.

Clear road and blue skies...... (photo: Tony)

A quick photo opportunity at Raukokore Church, built in 1894.  It's right by the ocean in an isolated setting, absolutely breathtaking.  It's hard to see but on the horizon between Tony and Lloyd, there's a hint of white.  This is the offshore volcano White Island, which erupted recently claiming many lives.  It was a lot more visible further along the coast and still looked pretty active.  There wasn't a lot of chatter over the comms and I think we were in our own worlds, soaking up the sheer joy of riding.

Tony and Lloyd at Raukokore Church

Yours truly and Lloyd (photo: Tony)

From Opotiki onwards, we were on what was effectively home ground with a higher number of towns and increased traffic but we weren't exactly stuck in queues.  Not long after crossing the Kaimai mountain range, it was time to say goodbye to Lloyd as he headed off to Hamilton whilst Tony and I rode north.  We said our goodbyes at Paeroa and I rode the remaining 90 km to home in Coromandel.

What a tour!  Great mates who you trust implicitly and have a lot of fun with.  Mixing with the IAM team from round the country and kudos to the Wellington team for putting on a wonderful conference and social activities.  Finally to New Zealand for being such a wonderful place to ride bikes.  Rides like that are truly good for the soul.  Wonder what's next?

Thursday 5 March 2020

The Green Badge Tour, pt 2

Early breakfast at the Whangamomona Hotel and get packed.  The heat of yesterday has caused a bit of low-lying fog but we should break through that as we climb up the ridges and saddles.  The plan was to head west to Stratford and gas up.  By the time we get there, it will be close to 230 km since the last fill which means that Tony's MT10 SP will be down to the last litre or two.  After that, head to Whanganui and on to the conference destination of Porirua, just over 350 km away.

View from our balcony

Go West, young man!

From Whangamomona to Stratford, the road surface improves markedly.  The road remains highly technical with twists and turns at varying altitudes.  Throw wandering cattle into the mix and there's no time to let the brain go into neutral!  In fact, the first cattle on the road were encountered a few minutes after leaving but having climbed out of the fog, there was sufficient time to scrub off speed.  Stopping at the Strathmore Saddle for a few minutes, there were some great views of the rugged country we were passing through.

View from the Strathmore Saddle - not much flat land

Big skies on the Forgotten World Highway (photo: Tony)

A quick refuel in Stratford and then on to Whanganui for brunch.  The road along the south coast of the Taranaki province and down to Porirua is a major arterial route and relatively straight.  Fortunately, traffic was light so we could make reasonable progress without it getting too boring.  Our interest was kept up for a while by following a guy on a Moto Guzzi who was really putting himself at risk by following vehicles in front too closely.  Not only would he have had difficulty stopping if someone anchored up in front, his positioning meant that he couldn't see clearly for safe overtakes.  A really poor display of roadcraft.

I was the lead bike coming into Whanganui and at slow speed, Lloyd who was directly behind; could hear a lot of chain noise from my bike.  A quick check when we stopped for a bite to eat showed that it was drum tight and also a little dry from the gravel section of the Forgotten World Highway.  This was a puzzle as I'd checked the chain tension before leaving home.  The only thing I could think of was that I hadn't checked it with the touring load on the bike, even though the load wasn't particularly heavy.  The KTM swing arm geometry and suspension makes it somewhat trickier to set up than many other bikes and I was found wanting!  

I wasn't carrying the big socket and torque wrench required to do a proper job so a quick internet search revealed a motorcycle repair shop not far away.  I called the owner who was initially reluctant to take the job on because he was so overloaded with work but then told me to bring the bike round.  This is an unashamed plug for Brian Thorley Motorcycle Repairs in Whanganui!  As soon as we arrived, he moved a bike off the hydraulic table and put mine on it.  There followed a series of adjustments for half an hour or so until he'd got it spot on, followed by a splash of lube.  Brian was a really nice guy who went out of his way to help despite his workload so I gave him $50.  He wouldn't have a bar of it and said I was welcome.  I didn't feel at all comfortable about his generosity and finally managed to press $20 on him for a few beers.  At the time of writing, I also have a motorcycle book on order for him (THIS) by way of a proper thank you.  A probable solution would have been for me to put a couple of clicks on the rear shock preload and I'll have to experiment when I have time.

The rest of the trip to Porirua was uneventful and we checked into a comfortable motel later that afternoon after spotting some local IAM riders heading north on an observed ride.

A gaggle of bikes at the motel

That evening, we met up at a local eatery with IAM motorcycle and car members from around the country and it was great to catch up with friends old and new.  Fellow central north island member and Senior Motorcycle Observer Rob happened to be travelling in his company vehicle so he was the designated sober driver - thanks a million mate!  The conference/AGM on the following day was a great event with something in it for everyone.  Some vehicles with the latest safety technology were available to test and I took a 2 litre Toyota Corolla with adaptive cruise control for a spin.  Pretty impressive with its autonomous braking technology and the next few years should see some real safety advances.  A conference dinner that evening, and then ready to resume the tour the next day.

The Wellington IAM team had arranged a series of rides on the Sunday for non-local members involving either road or gravel routes if they so wished.  We chose a ride over the Rimutaka mountain range to the coastal community of Castlepoint as that was the direction we were heading in anyway.  Unfortunately after fine hot weather so far, the forecast was for a front to pass through, delivering rain and wind!  Sure enough, the forecast was spot on and we all assembled at a local gas station in the appropriate gear.

Looks like ride leader Paul is trying to summon the dry weather gods... or the Devil!

The plan was for the northbound groups to meet at the summit of the Rimutakas, then onto Carterton for coffee and then split into their respective routes.  Despite the rain, the twisty ride up to the summit was stress-free on account of a pretty grippy surface (lean sensitive rain mode traction control also helps!) although some of the wind gusts around bends needed a bit of vigilance.

The first arrivals - in cloud and rain at the summit of the Rimutakas

Wellington-based mate Davey's wicked Husky 701 - massively high seat at over 900 mm! 

Looking back down the Rimutaka road we'd ridden up

A quick peruse of the local rain radar showed largely dry roads where we were heading with an improving forecast so wet weather gear could be shed at Carterton.

Satisfied smiles from Tony and Lloyd after great coffee in Carterton

Soon, it was time for the groups to head off in different directions and our group headed over to Castlepoint on the east coast in minimal traffic.  Sadly, Rex had to head directly home from here so we said our goodbyes and wished him a safe ride.  As an amusing aside, I found myself in the company of Mike, an ex-UK class 1 cop (cars and bikes) and now a serving officer in NZ with special national driving and riding police training responsibilities.  He's also Director of Testing for IAM.  Despite my own qualifications, it felt like I was back in primary school with Mike looking on and really had to concentrate on delivering a highly professional ride that he would look favourably on. In reality, Mike was probably taking no notice whatsoever, nice guy that he is.  I don't think I did anything too dumb.  A great road with a mixture of sweepers and tight stuff.

Some of us hadn't been to Castlepoint before and it was great to view the area in windy conditions. There's no safe berthing in the often rough conditions and the commercial fishing boats are launched and retrieved off the beach with weird and wonderful contraptions.

A self-launching cradle (photo: Lloyd)

The lighthouse and fishing boats

Peppered by flying sand whilst taking this photo

It was soon time to resume our journey northward.  Goodbyes were said to the IAM members from other parts of the country and special thanks to Paul and the Wellington team for such a special weekend - massively appreciated.   We needed to head back to Masterton first to refuel in readiness for the back roads to Napier - a little under 500 km since leaving Porirua first thing.   Tony's bike is good for around 250 km at a brisk(ish) pace, mine a little more and Lloyd's a lot more.  Sure enough, almost within sight of the gas station, Tony's bike ground to a halt.  A quick word over the comms and Lloyd and I carried on to the gas station.  Lloyd filled up a small soft drink bottle to return to Tony whilst I chatted to the attendant.  He was a really nice guy and gave me a complimentary coffee while I waited - great customer relationships!

Refuelling having been completed, we headed to Napier (the Art Deco capital of NZ) via the Wangaehu Valley (Thanks for the tip ANDREW)!  Virtually no traffic, spectacular scenery and technical roads, we were in paradise.  No time to take photos!  Arriving at our cabin in Napier's main camping ground, we were surprised to see lots of old vehicles.  We didn't realise that it was the annual Art Deco Festival weekend.  The town dresses up in period costume with lots of events and vehicles of a bygone age.  It was great chatting to the vehicle owners and it must be said that many of them were of a "certain vintage" too!  Here are some vehicle examples.

Not a speck of dust anywhere

Handle with care.....  1903 Oldsmobile (photo: Lloyd)

The days of chrome - Plymouth of uncertain vintage (photo: Lloyd) 

Part 3 to come.....

Wednesday 4 March 2020

The Green Badge Tour, part 1

This year, the annual conference/AGM of IAM NZ (http://iam.org.nz/) was due to be held in Porirua, just north of Wellington.  Several of us from the central north island were keen to attend and fellow observing team member Tony suggested that we should turn it into a "long way down, even longer way back" tour.  Great plan and 4 of us gradually hatched a route covering some of the north island's iconic twisty bike roads.  The Green Badge Tour gets its name from the badge that's awarded when a rider passes the Advanced Police Roadcraft Test.  All 4 of us had passed that long ago and had also passed the Observer (mentor) test too.

This is a map of the route, covering some 2100 km of fabulous riding roads.  With the exception of the Wellington area, it was expected that traffic would be pretty light in late summer, especially keeping away from major arterial routes where possible and so it turned out to be.

A route made in heaven

My 790 Duke isn't really set up for touring so travelling fairly light was the order of the day.  The regular small tailpack containing a few basic tools and puncture repair kit, with a 10 litre yachting dry bag strapped to it with a cargo net over the two.  I don't like wearing a back pack when riding but in this instance, I figured that I could put up with it.

Loaded and ready for action

Setting off from Coromandel early in the morning,  I stopped 70 km further south to pick up Tony (Yamaha MT10 SP) and we then met up with Lloyd (Yamaha TDM 900) and Rex (BMW 1200 GS) in Hamilton.  The end point of Day 1 was the Whangamomona Hotel on the famous Forgotten World Highway, some 380 km from home.  The general arrangement was that we'd swap the lead at gas or coffee stops and all 4 of us were linked with SENA comms.  It was quite amusing that on the open sections of road with fast sweepers, there was a fair bit of comms traffic, mickey-taking and so on.  However, when we got to the technical tight stuff, it went pretty quiet over the air waves - just warnings from the lead bike about potential hazards.  Between Te Kuiti and the turn-off to Ohura,  we came on fresh road works - wet tar overlaid with fresh gravel.  We picked the tar-coated stones out of the various nooks and crannies later on but a 1% er on a noisy H-D had to stop by the roadside and pick them out of his drive belt before it got shredded.

First stop after lunch was Ohura.  A small settlement with a massive main street which was once a coal mining centre.  Current population is less than 150 and the settlement is in a state of genteel decline.  No-one was about and a wry comment was made that the locals must still be in their coffins during daylight hours.

Rex, Geoff and Lloyd at Ohura.  A hot day and needing shade

The busy metropolis of Ohura - locals still in their coffins

A fully functional mailbox

The Forgotten World Highway is something of a rite of passage for riders.  A twisty, narrow road with an indifferent surface at the bottom of a valley and over saddles with a section of gravel 15 km or so long.  The scenery is spectacular but it's wise to either stop and look or keep your eyes on the road if moving.  There's minimal cell phone reception and if you make a mistake, you're a long way from help.  It pays to hold a fair bit in reserve.  Tony shot a bit of video on the more open part of the Forgotten Highway which I'm leading on.  His MT10-SP with crossplane engine and uneven firing order sounds fantastic with the speaker volume turned up and on full screen:

Courtesy of Tony

Stopping at the Tahora Saddle, the active volcanoes of Ngaruhoe and Ruapehu were visible on the skyline.

Wild country

Tahora Saddle with active volcanoes in the background (photo: Lloyd)

Yours truly at the Tahora Saddle (photo: Lloyd)

A quick photo stop at the Tangarakau river bridge.  The logs in the river show the power of nature when it rains!

Tangarakau river bridge - spectacular scenery

Logs in the river

A happy rider on tour grin (photo: Tony)

Before arriving at our destination for the night, a further stop at the entrance to the Moki Tunnel was warranted.  It was constructed in 1935/36 and is some 180 metres long - one direction at a time for traffic over a rutted surface.  We didn't see any wildlife on this occasion although on a previous trip, there was an extremely large feral billy goat with an impressive set of horns standing at the tunnel mouth.

Tony, Lloyd and Rex at the Moki tunnel mouth

Arriving at the small settlement of Whangamomona late afternoon, we settled into the hotel and enjoyed a cold one as temperatures were in the early 30's C.  The place was fair jumping with locals and some South African contractors who were laying more reliable power lines to the settlement.  A most excellent feed was had later that evening. We asked the owner about leaving the bikes behind the hotel as per past practice but he hadn't got room this time and said they'd be perfectly safe outside.  Robyn, the lovely lady who lived next door agreed, apart from the possible risk from a local driver who had too many under his belt running into them .  She offered space at her place which we gratefully accepted.  Rural NZ'ers are awesome!

The iconic Whangamomona Hotel - Lloyd and Tony

Chilling on the upper deck of the hotel - Tony, Rex and Lloyd

Hotel owner having a wash during a quiet spell

A walk to help dinner to go down was taken to get a few photos before it got dark.  Here's a selection.

Colourful shed in the main street

Chilling at the hitching rail - Tony, Rex and Geoff (photo: Lloyd)

Yep, it's rustic all right! (photo: Tony)

A wonderful day of riding, knowing exactly how your riding partners are going to react in any given situation.  Completely takes the stress out of group riding.  Another hot day forecast tomorrow for the ride down to Porirua.

Part 2 to come....