Wheel alignment

Monday 31 August 2020

The elephant in the room

Well, it came sooner than expected but we've just addressed the elephant in the room.  Going back to late last year, I suffered a torn retina whilst riding the bike.  My eye filled with blood and riding home some 140 km was quite a challenge.  To fix it, I had a vitrectomy (watch it on YouTube if you're not squeamish)!  It was totally successful but the surgeon warned me that one side effect was a cataract which would form sooner or later.  In my case, it was sooner than expected. 

All was fine on the February bike tour then lockdown kicked in during March.  Stuck around home doing jobs, I didn't really notice anything but as soon as lockdown ended and driving/riding started up again, the partial loss of long sight in one eye became noticeable.  Not a good position to be in, especially when conducting advanced riding tests. A right royal pain in the arse to use a technical term.

A check with a local optometrist confirmed the onset of a cataract.  Still legal to drive and ride but it was pushing the envelope at the higher performance end of the spectrum.  So it was back to the surgeon.  Not bad enough to qualify for an operation on the public health system but going privately was fine as it was starting to drive me nuts.

Turned up for the procedure a week ago and Jennie and I were ushered into a lounge adjacent to the operating theatre.  Drops were put into the eye to dilate the pupil and the surgeon came in and drew an arrow over the appropriate eye.  Wives aren't noted for dishing out sympathy because they think that their husbands are big wusses. "Pain?  You want to try having 3 kids, blah, blah......".  In this case, the lack of sympathy manifested itself by her wanting to write something on my forehead above the arrow.  Those words were "Insert Coins Here".  Smartarse.  

"Insert coins here" in the fairground dummy

Anyway, cataract removal and replacing the lens only took a few minutes and was completely painless.  The only downside of being fully conscious was seeing instruments of torture hovering near my eye, albeit not in clear focus.  Whatever instruments the surgeon used made noises like something from an episode of Dr. Who when he was battling the Daleks.  In fairness though, I was warned so didn't panic when it started up.  Although I could talk during the op, the surgical team bizarrely gave me a small squeaky yellow rubber duck to hold during the procedure.  They said to give it a squeeze if I felt uncomfortable, wanted to sneeze or whatever and they'd stop.  Didn't actually need to put it to use although when they wheeled me back into the theatre lounge, I made good use of it to announce my arrival to all and sundry.  Jennie's eye-rolling suggested that she'd prefer to be someone else's wife at that point in time.  Sort of evened things up for her earlier smartarse remark.  

With vision having been restored, it actually felt a little odd, like I was slightly drunk.  Guess it takes the brain a little while to recalibrate.  With running a formal IAM assessment ride coming up (taking out a police officer, no less!), it was sensible to see what it was like back on the bike with no pressure.  A short trip to the local gas station went absolutely fine and put me at ease.

Setting off from home for the meet-up some 160 km away, it was an absolutely glorious day with spring only a few days away. We all need days like this after the trials of this year. The eye was fine, the sun was out and the prospect of meeting up with other riders that you know and trust was eagerly anticipated.

Getting ready for a full day in the saddle

Officer Andy and trainee Observer (mentor) Bruce had ridden over from the Bay of Plenty province to our meeting point where we had a mix of city, expressway and tight country lanes all within easy reach for an assessment ride.  As well as road riding, Andy takes part in competitive trials riding so balance and slow speed riding weren't going to be an issue.  With Andy and Bruce on adventure bikes, I felt like the runt of the litter - I'd need a stepladder to get on them! 

Some photos taken by Bruce's on-board camera during the ride - thanks Bruce!

Andy and yours truly in town

Lifesaver (shoulder check) before making the turn

Life at its best - a deserted back road

Tall timber - Honda Africa Twin (Andy) and Triumph Explorer 1200 (Bruce)

As you might expect, Andy was extremely professional in his riding but there was a complete absence of ego and very happy to receive suggestions for fine tuning.  It won't take long at all before he's ready to take his Advanced Roadcraft Test.  Bruce also did well in his observing capacity and will make a great Observer in the near future.

Aren't days like this what riding motorcycles are all about?  Great weather, riding partners who you trust implicitly and a great mix of road conditions over some 450 km  - nirvana!

Thursday 13 August 2020

Back to the Future

Let's face it, 2020 has been a year that most of us would prefer to forget.  After more than 100 days of being C-19 free, it's reappeared in NZ again.  At the time of writing this, it's small and confined to the Auckland area but who knows what's going to happen next.  The one good thing is that the authorities are onto it with appropriate measures - no dicking about, locking down our biggest city and other measures within 24 hours of discovery.   At present, we're not locked down in our region so apart from reintroduction of social distancing measures and some other sensible precautions, we're pretty much unaffected.

Following the first lockdown in March, I was quietly concerned that my motorcycling days were coming to a close.  The lockdown itself was easy to deal with as there was always plenty to do.  However, when it ended, I wasn't jumping out of my skin to go for a ride which was a bit disconcerting.  I don't really know why this was unless the winter weather influenced my indifference.  I guess you can't predict psychological effects, even though I consider myself calm in unusual or difficult situations. However, I've recently had two cracking rides in brilliant weather which have thrown off any doubts about continuing riding - yippee for that!. 

The first outing was a trip to south Auckland to check out some new routes for putting IAM riders through their Police Roadcraft Advanced Tests.  That's well and truly stuffed now with the Auckland travel restrictions but it was a glorious day out with the discovery of some new, challenging routes.

A quick stop by the Waikato River

Great views over the countryside

One of my mates who lives in that area suggested that I check out a particular highly technical road on the way home which I duly did.  To my horror, there were extensive road works with wet clay, cement dust and lime over substantial stretches of the road and I had a recently-cleaned pristine bike, the bastard!  He claimed no knowledge so I might have been uncharitable with my initial thoughts.  It's the sort of thing which good mates would do to each other!  Guess how I spent a few hours the next day.

The second decent outing was at our monthly regional IAM ride last weekend.  The meeting point is at a cafe some 160 km away from home which means I leave home before dawn in single digit (C) temperatures.  As with the last early start, heated gloves were a godsend, with an ordinary pair being carried to use later on.  I must say that the Michelin Road 5's stick like glue in all conditions and I'm glad I returned to using them after all the punctures I had on the GSX-S 1000.

At the meeting point, we also had a potential new member turn up for an initial assessment.  An IA gives the rider a no cost, no obligation opportunity to see if they enjoy the process, as well as allowing the IAM mentor to check the general standard of riding as a start point for a personalised development plan.  On this occasion it was Libby on her Harley Davidson who thoroughly enjoyed her day and was itching to join at the end of it.

Libby with some of the IAM team

Libby's beautifully prepared Harley Davidson

Having Libby join has been great for several reasons.  Firstly, she's the first female IAM member in our region, even though we've existed for 4 years.  I hope we get lots more now as female riders I've helped to mentor in other regions have been a delight with their positive attitude to learning.  In Libby's case, she had already taken the government-sponsored Ride Forever courses (details HERE ) and wanted to keep upskilling.  Secondly, she's only the second H-D rider in our region and one of the few nationwide.  Good for you Libby!

Fellow IAM members Bruce and Neil with their adventure bikes - they dwarf my KTM!

Jennie has dibs on our single basement garage for her car and my 4x4 sits under the decking on the upper storey of our house.  The bike sits in a covered area just outside my workshop.  The only disadvantage is that to keep it hooked to a battery tender during periods of non-use, I have to run a power lead from inside the workshop.  Not a big hassle in the scheme of things but recently, part of an old solar-powered external sensor light failed, leaving me with a spare solar panel.  I already have an externally accessible battery connector on the bike for my heated gloves which tucks away neatly when not in use.  All I needed was a compatible connector for the solar panel and we were in business!  I've successfully used the same system for our boat for several years and it's worked a treat.  Marine batteries ain't cheap to replace!

Solar panels on shed roof

Solar panel connection to bike

The next challenge is C-19 permitting, having a cataract removed later in the month.  Everyone tells me that it's simple and fast these days but the thought of a scalpel hovering above my eyeball isn't exactly a comforting thought.  At least it shouldn't disrupt riding for more than a day or two.

Stay safe everyone!