Dangerously Close to Hipster Cool

The Concours customization continues slowly.  The (too short) Canadian riding season is staggering to a close, so I’m out on the Tiger whenever possible (3°C this morning).  Soon enough the snow will fall, the roads will become salty nightmares and I’ll have lots of mechanical time on my hands.  Today it’s a cold front coming through with high winds and torrential rain that has me in the garage instead of out on the road.


The front light is now prepared to go into the wiring loom, as is the rear one.  Both front and rear are LED units so I’m having to make a few changes to get them happily connected to the twenty three year old loom.  I’m going to mount the rear lights higher up under a rear cover that’ll also wrap up the back of the seat.


I’ve got basic framework in place – I’ll eventually paint it all flat black so it fades into the background, but for now I’m just leaving it metal coloured.  I was originally going to get the body panels done in thin metal so it looks Mad Max-ish, but that doesn’t look likely to happen any time soon.  I was watching Out of Nothing the other night and they said they’d taught themselves fibreglass body panel building, so I intend to do the same.  I’ll work out the panels in bucks and then make fibre glass finished product; it’ll be a good project.


I’d originally tried a smaller coolant tank in the back, but it couldn’t handle the needs of the bike, so I’ve relocated the stock one under the back seat.  With panels in place it’ll be all but invisible.


As much as possible I’m hoping to keep the bike looking mechanical and simple, but with some carefully sized fibreglass I should also be able to keep the ugly bits out of sight.


Up next is wiring in the lights and finishing the back end.  After that it’s just making fibreglass.  Two side panels for the back and the rear cowling for sure.  The stock front fender is way too heavy looking, so I’ll be looking at options for that.  I might do something strange to frame the radiator – that top rad hose is a natty looking thing.


The only mechanical part I’m looking for is a very basic instrument gauge.  I’ve been collecting ideas on Pinterest, so eventually I’ll come across the ideal piece and grab it.

I heard once that Axl Rose bought a new Harley and had it customized so it looked old by adding patina to it.  Only a rich person would do something so asinine.  The Concours has had a long, hard life; it comes by its patina honestly.  What I love about the bike is that it’s mechanically very sound (now).  Rebuilt carb, rear hub, bearings, brakes – it’s new in all the right places, but you couldn’t tell from looking at it.


It’s getting to the point where this thing is starting to look dangerously hipster cool; I might have to grow a beard.

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Competition Trumps Participation

“Among richer families, youth sports participation is actually rising. Among the poorest households, it’s trending down. Just 34 percent of children from families earning less than $25,000 played a team sport at least one day in 2017, versus 69 percent from homes earning more than $100,000. In 2011, those numbers were roughly 42 percent and 66 percent, respectively.”

This isn’t a story about childhood; it’s about inequality.”

I used to love playing sports. Refereeing and coaching at summer hockey camps helped me feed myself in university and I’ve coached, time kept and ref’d soccer and hockey since I was 10 years old.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve found men’s leagues echo the pointlessly competitive nature of kid’s sports with ex-Junior players playing in D division men’s hockey just so they can score half a dozen goals each week and run up the score. It’s nearly impossible to find a men’s hockey league that isn’t populate by assholes.

Max used to love gymnastics, but he ended up getting chased out of it in his pre-teens because the only way to do it was competitively (being female was also increasingly a prerequisite because the entire sport, like all sports these days, orientates itself on the most likely competitive success).

Coaching at school was a way to stay in touch with sports, but that too went sour with student athletes (only the wealthy ones who could afford the time and money to play games and practice after school nearly every day) not showing up to practices and playing with that same pointless competitiveness even when they didn’t rate against the opposition.

I’m currently on a hiatus with sports, but I still miss them. I wish I could find a hockey league that wasn’t an excuse for men to work out their frustrations on each other. I wish my son could participate in sports for the shear joy of it rather than turning every physical activity into a competition. We’d all be much healthier and happier if we had access to financially accessible and for-the-joy-of-the-game sports.

It’s a shame how we’ve turned sports into an excuse for competitiveness – usually along with the pipe-dream that your kid will one day be made a millionaire for playing a game. Having coached at a competitive hockey camp, it’s a tragedy to watch those all or nothing kids not make the cut into professional sports – statistically speaking almost no one does.

Norway sounds like they’ve got this, like so many other things (they also nationalized their oil reserves and used them to pay off their national debt and offer free education to all its citizens), right.

 
“Norway’s youth-sports policies are deliberately egalitarian. The national lottery, which is run by a government-owned company called Norsk Tipping, spends most of its profit on national sports and funnels hundreds of millions of dollars to youth athletic clubs every year. Parents don’t need to shell out thousands to make sure their kids get to play. And play is an operative word: Norwegian leagues value participation over competition so much that clubs with athletes below the age of 13 cannot even publish game scores.”

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There Are These People Called ‘Hipsters’

Hipsters with their coiffed hair and well tended beards (even the women)
ride their Scramblers to interesting places

I’ve been reading the somewhat baffled traditional motorcycle media’s reviews of the new Ducati Scrambler. With few exceptions these articles are being written by Baby Boomers who find the idea of “hipsters‘ to be very mock-worthy. That Ducati is aiming the Scrambler at a younger audience really seems to get up the nose of Boomers who are used to everything being about them.

Being a Generation Xer I’m skeptical of any kind of social organization and assume nothing is ever about me, but I also find that I have more culturally in common with other people of my generation than I do with any other social distinction (race, class, education, religion, politics, citizenship…). When living in Japan the GenXers we met had so many shared experiences with us that we just fell in together; the times in which you find yourself define you. If you’re looking for a review of social organization by birth cohort (generation) then this piece by The Social Librarian will catch you up. See if it doesn’t do a decent job of describing your generation.

I’m not sure why people can’t treat generational differences in the same way they treat cultural differences. You’d be a big jerk if you decided to travel around the world and spent all your time talking about how every other culture is stupid compared to yours, yet people don’t seem to hesitate when doing that about other generations. That Baby Boomers, themselves once torn apart in the media because of their newness, are now having a go at hipsters shows just how bad their memories are getting as they age.

 
At 3:16 you get a good look at how the media
inflamed this situation rather than reporting it
accurately. You’d think Boomers would remember…


As a bald forty something who can’t grow a nice beard, I still find that I enjoy hipster bike media even though I could never pull off the look…


 
If Hipsters make beautiful films and love riding,
then I think I’m a fan…

According to the urban dictionary, hipsters “value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.” What’s not to like about that?  Unless you’re a cranky, old, conservative, Boomer motorcyclist who thinks that the pinnacle of motorcycle evolution is a Harley Fat Boy, you’d have to think it delightful.

Beards, hair product & old bikes…
Hipsters are one of the primary movers of the café racer resurgence. They enjoy looking back before the neo-liberal globalization that Boomers have brought us, I can get into that too.
 

Given a choice between hanging out with a bunch of Harley Boomers at a Tim Hortons or a group of Hipsters at an artisanal beer bar/gastro-pub, I know where I’d head.

I’m left thinking maybe motorcycle magazines need to diversify their writers instead of hiring all the guys they went to high school with in 1970. Maybe then anyone other than a Boomer might get a fair shake in print. In the meantime, go Ducati, go!  A successful Scrambler means all those traditional, conservative motorcycle magazines will have to update their staff (maybe even hire someone born after 1965!), or face irrelevance.

The world moves on. Enjoy hipsters while they’re here, soon enough they’ll grow up and sell out like everyone else has (some first-class GenX skepticism there, eh?).

The desperate attempt to pry motorcycles from the well manicured hands of the hipster is ongoing

Getting to know a very different motorbike

I took the Concours out for a brief ride in the sun this afternoon to get a feel for her.  She’s a very different machine than the Ninja.  The carbs are a bit touchy when warming up, but then work in a very satisfying and immediate mechanical way once the bike is at temperature.  It’s a much bigger bike too (over two hundred pounds heavier), but surprisingly lithe for its size.

Where the Ninja picks up nicely in lower RPM, the Concours pulls immediately with a much flatter torque curve; the word ‘meaty’ comes to mind.  The Concours was also surprisingly lively at higher RPMs, pulling hard to the redline.  Not like the Ninja does (which is more like a bull in a China shop), but it still gets you down the road right quick.  The lightness of the internal bits in the Ninja’s 649cc parallel twin make it spool up like a turbine.  You can feel the complexity and weight of the Connie’s in-line four cylinder as it builds RPM.  Where the Ninja screams like a banshee (and sounds lovely doing it), the Concours has a deeper, more sonorous song, though (and surprising to me because I really love the Ninja howl) equally enticing.  I can see why previous Concours owners have said they’ve had no trouble keeping up with sports bikes, this is an agile, athletic machine that belies its size.

In corners, especially at speed, the weight of the Connie seems to disappear and I can hit apexes in a similarly precise manner to the much lighter NInja.  With so much torque on hand, you don’t need to keep the engine revving hard to get immediate pull out of it.  The Connie will go quickly without appearing to, with the Ninja you’ve got to keep it on boil to get that astonishing acceleration (as opposed to merely shocking acceleration at lower revs).

Controls wise the Concours is a much more comfortable machine.  The seat is wider and softer, the bike feels more substantial and not so wasp wasted between my knees.  The fairings keep the wind at bay, especially around  your feet.  In the rain your feet are soaked through on the Ninja where they are hanging out in the elements.  Riding in cool weather means thick socks.  I kept bumping my toes against the Connie’s lower fairing until I got used to using less toe on the gear change.  Knee bend is still pretty bent, though not nearly as much as the Ninja and with the wider seat didn’t seem so intense.

The Connie’s gearing is much higher than the Ninja’s.   At 120km/hr on the highway you’re up around 6000rpm on the Ninja.  I’d guess the Connie would be doing under half that at the same speed.  A more relaxed bike that still has hidden reserves and is light of foot, I’m looking forward to getting to know Connie better.

As I was riding home we fell into a groove, like a horse extending its legs into a comfortable gallop and I realized just how far this bike could take me.  She’s been sitting too long and wants to put road behind her.  Instead of wondering when to stop on the Ninja, I’ll be wondering how much further I can go on the Concours.

Cycle-Ergo shows me the numbers…


Living in an Information Rich World

The other day I had a senior high school student who has been conditioned to be helpless say, “How am I supposed to know what aperture is?  You’re supposed to teach us!”  Aside from the fact that this student has evidently won photo competitions and got an 81% in grade 11 photography, I suggested that we have this thing now called the internet that has all sorts of information on it.  I was genuinely frustrated at her unwillingness to resolve her own ignorance.

I may have been a bit curt, but this is an essential truth of our age: information is at hand.  If you think education is about imparting information you’re about to become quite redundant.  Education isn’t redundant, it’s more important than ever to prepare students for information that is no longer vetted by the forth estate for them.  Unfortunately this isn’t a focus in education where bells still signal the start of shifts, um, classes, and teachers can still be found talking the whole period long.

Digital access to information greatly emphasizes how out of touch the sage on the stage is nowadays.  The teacher who talks for an hour straight giving their students facts has failed to realize that we no longer live in an information poor world.  Instead of letting students access information pouring out of the technology that surrounds them, the sage teacher puts themselves in the middle of the class and drips information on them slowly, like water torture.

Assuming we have connectivity, something school boards aren’t very good at because they were never meant to be internet service providers (yet have taken on this task poorly), and assuming the people in the room have developed some degree of digital mastery, then information will fall to hand.  Waiting for it to drip, drip, drip out of a teacher’s mouth or out of a static, out of date textbook shows a startling lack of awareness in how the world works nowadays.

The opportunity to collaborate and support each other is continuously available and learning reverts to the self-directed and driven activity it was before we institutionalized it.  Questions of engagement quickly become irrelevant in a world where teachers aren’t vital because of facts they know.  Those sages are going to have to find other ways to pamper their egos.  If they aren’t expert learners themselves they will quickly find that they have no skill to share with students, and if you have no skills to teach you don’t serve much purpose in a world where any fact is a few keystrokes away.

There was a time when you needed a teacher to show you the way into hard to find information.  Nowadays a good high speed internet connection has that information at your fingertips, assuming you know how to use it.  Many teachers are still trying to be a font of information, even as the information revolution passes them by.  The real losers in this aren’t the teachers struggling to keep things the way they were, but the students we’re graduating who have no idea how different the world on the other side of school actually is.

Ancaster And Back Again

Elora to Ancaster and back again… about 160kms

Another weekend another good ride, this time to Ancaster and back for an edcamp.  One again the Concours impressed with its ability to cover miles with ease.

It was about 6°C when I left at 7:30 in the morning, and up in the high teens when I came back mid-afternoon.  Both ways was comfortable though behind the fairings, and the new jacket is light-years beyond the old one in terms of both warming and cooling.

I had a moment riding when I was flying through the air on the back of the bike realizing that there is nothing about doing this that I don’t enjoy.  It was a windy day, the roads post Canadian winter look like a war zone and it was cold, but even with all that I was still stringing perfect moments together as I flew down the road.  I had a moment before the big trip last week when I was wondering if I’m not taking too many risks riding with my son.  What finally put me right was realizing that driving a car can end you as well, but we do that much more often and usually while paying less attention.  I looked back one time as we were winding our way through Beaver Valley and saw Max with his arms out and eyes closed flying through the air behind me.  I would have hated myself if I’d have never given him that experience.  Riding might be dangerous, but competence and attention can go a long way in mitigating those risks, and the rewards are impossible to find in any other mode of transport.

The more I ride the Concours the better the engine seems to get. On the way home I stuck the phone behind the windshield and got the video below where you can hear the Concour’s happy noise.  

Sulphur Springs Road – a better way in is on Mineral Springs Road, the top of Sulphur Springs is rough!
Mineral Springs Road on the way back, it’s still Ontario bumpy, but it ain’t dirt and it is twisty!
Back up in Centre Wellington, the Concours takes a break where I took the first road pic of my former bike

I always thought that the Ninja was a delight to rev, but the throaty howl of the Concours in full song is hard not to fall in love with:

Flight of the Concours

… with musical accompaniment by Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnies!

Riding the Roman Empire

Across the top of the Mediterranean over two weeks.

This time of year always feels like about as far from a ride as I’ll get.  It’s in the minus twenties outside and it’s been snowing for days straight.  Time for some cost-no-object daydreaming…

If I jumped on a plane late in the evening on Friday, December 22nd at the beginning of our holiday break, it’s a long slog because there is no direct flight to Athens, but I would eventually get there on Saturday afternoon. A night in Athens and then I could begin a long ride in a warm climate across the north coast of the Mediterranean on Christmas Eve, passing through the heart of the Roman Empire on my way west to Lisbon for a flight in time to go back to work.


I have to be back at it on Monday, January 8th. There is a direct flight from Lisbon, Portugal back to Toronto on the Saturday before.  Could I get from Athens to Lisbon in thirteen days? 

It’s about four thousand kilometers through Greece, Italy, France and Spain to Portugal.  That works out to an average of just over three hundred kilometres per day which means plenty of time to stop and see things or a big day of riding followed by a day off.  Because it’s Europe there are always autostradas to make up time if needed.  It appears Athens to Lisbon is a very doable two week ride.  

Here’s a possible day by day breakdown with a couple of days off.  All the maps are highway averse, looking for local roads and the time it takes to ride them.  Should things get backed up, big highway miles could happen to make up lost time:


Here’s a link to the spreadsheet with working links to maps.

There are a couple of longer days in there, but there are also two days off completely and some short, half days of riding.  There is plenty of time to stop and soak things in en-route to our western return point.

My weapon of choice for this trip would be the new Triumph Tiger Explorer I’m crushing on, in matt cobalt blue.  Tall Tigers fit me well and this one is perhaps the best one ever made.  As a cross countries mover there is little that can beat it, and that new blue is a lovely thing.  I think I’d do a burnt orange on the engine guards and pannier logos.  I’d also redo the badges in matching orange.


The new Tiger Explorer is 24 pounds lighter than the old one, gets better mileage and has a host of advanced features that make an already good long distance bike better.  The big three that powers it would comfortably carry a passenger if I could convince anyone to do this with me.  If we’re touring two up I’d luggage it up and make sure we could carry everything with us, but if I was solo I think I could just get by with the panniers and leave the back end looking less luggage-y.

Outfitting it with luggage and a few odds and ends from the extensive options catalogue is always fun.  I only got myself into four thousand dollars of trouble there:


The solo, lighter Tiger looks a treat.
  • Expedition Aluminium Panniers – Waterproof Inner Bags Pair $160.00
  • Engine Bars – Black $364.99
  • High Rider Comfort Seat $340.00
  • Heated Passenger Seat $535.02
  • Quick Release Tank bag $131.57
  • LED Fog Lights $555.00
  • Adventure Tail Bag $295.00
  • Aluminium Radiator Guard $84.99
  • Expedition Pannier Mounting Kit $450.00
  • Expedition Panniers – Black $1,265.00

In a perfect world I’d get my Tiger shipped from my garage in my England house to the Triumph Dealer in Athens where I’d pick it up on December 23rd.  I’d drop it off at the Triumph dealer in Lisbon on January 6th and either convince my cousin to ride it back to the UK or get it shipped back.

I’ve got the kit needed to do this now, but having a look at the latest European gear, I think I’d spring for a new helmet to do this ride with.  The Roof Carbon is a piece of industrial art that gives me the benefits of a closed face when I need it and an open face when I’m in need of some wind.  The iridium face shield would make this thing look like something out of battle of the planets.


Since it’s a daydream, it ain’t cheap.  I’d fly business there and back, so flights are north of seven grand.  Getting the bike delivered wouldn’t be cheap, assuming it was waiting for me in Europe to begin with.  But hey, if you can’t daydream big, why daydream at all?


NOTES:


Sat Dec 23 to Sat Jan 6

13 full days + 1/2 a day on each end


~4000kms – 307kms / day

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360 Winter Photos from the Saddle

These are some video screen grabs from the long way home commute from work last week.  Windy and cool, but still up near ten degrees Celsius with bright, winter sunshine.  The roads were relatively sand and salt free thanks to days of rain and floods.


The Ricoh Theta 360 camera is wrapped around the mirror with a Gorilla Pod.  A 360 video clip starts it off followed by some Adobe Lightroom heavily tweaked screen grabs aimed at creating a more abstract feel.



 




All the screen grabs with various modifications can be found in this album.



If you’re looking for a motorcycle friendly camera, the Theta 360 has push button controls that are easy to use (most others have finicky wireless connections through a smartphone).  You don’t have to aim it or focus it, it just grabs everything in an instant.  The screen grabs on here are from the 1080 video the Theta made while attached to the rear view mirror.


My last ride was November 28th.  I used the same 360 camera then, but didn’t have the Gorilla Pod at that point so those ones are all hand held.











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