Bun Burning MotoGP

A few years ago we rode down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP.  It was a great few days in Indiana and it was pretty close to us.  At a push the ride there could be done in a day (we took two because I had my ten year old son with me).


This year’s only North American MotoGP is in Texas and happens the weekend before Easter.  How few days could I do it in?  It just happens that Austin is a Bun Burner Gold away, just over 1500 miles south west of here.  I watched a couple of fellow motorcyclists from the Lobo Loco long distance rallies pull a Bun Burner Gold off in the fall.  If I could get to COTA in 24 hours I’d be a rockstar!


If I left on Thursday evening I’d be down there Friday evening or a bit later if I missed it (BBGs depend a lot on construction and delays to pull off).  Either way I’d be up Saturday morning with some kind of Iron Butt ride (if I missed the BBG there are half a dozen other, easier ones that I could still aim for) under my belt to catch qualifying.  Early to bed Saturday night and then another day at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the races.  After a good dinner I’d be back on the road again making tracks north to home.


If I missed the Bun Burner Gold on the way down, I could attempt it again on the way back!  Either doing a Sunday night to Monday night blitz to get the gold, or breaking it into two long days and going for a plain old Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles over 36 hours).


In a perfect world I’d do the BBG on the way down, enjoy the weekend and rest up again before getting a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back, riding Sunday night after the race as far as I can, having a sleep and then getting up and finishing the ride within 36 hours.  If I’m back Monday night I would have only missed two days of work while getting to watch a MotoGP live and picking up multiple iron butts!  That’d shake the rust off after a long, cold, Canadian winter.


Does two Iron Butt rides around a weekend of MotoGP sound extreme?  From the dark depths of February after weeks and weeks out of the saddle, it sounds like a brilliant idea!  When you’re trapped under a polar vortex and some truly grim, neverending Canadian winter, the thought of trying to cross much of North America twice in five days on two wheels scratches an itch.

Slow motion through the esses at Indianapolis…

COTA has all sorts of pretty views for video and photography…


The long way down… and back.

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Moto Anime

Best. Wheelie. Ever! The Robotech Cyclone rocks!

At the end of the 1970s as a nine year old I came across Star Blazers, the English version of Space Battleship Yamato.  This was my first look at Japanese animation, which was quickly followed up by Battle of the Planets and Robotech.  It’s safe to say anime was a major influence on my developing sense of aesthetics.  Being Japanese, there were an awful lot of motorbikes in the various stories, probably because many of the people making the animation were riders.


I’ve written about motorcycles and anime before, in fact you could probably call it a recurring theme.  The history of motorcycles in Japanese animation is a long and storied one.  Motorcycles themselves are deeply embedded in the Japanese psyche, in much the same way they are in Western history.  As a symbol of freedom and power, there is little that comes close.


If you haven’t dug into Japanese anime and you’re into two wheeling, you’re missing out.  Anime offers a distinct angle on motorcycling that is often at odds with how it’s presented in film and TV.  It’s also quite culturally distinct.  Japan has a rebel biker culture similar to but distinct from Britain’s cafe racers or North America’s one percenters.  Anime films like Akira make that culture a big part of their story-lines.


Sometimes I forget how many times my formative, young mind saw motorcycles in anime in the 1980s and filed the idea away.  I’d actually forgotten that Princess rode a bike (albeit with rockets, missiles and it transformed into part of a spaceship – but who wouldn’t want that?).


My life-long mecha メカ fixation (one I share with Guillermo del Toro) often merges with motorcycles.  The Japanese Shinto religion believes in a pan-theistic world where there are many gods or kami that can inhabit anything, including machines.  Many motorcyclists are prone to this Shinto-ist belief – if you don’t believe me ask one what kind of personality their bike has.

Princess from Battle of the Planets rides like she stole it.

Have you tried tickling the carbs?
If you like the romance of riding, you’ll find it in anime:


Akira is a seminal anime from the 1990s set in a dystopian future Tokyo where Bosozoku biker gangs have run amok!

Like Kaneda’s bike?  It’s two wheel drive pushed by a cold superconducting electrically driven power-train on a carbon/ceramic frame.  The whole thing comes in at just over 150 kilos.  You’re seeing it folded down in the lower profile high speed mode, but it bends in the middle into a more standard shaped machine when needed.  It’s rumoured to be a Honda, but any manufacturer’s markings are gone from the stolen bike used by Kaneda in the film. Someone spent a mint making a working model of the thing.


There are a lot of anime that focus on motorcycles, usually with a dash of mecha thrown in for good measure.  Rideback is a near future anime with modern digital animation that focuses on robotic motorcycles, but the main relationship is between an injured ballerina and a modified bike that has all the rider aids turned off (she is the only one who can ride it because of her athleticism).  Once again you get a strong sense of Shinto as the bike itself is presented as a character in the series.  The relationship between it and Rin Ogata allows her to heal after her career ending injury, it’s good stuff!

Baribari Densetsu is another moto-specific anime that’s worth watching if you love riding. Have a watch below, you’ll see what I mean.  This was obviously made by people who ride:

Racing on public, mountain roads by bosozoku on modified bikes was a social issue in 1980s Japan.  This anime follows the story of young men learning how to ride fast before going professional on track.  It parallels the lives of young racers at the time.

If you’ve never given Japanese animation a go, don’t think it’s all one thing.  You can get everything from violent, adult only feature length films to school girl soap operas, and you can bet there are bikes in pretty much all of them.


20 best anime with motorcycles:
www.ranker.com/list/best-anime-about-motorcycles/ranker-animeKino’s Journey is a good one I forgot to mention – there are a pile on there I haven’t seen before that are now on the hunt list.

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It’s Inbetween Them

I just spent a hot Saturday on two very different bikes, though they claim much of the same riding intent.  The Yamaha TT-R230 trail bike is a 250lb lightweight that gets you through the gnarliest trails with nary a mark on the trail.  There is barely anything to it and it isn’t road legal, but that simplicity is also its strongest suit when you’re deep in the woods.  With almost nothing to break and being so light, the TT-R230 is also not a worry if you drop it.  It won’t bend under its own weight and there is virtually nothing there to snap off.


The BMW F800GS I rode later in the day tips the scales at just over twice the weight of the Yamaha.  At just over 500lbs, it is a road ready adventure bike that you don’t need to trailer to a trail, but it’s a heavy thing, so you’re never going to even think about taking it where the Yamaha went.  For fire roads and simple trails, the BMW is fine, but all that weight also means lots of pieces to break off.


After riding both bikes, I really enjoyed the athletic nature and singular intent of the Yamaha, but I also enjoyed the road ready nature of the BMW.  What I’d really like is something in between them.  Fortunately, Yamaha has something in mind.


A few years ago they came out with the T7 concept bike – a lightweight, off road ready, dual sport machine that can make use of the roads and still handle off road in more than a gravel track way that you see all the adventure bikes doing in photoshoots.  The T7 has since morphed into the Ténéré 700 World Raid Prototype.  It’s taken years to get to this point, but I hope that’s because Yamaha aren’t just rolling out another porky, ‘lightweight’ (but not really) adventure bike.  What I’m looking for is something in between the trail bike and an adventure bike.  Something that I don’t need to trailer to trails and can keep up with traffic on the road, but also something that can let me exercise some of my new off road skills without worrying about pieces falling off or getting stuck in the woods.


For the Ténéré 700 to hit the mark, I need it to roll in fully fueled and ready to go at less than 400lbs/180kgs.  A Dakar Rally bike (which the Ténéré 700 is obviously designed from) with the big navigation tower and over engineered for strength and endurance comes in at 320lbs/145kgs – so a 180 kilo weight goal isn’t out to lunch.


I also need it to be robust, with lights that won’t snap off the first time it’s laid down and plastic bits built to flex, not snap.  An exhaust that up high and not likely to take a hit when it’s laid down is also an obvious ask.  That sticky outy Akrapovic in the photo is making me think they’ve lost the plot.  I want it tucked up close to the seat and protected.


I’m willing to give up some of the BMW’s road bike plushness for a lightweight, modern, dual sport bike that is truly capable of off roading.  I hope that T7/Ténéré 700 is that bike.

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Data Starvation

Last summer we went to England and picked up a SIM card and an astonishing 30gigs of data for about $38.  We currently pay about $35 a month for 0.5gigs/month in Canada – prior to that we were paying over $80 a month for a gig each as part of a package deal.  For that month in the UK we felt like we were drinking from the fire hose.  We turned our phone off drip data and discovered what modern smartphones are really capable of.  Canadians are so used to breathing their data through a straw that anything else seems like a trick.  You have to wonder what that’s doing to our global competitiveness in a connected world.


I’m currently out in the Maritimes and managed to run out of data in a single day when the ferry wifi I was on crapped out and Facebook decided to pump a high def video through 4G instead of waiting.  Facebook takes no responsibility for this (I found an option 3 menus deep to prevent it happening again), neither does my phone manufacturer or Canadian telecom, the people actually responsible for this mess.  Canadians live in a constant state of data starvation as they enjoy one of the poorest cost to performance telecoms in the world.


Canadian Telecom Protectionism
Canada Sky-high Data Prices
Canadian prices dropping but still among the highest
CRTC Confirms Canadians pay more


What’s interesting about data starvation is what it does to the quality and focus of your thinking.  Rather than spontaneously share what you’re doing, you’re spending time and energy wondering if and when you should.  Instead of collaborating and connecting you’re intentionally isolating your thinking.  Instead of creating and expressing you’re silent.  As someone who uses digital connectedness for professional and creative communications, I wonder how many good ideas are forgotten and lost in Canada’s data desert.


I was talking about this with Alanna and suggested a way out:  don’t believe that what you’re doing needs to be shared in the moment you’re doing it.  That lets you send data when you’re able, but she made a good point: don’t regret your impulse to share and speak your experience as it happens… doing otherwise diminishes the quality of that shared experience, but diminished quality is our default setting in the Canadian data desert.


I got into an argument with someone recently about reducing carbon emissions.  His angle was that Canada has unique circumstances (large country, difficult climate, low population), and so shouldn’t have to participate in carbon reduction, even if it is a world-wide emergency.  My response was that every country has unique circumstances and challenges and if we use that as an excuse to not do anything we’re all doomed.  The same arguement has been applied to Canada’s telecom sector – large distances, challenging geography, low population, but rather than develop emerging technologies to try and resolve these challenges, Canada has adopted a protectionist system that looks after big business profit lines and creates one of the widest digital divides in the world.


The digital divide is deep and wide in Canada
“income disparity plays a role in determining whether or not Canadians are connected online. Findings show that 97.7% of households that reside within the highest income quartile have high speed internet access, while only 58% of households that reside within the lowest income quartile possess access to the internet at home”
Even relatively wealthy students in my school have trouble finding reliable high speed internet because Canada doesn’t put much focus on last mile connectivity.  We have fibre backbones, but when it comes to connecting people to them, especially in rural circumstances, we don’t bother.  This isn’t even a particularly rural example, the students I’m talking about live less than half an hour from Google headquarters in Waterloo, but that’s how limited Canada’s final mile ICT infrastructure is.


My argument on the climate emergency is similar to my argument for Canadian telecom:  this is an engineering challenge that Canada as a whole can benefit from if we resolve it ourselves.  The technology we develop to help solve our unique challenges will be so efficient that the rest of the world will eagerly buy into it.  What we’re doing instead is the worst kind of hypocrisy as we wait to see what others develop and then buy into it as cheaply and unequitably as we can.


There is a lot of buzz about 5g wireless standards and how these can revolutionize our lives.  This high speed connection prototcol will allow us to communicate with each other in a richness (think virtual reality and other high bandwidth media) that is simply impossible at the moment, but not in Canada.  Most of the country won’t see it at all, and if you’re unlucky enough to live in a city that has it, your 1gig a month Canadian data plan would use up all its data in less than a second – yep, it’s that quick.  Perhaps Canadians can go on holiday to countries that are actually well connected in order to enjoy this emerging technology:  a data holiday.


As we’ve moved across the Maritime provinces this summer, the effectiveness of Canada’s ICT infrastructure has been cast in a rather harsh light.  Less than half the restaurants that offer connectivity actually have it working.  When they do the throughput is often slow to non-existent.  In a country that doesn’t offer usable celllular networks (which themselves came in and out of effectiveness) due to  some of the harshest data caps in the world, the wifi pool can become a cost effective way to draw customers into your business, but most small businesses can’t seem to manage even this simple piece of ICT infrastructure.


This really came to a point on Cape Breton Island in northern Nova Scotia where we had no cell service and no wifi at the hotel (though it advertised it as a service).  There is a part of me that enjoyed that disconnection.  Suddenly I couldn’t work on my Cisco Netacademy Cyber Operations course and I certainly couldn’t teleconference in to our weekly meeting with our teacher.  There’s something to be said for giving up on digital data entirely and disappearing into the world, at least for a few days…



What was strange was returning to the half world of lousy Canadian ICT infrastructure.  In this broken landscape I somehow managed to blow through my entire data plan in a single morning, probably as a result of trying to use the hotel’s not-working wifi the night before.  We got to the ferry to PEI and got on that wifi only to have it flake out on us.  My phone, still trying to catch up on all the things I’d been trying to do in Cape Breton before I gave up and turned it off managed to burn through my entire data plan in a single morning when the wifi dropped.  In talking to my wireless provider I got the typical Canadian telecom response, “yep, that’s too bad, you’ll see a big data charge on your next bill.”


Being completely off ICT infrastructure is rewarding in its own right – it’s one of the reasons I ride a motorcycle, to be off line, but trying to be on it while travelling in Canada is exhausting, and frustrating, and points to a future where the world will be collaborating and helping one another while too many Canadians don’t bother because of the cost and difficulty involved.  We really need to start doing better, especially in that final mile infrastructure and in helping businesses provide usable and cost effective connectivity for their clients.  So much marketing is word of mouth now on social media that you’d be crazy not to apply marketing budget to stable connectivity in order to encourage people to spread the word about what you’re doing.  The federal and provincial governments should be supporting municipalities in helping their businesses get connected effectively. It’s 2019 for goodness sakes!


LINKS:
The digital divide in Canada (StatsCan)
Northern Connections: Broadband & Canada’s digital divide
CATA Alliance: advancing Canada’s competitive innovation ranking
CWTA: the network is fast where it exists, but poor final mile and data capping prevent it working for too many Canadians.
Canadian Government and Industry push for 5G (but only for city dwellers)

Harry Potter Wizards Unite:  my wife is playing this at the moment (think PokemonGo but with Harry Potter), and loves it.  It got her walking again after cancer surgery and keeps her connected with people as she recovers.  On our lousy Canadian telecom she managed to blow through a month of data in a week on it.  We’ve since finessed it to not cost us $50 a month in data, but software developed around the world isn’t defaulted to run on Canada’s ‘unique’ and heavily capped wireless infrastructure.  I imagine Canadians are paying tens of thousands of dollars in overages playing this game, so that’ll be yet another emerging medium we can’t participate in properly.




It makes me wonder if Canadians are going to end up paying data overages constantly once the internet of things gets going and our fridges and washing machines are constantly using data.  IoT, something else most Canadians are going to end up turning off.

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SMART Adventures: What Trials Bikes Can Teach You About Motorcycle Control

I’m still thinking over our day this past July, 2020 at SMART Adventures Off-Road Training.  This was our third year taking off-road training with this fantastic program that runs out of Horseshoe Resort just north of Barrie in Ontario, Canada.  If you’re interested in expanding your bike-craft, this program will do just that, and they’re open during the summer of COVID with all appropriate safety in place (masks, social distancing, temperature testing of all people prior to starting, etc).

Last year Clinton Smout, the owner and head instructor at SMART, had us all try balancing on a stationary trials bike, and that got me thinking about doing a session with them this time.  I’d watched Ross Noble take a run at the Scottish Six Days Trial on TV which was gruelling and battering to his ego and always wondered just how different trials bike are from dirt bikes, so here was my chance!


What is 90 minutes of trials riding like?  Very difficult.  Just to get going you have to give it a bit of gas and let out the clutch and then lift your foot up as you start moving.  Screw it up and you’re hoping along on one foot trying to keep the bike upright as it tries to jump out from under you.  Starting to move on these bikes is harder than any other bike you’re ridden, and that’s just the beginning.

I was on a GasGas 250cc two stroke trials bike, and it was like trying to hang on to a wild horse (I presume, I’ve never tried to ride a wild horse because I’m not crazy).  It weighs about half what I do, has way too many horsepower and tries to squirt out from under you at every opportunity.  I got Clinton as an instructor this time and he made a point of highlighting just how mad these things are.  The brakes have thrown people over the handlebars and the acceleration has had people wheelie the machine on top of themselves, so if you’re going to touch the gas or brakes expect it to respond way more suddenly than any other bike you’ve ridden.


How do you handle this madness?  The clutch!  A finger on the clutch and a finger on the front brake will reduce the arm pump you’re going to experience (Clinton was right, I’ve gotten good at dirt bikes and can stay loose, but on this crazy thing my forearms were throbbing after an hour).  Without supreme clutch control you’re going to launch yourself into the sky on a trials bike.  If you crack the throttle to make it go it’ll try and throw you, if you hit the brakes too slow down it’ll try and throw you.  You need to modulate the clutch to manage these inputs with any kind of finesse.

I like to think I picked this up pretty quickly.  The GasGas never threw me and I handed it back in the same condition I got it.  Like everything else I’ve ridden my long body meant my back was what was taking the brunt as I had to bend over the machine.  If I were ever to get my own trials bike it’d have risers or modified handlebars so I can stand straight up on it.  Were I to go after trials riding (and a part of me is very trials-curious), I’d enjoy the violent focus it puts on your control inputs the most.  Once you catch up to what the bike expects, it raises your clutch control to god-like levels.

In the afternoon I took out a Yamaha 250cc dirt bike and couldn’t believe what that intensive morning on the GasGas had done to my clutch hand.  Instead of too much gear changing or braking I was modulating the clutch constantly to ride smoother than I ever had before.

It takes a trials bike to make dirt biking seem easy.


Suddenly situations that might have made me stop and adjust my gearing didn’t matter.  Between clutch and throttle I could manage deep sand, mud, 30° inclines (in deep sand) and axle deep puddles without hesitation.  I couldn’t believe the difference.  When we stopped my son’s ATV instructor said, “ok, you know what you’re doing”, which was a fantastic thing to hear.

If you have access to SMART Adventures (you can get yourself to Ontario, Canada in the summer of COVID), go.  It’ll improve your bike-craft even if you’re a pavement focused rider.  After you’ve got the off-road basics down take a swing at trials riding.  It’ll give you an appreciation of clutch control and drill you so aggressively in it that your left hand will come out of it with the twice the IQ it came in with.

I even notice it while riding on the road.  I was out on the Honda Fireblade the other day and noticed that my clutch hand was modulating the bike in new and interesting ways.  In mid-corner as I’m winding out power my left hand is helping the bike deliver drive smoothly without me realizing it.


I’m a strong advocate of life long learning and applying it to your bike-craft should be every motorcyclist’s main purpose.  If you want to keep enjoying the thrills of riding you should be looking for ways to better understand the complexities of operating these machines.  A couple of hours working with trials bikes did that for me.  I wish I had the means to chase down an ongoing relationship with these visceral, demanding and ultimately enlightening machines.

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On Going Historical Research: 1930s Off road riding

www.bonhams.com/auctions/18221/lot/460/

1930 Scottish Six Day Trial bike and the enigmatic Ms E Sturt
UK military participation:  www.armymotorsports.co.uk/Disciplines/Trials
previous S6DT winners

Beer, and war!

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Labour Day Weekend Ride: Georgian Bay

 A 300km round trip up to Georgian Bay and back:


I aimed to get out of the boring straight lines of South West Ontario and over to the Niagara Escarpment as quickly as I could.  I was going to head up Highway 6 but it was packed full of GTA types escaping their pandemic ridden cities, so I angled off in Fergus and took 16 up, which was completely empty.  That would become a theme of the ride.

It took me about an hour to get up to Flesherton, where I made a stop at Highland Grounds for an Americano.  I usually enjoy sitting in there sipping my coffee while sitting on their 70’s retro disco red glitter vinyl chairs, but it being the summer of COVID, I ended up drinking my fine coffee by the Tiger on Highway 10 (also packed full of citiots all doing the same thing at the same time, as they do).


While I was standing there I noted the new bicycle shop that had opened up a few doors down.  Ryan Carter, the owner of the new Ryan’s Repairs, had some interesting kit out front, including a seventies banana seat bike with a single cylinder engine mounted to it.  I ended up chatting with him for a bit and had a look in his shop.  He’d only been up in Flesherton for a couple of weeks.  If you’re up that way and you’re interested in bicycles or even just some interesting mechanical engineering, drop in with your Higher Ground coffee and see what’s what at Ryan’s Repairs.




It was a longer than planned stop in Flesherton, but I eventually finished my americano and then I was off to Beaver Valley.  Highway 10 was bumper to bumper, but I dodged through town and only had a to do a few hundred yards with the sheeple before turning off onto empty country roads again.

Beaver Valley has a fantastic road (Grey County Road 30) that weaves down into it with epic views.  If you hang a right at the bottom and go on the dirt, the ride back up Graham’s Hill is intense, particularly so this time as all the recent rain had washed it out leaving a stream cut down the middle of it that was tricky to navigate.  I ended up on the wrong side of it as it cut across the road, but even on my ‘it’s time for a change but no one has them in stock’ Michelin Anakees, I was still able to 


The view out from Graham’s Hill lookout was also worth a stop.  I went through there last year in the middle of autumn colours and it burned itself into my memory.  This time around everything was super green, but it’s still some interesting geography to ride in our otherwise tedious flatness.

I looped back around to Grey 30 and came back down the hill without a slow mover in front this time before hanging a left and following the road out to Beaver Valley Road and the trek up to Thornbury.  I was there in the early spring but the harbour was closed in the early days of COVID.  I was hoping this time I’d be able to get myself right down to the water’s edge.

I guess Beaver Valley Road isn’t on everyone’s GPS because it was fairly empty.  With a few big, high speed sweepers, it’s a nice way up to the bay.  Ontario 26, the road that follows the shore, is evidently on everyone’s radar because it was bumper to bumper.  After a brief stop to look at the bay…



… I stopped for gas in Thornbury, but the traffic on 26 was nuts.  Rather than sit in a line to get through

the light for half an hour, I zipped up the side and took a right back inland.  South out through Thornbury and Clarksburg (no traffic), I hung a left on 40 (also empty) and rode directly to Grey County Road 2, which would bring me back over Blue Mountain and into the Grey Highlands.  I’m still at a loss to explain why, when left to their own devices, most people just imitate each other.  I’m not sure what happens in their heads that makes sitting in traffic when they are surrounded by empty road make sense.

The roads south were also pretty empty, though I’m able to dispatch traffic with alacrity on the big ‘ol Tiger.  Singhampton arrived in no time.  124 northbound had construction and what looked like a half an hour wait to get through it.  I was heading south then east and bypassed it.  I wouldn’t have sat in it in any case.  A better way around would be to zip down Crazy River Road toward Creemore then wind through the hills of Glen Huron, which is exactly what I did.

 The big skies in the hills were getting dark as I headed south.  It was cloudy when I left, but driving north to the bay meant avoiding that rain, now I was riding back into it.  The clouds were ragged as I flew south on 124.


By this point I’d been on the road for about four hours and hadn’t stopped since Flesherton, so I figured I’d give River Road from Horning’s Mills to Terra Nova a go.  It was closed for construction when I tried it in the spring, so this would be my first ride on it in 2020.  Like everything else in Ontario these days, they’ve managed to fuck it up.  After construction the entire road is now a 50km/hr zone with community fines doubled signs everywhere.  I really need to move somewhere else.  I get that no one wants idiots ripping up and down the road in front of where they live, but a 50/community safety zone for the entire length of a road that has maybe ten driveways on it over 12 kms?  There must be money in the area.


Fortunately, Terra Nova Public House was open and could squeeze me in for a socially distanced soup between their lunch and dinner service.  The rain finally hit while I was sitting out back.  Big, fat drops splashing into my soup, but it was still fantastic (maple carrot homemade!).  It was a brief shower and it blew over quickly.  I was in and out of TNPH in about 20 minutes, and by the time I came out the road was dry again.  I puttered back along River Road, frustrated at the iron grip of government and then started the burn south west back home.


Blustery winds and ragged clouds north of Shelbourne, then it was down through Grand Valley, following the Grand River home to Elora…

The Tiger ran like a top.  The idle/stall issue seems to be a thing of the past.  It was a nice ride through some changeable weather.  It was also cool enough that I wasn’t cooking on the seat, so I felt like I still had a lot in me when I got back.  The trip knocked the Tiger up to only 600kms away from hitting 80k.  It turns twenty years old in 2023, and I like the symmetry of it hitting 100k by then, so that’s the goal.  This winter it’ll get new shoes (if anyone ever gets Michelin Anakees back in stock again), and a complete service including all bearings and suspension.  It’ll get an oil change too if anyone ever has Mobil 1 motorcycle oil back in stock again (finding parts during COVID is an ongoing headache).


I should get well into the 80s before the riding season’s done, and then it’ll be spa time.


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Motorcycle Things: Winter ’17 Wishlist

A motorcycle wish list circa 2017:



Jon Campbell on Google+ shared updated colours on the Aerostich line of motorcycle clothing.  I’ve always loved the look of Aerostich kit.  Unfortunately, a Roadcrafter suit costs more than most of the motorcycles I’ve purchased.  


One of these days I’ll get the coin together and spring for an Aerostich one piece suit.  By all accounts it’ll be the last time I need to.  


They have lots of custom options so I should be able to find a long in the body, regular inseam that fits me properly.  With colour choices aplenty, making an original looking suit that fits is an ongoing pastime.


***


Keeping with the orange kit theme, I’m also wishing for a go with the updated Desmo RO32 transformable helmet.  Quieter, more comfortable and more spacious, it’s my go-to Desmo helmet evolved.  Short of buying one from overseas untried, I’m stuck.  If we end up in France this summer, a trip to Roof might be in the cards through.


***

With the Tiger’s winter maintenance done, I’m hoping to return focus to the Concours ZG1000 Fury streetfighter I’ve got half finished.  


On the to-do list is getting a rear light and indicators.  I’d ordered them through Amazon but the dodgy Chinese company that makes them never evidently sent it, though they charged me for it.  The Amazon marketplace seems to be increasingly filled with overseas companies that have a very slow delivery time, assuming they ship at all.


It’d be nice to get this running smoothly by the summer for some blistering solo rides where I finally get to find out what those new Michelin tires feel like.  In a perfect world I’d enjoy the summer on it, ride it to the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Toronto next September where someone offers to buy it for what it cost me to make it.  I could then role that over into next winter’s project.


***

A couple of road trips this summer would be nice.  I’ve had a trip around Lake Superior in mind for a while now.  It’s about 2000kms around from Manitoulin Island and back again, and another couple of hundred kilometres and a ferry ride home.


Launching from Little Current at the north end of Manitoulin, I’d go the Ontario side first just to avoid the misery that is the border crossing into Michigan at The Sault.  After sitting at that for almost two hours last year, I’ll go backwards around Superior just to avoid it.  Doing 350km/days on average, we’d get around Superior in about six days.  If we wanted a day off, we could push for a couple of days to get a day of rest.  A day up to Manitoulin and a day back at the end means eight days on the road.


A trip down the Appalachians to see the full solar eclipse this summer is also on the short list.  Doing this one for ten days means we’d have a couple of days to explore areas on the way down and on the way back instead of making miles every day.


From just over the border in New York state all the way down to Tennessee, this is motorcycle nirvana with mile after mile of twisting mountain roads.


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Racer5 is running their introduction to track riding again this year.  A May long weekend getting familiar with the racing dynamics of a motorcycle would be pretty wicked.  By the end of the course I’d be qualified to race.  The next step would be getting myself into the VRRA for some vintage racing.

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I never get bored of imagining throwing a few grand down on some motorcycle racing gear.  My two pairs of Alpinestar boots have been excellent, so I’d probably base a lot of the racing gear on what they offer.  I’d read reviews of the Handroid Knox racing gloves and they sound totally next level.  An Arai helmet has always been a long term, top end motorcycle helmet wishlist item, and they have a nice Isle of Man special out this year.


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A track-day specialist bike would also be nice to have tucked away, only to be trailered to the track for hard work.   This ’99 CBR600 F4 is well cared for and going for about three grand.   I’d strip it down to bare essentials and put a carbon single seat cowling on the back.  After wearing out the tires on it, I’d go to racing tires and continue to evolve the bike into a track specialist.


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Guy Martin did a race in his Ford Transit van last year where he averaged well over 100mph for an extended length of time.  I wouldn’t spend much time in one the other side of 100mph, but having a van would sure be handy.  From transporting my own bikes out of the snow for a cheap ride in the winter, to taking the race bike to the track, having a bike transport system would be mega.  With taxes, a new one nicely spec-ed out is just north of fifty thousand of your finest Canadian dollars.


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Some top shelf gear, getting race ready and having the custom Kawasaki on the road… if I came into cash in 2017, that’s what I’d be spending it on.

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One Size Fits All, Even When It Doesn’t

It’s taken me until Sunday to be able to talk normally again after week one of face to face teaching in a pandemic.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our board has done an incredible job of charting a path through this poorly planned and funded return to school during a medical emergency, but this has still been one of the worst weeks of my teaching career and not because of all the barriers to teaching.

Top of list are the mandatory medical grade face masks I’m told we have to wear (though the Ministry says, “All staff in schools must wear masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions”).  With a head circumference well beyond the human average, these masks are too small for me and leave me at the end of each day with marks on my face, sinuses and ears.  My head is so big we had to bring my son in for testing for encephalitis because he got my big head.  The specialist immediately said everything was ok when he saw me and realized big heads run in the family.  There is nothing worse than being atypical in a pandemic when every system contracts to only suit the average (that’s a theme).

In addition to not fitting my big head, these masks are very restrictive in terms of breathing, especially if you’re working in a poorly ventilated south facing classroom that hits thirty plus degrees celsius on even a cool day when it has 30 or so computers and twenty people in it.  Being a tech shop I’m also moving equipment around.  In setting up the lab I moved over two thousand pounds of computer parts into place.  Being required to wear a mask that’s too small and restrictive while doing physical work in a hot room had me seeing stars multiple times this week.  The Ministry states that reasonable exceptions are allowed but everywhere I turned this week (union, admin, online) told me to just wear the damned mask.  My biggest anxiety is returning to another week of feeling like I’m being waterboarded by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I have a history of sinus issues.  My sinuses are so atypical the specialist who did my deviated septum surgery two years ago (so much blood!) had never seen anything like them and was forwarding them on to researchers.  I can breath much better after the surgery, but wearing a high filtration medical quality mask like that for six hours a day means I resort to mouth breathing almost constantly while wearing it, so I leave school every day with a sore throat and inflamed sinuses.  When I expressed this I was told to just wear the mask like everyone else.  My wife is severely immune compromised and I come home every day to immediately put my clothes in the washer and take a scalding shower.  The last thing I want to do is contract this but not being able to breath properly while having to talk more loudly through a mask is destroying me.  There are sports filtration masks I’d be willing to purchase myself but all I keep getting told is to shut up and wear the mask.

Being the only person wearing a medical grade mask in a room of 16 grade nines wearing everything from homemade cloth masks to bandanas, I’m left wondering at the veracity of this demanding compliance.  A number of other staff are also struggling with this one size fits all zero flexibility approach.  They’ve told me that they (variously) pull the mask off to get fresh air if they’re short of breath and/or fold the bottom of the mask up or fit it poorly so it lets air in and out, which is like not wearing a mask at all.  If the only solution is to wear this thing so poorly that it doesn’t do anything then I think we need to rethink our one-size-fits-all policy.

Beyond the mandatory waterboarding mask, the week went well but mainly because I’m making unsustainable catches at the wall all day every day.  All of the IT tech we had in the lab was in the middle of being used when we were shut down at March Break and it was in much worse shape than I realized.  I spent most of the week triaging and rapidly repairing broken computers so that grade 9s could use them, which isn’t sustainable.  A diving catch is a spectacular thing but if that’s all you’re doing all game you won’t be playing the next week.

I got a really good piece of advice from our spec-ed instructor when I was at Nipissing University for teacher’s college: “your first job is to be ready to come in to work again tomorrow.”  This often gets forgotten in the teacher martyr complex and I see people (myself included) throwing themselves into unsustainable situations that end up preventing them from working effectively the next day.  This whole week felt like that.  Every time I looked for support it wasn’t there and the weight I was carrying got that bit more impossible.

Tuesday was the worst day.  After spending all morning trying to get broken tech working (for my classroom and half a dozen other classrooms in the school), and then struggling to get all the grade 9s through safety training because at least two of them are functionally illiterate (which raises interesting questions around the legalities of dragging them through purely text based online safety training) the teacher who was supposed to come in and provide relief saw how busy I was and said, “if you don’t need me I’ll go” instead of showing some initiative while watching me try to be in three places at once.

This is another example of the system checking a box rather than providing actual support.  Our union has argued for us to get relieved during our nearly three hour marathon face to face sessions (two times a day, thank-you) and I appreciate that effort, but the teacher coming in isn’t qualified or knowledgeable in my field of study and is little more than a babysitter who can’t even legally oversee hands-on shop work.  The week before we were told by admin to just skip our prep/relief and keep working if that’s what we wanted to do, but that is neither sustainable nor compliant with the contract we’ve agreed to.  Being asked if they can just leave and take a 45 minute break from giving people breaks while I’m obviously struggling both physically, mentally and emotionally was… (how can I put this professionally?)… aggravating.

Under normal circumstances I’d have sent the two functionally illiterate kids down to resource who would have walked them through the training one on one.  I can’t do one on one when I have twenty other grade nines all needing my attention at once and while I’m responsible for safe hands on work with live electricity and tools in a technology class.  I can’t send them to resource though because our resource room has been closed and all our spec-ed specialists are now teaching regular classes online.  You don’t want to have an IEP or learning challenges during a pandemic, all the spec-ed support has evaporated.

Anytime I’ve asked for someone to assist me with something they’ve reflected it back on me to do.  If a student needs special supports it’s entirely on me to do that.  If a student doesn’t have digital access at home it’s entirely on me to do that.  Towards the end of the week I had board purchasing asking questions about things from last year that I had neither the bandwidth nor knowledge to answer so I just ignored the emails.  When you’re drowning you don’t go looking for more water.

If you’re operating an engine it will have an operating range.  You work in that range as a balance of efficiency, longevity and performance.  There are moments when you might push past the 100% mark in order to get a burst of power, but doing so means you’ve just shortened the life of that engine.  The diving catch made by a baseball player is one of those 120% moments where you do something unsustainable to make the catch, but you can’t keep doing that all day every day, it’ll break you.

Even with all the barriers to teaching thrown up by this pandemic and this particular government I had a good week instructionally.  I was able to differentiate to different students and pretty much everyone in the class was able to do something they’d never done before by the end of the week (build their own PC).  That one on one work with students learning their strengths and developing skills is what I love about my work, and I’m good at it.

I’m unable to do IT again next week with a new class because we don’t have any working tech left, so I’m doing backflips this weekend trying to work out how to teach electronics in two places in two different ways at once.  Our two cohort system means I’m teaching remotely to one cohort while I’m teaching face to face with the other all day every day (they flip).  It’s twice as much prep but as you’ve read above we don’t really have any prep time.  They gave me a teacher who isn’t qualified and doesn’t have any background in my subject to cover the online learning, but that’s just more people I have to direct.  I asked if we could just collapse my class into a single morning cohort then I could be the afternoon online teacher.  The class is only 22 so it wouldn’t be huge and it means I’m not buried alive and trying to be in two places at once.  You can guess the answer: it wouldn’t look good.  They don’t want any pictures of full classes out there.  It makes sense pedagogically and in terms of staff work load, and with appropriate safety precautions there would be minimum risk of pandemic transmission, but if you don’t have optics on your side in a pandemic you have nothing.  I’m not the only teacher who asked for that.

In addition to trying to generate a week of prep every day both remotely and face to face, I’m also trying to get more IT tech in so I can do that unit with my second class.  Getting parts in a pandemic is challenging.  I’m hoping I can work it out and RCTO has been fantastic in getting back to me and making it happen, but that’s just another of those unsustainable balls I’m juggling that’s up in the air somewhere.

I can manage the avalanche of prep, but doing it while in physical distress all day because of an inflexible mask policy means I’m not going to finish this semester on my feet.  I have to find a way to engineer a solution to this because no one around me will.  The most frustrating part is that the solution is obvious but in a pandemic flexibility and individual needs are the first thing we burn.

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