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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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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How to Break/Resize/Install a Master Link on a Motorcycle Chain

A 2007 Ninja 650R with its pants down (chain and front sprocket cover removed)

If you’ve never done chains and sprockets on a motorcycle before, there is more to them than what you’ve done with a bicycle chain.  Being an open part of the drive system, they offer a relatively easy way to modify your bike’s performance.  With smaller (faster) sprockets you can produce a revvier, shorter geared engine.  With a shorter chain you can close up your wheel-base creating a bike more willing to change direction.  Chains and sprockets are a bike fettler’s delight.

On top of sprockets, you also have a pile of chain choices.  O-ring chains are the cheaper, lower efficiency alternative, while X-ring chains offer more efficiency and less maintenance at a higher cost.  They also come in a rainbow of colours and a variety of sizes from little dirt bikes all the way up to thousand plus cc super-bikes.  


Chain sizes and dimensions
From little dirt bikes to bike motors.

Chain sizing is based on the width of the chain and the length between the pins in the chain.  You’ve got match all these up with the right sprockets or it won’t all fit together.  With so many factors in play, it pays to get a handle on chain mechanics before you take a run at changing the chain on your motorbike.

Here’s a primer on how to break a chain.  Some people say cutting a chain but you aren’t cutting it, you’re breaking it by popping the rivet out and dismantling the chain links.


How to Break a Chain:

  • If you’re removing your old bike chain, find the master link (it should be the one that’s different from all the rest)
  • Put a chain breaking tool on the chain and push the rivets out – do a bit on each side at a time until the chain ‘breaks’ open.  I did this with a bicycle chain breaker (see bottom) and it worked fine.
  • Once you’ve ‘broken’ apart the master link the chain will come apart and you can pull it through and free of the bike.

To reduce chain size on a motorcycle:

  • if you have a 520 or smaller chain and a good motorcycle specific chain link breaking tool you can simply push the rivet through (see the video at the bottom)
  • if you don’t have specific tools, grind or file down the rivet and then tap it out with a hammer and punch pin.  If you grind down the rivet you can also use a bicycle weight chain breaker (see a pic at the bottom) to push out the worn down rivet.
  • triple check which link you want to pull and use something like Gearing Commander to make sure you’ve got the right number of links in your chain.  (This is what I’m kicking myself for not doing).
  • Using the bicycle chain puller on filed down pins, I pushed on side and then the other and then repeated the process and the rivet popped loose along with the outer chain links.  Since you’re only filing down the outer link (which you’ll chuck after) it doesn’t matter if you file into it a bit.
  • With the chain dismantled you should now have two inner links ready for a new master link.
Installing a New Master Link:

  • Install the little rubber washers on the master link rivets and slide it onto the chain – do this on the sprockets as it’s easier to do with some tension on the chain.
  • put the last two rubber washers on and the end plate and then use the chain tool or some other kind of clamp to press the side plate on.
  • if you’ve got a rivet type master link you need a light hand and some patience to press in the rivet ends.  If you’re too heavy handed you’ll bind the chain and swear a lot.
  • The more traditional type of master link is the kind I was familiar with from bicycles.  It comes with a slid on clip.
Don’t freak out if you’ve got the rivet type master link, just make sure you have the right tool handy.  The rivet type link is very strong and performs pretty much like all the other links if installed properly, which is why you’ll find it exclusively on high performance chains.  Check out the youtube video at the bottom for a good primer on how to do this.
 
If you take your time and work through it slowly, you’ll have a new chain on in no time.  If you want to get into sprockets the rears are remarkably easy to do.  When you remove the rear wheel bolt the wheel drops down and the floating rear caliper on the Ninja 650r simply disengaged and I hung it on the frame.  You can then remove the wheel.  The rear sprocket is held on with your typical nuts and was easy to swap out.
 
This front sprocket is a f&#*er.
The front sprocket was in good shape, so I gave up on it.  Others online have said that they are pretty straightforward if you have an air gun, but even with a breaker bar I couldn’t budge the damn thing and I can pick up a car by the fender.  You remove the front sprocket by bending back the holding washer, putting the bike in gear, stepping on the rear break to hold everything still and removing the nut (it’s a good fit on a big 27mm bit).  If there’s a trick to this (other than getting a compressor, air tank and air tools), I’d love to hear it.

Follow up with Chain And No Agony for how easily the new chain went on with the right tools.

 

 

 

 

If you’ve only got a bicycle chain
breaker, file or grind down the rivets
first before you push them out.

If you’ve broken bicycle chains before you know the basics.  Motorcycle chains are much heavier duty so the process requires stronger tools capable of dealing with stronger rivets.  If you have a bicycle chain breaker you just have to take your time and file down the rivet you’re going to push through first.  It took me a couple of minutes of filing to do this.  Lazy people on the internet say buy a Dremel.  If you’re lazy, that’s what you should do.

VIDEOS

A video on how to break a motorcycle chain (skip to 35sec when the mechanic comes in) in order to re-size it using a motorbike specific tool

A good primer on how to install a master link (and how the pressed, rivet type master links work)

How to measure a motorcycle chain

Hillbilly mechanics: how to do a master link without special tools.

LINKS

Gearing Commander – a handy webpage that lets you compare different sprocket and chain combinations

www.gearingcommander.com/

DID company chain guide:

www.didchain.com/chainSpecs.html

Motorcycle Chain primer on about.com

motorcycles.about.com/od/motorcyclemaintenanc1/ss/Chain_Maint.htm

Wikipedia‘s history and technically detailed chain description

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_chain

Layout of a roller chain: 1. Outer plate, 2. Inner plate, 3. Pin, 4. Bushing, 5. Roller

An exhaustive history of chains!

How Motorcycles Work‘s awesome chain diagram:

 

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.


***

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.

***

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.


***

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.


***

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.


***


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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2015 IndyGP Videos & Photos

I’m sorting through the photos and videos from the Indianapolis MotoGP trip… here’s what I’ve got so far:

Prior to take-off

At the Michigan International Speedway

Lunch stop in North Manchester

The back straight at Indy – what a ride!

Bike parking on the back straight

Indy golf course in the infield

Friday practice session for the 2015 Indy GP

Yamaha R1 guts

Dancing through the esses

Danny Kent doing the business (qualified first!)

The Doctor at work

The Maestro Marc Marquez doing what he does

There were many more bikes when we returned!

They compete for motorcycle insurance here?
We must not be in Ontario!

Motorcycles on Meridian

Thousands upon thousands of bikes – if it’s been built it’s here!

Michigan International Speedway
You can sign in and have a look around inside! 

Indy Again

Google auto-made video of the track day

Mostly Ironheads

The Connie is off getting safetied, and the Ninja has found a new home.  I’m bikeless!

One of the things you learn about motorcycle culture is that it tends to exist underground, out of sight.  For example, this week I discovered that there is a bike shop in the small town that I’ve lived in for five years.  I had no idea that down the back of the industrial mall behind the country market is a specialist motorbike shop.  This reminded me of our trip to Old Vintage Cranks a couple of summers ago.

I’d contacted the owner, Lloyd, over the phone during the week about getting the Concours safetied.  He doesn’t usually work with ‘metric bikes’, but he was willing to look after me.  Mostly Ironheads is a full service shop that, in addition to offering everything you need to maintain your bike, also offers you some genuine historical motorcycling perspective.  While chatting with Lloyd he showed me a 1934 Harley Flathead engine that he was in the process of rebuilding.  In the front of the shop you’ll also find a collection of customized Harleys from various decades.  I’m going to bring the 3d-scanner when I return for the Connie next week and get some models of this classic American iron.

It’s convenient to wander around department store styled dealerships and bike shops, but it isn’t all that interesting beyond what you’re shopping for.  Places like Mostly Ironheads run at a different speed.  The proprietors are always happy to spend some time chatting with you and the chances of seeing something genuine and learning something about motorbiking are much higher.

If you’re travelling through Elora, Ontario on two wheels (and many people do to have lunch by the river in the summer), be sure to pop down behind Dar’s Country Market to Mostly Ironheads and have a look at a hidden piece of Ontario motorcycle culture.

Mostly Ironheads Website

Mostly Ironheads on Facebook


3d models of some historical Harleys

Vanmageddon: It must be February

It’s getting to be that time of year again – months of snow bound Ragnarok motorbike hibernation are making me twitchy.  I like winter generally, it offers a very different and sometimes beautiful view of the world, but when motorcycling has become your go-to stress reliever, being out of the saddle for months is a source of pressure.  If you look at the seasonal leanings of this blog, you’ll see winter generally leads to yearning.

This time around the fixation is on the Mercedes Metris Van.  I’ve previously looked at Ford Transits from a Guy Martin point of view, and other small van options for moving bikes to where I can use them.  The Metris has the benefit of being as efficient as the little vans but can swallow the Tiger with room to spare.  The other little vans would required a tight squeeze if it’d fit at all.



Another benefit of the Metris is that you can customize it to your needs and it’ll still go everywhere a normal vehicle will.  It’s also surprisingly competitive in price to the Ford and Dodge/Fiat options.  So, what would I do with the only Mercedes I’ve ever been interested in buying?

Last year at pretty much this exact same time I was mapping out waterfalls in Virginia.  The drive down to Roanoke is about 11 hours.  With the Tiger in the back I’d have left right after work and been in Roanoke by midnight.  After a good sleep and breakfast and I’d be out all weekend making use of those lovely temperatures while chasing spring powered waterfalls across the Appalachians.  After a good ride Sunday I’d have a big dinner then head back into the frozen wastelands of the north getting in after mid-night, but I’d have the Monday of the long weekend to get back on it again.


All told that’d be about 2000kms in the van and another six hundred or so miles riding in the spring blooming mountains.  If I could convince the family to come along, they could crash in the hotel or jump on the back and come along.

I’ve been reading Guy Martin’s autobiography and his van powered wandering to motorcycling events all over the UK and Europe seem entirely doable, if you only have that van.  He seems to be able to fit an improbably amount into a very limited amount of time simple by getting himself there and then getting himself home again.


It’s a good read that trips right along.  I enjoyed the narrative flow of the follow up book When You Dead You Dead more (I read it first), but you quickly fall into Guy-speak and feel like you’re sitting in a pub with him hearing the tale.  If you like motorcycles and racing it’s brilliant.  If you just like a good story well told, it’ll do that too.

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