Getting a Flat Tire on your Motorcycle

I’ve been riding for over a decade now on a lot of different bikes and I’ve never had a flat tire.  A work colleague got one once and it made her quit riding, so the terror of riding a motorcycle with a flat has always had an inflated (ha!) place in my mind.

Last week my son and I went to look for hairy cows (highland cattle up by Creemore) on two wheels.  The mission was a success and after a quick lunch in Creemore we headed home.  A stop for a stretch in Grand Valley must have picked up a nail as once we were back in motion the tire sensor started flashing on the dash.  It should have been more obvious that a catastrophic tire failure was under way except the Kawasaki was also in a panic about being low on fuel.  Whoever did the dash layout for the C14 didn’t have a good grip on digital ergonomics (a rapid tire decompression shouldn’t be vying with early low-fuel warnings on the screen).

I started to feel the back end get squishy so I slowed down and pulled over once I’d sussed out what the panicky dash was trying to tell me.  With a 200lb+ passenger on the back this was the worst possible getting-a-flat scenario, yet I found it very manageable.  I like to think all that time at SMART Adventures getting used to a bike moving around on loose material helped.  We pulled over, the tire was very flat, so we unloaded and then I pushed the bike off the side of the road and into the grass.  We were on a country road so there wasn’t much of a shoulder and everyone was steaming by at 100kms/hr.  I then got on the phone trying to find anyone local who could give us a hand.

Nice spot for a breakdown, as long as you can manhandle the bike away from the verge. No one stopped to check on us or even slowed down or moved out of the lane to avoid us. Country living ain’t what it used to be.

No point in being all long faced about it 🙂

My wife was heading out to ballet but a friend in town, Scott, was around and offered to come out with some spray filler to get us home.

It was a nice day for a flat in a lovely part of the world.  Potatoes were growing behind us and cows grazed across the road as the sun streamed down.

Scott was there in a flash.  I removed the topbox and Max and it went with Scott in the car (no point in putting more weight on a bad tire than necessary).  The spray filler went in and bubbled out of the hole and the bike’s pressure sensor said I had 5psi.  Perhaps the foam expands as the tire spins and heats up?  Scott and Max followed me as I took it slowly down the road toward the village of Belwood, but the fill-in-foam did bugger all.

I was only a few minutes in motion but the tire pressure fell off to zero again and the tire was starting to come off the bead, so I pulled over on the edge of the road in Belwood.  Scott and Max went back to Elora to see if he could borrow his neighbour’s trailer to get the bike home, but I was in my hood now.  Belwood is the edge of the catchment area where I teach and teaching generations of people here means I’m connected, even when I don’t know it.

The guy mowing his lawn across the street came over and said he had a portable air compressor and some tire plugs and would I want to give it a try?  He came back a minute latter with a rusty old plug kit and the air pump and as he plugged the hole we discovered that he was the uncle of one of my top students (the kid’s going to German to do IT this fall!).  He waved me off when I offered to pay, but a bottle of Glenfiddich is coming his way next time I’m passing through there.  Scotch is cheaper than a tow and I’d like to cultivate what little small town spirit is left in our rapidly urbanizing county.

Plug kits are the way!

The Concours uses tubeless tires on alloy rims, similar to a car, so the plug did the trick and the portable air compressor he had put 20psi into the tire which held all the way home.  I stopped half way and texted Scott that I was in motion and they met me at the house.  I took it slow and steady but the bike felt fine even at half pressure.  If you’re frantically worried about getting a flat on a motorcycle get some off road training, it’ll make you comfortable with the squirming.

Lessons learned?

This wasn’t my first time seeing
biker ‘brotherhood’ fall on its face
It’s all a load of nonsense, isn’t it?
I stop, but it has nothing to do with
this fictional B,S, designed to make
the loud  pipe crowd feel good
about themselves.

  1. Flats feel like riding on gravel.  If that freaks you out, so will getting a flat.
  2. Pressure filler goop doesn’t work, it’s a waste of money.  This was only a nail puncture and it did nothing to solve it.
  3. Plugs are the way!  There are moto-friendly options that aren’t big (or expensive compared to getting towed) and can get you back in motion.
  4. Don’t expect Kawasaki’s tire air pressure system to prioritize the danger in any kind of way that makes sense.
  5. Don’t expect the biker brotherhood (or anyone else) to pull over and see if you need a hand, they all just potatoed by while we were on the side of the road.  In fact, no one stopped to check on us.  How’s that for country hospitality?
  6. Because of 5, be self sufficient in sorting your own flat.

Jeff the motorcycle Jedi suggested getting an all-in-one micro-sized puncture repair kit and suggested the Stop And Go kit which includes all you need for plugging including a mini pump that you can clip onto your battery for under $100.  Packs up nice and small too so throwing it in a pannier is no problem.
I got mine from Fortnine, but Amazon has ’em too.

As for tires, I ended up going with Revco and getting a single new rear tire rather than doing both.  When I got the C14 it had a relatively new (2019) front tire and much older rear on it.  The front was still nicely rounded (no flat spots), so it stayed on.  I didn’t want to mismatch tires so I stayed with Michelin Pilot Road 4s.  If you want a COVID inflationary kick in the head, the rear tire cost $235 when I looked it up last summer.  Your latest inflationary price (Aug, 2022)?  $274.  That’s a 16.6% price jump, aren’t economics fun?  I can’t imagine what the dealership is asking these days, probably five hundred a tire installed.

All that shitty milk in the bottom of the tire? That’s courtesy of the utterly useless ‘tire repair’ foam filler – don’t bother with it!

Revco did its usual excellent job getting the tire out (it was here less than 48hrs after ordering).  Installation was straightforward and gave me a chance to clean up the rear end and shaft drive which I hadn’t been into yet.

Here’s where things get even craftier (or Norfolk stingier if you like).  I like mechanics, but like my dad before me, they also scratch a why-spend-money-when-you-don’t-have-to itch.  The tire pressure warning system has been flashing low power warnings at me since I got the bike.  I looked up replacements and they are an eye-watering three hundred bucks or more a piece, then I did some research and found this handy video where the guy dismantles the sensors and solders a new lithium battery in.  Recommended?  Not unless you’re really handy soldering (lithium batteries don’t like a lot of heat).  Fortunately, I’m handy with soldering.

The TPMS (tire pressure measurement system) is a wireless sensor screwed into the valve stem and held in place with a big hex bolt.  It sends a wireless signal to the dash once the bike is in motion which gives you your tire pressure in real time.  Removing the sensor is easy enough and taking it apart equally so (there is a torx head bolt under the sticker).

Disassembly is straightforward.  There are plastic clips on the sides that can’t have much to do in a thing spinning round and round inside a hot, pressurized tire.  The hidden fastener is a tiny torx head bolt under the sticker.

I removed the old battery and picked up a pack of 4 of the Energizer C2032 batteries (we use them all the time in motherboards at school) for under $10.

I soldered wires onto the extensions from the PCB and then soldered them onto the battery.  Solid connections all around and it all went back together nicely.  For a hack around a non-repairable high-expense replacement, this went well!

The new tire went on without any headaches.  Compared to the winter install of the tubed tires on the Tiger, it was a much easier summer job.  No inner tubes to wrangle and (after leaving the tire in the sun for 10 minutes), everything was pliable and easy to stretch over the rim using tire spoons.

I was worried about the tire not inflating if I didn’t have a tire installer with rapid inflation on it, but I needn’t have worried.  Perhaps the Armour All helped (I used it on the rim edge as a lubricant), but the tire started to take in air with a bit of jiggling and once it started filling, at about 20psi the edges popped out onto the bead and were airtight.

I set the tire pressure to 42psi and went for a ride around the block and then up and down the river (about 20kms).  Everything it tight and working well, including the tire pressure sensor – no more low power warnings!  I’ll do the front one when I eventually replace the front tire the same way.  A new tire always feels fantastic (like a newly sharpened pencil if you’re older enough to know what that feels like) with the bike feeling friskier and more willing to drop into corners.  The new tire is a 190/55 rather than the stock 190/50 and it subtly shifts weight forward by lifting the back end up a touch – it felt good, and is a bit less crashy on bumps too (a bit more sidewall means a bit more flex).

Thanks to Steve A on YouTube for some genuinely useful help researching the tire pressure management system and how to hack a fix.

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Nerdy Moto-Trip Planning: Ride to Watch Artemis Launch to the Moon in Florida

I’m facing impending return to a perilous workplace of questionable effectiveness.  Expect to see more pie in the sky posts on TMD as I find ways to escape from a terminal re-entry into another year of politics and frustration at work.

The ride to watch the Artemis moon launch set for Monday, August 29th (at the earliest) at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

What I’d do if I didn’t have to go back to work in the coming weeks and was looking for a way to be busy and gone while the education machine groans back into life again.

Leave Monday, Aug 22nd, take an extra day either around the Dragon’s Tail or in the Appalachians (or in Savannah! …so many choices!).

THE RIDE DOWN (to Florida Aug 22-29):

Day 1:  Elora to Philpsburg PA:  569kms

We Are Inn:

Day 2:  We Are Inn PA to Lydia Mtn Lodge VA 254mi

Lydian Mountain Lodge:  Nice place for a two night stay!

Day 3:  Lydia Mtn Lodge VA to Quality Inn Bristol:  300mi

Blue Ridge Parkway:

Day 4:  Bristol VA to Dragon City & Tail of the Dragon: 246mi

Dragon City:

Day 5:  Dragon City to Savannah GA: 397mi

Day 6:  Savannah GA to Daytona Beach (1 hr north of Cape Canaveral):

Day 7:  Daytona Beach to Cape Canaveral to Boca Raton: 246mi (70mi/1hr to Cape Canaveral): Watch the launch (!!!) then head on down to Miami.

August 22-29th for Aug 29th launch.

POST LAUNCH (Aug 29-last week of September):

Miami & Key West:  Boca Raton to Key West: 207mi

Spend some days in Key West and then work my way up around the Gulf Coast to New Orleans:  ~1000mi

After some days in and around New Orleans, it’d be a slow ride up the Mississippi River Delta with a swing over to The Ozarks before returning to Ontario end of September:  ~2500mi over a couple of weeks.

On the road for approximately 4 weeks (August 22 to September 22ish).  One week down, 3 weeks after launch covering Florida, New Orleans, the Mississippi and the Ozarks back home:

I have just the machine to make this trip on:

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A Cure For Your Insanity Part 3: Getting Lost and Finding Myself in North Eastern Ontario

Mapping it old-school in Calabogie.  Having to stop and
do this throughout the day resulted in a much more 
enjoyable ride.

 Ottawa isn’t quite as manic as the GTA when it comes to driving culture, probably because it’s a fraction of the size.  I didn’t see the intentional assholery that GTA drivers seem to revel in.  That used to be arms-reach from us out in the country where I live, but thanks to COVID and rich people speculating on the real estate market, there has been a cidiot diaspora to my neck of the wooks and aggressive driving is the new norm on our country roads.

The 417 out of Ottawa at noon on Sunday was thrumming along at 130+kms/hr.  I kept to a steady 120 on the inside lane and was passed with regularity.  When we were in Alberta in July I noted that the speed limits are set reasonably without clinging to 1970s limits designed to generate revenue and justify more police.  The 110kms/hr on the highway had everyone moving at about 110kms/hr.  The 100 limit on country roads was the same with no one blowing beyond as has become common on our backroads.  Ontario’s artificially low limits (and then the intentional ignoring of them until the police and insurance industry feel like making it rain) produces a kind of cognitive dissonance in Ontario drivers.  They know the limits don’t mean anything and tend to drive however fast their vehicle feels good at, which in a modern vehicle with advanced tires, anti-lock brakes and computerized suspension and engines is much faster than the limits set for woody wagons in the ’70s.

Once off the madness that is Ontario’s 400 series highway system things settled down and I fell into a nice rhythm on the 508.  I usually have to ride miles to find a corner (and corner) where I live in the tedious S.W. Ontario agricultural desert.  Speaking of which, I was struggling to understand why my visor wasn’t plastered in bugs while riding through Eastern Ontario woods, but it’s the lack of factory-farmed livestock.  Those closely packed animals generate more flies than meat.  When you’re not always passing by fowl (sp!) smelling chicken manufacturing facilities or cow paddy strewn fields, there aren’t the kinds of flies that knock your lid off.  I didn’t have to stop and clean my visor once on these rides, and being able to ride roads where the corners keep finding you instead of the other way around is like water after days in the desert.  Since all the OPP are on Highway 7, there wasn’t a one of them on any of the roads up this way (speed traps aren’t about safety, they’re about income generation – there’s no money in setting up speed traps on quiet roads).

No one sells pens anymore (the Canadian Tire had none even with school starting up in a couple of weeks), but I found some sharpie markers in Calabogie’s McGregor’s Produce, which is a general store that has pretty much everything in it (with a fraction of the footprint of the city-sized Canadian Tire).

It was another sun drenched day, though the shadows from the trees takes the sting out of it, unlike the concrete oven than urban areas turn into.  I got the map folded to where I was and markered out a route that took me on the twistiest roads I could find over to Bancroft where I would spend the night.

I hadn’t figured out how to hot-key the 360 camera to auto-fire shots so there are no photos from this glorious day, but perhaps this is as it should be.  Google didn’t know where I was and I had to engage my atrophied brain to remember the route, but the map was only a stop away.  Instead of constantly aiming at the next waypoint and having the phone barking directions and corrections and other information that I didn’t need (while tracking my progress to offer timely advertising), I was untethered.

I actually doubted my ability to remember turns so started with just the first three, and what a three they were!  The 508 through Calabogie is ok, but the 65 to 71 east is SPECTACULAR, to the point where the road had me laughing out loud in my helmet (which I could leave in open face mode because I wasn’t being battered with livestock flies).  This magical strip of tarmacadam twists and turns over and around some proper hills; this may be the best riding road in Ontario, particularly for me on this day where I had my head up (nothing to constantly tug my gaze down to the next direction), no traffic whatsoever AND it had just been resurfaced and was billiard table smooth   I had a realization halfway through this bit: I don’t care if I’m ‘lost’, rollercoasting along this road was absolutely brilliant!

I stopped for a drink and to review next steps at the end of 71 at Calvyn’s Takeout.  I wish I wasn’t so soon from a big breakfast or I would have stopped, it smelled fantastic.  The next bit had some arterial highways then onto smaller back roads.  41/28/514/515/512 was another great mix of twists and turns on pretty much empty pavement (I don’t think I passed or was passed by anyone over the next hour and this was on an August Sunday with lovely weather).  I stopped in Quadeville to update the mental map and pressed on when the mosquitos prompted me back into motion.  A thin film of mozzies was the only thing on the visor, unlike the plump livestock flies that’ll take an eye out down south.

By now I was hours deep into the woods.  I can appreciate the diversity and cultural richness that population offers, but the manic nature of time in these places exhausts me.  Out here you tick along at the speed of the breeze, and when you see someone else you make a point of giving them a wave because you’re not tripping over piles of people all day.

Never underestimate the citiot’s ability to
anything that doesn’t exist to support
their all-encompassing urban lifestyle.

I ended up missing the turn south to the 68 and stayed on the 66 all the way up to Wilno on Highway 60 (the road that goes through Algonquin Park).  It was all the advertising for Opeongo camping that made me realize I’d missed a turn and had come too far north to Hwy 60, but it didn’t matter.  The roads were clear and I was enjoying the ride.  The alternate route added some kilometers to the day, but even in August the sun is up for a long, long time.  I stopped in Barry’s Bay and charted a new route down 62 to Bancroft where I had a hotel room waiting.

62 was another beautiful Eastern Ontario road with views through the hills in the lengthening shadows on winding, though higher-speed roads.  I made good time and after about 350 kilometers, most of which were on twisty country backroads, I was ready to hang up my boots for the night.

The Bancroft Inn & Suites is just the sort of place that would wind up someone from the city.  It’s basic, but clean and doesn’t offer fancy coffees or fancy anything else; it was the perfect stop for the end of this analog day.  It was about as far as I could get from the neon-disco GLO hotel I’d stayed in the night before, but that jived with the thematic point.

By now I’m 3 days into a ride and far away from where I’d been starting to have PTSD anxiety dreams about work.  There is nothing like breaking out of a routine to clear your head and offer you some perspective.  My only regret is that I kept wanting to share moments with my partner but she was booked solid back home.  I’ve never done more than a 4 day trip on the bike, and I think that’s a goal now.  Getting into the rhythm or riding along unfamiliar roads to a new destination is incredibly energizing.  I need to do this for more than 4 days at a time in order to get lost in the ride more completely.

The next morning I’d figured out how to hotkey the 360 camera to shoot on auto.  I was up early (the joys of being in your 50s) and after a cup of in-room coffee I stepped out into a cool single digit morning.  Steam was rising from the lakes as I filled up in Bancroft and found my way directly onto backroads. aiming for Haliburton an hour down the road where breakfast beckoned.

The roads were once again startlingly empty and I rolled unimpeded north east of Bancroft and around the 648 ring road through Highland Grove and Pusey before finally connecting to my favourite Ontario highway: 118.  Even with some traffic and construction I was still well in my Zen pocket.

The Kosy Korner in Haliburton is what you’d expect from a $10 country breakfast: 2 eggs, bacon, toast and tatters and bottomless coffee.  The service was incredibly quick (less than 5 minutes from ordering to eating), but it was getting full of locals so I decamped to the Upper River Trading Co. where I got a nice Balzac coffee and people watched while going over the map for the day.

Feeling full and caffeinated, I hit the road out of Haliburton by 10am and subsequently enjoyed one of the most meditative rides down an empty 118 yet.  Mysterious black lakes and rivers appear on the side of the road and wind into the never ending forest, hinting at what may be beyond.  The road weaves through ancient rock and living nature like the best kind of Canadian poetry.

Cathedrals of stone…

The animals here be prehistoric!

A ride down a near empty Hwy 118 is something to look forward to.

Not as busy as the road into Algonquin, the 118 offers similar views without the maddening crowds.  As I approached Bracebridge the mania returned.  Like many places within reach of the GTA, Bracebridge has turned into a pale imitation of it over the past decade as its population has exploded.  As a general rule, the larger and more austentatious the vehicle, the more likely they are to drive like a tool.  The first one was a Cadillac Escalade, the rolling definition of fuck-the-world-and-get-yours consumerism, which blew past me at 120+kms/hr (I was doing 95 in an 80 zone).  With the Zen bubble popped I switched on my rampant biker paranoia and eased back into the super-heated and pressurized world of Southern Ontario driving culture.

I still eked moments out of the ride through Port Carling to Bala and out through the Mohawk territories to the 400 Highway, but once on the 400 Southern Ontario’s driving mania was in full force as I pulled out onto the highway to discover the trucks all doing 120+kms/hr and the rest doing better than 140.  Accelerate or be a moving chicane that’s likely to get rear ended by some doofus in an SUV doing 150kms/hr while looking at his phone.

Back into my usually riding range, I stopped in Creemore for a quick bite having not had anything to eat since breakfast at Kosy Korner that morning.  From here in it’s lots of flies and straight lines.  The next morning we sat on the porch with a cup of coffee at 7am while enjoying the symphony of backup beepers (5 or 6 of them at once?) along with the bullet crack of nail guns building more houses in the once empty field behind our subdivision.  The tintinnabulation of construction was eventually drowned out by our neighbour’s lawn service showing up with their helicopter-loud professional lawn mower (to cut about 200 square feet of grass).  We gave up at that point and went inside.  Maybe we spend so much time on connected devices in our urban hell holes because we’ve made them so uninhabitable IRL.

There are some beautiful places to live out of the madness that are only an hour out of Ottawa.  If we could escape the grip of Southwestern Ontario, perhaps we could find something more livable (and rideable) in the east.  I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where you could enjoy the ride at your backdoor, Calabogie delivers it!

Looking back over my longer rides, I think four days is the longest I’ve ever been able to arrange for a motorcycle trip.  Max and I did a four day loop around Ontario and Michigan many years ago, but busy work/life responsibilities makes it difficult to pry more time free, though that’s maybe what I need to find balance in this chaos.  A colleague just spent 60 days this summer riding out to the west coast to do the PCH.  My mind feels rebooted after four days away, I can’t imagine how he’s feeling, but I’d like to.

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A Cure For Your Insanity Part 2: Ottawa Construction And Traffic, Gatineau Off-Roading And Happy Accidents

Saturday morning was sunny and clear and I’d had a good nights sleep in Osgoode.  I talked Fiona, who I was staying with, into coming for a ride over to the Gatineau Hills in Quebec.  I’ve never ridden in “La Belle Province” before so it would check that box, and Gatineau Park in the hills is lovely.

We found a Cora’s to do breakfast out near where I used to live in Ottawa before we pushed on through town.  I hadn’t ridden two up on the Tiger since the summer before (the Concours does that duty now), and Fi hadn’t been on a bike in a long time, so we were a bit jerky to begin with but got smoother as we went.  I also don’t spend a lot of time in cities if I can help it, especially on a bike, so I was re engaging with my urban riding skills.  Ottawa has a fascination with traffic lights and (like everywhere in Ontario this summer) construction is running rampant.  I had the G-maps up again which did a good job of navigating the maze of closures to get us over the bridge and into Quebec.

The park was also full of closed roads which had us turning around many times.  Where data is easily collected (ie: in urban spaces), online mapping apps are functional, but the moment we were in less data driven areas (like Gatineau Park), it lost the plot, first suggesting we head around Meech Lake.  That ended at a heavily secured gate complete with RCMP with automatic weapons.  We guessed someone was in residence.

Back around Meech Lake (the road is atrocious but the views are nice), the bike was handling the crumbling pavement, but the x-cross smartphone holder I use on the handlebars was slowly giving up its grip on my phone.  We finally gave up on trying to get to a lookout (all roads to it were closed) and headed back into Hull to cross the river again.  Roads there were in really poor shape and while making a left hand turn we rolled into and out of a mega-pothole (no way to avoid it, it was lane wide) and the phone popped free and flew over my shoulder.

The old OnePlus5 was in its fifth year of service but didn’t survive the crash.  I  ran back to get it and when I rounded the corner a shifty looking fellow had picked it up to take it back to his car.  I trotted up in head to toe kevlar and told him it was mine and he handed it back.  Some shifty cloning and he might have been able to get into some sensitive data on there, so I’m glad I got it back.

Fi got us back through the construction madness and to Osgoode where I loaded up the paniers and made my way over to the hotel by the party in Kanata.  That involved lots of changes of direction because of all the road closures (including the main 417 highway through the city).  Finally finding the first open on-ramp, the Tiger and I pulled onto an empty five lane highway and legged it to Kanata, the temperature gauge falling back down to normal levels once we got the wind moving.  Even in the heat and traffic the bike worked flawlessly with the fans running when needed.
The Best Western GLO in Kanata is ultra-modern with Team Sweden coloured (royal blue and yellow) furniture and big neon lights on the outside.  Fi called my old friend Darren and we discovered we were staying in the same hotel, so I arranged a ride over to the party with them, like it was 1989.  How didn’t we know we were in the same hotel?  Because smartphones isolate us in strange ways.  They stop us from asking for directions.  They stop us from talking to each other because they provide the information we need (at a price).

All my maps were on the phone and the phone was no more, so I didn’t even know where the party was.  Being dependent on someone else for directions or information is what a smartphone frees you from, but is it really such a bad thing?  I was more annoyed by my atrophied brain struggling to remember phone numbers, something that I used to have no trouble with.  We off load all of this information into our devices and then convince ourselves that we’re incapable of doing it ourselves.  Read The Shallows if you want a deeper dive into what I’m talking about here.  Losing the phone has me rethinking how to map a road trip.

The party was another piece to the puzzle on this trip.  Getting older as a male can be an isolating experience.  Seeing the old faces and sharing memories was sorely needed.  We got back to the hotel around midnight and I was soon asleep.  The next morning I followed Darren and family over to a breakfast in Barrhaven with the old crew.  Afterwards I stopped by Canadian Tire and picked up a paper map of Ontario.  A brief look in the parking lot got me as far as Calabogie where I aimed to stop again once clear of the urban sprawl and do some old school mapping.  What would it be like to ride without the phone barking orders?  Would I be able to remember my route without stopping every five minutes?  I was about to find out…

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A Cure For Your Insanity Part 1: East Across Ontario

Due to financial constraints and various responsibilities I’d almost talked myself out of going to visit an old friend (we’ve known each other since he was 13) at his 50th birthday party last weekend, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  Seeing the old faces and catching up was brilliant, but so was the chance to be out in the wind for days on my bike.  Sometimes it takes stepping away from your place in the world to gain the perspective you need to better understand it.

I left on a Friday morning as the sun beat down and temperatures started to rise.  I’d intended to take the Kawasaki but it picked up a flat last week and replacement tire isn’t in yet so I turned to the trusty nearly 20 year old/84k Triumph Tiger to take me away.  Following standard GTA avoidance protocols I headed east instead of south to the crowded and manic highways of Toronto, which Google Maps always prompts me towards (getting there five minutes sooner is much more important than your mental health!).  Other than a traffic light in Centre Wellington not seeing me waiting (they’re quick to road-tax me but slow to recognize motorcycles as a vehicle – I ended up putting the kickstand down and running over to the pedestrian button to change the light), it was clear sailing out of my increasingly crowded and poorly infrastructured home county.

Riding into the rising sun I made good time until I hit Newmarket, which was all poorly timed traffic lights and frantic citiots rushing to get one car ahead.  I was going to stop for a coffee but nothing presented itself in the strip-mall cookie-cutter desert of GTA expansion and rather than grate on about wearing masks all the time I preferred to just avoid the masses, so I pressed on out the other side and back into the country, except the country is now plastered with gravel trucks grumbling in and out of construction sites to build more housing for the ever expanding Greater Toronto Area.

I’d been on the road about two hours when I rounded the end of Lake Scugog on the Port Perry causeway and pressed on towards Peterborough.  At a four way intersection someone in a trophy truck (top of the line full-sized pickup with bling wheels and chrome that will never do a day of work in its life) ran the red light making a right hand turn in front of me.  I edged over in my lane ready to do something more drastic but he stopped.  The lead rider in a gaggle of Harleys coming the other way started making angry monkey gestures because he felt that I was encroaching on his lane (which he was cutting the corner on).  It’s one of those things about riding in the insanity of Southern Ontario: everyone is very keen to tell you what you should be doing rather than making better decisions themselves.

I pushed on, hoping to get beyond the gravitational suck of Toronto driving culture.  Construction on the highway into Peterborough slowed things up again as people in massive SUVs rushed up the soon to be closed left hand lane to get a few cars ahead (and cause miles of backup), but if you’re not driving a massive SUV and butting in line you’re not doing it right.

Finally on Highway 7, I continued east toward Ottawa aiming for the Iron Rooster about halfway along the day one map.  Traffic thinned out and everyone settled into a less manic rush as the (sh)city fell behind.  After a stop in Marmora for gas I didn’t really need but a stretch I did, I rolled on to the Iron Rooster for lunch.  I haven’t seen any Ontario Provincial Police presence in my community for weeks, but on Hwy 7 there were multi-car speed traps set up every 300 feet or so.  By the time I stopped for lunch I’d seen over 20 police vehicles.  By the time I got to Osgoode (south of Ottawa) the number was over 50.  It’s nice to know that the OPP is focused on bonus tax collection and making sure the insurance industry is getting its pound of flesh rather than looking after the communities it claims to police.

The Iron Rooster is a cool spot right off the highway with a big parking lot and indoor/outdoor seating that helps ease any covid anxieties (they roll up multiple doors to make the inside outside).  The entire place is motorcycle themed and specializes in rotisserie chicken in various sandwiches.  That focus makes for good food and I enjoyed “The Rossi” which was a “Rotisserie chicken tossed in pesto mayo with tomato, avocado and havarti cheese” on a toasted brioche bun, locally cut fries too, nice!

Moto-inspired philosophy on the wall…

A wee museum with some interesting old bikes in it and the walls covered in posters including everything from The Great Escape to On Any Sunday and Easy Rider – it was a great stop!

A 1918 BSA!

Coming out of the restaurant I ran into three native women who were out for a ride on their Indian motorcycles.  One of the nice things about riding is that it tends to remove the social barriers that prevent us from talking to each other.  We struck up a conversation about our bikes and I asked them if the name bothered them and they shrugged, saying it was a historical brand and they liked how the company represented their culture, and they loved the bikes (all three were on variations of Indian Scouts).  We then had a good talk about why we enjoyed riding so much.  Being out in the world on a bike puts you in touch with the thermoclines you’re passing through and we all dug that you can feel the air and smell the smells when out in the wind; it puts you in touch with Turtle Island.

A distance was starting to form in my mind from where I’ve been feeling stuck in the village we moved into that is rapidly being converted into an urban subdivision.  As I rode away from the Rooster with a full stomach and some perspective, the old bones of the earth started to appear in the form of the Canadian Shield, poking up between pines and lakes (if you could see past all the police parked on the side of the road).

I had the smartphone clamped on the handlebars and when it wasn’t barking instructions at me it was flashing speed trap warnings.  I used to drive Highway 7 quite often when I lived in Ottawa and the lakes, woods and stony Shield were always my favourite parts of the drive.  Fast food restaurants now litter the route and the prettiness is being chased away by an influx of people.  Those chain restaurants have done a good job of chasing small town diners out of business as well.  One of the magical things about urban expansion is that everywhere starts to look the same after a while.

Traffic was light and I made the occasional pass, but between the police blitz and volume of traffic, Highway 7 isn’t the picturesque alternative to the 401 that it once was.  I wasn’t in a rush to get to Osgoode but I found the smartphone’s manic attention getting behaviour exhausting and when I did occasionally see a place I might stop it I found myself pushing on to keep to with the schedule Google had decided for me.  I finally turned it off and found I could enjoy the scenery and the ride more without all that noise.

Six and a half hours in I stopped in Perth to hang the phone back up and guide me in to Osgoode.  I rode past a the only non-franchise local coffee shop I’d seen on the entire ride because it was neck deep in construction and the phone was barking alternatives at me all through town.  As the sun started to stretch out the shadows I made my way into Osgoode on back roads and finally to a friend’s place I could stop at for the night.

The ride east was enlightening and it started a process that has me rethinking many of the habits I’ve fallen into because of where I live.  There is a manic oneupmanship that is a central tenet of Southern Ontario driving culture, and it’s something that makes everyone who buys into it supremely unhappy and stressed.  Getting one car ahead, even if it’s wasteful and potentially dangerous is everyone’s goal.

From many miles away I was thinking back to where I live as I rode the final miles of this Friday across Ontario.  Construction noises start before 7am every day.  Sitting outside for a morning coffee has you surrounded by the stucato gun shots of nail guns in the new housing division next to us harmonizing with layers of beeping from various heavy equipment backing up again and again.  This morning that was eventually drowned out by our neighbour’s professional lawn service getting their industrial grade (helicopter-loud) lawn mower out (at 7:30 in the morning) to trim their golf-course perfect lawn.  With that never ending noise, dust and with thousands of new people moving into the area, my quiet village is no longer either of those things.  Looking back on it from that great distance across the province I wondered if I’m holding on too tight to something that simply isn’t there any more.

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Riding Construction: How to Make a Mint Not Doing Anything

I took the Tiger for a ride to the big blue yesterday (that’s Georgian Bay around here).  It was about 300kms and involved no less than 3 completely closed roads causing turnbacks and over half an hour waiting on the ‘open’ ones…

South Western Ontario has closures
all over the place, and even Toronto
has lost the plot
.  If you can’t cash in
on a lapse in infrastructure spending
by provincial governments by taking
more contracts than you can serve,
you’re doing it wrong.

Each photo is 15 seconds apart, there are 35 photos in that animated gif – making that a 9 minute wait to get through the construction (who didn’t have the personnel to manage a four way intersection though that didn’t stop them from digging it up).  It seems that there is a construction boom happening in Ontario but with very little oversight from our new and improved, stripped back government.  As everyone bellies up to the public money trough, lots of these projects are sitting dormant.

I was turned back multiple times yesterday by road closures that had no activity evident at them.  The ones that were open were short on people for traffic management and weren’t in full production either.  I know it isn’t a comfortable thought, but we’re still unable to leverage our human resources with an ongoing pandemic.  Doesn’t stop the construction companies from cashing in though.

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Exploring Alternate Motorcycle Gear

I did a ~300km ride up to Georgian Bay the other day and thought I’d try out the work pants I just got from Marks Work Warehouse.  On an extended ride last week I was finding the technical pants I have are both hot and uncomfortable in the saddle and went looking for alternatives.

These are Timberland Ironhide workpants and they make use of technical protective weaves including high denier count (1000D) Cordura and flexible technical canvas.  They don’t have padding in them, but as a step beyond regular jeans, these approach ‘motorcycle jeans‘ in terms of durability for a fraction of the price, and they’re more comfortable too.

They were cool and comfortable even on a hot day in the saddle (humidex temps in the mid-30s Celsius) and because they’re work pants flexibility is an important part of their functionality, which means they sit well when on the bike as well as when off it.  The sizing was spot on, so order to fit.  They look smart too with excellent fit and a ‘trim’ look to them.

So impressed am I with these pants that I’ll probably get a second pair at some point.  Of course, it would be nice to pop out and buy the latest in technical motorcycling pants, but at a thousand bucks for a pair of pants it’s also prohibitive for most riders.  I’m all about the ATGATT and riding around in shorts and flipflops isn’t going to happen, but some crafty research can get you durable, comfortable and protective gear for a fraction of the cost of motorcycle industry specific stuff – ATGATT doesn’t have to be only for the wealthy and having a look at the latest technical work-wear for the skilled trades is a good place to start.

There might be an argument here for getting the very best gear regardless of cost, but anyone saying that is speaking from a place of great financial privilege (and probably has an interest in selling it to you).  Riding is always going to be reward over risk calculation, but it doesn’t have to be one driven by fear and money.  My raingear is also construction based high-vis and works wonders (actually better than moto-gear) for a fraction of the cost of ‘motorcycle rain gear’.  If you’re ever stuck for well put together gear for riding you could do worse than checking out your local farm or industrial clothing store.

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Moto-Crafting: Motorcycle Helmet Art

It’s so stupidly hot out that even working the garage on the Bonneville is making me drip, so I’m back inside doing motorcycle crafting instead.

I got an LS2 Spitfire helmet last year and always figured I’d do something artistic on it (it’s flat black and I’m not into the angry pirate look that seems to inspire so many ‘bikers‘). Since it’s black, I was initially thinking about a lightning pattern over the black using metallic paints. I saw an exceptional lighting storm a couple of years ago that provided the inspiration. On in particular I’ve always wanted to immortalize: the lightning dragon!

I’d need to get some metallic purple to make that happen.

In the meantime I’m still partial to the art-deco art in the Rudge Book of the Road.  So I pulled the graphic out, cleaned it up and made a stencil to get the dimensions right on the curved side of the helmet.

I used a silver sharpie making dots around the edge and then painted connect the dots with chrome-silver metallic modelling paint…

The Concours makes riding with an open faced helmet less bug-crashy thanks to the transformable windshield, so I’ll give this a whirl next week.  If anyone in Ontario recognizes it for what it is, I’ll be amazed.

Rudge art-deco graphic design is still alive in 2022!   Rudge Book of the Road, well worth a read!

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