Zen and the art of running out of gas

Went out for a nice ride on a beautiful spring evening.  The bike was low on gas but I was still in the red, so I pushed on.

Couldn’t have asked for a nicer night.  Bikes were out everywhere, me along with them.  I looped out east and then passed south of home and followed the river west.


In the setting sun I came across the Black Power Bison Farm.  The big furry creatures were grazing in the golden light… very idyllic.

From there I continued west downstream and turned onto highway 86, wondering when the gas light would come on to give me the immanent fill up warning.  Instead of the light coming on the Tiger hesitated as I accelerated up to speed on the highway, and then stalled.  I rolled to a stop on the side of the road and it wouldn’t restart.  I gave the bike a shake and it started, so I looped around and started heading back toward the river and the road home, when it stalled again.  I kept it rolling and pulled back on to the side road I’d just ridden up.

As I ran out of momentum I could see the Kissing Bridge Trailway parking lot.  It was only a short push up a slight hill into the lot.  The sun was casting its last rays across a beautiful evening.  I got out the phone and called home – fortunately my son picked up and mobilized the cavalry.

I pushed the Tiger out to the front of the empty lot so my rescuers could see it and spent my time in the dying light reading about the Trailway and taking photos.  There is a video where a guy is riding his old Triumph and it won’t restart after he stops for a pee.  He rages at the machine, but eventually ends up soaking up the nature around him.  With a Zen like calm, he eventually kicks the old bike over and it starts – it wouldn’t while he was angry.  I wish I could find that video and share it again here.  No point in being angry, best to be where I am doing what I’m able to do.

Soon enough my lovely wife and son showed up with the gas can.  I put a litre into the tank and the Tiger immediately fired up.  They followed me the ten minute ride back to Elora and we topped up the bike and refilled the gas can.

Now to figure out why the low gas warning light isn’t working on the Tiger.

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You Say You Want A Revolution?

… well you know, we all wanna save the world.

Thoughts from ECOO 2011
You say you want a digital revolution in education?  Is your perfect classroom a one screen per child?  Do you rage against the bureaucracy and hate that this isn’t happening fast enough?
There is a lot of excitement and optimism around this, much of it centered on the idea that technology will somehow make our jobs as teachers easier.  If you honestly believe that then your optimism is blind.
Technology will give you access to information, and offer you opportunities to differentiate learning and even assess student abilities in much more minute and specific ways, but it won’t make your job easier, it will make it much more challenging, especially if teaching for you is a matter of working out a lesson and then repeating it for twenty years until you retire.

If you knew how to direct a plough team of horses in the field, did you really think that a modern machine makes things simpler?  Easier to operate?  Do you have to know less to operate the machine than you did the horse?

At the Ecoo Conference this year, many people focused on specific apps that would replace a specific classroom related paper based piece of work.  This is the equivalent of creating a steam powered horse, rather than designing a train that more appropriately uses the new technology.  Using google docs to replace individual writing is this kind of thinking.  Using prezi to replace a poster presentation is this kind of thinking.  Using Diigo to replace making notes out of an encyclopedia is this kind of thinking. The real power of these tools lies in how they are different, not in how the replace an existing process, and especially in how they create collaborative opportunities.

We are trapped by our preconceptions…

Those preconceptions also feed into fears.

The collaborative nature of online tools freaked out many people at ECOO.  The heel digging around using social media (twitter and others) to expand personal learning networks was consistent across many of the seminars I attended.  Many educators still accept group work in class, but believe online collaboration is a form of plagiarism and cheating, or even worse, it somehow causes children to be preyed on by making them public.

If the classroom is really going to bleed out of the factory inspired buildings we call schools and infect a student’s life in a more permanent way (ultimately creating curious life long learners), then we need to continue to develop access to collaborative online tools that don’t frighten people, and act assertively to clarify new media and calm down the analogue population.

I had a knee jerk response from an invite I sent out on school email this weekend asking if anyone who hadn’t PLN built before might be interested.  The teacher (a self described dinosaur) said, “I don’t want to be tweeting or any of that other social media stuff.  If I want PD, I’ll read a book.”  I pointed out to her that most of the discussion online revolves around books we’ve read.  The key difference between her enriching her own teaching and the PLN doing it online is that more than one person benefits; collaboration is what super charges it.

The foundation of all this anxiety is the spectacular example our digital native students make of social media, which is usually displayed as the most asinine waste of time ever devised.  Older teachers who are techno-phobic find the idea of using digital tools for productivity as foreign as clueless fourteen year olds do.  The blind leading the blind.

I keep trying to shed some light on this, but people get very cranky about it.

Technology As Distraction

We have more computer access now than we’ve ever had before, both in and out of school.  We have more internet access now than ever before, both in and out of school.  This is all simple fact…

The full non-twitterized quote was, “Great, I couldn’t find a computer lab to book, now I won’t get my marking done.”  Implication?  You book a computer lab so the kids have something to do while you catch up on work.  You don’t teach using computers, they are a way to keep students amused, distracted.

Anecdotally speaking, the vast majority of labs I walk by on any given day contain a teacher studiously ignoring their students, either on a computer themselves or frantically marking, while their students wander the internet looking for entertainment, the room aglow with the moderate cobalt blue of Facebook.

Last week we had a teacher angrily emailing because the labs he’d booked while he was absent had been double booked.  Implication?  I can book a lab while I’m away so the students have something to do.  Presumably there was work attached to the lab booking, but once again there was no teaching involved in it.  You book a lab so a supply teacher doesn’t have to teach either.

This does a couple of damaging things.  First of all, it reinforces in student’s minds that computers are only for entertainment.  If the teacher isn’t actively involved in the use of computers in the class, if computer access isn’t intrinsic to what students are learning, then we only reinforce the idea of technology as an entertainment/time waster.

I teach media arts in an Apple lab.  It seems like a dream technical teaching situation, but the difficulty in trying to get students cultured to vegetate in front of a screen to recognize all that they don’t know, and use a computer for productive and/or creative purposes is agonizing.  It’s like trying to get a morphine addict to recognize how small measured doses can actually help someone manage pain; they don’t care, they just want to keep overusing it for their own amusement.

I want to thank all those teachers who use school computer labs as a distraction that encourages these bad habits.

Another problem is teacher computer literacy.  This is a major problem in the general public, and in teachers as well; people generally know how to do only a few things, and have no idea how what they use works, they certainly aren’t experimental with their usage.  Teacher lack of familiarity with computer and internet use makes them poor facilitators in digital learning environments, and they aren’t going to get much better at it if they treat computer lab time as an excuse to do work irrelevant to what students are doing.

If we’re going to develop digital pedagogy, we need to be recognizing how digital tools can become vital components in learning and not merely a replacement for analogue options (ie: poster board/PowerPoint, pen & paper/word processor) that you can leave students with in a lab while you catch up on marking.

Left to their own devices (and they almost always are), students on a computer revert to simplistic habits: Facebook lurking, Youtube staring or the dreaded pointless online game/time-waster.  This disconnect also produces the vast majority of school computer vandalism, something that actively prevents us from buying more computers (because we have to keep repairing the under supervised labs we have instead of having cash on hand to develop diverse educational technology).

These are usually the first teachers who complain about lack of access, because they can’t find themselves a period off.  As a teacher that has technology baked into their curriculum, these people make my job that much harder than it already is.

The Kingfisher Logo

The kingfisher logo comes from a tatoo I designed way back in the Naughties and got put on my leg.  I did it shortly after returning to England for the first time since I’d immigrated when I was eight years old.  It’s a European kingfisher of the kind I used to see when I was little.  It reminds me of where I came from.

I took a photo of the tatoo and then photoshopped it into the logo as it is now.  Kingfishers are a triple threat: they can fly like missiles, swim like a fish and move about on land.  A good metaphor for the kind of photography and art I like to do (the technically difficult kind).

I took the glow from the original photo out of the middle of the bird…

The headers for all my blogs are made in Photoshop from images I’ve created…

Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries (my Triumph Tiger photoshopped into colour matched text)


Previous TMD logos went through a series of evolutions, as did the Mechanical Sympathy logo…

The Dusty World logo (my oldest blog) has been stable for a number of years…

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Costello’s BMW is a thing of beauty.

Digging out an old BMW from the woods the other day was an emotional roller coaster.  What we ended up finding wasn’t what we thought it was though.  Jeff’s original plan was to find an old air head BMW and convert it into a cafe racer.  Bill Costello’s wonderful example was what motivated him aesthetically.  BMW turned out a lot of air cooled boxers before recently adopting an air/water cooled combo.  You think it’d be easy to pick one out to strip apart back to basics.

Turns out that isn’t the case.  As we wheeled the old R100RT out of the shed we were struck with a custom paint job and some interesting looking badges.  It turns out that in 1983 BMW Motorrad was celebrating its 60th anniversary and produced 300 special edition machines, and we were looking at one of them that had been sitting in a shed for eleven years.

It took a few hours to get back with the bike, but once in the driveway we were looking it over by flashlight, trying to get a handle on what it was that we’d recovered from the grips of time.

The next morning over coffee a discussion started around just how special this anniversary model might be.  It took Jim showing up with a cell phone that actually worked at the cottage (thanks Bell) to get online and begin filling in the gaps.

As the rain thundered down outside we discovered that these bikes often sell for three times what Jeff had bought it for.  On top of that a lot of BMW aficionados are against pulling apart and cafe-ing older BMWs, especially anniversary specials.  This left us in an awkward place.  Do you cut it to pieces and build the cafe racer you’ve been dreaming of building, or do you restore what might be a valuable piece of history?

If you’re going to run into problems buying an old bike, this is a good one to have.

Putting air in the tires for the first time in a long time, they held it too!

A CRV, the perfect off road towing vehicle!
It took a lot of pushing to get it that far.

Ever wondered what eleven years of dirt looks like?  Like that.

Lots of nice details on this old BMW

#BIT17: 360 media takes a completely different approach to production

This week I brought some 360° cameras to the 2017 ECOO Conference to show how (kind of) easy it is to make immersive media for virtual reality viewers like Google Cardboard.  I brought along my favourite 360 camera, the Ricoh Theta (physical controls, good shape, very intuitive to use, easy to manage and produce files), and some others:

  • a Samsung Gear360 4k camera (harder to access physical controls buried in menus, awkward shape, files that are such a pain to use in the Samsung software that it will take you days to turn out content)
  • a 360Fly 4k not-quiet 360° camera (awkward wireless controls over smartphone, doesn’t stitch together 2 180° images into a full view, water/cold proof and tough, easy to manage files, useful time lapse functions built in)
  • at the last minute I brought along the Instapro 360 8k professional camera, but it demands a special type of SD memory card so I couldn’t make use of it.  The software and hardware is also very difficult to manage – it’s going to take a while to figure this camera out.

360° cameras offer a unique opportunity to capture a moment in a way that hasn’t been possible before.  When combined with immersive VR viewers like Google Cardboard, full systems like HTC’s Vive or upcoming Google Daydream platforms, 360 video and photography allow the viewer to inhabit the media, looking out into it as a part of it rather thank peering at it through a framed window as we’ve always done before.

This is our presentation from our Minds on Media VR & 360 Media Station from #BIT17

This lack of perspective, framing or directional intent makes 360 video and photography a very different medium to work in.  The tyranny of the director’s eye is gone, leaving the viewer to interact with the media as they see fit.  This is both good and bad.  If you’re watching a film through Steven Spielberg’s director’s eye you’re seeing it better than you probably could yourself; you benefit from that framing of a narrative.  If you’re looking at an Ansel Adam’s photograph you’re experiencing what he saw and benefiting from his genius in the process.  That eye and the ability to effectively use a medium to demonstrate it is what makes a good film director or photographer, but 360 media tosses all that out.

The irony in all of this is that being a good 360 director has more to do with setting a scene and getting out of the way than it does with framing everything just so.  It also means that if your viewer has a trained eye they can find moments in your media that you might not even have intended.  It also means that if the viewer of your 360 media is technically incompetent or has the visual standards of an amoeba they won’t find anything of value in it at all.  Suddenly the audience has a lot of control over how effective your media is when you’re shooting in 360.

The examples below show just how 360 images can be directed like former ‘windowed’ media or left open and viewer directed:

When the media maker directs your view, you see what they want you to see:

Or you can produce 360 media that the viewer controls that maybe tells the whole story:

#BIT17 keynote about to start – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Teaching visual intelligence will become much more important in the future if 360 media and immersive virtual media viewing become the new norm.  If your audience is too visually ignorant to make effective use of your media they won’t recognize the value in it.  I wonder if you won’t see directed views of 360 media done by people who can still provide the majority of people who aren’t interested in building up visual media fluency the chance to enjoy media at its maximum effectiveness.

Beyond the director/audience change in power there are also a number of challenges in producing effective 360 media.  The biggest problem is that the camera sees everything, so you can’t have a crew out of sight behind the lens because there is no out of sight.  We’ve gone to ridiculous lengths in producing 360 video for our virtual school walk through in order to try and let the viewer feel like they are immersed in the media without drawing their attention to the apparatus that is being used to create the media.

Tools like GiimbalGuru’s 360 friendly gimbal that minimizes wobbles that are much queasier in immersive VR viewers than on screen helps the process.  This gimbal is 360 friendly because unlike other camera gimbals that block views to the sides and back, the GimbalGuru 360 is vertically balanced and so stays out of the shot.  One of the issues with the Samsung Gear is that the short handle means you have a lot of hand in any photo.  The shape of the Ricoh Theta minimizes that problem.  A good 360 camera should be stick shaped, not stubby to minimize hand in the shot.

The last piece on 360 media making concerns the audience.  At the ECOO Conference keynote the ever aware Colin Jagoe asked the obvious question, did you get everyone to sign waivers?  It’s a question you see on lots of people’s faces when they see you take a 360 photo or video.  The answer to this runs back to the idea of a director or photographer directing the viewer’s vision.  

If take a photo or video of a person, I’m pointing the camera at them and they are the subject of it.  As the subject of a piece of media it’s fair to ask if that subject should have a say over whether or not I can make them the subject of my media making.  However, since the 360 camera isn’t taking a picture of them (it’s taking a picture of everything), they aren’t the focused subject of my media.

The assumption they are working under is one that has been drilled into us subconsciously by the directed, ‘windowed’ media we’ve had up until now.  If someone points a camera at you it is about you, at least mostly.  If someone takes a 360 image in the same moment, you are just one of many possible focuses in that image.  If I had any advice for those pursed lips I see whenever I take a 360 media image it would be, ‘chill out, it’s not all about you.’

The law around this is fairly straightforward:  “when people are in a public space, they’ve already forfeited some of their right to privacy… Generally, as long as the images of people aren’t offensive, defamatory or unreasonably invade their privacy, you don’t have to get every person in the crowd to sign a release.”

360 media, because of its lack of point of view, is even less likely to invade anyone’s rights to privacy, especially if you’re taking an image in a public space with many people in it.  It’s going to take a while for people to realize that 360 media isn’t all about them just because they happened to be in the vicinity when it occurred.  The short answer to Colin’s question on Twitter is easy, “I don’t have to get a waiver from you dude!”

There are a number of media production and social issues around 360/immersive media production, and I’m sure we’ll be working them out for years to come.  Spielberg is currently working on the VR futurist movie adaption of Ready Player One, coming out in the spring.  He is developing a lot of VR/immersive/360 content for that film – it may be the first big budget picture to really embrace immersive 360 media.  I imagine he’s working through a lot of these problems in post production (green screening out the crew in 360 shots?).

I haven’t even gotten into the technical requirements of 360 media production.  If you think hi-def ‘windowed’ video makes a lot of data, 4k 360 video will knock you flat on your back.  The 8k camera I’ve yet to get going requires such a strange, high performance SD card that I’ve had to special order it.  The camera is going to use tens of gigs of data to make even short videos and post-processing on even a descent desktop computer will take 15 minutes for every minute of footage.  Working in high def 360 footage is very storage and processor heavy work.

All of this will get sorted out in time and the benefits of immersive 360 media are obvious to anyone who has tried it.  In the meantime I got to experiment with this emerging medium at #BIT17 and really enjoyed both my time catching moments with it and swearing at how awkward it was to get working.  My next goal is to exercise my new UAV pilot qualifications and explore 360 media from an aerial perspective.  Hey, if it was easy, everyone would experiment with emerging technologies.

Here is some of our media from the ECOO 2017 Conference in Niagara Falls:

Using the time lapse function (one image every 10 seconds) on the 360Fly camera, here’s a morning of VR demonstrations at Minds on Media on the Wednesday of #BIT17

My 13 year old son Max takes you on a virtual tour of Minds on Media on Wednesday morning using the Samsung Gear360 camera and the GimbalGuru mount to steady it.

Pushing the limits of the GuruGimbal and Samsung 360Gear – a motorcycle ride around Elora.  If you’ve got the patience for how long it takes to process in the Samsung  Action Director software, it produces some nice, high definition footage.

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Pigeon Forge Motorcycle Base Camp Trip Planning

The Smokey Mountains are a motorcycle Mecca for a reason.

Using a combination of motorcycleroads.com and Furkot.com I’ve been planning day trips from Pigeon Forge, which seems a sensible place to explore the Smokey Mountains from.  The process can serve as escapism on a foggy, freezing drizzle Boxing Day, or it could be  pre-planning for an inevitable trip.

I’ve variously daydreamed about driving the Tiger down in a van over the Christmas break to New Orleans and Key West, as well as riding down to The Tail of the Dragon next August for a complete solar eclipse.  There are a lot of good reasons to figure out possible rides for when I’m eventually in the area.

Pigeon Forge is located just south east of Knoxville and offers a great launching point into the Smokey Mountains.  The area around there is covered in desirable roads:

The only trick with a winter trip is changeable weather.  It looks like next week in Pigeon Forge would have been a bit challenging:

It’s a roll of the dice going south in the winter but the summer’s a sure thing.  Maybe I’ll find myself in the Smokey Mountains next summer when the moon hides the sun.

200 KM East Loop

230KM Pigeon Forge low land loop

Pigeon Forge 300km South Smokey Mtn loop

240 KM loopback Dragon’s Tail

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Bike Hole 2.0

With some shed-age, I’ve been able to move the gardening stuff out of the bike hole.  With a bit of re-arrangement I’ve got plenty of space for the Connie and the Ninja.  Being able to park bikes wall to wall means I have more space for more bikes!

Fat Guys On Bikes

Even my leaner summer weight is still
overweight / borderline obese.

I got called in for a checkup at my local MDs last week.  I’m not a little fellow, at 6’3″ I usually tip the scales at about 110 kilos (~240lbs).  At that weight I don’t carry much extra weight anywhere, though my BMI tells me that I’m on the verge of obesity there, which doesn’t make it a very effective tool for encouraging reduction.  According to the BMI I should weigh 175lbs, which is astonishing.  I think I’d look emaciated at that weight on my frame.  Even as a lean teen I was about 200lbs.

The checkup was a followup for blood pressure, which I’m in a healthy range on.  The shock came when I got weighed.  The middle of winter isn’t the best time to weigh yourself, especially when we’re in the middle of the coldest winter on record.  When going outside hurts you tend to turtle by the fireplace.

At 262lbs, I’m well into obesity now, though I still consider myself active and can get out of a chair without making strange noises.  I’ve been doing yoga once a week, but dropped hockey because of the driving involved and the general level of jerkiness I experience playing with frustrated middle aged men.

The nurse asked what goals I’d like to set considering the good blood pressure but surprising fat-guy score.  I’d been thinking about exercising more, but when you don’t tell anyone about it you’re not held to anything.  I told the nurse I wanted to get back to 240lbs, so now I’ve told someone and I’m on the hook.

I’ve been hitting the elliptical twice a week for half an hour each time in addition to the yoga.  Between that and not eating everything that comes my way, I’m hoping to get back down under the 75th percentile for my gender and height.

Hopefully I can avoid the specialty
leathers when I finally get kitted out.

I’ve always tended to approach getting in shape backwards, I wait for the opportunity before preparing for it.  When I was preparing to join the police force, I was working out regularly while aiming for that physical exam.   With no reason to get into shape, why bother?

This time round I’ve set a reward for getting in shape.  If I can hit the weight goal I’ll sign myself up for the weekend racing school.  Those little 125cc Hondas don’t need a fat guy sitting on them, and the other riders don’t need to see a 260+ lb guy trying to squeeze into race leathers.  Bruce Willis once said he can’t be bothered to exercise at all, the only thing that motivates him is vanity.  If he knows he’s going to be filmed with his shirt off he hits the gym.  I’ve got vanity and physics encouraging me.

As the nurse said, it’s not a matter of binge exercise or diet, it’s about habit changing.  I don’t need to get all monk like and have only cabbage and water.  If I can get into a comfortably doable new normal, I won’t worry about the numbers and just see where I end up.  Be active at least 3 times a week (with a heart rate above 130), be reasonable with food consumption, and see where that gets me.  Enjoy my exercise (I have been so far, I’ve been watching Closer to the Edge while I get sweaty), and see how it affects my mood (positively so far, I look forward to it).

One of the tough things about getting older is staying active.  Life is busy, and the whole, ‘if you stay fit you’ll live longer!’ argument doesn’t do much for me.  If that means I’m sitting in an old-age home drooling on myself in forty years, I’d just as soon not be.  What is motivating is setting reachable goals, feeling better and rewarding myself for it with a bucket list experience.  With any luck I’ll be blogging about that race weekend in June (and looking good in the pictures).

Coast to Coast to Coast 2.0

Originally published on Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries in June, 2014:


I just finished watching Arctic Clutch.  He doesn’t go as far as I’m planning to with Coast Cubed and he does it in a more alcohol fuelled young man’s way, but he does shed some light on travelling in the far north.  From the video it’s hard to tell whether 150km/day on the Dempster Highway is difficult, or difficult because he’s hungover.  He does mention how expensive hotel rooms are up there though, which is helpful.

774kms of gravel before another
140 new kms up to the coast,
over 900kms all told – all gravel 

The key to being able to access the arctic coast in Canada and enable a coast to coast to coast trip is the completion of the Dempster Highway up to Tuktoyaktuk.  It looks like it will be completed by 2018.  A summer 2018 coast to coast to coast epic adventure, sounds like a plan!  I’d the first person on two wheels to complete this trip.  Anyone interested in joining me?

Next to the extreme distances involved (the Earth’s circumference is just over 40,000kms, this trip is over half that, all in one country!), the hardest part of this trip is the ride north to the Arctic Ocean.  I’d originally thought that since eighteen of the twenty thousand kilometres of this trip will be on pavement, I’d get a bike focused on that task.  I’d stop in Dawson and prep the bike for the rocky portion of the trip with an engine guard and some dual purpose tires tough enough to handle a couple of thousand kilometres over rocks.

An argument could be made for an adventure bike for this, but unless it’s a very road focused adventure bike I wouldn’t consider it.  Having to put up with a tall, wallowy, wrong-tired, road-awkward bike for just 10% of the trip still seems wrong headed.  What is vital is a bike that can handle high kilometre paved road days that wouldn’t fatigue me.

Having seen Nick Sanders double Pan-America Highway run on a Super Ténéré, I’m thinking that a multi-purpose bike might work better, though with having to deal with Central and South America, Nick had a lot more unpaved road to deal with.  There are, however, a number of ‘adventure’ bikes that are much more comfortable on pavement and can eat huge miles easily.

I’m still always thinking about lighter weight bikes and don’t want some litre plus monster to lug around.  With that in mind I’m rethinking choices for this trip, especially if I’ve got a couple of years to get my ducks in a row.

An early favourite of mine is the Triumph Tiger.  Described more as a good road bike with some off road ability, it would be putting the priorities in the right order but would still have no problems with the Dempster Highway.  Being made-in-England myself, I’d enjoy doing Canada’s first coast to coast to coast ride on a compatriot.

I was all set to be a Triumph guy from the start, but my Ninja has snuck up on me, and Kawasaki offers some interesting long distance options.  I’ve already thought about the Kawasaki Concourse, which would handle the big miles in an athletic but capable manner.  Then there is the odd, but Cyclon-looking Kawasaki Versus (the odd cousin of my Ninja), which looks like it could handle the Dempster.  Maybe Kawasaki would like to bring the Versus out of the shadows and make it the first bike to ride coast to coast to coast in Canada.

Since I’ve got a couple of years to work this out I’ll pound the pavement and see who wants to be involved.  OLN Canada should probably be on the ground when someone completes the first coast to coast to coast Canada ride.  Isn’t this like finishing the railroad (finally)?  Canada is, at last, truly a three coast entity and we can all enjoy it.  Over twenty thousand kilometres of travel without crossing an international border.

Canada really is something rare in the world, enormous and unfinished… especially to the north.

Whatcha think Kawasaki Canada?

Time to get the Versus out of the shadows and make it the first bike to ever go Coast to Coast to Coast in Canada?