My most comfortable helmet is the cheapest one I’ve bought. That Hawk open faced helmet from Leatherup.ca is a simple device with barely any padding in it, yet I can wear it for hours without any pressure points. It’s a flip down, open faced lid with a built in sun visor, but it solidified for me my preferred helmet type – the open faced, modern helmet. You can get out of the wind with the full face visor, or just use the sun visor and enjoy an unencumbered view of the road. With the open faced thing in mind, here are my latest helmet dreams, but they ain’t cheap (or easy to find in some cases):
I’ve still got a huge crush on these French helmets that you can’t get here. I’m going to have to take a trip to the south of France just to pick one up. The orange Desmo on the left has an A7 Corsair vibe to it that I dig. It still looks like the perfect helmet: an open faced helmet that can transform into a fully safetied full face helmet when needed without having to carry around bits and pieces with you. Price? No idea, you can’t buy them in North America and the former distributor hasn’t been forthcoming with where to get the last ones in-country. These guys have it for €469 ($649CA), but then there will be shipping and customs fees. I’d be the only one I see on the road though.
Schuberth just came out with a new version of their open faced helmet. Once again, these aren’t everywhere, but they are a heck of a lot easier to find than the Roof. Compared to the French jeux de vivre in the Roof, you get some pretty German meh when it comes to style, though I bet its engineered to within an inch of its life. Price? $680 from a trusted source, canadasmotorcycle.ca
Wired did an article on these many moons ago. Also a modular helmet, but rather than the Roof’s elegant hinge, you end up with a handful of bits when you want to go open face. It still has a neo-tech look to it that I like, though their webpage is a bit of a pig (my laptop is in overdrive trying to make sense of it). Price? Good question, NEXX Canada doesn’t appear to offer the X40 for sale. You can find them for sale in the UK for £249.99 ($484CA), but you also facing those shipping and customs costs.
An open faced helmet that comes with all the bits and pieces to make a closed lid if you so wish. It also lets you live your Clint Eastwood Firefox dream. The Soyouz is also made by a much better known and distributed manufacturer than some of the dodgier off-shore helmets I seem drawn to. Price? $299 in Canadian dollars with free shipping and no customs surprises from motorcyclesuperstore, a trusted source who go over the top to make sure you’re happy with your order. If they go on sale, I might not be able to help myself.
The story told in a photo is told as much by the viewer as it is
by the photographer, and it’s non-linear.
Since I was solo on the circumnavigation of Georgian Bay I brought along some gear to capture the moment. I prefer photography. I think a good photo is an entire world you can get lost in, and unlike video it isn’t forcing you to follow along frame by frame. In a photo you’re free to wander with your eyes in a non-linear way.
Having said all that, I brought along some video gear to try out on this trip. I’d love a GoPro, but since they cost almost as much as my bike did, I got a cheap Chinese knock-off instead (and a cheap knockoff it is!) The Foscam AC1080 takes fantastic video (full 1080p) and decent photos (up to 12 megapixels), and at only about $140 taxes in, it’s less than 1/3 the price of a GoPro. Where it falls apart is in the fit and finish. In a week of what I’d describe as gentle use for an ‘action camera’ the buttons never lined up right with the unit inside the waterproof case (I ended up having to remove the camera to start and stop it), the case itself was so rickety it would just blow over in the wind (the GoPro has a ratchet in the stand that locks in position, the Foscam is just a plastic screw), and the case itself snapped at the base after only a few uses. It also gets uncomfortably hot when it recharges. I have some concerns about the physical capabilities of this ‘action’ camera.
The Foscam takes nice stills too, when it takes them.
The other shaky part of the Foscam is its operation. You can start it up and it’ll stop again for no apparent reason (though this might have to do with convoluted options buried in menus). You might think the GoPro lacking in options, but it has very streamlined operation and always gets what you’re filming (which is vital in action video), and it does it without an LCD or menu options buried three deep. The Foscam also saves in a .mov file format which Sony Vegas seems determined not to render properly. If you can get past all that frustration you can get some very nice video out of the Foscam:
… and you can find you’ve got nothing because it shut off just when you were about to do a one time thing:
A quick video of the boarding of the Chicheemaun ferry in Tobermory – why did I take it from the Olympus Camera around my neck? Because the Foscam shut off for no apparent reason just as we were about to board. But hey, when it works it makes nice pictures.
The go-to camera was my trusty Olympus Pen. This is the best camera I’ve ever owned – a micro SLR with swappable lenses and full manual control. It also takes video in a pinch. This camera punches well above its weight. If I were to pony up for something better, it would be an Olympus OM-D that takes the same size lenses, and then go on a lens hunt for some macro and telephoto madness.
Also on this trip I brought along a Samsung S5, which takes nice pics and decent video. Smartphone cameras have gotten so good that I don’t think about point and shoot cameras any more, they are redundant. My only regret is not picking up the bonkers Nokia Lumia 1020 with it’s massive camera built in, but then Telus didn’t have it. I’m not really through with the Foscam yet. Once I’ve got it worked out, hopefully I can still use it to get some quality video off the bike. The other day we were out for a ride so I decided to focus on getting some audio instead. Yes, riding a bike really is as fun as this sounds. I’m going to look into making some finer audio recordings to catch the sound of riding, it’s a different angle on motorbike media. Over the summer I plan to look into more advanced 3d modelling and micro-photography as well as maybe some drone work. I’m looking forward to pushing the limits with motorbike media creation.
Espanola to Waubaushene, the long way around Georgian Bay is just over 300kms of highway focus.
Circumnavigating Georgian Bay for the first time made me aware that I’ve never done this kind of mileage before. I was wondering how I’d hold up on such a long ride. Up on the Bruce Peninsula I faced strong headwinds that constantly knocked me about, and throughout the ride I faced temperatures from under ten to over thirty degrees Celsius. None of that stressed me as much as the highway stint I did out of Espanola around Georgian Bay to Waubaushene.
Parked by French River, I prepare for the second leg of the long highway ride south.
Just over three hundred kilometres of highway got started at about 9:30am. Being on divided multi-lane highway on this bike for the first time was a novelty that wore off by Sudbury. What faced me then was a long ride south with more traffic than I usually go looking for.
When I drive on the highway I strive for lane discipline. I keep right except to pass and chastise myself if I fail to indicate a lane change, which almost never happens. I’d consider myself a disciplined car driver and I prefer to make time and leave most of the confused/distracted types behind me. In my first year of riding I had a moment when I was following a beige mini-van and realized I’m on a machine that could pass much more safely than I can in a heavier/slower/less manoeuvrable car (short of extremely exotic cars, any motorcycle is better at braking, accelerating and turning, and exotic motorcycles are better at that than exotic cars). I passed the mini-van and put myself in empty road where I wasn’t depending on the attention of button mashing smartphone zombies in cages. The extremely defensive mindset of a competent motorbike rider who exploits the abilities of their vehicle to emphasize their own safety really appeals to me. I’ve ridden that way since. Out on the highway I was moving at speed, dealing with blustery winds and sore muscles from hundreds of miles travelled. The gyroscopic nature of a bike’s wheels means you don’t have to worry about tipping over, but a bike still changes directions in a heartbeat. At one point I stretched my neck by looking down at the tank and when I looked up I’d changed lanes, that’ll get the adrenaline flowing. Riding at highway speeds on a motorcycle demands constant vigilance. You need to be looking far down the road and taking your eyes off the pavement for even a moment can produce some nasty surprises. You’re covering more than ninety feet per second at highway speeds. It’s taxing to be that focused for hours at a time on a machine that longs to change
direction. When I pulled off the 400 in Waubaushene I was relieved to be off the highway but immediately got rewarded by seeing my first Ninja H2 on the road at the intersection. It’s amazing how good something like highway riding feels when you stop doing it, but the moment you stop you immediately begin recharging your battery for the next time you’re out there. Doing difficult things well is one of the key rewards in riding, and getting myself from Espanola down to Midland by lunch time meant I could spend an easy afternoon tootling about along the white sand shores of Georgian Bay. An added bonus from my highway stint? The Concours typically gets about 38-40mpg in commuting/start stop riding, but that highway stint (which wasn’t slow) got me my best ever mileage, 43mpg! At that rate a fill-up gets you north of 230 miles if you’re in top gear making progress. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard the big one litre four cylinder purr like it did as I punched a bug shaped hole through the air around Georgian Bay.
Around the Bayin a day and a bit – 860kms plus another 50 across the bay
I’m back after a day and a half marathon around Georgian Bay. Just over 900kms including 50 on a ferry, and I’m beat! I left at about 8am on Saturday morning and struck north west toward the Bruce Peninsula. The farms were pretty in the morning sun but soon got pretty repetitive. I find Southern Ontario quite tedious with few curves through never ending farm deserts, I was looking forward to getting up onto The Bruce and feeling like I wasn’t local any more.
It was a cool, sunny morning and I stopped for coffee and a fill up at the Shell in Hanover. Putting on a sweater I continued north when suddenly my otherwise rock-solid 21 year old Kawasaki Concours started hesitating at part throttle. It was annoying but not trip destroying. I immediately began to suspect that Hanover gasoline. Soon enough I pulled into Wiarton, the gateway to the Bruce, and got myself a warm sausage roll and a very nice (not gas station) coffee at Luscious Bakery & Cafe on the main street; it’s a great place to stop before riding onto the windy Bruce Peninsula.
Parked in Wiarton, the Luscious Cafe & Bakery is worth a stop!
Everyone’s busy this weekend so, and to quote Freddie Mercury, I’m going to take a long ride on my motorbike. Time for my first circumnavigation of a Great Lake, I’ll start small with Georgian Bay. From Elora I’ll strike north to Tobermory. There is a 1:30 ferry to Manitoulin Island, that’s the only must get to (gotta get there an hour before departure, so 12:30pm in Tobermory). I’m aiming for Little Current to overnight. We stopped there last summer and it seems a lovely spot to spend the night, and The Hawberry Motel looks the part. That’ll put me 340kms and a two hour ferry ride into an 873km circumnavigation. Sunday morning I’m on the winding road up to Espanola and then over to Sudbury before the long ride south. It might seem like a stretch but the ride south includes some time on the 400, so I’ll get to see how the Concours manages highway riding while making some time down the other side of the bay. Once I get back south of the Bay I’ll cut over to the coast and follow it around before heading south out of Wasaga Beach for the final push home. This ride is the longest I’ve yet done, and it also includes a ferry ride. I’m pretty revved up about it! Friday night will be the pre-flight checks then on the road Saturday morning. My buddy Jeff has said he’ll do the first leg with me up to Tobermory, so I’ll also get to do some miles in formation. Another box checked. Here are the posts from the trip: Part 1: To the North Part 2: An informed ride Part 3: Highway Miles Part 4: The Kit Part 5: Media from the Trip
The Concours is sorted and doing regular duty commuting me to work, time to stretch her legs…