Ninja Photoshoots

What got me on the Ninja as a first bike was listening to the engine.  I was very rational about bike decisions prior to hearing that parallel twin purr.  That it looked the way it did didn’t hurt either.  I keep finding myself looking for reasons to take photos of it…

Toronto Bike Show 2015

The Toronto Bike Show at the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE was once again a nice day out.  What made it even better was that somehow managed to convince my highly educated, non-biking wife to join us, and she too had a great time.  I’m glad she picked this show as her first.  The TMS is a manufactures’ show case, so far fewer pirates and half naked girls and a much more professional presentation.

Here are some pictures from the show… 



The Honda NM4: a bizarre styling exercise that I could get into because it’s supposedly based on the bike from Akira… the seating position was so weird and cruisery that I shrugged and walked away.  Would I like to see more anime themed bikes?  You bet, but not if they are ergonomically set up like American cruisers.  

The more bikes I sit on, the more I prefer the good ‘ol standard riding position (every tall adventure bike I sat on was awesome) for long distance riding and the sport position for hard riding.  Anything else isn’t for riding, it’s for preening.








Way to go Toronto Motorcycle Show!  You got my wife out to a motorbike show!  Why would you want her there?  Well, she makes six figures, has two undergrad degrees and a Masters, has a huge social media presence and teaches other teachers how literacy and technology work.  That Indian Motorcycles produced the beautifully modern and yet classical Scout and it caught her attention says good things for the future of the TMS and the Scout!



There are some bikes that just make you go all wobbly.  The Suzuki Hayabusa is one of those for me.  It also happens to be one of the few bikes out there that will get me to one of my bucket list items.  That something this powerful also happens to fit me better than smaller bikes while looking so fantastic makes me think I’d rather be on a Hayabusa rocketing into the future than on the Honda NM4 pretending to.











The Ducati Scrambler.  This bike is supposed to be designed for ‘hipsters‘.  I’m not sure why preening pretty boys should get dibs on this lovely machine.  The Scrambler is a light, Swiss-army knife of a bike that does what bikes used to do before marketing types decided what you should be doing with them and engineers started designing them only for niches.

The Scrambler feels like a throwback to a time before marketing dictated riding, and I, a forty something bald guy, want to be considered for the ride!












The nearly weightless and astonishingly powerful Ducati Panigale 1299!  It’s like putting on fantastic Italian shoes (I guess).

Wow, what a machine!

















What goes where on the Panigale 899.  



















Ducati Diavel… Ducati’s idea of a cruiser also appears to be my idea of a cruiser.  This bike fit like a glove, and was stunning as well!

I was surprised at how impactful Ducati was on me this time around.  The Scrambler was magnetic, the Diavel was stunning and the Panigale was otherworldly!  These jewel like machines deserve more attention from me.













The Triumph Bonneville… and some photo-bomber guy.



















The Triumph Speed Triple.  What a beautiful machine!  With Triumph dealers so far away, I’m not feeling able to make the leap to a manufacturer that represents my homeland so well, but I hope to one day!












Like the other big adventure bikes, The BMW GS fits a tall guy nicely.  I’m hard pressed to find other bikes that feel as comfortable and capable as this kind of motorbike.  The Suzuki V-Strom was also a mighty comfortable fit, as was the Kawasaki Versys.











We’re two hours in and the little guy is about done… the last bike I sat on, the BMW R9T.  A beautifully put together bike that didn’t give me the same charge the Ducati Scrambler did.

I also bumped into Glenn Roberts from Motorcycle Mojo and James Nixon from Cycle Canada.  Glenn has a photographic memory of the hundreds of people he must talk to at these events, remembering the bike I rode from our last chat a year ago!  The talk with James got into how photography isn’t the only way to graphically support a story in a magazine.  It was nice to have a few minutes to chat with representatives from my two favourite Canadian motorcycle magazines.

Once again, the Toronto Motorcycle Show was worth the 3 hour round trip down to Toronto.  That it managed to be the focus of a great family day out and also managed to impress my new-to-bike-shows wife puts it in a special category of awesomeness.

We’ll be back next year!

Bottlenecks

It used to be the desktop, but we’ve got more processing power than we know what to do with nowadays. The real bottleneck is internet access. I spent a frustrating day today in a public high school trying to fit an elephant of a live video feed through the doorway – it didn’t fit. If the school was empty, and the network dormant, it ran fine. Unfortunately, I had to share bandwidth with 1500 other people, facebook must go on.

All I needed was a 700kb/sec video feed to run continuously all day. I’ll blame the university for sending us an uncompressed, 640×480 monster of a feed. We could stream youtube or TEDtalks, but not the university live feed. The irony is it was one of the pre-eminent computer science universities in Canada, and they didn’t know how to feed it to us so we could follow it.
After doing backflips all morning trying to fix it, some awesome grade 12 students filled in the afternoon with some presentations on number theory, robotics and computers. It wasn’t a wasted day, but it’s hard to sell technology as a course of study when the guy teaching it can’t make it work.
I’d asked for a priority on the video feed over the 400 facebook accounts that were open, but apparently that’s impossible. I find this frustrating. I had no trouble prioritizing traffic or outright banning it when I was network admining, I’m not sure whether it’s a case of can’t or can’t be bothered. In either case, I’m at the end of a long day trying to make things work that simply won’t because the board won’t adjust bandwidth to need (it’s cheaper) and a university didn’t optimize it’s feed (it’s cheaper).
At the end of it, I got some grade 9s interested in robotics, and considering taking computers further on. I’m not sure that I got through to the half a dozen girls I convinced to come out. We don’t have a single female in grade 12 comp-sci or comp-eng, which I’d really like to fix.
I also wanted to backchannel the heck out of this. I introduced 90% of the students to twitter and showed them how universities use it during seminars, then the university didn’t use it at all, we were the only ones lighting up the hashtags or posting on the facebook page. I also tried running wallwisher.com. This thing could be brilliant. We had it running live on a wall through a projector. Alas, due to bandwidth restrictions, it crashed constantly and wouldn’t refresh at any time.
Until our school board starts taking traffic shaping seriously, the school network continues to be hijacked by facebook junkies and youtubers filling up the bandwidth with noise not remotely related to anything educational.
It’s been a long day watching technology not work.

Framing Mathematics

We had a numeracy PD day a few weeks ago.  This filled me with trepidation having barely survived high school mathematics.  It began with a warning about how we frame mathematics:




Fair enough.  Evidently I’m not the only one who treats mathematics with caution, but I can see the point about how negatively framing maths with students can cause problems.  If you don’t think maths are a useful tool that can help you solve real world problems then you’ve been living under a rock.  Everyone should develop basic numeracy.  I’ll try and do better with how I’m framing it, but that doesn’t mean maths gets a free pass on how it’s delivered.


We then did a maths based online escape room exercise with Edtechteam.  This was an engaging process, but it cast a bright light on what was for me one of the problems with trying to learn maths: parsing poorly written word problems.


When one of our group (a published playwright with a Masters in English) suggested that the questions were vague to the point of being misleading the math teacher in our group said, “yeah, but any language based question is going to be somewhat unclear.”  The English teacher looked at her quizzically and said, “no it isn’t.”


Therein lies the problem.  If a teacher who has never focused on developing strong language skills gets lost in creating nuanced word problems to get at complex mathematics, you can see where this might go wrong for everyone.

From the point of view of someone who doesn’t pick up maths easily, confusing language doesn’t engage me, it does the opposite.  I’d rather (and I speak as an English major) have the maths served straight up without any confusing or misleading language in the mix, but maths teachers seem determined to lean on language skills they don’t have in order to confuse the numeracy they do have.


This problem appeared again when we got out to an exercise where we (again, in groups) were supposed to find factors in an array of numbers, but rather than simply explaining the logic involved, the activity was dressed up in a tax avoidance theme that made no sense to me or the science and history teachers I was working on it with.  So far this morning both maths activities had demanded that we embrace confusing and contradictory language in order to get at the logic below.

In this activity, if you selected a number to get paid the ‘tax man’ got all the factors of that choice.  So if you picked twelve, the tax man got 1  2, 3, 4 and 6 dollars.  When I asked how I was being taxed $16 on the $12 I made I was told that the taxes don’t actually come out of the money I was making, which isn’t helpful.  When I suggested that people should pay taxes in order to support all the  benefits of society they enjoy and shouldn’t be trying to dodge paying them, I was told that I was putting too much thought into this.  At least someone is.  This has always been the way with me and mathematics, especially when it dresses itself up in confusing language in a desperate attempt to appear more interesting.


I think I’m a pretty sharp fellow.  I’ve been able to calculate binary subnets in order to build networks and I’ve never had trouble doing the maths needed to be a mechanic or a technician.  When the maths are immediate and real I’m able to get a handle on it, but the bubble gum world of high school mathematics has always alienated and confused me.  It seems arbitrary and nonsensical because it often is.


Maybe the best way we can frame mathematics is to stop trying to make it into something it isn’t.  If we treated it like the tool it can be instead of trying to turn it into some kind of spy based action adventure or libertarian tax dodging daydream, we wouldn’t have so many people feeling alienated by it.


Of course, the solution is obvious but how we solve it is prevented by how we organize education into departments.  If we collaborated on word problems with the English department, we’d remove a lot of that confusion.  If we applied our mathematics through science, business and technology we wouldn’t get lost in the confusion of maths for maths’ sake.  We could be applying mathematics in the statistics we use in social sciences or  the ratios we use in art, but we separate numeracy off in high school and let it atrophy in a maths classroom that struggles to connect to the real. 



Ironically, our PD followed these two engaging but ultimately confusing activities up with two teachers telling us about their experimental manufacturing technology-mathematics combined course which encourages applied maths students to work through manufacturing technology in solving real-world problems.  No imaginary tax schemes.  No escape rooms.  Just applying maths to real world problems in an unobstructed and meaningful way that leads to outcomes that are transparent and obvious.


This would mean combining mathematics with other courses and then working to integrate numeracy into those subjects in a constructive and transparent way.  There could still be an academic/abstracted mathematics stream for the tiny percentage of students who would need it, but for those of us who aren’t aiming to be theoretical physicists or academic mathematicians, we need our math served up without the garnishes.  Knowing what we’re doing it and why we’re doing it would go a long way to alleviating the maths anxiety so many of us have.

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The End of Google Plus

I was an early adopter into G+.  I was already getting the willies about Facebook back in 2011 and was looking for a way to curate links to thinkers and artists that wasn’t designed around monetizing my existing relationships.  Facebook serves a purpose – keeping you in touch with extended friends and family, but that echo-chamber doesn’t help you develop new ideas and perspectives, it tends to be a pretty insular place… even a petri dish for spreading fake news.  I know a number of people who have since radically diminished or backed right out of the increasingly caustic environment on Facebook, but I was looking for ways out way back in 2011.


That Facebook is an advertising company built around monetizing my personal relationships has always bothered me, so into G+ I leapt.  G+ allowed me to curate connections that Facebook wouldn’t.  Over the years I’ve developed links to thousands of people, almost none of them based on personal relationships.  Those links exist because these people are not mainstream (most celebrities don’t use G+, there’s no money in it).  G+ was my go to for intelligent, curated content that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else on the internet.  


Google recently announced that is was shutting down Google Plus under what everyone agrees are pretty flimsy circumstances.  While other social media giants are leaking data and monetizing fake news in tangible ways, Google is shutting down G+ because of a security vulnerability that never happened.  Why it’s really shutting G+ down is because it isn’t what social media is expected to be these days:  an efficient way to capture as many people’s personal information as possible in order to monetize it.  The problem with G+ is that it’s actually a social media network – people go on there to share ideas and often create long form discussions with each other.  G+ isn’t mainstream, doesn’t cater to idiots  and don’t produce easily monetizable lies that you can advertise from.


A G+ user recently posted this:  Educators, niche groups will miss Google+


“the people on G+ are just better at the ‘social’ part of networking” – true that.  I can expect a constant boil of political negativity and outright nonsense often based on outright lies on Facebook, which has established itself as the low bar for social media because it’s the one everyone is on.  We underestimate how many stupid people there are in the world, but Facebook hasn’t and it has become a giant catering to them.  It might have been smaller than other social media, but G+ was a carefully curated, rich source of content I wasn’t seeing anywhere else.  I’ll miss it.

The early 21st century attention economy feels a lot like robber baron capitalism of the 19th Century.  In that time industrialization was driving new economies in natural resource extraction and manufacturing in an entirely unsustainable way that produced obscene amounts of wealth for a small number of people.   Sound familiar?  The new resource these days is our attention.  If you’ve developed a low relative use (G+ had millions of active users, which isn’t Facebook’s billions) social media platform that encourages long form reading and benign, drama-free interaction between its users you’re not churning through the resource as efficiently as you could be.  As a result you’re not aggressively pursuing the marketing money like every other corporate social media platform is.


The upside of this is that the end of Google Plus has me looking for alternatives, and people like Tim Berners-Lee and others are trying to pry your personal data out of the tax dodging attention economy robber barons.  Think you could leave the Google mothership?  I’m trying.


Some alternate social media sites I’m trying:


GooglePlus users are pretty handy at self organizing (the best they could hope for from Google was benign neglect).  Many are working to organise the diaspora.


MeWe:  mewe.com/myworld 
Engineered with privacy-by-design, MeWe turns the table on Facebook and other social media companies with a revolutionary service that emphasizes privacy and social sharing where people can be their true, uncensored selves. No Ads. No Spyware. No BS. MeWe members are #Not4Sale and enjoy the protection of MeWe’s Privacy Bill Of Rights.


Pluspora:  pluspora.com/stream
A favourite landing spot of G+ users that offers strong user-focused privacy controls.


My next steps are to look into blockchain driven encrypted networks that offer adamant user protections from the powers that be…  here’s a link to some early research on that.


Eventually this will mean pulling up stakes at Blogger (Google’s blogging platform), but that’s a tricky business.  I’ve migrated to WordPress with Mechanical Sympathy and import blog posts from my three Blogger blogs (Dusty World, Tim’s Motorcycle Diaries and Kingfisher Imaging), but I’ve found blogging in WordPress to be needlessly fussy.  Blogger’s great advantage is it’s simple to use which is vital when I’m concentrating on writing.  If I can get WordPress to give me a WYSIWYG editing tool that isn’t so annoying when formatting text and inputting digital media I’d be looking at migrating there too.

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A New Roof

My favorite helmet company has come out with a new evolution of their unique helmet.  Lots of companies make a lifting visor helmet but what they don’t tell you is that your swinging chin guard doesn’t pass any safety standards; most of those modular motorcycle helmets only pass open face testing (as though there were no chin guard at all).  The Roof passes stringent safety tests as both an open AND closed face helmet making it a rarity in convertible lids.


I’ve been the happy owner of a Desmo for over a year now and it has surpassed expectations.  It’s much better than any other helmet I’ve tried at handling turbulence in a straight-line and especially when you turn your head (it barely registers side winds at all).  It’s as quiet as most closed faced helmets but can also be opened up when not travelling at high speed.  The visor lets you go from open face to jet to fully closed a second, one handed.

Roof has updated the Desmo to the RO32 Desmo with a variety of updates and improvements.  If I can find a retailer I’m in for the upgrade.




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An Adventurous, Versatile, Always-on Versys

Two bikes not being used…

With the ongoing frustrations with trying to run a 22 year old bike as my daily rider I’m thinking of rearranging things so that I have a more functional motorbike stable.  At the moment I’ve got a KLX250 that I don’t throw a leg over very much and isn’t a popular choice with my pillion.  I’ve also got the big old Yamaha project bike that isn’t getting any attention because I’m spending all my garage time working on the Concours.  Rejigging things to have a more functional stable is on my mind.

I miss having I.T. on at least one bike – having an onboard computer means the bike will self regulate and run more consistently.  Being a computer teacher means I’m not really scared of digital tech either, so I’d welcome it back.

The process might look like this:  sell the KLX, get the XS1100 operational and sell it too, and sell  the little Yamaha my son has never ridden.  In a perfect world I’d bring in about $4000 with those bikes.

What I’d be looking for is a second bike that could do basic commuting duties including two-up, would run all the time, and could ride a wider range of roads than the Concours is comfortable on.  As a road tool the Concours takes some beating (when it works).  It’ll tour two up comfortably with lots of room for luggage, cover highway miles with ease and makes for a surprisingly agile back road weapon when riding alone.  What it needs is a break from the demands of being an always on motorcycle (it’s twenty-two years old!).

That always on motorcycle should be light with a fuel injected/modern engine.  Of course the Ninja was those things, though it was a very road focused machine as well.  Kawasaki makes the Versys, based on the same ER6 chassis as the Ninja but with an enduro riding position.  With a few tweaks that bike could become the light-weight all-rounder I’m looking for.  At only 180kg, the Versys 650 is a mighty light, very dependable bike.

Where would I find a Versys?  They’re about.  There is a well cared for ’07, albeit with pretty high kilometres, for under three thousand over in Kitchener.Starting there I could build out an adventure Versys.  There are a lot of people doing something similar…

A great thread to follow on an adventurous Versys

high/scrambler pipe inspiration



LINKS

www.topspeed.com/motorcycles/motorcycle-news/studio-motor-gives-us-the-kawasaki-versys-650-scrambler-ar169995/picture634237.html

bikebrewers.com/kawasaki-versys-650-scrambler-studio-motor/

advrider.com/index.php?threads/one-more-versys-adventure.1078100/#post-27148119


The Ride To Indy

DAY 1


We are bouncing over some astonishingly bad interstate in Northern Michigan on our way to Flint.  Retread carcasses litter the side of the road, the only thing missing are clouds of flies above the rubber corpses.

The Super10, Concours and three riders ready for an adventure.

We crossed the border (my first border crossing on a bike!) in Sarnia at lunch time on a Wednesday.  It amounted to less than five minutes of waiting in line and thirty seconds with the US border guard, who looked like he was working out when he got off shift so he could join us.
“So, where are you guys headed?”
“To Indianapolis for the MotoGP!”
After running our passports he asks, “you guys excited?”
“It’s Indy!”

“Have a great time guys.”
… and then we were off onto the broken interstates of Michigan.  I’ll never complain about Ontario roads again.

To and from Indianapolis

Just when we think the roads can’t get worse, the interstate drops down to one lane each way because they are beginning to pull it apart and resurface.  It doesn’t matter though, we were in America, heading to Indy!

My ten year old son, Max, is on the back of our loaded ’94 Kawasaki Concours which is chewing up the miles with ease.  That bike is the best eight hundred bucks I’ve ever spent.  We’re making the trip with my friend and colleague Jeff, who is a motorcycle-Jedi.  He’s been riding for decades, has owned dozens of bikes, and has ridden all over North America.  If you’re going on your first long trip, he’s the guy you want with you.

We pull in for our first gas stop just outside of Flint and fill up for fourteen bucks (93¢ Canadian for 93 octane super unleaded).  The Connie is getting 48 miles per gallon.  Back on the road we turn south on 23 to miss Detroit and head toward Ann Arbor.  Twenty-three looked like a county road on the map, but in real life it’s a multi-lane, limited access highway.  We are making epic time as we ride past a mountain of garbage covered in sea gulls and military convoys of Humvees.  We get to Ann Arbor, where we’d originally planned to stop for the day, at 2pm.

Concordia U’s beautiful trees

Sitting on the beautiful lawn at Concordia University we look further down the map, reconsidering where we might stop.  It only takes a us a few minutes to get around Ann Arbor and onto 12, which will take as all the way across southern Michigan to Interstate 69.

Best Philly steak ever!

We stop for a late lunch and stumble across Smoke BBQ and the best Philly steak sandwich I’ve ever had.  Topped up and ready to roll, we head out on 12 and are treated to a crop duster doing hammerhead turns and giving us a wave as he flies past us next to the road.  We’re in the mid-west now!

Out of population we find ourselves on winding roads through the Irish Hills.  We thought the ride to Indy would be flat and straight but these are some nice riding roads.  We emerge from the woods to an astonishing sight, the Michigan International Speedway is right on the side of the road!  A security guard tells us you can sign in at the main office and they’ll let you have a look around.  This place is enormous, a real cathedral of speed deep in the Irish Hills.  We spend half an hour wandering around a tiny corner of the massive complex.  That we stumbled across it and were happily invited in to have a look around has us all grinning like fools.  It’s a good sign of things to come.

It’s like that dream you have of being at
work and suddenly realizing you’re naked

Back on the road time is ticking past 6pm and Max is getting tired on the back.  We’ve been on the road since 8am, but we’ve pushed way further down the map than we intended to.  We finally reach Coldwater on I69 and stop at a Comfort Inn with a warm pool and soft beds.

Every biker we see is riding around in shorts, flip flops and no helmet, and it’s giving us culture shock.  We go to the end of the street to get take out and try naked biking, but it gives us both the willies.  Riding around without a helmet just seems crazy.

DAY 2


After a good breakfast at the hotel we’re bombing south on Interstate 69 and quickly find the Indiana border.  Before Fort Wayne we strike off west into the country on Six and quickly discover that unless a town is on a truck route it has dried up and blown away.  The scale of the fields of corn beggar belief and stretch to the horizon, but there are no people.  Roads are closed and we find ourselves on gravel stretches looking for ways south.  The Concours has no trouble with this, but Jeff’s Super Ténéré looks the part as he takes off down narrow dirt roads.

We try stopping in several towns but they are all derelict; beautiful nineteenth century buildings with boards on the windows and no-one in sight.  Corporate farms run remotely from headquarters thousands of miles away don’t need local people.

Main View restaurant in North Manchester, IN: great service, great food!

We finally stagger into North Manchester mid-afternoon.  This is a university town and it’s still vibrant.  A local directs us to Main View restaurant and we sit down for another excellent, non-conglomerate lunch.

Zigzagging south and west we soon find ourselves on bigger roads feeding in to Indianapolis.  We get into town at the beginning of rush hour, but this isn’t Toronto.  Everything is moving even though the road is still patchy from recent rain (it missed us), and there is construction everywhere.  Other than having to cut into a line to get on the ring road (made easy by Jeff dicing traffic like a pro), we have an easy time navigating and we’re feet up at the Hampton Inn by 4:30pm.

A short walk away is Chef Mike’s Charcoal Grill which has the best grilled fish and steak imaginable, and a healthy list of craft beers; America isn’t all Bud Light and hamburgers.  It was so good we went back again the next night.

DAY 3


It’s been pretty good so far, but it’s about to get spectacular.  We’re off to the Indy Speedway (15 minutes away) early the next morning.  We pull into line and are told to ride around to the back and park in lot 10.  After working our way around the city-sized Indy complex we start looking for parking and keep getting waved through gates by security.  We go down a ramp under ground and surface only to be directed onto the back straight of the Indy oval.

Ever ridden on the Indy oval on your bike?  I have!

Jeff and I are both thinking we’ve been accidentally put in with the VIPs and are expecting to be caught at any second and kicked out, but I make the most of it and give it the beans.

Nothing sounds better than the sound of your own engine howling off the retaining wall of a straight at Indianapolis!  We’re directed to park and stand there in awe.  A guy gives us a kick stand puck saying he doesn’t want us punching holes in his race track.  Damn skippy.  We walk over to another guy scanning tickets, expecting to get kicked out.  He scans our general admission tickets (twenty bucks each – kids under 12 are free) and tells us to have a great time.

Did that just happen?  Yes, yes it did!

We walk through the infield, which is a golf course, and discover a circus of motorcycle going on inside.  The Moto3 bikes haven’t even started practice yet but all the manufacturers have set up pavilions and there is an Indy kids play area that has Max hopping up and down.  Our general admission, twenty buck tickets give us access to the entire complex, from the front straight stands to hundreds of viewing areas around the infield.  The only place we couldn’t go was the paddock area.

We wander around in a daze.  One moment we’re watching Moto3s buzz down the straight, amazed that their little 250cc single cylinders can take them over 160 mph before they hit the big corner at the end.  The big, 1000cc MotoGP bikes come out next.  Where the Moto3 bikes sound like (big) angry bees, the MotoGP bikes sound like 140 decibel tearing silk (the Hondas) or the most frantic, staccato v-twin imaginable (the Ducatis).   Lastly the Moto2 bikes come out, their 650cc twins sound fantastic to my ringing ears with a turbine like howl.

Lunch is an Indy dog and some fries, sitting in the near-empty stands in the shade.  The place isn’t empty, there are people everywhere, but Indy is so huge that it swallows the crowds with ease.  We spend the afternoon watching the bikes bend through the esses, standing on the grassy knoll on the edge of the golf course.



You can get within fifty feet of the bikes pretty much anywhere on the track and unobstructed views are easy to come by; photography is easy at Indy.  We head back out to the bikes at about 3:30pm as the practice sessions are winding down.  We’ve been here since 8:30am and we’re sun-baked, overwhelmed and ready for a rest.  On the back straight are hundreds and hundreds of bikes, as far as the eye can see.  We slowly motor past row after row of every imaginable motorcycle before ducking out through the underpass.  We’re back at the hotel in minutes.  Jeff and I end up passing out for an hour before having another great meal at Chef Mike’s.  We’re not done yet with Indy motorcycle culture though.

Motorcycles on Meridian shows the breadth of motorcycle
culture in America – it isn’t all Harleys and leather.

Motorcycles on Meridian is a satellite event to MotoGP that brings in thousands of riders.  We saddled up and rode into town about 8pm and were stunned to see so many bikes.  From guys who look like pilots riding on Goldwings to lost souls who look like they are just back from rehab, to lean sportsbike riders and everything in between, I was once again reminded that American motorcycling isn’t mono-cultural.  Sure, the Motor Company pirate was well represented, but so was every other kind of motorcyclist.

We did a slow pass through the middle of the chaos and then went for a walk.  It was hot, humid and all the hotter for all the revving and showboating.  I’ve never cottoned on to the look-at-me loud pipes and chrome thing that many bikers get excited about, and some of the stretched drag-strip like bikes looked virtually unrideable, but it takes all kinds.  After a brief tour through the circus of LED lit v-twins and custom madness we had a cold drink and slipped out south to the highway.  Tomorrow was the beginning of the long ride home.

DAY 4

 

The ride down had highlighted the agony that is the Concours’ stock seat.  We stopped at Cycle Gear on the way out of town the next morning for a solution.  They had gel seat pads on sale for forty bucks so I gave one a whirl.  Max got himself a nice helmet with a tinted screen for sunny, highway riding.  The service was great (as it generally was throughout our trip) and we practically tripped over the location on our way out of Indianapolis.  The prices were also astonishing, especially when you aren’t paying 13% tax on everything, basically half what we would have paid for the same thing in Canada with less tax.  Helmets seem to be especially cheap in a place where they aren’t a requirement.

We made quick work of I69 north to Fort Wayne and were on the 24 heading toward Ohio before mid-day.  Jeff wanted to try and make it home that day so we parted ways in Toledo.  He took the I75 north to Detroit and was home by 7pm.  Max and I headed north on 23 to Ann Arbor thinking to spend the night there before finishing on Sunday, but Ann Arbor was booked solid with a pipe-fitters convention (?) and the rooms left were over three hundred bucks a night.  We pushed on and then got lost in the suburbs of Detroit (which are still surprisingly well kept) before finally stumbling into the Wyndham Garden hotel by the airport.


Like so much else in Detroit, the Wyndam Garden has the look of something that must have been super chic in sixties (it has an indoor forest!).  It’s the kind of place James Bond might have stayed when he was Sean Connery, but now it’s run down and tired.  People who went to Rome after the Empire fell must have seen something similar.  I left Max in the room and ducked out for take out.  Every store I went to had bullet proof glass and turnstiles between the customer and the clerk.

Day 5


The next morning we hit the road early.  Max wanted to try the tunnel but we got there only to be told motorcycles weren’t allowed in.  A sign would have been nice, but at least we got to see downtown Detroit on a quiet Sunday morning.  My magic power kicked in at the Canadian border.  Everyone else crossed in about ten minutes, but we waited twice that because we got the guard who wanted to chat with everyone.  Soon enough we were bombing down the 401 toward home making excellent time.  A couple of stops at ONroutes (which felt like time travel after a night in Detroit) later we were in Kitchener and winding our way down familiar country roads.  We were home by 2pm.

The Concours was faultless, returning mid-fifties miles per gallon on the highway and high forties everywhere else.  It started at the touch of a button every time and showed me it could do the ton with two people in gear and all their luggage.  The gel seat eased the pain but got incredibly hot, leaving me with heat rash and a scowl.  A seat solution will happen before the next long ride, but there is little else I could do to make this wonderful machine any better.

The Concours has ridden on hallowed
ground.  She wears it with pride.

If you don’t like crowds, the Indy GP is the one to go to.  Indianapolis is enormous and easily swallows crowds of even one hundred and thirty two thousand.  There is talk of cancelling the Indy round next year, but if it’s on I’m going to attend all three days.  I think we can get within striking distance in one day, ride straight to the track on Friday, hotel in Indy Friday and Saturday and begin heading back after the race on Sunday, finishing the trip on Monday.  After doing it once I know I can do it even better next time.

After bombing down the Indy back straight once, I want to do it again!  It only costs forty bucks to do a lap of the MotoGP circuit!  That’ll be on the short list for next year along with a paddock pass so I can get Sam Lowes autograph.

If you love bikes and live anywhere north-east in North America, you should give the IndyGP weekend in August a go, I promise you won’t be disappointed.  The long ride through the mid-west is anything but boring and the hospitality is second to none.  And when you get there you get to ride on the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and experience the MotoGP circus in full swing, it really is unforgettable.


NOTE:  The Indy MotoGP is no more – glad we went when we did!  I’m going to have to get more committed to riding to a MotoGP race if I want to do it again!

February 23rd: First Ride of 2020

The Weather Network suggested that we might get a break in the never ending snow and ice, and on the weekend of all times!


After a couple of days of near zero sun, Sunday hit the target with a 6°C high and lots of blue sky.  The last time on two wheels was November 26, 2019, so that’s 89 days of misery.  That should be the longest break as I’m likely to steal some more rides in the coming weeks.


Here are some photos from the ride using the Ricoh Theta V wrapped around the rear-view mirror.  Here’s the how-to on doing on-bike 360 photos.  I stopped to look at the bison since they were right by the fence…




Back home again I washed the salt and sand off and hibernated the Tiger again.  The new LED indicators work a treat.  The old Triumph fired up at the first touch of the button after a nearly three month hiatus.  The new front brakes were a little vague until they bedded in, then they felt as sharp as ever.  The chance to ride has me dreaming about making miles again soon.




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Kawartha Highlands Circumnavigation

A July ride in the Haliburton Highlands:  the plan is to take a few days in mid-July and head up to the in-law’s cottage.  It’s just outside Bobcaygeon, Ontario and makes a great base for riding into the Canadian Shield in Haliburton.

The way into the lake is a fire road. all gravel and twisty like a rally stage.  I’m actually looking forward to it now that I’ve done the SMART training; time to see if I can apply some of those off road skills so that the whole way in isn’t a nervous ride on a loose surface.

The next day I’ll take the Tiger out for a lap around the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park.  I did the Haliburton Highlands last spring on a birthday ride.  Weaving through Canadian Shield lakes, woods and massive rock outcroppings is never a bad thing.  Because of all those geographical features, Haliburton is one of the few places in Ontario where the roads have some character; you spend very little time on the crown of your tire.

If I’m finding the ride going by quickly there are a lot of alternative routes built in.  The 504 looks like it would be fun to ride both ways.

10 North off the 648 up by Tory Hill also looks like it would be a good two way ride.  It’d be easy to add some additional pieces on the day if time permits.





One thing’s for sure, that night around the campfire at the cottage is going to feel good…



The short route – 261kms. The longer route (318kms below) also covers the twisty 10 north of Highland Grove…

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