Motorcycle Photography







Some recent photos that caught my eye from the digital motorcycle magazine and book realm.

Adventure Bike Rider is pretty ace with the off the beaten path photos.  BIKE magazine does the business as well.

One of ABR’s more extreme trips: Germans riding in Oman

Riding in Borneo

 

Ducati Scrambler… vroom vroom!

How rim size matters… courtesy of  Total Control: High Performance Street Riding Techniques….
so far an accessible and in depth look at all aspects of motorcycle riding and vehicle dynamics

ABR does nice photography!

Kawasaki’s 600cc supercharged maybe

Riding the Alps

BIKE magazine at the Bol D’Or, 2015

The new Ninja

Riding in Nepal

Photos from the Winter Road

These are some video screen grabs from the long way home commute from work last week.  Windy and cool, but still up near ten degrees Celsius with bright, winter sunshine.  The roads were relatively sand and salt free thanks to days of rain and floods.  The Ricoh Theta 360 camera is wrapped around the mirror with a Gorilla Pod.  A 360 video clip to start off followed by some photoshop post production…


 


All the screen grabs with various modifications can be found in this album.


If you’re looking for a motorcycle friendly camera, the Theta 360 has push button controls that are easy to use (most others have finicky wireless connections through a smartphone).  You don’t have to aim it or focus it, it just grabs everything in an instant.  The screen grabs on here are from the 1080 video the Theta made while attached to the rear view mirror.

My last ride was November 28th, so this was a soul destroying thirteen weeks between rides.  I really need to find somewhere twelve months a year motorcycle friendly.  There’s another bucket list goal:  live somewhere where I can ride for an entire year without having to take three miserable months off.


On the upside, it won’t be 13 weeks until I’m riding again…

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NCK Cycle Salvage

I took a nice, long autumn ride through long shadows and cool setting sunlight to NCK Cycle Salvage in Woodstock, Ontario this afternoon.


Google Maps was determined me to walk me through the middle of Kitchener-Waterloo in the middle of rush hour and then along a 401 covered in construction.  I forced it to route me around the population and construction, which Google Maps took to mean sending me down increasingly small back roads until I was riding through a deep, dark forest tinged crimson with fall colours on a rutted, dirt road.  I think at one point I was being chased by a pack of wolves, but hey, I never once sat in traffic.

I eventually wound my way down to Woodstock and found NCK in the west end of town in an industrial estate.  I used to do a lot of work on cars, so  I was expecting something like a breaker’s yard with bikes laying out in the weather.  I was once told by an old motorcyclist that bikes don’t last well in the weather because, unlike cars, they don’t have a cover;  NCK agrees with that biker wisdom.

I was worried that the carburetors I was picking up for the Fireblade project were going to be rusty and nasty, but instead they look almost brand new – far better than the battered carbs the muppet who owned the Honda before me had molested.


I was surprised at how organized and dense NCK’s layout was.  Nathan, the son of the original owner, is in the process of taking on the family business which has been running in Woodstock since the early ’90s.  He took me on a quick tour and explained NCK’s process.  They dismantle and warehouse parts as bikes come in.  I asked about the lack of European bikes, but Nathan said they tend to either be repaired or written off, whereas Japanese bikes are more common and less expensive, so that’s where the spares market is.  They often get bikes from dealers who don’t want an inexpensive bike cluttering up their showroom.  Where possible they sell the bike on complete, when it isn’t possible they dismantle the bike, check the parts in to inventory and keep everything organized in their dense, 5000+ square foot warehouse.  That inventory system is what allowed Nathan to immediately get back to me with confirmation of the parts I needed when every other motorcycle salvage operation in Ontario was radio silent.

Support a local business indeed!  Nathan is the second generation running NCK out of Woodstock, Ontario.  If your only experience with junkyards is piles of rotting cars in a field, NCK will show you how it’s done efficiently and with the needs of motorcycles front of mind.  This ain’t no field of rusty wrecks.

Since it’s all inside, you’re not getting rusty, rained on left overs and the parts look like they’ve actually been looked after (because they have).  We had a walk through the warehouse and I got to see the next project they’re working on, an originally painted mid-70s Yamaha air cooled big twin.  It was already in shockingly good condition (the old fellow who owned it lost his storage and had to move it on), so now it’s at NCK getting some TLC.  You can tell this is as much a labour of love as it is a well run business.


If you love Japanese bikes and are anywhere within a stone’s throw of Woodstock, Ontario, you owe it to yourself to drop in to NCK Cycle Salvage and have a look around.  If you’re working on a Japanese bike, this place could save you a pile of money.  I got the ’97 Fireblade carb for $250CAD (they are going for $250US+shipping+customs on eBay).  When I was sourcing new parts that the muppet who butchered the carbs before me had broken – strange parts like choke plungers (not even sure how you would break one of those) or carb clamps (because this goof had tried gluing them to the engine!), I was quickly running up a bill into the hundreds of dollars US, plus shipping and border taxes – and that’s even assuming I could find the parts, many were not available.


A nice ride through the countryside on a sunny, autumn afternoon and I’ve got a donor carb that looks to be in even better shape than the low mileage one I was looking for parts for.  What I was going to use for parts I’m now swapping in.  I’ll take the old one apart and sell off the pieces.  I’m only a couple of online sales away from breaking even on the carb purchase.


I can’t recommend NCK enough – they know what they’re doing, do it well and if you’re looking for parts for an older Japanese bike, they might not only save you money, they might be the only ones who have what you need!


Maybe it’s just me, but a place like this scratched an aesthetic itch.  That’s a lot of Japanese colour to take in!

Where possible, and especially with older bikes, when a good tank comes in it gets special treatment.  Wherever possible they try and keep the tank and paint as original and unblemished as possible.

Fairing bits that might simply not be available any more, or cost you as much as the bike did in a dealer…

Little bits, big bits, mechanical bits; organized and accessible.

Fenders… so many fenders.  Got a cafe project?  These aren’t so dear that you’re afraid to modify them.

NCK also offers a purchase and store option where you can buy a used bike in the fall and pay it off over the winter while it sits in heated, safe storage in the warehouse – no extra charge.  Nice, eh?

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Rideback

I’ve been a Japanese animation fan since way back.  I’ve been casting around for motorcycle related animation and discovered Rideback.  If you’re a fan of science fiction based motorcycles and ingenues (in this case think Buffy the Vampire Slayer mixed with Black Swan and Pacific Rim), this will definitely do it for you.

It’s 2020 in Japan and post-world war three.  The left over technology from the war is finding its way into civilian hands, the Rideback transformable motorcycle is one of those devices.

Rin, the main character, is a former ballet dancer who is one of the only people able to ride the machine without all the electronic supports in place.  I’m only a couple of episodes in, but the story is very coherent for a Japanese animation (they aren’t always).  The main character is already well developed and they aren’t shy about explaining the technology.

The story arc looks like it’s headed for a large political showdown with a despotic government, but ingenues on transformable motorcycles are just what you need in those circumstances.

The animation (if you’re into that sort of thing) is a modern mix of computer and cell and shows off some very complex physics as well as excellent detail.

If you like anime, you’ll enjoy this series.  If you like anime and motorbikes this one is a must see.




Some Rideback links:

http://www.madman.com.au/series/home/16127/rideback
The Australian site (in English!)
http://www.mxtv.co.jp/rideback/
The Japanese TV site
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rideback
Rideback overview on wikipedia
http://www.funimation.com/shows/rideback
Funimation, the North American anime company that brought Rideback in

You can do what I did and get it on Amazon.  It’s also available on itunes or through the Funimation site.

Getting to know a very different motorbike

I took the Concours out for a brief ride in the sun this afternoon to get a feel for her.  She’s a very different machine than the Ninja.  The carbs are a bit touchy when warming up, but then work in a very satisfying and immediate mechanical way once the bike is at temperature.  It’s a much bigger bike too (over two hundred pounds heavier), but surprisingly lithe for its size.

Where the Ninja picks up nicely in lower RPM, the Concours pulls immediately with a much flatter torque curve; the word ‘meaty’ comes to mind.  The Concours was also surprisingly lively at higher RPMs, pulling hard to the redline.  Not like the Ninja does (which is more like a bull in a China shop), but it still gets you down the road right quick.  The lightness of the internal bits in the Ninja’s 649cc parallel twin make it spool up like a turbine.  You can feel the complexity and weight of the Connie’s in-line four cylinder as it builds RPM.  Where the Ninja screams like a banshee (and sounds lovely doing it), the Concours has a deeper, more sonorous song, though (and surprising to me because I really love the Ninja howl) equally enticing.  I can see why previous Concours owners have said they’ve had no trouble keeping up with sports bikes, this is an agile, athletic machine that belies its size.

In corners, especially at speed, the weight of the Connie seems to disappear and I can hit apexes in a similarly precise manner to the much lighter NInja.  With so much torque on hand, you don’t need to keep the engine revving hard to get immediate pull out of it.  The Connie will go quickly without appearing to, with the Ninja you’ve got to keep it on boil to get that astonishing acceleration (as opposed to merely shocking acceleration at lower revs).

Controls wise the Concours is a much more comfortable machine.  The seat is wider and softer, the bike feels more substantial and not so wasp wasted between my knees.  The fairings keep the wind at bay, especially around  your feet.  In the rain your feet are soaked through on the Ninja where they are hanging out in the elements.  Riding in cool weather means thick socks.  I kept bumping my toes against the Connie’s lower fairing until I got used to using less toe on the gear change.  Knee bend is still pretty bent, though not nearly as much as the Ninja and with the wider seat didn’t seem so intense.

The Connie’s gearing is much higher than the Ninja’s.   At 120km/hr on the highway you’re up around 6000rpm on the Ninja.  I’d guess the Connie would be doing under half that at the same speed.  A more relaxed bike that still has hidden reserves and is light of foot, I’m looking forward to getting to know Connie better.

As I was riding home we fell into a groove, like a horse extending its legs into a comfortable gallop and I realized just how far this bike could take me.  She’s been sitting too long and wants to put road behind her.  Instead of wondering when to stop on the Ninja, I’ll be wondering how much further I can go on the Concours.

Cycle-Ergo shows me the numbers…


Future Bike

WIRED recently did some articles based on the Tokyo International Motor Show.  I spent a couple of years in Japan paying off all the debts I accumulated living in North America.  I’ve got a soft spot for Japan and the tech they produce.

Kawasaki’s neon green ode to anime bikes scratches that anime itch, though it is fairly ridiculous.

Of more interest from an engineering point of view is Yamaha’s ultralight bike.  Since watching McGregor and Boorman trying to right seven hundred pound BMWs in the Long Way Round, I’ve wondered why bikes aren’t lighter than they are.  Why aren’t we getting more horsepower out of smaller engines and saving weight that way?  Why aren’t we using our modern engineering prowess to build bikes with smarter materials?

Case in point, as a high school student I thought the Honda Interceptor was awesome. It weighed 443lbs ready to go.  The current 500CBR is a modern equivalent, wet weight? 428lbs.  In thirty odd years of materials research and development a company as forward thinking as Honda has managed to shave 15 pounds off a bike’s gross weight?

How about Triumph’s last year of the original Bonneville?  A 750cc bike, 441lbs.  The new one?  496lbs.  It’s a bigger engine, but it would need it to lug that fat ass around.  Even Triumph’s brilliant and athletic naked Street Triple still tips the scales at over four hundred pounds.

Motorcycles are, by their nature, minimalist forms of transportation, but instead of finding ways to make them even lighter and more efficient we’re SUVing them just like we did with four wheelers.  Bikes like KTM’s new 390 Duke give me some hope though.  At 300lbs I bet 390cc has never felt so powerful.

I can’t help but feel that alternate building methods and advanced materials haven’t been explored by conservative

motorcycle manufacturers.  Yamaha asks a good question when it asks, where are the two hundred pound motorbikes?

McLaren could put together the three seater 200mph+ V8 F1 super car twenty years ago with a curb weight of only 1062kgs (about 2340lbs).  We’ve got massive cruisers tipping the scales at 900lbs, meanwhile Mercedes-Benz is putting together Smartcars that weigh only 1600lbs.  Even a back to basic bike like the KLR650 with only a single cylinder and basic bodywork still weighs in at 432lbs.

A bike frame in one hand? It’s possible,
but bike manufacturers aren’t
considering it?

I’m still not a fan of electrical bikes as long as we’re stuck with medieval chemical batteries.  With lousy storage and even worse disposal characteristics, rushing into electric bikes right now isn’t the way to go, though one day I hope to see an unlimited charge bio-tech battery that recharges off the buried kinetic/flywheel battery under my house.

Our issue with electricity isn’t the making of it, it is the storage and transmission of it.  One day I hope to be able to unplug my bike from my locally generated and stored electrical system and get a thousand kilometres out of it before I have to plug it in again.

There are levels of efficiency we still need to move through in order to get to that place and the conservatism and marketing focus I’m seeing in bike manufacturer aren’t moving us in that direction.  A little less focus on building to marketing niches and a bit more focus on advancing engineering would help us toward a necessary evolution in motorcycling.

While Formula One develops energy recovery systems that also act as full on torque turbo-chargers, perhaps it isn’t too much to ask bike manufacturers to go after other areas of efficiency such as weight improvements in chassis and drive-trains.  I’d very much like a 400cc bike that weighs only 200lbs.  From an efficiency point of view it would be unbeatable as a means of transport and something that would get many more people interested in riding on two wheels.

Fury Project: final drive & body panels

With the snow finally falling I’ve had time to start into the naked Concours project.  The first thing that needed addressing was the final drive unit which was leaking from the inner seal.  When the Clymers manual says you can do it but it’s a big pain in the ass, it’s best to have a practised hand do the work.  I took the unit off (easily done as it’s held on the drive shaft by four bolts) and loosened all the fasteners on the inner plate.  

Two Wheel Motorsport, my local Kawasaki dealership, said they could do the work and estimated two hours of shop time and a twelve dollar seal.  I dropped off the unit and got a call back four days later saying it was done.  It was a nice surprise to find that the work took less than an hour and my $250 estimate was suddenly a $120 bill.  You hear a lot of negative talk about dealerships but Two Wheel did this job professionally and quickly, and then didn’t overcharge when they easily could have.

I cleaned out the shaft drive end and re-greased everything.  Reinstalling the unit was easy and straightforward.  With the grease holding the spring in place I was able to simply slot the drive unit onto the shaft splines and re-torque the four nuts.  Everything went together smoothly and the drive feels tight and positive.


Since this was the only mechanical issue with the Concours I was able to begin thinking about the customization side of things.  With over 100lbs of plastic and metal removed from the bike I needed to start thinking about how to minimally dress this naked machine in order to cover up the plumbing and electrics.  Having a metal shop at work means handy access to fabrication tools.  Our shop teacher is also a Concours owner and is eager to help with panel building.  He suggested I do cardboard cutouts of the pieces I need and then we can begin the process of creating metal body work.

Body work craft day in the garage.

Doing the cutouts is tricky even in cardboard.  The left side cover goes over some electronics including the fuse panel and needs to bulge outward in order to contain all of that.  The right side is more straightforward but still needs cutouts for the rear brake wiring and rear suspension adjuster.  I’m curious to see how close the metal cutouts come to the cardboard templates.

The shop at school has a plasma cutter and we should be getting a laser engraver shortly.  With such advanced tools I’m already thinking about engraving panels.  Collecting together a bunch of line drawings of iconic images and sayings in a variety of languages would be an interesting way to dress up the minimal panels on this bike.  If the laser engraver can work on compound shapes I might drop the gas tank in there and engrave Kawasaki down the spine of it where the gold stripe will go rather than looking for badges or decals.


I enjoy the mechanical work but now that the Concours is working to spec I can focus on the arts and crafts side of customization.  Next up is trying to figure out how a minimal front panel that contains the headlight and covers up the electrical and plumbing at the front will look.






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Emotionally Fraught Vehicle Sales

The last time I was this emotional about selling a vehicle was when I sold the last car I ever owned as a single guy.  That Mercury Capri 5.0, 5 speed was a monster, the Millenium Falcon of cars.  It was the kind of thing that you could drive from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 57 minutes!  Everything since that car has been a compromise, an appliance.

Seventeen years after that Capri was sold I found myself looking at a flat black 2007 Kawasaki Ninja in a cold garage in Fergus.  I didn’t have my license yet, but I went for it.  It was the first machine I’d owned in almost two decades that was a thrill rather than a necessity.  It was the first vehicle I’d owned in years that I took pictures of.

I’ve owned the Ninja for two seasons.  I’ve commuted on it, gone on long rides on it and learned how to ride with it.  On one of my first rides I realized it was able to do more for me than any car I’ve ever owned, maybe any car I would ever own; it made me fall in love with motorcycling.

Bikes tend to provoke a more emotional relationship no matter what the machine.  The two of you spend a lot of time exposed to the dangers of the road together.  The bike’s agility and power can get you out of any number of tricky situations when the distracted people in cages don’t see you.  Bikes reward competence with a wonderful feeling of empowerment.  I enjoy the exclusivity of biking as well, not everyone should do it.  The Ninja never failed to reward me for my efforts.

I went with the Ninja because it wasn’t tiny so I wouldn’t find it weak after getting the hang of riding.  That worked well, I’m not selling it now because it lacks in power, I’m just looking to expand my types of riding after having done the sport bike thing.  Since my son has taken to riding with me, a bike better suited to two up riding is what I’m transitioning to.  Happily, I’m as smitten with the Concours as I was with the Ninja, but that doesn’t make selling it any easier.

The Ninja’s 649cc engine was remarkably cheap to insure for a new rider and was phenomenally efficient, often getting more than 60mpg.  The bike has been a joy to operate, always dependable, always willing to teach me more as I got better.

I love riding, it’s a feeling of freedom like no other.  As a means of centering myself, motorbikes are a Zen mechanism that put you in the moment like no other machine (other than perhaps racing).  I’ll miss the Ninja, but selling it means I can diversify my biking.  The Concours will let me get some miles under my belt while still offering an athletic ride.  With the cash on hand from the Ninja I’ll be looking at a dual sport and getting a bit dirtier on two wheels.




BTW:  why $3900?  Because this!

After five people contacted me, the 3rd people to see the bike made an offer and I accepted.  The Ninja is sold within a week.  Now to consider how to expand my biking options…
Dual sport thoughts…



DR350?   I could get my Mondo on!






Here’s an interesting option: A Kawasaki KLX250 with a big bore kit up to 330cc.  Very light, stronger motor close to the Suzuki above in terms of power to weight ratio…

Airhawk Bravado is Airhawk Excellence

With the monkey butt I had from the oven-hot Indianapolis ride we did last summer, I picked up an AirHawk before leaving on the around Huron trip.  They make some pretty aggressive claims about how good this seat cushion is, and 1600+kms around Huron in mega-heat would be a good test.

While shopping for one at Two Wheel Motorsport I noticed that the larger ‘medium cruiser’ pad was almost a hundred dollars cheaper than the much smaller dual sport cushion.  The only difference I could see between them was a fancy red stripe down the middle of the DS model.  That’s an expensive red stripe.

Bigger is cheaper in airhawk world.


An advantage to buying this from my local dealer instead of online is that I could go try it out, which the parts guy at Two-Wheel was more than willing to do.  If you factor in shipping the airhawk cost within five dollars of what it’s going for online, well worth the chance to try different pads and pick it up immediately.

Calling my Triumph Tiger a dual sport is like calling a a Humvee a four by four.  While technically true, it’s a lot more than just a dual sport.  The Tiger is a Swiss army knife of a bike.  It can dual sport, but it can also cover long distances and tour, and it can do it in a sporty fashion.  Airhawk seems quite flexible with what pad might go on what bike, and the medium cruiser pad fit the adventurous Tiger better than the dual sport pad did, and saved me almost a hundred bucks in the process.

How did it perform?  Frankly, I was surprised.  I got a gel pad last year and it did very little to ease my discomfort on hot, all-day, multiple-day rides.  The Airhawk is a revelation.  It keeps you cool in heat, distributes your weight across the seat area evenly, removing any pressure points, and meant the end to my monkey butt.

The first time you accelerate and don’t feel directly connected to the seat (because you’re floating on air)  is a little off-putting, but you quickly get used to it.  If you want to change the angle you’re sitting while riding simple remove your weight from the pad and resit on it, and you’ll find that you can adjust your centre of balance easily.  Once the bladders in the pad redistribute the air the pad conforms to the shape of your backside and is very stable.

The arrow at the top points to the valve, which
makes filling or emptying the pad easy and
doesn’t interfere with sitting at all.

Setting up the pad was easily done.  I put air into it at low pressure in short bursts until it was about half full.  The pictures online all seem to show the pads fully inflated, but I found inflating it until it had just enough air to suspend my weight worked well and kept me in better touch with the seat.

The pad attaches to the seat using a couple of straps.  If you’re familiar with bra straps (and who of us isn’t?), you’ll find adjusting the pad a simple procedure.  It stays in place remarkably well for such a simple device.  The sticky rubber bottom seems to help a lot with that.

It isn’t cheap, and because of that, leaving it on the bike was never an option.  Having to remove it every time we left the bike unattended was a bit onerous, but I’m not in the habit of leaving $160 items on a bike unwatched and in plain view.

Airhawk is pretty sure of themselves, and they have every right to be.  Their warranty isn’t going to be exercised in my case, this pad does exactly what they claim it will.  On hot, high mileage days I was no longer in agony on the seat looking for opportunities to stop.  This seat pad means I can ride and ride.

What you get is a well engineered solution to a common problem.  It isn’t cheap, but it’s well made and it works.  You’re getting what you pay for.

Five Years: Diversifying Motorcycle Experience and Finding Balance

After the first year on two wheels I began thinking about more challenging motorcycle projects that would diversify my experience.  Starting in year two I did my first away motorcycle ride, renting scooters and then a BMW around the southern end of Vancouver Island – that led to my first article being published in Motorcycle Mojo and gave me a lot of insight into variations in motorcycling.

In addition to pushing my riding experience in daring new directions (like riding two-up with my son on an unfamiliar bike on one of the most challenging roads in Canada), I also began looking for a bike that needed more than just regular maintenance to operate… a bike that needed me.

I discovered just such a thing toward the end of that riding season, a long dormant Kawasaki Concours that we had to cut out of the grass it was sitting in.  Something that old (twenty plus years at the time) had a lot of perished rubber on it, and when I finally got it up to temperature it also had a sizable oil leak.  The winter was spent getting a new oil cooler and lines, replacing a lot of rubber bits and otherwise getting this old warrior back on its feet again.

The Concours not only got me moving mechanically, but it also offered a real blank slate, something I’ve since realized is only available on well used bikes (unless you’re loaded and like to pull apart new things).  I’d enjoyed the aesthetic restoration of the Ninja and was looking forward to doing the same thing on the Concours.  Getting an old bike and making it not only usable but unique looking has been one of the highlights of my motorcycling career to date, and a trend I intend to continue.  It’s something that my current too-nice Tiger doesn’t offer me.

The Kintsugi Concours became my go-to ride and the Ninja became my first sold bike.  It was difficult to part with something I’d developed such an emotional bond with.  I can understand why the people with the space and means hang on to every bike they buy.  Having beaten the selling a bike emotional roller coaster, I immediately went looking for another, but it took a while to finally find the right thing, and in the meantime the old Concours suddenly became less than dependable.

A KLX250 that couldn’t do 100km/hr with me on it made me feel like I was overly exposed and under-powered while riding on the road, though it was a deft hand off it and gave me my first real off road experiences.  I held on to it over the winter and when there was finally a break in the never ending Canadian snow I thought this is the moment the KLX will shine, on dirty, just thawed roads – except it wouldn’t start.  It was a lot easier to sell because I’d never fallen in love with it.  Getting $400 more than I bought it for didn’t hurt either.

Later that summer I made my next motorcycle buying error and stumbled into an old Yamaha XS1100 sitting on the side of the road.  I ignored the three strikes against it (non-runner with no ownership being sold by a gormless kid) and purchased it anyway; I won’t do that again.  I got lucky on the ownership – it was within a whisker of being a write-off and had a long and difficult history (I was the thirteenth owner!), but I was able to sell it on after sorting the ownership and just broke even.  In the process I stumbled onto a balancing act I hadn’t considered before.

I love riding older bikes I wrench myself, but they aren’t always ready to ride.  When the otherwise dependable Concours wasn’t and my only other choice was an ancient Yamaha I’d only just freed up the brakes and carbs on, I found myself with nothing to ride as the cruelly short Canadian motorcycling season began.  I’d gambled too much on being able to keep the old bikes rolling.  With riding days so valuable in the Great White North, that wasn’t a viable approach.

I still had most of the money from the Ninja sitting aside and my wise wife said to just focus on getting something newer and more dependable.  Maintaining that balance means having a riding ready bike and a project bike, and not messing up that equation.  To further complicate things, I’m a big guy so I needed a bike that fit, and my son was getting bigger every year and loved coming along, so I needed a bike that would fit us both.  Being the onerous person I am, I didn’t do the obvious thing and buy a late model Japanese touring bike that runs like clockwork.

My daily rider suddenly popped up on Kijiji but it ended up being the most emotionally driven purchase yet.  Instead of a sensible five year old, low mileage Kayamonduki, I got bitten by a thirteen year old Tiger.  It was European, over budget, too old and with too many miles, but the owner was a young professional (nuclear operator!) and from the UK and we had a good, straight up chat about the bike.  I was honest about my position (the Tiger was out of my league but I loved it and wanted it), and he was straight up with his position (he was about to take it in to trade for a new Triumph at the dealership and even my lower offer was much better than he would have gotten on trade in).  I ended up feeling like I stole the bike for over a grand less than he was asking and he got more for it than he otherwise would have.  It was an emotionally driven purchase with a lot of rational oversight.

With all that good karma the Tiger has turned out to be a special thing.  I was only the third owner.  In thirteen years it had averaged less than 4000kms/year, and on two years the first owner had ridden it out to Calgary and back (seven thousand plus kilometres each time).  It had been power commandered (that had never come up in the purchasing discussions), indicating that the original owner had really fawned over this bike.  The guy I bought it off wasn’t very mechanically minded and it hadn’t had much in the way of regular maintenance, but then he hadn’t used it much.  Within a couple of weeks I’d gotten it safetied, done all the maintenance and given it a good tuning – it has run like a top ever since.

It’s an older, European bike, but fuel injection and a resurgent Triumph Motorcycles Co. using the latest manufacturing techniques means it’s not a bonkers choice as a daily rider.  On the second year of ownership it fired right up after hibernating under a blanket in the garage, and it did again this year.  I’ve fixed some dodgy, plastic fuel connectors on the tank, changed the tires and done the fork oil and other fluids along with the chain, but other than the fuel fittings, it’s all been regular maintenance.  The Tiger has been such a treat and it’s such a rare thing (I’ve only ever seen one other) that I can’t see myself letting it go.

Meanwhile the Concours became the project bike, but since I wasn’t depending on it, the project took on new dimensions.  I stripped the old fairing off and ended up with a muscle bike like no other.  I’ve experienced some drift with this project and I think when I get it to a riding level I’ll sell it with the aim to make my money back on it (shouldn’t be too hard considering what I got it for).

I think the drift comes from biting off more than I can chew as far as tools I have on hand and time and a comfortable place to work.  If had welding gear handy and could do the fabrication I needed, I think I’d still be be pushing for an edgy completion to the project which has taken longer and has been more involved than I initially planned.  The heart is willing but I’m too tight money and time-wise to chase this big of a thing.  In the winter it hurts to go out in the garage and work on it and in the summer I’d rather be out riding.  Future projects might be more of a Shed and Buried/SPQR approach where I can get a bike sorted and back on its feet again, have some fun with it aesthetically and then move it on without losing any money on it.  Making enough on each one to keep me in tools and pay for the process would be the dream.

The sophomore years of motorcycling have been about pushing into more challenging riding opportunities.  From riding Arizona (another one that got published), to going to the last MotoGP race at Indianapolis to circumnavigating Great Lakes and Georgian Bay, I’ve gotten more and more daring and gone further afield with each season.

These years have also been about dusting off and expanding my technical skills and have seen me do everything from oil coolers to complete carburetor rebuilds.  The garage has gotten better and better in the process, though it’s still bloody cold in the winter.  If I could find a solar powered heating system for the space I’d be a happy man.  If I had a heated, insulated work space about twice the size, I’d be even happier.  The other side of the coin is riding opportunities. Living somewhere where you can’t ride for 3+ months of the year isn’t conducive to building saddle experience. I’d be happier if I lived in an all year riding opportunity – or at least if I had access to such places over the winter here.

20 hours might have gotten me able to manage the basic
operations of a motorcycle – the Conestoga course was a
weekend with about 4 hours on bikes each day, then some
very tentative rides in the neighborhood got me to 20 hours.

At five years I feel like I’ve put a lot of time into improving my rider’s craft.  I’ve also spent a lot of energy getting the rust off my mechanical skills.  What I most wish for the next five years is to maintain my hunger for more motorcycle experiences.  I’d like to try  a wider range of different bikes and types of riding and find a way to dig even deeper into mechanics.  This year I’m hoping to take an off-road training course.  In the future I’d love to find the money and time to take track riding, if not to pursue racing then at least to explore riding dynamics at the extreme end in a controlled environment.

If you put ten thousand hours into something you’ve developed a degree of expertise in it.  In each season I’ve tried to beat ten thousand kilometres of riding (and succeeded) before the snows fall.  Those fifty plus thousand kilometres have probably had me in the saddle for over a thousand hours and I’ve easily spent that again in the garage doing repairs and maintenance.  If feel like my motorcycle apprenticeship is well underway, I just need to keep finding ways to feed that expertise.

The light cover in the garage – a reminder

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