Ancaster And Back Again

Elora to Ancaster and back again… about 160kms

Another weekend another good ride, this time to Ancaster and back for an edcamp.  One again the Concours impressed with its ability to cover miles with ease.

It was about 6°C when I left at 7:30 in the morning, and up in the high teens when I came back mid-afternoon.  Both ways was comfortable though behind the fairings, and the new jacket is light-years beyond the old one in terms of both warming and cooling.

I had a moment riding when I was flying through the air on the back of the bike realizing that there is nothing about doing this that I don’t enjoy.  It was a windy day, the roads post Canadian winter look like a war zone and it was cold, but even with all that I was still stringing perfect moments together as I flew down the road.  I had a moment before the big trip last week when I was wondering if I’m not taking too many risks riding with my son.  What finally put me right was realizing that driving a car can end you as well, but we do that much more often and usually while paying less attention.  I looked back one time as we were winding our way through Beaver Valley and saw Max with his arms out and eyes closed flying through the air behind me.  I would have hated myself if I’d have never given him that experience.  Riding might be dangerous, but competence and attention can go a long way in mitigating those risks, and the rewards are impossible to find in any other mode of transport.

The more I ride the Concours the better the engine seems to get. On the way home I stuck the phone behind the windshield and got the video below where you can hear the Concour’s happy noise.  

Sulphur Springs Road – a better way in is on Mineral Springs Road, the top of Sulphur Springs is rough!
Mineral Springs Road on the way back, it’s still Ontario bumpy, but it ain’t dirt and it is twisty!
Back up in Centre Wellington, the Concours takes a break where I took the first road pic of my former bike

I always thought that the Ninja was a delight to rev, but the throaty howl of the Concours in full song is hard not to fall in love with:

Flight of the Concours

… with musical accompaniment by Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnies!

Riding the Roman Empire

Across the top of the Mediterranean over two weeks.

This time of year always feels like about as far from a ride as I’ll get.  It’s in the minus twenties outside and it’s been snowing for days straight.  Time for some cost-no-object daydreaming…

If I jumped on a plane late in the evening on Friday, December 22nd at the beginning of our holiday break, it’s a long slog because there is no direct flight to Athens, but I would eventually get there on Saturday afternoon. A night in Athens and then I could begin a long ride in a warm climate across the north coast of the Mediterranean on Christmas Eve, passing through the heart of the Roman Empire on my way west to Lisbon for a flight in time to go back to work.


I have to be back at it on Monday, January 8th. There is a direct flight from Lisbon, Portugal back to Toronto on the Saturday before.  Could I get from Athens to Lisbon in thirteen days? 

It’s about four thousand kilometers through Greece, Italy, France and Spain to Portugal.  That works out to an average of just over three hundred kilometres per day which means plenty of time to stop and see things or a big day of riding followed by a day off.  Because it’s Europe there are always autostradas to make up time if needed.  It appears Athens to Lisbon is a very doable two week ride.  

Here’s a possible day by day breakdown with a couple of days off.  All the maps are highway averse, looking for local roads and the time it takes to ride them.  Should things get backed up, big highway miles could happen to make up lost time:


Here’s a link to the spreadsheet with working links to maps.

There are a couple of longer days in there, but there are also two days off completely and some short, half days of riding.  There is plenty of time to stop and soak things in en-route to our western return point.

My weapon of choice for this trip would be the new Triumph Tiger Explorer I’m crushing on, in matt cobalt blue.  Tall Tigers fit me well and this one is perhaps the best one ever made.  As a cross countries mover there is little that can beat it, and that new blue is a lovely thing.  I think I’d do a burnt orange on the engine guards and pannier logos.  I’d also redo the badges in matching orange.


The new Tiger Explorer is 24 pounds lighter than the old one, gets better mileage and has a host of advanced features that make an already good long distance bike better.  The big three that powers it would comfortably carry a passenger if I could convince anyone to do this with me.  If we’re touring two up I’d luggage it up and make sure we could carry everything with us, but if I was solo I think I could just get by with the panniers and leave the back end looking less luggage-y.

Outfitting it with luggage and a few odds and ends from the extensive options catalogue is always fun.  I only got myself into four thousand dollars of trouble there:


The solo, lighter Tiger looks a treat.
  • Expedition Aluminium Panniers – Waterproof Inner Bags Pair $160.00
  • Engine Bars – Black $364.99
  • High Rider Comfort Seat $340.00
  • Heated Passenger Seat $535.02
  • Quick Release Tank bag $131.57
  • LED Fog Lights $555.00
  • Adventure Tail Bag $295.00
  • Aluminium Radiator Guard $84.99
  • Expedition Pannier Mounting Kit $450.00
  • Expedition Panniers – Black $1,265.00

In a perfect world I’d get my Tiger shipped from my garage in my England house to the Triumph Dealer in Athens where I’d pick it up on December 23rd.  I’d drop it off at the Triumph dealer in Lisbon on January 6th and either convince my cousin to ride it back to the UK or get it shipped back.

I’ve got the kit needed to do this now, but having a look at the latest European gear, I think I’d spring for a new helmet to do this ride with.  The Roof Carbon is a piece of industrial art that gives me the benefits of a closed face when I need it and an open face when I’m in need of some wind.  The iridium face shield would make this thing look like something out of battle of the planets.


Since it’s a daydream, it ain’t cheap.  I’d fly business there and back, so flights are north of seven grand.  Getting the bike delivered wouldn’t be cheap, assuming it was waiting for me in Europe to begin with.  But hey, if you can’t daydream big, why daydream at all?


NOTES:


Sat Dec 23 to Sat Jan 6

13 full days + 1/2 a day on each end


~4000kms – 307kms / day

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IIHTM (If I Had The Money): September in Spain & Then The Long Way Home

This is why it’s good to be friends with Austin Vince on Facebook, it makes you daydream.

What would I do if I were free of money and the time constraints it demands?  I’d be planning a month in Spain next year!

The week of the 19th to the 23rd (Monday to Friday) would be doing the Pyrenees with Austin and crew on my Triumph Tiger Explorer.

The Aragón round of MotoGP happens on the next weekend!

I’d aim to get in country with my bike in the first week of September and then have the  a couple of weeks toodling about before a week in the Pyranees with Austin Vince!  After the Austin week I’d be straight over to Aragon for the MotoGP weekend.  After a couple of days of getting organized, the long trek home would begin… the long way round!

A week riding the Pyranees with Austin Vince, and then a weekend at MotoGP Aragon!

Spain to Tokyo via Southern Europe, India, South East Asia and China, would be one hell of a ride.  A flight to L.A. would have me riding through the southern States before heading north and home in the spring.

Bike shipping to Europe?  about ~ $1000
canadamotoguide.com/2015/03/03/air-canadas-new-motorcycle-cargo-options/

www.thethinkbox.ca/2012/11/18/how-to-fly-and-store-your-motorcycle-overseas-for-touring-without-using-a-shipping-company-cheaply/

www.ridedot.com/faq/  

www.horizonsunlimited.com/get-ready/shipping-the-bike

I couldn’t find anything off-hand, but I’d guess about $2000 to fly the bike back into North America.  I could always ask Austin how he did it.


Timing of a fall Spain to Japan trip?

Southern Europe: September/October
India/South East Asia: November/December
China/Japan: January/February
Southern US:  March/April



This route is about 29,000kms with 3 air cargo bits and one hell of a ferry ride:
Toronto to Madrid
Turkey to India
Shanghai to Osaka Ferry www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp/english/unkou.htm
Tokyo to Los Angeles

2015 North American International Motorcycle Show

This was my son and I’s second go around at the big, messy NAIMS.  It feels more like a jumble sale than a bike show, but we have a good time storming around the International Centre in Mississauga.

This show’s best attribute is its timing.  Just as everyone is getting snowed in and a bit stir crazy along comes this ludicrously large motorbike extravaganza to satisfy all appetites.

We did it backwards this year, wandering around the clubs and smaller vendor hall before pushing through the big halls and finally getting to see the custom bikes (we missed Hall 5 last year).

It was nice to talk face to face with a fellow CoGer (they had a stand).  It makes me want to get out to one of their local meetings.  That they don’t dress like pirates (which seems to be a thing with many of the other clubs) ingratiates them to me even more.

Ironically, both times we’ve purchased things at this show we’ve done it from Two Wheel Motorsports, our local dealer.  One of the instructors from my motorcycle licensing course works there and he always remembers me, which is some good customer service.  This time around I stumbled upon an armoured jacket that happened to have my initials on it.  $100 for a $270 retail jacket?  Nice.  My son also got some iron man coloured leather gloves ($50 retail, twenty bucks at the show) that he was very happy with.

NAIMS is definitely good for shopping, though many of the larger retailers there didn’t seem to be offering prices much different than on their webpages.  It’s also pretty much the same gear over and over again.  If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path (like ROOF helmets?) then you’re outa luck.


The custom show in Hall 5 out back was full on bizarre.  Some beautiful paint on some plain ridiculous bikes, Hall 5 is where the pirates with disposable income go!

We enjoyed the show, but once again, grumpy old men selling Victory Motorcycles growled at my son when he tried to sit on one… it’s always a good idea to bring a bike to a show and not expect anyone to sit on it.  Once again, Kawasaki and Harley were the only two manufactures that showed up and provided bikes you’re expected to sit on.

The Toronto Motorcycle Show comes along in February down at the CNE.  That’s the one you want to aim at if you want to actually sit on bikes.  We’ll be there ready to sit on everything!

Sonny Barger’s Let’s Ride

I just started Sonny Barger’s Let’s Ride.  I have to admit, I’d never heard of him prior to picking up the book.  He’s evidently quite famous for uncovering the Hell’s Angels in the 1970s in the U.S..

I’m only a couple of chapters in, but he is a straight talker who doesn’t come off as weirdly particular about his motorbiking.  He’s as hard on Harleys as he is on European or Japanese bikes.  If you’re looking for an honest, knowledgeable review of motorcycling over the last half century in North America, this will do it for you.

I just got through his description of the British and North American failure to respond to the Japanese motorcycle invasion of the early 1970s.  He pulls no punches and his insight describes the sense of superiority and apathy that was rampant in non-Japanese motorcycle companies at the time.

Barger is an American patriot at heart, even if it means he had to spend three miserable decades riding under-engineered Harley Davidsons.  I sympathize with his loyalties, but don’t share them.  I appreciate how he keeps saying that my own priorities in riding may be different from his.  He offers advice without limiting your ability to express your own interests in riding.  Sonny is a big ‘merican bike fan, but he understands that people come to biking from a variety of angles.

One of my earliest motorbike memories was sitting out on this corner when I was six or seven watching a parade of old Triumphs, Royal Enfields and Vincents power through town.

Myself, I’m a complicated guy.  I’m a Brit who emigrated to Canada when he was eight years old and then paid off all his student loans by working in Japan.  I’ve been living outside of my native culture for so long I’m not even sure what it is any more.  My earliest memories are of watching old British bikes thumping down the road outside my grandparent’s house in Sheringham.  

As a teen in Canada I was a giant anime nerd and loved Japanese motorcycle culture.  My dream bike was a Honda Interceptor because it reminded me of Robotech mecha.

So how do I take Sonny’s advice?  With the realization that I’m getting into motorcycling from a very different direction than he did, and he seems OK with that.  I’m still finding his experience and explanations of biking to be very informative.

I’m enjoying the book so far, Sonny has a great writer’s voice (especially when he goes off the deep end and gets really opinionated).  If you want a book that offers you an inside look at motorcycling, Let’s Ride is an enjoyable, informative read.

Rear hub gaskets & Moto Guzzi’s MGX21 Flying Fortress

I was at Two Wheel Motorsport yesterday dropping off the Concours’ rear hub to get the inner gasket re-done.  The rear hub comes off easily enough, but the Clymer’s manual said that with the special tools required as well as how much a pain in the ass it is to evenly heat up the hub housing to remove the inner plate (you can’t use a torch, it’ll warp it), this might be one of those times when DIY is more trouble than it’s worth.


Looking at the cost I was in for nearly $200 for two tools I’d probably only ever use once, and they’re rare enough that you can’t rent them.  Between that, the heating bit (they suggest maybe using a hot plate), and the fiddly nature of the internal components which have to be shimmed just right or you end up with a very clunky drivetrain, this seemed like a good time to make use of a professional.  Two Wheel said they could do the job for about $250 taxes in.

The dangerous part about visiting your local dealer is walking through the rows of new machinery.  On my way out they had a flock of Moto Guzzis, which I have to admit I have a soft spot for after reading Melissa Hobrook Pierson‘s The Perfect Vehicle.


As I wandered down the aisle, looking at everything from modern adventure tourers to stripped down cafe styled Guzzis, a young salesman appeared.  I’d been reading about the not at all shy and retiring Moto Guzzi MGX-21 Flying Fortress in Motorcycle Mojo and wondered if they had one.  It just happened that they did, down the end of the row.  He pulled it out for us to have a look at…

If you’ve read anything about my time with motorbikes you’ll know that cruisers and their bagger derivatives are about as interesting to me as a plate of spam, but these recent European designed bikes, while heavy, can still actually lean into corners and are surprisingly usable.

There is nothing about the MGX-21 Flying Fortress, so named because it was inspired by the American World War II bomber (an odd choice considering said bombers probably dropped ordinance on and around the Moto Guzzi factory), that is subtle.  The enormous bat-wing fairing, acres of carbon fibre and those big opposing air cooled cylinder heads poking out of it all just in front of your knees make for an over the top look at me statement; this is a machine for extroverts.



As a big guy I find that most machines are tight in the knees and generally look too small for me.  I even look like I fill up the tall Tiger, but Guzzi’s Fortress looked and felt like it fit.  The salesman said that like so many heavy but well balanced machines, the moment you start moving the weight seems to disappear.


This big, black Guzzi makes a unique statement.  You can find similarly styled American bikes, but they don’t have this red-headed Italian’s European flair.  At nearly twenty-four grand you’re going to have to be well off or really wanting to make that statement in order to get onto one.  


No one does fashion and beauty like the Italians, and this new Guzzi, while seemingly an odd choice for the venerable Italian builder, exudes charisma and charm.  If I had my own version of Jay Leno’s garage this Lombardy beauty would be in there for those rare days when I want to put myself on a pedestal.

It certainly is.
Even if it’s not your thing, have a look.  Like an Italian Comtessa, she might be out of your league but a joy to behold.


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Coventry Eagle

 

I was looking at the picture of Grand-dad Morris on his motorbike again this morning.  With a bit of digital wizardry I was able to get the name of the bike: A Coventry Eagle.

 

 

Fitted with a 250cc twin port villiers engine, back in 1933
 the bike cost £36.00 new. She still has her brass
 headlight & tail lights and brass horn.

I found this in a UK online classic bike sales site.  Looks like the same creature!

I wonder where Grandad’s bike went… it’s probably long gone.

Thirty six quid back in 1933 (about $3000 in modern Canadian, or what I purchased my Tiger for)!  That 247cc engine could push the bike up to sixty miles per hour.  I can imagine Bill thundering down winding Norfolk roads on that Eagle 

The West Runton Sea Road – one of my favorite places to go when I was a kid.

 

Pandemicky Cancellations And Alternate Means

Thanksgiving weekend in Canada was to be my last big ride of the season.  It’s been a tough year and the chance to get away from the pressure cooker of teaching in a pandemic was something I was clinging to a bit too tight.  The daring plan was to finish another exhausting week of teaching in a too small masks in classrooms that are ignoring all the pandemic rules everyone else is following, get a much needed night of sleep and then make my way up to ride the Haliburton Highlands in all their autumn glory before spending a weekend far away from the noise of pandemicky 2020 in the woods near Bobcaygeon.  The ride back would have been 274 kms of backroads less travelled.


I discovered Friday afternoon that we’d been waved off from the in-law’s cottage because we’re too much of a pandemic risk.  The irony that I can’t get away from the thing that strangles me each week because I’m getting strangled by it each week isn’t lost on me.  Instead I took the sunny and 22°C forecast and headed up to Hornings Mills and River Road for some Niagara Escarpment twisties, except I never got there because forty minutes up the road just north of 89 in Shelburne the rain started to fall.


I turned around and came home again.  Riding with purpose through rain is an enjoyable experience.  The smells and feel during a rainy ride are unique and worth pursuing, but looking for rain when you’re on yet another pointless pandemic loop over familiar roads doesn’t make much sense, so I turned around and went home again.  Autumn colours were lovely and the Tiger ran like a top though.


The fire we thought we’d have that night didn’t happen because everything was wet.  The next day opened sunny and cold, but warmed up to the point where we went for a walk in the woods nearby.

When we got home I backed the Honda out of the garage and went for a ride in the cool, clear, autumn air.


Any weekend where you can take each of your two bikes out for a ride isn’t a bad weekend.  Soon enough we’ll be buried under a blanket of snow while the second wave of the coronavirus spreads in the closed places we share, like my classroom.  


The kick in the groin here was getting dumped by family on the weekend we were aiming to be away without warning.  Nothing like your own family treating you like a plague cow to really drive home the meaning of Thanksgiving.  What really burns my ass is having to depend on them to be able to access the things I was looking for:
  • getting away from the godforsaken suburbs and into THE WILD
  • off roading with my son
  • hanging out on a hammock in the wilderness with my wife
  • having a reason to ride beyond my usually riding range
  • being comfortable while we do it

I don’t live in the right generation to own a cottage (and the generation that does isn’t sharing during a pandemic), so I need to work out a way where I can check those boxes without depending on the vagaries of other people.  My wife won’t sleep on the ground any more so camping won’t cut it, but maybe a camper might.


A Skala Conversions Ram Promaster would do the trick.  With the right sized motor and towing package, we’d be able to tow my son’s ATV and my dirtbike into the woods and find our bliss without depending on anyone else.  Some crafty engineering and smart packaging and we could be mobile and efficient without a ludicrously large camper.  A membership with the OFTR and we could enjoy off roading together in a variety of different places and glamp like rock stars.  When we just wanted to disappear into the wilderness we could do that too.

A cheaper alternative is a used camper, and there are many about.  Eight grand’ll get you a low mileage older small camper.  The Roadtrek RS Adventurous looks promising and arrives in 2021. It gets great mileage (like 20mpg) and sleeps up to four.


If I had the shop space and time I’d go grab this disco 1974 ‘RekVee’ from where it’s parked up near Perry Sound for five hundred bucks, throw it on a flatbed and bring it back, strip it down and convert it to an electric/hybrid.  The electric RV isn’t viable yet with our medieval chemical battery technology but a hybrid diesel/electric option would work.


One way or another I want to get off the depending on other people to decide access to my mental health getaways.  What’s nice about the RV option is that it works while we’re in lock down.  Ontario is a big place and socially isolating when you’ve thousands of miles of wilderness north of you and your own place to sleep is perfectly doable).  When things open up again we could take the thing to Ushuaia.

In other circumstances we’ve gotten ourselves into a hotel when the cottage politics gets too thick, but the pandemic makes that next to impossible.  I need to engineer more flexibility and capability into our escape plans so we get to be the arbiters of our own mental health excursions. 

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Motorcycle Philosophy: Antoine Predock on Ride With Norman Reedus



Riding a motorcycle is episodic.  You experience thermoclines of temperature… the rush of cold air in a pocket, it’s exhilarating.  In life that’s a good thing too, surrender to conditions rather than mind managing everything and see what happens.


Season 2, Episode 4:  Ride With Norman Reedus (quote is from the episode)




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Dragon Eclipses

Do you know where you’re going to be on August 21st, 2017?  As it happens, at about 6:30 in the evening on that day, a total solar eclipse will be passing over The Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee and North Carolina.


Total eclipses don’t happen very often.  This is complete totality, the moon perfectly covers the sun’s disk, the sky goes dark, birds go to sleep, and a couple of minutes later everything comes back and it’s another normal sunset in the mountains.  It’ll be spectacular.

I got some nice shots of a partial solar eclipse during sunset a couple of years ago, but a chance to see totality is a bucket list item.  If I can time it with another bucket list item (riding the Tail), what a day that’ll be!

I’ve seen a spectacular partial eclipse at sunset, but totality is something else entirely.  If you’re able, try and get into the path of the total eclipse and the moon’s shadow slides across America at over 1000 miles per hour.
Get between the blue lines (and as close to the red one as you can get) and you’ll see a total solar eclipse.On the Portland side you’re looking at a 5:15pm start,  As the shadow slips into the Atlantic around Charleston, it’ll be a 6:46pm event.