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

from Blogger https://ift.tt/2qxjEH2
via IFTTT

Winter Maintenance: Triumph Tiger 955i Engine Guard Install and plasma cutting!


How cold has the polar vortex been?  So f#*%ing cold!  Our garage is attached to the house and we’re in and out of it quite often, so it benefits from a lot of residual heat.  Even with this insulated garage with heating pipes in the attic and a lot of sympathetic heat from the attached house, the Tiger was a solid block of ice (pic on right shows it thawing) when I went in to attach mine Hepco & Becker motorschutzbügel (engine guard) in schwarz (black).  I ended up giving up on the -36°C degree Saturday and went back when it was only -17°on Sunday.



I’ve been looking for ways to protect the Tiger as I aim for more off-tarmac activities with it, and an engine guard seemed like a good idea.  Finding such an engine guard for a European (at least until Brexit) bike that’s sixteen years out of date isn’t easy, but I came across the German manufacturer Hepco & Becker and then followed links to their American distributor, Motomachines, who happened to have just what I needed in stock and have no problems shipping to Canada.  They’re also really quick to respond if you have any questions and give you quick, friendly, concise communication, I’ll use them again.


It was about a week to get here through US and Canadian federal mail services and cost me another thirty bucks at the door in border fees, so all in I was at about $350US to get the thing into my hands.  It arrived well packaged and in new condition.  There was some surface rust on the threads into the pipes, but it cleaned up easily with WD40. 
  

Some German engineering for my British Bike, except Triumph was founded by a German immigrant, so it’s kinda German already!  Bet that makes Brexiteers angry.

After not being able to feel my hands anymore despite propane heaters blaring away in the corner on Saturday, I finished the job on Sunday.  Holding the nuts on the back while securing the bolts is a bit fussy (these guards attach right to the engine frame mounts), and swearing increased trying to do it on a frozen bike, but I eventually got them sorted.


The guards are very sturdy and the welds on them are a thing of beauty.  They’re low profile things that should protect the tank in case of a spill.  The finish on them is excellent and looks to be very long wearing.  With a couple of places to kick my feet up onto, they might help me stretch out my legs on a long ride too.  I’m tempted to throw some fold up highway pegs on them, but this aggravates the adventure bike image police.


I’m still some weeks (months, who am I kidding, though if I can’t be optimistic in February I start to go bonkers) away from having a chance to ride with them, but they look good on the bike, got here pretty quickly and with a lot of quick and clear communication from Motomachines.  If you’re looking for an engine guard for an older Tiger (or anything else, they have a big selection), I’d suggest heading over to their site and then get in touch with them on email, you’ll hear back quickly from responsive customer service.



In completely different news, thanks to all of this lousy weather we’ve had a number of no-bus days at school which gave me a chance to ask our metal shop teacher to exercise his plasma cutter on my behalf.  I gave him a vector image of the Concours tail piece I wanted cut and the machine ripped through the aluminum I got for the job in about five seconds, cutting a perfect outline of the cardboard piece I’d wrapped around the tail section before unfolding.  This strange shape lines up with the frame bolts on back end of the bike and covers all the wiring and ugly bits in the most minimal way possible.  I’m going to form it over a wood buck and then paint it to match the tank.  That should take care of the back end of the Concours ZG1K custom project.


Now I need to get the carbs balanced and tuned and it should be good to go, which I intend to do as soon as the roads are clear… in, like, ten years.

from Blogger http://bit.ly/2Gx6tiR
via IFTTT

Winter Stable Dreams

It’s snowing so thick you can’t see the road.  I’m at the end of a semester and in full day-dreaming mode.  If I were out bike shopping this week, this is what I’d be aiming to bring back:




The naked:  I’m still smitten with the Kawasaki Z1000.  An orange one, with a tail tidy to get rid of the only ugly part of this stunning machine (the ugly plastic plate hanger off the back).  Some aero crash protectors and I’d be ready to track day with it as well.







The sporty road bike: the jewel-like Honda VFR800 still plucks a heart string.  It’s the descendant of one of my first motorbike crushes and would make for a mighty entertaining, sport focused road bike that could still swallow miles if needed.  It looks spectacular in white, but it also needs a tail tidy!





The all terrain bike is a tricky piece of work.  The temptation is just to go all in on a big adventure bike, but the main purpose for one of those is as a road riding mile-muncher.  My off road able bike needs to work on the road and keep up with traffic (something my current 250cc Kawasaki isn’t great at), but its focus should be off tarmac (unlike a big, heavy adventure bike).



A light-weight scrambler would be a the preferred choice aesthetically.  Building out my own custom from an existing, off-road focused bike would offer both the scrambler vibe while using light-weight, off-road ready tech.

The Suzuki DR-Z400S makes for a great base.  At 144 kilos (317lbs) it’s almost half the weight of BMW’s big queen of adventure bikes, and made by a manufacturer that makes bikes with one quarter the number of manufacturing mistakes.  I don’t feel reckless in the decision.

Is a Scrambler DR-Z400S possible?  I wouldn’t be the first to try.  The DR-Z400SM is a street version of the off-roader, so Suzuki has already done a less off-road focused version.  It’s an adaptable bike.

Too bad no one makes a sub 500cc off road focused, light weight Scrambler (instead they market stylish new ones or sell recycled history).  Anything north of 200kgs (441lbs) might be surprisingly capable off road, but it’ll still be a misery to pickup and all that weight means you’re going to be breaking suspension all the time.

Suzuki already has the platform on which to build a perfect modern scrambler.  C’mon, you’re almost there!

Some people want a $30k bike that can do one thing, I’d happily spend that money on a Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki that can do just about everything.

A Quick Motorcycle Chain Switch

After previous experiences breaking and installing motorcycle chains I figured this time it would be fairly straightforward thanks to a good tool and knowing what I’m doing.  The Tiger’s chain had a pretty severe tight spot in it. When I set the tight spot to spec (40mm of slack), the loose part was wobbling around with twice that.  If I set the loose part to spec the tight part would rumble on the sprockets.  You could actually feel the difference in chain tension under acceleration as a surge.

The tool I got last time was quick to set up.  The blue 500 size chain pin pusher slotted right in out of the handle where it had been sitting since my last chain change on the Ninja over two years ago.

The Tiger chain is a 535 sized chain (wider than the Ninja’s, but the same pitch length between the links – the Ninja was a 520 chain).  
With the pin pusher piece in place I tightened the outer bolt with a 10mm ratchet and it easily pushed the pins out of the old master link with only mild force on a small ratchet.


With the old chain removed I spent some time cleaning up the sprockets, which were in great condition.  The front sprocket was packed with years of gum from chain lube and it took a while to get it all out, first with a screwdriver and afterwards wiping it up with some WD40.  With it all cleaned off it looked like a bit of rust had found its way onto the front sprocket.


The rear sprocket was only covered in chain oil remnants and cleaning it up was easily done.


If you’re not yahooing around and yanking on your chain like a madman all the time sprockets tend to last, especially big, beefy 535 wide ones; this bike has only been owned by gentlemen.  I might swap out the rear 46 tooth sprocket for a 47 tooth one to lower the revs slightly on the next chain, but that’s years down the road, and with the sprockets in good shape, it seemed silly to do a full switch now.

A master link came with the chain which is a bit off-putting because Fortnine immediately filled the screen with master links after I purchased the chain, which I took to mean I needed one.  I guess I’ll hang on to it, but if the chain I’m buying comes with it letting me know seems like the polite thing to do rather than encouraging an upsell.

The master link that came with the chain had an interesting process for installation.  I’m told this is quite common on bicycles now.  The master link pins have a threaded piece on the end of them.  You thread the long pins on the chain and then alternate tighten the bolts until they won’t go any further.



This snugs the outer piece of the master link onto the pins.  When you’re done you back off the nuts a few turns and then break them off with a pair of pliers.  It worked well.

A chain so new it’s still covered in the wax it was packaged in to stop rust.

With the new chain set to 35mm of sag top and bottom and lubricated with chain wax (preferred because it doesn’t make a gooey mess of things, sticks to the chain well and is also a lovely honey colour), it was time for a test ride.  A twenty minute ride in the setting sun up to 100kms per hour demonstrated all sorts of improvement.  The surging feeling was gone making the bike much smoother under acceleration.  In corners that surging could destabalize the bike, it doesn’t any more.  The new chain is also noticably quieter.

This time round I think the actual chain removal and installation took about 40 minutes moving slowly and deliberately.  The cleanup of the front sprocket was what took the most time, though it probably did a lot to quiet the new chain (not running through a tunnel of goop on each revolution has to be better).

While I had the tools out I finished the counteract balancing beads install I started earlier in the week by doing the back tire as well.  With beads now in the front and rear tires vibrations through the handlebars are gone and the whole bike is rattle free at speed.  I never really got to try them out on the Concours, but what little I did seemed to work, and seeing as the beads are cheaper than taking in tires to get balanced anyway, why not?  I’m glad I did.

The Tiger is now as arrow straight and smooth as it can be.  It was a joy to ride it home as the sun set on Sunday evening.

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
http://canadamotoguide.com/2015/03/03/air-canadas-new-motorcycle-cargo-options/

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

http://www.ridedot.com/faq/  

http://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 https://www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp/english/unkou.htm
Tokyo to Los Angeles

Motorcycle Diaries: Win Your 2020 Dream Ride

Motorcycle Diaries is a website that shares rides from people from around the world.  I’ve posted a number of Ontario specific rides on there.  They currently have a 2020 Dream Ride contest going on until April 30th, so here’s my pitch.


My Moto-Bio:

I didn’t come to motorcycling until later in life. When I was very young, maybe six years old?  I was at my grandparent’s house in Sheringham, Norfolk in England one spring Saturday morning in 1975 when a group of vintage vehicles passed by on what was probably a rally.  I was the little blond kid standing on the railings by the side of the road waving at them as they thundered by, and many of them made a point of smiling and waving back, including a guy on a Triumph Speed Twin.  It was one of those flashbulb moments you never forget.  Nothing looked cooler than that bike and rider thrumming through the receding sea mist in the cool morning air.

Years later after immigrating to Canada, I was finally old enough to start considering driving and I immediately gravitated towards motorcycles, but my mother was strangely insistent that I not do that.   Even though we weren’t well off my parents dug deep to help get me a car instead.  I got deep into cars owning a wide variety of vehicles, learning how to repair them and even pursuing performance driving courses and cart racing while living in Japan, but that bike itch was always there.

After my mum’s suicide I discovered that my great aunt, with whom she shared a name, was an avid rider who was killed in a motorcycle accident a few years before I was born.  I also discovered that my mum’s dad, who I was very close with growing up in Norfolk, was also an avid motorcyclist up until the death of his sister, which must have rocked the family since no one had even mentioned her to me.  I’ve never understood how an accident like that (an army truck accidentally pulled out into her, killing her instantly) warranted this kind of silence, but my mum’s side of the family has always been… interesting.

Despite being a major part of the previous generation’s lives, motorcycling had evidently became a taboo subject that left me ignorant to a deleted great aunt who I now feel a great affinity for and a love of my granddad’s, who I thought I knew well.


I’ve been riding now since 2014 and I’m on my seventh bike.  I’ve taken multiple advanced off road training courses and done some long, international trips, including a trip to the last MotoGP race at Indianapolis that had us ripping down the back straight of the historic Brick Yard on our own bikes – mine being an $800 field find I’d restored in my garage.

I’ve made a point of expanding my familiarity with different bikes by renting them and riding in places ranging from Pacific tsunami zones to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, usually with my son on the back.  We’ve had some great adventures.  I’ve also made a point of becoming mechanically proficient with motorcycles, having just finished my latest restoration.

That’s my bio.  Here’s the dream ride:

In discovering my family history around motorcycling I also connected my grandfather’s rather incredible Second World War tour of duty to riding where, among other things, he served in the RAF’s motorbike stunt team.


Bill served as an MP in the RAF and travelled with the British Expeditionary Force to France in 1939 in order to repel the oncoming Nazi war machine.  When it all went wrong, Bill ended up trapped in occupied France for a number of weeks after Dunkirk before eventually finding his way back to the UK just in time to catch planes that fell out of the sky during the Battle of Britain.  He then went on to fight in Africa for several years, but it’s his time in France during the ‘Phoney War‘ during the disastrous Battle of France and the allied retreat that is the basis for my dream ride.

After some exhaustive research I discovered Bill’s path through France from the autumn of 1939 to the spring of 1940.  My dream ride would be to follow in my granddad’s footsteps on a period motorcycle through Northern France in the springtime, just as Bill did.





From letters to my grandmother and military records, I discovered that Bill was attached to RAF Squadron 73 who operated across Normandy and up to near the Belgian border over the winter of the Phoney War before being chased south under fire around Paris and through Ruaudin and Saint Nazaire before he finally found a boat back to Plymouth out of Brest, nearly two months after Dunkirk.  In the process he failed to get to the Lancastria with the rest of his squadron, the majority of whom died on it as it was sunk by dive bombers in Saint-Nazaire.


Being able to follow Bill’s chaotic retreat with his squadron through France while finding evidence of the great conflict and seeing things he saw between moments of terror and heartache, and doing it on an RAF Norton H16 or a period Triumph Speed Twin would be a heart wrenching and mind blowing experience that would connect me back to a forgotten piece of family history on a number of levels.


What a dream ride that would be.

from Blogger https://ift.tt/2zyOLKh
via IFTTT

Jeep Motototing South

Over the winter we got whacked by a snow plough and the insurance rental ended up being a Jeep Wrangler 4 door. I worked in an automotive shop to pay for university and Jeeps usually involved bringing an umbrella with you because they leaked so much, but this 2019 model has evolved from that poorly made thing. The mileage was better than I thought it would be for a big six cylinder, but I also discovered they come with an even more efficient turbo four that manages mid-20s MPG.

While we had it I stuck it in four wheel drive and went over a mountain of snow in a parking lot that would have beached anything else – and it did it on all season tires! At another point I had to take about 1500lbs of ewaste out of the school I work at and the Jeep swallowed it all with ease and it didn’t even seem to strain the suspension. On one particularly snowy night in an empty parking lot I four wheel drifted it and it felt surprisingly obliging doing something that athletic. I found the size of it also a nice surprise. I have to fold myself into the Mazda we have, but the Jeep felt like it fit.


What surprised me most about it was that it was genuinely enjoyable to drive.  Initially I found myself fighting the big wheels on the road, but once I came to trust the different driving dynamics of the thing I found it a comfortable long distance coverer.  Being up higher means I’m not getting all the slush in the face, which is nice too.  We never got to try the roof-removing modular nature of it because it was freezing, but that’s another feather in its hat.  I’ve been four wheeling in a tiny hatchback for so long that driving just feels like tedium.  The Wrangler made driving feel like an event instead of just a necessity.

With that all swirling around in my head, I first looked up the Wrangler and found it cost sixty grand, which is ridiculous, but that turned out to be a leather clad special edition thing.  The one I’d be looking at comes in at about forty grand, about the same as our last car, and there are big discounts on them at the moment.  They’ve got one with all the needed options on for about $41K nearby.

Knowing how this thing handles loads, I started looking up bike hauling options with them.  MotoTote has a 600 pound trailer hitch mounted motorcycle carrier that the Jeep could easily manage for $569 (I’m assuming that’s USD – so about $780CAD).  Also knowing its go anywhere cred and how big it is on the inside, I had images of my son and I taking it camping and off-roading.  A trailer with ATV and dirt bike on it would do us well.  Parking up in the wilderness and then camping out of the thing seems like a real possibility.  The Jeep’s outdoor image means there is a rich aftermarket of related products, even roof mounted tents, though it doesn’t need them.  The fold flat rear seats open up a massive back space that two sleeping bags could easily fit in.  A back attached tent makes a bit more sense in that case.


It’s a cool thing that could make the long wished for trip south in the winter a possibility.


from Blogger https://ift.tt/3dPMc6t
via IFTTT

Hibernating a Motorcycle: Oil Changes

That ain’t a cheap oil change, but as expensive as it is,
it’s way cheaper than rebuilding a motor.

In a previous life I was an automotive technician and then service manager at a Quaker State shop.  For a few years there I was right up on my lubricants.  That background makes me very conscious of my motorbike fluid habits.   One of my standing rules when I put away a motorcycle for the winter is to change the oil before I do it.

You watch someone like Nick Sanders ride up and down the Americas for tens of thousands of kilometres and you wonder how his Yamaha looked like it had barely been used at the end of it:



Engines are designed to be running.  The very worst thing you could do is start and stop an engine over and over again (like we all do every day).  In the case of Sander’s epic rides from Alaska to Argentina and back, while what the Yamaha did was astonishing, the fact that the engine was in good shape shouldn’t have been a surprise.  It was barely ever allowed to cool down. 

Oils become acidic and moisture seeps in as things continually heat up and cool down.  Leaving old oil in your engine over the winter isn’t doing it any favours.  Swapping out contaminated oil for clean oil before you put it away is a great idea, so your engine isn’t soaking in the bad stuff.


Swapping it again in the spring is just a waste of money.  Oil doesn’t go bad sitting, but once you’re into the heat up cool down cycle again keep an eye on your mileage, and keep up on your oil changes, your engine will appreciate it.

Chemistry is where the big advances are happening nowadays.  Today’s oils have astonishing temperature ranges and abilities.  Here are some links on what’s going on with lubricants:

http://ift.tt/2foVjAW
http://ift.tt/1XixINJ
http://ift.tt/1aUeBGc
http://ift.tt/2f713eK
http://ift.tt/2foVlc2

via Blogger http://ift.tt/2f70YYy