2015 IndyGP Videos & Photos

I’m sorting through the photos and videos from the Indianapolis MotoGP trip… here’s what I’ve got so far:

Prior to take-off

At the Michigan International Speedway

Lunch stop in North Manchester

The back straight at Indy – what a ride!

Bike parking on the back straight

Indy golf course in the infield

Friday practice session for the 2015 Indy GP

Yamaha R1 guts

Dancing through the esses

Danny Kent doing the business (qualified first!)

The Doctor at work

The Maestro Marc Marquez doing what he does

There were many more bikes when we returned!

They compete for motorcycle insurance here?
We must not be in Ontario!

Motorcycles on Meridian

Thousands upon thousands of bikes – if it’s been built it’s here!

Michigan International Speedway
You can sign in and have a look around inside! 

Indy Again

Google auto-made video of the track day

Mostly Ironheads

The Connie is off getting safetied, and the Ninja has found a new home.  I’m bikeless!

One of the things you learn about motorcycle culture is that it tends to exist underground, out of sight.  For example, this week I discovered that there is a bike shop in the small town that I’ve lived in for five years.  I had no idea that down the back of the industrial mall behind the country market is a specialist motorbike shop.  This reminded me of our trip to Old Vintage Cranks a couple of summers ago.

I’d contacted the owner, Lloyd, over the phone during the week about getting the Concours safetied.  He doesn’t usually work with ‘metric bikes’, but he was willing to look after me.  Mostly Ironheads is a full service shop that, in addition to offering everything you need to maintain your bike, also offers you some genuine historical motorcycling perspective.  While chatting with Lloyd he showed me a 1934 Harley Flathead engine that he was in the process of rebuilding.  In the front of the shop you’ll also find a collection of customized Harleys from various decades.  I’m going to bring the 3d-scanner when I return for the Connie next week and get some models of this classic American iron.

It’s convenient to wander around department store styled dealerships and bike shops, but it isn’t all that interesting beyond what you’re shopping for.  Places like Mostly Ironheads run at a different speed.  The proprietors are always happy to spend some time chatting with you and the chances of seeing something genuine and learning something about motorbiking are much higher.

If you’re travelling through Elora, Ontario on two wheels (and many people do to have lunch by the river in the summer), be sure to pop down behind Dar’s Country Market to Mostly Ironheads and have a look at a hidden piece of Ontario motorcycle culture.

Mostly Ironheads Website

Mostly Ironheads on Facebook


3d models of some historical Harleys

Vanmageddon: It must be February

It’s getting to be that time of year again – months of snow bound Ragnarok motorbike hibernation are making me twitchy.  I like winter generally, it offers a very different and sometimes beautiful view of the world, but when motorcycling has become your go-to stress reliever, being out of the saddle for months is a source of pressure.  If you look at the seasonal leanings of this blog, you’ll see winter generally leads to yearning.

This time around the fixation is on the Mercedes Metris Van.  I’ve previously looked at Ford Transits from a Guy Martin point of view, and other small van options for moving bikes to where I can use them.  The Metris has the benefit of being as efficient as the little vans but can swallow the Tiger with room to spare.  The other little vans would required a tight squeeze if it’d fit at all.



Another benefit of the Metris is that you can customize it to your needs and it’ll still go everywhere a normal vehicle will.  It’s also surprisingly competitive in price to the Ford and Dodge/Fiat options.  So, what would I do with the only Mercedes I’ve ever been interested in buying?

Last year at pretty much this exact same time I was mapping out waterfalls in Virginia.  The drive down to Roanoke is about 11 hours.  With the Tiger in the back I’d have left right after work and been in Roanoke by midnight.  After a good sleep and breakfast and I’d be out all weekend making use of those lovely temperatures while chasing spring powered waterfalls across the Appalachians.  After a good ride Sunday I’d have a big dinner then head back into the frozen wastelands of the north getting in after mid-night, but I’d have the Monday of the long weekend to get back on it again.


All told that’d be about 2000kms in the van and another six hundred or so miles riding in the spring blooming mountains.  If I could convince the family to come along, they could crash in the hotel or jump on the back and come along.

I’ve been reading Guy Martin’s autobiography and his van powered wandering to motorcycling events all over the UK and Europe seem entirely doable, if you only have that van.  He seems to be able to fit an improbably amount into a very limited amount of time simple by getting himself there and then getting himself home again.


It’s a good read that trips right along.  I enjoyed the narrative flow of the follow up book When You Dead You Dead more (I read it first), but you quickly fall into Guy-speak and feel like you’re sitting in a pub with him hearing the tale.  If you like motorcycles and racing it’s brilliant.  If you just like a good story well told, it’ll do that too.

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Triumph Tiger History

First gen Tiger from the late ’30s

I’ve been finding out the history of Triumph Tigers from various places on the interwebs. The first Tigers were born just before World War 2 and were quickly put on hold when the war started. With rigid rear frames and girder front suspensions, these were 1930s bikes in every sense.

Tigers followed the steady evolution in motorbike technology throughout the Twentieth Century, and also followed some rather silly styling trends, like shrouding the mechanicals in 1950s aero inspired nonsense.

’69 Tiger made in the UK the same
year I was!  Nice high pipes!


Things get interesting again in the 1960s, with late ’60s Tigers, along with the British motorcycle industry in general reaching a zenith before being crushed by their own weight and a lithe, hungry wave of Japanese imports.

Pam Anderson riding
a Tiger!

Through the long, dark tea time of the soul in the ’70s and ’80s (and while my parents and thousands of others fled the country) Triumph went down in flames along with much of British manufacturing.  In ’83 John Bloor, a building contractor who was looking into the purchase of the derelict Triumph factory to build more homes ended up buying the brand.  After sitting on it for a while he rebooted it and built a new factory.  

It’s one of the best examples of British manufacturing rising out of the ashes of old money and old ideas and embracing a more effective approach to manufacturing.  Without the conservative  establishments of aristocratic ownership and unionized labour Bloor was able to reignite British engineering and give it chance to shine again.  You might think that it isn’t properly British if it isn’t mired in limited social mobility and the kind of Kafka-esque bureaucracy that makes building something well next to impossible, but that was only a moment in Twentieth Century British history and doesn’t speak to the engineering prowess of our little island.


After Triumph rebooted in the early ’90s, the Tiger reappeared in ’93 during the second wave of model introductions.  An early example of what came to be known as adventure bikes, the Tiger was a tall, long suspension, multi-purpose machine running a three cylinder engine.  

Having tapped into this trend while it was still only popular in continental Europe, Triumph’s Tiger line has been a key part of their brand for the past twenty plus years.  If asked what bike I’d want to take around the world tomorrow, the Tiger Explorer is at the top of the list.

Tigers have been around, in one form or another, since before World War Two.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the one I found this month.


TigerLinks:
www.motorcyclenews.com/news/2013/march/mar1113-triumph-tifer-timeline/
www.classic-british-motorcycles.com/1969-triumph-tr6.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_TR6_Trophy
www.triumphworld.co.uk/pages/triumph-enthusiasts/all-things-triumph/tiger-history.htm
www.rat-pack.com/TriumphHistory.php
www.gregwilliams.ca/?p=1693
www.ianchadwick.com/motorcycles/triumph/time03.html

Track Day Planning

I’m pretty keen to go do a track day, and I have a buddy who is the same.  The Grand Bend Motorplex does motorcycle open lapping on its track.   I found GBM through motorcycletrackdays.ca.  The upcoming SOAR racing event at Grand Bend offers open motorcycle lapping prior to their weekend events.  That might be a good time for two nØØbs to go as there will be experienced track day people on hand to help us fumble through the technical inspection.

I figured it would be a show up on what you rode here on and go on the track, as you would with a car, but bikes seem a bit more involved.  Here is the list of motorcycle specific technical requirements:

  • Is your kickstand secured? Your spring return isn’t enough on a racetrack. Use a plastic strap tie or duct tape to secure your kickstand in the up and locked position before you come to tech. 
  • Tape over your speedometer. It’s the rule.
  • Make sure your throttle returns quickly and positively. We want to see it snap back when you release the grip. 
  • Change your antifreeze for straight water. If your bike puts antifreeze on the surface, it shuts the entire track down and may result in suspension. Antifreeze is 100 times worse than water on asphalt (It’s like wet ice). Swap it out for water before you proceed to tech. 
  • Tape over or remove lights, signal and mirrors. They all shatter and they all puncture tires. 
  • Brakes: Make sure they’re properly functioning, front and back, with no leaks, because we’ll check. 
  • Chain: Check your drivechain adjustment. Too tight or too loose means breakage. Refer to manufacturer’s specification. Also, check your master link. A rivet style link is preferred, but a standard ‘slip on’ while suffice if you put a dab of silicone on the key to secure it. 
  • Now that you’ve ensured your brake lines don’t leak, check the rest of the bike. Your engine and suspension components must also be leak free. 
  • Overall track worthiness: These are the small things that can lead to disaster. Loose lines can snag. If it can flop around, it can be snagged and lead to a crash. 
  • Body: All body parts must be secured or removed. 
  • Mechanical: Check your fasteners and ensure they’re secured at recommended torque. 
  • Tires: Properly inflated, with structural integrity intact (sidewall, tread, steel-belts, bulges).
Most of that is common sense/maintenance, but there are a couple of bits that will require some thought.  Tying up the kickstand is all well and good, but that means you’re bringing a rear stand to keep the bike upright.  Swapping out the antifreeze also means you need to bring some distilled water.  Some tools, disposable gloves and fluids would probably be a good idea too.  Suddenly the back of the bike I want to ride to the track day is looking like a hardware store.  You wouldn’t want to ride an hour and a half to a track to find out you don’t have what you need to go around it.  Short of asking for a pit crew to accompany you in a four wheeler, riding solo to a track day seems difficult if not impossible.
Of course, this leads you down the road to a trailer, which then begs the question, why use your road bike for track days when you can pick up an older sport bike for not much, not have to pay for road insurance on it and spec it out specifically for track days.  Stripped of lights and needless accessories like rear foot pegs and indicators, you’d be ready to ride as soon as you roll it off the trailer, and the machine would be tailored for the track.
I’ve been to several racing schools, but the one time I really got into it was while living in Akita, Japan.  Kyowa Race track was a small carting track deep in the mountains south east of the city.  Kazutoyo, a student of mine, was an avid racer (he came to Canada for a summer to participate in a Mosport racing mechanics program).  We’d go up there half a dozen times in the summer and spend the day hauling the carts around that bendy circuit as quickly as we could.
The vehicle of choice for the carts and the paraphernalia that went with them was a cargo van.  We’d be able to fit three people, the tools, the disassembled cart and spare tires and other odds and ends all in the van and head to the track.  Riding around at break neck speeds was awesome, but I have fond memories of all the fettling that when on in the pits too; it’s all part of the race experience.
 
Ford Canada’s handy Transit Van Builder got me all set with a customized utility van that could carry two bikes and gear with ease… things I’d do if I were rich!

Now that I’m thinking about doing a track day on two wheels I’m tempted to imitate those Japanese carting guys and get what I need to make a track day possible.  I’ve been wishing for a trailer several times this summer to haul lumber.  Having one on hand and a vehicle to haul it would be handy for more than just track days.  

Or just win the lottery and get the full on racing support van.

If Mechanical Sympathy were to go full on into racing, I’d grab that 1000cc VFR from Angus (in my Transit race van) and prep it for racing.  Stripping off all the lights and extras and minimizing it down to a race bike.  I’d be a dangerous man if I had more money.

In the meantime I’m still trying to look for ways to ride my Ninja to the track and do some laps without dragging along someone in a cage to support the activity.

Links:
Motorcycle track day primer: a good explanation of track days.
Beginner’s Guide to Track Days in Ontario: a great checklist on how to approach track days – renting a bike is what I’m now looking into…

Around The Bay: Part 2, an Informed ride

Putting on the miles and building muscle memory.

A couple of recent articles informed my circumnavigation of Georgian Bay.

Bike magazine’s resident lawyer had a great piece on the dangers of the over educated novice rider.  He made the poignant observation that people who haven’t had a lot of seat time but have over-thought riding to the nth degree often have much nastier crashes than less trained but more experienced riders.  Sometimes the best thing to do is instinctively grab as much brake as you can instead of overthinking an impending disaster.  Perhaps riding is more of an art than a science, informed by experience, not training.

As a teacher I found this critical assessment of instruction over experience to be both interesting and probably accurate.  There is a lot of anxiety over motorcycle riding from the general public  I was determined to get some saddle time and learn the hard way rather than in theory.  The over-focus on training and gear tries to mitigate this fear, and it helps to a degree, but if fear is what drives you, I’d suggest that motorcycling isn’t what you should be doing.

The second piece was Neil Graham’s editorial in this month’s Cycle Canada.  Neil is getting back to form after an agonizing winter back injury.  After everyone else had moved on Neil stayed out on track until it became kind of boring and he relaxed into the ride.  In his case it was track riding on the edge, but it still spoke to the teaching of muscle memory, something that became evident in the previous Bike piece as well.

On my way out of Southern Ontario I was intentionally trying to untense muscles, especially the ones I subconsciously tense when I’m riding.  Yoga probably helps with this, but I was able to sense and untense muscles in my legs and backside while riding.  Being loose and heavy on the bike allowed me to ride further without fatigue.  It also allowed me to respond to issues quickly and lightly.  Being able to free your mind from the demands of your body and put yourself into a state of relaxation also opens up a state of heightened awareness.

Riding into my driveway on Sunday afternoon I was exhausted but elated and felt like I was coming out of some deep meditation.  My mind was full of the 900 kms I’d seen, smelled and felt, and the soreness became something that I’d worked through; the second wind was a real endorphin rush.  After the three hundred plus kilometre stretch down the backside of Georgian Bay I suddenly found myself operating beyond the soreness of the long ride.  Coming off the very demanding highway ride to quiet back roads probably helped too.

If you’re able to find a state of intense focus while performing a strenuous mental and physical activity like riding a motorcycle, you tend to be able to find that state much more easily when you’re not on the bike and things are easier.  Being able to focus and perform while under duress makes entering that state of intense awareness in other circumstances that much easier.

I guess I found that moment beyond the thinking and training where I relaxed into the saddle and became the ride.  If long distance riding can do that, I suspect I’m eventually going to want to do the deed and get my iron butt.

Links

People who think they are invincible, then suddenly realize they aren’t and quit
Is the person who ignores danger with delusions of invincibility brave, or stupid?
The kind of intelligent insight you expect from Quora
An insightful examination of what motorcycling is.
An idiotic infographic that focuses on the people who choose to ride more than riding
See the top link – deluded thrill seekers are a part of the motorcycle community, the stupid part.
Another idiotic infographic that focuses on obvious truth (doing dangerous things is dangerous!), but so is obesity, smoking and getting older
The safest thing to do is exercise in a rubber box, never take any risks in anything and kill yourself before you get old (getting old is going to kill you!)

Any Day on Two Wheels is a Good Day

Almost three hours into an interminable visit to the local walk-in clinic last Friday night I’m told that I’m over a hundred degrees, in terrible shape, but it’s just a virus and I have to suffer through it.  I should go home, rest and feel better, except I can’t because this is the Haliburton Birthday Weekend.  We’re on the hook for a hotel that won’t cancel a long weekend booking, even under a doctor’s advice.

I go home, sleep poorly and take lots of pills.  The next morning I’m shaky and either sweating or freezing cold, so a perfect day to go for a three hundred plus kilometer ride across the province.  The original plan was to leave early and take my time picking off must-ride roads in the south end of the Haliburton Highlands before finally arriving at our hotel near the town of Haliburton.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, I followed my wife and son in the car on the shortest possible route.  We stopped frequently and a sunny, relatively warm day meant it wasn’t as miserable as it could have been.  We all fell into our room after five o’clock and collapsed.

I could have driven up in the car, but the whole point of the weekend was to ride the Highlands, so bike it was.  Sunday morning dawned overcast with heavy clouds.  The rain held off until I saddled up after a late but brilliant breakfast at the Mill Pond in Canarvon.  I was doped up on fever and flu medication and as good as I was going to get.  The plan was to wind up Highway 35 to 60 and then into Algonquin Park.  If the weather was atrocious or I fell apart physically I could always turn around, but if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it; turning around isn’t in my nature.

I’d originally planned to stop often and use the new camera, but needs must and I was on a mission to complete that fucking loop.  The backup plan was to use the Ricoh Theta 360 camera on the fly.  It’s a push button affair that is easier to use than a satnav.  Hit power, press the shutter button, put it away.  The tank bag that came with the Tiger has a handy little pouch at the front that fits the camera perfectly.  I’d never tried using the Ricoh by hand like that before, but it seemed like a good idea when my time on task was at a premium.  Since it takes in everything at once you don’t need to worry about aiming or focusing it either.


Heading north out of Canarvon the rain closed in immediately.   On the upside, it was chasing away a lot of the holiday traffic, though this is Canada, so what you’re looking at above was pretty typical for this ride… on a long weekend.

Highway 35 dodges and weaves around lakes and Canadian shield as it works its way up to meet 60.  If you’re not blasting through the dynamited, rocky skeleton of Canadian Shield, you’re winding your way around muskeg, never ending trees or scenic lake shores.  And it does all of this while being a bendy roller-coaster of a road.

The gas station in Canarvon was shut down, so I suddenly found myself running onto empty as I powered north into the big Canadian empty.  Fortunately, I came across a Shell station at the intersection with 60 and filled up.


By that point the rain was more steady than not, so I stepped into the rain suit and wove my way into Algonquin Park.  Suddenly the roads were full of people with GTA tagged SUVs all driving around aimlessly looking confounded by all the trees.  Throughout the entire loop Algonquin was the only time I was stuck in traffic.  I pulled in to the Visitor’s Centre and had a coffee, stretched my legs and soaked up the ambience.  The lady at the counter was nice enough to give me ten cents off on my coffee because I didn’t have change.


Fifteen minutes of crying babies and screaming kids and I was longing for the wind and silence of the road again.  The Visitor’s Centre was near the half way point in the loop, and with a coffee in me (my first caffeine in days) I was ready to go all the way.  The weather was occasional spotty rain, so it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been.  I was warm and dry in the rain suit and the drugs had beaten back the fever, so on I went.


I’d never been out the East Gate though I’ve been to Algonquin since I was a relatively new, ten year old immigrant to Canada.  It feels older than the West Gate, looking more like a toll booth than an art deco entrance to one of the biggest and most famous parks in the country.  Once out of the park traffic evaporated and I was once again alone in the woods.   I’d originally planned to head all the way over to the 503 for a wiggly ride south, but 127 cut off some kilometers and I was already feeling the hours in the saddle.  It was an empty trek down the 127 to Maynooth, albeit with some pretty scenery.


The rain came and went and I got so used to riding on twisty roads that it became second nature.  What would have been a ride to road where I live was just another road in Haliburton.  The Tiger spent very little time on the crown of its new Michelins.  I pulled up in Maynooth for a stretch before starting the final leg of the loop back over to Haliburton Village.


Strangely, and for the first time since the trip began, the roads dried up and the sun started poking through.  Up until now I’d been on local highways; fast, sweeping roads that, while curvy, were designed for higher speeds.  Out of Maynooth I took Peterson Road and got to enjoy my first local road with lots of technical, tight radius turns and elevation changes.  Peterson and Elephant Lake Roads were dry and a lovely change from the wet highways I’d been on before.

On a short straight between the twists on Peterson Road out of Maynooth.
Those 41 winding kilometres to Pusey flash past in no time!

The local traffic was apparently very familiar with bikers making time through the area with several trucks pulling over and waving me through; some country hospitality on a long ride.  

The pavement continued to dry and the Tiger got friskier and friskier as I rode on to Pusey and then Wilberforce.  I was lucky to see another vehicle in either direction on this busy long weekend – just my kind of road trip.  No matter how sick I’m feeling there is nothing like a winding road and a motorbike to put a spring in my step.  For the first time on this ride I wasn’t carefully monitoring my health and the weather, I was just enjoying being out in the world on two wheels.


The sun battled with clouds all the way under Algonquin Park and I soon found myself lining up for an approach back toward Haliburton, this time from the east.  Once again I elected to cut some extra miles out, forgoing a ride to Gooderham for the joys of the 118.



Swooping through the lake of the woods while leaning the ever eager Tiger around lakes, trees and rocky outcroppings had me in nirvana; it was like riding through a Group of Seven painting.  

 

By this point the drugs were wearing off, I’m starting to wilt and the deed is almost done.  The last few miles into Haliburton turn ominous as dark clouds fill the horizon and  the temperature drops.  I steel myself for the final push.
 

 

 
As the sky fills in and the rain starts to fall again, my goal is in sight.  I pass through the small town of Haliburton like a ghost and pull up just as house keeping has cleaned our room (the family is out at the pool).  Ten minutes later I’ve taken another round of drugs and I’m in a whirlpool tub getting the heat back into me.
 
The logic I followed doing this was:  any day on a motorcycle is a good day.  Even with a fever and a nasty virus I had a great ride and a real sense of satisfaction in completing my birthday loop of the Haliburton Highlands.  It would have been nice to do it without feeling like I’d been turned inside out, but hey, any day on a motorcycle is a good day.
 
 
The ride:  a 270 km loop through Algonquin Park and back around to the town of Haliburton.  All told I was on the road for about four and half hours, including a gas stop, a coffee at the Algonquin Visitor’s Centre and a leg stretch in Maynooth.

 

The camera: a Ricoh Theta SC.  It takes two hemispherical photos in both directions and then stitches them together, which makes the camera disappear in any photos it takes – which is pretty freaky.  


Having all hardware buttons, you don’t have to futz around with a smartphone to interface with it like you do with the Fly360.  As a camera to use while photographing a motorcycle ride it doesn’t come much easier than this.  It’ll do video and save it in 360 format so you can look around in the video on a smartphone.  It does the same thing with photos.  


The photos in this piece were opened in the Ricoh software and then screen captured.  That’s how I cropped images to show various things.   The original, unedited photos are pretty funky (see below), but look good with some judicious cropping.





Where we stayed:  The Pinestone Resort just south of Haliburton.  The prices are reasonable and you get a nice room.  The facilities are good with golf on site (if you care about that sort of thing) and a salt water pool and sauna.  The onsite restaurant had us waiting 90 minutes (in my case for a French onion soup and salad) and isn’t cheap.  Eating elsewhere might be a good idea, especially on a busy weekend, but anything else is at least a ten minute drive away in town.  We stayed there last summer on our ride back from The Thousand Islands and it was good – they seemed to have trouble handling the traffic on a long weekend this time around though.

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Motorcycle Handling & Chassis Design

Tony Foale’s brilliant engineering manual, Motorcycle Handling & Chassis Design, gives you an inside, technical look at how motorbikes operate.  It also gives you some idea of just how precarious the act of piloting a motorcycle is.  Much is said about how free people feel when riding and the physics behind flying on two wheels makes it that much more magical.
 
That first time you roll on the throttle and your feet leave the ground not to come back down again for miles, you get that sensation of flight.  Your senses are alive on a motorbike as the world makes itself felt in many different ways.
 
The naked exposure you feel when riding is obvious.  What is less obvious are the hidden forces at work that allow you to do crazy things like hang sideways while cornering.
Anyone who has seen a racing motorcycle suddenly hit the ground can speak to how suddenly these balancing forces can fall out of sync.  Foale’s book is full of helpful diagrams that clarify some pretty arcane physics.


Cornering on a bike is one of the most complex and misunderstood aspects of riding.  Keith Code does a good job of explaining this in Twist of the Wrist.  Foale’s approach is more interested in the mechanics of the machine and how it handles the forces working on it.


From a rider’s perspective, corning is a balancing act, but from the suspension’s perspective things get a lot heavier when you’re bending into a corner.

 

Compared to a car, motorcycles have very different dynamics that often surprise riders when they are testing the extremes of two wheeled dynamics.  Reading Foale’s book (though he pitches pretty hard) is worth it even if you’re only getting a sense of just how differently the ‘integrated system’ that is a motorcycle works.

Foale also gets into the geometry of the motorcycle.  From wheelbase and centre of gravity to more complex issues like how suspension height changes those fundamental forces.  Of course, in a corner a the suspension is severely compressed, changing the bike’s responses in dramatic ways.  You get a real sense of how connected and complicated the physics of riding is after reading this book.
 
The copy I read was the 2002 version, but he still managed to work some of the newer computer based analysis of motorcycle physics.  Static pressure and its role on aerodynamics is a relatively new aspect of motorcycle theory, but Foale covers it.

You can find the latest version of this technical manual online from Foale’s website, but you can get a good idea of what it’s all about from Google Books.  I’m curious enough about changes and updates that I think I’m going to spring for the new PDF ebook.


 

That Moment When You Realize The Difference Between Road Tires & Multi-purpose Tires

I went out for a blast on Saturday of the long weekend.  It wasn’t a long ride, just up and down the few windy roads near where I live that follow the Grand River before heading home for an oil change.

The Tiger was frisky and I was enjoying exploring its limits.  After a run up and down the north shore I crossed the river on a road I don’t usually take.  Coming up the south river bank hill, I think I’m still a few hundred yards from the stop sign when I finally pick it out of the growth on the side of the road and realize it’s only about forty yards ahead of me; I’m doing 80km/hr and the Tiger doesn’t stop that quickly from 80km/hr.

 

Ahead on the right you can see the stop sign, but this spring it’s in long grass and the trees have filled out around it.
 
Between smaller tires in general and a curved profile to
manage cornering on half as many contact patches,
motorcycle tires do an amazingly good job.

Motorcycle tires do an astonishing job of gripping the pavement with barely any contact patch.  I’ve had to dig deep into braking at various times and have always come away surprised at how well they grip with so little contact to the pavement.  Of course, I’ve only ever ridden road bikes with road biased tires until this spring (the KLX doesn’t count, I barely road it and besides, those big, knobby tires slapping on the pavement were a constant reminder that it wasn’t a road bike).

Finding myself astride an athletic Tiger coming in too hot to a stop sign with through traffic doing the better part of 100km/hr had me realizing I’m in a bit of bother.  You can feel remarkably naked on a motorcycle in that moment.  If I can’t stop in time I’ll end up in the intersection, possibly side swiped by a two ton box.

As the adrenaline begins to course through me I’m happy to note that my right foot is already deep into the rear brake and my right hand is squeezing the front brake hard.  Meanwhile my clutch hand has me in neutral already.  The rear has locked up and is snaking about back there.  I’ve never had a rear lock up that quickly before.  The bike is shedding heaps of momentum but I’m not going to stop in time.  I go deeper into the front brake where all the bike’s weight is concentrated and it starts to skittle as it too locks up.  You can slide down the street in a car all day, but staying vertical on a bike with two locked wheels seldom happens.  All of this is flashing through my mind while my body is doing its own thing, I’m not consciously doing anything at this point.  My foot remains locked on the rear brake, but to my surprise my hand immediately eases off and reapplies brake over and over whenever the front starts to wobble; I didn’t know it would do that.  Even with all that adrenaline I’m happy to learn that I didn’t freeze up or lock up and drop the bike; I’m glad I have smart hands and feet.  Maybe all that reading about motorcycle dynamics has paid off.

The big Tiger is crouched down on its long front suspension, trying to shed all that forward momentum into the ground.  I would have stopped already on the Ninja with its sticky Avon road tires and hard suspension, but this isn’t a purpose built road bike with pavement biased tires, it’s a tall trail bike with multipurpose tires – tires that are evidently very easy to lock up, though I didn’t know that until now.

I’ve shed the majority of my velocity but I’m still not going to stop in time.  Things have slowed enough, and my hands and feet seem to know what they’re doing without me telling them, so I glance up and down the road as I near the intersection; it’s all clear in both directions.  I immediately release the brakes and roll over the painted white line marking where to stop – impending lock up on that wouldn’t have gone well.  I glide through the intersection, release the clutch and continue down the country road in front of me in too high a gear.

“Get your head on straight!” I say to myself as I gear down and move off down the road.  You don’t miss stop signs until it’s too late on a motorcycle, especially when you’re going to be entering a through way with high speed traffic.  Getting t-boned in a car there would probably have been fatal, getting t-boned on a bike would have been a certainty.

There are two take aways from this little incident.  Firstly, pay better attention and approach unfamiliar, overgrown intersections in a more circumspect manner.  The Tiger’s big triple gets you going quickly so easily that it’s easy to forget how fast you’re moving – keep that in mind too.  Secondly, those Metzelers may feel fantastic on gravel and loose dirt (and they do, the bike is astonishingly stable), but they aren’t grippy like road tires and they’ll lock up early on you in an emergency.

I was remarkably calm afterwards and enjoyed the rest of the ride.  Even during the emergency braking and immediately after I didn’t get the shakes or anything like that.  This turned into a good learning opportunity about a few key items.  I now know how I handle emergency braking (better than I could have hoped), and I’ve learned the dynamic limitations of multipurpose tires, all with no penalty.

If it happens again I might give myself a smack in the head, but it won’t.

A picture perfect day for a ride along the Grand River…
Back home and all cleaned up – that engine will get you going faster than you think you are, and the bike’s athleticism will encourage you to push it, but those tires aren’t up to 10/10ths road riding, so keep that in mind ya big git.


Saturday Morning

I’ve been fighting a cold all week and haven’t been out on two wheels since the rally.  On top of that and with the build up to school I’ve been putting together a computer lab all day every day.  Teaching is a good gig, but there are no down days once it starts and the change in pace from summer to fall is a big step.  Going from off to 100% all the time takes a good clutch.

I woke up Saturday morning to crisp 10°C air and a flawless blue sky.  For the first time in days I hadn’t woken up with a crushing sinus headache so I did the one thing that always makes me happy even when not feeling that well and stressing over work (teaching anxiety dreams are always a good time), I went for a ride.

The hills of Erin, just outside of Hillsburgh

Max wasn’t up yet or I would have asked my trusty pillion to come along.  I threw a single pannier on the Tiger and disappeared into the morning mist.  The temperature was cool, but I like it like that.  No wind, empty roads and a happy Tiger.

The ride over to Belfountain took me through Erin and Cataract and onto the Niagara Escarpment, where the roads get bendy.  It isn’t much, but it got me loosened up for the post-coffee ride.

I pulled in to Higher Ground Coffee Co on a Saturday of the Labour Day long weekend at about 8:30 in the morning.  In a couple of hours this place would be a hive of activity, but now it had a couple of early risers drinking a hot beverage and quietly reading; it was mercifully empty of loud talking spandexies going on about how hard what they just did was.

After a hot cup of very well made coffee that warmed me up and getting the Holtom’s bakery order from the family just waking up back in Elora, I got back on the Tiger and went for a philosophical ride up and down The Forks of the Credit.  It’s only 7kms of bendy elevation changes, but beggars can’t be choosy in Southern Ontario.

Sometimes I feel like really attacking the corners, but this quiet Saturday morning I was in a contemplative mood and was going for smoothness.  Strangely, this made me faster than when attacking.  There is a real sense of Zen when you sort out corners properly on a motorbike.

Back in Belfountain I turned off the video on the phone and headed over to Erin.  Holtom’s was in full swing, having opened half an hour before.  The lone pannier was filled with fresh bread and bakery treats and I rode back to Elora, feeling at one with the world.

 

 

 


























I didn’t have any fancy media devices with me, only my phone, so I hung it over the windshield and got this!