Sunday, 16 October 2016

Night Rider

We've already had a couple of frosts up here and there was another one on Thursday night when I had to get over to Erin, a 90km round trip from home.  It was a cool day, but sunny and the fall colours were coming on strong.  I make the monthly trip over to lodge in Erin from September to June, and try to ride whenever I can.  This might be my last time on two wheels for a while.

Waiting out the winter is never easy, and the coming snows tend to urge me onto two wheels even more as the darkness arrives.  The ride over was cool but spectacular: a blood red sunset across some astonishing trees.  I stopped in the hlls of south-west Erin at a horse farm and took a picture.

It was about 8°C (46°F) on the ride over.  The Tiger takes this in stride.  The only part of me that gets cold are my hands, and the hand guards and grip warmers had me covered.

I got back out at about 9:45pm.  The temperature was hovering just above freezing.  I had the fleece zipped up and the leathers on over top.  That combination does a remarkable job of retaining heat and stopping the wind from getting in.

I pulled out onto the empty, streetlighted road and headed into the darkness.  The moon was waxing gibbous and cast long shadows across the road.  Any exposed skin would have been instantly frozen, fortunately I didn't have any.

I stopped in the dark and snapped that picture on the left.  Best I could do with a smartphone.  I want my next smartphone phone to be a camera with some smartphone on it rather than the other way around.

A single car drove by while I was stopped and asked if I was OK, which was nice.  Back on the bike I thundered through the frozen moonlight, weaving my way down empty country roads back home.

When I got in my hands were still working even though I'd only wornn normal leather gloves.  My core temperature was low, but it didn't take long to warm back up.  Next time I'm out in that kind of weather I'll try out the winter gloves.  I'll keep going until the snow flies and the roads are salted.  At that point I'll clean up the Tiger one last time and let it hibernate under a blanket until spring.

Some variations:

A Week After New Years

Norman makes the PCH look pretty magical.
At nearly a thousand bucks a day for this Canadian,
it would have to be.
Strange timing means I've got the week off after New Year's Day this year.  That means flying is a less expensive possibility, so what motorcycling trip might I do with that time?  Norman Reedus did the PCH last year, that'd be nice.  If my son and I were to go, what would that cost?

1)  Drive to Detroit would be a bit of gas, border & hotel money, pack only bike gear and a single change of clothes.  Parking in Detroit would cost about $170 for the week including a night in a hotel (the flight leaves at 6am).

$250 for the first day and night (trip, hotel & parking).  And that's just to stay in Detroit!

2) Flights from Detroit to LAX are going for about $675.  Throw in another $50 to eat bad airport food.
Land in LAX, cab over to EagleRider (10 miles) $30.  EagleRider renting a BMW sport tourer for a week costs over $1400US ($1900 Canadian) if you want decent insurance coverage in the liability driven US.
Figure $300US a day in food, gas and hotels (travelling fairly minimally), and our eight days and nine nights on ground should run us about $2400US ($3250 Canadian).

The flight back is another $574 plus expenses...
Once back it's another four hour slog over the bridge and back into Ontario through potentially lousy winter weather.  Figure in an extra $100 for gas, tolls and eating to get home.
A thousand miles up and down the Pacific Coast Highway
would be a nice way to end the holiday break, but
at seven grand it's a salty trip.

I might have the time free, but this cheap-as-I'll-go trip to California for just seven days (plus one in Detroit) would run to almost seven grand.  It's a nice bike, but the price difference between that and a smaller, less able bike to carry us and our stuff around isn't that much (maybe thirty bucks a day less).  This is assuming $100 a night-ish hotels, so nothing special and nothing near anything good.  Other than the riding there isn't much left to visit anything with either.

Renting a bike is expensive.  Flying is expensive even if it isn't a peak times and even if you drive to Detroit first.  Hotels aren't cheap, and the whole thing jumps up by 32% when I pay for it with the Canadian money I earn.

I guess I won't be doing that the week after New Years.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Stop and take in the moment...

Last year I was stuck behind a large group of cruisers and wondered out loud on the Concours Owners Group what the etiquette is for passing them.  It's hard to pass a big group because of their shear size, and breaking up their formation by having to pull back in during a pass seems rude.  In addition to upsetting several bikers (a word I don't use to describe myself), I got some good advice from motorcyclists who have been doing it for a long time.  The best advice came from a fellow who said that if he comes across a mobile chicane like that he just pulls over has a smoke and ponders things.  He then gets back onto an empty road in a contemplative state of mind.  Why so be in such a rush?

I liked his Zen approach though it isn't in my nature to do it.  The other day on my short commute into work I was riding behind an ancient Muppet in an SUV who was barely doing 40 in a 60 zone.  He wasn't going to work, but he'd elected to hop into his mobile castle and putter down the road in front of as many people as he could.  With a bike your power to weight ratio is stratospheric.  It's (very) easy to make a pass, but rather than feed the speed monster I tried pulling over.  It helped that it was an absolutely stunning October morning with golden sun streaming through ground fog...

I stopped, turned off the bike, and sat on the side of the road for a few minutes soaking it up.  Once you drop the gotta-pass thing the urge quickly fades away.  In the stillness of that sunrise I became aware of what was pushing me.  Part of me was already thinking through all the things I had to do when I got to work and anxiety to get it all done was taking root without me noticing it, hence the urge to blow off traffic.  Your subconscious can be a pain in the ass that way, infecting what was otherwise a beautiful morning ride in to work with an unnecessary sense of urgency.  It's nothing that a moment of reflection can't beat back though.  How often have you reacted to stress or pressure by passing it on to something else?  I transfer moods like this all the time.

I took a couple of more minutes and photographed the sunrise...

Back on the bike I continued in to work, getting there five minutes later than I otherwise would have but in a mellow state of mind.  I actually caught up with the Muppet and his train of frustrated commuters in the next town over, so my five minute sojourn with the rising sun didn't make me any later than I would have been anyway.

This Zen break was easy because nature was putting on a show, but it's a habit I'd like to try and get into.  Nurturing a calmer mindset results in deeper thoughts, and time to ruminate is one of the reasons I love riding a motorcycle so much.  The time to reflect doesn't hurt either.  If I can sense when worldly pressures are infecting my mindset on the bike I'll become a better rider.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

ZG1K: Customization, Inspiration & Aesthetics

Graphical thoughts on the ZG1K customization...

I'm still working through the proportions of a naked Concours.  It isn't a delicate device...

In spite of the colourful nature of the bike, it's a muscular heavyweight.
Inspirations for this build revolve around 80's sport bikes and naked streetfighters.  I grew up in the '80s and have a thing for fully faired race bikes with blocky rear ends.  The big, bulky Concours' tank lends itself to a strong, balanced back end.

A box shaped rear fairing working off and 80's race bike vibe combined with a minimalist cafe racer look

The paint's already coming off the tank.  I need to figure out how to make a rough 3d outline of the rear body work (cardboard, wood, thin metal?) in order to begin getting an accurate sense of how the back end will look.  If I can get handier with 3d editing software I'll 3d print a few various prototypes first (maybe scan it with cardboard panels in place).

The front fairing will be a minimal street-fighter type of thing.  I wanted to go with a bikini fairing, but it's a bit too delicate for the big shoulders of the Concours.  Monkeying around in Photoshop has gotten me this far:

But this is more of a sculpting thing than a pen and paper thing.  I need to make some cardboard outlines and see what feels right in 3d (Close Encounters style).

The Mike Tyson/heavyweight feel of the Concours means I'm thinking more melee fighter than I am lightweight and delicate.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

ZG1K: A Customized Kawasaki Concours

I've stripped down the Concours to the bare bones.  From there I intend to build it back out into a cafe-racer/naked streetfighter.  A barebones ZG1000 Concours looks pretty butch:

A high intensity LED headlight
with built in indicators.
ZG1K Stipped Model  -  Click on it and drag to change views
by timking17
on Sketchfab
The brown seat will sync with
a crimson stripe.  Were money
less of an issue I'd get it custom
upholstered to run the stripe all
the way through.
The back end is going to get tidied up and topped with a cafe style brown leather seat.  I'm also researching LED light systems that will be all but invisible under the seat until they light up.

The front end is going to get a basic/minimalist light cover and a light that has indicators built in for a clean look our front (no indicator storks poking out).  The front fairing and light will be mounted to the forks.

Stripping on the Ducati Monster is
a thing of beauty.
As for paint colours, I'd like to try and take the tank back to metal and then have a crimson stripe running over the minimal front fairing, along the tank and across the minimal rear body work.  An asymmetrical design with a thick centre strip and a thinner stripe off to the right is what I'm currently thinking, though I'll see what works as the bike comes back together.  If the tank is too rough I'll redo it red with a gold stripe that matches the wheels.  Now that I say that, it might be what happens anyway.

I'm going to use the Structure Sensor scans to map out body work in 3d.  I'm also going to make use of a Dremel 3d printer to print out scale replicas of different body configurations.  These are some screen grabs of the 3d scan (which you can see at the top).

The massive twin exhausts might get modified, but right now I'm enjoying the big-guns look they have, so I'll probably be keeping it.  They help visually balance a bike that looks otherwise top heavy with that massive gas tank.

First go at a logo - I think I'm going to have to find the Kawasaki Heavy Industries
logo for this heavyweight streetfighter.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

All Else Is Washed Away

I'm feeling listless and under
the weather, I know what'll
cheer me up...
A rough week at work discovering just how untrustworthy people can be had gotten me down.  On top of that (or perhaps because of it), I was fighting an imminent cold.  If you're reading this then you probably already know it's better in the wind, so I went looking for some.

I was originally thinking of pushing up to Beaver Valley, but it's a long slog across tedious Southwestern Ontario to get to any good bits, I wanted to get to twisty roads sooner.  The most direct route to the Niagara escarpment, one of the few places not tediously flat around here, is through Orangeville.

I fired the Tiger up and aimed it north east.  The air was cool, in the high teens Celsius, and the traffic light.  I dispatched appliance coloured (and shaped) minivans as I came upon them and quickly made my way over to The Escarpment.

Bypassing Orangeville, I rode past what must have been a forty pound beaver lying in the middle of the road.  This thing was big enough to knock someone off a bike or damage the underside of a car, but the Orangeville police officer fifty yards up the road running a a radar trap was more interested in revenue streams than road safety.  Stay classy Orangeville popo.

The only way to make a sign like that better is to
make the number on it bigger!
Hockley Road seldom has you up on the crown of your tire.  I was alone going east but was passed by several groups of bikes coming the other way from the GTA.  After the never ending flatness it was nice to drop down into the valley and lean.  Leaning on a motorbike is as close as you'll ever come to flying.  It feels more like flying than flying does.

When I'm riding all of the negative things my mind impulsively chews away on are washed away in the wind.  It's partly to do with the complexity of piloting a motorcycle.  You're deeply involved in the progress of the machine; hands, feet and whole body balance, so your mind is focused away from those nagging thoughts.  It's also partly to do with the sensory flow you experience.  The wind, the smell, the temperature, the sound and sights are powerful as they accelerate around you.  You are busy, involved, and the world demands to be experienced when you ride a motorbike.

Home made turkey pot pie
warmed me up.
After sixty plus kilometres of twisty roads I was ready for a break.  My hands were actually getting cold since I'd been spending my time weaving through shady, leafy green valleys.  Coming back down River Road, I stopped at the Terra Nova Public House for lunch.  It isn't cheap, but the food is locally sourced and well prepared.  Sitting in the sun on the patio watching the bikes go by is a nice way to spend an hour on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

With some hot food inside me, I was ready to leave these lovely roads and begin the long ride back into the agricultural desert in which I live.  I took my time heading toward Horning's Mills (where I once thought of buying a house), getting the corners right that I hadn't on the way in.  There is one particularly twisty section that has a decreasing radius corner that catches you out if you come in too hot.  On the way in I'd overcooked it and had to brake, on the way out it was a smooth, throttle only proposition.

There are a couple of more big sweepers passing north over Shelbourne on 17 through the wind mill fields, but after that things get pretty straight.  By this point I was loose and feelin' good.  On the straights I found curves in the form of mobile chicanes, and passed them.  It felt like I was in a time machine, I was home almost before I left.  Motorcycles can make even straight roads exciting if you approach them with gusto.

Once back the cold closed in and the nagging doubts returned.  If I could ride a bike forever, I'd always get to sit in that meditative saddle.  When I watch around the world trips on the TV I think the best part would be getting to be out in the wind every day, always seeing something different, having the world wash over you.  No wonder Ted Simon and others come back from their trips hearing the sound of one hand clapping.

Some spontaneous art from the ride...

Monday, 26 September 2016

Motorcycle Media: short films, documentaries & time travel on a Friday night

Friday night had me home alone in the first time in forever.  After a rough week at work I was wiped and on the verge of a cold, so it was a low impact night.  I went looking for some escapist media and stumbled upon EXIF's Top 6 Best Motorcycle Films.  I'd seen Shinya Kimura in The Greasy Hands Preachers, but I'd never seen the film that set him out as a motorcycle media icon, it's just shy of three minutes of perfection:

Shinya Kimura: Chabott Engineering

Another one I hadn't seen before that does a great job of capturing a northern motorcyclist's winter dilemma is Waiting out the Winter.  It's a short video, but it sets the mood of tinkering while we wait for the snow to recede in the frozen north wonderfully:

Waiting Out The Winter

WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.

Those short films made a great appetizer, but I was looking for something a bit more long form.  If you're ever looking to pass a lazy hour or two in another time and place, Cycles South will take you to the early 1970s.  Like the '70s themselves, Cycles South looses the plot half way through, but discovers itself again before the end.  If you're delicate and can't handle the very non-politically correct sensibilities of the early 1970s, don't watch this, but if you can let it all go and are willing to exist in another time, Cycles South makes for a psychedelic road trip (man).  The whole thing is on Youtube in 15 minute segments, they connected together automatically with a few seconds of delay between, mercifully commercial free.

Google/Youtube lost its mind after I watched the series in order and started shooting motorcycle themed video at me from all directions.  Next up was Fifty Years of Kicks, a twenty minute documentary about two off road motorcyclists well into their seventies.  I wasn't initially hooked, but the quality of filming and the narrative they were building had me after a few minutes.  There is something about watching old guys fight the clock that is heroic.  It makes me want to celebrate any small victories they have before the inevitable happens.

Looking for something on the history of motorcycles I came across The History Channel's documentary on Youtube.  It's a bit wiz-bang flashy and over edited, but you get some Jay Leno, and the jet powered Y2K.  When they went from that to some Dodge Viper powered thing I began to think this was less about motorcycles and more about bored rich people.  I didn't get to the end of this one.

Have you ever wished you had an old, British uncle with an encyclopedic knowledge of motorbikes who would natter on about them indefinitely?  I was afraid Classic British Motorbikes: 100 Years of Motorcycling was going to be an advertisement for a dealership in England, but the big green Triumph Tiger in the opening moments kept me playing it.  This video takes place sometime in the early two thousands (hence my model of Tiger sitting in front of the dealership).  The idea was to invite in classic bikes and celebrate 100 years of motorbiking in Britain.  The camera work is amateur, as is the interviewing, but you'll still pick up a lot of history from the owners and the knowledgeable interviewer.

I watched until he interviewed the owner of the dealership who seemed entirely disinterested in the whole thing and was apparently running the family business because of his dad's love of bikes.  He made a stark contrast to the enthusiasm of every previous interview.  If you're interested in British bikes and especially their history, you'll enjoy this one (with a bit of fast forwarding).

It's amazing what motorcycle media you can dig up on the internet with a bit of luck.