Friday, 29 July 2016

Around Huron

It's just past 8am on day one of the ride.  Even this early in the morning it's already in the mid-twenties and the sun is relentless.  The padding I thought I'd try in my helmet was a bad idea, and by the time I reach Creemore I'm working on a full scale headache.  Thirty seconds after we stop the Roof lid is back to normal and it works like a champ for the rest of the trip.  Motorcycle gear is an ongoing process of fine tuning, especially when you mess around with something that already works.

This trip grew out of a friend's cross country anniversary ride with his wife on his new-to-him Goldwing.  We were originally going to drop down to the ferry on Manitoulin Island for the ride home after day one, but the ferry is booked solid during the day so I started looking at another way home.  Having never been to Northern Michigan, it seemed like a good idea to wrap around Lake Huron.  It's just over 1500kms of wilderness riding with few people in between.

The goodbye in Creemore went long as we'd been accompanied by friends out that far, so we got back on the road just as the sun was going fully nuclear.  Day One was the longest of our trip, five hundred kilometres around Georgian Bay up to the small town of Massey, Ontario.  A gas and lunch stop in Perry Sound followed by a couple of road side stops along the way made the heat bearable with lots of consuming of liquids at each stop.  You know it's hot when you're sweating freely at highway speeds.

Mohawk Motel: clean, cheap & odd!
We rolled into the Mohawk Motel in Massey just past 4pm.  The grass was brown and crisp, just like us.  The motel was basic but clean with air conditioning.  Everyone cold showered and relaxed for a while before we wandered out into town only to discover that the only restaurant was closed early due to it being hot.  We were told to walk down the street to a variety store that also doubled as the local fast food joint.  Forty five minutes of waiting in forty degree heat later I'd paid forty bucks for a cheeseburger, fries and a couple of slices of pizza.  We staggered back to the hotel and called it a day.

The next morning Massey totally redeemed itself with a fantastic breakfast at the Back Home Bistro.  As we finished up the eggs and bacon, rain moved in.  It was still in the mid-twenties, but humid and wet.  We rode into heavier and heavier rain as we traveled west over the top of Georgian Bay.  A brief stop in Blind River to check on my stoic pillion had us bump into a couple doing a similar route to our Huron circumnavigation; it wasn't the last time we'd meet them.

The rain came and went before finally relenting as we rode into Sault Ste. Marie.  We parted ways after a surprisingly excellent and cost effective lunch at Pino's Supermarket where you can get a brick oven baked pizza and amazing sausage on a bun for next to nothing.

Jeff & MA were on their way to Wawa up on Lake Superior, while Max and I were headed over to the border crossing into Northern Michigan.  After a day and half together we'd made good time, covered a lot of ground in all sorts of weather and everyone still had smiles on their faces (a good Italian lunch helped there).

After a quick goodbye we saddled up and headed over to the bridge only to bump into the couple from Blind River again.  We followed them up onto the bridge to discover a massive line up.  Inching a fully loaded two-up bike five feet at a time up the side of a suspension bridge is about as much fun as it gets.  Fortunately we had a great view of the river beneath us.

Sault Ste Marie is one of those places that reminds you just how big the great lakes are.  In the hour plus we were inching our way over that bridge I tried to imagine the tons and tons of water that rushed beneath us out of Superior and into Huron, it feels very powerful and boggles the mind.

A highlight of the interminable wait was getting to the peak of the bridge.  From that point up until the customs gates we were going downhill, so the bikes stayed off and in neutral as we glided forward, inches at a time.  As I said to our doppelgangers, 'at least it isn't yesterday!'  That bridge on a forty degree sunny day would be unhealthy.  My magic power kicked in at the split into lines for each gate.  Which ever one I pick will immediately stop, and of course it did.  The couple ahead of us were down the interstate a good fifteen minutes ahead of us while we sat there pondering karma, or just plain old bad luck.

Once finally freed into Michigan we headed south into the tail end of some very violent

thunderstorms. The mist became rain, and then strong winds came up out of west. It was an hour of tacking against the wind down i75 to St. Ignace and The Breaker's Resort. We got in about 4pm drenched and weary after a long day in the rain broken up by the better part of two hours crossing the border in five foot increments. Java Joes provided a first class milkshake and coffee before we headed over to check in. They weren't ready for us, but housekeeping did back flips to get us into the room ASAP.

 We enjoyed the hot tub and pool, but Breakers is a family resort, kind of like Disney World but with a great lake instead of mice.  If you like screaming, unmanaged children and drunk, indifferent parents on smartphones, this place is for you.  Max and I vacated the pool in a flurry of OCD after a kid pretended to be vomiting water out over and over again.

Dinner was takeout pizza from Java Joes, and it was exceptional.  With everything scattered around the room in a vain attempt to dry it out, we crashed on the beds and watched Seth Macfarlane cartoons as the fog rolled in outside.  After two days and the better part of a thousand kilometres on the road, we were both pretty knackered.

We woke up early in backwards world to blue skies and the sun rising out of Lake Huron (the sun goes to sleep in Huron where we're from).  A savoury breakfast of heavily processed meat pucks and bad coffee with large Americans eating all they could while watching Trump speeches on FoxTV (we are far from home my son), had us ready to hit the road.

I wiped down the trusty Tiger and we loaded up for a day that was more about exploring than making distance (though it eventually turned into both - you're always making distance if you're trying to get around a great lake).  After a quick fill up and a slow ride around St. Ignace's lovely harbour, we got onto the interstate and headed for the Mackinac Bridge, it was spectacular:

The Mackinac Bridge is worth the ride!

We took our border-buddies' advice and headed over to the Tunnel of Trees.  This put us on the shore of yet another Great Lake (Lake Michigan).  The micro-climate on the west shore of Michigan's northern peninsula produces fast growth.  As you ride onto that side of the peninsula everything is super green and the trees get Pandora big.

The M-119 is a twisty little blacktop that runs through those forests along the shore.  It's barely two lanes wide with no curbs or runoff.  You need to keep your eyes on the narrow lane, but you're never moving that quickly.  Surrounded by a sea of green, you quickly get into a meditative mood.  The Tiger can be whisper quiet when it wants to be, and we purred through that green cathedral in near silence.

You can't help but get that look on your face on the M-119.

We ended up getting redirected off the tunnel road due to construction and never found our way back.  We eventually got to Petoskey, which I was interested in seeing because it was where Earnest Hemingway used to spend his summers as a child.  It's box stores and hotels bent under the weight of lots of tourists nowadays.  If Hemingway were to return, I'm not sure much of it would ring a bell.

Out of the heat in a McDonalds at lunch we ran into our doppelgangers again.  They suggested an alternate route out of Petoskey and we wished each other a safe trip once again.  A short time later one of the retirees working there walked up to chat about bikes, he had a big old Harley in the lot and couldn't identify the Tiger.  When I told him it was a Triumph he got the same happy, nostalgic expression that a lot of people did when I told them what we were riding.  There is a lot of good will and nostalgia around the marquee in the States.

On the road again we struck east across the peninsula aiming for Alpena on the Huron coast, but between the heat, increasing traffic and the strong westerly winds, we were both losing the will to get there.  We turned south on 65 and wound our way through Huron National Forest, stopping for an ice cream in Glennie.  The lovely young lady who served us told of her hours spent horseback riding the day before, then three local farmers came in for a cone and were curious about the Triumph.  It was all very nice.  When we left she came out to her car that had a big 'Vote Trump' bumper sticker on it.  I found it hard to reconcile how nice Americans were with the insane politics they practice.

Old Detroit charm - built back in
the day when the motor city was
a world traveller destination,
the Bay Valley Resort reminds
of the golden years.
When we finally turned onto 23 heading back out to the interstate I gave a barbaric yawp in my helmet, as it felt like we'd never get there.  The final blast down the interstate in 60km/hr cross winds was performed using shear will power.  We staggered in to the Bay Valley Resort after nine hours and over 450kms on the road in strong winds and relentless heat.

Bay Valley Resort was a real treat.  Cheaper than Breakers, but better in every way.  If you like modern hotels, this isn't for you, but if you like character, Bay Valley has oodles.  The doors are made out of wood (!), and the entire resort is situated in the middle of a golf course.  It's much more adult orientated, but it had all the accoutrements my son loves.  The pool is an indoor/outdoor design with a river between them, and the spa was a hard hitting jet affair with strong bubbles perfect for loosening up sore muscles after a long day in the wind.  The whole thing was set into patterned concrete.  The on-site restaurant was swathed in dark wood and was both classy and dated, I loved it!  The food was chef prepared but priced very reasonably.  We fell asleep feeling well cared for in the silence of a golf course at night - no sounds of screaming children anywhere.

We woke up the next morning and hit the pool one last time.  Max wasn't keen to mount up for yet another day on the road.  Day one had been a high mileage sweat box, day 2 a rainy, windy ride with an interminable border wait, and day 3 was a high mileage meander across the peninsula in heat and high winds.  We were both tired, and having to get my pillion in motion made it even heavier.  After a late breakfast we finally got on the road just before 11am and I made a command decision to take the Interstate rather than head over to the coast on another back road ride.  No wind and less heat made our interstate jaunt through poor, old Flint, Michigan a relatively painless affair.  Flint feels like a ghost town at the best of times, but this year it felt abandoned.  We stopped at a rest stop on the i69 on the way to the Canadian border when Max got a leg cramp, but otherwise high-tailed it home.

Distracted Stratford drivers put that look on my face.
It took all of five minutes to line up and cross the border back into Sarnia.  Heading into The States was misery, coming home was a dream.  We stopped in Sarnia for lunch and then hit the bricks for the final ride home.  We thundered up the 402 on the long legged Tiger before angling off toward Stratford on back roads.  After over sixteen hundred kilometres of riding, much of it through wilderness, it was the ride through Stratford and its dithering, well dressed theatre patrons that was the most dangerous.  We were cut off and almost run over by people less worried about killing us than they were making their curtain call.  It was the only moment on the trip that I was tempted to chase someone down in order to thump them.

Back in the stable after a flawless
1600+kms ride, what a champ!
We finally pulled into the driveway just before 6pm, sore but elated.  The ride had its challenges, but the memories made were keepers.  The road into Sault Ste. Marie is lovely and surprisingly mountainous.  The Mackinac Bridge is a must-do experience, and riding down the tunnel of trees is like attending the best church ever.  Java Joes makes a good food stop and Bay Valley Resort is a forgotten gem worth staying at if you're in the area.

All in all it was a great adventure, albeit a trying one.  Sometimes, usually when it's least comfortable, I wonder why I'm doing this to myself, but the memories sort out the discomfort from the awesome, and the awesome always wins.

Riding the Tunnel of Trees road in northern Michigan - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Rainbow connection sung by Alanna

Friday, 22 July 2016

Tiger Pre-Flight Checks

I've never monkeyed with the suspension on the Tiger, but since I'm a 250lber and I ride 2-up with my son who's an easy 130lbs, I thought I'd look into setting the suspension before our 1500km round-Huron trip.

A kindly Dubliner on Triumphrat had a copy of the owner's manual page that explains how to set the Tiger's rear suspension.  A two-up loaded bike should be spring pre-load set to the highest setting (5), while the rebound damping should be set three clicks out from all the way in.

Making the changes was pretty straightforward.  The spring pre-load adjuster is easily accessible under the seat.  The numbers on it are bit tricky to see, but you can quickly set the pre-load to the desired setting once you find them at the bottom of the cylinder.

The rebound damping adjuster is at the bottom of the shock and easily accessible.  Turning it in until it was snug was straight forward and the clicks are loud and easily detectable.  Turning it out three clicks was an obvious process.

I took the bike for a ride today to get gas and prep for the trip.  It feels firmer, less bouncy and taller than before.  I'm enjoying the change.

Once back I set the tyre pressures to 36psi front and 42psi back and looked over the tires for any issues.  I've spent the rest of the day packing as if for a portage canoe trip (packing for a long bike ride is similar).

While out and about I stopped in at Two Wheel Motorsport and picked up an Airhawk.  I'd been thinking about getting one anyway after the nasty case of monkey-butt I got riding it to The Bruce last week.  The gel pad I was using gets moved to the pillion seat, so everyone gets a seat upgrade.

Airhawk pricing is a bit baffling.  The tiny dual-sport seat (11.5" deep x11" wide) cost $230, the much larger medium cruiser seat pad (14" x 14") costs $148.  We tried out the medium cruiser sized one and it fit the Tiger seat better anyway, so I saved myself eighty bucks and purchased the larger pad. (?)  I'll give an update after I put an intensive 1500kms in unbelievable heat on it.

While I was under the seat I found the height settings on it, so I moved it up one from minimum.  It might quickly find its way to the top setting, but middle with the Airhawk has already relaxed my knees dramatically, just in time for a Great Lake ride-around.

Vehicle Branding

I sold the Yamaha XS1100 yesterday.  With the Concours on life support I haven't had the wrenching time to work on the Yam, so I put it up for sale to make room in an otherwise overcrowded garage full of old Japanese bikes that aren't running.

The Mid-Night Edition Yamaha came to me in rough shape both physically and legally.  With only a hand written note I had to figure out how to get continuity of ownership restored.  It was a relatively simple process, but you need to be lucky (I was) and figure out how to get an affidavit worked out (I did).

Where I got lucky was that the Yamaha didn't have a brand on it.  Had it been a write off at any point previously (and it had a long and storied eleven page history - so it was entirely possible), I'd have been up a creek.  That legal ownership near miss got me thinking about more complex ownership issues, especially when I saw this Versys pop up on Kijiji with a sad history:

A lost Versys

A bit of research has shown that this bike's 'irreparable Ontario title' means it'll never ride on the road again, it can only be used for parts.  For a bike that appears to have relatively minor damage, this seems a shame.  Others have had frustrating experiences with insurance companies writing off bikes rather than letting them buy them back and repair them (people get emotionally attached to bikes).  It's a matter of mathematics for the insurance company though.  A bike may be repairable, but the cost of those repairs outweigh the value of the bike, so it's deemed irreparable.

 So what would you do with this otherwise lovely Versys?  You would need to pick up another Versys frame with a working title (no damage, no history of crashes) and then graft the better parts from this Versys (not the front wheel) to that valid frame.  You'd have a low mileage bike with relatively new parts, but it would cost you two bikes and a lot of time and talent to make it happen.  I've never seen even an older Versys for sale for any less than twenty-five hundred bucks, so you're looking at $5000 plus a lot of work to have a modern, road-worthy Versys 650.

If you had a high mileage, older Versys sitting in the garage, it might make sense, but things change over time (especially mounting brackets and other niggly bits), so you might find that your expensive donor parts don't actually fit.  No matter how you frame it (!), it's more trouble than it's worth.

If this were a limited edition or classic bike, it might make a good parts bike, but a relatively anonymous, recent Japanese bike?  You can buy an immaculate, year older bike with half the kilometres and no crashes for less than five grand.

The moral of all this?  I've found two.  Firstly, you're taking a big risk buying a bike without the ownership on hand.  I got lucky with the Yamaha, but I could have as easily gone in and found that it was scraped and what I'd bought could never legally ride on the road again.  Secondly, if you see a bike with anything other than a working title in Ontario, stay away unless you're looking for a parts bike, in which case price it accordingly.

Links & Information on Motorcycle Branding in Ontario
(and generally in North America)
"In Ontario there is no "rebuilt" for motorcycles. They are either clear title, or scrap. If it's ever been 'branded', then it can never be licensed for the road. You need to have a clean, unbranded frame in order to license a motorcycle for on-road use."

Q9: Can I legally drive an "Irreparable" or "Salvage" vehicle on Ontario roads?
No. Vehicles branded as "Irreparable" can never be driven on Ontario roads. They can only be used for parts or scrap.
Vehicles branded as "Salvage" can't be driven on the road, but they can be towed for the purposes of repair or receiving a Safety Standards Certificate. If you want to drive a "Salvage" vehicle, it must be upgraded to "Rebuilt." This can only be done if it has passed a structural inspection and safety inspection to be registered for on-road use.

Q10: How can I change the brand on my vehicle from "Salvage" to "Rebuilt"?
To make sure your vehicle meets minimum safety standards, it must pass an inspection and be issued a Structural Inspection Certificate (SIC). You must submit the SIC and registration permit to a Ministry of Transportation licensing office. Once accepted and approved, the "Salvage" brand will be changed to "Rebuilt."
Once the "Rebuilt" brand is placed on the vehicle registration file, you must obtain a Safety Standards Certificate from any Motor Vehicle Inspection Station so the vehicle can be declared "fit." The vehicle may then be plated and legally operated (once it has been provided with a Drive Clean certificate, if required).

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Launching an Odyssey & Circumnavigating Huron

Jeff, the motorcycle Jedi, is crossing Canada with his lovely wife on a Honda Goldwing.  They leave shortly and we get to tag along on the first day!  We'll accompany them to Massey, Ontario and over to The Sault the next morning.  They then continue up over Superior on their pan-Canadian odyssey while we cut south over the border into Northern Michigan and hug the shore of Lake Huron before popping back into Southern Ontario in Sarnia.

While Jeff and MA are heading west for days on end, we'll be wandering through Hemmingway's Michigan before arriving back home.  This'll give me my second great lake circumnavigation (or maybe my first real great lake because Georgian Bay is a bay).

Daily Schedule:
day 1- The Mohawk Inn, Massey ON
day 2- The Breakers Resort, St Ignace, MI
day 3- Bay Valley Resort & Conf Ctr, Bay City
day 4- Home

Elora to Massey, ON:       496kms
Massey to St Ignace, MI:   296kms
St Ignace to Bay City, MI: 381kms
Bay City to Elora, ON:     395kms

Riding the twisty roads of Northern Ontario

The quiet shores of Huron in Northern Michigan...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Dipping a Toe in Georgian Bay

The plan:

The execution:

Why you going looking for the Niagara Escarpment: it's the only place where you're not riding on the crown of your tire all the time in Southern Ontario.

A bit windy, but otherwise perfect weather.  24°C in Elora down to 18°C on Georgian Bay in Thornbury; comfortable without ever being sweaty.  The 360° shots are from a Ricoh Theta 360° Camera, the rest are taken from my Samsung S5 smartphone.  Videos are at the bottom.

Getting ready for liftoff.

The wind fields of Shelburne

The look on my face when I'm about to ride up River Road out of Hornings Mills.

A thumbs up from Max, he likes the twisties.

A pheasant and baby!  But you can't see it due to poor resolution and lens distortion.  The Theta is an interesting idea,
but even with giant, unwieldy files, it still has poor image quality.

Thornbury Harbour


Big sky on the never ending farm field ride home.

Another Tiger double take.  There is another!

Smartphone pics:

Creemore for lunch at The Old Mill House Pub (never had a bad meal there)

The new adventurers (a Kawasaki Versys & Suzuki V-Strom), along with the Tiger
that has always been (mine's 13 years older - made back before Ewan & Charlie did that thing)

A map of the good bits: