Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Perth County Moto

Last weekend I was in Stratford to see Mother's Daughters - a modern feminist take on Mary and Elizabeth's battle to become queen after their father (Henry VIII) kicked the bucket way back in 1550s England - it was brilliant!

Before the play we were about town having dinner when I stumbled upon Perth County MotoJeff O'Neill, the co-owner, was in there and we had a nice chat about vintage German police leathers and my Triumph Tiger.

Looking over PCM's website, Jeff and his wife Lindsay seem to be focused on a side of motorcycling that you don't often see:  vintage and DIY.  Everything motorcycle related near me is pretty much a box store or dealer (which is like a box store but with higher prices).  Looking into PCM's approach makes me wish I lived closer to Stratford.  The Englander in me finds himself a stranger in a strange land when it comes to DIY; it's not generally a North American mindset.

There is a younger side to motorcycling culture that embraces DIY and gets excited about customizing older machines.  Some turn their noses up at this new approach and call it hipster, but I dig it.  Perth County Moto seems to be all in on the custom DIY scene.  They even have a custom build going on on their blog and look like they support spannering nights.

PCM has a variety of Biltwell new gear, Bell Helmets and some other less common manufacturers for sale.  I tried on Biltwell gloves but wasn't thrilled with the feel, but they're a pretty budget item and I'm getting pickier with gloves (Speed & Strength aren't cheap, but that's the new standard).  I wish I'd had more time to look around, but I was on a dinner and show schedule.

One thing that did stand out was the used leathers on a rack at the back.  The green German Police leathers immediately jumped out at me, but alas, they were designed for a very small German police officer.

If you're looking for out of the ordinary gear, Perth County Moto is worth a stop.  In my brief time in there I managed to find a nice Triumph patch (they have a big selection of classic badges along with a pile of sticker options).  I'm sure I'd have bought something else had I the time.  Fortunately, we're back in Stratford for shows several more times this summer.

How best to get out to Perth County Moto?  Well, load up for a lovely ride through Southern Ontario countryside, get into Stratford early and have a look around PCM, then go out for dinner at one of the many nice pubs or eateries within walking distance.  Once you park up downtown, it's all easily walkable.  I'd also suggest having a look at the Black Swan Brewery (they make a wonderful English Pale Ale) before you catch a show and then ride back home under the Milky Way while working in some funky new gear.  Perth County Moto gives any motorcyclist a reason to ride out to Stratford this summer.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Lobo Loco Water Is Life Summer Rally

We just spent a delightful dam day riding north and west from where we live looking for water themed locations for this year's Lobo Loco all-season Water is Life rally.

If you find that your riding is a bit aimless, or you're always showing up at the same places over and over, a long distance rally is a great way to break those habitual rides.  You get a theme and some specific targets, but you also get some special monthly targets in this rally.  It runs from May to October, so you have lots of time to get points.  You can set up rides with intention and ride as hard as you like.  Some people go and go if they're all about the points (and have a lot of free time).  I'm more about the exploration and photography opportunities, even more so If I've got a pillion along, but you can do it however you like.  My son and I have done this a few times now, and my buddy Jeff and I have had some epic rides, but this time it was all about my wife and I getting points and spending some quality time together.

For May the water specific theme was dams, so we went looking for the damned things in our area.  It's amazing what you can find when you ride with a purpose.  Only fifteen minutes from home we were stumbling across secret Mennonite fishing holes at the Woolwich Dam, and twenty minutes later chatting with dreadlocked sports bike riders on the Conestogo Dam causeway.  We bumped into a number of riders on the trip and always suggest they look up the rally as a way of extending their riding destinations.

Further north we stopped just past Harriston (after getting a photo of their water tower), and got lunch at The Red Caboose.  If you've never had an Ontario chip truck lunch, this would be a great place to start.  Everything is grown in the fields around you (including the beef).  It's what you'd expect to pay for a burger and fries, but this'll be the first time you've ever had something this fresh.  Some fancy burger joint in Toronto will but sriracha on it and charge you five times as much for something that tastes half as good.  The fries actually taste like potatoes.  We would never have stopped there had we not launched ourselves on this exploratory rally adventure.

With our stomachs full of goodness, we continued north.  After a water tower hit-and-run in Clifford we eventually found ourselves in the place where government cuts made the water kill people: Walkerton, Ontario.  We got to the Walkerton Heritage Water Garden only to discover it wasn't running - a local walking by told us they weren't turning it on due to new cut backs.  Thousands got ill and e Coli in the water killed seven, and now a similar government has cancelled the memorial to what their predecessors did - I imagine they're thinking this is best not remembered.  The irony runs thick, unlike the water in the monument.  The local said the politicians all spent more time making sure they weren't liable than they did actually trying to solve the problem.  Walkerton is now a vibrant community that has bounced back from this tragedy, but the damage runs deep, and more cuts are coming.

We left the park in a sombre mood and headed through the lovely town before striking out east on Highway 4.  Another water tower hit and run in Hanover and we were on our way to Durham and the ride south to home.

I'm sure I've passed through Durham before, but have no memory of it.  It's a pretty little town in rolling Niagara Escarpment country.  Alanna eagle-eyed the Garafraxa Cafe on the main street and we pulled in for a caffeine boost to get us home strong.  Things looked promising with an Italian coffee machine that looked like a Vespa scooter and a proprietor who knew what he was doing with it.  It ended up being one of the best Americanos I've ever had.

We pushed south to Holstein Dam while picking up water towers in MoFo and Arthur.  Our last stop was the Shand Dam that created Belwood Lake just down the road from our home in Elora.  To maximize points you want to get your bike in the photo and have signage and the dam itself in one of the two photos.  I find the Ricoh Theta 360 camera handy for doing this because it grabs everything at once, but many others just use their smart phone camera and get a lot more points than I do.  Naming conventions on your photos are important too - you lose points handing things in the wrong way.  Having Alanna along really helps with this as she actually reads the instructions.

By this point we'd been on the road for well over six hours and were ready to go put our feet up, fortunately our circuitous route took us in a big loop back home:

All told we think we cracked a thousand points on this ride, and discovered all sorts of strange little spots we'd have otherwise missed.  The Water is life Grand Tour full summer rally is running from May to October, so you've still got tons of time to sign up and give it a go.  If it grabs you, Lobo Loco is also running more intensive weekend and one day rallies throughout the season.


Lobo Loco Rallies on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LoboLocoRallies/
Like the page and see what's going on - there is a vibrant community of riders involved with this.
Lobo Loco Homepage:   https://wolfe35.wixsite.com/lobolocorallies
Includes the intensive weekend events as well as this season's grand tour.  You can sign up on there through RideMaster - the same group that handles Iron Butt Rallies (if you want to get really serious).


Some dammed stops on this year's Grand Tour Rally:

Stop One:  Woolwich Dam & Reservoir 
43°37'21.3"N 80°33'51.9"W
Getting signage with the name on it counts for points!

We went a bit overboard with this one.  It was our first stop, it was a lovely dam surrounded by Mennonites fishing and we wanted to make sure we got the required things in the photos (and they are many!)...

You will need to have the following in order to collect points:
A) A photo of the dam itself
B) A photo of signage indicating the name of the dam, or a photo indicating the name of the town the dam is in

- We will accept a “Welcome To”, City Limits, or Town Hall sign.
C) The GPS coordinates, approximate street address, or nearest cross street to the dam
Your motorcycle MUST be in at least one of the 2 photos.

You will receive the highest points ONLY for whichever you achieve for each individual dam:
99 points - motorcycle with the dam (which I think we got with the bottom one with me standing with the bike in front of the gate)
66 points - motorcycle with the dam signage

33 points - motorcycle with the town signage

... but I think I like the one with us leaning over the dam more.  Sometimes the photographer gets in the way of the rally requirements.
#loboloco Water is Life Rally 2019 Summer Woolwich Dam #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

We found a squirter at the Woolwich dam!

Stop 3:  Conestogo Dam
43°40'32.4"N 80°42'56.0"W
#loboloco Water is Life Rally 2019 Conestogo Dam #motorcycle #rally #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Gotta get that signage in for maximum points.
Stop 8:  Holstein Dam
44°03'36.0"N 80°45'29.4"W
 ... that was a buggy one.  Dam in photo, check, rally flag, check, bike in photo, check!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

A Nice Way to Turn 50...

Thanks to the Ontario Government ignoring the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and illegally forcing a contract on us, I had my 50th birthday off.  I had an entire year of saved up sick days stripped away, but hey, I got a day off for it.  So much for Charter rights.

I figured the Forks of the Credit would be silly over the long weekend, so I thought I'd head over there on the Friday afternoon.  Still lots of people about, but I got to have a couple of clean runs up and down the twisty bits where I wasn't on the bumper of a duffer in a cage.  I'm not leaving rubber doing this, and I'm usually within 10km/hr of the limit, but cars through this twisty, technical road are a bit of a disaster.  It was nice to get a couple of runs without worrying about the processing capacity of the driver in front of me.

Photos are taken with a Ricoh Theta V on a custom built mount attached to the wing mirror.  Screen captured in the Ricoh software and modified in Adobe Lightroom:

The switchbacks at The Forks...

The little guy on the side of the road said, 'woah!!!" so loud I could here him on the bike.  :)

Always look where you want to go - sometimes that's over your shoulder!

In the moment on one of the frew curves between me at the Niagara Escarpment.  If I lived in California I would be a regular canyon carver on the weekends.

Beautiful weather, minimal traffic and a frisky Tiger.  It was a good 50th birthday ride.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Corbin Experience

The big five-oh is coming up so I got myself a present.  I've always wanted a custom saddle and after seeing buddy Jeff's new Sargent seat, I started looking into what's available for the Tiger.  Sargent doesn't do anything for Tigers as old as mine, but Corbin does.  Their site lets you customize your seat with material and stitching.  The Tiger isn't a shy and retiring sort of motorbike, so I wasn't very conservative in my seat design.

Corbin lets you play with variations on their online customizing tool.  I started off with basic black but quickly moved on from there.  You can go full disco oligarch if you want, but I looked at the Tiger and worked out a design that pulls the colours already on the bike together on the seat.  I took the most shocking part of the Tiger, the Lucifer Orange paint, and did the stitching in orange.  Most of the mechanical bits are black, so I stayed with a black set but went with a gripper material rather than leather.  The side panels I matched in navy blue with the blue on the swing arm.  The goal was to design a seat that looks like it belongs on the bike, and I think it does that while not being dull.

It's a pretty thing.
The customization options offered by Corbin are exceptional.  Less so was communication.  I sent in the request online and got an email asking me to confirm the order.  When I questioned the $120US delivery fee added on, I got no reply.  The initial email also promised a follow up when the seat was going into production, but that didn't happen either.  What did happen was one day I got a bill for $94CAD on my front door when I got home from work.  After driving over to the post office I got told there was a bill for taxes on the shipment, so that puts getting my Corbin to me at two hundred and fifty-five bucks (I could fly back from San Francisco where Corbin's factory is for about the same price)... and I had to go pick it up.

The seat itself is very nice on top.  The underside looks a bit rough with loose bits and rough holes , but I guess no one will ever see it but me.  It's heavy duty leather so it'll take a while to break in and will look better and better as it does.

Comfort wise, it feels very different from the curved stock saddle.  The Corbin is much wider, making the ground further away.  I can flat foot the Tiger on the stock saddle even when it's in its highest position.  The Corbin doesn't adjust for height, but its width makes it feel much taller.  The width was such a concern that I tried standing on the pegs to see if the seat interfered with my legs.  I can feel the seat (not so with the curved and narrower stock seat), but it's not pushing my knees away, so I can still stand on the pegs if necessary.

The seat's back is so steep that it feels like a small backrest, which does wonders for support and comfort.  My son is too big now to pillion with me (we exceed the bike's carrying capacity), but if my wife ever comes for a ride, I think she'll have a better view from a higher back seat.

The seat feels firm, but Corbin mention that as it breaks in it will conform to your butt specifically and soften.  The width of it handles weight so well that I really don't notice the hardness, and it's supposed to fade away over time anyway.  They suggest a 2000 mile break in period, which seems like a long one, but it is what it is.

It isn't cheap, but the lifetime warranty takes care of any quality worries, and it seems a well put together thing, once I got it to attach to the bike.
Installation wasn't as easy as I'd have hoped.  The Corbin is a single seat unit replacing a separate rider and passenger stock seat set.  The stock rider seat has a couple of hoops on the frame that locate the front and a pin locking mechanism in the rear.  The passenger seat has hooks on the front another pin locking mechanism at the back.  The all-in-one Corbin seat doesn't use the middle pin at all and wouldn't locate and lock in the rear pin.  Putting it on and off the big over and over trying to figure out why it wouldn't lock ended up scratching the triangular side panels under the seat a bit, which was annoying.

I ended up removing the fuse box and taking out the middle locking pin as I was afraid it was preventing the seat from sitting down on the frame properly, but it ended up being the front metal bars that hook on the frame loops.  They weren't bent down enough to allow the seat to sit flat.  After a bit of bending, I was finally able to get the seat to click into place.

I'm sitting higher on this new, firm Corbin seat, but it's supposed to soften over time, so I think the height will ease a bit too.  The 'gripper' fabric feels quality and tough and isn't particularly grippy.  I'm able to move around on it quite easily and I'm hoping it breathes a bit better than leather would.  Hot seat in the summer is one of the things I'm hoping this solves.

I'd be happier with Corbin communicating (at all) and I'd have been a lot happier with the stratospheric shipping charge if it took care of border costs too.  Paying the equivalent of airfare from San Francisco seems a bit excessive, especially when I get to deliver it to myself anyway.  If you're ever on holiday in northern California, pre-order your seat and then pick it up from the factory near San Jose and save yourself a pile of cash.

Overall?  I'm happy with the seat.  The upside is a quality seat that you can make uniquely yours for what I consider a reasonable amount of money for a bespoke item like this.  When people are dropping twice this on slip on exhausts and helmets, the Corbin starts to look like good farkling value.  It certainly makes a statement and as one of the key connection pieces between rider and motorbike, it's a customization option that does a lot to make a bike feel special.

I just got back from a 232km romp across the Niagara Escarpment.  Never once did I have to stop due to numb bum.  That's never happened before.