Showing posts with label motorcycle touring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motorcycle touring. Show all posts

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Miles per Day

A couple of experiences this season have given me some idea of possible mileage numbers in a day of riding.

We did 300 hot, sticky miles, mostly on freeways, coming back from Indianapolis this summer.  This involved getting lost for about half an hour before we finally stopped for the day near Detroit.

Without the getting lost part, 300 miles would be easily doable with gas and snack breaks if you're making highway miles.  We were on the road from about 9am to 5pm.  400 wouldn't be too much of a stretch, and would be an 9am to 6pm with stops kind of day.

That run to Detroit was in hot, humid weather and had me saddle sore with a bad case of baboon butt.  Less extreme conditions would make those miles easier to manage, but bike miles tend to be fairly extreme even at the best of times.

On that same day our riding partner headed straight home, doing Indianapolis to Alma, just shy of five hundred miles in a single day in about 10 hours of riding.  Had I not been two up with my son I'd have done it with him.  A five hundred mile day is certainly doable on freeways.  It's a full day, but you'd sleep well afterwards.

On the way down to Indy we did two stints, from Elora to Coldwater and Coldwater to Indianapolis.  In both cases we minimized highway riding and spent most of our time on back roads (and sometimes dirt roads and trailer parks when we got turned around).  Coldwater to Indy was just over two hundred miles and took us a good day of riding.  We left about 9am and were feet up in the hotel in Indianapolis by 4pm.  Elora to Coldwater was a long day of riding, leaving about 8:30am and finally stopping just before 6pm.  Even that long day had us up and ready to go the next morning, so it was a sustainable distance.

Based on those experiences I'd say a three hundred mile day if you're minimizing freeway use is a reasonable number to aim for, knowing that you could push a bit beyond that and still not be riding into dusk.

All of those experiences were on a fully loaded bike with my ten year old son as pillion, so we weren't exactly ascetic in our riding, looking to pound down the miles relentlessly.  I stopped more frequently than I otherwise might and for longer.

What got me thinking about this was the 178 mile ride the other day that got me over the 30k mark.  In cold weather and over twisty, slow roads with no highway at all, I left about 9:30am and was home again just past 3pm, stopping for a coffee and lunch.  The cold weather made this feel longer than it was, which reminded me just how much being comfortable in the saddle makes the miles go by.

Around the world, it's a long slog!
Your typical around the world trip is about 15,000 miles, so is north to south in the Americas.  If you're managing 300 miles a day, that'd be 50 days on the road.  If you're doing 300 mile days that means you're averaging 50 miles per hour for at least six hours a day.  Not as easy as it sounds when you factor in borders, extreme weather, navigation, bad roads and other potential slow downs.  All things to consider when trying to schedule a long trip.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Around The Bay: Part 1, to the north

Around the Bay in a day and a bit
860kms plus another 50 across the bay
I'm back after a day and a half marathon around Georgian Bay.  Just over 900kms including 50 on a ferry, and I'm beat!

I left at about 8am on Saturday morning and struck north west toward the Bruce Peninsula.  The farms were pretty in the morning sun but soon got pretty repetitive.  I find Southern Ontario quite tedious with few curves through never ending farm deserts, I was looking forward to getting up onto The Bruce and feeling like I wasn't local any more.
It was a cool, sunny morning and I stopped for coffee and a fill up at the Shell in Hanover.  Putting on a sweater I continued north when suddenly my otherwise rock-solid 21 year old Kawasaki Concours started hesitating at part throttle.  It was annoying but not trip destroying.  I immediately began to suspect that Hanover gasoline.

Soon enough I pulled into Wiarton, the gateway to the Bruce, and got myself a warm sausage roll and a very nice (not gas station) coffee at Luscious Bakery & Cafe on the main street; it's a great place to stop before riding onto the windy Bruce Peninsula.

Parked in Wiarton, the Luscious Cafe & Bakery is worth a stop!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Around Georgian Bay

Everyone's busy this weekend so, and to quote Freddie Mercury, I'm going to take a long ride on my motorbike.  Time for my first circumnavigation of a Great Lake, I'll start small with Georgian Bay.  From Elora I'll strike north to Tobermory.  There is a 1:30 ferry to Manitoulin Island, that's the only must get to (gotta get there an hour before departure, so 12:30pm in Tobermory).

I'm aiming for Little Current to overnight.  We stopped there last summer and it seems a lovely spot to spend the night, and The Hawberry Motel looks the part.   That'll put me 340kms and a two hour ferry ride into an 873km circumnavigation.

Sunday morning I'm on the winding road up to Espanola and then over to Sudbury before the long ride south.  It might seem like a stretch but the ride south includes some time on the 400, so I'll get to see how the Concours manages highway riding while making some time down the other side of the bay.  Once I get back south of the Bay I'll cut over to the coast and follow it around before heading south out of Wasaga Beach for the final push home.

This ride is the longest I've yet done, and it also includes a ferry ride.  I'm pretty revved up about it!  Friday night will be the pre-flight checks then on the road Saturday morning.  My buddy Jeff has said he'll do the first leg with me up to Tobermory, so I'll also get to do some miles in formation.  Another box checked.

Here are the posts from the trip:
Part 1: To the North
Part 2: An informed ride
Part 3: Highway Miles
Part 4: The Kit
Part 5: Media from the Trip

The Concours is sorted and doing regular duty commuting me to work, time to stretch her legs...


The Ferry

The Hawberry Motel

The Map

The Trip Itself

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bike Delivery System: escaping frozemagheddon!

It's supposed to drop into the -40°Cs in the next couple of days.  We're in the bowels of winter here and I'm getting cabin fever.  I've already day dreamed of the kit I'd need to go to track days, but that kit would serve another purpose, to get me clear of the never ending winter with my own bike.

Having a second vehicle that is utilitarian is never a bad idea, but I'm not much of a truck guy.  I am a Guy Martin fan though, and he happens to have a Transit Van!  You can pick up a well maintained, low miles Transit Van on for about twenty grand, or about the price of a new hatchback.  It'll get over 32mpg,  and will happily carry a couple of bikes and kit (or other stuff) as needed.  With a carrying capcity of over 1600lbs, it would be more than up to the job of moving two bikes and riders out of the snow belt.

When it's about to hit -40°C, the Transit could get loaded up for a long weekend and aimed south.  A power drive could get me to The Tail of the Dragon, where the two bikes in back could be unloaded, ridden hard, put away wet and driven back into the inhuman wintry darkness after a couple of days of two wheeled therapy.

Tail of the Dragon, eating its own tail!
The Tail of the Dragon is only 11 hours away, but while it's minus forty here, it's in the low teens in Tennessee.  A banzai ride in the van into ride-able territory would make the vehicle much more than just a track day tool.

Based out of Marysville, Tennesee, I'd do a 210 mile loop one way and then do it backwards the next day...  Friday: leave noon, arrive in Marysville about 11pm.  Saturday: all day clock wise.  Sunday: all day counter clockwise. Monday: leave after breakfast, be home by 8pm.

Stage one would be getting the van.  At that point I'm in for about $20k.  It'll also come in handy for track days and picking up bikes.  I'd be able to throw my Ninja and a buddy's bike in there for the drive down and get to it.

The Triumph Daytona took out bikes twice its
displacement in Performance Bike's Track test.
Stage two would be getting a bike that doesn't have to compromise to get me there.  A sport focused machine that will arrive ready to take on the twisties would do the trick.  My first choice would be the Triumph Daytona 675R.  At only 189kgs (416lbs) ready to ride, it's a light weight machine that punches well above its displacement.

You can pick up a new, last year's Daytona for about twelve thousand bucks.  For the ten grand under the price of the cheapest Volvo SUV, I'd have a a bike delivery system of epic proportions, with an epic bike in the back of it.  When it isn't taking me out of the snow belt it could be picking up used bikes or taking me to track days.

I've almost talked myself into this!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Sea to Sky and Back Again

My son and I are two up on a BMW F800ST on our way out of Sooke on Vancouver Island's south coast.  It's the last big stop before heading into the wild, and it's not that big a stop.  The road has met up with the rocky shoreline and I'm bending the bike left and right around constant corners, I'm seldom able to see more than a couple of hundred feet down the road.  From the steep hillside down to the Pacific Ocean a deer pops over the barrier onto the road right in front of us.  The BMW seamlessly comes to a stop five feet in front of the startled deer that tears off into the forest.  I wait for the inevitable follow up deer and see it next to the barrier watching us.  We pull away slowly and elect to ease off a bit and keep it under 80 kilometres per hour.  Even at speed limit speeds this road is something special.

I'm supposed to be in class, at work, instead I find myself over four thousand kilometres away from home on a cool and sunny Friday morning at the end of May with a rented motorcycle, beautiful weather and three hundred kilometres of astonishing roads in front of me, sometimes life offers up nice surprises.

I've only been riding on the road for just over a year.  I have my M2 license and I left an '07 Kawasaki Ninja 650R at home.  The BMW is only the second road bike I've ever ridden.  It's amazing how different two machines that do the same job can be.  The BMW is a bigger bike, with larger seats, it's much more comfortable according to my pillion.  The suspension is soft and supple compared to my Kawi, and the controls feel lighter.  The clutch take up is smooth and the brakes make me think I need to do the front pads and bleed my Ninja when I get home.  The BMW is a more mature bike in every sense.  The redline is a sane 8000 rpm, and with the soft suspension and big seat it's easy to ride for a long time.  Other than the weird left hand/right hand indicators it's an easy transition from the Ninja (one of the reasons I chose it).

The rider of this fine machine,
in his beaten up, old BMW
leathers was in his seventies!
We work our way down this increasingly empty coastal road until we stumble across the small town of Shirley and Shirley Delicious.  We'd been told by the technician at Cycle BC where we'd picked up the bike that the temperature can drop ten degrees on the coast, and he wasn't wrong.  After a hot coffee warm up and the best sausage roll I've ever had, we bump into another BMW rider who is in his seventies.  After some affable, Teutonic chat we are back on the long and winding road.

From Sooke to Port Renfrew,
endlessly entertaining
From Shirley we wind our way north west up the quiet coast of Vancouver Island.  The east coast faces Vancouver and is as busy as anywhere in Canada, but the west coast faces the endless Pacific and remains largely unpopulated.  From Shirley we saw only a couple of other vehicles as we chased the tail of this amazing road that clings to the side of mountains edged by ocean.  The switchbacks that lead down to single lane bridges over mountain rivers look more like Scandinavian fjords than Canadian back roads.

We stop and stretch about forty minutes into the ride at a scenic lookout, which along with many provincial parks, dot the route.  As we clear the straits between Vancouver Island and the mainland and begin to face the Pacific, tsunami warning signs and escape routes begin to appear.  You really get a sense of being on the edge of the world here.  The edge of North America, the edge of the former British Empire, facing half a world of ocean.

Port Renfrew is more an idea than an actual place; a few buildings scattered among the trees.  We pass through it in moments and find ourselves on a rough paved road into Juan de Fuca Provincial Park where we hope to find Botanical Beach.  We strip off the bike gear and stow it in the big Givi box on the back and head down the trail.  The tide is out and an amazing beach full of tidal pools awaits.

We warm up on the long walk down and soon find ourselves clambering over black stone jutting into the ocean.  The sea life is prodigious, with massive strings of clams, crabs and a million other things crawling on the rocks.  The smell of salt and sharp, clean air is magical. We're the only people we can see.

Jurassic Park has nothing on
Juan de Fuca!

We spend two hours wandering around the rocks, but I've only got the bike for the day and the sun is way past noon.  A quick uphill hike back to the bike has us both sweating.  I figure we should eat and the Coastal Kitchen on the way in looked like a good choice, but my son has a thing for chain restaurants and says he isn't hungry (though he was).  I don't get to the Coastal Kitchen, one of my few regrets on this trip.

I'm looking at my watch and wondering how I can possibly get back to Victoria since it's getting on for 2pm and we're not even halfway around our loop yet.  Lake Cowichan is halfway across the island.  It's only 63 kilometres away but this road is something else, you don't make time on it.  Around every corner (and there is always a corner) you find idyllic waterfalls, tumbling mountain rivers and absurdly beautiful alpine vistas.

Almost two thousand metres in elevation
changes, it's as uppy-downy as it's lefty-righty
The BMW is bending left and right over the patchwork surface of the road, the soft suspension soaking up the bumps.  I get into a rhythm and lose myself for a while chasing this road. 

Unlike the Ninja, I can barely feel Max back there until he uncharacteristically thumps into me as a I brake for a switchback.  He mumbles that he's ok, but we've been on the road since 9am, he's had no lunch and he's dopey, not a good combination.  I push on to Lake Cowichan, now more worried about him than enjoying the ride.  I really wish we'd eaten at the Coastal Kitchen before leaving Port Renfrew, we're not putting that to a vote next time.

We stop in Cowichan and eat lousy fast food at an A&W.  He perks right back up and we get back on the road quickly because it's getting on to 4pm and I've got less than two hours to return the F800.  But Cowichan marks the return to the populated side of the island and the highway out of it is the first 100 km/hr zone we've seen since leaving Victoria.  In a flash we're back to the Trans Canada in Duncan and, after a day spent virtually alone on twisting roads, we find ourselves in a traffic jam surrounded by box stores.  We wait our way through the worst timed traffic lights ever in Duncan and finally get moving south towards Victoria.

Even a commuter road like this makes most roads in Ontario look sad.  It's smooth (it barely snows here and frost heaves are all but nonexistent), and the asphalt constantly snakes over and around mountains.  Though very different from the west side wilderness, the highway ride back to Victoria was nice too.

At speed the BMW is surprisingly comfortable.  The tiny screen on the front had me doubting its high speed comfort, but now I understand how wind to the chest can keep your weight off your wrists.  At highway speeds you seem to lay on the wind, it's remarkably comfortable.  The minimalist aerodynamics on the F800ST do a surprisingly good job.

Once clear of Duncan we don't see another slowdown until entering Victoria, and it isn't a big slowdown.  By five o'clock we're pulling back into CycleBC's downtown shop, tired but elated.  The bike did the whole trip, over three hundred kilometres all told, on a single tank.  It also cast some perspective on my Ninja.

The BMW's suspension makes me want to look into the Kawi's, but a 650R is a very different kind of bike than an F800.  Given a choice though I'd take the BMW's buttery, compliant suspension over the teeth rattling shocks on my Kawi.  I thought the lack of a windshield would hurt the BMW but it was surprisingly good, and makes me question the turbulence I get off the aftermarket windshield on the Ninja.  The weird switch gear on the BMW wasn't convenient, but all of the controls were light and responsive, making the bike a joy to take down twisty roads.  It all sounds like a slam dunk for the BMW, but there is one place where the my older Kawasaki leaves the BMW behind.

It's pretty and capable,
but it has the heart of a tractor
After lugging that BMW engine around for a day I was happy to put it down.  At best it chugged down the road, but most of the time it sounded agricultural.  One of the reasons I fell for the Ninja was the sound of its engine, I've seldom heard anything happier.  Whereas the BMW goes about its business with conservative, grim faced determination, the Kawasaki is an eager accomplice, with a soprano's voice.  While the BMW is grumbling to its redline something magical is happening in the Kawasaki.  Happy up to 8000rpm, it dives to the 11,000 rpm redline with a euphoric banshee wail; the last half of the Ninja's rev range is something wonderful.  That it also manages to feel stronger than the BMW even though it's a much smaller lump is also telling.

I enjoyed riding the BMW, but it didn't move me.  The good news is I now have much higher standards for control feel, brakes and suspension, but without that all-singing engine I'm just not smitten.

As for the trip, it was unforgettable.  From sea to sky and back again, it was challenging, exhausting and completely worth it.  Were I to do it again, I think I'd get the bike for 24 hours instead of 8 and stay over in Cowichan before coming back the other way down the empty coast.  That road deserves two way attention, and I'd happily avoid the traffic in Duncan and the stress of trying to rush the bike back at the end of the day.  It also eat lunch at the Coastal Kitchen, damn it.  The days are long on Vancouver Island in the summer.  If you left at noon on one day, you could meander up to Cowichan enjoy a 10pm sunset and be on the road well after sunrise at 6am the next day looking forward to retracing those mad roads back to Victoria - you'd also miss rush hour on both sides.

CycleBC is located in downtown Victoria right under the conference centre attached to the Empress Hotel.  The staff are quick to get you on the road, know the area inside and out and offer up some great insider tips (why we ended up making a point of seeing Botanical Beach).  They offer a wide range of bikes from the F800ST I was on to a BMW GS, Suzuki Vstrom, Kawaski KLR, Triumph Bonneville and various cruiser options.  Everything looked to be in top form (they have an onsite technician), and the F800 was flawless for us.

If you get a chance to ride southern Vancouver Island, you won't be disappointed.  Next time I'm out there, I'm looking at a longer ride around more of the island.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Riding Scottsdale

I just got invited to the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale at the end of the Easter weekend.  I get in early the day before so I'm thinking about getting myself on something appropriate for a lovely Sunday afternoon and evening around Scottsdale.  Eagle Rider has a place in Scottsdale and seems big on Harleys.  I'm not really a Harley guy, but when in Rome...

They have a little thing called a Harley Davidson Sportster 883, which seems ridiculously large for what it does, but then I guess that's kind of the point.  Riding around the hills near Phoenix would be a blast on a big blatting Harley.

Scottsdale area seems like a biker's paradise, with winding mountain roads and desert all around the city.  The Mesa, Globe, Punkin Center ride through Four Peaks Wilderness, Tonto National Forest and past Theodore Roosevelt Lake looks like a nice afternoon/evening ride on the big American bike.

Another great opportunity to expand my riding experience in an unexpected location, can't wait!  I only hope they have a sparkle purple Harley there waiting for me.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

One Lap of Japan

7940kms... according to Google Maps
Another dream trip.

I've done most of the north end of the main island in a car, and traveled as far south as Kyoto by train, but the motorbike offers a new way to see the archipelago.

Google maps suggests that this can be done in 6 days and 16 hours, that's at a continuous average of 50kms/hr 24 hours a day.  Assuming we'd want to sleep and eat, the old two to three tanks a day might be the way to go.

At two tanks a day (about 600kms depending on the bike), we'd be back to Narita in just over thirteen days.  Call it two weeks of steady riding.

Being what it is (a volcanic island chain), there aren't many straight roads in Japan, especially if we want to stick to the coast.

When you're riding around volcanoes,
the roads get creative
The epic ferry ride to Okinawa in the south is almost a day in itself.  The riding would never be boring, and it would be miles away from interstate mile making.  Japan is a crowded but super organized kind of place, you can get places as long as you avoid the major urban centers.

Late summer would avoid the tsuyu (rainy season), so landing in Narita in the last week of August, then head north, do Hokkaido, then down the Japan sea coast to the south end of Honshu, a long ferry ride across the East China Sea to Okinawa, two days circumnavigating the island before taking a slow boat back to Honshu.  The last leg would be up the Pacific side of Honshu, through Kyoto and Tokyo and back to Narita.

It'd be nice to do the trip while riding the Japanese bike industry.  Split into four sections, we could ride Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha for a quarter of the trip each.  That way we could meet up with various clubs and groups without being manufacturer specific.  Riding all four big Japanese manufacturers also lets us experience the fantastic bikes Japan makes.

Two weeks, some serious mileage, from a tropical 26 degrees above the equator in Okinawa (roughly in line with central India) to a northern 45.5 degrees at the top of Hokkaido (right next door to Russia),  we'll experience everything from palm trees to snow.  It is entirely possible to climb five thousand feet if we're working our way through mountainous areas and wind up at sea level again by night fall.

Two weeks would be intense, but that's kind of the point.  The route picked out avoids any repeated tarmac other than driving on and off one ferry.  Every mile would be new as we circumnavigate these beautiful islands.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Stretching My Legs

It's the first day of summer holidays, so I'm going to push the envelope and hit the road on my longest ride yet.  Elora to just past Bobcaygeon.  It's all paved except for the last couple of miles on gravel.  I'll be passing through villages, towns and a couple of cities en route.  236kms.

The Cottage Run
The weather is cooperating and the rain has dried up.  I'm going to have to break my iron man habit of doing long drives in single marathon runs.  Stopping along the way is going to be prudent.

The bike has new oil and filter and is half blue, so I'm in good mechanical shape and looking like a fine arts project.  The partially stripped black paint looks like it got pulled off by going too fast.

I'm not worried about it mechanically, it's super solid, the weakest link on this trip is the n00b rider.  As long as I can remember that and pace myself, it'll be a great step forward in riding.

The most exciting bit should be the logging road at the end of the trip.  It drives like a rally stage, but I'm going to be riding it with a light touch.  The Ninja isn't built for this kind of work, so it'll be a gentle last leg on the best roads.  I'll save the rally driving for the ATVs once we're at the
The Cottage Road
cottage.  Though now I'm wishing I had a little 250cc dirt bike up there to get muddy on.

The map doesn't do the cottage road justice.  It's been straightened out, graded and widened in recent years, it used to be even madder.  The road weaves around stone outcroppings in the Canadian Shield and includes a lot of elevation drops you don't see on the map.  The tight corners come up on you suddenly because you can't see over the hill you're on to what's next.

It's roads like this that make me wish I had something more dual purpose.

The Triumph Tiger 800xc would snort and stomp down that road.  The new KTM Supermoto would make that cottage road a tail wagging good time, though that's a much bigger bike.  I think I'd prefer the Triumph.  It's lithe, and agile where the KTM is a monster.

In the meantime, I'm going to gingerly nurse the Ninja to the cottage after a beautiful Saturday afternoon ride across rural Southern Ontario.  Pictures to follow.