Showing posts sorted by relevance for query radar. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query radar. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, 17 July 2015

Into The Heart of Darkness

I've spent a lot of time on back roads and regional highways but have seldom ventured onto major freeways.  I'm not a fan of driving in cities, I find people to be quite idiotic and when you put a lot of them together it reaches a critical mass.  Put those same distracted idiots in giant metal boxes while you're out in the wind and the maths just don't work out, so I don't do it if I can help it.

Rather than cater to this avoidance I went right into the heart of darkness yesterday: downtown Toronto.  A Grand Lodge meeting at the Royal York had me making the 240km round trip predominantly on major freeways.


First day of  HOV with one person per box, and you wonder why
Toronto has traffic problems. The HOV lanes for the Pan Am
Games disappear when the games go, so Torontonians can
go back to their selfish, unecological ways .
Why take the bike?  Well, the Pan Am Games are on so they've finally gotten some sense and instituted HOV lanes (it took the Pan Am Games to make Toronto accessible to the rest of the province - go figure).  Fortunately for the selfish, environmentally oblivious Toronto commuters, the HOV lanes go away again when the games are over and Toronto is once again an hour further away for the rest of us.

Motorcycles are always high occupancy.  They are a highly efficient way of moving people compared to cars which is why they are so popular in places with less money than sense.  When things started to inevitably slow down (at eleven o'clock in the morning), the HOV lanes never did.  I've never gotten into Toronto so easily.  In under 90 minutes I was parked on Front Street.

Why else take the bike?  Parking a car in Toronto will punch you in the nose and take your lunch money.  Around the Royal York it's particularly expensive, often about $40-50 for a day, unless you're on a bike!  About 500 feet down the road from the Royal York there is free (!) parking for motorcycles.  


Free parking for two wheelers right on Front Street - you can see the Royal York off to the left.  I purchased a $23
club sandwich (!) with the money I saved not having to pay for parking.
What was the ride down like?  Well, the country bit was lovely.  It was about 20°C, sunny and not at all humid, a perfect day for a ride.  The 401 through Milton is alright, but when you get to Mississauga is starts to get silly and then goes bonkers around the airport.  In training they give you helpful advice like always ride on the inside or outside lane so you can take a blocking position, but that quickly becomes academic on the 401.

With lanes constantly appearing and disappearing and suddenly expanding out to 12 lanes you're playing a fool's game looking for a specific lane.  Spending your attention on what lane to ride in probably means you're not paying as much attention as much as you should to the vehicles whipping around you at 120+km/hr.  You can't keep a space bubble because the traffic is too thick and follows too closely, and you can't lane split in Ontario to get out of tight spots.  If you ride defensively (and you shouldn't if you don't), you'll find your ability to manage threats stressed on the four hundred series highways leading into Toronto.

The only incident was a guy in a Mazda who decided to lane change (no indicator, you see them less than 50% of the time) into me.  He had been twitch lane changing repeatedly so he was marked as a jackass on my radar.  When he turned into me I was easily able to avoid him, and then give him some stink eye and a head shake.  He hadn't seen me (he hadn't shoulder checked or indicated either, and he had his phone on his lap).  You always get a sheepish response from people when they make a mistake that might have cost you your life.

That much traffic is a real test of your rider-radar.  It's a constantly evolving, high speed situation, so you're always fluidly responding to variations, trying to make space, identifying idiots and giving yourself every chance of getting where you're going.  If you're prone to tunnel vision or lazy traffic responses when you ride, don't ride past the airport in Toronto.


The Concours hanging out with two
cute Italians on Front Street
From up in the saddle you have an clear view of occupants in cars.  I'd say about one in five has a smartphone on their laps and half of them are dividing at least some of their attention with it.  Ontario's distracted driving laws have driven phone use in cars underground.  There should be more OPP officers on bikes out on the highway, they'd make a mint, as well as raising the awareness of motorcycles in the minds of drivers.  Why are there no undercover police bikes?


Bike parking on Front, right there!
The ride in and out was pretty much flawless thanks to the government prioritizing access to Toronto for the Games.  I guess the rest of Ontario's citizens don't rate better access to our capital.

Once the games are over and things go back to the usual I'll be avoiding Toronto once again.

Permanent HOV lanes, the ability to safely filter in traffic and any other law that emphasizes the efficiency and agility of the motorcycle would make the Greater Toronto Area much more palatable to riders, but as it stands the mentality of Toronto commuters and the laws the government creates to support them make it a no-fly zone for me.


The Concours flirting with some Vespas. Parking for free in Toronto? Priceless!
Union Station in Toronto decked out for the Pan Am Games.
The Royal York - the grand dame of Toronto hotels, very nice indeed.
$23 club sandwich, it was good, but twenty three bucks!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Invisible Man

I was riding down to the city south of us today for a dentist's appointment.  Out on the 2 lane high way that cuts south through Guelph I had my first experience of being invisible.  In bumper to bumper traffic moving at about 80 kms/hr, the blue minivan driven by an elderly man (wearing a hat), suddenly lit up his indicators and with no shoulder check immediately moved into the lane I was occupying.

I had the radar on and saw everything he was going to do before he did it.  I eased on the brakes, weaved onto the curb and avoided being hit by him.  I honked (first time I've ever done that) and raised a hand in wonder at his  cluelessness.  The guy in the cage jumped when I honked, then made a point of ignoring me when I gestured.  I frightened him by honking, he was happy to knock me off the highway and then ignore the consequences.

I'm surprised at how not-angry I was.  Even though this clueless old git had no idea what was happening around him I couldn't get angry with him.   Like so many other caged drivers he is in his own world, remote from the consequences of his ignorance; happy to thump down the road at 90 kms/hr without knowing what is going on around him.

After shaking my head I was back in radar mode, wondering what the next cage driver would do.  Riding is only really dangerous when you're doing it with a lot of other human beings.

I got to the dentists and had a nice chat with my hygienist who rides.  The ride home was without any such drama, but I'm left wondering how often cage drivers think about what's around them.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Sail Away: First Long Ride on The Kawasaki Concours 14

First long ride with Big Blue/Nami-Chan (not sure what its name is yet) today up to Georgian Bay to listen to the water.  For a kid who grew up by the sea living in landlocked Southern Ontario wears on me so sitting by the shore listening to the water lapping on the rocks calms my permanent sense of dislocation.

Thornbury Harbour, Geogian Bay, Ontario - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


What's the Concours 14 like to ride over distance?  It's a very comfortable long distance machine. Compared to the Tiger it's smoother, significantly less vibey and quieter.  This isn't necessarily a good think because riding a motorbike isn't always about comfort - sometimes you want it to beat the shit out of you.  What is good is that the 1400GTR is a significantly different bike to ride than the old Triumph Tiger, so both fill a different need in the bike stable.

The Tiger (when it works perfectly which isn't often recently) is a capable off roader on trails and fire roads and lets the wind pass through you since it's practically naked, which is both exhausting and exhilarating.  After the long ride today the abilities of the Kawasaki are much more clear.  The only nagging issue is that my backside has gotten used to Corbin seat engineering and the Kawasaki stock saddle just isn't up to the job, but otherwise the bike is a revelation.  Effortlessly quick, smooth and surprisingly agile in the corners, though you can still feel the weight carries but it carries it low.

Windshield down, lots of airflow, a great view
and the bike feels more likes sports-bike.
For the first time I adjusted the X-screen modular MCA Windshield to its maximum length and it did an astonishing job of protecting me at highway speeds.  So much so that I barely closed the Roof helmet on the ride.  The pocket of air it creates is stable and the wind noise so much less that it's just another aspect of this bike that'll let you do long miles without exhausting yourself.

Ergonomically, the windscreen also does something smart for airflow.  If it gets hot you can lower it to the point where it almost vanishes.  This pushes a lot of air through your upper body and supports your chest from leaning on your wrists.  I hadn't put much stock in an adjustable windshield but it not only changes the look of the bike, it also changes its functionality too.  On long rides changes in airflow keep you comfortable and focused.

Windshield up while you're making tracks
on less demanding roads and you're in a
quiet bubble of air that lets you go for miles.
The bike itself seems to manage heat well which the old ZG1000 previous generation Concours 10 I had did not (it used to get stupid hot!).  If stuck in traffic, even over 30°C pavement, the temperature gauge never went above half way and the fans haven't needed to come on yet.  The lack of wind-flow over my legs on hot summer rides may yet be an issue though, the fairings are too good.

The other complexity piece of the C14 that I wasn't sure I was interested in was the digital dash but that too is proving valuable.  I'm no longer guessing what gear I'm in based on revs and road speed so I'm no longer trying to shift into a non-existent 7th gear, which happens often on the Tiger.  Though the 1400GTR revs so low while in 6th/overdrive (3200rpm @ 110kms/hr) that you wouldn't be looking for another gear anyway.

Mileage has been a concern on this smaller-tank/worse mileage than the Tiger bike.  The Kawasaki's 22 litre tank is 2 litres smaller than the Tiger's which also gets 10+ more miles to the gallon.  I'm going to fill up a spare 2 litre gas canister and run the Kawasaki for maximum range a few times to see what this C14 can actually do.  When I fill it up it cheerfully states it'll do 360km to a 22 litre tank which works out to 38.5mpg or 6.1 litres per 100 kms.  The display shows when you're maximizing mileage so a long ride without wringing its neck to see what mileage it can achieve is in order.  If I can get 400kms out of a tank that'll put me up into the mid-40s miles per gallon, which would be a good return on such a heavy, powerful machine.  The range indicator jumps around to the point of being meaningless and then cuts out when the bike gets low and you need it most - not the best user interface there, Kawasaki, but I've heard there may be a wiring hack to stop that from happening.


So, after a 290ish km run up to Georgian Bay and back I'm very happy with the bike's power, which is otherworldly, it's comfort is good but I'm looking at seat improvements.  I've heard other larger riders put peg extenders on so there is a bit less flex in the legs, which might eventually happen.  Many people also put bar risers on them so the bars come towards you a bit more, but I'm finding that I'm able to move myself on the seat to get a more vertical or more sporty riding position depending on what I'm doing, so bar risers aren't on the radar.

I did pick up a spare fuel bottle that fits nicely in the panniers (which take a bit of getting used to for all the keying in and out but are huge and don't affect the bike at speed at all).  Next time I'm on a long ride I'll top the spare bottle up when I top up the bike and then see how far I can push the range.






It was an uneventful ride except for one incident.  Leaving Thornbury harbour the 360 camera fell out of my pocket onto the road.  I pulled over quickly and safely and then ran back to scoop it up off the road.  There was traffic back at the lights in town just starting to move and 3 cyclists riding on the side of the road coming towards me but still some way away.  I ran out to the camera, scooped it up and ran back to the curb and almost took out one of the cyclists who had elected to accelerate towards me rather than giving me space to get off the road.

She yelled, "bike!" and I made a dexterity check that had me dodging around her rather than taking her off the bike.  They kept going but I was left standing there wondering what the thinking was.  You see a guy duck out into the road to pick something up so surely you would ease up a bit and let him do what he needs to do to get out of the way - but not in this case.  From what I've seen of cyclist's approach to sharing the road, I imagine that I'm entirely at fault for that.  It left me shaking my head at their thought processes.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Motorcycle Pick Up on a Budget

I've been calling around trying to find a rental van to arrange a pick up of a Kawasaki Concours C14 in Toronto.  Every rental place in my county tells me they have no vans because they are being rented out by delivery companies during the pandemic.

Last week I took my wife down for a doctor visit and noticed a number of vans at the big U-Haul centre on Speedvale in Guelph.  Using U-Haul's online booking system, I was able to reserve a van for last week and arrange the pickup.

The Speedvale U-Haul centre is a full service depot with many vehicles on site as well as storage.  The staff was spectacularly helpful in making sure I had the right vehicle (the website said I'd be getting a Ford Transit van but they GMCs on site so the guy at the counter went out and measured the openings to make sure it would still fit the bike.  They were also excellent with mask, social distancing and ensuring we had a cleaned and ready to use rental during COVID.

If you default mileage on an 'in-town' van rental the extra mileage'll get you in the end, but if you pre-state your mileage they give you a discount.  All in at the end of the day including insurance and mileage, the bill came out to $138CAD, which is impressive.  I had to put $30 in gas back into it, so the rental piece ended up being just under $170 all in.  Check out was quick and efficient with minimal contact and the return was completely contact free and effortless.

I've been thinking about getting the gear to do pickups myself, but the initial cost is heavy and then the operating costs (poor mileage, heavy vehicle, etc) pile on the costs even more.  If I purchased a tow-capable vehicle and a trailer I'm looking at $40-50k - that would be over 200 bike pickups in the rental van.  I seem to find I need a bike pickup every 1-2 years at the moment.  If I keep doing that until I'm 80 years old, I'll ring up a rental van bill of about $3800, so the I-gotta-get-a-bike-tow-ready-vehicle thing isn't really on my radar any more after this positive U-Haul experience.

I do need a couple of things for next time though.  If you want a U-Haul with the built in ramp you're looking at doubling rental costs and you don't need that space or the headache of navigating traffic with a much bigger vehicle (the van was very easy to thread through Toronto traffic).  I brought the two plastic car ramps I had along with some wood planks to load the bike, but that's not ideal as the van's deck height is pretty up there.  So, here's the list of things-to-get so that a rental van does the trick without any headaches:

Parts For Making Rental Van Motorcycle Moves Easier:

A pair of fold-up ramps would make loading the bike much easier.  These fold up and would hang on the wall in the garage, not taking up any valuable space and are capable of holding even a big bike like the Concours without any issues.

I got lucky this time as the guy I purchased the Concours off had a ramp that did the trick, but next time I'll have my own ready to go.

Cost:  $140


Ratchet Tie Downs:  I tied down the Concours once we got it into the van with nylon rope but there are relatively inexpensive options that would make the tie-down process both more secure and less time consuming.  The Connie was rock solid the way we tied it down (there are ground hoops and wood bolted to the side of the van that you can tie off too, and didn't move a muscle in transport, but for relatively little outlay I could have a set of ratcheting tie-down straps that are both more secure and very easy to set up and break down.

The web of rope got cut when we got home (and we used the bike lift to get the bike out), but with ramps and ratcheting tie-downs the transport would be been a lot easier and secure.

Cost:  $29


A mobile wheel chock: This is a bit of a luxury. The bike stand in the garage has a home-made wooden one but it's heavy and awkward. A lightweight, ride in wheel chock would make tying the bike down secure and easy, and it's easy to transport.

With this one you ride into the chock and it see-saws into position, holding the bike steady while you tie it down.

Cost:  $70


For about $250 I can get the bits and pieces that would make a bike pickup in a rental van a quick, easy and secure process.  This was a good beta-test and I now know what I need to make the next one even smoother.

****

In the meantime, I'm once again a Kawasaki owner, pushing my Team-Green ownership count even higher:

Kawasakis Owned:  4 (Ninja 650, KLX250, Concours ZG1000, Concours14)
Yamahas Owned:  2 (PW80 mini-bike, Eleven Mid-Night Special)
Hondas Owned:  1 (CBR-900RR Fireblade)
Triumphs Owned: 1 (Triumph Tiger 955i)

I've been a fan of Suzuki for years yet never seem to find one that suits what I'm looking for.  Kawasakis always seem to pop out just when I need one that meets my needs, and I enjoy their engineering and working on them.  Their engines especially are something very special.





Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Labour Day Weekend Ride: Georgian Bay

 A 300km round trip up to Georgian Bay and back:


I aimed to get out of the boring straight lines of South West Ontario and over to the Niagara Escarpment as quickly as I could.  I was going to head up Highway 6 but it was packed full of GTA types escaping their pandemic ridden cities, so I angled off in Fergus and took 16 up, which was completely empty.  That would become a theme of the ride.

It took me about an hour to get up to Flesherton, where I made a stop at Highland Grounds for an Americano.  I usually enjoy sitting in there sipping my coffee while sitting on their 70's retro disco red glitter vinyl chairs, but it being the summer of COVID, I ended up drinking my fine coffee by the Tiger on Highway 10 (also packed full of citiots all doing the same thing at the same time, as they do).

While I was standing there I noted the new bicycle shop that had opened up a few doors down.  Ryan Carter, the owner of the new Ryan's Repairs, had some interesting kit out front, including a seventies banana seat bike with a single cylinder engine mounted to it.  I ended up chatting with him for a bit and had a look in his shop.  He'd only been up in Flesherton for a couple of weeks.  If you're up that way and you're interested in bicycles or even just some interesting mechanical engineering, drop in with your Higher Ground coffee and see what's what at Ryan's Repairs.





It was a longer than planned stop in Flesherton, but I eventually finished my americano and then I was off to Beaver Valley.  Highway 10 was bumper to bumper, but I dodged through town and only had a to do a few hundred yards with the sheeple before turning off onto empty country roads again.

Beaver Valley has a fantastic road (Grey County Road 30) that weaves down into it with epic views.  If you hang a right at the bottom and go on the dirt, the ride back up Graham's Hill is intense, particularly so this time as all the recent rain had washed it out leaving a stream cut down the middle of it that was tricky to navigate.  I ended up on the wrong side of it as it cut across the road, but even on my 'it's time for a change but no one has them in stock' Michelin Anakees, I was still able to 

The view out from Graham's Hill lookout was also worth a stop.  I went through there last year in the middle of autumn colours and it burned itself into my memory.  This time around everything was super green, but it's still some interesting geography to ride in our otherwise tedious flatness.

I looped back around to Grey 30 and came back down the hill without a slow mover in front this time before hanging a left and following the road out to Beaver Valley Road and the trek up to Thornbury.  I was there in the early spring but the harbour was closed in the early days of COVID.  I was hoping this time I'd be able to get myself right down to the water's edge.





I guess Beaver Valley Road isn't on everyone's GPS because it was fairly empty.  With a few big, high speed sweepers, it's a nice way up to the bay.  Ontario 26, the road that follows the shore, is evidently on everyone's radar because it was bumper to bumper.  After a brief stop to look at the bay...



... I stopped for gas in Thornbury, but the traffic on 26 was nuts.  Rather than sit in a line to get through
the light for half an hour, I zipped up the side and took a right back inland.  South out through Thornbury and Clarksburg (no traffic), I hung a left on 40 (also empty) and rode directly to Grey County Road 2, which would bring me back over Blue Mountain and into the Grey Highlands.  I'm still at a loss to explain why, when left to their own devices, most people just imitate each other.  I'm not sure what happens in their heads that makes sitting in traffic when they are surrounded by empty road make sense.

The roads south were also pretty empty, though I'm able to dispatch traffic with alacrity on the big 'ol Tiger.  Singhampton arrived in no time.  124 northbound had construction and what looked like a half an hour wait to get through it.  I was heading south then east and bypassed it.  I wouldn't have sat in it in any case.  A better way around would be to zip down Crazy River Road toward Creemore then wind through the hills of Glen Huron, which is exactly what I did.


 The big skies in the hills were getting dark as I headed south.  It was cloudy when I left, but driving north to the bay meant avoiding that rain, now I was riding back into it.  The clouds were ragged as I flew south on 124.


By this point I'd been on the road for about four hours and hadn't stopped since Flesherton, so I figured I'd give River Road from Horning's Mills to Terra Nova a go.  It was closed for construction when I tried it in the spring, so this would be my first ride on it in 2020.  Like everything else in Ontario these days, they've managed to fuck it up.  After construction the entire road is now a 50km/hr zone with community fines doubled signs everywhere.  I really need to move somewhere else.  I get that no one wants idiots ripping up and down the road in front of where they live, but a 50/community safety zone for the entire length of a road that has maybe ten driveways on it over 12 kms?  There must be money in the area.

Fortunately, Terra Nova Public House was open and could squeeze me in for a socially distanced soup between their lunch and dinner service.  The rain finally hit while I was sitting out back.  Big, fat drops splashing into my soup, but it was still fantastic (maple carrot homemade!).  It was a brief shower and it blew over quickly.  I was in and out of TNPH in about 20 minutes, and by the time I came out the road was dry again.  I puttered back along River Road, frustrated at the iron grip of government and then started the burn south west back home.



Blustery winds and ragged clouds north of Shelbourne, then it was down through Grand Valley, following the Grand River home to Elora...


The Tiger ran like a top.  The idle/stall issue seems to be a thing of the past.  It was a nice ride through some changeable weather.  It was also cool enough that I wasn't cooking on the seat, so I felt like I still had a lot in me when I got back.  The trip knocked the Tiger up to only 600kms away from hitting 80k.  It turns twenty years old in 2023, and I like the symmetry of it hitting 100k by then, so that's the goal.  This winter it'll get new shoes (if anyone ever gets Michelin Anakees back in stock again), and a complete service including all bearings and suspension.  It'll get an oil change too if anyone ever has Mobil 1 motorcycle oil back in stock again (finding parts during COVID is an ongoing headache).

I should get well into the 80s before the riding season's done, and then it'll be spa time.



Friday, 21 August 2020

Motorcycle Riding in Ontario: It Was The Worst of Times, It Was The Best of Times

I managed an 800+ kilometre loop through Southwestern and Central Ontario over the weekend.  The ride out and the ride back four days later were distinctly different, though they did have one thing in common:  gravel companies with little regard for public safety.

I began early on Thursday morning hoping to beat the heat, but even a 9am departure had me sweating in humidity fuelled mid-thirties temperatures.  On Fergus/Orangeville Road heading into Orangeville a gravel truck decided to drive into oncoming traffic so he could have a chat with his buddy pulling up on a side road.  He cut it so close the old couple in the Cadillac at the front of our group left ABS intermittent skid marks on the road and almost got rear ended by the guy behind them in an F150 who was too busy texting to notice events unfolding.  This is the second time an employee of Greenwood Aggregates/Construction has been a pain in the ass for us.  Last time it was a fist sized lump of gravel that cost us a $500 deductible to get the windshield replaced in my wife's car.  This time around I was in full-biking-radar-paranoia-mode, so I saw the whole thing unfolding and made myself some space by moving to the shoulder so the guy behind me didn't run me down in the heavy braking.  It'd be nice if the OPP spent a little time observing misdemeanours by Greenwood Aggregate drivers on the Orangeville/Fergus Regional Road 3.  If they can't take other road users' safety into consideration, perhaps they should have their licence revoked.

Rather than continue to enjoy the chaos of the busy-for-a-Thursday-morning regional road, I ducked onto a gravel side road (a benefit of riding the Tiger) and took the back route around to the bypass.  Being clear of traffic, even on loose, recently graded gravel always feels so much better than riding with jumpy, unpredictable pillocks in their boxes.  Bigger the box, bigger the pillock, and these days everyone drives the largest possible thing they can find.

I've been working on the Tiger's recent stalling issue, and thought I had it licked, but it stalled on me after getting gas in Mono Mills in the middle of a highway intersection, so I was on edge.  It did it again while making a left turn off Highway 9.  The key to my survival as a motorcyclist is my ability to respond to traffic quickly with awareness and agility.  A bike dying on me in the middle of an intersection feels the exact opposite as it suddenly makes me vulnerable and immobile; it feels like betrayal.  Some people online have suggested just riding around the issue, but I think that's absurd.  If you're riding something that can leave you dead in the middle of a turn, that's not something to ride around, it's something to fix.

Now truly fraught and soaking in sweat, I pulled over to get my shit together on a tiny side road before getting onto the 400 Highway.  My new COVID normal is to find a shady spot and have a stretch, a comfort break and a drink.  I pulled over onto Side-road 4 which had zero traffic and re-centred myself.  It was a lovely stop in a quiet farming area.  No sound of traffic and only the breeze stirring the trees and corn.  It was a Zen ten minutes that let me get my head on straight again.

The 400 north was surprisingly busy for a late Thursday morning, but was moving at warp speed anyway.  The inside lane was averaging 120km/hr.  I dropped into the flow after passing a cruiser parked under the overpass I used.  I guess he was only looking for people doing 160+.  By now the air temperature was well into the high thirties and the oppressive humidity had it feeling in the forties.  Even at speed on the highway I was always sweating.  I got to Barrie in next to no time only to discover that a single lane reduction at the Essa Road exit meant that the me-first GTA crowd had backed up traffic for 20 minutes because they all have to be first.  Massive trucks and SUVs (few people drive cars in Canada any more) were pulling out onto on ramps and burning to the end before trying to butt in ahead of where they were.  Being Ontario, I couldn't filter through and ended up sitting on sixty degree tarmac for the better part of twenty minutes in stop and go traffic under a relentless sun surrounded by air conditioned cagers who were making it even hotter, with a bike that stalled if I let go of the throttle.

I finally got clear of Barrie and things were once again moving at warp speed, with trucks towing boats passing me at 40km/hr over the limit.  Ontario highways are truly something special; a hybrid of Mad Max and a never ending grocery store line up of the biggest jackasses you've ever met.  But I was now clear of Barrie and Orillia and only had the wide open spaces of the north to look forward to.  I was evaporating sweat so much a cloud was probably forming above me, but at least I was in motion, until I wasn't.

Ten kilometres outside of Gravenhurst traffic came to a sudden stop again.  Why?  Ontario refuses to widen the bypass around Gravenhurst onto Highway 11, and we all know how GTA traffic likes to merge with grace and efficiency, so things had come to a stop, again.  At this point I was deep into fuck-it territory.  My plan to get up to the lovely 118 and cross over the Haliburton Highlands and down to my wife's family's cottage near Bobcaygeon was starting to smolder in a dumpster.  After sitting next to a Shell station for a couple of minutes on baking asphalt, I pulled in and looked at the map.  Oddly, the Tiger was now holding idle.  The ECU learns how to set idle when you reset it with a new fuel map, so maybe the Tiger had learned how to solve its own stalling?  I should be so lucky.

Gravenhurst Traffic
Early Thursday afternoon GTA traffic into Gravenhurst where all the citiots have to all go to the same place at the same time, all the time.  The old fella at the gas station told me it'd be a 40 minute stop and go to get through it on fifty degree tarmac.  Bigger is always better in the cager crowd.  See many cars in there?  Trucks and SUVs, all the better to hit you with while ensuring your own safety!

I had a look at the map and thought that Washago and south around Lake Simcoe and over to Kinmount would at least get me out of attempting a route that thousands of people in giant vehicles from the GTA were plying.  Highway 11 has lots of turnarounds to go south, which I've always found odd until today.  I was quickly able to get on the empty highway south and found myself back in Washago and heading down an empty 169 and then east on an equally empty 45.  The temptation is to say Ontario is under-funding infrastructure, and it is to a degree, but the real issue is the group think in the most overpopulated area of Canada, which I have the misfortune of living near.

Changing my mind on where I was going changed the ride.  I'd been aiming for unfamiliar roads, but that's not something easy to find in summer of pandemic.  The Tiger seemed to have changed its mind too.  At the odd stops at lights it was suddenly idling steadily and the pickup on throttle and vibes at speed felt better than they used to.  I guess the ECU had finally worked out the new fuel map.  I was still dehydrated and cooked, but I was on winding roads with almost no traffic.  Unfortunately, these were the same winding roads I'd taken last month to the cottage.  
I stopped in Kinmount because I'd done that last time and knew they had a public washroom in the park.  After another comfort break and as much water as I could neck, I sorted out the 360 camera and headed toward Gooderham on the 503 for a roller-coaster ride down the 507 and then into the cottage; this was the good bit coming up.

The sun was getting low behind me and I early evening was upon us.  I got to Gooderham just past 5pm and headed south on the 507, the Tiger feeling better than it had in months.  Just south of town I saw the inevitable sign:  CONSTRUCTION.  Unreal.  I'd just busted my hump for hundreds of kilometres of Ontario tedium and the highlight is dug up.

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

After some kilometres of gravel, some of it ankle deep because they're in the middle of resurfacing, I
got back onto the pockmarked but paved 507 and proceeded south.  The long shadows meant the worst of the heat was off me and I soon found myself in Noogies Creek, working my way into some of Ontario's prettiest wilderness.

The 14kms up Bass Lake road goes from two lane gravel fire road to a winding, single lane gravel fire road quickly before ending at the lake.  Ten minutes later I was neck deep in it washing off a day of sweat and frustration.

***



***

Four days later I was saddling up just past 11am for the return trip.  My cunning wife suggesting doing the 118 route backwards on the way home since no one from the GTA would be going that way.  To make it even better, it was a humidity free 22°C on a Monday morning.  The Tiger still had almost half a tank, so I skipped cutting back to Bobcaygeon and headed east toward the 507 on Peterborough Regional Road 36.

I was approaching the turn north on to the 507. Quarry Bay Stone was just up the road and a gravel truck had just pulled out fully loaded and was ramming it up through the gears heading westbound towards the group of traffic I was in.  Bucketfuls of gravel were pouring out of this piece of shit truck as it approached us, bouncing down the road at 150km/hr closing speed.  Remember the Millenium Falcon in the asteroid storm in Empire?   Now I know how the ship felt.  I was lucky to be able to duck behind the truck and car ahead of me.  I imagine both vehicles are looking at body damage and broken windshields.  I got whacked on the shin hard enough to knock my leg off the peg.  That's another win for my awesome, armoured Macna motorcycle trousers.  Not only are they cooler than any other pant I've tried, but they also prevented me from getting a broken shin and/or severe lacerations on my leg.

When I realized how many rocks were coming at me and at such a high speed I put my head down and my new-this-year Roof Desmo RO32 took the impact for me right on the crown.  The rock was big enough to ring my bell, but had I not ducked it would have hit me at neck level, which might have been fatal.  Other sharp bits of gravel clattered off my road side pannier and I got a big scuff on my front fender, but otherwise the Tiger dodged the rocks.  I glanced back to see more bucketfuls of gravel skipping down the road, bouncing off the vehicles behind me.  The road was covered in it.  The next day at home I thought about what happened and came to the conclusion: fuck those guys.  It's their responsibility to operate safely on public roads, and they aren't doing that.  That this happened with two aggregate companies suggests that industry has a real fuck-you attitude to the rest of the citizenry who are using public roads.  It made me angry enough to make an online report with the OPP.  It's two days later and I haven't heard anything, but I'm not holding my breath  They're probably too busy trying to figure out what to do with all their pay raises.


This is one of those things you don't think about so much at the time.  I wasn't bleeding too much and the bike was ok, so I kept going.  I wasn't about to chase the truck down and I was too shocked to pull into the gravel yard.  I would have just flipped out on someone in any case.  Biking requires a sense of inevitability and fate.  You control what you can and live with what you can't.  Glad I did the report though; fuck those guys.

The 507 was virtually empty and cool as I made my way north.  Being a week day I suspected they'd be working on the road and soon enough I came to the edge of the construction.  I had a nice chat with the girl doing traffic control and was soon off.  Since they were laying tarmac they'd just put down a thick layer of sand and gravel, so thick my front tire disappeared into it and the Tiger bucked.  Thanks to recent SMART training my wrist did what it was supposed to do instead of involuntarily grabbing the brakes, which would have been bad.  The Tiger leaned back on its haunches and the Michelin Anakees bit into the loose material and launched us through the wave of loose material.  My feet never even left the pegs and I like to think I looked like I knew what I was doing.  The guy behind me on a Harley wasn't so lucky.  Legs all over the place before he ploughed it to a stop.  He then cut across the road to the tire tracks and then continued slowly up the verge.

The construction was soon behind me and then so was Gooderham.  I'd taken Haliburton County Road 3 to Haliburton a few years ago when I did a birthday ride through Algonquin Park, and knew it was a good one.  It's not as long as the 507, but at least as twisty and in much better shape; it was a thoroughly enjoyable ride through cool, noon-time air with thermoclines down by the lakes that I could both smell and feel.

I got to Haliburton still reading above empty.  This new fuel map was richer and smoother than the stock map, so I'd expected worse mileage, but because I'm not asking for more throttle and what I did use was smooth and effective, my mileage was actually better.  I figured there would be a gas station in Haliburton on the 118, but I passed through and found nothing.  I was far enough out of town that riding back didn't appeal, so I pushed on to Carnarvon figuring there had to be a gas station there as it's at the intersection of two major highways, but there was no gas in Carnarvon either, so I ended up ducking down the 35 to Mindin to get gas as the gauge fell into the red.  I was able to put 19 litres in, so I still had the better part of 5 litres in the tank when I filled up.  I'd have tried for Bracebridge if I'd have had a jerry can with me just to see what the run-to-empty is on the new and improved Tiger.  As it was I was over 400kms into that tank and think I still had another hundred in it (the Tiger has a big 24 litre tank).  That had us rocking a 4.22 L per 100 km / 55.71 mpg consumption figure, which means I'm beating a Prius, and that's without riding for mileage.

Brimming with gas I rode back north to 118 with more vigour than I'd come south.  The Tiger was idling so well I'd forgotten to keep checking on it, and the new fuel map was giving it a spring it had been missing.  Passing a cement truck (front wheel getting light as I wound it up through third) onto the 118, we found ourselves rolling through muskeg and ancient stone as the road took fast sweepers left and right around the Canadian Shield.  At one point a couple had pulled over and were slowing traffic (which was just me) because a snapping turtle was making its way across the highway.  He was a dinosaur amongst dinosaurs.  Easily a forty pounder with a giant, spikey tail.  I'm not sure how old they get (the interwebs say they can approach fifty years old); this was an apex predator snapping turtles.

Having circumnavigated the turtle safely, the Tiger burst off down the road with a snarl.  I saw no traffic until I was within twenty kilometres of Bracebridge.  The 118 twists and turns so much there are few places to pass, so soon enough a pile of us were behind a lovely old couple enjoying their leisurely motoring afternoon in a large American automobile.  I managed to squeeze out a pass on the only broken line and then enjoyed clear sailing all the way in to Bracebridge, which is much bigger than I remember it, looking more like a Toronto suburb with big box stores than the remote Ontario town it used to be.  Maybe it's all our fates to one day be living in identical subdivisions all doing the same things at the same time while staring at the same box stores.

Bracebridge was a bit of a faff, with more lights and traffic than any other part of the trip, then I was clear of it and off to Port Carling.  One of my first long rides on the Tiger was with my son across Ontario when we first got it in the summer of 2016.  Back then we had a great stop at a lovely coffee shop and had chats with lots of people at the local tourism office.  Port Carling is a lovely little town, but COVID has taken its toll.  The coffee shop was gone, and the rest of the place was mostly closed, though this might have been a Monday thing as much as a COVID thing.

I ended up skipping town and stopping COVID-style at an empty side road in the shade for a comfort break and a granola bar and as much water as I could take on.  I'd been hoping for a hot lunch, but hot lunches are few and far between in 2020.

The ride south to Bala was trafficky but moved well.  I'd never taken the 38 west to the 400 out of Bala and was surprised to learn it passes through Mohawk land.  It was a nice ride on interesting roads which I spent mostly behind a couple of native one-percenters (badged vests and all) on Harleys.  They gave me a wave when they pulled over to their clubhouse which was nice, a lot of the too-cool-for-school cruiser types don't bother with the biker wave.

The 400 was what every highway should be:  lite traffic moving like it means it.  Traffic was cruising at 120 in the slow lane.  I flashed south to Horseshoe Valley Road in a matter of minutes.  It was 80kms of quick moving but with zero headaches because I bailed before Barrie.  Horseshoe Valley Road was doing culvert repair (a lot of government COVID support has been going into needed infrastructure updates, which is no bad thing).  It was only about a ten minute wait and I was off again.  I remembered the Strongville bypass and took back roads to Creemore where I made my last stop by the Mad River where it gets its name tumbling down the Niagara Escarpment for the last of my water, then it was the final hour and a bit home, but now I was back in the Tiger's natural hunting range on familiar roads.

Other than being pelted by another anti-social gravel company, it was a lovely ride back.  Mostly empty roads and in much more humane temperatures.  The Tiger ran like a top, not a single stall, and feels like a new thing with its software update.  I'd been having anxiety about it on this trip, but it's a multi-dimensional thing that can do everything from single lane tracks in the woods to superhighways.

I'm back home again for a few days for work conferences (all remote), before we're forced back into classrooms by a government that seems to have no idea what it's doing.  In the meantime though, I have two working bikes in the garage and the rest of the short Canadian riding season to enjoy them.  Life is good.

***

THE MAGIC ISN'T MAGIC

I've got vegvisir (viking runic compass) to prevent getting lost (and survive storms, perhaps including gravel ones), and a modern binding rune for good fortune in travel (the top one).  Online suggested that the modern binding rune doesn't have any real magic in it because it's a modern thing, which I find funny (magic?  really?).

Here's some perverse atheist logic for you: I don't have to believe in these things for them to work.  If they do work and they are why a hail of gravel missed killing me, then I'm annoyed because my technique should have been what saved me, not a rune.  One of the reasons I don't like religious thinking is because it takes success away from you.  I'd rather own my wins and losses directly.

Why would an atheist put runes on their motorbike?  (these are on my hand guards).  I like honouring my norse heritage with the first one, and the fact that I spent a cold winter day hand painting these on there is a form of mindfulness.  Even when I'm not riding, I'm thinking about what's important when out on two wheels:  knowing where I'm going and getting there safely.  These aren't examples of magical thinking, they're examples of psychological discipline... and I didn't get maimed by gravel because of situational awareness and defensive riding techniques.  Unseen magical forces had no more to do with that than they did cause the gravel in the first place.  That kind of thinking is turtles all the way down.