Thursday 30 May 2013

Appliances & Commitment

Car companies use special effects to show what
 their cars can't do.  This only underlines the
absurdity of it all
I'm having trouble enjoying car ads.  I've always loved cars since I was a kid, but when I'm watching ads that show driving a car on the road as some kind of noble physical pursuit I'm finding them impossible to take seriously.  When you factor in the increasing use of special effects to show what the car being sold can't do, it only serves to underline how absurd it is to market the idea of car as a physical extension of the self.  In addition to being dishonest, it isn't how and why the vast majority of people drive.

More than most cars, the Acura RLX can make a claim to be a driver's car.  The end tag line about how amazing things can happen when man and machine connect is where this is beginning to break down for me.  How connected can you possible be to an automatic, climate controlled machine that weighs two tons?  It isn't what you could call an intimate relationship.

GM seems to have gone all in with the special effects.  Their econo-box is a skateboard, robot dogs abound, and the new Corvette can help you battle aliens.  The use of special effects to show what a car can't do (but how it's supposed to make you feel)  is becoming a key part of marketing these transportation appliances.

At the bike course one of our instructors talked about how tiring it is to ride a bike, especially when you're starting out.  We were all sitting there sweaty and tired in the classroom after a couple of hours manhandling bikes around increasingly complicated courses.  He asked us about our commute to the course that morning, what were we doing as we drove our cars?  One hand on the wheel, a foot on the gas?  Listening to the radio?  All in a  controlled environment remote from the road.

Now, he says, think about what you were just doing out there.  One foot on the gear shift, one foot on the rear brake, left hand on the clutch and indicators, right hand on the front brake, both arms steering, using your whole body to lean the bike into corners and resist the wind.  Riding is a calisthenic activity, and it demands much more of your attention because the result of inattention is never just a fender bender.

The only time I've come close to the same experience on four wheels was when I was cart racing in Japan or doing advanced driver training at Shannonville.  Knowing how intense and demanding that kind of driving is helped me a lot in taking the bike course, but it's not how most people will ever drive a car.  To 99.9% of drivers a car is a transportation appliance, a necessary means of getting somewhere; it's why everyone is so attentive and skilled on the road.  You can try and market a person's connection with their car in mystical undertones of human/machine perfection or simply paint it absurd with special effects, but the fact remains: the vast majority of  automotive drivers are in it for the same reason that we buy any appliance: to get a job done we'd rather not do ourselves.

Having ridden for a couple of months now, I'm beginning to see why bike riders tend toward a sense of superiority when it comes to being on the road.  Watching car companies go into graphic detail about how athletic you'll be in your two ton box starts to look absurd when you consider how drab the process of driving a car on public roads actually is; it requires a bare minimum of commitment.

One of the things that strikes me every time I get on the bike is how naked I feel.  I've never looked at the surface of a road so closely, or been so aware of where the painted lines are, or of what the weather is doing, or what condition my bike is in.  I think all riders feel this, even if they don't articulate it.  It's one of the reasons they tend to give each other a wave as they pass by; they are recognizing the commitment to the road that is lacking in appliance drivers.

This isn't to say that driving can't be athletic.  I'm an avid Formula One fan and I think those drivers are some of the finest athletes in the world, a truly balanced blend of physical endurance, strength and intelligence.  But on a public road there is only one form of driving that comes close to that level of commitment, dedication and focus, and it has never been on four wheels, no matter how exciting car companies want to dress up the operation of their appliances.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Carrying Ninja

Getting a hard case with a back rest.  The goal:  

  • To be able to carry the basics and keep them dry while out and about.
  • To offer a backrest to make it easier for my passenger.

  • FZ-series Monorack is designed to add a Givi Monokey or Monolock topcase to your existing tailsection. Rugged black finish.
  • All hardware needed to mount the Givi rack is included. Installs quickly using simple hand tools. No welding or cutting of existing frame or body parts required. Tough black enamel finish with some gray fittings or hardware as applicable.
  • Select a Monolock(M5M) or Monokey(M5) top case mounting plate that will be used on the FZ445 when ordering for the related products. No Plate is included you need to add it to the cart.

    The Givi FZ445 toprack may be used alone or with the Givi PLX445 side rack (for PLX sidecases ONLY).


  • Designed for scooters and low-powered motorcycles.
  • Capacity of 30 liters, enough to hold a full face helmet.
  • It comes with a universal plate and mounting kit.
  • Maximum load capacity of 3 kg.

  • Note: Notice the body of the case does not change colour. It is just the lid section that will have the colour change.


  • Turn your E300 Tour Case into a comfortable rest spot for your passenger with this Givi E103 Backrest.
  • Made of thick polyurethane, this backrest will hold up in the elements and provide comfort to all motorcycle and scooter passengers.
  • Sold each.
  • Long lasting material.

  • $45


    Givi-E300 Monolock Case, 30 Liter
    $CAD 98.99$CAD 98.99

    Givi-Backrest for E300 Monolock Case
    $CAD 44.99$CAD 44.99

    Givi-Topcase Rack (Kawasaki Ninja 650R / ER6F, '06-'08)
    $CAD 79.99$CAD 79.99
    Rebate Coupon: 
    Total : $CAD 223.97

    Tuesday 28 May 2013

    Hot Gear

    After getting the basic gear and riding as soon as snow was off the road, I'm now wondering how the summer will go. I've been wearing jeans when I ride in to work, but they aren't particularly comfortable, though they are cooler than the bike pants I got on sale.  Those pants, other than a zip up the side, are solid with no venting.  They're great on a frosty April morning and they are nice and wind proof, but the thought of putting them on in a thirty-five degree summer day is daunting.  I didn't even need the liner in them when it was 5°C, I can't imagine when anyone would need that liner (riding in a snow storm?).

    Now that I'm getting a sense of what sort of kit I'm in need off (I tend to be warm by nature, so cooler is always better) cooler gear is what I'm looking for.

    I get the sense that the super touring pants (the kind you see on TV) offer a kind of cooling that my cheaper ones can only dream of.  I wish I could get my hands on a pair of the super pants and see just how good they are, but they are expensive and no local retailer in Southern Ontario seems to have any on shelves.  My only option to buy is online, sight unseen, and that makes me uneasy when you're buying a pair of pants for upwards of three hundred dollars.

    My ideal pants would have armor where you need it and lots of ventilation up and down the legs and in the seat.  They would also be a light colour so they reflect heat as well.  The Olympia pants (below) seem like a solid choice, but again, I'm only able to go off the description online, and that's a lot of money to sink into a best guess.

    I like the monochromatic Star Wars
    Storm Trooper look
    , but the jacket
    adds a nice splash of colour...
    I was in Toronto recently and stopped by Cycle World in Scarborough.  They actually had the Alpinestars S-MX 1 boots in white there, so I tried them on.  Nice, light weight, low cut boots that breathe well, but for some reason they are $40 more if I drive over to Scarborough to pick them up, so I didn't.  At least I've tried them on and have a tactile idea of how they feel.  I'd have been happy to pick them up right then, if they weren't so price inflated.

    I'm still happy with the Joe Rocket jacket I got.  It fits well, has a removable liner (which I've had out for a month now).  With the liner in and a sweater on, I'm toasty and windproof.  With the liner out and the vents open, I need only get moving to cool off.

    The Zox helmet I got is working well, though the wind noise is something I'll address in my next helmet.  In the meantime, I'm loving the swing up face, the drop down sunscreen and the inside of the helmet is very comfortable.  For the money, I don't think I could have gotten a better lid.

    Having the right kit on does a couple of things for me.  It puts me in the mindset to ride, and makes me feel like I'm ready for it.  Windproof clothing is worth its weight in gold when you're up at speed.  If you've never tried it, you'll be amazed at what you've been missing.  Being comfortable while riding is an important part of having your head on straight and avoiding problems.  So many people tend to ignore the gear you need to ride well, which is a shame, because with the right stuff, you're likely to get out and do it much more often.

    My next purchase?  Then I hope I'm ready to ride in the heat... from CANADA's MOTORCYCLE

    Saturday 25 May 2013

    M2: Double the Fun

    I got my M2 yesterday, which means I'm off double secret probation and able to ride at night, double people and/or go on the big highways.  Two hours after I got my M2 I took the bike over to my eight year old's school and drove him home on it.  It was a nice, leisurely ride through town.  He hasn't been able to talk about much else since.

    Just like Nana used to drive:
    The Isetta 3 Wheeler
    One of our instructors at the motorbike course wasn't a fan of taking passengers.  To him it defeated the point of the whole experience; a singular, tight bond between rider and bike, and a chance to be alone with your thoughts.  I think that's an important part of biking, but I'm digging being able to share the feel of riding with my son.  To that end, I'm thinking about the options available.  The idea of a big touring bike doesn't really thrill, but in the antique and adventure bike arenas there are a lot of options.

    I've got a thing for asymmetrical vehicles.  My Nana had a three wheeler when I was growing up in Norfolk. I loved that car, the door was the whole front end, and she looked so cool driving it.

    Royal Enfield Bullet Classic
    When I was a kid I also saw my share of Morgan Aeros, and the new Morgan 3 scratches that same itch.  Bikes have a long tradition of three wheeling too.  I've always thought the sidecar look was classic cool.  When I discovered that one of the premier vintage side car shops (Old Vintage Cranks) is only 20 minutes away from me in Hillsburgh, I could see me getting something from them in the future.

    They also happen to be a Royal Enfield dealer, so I could get a classic look with modern parts!  With that bike a sidecar is almost a necessity!  OVC is the place to get that done.  A Royal Enfield Bullet Classic in blue with a matching classic side car would be an awesome way to share the open feel of riding with my family.

    I think there will always be a place in the stable for a two wheeler, but it's nice to have a not crazy-expensive option like the RE Bullet and sidecar sitting there waiting for a tear down the road.  Cool chrome riding goggles and classic leather gear would be the accessory of choice.

    At the moment I'm finding the Ninja to be a great first bike.  It's athletic, sounds wonderful and is always rearing to go.  With my son on the back I feel the weight, especially on the shocks.  Something with longer suspension travel, like that KLR I originally considered, would also allow for a better two person ride.  A KLR with luggage means I'm less worried about him flying off too, something the twitchy Ninja seems eager to do.

    Now that I can do pretty much everything you can do on a bike on the road, the perfect bike isn't one bike.  I'd eventually want an enduro that can go anywhere, a road specialist, and something odd-ball, like that classic bike and sidecar combo.  At the moment my dream stable is a Triumph Tiger 800 adventure bike, a Triumph Street Triple naked road bike and that whacky classic with sidecar.  Being able to open the garage and see those three sitting there would mean all options are on the table... and the three together still cost less than a new mid-sized SUV.

    Road Specialist
    Triumph Street Triple
    Enduro Go Anywhere Bike
    Triumph Tiger 800

    Tuesday 21 May 2013


    Nothing like a bit of media making on your ride.  This video is courtesy of a GoPro Hero electrical taped to the rear right passenger foot peg looking out over the back wheel.

    The route is 60 kms through Elora, Arthur and Fergus.  It ended up being 51 minutes of footage, but I clipped it down to 12 minutes so it would fit on the youtubes.

    The vehicle of choice is a 2007 Kawasaki 650R Ninja.

    Here's the video!  That GoPro takes mighty nice footage, even at higher speeds...

    Running electrical tape over the camera 4 or 5 times kept it securely in place for the whole ride and came off afterward without leaving any tape marks.  Putting it on the right side passenger foot rest means it was just above the muffler, so you can hear the engine clearly and wind noise wasn't too bad because it was behind the fairing and my leg.  Having it on the frame rather than the suspension means that it doesn't bounce around as much as it otherwise would.

    If I ever get some time on a race track, I'm totally taping a GoPro on for a few laps.

    Sunday 12 May 2013

    Viking Biking: Motorbiking beyond The Wall

    I'm day dreaming about another exotic ride:  Iceland!

    On the left is Isafjordur!

    Below is what it's all about, vikings, mountains, ocean, wilderness!

    How about a two week motorbike drive around Iceland, much of it off road on mountainous trails around fjords and past volcanoes?  Hot springs, aurora borealis, and some of the most remote, beautiful riding you can imagine.

    Iceland has a ring road, but the smaller coastal roads offer an even more remote riding opportunity.  2300kms in 15 days.  Time to stop, take diversions and find the road less travelled.
    Iceland!  2300kms around the island!
    A bit of research uncovered Viking Biking in Reykjavik.  So we fly in to Keflavik International Airport and cab it to Reykjavik.  There at Viking Biking we get outfitted in true Long Way Round fashion on BMWs and hit the fjords.

    Viking Biking suggests a 7 day circumnavigation, but I think I'd go for 15 days on a BMW F800GS, though going whole hog on Charlie and Ewan's R1200GS would be a blast too.

    Fjord roads!
    Most parts of this trip look beyond epic, but with whole sections that trace fjords around rugged coast, this would be some truly unforgettable riding.  That's without considering the stops at hot springs, volcanoes and the stunning wildlife in these remote locations.

    Budget & Planning

    17 day trip (one day coming in, one day coming out, 15 days on the road)
    Depart:  August 20, arrive Aug 21

    Tue. Aug. 20 (Arriving Aug. 21) Toronto, ON to Reykjavik, Iceland
    Toronto (YYZ) to Boston (BOS)
    Depart 4:25pm  Arrive 6:00pm
    Layover: Boston (Logan Intl.) 3h 0m
    Boston (BOS) to Reykjavik (KEF)
    Depart 9:00pm  Arrive 6:00am +1 day
    Duration: 5h 0m
    Total trip time: 9h 35m | 4,608 km
    • 1 day in Reykjavik, check in at Viking Biking, prepare for early departure on the 22nd
    • Aug 22 early to Sept 5th (15 days) return bikes Sept 5th afternoon
    • Sept 5-6th morning: R&R in Reykjavik and fly home
    Return: Sept 6th

    Fri. Sep. 6 Reykjavik, Iceland to Toronto, ON
    Reykjavik (KEF) to Boston (BOS)
    Depart 10:30am  Arrive 12:05pm
    Duration: 5h 35m
    Layover: Boston (Logan Intl.) 2h 15m
    Boston (BOS) to Toronto (YYZ)
    Depart 2:20pm  Arrive 4:03pm
    Duration: 1h 43m
    Total trip time: 9h 33m | 4,608 km

    Bike Rental for 15 days: $2400

    Airfare Toronto to Reykjavik: $1000 return

    Hotels: $150/night for 16 nights, $2400

    Sundry: $1400

    TOTAL:  ~ $6900 solo (cheaper per person if travelling in a group with shared accommodation)

    I think I'd have to do at least a bit of this dressed for Game of Thrones!

    Wednesday 8 May 2013

    Going Places

    The first real cross country trip
    I've been going out on local jaunts, no more than an hour out and back again.  Last weekend I did my first cross country trip, actually going somewhere.  A Saturday trip from Elora to Ancaster for an education conference.  75 kms each way and well out of my right around the house roads.

    The ride down was a bit awkward.  It was cool, but I went light knowing that it was getting hotter later in the day.  After about half an hour on the bike I realized that I was tense all over, not the best approach to riding.  I made a point of unclenching and trying to go for alert and relaxed.

    I got there early, elated, and a bit cold,
    the Starbucks on tap helped
    The ride had a lot of firsts: my first passing of another vehicle, my first time on a divided, multi-lane highway and my first time on non-local, unfamiliar roads.  I stopped a couple of times to make adjustments and to stretch.  That unclenching thing is perhaps the best thing I learned.  Rather than gripping the handlebars, I started holding them more loosely, which stopped the fingers from stiffening up.  I also made a point to move around a lot on the bike, sometimes getting down behind the windshield and out of the blast, other times sitting up into it.

    The ride ended uneventfully with me pulling in to the school parking lot early and parking next to another teacher I'd been talking bikes with the week before.  I was able to drop my gear in an office in the school and enjoyed the gathering.  Showing up to something like this after a bike ride has you full of oxygen and feeling energized, it's a nice way to start the day.

    Sulfur Springs Road out of Ancaster
    I left from downtown Ancaster in late afternoon.  The temperature was about fifteen degrees warmer than it had been, but the nicest surprise was stumbling across Sulfur Springs Road as I was mapping my way out.  This was five kilometers of decidedly un-Ontario curvy road.  I got my gearing wrong on almost all of it, but it was nice to wind my way through.  If you're down Hamilton way, I'd highly recommend it.  There are some really nice, old pubs on Ancaster's main street as well, which was the only time I regretted riding the bike (no Guinness for me).

    The ride back was beautiful.  Warm but not hot, sunny, but I wasn't riding into it, mostly empty roads, and the ride down had shown me a couple of ways not to get too tense while in the saddle for a long time.  If you can stay loose, you'll be more aware of what's going on around you and be better able to respond to it.  If that's a 150 kilometer trip then I think I could squeeze out 100km bursts four or five times in a day with breaks between quite comfortably.  On a more comfortable bike (the Ninja is a little high strung), I'd do a couple of tanks (about 160 miles to a tank on the Ninja) a day and feel like I'm covering miles well without pushing hard.  That puts me well over 500kms a day on two tanks (about thirty bucks worth of premium gas).

    Back over the 401 on my way back I came upon a multi-vehicle accident with ambulances tearing away with lights and sirens and several police and fire/emergency units on hand.  The wrecked vehicles were both SUVs... those things just aren't safe, especially when one runs a four way stop and broadsides another one.  Many people were very anxious about my riding down to this thing.  I wonder how many worried about making the trip in SUVs.

    I'm suspicious of anyone in a car when I'm on the bike, but I find that bleeding over into when I'm in a car too.  I'm beginning to think anyone who wants to drive a car should have to do a year on a bike first, it'd give them some much needed humility, and an opportunity to appreciate the physics of driving without being isolated in a metal box.