Sunday 14 December 2014

Variations on a Theme

Trying some variations on the blog logo.  It'd be a nice idea to include the bike of the moment in the logo as way of showing when it was written.  The first logo has the 650r Ninja in it:

Now that I've got the Concours sorted, I'm trying out some headers with Connies in them:

Some more updates since and a new bike came along...

Saturday 13 December 2014

Connie's Ready For Some Miles

It hasn't been easy, but then that was kind of the point.  The leaking engine on the field-found '94 Kawasaki Concours seemed like it would never stop dripping, but it finally has.  I've learned a lot in the process and become familiar with the layout of the bike.

The previous owner rode around with the fairing off.  The abuse to the bottom end of the engine from road debris cost me an oil cooler.  I tried to get it repaired through the metal shop at our school, but it turned out not to be an easy fix.  I eventually gave ebay a try purchasing a replacement oil cooler through Pinwall Cycle Parts.  I'd highly recommend them.  The cooler I got off a '97 was in fantastic shape, got to me very quickly and cost 1/8th what a new one does.

With the bottom end sorted out it's time to look to the fairings.  The bike has been dropped on one side, and the fairings need some TLC.  With the fairings sorted the bike should be ready to go come the end of the snows.

That's a new-to-me oil cooler that works like a charm

The rest of the bottom end has been cleaned up... no drips now.

Monday 1 December 2014

Motorbike Wants

I've been re-watching Jo Sinnott's Wild Camping.  That Roof Helmet she wears looks fantastic.  It's a French designed, multiple function helmet with a fighter pilot vibe.  The Desmo Flash in Orange and black gets itself on my want list.

ROOF Desmo Flash from Canada's Motorcycle:  $550

I've heard a lot about Aerostich.  It started when I read Melissa Holbrook Pierson's The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing.  For serious long distance riders, the Aerostich is pretty much the only choice.  Armoured, weatherproof and virtually bullet proof, it'd be nice to have the last word in motorbiking overalls, but they don't come cheap.

Aerostich Roadcrafter Classic:  $1014 
(Black Friday deal! usually $1127!)

I'm hanging in for a fix on the oil cooler on my new-to-me, found-in-a-field Kawasaki Concours, but what I'd really like is a new one.  They aren't cheap, I'm looking at about $500 with shipping and customs costs - which is only a couple of hundred less than I bought the bike for.  I could pick one up from ebay used for about sixty bucks delivered, but it might not be much better than the one I have.

$500 new - not going to happen. Han would never by a new part for the 'Falcon.  I'm going to aim for the $70 delivered used bit and see how it goes.

Thursday 27 November 2014

The Shiny New Kawasaki Versys

I've always had a soft spot for the ugly-duckling Kawasaki Versys.  I've even suggested that it be the first bike to ride coast to coast to coast in Canada when the Dempster Highway is finished.  The Versys points to a time when bikes weren't styled and marketed to a genre.

The new Versys is no ugly duckling, and I'm looking forward to throwing a leg over it at shows this winter.  I'm also hoping that Kawasaki Canada will put this bike out there as a viable alternative to other light-weight / multi-purpose bikes.  An adventure bike doesn't need to be some off-road inspired, knobby tired monster, and the Versys could be that swiss-army knife of a bike.

My first experience with the 650 Versys was less than stellar.  I suspect a lot of that had to do with how much the Versys felt like my Ninja.  I'm not looking for hard suspension and a purely road focused bike with the Versys, I'm looking for something more flexible.  I'm hoping that the new bike offers the kind of clearance, suspension travel and all-round usefulness that the old one lacked.  That it offers much more leg room and a less road bike inspired stance is a great start.

The adventure bike-set seems to have a lock on the all-purpose motorcycle at the moment, but there was a time when multi-purpose motorbikes weren't duck-billed monsters.  The Kawasaki Versys could reinvent that pre-adventure bike ideal of a multi-purpose machine without the big nose.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Finally Putting The Ninja To Bed

That's one clean Ninja! And the water isn't solid outside today.
We got swamped with snow and very cold weather early this year, but we're enjoying a thaw now.  It's finally given me the chance to clean up the Ninja and put it to bed for the winter.  I fear I've been neglecting the Ninja while the Concours demands attention, but leaving it goopy over the cold months wouldn't do it any good, and it really cleans up pretty.

Once I get a bead on the oil cooler situation, I'm hoping to get the Concours back in shape and then begin working on the fairings and paint.
I picked up a metal, vintage Triumph sign for the garage.

After a wash and some lubrication, the Ninja's ready for bed.

Meanwhile the Concours is still oil cooler-less.  I'm waiting to
see if our machine shop teacher can seal the crack in the banjo bolt housing.

Friday 21 November 2014

Motorbike media bits and pieces...

I came across some motorcycle media recently that is a nice diversion if you're suffering from PMS. has a series of motorcycle short documentaries that will keep you rolling on two wheels, even if it's vicariously.

The Women's Motorcycle Exhibit video led me to the site;  much better than the floozy on a bike photography you usually see.  There is nothing sexier than a strong, capable woman riding a bike (as opposed to a skinny model draping herself on one).

The other shorts were all new to me except for Long Live The Kings, which has since spawned The Greasy Hands Preachers.  The reviews for that film have suggested that it's a shallow but pretty look at current motorbike customization trends.  I was hoping for something that plumbs the depths like Matt Crawford's Shopclass As Soulcraft (a must read),  but it evidently isn't that, though I'm still looking forward to seeing it.

I also found Brittown, a documentary about Meatball, a master mechanic and Triumph motorbike connoisseur out of California.  It's a genuine look at a genuine fellow.  You'd be hard pressed to find any hipster bullshit in this video.

I also completed the set.  Having already seen Faster and Fastest, I was finally able to see The Doctor, The Tornado and The Kentucky Kid, the middle Motogp video in the trilogy.  It's a close look at a single race at Leguna Seca.  The phoned in interviews are a bit low-rent, but the drama is as engaging as ever.  If you want to get into Motogp, these videos will give you the background you need to get right into next season.

In the meantime, the mighty Austin Vince put out Mini-Mondo, another motorbike short (poem!) that (hopefully) gets you out on two wheels and seeing what's around you:

We're buried in snow in mid-November and thoughts of riding are weeks behind me now, but at least the media I'm finding keeps the two wheel dreaming alive.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Niagara Escarpment

I've been chased off the road by lousy weather, so the dream trips begin again (it's a form of therapy).

The Niagara Escarpment
Since moving to Southern Ontario when I was nine, I've had a fascination with the Niagara Escarpment.  There are a couple of parks (Rockwood & Rattlesnake Point) that featured prominently with my younger years; I learned to rock climb at Rattlesnake Point.

When I got my driver's license and couldn't handle the tedium of arrow straight Ontario roads any more I'd drive up to Belfountain (where I got married years later) and drive the Forks of the Credit.  When I got my motorcycle license, one of the first long trips I ever took was to a conference in Ancaster where I was introduced to Sulphur Springs Road, one of the first times I got that feeling of flying while riding.

Southern Ontario is surrounded by interesting geology, but the only
thing that breaks up the monotony around here is the Escarpment
Last year I took a ride out to Horning's Mills, one of the prettiest places I've ever wanted to live and road River Road down through Mono Hills (somewhere else I've looked at houses).  All of these places happen to trace the spine of the escarpment.  

Geological scars have always fascinated me, I think the energy coming out of the ground in these places is palpable; the Escarpment is one of those places.

I usually design trips that go long or take me to exotic place, but this one is a close to home and very doable trip.  The Escarpment enters Ontario just below Niagara Falls at the Queenston Heights (where I attended my wife's cousin's wedding).  Starting there, I'd trace the Escarpment through Niagara wine country and past my wife's alma mater (Brock University).  A logical first stop would be on the turn around Hamilton in Ancaster.  Day One would be only about 100kms, with lots of stops and turns up and down the Escarpment.  Passing through the rows of grapes, we may end up testing the carrying capacity of our rides.
Day 2 would mark the swing north, starting with Sulphur Springs road and winding through Rattlesnake Point and The Forks of the Credit before parking it up for the night at The Millcroft Inn in Alton.  This one's about 120kms as the crow flies, but includes a lot of switchbacks again.  Pulling in early at the Millcroft spa is never a bad idea anyway.

After a restful night at The Millcroft we head north past my wife's childhood home in Mono Hills and up to Horning's Mills before tracing River Road and heading north to the bottom of Georgian Bay.  Blue Mountain looks like a nice place to stop.  This is another 120km day, but with a lot of room for exploration and switchbacks.

Day four has us tracing the shore of Georgian Bay for 150kms on increasingly quieter roads as we head away from the noise of the Golden Horseshoe.  We'd aim for Wiarton to stop for the night before tackling The Bruce Peninsula on the final day.

It's tricky following the Escarpment up the Bruce Peninsula, road access is spotty at best.  If we try to hit every bit of coast we're looking at over 200kms of riding.  Many roads don't appear to join up on the map but might in real life, it'll be an exploratory day of trying to find the wild edge of the Bruce.

The trip ends in lovely Tobermory.  If we left on a Monday we'd be in Tobermory by Friday night.  The goal wouldn't be miles covered, but rather how much of the Escarpment could we ride.  Relatively known roads like Forks of the Credit might get company from some Escarpment roads that only locals know of (like River Road out of Horning's Mills).
The Niagara Escarpment Run
Without any highways or long distance hauling, this begs for a light touch as far as gear
goes.  The bikes would be minimally laden.  In a perfect world I'd do this with my wife and two friends from Ottawa.  Considering the nature of the trip, I'd be tempted to try and do this zero emission.  The Zero DS with the power tank would easily cover the mileage requirements every day and be able to charge overnight at each stop.
It would even be able to handle the ride from Tobermory home at the end of the trip in one gulp.

The Bruce Trail runs along the Escarpment, which itself is a world biosphere reserve.  Being able to ride the escarpment without a whiff of CO2 not only honours the biosphere, but also points to a future of environmentally gentler motorbiking.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Peaks & Aerodynamics

This might be a n00b question, but I'll ask it anyway:

Why do dualsport/off road helmets have those giant peaks on them when road helmets don't?

Do they serve some sort of purpose? I'd think having a peak that could catch on things when you come off would be a bad idea, and you'd come off much more often when you're riding off pavement, wouldn't you? 

Wouldn't having a big peak on a helmet catch wind and tire you out on the road as well?

I just watched Ewan and Charlie do their Long Way Round and noticed the big peaks on their helmets and wondered why they wore those when they could have had something more aerodynamic and safe.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Bike Hole 2.0

With some shed-age, I've been able to move the gardening stuff out of the bike hole.  With a bit of re-arrangement I've got plenty of space for the Connie and the Ninja.  Being able to park bikes wall to wall means I have more space for more bikes!

Voracious Reader: Canadian Motorcycle Magazines

With riding coming to an end in the Great White North I'm looking more closely at motorcycle media to sustain me through the long, dark cold.  Some magazines have already made the cut and are a sure thing when it comes to subscribing.  

The first one I found was Cycle Canada: a local, opinionated and well written magazine that has no interest in editorial-beige.  They tend toward the no-holds barred British writing approach.  I subscribe to both BIKE and Performance Bike for that approach (though PB has enough grammar problems that I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously).

Cycle Canada is a joy to read, it's just hard to get a hold of.  I tried to renew my subscription in the summer and the publishing company couldn't get their website to work, which happens.  I tried again weeks later and it still wasn't working.  Being told to phone it in doesn't cut it in 2014 (I don't like giving credit card info over the phone).  You have to wonder what's going to happen to a media company that can't make basic internet functionality work in the 21st Century.

I ended up going through Roger's Magazine subscription service in July in an attempt to get my mits on CC, it's the end of October and I haven't seen a magazine yet.  Cycle Canada?  Great magazine, but pretty hard to get your hands on.

The other Canadian magazine I've got a lock on is Motorcyle Mojo.  I think of it as the Canadian version of Rider Magazine (the only US magazine I'm subscribed to).  Excellent layouts and photography (which feel like an afterthought in CC), original travel pieces and knowledgeable editorials.  The writing isn't as edgy as CC, but Motorcycle Mojo knows what it's talking about and presents it well.  They also know how to run a website and communicate really well with their subscribers.

Two on the cusp are Inside Motorcycles and Canadian Biker Magazine.  I got both as a present, but I'm not sure if I'll keep them going.  IM did an article this month on the Polaris Slingshot.  Apart from sounding like an advertisement, it also kept calling the three wheeler "unique".  One of the first cars I ever rode in in England in the early 1970s was my grandmother's three wheeler.  I suspect Morgan would dispute the gee-wiz uniqueness of the Slingshot as well.  You can't be expected to know everything, but if you're going to write on a vehicle, doing a little research would prevent you from calling the rehash of an idea that's been around since the birth of motor vehicles, "a whole new class of vehicle."  Lazy writing like that is what'll stop me renewing that subscription.

At the same time Canadian Biker Magazine had an editorial by Robert Smith that not only demonstrated a deep and nuanced understanding of the history of three wheelers, but also accurately and incisively deconstructed why this type of vehicle can never let you experience flying in two dimensions like a motorcycle does.  This kind of knowledgeable and opinionated writing is what would keep me re-upping that subscription.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Concours Oil Cooler Leak

Now that I've had a chance to run the Concours a bit and got some fresh oil in it I've discovered the first mechanical problem.  Oil is running from the oil cooler at the front of the motor.  It looks localized around the oil lines coming out of the oil cooler.  I'm hoping it's the gaskets highlighted (GASKET 14X19.5X1.4 11009-1461).  They're only a couple of bucks each and they might even be a standard size that I don't have to go all the way down to the dealer for.

With the fairings off I had a look around the rest of the engine now that it's been run a bit and everything else looks tight and dry.  With luck some cheap gaskets and re-torqued oil lines will mean a mechanically able Concours that's ready for the road.

You can see the wet oil line connectors at the bottom - fortunately that seems to be the leak.
There is no trace of oil higher up.
Connie with her skirts off again...

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Dirt or Adventure?

I was out in the woods this past Canadian Thanksgiving and couldn't help but look at the mad logging roads we'd travelled down and wonder what they'd be like on two wheels.  I'm also considering a starter off-road bike for my son, so having something I could ride along with him would be awesome.

I've actually ridden into the cottage on the Ninja.  It was surprisingly surefooted on the winding gravel lanes, but with a capable dual purpose bike I could head off the roads and onto the trails and not be terrified about dropping it.

I'd initially focused on the KLR650 as a dual sport, off road capable two wheeler, but if off-roading is going to be a major part of what this bike is purchased for then weight is a key factor.  The Suzuki DRZ-400S is over 100lbs lighter while offering a better power to weight ratio.  It's a smaller machine and $500 more expensive, though I don't find smaller necessarily worse since I'm an Austin Vince fan.  With no fairing whatsoever it'll be all wind while riding whereas the larger KLR would cover road speeds better, though no fairings means less broken plastic when it's dropped.  Both machines have off-road sized tall seats and feel well sized for me.  After seeing a DRZ last summer I was surprised at how much presence it had, it's a mighty fine looking machine.

Both are single cylinder, simple machines, but you get the sense that the Suzuki has been updated more often whereas the KLR proudly wears its 20 year old tech on its sleeve.  The DRZ also dresses as a supermoto street bike and has a plethora of go-faster kit.  KLR extras seem to revolve around repairing basic engineering issues with this old design.

I guess a choice between the two would come down to what the bike would be used for.  If covering distances in more of an adventure bike way is the goal, the KLR is a first step into that world.  If I'm looking for an off-road machine that'll carry you to those places, then the DRZ seems a better choice.

Two very different approaches to riding off the pavement.