Tuesday 25 February 2014

2014 Toronto Motorcycle Show

A ninety minute drive down to the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE in Toronto got us to the 2014 Toronto Motorcycle Show.  Having been to our first motorcycle show in January, it was interesting to note the differences here.  The TMS is much more focused around manufacturers.  I complained that only Harley-Davidson and Kawasaki showed up to the 'supershow' in January, but at this one all the major manufacturers were present.

What else was different?  The Supershow at the International Centre in Mississauga meant free parking and a discount on admission, my son and I were inside for about twenty bucks.  The TMS has you ante up $14 to put your car somewhere and then $17+$12 to get inside... it ain't cheap.  Once you're inside it's significantly more focused and dense, mainly because there are so many manufacturers present.  The Supershow had many more stalls of local equipment vendors and clubs, it had the feel of a bike motorbike jumble and it was HUGE; we walked for hours and missed an entire hall.

One show wasn't better than the other, but they feel like very different events.  My son greatly enjoyed the trials bike show at the TMS, and having space out back to show bikes in motion was a nice thing we didn't see at the Supershow which seemed more like a sales focused event.

I'd said Kawasaki and HD were outstanding for being the only manufacturers to show up at the Supershow.  At the TMS it came down to who took the time.  Suzuki seemed entirely disinterested, Honda was absent though with lots of bikes to sit on, as were many of the other manufacturers.  

I don't doubt they all hire people or bring them in from dealers for this sort of thing, and we were there on the morning of the last day of the show, but BMW went above and beyond.  They not only took the time to talk to me but also made my son really happy with some stickers and a poster, nicely done BMW.  If you're going to put on a public face at a show like this, exhausted, disinterested staff isn't the way to go.

As a new rider I'm still getting a feel for manufacturers.  I'd add BMW to Kawasaki and Harley Davidson as manufacturers who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that your riding experience is exceptional.  This is anecdotal, but it's still my experience.  HD and Kawasaki were both at the TMS in force and were once again very customer focused.

Triumph was there and I have a soft spot for such a successful manufacturer from my homeland, but once again the people on the stand were harrowed and indifferent, at least I managed to get a poster!

I had a nice chat with the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group and look forward to eventually owning an old bike and becoming a member, they seem like nice people.

The Toronto Motorcycle Show isn't cheap, but it is dense with opportunities to sit on many bikes (though not KTMs), and see some fantastic trials demonstrations.  Some manufacturers are more present than others, and I'd head over to BMW, Kawasaki and Harley Davidson if you want some quality customer service.

Here are some other pictures from the event:


Thursday 20 February 2014

The Motorbike Show & Wild Camping

I've been consuming motorcycle media at a voracious rate while we're buried alive in snow.  You probably know about the obvious stuff like Long Way Round, but I've been trying to find less known (in North America) faire.  Here is a quick list of some off-the-beaten track stuff that you might not have seen from Great Britain:

ITV's The Motorbike Show:  Henry Cole of World's Greatest Motorcycle Rides fame does reviews of motorcycle culture focusing on racing, restoring and interviewing people involved in motorbiking.  I've really enjoyed this show, I wish it got more attention here in North America.

Wild Camping by Jo Sinnott is an epic journey from Ireland to Portugal through the best parts of Europe.  Jo takes you wild camping while travelling on her Triumph Bonneville.  If you're interested in long distance riding, Jo not only shows you through the rough camping ethos but also looks into the mindset you need to survive a long road trip.

ITV and Travel Channel UK represent motorcycle and travel culture on the leading edge. I only wish they were more available in North America.  OLN?  Speed Channel? Pick these up!

Monday 17 February 2014

Dream Project Motorbikes

Some dream project bike builds...

Stock (before)

1970s Honda CB750 Cafe Racer Mod

I'd take the standard CB750, strip it down, refinish it and modify it into a cafe racer along the lines of this Dime City Cycle build.

I'd modernize the pieces that need modernizing.  This isn't a period remake, it's about creating something new with old bones.

A cafe racer build (after)
The CB750 that Dime City put together gives you an idea of what could be done in customizing an old CB750, but I'd do something different.

I'd hope to be able to pick up the bike for less than a couple of grand and then put at least that much into it again as I stripped it and put together a personally customized cafe racer.  The CB is a big bike, which would turn into a bike cafe racer for a big guy.

Being Austin - build my own Mondo Enduro Machine

Austin on his mighty Suzuki DR350
Find a Suzuki DR-350 or DR-400, hopefully one that's been sleeping in a barn somewhere, clean off the straw and strip it down to nuts and bolts.  

In rebuilding it I'll not only end up with a dependable long distance off roader, but I'll also have laid hands on the entire thing before it inevitably breaks somewhere far from anywhere, meaning I'll know how to get it going again.

Long distance and modernizing modifications would include a long range tank, updated suspension and an engine rebuild with performance carbs and a re-bored engine. 
Find a 1990s DR350 Suzuki dual sport
bike and prep it for long distance off
road work, Mondo Enduro-ize it!

The goal would be a minimalist go-anywhere machine that isn't all about branding.  So many adventure bikes are all about the BMW-ness or whatever.  This bike would be a capable, light-weight all rounder that isn't about advertising but all about going anywhere.

Anime Dreams: taking the bike I loved as a kid and building an anime custom

The bike that was on my wall when I was younger was the Honda Interceptor.  With a complex, powerful v-4 engine and the sharp edged eighties styling, this bike was the bomb.

I'd want to do a rebuilt / customization that keeps the feel of the bike but also feeds into the Japanese animation fixation I've had forever.

Influencing the build would be Akira and Robotech.  BBB-Bike has already done a Cyclone customization, which is a bit more comicon than I'd be aiming for.  

My Interceptor would still be an Interceptor, but with little tech-touches that bring out the anime in it.  LED lights, a customized, anime inspired seat/rear cowling and mirrors, that sort of thing.

Real Restoration: a Triumph Bonneville the same age I am

an new old Triumph Bonneville
Henry Cole did a restoration on a '70 Triumph Bonneville in the last season of The Motorbike Show on ITV (not sure why ITV isn't offering a webpage for that show, they should be).

What they started with

Henry and Peter Thorne (the restorer), of Aspire Restorations, take what can only be described as a complete wreck (a frame and fairly useless lump of engine) and completely rebuilt it.  It ends up pretty much being a new 1970 Triumph Bonneville.

I'd like to find a British bike built on the same day I was born (in the UK) and do a restoration on it, then we could both age gracefully together.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Rich Man Poor Man

I think three bikes would comfortably fit in the garage with room to work.  I'm hoping I can find an insurance deal that lets me run more than one bike without insurance doubling each time.  

If I were to go with three, these would be my poor man/middle class man/rich man choices:

Three of a kind: the low budget option

Keep the current '07 Kawasaki Ninja 650r. I've already cleaned it up and it's got tons of life left in it.  It's the obvious choice for a sport/track day bike.  I've still got a lot to learn from it as far as sport riding goes.

This '86 Kawasaki Concours caught my eye last summer.  It's up for sale again on Kijiji.  For only two and a half grand I'd have a capable touring bike that would comfortably carry two up over long distances.  It has a lot of miles on it, but it looks like it has been meticulously maintained. If I could swing it, I'd get it.

I just stumbled across this '02 KLR650 on Kijiji.  The price isn't listed, but with any luck I could pick it up for about what the Concours above cost.  It's fuggly, but if it would be a simple matter to strip it and repaint it.

I should be able to pick up both bikes for under five grand.  They all happen to be Kawasakis, three of a kind.

Total cost:  ~$5000

Shopping for favourites: the reasonable budget choices

I'd probably still hang on to the Ninja in this scenario, but I like the look of naked street bikes more than the fully faired sport bikes.  if I were to go for an athletic street bike I'd consider the FZ-09 from Yamaha.  It's surprisingly affordable, super light, and looks great in Orange.  

The touring option would get three wheel funky at this level.  I'd go for a Royal Enfield Classic 500 with a sidecar.  As a way to share riding with my son, it's a fun way to putter around.  We'd have to get some vintage style helmets with googles.  ~$12000

The dual sport choice would be a new Kawasaki KLR650, specifically this very KLR.


Total: ~$31500 (taxes included)

       or $20733 if I keep the Ninja

Big spender: the cost no-option choices

I keep hearing about how utterly awesome the Triumph Street Triple is, so if money weren't an option this would be my naked/sport choice, the top-of-the-line R version.
If nothing else the Triumph Configurator is fun to play with.

The Explorer below is an excellent two up bike, so it could do the job, but if cost is no problem I'd consider a Soviet style Ural sidecar outfit.  The Ural Gear-Up is an on-demand 2-wheel drive no-nonsense rig with classic military styling.  It could also handle off road duties when needed.


For the dual sport option I'd be looking to Triumph again.  Either the Triumph Tiger 800XC or the big Triumph Tiger Explorer XC.  Since the big bike actually gets the same mileage as the little one, I think I'd go with the distance machine.  It's big, but I'd train off road and ease into using it that way.  I'm a big guy, I'll manage it.


Total $52353 (taxes included)

You gotta love motorbikes, even the rich-man option that gets you three distinct imports costs less than a Volvo SUV.

Saturday 15 February 2014

February: the bike is apart and I'm getting there

It's February and I'm squirrelly.

The Ninja has been cleaned to within an inch of its life.  I've cleaned up the frame and painted it.  Now that I've got the bike stripped down I'm going to change the plugs and clean the air filter before rebuilding it.  Two Wheeled Motorsports just down the road near Guelph on Highway 6 had everything I needed and offered some good advice too.

By the time the roads begin to clear (assuming they do) I'll have a spotless Ninja to ride on them.

The insulated garage has been doing good work.  A small shop heater will raise -20°outside temperatures to 15° in the shop, and having the tools organized has helped get a lot of work done, but what I really want to do is go ride.

Can you ride in the winter?  Apparently.  Since seeing the new KLR at 2-Wheel this week I'm once again thinking about selling the Ninja and dual-sporting up.  It'd let me ride in more conditions more often.  I'd rather keep both bikes, but insurance is punitive and I couldn't afford to pay twice as much.

March break would be a good time of year to take a trip somewhere and enjoy a few days of riding, just to get this monkey off my back.

training ignorance & fear out of your bikecraft

I've been trying to find a comparison about the relative dangers of motorcycling that didn't devolve into anecdote and hyperbole, I couldn't find one on the internet (the home of anecdote and hyperbole).  After reading all sorts of people who knew someone who died on a motorbike, or were hit by a car 'that came out of nowhere' (cars don't come out of nowhere, they're very big and weigh thousands of pounds), I'm left shaking my head.

I know a guy who died on a motorcycle.  He was late for work and ran a red light at over 100km/hr and ended up going over the hood of a nice, old couple's car who were turning left into the lane in front of him.  Along with a pile of other people I ran across our work parking lot and got there just in time to see him die.  Not to speak ill of the dead but this guy was a yahoo, and his accident was all about his idiocy and had virtually nothing to do with his motorcycling.  Had he run the same light in a Mustang he would have ended up killing three people, two of them completely innocent, as it was he traumatized them. 

Online you'll find many anecdotes about how dangerous it is 'out there'.  There was the guy who went on at length about how a muffler fell off the car in front of him and he couldn't avoid it; he hasn't been back on a bike since.  I suppose that muffler came out of nowhere too.  I wonder how close behind the car buddy was when that muffler took him off his bike.

In many cases those ex-bikers say that training doesn't help, the only thing that does help is a cage of your own.  A life lived in fear is a life half lived, and there are a lot of people hiding in cages living half lives on the interwebs.  The emotionality and ignorance on display is distressing.  How can you do a thing well when your stories clearly demonstrate ignorance around how to operate a motorbike effectively?  I wonder if any of the people who knew that yahoo I worked with are the ones now saying how dangerous motorcycling is.

Extreme defensive driving, if you're not thinking about
all of this approaching an intersection,
you're not doing it right
Having taken some training I plan on taking much more because it really does help.  If you're serious about your bikecraft you will continue to seek out ways to improve, otherwise you aren't taking the task seriously.  Training isn't just about how to make a bike go, it's also some of the most intensive defensive driver training you'll ever experience, and I've done a lot of advanced driver training.  

Anyone who wants to pin the dangers of motorbiking on everyone else on the road feels helpless, training goes some way to mitigate that, though afterward you're never able to say, "it came out of nowhere!" or, "it wasn't my fault!"  When you finally get to the bottom of the extreme defensive mindset you need on a bike everything is your responsibility, including responding to the poor driving of other people.  If you're not willing or able to shoulder that responsibility you shouldn't be on a bike.

In addition to the dismissive attitude toward training, the other theme that develops as you read the anecdotal former rider or friend of a dead friend online is the anger.  People who have have a hate on for riding and are now evangelizing against it were angry when they rode, frequently telling stories of how they were shouting at four wheeled offenders, incredibly upset by being run off the road, angry at how poorly everyone else uses the road.  They've never shaken this anger, it's a part of who they are and they still spout it online.  You have to wonder how blind that anger made them when they rode.

Another benefit of training and then advanced training is that rather than approach a situation with an emotive response, you tend to be clinical.  Anyone who has taken martial arts understands how this works.  The untrained fight in ignorance, throwing haymakers and making a wondrous mess of it all.  They typically attempt to overcome their ignorance and inexperience by fighting emotionally.  A true student of anything is clinical because they approach their craft with an eye to constant improvement.  They don't thrash around in anger, they analyze and improve.  An emotional mindset seldom leads to skills improvement.

The angry biker is a dilettante, someone posing, looking for social status with no interest in improving their bikecraft.  You can't learn if you're angry.

When riding a motorcycle in an angry, blaming way you are attempting to cover your ignorance with loud emotionality.  Don't be ignorant and upset, become skilled and clinical, and always have an eye toward improving your craft.  Riding a motorcycle well is a deeply immersive experience, you're doing a difficult, dangerous thing, and doing it well should be a great source of pride.  When you're lost in your bikecraft you are attentive, meditative, alert and alive in the truest sense of the word.  I don't imagine any of the naysayers on the internet care, but this is an important place to find yourself.

Copyright All rights reserved by JamesAddis

Interweb hyperbole... 







Saturday 1 February 2014

A Living Motorcycle

Recent advances in battery technology have focused on bio-technology, specifically looking at how to draw electricity out of the energy rich nature of natural sugars.  How much energy is stored in glucose?  A recent experiment drew about 10 times the electricity of a lithium ion battery out of a glucose energy cell on a per kilogram basis.  Battery weight has long been an issue, as has duration.  Focusing on bio-technology might resolve both of those issues while also producing a green electricity storage solution.

Electric bikes will start to take on the aspects of gas bikes
if they suddenly have much lighter batteries.
Perhaps most promising, research labs around the world are seeing success with enzyme based bio-tech batteries.  With many researchers pushing forward on this, we may see marketable solutions appearing in two to three years.

What does this mean for motorbikes?  Imagine a Zero motorcycle with a battery that weighs half as much (making it lighter than a gas equivalent motor), that produces four times the range (better than a gas motor).  If the glucose solution that provides the charge can be packaged separately, you may very well pull into a refuelling station in 2020, pull the spent fuel canister out from where your gas tank used to be and buy a new one.  You'd be ready to go in five minutes, pretty much just like a modern gas stop.

That spent canister would get recycled, the spent glucose solution either reused or composted.  Since new solution is created primarily from natural sugars, it would be a matter of growing more fuel.  Enhancements to the enzymes that break down the sugars would open up a strange new bio-tech world of performance enhancements.  People would customize how their bikes consume sugar in order to focus on performance or efficiency.  Advances in enzyme efficiency would allow for greater range and power.

These living bikes would consume sugars just like their riders do, they'd even breath as they did it.
The Brammo Empulse, a shockingly fast electric bike still hobbled by battery weight and range, but for how long?