Tuesday 27 May 2014

Victoria and Vancouver Island on Two Wheels

The loop!
Everything is set!  A BMW F800ST for the day on Friday from CycleBC Victoria.  My son and I will head west and up the coast before crossing the mountains and coming back down the east coast back into Victoria.  It'll be a long awesome day in the saddle.

You'd normally be worried about the weather heading out to the wet coast, but not this weekend!

Can't wait!

To make things even more interesting, we're going to scooter over to Bouchart Gardens on Thursday.  I can't believe my wife suggested it... a family outing on two wheels, awesome!

Coast to Coast to Coast

It can be done!  Coast to Coast to Coast in Canada.  It's a monster ride though, over twenty thousand kilometres, all in the second biggest country in the world.  

Leg 1:  Go West Young Man

Starting from home in Southern Ontario I'd strike west up the Bruce Peninsula and over Manitoulin Island and up around Lake Superior.  From there it's a straight shot across the Prairies and then through Calgary into the Rockies.  Through the Southern Rockies and Vancouver and then a ferry over to Vancouver Island and on to Tofino on the Pacific Ocean.

Leg 2:  True North, all the way

Dempster Highway, North West Territories
From Tofino it's back across Vancouver Island and then north up the coast before taking the ferry from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert.  The ride from Prince Rupert is where things start to get tricky.  You're on paved if very remote roads all the way up to the Dempster Highway and then it's hundreds of kilometres up to the arctic circle and the mid-night sun.  By 2016 they hope to have an extension of the highway all the way to Tuktoyaktuk on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, then it'll really be coast to coast to coast.

Leg 3: Eastern Promises

After dipping a toe in the Arctic Ocean it's back down the Dempster before striking east through Grande Prarie and Edmonton.  The trip east retraces a bit of the Trans-Canada past Winnipeg before crossing Northern Ontario to Montreal.  It's then up the North Shore to Quebec City before crossing the St. Laurence and making the turn at Rivière du Loup and heading into New Brunswick.  Crossing New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, it's then a ferry ride to Newfoundland for the final leg to Cape Spear, the eastern-most point in Canada.

I think I'd have to make a point of crossing Confederation Bridge on the way past just to have set foot in every province and every Territory you can ride to in Canada.

The round trip is over twenty thousand kilometres, all in Canada, crazy!  Between higher kilometre days on highways and the lower mileage moments in the north, I'd hope to average 800kms a day.  If I could keep that up it could be done in just under a month (27 days).  Aiming at July of 2015, leaving on Canada Day (July 1st), I'd aim to be back home by July 31st, giving me four extra days in the mix to get the job done.  Leaving at that time will also mean seeing the mid-night sun above the Arctic Circle.

At about $60 in gas a day (3 fillups), a conservative $100 for lodging and $40 a day in food, I'd have an operating budget of $6200.  BC Ferries look like they'll be about $260.  To get on and off Newfoundland it looks to be about $180 in ferry costs.  I'd land at Port Aux Basques and cross NFLD on the way to Cape Spear, but take the Agentia Ferry back directly to Sydney for the ride home.  All in I think I'd be looking at about seven grand to cover the trip.

Bike-wise I think I'd be considering sport touring options.  The vast majority of mileage would be on pavement, with only the push north on gravel.  Tire-wise I'd start on street tires and then switch over to something more multi-purpose in Whitehorse for the ride to the Arctic.  If John Ryan can go from Prudhoe Bay on an FJR, I don't think I need to go full-SUV motorcycle with an adventure bike to get up to and back from the arctic.  The rest is a high mileage ride on first world roads.  I'd want to do it on a bike that makes corners fun.

My current choice would be a bike that handles long distance duties well.  The Kawasaki Concours is just such a machine.  Two-Wheel Motorsport happens to have just what I'm looking for, a low mileage 2006 that would do the deed.  With a shaft drive and a bullet proof reputation, it would cover the miles enthusiastically.  My other bike choice would be the new Honda VFR800F.  It's another sports tourer that could swallow these huge distances with confidence.

The final piece would be the media.  A Gopro clipped onto the bike would be running whenever the bike was in motion.  I'd also have a mobile video camera and my trusty Olympus SLR for other footage.  The trick would be not to get hung up with the photography, I tend to lollygag when I have a camera in my hand.

If the production was stepped up a notch, I'd meet up with my production crew at various spots along the way to off load footage and do some stock footage of me on the bike (which wouldn't happen so much when I was alone).  Ideally I'd have a wingman for the trip and we'd both take turns at filming (and half the cost of lodging).  The trip itself would offer a live webfeed of mileage covered and where we are, including uploads of recent images and footage.

In the more fully-decked out version I'd go to OLN or Discovery Channel or the Travel Channel for some media support.  Then TelusRogers or Bell for some communications support, and finally to Kawasaki Canada or Honda Canada for some bike support.  It wouldn't hurt to hit up local, provincial and federal governments to help as well, this is a uniquely Canadian focused trip, and with the final leg of the Dempster Highway finally happening coast-to-coast-to-coast is at last a possibility, it'd be nice to get the word out.

For more check out Coast to Coast to Coast 2.0.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Motorcycle Social Media

The online motorcycle community is a beautiful thing.  I've been following a number of people on Google+ who are into the two wheel craft, as well as Tumblr and Pinterest, and the more established social media platforms.  I'm a visual thinker, and being able to find images of bikes on these platforms really feeds my motorcycle aesthetic.  If you're into motorcycle design and aesthetics, these are good places to find ideas:

Pinterest:  a online graphic pin-up tool designed to share images.  Nice because it focuses on the visual, also nice because it is predominantly female, so you get a different vibe out of it when it comes to motorbikes (less pin-up, more motorcycle as art).

Tumblr: a bit more rough and tumble but offers an immersive graphics format and a staggeringly wide range of images including some very specific sub cultures of biking.  If you're into cafe racers, Tumblr doesn't disappoint.

Want something really specific, like motorcycle anime?  Ok!  Tumblr is also heavy on the animated GIF, so you get a lot of motion in your visual soup.

Google+: is more of an open social media platform, but in it you can find all sorts of motorcycle communities.  Motorcycles and technology, yep, there's a community for that.  Like Royal Enfields?  So do these people.  Want a motorcycle group with a worldwide focus?  Right here.  There you can hear Australians rail against their stupid government advertising.

Facebook:  Of course, you can find lots of motorcycle related material on Facebook too, I like it specifically for following motorcycle celebrities:

Think Nick Sanders is cool?  You can follow him across Asia live on Facebook (he's doing it right now).  

Are you a fan of Austin Vince?  He's well connected on Facebook where you can keep up with his latest work.

Think Guy Martin is the man?  His racing management team keeps you up with what he's doing on big blue.

You can find all sorts of local companies on there too.  If I'm going to get advertised to on Facebook I'd rather it be by local companies that I'm actually likely to shop at.

Facebook is also a good place to find motorcycle media updates.  Why We Ride is a lovely film, but they didn't stop there.  The Facebook site is a great place to find the latest in riding inspiration.

It might sound odd, but traditional media
still plays a big role in connecting me to online media.  Bike Magazine connected me to Greasy Hands Preachers and Rider connected me to my favorite motorcycle author.  Between traditional and new media, we're living in a motorcycle media renaissance, I hope you're partaking.  It feeds all interests from the most general to the most mind-bogglingly specific.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Track Days & Dirt Days

Two goals over the summer as far as biking goes:  go to a track day and get in some off road experience.  Fortunately I've got choices for both nearby:
That's not too far!

1... Track Days:  Grand Bend Motorplex does beginner track days at various times throughout the summer.  I'm going to make a day where I can go down there and give the Ninja a workout in a track environment.  It'll be an early start, but if I can time the weather right it'll be a great opportunity to develop more fluid riding and gently get a feel for how the bike handles in more extreme conditions.  A hundred bucks doesn't seem bad for a full day of track time.

If not Grand Bend then there are other options.  Cayuga is $125 for a day and an hour and forty five minutes south through Hamilton.  Mosport and Shannonville are both venues for Riderschoice.ca, who offer track days there.  I haven't been to Shannonville since I did the Nissan advanced driving school in the 1990s, it'd be nice to go back.  Shannonville does their own track days, for $145 a day.  Calabogie is way out Ottawa way, but it ain't cheap, though the track is supposed to be fantastic.

2... Off Road Training:  Yamaha Adventures is a lovely hour and a bit ride north of where I am.  The full day package on their bike isn't cheap ($329), but it would give me a chance to get a feel for off-road riding without the equipment overhead.  

Trailtour also offers trials and dual-sport courses, both of which are cheaper alternatives, and they happen to be under an hour south of the family cottage.  Trials riding is very technique intensive and would do a lot to improve my balance on any bike.

As many different experiences in as many different circumstances as I can manage, that's the goal this year.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Adventure Biking

An epic journey with
an epic budget
I'm over a year into the habit now and my biking interests continue to evolve.  One of the things that got me started was Ewan and Charlie's Long Way Round.  When looking for my first bike I was all about the adventure bike.  The idea that I could ride to Borneo or the Andes was pretty enticing.  A bike that could go anywhere and do anything seemed magical.

Look at me and my friend
Ewan on our big bikes!  It's
hard not to get taken in by
the image.

It turns out it is magical.  You give up a lot of physics to have a tall bike with knobbly tires that looks like it can ride to the Andes.  Being a guy in the vanishing middle class with a young family and work, I'm not in a position to gallivant off into the woods for weeks on end following my inner McGregor.  I get the sense that, like SUV drivers, many adventure bike riders are in it for the posing.  I've never been good at posing, it's one of the reasons that cruisers have never done anything for me.  I'm less interested in being seen on a bike and more interested in the process of riding it.

An epic journey on a
To complicate matters I then saw Mondo Enduro and heard Austin Vince's arguments for adventure riding for adventure riding's sake (rather than adventure marketing for sale's sake).  The idea of taking inexpensive, small bikes around the world seems absurd from a Long Way Round/BMW/Adventure Bike Rider point of view where anything less than a 1000ccs without electronic assist and no wind is 'uncomfortable'.
Why can't I buy this
in Canada, Austin?

While Ewan and Charlie actually did the deed, they did it with an awful lot of support, brand new sponsored bikes, a staff and no worries about money.  That they did it is being leveraged a great deal by bike manufacturers to move large, heavy bikes that are ill-suited for off road work, but they look the part and let you live that movie star dream.

I get Austin's angle, and still get excited by the idea of travelling light and far for travel's sake, not for image's sake.  I'm currently reading Ted Simon's Jupiter's Travels, and he too focused on the opportunities motorcycling around the world offered rather than the image it portrayed.

I just turned 45 and fantasized about mid-life crisis motorbike choices.  I was surprised to find that adventure biking didn't make it onto my list considering it was one of the genres of riding I was most excited by.  Like the SUV driver that has never driven on gravel but wants 4 wheel drive and a massive vehicle just in case it might happen, the idea that an adventure bike will make it look like I can travel down roads I'd never take is marketing that I just can't buy into.  

The road beckons, it's right outside my door, so why would I ride a bike that wasn't designed for it?  It's not like you can't go pretty much everywhere on a road bike, Nick Sanders certainly has.  If you want to get off the beaten path and camp Jo Sinnott can manage it on a Triumph Bonneville.  If you want to be extreme, Melissa Holbrook-Pierson will introduce you to the Man Who Would Stop At Nothing who makes Charlie & Ewan look like frat boys.

There is no doubt that adventure riding is a meaningful genre of motorcycle riding, just as off-roading is a meaningful genre of four wheeling.  But are you the guy who has to hose out his jeep after going deep, or are you the guy who polishes his SUV and pretends he's all about the mud?  I suspect I've read too many life changing adventure bike articles in magazines that sell the myth.  As long as adventure riding is about the image rather than the deed, it doesn't do much for me, mid-life crisis or otherwise, which makes me sad.

mid-life crisis

I turn 45 today.  I don't feel old, but that isn't stopping the math from bullying me.  As I told a friend, the only way to battle this age thing is by acting as immaturely as possible.  With that in mind, here are my top six motorcycle choices for a mid-life crisis:

#6 Off Road Opportunity

The chance to experience off-road riding with a focus on bike control would be awesome.  It so happens that Yamaha offers just such a course a pretty hour and a half ride north of me.  That would be a fantastic day in the dirt.

#5 Kawasaki Z1000

The anime dream machine.  Twitchy, not as good as other naked bikes according to Bike, but it's one I got excited about throwing a leg over and I'd never get tired of looking at it, though it makes little sense and would be a handful.  What's a mid-life crisis without making silly, emotional choices?

#4  Triumph Thruxton

The start of an ongoing cafe racer makeover.  The basic bike is sufficiently hooliganish so it speaks loudly to that vanishing sense of immaturity.  This bike begs for leathers and old school style.  I'd ride it like a rocker to pub brawls.  This Thruxton would turn into the bike I'd ride to Fight Club.  It wouldn't be shiny for long, more like a rolling black eye.

#3  Royal Enfield Bullet Classic

For those moments when I want to feel like Indiana Jones outrunning Nazis.  The classic Bullet is an old school thumper that would take me back.  It's the next best thing to being there because it'll start every time.  Seeing if I could ton-up on it would be a long term goal.  Old people like me like things that remind them of their pre-war childhoods.

#2  Leather pants... or worse!

I went all modern textile with my first round of motorcycle gear, but nothing says mid-life crisis like leather pants!  

In my year of riding I've come to appreciate leather riding gear for the level of protection it gives.  I've also come to realize how much more effective leather is at keeping you warm in less than comfortable Canadian riding conditions.

All that aside, leather looks cool!  If not the pants, then a full race suit and some track days to wear it in on.

#1  Suzuki Hayabusa or Kawasaki ZX-14R

I got all glassy eyed when I sat on a 'Busa at a show, it feels really special.  It's a big, beautiful bike that will go faster than light speed.  I've always had a soft spot for Suzuki and the Hayabusa is about the most beautiful thing they've ever made.  The other super bike that took me by surprise was the super Ninja ZX-14R.  Either one would scratch that mid-life crisis itch (really quickly).

Oddly enough, the whole adventure bike thing doesn't seem to tickle the mid-life crisis itch, though perhaps it's because adventure riding is so far away from normal life while a road bike is a daily opportunity.  To make the list the adventure bike deal would have to get all Ted Simons (I'm reading Jupiter's Travels at the moment) and involve a long term opportunity to travel too.  I get the sense that another post is forming around this.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Child, Parent or Zen Master?

This one went into my edu-blog too, but it's as much about motorbiking as it is about learning...

An editorial piece I read in Bike Magazine a while back has stayed with me.  In it the author (a veteran motorcycle trainer) was describing how a rider's emotional response to high stress situations limits their ability to learn from them.  It struck me because I still catch myself falling into both of the archetypal mind traps he describes.  I now struggle to get beyond them and adopt the clinical approach of a master learner that he suggests.
In a high-stakes, emotional environment like riding you can't be trowing tantrums or assigning blame (though many do), you need to be calm and aware in order to both assess a situation as its happening and accurately recall and learn from it later.  Emotion is a natural response to high stress situations but it often gets in the way of attaining mastery.

The author of the piece (I'm still looking for it but I think I lent the magazine out) suggests that people fall into archetypal behaviors when they are stressed and emotional. These behaviours prevent you from making coherent decisions in the moment as well as preventing progress by hiding memory details behind ego and emotion.  The two archetypes we fall back into are child and parent.  Since we're all familiar with these roles it only makes sense that we'd revert to them when we are under pressure.

The child throws tantrums and reacts selfishly, aggressively and emotionally.  People falling into this mind-set shout and cry at the circumstances and focus on blaming others.   The child is emotional and blind to just about everything around them except the perceived slight.  This approach tends to be dangerously over-reactive.  Have you ever seen a student blow up in an asymmetrical way over a minor issue?  They have fallen into the child archetype emotional trap.

The parent mind-set seems like an improvement but it is just as effective at blocking learning.  The parent shakes their head disapprovingly and focuses on passing judgement.  You'll see someone in this mind-set tutting and rolling their eyes at people.  The parent is focused on passing judgement loudly and publicly.  You can probably see how easy it is for teachers to fall into this one.

The child is selfish, emotional and immediate.  The parent wraps themselves in a false sense of superiority that makes the user feel empowered when they might otherwise feel helpless.  Both archetypes attempt to mitigate frustration and ineffectiveness behind emotion and ego.

I've seen students stressed out by exams or other high-stakes learning situations fall into these traps but it took that motorbike instructor to clarify how students can lose their ability to internalize learning by falling into these archetypes.  He describes riders who shout and yell at someone cutting them off.  They are responding to their own poor judgement and lack of attention with the emotional outburst.  Suddenly finding themselves in danger, they lash out emotionally in order to cover up their own inadequacies.  

The parent adopts that judgmental stance.  Last summer I had a senior student who rides a motorcycle get involved in an accident.  He had bad road rash and was bruised all over.  He went with the parent approach.  The woman who hit him was panicked and frightened because she hadn't seen him.  Her own mother had been hurt in a similar motorcycle accident and she felt a lot of guilt over being the cause of this one.  The student said 'she came out of no-where'.  I said, 'that's odd, cars weight thousands of pounds.  I've never seen one appear out of nowhere before.'  Rather than review his own actions and perhaps learn to develop better 360° awareness, the student was happy to piggy-back on the driver's emotional response and pass judgement.  He never felt any responsibility for that accident and still believes that cars can come out of nowhere.

I enjoy riding because it is a difficult, dangerous craft that it is very important to do well.  In pressurized learning situations you need an alert, open mind.  I've never once seen this the focus of consideration in school (except perhaps in extracurricular sports).  What we do instead is try and remove any pressure and cater to emotionality rather than teaching students to master it.

Other Links:
Comparing Teacher PD to Motorcycle Training
Training Fear and Ignorance out of Bikecraft
Archetypal Pedagogy

Saturday 10 May 2014

Leatherup.ca order up!

I made that order for Leatherup.ca even though I couldn't get a clear answer out of them about sizing on the jacket.  I was told by their 'live' support that the jacket measurements were the outside of the jacket - which I've never heard of before.  Why would I want to know what the outside dimensions of a jacket are?  It's the inside dimensions that would fit me, why would I possibly care about the outside dimensions?

Anyway, based on the weird sizing I should be a small (I'm 6'3", 220lbs, a 46 chest and a 40 waist).  My current jacket is an XL and the idea that I'd be a small seemed absurd.  I tried looking around for alternate size descriptions and found another on ebay.  That chart suggested I should be in a large, which still isn't where I usually look for a jacket but isn't as out of whack as a small or medium.

Inevitably, the large was too small.  I could get into it, and I think it would have fit without the liner but it ain't no 42" waist.  I've since sent it back for an XL safe in the knowledge that Leatherup.ca is very proud of their return policy.  Having said that, it cost me $22 to return it, so this jacket is already getting more expensive.

The good news is that the jacket was a quality piece with excellent stitching, heavy duty zippers and a nicely finished liner and details; it felt like a quality garment.  The helmet and gloves I got were both excellent.  The gloves have solid build quality with nice leather and stitching, and the helmet has also exceeded my expectations being light, comfortable and offering a lot of options for venting.  Both (gloves XL, helmet XXL) are perfect fits and follow normal sizing.

I'll let you know how the return process goes with the jacket, I'm hoping it's as effortless as they claim.  If you want to save some headaches in trying to figure out their strange jacket sizings just go with what you'd normally go with.  I get an XL jacket normally, I should have just trusted in that rather than the weird sizing charts.

update:  I'm a week into the exchange and Leatherup.ca has been completely radio silent - no 'we've received your exchange' email, no, 'your exchange is in process email', no, 'your new jacket is on its way' email.  After requesting information (twice), I've gotten no replies either.  Everything may be proceeding, but it's like I sent that jacket back into a blackhole.  Between that and the lack of information on sizing that got me into an exchange situation in the first place, I'd have to say that Leatherup.ca isn't very good at communicating.  Well priced quality gear?  Yep.  A smooth, customer orientated ordering process?  Not so much.

update again!  Leatherup suddenly woke up on Saturday.  I found a $600 motorcycle jacket at a garage sale for fifty bucks so I asked for a refund rather than an exchange on the returned cafe racer jacket and within ten minutes they'd ok'd the refund.

I'm happy with the kit I got, quality stuff at a good price, but their communications aren't great.  I do a lot of ordering through work and the good companies (Amazon, Tigerdirect to name two) are constantly updating statuses and letting me know where they are in process.  This can be automated, so I hope Leatherup goes that route.  Having said all that, I'll order from them again.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Motorcycle Media: a documentary to look forward to

I came across a description of The Greasy Hands Preachers in BIKE Magazine this month.  The two guys responsible for this upcoming documentary about motorcycle culture previously did a short film called Long Live The Kings:

LONG LIVE THE KINGS - Short film documentary - from SAGS on Vimeo.

It packs a surprising amount into a short film.  It's nicely shot and carefully crafted, though it does seem to fall into a genre trap that I saw pointed out the other week; the dreaded bullshit hipster bike video.  There is something genuine about Long Live The Kings that (I hope) excludes it from being a BS hipster bike video. 

Looking at BHBV's bingo card (left), they seem hit a lot of the hipster bullshit, yet I still want to believe that they are genuine.

With luck The Greasy Hands Preachers will offer some real insight into motorcycling.  I'm hoping against hope that they have interviewed Matt Crawford and are able to present a film that doesn't just paint motorbiking and working on your own machine crudely in a fad that will quickly look out of date.  

Long Live The Kings has moments of philosophical insight that might develop into a deeply reflective documentary in Greasy Hands Preachers.  Crawford's brilliant Shopclass as Soulcraft would be a perfect fit for that approach but I'm afraid the film is going to devolve into another 'ain't bikin fun?' video, this time with a veneer of hipster bullshit on top.

Sneak preview straight from the edit - The Greasy Hands Preachers from SAGS on Vimeo.

THE GREASY HANDS PREACHERS DOCUMENTARY Pre-trailer Kickstarter from SAGS on Vimeo.

Monday 5 May 2014

Following Rivers

I just took a quick ride today along the Grand River.  In Ontario, where all the roads are painfully straight, you have to think geographically to find a road with some kinks in it.  Following the river offered something other than driving the Ontario grid.
Riding the banks of The Grand River

I got to the covered bridge at the end of the route and stopped for a photo.  I noticed that there was some drippage underneath the bike so I looked it over.  I'd just lubricated the chain before leaving so I thought maybe I'd put a bit too much chain oil on, but what was coming off looked runnier than chain lube.  A quick look under the fuel tank showed a gas leak.  
I got the bike home and took off the tank.  I hadn't been happy with how the fuel line had gone back on, it never seemed to sit right.  After futzing around with it for a few minutes it suddenly popped right on properly and locked.  No more leak.

It was nice to get out for a short (45 minutes or so) ride even with a headache on a cold, windy day.  It's been raining for days so I couldn't turn down a chance to get out, even for a little while.  Diagnosing and fixing a leak that quickly afterwards was just as satisfying.

I'd really like to find a junker that I can break down and rebuild as a learning exercise, but finding an old bike in Ontario isn't easy.