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.