Sunday 30 August 2015

Midnight Thoughts

What we have here is a Yamaha XS1100 'Midnight Special'.  It looks like it needs some love and is for sale for $500 along with some extra parts.  The flash from the phone makes this '70s bike look pretty disco!

The XS1100 is a late '70s/early '80s 'super' bike.  From what I've read it's Yamaha's Vincent Black Shadow.  You're spoiled for choice as far as customization goes with the XS1100.  It's a big, air cooled engine with the old fashioned dual rear shocks.  It begs to be café racered a bit.

As a tear down/rebuild, this makes a pretty good basis for a winter project.  It would be my first air cooled bike, as well as my first tear down/rebuild.

The Clymer manual is readily available (I'm finding Haynes manuals lacking in covering many motorcycles).  This could be a winter sanity thing.

Saturday 29 August 2015

A Change of Pace

I just spent a week on a houseboat.  Houseboats are to boating what uHaul truck rentals are to driving, so it wouldn't be fair to judge boating based on driving one, but it did offer some insights into boating culture.

Boating (like motorcycling) makes you aware of just how much driving a car turns people into assholes (it must have something to do with being enclosed).  There are still jerks in boats (they tend to be in smaller boats with giant outboards), but generally boating is a gentlemanly activity.  It's also remarkably classless.  We went down and up the lock system on the Trent-Severn Waterway and found that everyone was happy to chat, from people on half million dollar cruisers to tiny fishing boats.  That is certainly not the case for automobile drivers or that sizable group of bikers who are more interested in presenting an image rather than being human.

The more experienced boaters were also willing to assist and offer advice if it looked like we were in over our heads (which we occasionally were).  The community nature of boaters (ignoring yahoos in speedboats) was exceptional, and enjoyable.  I felt something similar at Indy with motorcycling.  After the hyper-selfish world of the automobile driver (the most antisocial - almost psychotic - activity we saw was driving up to and back from our boat trip), it's nice to see some modes of transport creating positive human contact.

We didn't really have a plan when we started out, but we were told that the largest lift lock in the world (in Peterborough) was too far for our slow boat to manage, so we decided to go for it.  We got there late on day two of our four day rental.  The Parks Canada people were absolutely fantastic, staying late to get us docked at the top of the lock where we then got to spend the night.

The lock was built in 1904 using mainly horse, steam and human power to build it.  It's still run and owned by Canada.  Twenty First Century Canada doesn't build things and is more interested in selling off its natural resources to create fake-balanced budgets.  I'm surprised that this historical monument to Canada's past engineering mastery isn't now owned by the Chinese.  Maybe if more Canadians had some idea that this exists and spent a moment remembering what we are capable of, we'd see Canadian manufacturing spark back to life.

Wouldn't it be nice to see a Canadian two wheeled manufacturer at the Canadian Motorcycle Show at some point?

Shop Class as Soulcraft Deep Thoughts

I'm a big fan of Matt Crawford's fantastic book on the value of skilled labour, Shop Class as Soul Craft.  If you get a chance, it'll change your mind about the value of working with your hands.

I just finished his latest book, The World Beyond Your Head, where he makes a compelling argument for our's being a situated intelligence (we aren't brains in boxes) that is evident because of our manual connection to the world around us, not in spite of it.  It's a deep, rich read that does a lot of dismantle the idea of the empty expertise of the digital economy/liberal arts student.

I recently came across a video where Crawford is talking about the book, and other things.  This bit struck me as funny after my recent thoughts on biker culture:

"You might say the B.S. quotient it low... unless you're dealing with Harley owners.  Then it can actually be quite high."

You'd think most people would buy the dependable ones, right?
That idea of a B.S. quotient led me look up motorcycle reliability indices for the first time.  Consumer Reports gets into it by explaining how customer satisfaction is different from reliability.  You'd think the two things are closely linked, but they aren't so much.

"If you want to know how satisfied riders are with their motorcycle, ask them about comfort. We found that comfort ratings track most closely with overall satisfaction scores. "

You know those leather clad tough guys in their Motor Company regalia?  They like comfort the most.  Potato, potato, potato...

Sunday 23 August 2015

A McLaren P1 or Motorcycle Nirvana?

I recently ruminated on super cars vs. super bikes.  The McLaren P1 (if you can find one) costs about $1.5 million Canadian... or about what I'll make in my entire career as a high school teacher.  It obviously isn't designed for the rest of us.  Were someone to give me a P1 I'd immediately sell it, probably for more than $1.5 million (rich people find ways to have the things they own constantly increase in value).  What would I do with the million and a half?  Here's the motorcycle themed version of one super car:

Turn a horse farm into an iron horse farm:  $950,000


Headwaters Horse Farm Mins From Mono Cliffs Park, Fine Dining & Shops. Easy Access From Airport Rd & Hwy 9 Off Paved Road, Custom 4 Bedroom Home, Updated Bank Barn 4 Stalls, Run In, 64'X32 Shop (2014) & Paddocks Situated On 45.6 Acres Perfect Setting For Equestrians Or Working Farm. Huge Open Concept Kitchen, 2 Sided Fireplace, Great Room With Fireplace, Master Suite, 4 Piece Ensuite, Walk In Closet & Walk Out To Enjoy Beautiful Views Over Class A Farmland. ** EXTRAS ** Steel Roof, Electrical In Barn, Shop & Garage Done In 2014, Detached 1 Car Garage, Heated Tack Room, Auto Water Outside, Hardwood Floors, Slate In Foyer, Mud Room & 3 Pce Bath, InsideEntry From Garage.

A lovely country house with a HUGE 2000 square foot workshop (the new home of Mechanical Sympathy), and a barn to store all the old bikes I'd be picking up... all on almost 50 acres of rolling Niagara Escarpment. Some of the nicest roads in southern Ontario run through here.

I've still got over half a million left!

Bike Delivery System

The dreaded Guy Martin-Transit Van dream resurfaces!  A new, diesel, nicely spec-ed out Transit Van costs about $45k.  It's trailer ready, so I'd throw in a bike trailer too for bigger loads - the ultimate bike delivery system could deliver 4 bikes to the track (or the Tail of the Dragon in the middle of the winter), and provide an instant pit area.

Racing & Race Bikes

The money-to-burn-wishlist has some sure-things on it.  A modern track bike and a vintage racer would both be in the workshop (along with track days and training, that's about $30k).


Road Bikes

I'd keep the Connie and the KLX.  The Connie would get the fancy seat I couldn't justify ($500), but otherwise I'd let it ride.  With almost fifty acres I'd have my own trail system to ride the KLX on.  A race track with a mile long straight would let me test all manner of motorbike madness.

I'd do the Ninja H2 with upgrades ($40,000) to scratch that McLaren beating itch, and then I'd go into my huge workshop with a vintage VFR750 Interceptor, a Triumph Daytona and both my current bikes and wonder what I'll do with the $429,000 still left over from unloading that McLaren.

$1,071,000 (gets me a massive property with a huge shop, many bikes, a super bike that'll go faster than the McLaren anyway and a new van - and I've still got over four hundred grand to play with!)

Saturday 22 August 2015

Kawasaki KLX250 Suspension Adjustment

I can pick the thing up, so lifting up the wheels isn't the ordeal
it is on the massive Concours. To get both wheels up I used
a wooden box on a jack and some jack stands on the back.
Today I had a go at the suspension of the KLX250.  The previous owner is a much smaller fellow than me, so he had the suspension at stock levels (preset for a 150lb rider with no luggage or passenger).  For a big guy like me (6'3", 240lbs) the front was wallowy and the back felt loose.

The suspension adjustments are on the bottom of the forks at the front.  The rear has rebound damping down at the bottom of the shock and compression dampening at the top.

I've included photos of each below.  Tightening up the suspension was quick and relatively painless.  The clicks are obvious and about half a turn of the screwdriver each.  After cleaning up with wd40, I had no trouble turning any of them.

Click on any of the photos to get a bigger image.

front forks

On the bottom of the front forks you'll find a hexagonal opening.  There is a rubber cover in there.  It's designed with a flat edge and pops out easily with a small, flat screwdriver.  Inside you'll see a small, flat headed bolt.  Each half turn creates an obvious click.  I turned each side clockwise four clicks.  No more wallowing, and the forks feel tighter on cornering.  On braking I get a single, less pronounced drop.  That was a quick fix.

compression damping

rebound damping adjuster

 rear suspension

The rebound damping adjuster is on the side of the bottom of the shock housing.  It gets dirty under there so wiping it down first helps in finding things.  It's easy to get a flat screwdriver on the adjuster bolt, and it turns easily. The clicks are obvious, I turned it up (clockwise) four clicks.

The compression damping adjuster is obvious behind the cutout in the fairing.  It was tucked in behind an electrical connector on mine which easily pushed aside.  Since it's out of the muck, this one doesn't get dirty.  The clicks were again obvious - I turned this one up four clicks as well.

I then took the bike for a quick ride to get gas.  On the road it corners more tightly with none of the previous wallow.  On the way back I tried to ride as directly as I could rather than follow the roads.  I got to the end of pavement in a subdivision and found myself on a deeply rutted dirt road which led to a hydro station.  I then nipped down a walking path to the road behind my subdivision.  This bike is so quiet a rabbit was surprised when I puttered by.  There is a large dirt pile where I came out of the bush so I zipped up it and back.  Off road the bike is much tighter.  There is still a lot of suspension travel, but I could feel what the wheels were doing much more clearly, the bike just feels tighter.  I was just hoping to calm the wallow.  That happened, but the whole bike dynamically feels so much more suited to me now.

Now that I know where the bits and pieces are, I'm intending to keep monkeying with the settings to get it customized to my size and preferences.  With the settings that easy to play with, why not?

The Kawasaki KLX250 Owner's Manual

I've Become Reasonable In My Old Age

Someone had a similar shirt at the Indy MotoGP, and it got a
lot of smiles from the uncaged crowd-Zazzle let me recreate it
There was a time when I was loopy about cars, they were all I could think about.  That passion slowly faded as cars became an appliance to get me to work.  The freedom they once represented became an expectation.  You're less inclined to fettle a car that you are depending on.

When I began riding a few years ago I rediscovered that passion.  Where driving a car is an expectation of adult life, riding is the exception, you've got to really want to do it.  It's a more physically and mentally challenging mode of transport that demands more of you while also risking more of you.

The reward is being 'in the wind'.  You are out in the world on an elemental machine that offers you a sense of immediacy that no car can match.  On top of the magic is a rational foundation of performance and cost.  My bike can out accelerate a Corvette while getting better mileage than a Prius, and it does it all while offering thrills unmatched on four wheels for a fraction of the cost.  You can also comfortably fit three bikes in a one car garage.  If you're into vehicles as a passion, bikes take the cake in terms of economy and performance.

You might say, 'hang on, what about super cars?"  You're not going to find them particularly economical, but surely they are better performing.  Cycle World magazine recently did an article on just that.  The 'Vette got buried by everything there.  The Kawasaki H2 was the fastest machine to 60 and 100.  The only place it lost out was top speed to the Mclaren P1, which topped out fifteen miles per hour faster thanks to some fancy aerodynamic bodywork.

This might be the moment that cars take back the performance crown, but it'll cost ya.  The McLaren P1 goes for $1,150,000US (just over $1.5 million Canadian), and they're sold out.  The H2 will cost you $27,500 Canadian, and
With less than $4000CAN in aftermarket kit, you would
have a weaponized H2 that would work over the two
million dollar McLaren six ways from Sunday.
 with some aerodynamic tweaking borrowed from the H2R (I think I'd make my own carbon bodywork), an Akrapovič exhaust that'll increase power, sound fantastic and shave off almost six kilos (€1,415, or about $2125 Canadian dollars), it'd be a beast.  Add in 
some power commander kit to electronically improve engine output and you'll have an H2 that will be fastest, period.

The tweaked H2 would set you back about $31,500.  With some carbon bodywork to aid high speed passage through the air, you'd still be under forty grand.

I once dreamed of super cars.  Now I'd happily go for the H2 with some steps toward an H2R, have something rare, beautiful and fastest, and save myself 97.5% of the cost of the McLaren.  My mid-life motorcycle fixation is eminently reasonable compared to the irrational fetish of the super car, now solely reserved for the one percenter.  Motorcycles are democratic... speed for everyone!

... I know it's the super H2R (fifty grand), but my god...

Friday 21 August 2015

Zazzle Madness

Beware the Zazzle, it's addictive!  After I started monkeying around with t-shirt designs I couldn't stop.

I wanted to make a 'cars suck' shirt similar to the one I saw at the IndyGP.  After a few attempts I had a nice design that said what the shirt at Indy said, but in a different way:

After doing one I had another go, this time using one of the photos I took at the Moto3 practice at Indy:

Then, of course, the Mechanical Sympathy tshirt was inevitable:

Now I've got a Zazzle store!

I may not be able to stop.*

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Motorcycles Trump Racism

Canada is far from free of racism, but it plays at a much lower volume here.  Canada's mosaic approach to multiculturalism and more open immigration policy probably have a lot to do with this.  The United States' melting pot must feel especially hot if you're not what the ideal American is supposed to look like.

One of the things that always strikes me when I cross the border south is the unspoken friction between black and white Americans.  Being a big, white, bald Canadian means I'm often assumed to be an off-duty cop, which doesn't help things.  There is so much history wrapped up in this that it feels heavy, even to an outsider.  When trying to strike up a conversation with a black person in the States you are usually met with polite reticence, like they'd just rather not speak to you.  It's more trouble than it's worth.

I get that reticence.  On a previous trip, out of nowhere, at a gas stop a white guy told us that his parents told him never to put money in his mouth because black people had touched it.  I guess we were supposed to laugh and feel a sense of camaraderie with this man, instead my wife and I looked at each other with WTF looks on our faces.

On my first solo trip to the States in the late '80s my buddies and I walked into a Burger King in Milwaukee and were met with forty black faces looking at us with, 'what the hell are you boys doing here?' expressions.  It was one of the only times I've been stopped in my tracks by that kind of stare (we hesitated and then went in, had lunch and all was good).

MotoGP has riders from all over the world, from Japan to
South America and everywhere between.  It's a multi-cultural
global event that doesn't cater to racism.
On our recent trip to Indianapolis a young black woman at the counter dealt energetically with the four black people ahead of my son and I, but when we finally got to the counter she gave us a sideways glance and sauntered off in a kind of dance, eventually disappearing into the back, singing to herself.  We both stood there wondering what we were supposed to do (it's hard to pay for gas in the States when you don't have a ZIP code).  A few moments later another girl came out and served us.  It's not easy explaining that sort of thing to your ten year old.

Motorcycles on Meridian has riders of all kinds digging bikes.
That friction began to break down when we were at the Speedway.  Suddenly everyone there was a motorcyclist first, even before what colour of American they were.  I found it easy to strike up conversations with people regardless of colour.  That positive energy followed us to Motorcycles on Meridian, where I once again found the motorcycle community outgunning any sense of racism.

The next morning at Cycle Gear we got into conversations with several groups of black riders coming into town for the Indy weekend.  Once again the walls were down and we could just talk bikes.  Again in Ohio, Max and I were taking a break in Wendy's when a group of tough looking black bikers on Harleys came in, on their way from Detroit to Indy. The reticence was there at first (we were far from Indy at that point) but they soon warmed up to me.  We exchanged advice on road works and left wishing each other a safe ride.  Other people watched the exchange with interest.

Up in Detroit the lovely, young black woman who got our Little Caesars order sorted out had all sorts of questions about the bike and riding.  Motorcycling works even if you're not talking to another motorcyclist.  There is something about the vulnerability of riding that encourages people to talk to you.  They find it admirable.

The kinship you feel while riding is a very real thing, but motorcycling reaches out into the general public too.  If motorcycling can overcome that tiring American black/white friction, it might just be able to do anything.

Monday 17 August 2015

It's so not everyone else...

I went to Roof Helmets to see if I could find a Canadian distributor.  They put me on to Fullbore Marketing, a company that delivers motorcycle gear to retailers.  They told me that they aren't distributing Roof Helmets any more, but they have a couple of models left over.  They put me on to Blackfoot Motorsport, and after a number of emails we got it a deal sorted out: a Roof Desmo for $400 Canadian (they usually run 469€ or about $673CAD, but you can't get 'em here).

If you dig it, they had a pearl/white one still kicking around in XL too.  Good luck chasing the distribution flow.  If you succeed, you can get your Jo Sinnott on (Wild Camping is where I first saw the Roof and thought, wow, what a cool lid).  I'm going to!

In the meantime, I might be the only person in Canada this year with a new Roof Desmo, and it looks fantastic! (and also a crime).  All of those Arais and Shoeis on the road are going to look so... common.

The helmet fits my temples better than anything else previously.  It's snug front to back, but it's wearing in nicely.  When on it has a fantastic anime feel to it!

On the way home today it started to rain.  With a single motion I went from open face to closed face, but this isn't just a modular helmet, it safeties as a full face helmet.  I can't understand why these aren't for sale in Canada any more.

Friday 14 August 2015

The Ride To Indy


We are bouncing over some astonishingly bad interstate in Northern Michigan on our way to Flint.  Retread carcasses litter the side of the road, the only thing missing are clouds of flies above the rubber corpses.

The Super10, Concours and three riders ready for an adventure.
We crossed the border (my first border crossing on a bike!) in Sarnia at lunch time on a Wednesday.  It amounted to less than five minutes of waiting in line and thirty seconds with the US border guard, who looked like he was working out when he got off shift so he could join us.
"So, where are you guys headed?"
"To Indianapolis for the MotoGP!"
After running our passports he asks, "you guys excited?"
"It's Indy!"

"Have a great time guys."
... and then we were off onto the broken interstates of Michigan.  I'll never complain about Ontario roads again.

To and from Indianapolis
Just when we think the roads can't get worse, the interstate drops down to one lane each way because they are beginning to pull it apart and resurface.  It doesn't matter though, we were in America, heading to Indy!

My ten year old son, Max, is on the back of our loaded '94 Kawasaki Concours which is chewing up the miles with ease.  That bike is the best eight hundred bucks I've ever spent.  We're making the trip with my friend and colleague Jeff, who is a motorcycle-Jedi.  He's been riding for decades, has owned dozens of bikes, and has ridden all over North America.  If you're going on your first long trip, he's the guy you want with you.

We pull in for our first gas stop just outside of Flint and fill up for fourteen bucks (93¢ Canadian for 93 octane super unleaded).  The Connie is getting 48 miles per gallon.  Back on the road we turn south on 23 to miss Detroit and head toward Ann Arbor.  Twenty-three looked like a county road on the map, but in real life it's a multi-lane, limited access highway.  We are making epic time as we ride past a mountain of garbage covered in sea gulls and military convoys of Humvees.  We get to Ann Arbor, where we'd originally planned to stop for the day, at 2pm.

Concordia U's
beautiful trees
Sitting on the beautiful lawn at Concordia University we look further down the map, reconsidering where we might stop.  It only takes a us a few minutes to get around Ann Arbor and onto 12, which will take as all the way across southern Michigan to Interstate 69.

Best Philly steak ever!
We stop for a late lunch and stumble across Smoke BBQ and the best Philly steak sandwich I've ever had.  Topped up and ready to roll, we head out on 12 and are treated to a crop duster doing hammerhead turns and giving us a wave as he flies past us next to the road.  We're in the mid-west now!

Out of population we find ourselves on winding roads through the Irish Hills.  We thought the ride to Indy would be flat and straight but these are some nice riding roads.  We emerge from the woods to an astonishing sight, the Michigan International Speedway is right on the side of the road!  A security guard tells us you can sign in at the main office and they'll let you have a look around.  This place is enormous, a real cathedral of speed deep in the Irish Hills.  We spend half an hour wandering around a tiny corner of the massive complex.  That we stumbled across it and were happily invited in to have a look around has us all grinning like fools.  It's a good sign of things to come.

It's like that dream you have of being at
work and suddenly realizing you're naked
Back on the road time is ticking past 6pm and Max is getting tired on the back.  We've been on the road since 8am, but we've pushed way further down the map than we intended to.  We finally reach Coldwater on I69 and stop at a Comfort Inn with a warm pool and soft beds.

Every biker we see is riding around in shorts, flip flops and no helmet, and it's giving us culture shock.  We go to the end of the street to get take out and try naked biking, but it gives us both the willies.  Riding around without a helmet just seems crazy.


After a good breakfast at the hotel we're bombing south on Interstate 69 and quickly find the Indiana border.  Before Fort Wayne we strike off west into the country on Six and quickly discover that unless a town is on a truck route it has dried up and blown away.  The scale of the fields of corn beggar belief and stretch to the horizon, but there are no people.  Roads are closed and we find ourselves on gravel stretches looking for ways south.  The Concours has no trouble with this, but Jeff's Super Ténéré looks the part as he takes off down narrow dirt roads.

We try stopping in several towns but they are all derelict; beautiful nineteenth century buildings with boards on the windows and no-one in sight.  Corporate farms run remotely from headquarters thousands of miles away don't need local people.

Main View restaurant in North Manchester, IN: great
service, great food
We finally stagger into North Manchester mid-afternoon.  This is a university town and it's still vibrant.  A local directs us to Main View restaurant and we sit down for another excellent, non-conglomerate lunch.

Zigzagging south and west we soon find ourselves on bigger roads feeding in to Indianapolis.  We get into town at the beginning of rush hour, but this isn't Toronto.  Everything is moving even though the road is still patchy from recent rain (it missed us), and there is construction everywhere.  Other than having to cut into a line to get on the ring road (made easy by Jeff dicing traffic like a pro), we have an easy time navigating and we're feet up at the Hampton Inn by 4:30pm.

A short walk away is Chef Mike's Charcoal Grill which has the best grilled fish and steak imaginable, and a healthy list of craft beers; America isn't all Bud Light and hamburgers.  It was so good we went back again the next night.


It's been pretty good so far, but it's about to get spectacular.  We're off to the Indy Speedway (15 minutes away) early the next morning.  We pull into line and are told to ride around to the back and park in lot 10.  After working our way around the city-sized Indy complex we start looking for parking and keep getting waved through gates by security.  We go down a ramp under ground and surface only to be directed onto the back straight of the Indy oval.

Ever ridden on the Indy oval on your bike?  I have!
Jeff and I are both thinking we've been accidentally put in with the VIPs and are expecting to be caught at any second and kicked out, but I make the most of it and give it the beans.

Nothing sounds better than the sound of your own engine howling off the retaining wall of a straight at Indianapolis!  We're directed to park and stand there in awe.  A guy gives us a kick stand puck saying he doesn't want us punching holes in his race track.  Damn skippy.  We walk over to another guy scanning tickets, expecting to get kicked out.  He scans our general admission tickets (twenty bucks each - kids under 12 are free) and tells us to have a great time.

Did that just happen?  Yes, yes it did!

We walk through the infield, which is a golf course, and discover a circus of motorcycle going on inside.  The Moto3 bikes haven't even started practice yet but all the manufacturers have set up pavilions and there is an Indy kids play area that has Max hopping up and down.  Our general admission, twenty buck tickets give us access to the entire complex, from the front straight stands to hundreds of viewing areas around the infield.  The only place we couldn't go was the paddock area.

We wander around in a daze.  One moment we're watching Moto3s buzz down the straight, amazed that their little 250cc single cylinders can take them over 160 mph before they hit the big corner at the end.  The big, 1000cc MotoGP bikes come out next.  Where the Moto3 bikes sound like (big) angry bees, the MotoGP bikes sound like 140 decibel tearing silk (the Hondas) or the most frantic, staccato v-twin imaginable (the Ducatis).   Lastly the Moto2 bikes come out, their 650cc twins sound fantastic to my ringing ears with a turbine like howl.

Lunch is an Indy dog and some fries, sitting in the near-empty stands in the shade.  The place isn't empty, there are people everywhere, but Indy is so huge that it swallows the crowds with ease.  We spend the afternoon watching the bikes bend through the esses, standing on the grassy knoll on the edge of the golf course.

You can get within fifty feet of the bikes pretty much anywhere on the track and unobstructed views are easy to come by; photography is easy at Indy.  We head back out to the bikes at about 3:30pm as the practice sessions are winding down.  We've been here since 8:30am and we're sun-baked, overwhelmed and ready for a rest.  On the back straight are hundreds and hundreds of bikes, as far as the eye can see.  We slowly motor past row after row of every imaginable motorcycle before ducking out through the underpass.  We're back at the hotel in minutes.  Jeff and I end up passing out for an hour before having another great meal at Chef Mike's.  We're not done yet with Indy motorcycle culture though.

Motorcycles on Meridian shows the breadth of motorcycle
culture in America - it isn't all Harleys and leather.
Motorcycles on Meridian is a satellite event to MotoGP that brings in thousands of riders.  We saddled up and rode into town about 8pm and were stunned to see so many bikes.  From guys who look like pilots riding on Goldwings to lost souls who look like they are just back from rehab, to lean sportsbike riders and everything in between, I was once again reminded that American motorcycling isn't mono-cultural.  Sure, the Motor Company pirate was well represented, but so was every other kind of motorcyclist.

We did a slow pass through the middle of the chaos and then went for a walk.  It was hot, humid and all the hotter for all the revving and showboating.  I've never cottoned on to the look-at-me loud pipes and chrome thing that many bikers get excited about, and some of the stretched drag-strip like bikes looked virtually unrideable, but it takes all kinds.  After a brief tour through the circus of LED lit v-twins and custom madness we had a cold drink and slipped out south to the highway.  Tomorrow was the beginning of the long ride home.


The ride down had highlighted the agony that is the Concours' stock seat.  We stopped at Cycle Gear on the way out of town the next morning for a solution.  They had gel seat pads on sale for forty bucks so I gave one a whirl.  Max got himself a nice helmet with a tinted screen for sunny, highway riding.  The service was great (as it generally was throughout our trip) and we practically tripped over the location on our way out of Indianapolis.  The prices were also astonishing, especially when you aren't paying 13% tax on everything, basically half what we would have paid for the same thing in Canada with less tax.  Helmets seem to be especially cheap in a place where they aren't a requirement.

We made quick work of I69 north to Fort Wayne and were on the 24 heading toward Ohio before mid-day.  Jeff wanted to try and make it home that day so we parted ways in Toledo.  He took the I75 north to Detroit and was home by 7pm.  Max and I headed north on 23 to Ann Arbor thinking to spend the night there before finishing on Sunday, but Ann Arbor was booked solid with a pipe-fitters convention (?) and the rooms left were over three hundred bucks a night.  We pushed on and then got lost in the suburbs of Detroit (which are still surprisingly well kept) before finally stumbling into the Wyndham Garden hotel by the airport.

Like so much else in Detroit, the Wyndam Garden has the look of something that must have been super chic in sixties (it has an indoor forest!).  It's the kind of place James Bond might have stayed when he was Sean Connery, but now it's run down and tired.  People who went to Rome after the Empire fell must have seen something similar.  I left Max in the room and ducked out for take out.  Every store I went to had bullet proof glass and turnstiles between the customer and the clerk.

Day 5

The next morning we hit the road early.  Max wanted to try the tunnel but we got there only to be told motorcycles weren't allowed in.  A sign would have been nice, but at least we got to see downtown Detroit on a quiet Sunday morning.  My magic power kicked in at the Canadian border.  Everyone else crossed in about ten minutes, but we waited twice that because we got the guard who wanted to chat with everyone.  Soon enough we were bombing down the 401 toward home making excellent time.  A couple of stops at ONroutes (which felt like time travel after a night in Detroit) later we were in Kitchener and winding our way down familiar country roads.  We were home by 2pm.

The Concours was faultless, returning mid-fifties miles per gallon on the highway and high forties everywhere else.  It started at the touch of a button every time and showed me it could do the ton with two people in gear and all their luggage.  The gel seat eased the pain but got incredibly hot, leaving me with heat rash and a scowl.  A seat solution will happen before the next long ride, but there is little else I could do to make this wonderful machine any better.

The Concours has ridden on hallowed
ground.  She wears it with pride.
If you don't like crowds, the Indy GP is the one to go to.  Indianapolis is enormous and easily swallows crowds of even one hundred and thirty two thousand.  There is talk of cancelling the Indy round next year, but if it's on I'm going to attend all three days.  I think we can get within striking distance in one day, ride straight to the track on Friday, hotel in Indy Friday and Saturday and begin heading back after the race on Sunday, finishing the trip on Monday.  After doing it once I know I can do it even better next time.

After bombing down the Indy back straight once, I want to do it again!  It only costs forty bucks to do a lap of the MotoGP circuit!  That'll be on the short list for next year along with a paddock pass so I can get Sam Lowes autograph.

If you love bikes and live anywhere north-east in North America, you should give the IndyGP weekend in August a go, I promise you won't be disappointed.  The long ride through the mid-west is anything but boring and the hospitality is second to none.  And when you get there you get to ride on the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and experience the MotoGP circus in full swing, it really is unforgettable.

NOTE:  The Indy MotoGP is no more - glad we went when we did!  I'm going to have to get more committed to riding to a MotoGP race if I want to do it again!