Saturday 30 April 2016

A Year of Living Dangerously

Work's been heavy as of late, and I've got the middle-aged itch to do something profound before I'm too old to do anything interesting.  As usual, money and responsibility tie me to the earth, but in my more imaginative moments I wonder what I'd do with a year off and the money to do things that one day I'll be too old and creaky to manage.

If I finished work at the end of June this year and had a year off I'd be back at work the following September.  That would give me the better part of fifteen months to explore three of my favorite aspects of motorcycling:  road racing, endurance riding and long distance adventure riding.  In chronological order, here's my year of living dangerously:

It's seat forward, middle & back,
in ergocycle but it looks like I *really*
like that Daytona.

1... Road Racing:  This spring get my race license, get a bike sorted and complete in the SOAR schedule over the summer.

A 12+ year old Triumph Daytona 600 would be a nice machine that fits into specific age (lost era) and displacement categories and wouldn't be what everyone else is sitting on.  I also fit on it quite well (see the suggestive gif on the right).

Road racing would sharpen my riding skills and let me wrap my head around some of the more extreme dynamics of motorcycle riding in a controlled environment.  

Familiarity with high speed on a bike wouldn't hurt for what I'm planning to do next, and racing over the summer would also focus my fitness training which would be helpful in building up to #2.

Costing a road racing season:  ~$20,000 (including race prepping a bike and racing in a local series)

Less than 50% usually finish, it's
difficult, astonishing and viciously
exhausting, but finishing puts you in
a very small and exceptional group.
2... Race the Dakar:  Happening over New Years and into early 2017, finishing the Dakar would be the kind of thing that not many people manage.  Dreamracer puts into perspective just how difficult this can be.

Leaving work at the end of June I'd be full-on training and preparing for the race.  There are a number of Baja and other sand/desert focused races that would get me ready for the big one.  There are also a lot of off road training courses available well into the fall.  My goal would be to get licensed, certified and experienced in as many aspects of motorcycle racing as possible in the six months leading up to the Dakar.

Doing a Dakar would also be a fantastic fitness focus.  With a clear goal in mind, it would be a lot easier to schedule and organize my fitness.  A personal trainer and a clear targets would have me ready to take my best run at a Dakar, one of the toughest tests of mind and body ever devised.  It would do a fantastic job of scratching that middle-aged urge to do something exceptional.

Costing of a Dakar:  ~$98,000 Cdn

3... Ride Home:  The Dakar raps up mid-January, the perfect time to begin a ride back to Canada!  After resting up from the race I'd head south to Ushuaia at the beginning of February (summer time there) before riding back up the west coast through Chile.

A stop in Peru at Machu Picchu and then up the coast through Ecuador and into Columbia before loading on the Ferry in Cartegena to Panama around the one roadless bit in the Americas.

Once landed in Panama I make my way through Central America before pushing all the way up North America's West Coast to the Arctic ocean in mid-summer (lots of sunlight!).  The last leg has me finally heading south again and east across Canada and back home.

The new Tiger would do a sterling
job of taking me the thirty three
thousand kilometres home.
All told it would be just over thirty three thousand kilometres.  Leaving Buenos Aires at the beginning of Februrary, and averaging 500kms a day (less on bad roads, more on good roads), I'd be looking at 68 days on the road straight.  Fortunately, if I wrap up the trip at the end of July I'd have more like 180 days to do it, leaving lots of time to enjoy the magic I'd find along the way.

Cost of a trip like this?  A week on the road is cheaper in South and Central America than North America.  If this is a 160 day trip (with 20 days for potential slowdowns to stay within the 180 day/6 month goal), then the money can be roughly estimated using these approximations:
  • $150/day (gas, food, lodging, expenses)  in South & Central America
  • $250 a day in North America
The raw numbers break down like this:
  • 14,500kms in South America (43% of the trip)  -  69 days = $10,350
  • 5600kms in Central America (17% of the trip)  -  27 days = $4050
  • 13560kms in North America (40% of the trip)   -  64 days = $16,000
For a total of $30,400 for the trip + $15,000+shipping to Argentina for a new Tiger

For the low, low price of about $150,000, I'd have a year of unique challenges, once in a lifetime experiences and get a chance to do three things that will only become more and more impossible as I get older.  Some people like the idea of a holiday where they can do nothing, but that isn't for me.  I'll take the challenge any day, if only I had the money and the time money gives.

The goal once I was home and back to daily life would be to collate the notes and media from this year of living dangerously into written and visual mediums.  Being able to produce a video and book(s) out of this experience would be the cherry on top.

Besides a fantastic set of memories, some new skills and the material needed to write an epic tale, I'd also have a race bike ready to compete on again the next summer.  That year of living dangerously might persist.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Superior Ride

Just over three thousand kilometres around Huron and Superior...
I saw the Tiger in the
parking lot at work today
& was sorely tempted to
jump  aboard and disappear
I did Georgian Bay last year and I'm already thinking about Great Lake circumnavigation again.  With the Tiger cleaned up and ready to go, it's time to lob one over the horizon.  Huron & Superior would be the single longest trip in the Great Lakes series.

Day 1:  Elora to Tawas City, Michigan (~604kms) North Star Motel
Day 2:  Tawas City, MI to Marquette, MI (~545kms)  Marquette Day's Inn

Day 3:  Marquette to Duluth Minesota (510kms) Radisson Duluth Harbourview
note:  the Aerostich factory is in Duluth!

Day 4:  Duluth to Thunderbay Ontario (305kms)  Days Inn Thunderbay
Day 5:  Thunderbay to Wawa (487kms)  Wawa Motor Inn
Day 6:  Wawa to Little Current (513kms)  Anchor Inn Hotel
Day 7:  Little Current to Elora (334kms) 1:30pm-3:15pm Ferry to Tobermory

I could be done in a week with no extreme days and enough time in there to wander off the route if the mood struck us.  Max and I are already trying to work out a week we could do it on.

Saturday 23 April 2016

360° Video on a Motorcycle

I borrowed a 360° video camera from work to see what it could do.  This one is Ricoh's Theta, and it produces some astonishing results (you can move the point of view around with your mouse as you watch it):
On occasion I teach media arts and one of the key aspects of that course is considering point of view in the media you create.  These 360° cameras ask some challenging questions around how camera operators will present point of view in the future.  At some point we'll be telling our grand kids that we once all watched the same movie at the same time and they'll look at us like we're old and backwards.

Immersive video like this means the viewer tells the story by controlling their own point of view.  You can watch the bike going down the road, watch me on it, watch what the other traffic is doing - it's a different video for each person who views it.

When you upload this to youtube it's a big file.  Youtube throws up a low resolution version very quickly, but if you give it some processing time you'll eventually get access to a full 1080p version, which offers impressive detail in all directions.

For three hundred bucks Canadian the Theta does things the more expensive GoPro can't.  It isn't as tough as the GoPro, but forty bucks will get you a waterproof case that resolves that.  If you've never tried 360° video, the Ricoh Theta makes for an easy introduction.  I wish I had it for more than a short term loan!

It also does a good job of 360° photography:

trying the photo app on the phone with the 360° Ricog Theta.. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

For the video above I clipped the camera to the windshield with a rubber clamp.  It's so low profile that the wind had no effect on it.

Below are some screen grabs from the video that show the native resolution of the video in the Ricoh app.  In that Ricoh software you can zoom in and out of the 360° image as well as pan around it.  This is as close as I've seen to the Bladerunner photography tool Harrison Ford uses - you can use the video or photo to actually explore the scene you're looking at.

If you zoom right out you can see the native/fisheye view of the camera.  It does an impressive job of managing the
geometry of filming in all directions simultaneously.

Stills from the garage showing off the resolution of still images on the Ricoh

You can get some pretty interesting perspectives and abstract images out of this kind of camera:

Taken at pretty much the same time as the one above.  This gives you some idea of what the 360° can catch at once.

Friday 22 April 2016

Regular Riding

A bit of paint and I can now tell the
ignition key from the nearly
identical pannier key.
Regularly riding is a nice thing in mid-April up here.  It rained yesterday, so I commuted in the box, but today has dawned foggy and damp but with no rain in the forecast, so it's off I go again on two wheels, hopefully with the actioncam on video this time.

Getting to work after a ride in is invigorating.  Instead of a tedious trundle in a car you're full of oxygen.  You've smelled everything on the way in and you're switched on because you never ride a bike half aware.

The other morning I was at an all day meeting only five minutes from home, so rather than go straight there I shot past it and went for a ride along the river.  I still ended up being one of the first to arrive, and I was cold but lit up in the way that only a bike ride can do.

At the end of a day of meeting about something I get the sense has already been decided (but we had to talk about it all day anyway - yes, it was tedious), instead of going home I took the bike down the Grand River to the covered bridge and then came back on the north shore.  Even a short, twenty minute ride like that put the spring back in my step and cleared away the Kafkaesque cobwebs in my head from that day of soul sucking, meaningless blah blah.

The foggy and damp ride in this morning.  The smell of earth and new shoots filled the heavy air as the Tiger purred to work...

Thursday 21 April 2016

Your Typical Sunday Ride Isn't My Typical Sunday Ride

a 260km amble around
theNiagara Escarpment
I cranked out some miles on the Tiger this weekend.  On Saturday it was a 160km round trip down to Ancaster for a conference, on Sunday I left with a buddy from work along with his wife and son on a big 260km loop out to the Niagara Escarpment and back.

Jeff was two up on his new-to-him Goldwing and he son was on his dad's Super Ténéré.  We left Fergus following the Grand River and immediately came upon two cruisers burbling down the road next to each other.  Any questions I had about passing etiquette on other bikers were quickly put aside when Jeff dropped a gear and blew by the two of them without a second glance.   They (politely) went into single file so that we could catch the fleeing Goldwing without crossing a solid line.

Chasing the Noisy River into
Creemore is always a nice ride.
Elora to Creemore happened in a snap and the Tiger was becoming more and more familiar with each mile traveled.  Chasing the Noisy River into Creemore was well timed on empty roads and the Tiger and I had no trouble keeping up with the more experienced riders around me.

We stopped for lunch in Creemore and then helped a Harley rider try and jump start his dead, brand new bike (his typical Sunday ride, but I like my dependable, thirteen year old Triumph).  He eventually found a local who offered to jump start the bike from a truck.  After working up a sweat pushing a Harley up and down Main Street for a several minutes in our modern, textile body armor (while being watched by groups of leather clad bikers who I'm sure felt great kinship with the old fella whose bike wouldn't start, but not so much that they wanted to help), we headed south toward River Road.

In addition to being a windy road in a
place that doesn't have many, River
Road also has the benefit of taking
longer than five minutes to complete.
The River Road was a twisty delight.  Riding a bike is a fine thing, but the moment I'm off the crown of the tire I feel like I'm earning bonus points.  At my first training course towards the end of day two they set up cones and we were allowed to weave through them at speed and then ride a decreasing radius circle.  I stopped at one point and said to the instructor, "I could do this all day!"  The lean of a bike is nothing short of fighter-pilot magical (even Top Gear digs it).

River Road was a rollercoaster ride until we once again arrived on the tailpipe of a cruiser.  On any straight this guy would gun it, making a pass impractical (200km/hr passes, while possible, aren't wise on twisty country roads).  We spent the last bit taking the corners at floor board friendly speeds.

The action cam was clipped to a front
fairing for the twisty bits.
In Shelbourne there was a big, new sign advertising the Veteran's Highway pointing south, so rather than go over to the overcrowded Highway 10 I thought we should try it.  The moment we were past the last factory two hundred yards down the road the "Veteran's Highway" turned to dirt.  The Tiger seemed frisky and excited to be on the loose stuff, feeling very sure footed for such a big bike.  Behind me the Super10 was also rolicking in the gravel, but the two-up Goldwing?  When we stopped Jeff referred to it as an adventure two-up mobility scooter.  We turned left toward the highway at the first paved intersection.

The wave on River Road
Back at Highway 10 I once again suggested we push onto unknown roads in northern Mono Hills.  This road also quickly turned to gravel, but this time loose, twitchy gravel.  I'm bad at picking roads.  We ended up turning around and heading back to 10 before burning south and enjoying some time in Mono Hills and Hockley Valley.

We wrapped up the ride with a quick blast down the Forks of the Credit, which had the road closed into Belfountain, before heading back to Elora in lengthening shadows.

I got home sun and wind burned and wonderfully exhausted.  Can't wait to do it again!

Dropping into Hockley Valley.

That 'Lucifer Orange' paint just pops!

Working the corners of the Forks

Jeff making a three point turn on a Goldwing 2-up look easy.

Forks of the Credit: the road into Belfountain was closed, so a bevy of sports bikes were parked on the road.

The artful exhaust pipes on the Tiger.

Stopping for a break in Hockley Valley before heading down to the Forks of the Credit

Sunday 17 April 2016

Affidavits & Broken Ownerships

The XS1100 is finally mine.  After buying it off a clueless millennial who had managed to lose all useful paperwork associated with the bike, I've been able to re-establish ownership.  Here's how you do it:

In order to reconnect continuity of ownership you need to get a signed affidavit from a legal notary.  Your local town government will have a notary on hand that can sign, stamp and date your declaration of ownership (they'll offer this as a service).  I stopped in at the Centre Wellington Town Offices in Elora and explained the situation (clueless kid was previous owner, etc).  I showed them the ownership history the MTO had printed out for me (all six pages of it!), and the letter of sale from the previous owner.  I also said I'd made repeated attempts to find the last legal owner (I suspect he's deceased).

The county clerk (who is a notary) signed, dated and stamped the affidavit I provided (that's it above), and I took it back to the MTO office the next day.  In just a couple of minutes I paid the taxes on the sale price and the bike was attached to my name and a new ownership was printed out.  They keep all the relevant paperwork, including the affidavit.

It's a bit of a pain in the neck to reestablish ownership, but it's not particularly expensive (twenty bucks to get it signed) and just takes a bit of leg work by the new owner.  I'd argue a hundred bucks off the price for your time and costs to get the bike sorted - more if the previous owner is a tool (which they probably are if they lost all their paperwork).

Riding The Tiger

When you want to start riding in April in Canada
you need to take precautions!
Today saw a 150km round trip down to Ancaster and back; the first ride of the season.  It was 2°C when I left at 7:15am this morning.  No frost, but a cold ride to start.

I stopped in Kirkwall, by the kirk, for a stretch and to remove the balaclava.  By the time I got down to Ancaster for an educational conference it was warming up nicely.

I was out of the conference about 2pm.  By that time the temperature was pretty much perfect for a ride.  I took the main road into Ancaster and then up Sulfur Springs and Mineral Springs Roads, doing a loop before heading back north.

A cold start.
The Tiger was fantastic, feeling more powerful than the Concours with a much more relaxed riding position.  At first the higher riding position felt a bit awkward, but I quickly discovered that the Metzeler tires and taut suspension, even though it's long, could handle any corners I threw at them.  Any cornering awkwardness had at least as much to do with me being rusty from a winter in boxes as it did with the bike's geometry.

There were dozens of other bikes out and about in the warm weather.  The Tiger got a lot of double takes.  I know it shouldn't matter but in a couple of days of riding I've already had more compliments than I did in a year of riding on the Concours.  Halfway home I was thinking I could leave for Ushuaia immediately on this fine machine.

Once home I checked over the fluids.  The Tiger barely used any gas, and the oil and coolant was right where I'd left them.  I've got an air filter on hand (the previous owner said, "air filter?" when I asked if it had been done recently), but I don't want to miss a ride while I'm doing it now that the weather's good.  I'm hoping a mid-week after work change will give me the time to get it done.  To do the air filter means pulling the gas tank - it's not as easy as it's been on previous bikes.

A short stop in Kirkwall got the balaclava off (t made the helmet uncomfortably tight)

The twisty road sign is in short supply in Southwestern Ontario -
Sulphur Springs Road & Mineral Springs Road are exceptions.

Riding a Tiger really is a magical experience!
We've already got a route planned out for a sunny, warm Sunday  in April:

Friday 15 April 2016

Triumph Tiger History

First gen Tiger from the late '30s
I've been finding out the history of Triumph Tigers from various places on the interwebs. The first Tigers were born just before World War 2 and were quickly put on hold when the war started. With rigid rear frames and girder front suspensions, these were 1930s bikes in every sense.

Tigers followed the steady evolution in motorbike technology throughout the Twentieth Century, and also followed some rather silly styling trends, like shrouding the mechanicals in 1950s aero inspired nonsense.

'69 Tiger made in the UK the same
year I was!  Nice high pipes!

Pam Anderson riding
a Tiger!
Things get interesting again in the 1960s, with late '60s Tigers, along with the British motorcycle industry in general reaching a zenith before being crushed by their own weight and a lithe, hungry wave of Japanese imports.

Through the long, dark tea time of the soul in the '70s and '80s (and while my parents and thousands of others fled the country) Triumph went down in flames along with much of British manufacturing.  In '83 John Bloor, a building contractor who was looking into the purchase of the derelict Triumph factory to build more homes ended up buying the brand.  After sitting on it for a while he rebooted it and built a new factory.  

It's one of the best examples of British manufacturing rising out of the ashes of old money and old ideas and embracing a more effective approach to manufacturing.  Without the conservative  establishments of aristocratic ownership and unionized labour Bloor was able to reignite British engineering and give it chance to shine again.  You might think that it isn't properly British if it isn't mired in limited social mobility and the kind of Kafka-esque bureaucracy that makes building something well next to impossible, but that was only a moment in Twentieth Century British history and doesn't speak to the engineering prowess of our little island.

After Triumph rebooted in the early '90s, the Tiger reappeared in '93 during the second wave of model introductions.  An early example of what came to be known as adventure bikes, the Tiger was a tall, long suspension, multi-purpose machine running a three cylinder engine.  

Having tapped into this trend while it was still only popular in continental Europe, Triumph's Tiger line has been a key part of their brand for the past twenty plus years.  If asked what bike I'd want to take around the world tomorrow, the Tiger Explorer is at the top of the list.

Tigers have been around, in one form or another, since before World War Two.  I'm looking forward to getting to know the one I found this month.


Monday 11 April 2016

Tiger Tales in a Never Ending Winter

It's been an icy, crappy spring, but it looks like the end is nigh!
Tiger tales on a wintery April Weekend.  Last year at this time  Max and I were out doing a 300km+ run to Blue Mountain in some fresh Ontario spring air.  It was cold, and even flurried in places, but it was doable on dry roads with winter well behind us.

After another round of freezing rain last night we were up to ten degrees today.  Over the next few days it looks like riding season will start officially.  The Tiger is at my local mechanic getting saftied.  I should be on the road and ready to go by 
Wednesday, the day everything starts to get better.  In the meantime, while waiting for the ice age to end, I've been playing with some digital imaging:

Tigertester by timking17 on Sketchfab - a 3d model of the Tiger

Soon enough I'll be able to stop looking at it and starting to ride it!

Variations on a garage photo:

3d printed Triumph logo
I backed the Tiger out while trying to get the carbs sorted on the Concours - 2 hours later is was a white out out here.

3d printed Triumph logo

Triumph logo 3d printed

Dremel 3d printer doing the business
I scanned the Tiger with a Structure Sensor and then printed the 3d model on the Dremel 3d printer - not just a model
of a bike, but an exact scale model of my bike!