Thursday 19 October 2017

October Commutes: A Photo Essay

Along the same stretch of road at 8am each morning as the sun gets less and less.

October 1-5

 Ice forming on the Theta meant very blurry images - Photoshop made them a bit more abstract but less blurry.

Oct 8-12

Oct 16-19 - a thick frost had me stopping and using the phone instead of the Theta...

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Six Wheels Across Canada

Crossing Canada (and we're not even going
coast to coast) isn't a little trip.
Next summer we're aiming for the family cross country trip.  If you live anywhere except one of the largest countries in the world that might not require too much forethought, but it takes over 2000kms and 3 days just to get out of the province we live in, then there are another four provinces to cross before getting to the family reunion in British Columbia.  The thought of doing this on a bike is both invigorating and a bit overwhelming, and besides, I'd like to spend some time in the car with everyone soaking up the views together.

What to do?

Is it possible to get a vehicle that would get us across Canada reasonably comfortably but would also allow me to drop two wheels down when the roads demand it?

I've had the van itch before, but is there a vehicle that could carry the three of us and a bike well?

Guy Martin's Transit Van fascination has long been an influence.  It turns out you can buy a special Guy Martin Proper edition these days in the UK.

Choices for North America aren't that special, but you can still put together a custom enough van that might be the Swiss-Army knife of a vehicle that I'm looking for.  What's interesting is that on the UK site they talk about using a Transit as your 24/7 vehicle like that could be a thing, but North Americans would find Transits impossible to live with (because North Americans are just too precious?)

The long wheelbase, medium roof Transit will handle four seats with room enough to comfortably swallow a Triumph Speed Triple as well.  With a finished interior it'd be a comfortable way of making the epic cross country trip and could handle all the luggage we could throw at it.

In cross country mode it'd have the four seats in and plenty of room to stretch out and cover big miles.  I'd be tempted to swipe some of the "Proper" Transit and sporty it up a bit, but the main idea would be to have a modern, efficient van that is able to do many things.

With the bike out we'd be able to stretch sleeping bags out in the back, and there are some other interesting options I think I'd explore.  The Aluminess Roof Rack turns the whole roof into a patio, which would be handy on trips for photography, as a base for drone filming operations or as a vantage point when the van is taken to events.  It has a cool LED spot light bar on the front too.

There are a number of interior finishing options available.  I'd take the van to a finished interior, but I don't know about a private jet on wheels, I'd want it to keep some of its utilitarian appeal.  Being able to rotate the front seats would have obvious benefits though.  A number of companies finish these vans, from use based needs to full on camper conversions.

The medium roof, long wheelbase version of the Transit will take in about 163 inches long in the cargo area - a Triumph Speed Triple is about half that, so it'd fit behind a second row of seats.  Maximum load width is almost 70 inches, the Speed Triple is less than half that wide at the handle bars and much less elsewhere, so it'd fit comfortably on one side of the rear cargo area.  Maximum load height is 72 inches, the Speed Triple is less than 50 inches tall.  Even a big bike like my Tiger (54 inches tall, 34 inches wide, 89 inches long) would still comfortably fit in the Transit.  Since a Transit will take close to 4000lbs in payload, the thing could easily handle a pair of big bikes without breaking a sweat.  One bike, 3 people and a pile of luggage wouldn't make it break a sweat.

The ten thousand kilometre odyssey across Canada would be a lot more fun with such a comfortable, spacious and capable vehicle... and being about to ride the Rockies and the West Coast west and then back east again would be spectacular.

Almost four thousand kilometres of Rocky Mountains and West Coast?  Magical!  Having a vehicle that can deliver it together AND on two wheels?  Bazinga!

Monday 16 October 2017

Dangerously Close to Hipster Cool

The Concours customization continues slowly.  The (too short) Canadian riding season is staggering to a close, so I'm out on the Tiger whenever possible (3°C this morning).  Soon enough the snow will fall, the roads will become salty nightmares and I'll have lots of mechanical time on my hands.  Today it's a cold front coming through with high winds and torrential rain that has me in the garage instead of out on the road.

The front light is now prepared to go into the wiring loom, as is the rear one.  Both front and rear are LED units so I'm having to make a few changes to get them happily connected to the twenty three year old loom.  I'm going to mount the rear lights higher up under a rear cover that'll also wrap up the back of the seat.

I've got basic framework in place - I'll eventually paint it all flat black so it fades into the background, but for now I'm just leaving it metal coloured.  I was originally going to get the body panels done in thin metal so it looks Mad Max-ish, but that doesn't look likely to happen any time soon.  I was watching Out of Nothing the other night and they said they'd taught themselves fibreglass body panel building, so I intend to do the same.  I'll work out the panels in bucks and then make fibre glass finished product; it'll be a good project.

I'd originally tried a smaller coolant tank in the back, but it couldn't handle the needs of the bike, so I've relocated the stock one under the back seat.  With panels in place it'll be all but invisible.

As much as possible I'm hoping to keep the bike looking mechanical and simple, but with some carefully sized fibreglass I should also be able to keep the ugly bits out of sight.

Up next is wiring in the lights and finishing the back end.  After that it's just making fibreglass.  Two side panels for the back and the rear cowling for sure.  The stock front fender is way too heavy looking, so I'll be looking at options for that.  I might do something strange to frame the radiator - that top rad hose is a natty looking thing.

The only mechanical part I'm looking for is a very basic instrument gauge.  I've been collecting ideas on Pinterest, so eventually I'll come across the ideal piece and grab it.

I heard once that Axl Rose bought a new Harley and had it customized so it looked old by adding patina to it.  Only a rich person would do something so asinine.  The Concours has had a long, hard life; it comes by its patina honestly.  What I love about the bike is that it's mechanically very sound (now).  Rebuilt carb, rear hub, bearings, brakes - it's new in all the right places, but you couldn't tell from looking at it.

It's getting to the point where this thing is starting to look dangerously hipster cool; I might have to grow a beard.

Wednesday 11 October 2017

A Superior Week in the Woods

I always get to this time of year when I'm 50+ hours a week at work and get antsy.  Instead of having my waking hours decided for me days hence, I wonder what I'd do if my time was my own.

It hasn't been a great fall for colours.  A brief cold spell followed by a long period of strangely hot weather means the leaves haven't been shocked into a super colour burst, but if it's autumn I'd still like to see some colours.  

Rounding Lake Superior would certainly surround me with trees.  This time of year it's half empty up there, so the roads would be mine.  It's a long ride around the largest of the great lakes with half of it in Minnesota and Michigan, about 1700kms just to ride around the lake.  

It's pushing my luck to expect the weather to be with me, snow is a distinct possibility in October in Northern Ontario, but it'd be an epic last ride before the doors close on another riding season.

Riding Superior means I could pop in to Aerostich in Deluth, Minnesota and look at Roadcrafters.  They even have a sale on now!  I might be able to get one of these bespoke super-suits and finish the ride looking like a cross between an astronaut and a ghostbuster.

Day 1 (289kms+ferry)
Elora to Tobermory (225kms, 3 hours):  Leave Friday after work (3:30pm), get to Tobermory quickly!
Ferry Friday Night:  6:10pm from Tobermory to South Bend 7:55pm.
South Baymouth to Little Current: (64kms, 1 hour), get in at about 9pm.  289kms on the bike plus a ferry ride across Georgian Bay.
Overnight:  Anchor Inn, a 19th Century hotel in Little Current

Day 2 (512kms)
Little Current to Wawa (512kms, 6 hours):  lunch in Sault Ste Marie. 

Overnight:  Wawa Motor Inn

Day 3 (482kms)
Wawa to Thunder Bay (482kms, 5.5 hours): across the top of Superior

Overnight: Hampton Inn & Suites Thunder Bay.

Day 4 (301kms + border crossing)
Thunder Bay to Deluth, MN. (301kms, 3.5 hours)

Get there early and checkout Aerostich (there's a sale on!) open 8-6 Monday to Friday.

Overnight: Holiday Inn Downtown Deluth.

Day 5 (406kms)
Deluth to Marquette (406kms, 5 hours)

OvernightCedar Motor Inn, Marquette

Day 6 (364kms + border crossing)
Marquette to Sault Ste Marie (364kms, 5 hours)

OvernightHoliday Inn Express Sault Ste Marie.

Day 7 (624kms+ferry)
Sault Ste Marie to South Baymouth (353kms, 4 hours)
Get to South Baymouth for 12:30
Ferry 1:30 to 3:30pm
Tobermory to Elora (225kms, 2.75hrs)

The whole thing (624kms, 9+ hours including ferry)

HOME!  Three thousand kilometres in a week.