Sunday 22 July 2018

Triumph ATLAK Meet Up

The day after my Kawartha Highlands Loop I made my way north into the fancy cottage country of the Muskokas looking for Triumph's ATLAK tour Southern Ontario stop.  It says Toronto on the poster, but Torrance is over two hours and two hundred kilometres north of that.  

A chance to ride the new Tigers was very enticing so I set off with high expectations.  I'd filled up on the way in to the cottage two days earlier then done the big loop around the Kawarthas the day before.  Just after 11am I set out on hot, July Saturday with the gas gauge just above the empty bar figuring I'd fill up when I came across a gas station on the 140+kms ride up there.

From near Bobcaygeon I made my way through Kinmount and Norland on the twisty Monck Road/County Road 45.  Still no gas in sight, but I was having a good time with the light and frisky Tiger.  By the time I headed north on the 169 past Casino Rama I was astonished that I wasn't stranded yet, and the fuel light still hadn't made an appearance.  I was through Washago and onto Gasoline Alley on Highway 11 and still nothing, but if I ran out of gas on Gasoline Alley it would have made a good story.

I finally pulled into a Shell on the side of the highway just past noon, still with no warning light on.  The 24 litre tank took just over 22 litres, so I still had some wiggle room.  At about 460 kms on 22 litres of fuel, the Tiger, with 250lb me and two panniers with tools and rain gear in them managed over 49 miles per gallon (4.8 litres per 100kms), that's within one mile per gallon of a Prius, and I wasn't riding it gently.  I'm not sure how much fun driving a Prius is, but it's never doing 0-60 in four seconds like the Tiger had been, and the Tiger isn't a black hole of resource production in its manufacture.

I pulled into Clear Lake Brewery in Torrance, just west of Gravenhurst, at about 1:30pm.  I'd missed lunch, but wanted to get there early and get signed in.  There in lay my only mistake on this trip.  I'd foolishly assumed that Triumph turning up with a bunch of Tigers would mean an opportunity to ride them.  I'd done this with Kawasaki previously, so it didn't seem like a crazy idea, and with details like, "Come spend a day at an event highlighting Triumph’s dynamic new ADV bikes – the class-leading Tiger 800 and technical juggernaut Tiger 1200.  Register today for an adventure of epic proportions. can you feel my confusion?  Surely an epic adventure implies an opportunity to ride, no?

After milling around for an hour and half in alternating patchy rain and then extreme humidity while watching Clinton Smout disappear on a variety of different Tigers, I was starting to wonder if I'd misunderstood the intent of this event.  A microphone was set up, but no one was using it.  We'd been handed out wrist bands and a swag bag of Tiger stuff, which was cool, but I was still waiting for someone to pick up that mic and start the thing.  A few people commented on my old Tiger (the oldest there by a decade, easily), but for the most part the majority of people showed up in like new, matching, name brand adventure wear on twenty grand, low mileage bikes and walked right by it.  They seemed happy to stand around talking a good ride, but that isn't my thing.

It was the last weekend of the World Cup on a summer weekend, so the Brewery was packed with people.  Trying to get a table, let alone something to eat (evidently what our wrist bands were for) wasn't likely without a big wait.  I finally overheard one of the organizers say, "it's just a meet and greet with a chance to see the new Tigers and talk about riding opportunities in the area."  The "epic adventure" was a show and tell?  After hearing this I was back at my Tiger in seconds getting packed up.

So close yet so far!
Before I left I figured I'd get some Clear Lake Brewery beer having never heard of it before, but the fridge in the entrance  was empty.  A quick trip  to the toilet and I was ready to make some tracks.  Someone had parked in front of me, but I backed the Tiger up the hill by the handlebars and saddled up.  Getting some Triumph swag and looking at the new Tigers was nice and all, but it wasn't what I thought I was doing that day.  I'm not a big fan of sitting around talking about motorcycles, I prefer to be riding them.

On the way in I'd noticed Muskoka District Road 13 cutting south around the lakes and rocks of the Canadian Shield out of Torrance.  It was well past 3pm and I hadn't eaten anything since that morning, but I knew steak was waiting for me at the cottage so I figured I'd just push on.  13 is a roller-coaster of a thing and a delight to ride.  Like all Ontario roads, some parts of it are so rough you're better off on a long suspension bike just to get over it, but other parts were smooth and very entertaining.  If you're in the area it's well worth the ride.  There's me talking about nice rides in the area for ya.

The highway portion of the ride was only about one exit long and I was back in Washago before I knew it.  I stopped at the massive LCBO off the highway (probably there thanks to Casino Rama being nearby) and finally got some beer, then retraced my route back out of Muskoka and across the Kawartha Lakes, this time with a full tank and no anxiety.  I ended up stopping once in Norland for a fruit filled tart and a small coffee before finishing the ride into the woods and back to the family cottage.

I've got no regrets in making the ride up to Torrance.  It was cool to see the new bikes but baffling to not get to ride them (unless you're Clinton Smout).  The ride up and back was entertaining and the Tiger hat is one of my son's favorites now, so that's a win.  Knowing then what I know now, I'd still probably have made the trip up there anyway, but it sure would have been nice to see how Triumph Tiger state of the art had moved along in the fifteen years since my bike came off the production line.

Sometimes it's the expectations that let you down rather than the thing itself.

Some photos from ATLAK:

The kit on hand had nice details like waterproof zips and looked like it would vent well.  None to try on though...

Toronto in a Toronto is really all of Ontario kind of way.  Torrance is over 200kms north of it...

... and from the ride back down Muskoka Regional Road 13 and home:

About to go flip the Roof's chin and go full face down on Gasoline Alley...
Muskoka Road 13 is a treat, but a bit rough in places.

Norland for a tart and some coffee...

2003 Triumph Tiger 955i Fuel Mileage Details:
22 Litre fill up - still 2 litres in the tank.
Gas mileage is: 21.14 kilometers per liter, 4.73 liters per 100 kilometers, or 49.72 miles per gallon.
Distance traveled since last time is: 465 kilometers. ~49.72mpg...

Wednesday 18 July 2018

A Kinder, Gentler Cross Canada Touring Unit

We're about to undertake a cross Canada drive and I'm already missing the thought of riding for a whole month this summer.  I've previously thought about Guy Martining up with a van to carry a bike, but that's a pretty industrial approach that wouldn't be very comfortable.  I've also thought about carrying a bike on this trip, but again, I was pretty industrial in my thinking.

From a passenger carrying perspective, a minivan would be the logical choice.  A Chrysler Pacifica is just what I'm looking for.  It's very efficient for what it is (much better mileage than the industrial vans I was considering before).  With a nine speed transmission it'd also be quiet and comfortable in addition to getting better than thirty miles per gallon.  Unlike our small SUV, it would also be able to carry whatever we wanted to bring and the flip and hide rear seats means leg stretching room in the back.

The reason a minivan would work is because I found a hitch mounted motorcycle carrier, which means I'd be able to carry a bike on the back of it.  A trailer is such a pain in the ass and is so hard on gas and transmissions that I'm not interested, but this rack fits right onto the Pacifica's frame mounted trailer hitch and distributes the weight on the back properly.  The Pacifica is a strong towing vehicle with a frame mounted trailer hitch option.  The rack can only carry five hundred pounds, but I wouldn't need anything like that.  KTM's 690 Enduro is a Swiss Army Knife of a bike that only weighs 330lbs before fuel, so it wouldn't stress the rack much at all.

Being so light weight the Enduro makes a capable off road machine, but that light weight also means you can load it on a rack designed for dirt bikes.  The Enduro is also a big bike that'd fit me and is more than capable of making time on paved roads.  It's a multi-talented choice that fits.

The question is, can the Pacifica actually handle a bike rack with a sub-four hundred pound bike on it?  The issue doesn't seem to be the rack itself.  I've found single racks and even double racks that can hold up to six hundred pounds along with road bike specific racks, so finding a rack capable of holding the Enduro isn't an issue.  The problem comes from tongue weight and how a vehicle can handle that vertical weight (as opposed to the horizontal weight of towing a trailer that rests on its own wheels).

The Pacifica's stock Class III frame mounted hitch is also the kind suggested for a bike rack, and while the Pacifica has a massive 3600lb towing capacity, the tongue weight (the only thing really matters with the bike rack) is rated at 360lbs, which is mighty close to what I need here.  Tongue weight is usually calculated as being ok if it's between 9 and 15% of the towing weight, which should put the Pacifica well over 500lbs at the top end, but evidently it isn't. 

I might contact a Chrysler dealer and see if this is possible...

Lightweight, multi-talented KTM Enduro on the back of a fuel efficient Chrysler Pacifica?  Yes please!
Another lightweight (and less expensive) option would be the Suzuki DRZ400.  At only 300lbs before gas and still less than 320lbs with a full tank, the DRZ400 would fit nicely on the back within the existing tongue weight limits.

  • Chrysler stock hitch: 360lb tongue weight, Class III, 2 inch receiver.
  • AMC-400 aluminum bike rack:  400lb weight limit (rack weighs 33.5lbs)
  • Suzuki DRZ400 (300lbs empty gas tank)

Monday 16 July 2018

Kawartha Highlands Loop

On Friday, July 13th, while thousands of people lined up to get into Port Dover, I left the cottage early (just before 7am) and headed out on my planned circumnavigation of the Kawartha Highlands Park.  It was already well into the twenties Celsius and humid when I left.  The fire roads into the cottage are a roller coaster rally stage of gravel over muskeg and Canadian Shield with tough, weedy firs and birch trees growing in the cracks.  It's fun in a car but a bit nerve wracking on a bike.

It's tourist season in the Haliburton Highlands and on the weekends the roads actually have some traffic (like, a few vehicles: Canadian country traffic), but on this Friday morning it was quiet.  I was lucky to see another vehicle pass me in any five minute span when I set out and the cottage road was just me and the bears.

I was out to Lovesick Lake Restaurant just before 8am for breakfast, only to discover it doesn't open until 9am... for breakfast... in the middle of the summer.  Having not eaten and already on the road for an hour, I was disinclined to hang around for seventy odd minutes.  Fortunately, a couple of years ago we did a family Thanksgiving at the Viamede Resort just across Upper Stony Lake so I figured I'd give them a try.  

I pulled in just as the breakfast buffet was underway.  It was twenty bucks for breakfast all in, but it was all you can drink quality coffee and real juices along with a buffet all you can eat hot breakfast with fruit and all the other odds and ends you'd expect from a high end resort.  If you've got the time and you're up that way, Viamede is a nice way to start a day of riding, and you're looked after by a fantastic staff while eating a great breakfast in a beautiful environment.  It's probably cheaper than a lousy hot dog at Port Dover and no line up.

When I came back outside it was heating up but I was full of beans (literally and figuratively) and percolating on that freshly pressed coffee.  Northeys Bay Road east out of Viamede was a roller coaster, weaving through outcroppings of rocky Shield as it worked its way around the end of Upper Stoney Lake.  At one point I came down into a valley only to discover a rafter of wild turkeys the size of sheep standing on a rock outcropping eying me as I went by; it was like riding through a herd of dinosaurs.  Northeys Bay turned onto County Road Six, which took a less sinuous and more  severe route through the woods.  From Six I was onto Forty-Four and the twists were back on again until I got to 46, but even the bigger roads were still constantly weaving, just with fewer gear changes.

With the slower, technical roads around Stoney Lake behind me, I struck north, deeper into the Shield.  46 and the 504 were both full of fast sweepers that seldom had me on the crown of my tires.  I pulled into Coe Hill Cafe about 10:30am.  After three hours on the bike my knees needed a rest, so it was coffee time.  It was me and four tables of retirees all talking politics and telling 'in my day' stories (they'd all owned bikes at some point).

A couple of cups of coffee and I was ready to tackle Lower Faraday Road.  This little road out of Coe Hill is twisty, turny thing.  Last time on it two years ago I was disappointed at just how rough it was, but sections of it have been resurfaced since my last attempt and this time I could exercise the sides of the tires a bit.  The top end of it was still rough, but that's one of the many benefits of riding a 'big trailee' adventure bike:  they can handle Ontario's terrible pavement when it gets rough.

Out the top of Faraday I pushed on up to the 648 'Loop" road through Highland Grove, Pusey and Wilberforce.  I was initially thinking about extending the loop through Bird's Creek and Maynooth, but it was touching forty degrees with the humidity and a swim in the lake that afternoon held more appeal.

I wasn't on the 118 for long, but once again I was reminded what a lovely thing it is.  If you like fast, sweeping corners through beautiful scenery on well finished roads, the 118 won't disappoint.  I think I prefer that kind of road to the super tight, technical, twisty roads that get all the attention and usually have lousy surfaces.

From Tory Hill I was dropping south along the western side of The Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park, once again on near empty roads.  The Tiger had burned off most of a tank of gas and was light and eager, and after six hot hours in the saddle, I was looking forward to a swim in the lake.  Like that post breakfast section around the end of Upper Stoney Lake, this road felt weightless and easy.  I get to the end of sections of road like that and realize I'd forgotten where I end and the bike begins.

I was back at Nogie's Creek before I knew it and riding the seventeen odd kilometres down increasingly small and twisty gravel fire roads into the lake...

I did the SMART off road training course a couple of weeks ago and was looking forward to seeing how my usually white knuckle approach to riding on gravel had changed.  I was in and out of the cottage a total of six times over the four days there and never once got a hand cramp.  In most cases I was resting my open hands on the bars and letting the throttle sort out any wobbles.  If you're anxious about riding on loose surfaces something like the SMART program is a great way to acclimate yourself to it and lose your fear of it.

I was back at the cottage by 2pm and in the lake shortly thereafter.  Once again the Haliburton Highlands had impressed, offering an assortment of interesting roads that are vanishingly rare in the table-top flat South West where I live.  The Tiger was once again a rock star, prompting discussions wherever we went and starting at the touch of a button.  It carried me and two panniers full of tools and rain gear around the Kawartha Highlands while soaking up bumps on some truly awful pavement and feeling like an eager sports bike when the going got smooth and twisty.  Best of all, we managed it on near empty roads with no delays and some spectacular scenery.

Best Friday the thirteenth ride yet!  About three hundred kilometres on near empty roads through picture postcard scenery and not a crowd or line up in sight.  That's my idea of what a motorcycling celebration should look like.  I'll leave the dressing up like a pirate and lining up to look at other pirates to the people think that is motorcycling.  I prefer to actually go for a technically challenging and picturesque ride, and boy do the Haliburton Highlands deliver.

Early morning map check after my first breakfast destination proved unserviceable...

Here are some full 360° images from the ride:
The cottage fire road out of Bass Lake. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The twists and turns of the Haliburton Highlands. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Lakes, woods and Canadian Shield. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The on-bike 360 footage was captured by a Ricoh Theta set to auto shoot every 30 seconds, so you can set and forget it.  The images are screen grabs from out of the 360 panoramas.  You can lean how to do this yourself (it's easy!) here.

Monday 9 July 2018

Escarpment Murals

A hot and sunny Sunday ride up and around the Niagara Escarpment looking for murals, though the twisty roads were the main focus...

Part 1:
Part 2:

The PTTR Grand Tour is going on all summer through Lobo Loco RalliesPaint the town red 2018 Grand Tour   That one is closed now, but there are many other weekend rallies going on if you're interested in exploring long distance motorcycle rallying.  

Murals Discovered:
Grand Valley 43.898875, -80.315307

Creemore 44.326060, -80.106099

Ravenna Country Market 44.469285, -80.417343

Clarksburg  44.546531, -80.461742

Some other 360 imaging from the ride.  Made using the Ricoh Theta camera on a flexible tripod attached to the bike:

The twisty bits on River Road

In Thornbury on the shore of Georgian Bay - the temperature was easily ten degrees cooler.

Beaver Valley

A busy Sunday in Creemore.

Through the wind fields outside of Shelburne

You can learn how to get shots like this HERE.