Sunday 6 December 2020

Last Light Of The Sun: 2020 Edition

Without putting too fine a point on it, 2020 has been a steaming heap of shit.  I can't put it behind me fast enough.  One of the only breaks in a year that seemed more interested in trying to break me than providing opportunities was a series of warm days into November.  Last year the snows descended on Hallowe'en and we were under it for five months, only to emerge into a world wide pandemic.  This year I've been able to steal rides here and there right up until the end of November.  I'll take what I can get at this point.

We looked like we were corked November 1st when we got our first big round of snow, but only three days later the snow was on the side of the road and I was able to take the Tiger out for a late season ride.

Nov 4th:  By Black Power Bison Company

Long shadows in the West Montrose Cemetery

That weekend we were up in the high single digits so I jumped on the Tiger and went for the last long ride of the year, up to the edge of Georgian Bay to have a look a blue horizon before heading back to my landlocked existence. This is close to where the year started off with a banzai ride up to Coffin Ridge Winery out of the endless winter to pick up some pandemic supplies early on in the lockdown, so it was nice to close the loop.  It ended up being about 300kms of the twistiest roads I can find in the tedious riding desert that I live in:

The Beaver River in the Beaver Valley before the snows fall.

Highland cattle grazing in Glen Huron.

With less than six weeks to mid-winter solstice the sun is never that high in the sky in mid-November in Ontario.

I thought that was the end of things.  The Honda had flooded itself and I ended up having to pull the
carbs which led to an inside out cleaning and installation of new airbox boots that I'd been waiting for winter to do.  I spent a warm Sunday afternoon on the driveway doing all that and when it was back together I took this athletic work of art for a shakedown ride and discovered that it was even sharper than it had been.  Honda Fireblades are something special, and this particular generation was ahead of its time

With everything sorted I shut off the petcock and ran the bike dry before wrapping it up for the winter knowing that it was ready to roll again in the spring, many months hence.  Surely I wouldn't get another chance to ride again this year.

I got home from work the next day and it was still well above zero and sunny, so I primed the carbs and off I went again.

The Fireblade, already an impressive piece of engineering, felt like a sharpened pencil with the carbs cleaned and the airbox rubbers replaced.  It was a nice final ride.  I once again shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before covering it up for the winter.

Of course, things weren't done yet.  We got a couple of weirdly warm days around November 21st so once again I primed the Honda and took it for a blast.  By this point the Tiger was up on stands and getting ready for a deep winter maintenance, but with the Fireblade so frisky I wasn't feeling bike poor.  Running a 17 year old European bike as my regular ride and a 23 year old Honda superbike as my spare, I'm often frustrated if both are sidelined, but not this long autumn.

When I got home I (can you guess?) shut off the petcock and ran the carbs dry before wrapping it up in blankets again for the long, cold winter.

Now I was really done. The Tiger was wheels off and up on blocks and the Honda was in hibernation under a sheet.  No more riding this year. Time to get my hands dirty. The Tiger needs some deep maintenance this year if I'm going to get it to one hundred thousand kilometres by the time it turns 20 years old in 2023. This past summer we did alright miles and it's up over eighty-thousand now, so I have three more riding seasons to put in 20k kilometres to hit my target.  With any luck things will be opening up over the next year and I can get back on track to putting on some miles on longer trips.

Meanwhile, the weather looked like it was getting wintery.  Snow was closing in on the forecast but never seemed to land on us with any real weight.  I ended up priming the Fireblade one more time for a very cold, end of November ride.

One of the benefits of having the sports bike is that it makes even a short ride a thrill, and this one was that.  The 'Blade's telekinetic handling and explosive engine in a very lightweight package shot me down the road.  It was nice to find that feeling of being on two wheels one last time before finally putting things away for the winter.

I couldn't feel my hands when I got home after 40 minutes out, but it was totally worth it. By late November we're typically looking at minus double digits and knee deep in snow.  Since then we've had multiple blasts of snow, a snow day at school and the roads are thick with salt and sand.  The Fireblade is sleeping under its blanket and the Tiger is in the spa.  Today I used my new tire spoons to remove the 10k squared off Michelins on the Tiger.

Changing my own tires may fall into the more-trouble-than-it's-worth category, but it's still a good thing to do at least once just to look things over.  I think I'm going to take the tires in to the autoshop at work to mount them next week rather than try and do it by hand with tire spoons.

Here's a winter moto-themed video to get you in the dark season's maintenance mood:

WAITING OUT WINTER from Andrew David Watson on Vimeo.