Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Off-Roading Dreaming

My son, Max, got handy with dirt bikes at SMART Adventures last week and now I'm dreaming of some options that would let us explore trails together on two wheels.  If I had half a million dollars sitting around we could get ourselves into a winterized house/cottage on Lake Benoir on the south edge of Algonquin Park.  The only reason I'm even thinking about that is because of COVID.  In any other situation I'd rather travel than own more property but well over a year into this pandemic it doesn't look like travel as normal will return any time soon.  That'd be a couple of acres in the woods in a small, simple house (electricity but mainly heated by wood burning stove) that comes with a good sized workshop.  They have some nice resorts on the lake so this isn't as rough of some of Northern Ontario and it's right in the heart of the Canadian Shield.  Off-road trails abound in the area as well as some of the best riding roads in Ontario.  We'd immediately get ourselves Ontario Federation of Trail Rider memberships and then get into the woods!

Back in the real world where half a million bucks and doubling down on real estate isn't in the cards, getting off-road could happen in a number of different ways.  Here's the most to least expensive in order:

NEW STATE OF THE ART OFF ROAD KIT

Jeep Gladiator Overland:  $65,000

A capable off-roader that can get us to the trail head while carrying the bikes.  It'd make a great base from which to ride from and then would be able to get us out of the bush at the end of a long day of riding.  There are a lot of camping options that let you leverage the vehicle to make camping a bit less mucky including truck bed mounted tent systems and proper bedding.


2021 CRF250F:  $5649 x2

I took one of these out for the day at SMART Adventures and really got along with it.  I'd buy an Ontario used dirt bike but the prices are absurd.  Broken 20 year old bikes are asking ridiculous money!  New dirt bikes aren't madly expensive and this one, being a Honda, would last as long as I'd ever need it to.  I'd get two of the same thing to make maintenance more straightforward and then my son and I could ride together.

Total (the camping gear is another grand):  $77k


LIGHTLY USED OFF-ROAD KIT

2015 Used Jeep Wrangler:  $36,000

It's got 90k on it, a 5 speed stick and a V6.  It looks in good shape and comes with the towing cubbins I'd need to tow bikes to where we could use them.  The Wrangler has a pile of camping related gear for it that isn't crazy expensive.  The tent off the back is three hundred bucks and the rear air mattress less than a hundred.  The whole shebang would come in under $37,000 and would be good to go pretty much anywhere while still doing Jeepy things like taking roofs and doors off.

Used Dirt Bike:  ridiculous prices

Here's a random selection of used dirt bikes online in Ontario in 2021.  People are asking nearly four grand for sticker festooned, brutalized and rebuilt bikes covered in replacement cheap plastics because the OEM ones were smashed off.  Four grand for these POSes!  I don't know that there is a cost effective alternative to dirt biking, at least in price crazy Ontario.

Here's another example of the insanity complete with questionable literacy skills:  1998 ktm exc 250 2 stroke, Needs a crank seal, witch (sic) I have. ( don’t half to split the case) it’s a 40 min Job if that, it does run but I wouldn’t without doing that seal first as it pulls tranny oil in other than that it needs the front breaks bled and a few small things like bolts for a couple plastics and such, I have the ownership, full gasket kit for the motor, all the paper work on the bike. $2,500OBO  That'd be a sticker festooned, broken and abused 23 year old (!!!) KTM for two and a half grand!  I just can't make sense of Ontario's used dirt bike market.  By the time you've sorted one of these wrecks out you'd have dropped over five grand on it anyway, which would get you a new bike.

But then there are some Chinese manufacturer option:

SSR SR300S dirt bike:  $5000 x 2

Here's a 31 horsepower, 300cc, 286lb well specified off-roader that undercuts the Japanese equivalents by almost a grand.  Of course, the 'Japanese' bikes aren't made in Japan either so everyone is spending a lot extra on brand and dealership accessibility.  I'd have headaches finding parts for beaten up old Japanese brands anyway, so worries about parts don't really matter.  For a couple of grand less than two new Hondas we could still have new bikes, just without the branding.

Here's another:

Vipermax 250cc Apollo:  $2899 x 2

Based on Honda tech, these 250cc bikes have disc brakes and other modern tech and weigh in under 300lbs as well.  They're not quite as big and powerful as the SSR above but they're capable, new and feature a lot of recently updated tech.  The two of them together would cost almost what one CRF250F ($5800 for two vs $5650 for one CRF250F).  They're probably built in the same factory.  Isn't globalism fun?

If I could find a couple of used but serviceable 250cc trail bikes for a couple of grand each I'd happily take that on as a winter project, but they simply don't exist in Ontario and with the Chinese options, why buy terrible, expensive and used?

***

A Jeep would open up camping and off-roading options beyond what the bikes could do and it's something I'd like to get into in any case.  There are dirt bike hitch trailers for the Wrangler and it could tow a trailer too.

There are a lot of ways to get off-road and out into the wilderness, I just have to figure out the one that works for us.

Monday, 26 July 2021

Long Distance Rallying: Lobo Loco's Comical Rally

We were up early on Friday morning getting ready for the Lobo Loco Comical Rally. This was a tricky one with super-hero themed locations but without a set start and finish location. It sold out well before the start day and had people from all over the place participating in it.  A long distance rally like this gives you a list of theme based locations you have to research and plan to visit in a set time period.  This one also had a minimum distance requirement of 400kms in 12 hours.

For us we were looking at a warm (28°C), sunny day in Southern Ontario. Our plan was to create a 'skeleton' map of where we wanted to go and then research locations on the route that would get us points. Because this rally was a human-focused one, it made sense to head into population to find locations, so I elected to make a route that would lead us to Niagara Falls eventually. This would mean riding in the dreaded "Golden Horseshoe" - the most populated area in Canada and usually a sure way for me to lose all hope in humanity.


I usually aim away from population when I ride. Sitting in traffic and dicing with distracted drivers isn't on my to-do list when I go for a ride, but one of the advantages to doing a rally is that it pushes you outside of your comfort zone. In this case it would help me hone my highway riding and traffic management skills.

The plan was to take the new Concours 14 on the trip but after a pre-rally ride on it we got home and looked at the Corbin seat on the Tiger and decided to take the older, less dependable and less long-distance touring ready bike simply for a saddle that doesn't feel like a sadist's dream.  The Tiger also has nicer foot pegs for pillion and wasn't giving me any reason to doubt it so I spend the day before making sure everything was tight and ready to go.


By 10am we were on the road getting points.  We looped through downtown Elora to catch our first super-hero bonus (IRONMN1) and then bounced over to Fergus to get our first villain bonus at the Lutheran church there (LUTHOR1), then it was down to Guelph to catch a Spiderman themed stop (a science building at a university) before heading on to our first comic book store stop at The Dragon in the south end of the city.  We'd hoped to also do a motorcycle themed comic book cover in the store but thanks to COVID they were running on reduced hours and weren't open yet.

We'd done a lot of research and planning for the rally but you've got to be ready to pivot while you're in a timed rally in order not to burn time.  Unfortunately, at that moment the Tiger decided to get temperamental and wouldn't start.  I finally got it going again so we decided to grab a MOVIEP bonus for a superhero themed movie poster at a theatre nearby instead (you could only pick up 3 stops in teach location).

The Tiger wouldn't start again after stopping at the theatre (turning over but not catching when hot).  I was now anxious and worried that we'd get stranded while far from home during a never-ending pandemic.  It finally started and we pulled over at a local Starbucks to have a coffee and a think.  The bike was working perfectly other than the hot-start issue so we decided to press on.  Because we parked the bike for 15 minutes while we had the coffee, the Tiger fired up no problem - so it starts, just not immediately after you turn it off.  This is a problem in a long distance rally where you're starting and stopping up to 25 times, but a manageable one.

South down Highway 6 we immediately got stuck in traffic coming off the 401 mega-highway.  It was starting to get properly hot now but once we got moving the temperature was bearable.  We were going to stop at Flamborough Patio Furniture to get a photo of one of their giant chickens (the INHULK bonus was to get a photo of an oversized road-side attraction), but there was no place to safely stop and I'm very conscious of safety when we're rallying, so we pressed on to Terra Greenhouses where we got the GOBLIN1 bonus for finding garden gnomes.  We stopped long enough that the Tiger fired up no problem - 10 minutes seemed to do the trick, so on we pressed to Hamilton and our next three targets.

Another science building stop at McMaster University almost got us the REALHOx real hero bonus (get a  real-life hero to sit on or stand by your bike) when a nurse came out of the hospital still in scrubs on her way home, but we couldn't find her once we pulled into the university parking area.  After McMaster we headed downtown looking for a Wonder Woman bonus (stature of a woman), but construction meant we would have been sitting in traffic for 20 minutes trying to get there so we bailed, hit the Levity Comedy Club for a JOKERx bonus before riding out along Hamilton's rough dock area.

The next target was Do Eat Sushi in Grimsby where they serve octopus on the menu (the OCTOPI Doc Octopus villain bonus!).  We stopped for an excellent lunch at Station 1 across the street before pushing on to St. Catharines.  Our Skills Ontario GIS medal winning son was at home so we had him look up an alternative Wonder Woman statue we could do and he found a great one!  St. Catharines was the end of the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape the land of the free south of us.  Harriet Tubman was a real-life wonder woman who helped free hundreds of slaves and then went back to the US to fight for the Union in the civil war.  Her statue in St. Catharines, where she lived for a time, was in a meditation garden on the side of a small church in a rough area of the city, and it was lovely and all the better for it because we were originally going to just grab a statue of a queen instead.  Canada has a lot of hidden history like this but queen statues are a dime a dozen.

From Harriet we worked our way through St. Cats getting a Peter street and a Parker Street along with another science building to complete the Spiderman combo bonus (Peter & Parker streets, GOBLIN, OCTOPI and science building - so all the Spiderman - points).

We headed out toward Niagara toward Queenston Heights for our second wonder woman statue (Laura Secord this time) but the canal was closed while a massive ship with what looked like huge steel building construction on it closed the way over.  Some cars were turning left so we followed them down the canal to the next bridge and got over as the big ship was entering the lock upstream.  It was cool to see but slowed us down.  I missed a turn to get on the highway and we ended up travelling through Niagara wine country instead, which was an improvement.

As long as we didn't stop the Tiger and expect it to start right away it was flawless, though the clutch was starting to make some odd noises.  Maybe it's time to change the sparkplugs.  We collapsed in a heap on the grass in the Queenston Heights across from Laura's statue at 5pm.  At that point we'd done about 160kms and hit 14 locations.  Our initial plan was to do 24 locations (one under the 25 limit) and continue on to Niagara Falls before looping back and catching our final stops in Cambridge and Kitchener on our way home, but my phone was acting up and the bike was causing worry and I was concerned about our stamina (over the past 3 years our family has faced cancer and heart surgery).

As we sat there with our boots and socks off (I took my pants off too), we had a picnic of apples, granola bars and water, cooling off and stretching, we made a decision to call it.  With better circumstances, a less questionable bike and better stamina on our part I think we could have aimed for a 10k score, but for this one my main goal was to finish and do it with a smile on our faces.

Finishing meant we had to do a minimum of 10 stops and cover at least 400kms.  The distance requirement was going to be tricky and we wouldn't meet it by retracing our steps.  Just before my phone died I mapped an alternative route that would have us dodge west on the 403 to the 401 before heading home on the highway.  Going this longer way around on the highway would mean we wouldn't be on the road so long (but it would be at speed in rush hour traffic) and we'd just get over the distance requirements.

We set out about 5:30pm and bombed down the QEW without any slowdowns.  When we got to the bypass around Hamilton things ground to start-stop with compression waves of impatient people cutting each other off and making it worse.  We sat amidst the rows of idling SUVs, minivans and trucks, all spewing carbon into the atmosphere while everyone made a point of slowing things down in hopes of getting themselves a few feet further down the road.  In circumstances like this it's hard not to see every GTA rush hour as a metaphor for why we're willing to make the world uninhabitable just to get ourselves a bit further down the road.  It takes a special kind of blindness to not see that when you're sitting in it every day.

The jackass in an Audi wagon with fifteen grands worth of carbon road bicycle on his back bumper who ran right to the end of a lane before cutting in front of the row of traffic was in the majority.  Nothing makes people worse than there being too many people, and there are more too many people in the world every day.

I'd suggest lane splitting for bikes but after watching Ontario drivers fail to indicate and drive irrationally just in order to get ahead one space in traffic, I don't think Ontario can handle lane splitting or filtering of motorcycles, we don't have the culture or the driving skill to do it safely.

Once clear of the idiocy that is Canadian city driving (there's a reason the only accidents Ewan & Charlie had when they rode around the world was in a Canadian city), we made tracks on the 403 away from the apocalyptic Golden Horseshoe.  The Tiger doesn't have much in the way of wind protection (it's basically a tall, naked bike), but the motor is a treat and we bombed down the 403 to Woodstock where we stopped to fill up at about 7pm.  The Tiger was managing over 50mpg two up with luggage.  The long ride into the setting sun had dried us out so we grabbed a Booster Juice and stretched before hopping back onto that lovely Corbin saddle for the final run home.

The 401 is a lot like Mad Max but without the speed limits.  As we got out onto the near-empty mega-highway we merged with 18 wheelers already doing 120km/hr and made tracks for Kitchener.  We got there in what felt like a matter of minutes and ducked off at Shantz Hill to take Regional Road 17 past the Waterloo Regional Airport and home.

The sun was low in the sky and the sunset was beautiful.  We passed through several small, Germanic communities around Kitchener and I figured at least one of them would have a Lutheran church so we could pick up another LUTHOR bonus, but all the little village churches had switched to United Church and I didn't have it in me to go hunting this late in the day.

We pulled into the same Esso station in Elora that we'd left at 9:40am at 8:30pm and 407kms later.  If you factor in our three extended stops, we were in motion for 9 out of those ll hours averaging 45km/hr including 14 stops for points.

If you've never done a long distance rally like this you'll find that you're exhausted at this point.  Riding a bike is much more physically taxing than driving a car, especially an air conditioned one on a hot day.  We'd made a point of hydrating whenever possible but you always end up in a deficit doing an event like this.

This was our first timed rally as a team and we both have a much clearer idea of what's needed to be more competitive next time.  An ergonomically sorted Concours would be a better tool for this kind of long distance work, especially covering the highway miles, and it would erase bike mechanical worries.  Stopping for hydration and to sort ourselves out is a good idea - being frantic and chaotic on something like this doesn't help you maximize points.  We got penalties for misspelling not putting addresses in some of our emails, though our photos were good so we've got that down.

I had to get the Send Reduced App on my generic OnePlus Android phone in order to meet the size requirements for attachments which adds extra work to sending in stops.  Iphones and Samsung Android phones do these file reductions automatically in their email programs so that's one place to trim wasted time and maximize scores.

It took us 9 hours in motion to make 14 stops.  You don't want to rush stops because you can lose points making mistakes, but you also don't want to end up with stop lag.  An efficient stop would probably be a couple of minutes if you're finding a safe place to stop, parking up the bike, getting the rally flag ready and taking the photo and sending it correctly.  Some of our stops lagged up to 10 minutes.  If we're running for maximum points we'd need to tighten up our stops, but retaining the breaks is a good idea to maintain hydration and limberness.

The biggest place to pick up points would be in building our stamina so we could run competitively for the full 12 hours.  This would require physical training.  There is also an element of circumstance/luck in a long distance rally.  If you get stuck in traffic or COVID reduced business hours you end up missing points that might otherwise fallen to hand.  I've always felt that if you practice your luck it will improve; experience makes luck happen.

Our rally prep is strong and our ability to pivot away from bad situations while in motion was good.  If we can improve our tools and stamina we could aim for a 10k+ finish points wise which would put us mid-pack.

The Concours is a better bike for this kind of work compared to the 80 thousand+kms, older and cantankerous Tiger, but I haven't ergonomically tailored it to our needs yet.  A phone that streamlines submissions would help as would an on-bike navigation system rather than me trying to do all that through my generic and increasingly disappointing OnePlus Android phone.

TomTom makes a moto-specific GPS system (so does Garmin) that would allow me to create a full rally route rather than the limited number of entries Google Maps allows.  G-maps is also (like all Google apps it seems) a poorly designed afterthought designed to collect user data rather than provide an optimal service - we pay for free in many different ways.  Having a navigationally specific tool would make for much more streamlined directional plan.

Our goal was to finish the rally and we achieved that.  By building on our strengths and consolidating this experience and improving our tools and processes, we'll be able to aim for a more competitive result next time.

Here's our rally planning spreadsheet: 


If you've never tried a long distance rally, give it a go.  It's a great way to hone your bike craft while riding with purpose.  You also end up finding things you might not otherwise known about, which is one of my favourite things about it.

Below are the final scores.  We finished, but just.  Check out the mileage on the top runners!  Managing over 1100kms in 12 hours means you're averaging over 90kms/hr for 12 straight hours.  I can't quite wrap my head around how that's possible if you're still stopping for points all the time.  Even if you're pulling up, taking a photo, sending it and then immediately going again, you'd have to be really moving to manage that.  Even our perfect run wouldn't have gotten us in the top 20.  The skill and stamina shown by the top runners is incredible.









Monday, 19 July 2021

Eye Of The Storm

We pulled into Creemore just past noon with rain forming on my visor.  My lovely wife (who is very
good at finding a seat in a restaurant) got us just that on a covered patio at the Old Mill House Pub and we enjoyed our first meal out since the pandemic started while watching the rain fall.

The thunder cell past over just as we finished lunch so we had a nice walk around Creemore checking out the Creemore Bakery & Cafe coffee shop and the local, independent bookstore, Curiosity House Books.  Of course, we stayed just along enough that the next cell was moving in, and it was a humdinger!  We could have sat it out but the afternoon was getting long and we had a doctor's appointment to get to back home so we got ourselves ready and jumped on the bike just as the rain came again.

This wasn't a summer shower like the last one, it was torrential.  By the time we turned on to County Road 9 to follow the Mad River up the Niagara Escarpment and hopefully through the storm, the road was a river itself and visibility was down to just a few car lengths.

This was my first time tackling this kind of weather on the Concours and I was doing it two up and on a schedule.  I don't know if Kawasaki Heavy Industries makes nuclear submarines (they do, of course), but the Concours handled this biblical end of time storm like one.  With the windshield raised I was able to duck out of the deluge and track through the tsunami coming down the road toward us.

County Road 9 twists and turns as it follows the Mad River up the side of the escarpment and the volume of rain was already causing flash flooding.  As we approached Dunedin a construction site on the left side of the road had washed out leaving half a foot of muddy water running across the road.  I angled the bike to hit it at 90° and we crossed effortlessly leaving a wake of muddy water.  Further up the river had burst its banks and had flooded the roads around us.

Stopping seemed more dangerous than the alternatives so I just pressed on.  As we climbed out of the valley the rain, which had been thumping down in quarter sized drops so heavy I thought they might be hail eased and stopped as quickly as it came.  As we crested the summit the sun broke out highlighting the green valley behind us that was still under a diabolical sky.  We pulled up to the intersection with Grey Road 124 which would lead us down toward Horning's Mills, Shelbourne and then home, except the sky south of us wasn't just dark and sinister, it was green, like a fresh bruise.

"I don't think I want to ride into that," I said to Alanna.
"Noooo..." Alanna said, eying the apocalypse south of us.
"How about we jog west to Dundalk instead?" I said, nodding to the turnoff just south of us.

The sun was out and the road was steaming as we sat there watching Shelbourne getting rocked by a storm cell that would go on to Barrie and wreak havoc half an hour later.  

A deke onto County Road 9 and we were passing through county side washed clean by the passing storms.  We caught another followup cell past Dundalk but it was nothing compared to the submersion we'd experienced coming out of Creemore.  What's the best way to ride through a tornado?  Don't, ride away from it!


It was one of those moments when you bond with a new bike.  You ride it well and it performs like the fantastic piece of engineering that it is.  As we thundered home (making the appointment with 10 whole minutes to spare), I found myself appreciating the Neptune Blue Kawasaki in a new light.  This bike offers a level of versatility, even in the most obtuse situations, that opens up riding opportunities that I might otherwise not have considered.

On Friday we're taking a run at Lobo Loco's Comical Long Distance Rally.  We've got the right bike for the job.


Some Kawasaki Concours fan-art...

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Ergo-cycling: Concours 14 vs Tiger 955i for 6'3" Me

 Cycle-Ergo, the motorcycle ergonomics simulator, is a great online resource for getting a sense of what you'll look like and how you'll fit on a bike.  Unlike cars, your options with bikes aren't as easy as sliding your seat back or adjusting the steering wheel.  To make ergonomic changes on a motorbike you need to change hardware and mechanically adjust it to make it fit.

The other day I was out on my trusty 2003 Triumph Tiger 955i.  I came off a Kawasaki Concours 10 to the Tiger and while the Connie was comfortable, it made my knees ache on long rides.  The first time I sat on the Tiger it felt like a bike built by people the same shape and size as me because it is.  I can go for hours without putting a foot down without a cramp on the Triumph.  This got me thinking about the differences between the big Kawasaki that sits next to the Tiger in the garage these days.

Cycle-Ergo gives me a quick way to check out the differences.  Forward lean is much more pronounced on the Concours 14 (12° vs an almost vertical 4° on the Tiger).  Knee angle is the same and my knees aren't bothering me on the Connie but hip angle is 6° tighter on the Kawasaki which explains the cramps I was feeling after today.

I sold a Honda Fireblade to bring the 1400GTR in and that bike had an extreme 'sports' riding position which was basically like doing a push-up on the bike (you lay on it) - it ain't easy on the wrists.  There are advantages to this aggressive riding position.  When you want to get down to business in corners a forward lean gives you a more intimate relationship with the front end, which is why sports focused bikes tend to sit a rider the way they do.  If I lived somewhere where roads were dancing with the landscape instead of cutting straight lines across it I'd have happily kept the Fireblade, but in tedious Southwestern Ontario it didn't make much sense.

Today I did a 200km loop on the Kawasaki and the constant lean does make it tiresome on the arrow straight roads around here (I have to ride 40 minutes to find 10 minutes of curves).  In the twisties the Concours is much more composed than the taller, bigger wheeled Tiger.  The Concours is a 50+ kg heavier bike but you can see in the animation that it holds its weight much lower than the Tiger.  In the bends today the Connie was fine but the SW Ontario-tedium I have to deal with most of the time has me thinking about ways to ease that lean.

There are solutions to this in the form of 'bar risers' which are blocks of machined metal that you slip in under the handlebars to bring them taller and closer to you so you're not stooped.  For me the lean also means I'm putting a lot of weight on my, um, man-parts, which end up pressed against the tank due to the lean.

Here's the difference between a stock
Concours 14 and the Murph's Kit bar
riser modification.
I had a look around at bar-risers.  There are number of people who put them together including some cheaper Chinese options but I ended up going with Murph's Kits C14 bar risers.  Murph is well known in the Concours Owners Group and has been producing Concours specific parts for decades.  His risers aren't quite as tall as some of the others and look to solve the problem without over-solving it by giving too-tall handlebars that spoil the lines and the purpose of the bike.

The biggest ergo-thing I did on the otherwise well-fitting Tiger was getting a Corbin seat for it which makes it a long distance weapon.  I'll eventually do the same thing for the Connie but I think I can make do with the stock seat this year and then do the Corbin over the winter.  That doesn't stop me from mucking around with the Corbin seat simulator though:



By next spring I'll have a C14 that fits but it isn't as easy as sliding the seat back in a car.  In the meantime we've got the Lobo Loco Comical Rally coming up at the end of the month.  That requires a minimum of 400kms travelled in 12 hours and will need more than that if we're going to be competitive.  I'm hoping my bar risers will be installed and I'll bring the good ole Airhawk out of semi-retirement to keep me limber over a long day in the saddle.

If you're thinking, "oh, a long distance motorcycle rally, that sounds like fun, you're out of luck on the Comical Rally, it sold out!  Lobo Loco is doing other rallies later in the summer though.

Monday, 5 July 2021

Lobo Loco Comical Rally: July 2021

It doesn't matter where you live, this one is a start anywhere, finish anywhere timed rally on Friday, July 23, Saturday, July 24th or Sunday, July 25th.  You need to cover at minimum of 400kms to be considered a finisher but otherwise it's an open event.

https://wolfe35.wixsite.com/lobolocorallies/blank

Comical Mini Rally
Motorcycle Scavenger Hunt
 
Friday, July 23rd to Sunday, July 25th, 2021
(Any 12 hour period)

Our Mini Rallies give riders the chance to get involved in Scavenger Hunt events without having to travel to the start lines.  You can start these ANYWHERE; we've had riders from all over the world do them each time!  You can also choose when to start your 12 hour ride clock, so you can adjust the event around your own work schedule and the local weather.

This event will have you looking for the Super Hero themed locations...

along with other Villainous twists & turns that Lobo Loco Rallies likes to throw your way!

12 Hour Rally - Starts ANYWHERE

Note:  You will need to ride a minimum of 400km

in order to be considered a Finisher.

Only $30 per bike!

Register here!  https://rides.jasonjonas.com/regRequest.php?id=752

Here's the Facebook page:  https://fb.me/e/1a7Io8CY6

If you're looking for a reason to put some miles on your bike and see places you wouldn't usually go during a strange summer where the rules of travel aren't very clear, do this!  You've still got a week to sign up.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Overlanding While Treading Lightly

 I came across Overland Journal in Indigo that other day and the combination of reasonable price ($12CAD) and very high quality (it compared favourably with magazine-book combos asking $25+) had me picking it up.  It isn't motorcycle specific but does include off road and adventure bikes along with pretty much any vehicle you might go off the beaten path with.

I usually do that kind of off-roading with completely inappropriate vehicles.  In the early noughties my wife and I beat a rented Toyota Camry to within an inch of its life on the the logging roads in the interior of Vancouver Island.  Another time we were in a rented Citroen mini-van in Iceland watching arctic foxes run across the empty landscape.  In both cases we got deep into the wilderness in rental two-wheel drive vehicles, but then we got a Jeep Wrangler as a rental car last year and it started giving me ideas.

I put myself through university working as a service manager for Quaker State's Q-Lube and whenever a Jeep came in you needed an umbrella when you walked under it for all the fluids leaking down on you.  That negative experience put me off the brand for years but last year we got a Wrangler as an insurance rental after and accident and it changed my perception.

It was a 2019 Jeep Wrangler four dour with about 20k kilometres on the clock and it was tight!  Everything worked and felt quality and it did something that no car has done for me in the past decade; it felt like an event driving it.

Since bikes set in I've fallen out of love with cars (trucks, whatever), but the Jeep made driving feel special again.  Performance cars seem kind of pointless when I have two bikes in the garage that are faster than anything but apex million-dollar plus super-cars, but the Jeep came at it from another angle.  The big tires made it a challenge to manage on pavement and the big V6 in this one was a stark contrast to the sub-two-litre mileage focused appliances I've been driving, but maybe that's what made it feel special.

There was a point where we could have taken the other car (a Mazda2) down to Toronto but took the Jeep instead and it made the whole experience less like a long, difficult winter drive and more like an adventure.  Being higher up off the road meant I wasn't looking through other people's road spray all the time and if I wasn't heavy on the gas the thing was getting mid-high-twenties miles-per-gallon.

Another time we were out in it and my brother-in-law (a former Jeep owner) and our sons went out for a ride and I shifted it into 4wd and drove right over the snow mound in the Canadian Tire parking lot, much to everyone's amazement.  This was a ten-foot plus high mound of snow and the Jeep went right over it - with road tires on!  Deeply impressed with the vehicle's capabilities and character is where I was when we handed it back.

I also used it to take a thousand plus pound of ewaste to recycling from work and the heavy duty suspension and utility of the thing made this an easy job when the little hatchback would have been blowing shocks and wallowing under the weight.  Having a vehicle that takes on larger utility tasks makes sense when you have a lot of them to do.  It also makes sense if you want to go deep into the wilderness while being self-sufficient.

I'm getting to the age now where things seem strangely expensive.  My first car cost me $400 and took me a hundred thousand kilometres.  A Honda Civic hatchback I had in the early noughties took me over a quarter of a million kilometres for less than seven grand.  The only new car I've ever purchased (that Mazda2 that has been flawless for over 120k over ten years of ownership) cost me $17k new, all in.  My wife's Buick cost an eye-watering forty-grand back in 2016 new and I'm not interested in double car payments so won't be looking until we finally pay that one off (which seems like it's taking forever  with our strange new world of 7-9 year finance schemes).  When that debt finally gets cleared I'll be looking at a Jeep Wrangler, but not just any old Wrangler, I want the one from the future.

From an 'overlander' point of view a dependable long distance vehicle capable of going off the beaten path means my wife and I can do what we've always done, but more so.  In the pre-covid times we drove from Ontario to the West Coast in 2018:


In 2019 we took the same tiny Buick to the East Coast of Canada, but the vehicle we drove limited our ability to go off the beaten path (or even off pavement).  What a Jeep would do is enable us to do the things we defer to (in rental cars) in something designed for that kind of nonsense.

This has me encouraging my lovely wife to join us at SMART Adventures this year to learn some off road driving in a side-by-side while we dirt bike.  Which brings the overlanding vehicle back to bikes again.  You can go deep in a Jeep but you can get places on a dirt bike that you can't in any other way.  Jeep's new 4xe hybrid Wrangler would be a fantastic platform for all manner of biking shenanigans from a tread lightly/minimal emissions angle.  Overland Journal had an editorial about not abusing the remote places they feature.  A good place to start with that would be to minimize the amount of emissions you're putting out while enjoying nature.

If a Wrangler'll carry a full on dirt bike, it'll
handle a Freeride (or 2 without batteries in 'em).
Whether it's taking a dirt bike to a trail or a trials bike to an event, the Jeep 4xe would be capable of doing it efficiently and effectively.  With some canny rear mounted racks it wouldn't even require a trailer.

The next-level green expedition option would be to pick up a KTM Freeride and put it on the Wrangler 4xe and then work out how to charge the bike from the hybrid Jeep's electrical system.

Overland Journal has a lot of advertisers who specialize in making vehicles long distance ready, including many that specialize in prepping Jeeps for the long haul.  A Wrangler 4xe would make an efficient, green platform from which to launch wilderness riding on KTM's Freeride that barely leaves a trace.
KTM's Freeride electric off roader gives you 90 minutes of charge, weighs less than 250lbs and (with the battery pack removed) would be barely noticeable on the back of the Jeep.  With some canny wiring the bike could charge while on the hybrid Jeep.

The Jeep Wrangler 4xe is the most powerful Wrangler yet, has astonishing mileage and would also offer some interesting electrical generation options when off the beaten track.

The electric bike and the hybrid Wrangler would cost less than a base model BMW mid-sized SUV, so it isn't even crazy expensive (well it is, but that's just because I'm old - everything's expensive!).  This zero emissions expeditions thing is something KTM and Jeep should join forces on.  Two legendary off-road brands working together to produce an environmentally responsible off-roading experience?  Betcha it wouldn't take too much to have the Jeep's hybrid system juice up the Freeride while off piste either.


I'm glad I stumbled across Overland Journal.  I'm enjoying it so much I think I'm going to pick up a subscription.  Then it's time to start thinking about the Jeep/KTM green/dream team combination.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

To The End of the Road North in Ontario & Quebec

Ontario has hundreds of miles of ocean coast line but being Ontario there is no way to ride there.  Quebec hasn't been so lackadaisical in connecting its northern communities by road.  If I cut out of Ontario just east of New Liskeard I could then make use of Quebec's better northern infrastructure and actually ride to the coast of James Bay almost to the point where it opens out into Hudson's Bay:

I'm not the first one on an adventure bike to want to ride to the end of the road north in Eastern Canada:




...though apparently only (new) BMW riders make the trek.  Bet my old Tiger could do it.

It's remote but the vast majority of the 1600+ kms north are on paved roads.  North of Hotel Matagami (just over half way up) services get thin.  It looks like there are road side truck-stop type accommodations on the James Bay Road but most of what's on offer is camp grounds and sparsely spaced gas stations.  Sounds like a perfect adventure bike thing to do!

Lots of good advice for riding motorbikes in the remote north around James Bay can be found on the James Bay Road website.  The challenge here isn't twisty roads and nights in the bar, it's the extreme isolation of the far north.  You need to be able to keep your machine moving or it will end expensively, or worse.  Getting a tow out would cost thousands.  Worst case would be getting stuck without any means of getting out, then it could quickly get dangerous.

For people who have only ever travelled between other people this'll be hard to wrap their heads around.  On a ride like this you'd find yourself hundreds of kilometres away from the nearest people and even further away from infrastructure that could help you.  Self-sufficiency would be central to a successful run up to James Bay.


An extended version would make use of Quebec's northern roads and would include traversing the road to Labrador, a trip to the big island of Newfoundland and then down the east coast and through New England before coming back home home under Lake Ontario...


About 10k kms, a huge portion of it on gravel roads in very remote regions of Northern Quebec!

Saturday, 26 June 2021

A British Appreciation for Industrial History & Hands-On Restoration

There is an element of British television that revels in the industrial history that many generations of us lot lived through, and I'm hooked on it.  My favourite is Henry Cole & Sam Lovegrove's Shed & Buried which follows the two as they dig up hidden treasures found in some of the more eccentric sheds in the U.K., including a lot of older motorbikes:


They find all sorts of old machines in people's sheds which often leads to impromtu history lessons on brands I've never heard of or hidden bits of industrial history I hadn't heard of before.  From seed fiddles to motor memorabilia to the esoteric history of British motorbike production, it's never dull and usually enlightening.

They don't just rummage around in other people's sheds.  The show also casts a light on the 'car boot sale' and the used sales trade in the UK.  This culture of reverance for past technology is completely foreign in Canada.

It's tough to find anything motorbikey in Ontario to begin with let alone anything old and interesting, yet Henry & Sam seem to be able to find any number of interesting old bikes for around £1000 ($1700CAD).  In a country like Canada that prefers to hide its history under a modern marketing blanket, throwing stuff away is a cultural imperative.  This (very colonial) approach means there simply isn't an ecosystem of old machinery to explore.  This is exacerbated by Canada's history as a resource extractor rather than an industrially focused manufacturer; we don't make much here so there is no home-grown pride in any vehicle.

These cultural differences in background prompt media and awareness that is distinctly different in both countries.  The British produce a plethora of programs that explore industrial history and mechanics.  Shows like this would never fly in consumerist focused Canada.

Here's a case in point:  Shed & Buried started out with a '69 Triumph Daytona project, sorta like the one below described as 'an excellent buy' in Ottawa right now for $4650 Canadian .  Henry paid £600 ($1000CAD) for his old Daytona in similar condition.

If they exist at all, older bikes in Canada are prohibitively expensive.

What got me thinking about this was someone else on FB Marketplace offering disorganized boxes of old Triumph parts for $3600 without even a clear idea of what's in there.  Henry and Sam picked up a 1950s BSA for £400 they found in pieces in a caravan.  Canada's disinterest in and lack of history around industrial manufacturing make it a very difficult place to find old project bikes - unless you want to go into massive debt for an incomplete box of shit.

If, like me, you find living in this vacuous, consumerist wasteland frustrating, there are a lot of British TV programs that will remind you that finding old things and getting your hands dirty restoring them is a viable thing to do.  Here's a list of what to watch if you're looking for some proof that you're not crazy:

Find It, Fix It, Drive It: if you're crafty with VPNs you can stream this on Channel4.

Guy Martin's How Britain WorkedGuy's background as a mechanic comes up in most of his shows

Car SOS: one of my favourites - restoration leading to catharsis

Wheeler Dealers: started in the UK, went to the US and lost its way, now back to UK

Even Top Gear makes a point of mechanics, though often in jest: