Sunday 29 August 2021

A Ride To Watch a Blue Horizon


270km round trip up to Georgian Bay to meditate on the big water.

Flesherton to Highland Grounds for a locally owned (and one of the best) Americano you can get in South Western Ontario.

Beaver Valley has some beautiful views and winding roads.

Graham Hill is worth going off pavement for, as long as the bike's up to it.

After a winding ride down Beaver Valley to Thornbury Harbour I found the Bay growling in the wind.  It was 10 degrees cooler on the water.

After a sit by the water I headed back into the inland heat and tackled the Grey Bruce Highlands around Glen Huron.

After a rehydration stop on the Noisy River near Creemore I tracked back through the flat, straight, tedious farming desert back home to Elora.

270kms in intense heat - the 18 year old Tiger was flawless.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Kawasaki Concours14/GTR1400 Kawasaki Foot Peg Ergonomics

Taking bend out of the bike: the
changes pegs and bar risers
have made so far.
The Concours 14 is an excellent long distance weapon, but it's built for someone much smaller than me.  When you're tackling motorcycle ergonomics you can't just slide a seat back, you've got to physically change parts, and the Concours parts aren't fit for my intentions with it.  I sold a Honda Fireblade to get this bike and it wasn't a like for like replacement.  If I'd wanted (or been able to use) a full on sports bike I'd have kept the 'Blade, so I'm not trying to pretend the Kawasaki is anything like the Honda.  The side of the C14 I'm interested in is the long distance/two up riding bit.

With that in mind this otherwise stock, low mileage 2010 Kawasaki Concours felt like it was trying too hard to be a sports bike when it simply isn't one.  The Honda only gave up 15 horsepower to the Kwak but was over 100kgs lighter!  After one 2+ hour ride the steering, while quite touring in appearance with long bars sweeping back from the headstock, are way too far forward and low for what I want to use the bike for.  At 6'3" and 250lbs I'm also clearly not the average rider Kawasaki was aiming at with the rider ergonomics.  To solve the lean I put in Murph's Kits bar risers which bring the grips 3/4 of an inch back and 1-3/8 inch up toward the rider.  This resulted in a 3% less lean and they installed very neatly, looking stock.

I could live with the pegs but my knees were feeling it on longer rides and my big feet meant I was sitting pigeon toed while trying to keep my feet off the rear brake and shifter.  What sold me on Murph's Kits rider pegs was the promise of no more awkward, pigeon toed foot positioning thanks to the angle in them.  They were straightforward and quick to install (10 mins?) and reduced knee angle a couple of degrees while also allowing me to rest my big wamps on the pegs instead of having to hold my feet off them awkwardly.  A nice bonus is if I hook my boot heels on the new pegs they drop into the windflow under the bike and feel great in vented boots on a hot day; no regrets with that choice either.

But none of this has helped my passenger feel comfortable on the bike, which was a major reason I pitched the Fireblade for a sports tourer.  WIth the panniers on the Connie leaves no room for passengers with big western feet.  The passenger pegs are also set very high, so high you'd have to be seriously into yoga to look comfortable on them.

Unfortunately, Murph ran out of gas after the rider pegs and doesn't offer any passenger peg alternatives.  A bit of lurking on message boards uncovered VicRay Custom Performance who machine a set of passenger pegs for the Concours 14.  Vic sends these kits out himself and it took a few weeks longer than Murph's deliveries (don't sweat Canadian deliveries if you're dealing with Murph, he's got them down!).  Vic's passenger pegs finally arrived this week and I installed them this afternoon.

The instructions were hand written but the installation was well explained and straightforward.  The quality of the machining is excellent and the extension of the pegs means we should have no more passenger ergonomic headaches while riding with panniers.  The rubber isolation and width of the alternate passenger peg also promises greater comfort.  We've been busy with work (contrary to popular belief, teachers work in the summer), but I'm optimistic about this choice too.  The new passenger pegs fold up neatly and suit the look of the bike.  If you didn't know they weren't stock you'd just assume they are.

The last piece of the puzzle is the seat.  The C14 seat is narrow and gets to be quite miserable on longer rides with an awful lot of pressure on your, um, parts.  Alanna described it as, 'hard on the vagina.", so it's uncomfortable for both rider and passenger.

The last time a poor OEM seat made me sad a Corbin saddle solved the puzzle.  I'd have gone for a used one but they retain their value and the used ones I could find were within a hundred bucks of getting my own custom designed seat.

Pre-pandemic my Tiger seat showed up in a surprisingly quick four weeks.  I'm five weeks into having ordered this time but I fear COVIDtime will strike again and the saddle won't show up for some weeks yet.

The pegs relax the legs and the bar risers ease the crouch.  Big Blue is more comfortable than it has ever been and is starting to show the promise of the touring/sports/muscle bike I was aiming for.  Once that Corbin lands it'll be ready to ironbutt on.

Thursday 12 August 2021

An Ode to Sturgill Simpson's Sound & Fury


Just watched Sturgill Simpson's Sound & Fury anime on Netflix again the other day - it really is something else.  If you're into anime, or smart music, or avenging motorcycle riding samurai with robot ghosts in machines (along with a wild mashup of other experimental anime storylines and styles), you'll dig this.

I'd done some digital art around samurai on motorbikes previously so I mashed up some of the samurai details from Sound & Fury with it and threw it together with the blog logo:


Thrifty Motorcycle Gear

Think it's too hi-vis for riding
in the rain?  Really?  You
want hi-vis in the rain... and
the hundred bucks you save!
I got into alternative motorcycle gear when I came across a $400 rain suit that didn't do as good a job as the rain gear they sold at a fraction of the cost at our local farm store.  If you have access to an industrial clothing outlet used by tradespeople, you've got an angle on quality gear at a fraction of the cost of name brand, 'moto-specific' clobber.

For the people who have to work all day in rain, you know the stuff they use will be tough and properly waterproofed, and it is!  Instead of dropping hundreds on 'moto' rain pants I was happier with the $40 construction rain pants from the farm shop.

A construction rain jacket with a removable hood comes with fully seam sealed and very waterproof specs, even in the wind of riding it does the trick and compared to a $200+ moto-rain jacket, it's a fraction of the cost (<$50).  Both the Forcefield pants and jacket have lasted for years and are still super-waterproof.  The bib on the pants also stops water ingress at the waist while riding in the wind and does a good job of keeping me dry even in torrential rain.

I still depend on moto-specific gear for certain things, like boots which have ergonomic design features specific to riding or jackets and trousers that are properly armoured for riding, but there are a lot of thrifty and effective alternatives for the peripherals if you're not a brand model who wants to look like they fell out of a dealership catalogue.

Today I saw a pair of mechanic 'impact pro' gloves that are armoured leather, impact and abrasion resistant and look tough as nails.  For someone who rides bikes he's proud of fettling and maintaining himself, the branding is spoton too.  I'd be curious to see how these compare in moto-specific durability tests (not that any magazines that play consumer reports for moto-gear do any of that kind of crash testing).

These gloves promise to be flexible, well ventilated and tough, and they look disco too.  A pair of moto-specific leather mits will set you back $80-100 or more and probably wouldn't protect your hands as well.  Next time I'm in Canadian Tire I'll give this a look.

If you're a celebrity/brand hound then these suggestions won't do much for you, but if you're more interested in putting your money towards riding rather than looking like a catalogue model, this'll help you not get skunked by overpriced moto-branded gear.  Motorbiking doesn't have to be as expensive as moto-gear manufacturers suggest.

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:


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


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.