Sunday, 24 March 2019

2019's First Ride

I've been able to steal a ride from winter the past couple of years, but not this one.  It's been dangerously cold and snowy throughout.  I was finally able to steal one at the end of March Break for half an hour up and down next to the Grand River (which was full of ice chunks and very swollen).

The Tiger was resplendent with its new engine guard and fired up at the touch of the button after its long winter hibernation.  The last time it was out was mid-November, so this year was actually a 4+ month hibernation.  Newly lubed cables and well sorted details meant it felt smooth and responsive after so long in the garage.  Do I ever miss the power to weight ratio of a bike when I can't ride.  Slicing through air barely above freezing was bracing, and as I crossed to the north side of the river I came upon a bison farm.

Any exposed skin would have been feeling double digit frostbite, and even mummified it cut like a knife.  I didn't complete my usual loop over the covered bridge, but even half an hour out on two wheels cleared away a lot of cobwebs.

It's still snowing as much as it is anything else, but temperatures are climbing over zero with more regularity.  With any luck rides will soon become commonplace.


360° on-bike photos are back!

Frostbite has never made me so happy - the look on my face after the first ride of the year, no matter what the temperature.

Crazy like a fox!

Spring riding in Canada... next to a six foot tall snowbank.

Wait a minute, those aren't cows!

I turned around and went back for some closer shots.   Bisons!  In Ontario!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Tim's Ten Bike Wishlist

One of the pieces they had in the recent big 100th edition of Practical Sportsbikes was a 10 bike wishlist.  Being a magazine focused on older sports bikes, that's what their lists were.  My wishlist is more wide ranging, covering everything from pre-war classics to the latest digital machines.  There is a bit of 80's representation, but it also has a pile of other bikes both old and new.  

My dream list would lean heavily on the dreams...

Tim's Ten Bike Wish List:

1)  Granddad's Coventry Eagle

I've talked about my Granddad's Coventry Eagle previously.  This particular wish involves me coming across old NG4743 in a barn and restoring it myself.  Being able to restore and ride a bike that should have been in our family for multiple generations would be a moving experience.  I saw some Coventry Eagles at the British Motorcycle Museum a couple of summers ago and got surprisingly emotional at the idea of riding one.  The most magical one would be the one Bill owned.  If you're going to wish list, wish hard!  I couldn't begin to guess what this would cost as it probably doesn't exist.

2) Kawasaki Z1000

There are a number of modern bikes that have caught my eye.  A consistent choice has been the shamelessly anime inspired, Sugomi designed Kawasaki Z1000.  New ones go for about fourteen grand Canadian.  I'm partial to the orange one from a few years ago.  There is a low mileage one in Drummondville, QC for about nine grand.  As modern naked bikes go, this one is big enough to fit me and scratches every Robotech Cyclone anime dream I had as a kid.  The only thing better would be if it could transform into battloid mode - and it looks like it might.

3) Honda VFR750F

Most of my 80's bike fantasies revolved around the Honda Interceptor.  The VFR-750F RC30 came up on many of the Practical Sportsbike lists as well; it's an '80s kid's dream superbike.  Because it hits that nostalgic twang, it's now a collector's item and an expensive proposition, but hey, this is a dream list!  Something like this would allow me to maybe edge into vintage racing and track days, though both things are pretty thin on the ground in Ontario.  The RC45 race bike derivative would be an even better choice for vintage track riding.

4) Yamaha XT500

Another nostalgic choice would be a twinshock trail bike that I could use in vintage off road events.  I've thought about trying to get my father-in-law's old Suzuki, but he sold it on and I'd probably end up paying more than it's worth to get back.  Thanks to Henry Cole and crew, I've got a soft spot for Yamaha XT500s.  A restored XT would let me pursue silly things like classic enduro rallies and the V.I.N.C.E..

5) 1938 Triumph Speed Twin

With all the research into World War 2 I've been doing, the Triumph Speed Twin keeps coming up as a huge leap forward in two wheeled technology.  If I were to own a pre-war bike, this would be a more likely dream choice.  Perfect versions go at auction for $24k+ Canadian.  I'd be happy with a less perfect bike that I could actually use.

6) 2019 Ariel Ace

The Ariel Ace is one of those bespoke and bizarre machines that could only exist for me on a dream bike list.  Since first seeing the almost architectural design of the Ace's girder front forks and trellis frame, I was smitten.  The Ariel uses a stock Honda motor but is otherwise a custom machine that you can design to your own wishes.  At £24,950,this is very much a dream list bike.

7) Kawasaki H2

The Kawasaki Ninja H2 supercharged superbike is an unbelievable piece of engineering.  Since the first time I saw the state of the art processes Kawasaki uses to mold the supercharger to hearing it break the sound barrier while spinning, I was a fan.  This dream bike is north of thirty grand, but it'd let me maybe see the dream of 200mph on two wheels, all while listening to that supercharger chirp.

8) CCM RAFBF Spitfire

CCM's Spitfire custom model comes in a variety of styles, but my favourite is the classically styled Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund Spitfire.  This 600cc customized thumper is a lightweight thing that looks like it would be a blast to ride on twisty roads.  As a modern bike with classic styling, it would fill a niche in my dream garage that nothing else does.  £18,000 isn't cheap, but dream list, right?

9) Honda Goldwing Touring

Say what?  A Goldwing?  One of the functions of my dream bike garage would be to participate in as many different kinds of riding as possible.  Of all the big touring bikes, Honda's new, lighter Goldwing is the most capable all-round tourer there is, and it's Honda bullet-proof.  Another bike north of thirty grand, it's something that would only be on a dream list, but it means I could take a happy pillion with me and tour like we mean it.

10)  Husqvarna 701 Enduro

Husky's 701 Enduro is an off-road capable bike that'll also handle the roads needed to get you to the edge.  This would be another one of those bikes selected to let me experience a specific kind of riding.  The 701 only weighs a bit more than I do but is a big, capable off roader that would fit me, keep up with traffic when needed and still be able to off road.  At about $14,000 Canadian, it isn't a cheap dream off roader.

I feel like I'm missing a modern track day bike.  A Honda Fireblade or Yamaha R1 would be on my shortlist for that duty, though with no Ducatis in the mix here, the new V4 Panigale R would probably win dream bike wishlist status over the more mundane Japanese choices.  I might be convinced to swap the Z1000 out for that.

I'm also partial to weirdness, and a sidecar outfit would scratch that itch.  I like older styled outfits, so a Royal Enfield or classic modern Triumph with a bullet sidecar would be a cool thing to add into the list, perhaps after swapping out the XT500.  I only leaned toward the Goldwing as a touring option instead because you get to lean on the Honda.

Rather than go the Husky route, a stranger choice there might be getting a Lyndon Poskitt rally bike made.  At thirty to sixty thousand Euro, they aren't cheap, but that's what a dream bike list is all about, right?


I've managed to cover a range of bikes from the early 1930s to the latest models.  With a sweep of almost ninety years and what are some truly weird options, I hope I've managed to express just how diverse and strange my motorcycling proclivities have become.  My final list would include bikes manufactured in England, Japan and Europe and range in price from pretty accessible to pretty much unattainable.

If nothing else, a dream bike list lets you stretch your expectations and expand your considerations around what you might ride.  From doing the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride on my grandfather's Eagle to seeing the wrong side of two hundred miles per hour on a supercharged dream machine, for me the dream stable is about opening up possibilities rather than creating a museum exhibit.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Performance and Practicality

I'm finding myself suddenly reading Practical Sportsbikes because the winter subscription I get to Performance Bike Magazine has migrated over as PB ends a three decade run and merges with their more practical (and I'm assuming more popular) child publication.  

I'm enjoying Practical Sportsbikes (they offered me a couple of back issues during the transition), though I miss some of the best bits from Performance Bikes like the Rutter comparison tests and the general focus on riding.  There is a rawness to Performance Bikes that sometimes reduces itself to the juvenile, but you can't deny their love of riding.  If the new combined publication can keep Performance Bike's active, athletic and obsessive focus on riding then I think I'll enjoy the new combination.

I've tried Practical Sportsbikes a few times but find it gets a bit lost in nostalgia driven mechanical minutia.  I've never been much of one for nostalgia, it's never as good as you remember.  Mechanics and practicality are all well and good too, but for me, for now at least, it's the visceral act of riding that should take centre stage.  If practicality was the primary motivation, I wouldn't ride a motorbike in the first place.

Here's hoping...
PB has always tapped racers and performance focused riders to shine a light on the act of riding, something they obviously love obsessively.  If the new magazine can combine that love with the mechanical sympathy needed to enable it, then I might be in for a whole year subscription instead of just using PB to get me through the neverending Canadian winter.

I usually look to BIKE Magazine for my joy of riding buzz.  This new publication might be able to give them a run for their money by offering a wider range of performance focused riding while still scratching that mechanical itch.

Here's hoping they find a way to balance the two into a monthly ode to the visceral art of motorcycle riding and graft of mechanical sympathy that enables it.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Bun Burning MotoGP

A few years ago we rode down to the last Indianapolis MotoGP.  It was a great few days in Indiana and it was pretty close to us.  At a push the ride there could be done in a day (we took two because I had my ten year old son with me).

This year's only North American MotoGP is in Texas and happens the weekend before Easter.  How few days could I do it in?  It just happens that Austin is a Bun Burner Gold away, just over 1500 miles south west of here.  I watched a couple of fellow motorcyclists from the Lobo Loco long distance rallies pull a Bun Burner Gold off in the fall.  If I could get to COTA in 24 hours I'd be a rockstar!

If I left on Thursday evening I'd be down there Friday evening or a bit later if I missed it (BBGs depend a lot on construction and delays to pull off).  Either way I'd be up Saturday morning with some kind of Iron Butt ride (if I missed the BBG there are half a dozen other, easier ones that I could still aim for) under my belt to catch qualifying.  Early to bed Saturday night and then another day at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday for the races.  After a good dinner I'd be back on the road again making tracks north to home.

If I missed the Bun Burner Gold on the way down, I could attempt it again on the way back!  Either doing a Sunday night to Monday night blitz to get the gold, or breaking it into two long days and going for a plain old Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles over 36 hours).

In a perfect world I'd do the BBG on the way down, enjoy the weekend and rest up again before getting a Bun Burner 1500 on the way back, riding Sunday night after the race as far as I can, having a sleep and then getting up and finishing the ride within 36 hours.  If I'm back Monday night I would have only missed two days of work while getting to watch a MotoGP live and picking up multiple iron butts!  That'd shake the rust off after a long, cold, Canadian winter.

Does two Iron Butt rides around a weekend of MotoGP sound extreme?  From the dark depths of February after weeks and weeks out of the saddle, it sounds like a brilliant idea!  When you're trapped under a polar vortex and some truly grim, neverending Canadian winter, the thought of trying to cross much of North America twice in five days on two wheels scratches an itch.

Slow motion through the esses at Indianapolis...

COTA has all sorts of pretty views for video and photography...

The long way down... and back.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Winter Maintenance: Triumph Tiger 955i Engine Guard Install and plasma cutting!

How cold has the polar vortex been?  So f#*%ing cold!  Our garage is attached to the house and we're in and out of it quite often, so it benefits from a lot of residual heat.  Even with this insulated garage with heating pipes in the attic and a lot of sympathetic heat from the attached house, the Tiger was a solid block of ice (pic on right shows it thawing) when I went in to attach mine Hepco & Becker motorschutzb├╝gel (engine guard) in schwarz (black).  I ended up giving up on the -36°C degree Saturday and went back when it was only -17°on Sunday.

I've been looking for ways to protect the Tiger as I aim for more off-tarmac activities with it, and an engine guard seemed like a good idea.  Finding such an engine guard for a European (at least until Brexit) bike that's sixteen years out of date isn't easy, but I came across the German manufacturer Hepco & Becker and then followed links to their American distributor, Motomachines, who happened to have just what I needed in stock and have no problems shipping to Canada.  They're also really quick to respond if you have any questions and give you quick, friendly, concise communication, I'll use them again.

It was about a week to get here through US and Canadian federal mail services and cost me another thirty bucks at the door in border fees, so all in I was at about $350US to get the thing into my hands.  It arrived well packaged and in new condition.  There was some surface rust on the threads into the pipes, but it cleaned up easily with WD40. 
Some German engineering for my British Bike, except Triumph was founded by a German immigrant, so it's kinda German already!  Bet that makes Brexiteers angry.
After not being able to feel my hands anymore despite propane heaters blaring away in the corner on Saturday, I finished the job on Sunday.  Holding the nuts on the back while securing the bolts is a bit fussy (these guards attach right to the engine frame mounts), and swearing increased trying to do it on a frozen bike, but I eventually got them sorted.

The guards are very sturdy and the welds on them are a thing of beauty.  They're low profile things that should protect the tank in case of a spill.  The finish on them is excellent and looks to be very long wearing.  With a couple of places to kick my feet up onto, they might help me stretch out my legs on a long ride too.  I'm tempted to throw some fold up highway pegs on them, but this aggravates the adventure bike image police.

I'm still some weeks (months, who am I kidding, though if I can't be optimistic in February I start to go bonkers) away from having a chance to ride with them, but they look good on the bike, got here pretty quickly and with a lot of quick and clear communication from Motomachines.  If you're looking for an engine guard for an older Tiger (or anything else, they have a big selection), I'd suggest heading over to their site and then get in touch with them on email, you'll hear back quickly from responsive customer service.

In completely different news, thanks to all of this lousy weather we've had a number of no-bus days at school which gave me a chance to ask our metal shop teacher to exercise his plasma cutter on my behalf.  I gave him a vector image of the Concours tail piece I wanted cut and the machine ripped through the aluminum I got for the job in about five seconds, cutting a perfect outline of the cardboard piece I'd wrapped around the tail section before unfolding.  This strange shape lines up with the frame bolts on back end of the bike and covers all the wiring and ugly bits in the most minimal way possible.  I'm going to form it over a wood buck and then paint it to match the tank.  That should take care of the back end of the Concours ZG1K custom project.

Now I need to get the carbs balanced and tuned and it should be good to go, which I intend to do as soon as the roads are clear... in, like, ten years.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Dark Arts: Motorcycle Digital Art from the Depths of Winter

January 13th, 2019.  High of -21°C, low of -29.  I'm months away from riding with months to go until I do again.  This is as close as I can get to the saddle, some motorcycle digital art...