Thursday 18 August 2022

A Cure For Your Insanity Part 1: East Across Ontario

Due to financial constraints and various responsibilities I'd almost talked myself out of going to visit an old friend (we've known each other since he was 13) at his 50th birthday party last weekend, but I'm so glad I didn't.  Seeing the old faces and catching up was brilliant, but so was the chance to be out in the wind for days on my bike.  Sometimes it takes stepping away from your place in the world to gain the perspective you need to better understand it.

I left on a Friday morning as the sun beat down and temperatures started to rise.  I'd intended to take the Kawasaki but it picked up a flat last week and replacement tire isn't in yet so I turned to the trusty nearly 20 year old/84k Triumph Tiger to take me away.  Following standard GTA avoidance protocols I headed east instead of south to the crowded and manic highways of Toronto, which Google Maps always prompts me towards (getting there five minutes sooner is much more important than your mental health!).  Other than a traffic light in Centre Wellington not seeing me waiting (they're quick to road-tax me but slow to recognize motorcycles as a vehicle - I ended up putting the kickstand down and running over to the pedestrian button to change the light), it was clear sailing out of my increasingly crowded and poorly infrastructured home county.

Riding into the rising sun I made good time until I hit Newmarket, which was all poorly timed traffic lights and frantic citiots rushing to get one car ahead.  I was going to stop for a coffee but nothing presented itself in the strip-mall cookie-cutter desert of GTA expansion and rather than grate on about wearing masks all the time I preferred to just avoid the masses, so I pressed on out the other side and back into the country, except the country is now plastered with gravel trucks grumbling in and out of construction sites to build more housing for the ever expanding Greater Toronto Area.

I'd been on the road about two hours when I rounded the end of Lake Scugog on the Port Perry causeway and pressed on towards Peterborough.  At a four way intersection someone in a trophy truck (top of the line full-sized pickup with bling wheels and chrome that will never do a day of work in its life) ran the red light making a right hand turn in front of me.  I edged over in my lane ready to do something more drastic but he stopped.  The lead rider in a gaggle of Harleys coming the other way started making angry monkey gestures because he felt that I was encroaching on his lane (which he was cutting the corner on).  It's one of those things about riding in the insanity of Southern Ontario: everyone is very keen to tell you what you should be doing rather than making better decisions themselves.

I pushed on, hoping to get beyond the gravitational suck of Toronto driving culture.  Construction on the highway into Peterborough slowed things up again as people in massive SUVs rushed up the soon to be closed left hand lane to get a few cars ahead (and cause miles of backup), but if you're not driving a massive SUV and butting in line you're not doing it right.

Finally on Highway 7, I continued east toward Ottawa aiming for the Iron Rooster about halfway along the day one map.  Traffic thinned out and everyone settled into a less manic rush as the (sh)city fell behind.  After a stop in Marmora for gas I didn't really need but a stretch I did, I rolled on to the Iron Rooster for lunch.  I haven't seen any Ontario Provincial Police presence in my community for weeks, but on Hwy 7 there were multi-car speed traps set up every 300 feet or so.  By the time I stopped for lunch I'd seen over 20 police vehicles.  By the time I got to Osgoode (south of Ottawa) the number was over 50.  It's nice to know that the OPP is focused on bonus tax collection and making sure the insurance industry is getting its pound of flesh rather than looking after the communities it claims to police.

The Iron Rooster is a cool spot right off the highway with a big parking lot and indoor/outdoor seating that helps ease any covid anxieties (they roll up multiple doors to make the inside outside).  The entire place is motorcycle themed and specializes in rotisserie chicken in various sandwiches.  That focus makes for good food and I enjoyed "The Rossi" which was a "Rotisserie chicken tossed in pesto mayo with tomato, avocado and havarti cheese" on a toasted brioche bun, locally cut fries too, nice!

Moto-inspired philosophy on the wall...

A wee museum with some interesting old bikes in it and the walls covered in posters including everything from The Great Escape to On Any Sunday and Easy Rider - it was a great stop!

A 1918 BSA!

Coming out of the restaurant I ran into three native women who were out for a ride on their Indian motorcycles.  One of the nice things about riding is that it tends to remove the social barriers that prevent us from talking to each other.  We struck up a conversation about our bikes and I asked them if the name bothered them and they shrugged, saying it was a historical brand and they liked how the company represented their culture, and they loved the bikes (all three were on variations of Indian Scouts).  We then had a good talk about why we enjoyed riding so much.  Being out in the world on a bike puts you in touch with the thermoclines you're passing through and we all dug that you can feel the air and smell the smells when out in the wind; it puts you in touch with Turtle Island.

A distance was starting to form in my mind from where I've been feeling stuck in the village we moved into that is rapidly being converted into an urban subdivision.  As I rode away from the Rooster with a full stomach and some perspective, the old bones of the earth started to appear in the form of the Canadian Shield, poking up between pines and lakes (if you could see past all the police parked on the side of the road).

I had the smartphone clamped on the handlebars and when it wasn't barking instructions at me it was flashing speed trap warnings.  I used to drive Highway 7 quite often when I lived in Ottawa and the lakes, woods and stony Shield were always my favourite parts of the drive.  Fast food restaurants now litter the route and the prettiness is being chased away by an influx of people.  Those chain restaurants have done a good job of chasing small town diners out of business as well.  One of the magical things about urban expansion is that everywhere starts to look the same after a while.

Traffic was light and I made the occasional pass, but between the police blitz and volume of traffic, Highway 7 isn't the picturesque alternative to the 401 that it once was.  I wasn't in a rush to get to Osgoode but I found the smartphone's manic attention getting behaviour exhausting and when I did occasionally see a place I might stop it I found myself pushing on to keep to with the schedule Google had decided for me.  I finally turned it off and found I could enjoy the scenery and the ride more without all that noise.

Six and a half hours in I stopped in Perth to hang the phone back up and guide me in to Osgoode.  I rode past a the only non-franchise local coffee shop I'd seen on the entire ride because it was neck deep in construction and the phone was barking alternatives at me all through town.  As the sun started to stretch out the shadows I made my way into Osgoode on back roads and finally to a friend's place I could stop at for the night.

The ride east was enlightening and it started a process that has me rethinking many of the habits I've fallen into because of where I live.  There is a manic oneupmanship that is a central tenet of Southern Ontario driving culture, and it's something that makes everyone who buys into it supremely unhappy and stressed.  Getting one car ahead, even if it's wasteful and potentially dangerous is everyone's goal.

From many miles away I was thinking back to where I live as I rode the final miles of this Friday across Ontario.  Construction noises start before 7am every day.  Sitting outside for a morning coffee has you surrounded by the stucato gun shots of nail guns in the new housing division next to us harmonizing with layers of beeping from various heavy equipment backing up again and again.  This morning that was eventually drowned out by our neighbour's professional lawn service getting their industrial grade (helicopter-loud) lawn mower out (at 7:30 in the morning) to trim their golf-course perfect lawn.  With that never ending noise, dust and with thousands of new people moving into the area, my quiet village is no longer either of those things.  Looking back on it from that great distance across the province I wondered if I'm holding on too tight to something that simply isn't there any more.

Sunday 7 August 2022

Riding Construction: How to Make a Mint Not Doing Anything

I took the Tiger for a ride to the big blue yesterday (that's Georgian Bay around here).  It was about 300kms and involved no less than 3 completely closed roads causing turnbacks and over half an hour waiting on the 'open' ones...

South Western Ontario has closures
all over the place, and even Toronto
has lost the plot
.  If you can't cash in
on a lapse in infrastructure spending
by provincial governments by taking
more contracts than you can serve,
you're doing it wrong.
Each photo is 15 seconds apart, there are 35 photos in that animated gif - making that a 9 minute wait to get through the construction (who didn't have the personnel to manage a four way intersection though that didn't stop them from digging it up).  It seems that there is a construction boom happening in Ontario but with very little oversight from our new and improved, stripped back government.  As everyone bellies up to the public money trough, lots of these projects are sitting dormant.

I was turned back multiple times yesterday by road closures that had no activity evident at them.  The ones that were open were short on people for traffic management and weren't in full production either.  I know it isn't a comfortable thought, but we're still unable to leverage our human resources with an ongoing pandemic.  Doesn't stop the construction companies from cashing in though.

Exploring Alternate Motorcycle Gear

I did a ~300km ride up to Georgian Bay the other day and thought I'd try out the work pants I just got from Marks Work Warehouse.  On an extended ride last week I was finding the technical pants I have are both hot and uncomfortable in the saddle and went looking for alternatives.

These are Timberland Ironhide workpants and they make use of technical protective weaves including high denier count (1000D) Cordura and flexible technical canvas.  They don't have padding in them, but as a step beyond regular jeans, these approach 'motorcycle jeans' in terms of durability for a fraction of the price, and they're more comfortable too.

They were cool and comfortable even on a hot day in the saddle (humidex temps in the mid-30s Celsius) and because they're work pants flexibility is an important part of their functionality, which means they sit well when on the bike as well as when off it.  The sizing was spot on, so order to fit.  They look smart too with excellent fit and a 'trim' look to them.

So impressed am I with these pants that I'll probably get a second pair at some point.  Of course, it would be nice to pop out and buy the latest in technical motorcycling pants, but at a thousand bucks for a pair of pants it's also prohibitive for most riders.  I'm all about the ATGATT and riding around in shorts and flipflops isn't going to happen, but some crafty research can get you durable, comfortable and protective gear for a fraction of the cost of motorcycle industry specific stuff - ATGATT doesn't have to be only for the wealthy and having a look at the latest technical work-wear for the skilled trades is a good place to start.

There might be an argument here for getting the very best gear regardless of cost, but anyone saying that is speaking from a place of great financial privilege (and probably has an interest in selling it to you).  Riding is always going to be reward over risk calculation, but it doesn't have to be one driven by fear and money.  My raingear is also construction based high-vis and works wonders (actually better than moto-gear) for a fraction of the cost of 'motorcycle rain gear'.  If you're ever stuck for well put together gear for riding you could do worse than checking out your local farm or industrial clothing store.

Moto-Crafting: Motorcycle Helmet Art

It's so stupidly hot out that even working the garage on the Bonneville is making me drip, so I'm back inside doing motorcycle crafting instead.

I got an LS2 Spitfire helmet last year and always figured I'd do something artistic on it (it's flat black and I'm not into the angry pirate look that seems to inspire so many 'bikers'). Since it's black, I was initially thinking about a lightning pattern over the black using metallic paints. I saw an exceptional lighting storm a couple of years ago that provided the inspiration. On in particular I've always wanted to immortalize: the lightning dragon!

I'd need to get some metallic purple to make that happen.

In the meantime I'm still partial to the art-deco art in the Rudge Book of the Road.  So I pulled the graphic out, cleaned it up and made a stencil to get the dimensions right on the curved side of the helmet.

I used a silver sharpie making dots around the edge and then painted connect the dots with chrome-silver metallic modelling paint...

The Concours makes riding with an open faced helmet less bug-crashy thanks to the transformable windshield, so I'll give this a whirl next week.  If anyone in Ontario recognizes it for what it is, I'll be amazed.

Rudge art-deco graphic design is still alive in 2022!   Rudge Book of the Road, well worth a read!

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Exploring The North on Unridden Roads


Finding some roads I haven't ridden before:  this ride involves circumnavigating Georgian Bay (which I did in 2015 on the old Concours C10), but then going north onto roads I haven't ridden before.  This time around I'd do it on the C14 if Alanna wanted to come along or on the TIger if I were solo.

Three nights four days on the road breaks it up into manageable chunks that would allow for frequent stops and off piste explorations.  If I did it in August the temperatures shouldn't be too mad.


Ride The North:

Northern Ontario Travel Motorcycle Routes:

Ontario Motorcycle Tour Routes:

Haliburton Highlands:

Destination Northern Ontario:

Northern Ontario Road Trip:

What to see and do in Northern Ontario:

Saturday 23 July 2022

Summer Workshop Sortout


It's probably just a summer thing but the garage was filling with flies after our trip out to Jasper, so a deep clean was in order.  It ended up producing a car load going to the dump and space has been restored.  More importantly I feel like I can get stuck in on mechanical work without tripping over disorganization.  The Triumph Bonneville project has reached an apex with the engine out 

I've had a couple of longer rides this week on the Concours and that resulted in some more ergonomic adjustments.  This video talked me through how to adjust the gear lever (without wasting my time with a lot of youtube blahblah), so I did and now I'm not lifting my foot to change gears.  Even with modified pegs, new saddle and handlebars I'm still struggling to feel the kind of 'it-fits' feeling I get on the Tiger though.  It isn't a Kawasaki thing, it's a sports-touring thing.  The big Versys I rode 8 years ago fit the same way.  Perhaps what I'm looking for is a shaft drive big adventure bike with a big load capacity, like the newer 1200cc Tiger or the BMW GS.  Though if I wanted to get really eccentric I could consider so Italian options like the Moto Guzzi V85TT.


The Motorcycle Electrical Systems book I got last winter suggested popping a voltmeter on your bike if it didn't come with one.  The Kawasaki has one in the digital display but the analogue Triumph Tiger doesn't, but now it does:

There was a relay under the dash that had full voltage only when the ignition was on, so I slipped the wires for the voltmeter in there and it only comes one when I'm riding.  The Tiger showed a steady 12.4v when I rode it up and down the street, suggesting that the reg/rectifier fix I did last year is working well.

It was a busy week, but after dropping off the boy at camp one day I went for a ride and ended up at Higher Ground Café in Belfountain where even mid-week you'll find an interesting assortment of bikes, this time including an old C10 Concours!

I'd like to work an extended ride into the summer and I still have a few weeks to go before the school year picks up again so hopefully I can figure something out.

Monday 18 July 2022

Exploring Jasper and Surrounding Area: some motorcycle ideas

I'm not on two wheels but it feels good to travel again.  As I write this I'm sitting in a B&B as the sun cuts through early morning clouds on the eastern edge of the Canadian Rockies.

We spent a couple of mad days in Edmonton, but cities aren't my thing and giant malls even less so.  Now that we're 3+ hours west of Edmonton in the mountains, the adventure begins.  Today we're heading a couple of hours south to the Athabasca Ice Fields for an eco-tour of the glacier.  We're in Brule for the week and so far the landscape has not disappointed.

Brule makes for a nice, quiet base for exploring the northern Jasper area.  It would be a 3700km odyssey across the Canadian Shield and then the Praries to get here by bike.  We drove across Canada in 2018 and did it in Elora to Sault Ste Marie to Thunder Bay to Winnipeg and then kept going on the south route.  To get up here it'd need a Saskatoon and Edmonton stop before pushing on to Brule.  That'd be 3 days of  700-800kms per day and then a couple of shorter days into the mountains.

It has been single digit temperatures here in July in the mornings and sometimes when it's raining.  A warm day will get up into the low 20s, which is nice riding weather, but you'd want to dress for the cool.  It has also been quite wet, so good rain gear is a must.

Coming back, Yellowstone is about 1400kms south of us, so a couple of days ride down there, a couple of more days riding around the park, then a scenic 2300km ride back to The Sault, then a final leg home.  That'd be about 7000kms of getting there and back with shorter scenic rides on location, so perhaps 10k kms.  Spread out over a month, this'd be one heck of a way to see a lot of North America's middle.


I'm at the end of our week out here and this place is fantastic.  Were I living out here I'd have my choice of epic rides on my doorstep.  The big roads are sweeping, high speed routes with unbelievable views.  It's Canada so the tarmac isn't smooth and you're dealing with tar snakes and buckled ashphalt, but it's never SWOnt tedious.

The Big Routes:

Brule to Jasper to the Athabasca Glacier: we drove this (in a car) on Wednesday and it's a spectacular drive.  You're climbing from 979m (3200ft) to 2121m (6958ft) with another 618m is descents - the trip is seldom on the level and usually in a bend, especially on the AB-93 Icefields Parkway - one of the most scenic drives in Canada.

Every stop smells of burnt brakes and transmission fluid.  It isn't gentle on cars, but riding the Icefields Parkway would be a bucket list riding trip for any motorcyclist.

We hiked the Athabasca Glacier with Rockaboo Adventures - highly recommended!

This lot have the right idea - but pack your raingear, weather in the mountains changes quickly and often.  On the upside, if you don't like what it's doing, wait five minutes.

Jasper to TĂȘte Jaune Cache, British Columbia

You pass Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) on the way into BC.  It's worth a stop.

Mt Robson is as big as it gets in the Canadian Rockies...

The drive this way is fast-mountain-highway with lots of trucks.  On the way out we had a bear stop on the side of the road to let us by before crossing.  It's that kind of ride.

Over the continental divide the forests get lusher and have a more Pacific rain forest vibe, though you're still at altitude so it's mainly coniferous.  We went down as far as Valemount to check out the Three Ranges Brewing Co..   The place has a nice vibe with pictures of all the local high school grads on each light post.

Driving us back to Jasper, we observed some near disastrous truck passing.  The people moving heavy goods through the mountains seldom slow down and the result is often passes on the shoulder and other high risk moves.  Once I had a handle on how the big trucks rolled, when you see one brake take it seriously, they don't slow down for much.

If you like the fast sweeping roads and views that never quit, along with the sudden animal spotting, you'll love the highways in and around Jasper.  Just one last note:  speeds limits seem pretty tight in Jasper National Park, so if you've got an Ontario 100 means 140 mindset, you'll run into problems.  Alberta has a pretty reasonable 110km/hr limit and most people on the highway seem to stick within 10km/hr of it.  In the park it's usually 80km/hr but often slows due to high animal areas or other environmental factors.  Park wardens can pull you over for speeding and other infractions and there are a lot of them about.  Why rush anyway?  The place is well worthy of a slower pace.

Technical Back Roads:

The Road to Miette Hot springs:

If you're looking for interesting technical roads to ride, you want to hit some of the spur roads up to other areas of the park.  We did Miette Hot springs one day and the Google map doesn't do it justice.  In addition to some gnarly switchbacks, the rest of the road into the mountains is never straight and always going in a new direction.  It's 17kms of really nice riding.

The road is Canadian (so no butter smooth tarmac here), but it's well maintained and the views are spectacular.  Once we got up there we discovered that Parks Canada runs noon to 8pm hours in the summer so locals can make their way up there after work for a soak.  Nice, eh?  If I were living near the north gate of Jasper I'd be aiming for 34kms of engaging technical riding with a soak in the hot springs to break it up many times a week during the summer.

There's also a nice family run restaurant just down from the springs if you're looking to eat.

17kms from the main Jasper highway up to Miette Hot springs.

The Road to Maligne Lake:

This is another wonderfully technical road with constant direction changes.  It's much longer than the Miette Hot springs road but you end at the lost world of Maligne Lake where you've probably got the best chance on the planet to see a dinosaur.

The road follows the outflow from Medicine Lake, twisting and turning with the raging river and then traces the shoreline before climbing even higher towards Maligne Lake.  Stunning views frequent animal sightings and never dull roads meant this was one of the most motorcycled routes we saw.  In the photos below you'll see rain and then sun - they were taken less than a minute apart.  You always want to be ready for rain but it seems to pass quickly up in the Rockies.

48kms from Jasper to Maligne Lake.  

Oh no, it's raining on the Harleys!

Is that one of the new Husky Norden 901s?  Yes please!

It's seldom straight!

Getting Dirty!

If you're willing to get dirty there are a number of roads into the park that offer a more adventurous experience.  I haven't done these but a light adventure bike and living in the area would have me riding to the end of as many remote roads as I could find, like this one!  

That's 45kms but G-maps is saying it'll take over an hour, so this ain't no 100+km/hr road!

Pyramid Lake Road looks like a cracker too!