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Monday, 14 March 2022

Longtime, No Post.

After a hiatus of almost five years……I’m back, back to the world of adventure motorcycles, and very excited about it. 

Last year I started getting the itch for another bike. All my riding gear and helmets in the closet were calling out to me, time for some more two wheeled adventures.

So after Christmas I started to look for some new wheels. I loved my old Vstrom 1000, and regret selling the thing, it was stupid on my part. The Guzzi was great, but not for what I was using it for.

There is a plethora of ADV bikes out there now, most are huge, 1000cc and up seems to be the norm these days. I know I didn’t want one of those. I fell in love with the Honda 300 Rally, but after some deep thought, as deep as I can get in my thoughts, I knew this was not the bike. I had a hard look at where I wanted to ride and how I wanted to ride. 

The majority of my riding would be back roads, highway and gravel roads. As much as pictured myself trail riding, I knew that was not going to happen too often. Reliability, ease of maintenance are important, more important than character. Character and reliability seldom go hand and hand.

The bike for me was going to be comfortable, not too big, good to commute on, good to take on multi day trips to far away places, be good on gas, and not cost me a fortune to buy. If you are thinking it sounds like a Honda, then you’d be right. Always been a fan of Big Red.

About six or eight years ago I sat on a CB500X at a dealership in the States. I was on a work trip killing time, and we had hit the local bike shop. It was the first 500X I had seen. I threw a leg over it, and my initial impression was “wow, this seems really comfortable for a small bike” That was it though, never really thought much about it after that.

After ruling out the 300 Rally, I kept poking around the Honda website, under the Adventure bike tab, I noticed the 500X. “Hmmm, kinda like a mini Africa Twin, at half the price” Further research was required.

So, over the next week I scoured the internet for every print and video review of the bike, and for the most part the bike gets glowing reviews, especially the revised 2022 model. It’s a very underrated motorcycle that a lot of riders ignore, and pass over because of it’s displacement.

I won’t bore you with all the details of what’s changed on the bike for this year, there could be a future owners review to come shortly.

I was like “shit man, this bike ticks all the boxes” I trudged down to my local dealer. I’m not a fan of them, I’ve seen happier people in a morgue or funeral home. But for the sake of looking it did the job. They happened to have a leftover 2021, and a new ‘22 model on the showroom floor. Loved the new ‘22 model. It did look like a mini Africa Twin. Some people actually call it the Halfrica Twin. Threw a leg over it, and right away felt at home. Very much like my old Vstrom in a smaller friendlier package.

I briefly talked to a salesman who seemed to know less about the bike than I did, and really showed almost no interest in selling something, even after I told him I was planning on buying within the next month. I figured I’d at least give them a chance before going else where. In the words of Youtuber Ozzyman, “ya, nah”

I quickly fired off an email to my prefered and Zac Kurylyk approved Honda/KTM dealer inquiring about availability of a 500X, and within an hour they responded with, yup, we have 3, two are on hold and there is a red one available. I wrote back, slide my $200 deposit on the Monkey Bike over to the 500X. Ya, a Monkey Bike, that’s another story for later.

So with spring in the air and the snow almost all gone I’m hoping to go pick this up soon. Planning a trip up to the dealer to have another look and get the buying process started.

Plans for this year…local rides, and the Fundy Adventure Rally reunion in September. That should be fun. If time allows I’d like to do a 2-3 day trip around the province later this fall

Next time will be my initial impressions of the bike, and what accessories I’m leaning towards.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Speedy Wheels

It's been awhile since I updated here. Not a lot going on with regards to all things two-wheeled with a motor. The poor Guzzi has been collecting dust in the garage since getting back from New Jersey in May.

Lately I have been spending a lot more time in hotel rooms than at home. Work has been crazy busy and somehow I have ended up on the "being gone for a week at a time"cycle, and not a motorcycle.

Oh, and we haven't exactly had the best spring weather wise. It's been cool, rainy and foggy. Kinda like my bike ride to New Jersey this year. Those rare nice days that we did have were taken up with backyard renovations. A necessary evil if you want the missus off your back in the summer so you're free to ride, surf, windsurf, etc.

If you remember my back tire on the Goose was toast after the Jersey trip. I wouldn't dare ride on it further than the bike shop to get it replaced.

My buddy Tim owns MotoSport Plus, the Yamaha, Suzuki dealer, and he was able to get me a new Pirelli Sport Demon at a smokin' deal. Thanks Timmy.

Yesterday was a real nice day, sunny and 25C so I finally got around to dropping the Goose off at MSP. I never had an appointment so I figured it would be an all day affair, thinking the service techs would replace the tire when they got a chance. I rode the bike around the back of the shop, and they told me to take it right in the service bay. Sweet.

Lucky enough the service tech had worked on Guzzi's before and was familiar with the shaft drive and what was involved in taking the wheel off. Sweeter.

One of the salesmen, Scott asked me if I'd be interested in taking out a GSX-S1000F instead of waiting around. So let me think.........instead of hanging around the showroom, even though it is filled with lots of nice bikes to look and sit on, I could go out and enjoy this beauty of day on rocketship with wheels. Ummm. YA!

It's been quite awhile since I rode anything other than a V-twin. This fire breathing 4-cylinder that has, you guessed it 999cc, putting out 145hp and 78ft/lbs of torque. All that power hauling a measly 472lbs across the tarmac.

I would never had admitted to Scott, but I was a little intimidated by this thing. The Vstrom 1000 had a smudge under 100hp, and it by no means was fast. The Goose has a whopping 50hp, it's a torquey little thing, but it by no means will get you in trouble.

I threw my leg over the bike, and quickly realized that this was not your typical sport bike. To be completely honest I knew next to nothing about the bike. Read a small article about it a couple of years ago when Rob Harris of CMG test rode it. The GSX is not my typical kinda ride.

I was expecting typical sport bike ergos. But when I grabbed the handlebars I quickly noticed that one, they weren't clip ons, and two they were in a comfortable position. The foot pegs were also comfortably placed. I wasn't hunched up with my feet under my arse. It was a sporty position but

The GSX has ABS and selectable levels of traction control. I didn't play with it, or get an explanation of how it works. I cycled through the settings with the mode controller next to the left handgrip and figured out Level 3 was max TCS, so I left it there. I believe they call that the wimpy rider, or rain mode.

I pushed the starter and the four cylinders roared to life. It didn't really roar, the bike is pretty quiet, it does have a pretty mean low key rumble coming from the stock pipe that announces to the world that this thing can haul the mail.

I tentatively rode across the parking lot, and pulled out into the busy traffic of Rothesay Avenue. The bike was comfortable right from the get go, however shifting from 1st to 2nd was lurchy. If that's even a word. At first I was wondering if it was me getting used to clutch sensitivity or what I thought was an overly sensitive throttle. It didn't take much twisting of the wrist to get the ponies going.

Other than that first to second gear lurchiness it was quite easy to ride at slow speed in city traffic. The bike felt light and maneuverable, as I weaved myself through the two lanes of traffic.

I headed out to Mispec Beach, it's a nice quiet, twisty road that has it's share of bumps, and potholes. Good way to see how the suspension works. The Gixxer soaked up the worst of the bumps and never really lost it's composure, although the pace wasn't fast. There were no jarring impacts, not like some of the ones I have had on the Goose.

The whole time I had been riding this thing I had the feeling that I was trying the restrain a fire breathing dragon. The Gixxer wanted to run, and run fast.

I hit the onramp to the Mackay Highway and let the ponies go, fack!!!!! this thing goes. It reminded me of my old CBR600F4, but a whole lot faster. The acceleration was crazy, and I could see getting addicted to this very fast. Even in 6th gear cruising on the highway, a quick twist of the throttle leapfrogs this thing from a sedate law abiding 120 to 180 in a heartbeat. Literally.

After about an hour what really surprised me the most was how comfortable and user friendly this bike was. The soul of super bike with realistic, comfortable ergos. The small windscreen provided pretty good protection too, and no helmet buffeting at highway speeds.

Throw some luggage on this bad boy, and you've got a pretty decent sport touring bike.

Would I buy one? Nah, it's just not me anymore. I'm too old for that kinda shit now. I like the slow life now. I was pretty happy to get back on the Guzzi again.

Monday, 22 May 2017

RIP Nicky Hayden

Sad news today in the world of motorcycle racing. #69 The Kentucky Kid, Nicky Hayden has passed away days after a horrible cycling accident in Italy.

Condolences to all his family, friends, and fans.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Tale of Two Riders

I'm gonna keep this short this week, it's about two riders, one, you most likely don't know, having a ball on a trip of lifetime, and the other, a talented, well loved motorcycle racer fighting for his life in a hospital bed.

Pete sent me a text the other day with a couple of pictures attached. They were of his friend, John Galloway, on a trip of a lifetime in Vietnam. I've met John a couple of times, used to own an R6, and then was inspired by the lure of adventure and went out and bought a lightly used BMW 700GS, from another mutual friend and neighbour Jen.

John is currently in Vietnam riding a 125cc scooter around
exploring what looks like an amazing country.

Oh, and he is rocking a Bigland Adventures t-shirt too. Might be the closest I come to ever getting there.

I'm gonna see if John can write something up about his adventures to post up here for your reading enjoyment.

On a more sombre note, one of the world's most talented road racers Nicky Hayden was severely injured in a bicycle accident in Italy this week, after being struck by car. 

I've followed Nicky off and on throughout his career, especially when he was coming up behind Miguel Duhamel on the Honda team in the AMA 600 series. The Kentucky Kid won pretty much everything on American soil and went on to a successful career in MotoGP. Recently he had just made the jump to World Superbike. 

Nicky comes from a big family of racers, inheriting the famous number 69 from his Dad. He chose 69 because you could still read the number when the bike was upside down in the ditch. 

Last report was Nicky was in very critical condition with a severe brain injury.

There has been an outpouring of well wishes from fans and almost everyone in motorsport. This weekend all the Nascar drivers put a 69 sticker on their cars to show support for Nicky and the family. 

We are hopefully of a full recovery, but this is eerily similar to another tragic accident with another famous racer. 

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Butt Burner

All week in Joisey I had been keeping a keen eye on the weather. It had been nice here, sunny skies for the most part, but that beeatch Mother Nature wasn't done with me as far as staying dry on a motorcycle.

I had hoped to take a leisurely two day ride home. Leaving on Saturday and possibly stopping for the night at my cousins place outside of Augusta.

Yet again an intense rainstorm was bearing down on the east coast. Rain was forecasted too begin early Saturday and intensify throughout the day to heavy rain. Not ideal riding conditions when your back tire was on it's last km's. I figured I had enough tread left to get me home, but didn't want to push it riding in standing water.

If the hotel had just been 1km further away

So the plan was hatched to head out in the wee hours of Saturday morning and stay ahead of the worst of it. Unfortunately my simulator schedule had us finishing Friday at 8pm, and an escape from the NY area at that time of day appealed less to me than the early morning option.

My week at FlightSafety had been good, one of the better training sessions I've had in awhile. Ground school was pretty laid back, and our sim instructor Vladimir (the former Aeroflot pilot) worked us hard in the sim, making the four hour sessions go by at fever pitch. I was a little disappointed with the lack of vodka shooters during the debriefs. Pretty sure that was Russian tradition. I'll cut the guy some slack, he was after all from Kazakhstan. Watching the "Long Way Round" paid off, Vlad was impressed I knew about his hometown of Almaty and Magadan in Siberia, where he was based with Aeroflot for 15 years.

Aeroflot doesn't look too bad to me.


Saturday morning my alarm rudely woke me up at 0330. Thing were a little foggy. Maybe I shouldn't have had that fourth Sam Adams last night. I peered out the window to see a black sheen on the parking lot. The rain had begun.

I quickly checked the weather radar and figured I should be in the clear around Westchester, not too far away.

Exiting the elevator, I was greeted with remnants of last nights wedding at the hotel. About a dozen or so highly lubricated revellers were in the lobby to see me off on my journey. So nice of them to stay up past their bedtime.

I loaded up the Guzzi, and under light rain and darkness headed out for what was going to be a long day in the saddle.

The road was wet as I made my way to the I95, light rain was falling and the droplets obscured my vision through the visor. I hate riding in the rain, and in the darkness. I felt awkward this morning, like my balance was off a bit. Not sure if Sam Adams had something to do with this or I was just being overly cautious on the wet roads. My back tire was pretty worn which concerned me.

At 4am there's not a lot of traffic, even for the NYC area. It was like home........in the middle of the day.

My route this morning would take me across the George Washington Bridge and it's wallet liberating $15 toll. That went a little smoother than the last toll booth. Even at 4am the girl at the booth managed a smile, or was it a smirk.

I took the first right off the bridge onto the Henry Hudson Parkway. It's a four lane divided highway, with a 45-55mph speed limit. Best thing........no transport trucks.

For the most part it was quiet as well, but as luck would have it a cabbie who seemed to be texting, with the interior light on had decided that he was gonna take his half of the road..... out of the middle.  Hell, maybe he was drunk and figured if he kept to the white line in the middle he'd be safe. Makes sense, I guess, and keeps you out of the ditch. I decided that keeping a safe distance away from him was the best course of action.

Before long Mr. Cab managed to negotiate an exit ramp, and was no longer my problem.

The Hudson Parkway turned into the Cross County and then the Merritt, it was easy to follow, and I'm sure it would have been quite scenic if it wasn't for the darkness of the wee morning hours.

The rain finally let up around the Sanford, Ct. area. It was still cool though, and my hands were getting cold despite my warm gloves, and at the next rest stop pulled over and got out my heated glove liners.

It seemed like daylight was fighting to come along. The low overcast made it darker than normal and my headlight was still illuminating the road in front of the bike.

Despite having only one cup of coffee just after I awoke, I pushed on with a dangerously low caffeine /blood level. Just south of Hartford I exited the Merritt Parkway (Route 15) for the I91, and then the I84 into Mass. Not my ideal roads for travel, but I had to make some distance today.

Other than the early morning truck traffic it wasn't bad going.

Back to that caffeine/blood level. I pulled into one of those Interstate Service Centres, there was a sign for McD's and that was good enough for me. I fuelled the Guzzi, and then myself. Dining to a gourmet Egg McMuffin and small black coffee.

I'd like to spin exciting tales of adventure on the trip home, even meeting some interesting characters, but alas there were none. Just Guzzi and I droning along on the Interstate. The weather did improve, and I managed to put my sunglasses on for the first time. The temp hit a balmy 21C in Maine.

Just east of Portland, Me on another coffee/gas stop

Off course as the temp went up, so did the bug population, and I was now being pummelled by all kinds of the winged annoyances. I do miss having a bigger windscreen to protect me from the kamikaze insects, and as always there's that one bug that hits your face shield just in the right spot. So you give it a flick with your finger, and the little F'er smears, making a big mess. 

Along Route 9 in Maine. Otherwise known as the Airline Route headed for the Canadian border

Before I crossed back into Canada I stopped at the Duty Free shop. The missus need some tequila, because it's the season of the margarita. Booze is a quite a bit more expensive north of the border. Free health care and all.

For the most part the Guzzi is a pretty comfortable bike even with my 185cm, 83kg frame. Although my arse would not be able to take it without the Airhawk seat cushion. It's been a butt saver on many a trip and bike. However after 10hrs the body gets sore regardless, especially at 120-130kph. The wind beats you up despite the best efforts of Dart's Merlin windscreen.

11hrs and 20mins after I left the hotel in East Rutherford, I'm thankful to be pulling into my driveway at home. I was pretty knackered.

My back tire was now completely shot, in hindsight I should have had it replaced when I was sitting in Jersey all week. I never realized how dangerously worn it would be by the time I got home.

Overall it was a good trip, hopefully next year I can take a leisurely ride home, instead of the buttburner one day affair. It took me two days to recover.

I've been saying this for awhile now, but next year I may tack on a weeks vacation and take a spin down to Kentucky. My grandfather went to school in Berea, and I'd like to go visit. 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

One Year

I'll continue the rest of my story on my journey to the Garden State a little later.

One year ago today I was waking up in a hotel room in Danbury, CT. It was day three of my ride to Joisey. The previous day was gorgeous, sunny, warm, and I had just rode from Augusta, Maine through the White Mountains to get here. It was a beautiful scenic trip on some great roads, and I had thoroughly enjoyed my day on what was really my first touring trip on the Guzzi.

It was a helluva way to spend my birthday. Only thing better would be to share my evening supper with my friends and family.

I had just toasted my 47th year of life with a couple of Sam Adams and retired to my room, the fatigue of being on the bike all day was setting in.

I did my usual brief surf around the inter web, double checked tomorrows weather, and the usual Facepage check in. That's when the euphoria of the day came to a crashing halt. Another rider friend of mine informed me of Rob Harris accident and passing.

For the past year I have struggled with motorcycle ownership. A couple of times I have put the bike up for sale, only to take the ad down a few weeks later. I even had people wanting to buy my bike, but when push came to shove I couldn't.

Rob was the first person I knew, since I was a teenager, to lose his life in a motorcycle accident. Like myself he was married with two daughters and for a long time I had issues with my own mortality and the thought of leaving my wife and girls without a husband and father.

In fact it wasn't until my first ride on the bike this spring that my love for motorcycles returned. The desire to go on road trips, and find adventure was once again filling my brain.

That first ride in April was when I got off the bike and decided that I would be riding to Jersey for sim training instead of taking a airline seat.

Rob loved life, loved all things two wheeled and there is no way of knowing when your time is up. So may as well enjoy the things that make you happy.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Onward to Joisey

I woke up early on Sunday morning, a brightness was piercing through the crack in the blinds. Nah, couldn't be.......was that sun. Yes, fuckin' A it was. Today was looking better already.

My enthusiasm was short lived however as the skies began to cloud over as I made my way through the Fairfield Inn's merger breakfast, it was included with the room price, so I shouldn't complain too loudly.

By the time I loaded up the bike and got ready to depart, the gray skies were back, and it looked again as if rain was threatening.

Today's ride was more of the same, backroads with short stints on the Interstate only when necessary. It was only a short ride too, just over 200km. Easy peasy after two long, wet days in the saddle.

I headed west along a rural road out of Great Barrington to connect to the Taconic State Parkway. It's a divided four lane highway with a 55mph speed limit. Traffic was pretty much light to nil at this time of the morning, and it was nice not to have be constantly checking the mirrors for approaching cars all the time. I'm guessing most Massholes.....I mean residents of Mass were either sleeping or getting ready for prayer service.

 It wasn't long before I crossed into the Empire State. So far the rain had held off but I could see showers on the horizon. In fact the rain began to fall shortly after I was headed southbound on the Parkway. Just enough to soak all my gear before abating again. It would be the last of the rain today thankfully.

My first stretch of Interstate was the I84 to cross the Hudson River depositing me in the City of Newburgh. I've been to Newburgh before, it has a bad reputation as being the eighth most dangerous city in the USA.

This part of Newburgh has seen better days

Exiting I84 I took the 9W, which makes it way through urban Newburgh, multiple stop lights and sketchy looking neighbourhoods. I wasn't too concerned at 9am on a Sunday. I reckon most of Newburgh's criminal elite were still in bed, or getting ready for church services as well.

I figured if anyone gave me a second glance I'd rev the engine of the mighty Guzzi and squint my eyes in a gunslinger kinda way, give them my best Eastwood stare for a second, pop the clutch and get the hell out of there.

Just outside of Newburgh the sun made an appearance. On the other side of the Hudson River.

After a few more nervous miles I was back in a comfortable more rural setting cruising along at 80kph. Before you get to West Point, there's a beautiful section of road that climbs up a big hill. Descending the backside is awesome, nice sweeping corners and an incredible view of the Hudson River Valley. It reminds me of sections of the Cabot Trail.

The 9W then turns into the 202, which runs through Bear Mountain State Park. Another beautiful section of road, which for the most part had very little traffic. The road is a little rough in places and it has a lot of cyclists. I mean a lot, they ride in packs and not necessarily in single file either. Some of them in the middle of the lane doing their best doped up on EPO Lance Armstrong impression.

These are from two years ago, on my last big trip on the Strom. Weather was much nicer.

Off the 202 Garmin took me on an interesting urban/residential road to get me over to the Palisades Interstate (more of a parkway than an Interstate). Wayne Road/Main Street, was a curvy, hilly route through some nice, eclectic neighbourhoods. It was slow 25-30mph, but fun. I guess it's popular with the bikers down here because I passed more motorcyclists on this stretch than I had the whole trip.

The Palisades Parkway took me to the I287 for quick jaunt to the New York State Thruway which changes to the Garden State Thruway when,...... ya you guessed it, it crosses into Joisey.

It's getting close to 10am and traffic volume has noticeably picked up, and my caffeine level has noticeably plummeted.

I pulled into a highway rest stop and had a Starbucks and something eat. I only had another 35km to go, but it would be the most intense of the trip with all the traffic.

The one thing I really enjoy about the Guzzi, is most people have no idea what it is, and those that do, either ride one, or have ridden them, and they are quite passionate about the brand.

I had just dismounted the bike when an older gentleman who reminded me of this guy,
came up to admire the bike. He told me he owned a few Guzzi's in the past. He raced for Yamaha for awhile, but said he always loved the Italian and German bikes. Something sexy about them he said. I'd have to agree. I'll touch on that a little later.

Once I was refuelled I continued on the Garden State, before a very brief run on I80, which required a $1.50 toll. Oh, and for some reason I wasn't expecting that toll, it took me by surprise. Of course earlier I took my toll money out of my tank bag and put in my pants pocket, which is zipped.

Fuckin' toll booths, sometimes I feel like I'm a turtle stuck on it's back at these damn things. Timing it so that I can roll up in neutral so I can have two hands free to awkwardly unzip the side pocket of pants, fish out a couple of american bills that are all the same colour, not really knowing how much you have in the balled up mess of money in your hand, as you pass it to the bored, and equally unimpressed toll collector. All the while doing this with thick winter riding gloves because the temp has been above 10C. Then you have the impatient asshole cager behind you honking on the horn.........FUCK OFF!

With my toll paid to the great state of New Jersey I sped off to again exit the interstate a few hundred meters away. JC.

I'm now on the 17 which takes me directly to my hotel. It's a very busy six lane divided road/highway, where everyone is changing lanes, speeding, texting, talking, applying makeup, etc, in a vain attempt to be the first one to win the race to the next red light. I hate it. Always alert to the Suburban deciding he wants the space I am currently occupying, or the woman in the Impala coming up behind me at a high rate of speed while I'm stopped at light. It requires constant attention and I'm always trying to find a semi-safe escape route.

It is short lived and I am glad to be pulling into the parking lot of the hotel. I can rest, and Guzzi gets a break for the next week, before we take the long trip home again.

In the past I have written numerous posts about other motorcycles, what's the best, what's the perfect bike.....is there one? Someone commented that the perfect bike is the one in the garage right now.

He's right. The more I ride the Guzzi, the more I love it. For a physically small motorcycle it is very comfortable. With nothing more than a windshield and an Airhawk seat cushion I can ride in comfort all day. I don't like the Interstates, but the V7 will cruise happily at 120kph. It won't be as comfortable as a say a BMW 1200RT, but it will do it. I like the backroads, and that is where the little bike shines in my opinion.

The V7 ticks all the boxes for me. Small, maneuverable, easy to ride, highway capable,  lots of character, easy to work on, different and affordable. Oh and it sounds awesome.

So there.

I'm here in Joisey until Saturday morning. My last simulator session is from 4-8pm on Friday. Awesome time to leave the NYC area. Not. Plan is to leave oh dark and early Saturday morning, for a leisurely two day ride home through the mountains again.

 That was the plan..........until that bitch Mudder Nature ruined it all.

Just guess which direction that's headed? Unless the forecast changes it's gonna be a 0430am departure, balls to walls for home to get ahead and stay ahead of the rain. With any luck I should run out of the rain by New Haven, CT, and be dry from there all the way home. 

I was really hoping not to have to another metric Ironbutt. Fack!