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Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Search For the Perfect Bike..........or is there one?

The perfect bike..........does one even exist? Is it a myth, or am I just the kind of guy that gets bored and can't live with just one. My Vstrom is close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The thing is great on the highway, good around town, reasonably good on a gravel road, but  its big and heavy.

I mean for a long distance trip it is damn near perfect, but really I take maybe one of those a year, and I'm sure there is something out there that can be comfortable for those multi day trips, lighter and doesn't cost a small fortune.

I am also a lover of the retro style, things that are new, but look old. The Triumph Classics, Urals, etc.

Maybe not new, but it is a classic

Sidecars.........never ridden with one, but I am absolutely in love with them. I just think they are so cool. You can load them up with a pile of stuff, ride them just about anywhere, and take my dogs with me. Downside........they drive weird, and Urals are not highway machines. Neither is CRF250L for that fact, and do I really need to ride on the highways? They are boring after all and the best scenery is on the backroads.

I'd love a CRF250L, but I think I'd grow old of it fairly quickly as my do it all one bike. I do like to use my bike for running errands and you can't fit much on a CRF. Plus it is still a 250, and lacking in the power department. It would be a hoot off road but.....not so much fun on the road.

Triumph Scrambler........never ridden one either, good reviews, low seat height, classic styling, good motor, able to ride off road, lightly and it's sidecar able. (not sure that's a word, but let's run with it). $11000 price tag.

Do I really need a new bike? No. Do I want a new bike? Yes. As much as I love love the ol' Strom it just missing something, and it's just too big and heavy for the majority of the riding I'm doing.

Ah yes the riding. As much as I like the idea of riding off road, and exploring gravel roads, I never do. The last time I was on a dirt road was at the Fundy Adventure Rally last year, and I most likely won't be on one again until this years rally. So do I really need a dirt road worthy bike?

Displacement size? Well, I kind of got caught up in the less is more thing when Ed and Rach were here and visions of touring around on a CT110. But let's be serious, I'm not in my twenties anymore, and don't have all the time in the world to be riding around maxed out at 70kph. I'd love to do it, but it's not gonna happen.

Therefore I cannot see myself living solely with a small displacement bike. I do like the power, and I do like a good sporty nature of a bike. 

So what makes good power, handles great, is relatively comfortable and has character? 

Benvenuto in Italia

Monday, 13 July 2015

Newfoundland's T'Railway Trail

Maybe I need Ritalin or maybe my brain is on hyperdrive when it comes to planning trips, especially two-wheeled ones, but I have thought up and changed my mind so many times when it comes to adventures and bikes. You readers can attest to this. "What the fuck is he planning this week?"

Unfortunately most of these amazing ideas I have, rarely make it past these pages. I think I am finally coming to grips with the fact that I am not a touring bike guy, or a cruiser guy, as much as my inner hooligan, Clay Morrow may like me to be. I do enjoy touring, but off the beaten path, and in places where the possibility of getting dirty is a given. For example Pete and I in Labrador, and all the fun I had at the Fundy Adventure Rally last year. (I'm going again this year). So I guess that makes me an adventure rider.

This August it will have been two years since Pete and I left
on the Bigland Adventure, and I am jonesing for another adventure, and I think Pete is too. Since I mentioned Railway Trail and 250cc bikes, he keeps emailing about different ones. The fly has been cast, hook is set, time to reel him in.

For those of you that are thinking "what the hell is this railway trail?". Well, it's back in Newfoundland, it's the old railway bed that stretches from St. John's in the east, to Port Aux Basques in the west for a total of 883km. It is now considered a Provincial Park, however most sections are open to bikes and ATV's.

I've been wanting to do this trip for a longtime, and I think next year might be the year to do it. Oxley won't take too much convincing and Zak from Canada Moto Guide has expressed a lot of interest. So it may turn into a CMG/Bigland Adventures film. Woohoo.

Now comes the most brought up subject on this blog, what bike to use for the trip. Small ones of course. The trail is railway bed, big loose stones, and ATV ruts. Why drag a huge bike over that? We won't require a lot of gear since the trail passes by a lot of communities, and in the words of Oxley "why camp when you don't have to" So camping gear is off the list, which makes the bike a lot lighter already.

I'm thinking some tools, spare parts, clean underwear and socks, a couple of t-shirts, one pair of pants/shorts, and flip flops and we are good to go.

Back to the bikes. I'm thinking a Honda CRF250L. Why, because you meet the nicest people on a Honda. I'm sure there are equally as nice people on other brands. My first bike was a Honda, I have an affinity to the brand, and hell, they even make a jet.

First bike

Next bike

Small, relatively light, good on gas, and fuel-injected. It's no race bike, but that's not what I'm looking for.  A relatively easy to ride, comfortable and reliable bike.

I think Pete is leaning towards Mean Green's version of the CRF, Kawasaki's KLX250S.

So the old, reliable Strom is up for sale. If any of you want to buy the coolest Vstrom in the Maritimes, get it now while it's still available. First one at my door with around $5000 gets a piece of adventure riding history. (written with wit and sarcasm). It's been all tuned up, new rear tire, new rear brakes, ready to roll on more adventures. Oh and it comes with a lot of cool stickers so you look like a real studly adventurer. I'd really like to see it go to a good home, so someone real cool needs to buy it.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Yamaha Bolt Test Ride

If any of you have read any of my blog posts from the last twelve months, you'll know that I have had a off and on love affair with the Yamaha Bolt, and/or the HD 883 Iron. Actually in the perfect world, the one where my wife doesn't interfere with my purchases of motorcycles, I'd have one.

However my lovely wife, who holds all the cards in this family, because she is the woman, and has control over what most men want, therefore controls everything else and has final say in all matters. I believe we call this arrangement marriage. Unlike some lucky buggers who are allowed multiple bikes in the garage, I am allowed only one. However there was a brief time when I had two, but that was short lived.

So the search for the perfect do-it-all bike continues. The Strom is pretty damn close, but it's bulky, heavy, and not very good off road. The Bolt......it's small, light, flickable, lots of power, and character, but sucks even on a gravel road. Hence the reason there isn't one in the garage.

Now, when my friend and owner of Moto Sport Plus in Saint John offered to let me take the Bolt out for a good rip, I jumped at the chance. Tim Hovey took over the Yamaha/Suzuki dealer almost a year ago, and now has demo bikes available. A 650 VStrom ABS, a Bolt, and an FZ-07. Yes, there will be reviews on those as well.

Well enough of the babble, on to the ride.

I picked the bike up from the shop, on what could be described as one of the nicest days we've had in the Port City for riding. The sun was out, it was 20C and there was practically no wind. A rare day in this part of the world.

After getting off the Vstrom, swinging a leg over the Bolt was more like stepping over it, the low seat (27.2 in) height makes it easy for anyone to climb aboard. My feet naturally went to the mid-pegs, and the reach to the bars was good. The bars, however had a slight bend upwards that I found awkward, and the levers were shifted too far down for my liking. It was like everything needed to be rotated back ever so slightly.

Switchgear was standard, left bar had turn signals high/low beam, and horn. Right bar, stop/run, starter, and menu selector. and reset. (for toggling thru, trip/ODO/km's since fuel light illuminated, and clock). Handgrips were nice and big, I like a large diameter handgrip, and the clutch and front brake levers were beefy as well.

The digital speedo was easy to read, even in direct sunlight, however I think Yamaha should have used an analogue to keep the retro theme a little more honest. Not a fan of digital. Seems like they fixed the complaints of the 2014 models hard to read display in the sun. I did find the warning lights (oil, neutral, turn signal, and low fuel) very hard to see, they are small and dimly lit. However it is not something that would sway me from buying it.

Thumbing the starter brings the 950cc air cooled V-twin to life, and with the Vance and Hines exhaust it has a throaty rumble. It's loader than stock, but not obnoxious. Actually pretty quiet at idle and low RPM. Open the throttle and you go right to hooligan mode.

I blasted off out of the MotoSport parking lot and headed for a good run which included highway and rural roads to get a good feel for the machine. First impressions.........easy to ride, clutch pull was fairly light and gear shifts were smooth, although I did hit a couple of false neutrals throughout the day. The bike definitely makes more than enough power for the average rider, and kept me entertained all day. Low to mid-range was where it was best.

I headed east on the McKay Highway towards Rothesay, accelerating down the on ramp and the Bolt hit 110kph in no time and was quite comfortable cruising at this speed. I also was quite comfortable at this speed, smooth airflow, and no buffeting. My Bell Bullitt helmet may have helped with that.

The Bolt definitely felt better at highway speeds than the 883 Iron, a lot smoother too. My first stint on the highway was brief and I exited onto Rothesay Road, and kept to the back roads for awhile. 

The bike handles very nice for a cruiser, easy to throw around, and corners well, considering the limited lean angle. I did scrap the pegs quite a few times. 

Suspension.......well it's adequate. (4.7in of travel in the telescopic forks and 2.8in the dual shocks under my arse) Freeway expansion joints will give you a jolt, as well as potholes, and manhole covers. If I was on the smooth roads of our brothers south of the border, it would be awesome. However New Brunswick backroads closely resemble the Road of Bones in Siberia, or some dirt road snaking through the Himalayas in India. Hence the reason dual-sport and adventure bikes are so popular here.

The bike never got out bent out of shape on the rough roads, it was just jarring to the rider. The seat, was comfortable, however for long stints I may have to go with a Airhawk or some sheepskin to increase my arse comfort level. 

I have never been a fan of forward controls, road a Street Glide (hated it) and a Triumph America (not much better). The idea of having my feet way out in front of me is odd. However I think the Bolt needs some highway pegs for long runs, since the seat to peg height is much lower than a standard bike. It is nice to stretch out every now and then. To note, I am six feet tall, with a 32" inseam, and 190lbs.

So..... it accelerates well, so much so, I would giggle every time I'd give it a handful of throttle, although the awesome bark from Mr. Vance and Sir Hines could be a major contributor. When it came time to slow down, the single 298mm disc upfront and one in the back did a commendable job of bringing the  540lbs of bike plus 190lbs of rider to a halt. 

I rode out to the Town of Hampton and with each passing kilometre I enjoyed the bike more and more. I jumped on the highway to head west back to Saint John, and mighty Bolt hit 120kph with ease, and still had a lot of ooumph left for passing. For a small, flickable bike it was rock stable at highway speeds. Quite impressive really. It's sweet spot is 100kph, or I should say, my sweet spot was 100kph. I could ride all day at that speed. The wind blast at 120 was a bit too much, a small screen to take the blast off my chest would help eliminate that though. However speed and long distance highway cruising is not what this bike was intended for. I do think it is certainly capable and comfortable enough for a multi-day adventure if you're not into eating a lot of miles.

So the question remains........if I had bought one would I have been happy with it. Absolutely, so much so that my brain went into overdrive again. Ooh! I want it. But it is not a one-bike in the garage kind of machine for me. I still like to get dirty from time to time, and it would suck on a railway trail.

I think Yamaha did an outstanding job with the bike, it has character, a great motor, great build quality and it looks really cool. I know the Harley naysayers call it a clone, a wannabe Sportster, but like so many other reviewers said. "It's the Sportster Harley should have built" Plus it's over $2K cheaper!!!

If you are in the southern New Brunswick area and have just half an interest in a Bolt or Sporty, go see Tim or Scott at Motorsport Plus and take it for a rip. You'll come back and say "Harley what?, the Bolt rocks"

Friday, 3 July 2015

Taking in Two Travellers A Long Way From Home

I cannot imagine what it would be like to spend eleven months on the road. Does the road become home after all that time? What is even harder to comprehend is knowing you have another two, yes TWO years left in your journey. Then when the journey is over, what becomes a normal life again? I mean normal would be "on the road". I guess when you are in your mid to late forties with a family, job, mortgage, etc it's hard to wrap your head around it.

Growing up in Newfoundland in the '80's, there was no internet, and we basically had 5 TV channels, once we finally got cable. So the thought of traveling long distances to far off places never even entered my mind. I hadn't even heard of it on a motorcycle. I mean a big trip for me was driving with my buddy Dan to Halifax to go windsurfing. At the time I thought I was some kind of crazy adventurous surfer. Little did I know how pedestrian that trip really was.

I had a nice Honda Elite 125, that I should have loaded up and hit the road with. Went off and explored North America. Times were good then, no need for a passport (never even had one until I started flying with Air Nova in 1997). I had no responsibilities, no one to answer to. At the time I was making good coin as a lifeguard for the City of St. John's, work a year, save up some cash and hit the road in the spring.

If it was all possible to wind back the clock, I would. I wouldn't change my life in the present, but I would have done things differently when the time was right to do it. Unfortunately there are no do-overs in life, so my opportunities for travel and exploration will have to be on a small scale until retirement.  Or I get to live vicariously through young people like Ed March and Rachel Lashem

In a previous blog I told you about the opportunity I had to meet them, and chat briefly with them, well last Sunday evening they showed up on my doorstep, soaking wet in the cool, June rain. A hot cup of tea and good meal and they were right as rain again.

What was really funny was that my daughter and her friend had just finished watching Ed's movie Malaysia to the UK, and then lo and behold he's standing in the porch soaking wet.

They spend three days with us, mostly chillin', catching up on journals, blogs and Ed uploaded his latest video.

I hoped they enjoyed they're stay here, it was a real treat having them with us. I know my two daughters thought it was pretty cool. Katie thought Rachel was really cool, and it was nice to have the girls see a woman do a big, make that HUGE, two-wheeled adventure. Katie was actually disappointed that they only stayed 3 days. "Dad, how come they aren't staying a whole week?"

We wish them all the best, and lots of luck on their journey south to Argentina.

So, if I had the chance now to do what they are doing would I do it? If I could without having to miss my family..........YES. Although it would have to on something bigger than a C90. My old bones need a little more comfort I think.

So after spending three days with them, and hearing all about their adventures, I am amped up for another one. Plus I watched our Two Wheels Thru the Bigland which I forgot had been re-edited and aired on AdvTV in the US. Here is the youtube link.

Some bad words were edited out and copyrighted music was replaced.

So Terry needs a week long adventure somewhere again. Something off the beaten track. I really want to do the T'Railway Trail in Newfoundland, but that will have to wait til next year, and will require a slightly smaller and more off road capable bike.

I still really want one of these.