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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

2016 is Here and There has Been a Radical Change

2016 is here, I didn't ring it in much differently the any other year. Few too many pints of beer with family and friends. I didn't wake up with some kind of epiphany to change my life or anything like that. Actually it all kinda started back this fall when I bought a new bicycle.

So where am I going with this? Well sometimes to go forward in life you have to go back. For me it's going back just over fifteen years. On November 4th, 2000 I finished what was, and still is, one of the greatest athletic accomplishments of my life. Ironman Florida. The Ironman is a triathlon that consists of a 4.8km swim, 180km bike ride, and a full 42.2km marathon, and it has to be done in under 17hrs.

It was a long day, taking me 12hrs and 48mins to get to the finish line. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. The ultra marathon I did last year was tough, and the last 5km was painful, but I was undertrained and not prepared. The Ultra did reignite something in me, and I realized that I was at my happiest when training for a long distance event.

As most of you know, by reading this, my brain fires on all cylinders in the fall and winter, coming up with crazy stupid ideas revolved around motorbikes. That's all fine and dandy, but I get drove nuts thinking about things that will undoubtedly never happen. Take the Scooter Cannonball for example. It is an awesome idea, race, whatever, but other than a few days of planning, it's a long wait until July. A long wait through a depressingly long winter.

So in my search for the next "great idea, event or thing" related to two wheels and a motor I am actually setting myself up for a depressing winter with not much to do, but mope and whine about how long it is taking to get to the next riding season.

The other issue is, I turn 47 years old in May, then it's a short three years until the big 50. For some reason 50 bugs the ever loving shit out of me. To me 50 is the start of old. No offense to those of you over 50. For some people turning 30 or 40 is life altering, or has a big meaning, it wasn't for me, I really didn't give it too much thought. But 50 has me spooked.

So I decided that the year I turn 50, I plan on being in the best shape of my life, better than 31. The age I was during my Ironman. I don't plan on just beating my old Ironman time of 12hrs 48mins and 52sec, but I plan on destroying it.

November 4th 2000

So folks, I'm going to take the next three years to get there. Everything motorbike related is getting shelved, except for the Fundy Rally documentary, and helping out with the Cannonball 500/1000 for Dave Purdy. No big adventures or bike trips, other than my yearly ride to New York for training, and of course commuting. All my effort will be focused on my family, work and Ironman.

So for 2016, I need to get back in triathlon shape, time to get back to the pool, and hit the bike trainer. Everyday there is a workout or two to be done. It keeps me busy, my brain quiet and happy.

No full Ironman this year, I plan on competing in two half Ironman events to get warmed up, and then in 2017 Ironman Mont Tremblant, 2018 Ironman Muskoka, and 2019 Ironman Canada. Thus completing every official Ironman event in Canada. Lofty goals? Yup. Can it be done? Yup, barring any health issues or injury, I can do this. Will the plan change? Probably, but the end goal will remain the same.......toe the line at Ironman Canada as a 50 year old, in way better shape than I was at 31. Simple.

So there won't be a lot of updates on the blog from now on. Progress on the FAR documentary, and the Cannonball 500/1000. That's it.

Monday, 28 December 2015

2016.......What's In Store, and What the Hell Happened to My Guzzi?

2015 is almost over, three more days until the new year. The down time over the Christmas season has had me doing a lot of thinking about my plans for the this upcoming season.

First of all, I have to get to work on the Fundy Adventure Rally documentary. It won't be a long one, maybe 30mins. I have most of the video all categorized and filtered through. Holy crap there is a lot of bad, and boring helmet cam footage. 20mins of video gets you 20sec of something good.

I do have to shoot some interviews with the event organizers, and grand rally master 'Arris, plus get some "B" footage for certain things. Hopefully I'll have the storyline and the guts of the video all done, so I won't be doing too much editing come riding season.

Speaking of riding season, I set some lofty goals already. The Scooter Cannonball, well lets just say that stands a good chance of NOT happening. Between the logistics of it all, and the already sunk Canadian dollar, it could turn into a very costly event. The Canadian Scooter Cannonball is still on the table, but for 2017. I need more lead up time to put that together, and save up some cash for a scooter.

The Cannonball 500/1000. That is a go. I have been working with Dave Purdy, and so far we have one dealer onboard for the New Brunswick edition. I'll be harassing other dealers first thing in the new year. I think this is going to be a fun event, whether you ride a scooter or a full dressed Harley.
Stay tuned for confirmation, and when to register.

The saga of my Moto Guzzi. I haven't written about this yet. 

In October I dropped my V7 off at the dealer, G. Bourque, in Moncton for the 1000km break-in service. I had to trailer it up because of the required valve-check and of course the engine had to be cold. The service check also covers, fluid changes, checking cables, brakes, tires, etc, etc.

After bring the bike back home, I went for a ride. After about 5mins I noticed a slight whining noise coming from the bike. At first I thought it may have been my helmet, the Bell Bullitt tends to do that sometimes. Unfortunately, no it was coming from the bike. I turned around and headed for home, the noise getting more noticeable as I rode on. I checked the engine oil, and it was good, so my next worry was the gearbox. Now the gearbox oil is not addressed in the owners manual. It states, that it should only be checked, serviced and replaced by an authorized Guzzi dealer. Great. 

Of course this being a Saturday afternoon, and I was leaving the following morning for a week long work trip, it would have be dealt with later.

Upon return a week later I go to start up the Guzzi, and now it is making an ungodly screeching noise when idling in neutral. Pull the clutch lever in and the noise goes away. FUCK!!!
I call the dealer right away. Of course the service department is quick to say "it wasn't something we did" How the hell do you know that by not even looking at the bike. Well it wasn't something I did either. Perfectly working bikes goes in for routine service, and comes back with a gearbox issue. Who's fault was it? They didn't even reset the service message on the bike.

So I do some online research. Turns out some Guzzi service techs (I'll call them a tech for now, because they get about 3hs training on Guzzi's from what I have been told) sometimes under fill the gearbox oil. The Guzzi service literature is confusing, and some techs mix up final drive with gearbox. Guzzi calls the gearbox the transmission and the final drive the gearbox.

Not saying that is what happened, but from all accounts from others with this issue it is a very strong likelihood. 

Bike goes back on the trailer and back to G. Bourque. Which by the way is a 90min drive. I drop it off, and they tell me they suspect a bad bearing. Right.

I fully think that this will take weeks to fix, and they'll have to pull the transmission, and replace parts, etc. Wishful thinking on my part. A day later I get the call "bike is ready, clutch cable was out of adjustment" WTF. 

Back to Moncton I go....again, towing the trailer. It's November now, and Moncton has had snow already, so no one has ridden the bike, except the 200m from the shop to the warehouse.

I start the bike up, everything sounds normal. Load the bike on the trailer and head for home.

It's late November now, so riding days are few and far between, so I am cautiously optimistic that the bike is fixed, however the Guzzi gurus on the forums, say no, the dealer is screwing you and covering up their mistake. 

It's December and we have been blessed with a good riding day. The salt has been washed away from the road, and it's a balmy plus five degrees. I get geared up, pull the Guzzi out of the garage, let her warm up, and off I go. Hey, everything sounds good, bike is running good. I'm a happy boy.

Six kilometres into the ride, what's that noise? Fuck, a whine, ever so slightly. Must be the helmet again. I wish it was the helmet. The whine is still there. JC, fuck, those bastards, I hate that dealership, bunch of crooks!

I put on a 100km that day, the whine was there the whole time. At idle everything sounds great, get moving, roll on some throttle and it rears it's ugly head. 

Clutch adjustment my ass, I think they under serviced the gearbox oil, and then when I brought it back they just topped it up and came up with a lame clutch excuse. 

So what do I do now. We are in the grips of winter, there is no way the service "techs" can even take the bike for an extended ride to even hear said whining gearbox. 

So now I wait until spring, which I hope comes early, to bring it back to Moncton for a 3rd time in hopes they can fix the damn thing before I head to New York in the middle of May. If they fix it right. So now I have a great motorcycle that I don't trust more than to ride around the block on.

It will be the last time the Guzzi ever sees that dealership for service, ever again.

Why am I so leary of G. Bourque, well my buddy has an MG Stelvio, and has had numerous issues with his. They continually over-serviced his bike with oil. Not to mention they had to pull his entire transmission this summer, leaving him without a bike for 3 weeks.

I love the Guzzi, think it is a great bike, but don't buy one from these yahoos, at least don't get it serviced there.

That leads me to thinking of getting a second bike again. A dual-sport/adv bike. Something I can take off road and to ride in the Fundy Adventure Rally.

A used CRF250L or maybe a CSC RX3 if the Canadian peso rebounds at all. $3495 US for a decked out mini adventure bike is pretty sweet. Ideally I'd like to make it a fly and ride. Head to California and pick it up, ride it home. Be an awesome adventure. 

Now to go out and shovel that white shit off my front porch.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Cannonball 500 / 1000

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on an event called the Cannonball 500 and 1000. It's a purely Canadian event designed for motorcyclists that like to ride and not hide. Basically it's a 500 mile (800ish km) and 1000 mile (1600ish km) rides being held in each province on the weekend of June 11-12.

Each province has a pre-determined route for the 500 and 1000 starting at a local dealer(s). There is no fee for the event, just register, show up, sign in and ride. Oh and be back within the cutoff time. You also have to stop in at other dealerships along the route to prove you rode the route. You have twelve hours to complete the 500, and 36hrs for the 1000.

Click on the photo for more info

Sadly, the maritimes were missing from this cross Canada event. So being the two-wheeled aficionado  that I am, I emailed the event organizer, Dave, Purdyman, Purdy and offered my assistance. He had some pretty good routes already made, I just helped tweak them a bit. The big need was finding dealers to be start/finish hosts throughout the provinces.

Right away I knew my friend Tim Hovey at Motosport Plus in Saint John would be up for this, and sure enough he signed on. Now to continue working on other dealers to get this going.

This is not only a great event for all kinds of riders (Harley, sport bikers, ADVriders, cruisers, scooterists) but also a great opportunity for the dealers involved. Look at all the riders you are getting coming through your doors. If I were a dealer, I'd jump on this right away. For the start, offer free coffee, donuts, muffins, etc, and for the finish, a BBQ, make it a party. Show everyone that your not just a store that sells bikes, but a part of a two-wheeled community.

Stay tuned for more on the Cannonball 500 and 1000 as we get more dealers on board.

Oh and yes the Scooter Cannonball Canadian style is in the works, for now at least.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Canuck Cannonball???

Yesterday I posted a link to my blog on the Halifax Scooter Council's Facebook page, wondering if there was any interest from other scooter owners on a Cannonball Run. One post tweaked my attention. "ship your scoots to Nanaimo and we'll start a Canadian one that ends in Halifax" 

Whoa!! That's an idea and a half. Why the hell not? I have a couple of contacts in the motorsport industry, and it would give me something to plan over the winter. So now my brain is working in overdrive on this.

I don't want to call it a race, because racing scooters and small motorcycles, ultra-long distance and on public roads don't go hand in hand when trying to entice sponsors. So if I do this, it could be a rally style with set distances everyday, or it's the first one to the finish line any route you want. While obeying speed limits.....of course.

Ferries are a pain in the ass, and just slow everything down, so I figured why not start and end at two lovely parks. One on the Atlantic, one on the Pacific. Point Pleasant in Halifax to Stanley Park in Vancouver.

I know, I know, you folks on The Rock, left out AGAIN. When I was living there I would get pissed off too, about events being billed as "Across Canada" and have them terminate in Nova Scotia, or god forbid....Ontario. I would love to go all the way to Cape Spear, or at least start there, but it adds an extra two to three days and an expensive ferry ride. This journey is gonna be long enough. If any of you from god's country want to ride this, I encourage you to start at Cape Spear and ride to the start in  Halifax. You will be given extra points and have bragging rights.

If this goes ahead, what kind of bikes are eligible? Well, I'm thinking scooters from 150cc and up, including the maxi-scoots, and motorcycles up to 500cc. I mean doing this on your lazy boy on wheels Goldwing or Ultra Classic is luxury, and it has to be a painful challenge.

Sponsors. Well, sponsors are going to be the hard part, and the most important, not only to help fund this, but to attract riders as well. In no particular order, off the top of head:

Major OEM, Honda, Suzuki, BMW, Yamaha, Kymco
Hotel Chain, Holiday Inn, Best Western
Rider Apparel, Joe Rocket, Olympia
Parts, Parts Canada, Kimpex
Local Dealers
Media, Cycle Canada, Canada Moto Guide (I know a guy)
Satellite tracking, Find Me Spot
Rental Car Agency, Discount, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, maybe an RV rental

Or we go completely grassroots and have no sponsors.

Then there is insurance and the legal side of hosting an event like this, of which I know very little about.

Rules. The original Cannonball had one rule.....there are no rules. I think there will be rules, just not many of them.

Where this goes, I have no idea. It maybe as simple as a dozen or so riders showing up in Halifax and and the first one to Vancouver wins.

Stay tuned for more as this either unfolds, or folds up.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Search Begins....

So now that I have a rough Cannonball Run plan in place it's time to start looking for a suitable steed to ride on.

The Real Scooter Cannonball, which is the race I am gunning for, has a 150cc minimum, although the race was won in 2013 by a 70cc scoot. Regardless, a 150 would be the minimum in my mind to race on. At least a 150 is capable of short stints on the interstate if need be.

The other rally, The Scooter Cannonball has a maximum 250cc displacement. Ideally if I were to do both events, a 200cc would be the one.

Nostalgically speaking, a Honda Elite 150, similar to the 125 I had as a kid would be awesome.

These are fairly rare, especially in good condition, and Honda has discontinued making parts for them. That makes it more of a challenge, and finding parts on Ebay a new sport. The upside, it's a Honda and the damn things are stone reliable, and one can be had for $500-$1000. For about $1500 you can get an operational bike and a parts bike.

But is a 30 year old bike up to the challenge of a balls to wall, all out race for 5700km? It sure would be fun to see, and I would like the opportunity to tear into a old machine and learn how to fix it, which pays back in spades when on the road.

The other option is more expensive and less maintenance and labour intensive. Find a used Honda PCX150. They are relatively new, reliable, and more than up to the task. Downside.......$2500 used, close to $4000 new, and to be honest, they lack any real character.

Although in my experience over the years, "character" means I break down, shake, rattle, roll, and have a lot of weird quirky things going on......and that's OK.

Then there is the ever popular Vespa. When you look up scooter in the dictionary, there it is.....the Vespa. Now don't get me wrong the Vespa is awesome. High end, and expensive. Expensive to buy and expensive to fix. The built quality is excellent, and they scream I am a cool scooterist. 

Even a used one with high mileage is on the pricey side and fetch over two grand. Mind you I'd probably skip the Louis Vuitton optional seat like this one.

So it all boils down to what can I get a deal on, and how much do I have to put into it to make it half-decently reliable.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Is a Multi-Year Trip On The Road Possible?? Cannonball Run Update......TWO!!!! WTF!!!!!

A few months ago I came across an article on the inter web about a gentleman riding his Honda  around North America. Not that unusual to those of you immersed in the two wheeled world. Lots of people take time off  to tour. However this wasn't your normal Honda touring motorcycle, not a Goldwing or ST1300, not even a large scooter like a Silverwing. No, he was touring on a Ruckus. 49cc of four stroke fury. Possibly one of the smallest, most basic scooters available.

To sum it up, it was just awesome. Most other people would call it nuts. Most other people, and I am included in this lot, do not have the time to even consider this. I can't imagine my employer and my family giving me the green light to go on a trip that would take over three months or longer to accomplish. At the very least if I did go, the only ones waiting for me on my return would be the divorce lawyers. To be perfectly honest, I'd miss my family too much to be away that long.

So how does a middle-aged man live out one of his dreams and maintain some semblence in life? When it comes to touring and not racing across the continent, it's tough.

Although I think I may have found the answer.......for me anyway. I am very fortunate that in my job, I get a lot of downtime between flights. Corporate aviation can be very busy for a few week, and then be very quiet for weeks on end. Plus I am blessed with six weeks vacation a year. The result of not having very many scheduled days off. I maybe home, but I never know when my services will be required.

The first part of this plan is to use two weeks of vacation for two-wheeled travel purposes. The second part is well a second bike, or in this case a scooter.

For example if I decide to do the Scooter Cannonball, the one from Amelia Island Florida to Seattle, I'll have a scooter sitting in Seattle. That's a good thing. I find a place to store it, and then fly out again in the early spring and ride in an easterly, or southerly direction for week, find another place to store it, fly home again. Repeat as necessary.

If you had enough people doing this, with dealers involved you could actually come up with a scooter fractional ownership business. I might be on to something here.

The Cannonball Run. Well I am very stoked for this, my partners in crime a little less so. I could see the hesitation on Pete's face as we got down to the more nitty gritty details of this. He never came out and said it, but I could sense the hesitation.

Pudge, well he admitted that the three beer buzz he had when I texted him had worn off, and was second guessing this whole thing. My wife and sister-in-law are most definitely out. So that leaves yours truly at 100% in.

If the other two bail, I'll be going for the Scooter Cannonball in July that leaves from Florida and goes to Seattle. Honestly, I think it would be more fun, especially if I happen to be solo.

So for now I am planning logistics for both events. Time will tell on which one gets penned in on the calendar.

After I hit post on this, I had a brilliant, if not really crazy, self abusive idea. In July the Scooter Cannonball, leaves from the Sunshine State and finishes in Seattle. The Real Scooter Cannonball is in October and leaves from San Diego back to the east coast. Ahhhh, you see where I am going with this???

That's right not one, but two Cannonballs in the same year. Wicked or wha? Now the chances of this actually happening are slim to none, because approval from the Opposition Minister maybe tough to get. Let's just say, the idea is on the table, and I'm keen. After all it's only a two day ride from the finish of the first Cannonball to the start of the other.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cannonball Run...........Continued

Logistically speaking The Scooter Cannonball Run is going to cost us a lot of money. For example, shipping scoots both ways, to Orlando to be near the start and home again from Seattle. Some basic research and that is gonna ballpark close to $2000, and we have to get the scoots to Boston to ship.

Then there is airfare, another $1000, by the time we convert it into Canadian pesos. So before we even do anything I'm in the hole $3K. Hell, I don't even have a scoot yet.

So my mind turns to just riding the Guzzi from Vancouver to home, but that is gonna be a couple of grand in airfare and shipping, and as fun as that maybe, it's not a race.

I then stumbled upon The Real Scooter Cannonball Run. It's a cross-continent scooter race held on the old fashioned Cannonball premise. Fastest one wins. San Diego to Madawaska, any route you want to take.

Now this sounds a little more doable since the finish is only 3hrs from home. Oh, and it's in October, which is easier for time off.

So I sent a message to my friend Jim, better known as Pudge to the rest of the world, "wanna race scooters from San Diego to Madtown?" Pudge is from Madawaska, so I thought it might stir something in him. The response was "I'm in" Whoa, didn't expect that. He was fired up, and ready to roll.

Then another text to Pete, this would not be a hard sell at all. He was in, and started looking on Kijiji for a vehicle right away.

So the team was put together.

Yours truly, who is usually in over his head 

James, Pudge Pelletier, the man from Madawaska, the one who will be given a heroes welcome at the finish line.

and of course my usual partner in crime Peter Oxley, who is up for just about any idea for adventure I have, even if it means cooking his nuts off with bear spray.

  The only problem now was to get past the stupid waiver for the race application. They want previous racing experience or completion of one of their other events. That's not gonna happen since it's not in the budget or time off schedule.

I can beg and plead our case. I mean Pete and I are no stranger to doing a long ride, plus an endurance event where you sit on a scooter can't be physically harder than an Ironman triathlon, ultra marathon or rowing across the Bay of Fundy.

Pudge doesn't even have a bike licence, but he's raced the 24hr of Adrenaline, a big mountain bike race, ridden a few centuries, 100 mile bicycle rides, and can keep up with the best of them. I know he won't have an issue with this.

Plus, the documentary thingy might sway them, and the fact that two and half Canadians (Pudge is from the USA, but has been living in Canada most of his life) will turn this into an international event.

Logistics. We just have to get the scoots to San Diego, and home from Madawaska, which won't be hard. I am hoping we can find some kind of sponsorship to get the bikes out to Cali.

So basically our costs now are finding scooters over 125cc (minimum for the race), shipping, and then airfare. Hotels......I'm hoping we can Marriott it on points the entire way, and maybe VISA point the airfare.

Since this is a bit of an oddball race, and I'm going to film it to make a small documentary, I think it would be prudent to go in search of sponsors. I doubt we could get scooters given to us, but I'll try, and see what happens. I spoke to Kevin Rhea from Olympia Motosports when I was at the AIMExpo and he was willing to help out again in any new project.

Then in no particular order, a couple of the smaller scooter helmet manufacturers, Garmin, Tom Tom, Sena (helmet comm system is awesome, plus they're new camera), Wolfman luggage, Marriott Hotels, Holiday Inn, Midland Courier, Sunbury Trucking, etc. It will be busy letter writing campaign. Hopefully Two Wheels Thru the Bigland and Riding The Trans Labrador Highway will get us some sponsors for the next adventure. I'm sure Canada Moto Guide will jump onboard, they are always up for something like this.

Team meeting is planned for Monday morning. Then we have to break the news to our lovely spouses, and get their blessings.

Stay tuned for more.