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Friday, 31 March 2017

Mad Bastard 2017

Spring has sprung, well at least on the calendar anyway, and in southern locales it must be warm. In the Maritimes it's kinda like winter lite. The temperature hasn't gone up a whole lot, but the days are longer, and the sun is warmer. The snow is starting to melt away, and thoughts of all things two wheeled are flooding back into my brain.

Too be honest I was a little on the fence on whether or not I'd make the trek to London, Ontario for the 2017 edition of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally (MBSR). I was going to be pretty busy with some paddle boarding events I was organizing this year. I then realized that this years rally was a tribute to Rob Harris, the maddest bastard of all, and creator of this mad capped event. Plus I had a scooter, two in fact, and a pickup truck to get said scooter to London. I also had the required vacation time to pull this off.

So I ran this by the missus, and got the thumbs up from her, and decided to commit.........or be committed. I was entering in the 50cc and under "straightjacket" class after all.

Monday April 3rd is the official first day of registration for MBSR 2017. Personally I think April 1st would have been more fitting.

For those of you unfamiliar with the MBSR, this years edition takes place in London, Ontario, June 23-25. The rally is over 600km, and comprised different categories for different engine size. Like I said I'm in the straitjacket class, which is the craziest of the crazy at 50cc. Go completely looney or stay home.

Straitjacket Class (24 hours) - All scooters and mopeds up to 50cc in capacity
Heavily Medicated (20 hours) - All scooters greater than 50cc but no greater than 110cc
Therapy Required (18 hours) - Scooters greater than 110cc but no greater than 200cc
Day Release (16 hours) - Scooters greater than 200cc

This is not a race, you win by accumulating the most points by overall time, pictures of various places along the route, costume worn, waitresses kissed, exposing yourself to nature, etc. Ya it's a little nuts, but that's the fun.

So my biggest decision so far is what to wear for this event. I may harken back to my youth, when I tore around town on my Elite 125 as a skate punk. I have the Vans hightops already. A trip to Value Village or military surplus store to get the some other things. A skateboard strapped to the side of the Ruckus, a helmet mohawk, order up a Dead Kennedy's or Sex Pistols t-shirt, and I'm ready to roll.

I know what most of you are thinking...........mods, mods, what mods are gonna make, oh and farkles too. No engine mods for sure. Keep it simple and hang on to that Honda reliability.

I'm not 16 anymore, even if I still dress like I do, so the big mods are comfort only. Cramp buster for the throttle hand, foot pegs so I can change up foot position. USB port for the GPS, extra gas can, and some better road oriented tires. Maybe even with whitewalls. (to eck out all the speed I can, and to smoothen out the ride). I think a windscreen will be order too, and of course the Airhawk seat cushion will along for the ride to keep my arse from going too numb.

So stay tuned as things begin to unfold. As always, I'll be dragging the video camera along to record the events, and hopefully make it into a short Bigland film. 

Saturday, 19 November 2016

New Offerings for 2017

As the sun starts to move away from those of us unlucky enough to be situated far above the equator, and temperatures head towards single digit numbers, it marks that time of year when all the motorcycle manufacturers start peddling their wares for the 2017 season. The biggest motorcycle show of the season is EICMA in Milan Italy. The major players in the motorcycle industry have lavish unveilings of what will be new for 2017.

It's that time of year again

Right off the bat, I'm not gonna talk about everything that went on, cause for most of it I don't really care, like the latest super bikes, etc, etc. Head over to CMG and checkout all the details for that.

On the Guzzi front.......other than the new bagger, the Flying Fortress, which really does little to impress me, there isn't much new here. Re-hash of the same V7 styling, and that's about it. The V7 line is pretty nice, but nothing too earth shattering to report. A redesigned Norge or Stelvio would've  be pretty sweet.

I have always been a fan of Honda, they have turned out some pretty epic bikes, and some epic failures. I will say Honda has some major cajones, because some of the bikes they have brought to the market have been.......shall we say "fuckin' weird". We have the NM1, and then a MotoGP winning race bike. Go figure.

The CRF250L has been a real success for Honda. It's a no frills, cheap to buy, dual-purpose bike, that makes a very good, small ADV bike. Patrick Tahran modified one into a rally bike, and was quite successful with it. However the CRF needed to be extensively modified to turn it into a decent ADV bike.

So for 2017 Honda brings us the CRF250L Rallye. Same dependable low maintenance bike, with a bigger gas tank, small Dakar style fairing, and upgraded suspension. What's not to love? All the ADVRider crowd want a bigger engine, better suspension, etc, etc. I read the forums. Everyone wants a full blown Dakar race bike that only 2% of us can actually ride to it's full potential, and can afford to buy.

I'm going to go off on a little tangent right now. The ADV bike market has it all wrong, bigger is not always better. Unfortunately North America is the land of the bigger is better mentality. Everyone needs the 1L of soda in a Big Gulp, and the 1/2 a bag of potatoes in a large fries. For the two-wheeled enthusiasts, it's 1800cc or nothing. Europe is far more refined and have their shit together. Small displacement bikes are a way of life and not looked down on.

The ADV bikes keep getting bigger and bigger. KTM's 640 ADV grew to a 990, 1190, and now a 1290, because everyone needs a 150hp bike for exploring the backroads. If I were going to travel the world on an ADV bike, it would be on a 300cc or less. Why the hell would you want to muscle around a giant motorcycle in the third world and stand out like a sore thumb.

So I was pretty happy to see that not only did Honda step up and bring us something small and cool, so did Kawasaki and Suzuki.

Kawasaki really surprised me when they mated a KLR, Versys and Ninja 300, and the result was what they called a Versys-X. I call it the KLR they should have built in 2008. I would have no qualms about taking this over the TLH. I think it would be perfect.

Then along comes Suzuki with a wait for it........VStrom 2fity. A pint sized, parallel twin Strom. Like the rest of the VStrom line it looks to be a little more road worthy than the others.

To top it all off, the maker of the original ADV bike, former aircraft engine manufacturer BMW releases a G310 GS. It's touted as an urban commuter capable of weekend adventures on gravel roads. In reality most GS's never leave the tarmac.

The CRF Rallye and the Versys-X are already on their respective Canadian manufacturers websites. No prices yet. The wee-weeStrom and baby Bimmer have made appearances at the big Long Beach Cali bike show, which bodes well for arriving on our shores.

2017 is going to be an exciting year for the baby ADV bikes. If these bikes are priced accordingly it could mean a bigger influx of young riders into this segment of the market. As HD is finding out, the new generation of would be riders are not saddled with piles of cash, and the thought of a $15-20K motorcycle is out of the question. These new affordable offerings may just be the ticket, because up until now, all we had are some 1980's designed thumpers as smaller options.

Rear drum brake??? Really in 2016.

It's Been Awhile

I haven't written anything moto related in quite awhile, I guess there hasn't been much to write about from my perspective. I have been focusing most of my energy on my true love of surfing, so everything two wheeled has taken a back seat.

I have been riding, just not a lot. The Guzzi has been out a few times, and I continue to run errands as much as possible on the Ruckus. The season is coming to a close quite fast, and there are really only a couple of days left if you look at the forecast. Next week the highs for the day are barely above freezing. Once the salt hits the pavement, riding days are few and far between.

Out for a ride with my cousin Rylan and his wife Emily when they were down for a visit from Ontario.

Kim and I did some scooter riding together.

This weekend I'll be putting some stabilizer in the Guzzi, and the scoots giving them a wash and hooking up the trickle charger. The scoots need oil changes so I'll get that done before it turns real cold.

I had a bad year for riding, it started off shitty and continued that way for the rest of the season. Rob Harris' death had a big impact on that this year. It happened on my birthday while I was away traveling on the bike, and it fucked me up. Here I was in a hotel room 1000km from my home and my family, and I wouldn't be getting back for another week. It sucked, because all I could think about was being with my girls.

After my week of flight simulator training, I did the 12hr ride home from NYC in one day.

But, like everything in life, time heals old wounds, and in the last couple of weeks I have been thinking more and more about riding, and going on trips again. Really up until two weeks ago I was ready to sell the Guzzi and be done with it.

Yesterday I realized that was indeed back to normal again. Whatever normal is? My friend Tom emailed me to say he was in a bike accident. Car pulled out on him while riding down a gravel road on his KLR. It gave me flashbacks to May 14th. Luckily Tom escaped with only minor injuries, a broken wrist and ankle. In Tom's words "I got out of dish duty for two months" Oh.......the KLR will need a new fairing. Here's to a speedy recovery Tom.

Tom is now one of the organizers of the FYNOR (Freeze Your Nuts Off Ride) a ride I had hoped to participate in this year, but was away working.

I still want to ride, and I am still planning my annual bike trip to New York for work next spring, and hopefully the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally in June.

I'm hoping 2017 is gonna be a better year, cause 2016 so far has sucked, and it's almost over.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

There is a Perfect Bike After All

I'm the first to admit, I tend to gravitate to the more oddball things in life. Things like running around a giant lake in Newfoundland covering 67 painful kilometres. Ok, running is a bit of stretch, more like jogging which turned to a death march. Then there is surfing......in Saint John........in the winter.

My odd ball tastes carry over to vehicles too, even though my driveway has two normal vehicles. Being a "family" guy has something to do with that. Otherwise I'd probably have an old Westfalia, an original MINI Cooper and a Sprinter van in the driveway instead. It's part of the reason the Guzzi is there. There might be three other ones in the city. Plus it's cool.

So as much as a BMW 1200GS or Honda Africa Twin would be awesome to have, and either one would be a good candidate for the "perfect" bike, my eye would continue to wander to the more eclectic things in life.

The Ruckus is kind of eclectic, it has a cult following, there are a lot of them around, which kind of goes against something being eclectic. It's just not a traditional looking scooter.

I came up with a list of must haves for "the" bike. The one I'd live with for a very long time.

Must be capable of riding on dirt roads.

Capable of cruising on secondary highways. Interstates are boring, and I'm not interested in riding on them. So 60mph is just fine.

It has to have character. I don't think I could live with something like a Honda NC750X. Not that there is anything wrong with it. The Guzzi has character.

Storage space. I need room to put all my shit somewhere, and I don't want to be buying saddlebags, top cases and tank bags. I know this is a stretch on a motorcycle.

Most of all it has to fun to ride. I mean if it's not fun, why do it. I use my bike to commute to work for  almost 8 months of the year. It's my kind of decompression after a busy day or shitty flight. Ya, it happens, like when the Marriott forgets the turndown service and you don't get the chocolates on the pillow, or the pub is out of Goose Island IPA.

The perfect bike for me is there and it is waiting for me, not sure when I will get it, or where. Bringing it home could be an adventure in itself.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Honda's ADV Scooter...........Perfect Bike??? Is it a Bike? Scooter?

Honda has been teasing us with glimpses of it's latest maxi-scooter. Let's be honest, from what we can tell it doesn't really fit into the scooter category, nor does it fit in with the motorcycles. Scooters typically have a CVT transmission, using belts, pulleys, etc to make the back wheel move. This new "scooter" from what we can tell uses the same transmission as the Africa Twin DCT model.

First teaser video

Now we have all seen the concept bike/scooter pics released from the Japan Motorcycle Show, and Honda in fact is putting it into production, but what that will look like is still sort of a mystery.

The new City ADV as it's called is based around Honda's 750 Integra, which is only available overseas. I cannot imagine Honda selling a lot of these in the land of the V-Twins, and assless chaps.  Not sure what they were thinking with the NM1, unless there is a large legion of Batman wannabes looking for a Batbike.

I think Honda will release the City ADV or X-ADV to the North American market. The ADV segment of motorcycling is growing faster than any other right now, and the population with any real money to spend is getting up there in age.

So when you are too old to throw a leg over that 1200GS or Africa Twin, but still want something cool and ADV style to ride, with a decent motor, you can step through the City ADV, and be riding again after that double knee or replacement surgery.

I am very excited about this bike/scooter, whatever. It kinda ticks off most of the boxes for me. I love a scooter, would still like to ride gravel roads, and it has a good sized engine for touring. Oh, and when my hips and knees are shot from too much trail running, I can slide onto the seat and go for a ride. It's like the off spring of an Africa Twin and a Ruckus.

So fingers crossed that Honda does indeed change my horizons forever.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Is There a Perfect Bike?

The never ending quest for the perfect bike, does it really exist? For some, I'm sure it does, for others, not a chance. Unfortunately for me, I think I fall into the later category. I really don't think there is one perfect bike......at least for me anyway.

I have gone through my fair share of bikes, a 1972 Honda Z50, 1984 Honda Elite 125, a 1995 Honda CBR600F3, a 2000 Honda CBR600F4, 2007 CBR125R, 2009 BMW G650 X-Country, 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 400R, 2006 Suzuki Vstrom 1000, a 2001 Honda XR250R, and my current steed a 2014 Moto Guzzi V7. That's ten bikes, not including the new 2016 Honda Ruckus scooter. I have no idea why I cannot be happy, or live with the bike I have. I get bored.

Lately I have been on the scooter kick and the idea of having a large Vespa, such as the 300GTS Super Sport would be awesome. It's fast enough, I can tour, commute and it's practical around the city. But will I get bored of it? Will I go through another ADV bike phase? I already have a scooter in the garage, will I still ride the Ruckus if I have a Vespa? Too many questions and not enough answers.

I think a lot of the problem is my bike purchases have all been compromises, don't want to spend too much money on a two-wheeled toy. I guess that's the dilemma of most people that aren't independently wealthy. Mind you if I added up all the money spent on bikes in the last 10 years I could have just got the one that I wanted and be done with it.

So what is the one? For all you ADV riders out there, this is gonna sound lame, but the one, is a BMW R1200GS. I fucking love that thing. Oh and it gets better, after reading The Long Way Round, and fantasizing about doing my own adventure is when it all began. That was 2005. Then I watch the video series, and went whoa. The 1150GS was awesome. I mean it was way too big a bike for that kind of trip. If I were to ride around the world it would be on a Yamaha XT250 in Austin Vince style. But those big beepers were awesome. Then the 1200GS comes out! Even better.

In 2009 I briefly rode a used '06 that Atlantic Motoplex had, and the love affair blossomed. But the wallet never, so it remained an unobtainable dream. Bikes came and went.

The first Fundy Adventure Rally gave me an incredible opportunity to spend an entire day flogging a F800GS. It was a bike on my radar that would be a reasonably priced substitute for it's big brother. The 800GS was awesome, but not really awesome. I never enjoyed it on the highway. It was buzzy, and not nearly as highway capable as my then current bike, the VStrom. If I'm shelling out $15K, the damn thing better be comfortable on the highway.

Oh, and just a little rant, what the fuck is up with BMW seats? Are they some kind of Gestapo torture device. Shit they are uncomfortable. My G650 was the same way. My first long trip on the bike, left me in a crippled state, and a numb arse.

The Strom was a very capable bike, great highway machine, could eat miles while cruising anywhere from 120-150kph. Any hard off road would be difficult. The Strom was quite top heavy and had cast wheels. But it was basically a gas and go, change the oil every once and while machine. I do regret selling that machine. It was set up perfect. Not sure what I was really thinking.

So I continued to dream of the big GS. Everyone I'd see one the road would turn my head and stare with envy.

I figured I'd put the whole GS thing behind me and go with a retro bike. I like the retro bikes, and would fill the garage with them if I could. The Guzzi is an awesome bike. It has tonnes of character, and the best exhaust note. It's really comfortable, and with the small Dart Flyscreen is a very capable tourer. There is no logical reason to sell it.

Along comes The Fundy Adventure Rally part Deux. I have to admit I was pretty intimidated by the 1200GS, not riding it on the slab, but to push it through its paces in an off road rally. I was really hoping Rob was going give me the CMG CRF250L. One it's small and light,  and two, I was interested in buying one.

I was scheduled to ride in Clinton Smout's BMW rider course, and had thought I'd be on the 250L. I hadn't ridden off road, or even on a gravel road in a year, and wasn't too confident in my abilities. I scared the fuck out myself a couple of times the previous year on the 800GS, and wasn't keen on repeating that.

Rob had other plans and I ended up the CMG longterm test 1200GS. Yup, it was as big as I remember it was, but now it was liquid cooled with even more power and throttle-by-wire. I was given the bike at the start of the class. No time to get to know the big girl again.

We bonded immediately, and the love affair lasted a whole two days. I really didn't want to give it back. You can read my review of the GS here http://biglandadvfilms.blogspot.ca/2015/09/my-thoughts-on-big-beemer-r1200gs.html

To sum it up the big Beemer took everything I and the rally could throw at it in stride. Fast gravel roads, steep, rock strewn ATV trails, and multi-lane highway.

Oh, and then there is the price.........BMW Motorrad Canada pricing is as follows

Base price $19800

Triple Black Model (black engine and spoked wheels) $715

Touring Package (Dynamic ESA, GPS prep, Onboard computer pro, cruise control, luggage case holder) $1750

Freight and PDI $750

Grand total of ...........$23015.00 or about the price of nicely equipped VW Golf.

The negatives, besides the price. The pure size and weight of the bike. It's big. Closest dealer is in Moncton an hour away, and service is mucho dinero. But you have to pay to play.

The night after the rally I joined former head honcho of Honda Canada, Warren Milner by the campfire and we chatted about the new Africa Twin that was due out. Specifically about the DCT (dual clutch transmission) and mass centralization. I was very intrigued about the new bike, and filed it away in the back of my mind.

Could the Africa Twin be a better "Perfect Bike"?  A test ride on the Honda is in order. So far it has received glowing reviews, and the DCT has impressed more than a few diehard motorcyclists.

Whatever "perfect bike" awaits me down the road, it will be awhile. Two and half years until the 50. A fitting time to get the one.