Popular Posts

Sunday, 22 May 2016

My Arse is Sore. Over One Thousand Kilometres on a Guzzi

The last week has been a rough one. Rob's passing on my second night away took the wind out of my sails before I even arrived in Jersey to start five days of training, and at times like this you just want to be with the ones you love. So after two full days of ground school, and three days in the simulator it was time to get home.

My flying schedule for the next week also has me away from Tuesday to Friday, so I decided to Iron Butt it home all in one day. Just over 1000km. It would be the longest, single day ride I have ever taken.

I had the trip planned out on Garmin Base Camp, 1005km and a moving time of 9hrs 45mins. The plan was to take the George Washington Bridge, with it's money liberating $15 toll, then connect with the Merritt Parkway, then the I84, I290, I495, I95, I Am Lost, I Don't Know, I Don't Like the Interstate, and I Hate Toll Booths.

That was the plan anyway.

Friday night, my training partner, windsurfing, dog walking, trail running, and drinking buddy, Pudge (apparently his real name is Jim) celebrated the end of our last sim session as we always do.....in the hotel bar. Chicken wings and too many IPA's were consumed leaving me a little foggy at 4am on Saturday. Not an auspicious start to the day.

It was a nice predawn morning in East Rutherford, sky was clear and it was 13C. I loaded up the bike gave it a quick once over and headed off into the darkness at 0500. I left early to avoid the infamous NYC traffic.

I only road the bike once since arriving in Jersey. Thursday I took a run over to Motorcycle Mall, the local Guzzi dealer, as well as Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, Victory, Aprilla, KTM, Polaris, Kymco, MV Augusta, and Yamaha. It's huge. I wanted to pick up a litre of engine oil to have, just in case. It was cool to see that many bikes all in one place, especially Guzzi's. They had the entire line of V7's, including the new Sternello, the new V9's, a Griso, Audace, and the beautiful Eldorado. I can see myself with one of those, and an Africa Twin in the garage.

New V7 Sternello Scrambler

The V9's

Ducati MultiStrada Adventure

The brand spanking new MG21 Flying Fortress

Setting off from the hotel, I had a rough idea of how to get over the GWB to cross the Hudson River to New York. The almighty (Garmin) was the voice in my head leading me in the right direction.......right up until I came to the on ramp for the I95, which was closed. The detour sign was of no help and I just ended up riding in circles around the Gillette Stadium in the dark. Garmin was bound and determined to put me back on the closed on ramp. Fuck. I managed to find my back to the area near my hotel and reset Garmin and told it to take me home the fastest route instead of the preprogrammed route I had made with Basecamp.

I had planned on fueling up in Westchester, NY about 60km away, since I was down to about 1/4 of tank, but since I was now riding around aimlessly in Jersey, why not save time, and get gas now. When paying at the pump in the US, most gas stations outside of Maine require you enter a zip code of your address that is attached to your credit card. Not possible if you have a postal code, resulting in having to go inside and prepaying.

The kind gas station attendant, who apparently was also Canadian, but I'm guessing by the accent, his journey to America originated in India, showed me a neat trick to cheat the system. Say your postal code is A1A3S9, enter the numbers only 139 followed by 00. 13900. Works like a charm.

I was finally on the move again, and made to the GWB, where $15 later I was now in the state of New York. Since I had the route change, Garmin kept me on the I95, and I was now headed into the Bronx, where I am glad it is not the 1970's. I'd be lucky if I made it out of there alive.

It's Saturday morning, it's not even 6am yet and there is a tonne of traffic, it's moving well, but it's busy. Do people sleep or take a day off around here?

My plan for a quick escape from NYC is thwarted when four lanes of traffic comes to almost a standstill. The road info sign above is kindly telling all of us that there is an accident ahead with major delays. Double fuck. Of course in typical NYC fashion, everyone is trying to change lanes in order to gain a two car length advantage on the next commuter, there are wall to wall tractor trailers, and then there is little ol' me on on my svelte Italian stead.

I know lane splitting is not legal, except in California, and the rest of world outside of North America, but being Canadian, with a foreign plate I figured if by the small chance I get caught I'll fake a Quebecois accent and plead ignorance. So nonchalantly I begin a slow weave through the traffic, that is moving at a first gear, clutch slipping pace. It's one of the times I'm glad I never had a sidecar.

Before long I make my way to the accident scene, a couple of badly crumpled yellow cabs and pieces of yellow cabs are laying at odd angles occupying three lanes of the interstate. Sorry I never stopped for pics. Once clear of that mess it was clear sailing.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful, I had a nice tailwind, and Guzzi was cruising comfortably at an indicated 120kph, which translated to 113kph on Garmin. I wasn't flying, but I wasn't worried about being pulled over by the boys and girls in blue either.

Traffic was moderate for a Saturday morning, I was either passing someone or someone was passing me. The traffic really doesn't let up until Freeport, then it just disappears and your by yourself on the road.

Best part of the day, and thankfully it was near the end was the Airline, or Route 9 from Bangor to Calais. It's a wonderful stretch of single lane, with enough hills and curves to make it interesting. With a speed limit of 55mph, it's the Guzzi's happy place, and after a long day of interstate droning, it kept me awake and wonderfully entertained.

It was a long day when I finally got home, almost 12hrs of being constantly on the move. I stopped twice for more than 15mins. The rest were gas and goes. 

The Guzzi turned out to be a very worthy steed for a long trip, 1000km in day was a bit too long, comfort wise, but I wouldn't hesitate taking it on a cross Canada trip. A casual 600km a day would be wonderful. It just goes to show that you do not need a $30K Gold Wing to see the world.

Rob's memorial was held in Toronto yesterday, and on the long ride home my thoughts were with him and his family.

Then something weird happened.....

Once I was back in Maine I turned off the Garmin voice guidance to my Sena and started listening to music on my phone. I put on the whole playlist and hit shuffle. Everything from Van Halen to Stompin' Tom Conners. Just after I cleared Canada customs in St. Stephen, one song ends and then a voice starts talking to me about a 1200GS. It's Rob's voice, explaining how well the GS does off road. It sends cold shivers through me, and tool me completely off guard. 

Last fall I helped Rob with a short video review of the R1200GS, he sent me an audio file with a narrative. Somehow when I updated my music on my phone, that file made it's way there too, unbeknownst to me. 

It freaked me out to say the least.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Gear Review

Last Friday, the 13th of May, I started my annual road trip to East Rutherford, New Jersey for recurrent flight training. Since I am spoiled private jet pilot that never sees an airport terminal, or has to go through airport security, the mere thought of having to fly commercially makes me....well sick. Jammed into an uncomfortable seat next to people you really don't want to be around, and then having to wait hours at another airport for a connecting flight, etc, etc, etc. It sucks. If you watch the news, the line ups at TSA are off the hook. Three hours to clear security.......WTF.

So each year I make it a motorcycle trip, which is way better, even if it is to Jersey. This year I took three days to get here, took my time and saw the sites along the way.

I made the pilgrimage to the school of flight on the Guzzi this year. I was a little hesitant since it was a smaller bike, and with the clutch issues from last fall, wasn't 100% confident in it's abilities to deliver me to school on time. I certainly didn't want to have a tardy on the first day. Part of my problem is reading bike specific forums, where mechanical issues of a few owners can dominate a thread, and before long your doubting the mechanical abilities of your motorcycle, even though there is nothing wrong.

The Guzzi performed flawlessly, and turned out to be a surprisingly good, and comfortable touring bike. No problem pulling 120kph on the interstate, and easy to put in a long day.

Prior to leaving I added a few things to the Guzz, to make it more comfortable for the 1200km trip to The Garden State.

Top priority was the Dart Merlin Flyscreen, that I reviewed before. It is a must have to ride comfortably at speeds over 100kph for any length of time. It doesn't provide the protection the Strom Givi screen did, but it more than does the trick.

I had a set of old Gears, soft saddlebags that I threw on, they were less than $100 new, and work pretty good. They are expandable and hold quite a bit of stuff. I keep some tools, tire plugs, air compressor, bike cover, rain gear, jacket liners, and spare gloves in them.

I will say the rain covers suck. Water pools at the bottom, and soaks through the bag. The easy solution was to stuff my gear inside the rain covers, and put it all in the saddle bag. Viola, problem solved.

My trusty Airhawk seat cushion was also added. The stock seat is not bad for day trips, but for three days of riding, one which was close to 11hrs, the added butt comfort was welcome. I don't think any seat is perfectly comfortable after 10 hours.

The FirstGear tank bag I bought, worked really well, and the GPS pouch was awesome. It's not too big, but is also expandable in case I need to squeeze in a few pints of microbrew.

All zipped up with the GPS hidden from site. Nice cellphone pouch. I can quickly glance to see if I have any messages waiting.

I keep toll money in this pocket, it closes with velcro. The bag also comes with clips if you do not want to use the magnet attachments, or have a plastic tank.

Magnetic attachments

Lots of room for stuff, plus two exterior side pockets.

GPS pocket. Touch screen on the Zumo works through the plastic cover.

Only downside is it's not waterproof. There is cover that comes out of a pocket at the front of the bag, but I have yet to use it. My experience when riding in the rain is, deflection from the windscreen prevents the bag from getting wet. I rode for an hour on Friday on the I95 in light to moderate rain and don't think there would be a need for the cover unless I was parked somewhere.

Until recently I only had one full faced helmet. My old Icon Alliance was 9 years old and had seen better days so that was retired from service quite awhile ago. I have a Bell Bullitt, which is nice, but the retro look also has a retro noise level at speed. It's extremely noisy and drafty. I am not a fan of ear plugs so that idea was out.

I spent a lot of time researching helmets, wanted something quiet, comfortable and light. I knew that came with a premium price tag. I looked at Schubert but the one I wanted was not available in my size and the others were a cool $1K. 

I stumbled on to the Shoei RF-1200 Terminus. The graphics were kinda old school and matched the Guzzi, and the helmet received great reviews. I was looking for something that was quiet since my head was no longer tucked behind a big windscreen. 

Sizing was a gamble since I ordered it from Canada's Motorcycle. Typically I wear a size small in a Bell helmet, except the Bullett, which was a little tight in that size. My LS2 Bobber helmet is a medium and fits well. The small would have been too snug. I guess my old noggin is a medium/small. 

I ended up ordering a medium and it fits perfect. First impression......beautiful helmet, great graphics.

After three days and 1200km of riding I've come to the conclusion that this is the best helmet I've owned yet. It's very comfortable, and light weight. At first the cheek pads were a little tight, but either I'm used to it or they have "broken in".  At interstate speeds, 120kph, the helmet is relatively quiet, I have no problem hearing the Sena BT. It cuts through the wind nice with no buffet. There is a slight whistle with the chin vent open.

Vents....yes there are many vents on this helmet, no excuse for being a hot head. The above mentioned chin vent, a forehead vent and two more side vents near the top, plus a rear exhaust vent.

The helmet comes with a breath guard and chin curtain, both which I have installed, and Shoei's pinlock anti fog system which I cannot comment on since I haven't used it.

My ride down consisted of rain, fog, sun, and temps between 10C and 27C, and in typical east coast fashion....all in one day.  No real issues of fogging except when stopped, and cracking the visor alleviated that problem.

My only gripe, and it is a minor one, is the field of view. I find it to be slightly narrow. Mind you I have been wearing open faced, and dual sport helmets for a long time and that may have skewed my view. No pun intended. 

Is it worth the hefty price? I think so, especially if you do a lot of riding and long trips like I do. The weight, comfort and noise levels are worth that alone.

So what's up next? The Fundy Adventure Rally documentary will need some tweaks in the wake of  Rob's death, also the future of the rally itself is in limbo at the moment. A rewrite of the storyline is in order. 

Tomorrow I head home from Jersey. I had planned to ride home in two days and stick to the backroads and do some more exploring and sightseeing. However since Rob's death all I've wanted to do is go home and see my family. It's been really tough being away from them this time, so I'm basically getting on the Interstate at 5am tomorrow morning and heading home in butt numbing 1000km ride.

Some pics from the ride down

Some ADV fun on a gravel road in Maine. Need some scrambler tires once these wear out.

Mount Washington, NH

This was just after I crossed into New York State from Connecticut. What a beautiful road with smooth pavement. The switchbacks on one of the hills was awesome.

I'll save the real bike trip for another time. My longtime friend James, or Jimbo as I like to call him just bought a nicely setup BMW F650GS and is eager to go on a road trip. So I'm thinking we need to head off on a long weekend in June or July for some 2 wheeled fun.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rob Harris, Editor and Chief Of Canada Moto Guide.........Thank You

"Terry mate, how's it going" Rob's voice with the Yorkshire accent booming through the phone. It's how every call started. We have had many calls over the past couple of years, most of it focused around The Fundy Adventure Rally.

Rob was a lanky lad, one of the few that could dwarf a KLR

Rob and Zac working tirelessly at the FAR 2015
picture by Tammy Perry

I met Rob Harris, or Ed 'Arris as he is known, shortly after Pete and I did the Two Wheels Thru the Bigland videos, Zak Kurylyk reposted my blog reports from our trip on CMG, and once the videos were done, they were also hosted on CMG. That led to being asked to video and edit the Dawn to Dusk rally, which led to the Fundy Adventure Rally.

It was after the first rally that I got to know Rob fairly well, I went up to Sackville to visit him, hash out ideas about the rally, solve the problems of the world,  help him change tires on bikes, liberate his basement of some of Ed and Rachel's Canadian leftovers. In fact I met the infamous Ed March in Rob's kitchen for the first time. (he's much taller than he appears in the film).

I was supposed to go back to Sackville again in June to interview Rob and his wife Courtney for the "On Any Fundy" documentary. I had hoped to make the trip in May, but figured I'd have more time in June once he returned from his travels. He invited me up to stay the night, so we could have a few pints.

I'm away on my own travels, making my annual trip to Teterboro, New Jersey for flight simulator training. So I rode down again, this time on the Guzzi. Yesterday I put in an 11 hr day on the bike. Riding through some incredible scenery in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, through Massachusetts, and ending my day in Danbury, Connecticut. It was a near perfect day, sunny skies and warm temperatures.

My euphoria of the day came to a screeching halt last night when I received word that Rob had died in a motorcycle accident at an adventure rally in Ontario. I was shocked, and could not belief what was written in the text.

I've spent the day, like many of Rob's friends trying to come to grips with this. I am surprised at how much this has upset me. Maybe, with age you begin to value life more, maybe it's questioning your own mortality, maybe it was just that Rob was great guy, who left behind a lovely wife and two young daughters.

All I know is that it was a hell of rough ride from Danbury to New Jersey this morning.

Thank you Rob, for letting me get to know you, inviting me in for a peek at the world of CMG and motorcycle journalism. For a guy who loves motorcycles, what you did for me was awesome. I got to spend two entire days riding an 800GS and 1200GS off road with no chaperone, have Clinton Smout teach me some new skills, get me a media pass to the AIMExpo in Orlando, and show my "Riding the Trans Labrador" video at the Toronto Motorcycle Show.

I'll never forget sitting in the CMG office sorting through hours of FAR video, and for a moment pretending to be a moto journalist.

Thanks for all your contributions to the world of two wheels.