Monday, September 27, 2010

Cape Reinga.

For some time now I have been trying to plan at trip to the Cape. Work, weather, kids and all sorts of other issues have all played a part in me not being able to go.   Finally this weekend all that was put aside and the weather gods cooperated. So Thursday I planned a route, and a quick phone call to Jean & Gary, to see if they wanted to join us, and we were all set.

So Friday night we headed north, to spend the night with my mum and dad, Jean & Gary were going to meet us Saturday at the Mobil in Warkworth.

                                          Me and the folks.

We both refuelled, and headed north. Gary and Jean on their Bonnie, and us on Beth.  I was eyeing the weather cautiously.  The weather forecast was good, but there was still the prospect of a few showers. I knew that the further  north we got the better the weather would be.   And so it happens, a brief shower when we left Warkworth and another as we turn off towards Dargiville. Thankfully that was it, although we still encountered some very strong winds.  One gust in particular sent us both swerving towards the gutter!

View Larger Map

Once in Dargiville it was time for our first stop, and the coffee was great, the muffin on the other hand was crap. But hey.....I didn't come for the food.

                                           The bikes on the ferry from Rawene.

The route I had chosen would take us through the Waipoua Forest.  I had always wanted to see Tane Mahuta.  It didn't disappoint. Certainly an awesome sight, and a bloody big tree to boot.  The ride through the forrest is very tight, yet very pretty, with plenty of other kauris to be seen a long the way.  Well worth the look.  One can only imagine what this Forest must of looked like before the white man came!

                                                    Tana Mahuta ( God of the forest)

Carrying on towards Opononi, where you are met with a stunning view just south of this town as you come over the hill.  With the wind up and the waves roaring in it, the sun shining, it was a spectacular sight. A great ride also.  Through Opononi we headed towards Rawene where we caugt the ferry to the other side.  Stopping in Kohukohu for lunch. ( Carn't remember the place but the food was terriffic!)   With only 65 kms to Kaitaia we were making good time.......the cape was beckoning!

We carried on north via Herekino.  This would be a fantastic road, except the condition of it was crap. Lots of uneven surfaces, pot holes and generally a mess.  It is a pleasant enough ride but dissappointing because of its condtion.   We arrived in Kataia just before four.  A quick discussion was undertaken to ensure all pillion passagers were keen to continue to the cape, which they were.........later the were a few compalints though!!

What a great road this is up to the Cape, newly sealed all the way, fast and sweeping bends, with glimpses of impresive scenery, depending on which way you were looking the Tasman sea to the left and the Pacific to the right.  Got hit with a bit of sun strike for the last half hour, due to the time.   But once arriving at the Cape it made all worth while.  We were greeted with the sun setting and surf rolling in down below.  A lot of money has been spent tidying up this area, and a new path leading down to the light house is impressive.  It is now a very tidy and excellent tourist attraction, and well worth the visit. The views are stunning. There is almost a spiritual feel about the place.  Perhaps that was just me.

                                          Sunset Cape Reinga 25th September.

It was now close to seven and dusk was upon us.  The journey back to the hotel was slow, the headlights on the sprint are only average, high beam non existance, my visor was covered in bugs with in minutes of leaving the cape.  So we took it slow.  Getting back just after 8.

We had covered over 550kms for the day, with a lot of the riding being very intense. We were all buggered, but a couple of wines and hot shower and all the aches and pains were forgotten, We sat and talked about how great it had been to do it, and a sense of accomplishment filled me. What a great day it had been.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review Sprint St 07

Now first of all I am no expert on bikes, but I thought I would take this opportunity to do a review on my Triumph Sprint.

I have only been back biking for about 5 years, and in that time I have owned 2 x Daytonnas 955i, and a 675 daytonna.  So as you can tell by this, my preference was for more sporty than touring.  Mid last year I sold my daytonna, and as I had a boat I felt that I couldnt justify both hobbies. As time persisted though  the boat became a finacial burden, and so the decision was made to sell it. This was done, and the search for a bike began.  The three months I had been with out one had drven me nuts.  Not being keen on jap bikes , and wanting to try some thing new I decided on the sprint.  The reason being is that I had read the reviews and I was sure it would be a good mix of sports and touring.
Beth, before I added the pack rack. ( it tends to get a lot of polish on it!)

Searching trademe, I started to get a pretty good idea of price, and it was just a case of waiting for the right one to come along.   Finally it did.  So as not to waste my time, I got a freind in New Plymouth to look over it for me .   Every thing checked out fine , so I flew down and purchased it, and rode it back.

It had done 15000kms when I got it.

The bike was immaculate , but there was a problem. At low speed breaking I was getting shuddering at the front and it was obvious to me I had warped break discs. Luckily for me a friend is a whizz on triumphs, and even has all the diagnostic tools.  He had a spare set of discs which he duly fitted, at substantially less than what Triumph NZ would have charged me.   A bit of fiddling with the suspension and I was a happy biker once again.  After a couple of thousand kms I replaced the tyres, and this made a huge difference also.

10000kms later I can report that I am as happy as a bug in a rug. The engine is the highlight for me,  There is something  magical and addictive about the growl of the triple. It has excellent low down torque.  And pulls beautiful in any gear.

The bike came with panniers, which I think are a complete waste of time. They are heavy, and you cannot fit much in to them. We have since fitted a pack rack, which I find far more convenient, lighter, and easier. You can also get a lot more into the bag, than what I could in the panniers.   Yes the weight is higher up, but on the other hand it is no where near as heavy. For touring I have always found the pack rack system excellent. We are able to pack enough stuff for a week easily in to it.  Cosmetically I know some people are not keen on them. But for me it has never been a bother.

I will  say that I tend to ride this bike slower than my daytonnas. The upright riding position lends it self to a more cruiser style than what I was used to. It is a definite mile eater, and I am happy to go for  2-3 hours before I need  a break. 

My partner is happy with the pillion design, even though it is a bit high, but seems to like it and has commented that they see a lot more than they did on the daytonna. Although there is some heat that comes from the underseat exhaust, but there has never been any complaints about it to me. ( carn't hear much anyway with the ear plugs in)

The suspension is a bit soggy, and if I had got the bike from brand new some ohlins would of been great. I may still do this.

The dash is easy to read, and the trip meter is excellent, telling you every thing from kms to empty to when you last went loo.

Over all I am very happy with it, value for money I think it is hard to beat, with many bikes in this range costing a lot more.  Would I be keen on the GT version? I dont think so at this stage. This is as touring as I will get for some time, mind you age has a way of helping  to change your mind.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Getting Annoyed.

I wish to talk briefly about motorcycle deaths here in New Zealand.    Riding a motorcycle is inherently dangerous. We know that.   On average one motorcyclist a week is killed on New Zealand roads.  I accept that some of these deaths is simply a case of the rider being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  What annoys me of late is the amount of deaths by stupid, young, mindless idiots , who are killed by evading police, or on a stolen bike, or seen previously doing 150kms down a wrong way street.  It seems to me all motorcyclist get labelled hoons for this very reason.

The media take great delight in telling us these facts. But at the end of the day some people will only look at the end of year statistics and no real analysis goes into how many motorcycle accidents.....are really motorcycle accidents.

Every time I throw my leg over Beth ( The bike) I am well aware of the dangers that lay before me. But I continue to do it.  Why? Because I am not some young testerone filled idiot with a death wish.  I do it because I like riding.  I like the smell of the grass and the wind in my face.  I like the sense of freedom it brings, the sense of accomplishment after every ride.  The places I have seen and the people I have meet.

When you take the hoons out of the equation, how many deaths in New Zealand are there really? What is the correct figure, not the one that is pumped up because of mindless neanderthals.  I don't wish to be lumped in the same category!   Yes a motorcycle death is a motorcycle death, but knowing the real facts behind each one may go a long way to redirecting the never ending criticism we all receive because of it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Top Five

Every motorcyclist will have there favourite roads.  I  am no exception.  In fact I have many. But over the last few years their have been some which have become my favourites for one reason or another.  I have not ridden every road there is to ride in NZ, but I have done my fair share of miles.   So here is a list of my top five.   There will be some glaring misses, and that is simply because I probably haven't ridden that road yet.   No doubt this list will change and be updated in the years to come, but for the mean time here they are.

Number 5.  Lindis Pass South Island SH 8

This fantastic road in the heart of central Otago is one that I thoroughly enjoyed riding, not only for the sweeping corners, undulations, and  lack of traffic,  but for the sparseness and at time barrenness of the country side.   This area seems to have it's own micro climate and as such offers a different type of scenery than what you encounter in other parts of the South Island.   At the northern end you encounter Omarama, at the southern end the Lindis pass ends at a small town called Tarras.  If you are planning a South Island trip, I highly recommend adding this road to your plans.

Number 4. Nelson to Punakaki ( Buller Gorge)

Taking SH6 through Murchision, and turning left just before Westport.  This scenic and stunning road in the north of the South Island is a not to be missed. Leaving Nelson you encounter Vineyard after vineyard, the temptation to stop and sample the fruits of the vine are put on hold when you realize what lies ahead of you.  One of the best rides in the country.  How I envy people who live here ( Although the weather can be a bit more temperamental than what us jaffas prefer)   If you get this road on a good day it is simply magic.  Riding along the Buller gorge I wonder how the hell they built it with out the modern technologyy of today.   Murchision is also a great little town, we stayed in a little motel called The Kiwi Motel, nothing like waking up to the sounds of tuis!  This road was my first taste of riding in the South Island, and what a welcome it presents.  It is mearly a taste of what lies ahead. There is a temptation when riding roads like this to .....well hammer it a bit, but if you do you will miss some great scenery, so take your time and enjoy it. It is well worth  the extra time.

                                          Peak Hour Murchision! Yah just gotta love it!

Number 3   Napier-Gisborne-Eastcape to Whakatana

What can I say about this, Okay it is probably a bit much toi take in one day, But I have ridden this trip a couple of times and am never disappointed  at all.  Leaving Napier , You follow the coastline for much of the way. The blacksand beachs as you leave Napier are a great sight, as the Pacific ocean rolls in.   Passing Lake Tutira, the road winds and undulates and is only a taste of what lies ahead.  Passing Wairoa the road  flows and it is easy to to inadvertantly incrase your speed. One thing about this road is that I have never seen a revenue gather on it yet!

The 350 odd kms from Gisbourne around the cape, is a challenging and demanding ride. I felt as if all I did was lean left -lean right-lean left, lean right...just never ends. Not that I was complaing. Loved every Km of it. Not many places to stop along here. Best to have a big feed  and be sure you fuel up in Tolaga Bay.  As you start along the coast the scenery is stunning, and to make matters better their is hardly a person or other vehicle to be seen untill you get nearer to Opotiki.  Mentallly I found it tiring, you need to concentrate the whole way, ( goes with out saying really).   Still it coimes in at number three as one of my favourites.

Number 2. The Coro Loop.

What can be said that has not all ready been said about this great ride. Thames is only a short jaunt from Auckland, And this ride can easily be done in a day.  I know done it many times. Leaving Thames the pohutkawa lined 25 heading north is a s beautiful as you will get. A mixture of very tighht and narrow road. I always ride this with caution. Never been one to take a dip in the Firth of Thames fuuly clad in motorbike gear, and I am sure the bike is not ken only.  You you muck it up throgh here that is exactly what would happen.

Leaving Coromandel the road opens up a great deal, and their are some fantastic sweeping corners and lopeing bends.  Passing Whitianga and Tairua it can become a very fast ride if one chooses todo so. Unfortunalty traffic can be heavy at certain times of the year, with lots of baot towing, and caravan towing cars.  Do it on a week day and the roads are all yours.   This road is gaurenteed to make you a happy motorcyclist.

NUMBER 1 Haast To Wanaka.

 Well what can I say. Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was the scenery, perhaps the fact we had been on the bike for 8 days straight and I was feeling very much at home. I am not sure what it was, but I loved this road, by far the best, and most fun I have ever had on a bike.   In fact when I got to Wanaka I was tempted to turn around and do it all again. It was that good.

                                          Lake Hawera.

Fantastic scenery, mountains mirrored on the pristine fresh water lakes, fast sweeping bends on excellent condition roads, little traffic, and the sun beating down. Around every corner breathtaking postcard like scenery that left your mouth watering . Surly we live in the worlds most beautiful country. If you are any doubt just ride this road. It will leave you speechless, and grinning from ear to ear!!!!

Leaving Haast and travelling over the Haast pass, you pass gorgeous forest and rivers, this part of the road is more twisty, before you start riding along Lake Wanaka, and you encounter fantastic sweeping bends , and just when you think it can not get any better you encounter Lake Hawera and you do it all again.
                                        Photograph of one of the glacier rivers near Hokitika.

This road is five stars for would be mad not to put it on your bucket list!

Regardless of the knockers amongst us in this country some things other parts of the world just can not hold a candle to.  New Zealand is surely one of the best countries in the world to own a bike. No Matter what city you live in , you are only minutes away from great roads and majestic scenery.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Any ride is a good ride.

The trouble with  being a part time parent is that you only get every second weekend to get out an about.  I still get out the weekend I have the little darlings (said with true sarcasm),  but it never normally amounts to more than a small ride  some where for coffee, and if my daughter is on  the back there is normally chocolate cake involved.  Of course I have no aversion to that, but I personally would prefer to be riding the highways and byways of this fine land, rather than eating its food!

So for the last two months I have eagerly awaited  my free weekend to swing by.   After I have dropped the kids back to there mothers on Sunday night, I start checking the weather and long range forecasts, in anticipation of the coming weekend.  But of late disappointment has normally set in by Wednesday. It is around this time the forecasts become accurate, and as per usual rain has been forecast.
Now normally I am a lover of all seasons.  I love the warmth of  summer , the cosiness of winter, the newness of  spring,  and my favourite month is Autumn.    But this winter has been warm, certainly warm by comparsion to other years...........but shit it has been wet.   Rain, rain ,rain and dear I say it more rain.

Anyway I digress......

So this week I check the weather as per usual, and what you know it is forecast for rain, but by Wednesday it has changed.   Instead of rain all day Saturday and Sunday, they are forecasting a fine day Friday, and fine  till late Saturday............needless to say I needed no encouragement to make plans for a we trip.

So a quick text to my friend Rachael in Tauranga, and plans are made for a visit on Friday night.

Finally after the long winter I feel like spring is here.   Come  Friday, I leave work and shoot home, the bike of course is all ready packed, gassed and tyres check etc.  A quick shower and I am out the door faster than Phil Goffs decline.

Choosing to avoid the motorway,  I head out towards Kawakawa bay, Kaiaua, and Miranda.    This is a piece of road I know very well, but brings a smile to my face every time I ride it.  Eventually linking up with sh25, before stopping at Paeroa.  Have promised Rachael I will be in Tauranga in time for dinner, I stop only briefly, but having never taken a photo of the famous kiwi icon, I  thought it was about time i did!

I arrive in Tauranga a little after seven, and enjoy a fantastic meal made by Rachael's Spanish flatmates,      (note to self..need to get a couple of them) , and also enjoy some fantastic Russian vodka.

By 8.00am in the morning I have said my good byes, and I am and on the road again......decisions decisions..the long way home or the short way.....ummm...let me think about that for all of about 2 seconds before i decide on the long way.  Leaving Tauranga I head towards Waihi, then take 25 to Whangamata. This is a fantastic piece of road, with a great deal of it having been resealed.  Pure motorcycling heaven.

A quick stop for coffee and I decide that the weather is holding so I head towards Tairua, Whitianga.  It had been a while since I had ridden the loop, and now I realise why I love it so much.  To make things better there was hardly a car to be seen, let alone another bike.   Then it happened, 10kms form Coromandel township it starts to rain.

Not much to be done but just keep riding.  To be brutally honest it doesn't bother me that much, and it is good thing from an experience point of view.   No better way  to learn how to ride in the rain , than ......well ride in the rain.   Having done it lot of times , it is just par for the course when you ride.

In Thames I stopped for a coffee and some food. The rain had finally stopped.  After lunch the rest of the ride home to Auckland was uneventful, pulling into my house just before three.   I had been away from home for just 23 hours, .Had travelled just over 600 kms, spent just over 8 hours on the bike.  But it felt like I had been away for ages.......motorcycling has a way of doing that to you.

Footnote: Racheal is good friend of mine whom I have known for many years.  She set up Living Hope.  Read all about her work . She is an amazing and inspiring person.