Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Zealand Simply the Best.

I love this country.

Yes we have our share of economic and social problems, what country doesn't?   Yes it pisses down some times.  And yes if you look hard enough you will find plenty wrong with it.

But for me I love this country.....

Since I got into biking, my love for this country and its people has grown immensely. Perhaps in my travels I have discovered the soul of this country, something I had not found sitting  at home in Auckland.

I have travelled overseas a lot, not extensively, but I have seen enough to know a good thing when I find it.  There are some great and beautiful countries in this world, steeped in history,  and well established.  By comparison New Zealand is a relatively young country.

SO why do I say all this?

New Zealanders are the most friendly and welcoming people in the world.   No matter where you are from, kiwis will welcome you into there homes and there hearts.  No questions asked. I have met many great people through motorbiking and various web sites I follow.  Whenever I have made contact I have always been welcome.  Not only that, as I have travelled around the country I have met some interesting and fascinating people, and had great laughs from people I did not even know.   There always seems to be a spare spud, and steak , and there is always enough beer!

From a motorcycling point of view we have some of the best roads in the world to ride. New Zealand is a motorcycling paradise.   I live in suburban Auckland, NZ"s biggest city, yet just ten minutes ride from my house I am out on the coast, enjoying great twist and turns.  Just bliss.

Yes , you know what I am gonna say next.  There are not many countries in the world that are as beautiful as NZ. There are a few but not many.  No words will describe it, you need to see it for yourself.  Pure and simple.   Photos at times do not do it justice.  That feeling you get as you ride through a forest, over a hill to see a majestic coastline laid out in before of leaves me breathless.  No Kiwi lives more than 150kms for the ocean, in fact 80% of the population is within minutes of a beach.  Kiwis can't fly, but we do love our water.
Waiheke Island.

New Zealanders are pretty accepting of 'Imports", we are a multi culture society, ( as are most countries) yet we all live in relative harmony.  This comment needs to be put in to context with what  goes on in other parts of the world.  No racial killings or bombing, no fractions waring for control.  In general NZ is a safe country,  although the media at time will try anything to persuade us other wise.

Nothing can eat you! Unlike our Aussie cousins across the ditch (Don;t worry I love Aussies) No crocodiles, snakes, spiders that than kill you in 2 minutes, Big white shark attacks, ( Very very very rare in our waters).

When you live here it is easier to be a knocker, to critise and complain, yet we live in one of the best country's, some times we just have to remind our selves of this.  Of course there is no place like home, and I am the sort of guy that the cup is always half full. But I still think you would be hard pressed to beat this country.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finally a long weekend!

God I was over this week, it had been a prick of a week, and the prospect of a long weekend and fine weather beckoned. My partner, still busy studying for accountancy exams, encouraged me to disappear for the weekend so as not to be any more annoying than I all ready am.

Saturday morning rolled around and I set about packing my bag, and readying the bike.  I had of course had no idea where I was actually going to go.  I had a friend in Feilding that I had not seen for about ten years, so I thought that would be a good start.  The more I thought about it the better idea it seemed as it would give me the Sunday to explore around the Wairarapa, something I had been wanting to do for some time.

So 8.00am Saturday I took off, hoping to  beat as much of the long weekend traffic as possible. To be fair it wasn't too bad. I chose to run down SH1 before turning off towards Otorohanga then Te Kuiti, where I stopped at Boscos Cafe.  A delightful cafe that I would recommend to any one travelling through.

In front of the mountain.

I turned off at 8 mile junction towards Taumarunui.  I love this piece of road. Perhaps it is because every time I have ridden it the weather has been great. The condition of the road is good (although there are few sunken bits and pot hole just out of town). I continued south and decided to take National Park through Ohakune-a road that I had not ridden, but what a blast.

At this point I should mention, the men in blue were supposed to be everywhere, according to the ad campaign anyway.  But to this point I had not seen any.  It is a beautiful ride through here as many other bikers will admit to. The mountain on a fine day is spectacular.

I rejoined SHW1 at Waiouru and stopped briefly for a drink.  I got chatting to a guy on a TL1000 who by chance was also heading to Feilding. So he tagged in behind me, as I had the radar detector, and we all know how the boys in blue love SHW1. We turned off just after Taihape and took 54 through to Feilding. My travelling companion departed down a side road before we got there, but it had been nice to have some company, albeit briefly.

I arrived at my mate Rodney's just after 3, and discovered that his house is just over the road from Manfield raceway, and what would you know there was a bike track day going on.  So we had a natter then wandered over to have a look at the bikes-another first for me as I had never been to Manfield before.

A great evening out and a great carvery at the Rangitike Club, and I was buggered . So off to bed. Still had no idea where I was going to go on Sunday, but you soon realise on a bike these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

Got up early Sunday morning and we headed down to Palmerston North to have a look at Rodney's business,  "Streetwise coffee" on Rangitike Street.  And what great coffee it is too.  I highly recommend a stop here if passing through, you won't be disappointed.  And I am not just saying that because my mate owns it!

I said my goodbyes and headed towards Woodville. I had decided I would try to explore some of the beautiful coast, I certainly don't get the opportunity to come down this way often so I wanted to make the most of it.
The church at Makuri,  I saw this, a school, and about three houses!

I turned south at Woodville passing the famous TUI brewery at Mangatainoka, then turned inland at Pahiatua. I was really out on back country roads now, and it seemed I had the whole countryside to myself. For a whole hour I never saw another car or person. I stopped in Makuri and took a few photos, and listened to the sound of native birds. I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and the isolation only seemed to add to my enjoyment.  The road condition deteriorates the further towards the coast you go, and the storms of recent months had certainly taken a toll on the roads.

I stopped at Pongaroa and met a couple of fellows on Harleys. They were from Masterton and seemed somewhat surprised to discover I was from Auckland.  They did say they don't seem to get 'My type" down here very often!  I am not exactly sure what my type is.....but I digress.

The worlds largest place name. ( don't ask me to pronounce it)!

They recommended the Porangahau Pub as my next stop. They were headed there so I could meet them for lunch. Seemed like a good idea. Had a great ride there and passed the worlds longest place name.  It is amazing what little surprises this country throws up at you when you get off the beaten track.

Arriving at Porangahau pub, I was greeted by the smiling lads on their Harleys. I joined them for lunch and we had a great yak. It seems I was an okay lad because I was on a Triumph.  I had a great beef burger then headed off to look at the beach. What a fantastic place this is, hardly anyone around with a fantastic beach that went for miles.
The Harley boys.
A genuine local, and a nice fella to boot!
At the beach, five minutes drive from the pub.  Spectacular.

I continued on, leaving the Harley boys to themselves and headed towards Waipukurau where I refuelled and decided to take HWY 50 into Napier for the night. Another great ride, that is well worth taking, just to get off SH2. There are a couple of long straights but some great sweeping corners and bends. I arrived in Napier just after five, and even though I had only done 350kms for the day it felt like a lot more.

I bought a few beers and some food from the supermarket and settled in for a relaxing night.   It had been a great day and I had accomplished some of what I had wanted to do and see, very satisfying indeed.

For some unknown reason the person who was in the room before me had set the alarm for 6.15am and when it went off it gave me a hell of a shock. Still I was up now so decided to head home.  I had the Napier -Taupo road all to myself and barrelled along at a good brisk pace. The temperature dropped the closer I got to Taupo and I encountered some heavy fog, which slowed me down and made me wish I had brought my winter gloves. It is moments like these that I am glad I went to the bother of installing heated hand grips on the bike. Even then the tips of my fingers were still cold by the time I arrived in Taupo.

I had a look at the new bypass, then continued up SHW1, turning off towards Te Kuiti.  After Te Kuiti I contined on the same route I had taken on my journey south.  I wanted to get back to Auckland in the early afternoon, as I had a few things that needed to be done.  I arrived just after one.

I had a great weekend, rode on roads I had not done before, met some great people, and saw some sights that I had never seen before. A great weekend on the bike, the weather was brilliant the whole weekend. What more could a man ask for!

The Wairarapa is a great place to explore if you haven't seen much of it before.  But take your time there is a lot to take in, but it is worth it.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Emotion Vs Logick.

By nature I am not a particular emotional person. Most issues in my life I take with a grain of salt, and simply let slide.  But a situation happened over 12 months ago which left an indelible mark on my life.

The company I own and run was in need of a trainee.  Over the years I have been through many. To many perhaps. And for every good one I found I tended to go through about ten. So anyway, I placed an add on the  net, and after shifting through over 200 applicants, I invited a few for a interview. I eventually settled on a young man who was well presented, and seemed to have plenty of mechanical nous.  I duly employed him.

Alex started a few weeks later, and buy all accounts I was very happy with his progress, he was punctual, tidy, and had a conscience, a bonus in this day and age.

He was living with his partner , and even though he was only 21  they had there first baby (Connor) in the August of that year.

In an attempt to save money he traded his car and brought a motorbike. I spoke to him about this, and even though I ride myself, I tried to emphasize that Auckland's peak hour traffic was no place to learn to ride. He informed me that he knew how to ride and not to worry.  ( I will come back to this comment later)
I was so impressed with Alex I had given him a key. He was often at work before me and would open up the factory and of course put the jug on.

During this period the company had suffered a big down turn in work, partly because of the recession and partly because of circumstances with in the industry. In an attempt to keep all my staff employed, the staff were taking a day off each week when the work was particular light. On the Friday I gave Alex the day off , but told him not to be late Monday as we did in fact have a bit coming in/

I arrived at work on Monday morning , unusually for Alex he was not there, the rest of the staff arrived and still no Alex, not even a phone call. This was very much out of character.  My truck driver came in , and casually mentioned there had  been a motorbike accident on the northern motorway. We all looked at each other, but continued on with out day. Trying not to think the worse.  By 9.00 I was worried so phoned his home  number, no answer.  This I found unusual as having a new borne I expected that at least his partner would be home.

At 9.30 am, I got a phone call from the police to inform me that Alex had been killed on his motorbike that morning on his way to work.  I will not go into details about the rest of the day, but suffice to say that only having a staff of six, we were all deeply shocked and it was a very emotional week.

Due to other  factors in my life, and the shock of Alex's death I sold my bike a few weeks later, deciding that  it was the best thing to do.  Alex's death had hit a nerve with me, I I found myself carrying some guilt because of it. Selling the bike was an attempt to make myself feel better.

After some months, and time for reflection I realised a few things. His comment that he  knew how to ride, was in fact very misleading, and gave me the impression that he was a good rider. In hindsight he knew how to ride a bike, but he did not have enough experience or rider training to KNOW how to ride his bike.  There is a big difference.

I often found myself wishing I had done more to help him, but I realised I had in fact done a lot.  I could not hold myself responsible for his actions. Attempting to beat myself up over something that in reality I had no control over was a pointless and waste of time.

Six months later I brought  myself the Sprint and have continued to ride, well aware of the risks, now more than ever, but I still ride anyway.  Which brings me to the title of my post.  Motorbiking is not logical, it is emotional. Something happens to me when I am on the bike. The worlds worries fade away, the stress of day to day stuff disappears and I am free.

And yes every time I put my leg over her I think what could happen, and because of that I am aware of my own mortality.  I am probably a better and safer rider because of it.

I will not forget Alex, and his death taught me many things, a great deal of them about myself.  But in hindsight I should not of let his death stop me doing what I love.

To the non rider, riding  a bike is not logical, to the motorcyclist it is emotional.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A kiwi in America.

I recently returned from the states after attending my partners sisters wedding.  The last time I had been there was 15 years ago.

Our trip entailed a few days in LA, then off to Vegas for a couple of nights, back to LA then  a road trip up to Lake Tahoe.  (Unfortunately all of it in a car!)

                                 Discussing the Kiwi accent with this lovely waitress from Vegas!

Being a biker of course I would like to offer some observations of what I saw,

1) I was completely amazed at the lack of safety gear that most motorcyclist wear. A back protector and a helmet seemed to be the norm, until you hit Nevada then the helmet also disappears.

2) A lack of bikes, considering the population and the affordability of bikes. On any given day in NZ if the weather is fine you can expect to pass 50- 100 riders.  I saw about  about 20 on our trip to Lake Tahoe but most were Harley riders of some group and this was in Nevada, none were wearing helmets.

3)  In LA Particular the word "chicken strip" could only be described as an understatement.  Talking to a guy in a shop he said most of the young guys were in to straight line speed and not the corners. The strips were an inch wide on either side of a GSXR I saw.  Not that I care about that sought of thing but it was certainly obvious that some of the bikes I saw did not go around corners much.
It made me wonder how they would handle the twists and bumps of New Zealand roads.

4) Off topic... The food is  a bit crap, seems to be lacking in flavour and very sweet , but it is cheap! Bloody cheap compared to NZ,  Four of us could eat out for $35 ,  two of us would struggle to do that here.  In fact America is very cheap in general,  certainly came back here wondering why everything is so expensive over here.

                             The President and I, he seemed a nice guy! A bit......wooden!

All is not lost though! I meet  guy  called Steve who was the best man at the wedding , he actually rode there on his Vstrom, and I spent many a hour talking to him about bikes and the good roads to ride.   I have since realised that what I had seen, although true is certainly not a reflection on the biking community in general and since I have been following many blogs on here I have learnt a lot more and am certainly eager to return to visit more of the country and see.

Overall I had a great time, enjoyed meeting new people and seeing some  great places, ( lake Tahoe is very beautiful, very similar to Queenstown)

I am looking forward to returning and and perhaps getting a few days on a bike.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kids and Motorbikes.

In this ever increasing nanny state we live in, I have found that motorbiking and kids go together.  I am sure the politically correct will beg to differ.

My son has struggled with his learning for some years, I would hate to think how much money has been spent trying to get him the proper help.  In the end when he was finally diagnosed the kid was so far behind at school, that we have had a long slog  playing catch up.  It is fair to say that he has improved quite considerably.  But we still have a way to go.

He is actually quit a bright kid, it was just trouble with his eyes that has caused all the delay, but he amazes me with the stuff he does know.

Coming from a split marriage, the hardest thing I have had to do was trying to connect with my children, I had no problem with my daughter but I had real issues trying to feel connected with my son.  They are in my care 5 days a fortnight, and it can be a busy few days!

I found that when I got into motorcycling,  My son showed a devoted interest also.  Something that I had not seen in him before.   In fact he became quite passionate about my bikes and all things biking.   He was only six at the time and I felt he was to young to take for rides.  The time he was 8 I decided he was tall enough to take riding.

At first we just went for small trips down to the mall, maybe into town.  On our first decent trip out to Kiuawa proved to be a challenge.  A bit of education was required on what a pillion passenger does and doesn't do!    He had this great idea that every time we went around a corner he would flop to that side, then repeat on the next.   Certainly unsettled the bike.

After a few miles and a couple of lessons he has become the perfect pillion. In fact I forget he is there sometimes, and I need to reach back and  touch his leg to reassure myself!

Our first weekend away together on the bike was awesome.    I had all ready taken my daughter to Wellington for the weekend previously (we  Flew), and asked Nathan what he wanted to do,  fly some where or go on the bike.    There was no hesitation when he said he wanted to go riding!!
                                          Nathan with the bike.

We had a terrific weekend in Rotorua, and I felt that we had started to connect again.  We did all the great things a father and son should!   We have done many miles since.  Yes I realize there is a danger when we are on the bike, I have certainly been given grief from certain persons about the risks.

But for me introducing my son to the joys of motorcycling has helped our relationship immensely.  Sharing a common interest has brought us closer together.  He will even sit a watch Moto Gp with me!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review Shark S 900 Full face Helmet.

I Have now for some required a new helmet.

I have always previously had Shoei and Arai helmets. They are of course excellent helmets. Although depending on model can be a bit expensive.  Like most motorcyclist I tend to have a loyalty to my present brand

My present Arai has seen better days, even though it is only 4 years old, it is well used, the padding is coming away and I needed to get a new visor as the old one was pretty scratched.

So I decided I would start looking for a new one.  I decided I would be open minded about the process, and not make a predetermined idea of what to get.  Be prepared to try different ones etc, and to step out of what I am comfortable with.

I went through the normal process of a couple of Arais, but the price was excessive, and although they are good helmets I think you are paying a bit of a premium for the name, same can be said for Shoei. Although the helmets I tried did not seem to fit well, and exposed my chin.   As a general rule I fit some where between a medium and a larger, some medium helmets feel to small and some larger ones seem to big.  Getting the right fit is important as we well know.

It was during one of these trips of looking for helmets I cam across the Shark range, I do not know much about these, but a couple of friends have them and are very pleased with them.

I tried on the S900 model, and took it instant like to it.

It was comfortable fitted perfectly and was impressed with the features that it possessed. The flip down inside visor that is built in , takes away the need for a different tint visor.  If the sun comes out you simply flick the switch located at the top left of the helmet and you instantly have a tinted visor.

                                               Notice the internal tinted screen

They are plenty of ventilation holes that are easily accessible.  It has excellent graphics.  It weighs on average 1490 grams.  Which is on par to my present helmet.

The padding removes easily  for washing if required.

The replacement of the visor if required, is as easy as it gets. In fact I would struggle to find a better system

It is a lot quieter than my present Arai, but after about 120km/per hour it does increase markedly.

This helmet cost me $429 NZ dollars, which I consider excellent value for money.

Overall I am very impressed with the helmet , it has features which many helmets twice the price do not have . So I give it 8/10.  I would have no hesitation in recommending this helmet to other riders. And for only a couple of hundred dollars dear than the cheaper ones on the market , I would say it is well worth the extra cost.

Here are the specs.

Shark S 900 Full Face Motorcycle Street Helmet

» Shell made from injected thermoplastic resin
» Multi-element, internal shock-absorber with differentiated density
» Airflow directed by integrated ducts
» External anti-UV lacquer finish
» Dual-treated (anti-scratch/anti-fog) "Total Vision" 2.2mm visor
» Sun shield, anti-scratch and UV protection
» Slide Lock quick-release visor fastening system
» Adjustable lower air intakes
» Rear air extractors Venturi effect
» Air turbulence system, by integrated spoiler
» Comfort padding morphometric optimized removable and washable
» Hydrostatic and bacteriophobic treated interiors
» Double D-Ring chin strap
» 5 year manufacturer's warranty
» Meets or exceeds ECE 22-05 and DOT standards.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Doing the Dishes.

For some strange and peculiar reason, our dish washer stopped working.

In it self not a major.  

Although I am not keen on dishes!

I am part time dad, I only have my kids 5 days a fortnight.  So it was convenient that when the dish washer broke down, the kids were around.  You see this is the reason I had kids, to make my life easier as I get older.  Safe to say though, hasn't really worked out that way.  

So last night I said to Nathan to come and dry the dishes.

And the strangest thing happened...........

We talked, and talked during the entire session.  Now don't get me wrong, I do talk to my kids a lot, I take them for rides on the bike, walks, sit in there rooms and yak.  But it was so good to do something different.

If your kids are like mine it is a constant battle to keep them off the PlayStation, computers, and all the other things they have to keep themselves entertained.  Some times days will pass and I realise I haven't really talked to my kids.  I have been with them, but have I really spent time with them.

The world we live in is a very frantic place, so many things to make our lives easier, yet we seem busier more than ever.  My kids seem to be growing up very fast all of a sudden.  Any  time that I get to spend with them on a one on one basis,  I realise I must treasure. The time will come when I wont be the coolest dad in the world, when my jokes wont be funny, when they don't wont to hang out with me any more.
 When my motorbike is not cool.

Sometimes you just need to stop.  Enjoy the moment, because sooner rather than later it will be to late and they will have moved on.   Years ago I was told the best thing you can spend on your kids is time,  it rings truer now than every before.

So for you parents on here with kids, enjoy the time, and make the time.  Because soon there will be no more time left.