Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Brand loyalty

I have often been asked the question "am I brand loyal"?  In other words would I ride a different make of bike or am I loyal only to Triumph.  I ended up having a very interesting conversation with a friend today about this very issue.

First and four most, I don't care what bike you ride, if you are on two wheels, weather it be a scooter, Harley, Honda, Royal Enfield.....I don't care.  The fact that you are on two wheels makes you part of the "Brotherhood...or Sisterhood" as the case may be.  We have something in common, something that is very hard for the non biker to understand.

There is one main reason that I like Triumph.

The Engine.   I fell in love with the triple engine.  The first time I heard it it rocked  my boat.    It continues to rock my boat.  That growl that only a triple makes is very very addictive.  There is simply no other bike maker out there that has capitalized on this.  Although I hear rumours that MV, or could be Aprilla are doing something similar.  In the mean time triumph has cornered the market on this particular issue.  Who ever at Triumph came up with the idea is a genius.

Character,  I have always like the Triumphs because they have character.  Although this reason is not exclusive to Triumph.  There are many bikes out there that I would also consider to have character.  They just don't have three cylinder in them!

I think now a days it is pretty hard to buy a bad bike.  Most producers of bikes offer high quality and performance that not many riders will ever take to there real limit.  But what I will say is that I think Triumph are thinking out side of the square far more than any of the other major bike manufactures.  The release of the Tiger cub, just reinforces this view.  The Rocket 2.3 litre triple, the 675 Daytona, the Street triple, Speed triple, and my favourite, which no other manufacturer has come close to being able to reproduce....the very simple and very cool Bonneville.   These are all fantastic bikes which appeal to a wide market.

On the other hand...........( and please I am not insulting Suzuki owners)  Suzuki has hardly come out with a new or exciting bike for some time.  Yes there has been regular and consistent upgrades on their class leader the GSXR1000, but what else?   This only appeals to a small minority.    The very successful Boulevard series are excellent bikes, but also they have been around for a while.  I read recently that Suzuki's sales in the UK have dropped 50% in the last three years,   Some of this is attributed to the recession but the writer was at pains to point out that they are simply not meeting the market.

 A classic example is the Adventure market.  This is one of the fastest growing markets in biking, normally dominated by BMW ( Thanks to Charlie and Ewen), yet now Triumph have a bike to compete, KTM are in there but where is Suzuki?  Honda has the Trans Alp, but again it is an old bike that has not seen any real innovations fro some time.

Now I am not turning this into a "Bash Suzuki" blog, I think personally most of the Japanese manufactures are missing the boat to some degree.  Where as BMW, Triumph, KTM and Ducati are all coming out with new and exciting models to meet todays markets and  the needs of todays riders.

Am I brand loyal........well I suppose I am..........but that can change!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Any ride is a good ride#2

The day dawned glorious.  My partner had organised a 8km walk through the bush by Bethells beach with the social club at work, my daughter was keen to join.  Nathan looked at me and I looked at him, and neither of us was keen on that particular pursuit.  A ride perhaps was more to our liking.

So they headed off to explore by foot the beauty that is the west coast, we on the other hand decided that doing it on the bike was far more fun, So we headed in that general direction.

We left home bright and early , it was only after eight.  Straight up the motorway and on to SH 16.  Hadn't ridden this for a while.  This well known road amongst bikers in Auckland, is also well liked by the boys in blue.  Not that that would worry me, with Nathan on the back, speed is not the priority, just being on the bike is fun enough.

We stopped at Helinsville for a much needed coffee and then continued around the coast.  This road is a lot of fun on a bike, but it is also very pretty with lovely views of the Kaipara coast.  We stopped again at the look out about 10kms west of Wellsford.

Lying in a ditch across the road to get this pic!

I have been wanting to get some more photos of the bike and to update the picture that is on the blog page.  I ended up lying in a ditch with the camera to get the photo.  I thought it was particular arty of me!

Carrying on to Wellsford we rejoined SHW1 and turned south.  Suddenly the bike is handling weird, I could feel Nathan moving a lot, which is not something he tends to do.  Next minute he is tapping me on the shoulder and wants me  to stop.  We pull over just at the top of Dome Valley.   He has some how managed to kick his foot peg up and had been trying to get it down.  That soughted, we continued on and stopped at McDonald's in Orewa.  My least favourite junk food, still I had a chicken wrap and we carried on.  The temperature was certainly getting up there and every time we stopped I could feel the sweat running down my back.

Kaipara Coast.

We continued down the motorway all the way  past the Bombay hills, turning left onto SH2.   Carried on along for a while then headed through Miranda and Kaiuwa.  Stopped again for a drink and then home along the coast and back into Botany.

So a bit of a figure eight. Didnt actually plan it this way but that doesnt matter .At least we were out and it was bloody good!
Out little trip ended up being about 340 kms.

Man it was good to be out.

View My Saved Places in a larger map

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I am Grateful.

Well Christmas is almost upon is again. It seems like I have only just put the tree away, and I am pulling it out again.  It is a crazy time for me at work. Always is this time of year.  So why I have a brief break in the chaos.   I would like to take the time to say a few things which can only be said once a year.

I am grateful for my two terrific kids.  For their honesty, humour, and love.   I am grateful that they continue to teach me things , that they are well balanced, caring, respectful,  and most of all that they are mine.

Taylor and I , Little Bay 1/1/10

I am grateful for my parents, who's undying love shows me the way forward.  Even though they are close to there seventies, they still have a spark and a jest for life, that I only wish to emulate when I get to their age.   My relationship with them is stronger than ever.

I am grateful that I am still healthy.

I am grateful for my partner , who knows all my faults and loves me anyway. Who lets me not only indulge my passions, but shares in it with me. You are a  great step parent to Taylor and Nathan.  This alone is no easy task.   For your understanding and unconditional love I am truly grateful.

I am grateful that I have kept it rubber side up, have been able to ride some great roads, and seen some great places.   I am even more grateful that I have been able to share some of these journeys with you all.  I have learnt to love this place, I call home, more and more.  I am grateful at how lucky I am.

I am grateful to have met some great people along the way, who share my passion.   For those that have taken the time to read my blog and comment, I feel truly honoured to have shared some of my stories and life experiences with you.  To the people who's blogs I follow, thank you, for letting me share in your journeys, triumphs and tragedy's.   My life is richer because you have done so.

So to Terry, Nathan, Taylor, Mum, Dad, Tim & Sandra, Jean & Gary, Geoff James, SonjaM, Lori, Tony, GeorgeF, Andy & Jo, Brady, Jamie & Paulin, Rodney &Sharon, Bandit rider, Avgas, Kiwonabike, Oz, Mark & Anne, John Mc, Tony,  and to anyone I may have missed unintentionally I am grateful for having you along for the journey this year.  I wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas.  I wish for you all a fantastic New Year.  And I hope we travel many more miles together.

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, I hope you have a white Christmas (Ummm not so sure I should say that by the blogs I read, I don't think snow is that welcome amongst the motorcycling fraternity)

To those in the South , lets crack open a cold one, put another steak on the BBQ, grab the sun block, a hat, maybe even a good book,  and lets soak it all up.......after the ride of course.

All the best everyone.


As I write this, New Zealand is in shock at the death of 29 miners at the Pike River mine on the West Coast. My thoughts are with those family's and their loss.  For five long days the country has waited for news, only for this tragic outcome.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yes officer!

Oh the joys of motorcycle ownership.  It seems the moment you own one you become noticeable to the boys in blue.    Or perhaps I am just the friendly type......  Since I have got back into motorcycling I have been pulled over three times by these lovely fellows.  Some would say that is not very often, but considering that I have owned a car for 5x times longer than a bike, and I have only been pulled over about the same amount it seems some what strange.

Let me remove any doubt from any reader here and now, I am not , nor will I ever be anti police. I believe they do a good job, and I certainly don't envy their position one bit.

The first time I go pulled over I was on my way to work on a Saturday morning.  Riding down the southern motorway at 6.00am,  There was hardly any traffic around and the thought of meeting mister plod didn't really enter my mind.  When I looked into my mirrors I noticed these flashing lights.


I pulled over, and the office who was on a bike pulled up beside me.  This I found strange for starters. He lifted up his helmet and we began to have a friendly chat.  "I have clocked you at 113kms" he said, "any reason for your excess speed?"

No officer, No excuse what so ever.  I was tempted to say "because I didn't see you," but in case he didn't have a sense of humour I decided against it.  "well" he said,  "I need to be seen to be pulling you over, you did weave in and of  traffic a bit, Anyway as it is the week before Christmas, and I always give one free be away each day, today is your lucky day".  "Keep it under 100, and nice bike by the way".  With that he departed.  It was in fact a very pleasant exchange.

The second incident happened on Tamaki drive, and if ever I should of got a ticket that was it.  But I didn't.  Perhaps I have been lucky, or perhaps I just don't come across as an arrogant biker.  I have always admitted my mistakes, and have never tried to talk my way out of it. There is something to be said for admitting your mistakes and accepting your punishment.  While waiting for the first officer to run checks, I did extol the virtues of the 675 Daytona I was on to the second officer, he seemed some what interested.  Anyway after what seemed like an eternity they had a discussion, came back to me and let me off with a warning, but he did say and I quote " If you want to do this shit, take it to the back roads of Whitford".   Well that is handy to know, if I  ever get pulled over out that way all I have to say is officer 49271 said I was allowed,  just not allowed to do it on Tamaki drive!

The third and last time that I have been pulled over was out the back of Miranda.  For those that don't know this area, it fairly rural but consists of some straights with a couple of corners.  I had my partner on the back and we were coming back from down the line.  Being on the straights my speed had inadvertently crept up.  I certainly wasn't trying.  Just bored and riding along.  Next minute a man in blue comes around the corner and flashes his lights.  He does a Uturn and follows me.  I of course pull over.   He greets me with the phrase "Do you have any idea what speed you were doing?'.  No officer I don't sorry.  "well neither do I , but you were well above the limit".  With that he gave me a stern warning and sent me on my way.

The days of sports bikes are over for me.  I can still have fun on the bike I ride with out having to reach license losing speeds.  I suppose I have been lucky, but when ever I have been pulled over I have always admitted my fault and am never rude.  I am afraid that is just my nature.  Perhaps that is why I have not yet had a ticket when riding the bike.  (Touch wood)!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Suspension Upgrade Sprint ST

Now the first thing I am going to say is that I am no expert on these matters.  I can only relate in non technical terms the problems I have had and the issues which concerned me.  Pre load, rebound, damping etc all this terms I dont relate to. 

One of the most disappointing things about my bike has always been the suspension.  I have met and talked to many sprint owners and have never found one that is happy with the suspension on these bikes.  Don't get me wrong, I love the bike , the engine is superb, the ergonomics are great and I have always loved the sound and the look of it.  It is a great bike for touring and having a fang.

Perhaps they are built for more smoother roads than what we get here in En zed, but the bike certainly does not like our bumpy roads.  This has always annoyed me immensely, and the simple fact that the bike does not handle well, does nothing for your confidence as a rider.

To start with, the back of the bike is very saggy, by saying that I mean the moment you sit on it the side stand would hit the ground, if my partner also sat on it, and with luggage, it would be impossible to get the side stand up. No amount of adjustment  ( and there is very little anyway) would solve this problem.   At nearly 30000 kms I was of the opinion that the rear shock was well past its used by date anyway.  I suppose you could say that it is soft, yet when you go over a decent pot hole, the jarring and impact is well and truly felt.

After a 1000km weekend, you felt as if your body, not the bike was absorbing all the  bumps, and I often found I had a sore back and butt, not from the riding position of the bike, but from the continual bumping up and down,  To put a technical term on it , bump compliance was crap!

This issue alone, causes issues with the front, the weight on the back forces the front end up, and no amount of adjustment with the front forks can solve this problem.   This creates a very light front end, one up it was tolerable,  two up it almost becomes un rideable.  Perhaps that seems a bit harsh, but that is honestly how I felt.

I would often suffer from massive under steer at the front,  would not hold my lines correctly, and be constantly correcting while cornering.  The light front end was perhaps my biggest concern.  I also noticed that the front tyre would not wear evenly.   Almost getting out of shape.

I had brought the bike with the intention of keeping it for some time, (as you do),  so with that in mind I made the decision to improve the suspension.   I think most bikes regardless of what you buy can do with an upgrade anyway.   I read with great disappointment that the new GT Sprint suspension has had very poor wright ups.  It is annoying that after spending $22000 odd on a brand new bike, you then have to spend a further couple of thousand just to get a decent ride.

This was not gonna be cheap, but all things considered I organised to get the bike to CKT in New Plymouth, where a new rear shock was to be installed, and the front forks re valved etc.  Basically I wanted them to weave there magic.

So on Saturday I arrived in New Plymouth, My friend John picked Nathan and I  up, and took us to get the bike.   Strangely enough the moment I saw it, it looked taller!  I had a look quick look at the adjustments, and the unit itself at the rear.   By this stage of the proceedings, I was itching to get on it and take it for a ride.

Immediately I noticed two things different, the first is that I felt taller some how, a bit perched up, secondly,  how nice, firm and planted the bike felt just sitting on it.  No bounch up and down stuff.  It was quite definitely stiffer.  There was  a huge and I mean huge, noticeable, difference to how the bike felt previous.

With my son with me, Robert suggested winding on a bit of pre load, and with that the bike stiffened more, when Nathan got on the bike never moved, as in the down ward motion.

Once on the road the first thing that grabs your attention, is how easily the bike handles bump. It seems to absorb them, it makes for a very smooth ride.    As it was raining I took it slow on the way to Taupo, just getting use to the different feel the bike now had.   The front end feels so much more planted and seems to hold lines far better( Perhaps this is me).  It is has far more feel than prev ious.  After an hour I stopped and wound on another click of pre load at the back.  These felt even better. 

The great thing about these Ohlins is the ease of use, preload and rebound are so easily accessible and one simple turn alters something.  Also the shock can be removed and serviced, where as the old shock once worn would need replacing.

The Pre load adjustment

Once back in Auckland I continued experimenting with altering the settings to what I felt best.  I have wound the front forks down 1 turn, and 1 click of preload seems to suit me just fine for one up,  I will experiment with the preload at the back on the next weekend away with my partner.

So was it worth it, In a word ABSOLUTELY!  The bike is a completely different bike to ride, the feel, feedback, firmness and bump compliance is just brilliant.  It has made what was a good bike, into a superb bike to ride.  For a layman like me it is hard to explain (but I hope I have) just what a extraordinary difference this has made.  John said to me in New Pymouth, "The best way to get a new bike, is to improve the suspension in the old one".  Never a truer word said!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Man, A Boy and a Bike.

I needed to go to New Plymouth to pick up my bike, I was getting some work done to it (Blog to follow).  I decided that it would be a good time for me and Nathan to have a bit of a road trip, kind of father son weekend away.  Nathan is always up for a ride, although I was a bit worried about the distant.The longest we had done was two hours, and lots of small rides.  A couple hours here and there is one thing,  a whole weekend on the bike is a bit more adventurous.  Still he seemed some what keen, and before I had had a chance to worry about it I had booked tickets, and organised some where to stay on Saturday night.

Us on the plane.

My partner droped us off at the airport Saturday morning.  The plane trip as far as Nathan was concerned was just as big as an adventure than the bike ride that was to follow.  Actually I havedone a fair bit of travel myself yet I still get excited to get on a plane!

We arrived in New Plymouth around 11, to a cloudy day that was deteriorating.  Drizzle with rain forecast.  My friend John picked us up and dropped us off to get the bike.  After a coffee and a yak, it was now raining and as we suited up I realised I had left Nathan's jacket linings behind, not a particular auspicious start. We left and headed up the coast. I was at this stage still not sure what route I would take, it depended on weather and how Nathan handled the ride.  I had checked the forecast before I left and was sure the further north and east we travelled the better the weather would get.  This was indeed the case, as we turned inland and as we hit the Awakino gorge the roads were in fact dry and the annoying drizzle finally ceased.

View My Saved Places in a larger map

Before this though at Mt Messenger I stopped and put a rather large sweat shirt under Nathans jacket, it was not overly cold but the last thing I wanted was him getting cold. This seemed to do the trick, and in his words he was very toastie!
Dads improvisation of jacket lining! ( Atop MT Messenger)

With the bad weather and Nathan on the back,  I had been riding very tentatively, a little to much.  As the weather cleared,  I was able to relax and began to enjoy the ride.   Doing my best to keep my speed down.  Still I was hearing murmurs of delight coming from over my shoulder every time we went around a decent corner.   If you ever get to ask Nathan what he likes best about being on the bike , his answer will allways be ......corners!

We arrived in Pio Pio , and as yet I had heard no complaints which I considered amazing as it was almost three and we hadn't had lunch!    There is a nice cafe in Pio Pio, called the Fat Pigeon . We had a very enjoyable lunch and chatted about all sort of things that Nathan wanted to talk about.  I was also very much enjoying my time on the bike and with him.  One on one time I have learn't, is to be treasured.
The food was yumy!

After leaving lunch we carried on to 8 mile junction turning right and headed towards Taumaruni, this was not to be out destination.  John had recommended turning left about 5kms up the road onto Pukerimu road, which takes you out the back and eventually hooks you up with Sh 30 taking you through Bennydale and eventually Taupo.   I have always enjoyed this road, there is hardly any traffic on it, and given the right circumstances can be a real blast.  We took it leisurely  stopping at Whakamaru for Ice cream.

We got in to Taupo about 5.30.
Lake Taupo.

First order of the night was to slide into the hot pools at the motel. What a very relaxing end to what had been a great day.  From there we headed in to town to enjoy one of Nathans favourites dishes.......curry! And it needs to be hot, no butter chicken for this boy.  Strange but true, there is nothing  Nathan loves more than a hot spicy curry.

After watching a movie on TV we both fell asleep on the bed, it was 9.30 ( I am turning into a Nana)

Perhaps it was the early night but the next morning we found ourselves at McDonald's at 7.30 watching the All Blacks Vs Scotland game and munching on a Bacon and Egg McMuffin.

Nathan at the power station

We headed home up SHW 1, turned off to go back towards Te Kuiti,we stopped and had a look at the Whakamaru power station.   From there we headed towards Te Awamutu, stopping at yet another power station , Waipapa. Hadn't ridden this road in a while and it had begun to drizzle so had to take it very easy as the roads were wet and greasy.  This is where I had to bluff about how much knowledge I actually had about Hydro Power stations.!!

We stopped at Te Awamutu for a coffee, I think Nathan was getting a bit worn out at this stage, so I decided to take the direct route home. I was very proud of the little fella, this was the first time that he had complained that he had a sore butt!!

We got back into Auckland after lunch, and had a very quiet afternoon.

For those that are contemplating taking there son or daughter for a decent road trip, here are a few tips that I have learnt.

1) Ride with confidence, but at a safe speed. My attempt to ride very slow was unnatural, and I found myself being to tentative and riding poorly. Once I had settled into a consistant groove, I felt better and rode better.

2) Try to pick a good weekend weather wise. It helps. Saying that don't be be put off by the odd shower.

3) Get some good gear for them, easier said than done I know. But if the child is warm and comfortable, and you know they have the right gear on, you feel better and more confident.

4) Stop often.  Just because you can go for 2-3hours with out a stop doesn't mean the little one can.

5) Make it special, eat ice cream!  Talk.  Enjoy yourself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Man On the Hill.

There was once a old man who lived at the top of a hill overlooking a village, he was considered the wisest man around, in fact many people went to him for advice.  He was always gracious and discerning in any advice he gave.

One particular morning a couple of young boys from the town were discussing this, they were determined to find a way to catch him out, and to prove that he was not in fact all that wise.

After much discussion they hatched a plan, they decided that they would go and knock on his door, and seek his advice .  The plan was to get a live bird, hold it behind there backs.  They would would then knock on his door and ask him, that since he was the wisest man around,  was the bird they were holding behind there backs alive or dead.  If he said it was dead they would present the living bird, if he said it was alive they would twist its neck, killing it and then present it to him.  They considered it a full proof plan, and were in no doubt they were gonna catch him out!

So a bird was duly caught, and they prcedded up to the mans house and knocked on his door.

The man answered.

"you are the wisest man in town" said one of the young boys, "can you tell me then if the bird I am holding behind my back is alive or dead?"

The old man, looked at them with a gracious set of eyes, that had seen more than he would ever like to tell.  He thought for just a moment be fore he replied.......

"That my dear boys is entirely in your hands".

With that he closed the door and continued on with his day.   The boys left, knowing full well that they had been truly beaten.

I heard this story many years ago and have never forgotten it.  Sometimes life can deal you with a crap hand, but how you play it is entirely up to you.