Monday, March 28, 2011

First Farkle

Yep, my first package for the DL arrived tonight and I've just spent a few minutes fitting it. Guess what it is...

And here it is on the bike:

So now I can feel a bit more confident that a rock isn't going to spoil my day. BTW, they also make a guard for the oil cooler but the bike has a little guard covering this anyway so I didn't bother getting another one. However, I did notice that the oil cooler did wear a bit of mud and stuff yesterday so I may look at a mudguard extension further down the track.

And now the wait continues for a few more packages...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Just a wee fix

Not the best weather for riding this weekend but if you count charging around on a couple four wheelers yesterday then I actually spent a bit of time out in the elements (yep, got wet) riding a variety of different machinery.

Today I had to pop out to Ashhurst for a bit and after being encouraged by Al's tale of taking his Daytona over some gravel roads I decided to take the long (well not that long) way home. It was only a very short ride but by riding out to Pohangina I was able to pick up Finnis Road and ride it back to Colyton and then home.

Very early on Finnis Road goes to gravel and snakes it way up a small hill. The gravel was in pretty good nick but the tight nature of the road (and the skill of the rider) meant that 2nd gear was the order of the day - in fact on some of the very tight and corrugated corners 1st was required. Luckily the road opened up a bit once the hill had been climbed and the pace was carefully raised a tad.

Unfortunately the ride was just too short (I think the gravel portion was only about 10km) but I did start to get a bit more of an idea on how the tyres behave in the gravel. They appear to be pretty good and you can hit reasonably deep gravel without it upsetting the bike at all - not at all as scary as on a 280kg Concours shod with regular road tyres.

I was also pretty impressed with the tyres on very wet asphalt. I certainly had my misgivings about wet weather performance prior to today but I had absolutely no issues, although I was obviously taking it very cautiously. Even so, I feel a lot better having ridden the DL in the wet now and will be more comfortable next time the skies feel the need to give me a shower.

I'm quite enjoying this taking the long way home...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In search of Gravel

With another fine day and a new bike in the shed there seemed to be no excuse for not getting out and making the most of the day. Naturally this would also be a good chance to get to know the V-Strom better and this in turn meant that gravel roads became an option.

In the end I decided that a trip over the Napier-Taihape road was in order before they finish sealing the road completely. This is not the first time I've ridden this road (I did it years ago on my K2 Bandit) but this time around I was actually looking forward to the gravel...

I started out by making my way over to Fielding and then heading out to Kimbolton to take the Rangiwahia road to Mangaweka. Once you get out past Kimbolton the big long straights change to twisting country roads which are a lot of fun, although you do need to watch out for loose metal and wandering stock.

With the first section of loose metal not far out of Kimbolton and a rider getting used to a new bike, I took it pretty carefully and just enjoyed the road and the ride.

Just before Rangiwahia I was held up briefly by a farmer moving some sheep but it wasn't for long and I was soon riding over the rickety old one lane bridge and out onto SH1 at Mangaweka. Next came a short stint of SH1 to Taihape where I stopped to fill up the bike before taking on the Napier-Taihape (or in this case the Taihape-Napier road).

Because I hadn't ridden this road in years it was like riding it for the first time and I have to say that it is a very good ride indeed - I would rate it up there with the Forgotten Highway. The road has tight winding sections and a lot of more open and flowing sections but one thing it always has is some pretty nice scenery.

The day was an absolute cracker and there was very little traffic at all on the road - just a few 4WD's and a group of guys on adventure bikes also out enjoying a great ride.

Recently there has been a lot of work on the road and the race is on to fully seal the route. This meant that in quite a few places there was new seal and loose metal on the road - this wasn't that much of a problem as I just took it easy and enjoyed the ride. The short (approx 10km) section of gravel was in good condition and I enjoyed getting know what it felt like underneath the V-Strom's adventure tyres.

After the gravel the road just gets better with lots of fast flowing corners eventually taking you into Omahu and out onto SH50. From here I just rode onto Napier and broke into the old's house to make a sandwich and grab a drink - they arrived shortly afterwards and I caught up with them for a while before gearing up for the return trip.

For my return trip I decided that it would be rude not to take in Middle Road so I made my way over to Havelock North and then onto this delicious little piece of road. In Waipuk I spotted a couple of familiar bikes and pulled up to say gidday to Sarge and Yod and then led them back through Takapau and Ormondville to Danniverke.

In Danniverke I topped up the tank and Yod and I waved off Sarge and headed off home to Palmy. A fantastic first outing on the V-Strom with about 470km added to it's mileage.

More pics here.

A new horse for the stable

Ok, so carrying on from my last post, I was in Wellington to test ride a bike...this went fairly well for the salesman at Wellington Motorcycles as he managed to lighten my bank account and send me on my way with this:

It's a 2008 Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom with only 12,500km on the clock well that was yesterday...The bike is pretty well sorted with panniers and a top box, a chain oiler and the little spoiler on the screen (works too).

The reason I've ended up with one of these things is that I seem to be addicted to touring and this thing will let me do plenty more of this including plenty of back roads with or without seal. Having a second bike does come with more costs but it also means that the Connie doesn't have to do all the work - it's now got 69,000km on it and the V-Strom will slow the rate at which this climbs. The Connie will still be the number one tourer for trips away and I still can not see the day when I look at selling it - it is a fabulous bike!

Before going the "thou" route I tried out the 650 version and really, really liked it but had to ride the "thou" before making a decision. In the end price had a lot to do with it (used "thou's" are cheaper than new 650's and come with plenty of farkles already) and I guess I really do like having that extra grunt!

So thanks to Lance who rode it back from Wellington for me I'm back to having two bikes in the shed and having to make decisions like which bike to take for a ride!

A few more pics here.

Christchurch Quake Appeal ride

Righto, so yesterday was the day of the Christchurch Quake Appeal ride but I had also arranged to test ride a bike in Wellington so it was going to be tricky to do both things in one Saturday morning.

In the end Brian, Lance (conveniently borrowing the Connie's pillion seat), Mr & Mrs Supersonic and I met up in the square and pootled on down to Papakowhai where the ride was starting from. After making a donation to the appeal Lance and I carried on into Wellington to look at bikes...time for another post...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Christchurch Quake Appeal rides

On Saturday there are three rides planned to help raise funds for the Salvation Army Christchurch Quake Appeal. I'll be attending the Wellington one and if you are near one of the ride locations please consider attending or making a donation.

KiwiBiker Calendar event

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Done!

Yes we're back - in fact back 5:30 last night after another long run from Opononi. It's been a great trip with good weather overall and no issues at all.

I'll be writing something decent (well hopefully) for the website soon but here's just a brief summary of the last four days.

Day 6 - Palmerston North to Gisborne

A reasonably big day this although in the end done reasonably easily. We left Palmy in cooler temperatures but the day just got better and better. We were early at the Cape Egmont checkpoint but ended up getting away about half an hour early which was a bit of a bonus.

One unwelcome feature of being back in the North Island was the increase in the number of road works and the delays they caused. Even so we had a pretty good run and after a magic run through the Waioeka Gorge we arrived in Gisborne for the night at about 18:50

View 2011 Southern Cross Day 6 in a larger map

Distance: 847km
Av speed: 90.9 km/h
Economy: 18 km/l

Day 7 - Gisborne to Whangarei

With a circuit of the East Cape this was going to be our toughest day. The East Cape is a fantastic ride but it is by no means a quick one - the roads are very windy in places and the road surface is not to be trusted. One pain in the butt for me was the GPS not working properly - I had taken it out of it's cradle at night and after putting it back in it kept switching itself off after only a few minutes operation. Eventually it came right but I was without music and directions for a while.

At the checkpoint we were made to climb up to the light house or have to wait until the books were brought down. So off we went and I can tell you that it is some climb - especially in riding pants with liners in! It was worth it though as the views were great and we got away pretty quickly.

In Whakatane I made a wee navigational error (and knew it straight away) but the GPS decided to play ball so after waisting ten minutes or so we were back on track. It was a pretty boring ride through to Auckland (the Kaimai's being the exception) where we had a quick burger with Jantar before carrying on to our motel in Whangarei.

View 2011 Southern Cross Day 7 in a larger map

Distance: approx 895km
Economy: 18.1km/l

Day 8 - Whangarei to Opononi via Cape Reinga

The last day of the Southern Cross and we just had to get to Cape Reinga by 12pm so nothing to strenuous. We got away earlier and stopped only briefly for fuel & a pie at Moerewa before plunging into fog before the Mangamuk's. Luckily the fog cleared for the ride over the hill but there were a lot of pretty nasty road works to contend with going up the Mangamuk's.

Just before Kaitaia we ended up taking in some gravel when the GPS took us on a "short-cut" which probably cost us a bit of time but we were out at the Cape by about 11am - in plenty of time. Once again we had to walk down to the lighthouse to sign the book and then it was back on the bikes to Kaitaia for the post-ride meal and celebrations.

We hung around until we had the lunch was served and then after a very quick bite we were off again taking the scenic route to Kohukohu and the Rawene Ferry before finally stopping for the night at Opononi.

View 2011 Southern Cross Day 8 in a larger map

Distance: 409km
Av speed: 83.0km/h
Economy: 17.7km/l

Day 9 - Opononi - Palmerston North

Our last day on the road was obviously to get home so we were on the road by 8am and cruising through the mighty Waipoua forest (video to come) to Dargaville and our breakfast stop in Ruawai. Not long after brekkie were back on the dreaded SH1 to Wellsford for our first fuel stop.

The traffic across Auckland was it's usual mad self although we didn't get held up and the bikes got fantastic economy on the motorway. As usual we turned off at Ngaruawahia and cruised on down through Otorohanga to Te Kuiti for another fuel stop - 13.5L used for the last 280km!

On 8 mile we caught up to Brian who was coming up to meet us and so from there on down we were a three bike convoy. From Taumarunui we just had a quiet cruise through National Park, Ohakune, Waiouru and Taihape. Naturally we ended the ride with a good run over Vinegar Hill and then we were pretty much home! What a trip!

View 2011 Southern Cross Day 9 in a larger map

Distance: 774km
Av speed: 92.5km/h
Economy: 18.8km/l

Total distance: 5,602km

Piccys here

Video playlist here (still a lot of video to be added).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Last note for a while...

Probably going to be internet-less for the remainder of the Southern Cross so here's a few things to tide you over:

And, Crown Range Road: 8:30am Sunday morning - fantastic!

Southern Cross Day Five - Home?

Day Five of the Southern Cross simply involved us heading back to Palmy for a night in our own beds. The day started with the three of us sitting outside the Cheviot garage waiting for them to open so we could fill up and be on our way - note to self: Cheviot garage not open until 8am...

From Cheviot we had a quick little squirt up the road to Kaikoura where we parked up and ordered breakfast and waiting to hear from Meanie and Monie. A few texts were exchanged but they stopped at a different cafe than us and also got back on the road before us.

Never mind, we were in no hurry to get to the ferry and took it pretty quietly in SH1 traffic all the way to Picton. At the boat we joined 50-odd other bikes for a very nice sailing across the straights, the only issue being a touch of sunburn...

Off the boat and into rush-hour traffic was not a lot of fun but after refueling at Otaki the traffic got a bit better and we settled into the cruise home. A bigger day planned for tomorrow...

Distance: 365km
Av speed: 84.3km/h
Economy: 18.3km/l

Southern Cross Day Four - Kick-off

Day four was the official start of the Southern Cross so after a big breakfast Mark, Meanie, Monie and I made our way over to Bluff to meet up with the other 108 riders taking part in the ride. We chatted with a few of the regulars (Steve deciding he liked our plan so opting to tag along with us) and were allowed to sign the book prior to the 12pm departure.

At 12 we were given our orders by Boss Rusty (do not fall off - or words to that effect) and sent on our merry way.

First off was to find the road that allows you to bypass Invercargil and pop back out on SH1 at Edendale. I still don't think that I've quite got this right but the GPS eventually got us to Edendale and back into SH1 traffic. Nearing Mataura we got a few bits of rain but this was to be all we saw for the whole day - fantastic!

Just North of Gore we turned off SH1 to begin our run up the centre of the Island. Off the main road there was a lot less traffic and we were able to maintain a good pace quite easily. There's also some great country to see and I particularly liked Roxburgh to Alexandra - a very pretty valley and the rock formations are pretty impressive.

In Alex we took a turn-off through Earnscleugh road which completely avoided the township and took us back onto the main road at Clyde - a great short-cut. From Clyde we cruised on into Cromwell for our first fuel stop. Tanks full we were off again and back up to our cruising pace. We had a little scare just out of Tarras where a cop was hiding in a shady spot - luckily we were being so well behaved...

Next up was the Lindis Pass, Omarama, Twizel, Tekapo, Fairlie and Geraldine for our second fuel stop. This is great country with some good riding mixed in with some longer, straighter and slightly boring roads. One thing that never changes is the fantastic scenery though so there is plenty to look at.

In Geraldine we gassed up and said good-bye to Monie and Meanie who were going through to Christchurch for the night and Mark, Steve and myself made for the inland scenic route. This route consists of huge straights with only the odd corner to make sure that don't forget how to go around corners. It was after 6pm by now and a little cooler so the riding conditions were ideal and it was a very pleasant ride up the island.

In the end we made it into Cheviot at 8:30pm - just 8 and a half hours after leaving Bluff so had done very well. A quick bite to eat and it was time to call it a day.

View 2011Southern Cross Day 4 in a larger map

Distance: 854km
Av speed: ***km/h
Economy: 17.5km/l

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Southern Cross day three - a bit chilly

On day three we awoke to a noticibly cooler day and snow was visible on the surrounding hills. After breakfast we added an extra layer beneath our riding gear before riding off towards Cardrona.

Crown Range Road was devoid of traffic and I managed to capture a fair chunck of this great biking road on film as we made our way up and over the hill. In Frankton we stopped for fuel before heading off around the lake.

Just before Kingston the weather took a serious turn for the worse and we started to get pelted with very cold wet rain. Heated grips were pressed into action and we carried on splashing our way to Five Rivers and Mossburn.

From Mossburn we took a new (to us) road which took us through Nightcaps and on to Riverton where we stopped for lunch. Luckily the rain had stopped by now but it was still very cold so a hot lunch was very well received.

From Riverton it was just a short ride into Invercargil to find our motel and catch up with Meanie & Monie before the start of the Southern Cross proper.

Distance: 352km
Av speed: 92.7km/h
Economy: 16.7km/l

Southern Cross day two - The Coast

Day two started with us watching the rain come down while we ate our breakfast. But regardless of the weather we had a big day planned and so were soon on road to Wakefeild and our first fuel stop of the day.

Leaving Wakfield the weather improved and the ride over the saddles was fantastic. We stopped briefly at the top of the Hope Saddle to take a few pictures of the fog before carrying on to Murchison. The Upper Buller Gorge was also wet but it is always a great ride too.

Further on down the road we stopped at the Brunner mine memorial for some photos before continuing on to Hokitika for lunch. In Hokitika we met up with a couple of other Southern Cross riders who rode off ahead of us into the wetness while we refuelled our steeds.

Heading further South we made good time even though we were always on wet roads and often riding in the rain. South of the glaciers we finally got clear of the rain and the riding just got better and better. We had another photo stop in Bruce Bay before paying a small fortune for petrol in Haast.

There will be video of our ride through the Haast at some stage but it will not properly do justice to the experience of riding this magnificent piece of road - just do it! One fantastic day's riding finally ended in lovely Wanaka.

Distance: 735km
Av speed: 93.2km/h
Economy: 17km/l

Friday, March 04, 2011

Southern Cross Day 1 - Crossing the Ditch

After watching a scary looking weather forecast last night, it was nice to wake up to the sound of my alarm clock rather than pouring rain - a good omen for the rest of the ride?

Breakfast put away and bike readied I started getting dressed for the ride while waiting for Mark. He rolled up at about 7am and we were off! Our first stop was a massive 2km away at the local BP station where for the incredible cost of $2.109 per litre we filled our bikes - if it's this dear in Palmy then what's it going to cost us in Haast?

Never mind, they had us over a barrel and the bikes won't run on thin air so with full tanks we set off South. As the skies got lighter we could see a lot of cloud about but it was actually pretty warm and we did not hit rain (light) until Paraparam. The further South we got the heavier the traffic until just South of the Tawa turn-off we were down to walking pace and being forced to lane-split to get through the traffic - not easy on big bikes with bulging panniers. Shortly we came across the cause of the delay - a little 250 lying on it's side just off the road. Darned if I know what happened but it appeared that the girl riding it was ok and the emergency services were looking after things as they do.

From here it was a short distance but a decent period of time (damn traffic) to the waterfront and the Ferry Terminal. As it was raining we got directed to the new (well first time I'd seen it) shelter for bike riders where we got out of our gear and readied ourselves for the wait. It wasn't long before other riders turned up - the first being a group of German tourists riding a couple of rental Beemers and a couple SV650's. Not long afterwards the first of a few Southern Cross riders turned up and soon there was ten of us trying to (and not completely succeeding) keep out of the weather. Greetings were said and comments made on the lovely state of the weather (now chucking it down and blowing a gale) and then we all settled in for the wait for our boat.

As mentioned above the weather had really changed for the worst and when the ferry first tried to back into the dock it was blown badly off course and had to go around again. In the end they had to drop an anchor to help steady themselves for the delicate reversing maneuver. All this was not that encouraging for those with stomachs prone to being easily upset when travelling by sea but eventually we were aboard and on our way to Picton.

In the end the howling gale appeared to be flattening the sea rather than heaping on ginormous swells so the crossing was fairly uneventful. Mark and I spent our time chatting with another Southern Crosser and kicking back in preparation for some pretty serious riding in the coming week.

Regardless of the how nice the sailing is, disembarking in Picton is always a most welcome experience as you are now in the South - motorcycling heaven! In Picton the weather had really improved so we decided that Queen Charolette Drive had to be done and had a great run through there (only a couple of campers to get past) before turning back onto the main road at Havelock and heading onwards to Nelson.

The Rai and Whangamoa Saddles were absolutely spectacular in the dry so Mark got to scrub in his new PR2's and I had to laugh when I entered a corner with the Connie laid on her side only to have a cop go past the other way - a quick look at the speedo showed 90km/h but I was having a ball and not speeding (well at that particular moment)! Mark also enjoyed a similar moment a couple of seconds later...

Anyway, this seems a lot of blather for a ride of only 260km but we are here in Nelson, safe and sound and raring to go tomorrow - the West Coast is calling...

A few stats:

Distance: 261.7km
Moving Average: 73.5km/h
Economy: 17.7km/l