Saturday, 31 January 2015

A big ask

After wandering around the NAIMs the one motorcycle wish I had was RACER5.  I had a nice chat with the people running the stand and after seeing that, a weekend in the summer getting my race license would be the most awesome May/June or early July weekend birthday present I could think of.

They run the three day course at Grand Bend Motorplex on little Hondas.  You get lots of track time and classroom support.  By the end of the course you get your racing license.  Watching how they set up the bikes would also be handy as I'd eventually like to build my own track bike.

They also offer kit rentals, so I could get a good idea of what size I'd need as well as how racing gear fits.

The race focus would allow me to explore riding dynamics at an advanced level on a closed track.  I'd be able to bring that knowledge back to my riding on the road.  As a form of insurance, it might well save me a lot of grief.

It's a big ask, but it would make one hell of a birthday present.  I wonder if any other bikers I know would be interested.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

2015 North American International Motorcycle Show

This was my son and I's second go around at the big, messy NAIMS.  It feels more like a jumble sale than a bike show, but we have a good time storming around the International Centre in Mississauga.

This show's best attribute is its timing.  Just as everyone is getting snowed in and a bit stir crazy along comes this ludicrously large motorbike extravaganza to satisfy all appetites.

We did it backwards this year, wandering around the clubs and smaller vendor hall before pushing through the big halls and finally getting to see the custom bikes (we missed Hall 5 last year).

It was nice to talk face to face with a fellow CoGer (they had a stand).  It makes me want to get out to one of their local meetings.  That they don't dress like pirates (which seems to be a thing with many of the other clubs) ingratiates them to me even more.

Ironically, both times we've purchased things at this show we've done it from Two Wheel Motorsports, our local dealer.  One of the instructors from my motorcycle licensing course works there and he always remembers me, which is some good customer service.  This time around I stumbled upon an armoured jacket that happened to have my initials on it.  $100 for a $270 retail jacket?  Nice.  My son also got some iron man coloured leather gloves ($50 retail, twenty bucks at the show) that he was very happy with.

NAIMS is definitely good for shopping, though many of the larger retailers there didn't seem to be offering prices much different than on their webpages.  It's also pretty much the same gear over and over again.  If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten path (like ROOF helmets?) then you're outa luck.

The custom show in Hall 5 out back was full on bizarre.  Some beautiful paint on some plain ridiculous bikes, Hall 5 is where the pirates with disposable income go!

We enjoyed the show, but once again, grumpy old men selling Victory Motorcycles growled at my son when he tried to sit on one... it's always a good idea to bring a bike to a show and not expect anyone to sit on it.  Once again, Kawasaki and Harley were the only two manufactures that showed up and provided bikes you're expected to sit on.

The Toronto Motorcycle Show comes along in February down at the CNE.  That's the one you want to aim at if you want to actually sit on bikes.  We'll be there ready to sit on everything!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Motorbike Dreams

The first motorcycle dream I had was barely remembered, but I woke up pulling hard on the brake with my hand instead of using my foot.  I've had driving dreams for years, but I can clearly remember that first time I woke up aware of operating a bike in my dreams.  I can't remember the context, but it was nice to know my subconscious was working over the details of riding as much as my conscious mind was.

The other day while home from work sick with the flu I woke up from a much more complex dream.  In it I was trapped in a parking lot after trying all sorts of vehicular attempts to drive past customs in order to leave (I'd just been to The States, so perhaps that's why I had borders on my mind).

I found the Concours sitting on some shipping containers at the back of the lot and suddenly I'm riding it like a trials bike, jumping down from one container to the next until I get down and am able to escape from the parking lot.  Cars couldn't get me out of there but my bike could!

Strangely, I can't recall dreaming about the Ninja, though I spent a lot of time turning it blue again.  Maybe the soul of the machine isn't in the finish.  I've spent a lot more time deep inside the Connie getting it road worthy, perhaps that time has endeared it to me.  In any case, I feel a kinship to the Connie that I haven't with the Ninja, which makes me look forward to the end of the cold even more.

I was originally thinking about where to get Kawasaki stickers once I've got it refinished, but now I'm thinking of finding some Corellian Engineering Corporation stickers and doing the Concours up in full Millennium Falcon style.

From the documentary:  Why We Ride

Monday, 12 January 2015

Sanding Concours

One small heater does the job now that I have
garage door insulation installed.
A good couple of hours were spent in the garage today getting the scratches and dents out of various Concours panels.  The previous owner had used some kind of plastic filler to put back together the lower right fairing after it had been dropped.  With some hand sanding today I've gotten it close enough to prime and prep for a round of painting.  If it isn't perfect it'll be much closer than it was.

I'm trying to find the Tremclad metallic red similar to the blue I used on the Ninja, but I'm having trouble finding it.  Home Depot seems to have dried up on it.  That paint with the gloss clear coat comes very close to looking like it came from a body shop.

I'll keep looking.

The small heater did a good job of heating up the room to 18°C (it was -8°C outside).  The garage door blanket is doing its job nicely.

Got the rear fairing piece around the seat off and prepped for painting.

Everything sanded and cleaned, ready for some primer.

Connie stripped down to the tank.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

California Snapshots

I went to California for the first time over the mid-winter break.  I was out there on a family trip so I didn't have many opportunities to ride, but while there I made a point of trying to understand California biking culture.  When you can ride year round biking becomes much less of a niche means of transport.

Here are some snap shots and thoughts from the trip:


This is something that is a real no-no up here in the safety North.  Talking to a cabbie about it, he said you need to be really careful about changing lanes.  If you hit a filtering biker while changing lanes in a cage you're likely to take the blame.

Riders in California expect cars to not crowd the gaps between lanes and will make them aware of it if they do.  I saw a guy on a sports bike revving the snot out of it to move an SUV out of his way while he was filtering.

At first lane splitting looked like a dangerous thing to do, but if it makes cage drivers more aware of bikers and offers a real advantage to getting through the attrocious L.A. traffic for riders, then I'm coming around.


From the moment we landed at the most disorganized airport I've ever been to (LAX) and the subsequent traffic chaos all around L.A., I've come to the conclusion that the place is broken.
Rides at Disney world appear to mimic the hell that is driving
in LA with remarkable accuracy - do people do this for fun?

The roads in the rest of California were lovely, but around L.A. they make Ontario's frost heaved slabs look smooth.  With virtually no public transit infrastructure and a fanatical car culture, L.A. is the kind of place you can expect to spend half of your life sitting in traffic.

On a coach trip out to Universal Studios I was able to look down into the cars sitting in traffic.  At any one time more than 90% of the drivers had a smartphone out on their laps.  We saw many accidents in the L.A. area - every single one was an unexplained rear-end collision.  I can explain those 'accidents'.

L.A.'s car culture has become L.A.'s distracted driving culture.  I'd rather drive in Tokyo or London than L.A. any day of the week.  They say Toronto's commute is now worse than L.A.'s, but Toronto (GTA ~6 million) is a tiny burg compared to Los Angeles (>18 million).  The dozens of highways that bisect L.A. aren't up to handling the full on assault of those millions of thumb texters behind the wheel.


While sitting in traffic (behind another unexplained rear end collision) we had a group of sports bike riders doing their thing on the access road next to the highway.  The group must have been almost one hundred big and were all revving, wheelying and otherwise stunting themselves silly on a sunny new year's day.

It was fun to watch them while we crawled along interminably in the never ending freeway traffic.  The bikes were all very customized with both paint and go-faster bits, and their riders looked like they were having a riot.

You might frown at their antics, but when you consider the alternative is to sit in the cavalcade of metal boxes on the freeway, texting before you run into someone, I'm not sure if they don't have the right idea.

I thought they were more entertaining than any of the very serious pirates we saw filtering by on their Harleys on the highway.


Is one of those icons of Southern California, so I made a point of making the drive down it.  It's a very long stretch of road that eventually turns into the Mulholland highway and goes all the way to the ocean.

We started at the beginning right out of Studio City in Burbank and the road was terrible!  I guess rich people don't live on this bit.  You'd need an ADV bike to make any time on tarmac this bad.  For a place that doesn't get much frost, I'm not sure how their roads can be this rough.

Fortunately, once you get past the first bit the pavement improves dramatically (rich people live here).  The ride is fantastic and the road (named after the engineer who built it) is a testament to imaginative road design over challenging terrain.  We turned off on the 405 and headed to the airport to fly home to freezing Ontario, but Mulholland deserves a look if you're in Southern California, just grit your teeth on the opening stretch.


I've had a poster of the Hale telescope on Mount Palomar on my wall since I was a kid.  The chance to see it in the flesh was one of the highlights of this trip for me.  The trip up the mountain, from sea level to five and half thousand feet, looked pretty epic too.

I, unfortunately, had to do the road in a rented RAV4, which felt like a double decker bus loaded with lead.  The happier people at the top had a variety of two wheel conveyances to get them there, with sports bikes being the clear favourite - not a cruiser in sight.

The guys hanging out at Mother's Kitchen (great veggie food!) were an all ages sports bike party, with Keith Code look-a-likes and younger riders all chatting amiably about the their machines and the road.

Bikes ranged from super sports and even sport tourers like the Interceptor to light-weight nakeds.

It was a cool day in late December when we went up the mountain.  The temperature dropped from high teens to about twelve degrees at the summit - all sunny though.  The riders didn't seem cold.  Riding up that insanely wiggly 20+ miles of mountain road would be an aerobic workout of the first order.

The observatory itself is completely free to the public, offers parking and a museum with crazy-cheap merchandise (if astronomy hoodies are your thing).  You could spend a perfect day riding up and around Palomar mountain before going for a walk around one of the biggest mirrors in the world.

With a variety of roads, a state park, the observatory and that lovely little restaurant, Palomar mountain just outside of San Diego is a great destination for any biker, and a must see for those bikers with the astronomy bug.

A few days after our trip up there it snowed, but for most years this is the exception rather than the rule.


While in La Jolla (just north of San Diego), I checked out some of the local bike shops.  The prices are heart stoppingly low if you're used to Canadian numbers.  You might find a one piece leather suit up here for $600 on the bottom end, but down there the same level of kit is half the price.  Out of curiosity, I wondered what it would cost to outfit myself to ride with all new kit down here.  At Cycle Gear in San Diego it ended up being a shade over $300 for a new helmet, gloves, boots, riding pants and jacket... unreal!


If you like to ride, California offers some fantastic roads (not in the L.A. area) that beg to be explored.  We also hit Joshua Tree National Park on our travels and it is other wordly!  There are few straight lines, even riding the hilly highways around San Diego would feel special to someone from table-flat Ontario.  There is a vibrant, large biking culture that shows through in the shear variation you see.  I can't wait to go back and experience the place as it was meant to be experienced, on two wheels.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Bike Bag: Tesseract Dream Motorcycle Accessory

It's as crazy as it looks, and
utterly fantastic!
I'm sitting on the beach in Lajoya California as a I write this. It's a comfortable 18° Celsius and I'm missing my bike. I can always rent something down here, but the road I just did begs a bike I'm familiar with; I was watching the guys in their worn leathers and sports bikes with envy.

The road to the Palomar observatory is a knee down roller coaster that takes you five thousand feet up to one of the biggest mirrors in the world. It's a road that makes me wish my Ninja was here instead of a rental bike that doesn't feel familiar and is, quite frankly, designed for looks rather than athletics; virtually all rental choices are cruiser or retro based.

After watching Interstellar I started reading about tesseracts and multi-dimensional mechanics. The first thing I'd create with my new-found multi-dimensional engineering skills would be the Bike Bag™!  You press the zipper up against a wall and roll your bike and gear in.
The idea's been around for a while.
 Once you zip it up you can roll up the zipper and put it in your pocket.  When you get where you're going you put the zipper up on a wall again and when you unzip it there is your bike and gear ready to go.  A carry on bag and an airline ticket and I'd be ready to ride pretty much anywhere I landed.

I'd have been able to tackle the road up to the big eye in the sky with something other than cautious optimism with my preferred road weapon.