Monday, 13 November 2017

Roof Helmets: enjoying the cultural dissonance

I'm a big fan of Roof Helmets.  It's the best lid I've ever owned, and one of the only ones that offers me full face protection when I want it and the freedom to easily go open.  I'll often start a ride open faced, flip it down to handle the wind when I'm out on the road at speed and then flip it open again when I slow down, even if it's just riding through a town.

I saw my first Roof Helmet when Jo Sinnott wore one on her Wild Camping series through Europe.  It took some maneuvering to get one to Canada, but it's been my go-to helmet since I landed one a couple of seasons ago.


I keep a close eye on Roof these days.  Their newly redesigned Desmo hemlets are on my wish list, and the new Carbon Boxxer is a work of industrial art.


Roof is selling that new Carbon hard, but if you think it's your typical helmet commercial you've forgotten how French they are.  See if you can keep up with the cultural dissonance, make sure to hang in to the end:




I'm wincing at the hooliganism at the beginning, but you start to have faith in the rider and end up letting them ride well outside of sensible because of your increasing faith in their skill.  Then they suddenly get into tiff with a couple at a cafe, and things go from there.  The reveal at the end?  Brilliant!


I don't think many Bikers for Trump alt-right Harley types will enjoy it, but I suspect that doesn't bother Roof too much.  It worked on me.



Sunday, 5 November 2017

Stealing One From The Icy Teeth of Winter

The days are getting darker, damper and distinctly not rider friendly.  One day this week was into the double digits Celsius, so we jumped at the chance to do a big Max & Dad ride, maybe our last one of 2017.

That night it was going to bucket down with a cold, pre-winter rain storm, but the day promised sun and clouds and a chance to ride, so we took it.  We waited until the numbers got well above zero and then got the Tiger out of the garage and put on leathers and layers of fleece; this was going to be a cold one.

There is nothing more ragged and beautiful than a pre-winter sky over Georgian Bay.  We pushed north across the barren farm tundra that we live in.  Miles upon miles of mechanically tilled and industrially fertilized fields rolled by as we headed toward a first warm-up stop at Highland Grounds in Flesherton on the edge of the Niagara Escarpment.

We staggered into the coffee shop just past eleven.  The weather wasn't anywhere near where the Weather Network promised it would be.  Our low teens, sunny morning had turned into a six degree, overcast slog north along your typical, boring, straight Southern Ontario roads.  Fortunately, nothing cheers us up more than warming up in an independent coffee shop and then heading onto Escarpment twisties.  Highland Grounds was as good as I remembered and we left with warm grins after a vanilla milkshake, a cookie the size of a pizza and a big, piping hot coffee in a ceramic mug.  It was a lot of calories, but we'd shivered those off on the way up.

North past Lake Eugenia where I spend a lot of summers at a friend's cottage, we wound our way into Beaver Valley and the twisties and views we'd been looking for - so much so that we stopped at the scenic look out on our way into the valley.


    


Of course, as soon as we stopped an elderly couple pulled in behind us and the driver immediately wandered up to find out who made our Triumph.

"Triumph?" I replied, somewhat confused by his question.
"Where are they made then?" he asked.  He has (of course) owned old Meriden Triumphs from the pre-80's collapse of the Motor Company and had assumed they were long gone.  He had no idea John Bloor had saved the brand in the early 90s and it was now one of the biggest European motorcycle manufacturers.  He'd assumed it was an Asian built Triumph branded thing.  When I told him it was built in the UK at a state of the art factory in Hinckley he was gobsmacked.  I always enjoy telling the story of Triumph's phoenix like rise from the ashes.  We left him thinking about dropping by the factory next time he's back in the old country.

We hopped back on the trusty Tiger and headed on through Beaver Valley and out to the choppy shores of Georgian Bay where the sky looked torn and the waves smashed against the rocks, splashing us with spray.







We hung out on the lonely shore for a little while, watching the hyperthermic fisherman standing in the mouth of the Beaver River amidst the surf, casting into the grey water over and over.  Georgian Bay skies always look like they are about to shatter, even in the summer, but with a Canadian winter imminent they looked positively daunting.  Time for another warm up.

We rode back up the hill onto the main street of Thornbury and got ourselves another warm drink.  The goal was to strike south east across the Escarpment toward Creemore for lunch.  The sporadic sun had managed to get it up to about ten degrees, but it was only better compared to the frozen morning.  We headed south behind Blue Mountain and through the glacial remains of Singhampton before turning onto the positively serpentine Glen Huron road for a ride down the hill into Creemore.  Shaggy highland cattle watched us ride by, much to my passenger's delight.


A hot lunch of philly steak and poutine refueled us at The Old Mill House Pub in Creemore.  When we came back out mid afternoon the temperature was as good as it was going to get, eleven degrees.  With warm stomachs we saddled up for the ride home through the wind fields of Dufferin County, but not before walking down the street to the ever popular Creemore brewery for a photo op and some brown ale.

When it comes to the end of October in Ontario, Canada, you take what you can get, and I'm glad we did.  Soon enough the snow will fall, the roads will salt up and the Tiger will have to hibernate, dreaming of the far off spring.


All on bike photos courtesy of the very easy to operate Ricoh Theta 360 camera - with simple physical controls and an ergonomic shape that is easy to grip, it's my go-to 360 camera.  No worries about framing a shot or focusing, it takes a photo of everything!

Georgian Bay 2017 end of season ride #triumph #roofhelmet #theta360 - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA


Our last big ride of the year?  Perhaps - it was hot baths and fireplaces when we got home.

Leather, fleece and armoured trousers, and it was still a cold one.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

October Commutes: A Photo Essay

Along the same stretch of road at 8am each morning as the sun gets less and less.

October 1-5






 Ice forming on the Theta meant very blurry images - Photoshop made them a bit more abstract but less blurry.


Oct 8-12



Oct 16-19 - a thick frost had me stopping and using the phone instead of the Theta...










Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Six Wheels Across Canada

Crossing Canada (and we're not even going
coast to coast) isn't a little trip.
Next summer we're aiming for the family cross country trip.  If you live anywhere except one of the largest countries in the world that might not require too much forethought, but it takes over 2000kms and 3 days just to get out of the province we live in, then there are another four provinces to cross before getting to the family reunion in British Columbia.  The thought of doing this on a bike is both invigorating and a bit overwhelming, and besides, I'd like to spend some time in the car with everyone soaking up the views together.

What to do?

Is it possible to get a vehicle that would get us across Canada reasonably comfortably but would also allow me to drop two wheels down when the roads demand it?

I've had the van itch before, but is there a vehicle that could carry the three of us and a bike well?


Guy Martin's Transit Van fascination has long been an influence.  It turns out you can buy a special Guy Martin Proper edition these days in the UK.

Choices for North America aren't that special, but you can still put together a custom enough van that might be the Swiss-Army knife of a vehicle that I'm looking for.  What's interesting is that on the UK site they talk about using a Transit as your 24/7 vehicle like that could be a thing, but North Americans would find Transits impossible to live with (because North Americans are just too precious?)

The long wheelbase, medium roof Transit will handle four seats with room enough to comfortably swallow a Triumph Speed Triple as well.  With a finished interior it'd be a comfortable way of making the epic cross country trip and could handle all the luggage we could throw at it.

In cross country mode it'd have the four seats in and plenty of room to stretch out and cover big miles.  I'd be tempted to swipe some of the "Proper" Transit and sporty it up a bit, but the main idea would be to have a modern, efficient van that is able to do many things.

With the bike out we'd be able to stretch sleeping bags out in the back, and there are some other interesting options I think I'd explore.  The Aluminess Roof Rack turns the whole roof into a patio, which would be handy on trips for photography, as a base for drone filming operations or as a vantage point when the van is taken to events.  It has a cool LED spot light bar on the front too.


There are a number of interior finishing options available.  I'd take the van to a finished interior, but I don't know about a private jet on wheels, I'd want it to keep some of its utilitarian appeal.  Being able to rotate the front seats would have obvious benefits though.  A number of companies finish these vans, from use based needs to full on camper conversions.

The medium roof, long wheelbase version of the Transit will take in about 163 inches long in the cargo area - a Triumph Speed Triple is about half that, so it'd fit behind a second row of seats.  Maximum load width is almost 70 inches, the Speed Triple is less than half that wide at the handle bars and much less elsewhere, so it'd fit comfortably on one side of the rear cargo area.  Maximum load height is 72 inches, the Speed Triple is less than 50 inches tall.  Even a big bike like my Tiger (54 inches tall, 34 inches wide, 89 inches long) would still comfortably fit in the Transit.  Since a Transit will take close to 4000lbs in payload, the thing could easily handle a pair of big bikes without breaking a sweat.  One bike, 3 people and a pile of luggage wouldn't make it break a sweat.



The ten thousand kilometre odyssey across Canada would be a lot more fun with such a comfortable, spacious and capable vehicle... and being about to ride the Rockies and the West Coast west and then back east again would be spectacular.

Almost four thousand kilometres of Rocky Mountains and West Coast?  Magical!  Having a vehicle that can deliver it together AND on two wheels?  Bazinga!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Dangerously Close to Hipster Cool

The Concours customization continues slowly.  The (too short) Canadian riding season is staggering to a close, so I'm out on the Tiger whenever possible (3°C this morning).  Soon enough the snow will fall, the roads will become salty nightmares and I'll have lots of mechanical time on my hands.  Today it's a cold front coming through with high winds and torrential rain that has me in the garage instead of out on the road.

The front light is now prepared to go into the wiring loom, as is the rear one.  Both front and rear are LED units so I'm having to make a few changes to get them happily connected to the twenty three year old loom.  I'm going to mount the rear lights higher up under a rear cover that'll also wrap up the back of the seat.

I've got basic framework in place - I'll eventually paint it all flat black so it fades into the background, but for now I'm just leaving it metal coloured.  I was originally going to get the body panels done in thin metal so it looks Mad Max-ish, but that doesn't look likely to happen any time soon.  I was watching Out of Nothing the other night and they said they'd taught themselves fibreglass body panel building, so I intend to do the same.  I'll work out the panels in bucks and then make fibre glass finished product; it'll be a good project.


I'd originally tried a smaller coolant tank in the back, but it couldn't handle the needs of the bike, so I've relocated the stock one under the back seat.  With panels in place it'll be all but invisible.

As much as possible I'm hoping to keep the bike looking mechanical and simple, but with some carefully sized fibreglass I should also be able to keep the ugly bits out of sight.

Up next is wiring in the lights and finishing the back end.  After that it's just making fibreglass.  Two side panels for the back and the rear cowling for sure.  The stock front fender is way too heavy looking, so I'll be looking at options for that.  I might do something strange to frame the radiator - that top rad hose is a natty looking thing.

The only mechanical part I'm looking for is a very basic instrument gauge.  I've been collecting ideas on Pinterest, so eventually I'll come across the ideal piece and grab it.

I heard once that Axl Rose bought a new Harley and had it customized so it looked old by adding patina to it.  Only a rich person would do something so asinine.  The Concours has had a long, hard life; it comes by its patina honestly.  What I love about the bike is that it's mechanically very sound (now).  Rebuilt carb, rear hub, bearings, brakes - it's new in all the right places, but you couldn't tell from looking at it.

It's getting to the point where this thing is starting to look dangerously hipster cool; I might have to grow a beard.