Sunday, September 5, 2021

5Km Beer Challenge

So we are in lockdown here in Sydney at COVID central and not allowed out of our Local Government area or 5km from our house. Sounds a bit like Germany 1942 but worse. So what's one to do when your only allowed out for exercise and essential supplies and I have a brand new bike that needs some riding, but can't go more than 5 kms, hmmmmmm. What to do, what to do?

Well then seeing as liquor stores are deemed as essential services and I essentially need some essential service myself I've devised a devious plan. 

So here is my challenge.

I have to ride my bike to every liquor store within 5kms from my home and within my LGA(shopping centres excluded) and buy one can of craft beer at each store, then drink, review once home and tell you about the new bike. 

I also bought beers I haven't tried before except 2. Shouldn't be too hard, how many can there be anyways 4 or 5? Well let me consult the map. Below the blue line is out of LGA and out of red line is out of 5kms. Purple line is LGA.



Yikes! Well if there's one thing this lockdown has taught me is the fact I'll never go thirsty for a beer with this many bottle shops around, and this doesn't include pubs either because most of them are closed due to the plague otherwise there would be twice as many.

So off we go to the shops for "essential" supplies on the new Africa Twin. This should give me a good feel for how the bike will go around town in traffic(or lack thereof)...........


Arndell Park Bottlo

BWS Prospect

Harry's Liquor Blacktown

Prospect Village Cellars

Toongabbie Liquor Barn

I notice that at low speed maneuvering the AT is pretty top heavy and awkward especially on any sort of slope but once on the move it handles quite well and has plenty of low down punch. Very comfortable too.

C&L Liquor Lalor Park

Oscars Liquor Seven Hills

Dan Murphys Blacktown


Adams Tavern

Now the last bottle shop was Blacktown Tavern. They actually had the second largest bottlo of all of these but not one single can of any type of craft beer, and they only had coopers pale ale in bottles, no other types of craft beer. If you want garden variety bottom of the barrel VB and New this is the place for you. This place has never changed in 20 years. No wonder I only ever visited this place once. So I picked up a second can of beer at one of the previously visited shops to cover this dumps lack of quality beer.

So now it's time to check out my haul of essential supplies to tide me over during this lockdown. Who am I kidding, I'm going to drink them this afternoon.........



Presented In no Particular order
Note: Ratings are just my opinion and you know what opinions are like, yeah just like ass*****.

BentSpoke Crankshaft IPA: 
Rating:          9.5/10
ABV:             5.8%
Taste:            Strong malty, hoppy flavour with citrus/pine after taste. Great beer, will be buying more of this one. I've also had this on tap and it's top notch.

Young Henrys Newtowner Pale Ale:
Rating:          8.5/10
ABV:             4.9%
Taste:            Fruity, Hoppy, smooth. Very Nice, another one I'd buy more of this.

Hawke's Patio Pale:
Rating:          8/10
ABV:             4.5%
Taste:            Fruity, Hoppy citrus aftertaste. First time trying this, was surprised how good it was with the gimmicky ex Prime Minister Logo. Very Nice. I'd buy this again too.

Fox Hat Phat Mongrel Oatmeal Stout:
Rating:           3.5/10
ABV:              6.5%  
Taste:           Dark beer, Very strong malty chocolatey taste is a bit overpowering, very heavy. Not my cup of tea. I wouldn't buy this one again. I'm not a huge stout fan.       

Goat :
Rating:            4.5/10
ABV:               4.2%
Taste:            Quite a tasteless beer. No citrus/fruit or hop flavours of any kind. Quite plain. Easy to drink. I wouldn't buy this beer again.  Beer needs to have a beer like taste people.

Young Henrys Motorcycle Oil:
Rating:               6.5/10
ABV:                 5.5%   
Taste:           Dark Stout beer. Light stout with a mild bitterness taste, much better than the Phat Mongrel.  Not to heavy on the chocolate or after bitter taste of other stouts.     

Balter XPA:
Rating:             5.5/10
ABV:                5%
Taste:                Light on taste, easy drinking. Very light Floral flavours. There are better beers to get. Kind of expect this from a QLD beer, just drink Great Northern and you'll know what I mean, completely tasteless beer. What's the point?  

India Pale Ale:
Rating:              6/10
ABV:                 6%
Taste:              Citrusy/pine flavours first assaults your palette, followed by a bitter after taste. Nice beer, but probably wouldn't get this again, there are better pale ales.

West Coast India Pale Ale:
Rating:              4/10
ABV:                 7%
Taste:                Cloudy asf. Punch in the face with the flavour straight up, so much pine/citrus flavour, a bit overbearing to be honest. This beer has an identity crisis, says 'West Coast' on the can, made on the East Coast in the Hunter Valley, WTF? I wouldn't buy this one again.

Algorithm Pale Ale:
Rating:              6.5/10
ABV:                5%    
Taste:                A light citrus and hop taste, no bitter after taste. Not to bad. There are better beers out there.


Ah so then the 5km beer challenge is done and dusted, what was I getting at with this post again.......?
I've no Idea but I sure had some fun.....




Cheers

Steve the happy boy

The review in progress.......






PS. Bike goes good!




Saturday, August 28, 2021

The wait is over, finally.

Well it's been 2 long drawn out months with Sydney still in the depths of COVID madness lockdown. It's been over 60 days in lockdown so far with no end in sight. I've been working from home as our office closed, the kids are home schooling online via their devices. Dunno what kids that don't have a computer at home do, but we are still all doing ok considering the conditions.

The only times I've been out of the house is to visit the local bakery/butcher/bottlo which is only 150m down the road from us and I've been throwing a leg over the push bike so I could get out of the house as exercise is a legitimate excuse to leave your home. 

There's a few places nearby where I can ride off the road and away from the crazy Sydney traffic, not that there is much of that right now. This has been my only view behind bars of late.

Prospect Canal

I've done a few 25Km rides on the weekend. Still i'd love to get out of here, I'm over it already. I've booked for my jab which will be in two weeks time. It looks like the only way they will open our state up is with enough people vaccinated.

There was talk that the lockdown may go until October or November. As soon as I heard that I thought I'd better get my bike shipped up as there's no way I'm going to wait 4 or 5 months to pick up my new bike. It's been 2 months already.

So yesterday I took delivery of my new bike. I had it shipped up from Albury to Sydney. And I hear you ask "What's it going to be?"



There were many moments of enlightenment in the last 12 months where I thought, 'Yep that is the bike for me' and I was 2 seconds away from buying another one of these bikes. Something stopped me and told me to wait and see. Lucky I'm a procrastinator extraordinaire. 

That bike I nearly pulled the trigger on was the MT-09 Tracer GT. Good price, good bike but there was something lingering in the back of my mind saying it won't be a good bike if I want to ride it along dirt roads. 17 inch tyres means its road biased and my experience in off road in NZ on the hire bike it wasn't great although a fantastic road tourer. So I stopped there looking for some time. 



An MT10 would be f#cking fantastic, I'd love one but sadly its a naked R1, which is much like my R1 was, which was wasted on riding on the road. I'm not going to get another bike that can do 280kmh when I reasonably ride on the road at only 100-130kmh 99% of the time. Australian Hwy patrol and the proliferation of speed cameras everywhere with no warning signs put that to the sword. Yes It would be fun, I know that. I still have the 00 R1 for sporting day rides so something else was beckoning.



My two favourite bikes on the list scratched already at the start. Who would have saw that coming? So the remaining bikes are all more or less touring off road bikes. I spent many hours reading reviews and watching hours of youtube reviews of the KTM790, Suzuki 650, Honda AT and Yamaha T700.


I looked at the Teneree 700 for a long while, both that and the KTM790. These 2 bikes are very very similar to each other in that they are both focused more so to off road riding and are perfectly capable of riding on road. The T700 lost me a bit with virtually no tech and I think it would be a bit underpowered on the road, if it was 850 or 900cc would be great. The 790 looks similar but has plenty of tech, but it was very expensive and i've seen plenty of issues with this bike and expensive european parts scratch this one too. And god the KTM is ugly as well, plus I didn't like the idea off having he fuel tank down so low which is going to take a hit when I crashed it.







So then that just leaves the Suzuki and the Honda. Looking at those bikes the Suzuki is in a similar predicament as the Teneree a bit underpowered and lack of tech. So the winner then is..................


















 

Not my first Honda, but my first Honda since my CBR600 way back in 1995. God I am getting old now.

Addressing the issues I had with it were price, which I actually got a fantastic price as I bought a demo model and saved a bucket load on brand new, the other draw back was it is heavy. In fact after riding it today and pushing it around the driveway yeah its heavy. I'm not going to pick this up by myself, lucky I ride with friends. 

Why I chose this bike is that I can ride it anywhere. Road riding its comfortable as, I can ride it off road without any problems, as long as I'm using the right tyres for the job. It's got plenty of tech, abs, traction control, cruise control. Plenty of overtaking power. Let's face it it, I'm not going to be doing any single track on this thing, more or less road riding and dirt roads of which there are plenty in Australia which will open up many more roads for me to explore.

The bike arrived friday morning whilst I was working so besides putting it away I didnt really do anything with it. It needed a good wash so I did that today, took it for a ride within my 5km area which we are allowed to be in and then got the camera out to take some snaps whilst it is in pristine condition. Its not going to look this good again so better take some photos. So here it is.







































Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Lord of the Procrastinators

It was 6 years ago last thursday that I bought the 15 R1, so a facebook memory reminded me during the week. It's also been 12 months since I sold that R1 and started looking for another bike. It's been a long frustrating process on many levels and I'd considered many different bikes and their strengths and weaknesses, practicality and fit for purpose as they say. 

There's many and varied reasons I haven't bought a new bike yet, COVID, lack of the folding stuff, and choice are the main reasons. COVID has slowed us down in doing anything and prices have been sky high on new and second bikes due to that. People are hanging onto their bikes or wanting astronomical prices for them. 



There's been little choice of new bikes available due to COVID in the new bike market with show rooms mostly empty and no discounts due to the limited stocks. I've been saving my paso's to afford something and well to be quite frank there is so many good bikes now available that it's been so hard to actually choose something.

I've watched just about every bike review and long term test video on youtube in the last 12 months. To the point of not knowing what I should get. Quite the confusion for someone that has only ever ridden fast sports bikes. So I ended up doing nothing for quite some time. You might say I'm the lord of the procrastinators, this post has been 12 months in the making, take that procrastinator wanna bees haha.

Riding a sportbike long distance is no longer practical for my flabby 48 year old frame. It's bearable on my 00 R1 sports tourer but that bike is no longer reliable enough for big trips and I'd really prefer something comfortable. Don't get me wrong I've had an absolute blast riding sportbikes for the last 28 years but it's now time for a change.

My criteria for a new bike has changed quite considerable from what I've been used to. As I still have the 00 R1 I don't require a balls out fast machine by any stretch. Most of my riding these days is within 20kmh of the speed limit anyway. I want a comfortable and upright bike, ABS, Traction control and can be ridden on dirt roads when required and for 20K or less. Not ruling out second hand here either.

So I'd narrowed my search down to the following bikes.

Yamaha MT-10


Pros: Naked R1, Engine & chassis, great handling, cruise & traction control/abs japanese reliability.
Cons: Ugly, Heavy on fuel, limited off road ability, price.

Yamaha MT-09 Tracer GT

Pros: Comfortable, panniers, sweet sounding triple engine, cruise & traction control/abs, Japanese Reliability
Cons: limited off road ability.


Yamaha Teneree 700



Pros: Good off roader, Japanese Reliability
Cons: No tech, no cruise control, lacking in power during overtaking on road.


KTM 790 Adventure

Pros: Class leading off road ability, cruise & traction control/abs
Cons: Ugly, European reliability, low down fuel cells, expensive european parts, price.


Africa Twin


Pros: cruise & traction control/abs, Japanese reliability,  off road bias 21
Cons: Weight, Price

Suzuki VStrom




Pros:  Japanese reliability, road biased 19 Front wheel, 
Cons: Lack of tech, no cruise control, lacking in power during overtaking on road.


If you've read to here then this is about the sixth time that I've attempted to write this post. If your wondering why then go back to the top and read this post's title again.

Everyone has been asking me when am I going to be buying a new bike and what am I going to get and up until about 1 week ago I still hadn't decided, until now. I can confirm one of those bikes on the list I have  put down a deposit and paid for last week. 

I was supposed to pick up the bike today but in an Ironic twist of fate Sydney suddenly got put into a two week COVID lockdown on saturday night at 6pm, meaning that greater Sydney cannot leave the city unless work related. The bike is outside the Sydney metro area, D'oh as Homer Simpson would say.


Foiled again, all this time to wait and decide, trigger pulled and now I can't pick up the bike for another 2 weeks possibly 3 depending on what happens.


Good things come to those who procrastinate wait.


Hopefully next time I post up there will be a new steed in the garage.


Cheers

Steve




Monday, May 24, 2021

Sydney West Riders - SMSP

 I got the opportunity last weekend to photograph the Sydney West Riders at St George motorcycle clubs PIRELLI MOTUL SERIES & NSWRRC Round 2. They had 3 riders out on track, Simone Boldini, Carl Kitson and Bryan Bolster.

Simone Boldrini

Bryan Bolster

Carl Kitson

Wayne maxwell was also setting a blistering pace out on track breaking the outright lap record for SMSP of 1:29.727.


Must credit Wayne as well for pulling out on the second last lap of the race to let the club regulars get the points they need for their championship so that Wayne isn't the deciding factor in someone winning and losing in their class because he took points away from them. He's not a club regular and it shows his true class as a rider.




Monday, April 26, 2021

A Camera Update

It's interesting sometimes to look back at things you've done in the past and see where you were at, where you are now and where you are headed in the future. I did this just recently I was looking for something here on my blog and I re-read my post about when I bought my very first Nikon DSLR camera, only 3 years ago. I feel that I've now learnt enough to give you a few insights into my photography journey.


I had to laugh at what I wrote back then. "Shutter priority, Aperture priority, what's it all mean". Haha I was so green back then. That's what phones and point and shoot cameras do to you.

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing then, why would I? I'd never used a proper camera before and didn't know anything. The very first 5 or 6 photos I took with the camera came out totally black. You couldn't see anything. The first few motorcycle photos I took, I now look at and laugh at how bad they actually were. This first one shows the bike completely stationary. No wheel blur or motion blur of any kind, shutter speed must have been really high.  You can see the holes in the disc and the rims are completely stopped. 

The other problem with most of those first few photos I took was also that there was really bad vignetting in the photos. Vignetting is the darking in the corners of the photos. This is sometimes a popular filter on phone camera apps now but seeing it on a DSLR/mirrorless camera is just user incompetence really. I was so bad. Luckily I didn't know any better.


We all had to start somewhere right, just like riding really. We weren't all superbike racers when we bought a superbike but we all felt like one. So what does one do in this day and age when they want to learn something new at a self learning pace stopping short of enrolling in a paid course? I did what most people do these days and turned to the university of YouTube. I tell you, there is every kind of video on there about every subject. You just have to search for it and it is there.

So I spent the next 18 months to 2 years snapping off shots and wondering how to improve them. There were plenty of failures and a few triumphs, no not he motorcycle type. Lots of practise and patience helps with plenty of tutorials on how to do things.

Fast forward from then to now. So I mentioned earlier in my St George Motorcycle club summer series racing article that I'd updated some of my gear.


COMPOSITION

This is probably the hardest thing in photography to master, apart from getting your settings and exposure correct in camera. Although software can help with the later bit. Software however cannot help you make a better composition and that is critical between an snapshot and a great image.

This is the thing I seem to struggle with the most, trying to see a composition. If I take my camera on a ride I usually only have less than a minute or so at each stop to get something. Sometimes I get something, lots of times I fail. That's how photography goes. There are so many things that can affect a composition. You can take the same image at different times. One will be great and the other average in comparison. How you might ask? Lighting is everything in photography. Taking images when its cloudy or in the middle of the day under harsh sunlight can ruin images, where if you take the same image near sunrise/sunset during golden hour can completely transform the image into something amazing. It's unfortunate that most of my bike riding activities are during the day and we try to be off the road well before dark and I hardly ever see a sunrise.

The other thing that I've found can help a lot is different angles compared to just taking shots at head height. Getting down low to the ground can produce some good results. But at the end of the day it's all a little bit of trial and error and a bit of luck.


ACCESSORIES

A few extra bits of equipment I bought were a Sirui P-326 monopod. It's made of carbon fibre so is really light and has a collapsible leg so you can adjust for any height. The 200-500mm F5.6 lens I'd bought a while back is so heavy to hold up for long periods of time. So a monopod fit the bill there. You can't really pan well with a monopod but you can hold the camera very still whilst still doing short movements and slight pans. For fast panning I just take it off but its very helpful.


I also got a Black Rapid sports strap to help carry the camera and lense. It's really good quality and it attaches to he tripod collar of the lense and you can free up your hands for something else as the camera hangs down by your hip, nice and easy to get at.



LENSE UPDATE

I'd been looking at getting some faster glass. I had some long zoom lenses like the Nikon 200-500m F5.6 and the Tamron 70-200mm F2.8 G2 but for anything shorter than that I only had the kits lense that came with the camera(18-140mm F3.5 - F6.3), which wasn't all that great to be honest.

So during the covid lock down I ordered a Tamron 24-70mm F2.8 G2 lense. Its another fast piece of glass, large and heavy for such a small focal length. It's half the price of the Nikon lense of the same size.


Equipment wise what's the best thing you can do as a photographer? Glass as the Pro's say. A good camera with shitty glass will take average photos, a shitty camera with good glass can take great photos. I'd realised this taking photos at night at SMSP during the night racing and the importance of full frame cameras. High aperture lenses like the F5.6 don't do very well at all at night. I did notice some chromatic aberration on some colours during the night racing. Software helped in fixing up a few of those issues. Perhaps that's why the Nikon lenses cost so much more.

APS-C cameras with their smaller sensor are just nowhere near as capable as the full frame cameras in low light. For those not in the know, a Full frame camera has a larger sensor size which is equivalent to a 35x24mm film camera, an APSC sensor is smaller at 22x14mm which means it's easier for a full frame camera to capture light, with better ISO capabilities, however they are usually more expensive. Everything is a trade off. Below shows the physical difference in sensor size, APSC on the left, Full frame on the right. 

Photo by https://digital-photography-school.com/

One benefit of the APSC sensor is that it has a crop factor, or in layman's terms the image is zoomed by 1.5 times for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon cameras. The following image you can see the difference in a Full frame sensor to a APSC sensor. This can be beneficial for sports photography so that your lense length is multiplied by 1.5. So my 200-500mm Nikkor lense is the equivalent of a 300-750mm lense on a full frame camera although it's still only up to 500mm physically.


A good full frame camera can be anywhere between 4-6K, top end pro bodies are around 10K. Good glass can cost anywhere up to 20K. Yeah that's as much as a new Motorcycle. Check this 120-300mm F2.8 Nikkor lense. I'd love to own that lense but sadly haven't won the lottery recently so just a dream. I could buy a new motorcycle for $15K.


After the first night out at SMSP with my D7500 APSC camera, I found that anything at ISO 3200 was pretty useless, as the images were far too grainy for my liking. I was looking at some of the other Photogs photos with full frame cameras and they could shoot up to 6400 ISO without much problems. That would have made my job much easier. One of the Pro's mentioned I'd actually done great considering the limitations of my APSC camera.

A CAMERA UPDATE

I'd been looking at upgrading to the D500 APSC for a while as it is Nikons flagship APSC sensor Pro body camera. Nick from Half Light photographic was selling his as he wasn't using it anymore, for less than half the price of a new one. I jumped at the chance. Its the same 21 megapixel sensor as my D7500 but the focusing system is so much better, it's like night and day.

I was happy with my camera except with the amount of missed shots at the track. The focus system is ok but not the best. A pro body was needed so that I wasn't taking thousands of photos just to get a few good ones. With the D500 the focus system is so much better. I would say that at a shutter speed of 1/160 sec my D7500 was getting about 10-20% photos in focus whilst the D500 was getting about 50-60%. That's a huge difference in editing time not having to sift through so many photos. The camera could also take 10 frames per second over the 8 frames on the D7500. The D500 is a beast.

Left D7500 with 24-70mm F2.8, Right D500 Pro Body with 70-200mm F2.8

Andrew don't even ask about the auto setting on the new camera. It does not have one. Photo below of the command dials. D500 at top, D7500 below. Green auto sign clearly visible on the D7500. D500 is pro body and no Auto setting.


I found it was pretty difficult photographing bikes racing at night. Looking at the back screen of the camera and zooming in on the photo on the LCD looks pretty good. Once you get home and load them up on the PC is when you really get to see how good they were. Following photo shows the photo looks ok.


Once imported however the photos is actually blurry and unusable as the below imported photo shows. 


There were quite a few like this during the night.  The next one focused great though, even when zoomed in at 100%. You can see the small image in the top right with the square over it, that's the zoom level on the photo. Yeah I tend to pixel peep now, its a love/hate relationship pixel peeping. The top one is only zoomed at 50% and you can tell the difference in the focus.


The D500 did much better in the focusing department luckily but there are still limitations in what it can do.

One of the best pieces of advice I could give anyone is to shoot in RAW format instead of Jpeg. There is so much more data available in the RAW file, 14 bit compared with on 8 bit for Jpeg, so your throwing away half the data straight away shooting Jpeg. I only ever shoot in RAW now and never shoot in JPEG. There is just so much more you can do with the files in RAW format during processing, if they are not 100% right in camera they can be fixed in post. It's one thing I learned early on once taking up DSLR photography. Taking the shots is only half the battle, the other half is editing them to make them look good.

I also recently was offered a job taking photos for MotoDNA rider training here in Sydney. I was pretty excited to be asked however I eventually had to turn it down as 90% of their riding training days are on weekdays which doesn't align with my real world job that pays the bills. A part time photography job ain't going to cut the mustard with Sydney prices.

A SOFTWARE UPDATE

I was using Photoshop elements 17 which is a bit clunky and hard to use and didn't really have any filters or smart AI. It also couldn't read my RAW files from my D7500, so I began to look around for a decent editing program. Seems like Adobe Lightroom is the go to program for photographers. However there's one problem with that. Adobe went to a subscription service where you pay by the month to rent the software. Stop paying and you have no software. I don't really like that model where you pay and don't own the software so I went looking around.

I saw a great YouTube channel about adobe alternatives by Joseph Cristina called Adobe cutting the cord. He basically runs through all the alternative software programs to Photoshop and Lightroom and compares the features of each. I found it very insightful.

Here are some links for Photoshop and Light Room alternative programs. Click the link to open in a new window.

TOP 5 Best Adobe Lightroom CC Alternatives Life After Adobe

TOP 5 Best Adobe Photoshop CC Alternatives Life After Adobe

I choose ON1 Raw as my editing software and couldn't be happier. I tried Capture One, Darktable and Luminar4 and it was too slow and buggy but had some really good features. I didn't see the image tears that Joseph found but it still had a few annoying bugs. ON1 Raw was much better and only cost $99 on special last Christmas 2019.

ON1 Raw has plenty of  presets and filters that you can use for your photos and it also has a smart AI feature that at the click of a button you can adjust the colours and tones in your image. I use this quite often it's really good. 

Link:    https://www.on1.com/

I have no affiliation or sponsorship from ON1, I just like their software and pricing model. You can trial it for 14 days free.


A PC UPDATE

I did find though that my PC had slowed down quite a bit, I'm running a Windows 10 i7 machine with 8GB RAM and 1 GB HDD. ON1 was taking about 3-4 minutes to start and about 5 minutes to close. So I went out and upgraded to 16 GB RAM and put in an 500 MB SSD drive for about $150.  The SSD is also so small in comparison to a HDD. I put a 10c coin on the box for scale. I was shocked at how fast my PC ran after the upgrade for so little money outlayed. 


I still need to buy a 1 or 2 TB SSD to replace my other HDD, but that starts getting expensive once jumping up to 2TB so maybe a little later I'll update that one. ON1 Raw now opens in about 10 seconds and closes in about 5 seconds. My PC now starts in about 15 seconds where it took more than a minute. The speed of the SSD drive is fantastic. Best upgrade ever, I'd highly recommend anyone to upgrade from a hard disk to a solid state drive.

It's made working in ON1 easy now rather than the chore it was becoming because the PC was so slow.

So where is this all leading?  Who knows really, I'm enjoying photographing bike racing but I can't see myself wanting to do weddings or portraits anytime soon, perhaps some nude girls hahahahah.

I just finished photographing my first ASBK event which I've put up some photos on my facebook page which was pretty exciting, meeting a whole new bunch of professional photographers and seeing the inner workings of an event like that its pretty awesome. Man they have some crazy expensive gear. But I'm pretty happy where I'm at right now, selling a few images here and there, no pressure with all the fun.