Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Well another year has come and gone, I know I say this every year but where the heck did it go so fast? What a year of riding it has been for me personally, probably not the most riding I've ever done but some of the riding achievements for me were life long goals like riding New Zealands south island and riding on the track at one of the worlds best Motogp circuits, Phillip Island Australia.

It was a bit of a slow start to the year with a couple of short rides around local roads like Wisemans ferry and up into the Blue mountains for a bit of a look around. There are many spectacular look outs to be found in the blue mountains, but you need to look a little further for great riding.

Sandstone walls near Wisemans Ferry

3 Sisters and Jamison Valley, Blue Mountains

Then in February we achieved a life long goal of both mine and my brothers that we had talked about for years (around 18 to be precise), a riding trip around New Zealand. This was the most anticipated trip ever and something I'll never forget. This trip had everything you could possibly want in a motorcycle ride. Winding coastal roads, winding mountains road, spectacular rivers and lakes, and some of the most beautiful mountain vistas and lush forest scenery all in between. It was even better because I got to ride it with my older brother who I used to ride with all the time but in the last 10 years we have both moved long distances apart and haven't ridden together since. So it was fantastic to ride with my bro again and to share in the special place that is NZ. The best motorcycle tour ever bar none. The blog that followed took longer to put together than the actual trip so it was epic on every level. We did just over 3900kms in 10 days.

Overlooking Alexandra towards the remarkables

Near Mt Cook village with Mt Sefton in the background

Magnificent Mt Cook
Here's a short video of us riding up the legendary Arthur's Pass.

Then in April after I came back from NZ I had decided that it was time to retire my old quin leathers. They had served me well over the last 18 years even coming through a crash at Eastern Creek raceway with only minor cosmetic damage. I'd ordered a nice new set of Tiger Angel leathers straight off of their website. They have a pretty comprehensive measuring system. All arrived in time for a test ride up to the Oxley Highway, another trip I haven't done for about 6 or 7 years. The leathers were a little bit big around the chest, and I've also lost some weight since getting them so they are a little loose around the top, but otherwise are a great product.

We had the regular crew back together that we would normally do our snowy ride on and it was another overnighter staying in Walcha and riding the Oxley highway. One of NSW premier biking roads, loads and loads of tight twisty bends.
The Oxley Highway, where bikers sell their souls just to ride this road

Through winter we got several good rides in some of them being so good I couldn't tell if it was winter or if it had turned to spring. We had some nice warm winter days to blaze away at the Putty road, a favourite of mine. And my good friend Brad bought himself a brand spankin new Z1000 and came out for a ride with us. Come on mate pull your finger out and get some more rides in with us will you ya slack bastard.

The  end of winter saw me just doing some servicing of the bike, throwing in new brake pads & fluid, oil & filter and then got the rear suspension rebuilt. A couple of short rides at the start of spring showed that the rear shock seemed to be working pretty good but the downside it also showed how bad the front suspension was, so I also got that rebuilt in preparation for the coming track day at Phillip Island. A couple of more rides up into the blue mountains and we were attacked by swarms of bee's and dive bombed by kamikaze magpies. Thats spring for you.

September saw some sad news from over sea's from the blogging community when we heard that Bobscoot from Riding the Wet Coast had suddenly passed away whilst on holidays. Just about every biker on blogger knew Bob either via their blogs or by actually meeting him. Long may you ride on bobscoot.

Then in October we had a family holiday down to Victoria and along the great ocean road. This was a good trip as it had been about 15 years or so since I had been down there and I also got to meet this fantastic bloke and his lovely wife.....

Jules and Mrs T from the great blog Tarsnakes. I got to check out the mighty ZX-14 in the flesh, everything about it is impressive, and Jules had even fitted a GPS. After that we cruised leisurely along to the 12 8 Apostles.

After getting back home we had some really hot weather at the end of October and start of November which is a great start to the summer season, not so much fun riding in 33°C+ heat though.

Then in late November I ticked off another bucket list item by riding around at Phillip Island. Unfortunately I didn't get to ride the track on my slicks like I'd hoped but it was still one of the most fun things that you can do with your clothes leathers on.

I started out the year with 60,551kms on the clock and finished up with 64,411 kms, couple that with the 3900kms we did around NZ then it turns out I did a credible 7,760 kms this year. Not to shabby for me with the little sammich munchers still stealing from my new motorcycle fund.

Lets hope that 2015 brings in some new weaponry to my stable. As you would all know that one bike is never enough, I think the R1 needs to have a friend to share the garage with.

Happy new year to all my loyal readers and here's to a fantastic year of riding in 2015. See you all on the road. And stay safe all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Just a quick blog to wish all my readers and everyone a merry Christmas. Happy riding for 2015.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A OK Down under

After yesterday/todays seige in Sydney, I thought I'd just like to let everyone know that we are all ok here at the Road to Nowhere. Martin place is well know and travelled by myself and have been outside the cafe on many occasions, luckily not this week. Unfortunately these things are happening in our times. You can't help but shake your head at these nut bag lunatics that do these things.

Stay safe all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Phillip Island Track Day Nov 2014

Cresting the hill on the main straight, grid markers flashing past, the overhead bridge flashes by as I look quickly at the dials, 250+kmh speedo and tacho passing the red line in 5th gear changing up to sixth looking ahead all I can see is the track disappearing over the crest and into the ocean. I know there is a right hand bend coming up fast but I can't see it yet. The adrenaline is flowing fast now. This has got to be the best race track in the world.

A couple of days earlier........

Loading up the trailer with the bikes on thursday night for the trip down to the island was pretty easy, it only took about 10 minutes, unlike the drive that was ahead of us on Saturday morning. It was a 1000km 12 hour journey, which was made a little easier as both Bushpig and myself took turns in driving.

Road tripping

The Island approaches

Paying the Toll
We had left Sydney around 6am for the long boring trip down the Hume(Doom) Highway. Why this road only has a 110kmh speed limit is beyond me. It could quite easily be 130 or 140kmh. Hour after hour and mile after mile of boring dry country scenery we were finally coming into view of the bridge onto the island at San Remo. We had to pull in a pay the toll at the San Remo hotel. Bushpig said it would bring good luck and please the motorcycling gods or some such thing.

Phillip Island is a pretty place in its own right even without having one of the best race tracks in the world on it doorstep. The Sunday dawned a perfect day with sunny Sky's and a warm 24°C. So we had a bit of a look around the island and went out to the knobbies where they have seals, penguins and seagull colonies. We didn't see any seals or penguins but there were thousands of seagulls shitting on every ones cars. But we didn't really come here for sight seeing we came to race er ride the track. You decide which one we were doing. Technically they call it a ride day, but just about every one we saw looked like they were racing each other.

Main Street of Cowes

Waiting to get into the track. Funny thing that this guy in front was in the garage next to us.

For those of you who have never been to a track day before and were wondering how it works it is pretty simple. You pay your money and sign away your life via their indemnity forms then you are allowed into the track where your bike has to pass scrutineering. You also need a full set of leathers, gloves and boots and helmet. Back protectors are highly recommended but not mandatory.
There are 4 different groups of riders; Red(Fast), Green(Medium/fast), Yellow(Medium/slow) and white(Slow). Groups are checked and if your to slow/fast for a group they will move you either up or down. You get 6 - 20 minute sessions throughout the day which are 1 hour apart, which actually comes around quite fast on the day. That's pretty much it about it. Ride as fast as you possibly can without binning it is the general idea.

We got to the track early about 7:15am and the line to get in already stretched out to the road. I was feeling a little zombified as I didn't sleep real well the night before. I guess the anticipation of the days events were playing on my mind and I only slept very lightly. It felt like the alarm had gone off just after I fell asleep. It was one of those nights where I was drifting in and out of sleep. It was also my first PI track day and we are in red group, so I was a little nervous.

The skies had grayed over and looked ominous as we waited to get into the track. Indemnities signed and we were allowed in. We quickly found our garage where Stuart and Rick were frantically unloading all of their gear and race bikes. We just unloaded bushpigs R1 and were about to unload mine when Phillip Islands meteorological system decided it was time to dump on us. So we left my bike in the trailer until it could be retrieved in one of the few dry bits between some of PI's best rainfall.

Once unloaded we promptly went through scrutineering promptly and got our bikes back and on the stands with our tyre warmers on. Then we waited....

and waited...

and waited some more......

and it rained.....

and rained some more......

so we waited some more.....

Whilst the bikes sat idle in their nice and cosy tyre warmers. 

Early on during this time I'd texted Jules of Tarsnakes fame as he was coming out to the track today to see us, take some photos and generally check out how a ride day operates. I'd just finished texting him the garage number then he suddenly appeared right in front of me phone in hand. Well that was a stroke of luck. The officials had the wet signs out meaning no slicks, I wasn't prepared to go out anyway until it dried. So Jules, myself Stewie, Rick and Bushpig all had a good yack about all things bikes and other such things.

This was the theme for the day

Race ready

I'd felt a bit bad about Jules coming all the way out to the Island only to have bad weather have us stuck in the garage most of the day. We did have a great chat together though so it was still good. And mate if your up this way next year make sure you drop by and say g'day, your welcome here anytime. Thanks for the lend of the jacket too mate, much appreciated. I put my leather jacket on after you left that kept me warm enough even if I did look funny in shorts, thongs and leather jacket.

Phillip Island ride days have a bunch of BMW S1000RR bikes that you can hire for the ultimate track experience. Just don't crash them as the excess is $5000. We saw about 3 or 4 of these go down the track in the rain on the Monday.

The guys in the garage next to us were on street tyres and the rain wasn't going to stop them from going out. Bushpig still had his road going tyres on so he got out for 1 early session where it was still wet but stopped raining briefly until near the end of the session where it started to rain again. The smile on his face when he came back in said it all. I think the words were something along the lines of "Fucken unreal". That was pretty much the end of day one as Phillip islands weather put us to the sword as we just waited and watched. At least while we had all this down time Rick was put to good use and set up every ones suspension sag settings in the garage. He has since been nicknamed Dr Kwok. Lets hope tomorrows weather will be a bit more co-operative. This was the reason we booked for 2 days - insurance against the weather. Rick didn't get out as the race bikes had slicks and Rick was only booked for one day.

Photo courtesy of http://tarsnakes.com.au

Not all bikes that went out came back in the same condition
Day 2 started out a little more promising as there were patches of blue sky with ominous looking rain clouds passing overhead. The track had a dry line on it but still had wet patches. Stewie and Rick both said that I should swap the slicks for the road tyres to at least get some time on the track to learn it before going out on the slicks later when it dries up. It didn't take too long to make the decision, better to go out with not many bikes on the track to learn where it goes before all the fast guys get out. Stewie and Rick had the wheels changed whilst we waited at the rider briefing. That was a good decision as I got to learn where the track went and there was only a handful of riders out. 

That first lap out was incredible, the speed and flowing nature of Phillip island was absolutely incredible. My very first pass down the straight in the damp condition I hit 250kmh before peeling into turn 1 which is an incredible fast bend.
The first session ended up raining on my last lap, I had been pushing as hard as I could in the damp conditions and my visor had been fogging up around the circuit I had to open it a couple of times to defog it near honda and MG(the 2 slowest points on the track). The last lap coming down the straight started to bucket down with rain I remember seeing 255kmh in the rain and my visor was badly fogging, very interesting......

Drying track

Riders lining up for the first session, still a wet track

Our 2nd session was just about to start the track had dried again but another heavy rain shower dumped right at the start of the session so I sat that out. I didn't want to ride in the rain when it might be dry soon. That was the last of the rain for the day and by the 3rd session the dry track signs had come out and everyone had come out on their slicks. I decided to stay on my road tyres as the weather still looked dicey. I managed to go a lot faster in the second session and I saw 264kmh down the front chute before starting to fear god. I was surprised that I got my knee down pretty early in my 2nd session as well. I love this track. The one thing I noticed was how under powered my old R1 was compared to the new bikes, all the new litre bikes motored past down the straight and I was coming around turn 12 the same speed as most of the guys. 150 small ponies can't match the 180-200 horses of the modern bikes. Time for an upgrade? No bikes came past on the straight when I was doing track days 10 years ago. 

The suspension was working perfectly, money well spent in my book as it's probably the reason that I stayed on the track and in 1 peace. I was also pretty happy with the performance of the old Michelin pilot power 3 as they had over 5000kms on them. I managed to pass a couple of guys riding on slicks on my worn old street tyres. I can't wait to try these slicks out when I get to Eastern Creek. The tyre warmers are a must on a track day, where you can go out hard from the first bend as the tyres are already up to temp.

The 3rd session was even faster again and I was really enjoying it and getting into some sort of rhythm, managing to string the corners together in a high speed sequence. Getting the knee down was no problem at all as it seemed to be kissing the tarmac everywhere. Some of the A graders in the session were really flying on their race bikes on slicks as I watched them from a couple of metres away backing their bikes in, motogp style into the 2 hairpins. So impressive. I have a new found respect for the motogp boys.

The 4th session started out pretty well but I started to get a bit tired fairly early after only about 4 laps and I started to slow a bit. This track day stuff is hard work for a lazy fatboy like me. So as I came past the start finish line I was thinking I may come back in. The yellow flags were waving at southern loop and as I crested the curve I could clearly see Bushpig sitting on his bike in the kitty litter on the exit of the turn. That was enough for me so I pulled in to see if he was ok and needed any help. Turned out he was fine and he lost the rear end coming out of the bend and went into the kitty litter. There was virtually no damage at all, those oggy knobs did a fantastic job.

Stewie on the YZF 750 race bike

The track had some official photographers taking happy snaps of everyone circulating. We went and checked them out and they were very good photos so we bought a couple each. 

Me at Lukey Heights

Me at Siberia
This was my first time on the Phillip Island track and I thoroughly enjoyed it except for the average weather but anyone who has been to PI before will know that this place can be fickle. If your thinking of doing a ride day I highly recommend PI as it is a seriously fun, fast sweeping track. If that's your type of riding your going to love it. I know I did.

Here is a video I put together over a couple of days.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fork Me, Fork You

I'd booked the R1 in to have the front suspension serviced, re-valved and re-sprung on Monday when I was off on my RDO as my track day is only 3 weeks away now and I wanted to have the suspension in top working order before I hit the track.

I dropped the bike in at Teknik in Penrith as they did a fantastic job fixing up the rear shock. They offered their workshop scooter for me to get around on but I had to decline and decided to walk and look at the nearby bike shop and do some other shopping.

I got a phone call from Nick just before lunch. Yeah it was some bad news. The front fork sliders were forked. They had some major pitting and he didn't want to put it back together the way it was as it would leak oil everywhere. F*ck it. Just what I wanted to hear. Options were to buy new fork tube sliders from Yamaha for a bomb or send them to Melbourne to be re-chromed with a 2 week turn around. Double F*ck. That would be awful close to when I need to head down for my track day. And there's no guarantee that it would be back in time. Shit shit shit shit. Pardon the photo quality it was taken on my crappy old phone.

I have to give a big shout out to Nick and the boys from Teknik Motorsports. These guys are fucking fantastic. They went out of their way to get my bike back up and going again on the same day. Nick found a set of R1 forks at a wreckers nearby in St Marys and one of his guys went and picked them up. Yep they were in good condition too. They had the new(second hand) sliders put in, in no time at all and it was all back together and ready to go. Thanks guys that was great work. You really went above and beyond. Do you know how hard it is to find a set of 15 year old R1 forks?

I got the guys to set up the bike static sag and rider sag whilst I was there so at least that part is now correctly set. I had the rear shock set a bit too hard. The factory setting means nothing now its been re-sprung.

The new second hand fork tubes now newly installed I noticed there were no stone chips on them. My original ones were peppered with stone chips. Looks a lot better now.

If your looking to get your suspension upgraded give Nick a call on 02 4732 2626.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Hot Spring Ride

There's something to be said for starting a ride out in the morning. Like what? I hear you say. Like its a bloody lot cooler early in the morning than starting a ride in the middle of the day which is just what we did on Saturday. I had a few chores and things that needed doing and Bushpig wanted to go for a ride but I couldn't get a start until just after midday. Did I happen to mention it was around 33-34°C today. Not that much fun in full riding gear. I decided that I would go sans full leathers and wear my jeans instead. Damn, where did this heat come from all of a sudden?

I thought we'd go somewhere different today rather than our normal haunts so we decided we'd go up the Old Pacific hwy(Old Road) despite the police presence it attracts. First we would go up through Galston gorge. I decided I'd bring along the gopro today to get some footage. I've been slack of late using the gopro, but I've some new found enthusiasm for it.

First stop was at the bottom of the gorge to put on the camera. It was damn hot standing around in the sun in my gear and sitting in traffic felt like I was getting fried by my bike. Lucky I don't have the R1 with under seat exhausts.

Galston Gorge

Trumpy in the gorge
Here's a short video of our trip up through the gorge, not a bad run although my riding felt majorly rusty like it was the first time I'd ever ridden. Gotta get out more often. It's not a good feeling wobbling all over the road like a learner. It appears bushpig was even rustier than I was.

Next up was the run along the Old road and to stop in a Pie in the Sky for a drink and lunch. Yep you guessed it a pepper steak pie. Surprisingly there were only a hand full of bikes here today. Sunday would be a very different story, as there is usually heaps of bikes here. It was a bit cooler here as we could see the water from the view out the back of the shop. The breeze was beautiful on such a warm day.

Pie in the Sky
I didn't really have any plans as to where to go to next as we had just executed the entire plan in about an hour. It was nearly 2pm and I  didn't want to go home just yet and it is daylight savings after all so we would have daylight till nearly 8pm so I suggested a ride around wisemans ferry and then back home through Maralaya. I put the gopro on again but it went flat even before we got out of the drive way at Pie in the sky. Oh well, that will teach me not to charge it before a ride. I got about 5 minutes footage in total. It's ok bushpig your epic riding fail that should have been on camera will now never see the light of day. Saved by the flat battery.

Bushpig liked my new suggested ride plan so we headed for the riverside road around to wisemans hoping it might be cooler around here. It wasn't. Bushpig mentioned to me when we stopped 'how was I keeping my bike on the road because he was getting bounced around everywhere'. My ass had really copped a hammering along this bit of road and I had been out of the seat several times over some of the rough sections, and the on/off ramps on some of the bridges. Like the one in the picture below. I flew off the end of this bridge due to the slope down from the bridge to the road surface. The councils really need to sort this shit out.

Photo courtesy of Bushpig

Hawkesbury River

On the ferry

We decided to stop in at the wisemans ferry hotel as we were both parched from the heat. Stepping inside into the air conditioning was like heaven. A couple of light refreshments at the hotel and coming back out it was around 5pm and it had cooled down quite considerably. It made for a much more enjoyable ride home. I somehow managed to take a wrong turn at Maralaya and lost bushpig and didn't see him again. Then I got a little lost and then found my way again. I phoned bushpig and he got home before I did. A great afternoons ride all up.