Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 International Festival of Speed

Last weekend we went out to Sydney Motorsport Park for the International Festival of Speed. Formally known as the Barry Sheene Festival of Speed. The event has undergone a name change and is going from strength to strength. This years event was bigger than last years with quite a number of merchandise stands as well as all of those fabulous race bikes.

Our two good friends that we spent racing riding around New Zealand with Stu and Rick were out racing today so we dropped by to see how they were doing.

Stu's GSXR AMA Special

The Festival of Speed is a fantastic event put on by the NSW Post classic racing association. They have a group of international ex road racers riding and talking to the public. This year they had legends such as Giacomo Agostini, Cameron Donald, Troy Bayliss, Kevin Magee, Pierfrancesco Chili, Steve Parish, Graeme Crosby, Maria Costello as well as a host of GP bikes.

Right: Cameron Donald - Aussie Isle of Man TT racer
Troy Bayliss 2 Seater

Above & Below: Pierfrancesco Chili's GSXR 750 World Superbike

Agostini took to the track on the 500cc GP bike. The crowd parted like moses parting the sea. Everyone had gathered around to see and hear the legend and the bike. The bike was so loud.

Troy Bayliss poses with the Road to Nowhere crew

We got to meet Troy Bayliss one of my all time favourite racing hero's. What a top bloke he is and still giving back to the racing community.

Below: Agostini chats whilst showing off all those lovely 350 & 500cc MV Augusta race bikes.

Ricks Z1000 Race bike

Pierfrancesco Chili

Steve Parrish

Dr Kwok

We were watching the top 25 race from the pit roof when it suddenly got read flagged. Looking around I noticed Stu didn't come past. Looking over to turn 9 we saw a bike down and some ambulances. It seems that Stu thought the racing was a bit boring and decided on doing a triple somersault with half twist and pike through the front screen of his bike whilst doing 80kmh, which resulted in him meeting some nice ambulance officers. Mate Tinder sounds like an easier way to meet women.

Stu's little off

After waiting for about 20 minutes outside the Medical centre he emerged. The end result some badly scuffed leathers with and S and a X missing from his name, and a broken collarbone. Besides this bit of bad luck we still had a good day out at the races.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Zealand - North Island Epilogue

The dust had barely settled from the NZ trip and we had landed back in Aus but the trip continued to follow us, after dropping Geoff off at home and a short stop at Stu's place the car refused to start sounding just like the Pearl, the curse of the Pearl had been temporarily passed on. I also received a phone call from the dodgy motel we stayed at in Auckland on the last night telling me we had broken a wall in the room that I was actually in. Total bullshit and they were trying to get more money out of us obviously, the placed looked dodgy as soon as we walked into it. The Allenby Park motel, don't stay there.

Anyway 3 weeks on from the epic trip and even more epic blog postings which took longer than the trip I got a call from Geoff during the week. I have to drop in and see him. Ok so I did and this is what he's gone and done.

Yep I guess the Black pearl did piss him off that much that he traded in his Triumph and went out and bought a brand spanking new Yamaha MT-10. Looks like this New Zealand tour has cost Geoff in excess of $20K now hahahaha.

I'm sure that bike is a decepticon.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

New Zealand - Day 9 Paihia to Auckland

DAY 9 - Saturday 25th

Todays ride was really just the short 300km ride back to Auckland and Maraetai to drop off the bike's so no one was getting up early today so we all slept in. We walked down into Paihia for a lazy cooked breakfast and a coffee. Everyone was looking a little tired after 8 days of riding.

Breakfast in Paihia
 Getting on the bike this morning I went to take off and let out the clutch and reved then nothing. I looked down and the clutch lever wouldn't come back out, it was stuck in unless I pulled it back out. Uh really? Do I need this shit? I can't ride this bike through Auckland traffic like this I thought. As I pushed the clutch out and I took off with an almighty jerk. Wow this isn't real good riding it like this. I found a mechanics shop on the way out of town and got a can of CRC and sprayed it down the clutch cable and worked it in. After a couple of minutes it had free'd up and was working again, at least I can ride it through city traffic. Lets hope the clutch cable doesn't snap. I could also hear the chain clanking again and looking at it, it was badly in need of oiling, nothing I can do about that.

We headed off down highway 1 and we encountered lots of traffic all the way to Wellsford where we were yesterday. We stopped in at the bakery for a bit of lunch. When we went to leave the Black Pearl refused to start and again required a push start. Instead of following the highway down to Auckland we decided to back track our steps along the west coast down to Helensville and on into Auckland that way. It had a lot less traffic on it and was had a few twisty sections along it so it was a much better choice.

Near Helensville

Turning off the freeway into Auckland's suburbs we found a petrol station to fill up the bikes. There was a police car parked on the corner of the petrol station as the traffic lights were not working. I saw a kid on a 50cc motorbike ride past and the cops didn't bat an eye lid. Then a kid on a pushbike wheelied his bike past the police car with no helmet on. Again nothing. The Aussie cops would have nabbed them both for that. NZ cops seem pretty bloody relaxed. We were going to leave and the Black Pearl refused to start again and we had to bump it yet again, this time it took 2 attempts it was getting worse. The chain on the Tracer was now really loud. I thought it might break it was making horrible noises.

We took the road out to Maraetai and to the bike hire where we dropped the bikes off, tour successfully completed. Looking at the chain it was a orangy colour, I've never seen a chain look like that before but I guess that's what happens when you don't oil it for 1500kms.

We had to wait for Randle to get back from dropping someone to the airport so we got some beers to celebrate the end of the tour. A few beers and chatting about the last 9 days and actually how fast it went by was a good way to unwind. Randle arrived with a case of Heineken and we chatted to him about the bikes and the trip in general. We pointed out to him all the problems we encountered with the bikes which was starting to rack up now. Showing him the Black Pearls non starting problem, even an hour and a half after we stopped here the bike refused to start just before we got on the bus to our accommodation. I think it was finally broken. Check out Geoff's expression at the end of this short video, I think it says it all really. We just had to laugh.

Geoff and the Black Pearl - not impressed

Chill & the Tracer

The Tracer was an excellent choice as a touring bike much better than the BMW F800GS that we hired for the south island tour we went on 3 years ago. The tracer had a much gruntier engine and accelerated much faster than the 800 which made overtaking cars an easier task. It was pretty quick steering as well but not as quick as the Street Triple or the R1 for that matter but it was good for a touring bike. It wasn't until you got into some tight twisty bends that you felt that the steering was slow and not up to it, taking a lot of effort to change direction quickly but for most of the tour it was pretty good. This might be a little biased coming from me being a sportsbike rider and used to a quick steering bike.

The suspension was also the major thing lacking on this bike being way too soft and not adjustable. If I bought one of these bikes I would buy some ohlins suspension and put on it. I think it would transform the handling of the bike. It handled quite well until you hit any big bumps in the middle of a bend which would bottom the bike out and it would start to run wide. I did this far too many times as I didn't learn after the first few times. The panniers were ok but may have been a bit on the small side but served their purpose. They probably weren't as good as the ones on the BMW which had bags to pack your gear into then you put the bags into the panniers, these one's didn't have that. I had my clothes packed into garbage bags which I then put into the panniers. The screen made a lot of wind buffeting around my helmet which made a lot of noise, if I ducked my head down an inch or so the noise would go away. Randle told us that the screen is adjustable, we didn't check unfortunately.

The engine on this bike was quite good pulling from down low with steady power throughout the rev range, it got quite the induction roar going when you got into some spirited riding and the rasp from the exhaust of the crossplane triple was pleasing to the ears. The brakes on the Tracer are quite good with a lot of stopping power and a nice progressive feel to them.

Even with the above little niggling things with the bike I really enjoyed riding the tracer it was a fun bike to ride and was very comfortable. By the time I got off on day 9 my ass felt like I had been riding the R1 for a day. I had R1 butt even riding a touring bike but it took 8-9 days before that actually happened. You could move around a bit on the seat which made it a lot more comfortable. Would I buy one? Yes I probably would and if I did I would fix the soft suspension and it would be a very capable touring bike. Plenty of power handles ok can tour well and is comfy can't ask for much more than that.

MT09 Tracer

I'm glad I'm not washing this off

From start to finish we travelled 3728.9kms in 9 days so the Tracer dash indicated, with Stu and Rick doing about 200km more on the East Cape road. The roads on the north island are much more like the one's we have here in Australia, many of them being rough, pot hole ridden, gravel on bends, etc but at the same time some were in excellent condition. The roads on the south island of New Zealand are far superior in quality of build being much smoother, better sign posted and just better maintained. I think the north island roads are much more technical but it doesn't have the magnificent views of the south island. If you had to pick only one of these islands to tour it would have to be the south island. Both are different and both have their good points and bad and both are a riders paradise. The kiwi riders are so spoilt for choice in riding roads, point a bike in any direction and you will find a winding road within a few minutes. That said the north island has a much higher population and that shows on the roads with more cars on the road. You can travel for miles on the south island without seeing anyone.

Fuel for the trip was around $1.92 for 91 and going up to around $2.15 for 98 so was a little on the expensive side, not as bad as at Fox Glacier on the west coast of the south island back in 2014 at $2.49 per litre. The Tracer was averaging around 4.5L/100km so it was actually really good on fuel.

The weather was a bit of a mixed bag and I knew we would hit rain, we picked February as it was the end of summer and supposedly the driest time of the year to ride around here with the least likely chance of rain but it didn't work out as planned(does it ever?). Temperatures were good being anywhere between 18°C and about 27-28°C, I didn't take any thermals and if you're going at this time of year you shouldn't need them. I didn't even take a jumper just T shirts.

I must also say thanks to the guys - Geoff, Rick and Stu for making the trip a memorable one, it was a pleasure to be riding with you guys again and look forward to our next trip. Spain anyone? Also a big shout out for the friendly welcome from Geoff James and Andrew Tompson, two of New Zealand's biggest and best Moto bloggers. Make sure you check out their blogs if you haven't already.
Also a big thanks to my lovely wife and family for allowing me out on a trip like this, love you guys.

Another sleep in before getting up in the morning and heading to the airport. Once through customs we saw this large Hobbit prop piece on the way to the terminals. It was on loan from the actual movie set. Pretty cool. I love the JRR Tolkien books and have read them for years since I first read them in school.

It was very quiet sitting at the airport waiting for our flights. Everyone was exhausted from the tour. We were all happy but tired and there wasn't much said by anyone. But what a fantastic tour despite the problems, we over came them and made it something to remember.

Waiting for our flight back to our exciting boring lives

Finally here is a short video of some bits and pieces of the trip, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the video.

Today's Map Reference

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Zealand - Day 8 Pukekohe to Paihia

DAY 8 - Thursday 23rd

I was concerned that today's ride that was going to take us through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city was going to get us lost yet again. I checked our exit number on the motorway via my smart phone and as it turned out we had nothing to worry about, it was quite easy to get through Auckland without any dramas as signage was good here. We stopped at a little place called Waimauku for some breakfast. I had to stop and clean my visor at the petrol station as I couldn't see out of half of it. After breakfast we were on some back roads again and we checked the map. There were a few turns to take just out of town so we all agreed to take it easy till we get to those turns.

I saw 2 bikes in front wizz straight past the first turn less than 5 minutes after we spoke about it, so I pulled over and told Stu to wait and I chased them down and we turned around and went back. All this after yesterday's events too. Sweet baby Cheeses.

The riding up to Wellsford along here was quite good but the road was more open and sweeping than tight and we were making good progress, much more like riding at home in Australia. As we got back onto the highway I could see the weather ahead turning bad and it looked like we might be going to get wet again. It just started to sprinkle with rain just as we turned left at Maungaturoto and headed towards the coast and blue skies we just managed to doge the rain luckily. We were following the Twin Coast Discovery route which was a good ride. We stopped in Dargaville and got fuel and then kept riding. The roads around Dargaville were flat land riding with big open views ahead.

After Dargaville the road started to get a lot more hilly again as we approached the Waipoua Forest. I thought I'd stop and take a photo of this sign as I'm not likely to see one of these again. It's not everyday that you see a kiwi sign, err unless you live in kiwi land that is.

We continued on riding as the road went from flowing open hilly roads to a tighter twister forest lined road.

The tree's and forest along this section of road were right up to the edge of the road, if you run off here you would be ploughing straight through into the forest. This road was very twisty with about 20kms of 35-55km bends winding it way through the forest. None of the bends are sign posted with the occasional rough patches but most of the road was in good condition. It was a lot of fun riding this section. It was also very hard to stop and take photos as all you could see was the next bend and forest. I was having an absolute ball along this section of road and didn't want to stop but I had to force myself to stop for a photo otherwise I wouldn't have any photos to remember this place and it was very beautiful in its own right.

Some of these tree's along the road verge are absolutely huge in size and there were thousands of them. I've never seen tree's like these before very unusual. I could have quite easily turned around at the end and went back down to do these twisties again but we had a big day of riding planned for today at around 543km so we pressed on.

Coming out of the forest again we came in to hilly farm land again, but it was still a lot of fun riding along here. The weather was starting to look foreboding with storm clouds in the distance.

Cresting a winding hill we came over the rise to be met with this spectacular coastal view with a huge bay and large sand bank on the other side. Beautiful scenery which took our breath away. Geoff managed to stall the Black Pearl in the gravel in the car park but we easily got it going again as we were on a large hill.

The road followed the coast around the bay and as we rode along we could see we were headed for rain, but we were turning off the road and crossing the bay on the Rawene ferry. We were in luck too as the ferry only crosses every hour we rode straight onto the ferry as they just opened the gates, no waiting whatsoever. We couldn't have planned that even if we tried. So we actually didn't see anything at Rawene because we zipped straight aboard the ferry.

Rawene from the Ferry

Straight on the Ferry, how good was that?

From the ferry we looked out towards Paihia and it was raining along that section of road. I'm glad we were not going that direction. We crossed to the other side and continued along the Twin Coast Discovery route towards Herekino which just happened to be 2 houses as you never know what they will be like from the map, as we continued along here. The roads were wet in patches from the rain showers that had passed over before we got here but the road was a lot of fun and virtually empty as well. I was having too much fun to stop for photos along this road and didn't get any photos until Paihia.

We continued to follow the road as it crested the top of the Island and started to then head down along the Eastern side of the coast and towards Paihia. Some of the coastal countryside along here was very beautiful but sadly I didn't take any photos. We rolled into Paihia along the beach front late in the afternoon. There were a lot of people still around out on the beaches soaking up the rays.

We made a beeline to our motel and then headed down to the waterfront for beers and some food.

Paihia Waterfront

Paihia Main Street

We chose to sit right on the water front which had some excellent views over the water and the prices reflected this, but we didn't care it was really the last proper night of the tour as tomorrow was really just the run back into Auckland to hand the bikes back. There was live music here as well and we had a few jugs of beer and ordered dinner.

Come 10pm and we were struggling to find anything still open. One thing I noticed in each of the places we've been to is that come 10pm most things have closed and there's no one around, its got that small country town feel to it. We were staying in the Tanoa Paihia Hotel which had decent and cheap accommodation and only a couple of minutes walk from the centre of town.

Today's Map Reference