Tuesday, September 23, 2014

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

Sunday was our monthly BRR ride and after a week of rain and a really nasty Saturday (weather-wise) it was nice to rise to a grey but fine day.  I was up early and after fueling up in town started off on my way to our rendezvous in Wanganui.

The trip over was pretty boring and I just cruised it with my Ipod on and the Vee pretty much on auto-pilot.  I bet Neil to the service station by the time it takes to pump and pay for 4.3L of 91 and we rode across to the cafe for a coffee while we waited for the rest of the crew.

Soon our numbers started to grow but when the appointed departure time came around we were still missing a couple of dodgy characters.  Just as we were suiting up Neil's phone went off and the dodgy characters were on the other end of the line wondering where we were.  Some quick explanations and they were soon on the way to catch up with us.  One of them had even swapped bikes since the last ride so we were forced to ooh and ahh at the 2nd of two brand spankers 800GSA's on the ride.

Finally sorted with all present and accounted for we took off aiming for the Parapara's.  But as this was a gravel ride we didn't get to ride all the way through to Raetihi instead pulling off for our first section of gravel on Te Rimu Road.

Te Rimu Road was a lot of fun although we did get held up by a couple of 4 wheeled contraptions and have to dodge a lot of stock.  There were also a couple of sections with puddles and small slips to add to the excitement.

Te Rimu road spat us out onto Mangamahu Road which initially was sealed until we hit some really fantastic gravel.

It was so much fun we had to stop to chat about it:

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

After this wee break there was more great gravel riding up Whangaehu Valley Road but it eventually ran out when we hit Fields Track.  A nice squirt on the tarmac took us past the big slip (which I'm guessing was what had shut Fields Track off for a while some months back) and to our next gravel road turn-off - Owhakura Road.

At Bells Junction we rejoined the tarseal for the ride across to SH1 and our ride into Taihape for lunch.

BRR Not so Gentle Annie
Shiny new 800 Beemer parked between 2 classic Suzys
BRR Not so Gentle Annie
More blimmin' Beemers!
After lunch we topped off our tanks and headed out towards the Napier-Taihape Road.  Neil was enjoying the tarseal twisties so much that he missed our first turn-off and we had to double back to find the fabulous Waikakahi Road - great fast gravel.

Waikakahi Road led us onto the Napier-Taihape proper and another fun section of tar.  Eventually though we got to the turn off onto Mangaohane Road.  There was a lot less snow around than last time I was up there but the road was still in fantastic condition.  Unfortunately my rear tyre is not in fantastic condition so in some of the thicker stuff I was having a little trouble hooking up - it made things fairly entertaining though.

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

BRR Not so Gentle Annie

More gravel took us through to Taoroa Junction where we turned and started to make for SH1 but rather than give up on the gravel we turned back again and hit some more on Tuhoe Road.

Tuhoe Road eventually came to an end and we carried on generally Southwards on a mixture of tarseal and gravel roads.  It was crossing a little bridge on one of these roads that I had my little bit of excitement for the day.

Luckily we still had some gravel to ride and I seemed to be handling that a bit better than the tar...

Eventually all the fun had to end as we hit the Rangiwahia Road and pootled onto Mangaweka (I shoulda gone left towards Kimbolton instead of right to Mangaweka) where we went our separate ways.  A boring stretch on SH1 followed by a squirt over Vinegar Hill had me home just before 5 after a great day out on the Vee!


Oh yeah, and the weather on Monday up Taihape way was probably a bit like the below picture from the Desert Road:

Stolen from
More pictures here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Led astray

Neil recently got his speedy registered again and yesterday fitted a new front tyre to it and was using this as an excuse to persuade me to go on a mission to check out Ted and his banged up leg (or perhaps that was just the excuse for a ride?).  I ummed and arrded for a bit yesterday but eventually put a bit of air in the tyres and got ready just in case I decided to tag along.

I set my alarm for 6am so naturally was up having brekkie by 5:30 and on the road at about 6:30.  Heading out of town under overcast skies the roads were wet but the rain stayed away as I made my way over Vinegar Hill.  I had one little scare when a truck came around the corner with a small shed hanging off it.  Definitely a wide-load and I was glad I was on a bike not in the car - he seriously should have had a pilot vehicle in front.

Just North of Mangaweka I rode into a light rain and it also got a bit chillier.  I only had my thin gloves on and by the time I was in Taihape the rain had got a little bit more serious and my hands were getting a tad damp.  The weather in Waiouru was no better and as I made my way across to Ohakune the visibility also became a lot worse - the clouds were sticking pretty close to the ground for some reason.

I rolled up at Neil's bang on 8:30 and after a bit of fluffing around he was geared up and ready to lead the way to Taumarunui for a quick fuel stop.  The ride through 8 mile was fairly wet but still a lot of fun.  It's a great bit of road but obviously had got the better of someone - as we dropped down a hill we couldn't help but noticing that a corolla had gone through a fence and was perched on top of a grassy hill.  They were quite lucky and must have scrubbed off a bit of speed prior to their off - any faster and they would have disappeared over the side of the hill and ended up down in a gully.  A cop was on the scene but must not have had much in the way of emergency signs etc as he had put out his "breathalyzer check point" sign.  We ignored it and carried on our merry (if damp) way.

A few more miles up the road got us into Piopio where it was time to stop to feed Neil's worms and grab a hot drink.  I even managed to force down a piece of bacon and egg pie.

From Piopio Neil led us off out the western side of the main road on some great back roads.  I'd done a number of these on a Grand Challenge years ago but he still managed to find some that I hadn't done.  By now it had stopped raining but the roads were still wet and the surface a little dodgy in places but otherwise the roads were magic - plenty of nice curves to get the sides of the tyres working.

I've got no real idea how we got from Pirongia to Hamilton - Neil had us turning left and right all over the place and I wouldn't really have been surprised to end up in Invercargill, but no, we actually did find Hamilton and soon were checking out the cast on Ted's hoof.

Ted seemed in pretty good spirits and even showed us the fancy farkle on his Tiger which enables him to carry his crutches...don't tell his missus!

Having sufficiently wound-up Ted we split at about 2ish for the return trip.  Rather than take the same route back we made our way down SH1 (yuck) to Karipiro where we fuelled up again for the next leg.  One highlight was seeing 4 gorgeous Lamborghini's go past heading North - unfortunately they were being well behaved so we didn't get to see or hear them being driven as intended.

At Lichfield we turned off and hooked up with Old Taupo Road for a nice squirt on mostly dry roads to Whakamaru and then onto Turangi.  Here I tooted to Neil as he went in search of worm tucker and I carried on towards the Desert Road.

On the ride down through the Desert Road (and the rest of the way home) the roads were wet but the rain behaved itself and fell somewhere else which was nice.  In Taihape I stopped for some juice before the last little squirt down SH1 and back over Vinegar Hill.  A nice Ferrari went past the other way and this time I actually did hear it's lovely little V8 growl - reminder: check lotto ticket...

By the time I hit Vinegar Hill it was starting to get a little dark and it was a bit difficult to tell which corners were wet and slippery so I took it fairly quietly.  I rolled up the drive at about 6:40 after a fun little jaunt of about 850km.  One of the better ways to spend a Sunday!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Power 2!

So today I undid a some of the work I did last weekend but have ended up with an even better result.

As I've mentioned before I would have preferred to be able to setup my little tank-bag so it can fit both bikes and contain all the electrical dohickeys that I might need on the road.  Until now I hadn't been able to make the tank-bag work on the Connie as it wanted to sit on the built-in glove-box which meant it couldn't clip into the retaining ring.

Today I rustled up a spacer to go between the tank bag and the top ring which then fits onto the bottom ring mounted on the fuel tank.  I cut this out of a piece of nice thick plastic and bolted it to the tank bag.  I still had a little issue with the pin which holds the two rings together hitting the glove-box.  A couple of washer for a bit more packing on the bottom ring sorted this out.

Spacer sandwiched between bag and top ring
Bottom ring in place but still missing the washers I used to lift the front of the ring a little
Bag now sits up fairly high on both bikes but does not get in the way
Then, just because I could I swapped the two 12v sockets that were in the tank-bag for the new setup I bought last week.  Now there is one 12v socket and the dual usb charger in the bag.  I can still plug in one of the twin plug usb chargers into the 12v socket if I need more than 2 usb devices charging at once.  I also removed the switch from the system as the Connie's accessory power is switched already - I will also change the wiring on the V-Strom so it has switched power too as I don't think I need the bag to be hot all the time.

The next thing I had to do was to wire in a quick release plug inside the glove-box.  Now the plug from the tank bag can be passed into the glove-box (the lid can still close) and plugged into the ergs.

Blurry pic of a piece of wire inside the glove-box...
So now I've got back the room in the glove-box that the usb charger had taken up and also can make use of the tank bag too.  Oh, and wonder of wonders, everything works and nothing blew-up...

Saturday Silliness

Sunday, September 07, 2014

More power!

A while ago I electrified the tank bag I use on the V-Strom and had hoped that I'd be able to use the same setup on the Connie too.

Unfortunately, even with the proper top ring for the Connie's tank the built-in glove-box sits too high to allow the tank bag to sit over the top.  I even tried spacing the top ring out a bit, but then I couldn't get the fuel cap open...that might've caused a wee issue somewhere along the line...

So, instead I decided that I'd make use of the glove-box and install a USB charger inside it.  Yesterday I bought a unit that would have given me a 12v accessory socket and a double USB charger.  Unfortunately I couldn't make it all work and decided just to make use of the USB charger (there is a standard 12v accessory socket built-in to the fairing on the Connie anyway).  And today I ripped into it...

First up was where to get the power from?  The Connie comes with two sets of accessory plugs.  One set is under the left hand side fairing right up nice and close to where I needed it but my hot grips are wired into them so I decided to go for the second set which is away back under the seat.  First I had to find them...thankfully the interweb was my friend.

They're under here somewhere
Bingo (black = +ve, black/yellow = -ve)
The next mission was to do a nice cable run to get the wiring to the glove-box.  This involved lifting the tank a tad and removing some fairing screws to allow me to poke around.  It was a bit of a mission but you can't even see the wire unless you start taking the bike to bits.

I then made up a small plastic plate (out of some recycled plastic) to mount the charger in.  Boring the hole was the tricky bit as I don't own any hole saws (must fix that) but I got there in the end and even painted the plate up before fitting the charger.  Then it was time for the install.

But would it work?

Hopefully that blue led means all is good in the world.
I then put the bike back together and this is what it looks like with the glove-box lid refitted:

Only one more thing to do eh...check to see if it does indeed work:

Looks like it to me!
And I didn't even blow anything up!  One happy camper.

Now what other farkles do I need...

Monday, September 01, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

BRR Taranaki Tunnel Tour Part Two

Sunday morning and I was up early (not - alarm issues) and racing around getting ready for the day.  It was a shame not to be able to see the kids playing soccer but hey, there was riding to be done.

On my way into Stratford I couldn't help but notice that a certain big hill was a bit more visible:

I wasn't the first to arrive in Stratford (actually I was nearly as late as Neil) so after gassing up I joined the gang and met some new BRR riders - including one keen Aucklander on his Duck (the first one of those we've had along).

A while later Neil turned up and we started getting ourselves sorted for the ride.  After the usual briefing we rode past the normal turn-off to the FH and instead took a trip around some of Stratford's back streets before finally getting onto the FH and heading out of town - it's all in the planning...

As you may have guessed from the title of the ride the idea of this ride was to visit as many of the tunnels in the Taranaki region as we could.  To this end Neil had a route loaded into his GPS which was going to take us all over the place on all sorts of roads in the search of these tunnels - what could possibly go wrong?

Well, first up we rode past a road sign that was giving directions to a tunnel...this meant that we had to turn around and go find tunnel number one.  As this was an out and back we even got to go through the tunnel twice.

After this tunnel we backtracked to the FH again and carried on towards Whangamomona.  Turning off to the South we hit our first bit of gravel on Mangaehu Road and while there were some rougher patches it was a nice little gravel intro for the day.  Neil liked it so much he had to stop so we could chat about it.

Author's note: from here on in I'm probably going to forget road names and where the various tunnels were etc so I'll just stick to the stuff I remember and try not to make stuff up...

Having taken a Southerly diversion we made our way back onto the FH near Strathmore before turning off for a Northerly diversion.  After turning off Mohakau Road onto Mangaoapapa Road we then ended up on Matau Road which pretty quickly turned into a very tight, narrow road that even included a tunnel!

At the Matau school we turned right onto Junction Road to again take us back to the FH.  This was a really neat bit of gravel which took us up a nice hill to a fairly decent sort of a view.

Next up was the great ride up over the Whangamomona Saddle and into Whanga for our early lunch stop.  Here we were also joined by Graeme (on his new baby), Colin W & Brian S who'd ridden up for Palmy to meet up with us for the afternoon leg.

After lunch we got stuck into more of the same riding with more loops off the FH, more new gravel and of course more tunnels.

We also ended up taking a fairly rough and narrow road (Kiwi Road) up through another tunnel and then out towards the coast.

It was on Kiwi Road that I think we had our two mishaps for the day.  One not too seriously resulting in a busted gear lever, the second Ted coming off his Tiger and complaining of a sore leg - more on that later...

The roads we were now riding were mostly gravel and generally in great nick and of the fast and flowing variety - just what the doctor ordered!  We also picked up another tunnel on our way out to SH3 and then headed South into Urenui for fuel.

I had thought that this was probably the end of the ride but it turned out that Neil had more back roads planned that would eventually take us back to Stratford.  The roads eventually became more and more windy and we even managed to pick up tunnel number nine to complete the set for the day.

Not long after the tunnel I ended up on corner-man duty and had to sprint after the guys.  As I was trying to catch them I started recognising roads and eventually I went past my sister's old house and then finally the farm again!  Right back where I'd started!

Not long after buzzing the farm we turned off onto a dodgy looking road which eventually turned to a farm track.  After going through one gate we stopped and turned around just in case we were heading for trouble with the farmer.  Interestingly, when I got home and looked at my GPS tracks look what I discovered:

The yellow line is my ride up on Saturday and shows where I stopped at the gate and turned around.  The red line is from Sunday...we were pretty close to finding the way right way out but chickened out!

Back on the tarmac again we found our way back into Stratford where we all split up to head of our own separate ways.  I rode home alone at a good cruise and although it was a bit chilly I enjoyed the ride and was home by 6:30pm.

Searching out the tunnels
On arriving home I got a text from Neil informing me that poor old Ted had actually broken his leg and was going to need surgery.  Tough guy that he was, he never realised until he got home - he credits his boots for helping hold him together...Not a great result for Ted but apparently he still enjoyed the ride...Hope he's up and at it again soon!

Oh, and here's all the tunnels bar one:

Where to next month?

More pics here

Thursday, August 28, 2014

BRR Taranaki Tunnel Tour Part One

Last weekend was our monthly BRR gravel ride but with it starting pretty early on Sunday morning in Stratford, I like a few others made the trip up to the 'naki on Saturday.  In my case I got to cadge a bed and a feed off my sister and catch up with my nephews and niece which was a bit of a bonus.

After depositing the dog at my folks place (where I'm sure he was helpful to Dad when they working on the bus) I raced home and swapped from the car to the mighty Vee and hit the road.  It wasn't too bad a day but from about Bulls there was a nasty little breeze to prevent the motorcyclist from getting too hot in their riding gear.  Also missing from the ride was the nice view of the mountain that I'd enjoyed a fortnight earlier.

On Friday night I'd decided that it would be cool to see if I could find a few back roads (preferably gravel) to take in on my way up and after a bit of poking around in Mapsource and on GoogleMaps I ended up with a route that I thought would offer up a change from the main roads.

Firstly I turned off to take my usual diversion around Hawera but then instead of popping out at Normanby I zig-zagged my way East of the main road and found a lot of new roads.  Most were all sealed but a lot of them were deliciously windy and there was one that even had "saddle" in it's name which of course means "fun".

In my route planning I discovered a lot of other roads tearing off into the wop-wops but didn't take any of them as they all seemed to peter out somewhere.  A couple will definitely be worth looking at in the future as there are lakes and rivers tucked away up there.

Unfortunately the only decent bit of gravel was on Wingrove Road and it wasn't a very long stretch.  It was quite fun though as it started off pretty open and fast before a small climb up over a hill surrounded by a forestry block.  Add in stock on the road and it felt like a mini-adventure...

Further on up the road I took in a small section of the start of the Forgotten Highway before turning off at Toko onto some more new roads taking me closer to the farm.  The roads got a fair bit skinner and a lot more windier - I was really hating it...

At Stanley Road I turned right as that's where my GPS said to go but couldn't help but notice the no exit sign.  I decided that as I was pretty close to my destination a little diversion was ok even if I did have to turn around and backtrack - besides, the GPS said I could get through...

The road eventually became gravel and a short time later I came to a gate.  More on this later, but I decided to be good and turned around.  I then (because I am the trusting type) decided to let the GPS find a new route up to the farm.  This involved more tight and windy roads (dagnabbit) but I eventually ended up in the right place right on time for lunch - mint!