Saturday, January 31, 2015


On Tuesday night I dropped the Connie in for the fitting of her 13th pair of shoes so I somehow needed to get home...enter a Yamaha XT660R with only 460km on the clock.

It wears a sticker on the side of it which says "Enduro" but it doesn't look much like an enduro bike to me.  Yamaha NZ describe it thus:
The XT660R is a highly evolved member of the XT clan that thrives on journeys of any length. A bike that can waltz through the weekday commute and head out on the adventure trail when the weekend beckons.
Whatever it's supposed to be, it is a nice little bike.  I say little because I got off a 280kg tourer and the little blue bike felt tiny.  I was actually surprised to see that it's wet weight is 181kg - it feels a lot less than that.  A reasonably low (for this style of bike) seat height also made it a doddle to get on and off and stop at lights etc.

Screen looks aftermarket to me, as are the bark busters
 One of the nicest things about the bike is it's great motor.  It is the same 660cc fuel-injected, water-cooled single that lives in the Tenere and after riding Colin's one I new that it'd be pretty good.  The beast fires up straight away and settles down to a muted (yes, very quiet) thump, thump.  Once underway it is surprising how smooth the single is and the motor definitely doesn't mind a few revs.

First gear is possibly a bit tall for off road stuff and the 5 ratios are spaced fairly wide giving effortless cruising at 100km/h (you may even need a downchange on big hills if you want to maintain the legal limit) and the ability to sit on slightly higher speeds should you want to be naughty.  I think that if you lowered the gearing slightly for off-road riding you would still easily be able to pull 100km/h without pushing the bike too hard.

Around town I didn't take it out of third gear and thought that perhaps the fueling was a little snatchy, although the bike is still new so maybe it just needs some more miles under the wheels.  I didn't attempt a wheelie (due to my lack of skill in this department) but the old man went for a wee squirt and he reckoned it was a piece of cake and even popped it up in 2nd...

Brake line is in the way of the speedo most of the time...
Handling-wise, the XT is similar to pretty much every other single-cylinder adv-style bike I've ridden - light and chuckable.  (I had to adjust my riding style after stepping off the Connie).  The brakes were just fine - nothing stunning but they simply work with no nasty faults.

Old hooligan prepping for a taste of Yamaha
On a lot of motorcycle forums the Yamaha XT series seem to get a lot of stick for being an expensive option - especially when something like a DR650 can be had for around $8,500 (I see one NZ dealer pricing the XT at $12,300).  But these yammies are built very well, are far more modern in design and offer more goodies than other options: locking fuel-cap, immobilier, fuel-injection, liquid-cooling, digital speedo etc.  Up to potential buyers to decide whether it's expensive or not...

Pipes are too quiet
So would I have one?  Well, probably not.  While I could be looking for a new Adv bike in the future I think that I still need a bit more poke than a single can offer - I tend to have to ride a fair bit of tar before I hit the gravel and also would like to be able to carry the kitchen sink on tour if need be.  I bet she would be fun on a tight gravel road though...

Pick your Adv weapon...

Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Chateau to Plateau

Yesterday the Toko Lions ran their annual Chateau to Plateau charity ride which raises money for the Taranaki rescue helicopter.  I hadn't planned on going but Brian talked me into joining him and a few others into an early start and 700km of hot and thirsty riding.

We met up in town and hit the road at around 6:30am.  The riding was fantastic with it being very still and clear and above all a cool morning (not to last long).  As we made our way out to Cheltenham we picked up Chris and Dave and there was now a decent little group as we made our way over Vinegar Hill and then up SH1 to Waiouru where we stopped for fuel and a quick drink.

By the time we got to the Chateau (9:30ish) the day was definitely warming up and standing around waiting for the kick-off ensured that we got plenty vitamin D.

After a riders' briefing we got underway just before 10:30 and dropped back down into National Park before turning Northwards towards Taumarunui.  We stopped again in Manunui so that some of our group with small tanks and thirsty bikes could refuel for the trip across the Forgotten Highway.

Leaving Taumarunui instead of turning left to take the Forgotten Highway we carried on up SH4 for a few km before turning off up Okahukura Saddle Road.  This was a new road for me and as the name suggests it takes you up over a tight, narrow and winding road over the saddle and then back down the other side.  The road then dumps you out on Ohura Road.  I've ridden this road a few times and it took us through Matiere and then onto Ohura.

About another 10km of riding got us onto the Forgotten Highway for the ride through to Whangamomona.  By now the temperatures had long since pasted warm and the day was well and truly in the hot and toasty category.  This made for plenty of nice slippery melted tar and some hot bikers as we rode the 14km of gravel (nice and dusty), through the tunnel and finally into Whanga for our lunch stop.

In the ride through to Whanga our group had got a bit split up and we got a little concerned when while us in the first group had arrived and had lunch, there was still no sign of Brian and Chris.  We didn't worry too much as we were still noticing people we had passed arriving so tried to find a shady spot to wait.

Eventually the two of them turned up safe and sound.  They had stopped to help another Triumph rider with a puncture.  Brian fixed his puncture and inflated the tyre as much as he could with his CO2 canisters and I then loaned the guy my compressor to finish the job off.  The guy asked me why I carry a compressor...

Once Brian and Chris had inhaled their lunch we geared up reluctantly (did I mention it was hot) and carried on towards Stratford.  The Whanga Saddle and the hot little valley after it were particularly bad for hot tar and the Connie showed her disgust by slithering around a bit in it but with a bit more restraint by the rider we made it through ok.

In Stratford some of us reckoned they needed fuel again so we all filled up before tackling the short little ride up to the "Plateau".  The plateau in this case being a car park at the end of the road up Mount Taranaki.  It was quite nice to climb up into some milder temperatures but unfortunately the day was a bit too hazy for decent photos.  The top of the mountain was also obscured in cloud.

Dropping back into Stratford we skipped the prize-giving, instead finding a cafe where we could get a cold drink.

After the cold drinks it was finally time to point the bikes home.  We took my normal Hawera bypass and carried on through to Wanganui where the nervous VTR riders decided they needed some more fuel...

Leaving Wanganui we actually had a bit of a breeze which got temperatures down from sweltering to merely hot but nearing home the wind dropped again and Palmy was baking again!  By the time I got home my 2L camel-bak was all but empty and I was looking for another cold drink...

Other than the heat though, it was another great day out on the Connie who is now getting some new shoes this week.

More pics here.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Route 52 Blues

No, nothing went wrong - the title just sorta works with the pictures...

On our last BRRBT ride we got to take in a very small section of Route 52 and with today not being quite so hot as yesterday I decided that I should really go and take in the rest of it.

I decided to pick things up from Eketahuna so made my way there via the track and through Mangamire and just a little bit of SH2.  In Eketahuna I stopped for fuel and to buy some water as some idiot had left the camel-bak at home...

Next up was a quick 20km to Alfredton where I finally got onto Route 52 and turned Northwards for Pongaroa.  Things were now warming up fairly nicely but the wind was also picking up and every now and again I got a bit blown around as I avoided all the humps and bumps on the way to Pongaroa.  Only 60km in and I needed another drink already...

Wasn't able to send a cable...

The next section through to the Weber-Herbertville turn-off is a bit of a favourite as even though it can be a bit rough just out of Pongaroa, the road eventually gets a bit quicker with some nice corners thrown in for good measure.

At the turn-off I headed East to continue on 52 to Wimbledon.  The road was at it's normal bouncy best and I had to avoid a family of turkeys (birds, not car drivers) but I was soon tooling through hustling, bustling Wimbledon and turning North for Porangahau.  Not far North of Wimbledon I did have to put some gravel riding skills to use on some roadworks but it was nothing my 300kg adventure bike couldn't handle...

I was kinda in a picture-taking mood so my next stop was at Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maungahoro nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu and there were plenty of blue skies there too...

Porangahau is just a short little squirt up and over the hill from here and while I didn't need to go into Porangahau I decided to clamber up a nearby hill for some more shots.

Friendly local

After a careful 180 on the hill I dropped back down into Porangahau and made my back to Route 52 which I then took as far as Arlington Road where I turned to head for Takapau and the ride back towards home.  From Takapau I made my way through Ormonville (plenty of new seal repairs) and then into Dannevirke where I stopped for a bagel and nice cold milkshake.

Now I took my normal back road route through to the Saddle, collecting a magpie along the way and also seeing a few other bikes out enjoying a summer squirt.  The Saddle is in an absolute mess at the moment with major road works in a few places (one section was very deep and chunky gravel) but it did give me the opportunity to get a few more snaps as I neared home.


By the time I pootled my way back to Palmy and across town to home both the Connie and I were pretty hot so the Connie is resting in the shade in the shed and I'm doing some couch surfing with a cold drink.  I really nice little ride of around 350kms.

More pics here.