Tuesday, May 29, 2012


So, in my Sunday Blog I kind of hinted that I enjoy riding in the rain - am I weird or what?

The Milford Road - fabulous wet or dry
I'm not that keen on setting out in the rain but once I'm rolling I do tend to enjoy myself a lot.  As long as I'm dry and not too cold then I just get amongst it and enjoy the ride.  But why?

Ok, I love riding full stop but there seems to be a lot of people that love riding but aren't that keen on the wet stuff.  I wondering if it's the same sick mentality that makes me enjoy riding the DL on gravel or take part in endurance rides.  It's not that it's a fascination with dangerous activity - I've never parachuted or bungee jumped and don't feel the need to.  I have a feeling that I enjoy the focus and concentration that is demanded by riding under more trying conditions.

Riding in the rain is really not that much different from riding in the dry - in reality the same hazards exist: road surfaces can be dangerous and grip variable whether wet or dry and other vehicles, pedestrians and animals are still a danger but obviously water on the road does decrease grip.

All it takes is a good bike with good tyres and a sensible rider (wearing good gear) who understands how to ride to the conditions.  Visibility is probably one of the biggest hazards that is more of an issue in foul weather and while you can treat your visor for fogging and to repel water you're still not going to have the same visibility on a clear, dry day.

My riding technique in the wet is also pretty similar to that in the dry.  I try to be as smooth as possible, stay off the brakes and pick my line and corner speeds well before the corner.  The only thing is that I probably focus on this a lot more than in the dry - I'm really interested in what the road surface looks like up ahead and I'm getting my braking and gear selection done a bit earlier and I don't push things with high corner speeds or huge lean angles.  I'm not slow but I'm slower and more cautious, making sure that I'm keeping plenty of time and distance up my sleeve in case I have to react to a new hazard or changing circumstances.

So yes, I think it is the increased focus and concentrating on "better" riding techniques which I enjoy.  After all, all riders like nailing a corner just right at the right speed, in the right gear in the dry and it sure is nice to do the same in the wet and not end up getting yourself in trouble.  Does riding in the rain help you become a better rider?  Who else like riding in the rain or am I truly nutso?

Oh BTW, I forgot to mention the other day but when the GoPro snapped the picture of the rainbow below I had Lou Reed singing in my ears - something about a Perfect Day...not sure he was 100% right but he wasn't far off.

That rainbow
I hope you've enjoyed the ravings of a mad as a snake, rain seeking (well, maybe not quite), lunatic biker!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A quick trip to the Bay

This weekend the weather was supposed to pack up with rain expected to set in here today and last with us for a few days.  But my folks have recently moved house in Napier and I hadn't had the chance to go up for a nosey so I decided that I was going regardless of the weather - after all I had some nice new rubber on the Connie that needed to be put to the test.

Leaving home I decided to pass on the Saddle and take the Pahiatua Track and some other back roads through to Oringi and try and get some photos with the GoPro.

Coming down the Pahiatua Truck
It was actually a very nice day when I left and the track was nice and dry so I really enjoyed the quick squirt over the hill but then when scooting along Makomako Road I came across something interesting...

No, not a gravel road but a short section of road works - luckily they were relatively dry.

From Pahiatua I made my way through Magatainoka but then turned off onto Bluff Road and then Jackson Road through to Oringi.  This is a nice ride although as you can see from the slideshow/video the sun was quite low which made guessing which way the road went a bit trickier.  I'll have to do this again sometime because it really is a great little diversion.

Somewhere along here the battery ran out on the GoPro ran out but I only discovered this when I stopped in Danniverke for fuel.  The rest of the ride up SH2 and then SH50 was uneventful but enjoyable and the day got nicer and nicer the further I went.  I was quite glad to pull up at the old's place and take my gear off as I got quite warm with all my liners in on such a nice day.

While in Napier I managed to feed myself and help Dad set up his stereo, DVD and TV.  He'd had a bit of trouble getting the DVD to go but after sorting out the spaghetti factory of wires we soon had the DVD playing "On any Sunday" (it needed testing after all) while we tidied everything up and got down to enjoying lunch.  I also popped the GoPro on charge for the return trip.

 As I was getting ready to leave the weather was definitely changing the nice sunny day had cooled off noticeably and I was pretty sure that I'd run into some cloud moisture on the way home.  I wasn't wrong - the first drops began falling on me just as I was nearing Omahu.  From there on the rain was on and off, sometimes just light but other times a bit heavier.  The road also varied from dry to mildly moist, wet and slippery.
One of my favourite corners on SH50
The weather certainly didn't dampen my spirits, I was really enjoying being back out on the Connie and the new PR2's were behaving perfectly - I love looking behind and seeing the dry line the tyre leaves behind and the water pouring off the back of the bike.

Ah, isn't that nice!
South of Danniverke and nearing Woodville I ran into my second section of road works and this time I was not so lucky in the wet conditions...

The surface was not too bad but the spray from other vehicles was the problem - by the time I got out the other side my visor was in a real mess and I could barely see anything.  I crept into Woodville peaking out from under my visor (but trying to keep rain off my glasses) and pulled into the garage to wash my visor.  What a difference it made!

My muddy visor was a lot worse than this!
Leaving Woodville it was time to take the Saddle back into Ashhurst and home.  At the bottom there are some absolutely shocking roadworks with holes big enough to lose an FXR in!  I also hit a lot of traffic all stuck behind a bus and passing was pretty much impossible on the wet and tight road.

Nearly home
Eventually I was past the bus and on the way into Palmy and home.  So in the end I did get a little bit of rain but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought but the roadworks certainly mad a mess of the bike.

Poor baby!
Oh, and the GoPro managed to take about 1,000 pictures on the way home:

Not a bad day splashing around in the rain!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Akitio or Bust V2

Whoops, forgot to post a link to a few more pictures from yesterday.  Here you go!

And here's that poor old Anakee:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Akitio or Bust!

Today was the monthly Back Road Riders ride and the weather gods played ball for us with nice sunny day albeit with a frosty start - especially for Neil making his way down from National Park...

We met up in town and once all had arrived made for the Pahiatua track.  We had a nice run up over the hill but definitely had to take it a bit easier in the shady spots where the road was pretty wet and greasy.

At the bottom of the hill was a little surprise - a bit of gravel in the shape of Tararua Road.  I kinda new the road was there as I'd been past many times before but had always thought it was a no exit road to some farm or other.  It turned out to be a great little gravel warm up and took us back onto Gorge Road and eventually on into Pahiatua where we met up with one more of the merry men.

From Pahiatua we headed out on the familiar Kaitawa Road but quickly turned off to make our way onto the Pahiatua-Pongaroa Road.  Just before the turn-off onto Pahiatua-Pongaroa Road we had a wee pause after Neil's GPS tried to send us up someone's driveway but soon got it sorted and were on our way.

After a short squirt on the tar we turned off onto Pori Road which after a while starts to turn into a nice gravel track.  This was the first time I'd ridden Pori Road in this direction and as you drop back down the hill the views are fantastic.

Pori Road
After a quick photo stop we carried on down Pori Road.  In places the DL was floating around a bit as there was some reasonably deep gravel on top of some mushy stuff - not too nice on a big bike.  Check out the video to see me struggling and Barry dusting me on his DR...

Turning left out of Pori Road we had another blast up Route 52 until once again turning Eastwards on Waihoki Valley Road.  The first bit of this was outstanding and I had a blast chasing after Neil.

Now things started getting a bit more interesting, in the shady sections we started encountering a bit of mushy stuff.  This made things a bit more exciting for me as my rear tyre is really past it's best by date so I had to pussy-foot it around quite a bit.

Huia Road and Spur Road offered more of the same but I managed to slither my way through without needing to change my underwear.

Eventually as we took in Marainanga Road the road got a lot better and I could use a few more gears.  At the end of Marainanga Road we turned right onto Coast Road (which I rode last year on the Coast to Coast).  This is a fabulous gravel road in great condition so there was plenty more opportunity to let a couple of ponies loose.

Coast road eventually comes to an end at Akitio where we stopped for a quick bite and a drink (and also to say hi to a dog the size of a horse) before turning for Danniverke.  Neil had one more great bit of gravel lined up for us and it was on Glenora and Esdaile Roads.  Once again the gravel was in good nick and everyone got stuck in and enjoyed the higher pace that we were able to manage - a real blast!

Eventually we were spat out onto tar seal again which was actually the fantastic Weber Road so we weren't too disappointed to have finished our gravel riding for the day.  In Danniverke we met up with Graeme for a late lunch before he led us on a round-about route back to Palmy via plenty of sealed back roads and the Saddle.  Another awesome day out with the guys!  Now to find some tyres...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Excitement Plus!

Yes, today I got to road test a weapon!  A weapon in the shape of a Suzuki FXR150.  Yes, that's right 150cc's of pure awesomeness...It has a snazzy fairing and a digital speedo with a digital rev counter that goes all the way to 14,000rpm.  This thing could be a giant killer...or not...

Perhaps climbing off 1,352cc and 150Hp of Mr Kawasaki's finest and onto the little FXR is not quite fair on it but anyway...The Connie was in for some new shoes (more on that later) and I was introduced to the FXR as my way to get to work - a little bit of a come down after asking for a 'busa.

After it was professionally warmed up for me I flung a leg over it and found that I was sitting with both feet flat on the ground with not much bike beneath me or around me.  I stabbed it into first gear, wound on a few revs, slipped the clutch and found myself doing nearly walking pace.

Pulling out onto the street I'd like to say that I tore off up the road but really I just gave it plenty of revs and when I thought she'd had enough grabbed another gear.  For the record 5-6,000rpm in 5th gives you about 55km/h so at least I was keeping up with the traffic.

I did have one moment when I thought I'd made a mistake.  I snuck up the inside of a line a cars to get to the front of the queue but then had a scary thought - will I be able to get away ahead of the pack before they run me down?  Well here goes, I thought as the lights went green.  A huge handful of revs, a bit more vibration and a bit more whirring from under me and I smoked everyone and was gone - woohoo!

At lunchtime I must have been keen for another ride (or perhaps keen to get my baby back) so it was more of the same as I made my way back into town.  On handing the keys back I was asked if I managed to hit 400km/h and the mechanic was serious!  Apparently the speedo plays up every now and then and displays some pretty impressive numbers - damn I missed out on setting a land speed record!

150cc of raw something...
While in the bike shop I managed to prevent myself from adding a FXR to the stable but I do have to leave you with one very impressive statistic - this little FXR has 90,000km on the clock!  Truly amazing, this little bike will have worked hard for every single one of those km and probably burnt less fuel than my V-Strom has in it's 22,000km.  She's a tough little beastie!

Still not buying one though...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What's in my pants?

It's ok, nothing NSFW here - just another blog challenge courtesy of Trobairitz.  This time around the challenge is to show the world what I cart around in my riding gear...

Well, prepare to be amazed, prepare to be awestruck with the amazing variety of extravagant pocket stuffing knick-knacks, doo-dads and how's-ya-fathers...

First-up, stuff that I always take with me whichever bike I'm on:

Phone, wallet (empty from farkelling) and goober-catcher
Now, if I'm on the DL I need these:

House, shed, top box and pannier keys
But if I'm on the Connie I definitely need this:

KI-Pass fob
I also need these but often they're in the glove-box not my pocket (can't be carrying too much stuff in my pockets now):

House, shed, helmet lock and Top box keys
And that's about it - my top boxes are another story...

Checkout Trobairitz' Blog for a list of other bloggers taking part in this informative blog challenge...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Ridge Road Recce

The weather was supposed to turn nasty today but after being cooped up inside at work all week I had to get out amongst it even if it meant catching a little moisture.  After walking the Bartman in the morning I sat down to work out where I wanted to go.  What I was after was gravel, good gravel...

After thinking about past rides and looking at maps on the computer I decided that I was going to head up the Pohangina Valley and ride the entire length of Ridge Road (BTW: GoogleMaps reckons this is impossible) and then loop back via Pohangina Valley West Road.

After topping up the DL with go juice I made my way out to Ashhurst and then to Pohangina township where I turned off to take in my first bit of gravel up Finnis Road.

It was a great little blast up the hill (careful not to scare the horse) and once you reach the top you can either carry on left on Finnis Road or veer right onto the start of Ridge Road - funnily enough I chose to go right.

And so began my little trip along Ridge Road.  The gravel was in great nick and pretty much had the road to myself apart from two other adv riders coming the other way at one stage and the odd person out walking their dog.  The scenery across the top of the "ridge" is fabulous as you get to look either side of the range and Pohangina Valley in particular is very scenic.

Ridge Road
Along the way there are a few turns that you have to make to keep on Ridge Road (one early on that isn't sign-posted) but eventually you reach the end of the road and can either ride into Apiti or take another right onto Makoura Road which crosses over to the Eastern side of Pohangina Valley.  I was heading back to Pohangina so I took the right turn again.

I've ridden Makoura Road a few times now and it's a great ride with some very fast gravel in places and a few other tighter, more tricky sections - it's great to have a bit of variety but I have to say I love being able to nail the big Vee and hook into the higher gears while on gravel.

Just after Makoura Lodge it was time to turn off Makoura Road and take Pohangina Valley West Road back to Pohangina and home.

More great gravel kept me concentrating all the way up the valley until a brief stop at the camping ground at Totara Reserve for a nosey.  I even got to ride on some sand!

Down by the river - mind the sand!
After my wee diversion a carried on to Pohangina - just one more short section of gravel and then I was back on the tar for the ride home.  On the way back I got a few light spits of rain and I was glad to make it home before quite a sudden downpour just 15 minutes after I'd parked the bike up - nice timing!

All in all a very nice little pootle of around 140km but a lot of great gravel!

A few more pics here.

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Stunning Sunday!

It had been too long, the Connie had been sitting in the shed awaiting a bit of TLC in the form of a decent squirt but a truly magnificent Sunday was to change all that.

Yod had just got fresh rubber on his 'bird and was itching to put it to the test and retrace a route a group of us took a couple of winters ago.  He had a wee bit of trouble drumming up some keen bikers to join him so he had to put up with me on a Connie with some pretty tired PR3's.

View 06-05-12 Piopio Loop in a larger map

The day started out a bit dodgy for me - I checked my front tyre pressure before leaving home (the front had gone flat on me a couple of weeks previously) and it was fine but on riding up the rode the TPS system let me know that the rear was down a bit.  No problem, there's a compressor at the gas station where we were meeting.  I get there and their fitting simply will not fit the bike.  No problem, I've got my mini compressor with me.  Plug it in, it fires for a second and dies...damn!  After a quick head scratch I decided to check the accessory fuse - sure enough, blown!.  I fit the spare and sort the tyre out before joining Yod in filling up with gas.

After a bit of a chat and a wait in case anyone else decided to join us, we hit the road.  First up Yod led the way through to Feilding, Marton and through Wanganui.  The air was still pretty chilly but the day was clear and sunny with no breeze - simply perfect riding conditions.  With the conditions so perfect we could see for miles and could easily see Egmont/Taranaki and Ruapehu with just the turn of the head.

Just South of Hawera I took the lead to show Yod my little bypass and this had us heading straight at Mt Egmont.  Back out onto SH3 and soon the mountain got the better of me - I just had to stop to get a picture.

After our wee photo stop we did another short hop to Inglewood where we refuelled and grabbed a coffee before turning North for Waitara.  The road North of Waitara is simply magic, the scenery is fabulous and the riding just gets better and better - Mount Messenger and the Awakino Gorge should be on every New Zealand motorcyclist's "must ride" list.  We certainly weren't the only bikers out and about - plenty of guys went past going the other way as we entered the gorge.

That volcano again (South of Awakino)
The riding was fantastic but given the temperature and time of the year we did have to be careful in the shady places - there was still plenty of greasy tarmac to tip-toe through.  Popping out the other side of the gorge we were soon at our lunch stop in Piopio.  Lunch ordered it was time to sit out by the road and put the world to right as we watched plenty of other bikes ride past, all out enjoying a superb day.

Lunch time
Lunch dealt to it was time to make our way to Taumarunui for one last fuel stop and the trip home via National Park, Ohakune, Waiouru and Taihape.  Our last little squirt over Vinegar Hill got a little of the fun taken out of it when we managed to sneak up on an officer of the law but he was nice enough to wave us through so we could waste the rest of the great corners stuck behind a 4WD...

But it didn't really matter we'd had a great day out and a clocked up a very mint 690km in perfect conditions!

A few more pics here.