Another day, another dollar!.....ummm......yeah, nah.......I had the day off and spent nearly three grand!!
There was a time I would have been ecstatic to be riding a $3K bike but we nearly spend that on decent riding gear these days and today I spent that much making improvements that probably won't do anything to the value of the bike.
At the beginning of this year I was chatting with Andrew Templeton at a Capital Coast Conehead session and he mentioned how rapt he was with his new rear suspension (a custom made Nitron from Kiwi Suspension Solutions. We swapped bikes (both ST1300's) and went for a ride around the block and I couldn't believe how different the same bikes could feel. It was like getting off a sprotty and onto a cruiser. Mine was twitchy and wallowy while Andrew's was stable and solidly planted on the road. The difference wasn't all to do with suspension as my bike had a set of screwed and squared Z8's compared with a brand new set of PR3's on Andrew's, but I took note, thought, 'bit too much' and left it at that.
Then a few months back I was chatting to a client about his insurance and we got onto bikes...as you do. He rides a Bandit which he had had the suspension done by KSS and was bleating the same story as Andrew.....I was convinced.
I love my ST's but I have always found the current bike to be uneconomical and soft, or wallowy compared to my old 'red', so I got on the blower to Robert Taylor and next thing you know, I had paid for a new rear shock as well as ordering a Racetech rejig on the front. Two months later I got a call to say, "I can fit you in on Friday, 7th Nov", but I didn't think that would be very convenient as I had the C1KC on the 8th and figured I'd be busy getting everthing sorted on the Friday, so I booked in for today, 10 Nov.
Since ordering the gear, I have been taking special note of how the bike rides and this was easy with the North Island 1600 in Oct and the C1KC on the weekend just gone, because both rides incorporated a great range of roads. On Saturday's 1,000Km ride I was negotiating some slumps on the Forgotten Highway and one of them just about catapaulted me off the bike and the bike off the road. I've also been noticing how much care I've been taking to pick my lines and avoid rough patches.
I recall reading at some stage how what we see and experience is our reality and, for example, if it is raining where we are we tend to think it's raining everywhere. This is a bit of what it was like with my bike. I accepted it for what it was and persevered....or put up with it!
Anyway, today was the day. I had set the alarm to rise at 0400, set out from home at 0500 and pootled up to New Plymouth to get there at 0900. It was quite funny because I had entered the address in the GPS unit last night and this morning I just selected that from the favorites, then had a double take when the ETA came up as 1100!!??? Then I looked at the Km-to-go, which was 584!!, so I backed out on the map and the bloody GPS had me going up via National Park and back over the Awakino Gorge......damn thing knows just what roads I like....never go straight there!
I arrived at Bulls and paused for fuel at 0635, getting back on the road at 0646 and finally arrived at KSS in Spotswood at 0904, 353km done at a piddling 17km/Ltr on the economy. I checked in, handed over the keys, they dropped me in town, where I had a feed, took a liesurely look at the museum, then strolled along the waterfront walkway to the port and back to Spotswood. The breeze was cooling along the sea but once I got on the streets it heated up so I ended up getting an icecream soda to cool down, then got back to KSS at about 1230, read a couple of magazines then napped for an hour or so.
I was brought back to reality a bit after 1400 when Robert got me, then did the setup before he took it for a test ride, then sent me off to check it out.
I had kitted up while he was gone and rode out past Oakura where there is a set of 45kph corners. The first thing I noticed was that the screen was wrong and I assume Robert had dropped it a bit, then I noticed the odo's had been reset...but so had the clock so they'd obviously disconnected the battery. The bike felt firmer right from the get-go and when I got to the 45's it just flew through them. Or at least, they were so easy to negotiate, I felt like I was crawling through them. I turned and went back through them a little quicker and this time I found myself bracing for the 'squash & wallow', but it didn't happen. The bike just went round the corners like it was on rails??
I got back to KSS, had a debrief with Robert, who mentioned that he 'had jacked the rear a bit and did I notice?' I replied that I wasn't that sensitive, but later realised that had been why I thought the screen had been dropped.
I finally got away at 1535 and took the Surf Highway for the better ride, plus to avoid the traffic. I felt like I was on a new bike. I filled in Whanganui at 1735 and got home at 1955 and what did I notice.
I got great economy!? Hard to say what that is all about? I was using BP 98, and I was riding downwind around the Surf Highway, but once I turned south at Sanson and copped the cross/head-wind, the economy hardly dropped off and I got home with it reading 18.4km/Ltr? That is what I would have expected of the red at that pace. Has jacking the rear adjusted the angle of attack to where it should be and improved the 'slippery-ness'?....that's a bit hard to believe with the big improvement? Maybe also though, I found myself able to take corners at 10-15kph quicker than before, maybe even more. Not having to slow down as much going into a corner means less wrist and 'roll-on' coming out and the ST is a heavy beast that sucks gas under acceleration? This is something I will have to monitor and study to know that the economy has definitely improved and maybe search for an answer?
It definitely handles better and is quicker through the corners. I finished with a scoot over the Paekak' Hill and the fang up was a dream while the 'No-Brakes' scoot down to Pauatahanui was much easier and a little quicker than what I was capable of before! Suffice to say it was somewhat quicker than the speed limit. The term 'point and push' comes to mind. The bike just seems to go where I want and I seem to have way more control and scope for adjustment within the corners.
It's harder!....But this is good because there's no wallow and it doesn't squash and bottom out. The wheels track where they should and I don't have to worry so much about keeping a clean line to manage the crappy response. I look forward to trying some more technical roads to test this more thouroughly.
Bottom Line: I'm rapt'.
Was it worth it? Hard to say? It was a lot of ping but.....
If the economy has improved as much as it first appears.....I'm doing my bit for the environment and that has to be good! ($3K is a lot of gas but)
If the ride is cleaner and capable of being quicker, then it has to be safer! I am less likely to get in the crap or get thrown off line as happened on Saturday and that has to be good.
Robert and Dennis at KSS....you rock!!
Another day in the saddle started just after 0500, a quick scrub, kit-up, the bike and car were already packed and we were on the road to Caltex Rimutaka by 0545 for the start of the 8th Capital 1.000km Cruise. We pulled in to the forecourt a little earlier than usual, at 0610, and there were already more than half a dozen punters eagerly awaiting to check-in and depart, so I gassed up then assisted Ann to get her table and chair set-up, the rider list and strips of yellow and black (Resene) tape ready. The tape is to tie to the rear of the bikes to make it easy for riders to identify each other as Capital Cruisers whilst on the road, and by 0620 the first riders had been checked in and were departing.
We had 64 entries this year, but two had to withdraw, then two late entries had us with a starting line up of 64, although 66 donations toward the cause (buying Christmas presents for children with Muscular Dystrophy in the lower North Island), not to mention another couple of donations from non-riders, plus sponsorship from Protecta Insurance, so we are on track to go near $1,000 this year. Of the 64, 6 were starting from Taumaranui, 10 from Masterton and the rest from Wellington (including 2 from Wanganui and 4 from Palmy) and they all trickled in and scooted off until 0650, when there were just 3 to come. One was James, who I knew would be a definite because he wanted to have a good test of his new ST1300, so Ann tried ringing the others to see what was up. James turned up about then, one had had a late night and the other we just had a name as she had paid online but hadn't contacted me so I didn't have any info....so add 2 DNS's to the mix.
I had no set plan for the ride, apart from the usual start last and after the frenetic pace we enjoyed on the NI1600, I was figuring I would enjoy a relatively sedate pace, maybe catch up with a few of the Ulybods and ride with them......Yeah right! James arriving late put paid to that idea!!
We departed from Caltex Rimutaka at 0708 and straight away the scene was set for the day as James had obviously warmed up, getting down from Ohau, and he set out like a scolded cat.....or perhaps he was the Great Dane chasing the scolded cat and I was the poor sap that happened to be holding the other end of the leash. Some might say I could have just let him go....but fat chance! Why on earth would I let the chance of a jolly good spirited fang go to waste?!
I had the GoPro mounted, the GPS programmed and music rocking, I was snug with the liner in my jacket, the heated grips were on (it was only about 4°), the blue skies were crystal clear with sun rising and the promise of a good dose of sun-strike.....and we attacked the hill like the charge of the Light Brigade (but without the guns bit). I'd thought, "New bike, he'll be taking it easy to just get used to it", but not James.
At departure, the GPS had predicted our finishing ETA at 1938, but by the time we got to Mauriceville at 0801, the ETA was down to 1920, we had passed two riders on the road and two more were still at the CP, pics were snacked and we lit out like our tails were on fire...?......still on fire! I love the Mauriceville-Kaiparoro road and we had a ball, but then we got back to SH2 and had to behave ourselves!!....well sort of behave?...and we settled back to a sort of spirited pace.
We caught our next rider out of Pahiatua and followed him via the Gorge to Ashhurst, but he took the low road via Bunnythorpe, whereas my preference is to avoid 50kph zones wherever possible, and as I had just assumed the lead for the next section to Stratford, we took Colyton Rd across to Fielding to get on the Halcombe road. There's nothing special about the Halcombe road but it is another one that I find delightful as the sweeping curves take one over the rolling countryside. A non-C1KC rider pulled onto the road at Halcombe and he dragged us to the back of what appeared to be a train of 10 or 12 C1KC bikes and we caught them on SH1....but their leader had missed the turn onto Makirikiri Rd and they were just getting sorted as we slipped through unimpeded.....that was bloody gentlemenly of them!
We were still following our 'new friend' at this stage and he seemed to have a bee-in-his-bonnet that he didn't want us in front of him and since he was setting such a cracking pace, we were quite happy to follow, so it wasn't surprising that we caught another group of 5 or 6 bikes before SH3. That led to a cluster at the junction, so I just kept left and scooted to the front, arriving right on queue to take a wide arc with the first couple of bikes out of the blocks. Another easy pass.
We settled back to sort-of-spirited, passed the next couple and caught Dave on his VTR and followed him to Wangas, but when he stayed on '3 passed the Springvale Park, I nipped to the other side of the park, shot up Parsons and Parkes Rds....and pulled out right behind Dave on SH3. It's not a shortcut as such, but it does avoid a set of lights and traffic and can usually get a jump, but on this occasion, he obviously got the lights and we copped a few interruptions.
We passed Dave going up the passing lane out of Kai Iwi, hoofed it along the recommended bypass around Hawera and arrived at Z Stratford at 1055...the ETA was now down to 1857. Z Stratford was both a CP and the first of our two fuel stops and there was no way that the pace we were on would get us to Taumaranui as, with only 360km done, I was already down to 2 bars. We enjoyed a leisurely 15 minute break fueling, snacking and so on, then hit the road with James back in front so I could get some more video footage.
The skies were now overcast (although no threat of rain), the temp was hovering between 10-14° and the Forgotten Highway was quite a treat, but perish the thought of doing it in the wet as a lot of the road is very slick. James maintained a relatively brisk pace and we enjoyed the hell out of the 3 saddles leading into Whangamomona, where we arrived at 1155, then paused for a couple of minutes for James to remove a layer as the temp was starting to climb. We then galloped over the Tahora Saddle and I took the lead shortly after that, having to wait for a flock of sheep, then campervans to clear the Hobbit Hole before we hit the gravel. The first half of the Tangarakau Gorge was pretty thick with sharp looking gravel, so the pace was sedate through there, then the second half was much better, but we got stuck behind a campervan who didn't want to pull over so we (and the bikes) were sucking up dust for a bit and it eventually took a bit of tooting before the prat moved across enough for us to slip past.
Back on the seal and the temp shot up to 18°, so I was pulling the vent zips on my jacket but with the liners still in, I was starting to stew, but rather than stop, I just kept the pace on to try to get to Taumaranui by 1300 and in the end, we pulled into the BP at 1305, to meet up with Jim and give him the certs, badges and prizes for the northern starters. First thing I did was whip the liner out, then we grazed on bananas and nut bars, went down the road to the JDZ Carriages to photo the CP, then finally got back on the road at 1322....with Chris in tow. At this point we'd got the ETA back to 1900, only to push it back out with the stops, so no more gain there. That was surprising as I thought we would have made good gains through the Forgotten Hiway.
We were now on SH4 with James back in front and the boring stint down to Raetihi before taking on the Para's. I wasn't sure on the Km's and whether or not we'd make Hunterville, so planned to fuel in Raetihi, but as we approached, I realised we had plenty for the 150'ish km to Hunterville, so we carried on. The scoot down the Para's was the usual delight (averaging 103kph) I took the lead at Upokongaro and we had negotiated Kaimatira Rd and through Fordell to the Whangaehu River Bridge CP by 1508. About 300km to go, some narrow roads and I was expecting to meet oncoming northern starters anytime.
We had a cruisy 7 minute stop here then got onto the Fordell-Hunterville road proper and it is in very good condition at the present time. All the same, between the potential for loose stuff, wayward critters and oncoming nutty bikers on the narrow passage, we proceded with due care. This road is quite beautiful at this time of year with a mix of flat and hilly farmland, scrubby Whangaehu Valley backcountry, then some areas where the road passes by trees or through wooded areas. ....all very nice if you're not on a mission!
We rolled into the BP in Hunterville at 1539, gassed up and rolled out at 1548, made our way up to the Vinegar Hill turnoff and over to the next CP in Kimbolton before hitting the Apiti Loop. We passed the first of the Northerners (Topher) just before turning off and took even more care on the unmarked road around through Umutoi before getting to the last CP of the day, being the Piripiri Bridge over the Pohangina River. We got there at 1648, dithered for a bit while Chris contemplated an issue with his rear brake and he decided to let it cool off a bit rather than continue immediately so James and I hit the home leg....a quick scoot to Ashhurst, then sedate riding back to the Parrot 'n Jigger in Lower Hutt.
James pulled off at Ohau to collect his daughter for the evenings fireworks display in Wellington but I kept going, enjoyed one last fang over the Parkak' hill and got to the PnJ at 1655, doing 1,010km in just over 11¾hrs on the road for an overall average of 86kph and 10:44 moving time for a moving average of 94kph.
There were already 6 or 8 riders in, enjoying a drink and a snack and I settled in to assist Ann process the rest as they arrived...we were there until 2300!
It was a good route, albeit a bit slower than the last couple of years with the technical bits through the Forgotten Hiway, Fordell and Apiti. Fortunately the great weather made the riding easier and the majority had a great day. It did transpire however that there were 3 offs, 3 breakdowns and about 4 DNF's for various reasons....so it was a tough day. Bloody typical bikers though....Monie who offed and broke a collar bone within 20km of home was only worried she wouldn't get her badge!!!??
Many thanks to James for making the day a bit more exciting, all the other riders for your contributions...and for assisting those in need. (A couple not getting home until 0230....'cos they really wanted their badges). Protecta for coming to the party with a generous sponsorship and Ann for running the start and finish so efficiently.
The bike now has 55,025 km on it and I'm off a 0500 tomorrow to visit Robert Taylor in New Plymouth for a customised suspension....another 700km day.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.