This week I was scheduled to attend the Allied Insurance Group Conference in Rotovegas. Naturally enough that offered an opportunity for a decent ride, so who am I to waste an opportunity...especially when the only problem to sort is “Which way?”
I've been pretty busy so little attention was given to the subject until the day or two before, except for the fact that the OEM Bridgestone 020's needed replacing (after only 12,000Km I might add) so after discussing and researching the merits of Pilot Road 3's, Road Attack GT's and Z8's....I had Z6's fitted as they were the only tyres available!!?? I had tried a Z6 on the front of the old bike and it seemed OK so I was happy to go with that.
The day before I checked the Rain Forecast which identified that there would only be rain around Wellington and up the East so that ruled out the Wai'rapa, and the prospect of potential snow around the Taupo area ruled out SH1 (which is never on the menu anyway...unless it pissing down everywhere). So, easy choice then....I needed to use a tank of gas and I needed to keep west....oh dear....that meant the Paraparas and western side of lake Taupo to stretch the 444Km out to 500Km.
Wednesday morning rolled up with intermittent but heavy showers, so after spending a few hours at work, I kitted up fully then trotted along to J'ville to fill up, then departed from there at 1109 with two directives....get to Rotorua on the one tank....but get there as quick as possible!! This might seem easy enough for an ST rider as I had managed 550Km out of a tank on the old bike, with enough left in the tank to do 600Km, but this bike, with only 12,000Km is still pretty tight and operating at least 2Km/Ltr less than the old red so I would have to control the pace and ride efficiently to achieve the goal.
As expected, the weather did turn out to be pretty marginal up to Waikanae and then it was still eratic onto Levin. After that it did look grim out to the east but continued to improve as I headed north but I kept all my wets on for the added thermal protection as the temp started to descend from 10°. I managed to do the 171Km to just north of Whangaehu in 1:52 for an average of 91kph and at this point I took the turnoff to Fordell in order to bypass Whanganui. This had got all the towns and traffic out of my way and now the ride-proper could begin...those yummy, scrummy Para's!
It was indeed a sweet ride as a slotted into an easy roll-on, roll-off, minimal braking economical pace which saw the economy slip from 17.3Km/Ltr to about 16.8 (but it was up hill afterall). This would be marginal to make the 500Km so from here on I kept a close eye on the fuel gauge as well, in an effort to assess the fuel remaining for the Km's to go. The Para's is in great condition at the moment so from turning on to SH4 at Kaimatira Rd and doing the 80Km to Rataehi, I managed to maintain and average of 99kph, which shows how much the road has been improved because this wasn't far off the pace I achieved on the Mini's Return in 2007...but at that time I was really caning it!!
Unfortunately, that meant the best part of the ride was over and I was thankful to still have the wets on because the temp plummeted to 3° but I didn't need to stop to put another layer on and once I'd crossed the Ponanga Saddle and scooted up SH32, the temp did improve again. When I got to Whakamaru I still had 2 bars on the fuel gauge and that was my cut-off for a fill, but it did drop to the last bar before I'd reached SH1 so I eased back slightly for the final bit over SH30. I pulled into the BP at the bottom end of Fenton St at 1616, having done 497Km in 5hrs 5min for an overall (and moving) average of 97kph, so that was quite good, except for the fact that I probably only had 10 – 20Km left in the tank....(I would have expected to get closer to 550Km out of the red under those circumstances). The tyres were well scrubbed too!
Two days later, I had finished at the conference by lunchtime so went for a soak at the Poly' Spa while I waited for my son, Frank, to finish work, then I stayed the night with him. That was nice to catch-up, but as he had to work on Saturday, starting at 0600, I thought I might as well make an early start myself.
This time, with a full day, I had any number of options available so I tossed up over the 1000Km around East Cape, or perhaps the Kawhia Harbour and Awakino Gorge, possibly the Forgotten Highway or maybe a bit of Gentle Annie and Route 52....but in the end I just wanted to get home so I opted for the Western Lake and Para's again. I did make an adjustment though in that I would take the turn at Kaimatira Rd then continue through Fordell for Hunterville and Vinegar Hill, (and I had 98 octane on board so would try to make it in one hit again). I'd only done 20Km since filling on Wednesday so I just needed to check the tyres and pause to put a couple of psi in each.
It was a crystral clear morning and felt reasonable balmy with a temp of 3°, but I did slip a scivvy over the t-shirt and put the winter spidi gloves on and was soon embarking on SH30. This was a mixed bag of clear skies to start, then fog, then lifted but hanging fog and the temp had dipped to -1°...so I paused at the SH1 junction to don the glove liners and Rain-off over gloves, as the hands were feeling the freshness. Things did improve as I scooted past Atiamuri and Whakamaru, with the temp lifting briefly to 6° down SH32. It was a bit disconcerting that by the time I got to Whakamaru and I hadn't been pushing the pace (83kph) and yet the economy was only 16.2Km/Ltr as well, but I had found with the red that ST's seem to perform more economically in warmer climes, so I pressed on.
By the time I'd done the 151Km to Tokaanu, the avg was up to 91kph and the economy was nearly 16.3Km/Ltr. The road so far had plenty of 'un-sunned' damp spots so I was pressing on cautiously and I was soon on the Ponanga Saddle again. I managed to keep the pace over here at 80-100kph, even though the road was somewhat damp, and the rear did twitch a couple times but apart from that, the Z6's seemed to be performing OK. The temp was swinging quite a bit, from 3-8° but all seemed good as National Park came and went at 0941 and the temp was now settling at 6-8°. Yay....I'd soon be on the Para's!!??
Yeah, well the best laid plans!!??
6 minutes later I had passed through Erua and was approaching the Makatote Viaduct at my steady 110kph indicated (which is 100-105 true). As I turned out of the sun to head down to the hairpin, the 'Spidy Senses' went off, and the conscious mind reacted accordingly....check the temp (still around 6°....good-o), study the road for the best lines (no tar slicks....no apparent grit....no apparent moss on the hump....good-o) 'there's sun on the hairpin so we'll be alright in the corner'. I buttoned off and coasted down the hill with the pace dropping from 100 to 87kph...wary but confident....then everything turned to shit!!!
For no apparent reason, the back stepped wildly out to right and all my mates (the other voices in my head) started yelling at me. “You're Toast!!”, “Mate...you're fucked!!”, “You're not gonna get out of this...”, but my reliable sub-conscious ignored all of them and reacted to the situation accordingly, flicking the bars to the right in a relaxed manner, even though he knew the rear had gone too far to save. Oddly enough the bike didn't go down but instead the rear grabbed.....and flicked back to the left....??!! More yelling, “You're gonna highside when it bites again!!”, “Maaate.....you're really stuffed this time!”
Well, it didn't high side. It just went down at about an angle of 45° to the direction of travel!
I was still doing between 60-80kph, seated and hands on the bars with everything happening in slow motion when I seemed to hit the deck with a bit of a thud and got ripped from the bike, rolled once, (or maybe twice), then slid about 20-30 metres along the road, coming to rest with a light tap on the armco. Of course that was accompanied with more from the others, “You dumb bastard!”, “How you gonna get home now?”, “What have you done to that sweet Black-Beauty?”
I came to rest in the dirt, nudged up against the armco and felt sick at heart. I knew nothing was broken but I was a tad sore, so I lay there thanking my lucky stars, guardian angels and ancestors for a few seconds, then slowly dragged myself to my feet. I hadn't been aware of what had been happening with the bike, although somewhere in the depths, I had heard a bit a scraping and crunching going on. When I got to my feet, first thing I did was to wander onto the road to clear away a few bits of debris from the bike...the right side mirror glass, the mirror bracket, the surround and a few other bits of plastic...and a big rock. Then I limped back to the bike, which didn't look too bad. I took off my gloves and helmet.
By this time, two vehicles had stopped to offer support, and a further glance at the bike revealed that it was bleeding....damn....that's mortal and a closer look revealed the forks were bent and the wheel was pressed back against the radiator. The right fork was fractured and it wasn't going anywhere, so I gave my details to one of the chaps so he could drive out to cell reception to call the Roadside Assist and Ann.
In the following hour, I wandered up the road to ascertain what had happened and my boots were sliding on the surface......damn.....Black Ice!! There had been no indication of freezing but on closer inspection, I now noticed frosting on the side of the road. The slippery surfaced was right across my lane, so there hadn't been much chance of avoiding it. Back to the bike and it was apparent that it had carreened, head first into the base of a concrete block at the start of the armco, then bounced off, so I was really lucky it didn't collect me as I slid past.
After that, the other chap went off to check if the phone calls had gone through, returning about 10 minutes later, at which time another local stopped to offer assistance and he went back to Horopito to alert the Smash Palace Garage. That was good because he turned up after another 10minutes or so, so I eventually got away from the scene about 2 hours after the event.
Once we arrived at Smash Palace my phone started to ring as all the texts & messages from Ann & the Police Comms unit came in and I was just making a strong, sweet coffee when a local cop came in to check how I was and take a report (since it had been notified). By this stage I was starting to seize up and feel the bruises so I got the notebook out, sat down and dumped the track log from the GPS, This was good as it identified the speed and time leading up to my demise.
After that I stripped my gear out of the bike when a bit of shock and realisation gave rise to a few moments, then I sat in the sun reading an e-book while I waited for my ride which was coming from Whanganui. The day was finished with a check-out (including x-rays) at Whanganui Hospital where Ann picked me up, we had a feed, then got home at about 2100.
It remains to be seen whether or not the bike will be a write off, although a fractured fork tends to hint at some impressive force applied to the steering head. The left side is mint, but the right side faring is scraped and holed, the mirror assembly torn off, both crash bars somewhat ground down with the rear one being also bent back against the pannier and the side of the pannier is scraped up. The windscreen is scraped and the whole screen assembly and panel pushed up a bit. The bike has only done 13,383Km and whether it gets to do any more …..well? I came out pretty unscathed really. Just a strained ligament on my shoulder, a bruised and tender hip, a little tightness around the right ribs, but the helmet is done, I managed small holes in the pants and jacket and the rain-off gloves have a couple of holes. (There is a vid and pix but they're trapped in my phone).
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.