Working from home?

With half the world in lockdown, and NSW having spent the last two months “working from home” today was the first day I actually got a chance to “work from home”.

I feel pretty at home on my bike, so I planned to interpret it differently and planned a long ride around some roads to the north of Sydney.

Just over the Mooney Mooney Bridge

After clearing the family out of the house, checking work emails and having some breakfast I hit the road. I intended to go up the Old Pac and then back down Wiseman’s. Leaving a little later meant that the early morning sun wasn’t quite in my eyes. But it did mean crossing many school zones on my way out of the city.

Not a bad day to be stuck working from home….. emphasis on from home 😉

I got up to the Old Pac in good time, and after a couple of laps I returned to Pie in the Sky. I wasn’t hungry I decided, but the location (top of the hill) meant I would be able to get a signal and log into work. You know, just in case anything had actually happened (it had not).

Selfie time!

I decided I didn’t really want to ride past lunch time. So I did a couple more laps and headed back home. I made it back home, and had picked up some packages (and lunch) from the shops and even eaten most of lunch before 12. The Old Pac really isn’t that far from home here. Any of the other roads and it’s an hour just to get to the start point (Wiseman’s, Putty, Nasho’s etc). Whereas the Old Pac (depending on traffic on Pennant Hills Rd) I can be halfway through a lap within an hour.

So Lockdown day 1? I think Friday I will be working from home too, and maybe a couple of days next week…. hmmm..

Not staying at home..

Um, yeah, 2020….. well – not a good year so far.

The virus has meant a lot of people are at home. I’m not, work has me involved in their COVID working group, so I’m actually busy again. Similar to when the bushfires were on. I’m back to commuting to the city again, possibly for months? So far this year I’ve spent more time away from my regular desk than at it. Not a good sign I suppose.

However the commute through the city is a little lighter. Look at the difference here.

Before COVID-19 (This was only about a month ago, maybe 6 weeks)
After (and yes, it’s not such a nice day)
Before again
And after. But the weather is starting to clear up.

So far, my family is safe, healthy and Mrs and I still have jobs. Seems like that’s becoming a lot to have these days. I hope your families are well and safe too.

oooh, it’s so nice….

You might recall, back when I was shopping for bikes to replace the Daytona there were a couple of things I really wanted to get. Of course, then I got the Ninja, which had a few of them.

I wanted: longer range (tick), more upright (tick), ability to mount top box (tick), ABS (tick), LED headlights (nope). So not bad actually.

At the time I was offered the Ninja I was concerned as I had tested the 2017(?) and found it excellent, but uncomfortable. Happily that was not the case on the 2012 that I ended up with.

And now, there is this.

2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX (I like this green version, more than the black/grey)

So take the engine and the rest of the stuff from the previous generations and refine it. From my perspective add the following (some of which was in earlier versions, between my 2012 and this 2020) traction control; LED headlights (in fact all lights); better economy. Good so far.

Now add electronic throttle, so they can add cruise control. Full TFT dash, and bluetooth (not sure this is a plus, lol). Refine the ride and suspension further and make everything super smooth, light and easy.

Some will say get rid of those dual “shark tooth” exhausts, but to be honest, I kinda like them, certainly compared to this can.

I may have test ridden it now as well.

Ok, so it’s still not “pretty” but it’s so nice to ride….

And someone is interested in my bike.

I just need to come up with the difference, which is a measly $7k. Well it’s kinda tight, money wise, at the moment… but we’ll see. If you wish to donate, feel free to contact me 😉

Best thing is that I have a bike I’d like to get, where as before, there kind of wasn’t.

Kawasaki, I really appreciate that you are continuing with the sport tourer, even if all of your competitors are not. Still have no interest in those semi adventure tourer things.

Big Bikes do commute

I spent the rest of Jan and all of Feb commuting to the city. This made for an interesting experience for me on the largish Ninja. I’ve always commuted by bike, but almost always I’ve travelled either against the main flow or at weird times, so have generally avoided most heavy peak hour traffic. That’s not to say I’m not confident in riding in this amount of traffic or of filtering through lines of stuck cars, its just not my usual commute.

For almost two months, it was my daily ride. Taking about 50mins each way and costing $32 in tolls per day I was still glad not to be driving. I think that would have added at least 20-30mins every day. (I checked public transport, it would have taken around 2 hours).

I’ve actually managed to make a video, so check that out. BBB 41 – A new commute, which will give you some idea of what it was like.

Overall I found the Ninja very capable in the city. Of course there were times when I was just too wide to fit through. To be honest, I think there are times when it doesn’t matter how small you are, you’d be stuck. Having the top box was excellent. I was impressed with one rider splitting with a pannier (though it was a narrow bike and only the right hand pannier).

The bike never seemed to get super warm, often a problem (the VFR was always doing this, though never hot enough to be a problem) for big faired bikes in city traffic. Basically, if my mirrors fit, then the rest of me did too.

Doing my small part

I’m at work on Wednesday a week ago, just settling in after my lunch break. For some background, I work remote to my bosses. They mostly work in Canberra and in Brisbane. I represent my organisation inside another group as the liaison between us both.

So the phone rings, “Are you busy the next few days? Can you be in Canberra tonight and stay for a few days?” Ha boss, that’s a leading question. Lucky I knew Mrs Mab was on leave and its still school holidays. “Boss, I would really like to be back by Monday as Mrs and I have plans for her birthday.” He tells me he will call me back. I call Mrs Mab.

About twenty minutes later he’s back “Canberra, report to work at 8am, we need some extra people due to bushfires support and with a big staff changeover as well.”

“I’m already out the door boss.”

And just like that I find myself (after rushing to the bike shop where the bike is having it’s 18,000 service and then home to pack a little) on the road to Canberra again.

Packed and ready to go. Plenty of spare capacity by adding the Kriega bag.
On the way down. While it looks cloudy, it’s clear, bright and warm. But the smoke is everywhere. The nearest fires are 10km or less to the right of the picture.

It wasn’t too hot, but it was there was enough smoke lingering in the air to make it look like a computer game, you know when there wasn’t the computing power to have long viewing distances in open environments and it goes all grey and fuzzy in the distance. And it got worse towards Canberra.

I spent about 4 days down there, working long days organising support to the bushfire activities around NSW, Victora and SA. It felt really good actually being more directly involved. I did keep an eye out on Friday/Saturday as these were bad days for the fires. The Highland Way was already closed, and there was a fire approaching the Hume between Marulan and Sutton Forrest, as well as another on my route from Marulan to Tarago. Kept an eye on these in case I would need to leave. At the time, the coast road had been shut for days, the Gt Western Hwy through the mountains was also under threat. It appeared that if things would go really bad I would have to drive Canberra – Dubbo – Newcastle – Sydney. Many more hours (say 10 instead of 3!).

After days of smoke, the first rain covered the bike in dirt. The next one cleaned it off though!

It didn’t eventuate. On Friday, the boss was “Right we now need you in Sydney, starting Tuesday. You can have a rest day Monday, then be in Sydney over towards Randwick Racecourse (I normally work near Penrith) until we tell you otherwise”.

So Sunday I head back. It had rained a little over my stay but it was dry, though cool, on Sunday. That was good as I hadn’t brought ANY wet weather (or even cool weather) gear with me. I had meant to, but left it behind by accident.

Crossroads at Tarago on the return. This day was cloudy, but the grey is actually smoke still.
Normally this is clear and bright.

Then this past week, and until told otherwise, I find myself commuting through the city. This is also a bit different and there is a lot of traffic. Filtering is a little harder on this larger, wider bike than previous bikes, but it is still achievable. The worst part is the tolls that add up pretty quick.

But again, being able to help out more directly with these terrible bushfires is kind of satisfying.

So what happened this year – 2019

About Bikes

Really happy with my decision to change over.

Well the Ninja has been out and about. I’ve put almost 16,000km on her this year and sees me in to the 3rd service since I picked her up, only about this time last year. I really enjoy the bike, and have been slowly tinkering to clean her up and set her up for me (like the awesome top box). I have been to Canberra twice and Newcastle once, but apart from work or commutes, there has been little in the way of fun only rides. Still she suits me well, is much better for what I do than the Daytona.

The Daytona is missed, but would likely have seen a fraction of the kms this year. I hear that almost without being ridden the new owner has sold it to a person down in Melbourne. Hopefully they will use her more.

I also rode a VFR during the year and was totally disappointed. I guess I’m now a 100kW or more rider.

I found this a disappointing ride

I would certainly love a 2020 Kawasaki Ninja 1000 to replace this one, but I’m happy for now.

About Babes

Well I have one in High School now. A few hiccups at first, learning lessons about being responsible and planning your assignments but she seems to have settled in well, making good friends and doing well. The other is in Year 5 in 2020, which means High School too in 2022!

About Bytes

Well of course, there is the recently posted completion of BattleTech. Yay. I did enjoy that.

Lady Arano gets her throne back.

My degree is finished. I am waiting for the official results from the school, but to the best of my information, I’ve passed. I am now a fully qualified but not completely registered Primary School Teacher. Huh. That’s a bit different. (and the lack of study in no small way has contributed to the completion of Battletech!)

Just waiting for the official results

About Other Stuff

Dungeons and Dragons flashed back into my life. After a 30 year hiatus, suddenly I find myself Dungeon Master once a fortnight and ad hoc DM’ing for my daughter through an adventure. I am enjoying the distraction and my players seem to be enjoying my management. The accessibility and the ease of the current rules do help that.

And I think that’s a good summary of my year.

I am not sure where 2020 and especially 2021 will take me. I intend to slowly transition from my current employment into teaching through part time (at work) mixed with casual (at teaching) to ease into it. With the plan to switch completely in 2022. Let’s see what happens.

Do you talk about it?

See the gorilla? Well the viewers didn’t.

As a motorcycle rider, it isn’t unusual to have near misses with cars. The more often you ride, the more you will have. Just the other day, barely 50m from my house I was forced to come to full emergency stop part way around a roundabout when a car coming from my left clearly hadn’t seen me and wasn’t going to stop.

Just as I pulled up, the driver saw me and also stopped. He gave an apologetic wave and I carried on.

I have to say, this one was kind of close. Worse, if it had been a minute or two earlier, my own daughter would have been standing at the bus stop just metres away and seen the crash, or at least the aftermath.

And it was my closest in several weeks. I pulled over a few metres up the road until I could catch my breath and the shakes slowed down a bit.

But that isn’t the point of the post.

Riders will always discuss this kind of event amongst themselves. It’s actually beneficial in that it provides a forum to examine the incident and learn from it. Even if we’re not doing it consciously, we’re still learning. Incidents like this years ago are part of the reason I was even looking for the car in the first place.

But what about the driver? Did he go to work and sit down with his mates and describe how he almost collected a motorcycle on the way to work?

I bet he didn’t. Does anyone? It’s a natural tendency to cover up our mistakes. Not let people know.

But there was more than just laziness at work for him. If he was a local, I would be confident he would know that my direction is the least used, so he’s assumed there would be no traffic. The mind is pretty amazing so even if he did look my way, his mind was not expecting to see anything and so he didn’t. These other factors are well understood in other circles (like in aviation). Google the gorilla suit in the basketball game for an extreme version of this “not seeing things”.

And so his learning will be less – and there is more chance he will do it again. Or that his friends who never have this discussion have more chance to have the same mistake.

So would you talk about it?

Just a couple of hours

With Mrs filling in for her boss for a few weeks, she has not been working the past few weekends. This is a confusing time for our family as ever since she went back to work after our eldest was born (who’s now in high school), she’s been working weekends and having Wednesday and Thursday’s off. So I look after chores and cooking in the weekend, she does it mid week and that’s a nice even split and things get done. When she doesn’t work weekends we seem to get to Wednesday and there’s no milk left or the food has runout or the washing needs doing as we’re all out of routine.

ANYWAY. Because of her not working, I headed out for a couple of hours up the OldPac as she could mind the girls. I had also noticed a couple of Instagram folks that I follow had headed up that way, so I was seeing if I might run into them.

It was a pleasant afternoon, so there were a lot of bikes out. I am not as confident, yet, on this Ninja as I was on the Daytona. So I’m back to Captain Ridiculously Slow sometimes, not just Captain Slow. There were also a LOT of police about, so behaving yourself was the order of the day.

Came back after a couple of hours having enjoyed the bike and the weather, so it was a good afternoon. I did see a photographer, but haven’t tracked who it was this time. No photos this time from them. But a couple from me.

Didn’t see any bike drama, but there was a car broken down at the end of the freeway offramp. The ramp goes up and around a blind hard left. The car was stopped just around the corner. I pulled up and suggested (firmly) that they should have someone around the corner slowing people down so they don’t cause an accident. As I was pulled up, a couple of cars came around the turn and managed to stop, but it was close. It made my point.

Short trip – Canberra

IMG_5766
I think this is near Silverdale, south of Penrith. You wouldn’t think you were just a few minutes out of the suburbs (and this is looking east, towards the city).

Work needed me to head to Canberra for a couple of days. Even though they were happy to let me use a work car – why on earth would I want to do that? Two nights, leaving mid afternoon the first day, a full day in Canberra and then finish after lunch and head home. Sounds like bike time to me. Sure, it’s winter, it’ll be cold in Canberra, but I get to cruise down in work time whichever way I choose. And I shouldn’t need to travel at night.

I did plan to leave around midday or a little after, but an unexpected turn in the weather predicted snow* and such later, so I headed off around 10am. I headed south from my work near Penrith directly towards the Hume. This took me down some more winding roads, eventually to pass through Thirlmere and onto the Hume.

*The snow was predicted for the Blue Mountains, which I wasn’t travelling over, but I knew that meant there was likely a band of bad weather stretching across my route. I wanted to get ahead of it. In the end, it moved more slowly than predicted and the snow fell during the night, when I was already in Canberra.

I did plan to then cut off and head through Sutton Forrest and the Highland Way, but it was starting to darken and cool down. I thought better to make up time.

Along the road from Marulan to Queenbeyan

I did still leave the Hume at Marulan like I normally do. By part way along this road, I was really enjoying the bike. Plenty of go, and not as harsh a ride as the Daytona was. As I passed through Tarago I stopped and swapped my summer gloves for my warmer winter gloves. Immediately I felt more comfortable – I hadn’t realised that I had been feeling the cold that much.

Just as I arrived into Canberra it was getting dark due to the clouds (it was only about 4pm), and a little damp. That was okay, as it was into the hotel, take a rest then over to a friends for dinner. They filled my belly and gave me leftovers for breakfast!

The next day, though cold, was pretty routine. The following day after the meeting there was a group lunch and then it was time for me to head home.

As per my old routine I headed back through Queanbeyan, Tarago and on to Marulan. I now felt quite competent on this bike (I haven’t had a lot of spirited rides in the months that I’ve owned it) and there was several moments that I slowed significantly for a corner, only to glance down and realise that, after slowing, I was only now doing the posted limit…..

The trip home was uneventful. Enjoyable, but uneventful.

Stopped at Pheasants Nest for a break on the return.

There was a plan…

So the day started out with a plan. Vote early and then go to Avengers (as it was starting to get hard to avoid spoilers – even Miss 9 tried to spoil it and she doesn’t even know the story!)

But of course that isn’t entirely how it went. Voting was over with almost no wait and I decided to catch the midday movie as that showing had the giant screen. So I had about 3 hours to kill.

Aimlessly riding about, changing my mind every other minute, I ended up sitting at the desk of the Kawasaki salesman asking him how much trade in on the Ninja to get a new Ninja. So they took a look at it.

And overall they thought it was in good shape with one concern. A sort of rattle at high rpm that I hadn’t really identified as a concern. They listed a couple of things it might be (from tensioners to something deep in the engine) but we’re happy to spend a half hour to check it out in case it was something simple. Though they couldn’t do it straight away they could certainly do it today.

So two problems. I couldn’t hang around all day, I did have a movie to get to. And they had already handed out the loaner bikes.

I must have made a good impression on the salesman. He poked about in the second hand bikes and selected one to loan me.

A VFR800. A 2008ish VFR mostly stock with Staintune pipes.

I was worried that I would get quite attached to this. I felt I had somehow won the loan bike lottery. I had so many good memories from my one and this would be the first sixth generation I had ridden since hitting the roo.

So I started up and headed out.

The first thing I noticed was the aggressive seating position. I’ve just spent six months on the Ninja which is quite upright.

The next thing I noticed was the loud noise from the pipes. I had kept mine stock the entire time so it was different to hear this bike.

The most interesting thing I noticed was that it seemed really sluggish. I would open the throttle and not much would happen and it would rev up to the VTEC and get louder but didn’t really seem to get going.

This was the single factor that had me sitting there thinking “Wow, I’ve moved past this bike.” The Daytona and the Ninja have similar power (about 100kW) to the VFR’s 80. The Daytona was significantly lighter but the Ninja is a similar weight and from memory the torque is similar for all. The Daytona feels like it gets away a lot quicker than the Ninja, but both feel like they leave the VFR far behind.

I felt kinda disappointed. I sort of wanted to feel that passion I had for the VFR again. I was also thinking now I’m stuck with 1000cc up from now on. Would I want to go backwards?

On the positive it was a case of thinking that I really did make a good choice with the Ninja. And I was already thinking that any way. The most recent jaunt to Newcastle was good fun on the way home and the ride up Wisemans since was great.

Eventually it was time to return the VFR. And it was without any lingering doubt that I returned the keys and asked after the Ninja.

I will have to call back as I am unclear what they did, but the rattle is gone and they have no qualms about taking the bike as trade. I think a sticky tensioner, probably a symptom of having sat for so long before I got it. I will wait until they call back with an offer though I really am not sure I am able to any offer up.

I rode home – instantly happy on the Ninja. I realise part of that is familiarity but I twisted the throttle and left the afternoon traffic behind thinking how much fun this was.

Oh and Avengers was good. Worth seeing, funny in parts. Not the greatest movie ever, but a finish to the whole saga.