No pay?

For the first time in a very long time I didn’t earn any pay.

I’ve worked full-time for 26 years in one company. I’ve not taken any leave without pay during that time (plenty of paid leave though). This year I’ve been part time, so that I test the waters in my new career as a teacher. So once a week I am a casual teacher. While I have a regular gig at a school, its on the understanding that if my main job needs me, I am not available.

Well some meetings had been planned that I would have to attend, so I told the school I wasn’t available and they reorganised themselves to cover. Then late the week before, the meetings were cancelled.

I decided not to let the school now I was free again. Part of it was that I didn’t want to stuff them around again, but part of it was …

I had decided I wanted to go for a ride.

So I did.

Started out with the usual get the family out the door to school and work, then I hit the road. I was certain I wanted to head right up to Broke. I thought early lunch at Wollombi might be nice.

Passed Grey Gums, not a single bike there.

I stopped briefly somewhere north of there to have some water and a snack before getting on to Broke and refilling.

I headed on to Wollombi, but after I stopped, it just didn’t seem appealing. The kitchen was a shambles and didn’t have the vibe I recall from many years ago. I carried on.

At the decision point, I decided to head for the Old Pac and not Wisemans. I’m not entirely sure why, I think I wanted to be home before the family.

NSW Police have these sweet BMW 5 series cars now. Note the paint job leaves the front aspect unmarked…. all the better to catch you with, hehehehe.

I stopped in at Jerry’s Cafe. I think every HWP car in the area was there and a couple of bike cops turned up as I was leaving. There were a lot of bikes there as well. But I didn’t stop long. Again, a snack I had with me and headed on. Old Pac and home.

Eventually I did stop in at my local shops and bought a pile of sushi for my late lunch (about 2pm).

I had a really good day. But as I wasn’t working at the main job and I cancelled my casual teaching day, it was the first day in over 26 years that I didn’t get paid.

A ride…. with other people!?!

Turns out I joined this social online motorcycle group almost 3 years ago. While I frequently get emails as they create rides, I’ve not managed to get to a single one. Until today.

A short run across the North of the city from Berowra Ferry across to Sackville Ferry and home. 2 ferries and brunch at a cafe. It was a pretty early start, being 0730 at Berowra. That would mean about a 0630 or so leave my place. It would be dark and probably around 4-6C. So cold. At least to get to the meet. The sun would be up by the time the ride started, but it would still be cold.

I took the opportunity to experiment with some clothes and gear. Under my standard leather jacket I had a merino t-shirt, a merino long sleeve shirt and thin fleece with a long collar. I also wore my fleece neck thing. Pretty warm. Just plane Draggin Jeans on my legs. But for the first time with this bike I put my Bagster handlebar mitts on, with my summer gloves.

Look, they worked fine. But as before, best when doing some simple commuting or long distance highway work. Not so much when getting more involved. I took them off for the actual ride, using my thicker Nembo gloves till the day warmed up and I switched back to my regular gloves.

It was a nice simple ride. The lunch stop was amazing, but I was good and didn’t eat a lot. Tractor 828 is the place. Check out the food!

It was great to chat to people about bikes and also a couple about MotoGP.

Can you feel the but coming.

But I didn’t really enjoy myself except when I couldn’t see the others. I’m worried that I’m quite set in my ways now and would prefer to ride myself and then meet other riders. And eat…. but the actual riding with others not so fun. Though I did not feel the pressure to keep up or go fast, I think part of that was everyone behaving because double demerits.

I’m not sure. Maybe if I went riding with them more? I know some who were slow today are usually much faster. Maybe a smaller group who I know better? But until I ride with a few some more, I won’t know them better…

But then I don’t get to ride out much anyway.

Screen Time

A mate at work had a pair of extra Quad Lock brackets he was happy to let go for cheap. There wasn’t anywhere spare on the clip ons that would let me fit the handlebar mount he had, and I wasn’t going to entertain the mirror stalk mount. Partly aesthetics, partly practicality and partly security to have it hanging out there in the breeze. It got me interested in the brand and I looked into the stem mount, but it would not fit on the hex stem that is common to Ninjas.

That was about six months ago. Now the other day, I was poking about on a Ninja 1000 discussion board when someone suggested a 1” ball stem mount they used, something specifically designed for the hex stem mount on Kawasaki. Something off eBay. They combined this item with a RAM 1” ball adjustable short arm. Then lastly, a Quad Lock 1” ball mount. I thought, I have one of those arms from my old Sony Actioncam set up. A search in eBay turned up a few of these stem mounts, so I’ve ordered one. I guess it will be a couple of weeks before it turns up.

In the meantime, I looked through the Quad Lock website (again). I bought the 1” ball mount and the case for my phone (with the “poncho” – a water proof cover). I also bought the car mount, I figured I could use it as well. The Quad Lock gear turned up within a couple of days. I’d barely had time to dig out the RAM arm. Fitted perfectly. Roughing it out, it looks like it should sit really nicely between the bar risers. I’ll just have to make sure I can access the ignition.

The case fits very nicely on the phone. It’s very slim and is less protection than my current Otterbox (another recommended brand), but I think it will be okay. The poncho slips on easily and looks to provide good weather protection. And the TouchID works through it as well.

So back to the mounting. The stem part arrived within a couple of weeks. Not bad I thought, as it came from the UK. It’s pretty simple. A 1″ ball with a hex driven bolt down the middle. There is a hex shaped nut on the other end. This has some petals coming from it and along the shaft is a washer (?) that expands the petal. Slide the shaft into the hole in the stem bolt. Tighten the hex bolt and the nut moves up the shaft. This pushes the petals against the washer, which forces them outwards and they grab the shaft of the slot. Done.

Then, connect the RAM arm and the Quad Lock mount and adjust to the desired angle. Job complete.

I haven’t had a test run, so will have to report on it separately.

Success!
Portrait mode
And Landscape.

Of course, the next step is to get power to the mount.

Well I may have something on that. Turns out there is a pair of connectors just under the left front fairing that have been provided for the factory heated handgrips. If they aren’t fitted (not fitted on my bike) there is a convenient, factory switched (so no battery drain) power supply right near the front of the bike. And would you believe Amazon has more goodies….

Like this dual USB and voltmeter. From what I’ve seen, people mount this into the dash on the bike. “Simply” cut a round hole in the plastic. I have seen a handlebar one that’s similar, but then I end up back in the same problem I had with the Quad Lock!

I swear, it’s not all because of the MotoGP trip planning!

MotoGP trip – more planning.

I like to plan. It’s part of how my brain works and something I do in my profession a lot. So even though it is still months away and may not happen at all (COVID) I am still doing planning for the MotoGP.

But I tell myself that it’s also planning for the practice runs I am also planning…. It’s a vicious cycle, lol.

Look if the Indian Cricket Team can come down, the Australian Tennis Open can be held, why not the MotoGP. Besides, we’ll all be immunised then anyway. So I’m planning. Easier to turn things off, than back on.

I have my route figured out. I have my planned fuel stops and also alternates (if I run low, or still have plenty left at my planned stop). Strangely, even with nearly 100km more range in the tank, I’m refuelling in about the same place as the Daytona trip. Sometimes, its about having enough fuel for long legs, but also about stopping and having a break anyway. Some are tradition, like the BP at Marulan. I always stop there….

So what else is being considered. Well I sorted out what would be about 90% of my gear for the trip and tried packing it all on the bike. That went pretty well, and it should fit nicely in my topbox and US30. Initially I can pack the backpack in the topbox, but if needed, I can strap outside, onto the US30 too. Experimented with different packing cubes. Realised, it might be easier if there was a single big bag in the top box, which I can just lift out. Put the packing cubes into this bag. I have something I can use as a inner bag for the top box to fill that role.

I am wondering how I will go when things are wet. Things like setting up the tent in the rain (and taking it down). Storing the tent so it doesn’t wet everything else, or can I get it a chance to dry in between. Even if it doesn’t rain, there will still be dew. All my thinking is about wet weather – I’ve lived and travelled in the area over several years, so I know what the weather tends to be like. Hot weather will just see me being a bit warm in my touring jacket. And making sure I have enough water.

If its a nice day, I can strap some stuff to the outside of the bike and let it dry in the sun and wind. But if it’s not…

Food wise, I still plan on just eating out. Have some snacks and a cold breakfast with me. I don’t drink coffee or tea, so nothing required to be heated at camp.

Then there’s things like how do I empty my GoPro SD card when it’s full. I’m not taking a laptop. When do I charge this stuff? I’m now planning to camp at powered sites if available. But do they just have a normal powerpoint? I assume so. That makes charging easy. If not, will I have enough to at least charge my phone and my helmet BT system, Scalarider (I think the answer is yes).

Then, just before departure I’ll look at the weather predications and add or subtract clothing before leaving. But it’s very changeable down that way no matter what the forecast a week before says.

And then some test runs…. I wonder if there’s space at work to camp out for a night?

MotoGP – Route Planning

I’m probably procrastinating, and also a bit presumptuous, especially when we can’t be sure that the MotoGP will even get to Australia this year. But I’ve been route planning for my ride to the MotoGP this October. Probably the fact I just purchased my camping gear is part of the motivation.

It has been a bit of a revelation, when I release myself from dropping in on family or family friends (how many more options open up for route and places to stay. Being able to go about 100km further on a tank (Ninja compared to the Daytona) will mean I can be a little more relaxed about where to get fuel. And, of course, camping opens up options as well.

I decided to plan on about 6 hours of riding per day. With breaks and fuel stops etc, that’s probably getting closer to 7-8 hours a day. I think that’s probably a comfortable pace for me. With camping an option now, I can conceivably decide to go a little further (or less) on a day. October is low/shoulder season, so I would expect that most parks would have a powered or unpowered site available for drop ins.

This time I thought about roads I wanted to travel. So things to tick off.

  • Kangaroo Valley (it would be nice to go up this)
  • Princes Highway, south along the coast
  • Black Spur
  • Alpine Way (upwards)
  • Whitfield to Mansfield
  • That piece south of Lake Eildon that drove me crazy last time.
  • The road up from Merimbula to Cooma, that was fun in the car even.

It did take me several attempts, because I kept trying to wind my route back to people I could stay with. So I tried a different approach. I put together a long list of various places and times between them. Then I could just plug them together in different ways and see what happened. I will bring with this with me and if I want to make changes I already have the details.

And a plan has come together. I’ve gone from a rough idea of maybe camping one night, to camping probably 3 nights. I have planned to stay in a hotel/motel when I am in Melbourne. This gives me somewhere I can rest, relax, recover. It also means I can store my gear (or spread out and dry/air) safely while I’m at the race.

  • Day One – Leave Sydney, down the freeway a little, then veer off and down Kangaroo Valley. Once on the coast, follow the Princes Highway down to Marulan. Camp here at the same park we stayed as the family.
  • Day Two – From Merimbula, up across the mountains to Cooma. Then north to Adaminby and across the Snowy’s down to Colac Colac. This won’t be over the Alpine Way, but one of the alternatives.
  • Day Three – Colac Colac to Omeo, then over the Alps to Sale and eventually about Dandenong. I’ll stay in a hotel/motel here for the two nights.
  • Day 3a – If I leave a day earlier, I can spend a day in Melbourne, or have a rest day, or go to practice/qualifying
  • Day Four – Race day.
  • Day Five – Head north for Healesville and the Black Spur. Out the other side and up to Eildon. From Eildon I’ll head to Mansfield around the south and east of Lake Eildon and defeat the demon I faced last trip. From there I will probably head back to Colac Colac for the night. Alternatively Wodonga.
  • Day Six – Over the Snowy Mountains along the Alpine Way. And then on to Canberra.
  • Day Seven – Home. Probably by my favourite route over the back through to Tarago and Marulan, then freeway home. I suppose I could go down to the coast, then up Kangaroo Valley…. hmm…

About 5 or 6 hours per day. The longest planned is 8 and I’m a little worried about that. Though the next day is short (only 5 hours) so I might stop earlier and even them out. Or I might be travelling really well and be ahead. See, now I’m flexible….

Thinking About Camping… by bike

Whenever I have travelled further than a day’s ride, I have either stayed at friends, stayed in accommodation provided by work, or in a hotel. I’ve been thinking about the next trip to the MotoGP. I’m assuming that it will be on this year. And I thought that maybe I might try camping this year.

Now, I’m not a stranger to camping, though it has been many years. I’ve done some hiking, and even with work have stayed out in the bush sometimes. And in this case, I’m not thinking about the kind of camping where I’m away from civilisation for long periods. I’m just talking about bedding down somewhere along the way. Say at a caravan park or something.

Staying at a park means I’ll have amenities, which saves a lot of hassle. Possibly even access to power outlets. Cooking if I want to go that far (I doubt I will).

I have a pretty good sleeping bag. It’s not tiny, but neither is it huge. I figure to about 6C it should be fine. I don’t expect that it should be any colder than that getting to Melbourne, but the bag is rated a little lower if needed. If it is looking bad at the time, I have a bigger, but better rated bag I could pack instead.

I don’t have a tent. Sales are on at the moment, so I picked a quite small single person. It packs down very small. No cover for the bike, but I’m not too worried about that. I’ll take a “foot” for the side stand in case the ground is soft, but I’d be taking that anyway.

I will have to test them out sometime. Firstly just to make sure I know how the tent goes up, then to check the sleeping bag is warm enough. I’ll probably just put them up on my back deck at first, not sure when I could get an actual away trip to experiment with.

These two should fit nicely in my top box. I plan to use my top box and my Kriega backpack (which I would strap to the pillion seat for most of the trip rather than wear). I think that will be enough. Perhaps I can throw in my 30L Kriega tailpack if needed? That should be plenty of space.

I also realised that because I’m no longer studying, I don’t need to bring my iPad and other study stuff. I can keep my electronics down to my phone and the GoPro. This makes it easier to secure, easier to manage charge levels and just less, well, stuff. Ooh… and a torch.

Of course, this all hinges on the MotoGP actually happening and me actually getting away. However, having the bag and the tent available of the future isn’t a bad thing anyway.

2020 – From my perspective

Really, 2020 has been an unforgettable year. Tragedy for so many and upheaval around the globe. For Australia it started with the ongoing bushfires, and then just as things were getting back to normal, the COVID crisis hit, upending everything for pretty much everyone.

I am certain that I will cop some flak for this, but to be honest for me, and I mean just me, it was actually a good year.

Professionally I had two unexpected opportunities to demonstrate my abilities and I am satisfied that I did good work. Supporting the Bushfires response and then the COVID response I got great feedback. From the bushfires, one of the executives I was working for wrote an appreciative letter to my own exec. Big plus there, though it won’t mean a promotion or a raise though. It did feel good to be appreciated in that way.

This fire broke out very close to home.

For my new profession, teaching, I graduated at the start of the year with my paperwork finally arriving in March. My accreditation with NSW was also completed and I started actually working, as a casual, one day per week for Term 4. It was great to start, and I have a lot to learn, but I also discovered that there is work there, and I am in demand. That’s again a positive for the future. Oh, and I confirmed that I enjoy it and would love to have my own classroom.

Effect of COVID

Look, my family was kind of insulated from the upheavals. My wife’s profession and mine were both required to work throughout and there was never any threat to our employment. My daughters’ schools did close for a term, but we managed their online access. Being tech savvy and having several computers and iPads, but most importantly a reliable internet connection, meant that schooling online wasn’t an issue. After being released from the COVID taskforce after a couple of months, I did do some random periods of working from home as well, and I love it. From that perspective it proved to my entire organisation that working from home, or remotely are viable depending upon your particular role.

COVID initially made the traffic very light when commuting.

None of our extended families have so far caught COVID, and most live in small rural areas, so not high risk anyway. And work wise, many of them are retired, or in school or continued to work pretty much as normal. Again, this has lessened the impact on us. I don’t know anyone personally who has had COVID.

I am very thankful for the particular circumstances that my extended family found itself in during COVID.

We did cancel a planned holiday to Hawaii. I didn’t mind. I wasn’t really wanting to go at that particular time and it was going to be a hassle with eldest’s school too. We got about 95% of our money back as well, which helped. And our planned Christmas in Philippines was not even considered. We did take a few days down the far south NSW coast, consciously staying within the state, just in case.

Bikes

Well, the first comment is not really me, but the MotoGP has been a stellar year with all sorts of things happening. Jack Miller (#43) kept me on the edge of my seat in several races. To finish with a second place in the last race and hand Ducati the constructor title was an awesome way to step across to the factory team. Outside of Jack, there was some amazing racing and epic moments.

I was a little sad when the Australian round was cancelled. I had not planned to attend this year and if it hadn’t been cancelled back in Feb (I think) it certainly would have later. However, my Mrs is happy for me to attend next year. And I have a bike that I will enjoy even more riding down there and back. I have been busy looking at different routes there and back.

And they call it a “work trip”…..

Bike wise, I got several “work trips” in and some other minor rides about the place to break up the commute. Even the commute was broken up with a total of about 4 months of commuting to the city. I do enjoy filtering past all those cars…

Filtering…. see ya suckers 🙂

The bike is running well and I have done little things to fix it up. Replacing the broken fairing piece and sorting out the OEM tail to properly mount the Givi rack were little niggles of mine. I’d still love another 50-100km from the tank, but that’s not too much drama. I don’t really have any other “jobs” left to do on it now. It’s now in better shape than when I got it, 30,000km ago.

Of course, I did miss out on getting a new one. It’s still a goal of mine, but I think it might be 2022 perhaps.

Bytes

Not a lot happened in this arena. I picked up a Surface Pro, to use for teaching of course. First laptop in a long time and first new Windows hardware in 10 years! It worked out well for a couple of teaching days already.

No, this isn’t moving away from the Apple ecosystem, but until they make a MacBook with a touch screen/pen input, I don’t see the point. Admittedly the changes they have made to iPadOS have made it significantly more useable for a work/study environment.

Sure, part of the decision to get a Surface Pro is the “new toy” in lieu of the new bike 🙂

Dungeons and Dragons went from strength to strength this year. I DM’d a regular group online and they worked they way through the Icespire Peak/Leilon modules. A (mostly) regular Friday evening group stood up as well, with different people running it and different adventures. I’ve ended up DM’ing some of those Fridays as well, kicking off an adventure based around Saltmarsh which is proving entertaining. All online through Roll20.

That has been a lot of fun, made some new friends and got back into one of my hobbies. It even saw me complete a heap of painting of miniatures too. This young green dragon came out well (mini is about 12cm wingtip-wingtip).

So I do extend my sympathies to those who have lost family or friends or who’ve had work upheavals, lost home or businesses. That’s why its with some awkwardness, I have to say that for me, 2020 was actually a good year.

Let’s hope 2021 is better for all!

Playing with the Zed

Service Time. 30k. So my Ninja went in for a service and I rode out on the Z900 again. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know if they will help you out…

I thought that this would be a good chance to really get to know it on more of my daily ride, rather than last time which was bike shop to house and back (about 10 mins each way) when I didn’t really play with it. So a little poke through the local streets before off down the highway to work. Ducking off the freeway for a nearby bakery that sell awesome char sui banh mi (Viet pork rolls). And then to work.

I’ll be honest, it felt much more comfortable riding on the freeway on the Z900 when compared to the BMW F700GS from a couple of servicing ago. Even though the GS had a small screen it felt like I was hanging on trying not to get blown off the bike. The Z900 didn’t feel like that. And I thought my neck might be aching the next day from trying to hold my head in the airflow, but that didn’t happen either.

It was a nippy little thing, short first gear and nimble too. A little disconcerting at first without a screen and a chunk of bike ahead of me. I’m also unused to handlebar mounted mirrors. Everything seemed (dash, mirrors, the front of the bike) like it was all squashed up in front of me and I always had to look down to see anything. Easy to get through traffic though.

While it was fun, and I took a couple of side trips on the way home. I was happy to return it. Though, I definitely will push for a naked style bike if one of my daughters ever looks for a learner bike.

Got my Ninja back, new front tyre and pads. I find that one of the effects of spending most of my 30km commute on a freeway is that my bikes tend to wear their fronts first. So 22500km from the Road 5 front and still going on the rear. New pads are as far as I can tell, the first for the bike. Again, a lot of cruisey freeway work means they don’t get worn very quickly.

The pillion end.

Oh the other bike thing over the weekend was some minor improvements. Along with the OEM tail tidy that I sorted a short while back, there has always been two other things bothering me about the bike (not counting the Canberra Motorcycle Centre stickers). The first, that it was missing the tool kit, and specifically the tool for adjusting the preload. That arrived (just that tool, I was hardly going to spend good money on crappy OEM screw drivers etc) with the tail tidy the other month.

The other part was that the fairing piece around the pillion seat was broken. Not very obvious, but all the tabs that helped hold it together on one side were snapped off. I ordered that the other week and it was in stock, so arrived within a couple of days. I fitted this over the weekend, being VERY careful to fit the tabs together. It does fit together nicely now. This bike is now more OEM than when I got it, lol.

The last step is the tool kit. I have my most frequently used tools in a nice Kriega tool roll that I picked up at some point. Only problem has always been that this tool roll didn’t fit in the space under the pillion seat. As I was pondering this again during the fairing fitting, I had a brainstorm. Or at least, something to try.

I have a old MacPac pouch, something you would loop onto your belt or the waist strap of a pack. I’ve had this pouch for about 30 years and its had various roles in that time. However, for the last few it’s been sitting in a trunk where I keep losing it when I want to use it and finding it months later when I don’t. The same thing had just happened. I found it again about a month ago, and now I couldn’t find it.

At least at first. This time, with only the month or so since I last found it, I had a better idea which “obvious” place I had stashed it.

I managed to get all of the tools from the tool roll including my tyre repair kit into this pouch. It fits snuggly into the space under the pillion seat. with the tools in there I can sort most of the bike out.

30 year old pouch comes into service again.

So now the tools are with me all the time, and when travelling, are not taking up packing space. Usually, it will just be a case of lift the pillion seat and get the tools. If I have the Kriega bags as well, simply lift them off first, then the seat. And while the rubber strap included in the space won’t fit around the tool kit, this snug fit won’t be going anywhere.

I am going to see if there is a pillion seat replacement cowl available, that might have more space and look nice. However I wouldn’t use that if the Kriega bags are on the bike because I prefer to strap the bags onto the cushion and not scratch any fairing, it’s something I did with the Daytona. This is when I would be travelling and when I would be thinking about more tools anyway) so it might be pointless. Still I will enquire.

So now there’s just that Canberra Motorcycle sticker on the front mudguard.

Let out again!

Unexpectedly, Mrs Mab was home on Saturday. She was planning to go out with her friends, which I had thought dinner etc. Turned out it was shopping and lunch and home by 1pm.

Sitting on the couch as she chats to her friends, I realised that this means that she is home to look after the kids….. So without any fuss, I grabbed my helmet and rolled the bike out. Be gone, between 2-3 hours. Enough time to ride out to Mt White Cafe/Pie in the Sky and come home.

So I found myself tooling up the Old Pacific Highway on a Saturday afternoon. A lot less bikes about than I had expected. I think maybe two things, it was afternoon with most riding in the morning I presume and there was rain forecast all day (though not really doing anything).

Did see a copper, but they got busy with a car that had spun out just up from the bridge.

I shouldn’t be surprised, but the adjustments to the suspension that I talked about in the previous post really have the bike giving me a lot more confidence than previously. I felt quite comfortable… or perhaps as comfortable as my innate caution allows…

Looks like someone lost control in their MX5. I’m assuming there is damage on the car, otherwise I assume they would have left before the cops arrived. Unless the Commodore further up had been pulled over, then the MX5 came across it and lost control, right in front of the coppers?
Some fluids leaking from the MX5, so I’m assuming there is some damage. The Commodore is just ahead of the police car on the left. Interesting to note, both Highway Patrol cars are their newish Chrysler 300C. Though talking to one copper, the BMW 5 series they also have is much nicer than the Chrysler. No surprise there…