My first blog…..while riding!

Been hacking and drilling and cutting and sanding my Sony Action Camera case to try and mod it so I can record myself talking while riding. My first test went really well.

BBB 21

but since then I haven’t been able to get it to work. I think it’s the mic being in a different place each time, so next time, I’ll move it back to the first position.

 

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Over the Mountain

IMG_2240A cool but sunny late autumn day dawned on the Friday for my trip back to my family in Sydney. It seemed like a great opportunity to try a alternate route that had been recommended to me. The main reason that I hadn’t yet tried this way is that I estimated it would take around 6 hours – that’s double my normal time, door to door, and being a new route, I would be taking it easy.

I also had been warned that snow and ice were real possibilities on this route so weather was also a big concern. But we’ve had a long unusually warm autumn in South East Australia this year (barely making the single digits, let alone snow and ice temps) and several rain free days before today. A quiet week at work meant that the chances of getting away early where high – all I needed was an early knock off.

I slipped away early and soon after I hit the road west from Queanbeyan. My route took my to Tarago, but here I turned North to Goulburn, where usually I head straight across towards Bungonia. At Tarago I deviated slightly to check on a couple of bikes I saw stopped in case they were lost. No problems there so I turned north. This road is the more well known route than my normal way, and its’ not a bad ride. A bit shorter and straighter than via Bungonia. Plus it adds more interstate.

IMG_2232After getting a little lost in the streets of Goulburn, I fuelled up and turned for the unknown. Again, more northerly towards Taralga (NOT Tarago or Tarana… can get a little confusing). The roads were pretty open and flowing, mostly through farmlands. Some resurfacing was underway and the low winter sun often annoying, but otherwise the ride was very enjoyable. And the kms were swiftly covered.

The road continues north over the Abercrombie River. The descent and climb down to the river crossing were fine twisty roads, without markings, but generally wide enough.

IMG_2229Up from Abercrombie you head towards the back side (from a Sydney perspective) of the Blue Mountains. Again the roads were wide and flowing, but empty. The area is obviously pine plantations and the odd logging truck may need to be avoided.I arrived in Oberon, grabbed a small lunch and topped up the fuel again. This should easily last me until my doorstep, so no requirement to stop again.

From Oberon, you join up with the road from Jenolan Caves and head towards the Great Western Highway at about Mount Victoria. This stretch before the Highway is the last fun before the grind over and down the mountains. And it’s a pretty good bit with some nice vistas of Aussie mountains (so really slightly bigger hills than the rest of the area – not real peaks with snow etc)

IMG_2238The Highway is being expanded and sorted in a massive upgrade that has so far taken several years so there are slow speed roadworks zones, and the newer areas have reduced limits (because the tin tops can’t help running themselves into barriers and off the road all over the place). And the traffic was …. well there actually was traffic, so the fun was over. Still takes about another hour to get over the mountains to home.

A really nice ride and I think heading the other way would be nicer (get the annoying bit out of the way at the start). Pity it is so much longer than my normal route so I’ll have to save it for next time the stars align.

Of course the mighty VFR ate it all up without hesitation. It’s now about 500km short of 150,000 and then only 11,000km until it rolls over 100,000miles. Its not impossible to hit that by Christmas.

Well that’s a first.

298A brisk… no actually… cold ride from Sydney to Canberra tonight. The temperature was low (about 5-6C) but what really made it awkward was twofold.

One was self induced. I dug some old riding pants out of the cupboard to trial. I bought these pants about 7 years (and about 20Kg) ago. I didn’t like them then, but I couldn’t remember why. Surprisingly they still fit. But it wasn’t until I tried to get on the bike that I think I figured out why I didn’t like them. They were tight in the inseam or something – it felt tight where it made it sort of odd to sit on the bike. Though 3 hours later I wasn’t too unhappy. They were also pretty slippery on the seat. That was a surprise as I slid over to take a curve and almost slid myself off the bike! As a plus, they’re a lot safer than my kevlar jeans and warmer too.

So problem one was new/old pants.

The second problem was the wind. It wasn’t particularly cold and not really strong, but I just found myself fighting against it from Sydney until Goulburn. It wasn’t hard but it was tiring for two hours.

I think that’s why I missed it when it happened. I stopped for a warm kebab at Goulburn and it wasn’t until I got to Canberra that I think I left my wallet there, or it fell out around there sometime.

I was cold and somewhat fatigued and it was dark so I just didn’t notice. At least I didn’t have anything much in there – a couple of easily replaced credit cards, my licence and my last $45 until payday.

Ok, that last bit is the most annoying, but at least it wasn’t like $200! Thankfully my work ID cards weren’t there either.

And it is the first time I’ve done that pretty much ever as far as I can remember. I’ve lost the odd card or few dollars here and there – so on average that isn’t bad.

But annoying.

 

Muddy Waters

Another Sunday means another ride to Canberra. The weather was warm with some scattered clouds. A pleasant, if dull ride ahead.

I was about forty five minutes from home when I noticed all the cars headed the other way had their lights on. At five in the evening, that wasn’t a good sign. About five or so minutes later the road ahead seemed to disappear into a cloud.

I quickly pulled over… rain ahead. As I pulled my rain pants from the top box it started to rain a little. Big drops, but not much. Pants on, I hit the road as it really started to rain. Then about 1km up the road was the petrol station I had planned to pull over at anyway! Ah, well. at least I was dry.

And a fellow VFR rider was just pulling up as well. Not only was it a fellow VFR rider, but a mate from Sydney who has also moved to Canberra. We chatted as we filled our bikes up and geared up for the rain. We decided to ride together, as heading out together was a lot safer into the heavy downpour that the rain had turned into.

The ride, though heavy rain was fairly uneventful for about another half an hour. As we started to clear the heavy rain, the traffic in both lanes ahead started slowing and clearly stopping.

Not wanting to get caught at the end of a line of stopped highway traffic in poor visibility I decided to split up the middle – the main reason so that we wouldn’t get flattened when someone didn’t pay attention and squeezed at the back of the queue. I also hoped to split right past whatever accident was ahead (conditions as they were, it was pretty likely someone had gone off the road or tapped another car).

At the front was something else… water. Lots of muddy rising water.

The highway was flooding. My buddy came up… “We have to keep going, it’s only going to get deeper”

At this point it was over the sole of my boots. And rising quickly. I remembered all those images of cars floating away on flooded highways. “Are you sure?”.

“Yes” He headed forwards.

We split some way up the road until we were past all of the cars and the flooded highway stretched out ahead of us. But we could also see clear road.

“Keep going, otherwise we’re stuck here” he said, just as a semi trailer crept past. “follow him, he’ll clear any debris”

So we did. The bow wave of the truck kept tugging at the front wheel trying to turn the bike. Sometimes we’d ride over the centreline that we couldn’t see, but we could feel the cats eyes. A few hundred metres up the road we were out of the water.

Looking back down the freeway
Looking back down the freeway
Made it.
Made it. And even a rainbow, awwww.

We pulled over to check nothing was caught in the bikes. The water had gotten to mid calf, not quite over the tops of my waterproof boots when I was on tiptoe. Riding, it was lapping at my boots on the pegs and the bow wave as we rode through it was at least twice that. We looked back just as the police arrived and shut the road. They wouldn’t have let us through I’m sure. Good choice. (or lucky??)

Not long after that the rain stopped and eventually the roads dried. More than an hour late I rolled into my garage to get dry and warm.

Safe.

I haven’t ridden this far in 50 years.

IMG_5362So I’ve moved down to Canberra where I live during the week, and head home every weekend. One of the problems with this has been that whichever bike stays in Sydney won’t get ridden, and its not fair to my family to be away all week, come home late Friday and then spend all Saturday riding, before leaving for Canberra mid afternoon Sunday.

I always planned to move both bikes down here, but how do I do that. I’d really need a lift from a buddy or maybe catch the intercity bus.

My mum and dad were headed to Sydney on their way to my sisters, so my dad suggested he rides the other one down. Which was a really good idea.

Except he’s ridden my VFR for a total of about 20minutes in the suburb only (no freeway, no back roads) and not ridden this far (to quote him “furthest he’s ridden in 50 years”). We can’t leave until after 4pm as my wife doesn’t get home from work, giving us about 4 hours of daylight. If it takes us too long we can’t ride on the back roads as the kangaroos are a real hazard around dusk. Then to add to it all, we turn on a bit of a heat wave and we’re expecting about 38C, clear skies all day…. he’s from NZ so not so used to our temps.

But in the spirit of adventure… stuff all that, LETS RIDE! IMG_5363Just about to head off.IMG_5367It was warm, and it took Dad a little while to get used to the higher speeds (and glorious smooth comfort of the VFR, his normal ride is a KTM 690 Duke, he calls a tractor by comparison). I bought a set of Scala Riders several months back and they did great work on this trip. 

Our route took us down the freeway at first, partly to build his confidence and partly trading fun for time so we could do the best bit at the end.

By Moss Vale Service Centre we both needed a stop for a leg stretch, but more importantly some water. It was very hot and no clouds to relieve us. We spent a couple of minutes drinking up and chatting to a bloke doing the run on a Speed Triple.

At Marulan we’d made up enough time that I was happy and we turned off into the country roads. Dad’s first taste of the country NSW on a bike. The comms worked well and I was able to give him general tips and warn him about hazards and tighter turns coming up… I’m sure he was sick of me nattering in his ear. But I was protecting two things very important to me.

And I gotta say he did really well. He enjoyed himself but even he admitted he had the death grip on the handle bars for most of the day – part of that was the pressure of not smashing my VFR I guess. The forested roads gave us a lot of relief from the sun and evening was stretching on as the sun came down – into our eyes.

Then, about 3h15m after we left we rolled up to my garage, safe, sound, tired and thirsty. I usually take just under 3h so we made really good time. This is my Dad, pretty stoked about the whole thing (and quietly a little amazed I let him ride my VFR – so am I)

Time to put the feet up and drink lots of cold cold water. Well done Dad 🙂IMG_20140209_192423

How do I explain this happiness?

IMG_1122

I think this is probably true no matter what it is, when it’s something that you really enjoy. I’m sure some of you get this from WoW. Sometimes I do, but not as reliably as when I’m riding.

As I got into the second hour of my ride back to Canberra, and finally got off the Highway. It was as I rolled merrily through the back roads, the bike eating up the miles and us both leaning into the corners and accelerating out, that I felt that happy, peaceful contentedness come over me. I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do.

The miles rolled away under the wheels. I know this road reasonably well now. I know there are lots of easy corners, and only a couple that try to catch you out. I can remember these before they come up, so the bike is set up and the corner disappears quickly behind me. I know some people could ride it faster, getting their knees down, leaned right over, running the edge of the tyre ragged.

That’s not me, but I’m sure we both have the same smile when we pull up at the end. I can’t think of much I’d rather do, than cruise quickly along a back country road on my bike.

I don’t know what it is for you guys, but I hope there is something that gives you the same feeling.

Wasn’t I supposed to ….

SONY DSCMrs let me out for a couple of hours ride. I wanted to take the VFR out for a serious ride in order to check out (and break in) the new suspension components. As I stood in the garage I couldn’t help but listen to the siren call of the Daytona, I could just hear it saying

“come on… I’m more fun than that one. More flickable, more power…”

But it’s double demerits until after New Years, I’d have to be a good boy.

“I can behave… come on.”

So I rolled the Daytona out and went for a ride.

And it was fun.

When I got back, the family had gone out. So I headed off to meet up with them for dinner.

I put the Daytona back in the garage and rolled out the VFR. This was weird as I have never actually swapped the two over that close together. Really highlighted the differences, both good and bad.

They actually complement each other quite well.

And more fun was had on the way to and from dinner.

 

VFR Service and some suspension work

Service time again for the VFR. This time I had some extra work to do on the bike. I have recently been considering suspension upgrades as this is almost as critical as tyres, and I haven’t done anything to it in 10 years. Discussions with knowledgable friends, lots of helpful advice and visits to a couple of specialists around the city helped a lot in understanding the options.

One of things I was scared of was changing the bike and ending up NOT liking the ride. While my Daytona is a wonderful ride, occasionally the stiffer suspension is a bit uncomfortable on some of the patches I know my VFR with its softer ride is less affected.

The other problem was of course, costs. When I first started considering my plans I had a little more spare cash that I do now, so that became a bigger and bigger factor.

So I stayed simple. A front clean and re-oil, new seals. For the rear I replaced the shock with a new Honda stock item. So both ends refreshed and I am happy that it won’t be worse. Yes, there are plenty of aftermarket options, but I am happy with the way it rides, and I don’t ask a lot from it. I have the Daytona now for that.

I’ve only ridden it home on the freeway, its first real test will be the when I head to Canberra in the new year to start at my new position. On a road I know fairly well and have ridden recently it, it will be a good comparison.

Service all done as well, with no problems to report, well done after 141,000km. Described as immaculate (I’d probably argue that, there is a few minor scratches and other normal wear and tear about), but happy to hear praise like that.

Its Still a Secret

SONY DSCI’ve been keeping the secret of my new bike from all of the riders at my work. Until I do, I will have to keep posting my thoughts here as some are aware of my VFR blog, so no good posting it there. I plan to arrive early on my first day back and leave it parked before most arrive. That will get the buzz going as they all try to figure out who’s it is.

I didn’t have the kids to look after today, but the weather was looking a little threatening. I took a chance and headed into the hills to the north west of the city for the first serious outing on my new bike.

OH WOW! Not sure how else to say it. Why didn’t anyone tell me to buy a supersport bike before. This bike is so easy to ride quickly and so confident that while I didn’t break any records or (almost) any speed limits I still have a grin after getting home after lunch. The bike just wants to go and go. It takes lots of control to keep your licence on this kind of bike I’m sure.

I dodged all the rain and spent about 2 hours in the mountains. Got home, had lunch and gave it a wash before it was time to grab the kids from school/childcare.

I did get both bikes out for a bit of a photo shoot…

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

 

You sick of it yet, I’m not 😛

O Canada

Down under is currently hosting a Candaian from the VFR website I frequent. He’s been here a week and already clocked up 2000km on the 2000 VFR that he procured for his time here. Wow.

I spent the week trying to pick a day to take off and go for a ride with him, but work commitments made it impossible. I suggested we catch up on Saturday for a short ride up the Putty to the Grey Gums. While the weather initially was forecast as showers, I was convinced it would be clear by Saturday. I invited some of the regulars from work, but with the short notice and they didn’t believe me regarding the weather, only two turned up.

Of course it dawned a little cloudy, but the kind you know is going to burn away leaving only sunshine… perfect. We left Windsor with me leading. My first time leading a group and while I kind of enjoyed not playing catch up the whole time, I didn’t really like it. So it was a easy ride up to the Grey Gums Cafe.

At Grey Gums, see the two blue VFRs

We stopped here for a coffee break. The plan was to head back again down the Putty and home. However we pulled out a map I had brought along and started talking with our guest about where he wanted to head and what his plans were. Turned out he really wanted to head north, ending up near Brisbane.

Well, says we, you’re already a couple of hours on your way. With some of the best roads around stretching north towards Brisbane it was suggested that he head north from Grey Gums. It was only about 10am so he had a lot of (very nice) daylight to use up.

So I bid farewell to our guest and turned to follow the others home.

We headed almost the same way home, with a little detour to the Sackville Ferry. There’s another ferry on the river, I didn’t know about this one either. It wasn’t really a great detour as the road wasn’t in the best shape. Though much nicer than the north side of Wiseman’s!

Sackville Ferry
I arrived home sometime around 1pm. As I write this, I presume our guest is winding away north, enjoying roads such as Thunderbolt’s Way. I hope to catch up with him on his return this way.