Friday, June 12, 2015
The New Zealand Transport Agency in conjunction with Greater Wellington Regional Council contacted me about letting readers know of a new web site for motorcycle riders in the lower North and upper South islands of New Zealand. It’s called RideNZ.org.
Fortunate timing since I am thinking to maybe return to NZ early next year and this is the area I was going to focus on. It’s got some good info for my next visit and you get a safe riding message thrown in, bit like the good rides NSW site I posted on the Motorcycle Paradise Facebook page but nothing wrong with that.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
The importance of
being earnest wearing ear plugs cannot be overstated.
I used to be one of the guys who scoffed at the idea and claimed they were uncomfortable or I could not bear to ride with them. Then came the day I knew I had damaged my hearing. Here is my simple layman explanation of how easy this can happen.
Do you sometimes have a ringing in the ears after a ride? But it goes away right? Well one day you will go to bed and think gee that ringing is quite noticeable tonight, oh well it will be gone when I wake up but then the next day it is still going to be there. And then you find it continues to be ringing all day, and the next day and the next. Unfortunately it will now be ringing every minute for the rest of your life and there is nothing that can be done about it. All those rides without ear plugs have finally caught up, the ringing previously you heard was the damage you had already caused. Your brain incredibly had been able to conceal the ringing previously, masking/hiding this noise for you because the damage never fixes itself but eventually the damage reaches a level where the brain can no longer tune out the ringing.
This way the brain for awhile tunes out the noise is what made me ignore it. We acknowledge our ears ringing and we know that means we have done something but then it seems to go away so we think no problem it was only temporary or it has healed now but this is not true. Repeated exposure and eventually the level of damage reaches a point that the ringing is there for good. Forever.
Ok look that is my non scientific version which is not entirely what happens but I just want to tell it how I experienced it to try break through to some riders to perhaps make a reader think hang on I get this - maybe I should be doing something. Like so many riders I only started to wear ear plugs after I had already damaged my hearing. Better I suppose that to continue and make matters even worse but I wish I had realised sooner.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
While happy with my Vitesse boots they are more for days rides as not waterproof. I had been ready to embark on a extended tour overseas (prior to breaking my collar bone) heading to cold and wet places like Scandinavia so decided to invest in a set of waterproof boots which I thought would also be pretty handy for tours here in Japan.
Prior to the Vitesse boots I have had a long history of buyer disappointment when it comes to boots. I spoke rather unflatteringly before about two pairs in particular but have come to think perhaps it is my feet that are a hard to fit and not the boot’s somehow being faulty. Unfortunately it is very hard to find touring boots in the shops here, actually it was impossible. Lots of casual riding shoes, then lots of racing type boots but nothing in between (and oddly there is no Kevlar jeans retailed in Japan either). And so I ended up ordering from Motorcyclegear.com who I have done business with a few times and went for boots that were both on sale but also with reviews of consistent sizing.
Saturday, May 30, 2015
Earlier in the year I went looking for a replacement for my winter jacket as well as something suitable for 3 season touring for future ride plans and read numerous reviews then tried on many jackets before quite by chance I came across the Andes jacket from Alpinestars.
Being in Japan I initially thought first I should try the local Japanese brand rider apparel. I looked at Kushitani who here sell a limited range of textile items as well as their famous race suits. RS Taichi, Rough and Road and Komini are leading Japan brands however not quite what I was looking for and sizing tends to be short in the arms for westerners.
I moved on and looked at the jackets from some big names such as Klim. Similar materials and style, made in China too yet priced at a $1400 for the overpaying market. Next I looked at the Rev-it Sand range which I had on my short list simply because one guy on the ADV forum has been riding around the world in this gear for a couple years (which I have been following same time) but just not taken with the 3 layer system. I realise if you have the waterproof layer built in as a breathable liner it limits the jacket to 3 seasons but in my experience once the mercury goes above a certain point I have to change to full mesh jacket when wearing so called 4 season vented jackets anyway. But the 3 layer thing I dislike most is really the pants which I want to match what ever jacket I get (to be zipped together not for style). So with the 3 layer system on warm to hot days with the rain liner naturally removed what happens when it rains. Do you remove your pants on the side of the road and install the liner in your underwear?
So then I came across the Andes jacket. This is a 3 season waterproof jacket with a quilted removable winter liner and waterproofing provided by Alpinestars version of Gore-Tex built into the shell called Drystar. Now people on the net will say genuine Gore-Tex is superior but that is like saying genuine Velcro is superior to regular hook and loop fastener. It’s marketing. So what you have is a 100% waterproof jacket with excellent breathability thanks to the type of waterproof liner but with a downside of limited venting.
Monday, May 04, 2015
I have not been able to do much motorcycle riding in Japan this year. The weather has been cold with rain for months. Last year was apparently an odd one with low rainfall but this one seems wet so far. Seems in Japan there normally is no dry season.
I made a small graph representing a year of averages (click to enlarge). Basically winter season is too cold to ride due to snow and ice. Then as it warms you get a nicer period in Spring, end of April first weeks May. Then the rain increases. Summer tends to be wet monsoon rains with a slight easing in August if no typhoons. Then we head towards cooler shorter days with another small window in autumn of less rain around October. Already it is getting cold by then, maybe too cold in Hokkaido to ride and then winter arrives again.
Now we are in Spring the rain has briefly cleared so I decided to go for a small tour before Golden Week national holidays which is an insanely busy time to go anywhere in Japan. Some of the high mountain passes are still closed with snow so I had an idea to revisit a few of the roads I liked around Nagoya which I hoped would be clear on my way to the western side of Japan to the Noto Peninsular – just to see what was there.
One thing that attracted me to trying a touring motorcycle this time was the idea of good weather protection and on that point I am very happy with the FJR which manages the riders exposure to rain and cold well. After years on naked bikes I love having a windscreen. It can however be too large a motorcycle to enjoy in Japan. I just had the oil changed and new tyres fitted. Pirelli Angel GT’s. This is the third different brand to try on the FJR with hopes that these will perform more consistently as they wear – a design feature claimed by the manufacturer – since the bike steers so heavy on worn tyres. More about the FJR1300 can be found in my detailed and ongoing test and review.
I rode via Mt Fuji and was rewarded with some excellent views.The vegetation is still recovering from winter so lacks colour but I could enjoy late cherry blossoms in the higher area in lieu.
Above looking down from the Tsuetsuki pass after leaving Chino.
Saturday, March 28, 2015
It has been a long winter. 6 months of cold and rain. A rare fine day arrived so I decided to try my luck at seeing Mt Fuji. I have a poor record on this after my first ride in Japan in 2008 it has been always been obscured by clouds when I have been passing but not today.
I don’t want to sound too negative to begin but the ride did not get off to a great start. I chose to ride the shortest route from my home along the ocean and via Hakone, both of which were a bad idea. Off the highways in urban areas traffic can be very heavy in Japan and today despite the pre morning peak departure I still got stuck. Guess it can’t be helped when close to Tokyo.
Late arrival at my chosen view point to discover my Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera seems to have major focusing issues for landscape photos. Oh well back to the phone again until I work out why. Here is Mt Fuji poking its head up on the Hakone Skyline a bit along from my first photo spot.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
I think I had a touch of cabin fever. Too much time indoors hiding from the cold. Something I am not accustom to coming from the tropics. Nothing like a motorcycle ride to shake the blues.
This is the Tokyo bay Aqua line highway that goes from Yokohama across the bay to Chiba first by tunnel then bridge. I had wanted to ride it for a while so when I missed the Kurihama ferry due to forgetting my bike paperwork I decided to give it a go. Such a lot of heavy industry in the Yokohama port, the pollution seemed to turn the skies grey however it was actually the sun disappearing behind clouds for the rest of the day with temperature stuck about 8 degrees. Well the FJR is still a comfortable place to be even in these conditions so I rode on.
Across the bay beyond the urbanised areas there many small villages where life operates at a different pace to the metropolis of Tokyo.
Monday, February 16, 2015
I tried my first true winter ride last week and it was better than I expected. The temperatures have been around 4 degrees daytime but clear and sunny. So when a milder 11 degree day was forecast I decided it was time to charge the battery with a ride.
It is not possible to ride the mountains now, most roads would have snow and even lower areas are risk of black ice. Cars have studded tyres for winter driving but motorcycles have to stick to city and coastal roads. Across the other side of Tokyo bay lies Chiba, an area that I have read has a number of good riding roads so I decided to take the ferry across.
Leaving home it was very crisp about 3 degrees but the FJR came into its’ own in these conditions. I had good deflection of the wind and no direct cold air blast except perhaps my on hands and boots. I was dressed appropriately. I had a thermal base layer shirt and thin thermal mid layer which I picked up from the Japanese discount clothing giant Uni-Qlo. About $10 each for items that would retail many times more in adventure type shops with some fancy label attached. Having two thin tech layers meant I never felt bulked up under my old Alpinestars winter jacket and pants which are both lined. I had the grip warmers on high and my hands where never cold inside my Held winter gloves but probably at the low temperature limit of those gloves. Weakest link was my boots that are not really designed for winter but it was a short ride to the port and the day was already slowly warming. I have to say I was never cold like I have been in Australia on a naked bike in winter. The touring fairing and electric screen makes the world of difference.
Might be warmer inside that car but your missing everything…
Wednesday, February 04, 2015
I finally made it to Koto Kinabalu to try some motorcycle riding in Sabah. Last time I was heading there I got food poisoning in Philippines and went back home. Fortunately this time round I arrived well and brought my mate from the Philippines along. It’s just an hour away from Manila but so different.
Since I have had this ride planned for a long time it was a a snap to organise. I had my routes already waiting in Ride with GPS and knew the rental shop Go Go Sabah was located downtown so shot them an email and booked some hotels and had everything set in no time.
When looking for the rental shop it is worth noting they are inside the shopping arcade at the address given (also open to the back car park) and they open after 9.00am. They have 125cc scooters but these are only for use within the city and their other bikes are 150cc Kawasaki KX road trial bikes. The KX150 bikes are like a 125cc two stroke motocross bike in size and weight, they have top boxes but these are permanently bolted to the racks and mine had a worn out lock.
We set off late but got a good clean run out of the city at least to not lose more time and then it was not long before we were into the mountains. The route I planned was via Tamburan and the roads are absolutely superb. I took a few photos but really did not capture how nice the riding is in any shot. The views up higher go back to the city and ocean and all around you are deep lush valleys.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
Went to visit my good friend who followed me out the door of our former workplace and retired in the Philippines. Been there to see him before and still not convinced it is the best place to make the retirement money go further however a beer and a burger at the pub won’t cost you $20+ like in Australia and from Manila you can fly quickly to just about anywhere in Asia for few dollars so it’s not bad either. As long as the Aussie dollar recovers from its current death spiral towards 69 cents US I guess anywhere in SE Asia still offers a better lifestyle than could be afforded at home.
He was joining me to ride Borneo in a few days but before this we rented some scooters. My mate who had just ridden in Thailand with me came for a look so it turned into a small group ride.