Friday, January 08, 2016

Deux roues déplacent l'âme

I wonder why I am so drawn to travel by two wheels. I am pondering this as pack my motorcycle touring kit into my suitase leaving about two shoeboxes of space for actual clothes and regular items.

Yes it is the freedom of the open road but also something more. Not easy to summarize or describe. I could rent a car for 1/4 of the cost of renting a motorcycle and do much more travel but I don’t. I could be warm and dry while exploring with no need for armored clothing, boots, gloves and helmet. I could sit in a train with a window seat and a cold beer and not need to navigate city traffic. I give these a bit of consideration from time to time then discard the notion of doing them. The motorcycle is a different experience to other means of travel. The panoramic view from a motorcycle is I feel rarely challenged except by luxury special trains but then you cannot stop the train as you please. I feel immersed in the environment on a motorcycle yet I also have infinte personal space unlike on public transport. The reasons the car comes up short are harder to summarize. Feeling closed in and not having that unlimited vision is part of it but there is something more that I cannot quite put into words.

Interlude. I have been blogging about riding in Japan the last 12 months but consider my photos to be average and not always capture how interesting this country is so here are a few from Yamaha Japan. With the exception of Hokkaido and Okinawa these are taken on the same roads I have been riding.

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(above/below) Hokkaido

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Japan four seasons


Japan is very proud of having four distinctive seasons. I however wish there was only three seasons because I find the harsh winter very difficult coming from the sub tropics in Australia where winter is only a month of mild 20 degree days before things heat back up.

My motorcycle was packed away come December and I probably won't be riding it until April. So begins the period where I went a little stir crazy last year. I have started to refresh the blog. Taking it into a more widescreen mode and trying to increase the photo thumbnails size however as I go back in time the thumbnails are smaller and stretching them ends up blurry. Windows live writer has died seemingly for good and the replacement open source version is not working yet so the rest of the blog refresh and repair work has been suspended.

Guess that means I have no excuse to not go oil the deck or other non motorcycle related tasks.

Well until normal transmissions resumes here is a nice video of what I would rather be doing courtesy of Yamaha. (p.s. best watch it on YouTube not in this small window)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

How I made the Yamaha FJR1300 corner easier

Whilst many people seem ok with the way their Yamaha FJR300 corners I became unsatisfied with how heavy and slow the steering can be. My experience is a 2014 FJR1300 and I come from lighter and smaller bikes but I am also experienced riding a BMW R1200RT. My FJR1300 behaved as follows; exhibited some constant understeer, was slow to change direction with more than normal bar input (counter steer) needing to be applied to initiate turn in and to also maintain a line through corners. Now self pro claimed forum experts tried to blame brake use or tyre pressures but no braking was being done in coners and tyres were correctly inflated and with even wear. If all this sounds familiar then read on as there is a easy solution and it isn’t what is being suggested on owners forums.

 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Japan Autumn Motorcycle Tour Part Two

Having reached not quite the bottom of Kyushu but certainly the point on my route from Tokyo south where I needed to turnaround I took some time to enjoy the sunset and reflect on what had been one of the best weeks riding I have had in a long time.

And being Japan there is always a vending machine nearby. Smile

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Japan Autumn Motorcycle Tour 2015

Japan is such a varied country. I have just completed one of the most scenic motorcycle tours I have ever ridden. If you have a moment take a look at some of the sights on my 14 day journey exploring autumn in rural Japan.

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Thursday, October 08, 2015

A visit to Yamaha Japan

There currently is a late burst of near summer weather. So I went for a ride to visit Yamaha in Shizuoka. Mostly highway but I detoured a couple of times to try my luck at two highly rated Mt Fuji view locations to break it up.

I’m not a fan boy of any brand car or bike so the visit was just something to do not a pilgrimage due to owning a Yamaha at the moment. I visited Kawasaki in Kobe some years back when passing by and they had a rather small display but the Yamaha visitor centre or Communication Plaza as it is called is much better.

First up I had to escape the metropolis of greater Tokyo and leaving at 7am not riding inbound I still wound up grid lock in the outer areas but eventually got out to Ebina where I took a break to settle my nerves at a highway service area. Mt Fuji soon came up on my right and was clear however there was no snow at it’s peak at all despite already being October. By the time I got to Shizuoka and my first stop Miho Beach unfortunately haze had taken a strong hold on the horizon and the view was to be frank lousy so I tried a few HDR shots but gave up then rode on to my second destination the Nihondaira Parkway. Lots of bikes, the local racetrack it seems with one persons bike crashed on a curve. There is a cable car to the top of the mountain but I decided with the haze it was not worth it this time. This is photo on the way back down which is 5 exposures merged to try de-haze the scene. (update, I have started to use some decent post shoot edit software so might go back and clean up some photos)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Japan, Tohoku Motorcycle Tour.

I just completed a 6 day tour to the Tohoku region and despite some discomfort from my previous broken collar bone I had a wonderful time exploring the ever beautiful Japanese countryside.

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My original idea was to take a ferry up to Hokkaido and ride back but I thought it might be trying to do too much with the way my arm had been on the failed Ireland ride so I decided to make that a ride for next year. Doing a loop up from Tokyo meant I was always able to just slab it back on the expressway if I felt not able to continue.

Besides motorcycle touring magazines there are a series of dedicated motorcycle touring atlases in Japan called Touring Mapple. These have a wealth of information about best routes, sights and places to eat and stay. I cannot read Kanji but you can make out a fair bit with the symbols and the best roads are highlighted so I picked up the version for the Tohoku region and started planning my route.

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Day one Kanagawa to Fukushima

There are a couple of holiday weeks in Japan. Golden week is in Spring and Silver week is in Autumn. These seem to coincide with good weather periods but naturally are also the busiest times to travel so I decided to chance the week before Silver week and then a typhoon arrived and caused serious flooding just days prior but I was able to go anyway and aimed at riding about 300km north on the expressway past most of the flooding before trying some regional roads in Fukushima.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Replacement helmet liner

A small update here while I am not riding. I decided to look for a new helmet but despite being in Japan am not taken with any of the jet style helmets on the shelf here. The Arai and Shoei are comfortable but lack venting compared to my Nolan N43 Air.

The venting on the N43 Air is far and away superior to any other helmet I have ever worn, it has that huge evaporative area on the top which I have not seen on any other helmet. The guys at Webbikeworld also say it is hard to beat for cooling and they have tried more helmets than probably anyone.

I was looking for the Nolan N44 as a possible replacement but so far am unable to find it here except online but would like to test the fit before buying as that is really the most important thing with helmets.

So I thought I will try get a little longer out of my N43. I pulled the liner out and the rest of the helmet was still in good order. The visor has a couple of scratches but nothing major. The shell and inner foam, strap buckle and air vents all in good order. It has not been in constant use as a daily rider might use a helmet so despite being a few year old it does not have a few years of wear in my opinion.

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The liner however was another matter. It was intact when I removed it and actually looked deceptively not too bad. But it fell apart in the washing machine, here it is on the left next to the replacement. The new liner cost about $75 which is crazy but then a new helmet is about $400 so it is all relevant.

With the new liner in the N43 feels (and smells) like a brand new helmet. The liner is not just a inner layer replacement but also a realign as the old one stretches in certain parts and the liner has soft foam padding in areas all of which had altered in the old liner.

Well I think it is good for another ride season or year at least but then I will be shopping for a new helmet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Motorcycling around Ireland

I set off recently to do a ride of Europe and managed to tour Ireland before having to put the rest on hold. I took my previous post about my plans down to reword but now I shall just write a little about riding the Emerald Isle. 

My plan was to first pick up the 2007 Kawasaki Versys 650 I have had sitting in Ireland in storage. I purchased this bike very reasonably priced and have it stored with, Motofeirme. This is a service that purchases and stores motorcycles for people wanting to ride Europe more affordably on a bike they own rather than high rental fees or shipping a bike there. In Ireland my plan was to ride the Wild Atlantic Way from Kinsale to Derry. Arriving at the bike storage place to see the Versys in real life first time I was pleased it seemed in good order. Tyres were as new and it had a Scott oiler fitted and full luggage. It even had a Garmin 220 Zumo and heated grips installed. I was able to leave my suitcase at the storage centre and once packed was ready to tour. I had lunch in Kinsale a lovely seaside town and then started on the Wild Atlantic Way.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Alpinestars Andes tourer pants test

I updated my previous 3 season Alpinestars Drystar pants to the new 3 season Andes Tourer drystar pants. So far however I have not found them quite as good.

The pants are a waterproof goretex style item in adventure styling. Alpinestars use a material they call Drystar but the material is basically same as goretex. The old pants had two belt height waterproof pockets and one leg cargo style pocket. The Andes has only two side/leg low mounted pockets which are in a comfortable position when riding but are not waterproof. There is two exhaust vents each side adjacent to the pockets. The effectiveness of these is very limited. If they had been flipped about face and put on the front side of the legs a little lower then they might have been really good to assist getting some air to the part of the legs which I find gets warmest, behind the knee lower leg section. The matching jacket has two such vents and they work reasonably well.  There is a zip out quilted liner and it works well when the temperature drops and still manages to cope with warmer days so you need not remove it until it gets quiet warm/hot. 

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