Note

The orange highlighted text found throughout this blog (but overlooked) is a link to expand articles, view ride maps etc.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

First ride of Spring

Winter seems to finally have eased, hooray for that as I was getting depressed being indoors all the time! 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 mostly 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 spent an hour to travel about 25 km then once I got to Hakone another hour in a log jam of cars. This is one down side to living so close to Tokyo.

Anyway late arrival at my chosen view point but alas I cannot show you any photos from my first stop as the new Panasonic Lumix LX100 camera I purchased seems to have major focusing issues. Oh well here is a shot from my iPhone take just a few km into the Hakone Skyline ride with Fuji poking it’s head up to say hello.

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Next I dropped down onto the west coast road. I have not posted any Japan road signs for awhile so here is one for trucks, another type used for heavy vehicles has a parachute out back which I will try to remember to capture next time. 

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More heavy traffic which would prove to be the theme of the day, I am sure with local knowledge I could have avoided much of it but I eventually made it to the coastal fishing western side of Izu peninsular and with such a nice view of Fuji I decided to stop and have a very early lunch even though it was just going 11.00am since breakfast had been 6.30.

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From here the riding was excellent along the ocean with just light traffic. The rail lines below reminded me of the movie Spirited Away with the train that crosses the ocean but actually these are slip rails for a dry dock.

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Next I climbed back up high to ride some of the wonderful roads that criss cross the mountainous interior of Izu.

I have stopped taking so many road photos these days even though I know riders love to see them (as do I) but often I have just managed to pass another string of cars all stuck behind an even slower lead vehicle when a nice photo opportunity presents itself and I just think do I stop or look for another spot later, which of course never eventuates.

Down to the ocean with some interesting rocky islands and then back up another mountain pass, some excellent riding to be had in this area.

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I came across this intriguing piece of infrastructure on route 414 before reaching the Izu Skyline road. Must have been built in the bubble economy days as it is a rather elaborate way to ascend a small ridge on a minor country road.

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No photos on the return of Fuji in afternoon sun thanks to the LX100, sigh what did I say last post about maybe having a couple of wins.

Actually further to that I really did over state last post how much better the FJR was with the revised steering geometry. I have since sharpened it up a little further, the forks now raised 20mm in the triple clamps which has made a difference when the fuel load is under 1/2 but above this where the bike is mostly operated the whole heavy steering running wide push the front end thing is largely unchanged. As much as I don’t want to I am now mostly resigned to selling but I have no idea what to replace it with.

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Todays route

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Across Tokyo Bay

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.

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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.

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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

A Winters Ride

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…

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Motorcycling in Borneo

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.

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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.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Philippines Mini Ride report

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.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Thailand Tour 2015

This post is the first part of a recent trip riding 3 countries in SE Asia. The other areas I visited were the Philippines and Borneo, Malaysia which I will follow up on shortly. I have already toured the northern mountains of Thailand twice and was not initially planning to return this Christmas however a opportunity arose to meet up with my long time ride partner from Australia first in Thailand and then continuing into Philippines so I thought why not! My previous rides in Thailand can be found by following these links. 2013 Ride. 2014 Ride.

If you are tempted to try an overseas ride then in my opinion Thailand would be one of the best options to start with in Asia. You fly to Chiang Mai as your starting point. This is a easy place to explore and very simple to rent a bike from. You can do a ride from here just by paper map as it is easy to navigate but a GPS or offline map on a smart phone is always going to be handy. I use a GPS with a battery pack in a case that I velcro to the handlebars, (info here) this has worked for me around the world. As for motorcycles I have rented from the three most well known bike rental shops in Chiang Mai and here is my verdict on them.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Keep your cool

It might be freezing here in Japan at the moment but it is summer in other parts of the world where I will soon be heading to and so I find myself examining my hot weather riding gear.

Some of the things I find help me stay cool are as follows:

Good helmet venting. I use a Nolan N43 helmet which has a lot more air venting than most helmets and in summer it makes a huge difference to how I feel since I am not hot and sweaty inside the helmet. When I first got it I used to swap occasionally to my Shark RSR2 helmet and wow the difference on a hot day is quite significant. Helmets that vent really well are going to also be more noisy but if you wear earplugs then it makes no difference. Web bike world have good reviews about helmet venting performance.

Lightweight mesh jacket. I’ve tried a few summer or 4 season jackets and results do vary depending on if you have a naked or full fairing bike. But in general if you are riding summer in your leather or textile jacket then a mesh jacket will make riding so much more comfortable that you will wonder how you did without one. And they are generally very affordable too so even if you only wear it on the very hottest days preferring your regular gear at other times then it won’t break the bank to have one in the cupboard.

Cooling neck scarf. This is something new for me. I used to always wear a summer Buff neck tube as jackets seem to move around exposing the back of my neck to the sun and even with sunblock after a long day I would end up with sunburn. Now I am using a neck tie that you put under the tap and soak, it has material which soaks up a lot of water and as you ride you are treated to evaporative cooling. It works brilliantly and stops your neck getting burnt at same time.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Australia’s Best Motorcycle Roads – East Coast

It has been a very long time since I first started writing about where the best riding was in Australia and I have not had the chance to revisit any of the roads that are further than a long weekend ride away so my original articles are looking rather dated and often lack information.

I have decided to relocate these articles here as they no longer belong on the front page anymore. All the roads mentioned here remain excellent riding and one day I will revisit them and update but until then you can easy find more info about any of these roads as now days the internet is full of motorcycle forums and riding blogs.

I have listed them in alphabetical order. My favourites or top 3 would be The Oxley Highway. Great Alpine road. Great Ocean road. My favourite riding area is not really a home to any well known riding roads but it contains the highest number of good motorcycle rides in any one place in Australia and that is the Northern NSW area from Byron Bay to Currumbin inland to Nimbin and spilling over into parts of QLD. This area is full of great roads but don’t just take my word on it, the editor of Australian Road Rider magazine, perhaps the most knowledgeable person on where to ride in Australia called the area a paradise for motorcycle riders. If you wanted to come and do some riding in Australia then you could do worse than base yourself at the Gold Coast beaches and rent a motorcycle for a few days.

Click the links below to proceed to each road.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Japan South 10 day motorcycle tour

A window of fine weather appeared in early November before winter. It was already very cold to ride North however the southern temperatures remained mild so I decided to seize the chance to try a more ambitious tour here before winter ends the riding for this year.

One of the challenges touring here is securing hotels. They seem to book out a few days in advance and weekends often a couple weeks in advance, so my route was slightly shaped by where I could get rooms. I was going to ride in a anti-clockwise loop but ended up flipping this in reverse to match hotel vacancies.

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Day one was not particularly notable, the fine weather forecast was already looking shaky as light rain was falling when I set off so there was no point to try see Mt Fuji on my way west and I ended up just taking the expressway and ‘slabbing it’ as the Americans would say. I stopped at a couple of the highway service centres called parking areas here. They are quite amazing, besides a great selection of food and beverages you get things like laundry, hot showers, massage chairs, a pet park, playgrounds and at one a custom motorcycle display and motorcycle accessory shop of all things.

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Japan Autumn leaves motorcycle tour

I have read often that October is the best month for riding Japan. So I made sure I was here, even shelving other travel only for there to be a two typhoons! I was beginning to wish I had made other arrangements but eventually the rain eased so I decided to try a shortened Autumn leaf viewing ride.

Heading north I wanted to skirt around Tokyo as I don’t trust the Garmin to navigate me through the complex highway junctions. This made for more miles but less stress which is always my preference. The fine morning soon turned to light drizzle but riding the FJR in its preferred environment of the highway meant the aero dynamics deflected all but a tiny amount of water which was no challenge to my old Alpinestars waterproof semi waterproof two piece ride suit. Actually my Alpinestars winter riding gear has been with me for quite a few tours now, Europe, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Japan. It is best for passing not steady rain but the fact it has done so many miles and is still with me makes me think it is actually not bad gear. I was miffed with the sizing on the boots I purchased but Alpinestars contacted me and helped me which impressed me enormously. Gotta say despite not being truly waterproof the gear otherwise is good and when I replace it I probably will be looking at buying from Alpinestars again. 

Never think No Rain today when riding cause next thing…

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