Saturday, October 08, 2016

Two Yamaha’s – One Passion

Besides exploring the world on two wheels I have a few other interests. I dabble in photography and for a long time was interested in architecture. I thought about pursuing a career in that direction but wound up creating computer simulations of train networks instead before deciding to hell with corporate life. So anyway when Yamaha asked if I would like to attend their design exhibition I was interested on a couple of levels but I’ll try keep this post mostly about two wheels.

At the exhibition Yamaha Motor and Yamaha Corporation showcased different projects where the designers of motorcycles and the designers of musical instruments have collaborated. First of all I was invited to try the ‘&Y02’ - a auditory movement experience device.


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Nolan N44 Helmet review

I have been very happy with my Nolan N43 helmet which I have had for 6 years. A replacement liner gave it a new lease of life however I recently discovered there is a legal issue with my third party vehicle insurance if I have an accident wearing a non Japanese approved helmet. That is one with a sticker saying this helmet meets safety standards for Japan. I thought it best I do something and brought the replacement of my N43 forward. Since I am in the land of many famous helmet manufactures I naturally went to look over all their wares. And despite the pricing here being better than Australia I came back to preferring the successor to my existing helmet – the Nolan N44.



Nolan N44 helmet review first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise October 2016

The main thing that kept me wearing a Nolan is the huge view angle their helmet has compared to the others. Your side vision is significantly wider compared to normal helmets and your forward vision is unlimited. Once you get used to this it is very hard to wear other helmets that restrict your vision. When I used to swap from my N43 to my Shark RSR2 Carbon I previously owned I noticed the two blind spot areas either side from the restricted vision on the conventional Shark helmet. The second thing I like with these helmets is the massive venting systems which make these excellent air flow helmets since I tend to get very hot wearing conventional helmets. If you don’t wear earplugs then I would not recommend because good venting equals more wind noise but seriously as I have said before if not wearing ear plugs then you are already damaging your hearing with even the quietest helmet.


Both these helmets are modular. The chin section can be removed to convert them into jet style helmets. The N44 can further be converted into adventure style helmet as it comes with a peaked sun visor but that requires the removal of the normal screen and use of goggles. I do not think it was designed primarily for that sort of use, rather most people wear these as jet helmets from photos I have seen on the net.


Everything seems slightly different to my N43 pictured above with its chin section removed.  The N44 has a redesigned visor with vent which will be great for me here in the rain. It comes with pinlock visor as well in the box which is surprising and a generous free item. The top vents have changed from the large passive vent on the N43 (note mine is the N43 ‘Air’ version) to three large air intakes on the N44. Lucky I have a windscreen on the FJR, these might fill with bugs otherwise. The internal tinted sun visor has a different lever and it comes down a little lower then the N43 which is nice. It also has one touch button to retract automatically by spring loaded mechanism. The finish is not as glossy but still very nice and everything has a solid feel and overall you get a sense of high quality.


There is a place to install the Nolan NCom system still. The chin section is revised and has two winglets either side and mesh fitted underneath. Not entirely sure if this is for reduction of noise or turbulence since with the FJR screen up I am well protected from the elements but I will expand on this in my long term update in a couple of months. I chose white again because as I talked about in my be safe be seen article people really notice white helmets while black ones blend into the tarmac. Also while I toyed with getting the fluro yellow one it remains that police here wear white helmets and ride same model bike as me so if that helps give me an edge in being noticed and not hit by a car then I’ll take it.

Liner is very plush, nicer perhaps than the N43 but not say Shark or Arai helmet soft however I find those get hotter against my face where as a slightly more open weave of the Nolan breathes better. Same ratchet style fastener rather then double D ring. Having used so many different brands of rental helmets I can use either system without giving it a second thought.

The N44 has the DOT and European ECE safety certificate. So far no rating on the SHARP test site but given a leading engineer from the Birmingham University has cast doubt over their impact testing perhaps need to rethink the current focus on helmet shells. Helmets need to reduce the G force transferred to the wearer upon an impact. There hasn’t been significant innovation in this since Bell put a polystyrene liner into their Star range of helmets in 1968. We still rely on foam polystyrene as a liner to reduce the impact speed as our brains can only survive modest sudden deceleration. The shell of a helmet also needs to absorb some of the impact. It is engineered with enough flex and give to dissipate some of the energy yet be strong enough to stay intact. That’s a difficult balance while also remaining light and thin. The people pushing the stronger harder shell must be better notion are overlooking the trade off is harder shell absorbs less G force so the wearer might end up worse off. I really would love to see a breakthrough in helmet safety regarding reduction in G force in impacts but for now all you can do is choose a quality brand and product that fits you well. 

So anyway how is the N44 on the road. I will give initial impressions then return to this post again later. It is comfortable for sure. I’d say a little quieter than the N43. The visor seals well on this new helmet where as my N43 visor seal was worn and telling me it was time soon to replace so some of the noise of the N43 was from the visor not the vents. Venting is excellent. Stability seems fine and weight seems about same as the N43 which was not as light as something like my RSR2 Carbon but not heavy like a flip up modular helmet either, just average. I will refresh all this more after my upcoming big tour. I wish I had got the light tint main visor. I may end up getting one like I had on the N43 but will try the clear on my next tour see how it goes. So far all good.

Update – been on tour 6 days and can update a few things further. Taking me awhile to adjust to the new visor mechanism. I can flick it down easy but sometimes have trouble locating the button to have it retract. I am sure I will get used to it. I know why they provide a free pinlock visor too. The main visor on the N44 fogs up much easier then the N43. The vent that looks the business does very little and the slot that the N43 visor has works better. Even applying anti-fog I had to revert to pulling my buff scarf up over my nose as the fogging is so bad. On the highway those big vents can make a bit of noise but all vents do – want air and not sweaty hair then that is price. Will update  this again later.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Journey is the Destination

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day with that quote. The Journey is the Destination attributed to Dan Eldon a photojournalist who’s life was cut short tragically. A book with the same title has been released based on his journals. As a motorcycle rider I certainly relate to those words but like Dan I also keep a journal. Mine would not make a good book but it does help me if I write things down. I have this section I labelled The Big Picture, where I am, where I think I should be going in life sort of thing. I came to the same conclusion as Dan that life is all about the journey and decided since I already spent a half century on earth not making the best use my time I better change how I do things.

I started questioning the way people around me chose to live. Their desire for ever more expensive real estate and more prestigious vehicles and buying lots and lots of stuff. Living to work. Living to consume. Acting like time is as plentiful as water from a stream that always flows and planning a whole other life after retirement as if they will live forever yet reality is men of my generation have an average life expectancy of 71 years. Of course I hope to beat the average, I’m fit and intend to stay so but by the same token am not living in denial like one of my mates who has a 99 year plan and gets very angry if you question that logic. What may be more difficult to beat is the drop off in confidence and desire to do stuff. I see it in most every guy I know mid 60’s. The motorbike stays in the garage or has been sold, the boat stays in it’s mooring. The idea of setting off somewhere has become too hard and too much of a hassle.  

Of course getting old is not a bad thing – it beats the alternative right!? Interestingly I think for once I can kind of see ahead to a certain degree therefore I know in advance that time right now is extremely valuable. Too valuable to let slip by like it had been in my former life before leaving Australia. As if in conversation with a friend on a train then looking out the window to realise you have already reached the destination and the years are gone. Hopefully I made the right call to leave the herd and try achieve some personal goals for awhile. Could turn out to be my biggest mistake leaving a successful career, comfortable life but if Dan is right then surely it makes some sense?


The Journey is the Destination first appeared on Motorcycle Paradise September 2016

So then less Facebook and more real life or Carpe Diem as Horace put it. I’m riding more of the beautiful Japanese countryside very soon on my biggest ride here to date if I can get a few weeks without a typhoon. Country pubs and dirt roads tour immediately following this when I revisit my home land down under. Then next year I will pull out all the stops to do some really special rides.  

Ok, normal transmission about motorcycling will now resume here in a new wider screen format after this little interlude of my personal musings.

P.S. Please back up your blog if you have one. Completely. I found some of mine had been deleted. Not sure how, perhaps an automated process gone wrong. Fortunately not too much as far as I can tell but it has been a big wake up call that I cannot rely on Google to safe guard the data.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hokkaido Motorcycle Tour– part two

Continuing my 14 day tour from the northern Hokkaido town of Nayoro. Part one can be read here. After some wet days I was feeling upbeat knowing the rain was mostly finished. I decided to push out the mileage today about as far as I dare to try see some extra places and regain a little that had been lost due to wet weather. A teaser of what is coming up in the picture below but before that I had another wet and overcast start today on day eight.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Hokkaido Motorcycle Tour - part one

Every Summer many riders in Japan head north to cooler and dryer weather in Hokkaido. Ever since first visiting Japan in the 90’s I have been told Hokkaido was the best riding so I decided it was about time I went for a look. Turned out different to what I imagined and if you have some time then I’d like to tell you about it.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Alpinestars Transition DS Gloves review

I purchased the Alpinestars Transition gloves when I was riding in Spain a couple of months ago. I arrived in an unseasonal cool week and after one day of riding with summer mesh gloves I realised I needed better protection from the elements to continue.


Thursday, July 07, 2016

Polaroid Cube Action Cam review

I have been testing an action cam on my last few motorcycle tours and it is about time I posted a review.

Polaroid is a name I associate with polarized sunglasses and instant cameras. In film days their cameras were very popular and remained so right up to the early digital days being able to produce a ‘print’ of the photo within a short amount of time using self developing film. My friends mother had one, it was ok daytime good light if the person using the camera knew how to compose correctly for the cameras lens and film format. At night it had a weak flash with those old bulb flash units and party photos were poor. I got a autographed Polaroid photo with a celebrity Iron Chef in Tokyo on one of my first trips to Japan (and chose that alias to write this blog as a bit of fun) and that Polaroid was a more modern version that worked quite well. Polaroid like Kodak were in a success bubble when digital came and now are just shells of their former selves but the name lives on with the Polaroid Cube


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

5 small items to help you enjoy your ride

Most riders spend a fair bit of money on a good helmet and jacket and gloves. Some build on this with boots and riding pants and rain gear. However sometimes it is the little things that make a big difference. Here are five things that I cannot ride without now that I never thought of when first riding.

1. Buff or other brand of neck tube/scarf. These are great. In winter they seal the wind out from entering the top of your jacket and chilling your back often something that leads to getting colds. In summer with jackets open at the top to catch the breeze they stop the back of your neck from getting sunburnt as no amount of sunscreen seems to hold this off if on tour.


I have a couple of Buffs, this is a summer thin one I found on sale one day. In serious winter conditions I reach for my thermal neck gator but rest of the time I find a Buff does the job.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Japan Summer Motorcycle Tour

I wasn’t planning any riding when out of the blue a week of sunny weather was being predicted prior to the arrival of Japans rainy season. I set off one day later with part of a ride worked out on a bike that was not running the best but a week of fine weather is as rare as hens teeth in Japan so the moment had to be seized.

I started by going west along the coast past Enoshima to Hakone. I actually live not that far from one of the more popular riding/day trip areas for people in Tokyo but the traffic density even this far out from the metropolis makes it a slow and laborious journey so I tend not to bother doing day rides since moving to Kanagawa. Today I stopped at Lake Ashi in the mistake thinking to see Mt Fuji. I had read this was a good view point on a travel page but obviously that was complete nonsense. Oh well it was a nice spot on glorious morning kicking off six days of touring so no problems.


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Sicily Motorcycle Ride

I have had an interest in Sicily for since childhood thanks in part of to some of my family having grown up in with the Italian community in Innisfail North Queensland which had a strong connection to Etna region Sicily. An opportunity presented itself recently to make a small visit. First order of business was some lunch before leaving the airport. This is a great start Smile