Saturday, May 24, 2008

Motorcycle books

I have read a number of motorcycle publications and there are three books I can highly recommend.

Firstly the book that needs no introduction, the famous Twist of the Wrist (vol 2) from Keith Code. A performance riding handbook that explains in everyday terms what is happening when you brake, corner and accelerate on a motorcycle which has helped many people. A easy to read book that you can revisit many times and which improved my riding dramatically. The focus is mostly on going faster and my thoughts recently have shifted from performance riding to improving my safety margins so this book is something I think would best be enjoyed by newer riders or anyone doing track days or keen to take their riding up a level.

My most recent purchase has been Proficient Motorcycle Riding (vol 2) by David Hough. The author has been writing for American motorcycle magazines for so long that he now is retiring and has gone back and put together all the best information and articles and stories about every aspect of motorcycles and road riding skills and how to stay safe. The book has a huge scope from motorcycle behavior to advanced riding skills and many safety aspects quite simply it is the best book about real world motorcycling I have ever come across.

Lastly I want to recommend a book that is a great motivator to get out and ride. Regardless of what you may think of the movie stars Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman they did get out and do what so many only dream about and their tv show was some rare positive press for motorcyclists as well as the spark for numerous people to try their own adventure. The book is significantly better than the tv series and a terrific read. I really was disappointed by their second series through africa however purchased that book recently in hope that it may be better as was the case first time round. Will let you know, until then this book rates very highly with me given I like real life travel stories, add motorcycling and alot of humor and private thoughts cut from the tv show makes for a great read.

Update: well the book of their second tour is same as their tv series in Africa - not so good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Japan Motorcycle Tour - reloaded

(Note, the information below is out of date, please refer to my recent ride reports in Japan where I am currently based as of 2014)

I find myself somewhat unexpectedly heading off to Japan next month so I have decided to revisit my plans to do some riding there that I had shelved from last year.

Previously I had a rather grand plan for a two week tour however this was cancelled when I changed jobs and found myself unable to go. Since then I have forgotten much of the Japanese I had studied and have been so busy with this new job that I really have not had the time to think... Approaching the point of melt down with work coincided with Qantas offering discounted frequent flyer point flights to Japan and so I jumped in to take a holiday.

I am going to try a 3 day 'test run' mini tour to begin with and then build on this if successful. June is considered a rainy season in Japan which may be a show stopper if torrential however I have been to Japan many times and except winter when the roads are snowed in it seems to rain every 2nd or 3rd day from Spring through to Autumn regardless of which months are listed as lower rainfall so I am just going to cross my fingers and hope that there is a small window of dryish days.

I have ordered a new rain suit from New Enough in the USA and that should be arriving soon. I had planned to rent a motorbike from a place in suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo to avoid the traffic however I am now thinking of departing from Shinjuku where I can source a more touring focused motorcycle (Honda VFR) and then paying the tolls to ride one of the mega expressways direct out of the city. I have a top 100 rides atlas/book for Japan that I sourced some time ago. It was a limited run book and I searched and obtained one 2nd hand from Amazon Japan. I cannot read it all properly and the map part is useless however the roads can be located more of less on Google map since Japan roads use a numbering system like Victoria or the USA. The nature of the roads becomes obvious upon looking closer ie twisty road over a mountain and so I have chosen to try and ride routes 292 and 299 in Nagano.

Japan of course is pretty much all mountains and has 1000's of superb twisty mountain roads. Take a look some time at it via Google maps and notice except for the blue marked toll roads they are ALL twisty roads due to the terrain. It could be the most famous riding place in the world if it wasn't for the language barrier and possibly the rain.

More on this topic soon.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Far West ride report.

I decided to try another ride west today. I had briefly considered north however with the exception of a couple of sections mostly find the northern roads uninspiring so west it was.

I had no plan to begin with, just wanted to turn some wheels and try take my mind off work and the selfish people that have been zapping my spirit of late. And so with a small spark of an idea that winter will soon turn places inland brown I set off towards Boonah.

Well the grass is already dead and pale brown and the temperature was quite cool so the rolling green hills have gone until we see some more good rains out there again. I steered off before Boonah to stop at Harrisville for a look however besides this nice pub not as historical as I imagined so I rode on to Aratula for fuel which was $1.50 a litre for premium (95). I paid that rate again at Esk and $1.48 in between at Gatton. Three refuels then took best part of $60 which really took me by surprise. I did a ride like today about 2 1/2 years ago on the Buell and filled three times at around $10 each so nearly double now due to price and more being used.

I stopped at the Aratula bakery - a firm favourite of mine now and I noted unlike the petrol their prices have hardly altered. I decided over coffee there to not ride over to Rathdowney as I had been thinking but to take a trip to see what Lake Perseverance was like. The road to the lake runs off the Esk to Hampton road and the ride to the lake had been suggested to me previously by a reader of Motorcycle Paradise.

I rode then up and over Cunninghams gap and stopped at Maryville to visit this old 1950's petrol station now deserted. I like old 50's and 60's buildings and in particular roadside things from that golden motoring era. I then rode on to Allora via 'The Cedar Route'. I have a Ram mount now for my camera but all the photos and video taken on the move is too blurry.

Odd sight, two petrol pumps in the front yard?
The Ram mount allows a quick pic when stopped but totally blurred on the move.

After riding past Allora I made myself stop and go back for a look. It is just so easy to travel past everything on modern roads. They seem to draw you into thinking of the distance to travel rather than the places to stop and see. Allora was great, a real interesting and pretty town.

I rode on to Gatton for lunch via the excellent riding road that is through West Halidon and Ma Ma Creek. I made a slight detour to look at Mt Sylvia just out of curiosity and there isnt alot of cafes at Gatton so perhaps should have kept going to Esk where there is much more open however I was in need of a rest so settled for KFC.
Afterwards on the way to Esk I was pulled over by the Police. I did not get a ticket, I had just passed a car and had been some few k's over as they rounded the bend however I was given the once over, a warning and then let go to which I am very grateful. I think that is first time for me to ever be let off anything, I actually do watch my speed closely all the time - its just at the one moment of a ride where I relax and loose focus or gaze off at the horizon is always exactly where a speed trap is - just the way it seems to roll for me.

I should stop putting the MV in so many photos - the thing is it's just so photogenic

I nearly turned for home however went on up the range towards Hampton and really enjoyed the curves which are actually sweet to ride at the speed limit then turned off to Lake Perseverance. The ride down and back is quite nice, I especially enjoyed the climb back up which flowed rather well. A few tight bits down beside the actual lake itself as well to enjoy and nice view made it well worth the trip.

And so then to the long haul back home. I rode back on the highway over Wivenhoe and then turned off, with some trepidation, to come home over Mt Glorious. I took it easy along Split yard and noticed many bikes all riding very slow, no probs I always expect police action at Mt G so kept my eyes glued on the speedo but nothing.

Now I shall recount some of the reasons I don't ride Mt G:

1. Rider down at the big S in front of the 2nd park, I am passing at walking pace yet getting the evil stares and told to f##king slow down from mob of car drivers that have formed by roadside.
2. Come up behind a NooB on a litre class sports bike who brakes hard and wanders all over the place in the corners at car pace then gasses up it on straights. He sees me but wont move over an inch let me pass - hey I don't mind your new, you don't have to prove anything to me just move over an inch please and let me continue on my way.
3. After I get past and start to enjoy a nice flow then Sirens, Lights - the ambulance going to the downed rider takes my mind away.
4. A car hits the brakes and stops dead in middle of road in front of me to point at a tree - yikes!
5. Another Noob, this time on a new large BMW and has a 2nd BMW in front as escort. I encourage new riders and take care to not crowd them so I hang back for awhile but I dont want to ride all the way to Nebo at 50kph however each time I close to pass this Noob tries to go faster and then brakes messy and runs wide across the middle line exiting these most simple of corners. Hey Noob's nobody cares what speed your at, even going well beyond your current skills is still slow riding to an experienced rider so give it a rest and be safe cause we dont mind.

I pull over before I get taken out with them because I can't stand to watch anymore and stretch my legs for a spell. Eventually I get going and at least enjoy my favourite part of the road free of distractions, namely the section of 20/30kph posted hairpins immediately west of Mt Nebo township.

Long ride yet not too tiring as not working the bike all the time on those western roads. The MV continues to be up to the task with the Air-Hawk seat pad in place however the motorcycle is very hard to maintain a slow speed compared to the Buell's lazy V-Twin engine. It's one angry motorcycle as Boris of BikeMe puts it - and he is spot on.

A map with todays route can be found Here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Australia's best motorcycle roads. Wisemans ferry and Bucketty to Woolombi

Wisemans Ferry and Bucketty to Wollombi.

The rides here north of Sydney are no doubt well known and popular for Sydney based riders who would have a lot more information on them, however I come from Brisbane so I will be speaking from a tourist point of view.

Between Sydney and Cessnock there is a enjoyable route via Bucketty and Woolombi.

From Windsor I rode off as if going to Putty then turned right to Wisemans ferry. The road reminded me of rides out of Brisbane northern suburbs at first with very similar feel. I rode via Sackville then on to the Hawksbury river to the Wisemans ferry crossing. Some excellent curves along the way and I imagine it would be very scenic on a fine day however a some fog and haze spoiled the views on the morning I was there.

After the river I mistakingly explored St Albans village and back to the river just to enjoy the scenic valley but there is some gravel road before continuing north.

The road surface was a bit bumpy in parts and I have a high tolerance to uneven aussie roads so be aware that might be excessive for some sports bike riders.

Once back on the main route north you will be on smooth fast roads with some excellent corners. This road seems very popular and I stopped at a popular motorbike servo for a rest and coffee break and watched dozens of groups of riders come and go. Dropping down from the hills the temperature warms up towards Woolombi and the road changes to a series of interesting sweepers through the countryside which any rider any bike will find very enjoyable, an excellent section of road both in its surveying and rural scenery.

Seems nearly all the bikes I saw stopped there and then perhaps return via the same or possibly swing over and back down the Putty road.

I don't have more info for here as I never bothered to return to the area as for me far better riding lies to the west like the Bylong valley way and Tableland way that allows me to bypass Sydney completely.