Monday, April 20, 2009

Best laid plans .... Buell Muster tour report.


Yes I am back home sooner than I planned... a medical condition forced me to turn back :-(

To say I am disappointed is an understatement - but what can you do in such a situation except to gather up your thoughts, your will and do what is needed for your health and well being and know there will always be another chance.

So this then will be a short ride report. I did enjoy riding some excellent roads for a couple of days. Riding south via My Lindsey I want to tell you most of the road over the range is now excellent surface. The lower section was mostly good already and the section north of the border gate had been resealed in recent years and now they have hot mixed many of the other corners north of the border as well. South of the border has long been some of the best road available to riders from Brisbane so now its becoming one superb ride. One of my firm favorites.



Whilst talking of this area I can't help but again be amazed at how many people ride the rather poorly surveyed and bumpy Lions Road and miss nearby what is one of the best rides around. I wonder what is is about the Lions Road that has made it so famous? I met a guy at Ebor from Melbourne and asked him where he was riding to. He replied to the Gold Coast, so I said I know the roads there very well what route was he taking. He said he wanted to ride the Lions Road and then via Canungra to Nerang and was coming back via the Pacific H-way. I tried to mention he will be missing all the fantastic roads in that area to ride and rattled off a few good ones and alternate routes north and south but nope - he was adamant the Lions Road was the one he came to ride. Sigh well like I said somewhere before - some people you just can't help.

After Mt Lindsey and a nice run down the Summerland way to Casino I had to tackle the mindless ride from there to Grafton on the 2nd part of the Summerland way. This is a seriously boring road but you have to mind your speed as the local unmarked patrols realise people get the urge to pass the distance quicker.

Into Grafton and because the weather was so perfect I decided to ride to Armidale via Ebor and enjoy the superb roads often referred to as Nymboida (a small town in route) but which is properly call the Armidale Road. Once unsealed and one lane - now the ascent southbound is a wonderful piece of road. Then a little bit of narrow stuff then into Ebor.

I tried for a coffee at the Fussipots cafe as recommended to me but they close Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Worked out ok as I chatted to the owner of the Ebor petrol station about his amazing collection of memorabilia (take a look next time - it's a seriously valuable collection) and then detoured to see the Ebor falls in full flow - also worth a visit.



Next I got to ride the Thunderbolts way - twice, as I turned back from Gloucester... Anyway the thunderbolts is a terrific ride, sure the section south of Walcha is a bit straight forward for awhile but this section has great high country pastures to look at and can be covered rather quickly - if you wanted to... Then you have the roller coaster road full of mostly well surveyed curves with just a few left over from the old road that are all very clearly signposted. Its a long road but it goes by so easy.



Superb cafe operating in Walcha called Graze on the road that goes to Uralla - excellent food and coffee.



On my way back I visited Gurya then cut over to Ebor (that road was nothing special) and went down the Waterfall Way to Dorrigo. Reason was despite needing to get home the weather was beautiful and I dearly wanted to ride this road which is for me close to perfect. The scenery is inspiring, the road well surfaced and each corner is a masterpiece in surveying having just the right radius for near anyone on any style of bike to enjoy. Seriously if you have not ridden this area (its an easy overnighter from Brisbane) then you really should consider it. Just be sure to take warm gear with you any time of the year - it was very hot in Brisbane that day and warm in Grafton yet very cool up in the highlands - felt like a winter morning here in Brisbane.



Just another note on that - I have found the main problem riding in the cold is stopping the wind. Now I have a couple of shirts/jerseys that are designed to be a windbreaker but neither have the windbreaker material on the back thus the cold air can sneak up under your jacket and chill you to the bone if riding all day in cold air like exists south. My Cortech jacket is extra long at the back but still seems to allow air in at the rear sometimes. So my advice is if going south to the mid north coast highlands in anything except summer with our typical Brisbane winter riding gear then stop in at a outdoors shop and get a wind stopper jersey to wear under your jacket from an outdoors type shop. While there get a Buff or a regular scarf if you have not already got one to stop the wind flowing down from neck area. And if you have only light weight leather gloves then consider your options there. I have a light weight waterproof wind breaker gloves which double up if it rains (as I hate riding in bare hands or soggy gloves) and there are cheap decent items available - don't only look in bike shops.

Well I didn't really take many more photos as I came back via Lawrence and up the boring Pacific Highway which while brain numbing is the quickest.

Looking ahead now to when I can complete this ride I am thinking it will need to be after winter so perhaps towards the end of the year. Perhaps I shall revisit the beautiful Waterfall Way in the mean time for a weekender.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hands on - Garmin Nuvi 760 GPS



I have been using the Nuvi 760 for awhile now and it is a very easy to use item for touring.

Personally traveling the Australian countryside I can get by fine without GPS navigation however I have found it comes in handy when zig zagging on back roads that are not always clearly signposted. In towns I liked having the unit show me turns in advance as some of the signage can be difficult to read. Lastly the ETA to destination lets me plan how long I would stop at sights along the way so to still arrive before sunset. This feature is a bit hit and miss and I find you need to add at least 30 minutes to the ETA provided by the 760 on country road journeys but in the city it is more accurate.

Depite not being a motorcycle specific model the touch screen is easy to operate even with gloves. There is many waterproof cases for GPS's on bikes or you can put in the map window of your tank bag so there is no need to have to buy a Zumo motorcycle unit at 3 times the price

Of course this is navigating using the screen only not voice prompts - I only ride with ear plugs and if you still ride with out plugs then realise the wind noise inside all helmets at highway speeds will cause permanent hearing damage without hearing protection. It is possible to pair a bluetooth speaker inside a helmet or have a cord speaker plugged in but I cannot think of a situation where I would need verbal as well as visual guidance to turn left or right but each to their own.

The battery life is claimed to be 5 to 8 hours but in fact it is 45 minutes to 1 hour maximum. You can power the device from you bike or use a rechargeable external battery pack. I prefer the battery pack, I got one from ebay cheap and using a two wire power only usb cable simply plug the pack into the 760 and easy run it all day. This system means I can use the device on rental bikes very simply but if just on my own bike then yes very easy to use the mount provided and hey you can just put a plastic zip lock bag over the unit in rain if you want to not have it in a case.

I will update my experiences more later in the blog. Using this with user defined routes is the main reason I got the device for overseas travel and that process I will talk about in depth in a later post.

Convertibars.










This is a heads up for anyone looking at the after market bars made by these guys. They advertise offering a sizable rebate to anyone fitting their bars first time to models of bikes they list. You are required to provide measurements and photos at certain angles of the range of adjustment and fitting of the bars.

However despite my supplying all the requested information plus answering a series of additional questions and providing additional photos they have given no rebate and have since stopped communicating with me.

Sorry I have deleted my review.


UPDATE:


Company has chimed in below with an anonymous comment. Meanwhile they are using my photos on their web site ... guess that about sums these guys up.



Australia’s Best Motorcycle Roads – Ulong

The road up to the village of Ulong is the East Dorrigo way. This was an ok ride before but the surface was a mixed bag however now it has been resealed and some surveying improved and is one of the nicest flowing bits of road in the country.

Nearly every corner seems to be perfect and I enjoyed riding this very much on my recent tour. It rides well back down to which most people will want to do as beyond Ulong the road is unsealed and lots of loose stones and dusty. If you do continue then you will rejoin tar for a nice ride into Dorrigo.

Again this is a road I do not have many photos of since the Gopro did not record properly but if riding the Oraca way then take a look.

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IMG_3443

Friday, April 10, 2009

All set - well almost!


Updated Sunday 12.04.2009

Here is how the bike looks with the luggage fitted. Now perhaps I am seeing the bike how I envisioned it to work for me as a sports tourer. I am not ready yet to move to a full size tourer which seem a bit heavy in the mountains and back roads (heavier feeling actually than some cruisers due to how they carry their mass) anyway they and the sports tourers on the market all require regular expensive servicing which is one of my pet hates.
The Buell of course I can service at home for next to nothing as well I don't have to worry about the miles clocked up as it's low tech engine is both good for a couple of hundred thousand and then cheap as chips to overhaul and do all over again.

I may or may not have the bike that long but it is a comfort to not worry about excess mileage. It is a problem that effects all high performance engined motorcycles. People tend to look at high stressed engines with more than 50,000km and deem them coming to the end of their lifespans. I suppose that's one reason perhaps more people turn to BMW or a Harley over a Japanese touring motorcycle, high mileage isn't as big a concern on a boxer or pushrod V twin.



Update: Well these bags are simply not big enough. They look bigger than they are due to the shape at the back. You really can't use these without a third bag. I travel very light - look at the bag I used for my two week Moto-GP tour - so for me to say this means these bags would be useless for most people. My fully compacted wet weather gear a pair of jeans a few pairs of socks and one pair of gloves totally fills one case to give you an idea. If I didnt have to take warm things then they handle a 2 or 3 day trip, as it is by the time I get my wet pack and a light pullover in the other side its too near capacity.

I have also decided to join the growing GPS movement and this trip will not pack my touring atlas.I have resisted mainly due to not seeing a real need riding in countryside Australia for such a device however finding that I can now obtain a map of Japan in english (only works for Garmin units) I have decided to trail their use on this trip. Besides Japan I plan to ride New Zealand or Europe in near future and see a real use for this technology when riding in a overseas country.


It is perhaps a surprise to some of my friends that I am this late to adopt to using GPS as in the past I have always been someone who loved new gadgets and computer technology. In the last few years I just lost interest to a certain extent and have not updated any thing.

As you can see I have mounted the unit using its suction base which I have tested to be unmovable without breaking what it is mounted to. I think this is strong enough - I am going to go for a test ride when the rain eases. You also may note I have blocked view of my tacho - this isn't a big deal for me - on tour I am not going to be gunning the engine much and even when I am riding more spiritedly here I never look at the rev counter anyway. I tend to ride by feel and rarely if ever look at either my speed or revs in corners a fail to understand why others so often do?

I have uploaded each days route to the unit, note if you are looking at getting a GPS that most of the entry level models do not allow this. Some of the mid priced Tom Tom units are ok and these are a cheaper than Garmin. Or if you want a particular map from Garmin (like me) then need to go to mid range models there as well. Seems very odd this is not s standard feature - I can't imagine having a unit that didnt allow this as would be useless to me.

I really would like a new mobile phone for this trip so I can look up the weather radar in route - however they are alot of money and in the end I will have to ride on regardless so I rather put the money a iPhone costs to another trip later in the year instead.

Here are some more photo's of the roads in Japan. Now I am armed with GPS and english maps I am already thinking of when I might return.




Look closely, the pale area in the centre of picture is the town far below.



Photos by Moto & The Dude, SBK Japan Forum.