Friday, December 31, 2010

Cortech super mini magnetic tank bag

I have had this in the cupboard unused for about 12 months. It was listed in an online clearance sale for $29 with free post and usually retails nearer to one hundred so I decided to buy it and put aside.

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The Buell had a plastic tank so it could not take a magnetic tank bag however since it already had panniers fitted this wasn’t a problem. I was then going to use it on the Euro tour but found out all the motorcycles came with luggage installed so it didn’t see the light of day until I got the CB1100.
It is a neat solution to the problem I had been pondering of how to bring my micro four thirds format camera with me on the CB1100. While these mirror less camera bodies are smaller than a SLR with a lens fitted they still are not a pocket item when riding.

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I think you could just fit your wet weather gear in one of these tank bags. I am toying with the idea of buying a pair of bicycle rider rain pants since I lost my Tourmaster ones somewhere on a previous ride and then see how small they end up. I read in reviews that bicycle rain gear is very compact to fit in a riders pocket so it is possible that pants and jacket could fit in a small space on a motorcycle or perhaps even in the left over space in my tank bag.

I don’t think bicycle rain wear is going to be up to the same standard as good motorcycle rain wear however neither do I ride in rain all that often. Actually I only got to use my Tourmaster two piece suit twice since I first got it. With day rides if it’s wet I simply stay home and if caught by a afternoon thunderstorm I wait in a café until it’s past.

Well I’ll get some and let you know in the new year how it goes.
Here’s to 2011. Cheers, IC.

Update. Still using this same tank bag a few years now. Has been good little unit for day trip stuff or the stuff you want to have at hand like camera and I can fit a drink inside (in a small insulated bag) and my GPS will fit in the map window and the battery pack underneath then when stopping for lunch all my valuables come into the cafe with me while my clothes (on tour) can be left on bike in a simple waterproof roll up bag or backpack. Its a handy item and well worth $30.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

CB1100 debut

Finally the rain has eased. It is mid week but I am off work like many for the break between Christmas and New Years and so let me introduce my new CB1100.

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How's that for low k’s haha. It arrived on the back of a truck. I thought I did pretty good saving nearly $3K off retail yet I see a further $500 now slashed by one dealer. Not sure if they are just clearing this years stock or the model is not selling well. Perhaps a bit of both, I hardly think this sort of bike would be a volume seller in Australia where so many people are still spellbound with full fairing race bikes. In Europe it was rare to see a full fairing sports bike, instead big dual purpose bikes are the clear majority with the odd Ducati or full tourer but scarcely any Japanese race/supersport type bikes. Even in Japan their home there are very few full fairing race/sport bikes. I perhaps saw a handful of GSXR’s/R1’s etc on my first ride there and none last trip. Naked bikes have been the most popular there the last ten years that I have been visiting and and there is also a huge scene for classic older Japanese bikes. Harleys also are popular in Japan and Europe and guess what there is no attitude so they wave to Japanese bike riders and visa-versa. Something that took me awhile to get used to.

South looked better on the forecast this morning so I went down the M1 to Currumbin and refueled and rested there. I did not have my Airhawk fitted and the thin seat was starting to get sore by 100km. Riding in Japan I had padded winter pants that helped a little with this and also the bike was not new so the seat would have been broken in a bit. Never mind as I already have a booking to have the seat recovered and raised to look more like the original CB seats. The benefit will be 3 fold, extra leg room, extra comfort and better looks.

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The weather was not as fine as predicted. I ran into showers at Burringbah and did a quick U-turn (not having any wet gear with me).

This photo above is at the end of the sealed section of the Tyalgum Creek Road, which I think has been extended from last time I visited. You are almost at the bottom of the Caldron ridge.  As you can see the CB is mostly the same as the Japanese version. Some polished and chromed items on the engine are only painted finish and the wheels are plain silver.

Fresh tar north of Tyalgum (mess) and a loose surface so give it a miss for a few weeks, should be good once settled.

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There was A LOT of debris on the roads. I don’t so much mind the loose stones and sand about as I can mostly get a clean-ish line by riding in the car wheel tracks however water run off in corners requires extra care as does roads that have been flooded. The Tweed valley appeared to have been under water in a number of places. There were some landslides on the road work area south of Uki and a patch of red mud on the road made a mess for all bikes.

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Crazy two U beam car bridge to a property south of Tyalgum. More substantial bridge further south was washed out. (again)

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After Mt Burrell I further ran into light showers so turned back and called into the Sphinx Rock Café for some early lunch. Coffee was better this time than last visit and the food was tasty enough but nothing remarkable for the price.

Below; looking east at rain near Mt Burrell.

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Did I mention there were a lot of road hazards today. This water was deceptively deeper than it looked, which at least washed off some of the other road grime.

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A easy paced ride today then with one eye scanning for the next item of danger on the road ahead. The great thing is the easy pace is where the CB1100 shines and one reason I purchased it.

Just some perspective on that, I don’t mean to suggest a snails pace but if I use the Burringbah range as an example, which I rode today, it is still enjoyable there despite the wide smooth hotmix at a lesser pace than my Buell which itself was rewarding at a lesser pace than my MV Agusta – which wanted to be ridden fast all the time.

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Of course all this may sound like some old mans talk except I am not that old yet. Just reached a point where I do everything for just my own fun. Not concerned what other people think of my bike or rider equipment or pace. Feel no need to respond to what others are doing nor do I still have any personal riding tests calling me.

It’s not a bad place to be.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Some holiday reading

No chance to ride while this monsoon pours rain every day. So not much blogging about any rides is going to happen until the clouds lift.

Plenty of photos and links each day on the Motorcycle Paradise Facebook page where now I post all the various motorcycle small items of interest I come across while surfing the net. That lightens the blog of content but also keeps it more focused.

Here is a a couple of suggestions for motorcycle blogs to read while waiting for the weather to improve.

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Fuzzy Galore has kept me busy reading with lots of interesting posts about motorcycling. I enjoyed revisiting the European alpine passes I rode this year that she also traversed. Great photos, great blog!

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And from Fuzzy’s site I found Orsons Travel Blog which is an amazing collection of motorcycle travel stories. I have read some of Orsons ride reports previously on a motorcycle forum, either SportTouring or Pashnit, I cannot remember but I am so glad to find his blog.

(Photos via Fuzzy Galore and Orsons travel blog)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vitesse Boots

I currently have in the cupboard a variety of unsuitable riding boots. One pair are simple walking boots/shoes with little protection and which I have already stopped using. Another pair are also short height boots/shoes from Alpinestars that after a days riding bite into my arch no matter what I do with them. The final pair are mid height waterproof items from Joe Rocket. Purchased for my Euro tour these fit yet are awkwardly sized where your big toe sits and can apply pressure that becomes very uncomfortable by days end.

So none work well for me, the short boots lack full protection, the Rockets are cold weather only and each one has comfort issues. So the short story is the money saved from not riding much lately due to constant rain (grr) has been spent on these new boots!

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I have had the Vitesse boots site bookmarked for a couple of years with the intention of one day getting a pair. Whilst they have regular style black boots I always admired their retro brown lace ups which is what I now have. Vitesse boots are made in France and the design and build quality is superb, no quality control issues causing sizing anomalies here unlike the other three I have all from China.

The traditional lace up boot allows me to adjust them to suit and be comfortable. The boots really are easy to walk around in and I will be able to tour wearing these on and off the bike. In the evening under a pair of jeans I will not need a carry a second pair of shoes. For me this is great as I like to go riding for a few days and travel light.

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I think they are simply beautiful.
It is raining here most every day with forecasts for it to continue for the next month so unlikely to have any ride reports in the near future. Wettest weather I can recall.

Update, well I have had these boots for a long time now and they have turned out to be very good. I think if you like this traditional sort of look then they age very well and look just as good after some wear and tear.

Issues I had had are the inner hard rubber side plate as seen above can at times seem to apply pressure to my right foot. How I have my foot on different bikes makes a difference but on the less this item is a design fault as it happened enough that I went to the effort to cut away the top pointed section to stop this from digging in.

I no longer ride a classic style bike and live now where it is colder and wetter so a pair of plain black waterproof boots is on my wish list as these are a little cooler in winter than I would like but then in summer breath very well.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Buell ride

Yes I am going to sell my Buell. Nothing wrong with it or that I am unhappy with, just time to try something different, a new project.

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I have always liked the 70’s super bikes but had no desire to own or ride one. It is the looks I like not the 70’s handling, braking or power. I would never own another carby fueled bike either. The CB1100F that I have been posting on Facebook and that I rode in Japan has won me over and will make a great basis for a replica of the style and era I like. So that’s my plan.

Despite the scattered showers I was determined to get out for a ride today, I had to have one more ride day with the Buell. So meeting my mate at Mudgeeraba we went west as direct as possible because it was wet on all the coastal hills and roads. We were both in a cruise sort of mode so riding the modestly curvy roads to the back of Nerang then over to Canungra and on to Beaudesert and Rathdowney for a short break was not unpleasant despite the non challenging roads in route.
I think it was fitting that I got to ride Mt Lindsey on my last ride day with the Buell. One of my favorite roads in South East QLD, this bike with it’s very quick turn in is so much fun there. It also has this unflappable stability so mid corner uneven road or bump is handled very well, that gives great confidence given the condition of most of out roads.

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We rode south to Urbenville and refueled and had lunch at the pub. Huge serving of food at the Urbenville pub, give it a go it has a certain old time charm about it. After a long lunch talking about my ride in Europe and Japan and next years planned New Zealand ride it was time to come home. I did a U turn half way over Mt Lindsey and went for another ride over and back on the Buell.

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It has been a great two years on this bike, it has not put a foot wrong and while looking forward to a new project I know I am going to miss this one as well.

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I saw a lot of bikes on those western dry roads, hope you managed to get a ride in also, regards IC.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

V2 visor sponge

I admit freely I am often slow to recognize a good thing. Be it I get too absorbed elsewhere or follow the herd or end up going round in circles before realizing I had it right to begin with. And that’s just motorcycles, the harder stuff of one’s personal life I seem to decipher 20 years later than everyone else!  

So it is no surprise that I am probably the last person to recognize what a brilliant product the V2 visor kit is. The kit consists of a v shape sponge made of a mircofibre type material, a water proof zip seal bag to keep it in, a blue super absorbent cloth and another larger zip seal bag to keep the previous three items in.

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You wet the sponge and keep in the smaller bag ready. When you need to clean your visor take out the sponge and it removes bugs and grime with just a couple of wipes and does not damage uridium tinted visors (well was fine with my Shark visor) pop the sponge back in and wipe visor with supplied soft absorbent cloth and you then put all away.

Small enough to keep in a jacket pocket or under seat the thing I like is it cleans so well and you can refresh your visor wherever you stop. Also you do not need to use the petrol station coarse paper or worse still if no paper the dreaded squeegee which is normally loaded with grit. On tour in Europe there was rarely any thing to clean a visor with at petrol stations so I found this item very handy. There was not the quantity of bugs we have but I was recalling my ride to Phillip Island and how this would have been great given the mass of bugs I copped in route.

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Update on the Tenacious Tape I used to repair my pants in Japan. Still holding strong, looks like it has completely bonded to pants and won’t be coming off ever. Above is what the container it comes in looks like, very small you could keep one in your touring kit.

Raining so no ride. Has been a very wet year here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Summer riding gear

After my ‘curling’ experience on the ice in Japan I return to tropics of north east Australia and it is hot and steamy. Packing away my winter gear that served me well overseas I take a moment to examine my summer riding equipment which I use here for most of the year. Is it up to the task should something unexpected happen again?

From the bottom up then. My riding shoes are not really the best solution. I have shorty Alpinestar shoes and Rivers brand leather hiking type boots that I like for summer. Ok I guess but could do better.

Pants. I am going to retire my Alpinestars Jeans. They have knox hard knee armor and inner lining to some areas but they are baggy stunt rider style pants so I feel the armor for knees may move in a tumble. The rest of the pants being jeans I no longer feel is enough. I also have my BMW City pants which have substantial hip and knee padded armor and are fully lined as well as constructed from a blend of material nylon reinforced. I am feeling confident with these still so while not as cool in summer I am going to make theses my only riding pants outside of winter.

I have two summer jackets, an older lightweight Dryrider mesh item and a newer Cortech hybrid mesh/textile/leather jacket. The Dryrider I had already decided to retire after last summer and this check reconfirmed that decision as it is not substantial enough. The Cortech is not nearly as cool in summer but it is fully armored and very sturdy made so I shall see how this goes and if too hot then have to look further.

My gloves are the mesh/synthetic leather summer light weight type that has become common of late. Almost identical to good spec moto-x gloves, which I also have used here for summer. These I feel are a weak point if I compare to my Held gloves that saved my hands in Japan. In comparison they are a bit light weight for the task being mostly a single layer and lacking armor whereas the Held are multi material and multi layer armored items. I am shopping for a new pair already.

Summer helmet is my Nolan and it is ok except the visor so I am ordering a replacement visor in light smoke tint as do not wish to replace either of my helmets just yet being the most expensive things. I will retire the Shark for now. The visor got scratched on one side as well as the front chin air vent was broken in the Japan slide so while it didn’t cop a big knock I will shelve it all the same. Wish there was some upgrade in safety I could achieve with helmets alas they all rely on that little bit of white foam liner to cushion and slow any impact, the technology involved has not advanced in decades.

If the rain stops I will try for a ride Sunday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Importance of good riding gear

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Examining my riding gear post the accident in Japan.

Despite sliding at slow pace on ice, the bike scraped the ice off the road in front of me for so I was sliding on the tarmac for a short distance after impacting with road after fall.

Starting from the bottom, my 3/4 length Joe Rocket boots show where they were dragging on the left side ankle height, this area of the boot is well made and protected ankle from injury.

The Alpinestars pants have soft impact absorbing hip and knee armor, that’s the points where I landed and the armor did a really great job as I was not sore afterwards.

Really glad I was not riding in my Draggin Kevlar jeans as would have been a hard wack in them. Also my shorty boots are rather thin about the ankles so I probably will not wear them ever again.

Upper body contact was elbow and shoulder both of which have armor in the Alpinestars jacket and I again was not sore afterwards.

My hands were wearing the Held gloves and these show where my left hand knuckles scraped however they have a metal plate that protected and again no injury at all to me.

My helmet made contact first on the side of the visor which held fast and then on the chin area. The Shark did a great job to not release the visor and to absorb the hit. Don’t think I shall look at any more open face or jet helmets.

I have come off dirt bikes a few times and even slow it hurts hitting the ground with any part of your body not protected by armor and especially so if you wack your head on the ground. I honestly can say I didn’t feel a lot from any point of contact including helmet and it was a slow but still fast enough to have been worse if I had not ben wearing all the gear. The Japanese riders who witnessed were surprised and pleased I was not hurt.

Think I am going to retire a few old favorites that I ride in here after this and make sure everything I use offers a similar level of protection.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Japan Ride 2010

Despite a major incident on tour I again enjoyed riding in Japan.

My original plan got washed out due to the unseasonal arrival of a typhoon off the coast of Japan at the same time I had booked the motorcycle rental. I waited till the last minute scanning the weather reports and reluctantly cancelled the booking. Fortunately the company has a clause that allows you to cancel without penalty due to unforeseen bad weather. I then was lucky to be able to secure the CB1100 for the following week, at first it was showing as unavailable for that period however a phone call revealed it was ok.

Shops open 10.00 in Tokyo and thus by the time I had the paperwork and everything done it was 11.00 and midday before I was out of town. First day destination was Isu, and to ride the Hakone Skyline and neighboring roads. The Hakone Skyline would have to be a near perfect road for motorcycle riding. With spectacular views from high up on the mountain ridge, the ocean far below on one side the a lake on the other it would be nice even with a few corners however it has numerous and they all seem to have been surveyed by a rider such is the perfect radiuses. The CB1100 was showing itself to be a very capable machine, comfy on the highways yet good handling in the mountains.

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Next day I rode around the base of Mt Fuji. Lovely ride amongst the autumn foliage with Mt Fuji popping into view in breaks of the trees to the side. You are already up quite high hugging the side of the mountain before it gets very steep and can look down below on the city of Gotenba which is where I stayed the night before. Amazing that these roads barely rate a mention in the Japan best rides yet I could spend the day just riding around Fuji.

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After this I again hopped on the highways, which are all toll roads in Japan, and headed north west to Suwa to ride what was my favorite road last time, the Venus Line. You see a portion of the Venus line every visit to Motorcycle Paradise, the header photo was taken there. I really enjoyed this road again, it is as good as it looks. Unfortunately descending down the other side I had a unexpected incident.

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Dropping down the western side I was in the shade and the temperature was cold. The road had some tight switchbacks, after rounding one switchback I saw a motorcycle rider down on the road ahead in the middle of some water run off across the road. I slowed with the intention to stop near the rider and entered the wet section of road to then realize the water was mostly frozen to ice. A few things flashed through my mind, ‘that’s why the other rider is on the ground’ ‘maybe I can make it’  and ‘it’s impossibly slippery’ before the bike slide out from under me.

After trying to get up and slipping back over on the sheet of ice I checked myself over and seemed ok and then crawled over to the bike and it seemed ok also, lucky I was nearly stopped. Broken indicator, some scratches to engine cover and mirror and instrumentation pod. After a short while some riders come over to help me and we managed to get the bike up and off the first sheet of ice (no mean feat) and then over another sheet to get to where it can be wheeled clear via the left hand gutter which was full of freezing water but free of ice. The other guy that was on the ground was part of this group and had been leading coming up the range and like me had not been able to see the ice hidden amongst the water in the shade until on top of it.

So after about an hour of cleaning myself and the bike up and checking everything over and helping others I thanked my fellow riders and headed off down the rest of the range. At the bottom I pulled into some shops to get a bite to eat and a coffee and when trying to set the steering lock found out the key would not releaseso thought maybe bars are bent but now think it was Hondas HISS security thinking someone had tried to steal bike. So over some very late lunch I had two thoughts troubling me, chance of more ice on the other alpine roads and the bike seems ok but obviously cannot lock it at night was a problem. I decided to change my plans and not attempt the other two high alpine passes I had mapped out and to return south to Isu which I got to after dark. Had been a long day. 

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The riding along the north west coast of Isu was wonderful next to the ocean with Mt Fuji on display across the water.The hills behind this are also very nice to ride, I wandered from road to road and didn't find anything not to like, wonderful low traffic curvy mountain roads. I could east spend a few more days riding and exploring around there and the rest of Isu, a really nice area of Japan that is so close to Tokyo.

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Finally though I had to return to the big smoke and rounded off the ride with the famous (in Japan) Isu Skyline and roads around Hakone and then the Toyo tyre turnpike before heading back to the bike shop to see what I was going to have to pay excess on the bike insurance. These roads along with Hakone skyline are all toll roads which for a rider cost between 250 to 400 yen at the toll booth (touch more than $2.50 to $4.00).

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The excess on the bike was less then $500 which was a relief and the shop was fine about it not agro or really worried. As for the CB itself I really liked it. Surprisingly good handling, very easy to ride, brakes were fine, engine is in a low state of tune so has a broad spread of power and it looks great. My criticisms are the fuel range with the small tank could be better, the seat is a little low for most people and despite looking nice Honda could have still done a bit more on the bike styling wise for the money being asked eg. quad exhausts more retro tank, spoke wheels.  I do still like it a lot and if I had one would make it look more like the original CB’s which could be done quite easy. I’ll think about it, if they bring the ABS model over that would more tempting.

I really enjoyed riding in Japan again. The roads are amazing quality and the mountain toll roads seem to be very low traffic and not be policed. I guess I tried to ride too high too late in the season yet the other riders at the ice said they had just come over many passes and there was no ice anywhere else. Not getting very cold here it’s something I have never experienced before. Riding in the traffic in Japan is a nightmare so you do need to factor in the added expense of using the highway system which is all toll roads. Much like last time my fuel bill was about equal to my road toll bill, however hotels there are cheap and include breakfast as well and you can eat very cheap there as well which evens things out. See my last posts on Japan for some more info. I stayed at the Super Hotel chain this time and rented the bike from Rental 819.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Quick Japan Update

Typhoon has gone, I have the CB1100 and am on the road near Mt Fuji. Lost near half a day getting the bike and getting out of Tokyo on a traffic jammed public holiday as the GPS took me on a wild goose chase all over town before putting me on the tollway west. However the weather forecast is sun sun sun so I just have to wear axing some of the Isu Skline today or somehow redo my routes tonight and axe Bandai Yama … time for a beer and a think.

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Didn’t know about the Typhoon washing out the ride last week? - get yourself over to the Motorcycle Paradise Facebook page!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nylon clothing repair

I am preparing for the Japan ride and the weather is going to be mixed so I needed to make some repairs to my pants which I managed to touch against the hot exhaust of the Honda in Germany.

It only took a couple of seconds to melt the outer nylon and inner layer and lucky there is mesh inside the pants at that area for air circulation which is some sort of cloth material not plastic and it held while my  brain registered something was burning and moved my leg in time to avoid a nasty burn.

I did not need to worry about rain on the rest of the tour however I obtained some silver duct tape and tried that a few times on the hole but it just falls off sooner or later (but if stuck it will seal with enough applied) So I sought out a bike shop here in Tokyo to try find a fix.

I obtained a product called Tenacious Tape made by McNett from the NAPS motorcycle accessories shop in Mitaka. This stuff is semi clear textured plastic that appears similar to nylon material in pants and tents and has a high strength adhesive that strengthens with time.

Seems to provide a very good repair, no lifting at all and being clear it half blends in, not that looks are an issue, I just needed to stop the rain entering and then finding its way down into my boots.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kawasaki Good Time World

I visited the Kawasaki world in Kobe Japan. It is not a large display however reading about the other things Kawasaki build was of great interest. For example I knew they made some of the trains operating in Tokyo however not also many other cities trains in Japan and Asia as well as the first and most of later and current Bullet trains in operation. That impressed me considerably.

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In addition to this they make a lot of large cargo ships, Helicopters, Planes – even space launch vehicles and high rise buildings and bridges including the one to Shikoku I rode a train over yesterday.

Of course the bikes are what most people associate with the name.

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Two legendary machines. The Z frame is stamped number 00001. The H1 is my favourite Kawasaki. Besides the obvious timeless looks what other company can say they released a road bike with 20% more power than current grand prix racing bikes. I would not really want to ride one… but full of admiration for them to build and sell it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Europe Alps Tour

(Update 2016, photos enhanced and afterword added)

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After wanting to ride the Europe alps for a very long time I decided to go with  tour and just completed the Edelweiss Ultimate Alps tour. It was nice fun and a relaxed way to ride in Europe which was a main priority for me having travelled about there in car and train and had many many difficulties. I initially had concerns that the tour daily mileage would not be enough however most days we were riding until dusk due to some slow riders so the length was chosen well for a group. With company at hand it was easy to enjoy some late evenings and long lunches in the interesting stops so the slow pace fitted well. A van takes your luggage and it really is a luxury ride.

I chose a Honda CB600F for the tour and it turned out to be a good choice as the bigger bikes were a handful in all the switchback corners where mine was much easier and being slow pace very rare you could use any power so bigger bikes were just wasted. The CB was very easy to ride with not too much weight and that Honda type of neutral handling. The front end lacked feedback however it was equipped with Metzeler Z6 tyres same as I use at home so this installed some familiarity to the bike for me. On the times I broke off on my own or stayed back to make a quicker run up a hill the engine proved to be very willing and if I was to do it again I would go for even less power in a 600 twin.

There were two tour guides from Edelweiss, Ramon and Christoff who shared the roles of tour lead rider and support van driver. I don’t like to ride in a group much however these guys were easy to ride with and if I placed myself at or near the front of the group I found the pace to mostly be acceptable with the odd bit of slow going. Each night we had a big group dinner with local wines or beer and with the exception of one couple everyone was quite social and easy going which made for a very enjoyable time.

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Swiss alpine roads. See the lake in the distance at top of switchbacks – below is at that lake, a detour I took with two great blokes from New Jersey, some of the photos here are courtesy of Brian the rider in the photo below.

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The 600 I had above and how the Swiss mountain passes cling to the side of the mountains. 

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And yes so to those roads, well there were some great mountain passes to ride and beautiful scenery along the way. My photos do not capture either accurately however I hope they give a small taste of what was on offer but the roads themselves were not always what I would call good motorcycle roads per se but the views make up for it. In comparison to riding by myself at home I did not take every opportunity to stop and take photos, you simply would never get anywhere with views like above but also I needed to keep with the group to a certain degree. (Update - in hindsight that was perhaps the only thing I did not like so much. Riding with a group I did find myself not able to stop as I would have if riding solo – the trade off of course is you have people to share things with and meals and coffee breaks are easy with a guide but sometimes a challenge solo)

The route you can see on the edelweiss web page (update – no longer same route) but starting north of Munich we blasted down the autobahn with Christoff who was the quicker rider of the two guides. Then through some of the German alps and on to Liechtenstein. Then into the Swiss alps and to Italian lakes. Then over Italian alps before back to Germany.

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One of the better climbs and the road ahead going down the other side.

Meals are all pretty much first class with the tour, very enjoyable and nothing like my usual burger and fries.

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Below crossing one of the lakes in northern Italy after lunch.

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We stopped at this pub for a special omelets they make.

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We did ride the famous Stelvio even though it was not on the agenda. All the group wanted to go there despite guide Ramon saying the route he had planned for us was much better riding and Stelvio may disappoint but being it is so famous we voted to go that way and well Ramon was right haha. I have no decent photos as the cloud obscured the view at the top to a camera but with the naked eye we could make out parts of the road zig zagging away below in moments where the cloud slightly cleared. The riding however was just a chore I have to say with those uturn corners look great but a pain to ride and then cars will chop the corner forcing you to stop at steep often difficult angle so best to just stop well before and let them go and lets not mention buses. But I guess we can all say we have been there. I think the next photo was at the bottom and I got other people to take my photo at the top but then they never sent the photos to me.

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Coffee on lake Como at a little spot tucked away the guide knew of. That sort of thing and knowing the best places for lunch and where to park the bikes all made the tour run smooth. I have travelled a lot but always find Europe so difficult. Even having been there solo a few times it just remains a place that frustrates as much as it interests me so I enjoyed it on this trip more than any other time by having someone to make things run smooth. 

Some great nights out too, below a beautiful evening in Bolzano.

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Day six was a rest or ride day in the Dolomites. It started out raining however that cleared to give a beautiful afternoon ride in the Dolomites which was the most spectacular ride of the tour. For me the roads and scenery around the Dolomites were by far the best of the whole tour and if I was to return I would choose to base myself in the area and ride all the roads there for a week. I wish I had more photos of the dolomites, another person promised me dearly she would share her photos which often had me in them as she was pillion on the bike mostly behind me but for reasons I do not know she did not. (another bloke on the tour having done other tours said nobody ever seems to share their photos. Oh well I did even if it was not reciprocated) 

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After a week of fine and mild weather on the passes (warm in the towns and valleys) the cold weather kicked in the last days of the trip (it was already September). I was then glad to have bought all the winter gear with me as the passes became suddenly very cold in the minus temperatures with snow. I feel so lucky that I got to not only have fine weather to ride every day but also got to experience two aspects of the alpine passes. Last day I had planned to ride a famous high alpine road in Austria by myself on the way back to base however it was snowed in so that let me enjoy a last day leisurely ride back via some lovely scenic roads in Bavaria instead to wrap it up back in Munich where the famous October fest had commenced.

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I really cannot think of too much bad to say about the tour. Of course the cost is far much more than DIY however somewhat offset by 4 star hotels and all the high quality dinners included but the main thing I was paying for was a smooth and fun experience in Europe which I got and which in the past I found impossible to experience. So on balance it was perhaps a reasonable price and I had paid for the tour in advance at a favorable exchange rate which also helped. I also enjoyed the off bike time with friendly guides to show you about town and their favourite place for a drink and the local rules all of which by myself I find sometimes daunting. The other thing is I really had not toured by motorcycle overseas solo and this was a great way to get started in that. Perhaps the only negative thing for me is riding in a group the pace can bog down at times. Your limited to the slowest rider of course and guides need to wait and see everyone has passed a slow vehicle so you do a lot of regrouping. That and when not riding by myself I never stop as much for photos not wanting to spoil the riding rhythm so to speak.

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I will hopefully get some photos from the other tour riders to add to this post in time. (update nope no one else on the tour shared their photos) As for riding the alps of Europe it was a very enjoyable time in Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Switzerland was very pretty and as mentioned above the Dolomites were the stand out of the tour for me even though I have just a couple photos from there as I actually dropped my camera that day rendering it useless and so took nothing after that nor the final day riding.

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Reflections 2016 – wow time fly's, already 6 years ago. Well this was my first big overseas ride and this set in motion future travel and the solo tours I have done since in other countries. I have tried to return to Europe but beside a small ride in Ireland never made it. It is already a much more expensive place with these tours costing more and now a poor exchange rate, the above tour in this years price would be hard for me to justify. But that is not the real thing stopping me. For me riding in the alps is spectacular but not the best for me. Let me clarify.

Being anywhere on a bike with other like minded riders is always going to be a laugh and yes it is jaw dropping scenic. However the actual riding is as already mentioned a lot switchbacks and even off season a lot of traffic compared to places I like to ride. Euro bikers seem to thrive on switch back corners but I cannot for the life of me understand why. But maybe it is just me, I like to feel a bike leaned over through a long curve and my perfect road is a series of sweepers where I never touch the brakes simply lean from one side to the over. Basically the opposite of switchback roads hence why I have not felt a strong desire to ride them again. The riding I was going to do on the Versys I had in Ireland was a bit of everywhere else with a focus on Ireland the the UK then Spain and the Adriatic with just a few days allocated to the alps. I have since sold that bike and recouped my money. Basically I decided that prices in UK were too much with $4 a litre petrol and $20 sandwiches being 4 times what prices in Tokyo are.

The other aspect of Europe I find challenging is hard to summarise. It is just that I am so used to Asia where things seem to go smooth for me. People understand I am a tourist and do not expect me to know their language, gestures and nodding get me by and often multi language menus are offered and certainly no one turns up their nose or is rude unlike some places in Europe where people seem to hate tourists who are not fluent in languages which are minor ones in volume compared to Asia. Everyone pushes in front of each other at shops and nobody can form an orderly queue. Need to be very careful about petty crime and secure your bike well during day and park in a hotel garage at night too all of which makes Asia seem so refined, relaxed and easy to enjoy by comparison. But that is just me. Maybe I shall return to do a tour of the alps and Adriatic coast one day with someone like Edelweiss. Later in life when I feel I can splurge the money to travel in that luxury sort of riding again where someone else makes it run smooth.